There’s no time to sit on the fence anymore. In truth, that hasn’t been a luxury we could afford for many years, but it’s especially true now (in part because so many of us, myself included, thought we could opt out.) And I’m especially ashamed of my own cowardice and failure to take a stand while I was involved with church.
I started watching “The Handmaid’s Tale” tonight, since I finally got Hulu and set aside dedicated time to watch it. I knew I would like it, since I loved the book it was based on and the author Margaret Atwood is probably my single-most favorite writer.
Even though both my liberal friends and my friends in the ex-evangelical Facebook group to which I belong have been raving about this show and I was sure I’d like it, I wasn’t prepared for how scary it really is. I think it’s actually much scarier than the book.
I wasn’t prepared for the wake-up call it would give me or the shame I’d feel about having hidden my true self for so long.
The phase of me being fake and trying to suppress my true views peaked when I was in the secretly Baptist “non-denominational” church. I just wanted to have friends, so I hid the many things about my thoughts and views that didn’t fit in.
I kept my mouth shut when friends from church shared pro-Trump views. I kept quiet when people would equate gun rights with Jesus. I said nothing when the pastor said he had “no problems with immigrants as long as they came here legally.” I still said nothing when he talked about being gay as “against God’s plan.”
The show reminded me of why I can’t stay silent. Even people who seem nice on the surface can’t always be trusted, especially when evangelicals are in high positions of power. The evangelicals who have so much political influence right now are twisting scripture to justify discrimination, which is increasingly guiding our country’s actions (particularly toward immigrants.)
If you actually know the scriptures and call them out for subverting and distorting them, you’re an enemy even if you call yourself a Christian. But these people are the reason that I cannot and do not currently call myself a Christian. And the show is a pretty chilling reminder of the consequences of staying silent when you see people abusing power in the name of religion.
Watching this show is the latest step in taking me back to the roots of who I’ve always been. I always said I would fight injustice. I always cared about women’s rights, much more so when I was younger. Supporting LGBT rights has also been important to me for at least 25 years.
And yet I let the evangelical power structure control the narrative and convince me that my views were the wrong ones, something to hide. After all, I didn’t want to offend someone — never mind how fucked up it is that people can be offended by sticking up for other people’s rights.
So I’m going back to being more aware and will follow the news more closely, even though doing so increases my anxiety. I’m glad I finally went back to work outside the home and earn a decent salary, because although I highly value my husband’s help and am glad I don’t have to do things alone, I do not want to be dependent. I never again want to be as helpless as I felt when I was staying home and had an irregular freelance income.
I’m still personally conflicted about the birth control pill, as I distrust a lot of medications and that one in particular has a lot of side effects I was unable to tolerate. And I’m somewhat conflicted about the abortion issue, although much less so than I used to be. But this is an issue for which I have to stop saying I can opt out of caring about it because I no longer personally have to worry about these issues.
In my late teens, I was a counter-protester at the women’s health clinic in my hometown, because I felt very strongly about the fact that women deserved a right to make decisions about their own bodies.
I’m finally returning to that viewpoint again. I want to donate to Planned Parenthood and NPR and the ACLU. I may be ashamed of my silence and attempt to stay neutral for so long — but I can do things differently now.
I can’t afford to be silent anymore and am willing to face whatever consequences there may be for being open about my views. Whether that’s just losing friends (even though most of my church friends have already ditched me) or being silenced someday by a government out of control, I can’t stay in the middle. That’s just not who I am.