I had so hoped this day would never come.
Thirty-five years ago, I bucked my family’s belief system and fell into Jesus’ arms. I found him through a born-again Christian woman who spent years praying for me. It took her even longer to get me into a church; I just couldn’t imagine rubbing shoulders with all those “holy” people. At that point, we didn’t have a lot in common. But little by little, I learned their ways. I liked their music. I adored their Jesus. And they showed me a love I had never seen before: what it meant to be a part of the body of Christ.
So for most of my adult life I have been a born-again Christian, attending Evangelical churches. Within their walls I found a family and community I could never have imagined beforehand. Within their belief system I learned how to study the Bible, so I could really get to know my savior. Within their arms I found comfort and support through the ups and downs of life. Through their prayers I found the courage to have faith. Through our friendships I found the connection to humanity I always wanted.
I felt that, short of Heaven, I had found home.
Yesterday, I said goodbye.
My heart was truly shattered when my daughter Catherine died suddenly, but this pain isn’t like that. This is more of a prolonged agony. In some ways, leaving is a relief. When Trump was elected I was just plain flabbergasted. As time went on, I absolutely believed that Evangelical Christians, my own people, would see who he is and that his agenda runs contrary to the teachings of Jesus. I was woefully ignorant of the political juggernaut known as the Religious Right. Last September, I started reading up on the movement. What I found sickened me. They are not about Jesus. They are about power. And boy, did they get it in Trump.
Since this is a postmortem rather than an exposé, I’ll spare you the details. All that really matters about dealing with a great loss is recognizing its enormity, grappling with its implications, and accepting that life will never be the same. I really did go through all of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s stages of grief during these last few months:
Denial: You’ve got to be kidding me. They can’t see through this guy?
Anger: Who’s responsible for leading these people astray?
Bargaining: If I just point out the flaws in their logic, they will get it.
Depression: Oh, my God. We’re going lose our family. Our community. What’s going to happen to us? We’ll be all alone. They really believe this. They support Trump. This is not going to change.
“Dear Leadership Team: Seeing the events taking place in the church over the last several years makes us so sad and disheartened that just entering a church brings us to the point of tears. After months of prayer, and with great sorrow and regret, we ask that you remove our names from your membership roll and cease communications. Thank you for the time we were able to spend with you, and we wish you all the best.”
And so yesterday, it was finally over. No one who knows us will be surprised, but there will still be some who are sorry to see us go.
I know, there are other kinds of churches that aren’t part of the Religious Right political movement, some who even consider themselves Evangelical. I’m praying about where God would have us go next. The heavy weight of grief is still parked on my chest. But barely within earshot is a whisper of hope that there will be another family out there, somewhere.
Goodbye to this version of the Evangelical Church. May God open your eyes before it is too late.
©Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC, 2020. All Rights Reserved.