*TW: Spiritual abuse
*Note: Only respectful comments will be allowed and responded to. Telling someone who is deconstructing that “not all Christians/Churches” are like that, is invalidating to that person’s experience. It is not helpful or respectful.
Here’s the truth: the holidays are hard for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. We struggle because of loss, Seasonal Affective Disorder, this Goddam Pandemic™ (going on two years strong), loneliness, estrangement (either by choice or not), and a million other reasons.
In the week leading up to Christmas, I’ve known 2 people to die from COVID-19. One person close to my family and her death will have a lasting impact on people whom I love very much. Another was someone my age, whom I’ve known most of my life. My heart aches over these people and their families. Wear your mask. Get vaccinated if you can. These losses have made Christmas extra hard this year.
On top of tragic loss and these expectations of magic and memories we put on ourselves, I’ve been deconstructing my faith. This has made Christmas feel very different this year. I know millions of people celebrate Christmas without any tie to faith at all. And that’s fine. Some use it to celebrate the origin of the Yule holiday, honoring the winter solstice and this time of change on earth. For me, I connect Christmas to the birth of Jesus. I know Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25th and I know the traditions we have today around Christmas were based on Yule to help easily convert pagans to Christianity. Nevertheless, here I am, celebrating the birth of Jesus on December 25th.
My deconstruction journey started long before this Christmas season. The seeds were probably planted from the beginning, but my decision to really start to examine my faith came from what spurs most people to deconstruct from the church: Church Hurt. This is a story I’ve only told a few people I’m close with because I had so much hurt around it. There was shame for a while too, but that’s gone now. Shame is not an effective way to love thy neighbor, by the way.
I was part of a church and on their worship team for about 7 years. I loved it. I loved the church and many of the people there. I felt like I was part of a family – until I did something that was deemed “against God’s will.” I was moving in with my non-Christian boyfriend before we were married. I was immediately called into an intervention of sorts, where they tried to convince me that I was doing the wrong thing and that if I went through with this decision, then I would be removed from the worship team. They also tried to tell me that my boyfriend and I were “unequally yoked” – a phrase often weaponized in the church to shame an unmarried Christian into leaving their non-Christian partner. I think I attended one more Sunday service after that, and then promptly left. I stepped foot into that church 2 other times since then. Once to see if anything had changed. It hadn’t. And again to watch a friend be married. That was it.
I briefly attended another church, which I enjoyed. They were definitely more welcoming and honoring of their congregation. They loved people where they were and they were more charismatic, but the pandemic happened, which kept me home on Sundays. The 2020 election really fast-tracked my deconstruction for obvious reasons. Through this time, my beliefs were expanding. I realized that inclusive and affirming worship places were pertinent. God loves and honors all – gay, straight, trans, black, brown, white, atheist, agnostic, and everyone in between. He honors the things that make us who we are. I’ve learned that when people say “the Bible is very clear about x”, chances are, the Bible isn’t clear at all about that thing.
So I’ve stopped going to church altogether. I may never go back. I’m not sure. It would have to be a very open, welcoming, and affirming place. Where I live, that isn’t very prevalent. And that’s ok. The thing is, I’m not deconstructing from God. I’m deconstructing from the church. The church isn’t in alignment with God. I’m happy enjoying my life and building meaningful relationships elsewhere. There are people who stop believing in God altogether when they deconstruct. That’s ok, too. I respect that so much. I truly believe we all have a place in eternal goodness.
So where does that leave me this Christmas season? Honestly, I’m still stressed with present-buying and baking and holiday event hosting. I didn’t go to church for a candlelight service. I didn’t guilt myself into remembering the “reason for the season.” It is evident when I am with family and someone asks that I pray over the meal. It’s awkward when a very religious family member wants to “pray for/with me” or discuss theological ideas that I don’t subscribe to, which are many. With this being the second Pandemic Christmas™ in a row, though, it was much of the same. Do we get together with family? How do we stay safe? Is everyone healthy? Maybe it’ll be more evident when the Panorama is more controlled and things are more close to normal. Maybe. I guess we’ll see.
If you happen to be deconstructing and struggled through Christmas, please know that you are not alone. There are many of us out here trying to untangle the trauma we experienced from the church. We are unlearning the misogyny, racism, and patriarchal ideas that we taught with God’s supposed stamp of approval. We are healing from the trauma inflicted by people who we were supposed to be able to trust. We are learning to love ourselves again. You can love yourself again. You are worth it. You are loved.