Even though I grew up in the church, as a young person whose family was active in our local Baptist Church, I would consider myself a late bloomer when it comes to my acceptance of Christ. Like many young people, I didn’t take religion very seriously. But by the time I got to college, I realized that there was a void in my life that needed to be filled.
I started asking some of those pertinent questions about life, death, faith and creation. I started to take more responsibility for how faith would be shaped in my life and explore definitions of salvation and why these things should be important to an individual such as myself. It wasn’t long before I decided to give this Christian faith lifestyle thing a try. I was really interested in what it meant to be a disciple of Christ. And even though I grew up in a traditional Baptist Church, I started to be more exposed to other denominations and streams of faith which subsequently led me to evangelicalism.
I was attracted to evangelicalism because of its central message which I felt was something that should be the foundation of faith for all Christians: to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations. This was our shared mandate and I was proud to be a part of that mission. Since then I have read the books and attended the conferences and been a part of the all-night prayers. I have even gone on the mission trips and broke bread with other evangelicals in hopes of spreading the gospel to a broken world.
Even though I have grown up and been ordained within the Baptist denomination, since college I have been unapologetic not only of the gospel of Jesus Christ but also unashamed to be associated with my brothers and sisters of the evangelical background simply because of our shared mission in bringing about light and unconditional love to the darkest areas of our world. Evangelical was a badge that I associated with and wore proud.
This past year has been very interesting for me and my identity as a Christian and also as someone who identifies with having an evangelical background and an evangelical mandate. I watched evangelicalism become a political party. The very preachers that I used to watch on TV and attend their conferences and sow into their ministries were berating my Black brothers and sisters and victim shaming women who have been raped, sexually abused or had been spoken of in the most disgusting misogynistic ways. I watched people calling themselves evangelical Christians on social media spreading the most hateful and venomous poison to people who disagreed with them. I watched the same Christians wave their guns and threaten anyone who would speak out against them in the name of Jesus.
As time went on, the same Christians preached from the pulpit defending a man with whom the KKK and the most evil white supremacist groups endorsed. Article after article and headline after headline talked about this group of “white evangelicals” gathering at political rallies with their signs wearing their Obama masks with nooses hung around them yelling at and pushing people who opposed them.
Here’s the thing: As an independent, I’m not writing this as a means of saying that my values align completely with one party or another. But the Bible says you will know them by their fruit, and I see their fruit and now I know that you neither stand for me or Jesus. I had a conversation with a friend this morning about all of this and he said to me without effort: “Evangelical don’t have nothing to do with Jesus.” And how could it when I have to explain to my young sister and my niece and even my dog how (white) evangelicals who wear the name of Jesus crusaded for misandry to stand at the center and divide our nation through fear and violence. Evangelicals who pushed and advocated for division all the while calling it unity and marginalization all the while calling it fair. It’s a real shame because something I used to be so proud of now I am now ashamed of.
There is nothing more that I would’ve wanted than to share what gave me such hope and life as a young Christian with my own younger sibling and mentees and those that have come behind me. I, too wanted them to read your books and attend your conferences and sing your songs. But that’s not going to happen anymore because the term evangelical and any associations with it is going to be banned from my vocabulary from now on. I don’t care how pretty you make it, how much you wrap it up with a bow or throw the word social justice in front or behind it. This level of the betrayal has done irreparable damage. I love Jesus too much to let evangelicalism send me to hell.
So I laughed when my friend said that and then I got sad because this is how far we’ve come. So I want a divorce. I’m breaking up with evangelicalism in hopes of saving my soul for Jesus. I want nothing to do with you. Don’t write me, don’t call me, don’t try to win me back. Don’t invite me to your churches or your conferences. We are not friends. We are nothing. I am a disciple and I am not your evangelical.