Prologue (REVISED) to my sacred memoir at breakframe.wordpress.com
“Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on the journey of faith you are welcome here”
I choke up as I hear these words welcoming us to this community. I scan the congregation for the ‘whoevers’. I see Muslims, Jews, people of some or no faith, each a fellow pilgrim on a faith journey. I also notice that I am in a place welcoming to LGBTQ+ folks. This is a refuge for all the rejection where other religious groups told them, “We hate the sin but love the sinner”.
I was once in a leadership position in a radically different church *tribe. Evangelical Christianity is the polar opposite of my new inclusive community of faith. I was also reared in the mother of all racist societies in South Africa. The latter shaped my sense of white male entitlement, othering of persons of color, and king of the castle attitude in the caste system.
What follows is my story about leaving my religion and country and the growth opportunities that ensued.
Folks leave religious and cultural backgrounds all the time. Maybe they attend college where all sorts of doors open where they see different perspectives on life. Or they drown in the cross currents of conformity in their tribe. Or intellectually that cannot stomach that their group views itself as the “only” way. Whatever the reason for the exodus change is always difficult. None of us have access to a reliable crystal ball. Mine is in the repair shop and they don’t seem to be able to fix it. We stumble our way across an ill defined border that seems to end in nowhere land.
My migration from church and country nearly four decades ago was a gut-wrenching and life-enhancing move. But some inner light prompted me to take a leap of faith. At least that is my explanation for the change. Some in my former tribe would label me as apostate. It also helped that I had a full scholarship to graduate studies in psychology in California.
Maybe you have struggled to leave your cultural or religious past. Your background may be entirely different from mine. However, embracing the new took you on an emotional rollercoaster. But this necessary loss will eventually be transformed into an exhilarating adventure. In that strange and foreign place your life is reordered as you discover who you really are and what you want for your life.
*I use the word tribe to describe my former brand of Evangelical Christianity in South Africa. But the term also applies to a portion of the Evangelical church in the USA where I was involved for a decade. Evangelicals are not a monolithic entity. There is diversity of thought and a spectrum of beliefs in that religious camp. There is a growing group of “new” evangelicals that has moved beyond xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, and anti-science. Thought leaders in this group include Jim Wallis from the Soujourner movement and the late Virginia Mollenkott. There are many good people in this group. They are not to be dismissed as deplorable.