Recently I have been thinking a lot about the gift of "growing up evangelical" and how I might be able to describe it in writing. Yes, I really do mean gift, not curse, even though growing up gay in the 1980s within a harshly conservative Christian environment fucked me up for years, to be blunt.
And yet, the fact is that I would not be a Christian today at all — I would not know enough about true Christian theology to understand how and why the religious Right are getting it so, so wrong — if I hadn't been raised an evangelical to begin with.
Then I read Alan Jacobs' blog post from last week:
"One thing that I almost never see in the current Discourse about evangelicalism is an acknowledgement by people who were raised evangelical that their upbringing might have provided something, anything to be grateful for. When I hear people denouncing their evangelical or fundamentalist 'family,' I remember something Auden said about Kierkegaard: 'The Danish Lutheran Church may have been as worldly as Kierkegaard thought it was, but if it had not existed he would never have heard of the Gospels, in which he found the standards by which he condemned it.'"
Which made me feel ashamed (especially as I read the rest of the post involving Jacobs' tragic upbringing by an abusive father), because I've been thinking about expressing such gratitude for a while and never really figured out how to do it in the right way.
The fact is, while my parents weren't perfect and my relationship with them has always been complex and somewhat estranged, I was given the gift of Christian belief that has sustained me through difficult times — even some difficult times when I would have told you point blank that I didn't believe any of it.
I always knew that given enough time I would eventually find myself returning to the church, even though I also knew that there was no way in hell that it would be the kind of church in which I was raised. Still, here I am, reciting the Creed, and finding that I actually believe it, every Sunday morning and most weekdays.
I'm not going to delve too much right now into how exactly my evangelical upbringing screwed me up for a couple decades, or how my faith differs now from what I learned about Christianity as a child. I do know that I wouldn't be a Christian now if I hadn't learned what I did, and I am grateful for that gift. (I do sometimes wonder if I would consider myself a Christian now if I had grown up instead in a liberal mainline denomination of the 1980s…)