Dear My Former Church,
We haven’t spoken in a long time. In fact, we haven’t spoken since that critical day in August, 2010, when I realized that you had been lying to me all this time. It’s been hard for me to live without you, but as the song goes, “I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong and I grew strong. And I learned how to get along!” I don’t need you anymore and I’ve come to realize that, accept it, and own it. There is a scar from our past which will always be with me, but now that the wound is closed and I have come to be able to breathe again I thought I should write to you to give us both a little closure.
I was young when we met, bright eyed, beautiful and vulnerable. You came to me with the promise of joy and protection from the cruel world. You told me that I was weak and you were strong and that you would love me and only want what was best for me. Naturally I was swept away by your promises. What innocent virgin would not be? I bound myself to you and made your presence known in every action, every thought, and every interaction I had in every single day of my life. You told me that I was broken, that I was dirty, that I was the cause of man’s downfall. You told me that my suffering was just and inescapable punishment for my inherent sin and I believed you while at the same time asking you, nay even begging you, to explain to me how your love was apparent through all that judgment.
You were jealous then, and you still are. I didn’t understand until I was married how far reaching the tentacles of your jealousy were. You told me that to marry young and virgin was the height of my virtue and that only a complete denial of my physical self could be closer to your ideal. So I did that. I married young and virgin and innocent. When on my wedding night my husband proclaimed to me that “[He] was going to have sex with [his] wife!” a strange thing happened. For all my young years I had been fighting against an ever increasing tidal wave of sexual energy. It threatened to throw me body and soul out of the light of your glory and into the frothing sea of carnal passion below. You promised me that on my wedding night instead of plunging to my spiritual death, that this tidal wave of energy would instead raise me up, send me soaring in virtuous marital bliss, but when my gown came off and I open my thighs for my new husband…
there was no wave. Indeed it was as if the entire ocean had dried up before me.
Of course neither you nor my brand new husband seemed in the slightest bit bothered and the both of you just kept plowing on without me. And so it was that I spent the better part of the next decade in a desperate losing battle to reunite my rebelling spirit with the joy and safety that you had promised me. You know how well that went. You promised me that if I could only make it as far as I did that ever abundant life and joy would be made available to me, but instead you abandoned me to the care of a man. A single, solitary, miserly, inadequate man. Even though I returned to you time and again for an explanation, your promises and your love were as dry as the tidal wave of my former passion. You told me then in my desperation and my loneliness that I should be happy because you had given me everything I could want. You told me that my lack of happiness was my own fault for rejecting your gifts to me.
And so it was one humid summer night that I went back to the cliff where I had last seen the raging sea that threatened to swallow me whole so many years ago. I remember standing on the edge of that cliff and looking down into the sea and wondering if it would indeed kill me. But then I looked for you there on that cliff and though you warned me not to jump, I saw the truth of what your promises held for me: pain, loneliness, self-loathing. Your promises to me were no more alive than an empty desert who so long has not felt rain that it has given up even the memory of moisture. My choice was apparent. I could stay with you and have a slow wasting death of which every day would be safe and secure in the knowledge that there was no more life to be had. Or else I could throw myself off that cliff into the writhing, frothing sea below. Perhaps it would kill me. Perhaps I would drown, or perhaps I would not. Perhaps the waves would cradle me and toss me, bringing thrill and kindness to my parched existence.
You know what happened that night. There is no way you didn’t hear me screaming and calling out my passion. I nearly choked on the surge of life that flooded my body. And I know what you said then, too. You said to all who would listen to you that it was the voice of suffering that rose up from the water. You called them to look at my face and see pain and madness, a fallen woman indeed. But let’s be honest with each other. I feel that after all these years we owe each other at least that much. You did to me what any spurned lover would do. You muddied my name and discredited me so as to mitigate the pain of your own rejection.
Were you a human, I would forgive you for your faults, but you are not a human you are a church. You are massive conglomeration, a katamari of all that is good and all that is mislead in humanity and you wield your power over us young and helpless. Isolated and naive you make of us easy prey. I wish I could say now, My Church, that I forgive you your trespasses, but you do not forgive those who trespass against you, do you?
I guess in the end, though, I am not without fault. I wanted to believe you. You did tell me one thing which was true and that was that in my heart, at the deepest center of my being, I would know truth from lie. And I knew you were lying to me. Your story never made very good sense, but I used all my energy to force that burning star of Truth at the back of my consciousness into the clean and tidy cage you offered me. You told me I should love my neighbor as myself and I knew this to be truth. But you also told me that I should love my husband more than myself and this never sat well with me. How could I love my neighbor, my brothers and sisters in God, as myself and then love one person of my choosing more so than all of them? I tried to convince myself that it was simply a matter of expediency that one necessarily had to spend more of their time with their husband than with the rest of humanity so it made sense to love him more.
You also told me that my body was a temple to the One True God and that I should never celebrate in it. Wait, what? Are temples not for worship? How can I worship with my body if I never use it? You told me that my body, being a female body, was necessarily unclean, but why would a holy and divine being bestow upon me a temple to its glory that was unclean and unworthy of celebration?
I knew these things did not make sense just as I knew that your promise of unconditional and unbounded love did not actually extend to me because of my womanhood. And yet you were so charismatic, so convincing and you made the outside world seem so scary that I would have chosen you then a thousand times over.
Well, I wanted to tell you that I have grown now. I jumped into that frothing sea and I drank it until the waves subsided and they carried me spent on their backs until I reached the shore. I have found my peace now with my body and my womanhood, but not with you. So I thought it was fair warning to let you know that I’m coming back to finish you off. No longer will I allow you to prey upon the young and the innocent. No longer will I stand by and try to justify your lies to my sisters who, unlike myself, are still too afraid to take the leap. You who would sow fear and distrust amongst those that I love are forever my enemy and I will fuck you out of existence.
You have been warned.