Church Story, Part I

The author, age 9.

The author, age 9.

If you pay much attention to spiritual memoir–which I do–or if you don’t, but are interested in church life issues–which I am, also–you may have noticed a trend in the last ten or so years in which a person who was raised in an evangelical church grows up and out of their childish faith. Some of these writers were abused as children (cf. Why be Happy When You Could be Normal?), lived with no exposure to the world outside evangelical circles (cf. Crazy for God), or ended up shedding an emotional and legalistic faith for something in the high church tradition (cf. Strength for the Journey; A Door in the Ocean).

All of this is to say that there is a trend in memoirs and blogs and real people’s lives away from evangelicalism and toward some other expression of faith. The people who write their stories have often had terrible experiences growing up in the evangelical church, as those memoirs and others recount. And the last thing I want to do here is dismiss those stories of real pain and hardship.

What I do want to do, though, is tell some of my own story. I want to remember why I am who I am, why I grew up the way I did and am better for it. And I want to explain how it is possible to have grown up squarely in the middle of evangelicalism without trauma or harm, with a full and interested window into the world and no qualms whatsoever about the role of women in the church or at home.

I was nine when we moved to Chicago from LA. Most of my memories of church from LA have to do with singing “Pharaoh, Pharaoh,” and stopping at In N Out on the way home, drowsy and pajama-ed in the backseat of the car. But once we moved–and especially once I got into high school–I began noticing a lot more about the life of the church.

A lot of how I was raised, of course, has to do with my family and the lens through which they helped me see the church. I had a friend who grew up in the same church I did and whose strict parents didn’t do him any favors as he tried to explore faith and God on his own, as a teenager needing to learn things for himself. The limits they placed on him were constricting and he, more than most, required space for critical thinking. So my upbringing and my experience weren’t only about the church; they were also about my parents whose choice to give us freedom and time for thought and fun and intellectual pursuits could not have been more formative.

ANYWAYS. Over the next couple of days, I’ll be sharing a bit more of this story–growing up evangelical and being grateful for it, glad of it, and not growing embittered. There are a few specific stories I have in mind, and some more general stuff, so I’ll probably meander. But it’s a thread I’ve been wanting to unravel for a while, and I’m glad to get around to it now.

8 Responses to “Church Story, Part I”

  1. Michelle August 28, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    Laura, I’m excited to read your story as you share it over the next few posts. I’m often surprised how many people (both those who claim to be Christians and those who have no religious background) are shocked when they find out 1) I grew up as a pastor’s kid and 2) that I don’t have some kind of deep bitterness for the church.

  2. Leigh Kramer August 28, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    Looking forward to this, Laura. Growing up in evangelicalism left me a bit battered (although not abused) but I know plenty of people who weren’t. You’re right that we need to hear those stories, too.

  3. Lesley August 28, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    I am really looking forward to this series. Like you, I was raised going to an evangelical church and (humbly) think I’m not too screwed up. :)

  4. Jamie August 28, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    Hi Laura. Can’t wait to read your thoughts on this. I was raised in a very legalistic home where, in hindsight, I cared more about my parents approval than Gods. I would be very curious to know how your parents gave you space and support to “come into your faith” when they/you were in such a visible spot in the church. Also, I can’t imagine how this will sound but I am going to go ahead and ask…this is my conservative background begging for some reconciliation…you often use “bad” language, let’s start there. Somehow, as a Christian, you have made peace that this is OK. I often read your words and think, I wonder what her parents think? You are an adult, but clearly, there must have been a lot of that process, magnified for you, because of who your family is. I would love to hear your thoughts on that :)

  5. Melissa August 28, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    Looking forward to reading more, Laura!

  6. Kristen Maddux August 28, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    Now, THIS is the post I’ve been wanting to read and I didn’t even know it.
    I grew up a Baptist pastors kid, but never once became embittered against the Church, it’s people or God. Of course now–as an adult in the 2010’s–I lean toward a way less traditional way of worshiping than the way I grew up, but the fact remains that I LOVE church and always have.
    I believe my parents had a lot to do with that too. They gave me plenty freedoms growing up…way more than many of my friends who weren’t pastors kids! My dad and mom were authentic. Did I see a lot of crap the ministry brings with it? Sure. But my parents were open about stuff and vulnerable and we talked about it as a family.
    This is a very needed conversation, Laura, because you are right–there are so many of the others out there. So, 80’s church-lovin evangelical kids UNITE! :)

  7. Kelly @ Love Well August 28, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

    I’m glad you’re getting around to it too. I grew up a PK in the evangelical church in the 80s. And while there were plenty of, shall we say, idiocincrysies ::cough:: Psalty ::.cough:: I don’t carry scars. I look forward to reading your journey. Meander as much as you want. It’s what good friends do in conversation.

  8. Christine August 29, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

    Thank you for telling this side of the story! I also grew up in the church and loved it. Glad to hear there are other “normal” Christian families.

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