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.