Just to clarify something. When I say I no longer inhabit the FG narrative, it is not to say I don’t still have friends and even family who still do. Since I came from that world, grew up in it, I of course still have many ties and links to those in that world. I didn’t turn my back on friends and family because I had found another path. However, some friendships and family relations have certainly grown cold because of my decision to leave that world, but most remain very strong. Where the bonds have been strained or broken, I leave the door open for eventual understanding and wish them nothing but the best.
I did end up leaving my evangelical church home. I just couldn’t do it anymore. It felt like I was lying. I was only there at the end because of the relationships and my love of music (I was a part of the worship team). Those always seemed like good enough reasons to stay, until an actual theological/philosophical/ political question would come up or be put to me: “Hey Darrell, what do you think about such-and-such…?” It was then I would often hit a power chord on my electric guitar, cup my ear, and yell, “What? I can’t hear you!” In such moments, relationships and music turned out not to be strong enough reasons to stay—or a very good way to dodge questions (Plus, I’m sure it was annoying!). My remaining wasn’t fair to them or to me.
I began thinking about how to leave and then it was made easy. The 2016 November election happened. Trump was the final straw for me. Learning that 81% of white evangelicals voted for him (or remained silent—never addressed the threat he posed) was too much. It was the most I’ve ever been disappointed in my (then) tribe, in my life-time. So, given my heart and mind were already gone, it was then fairly easy (still bittersweet) to walk away.
Again though, I still have many friends and family who still live in that world. And I wonder if we can ever truly leave a narrative (whichever one it might be) wherein such a story was so formative—one we inhabited for decades—especially from an early age. I think we can, but I doubt we ever leave it as much as we might think (hope?). I think we can become more objective as we begin to step out of that world, turn back, and look at it from a distance. We begin to see things we could never see while completely immersed, while in the echo chamber, where everything we read and heard only reinforced what we already believed. And this is true of those who inhabit secular narratives too. We can leave, but traces no doubt remain.
So, when I speak of leaving or no longer inhabiting, I say it humbly—knowing formative narratives remain a part of all of us. I’m sure that world still lives, is still alive in my bones if you will. Leaving a formative narrative and beginning to inhabit another is not a matter of closing one door and opening another—or changing hats. It is more like a long walk down a road at twilight, it is hard to see very far and there are many side trails and forks. And at times, we are not sure where we are, or we find we have circled somehow and are right back where we started. At other times, we notice we are seeing new places, new vistas, parts of the world we had never seen before. We begin to feel we are actually heading to another place. I feel that every now and then but have far to go.
Anyway, I just wanted to put that out there. I don’t want to make it sound like I quit my job, changed my name, sold our house, moved away and started over somewhere in the Ex-Funda-gelical witness protection program—where I have completely left everything behind. I wish. No…although…hmmm…