Growing up, my parents raised me as a Roman Catholic and I have stuck with the religion throughout my young adult life. I received my communion and confirmation, and attended church a few Sundays throughout the year including Christmas and Easter. I wouldn’t say that I was ever really a “star catholic” and there were parts of the religion that I wasn’t quite sure of.
My inner conflict with the religion I knew and the God I loved peaked when I was 15 years old. At this point in my life I was dealing with mental health issues, was full-swing with my eating disorder, and I was so angry with the church. I was angry that God could allow me to be so miserable, I was angry that there was so much hate, and most importantly I was incredibly angry with my priest.
My priest at the time used what I lovingly refer to as the “damnation gospel” where no matter what we did, or how many times we begged for forgiveness, we would always be hell-bound sinners. God would always look down upon us even though He loved us in all our entirety. And I absolutely hated it. I hated that the God I knew to love me no matter what could also hate me for my faults. At this point in my life, I was frowning upon myself enough and I didn’t need help hating myself.
But the final nail in my religious coffin was hammered in by the very officials who were supposed to help grow my faith. I remember the day I decided to leave my church vividly. It was one of the few times my mom and I actually went to church on Sunday when it wasn’t a Holy Day of Obligation. At the end of mass, the priest asked us all to sign a petition to “ban gay marriage in the state of New Jersey because it would ruin the holiness of marriage.”
At this point in my life I was realizing that my political views were far from what the church believed. I was a supporter of a women’s right to choose and wasn’t really sure that life began at conception. I had friends who were in the LGBTQ+ community and I hated that the church saw them as less of a person. I didn’t understand how a God who loved us all so much could hate his own children for who they wanted to love. So when the priest asked us to sign the petition I stood up, pushed passed the people in the pew, and walked out of the church before the mass had officially ended.
After that day, I didn’t want to be part of my church anymore. I knew that I would go to mass on Christmas and Easter, but I felt completely disconnected to the messages I was receiving. I spent the rest of high school distancing myself from my God because I wanted my friends and family members in the LGBTQ+ community to be given equal rights. I felt that I couldn’t be Christian and liberal, so I stuck to being liberal.
I wasn’t involved with Christianity at all until my freshman year of college. A friend of mine was part of the Christian Fellowship at school and strongly encouraged me to see what the group was about. While I loved all of the people in the group, I was still dealing with a difficult dilemma: How can I be a liberal Christian in circles where most individuals are not? How can I support a woman’s right to choose and the LGBTQ+ community without being ostracized by the people in the Christian Fellowship that I loved?
I struggled with this idea for a while, often staying quiet during discussions involving gay marriage or abortion. I didn’t want my new friends to be angry with my personal beliefs that supposedly went against everything God stood for. I still wasn’t sure that I’d be able to be part of a group that I was convinced didn’t believe in what I did.
But every week I went and sang Christian rock songs, and praised the God I still didn’t fully trust because of everything previous priests and Sunday school teachers had taught me. I felt resentment towards this God I didn’t really know because of everything I thought I knew about Him.
It wasn’t until I started having those really tough conversations about my beliefs that I realized I wasn’t the only one. One of my best friends in the group helped me realize that I wasn’t a “bad Christian” for advocating for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and women. He assured me that I wasn’t a horrible Christian for believing in my heart that God couldn’t hate the LGBTQ+ community or abortion-obtaining women. We also came to the conclusion that the same individuals who were damning the LGBTQ+ community to hell were probably the same people having sex before marriage (which the Bible says is a definite no-no).
An argument that I’m often told in these circles is that transgender individuals are sinners because they are changing the way that God made them. But Genesis 1:26 says that “God made man in His image”, which I believe means that transgender individuals are also made in God’s image, so they are not wrong to complete their transitions if they so choose. The argument against gay marriage is allowed to frustrate me because the understanding I have of my God is that he loves all of his children fully. He wants us to be happy, so why would he want to keep people who love each other apart? When discussing this with my friend, we came to the conclusion that this pro-LGBTQ+ argument made the most sense.
The Christian Fellowship on campus helped me find the God I remembered and loved as a little kid, not the politicized one I had grown to know. I am blessed to have found my love for God again, and I’m here to tell you that I didn’t have to leave behind my liberal views to find Him.