Want You Back?: A Reflection On Evangelicalism

4/5/20244 min read

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When you leave your religion behind, especially in the instances where your immediate family taught you and were heavily involved in the same belief systems, you find yourself in an oddly liminal space in people’s lives.

To the people who knew you when you were a pharisee, you become a social phenomenon: You can talk about innate human sexuality now?  Alcohol and marijuana are no longer off limits? I don’t have to worry about you trying to convert me at any and every possible moment? Okay, but it’s going to take me a minute.

To the people still deeply ingrained into the faith community you left behind, you’re a heretic. You can be one of those for any number of reasons: drugs, debauchery, dudes, etc. I was deemed a heretic for the specific sin of asking too many questions and walking away when I finally got the answers for myself. The Intellectual Heretic is how I would brand it, personally.

The journey of deconstructing my faith started when I was a preteen and has been a roller coaster ever since. To make a long story short, I researched way too much of the Bible I had read through way too many times and ended up becoming one of those Intellectual Heretics because I didn’t believe this book was the inerrant word of God.

It’s all very boring, in the end. I’ve willfully forgotten most of the scripture I memorized as a kid and actively avoid the Christian label altogether. But here’s the part that most people who like to hand out the heretic moniker like candy don’t seem to realize or understand:

I miss being you.

There is no high like being on fire for Jesus as a teenager in the world, but not of it. Life had so much purpose and meaning when hell was threatening us all and Revelations told us to keep an eye out for the end of the world. Being a religious zealot is exhilarating, but the best part is that it all feels like you’re just so much better than everyone else.

For all of my non-adult years, it truly felt like I was imbued with special knowledge and wisdom about the whole universe because of how certain I was in the religion I was practicing. God made me and He did that so that I can spread the good news of eternal salvation to all of the world, to whomever I meet. This secret club came with everlasting life. Everyone who was out would be doomed to be tortured for the rest of eternity because you didn’t say that two second prayer, accepting Jesus into your heart.

I had already been cursed with parents who insisted on letting us think that we were better and smarter than literally everyone else around us, so couple that with religious supremacy? Needless to say, I haven’t had low self-esteem since puberty.

From my perspective as a newfound outsider, I see the people in my old religion vehemently defending beliefs I used to hold and think, “Ugh, those were the good old days, when everything was black and white. Everything just made sense in that tiny little box.”

My tired little brain completely understands the person who came up with the phrase, “Ignorance is bliss.” Not to be too much of an asshole, but when you spend your whole life trying to learn as many fun facts as possible… Well let’s just say: Ignorance? Hardly know her.

But dammit if I don’t look at you people, with your simple worldview and the one book that tells you everything you need to know, and remember that time in my life fondly. Fuck it, I’m jealous.

Absolute certainty seems like a blessing. You never have to question the guy at the pulpit and just doing what he says seems like an easy way to live. Reading the Bible and NOT learning about the culture and time period it took place in? A huge time saver. You don’t have to think too hard about your core beliefs because you trust the pastors at church to do it for you and that sounds like it saves a lot of brain space for crafts and activities.

Truthfully, sometimes I believe y’all are happier than us. You got life on a schedule with a curriculum and that’s downright admirable. Some people need to live within a certain set of parameters and that’s perfectly okay…I suppose.

And then there are those of us who choose to find peace about the afterlife in the arms of psychedelic mushrooms and who fall in love with the same gender. Some of us want to expand our worldview to include other religions and their faith practices. I mean, some of us women just want to be treated like equal human beings to our male counterparts, for Christ’s sake.

Regardless, I still found myself loudly screaming the words to “Want You Back” by Haim while I exercised on my elliptical for 10 minutes and conjured up a vision of this Republican Jesus I left to be another one of those goddamn commie hippies. Every cell in my body meant it when they screamed in unison to the whole neighborhood, “Just know that I want you back. I’ll take the fall and the fault in us. I’ll give you all the love I never gave before I left you.”

And then softly (because I was running out of breath by these points in the song), I would whisper, “All that time is gone, no more fearing control. I’m ready for the both of us now.”

Believe me when I tell you that my sorrow and yearning for that time in my life is genuine. There’s a reason why I didn’t think about men when this song came on the speakers. I think of little me fondly. She was doing her best with the information she was given… and then she sought out some more for herself. That little Bible Thumper found joy and everlasting friendship and love during her Evangelical years that wasn’t taken away because she lost her religion. Maybe I just miss life before the knowing, before learning how the world works, for real.

I can’t actively ignore everything I know now, so there’s definitely no going back to the deadbeat Republican Jesus boyfriend of mine. But sometimes it’s okay to think about how hot he was. It’s okay to be jealous of the bliss. The ignorance? Not so much. I’d rather stay a heretic.