born into it

a black and white photo of me as a baby on my mom's lap. she is looking at me and smiling, and I am laughing.

cw: evangelicalism, verbal abuse

Some years ago, while I was only a few years away from being a self-described Christian, I started writing a sort of memoir about it on my website at the time. I was so close to having just been evangelical that my mom — someone who now pretends that I don’t exist, so far as I’ve been told — was enjoying it and looking forward to what I wrote about.

At the time I wanted to write about it, my reason was to shed light on why the self-styled Church (read: evangelical, fundamentalist denominations; not Catholic or other specific types of Christian religion) was problematic in my life and had led to me abandoning it altogether. I had always thought that my calling in life was to point out with compassion how the church is failing and how it could do better. Now, from a vantage point several years past that, I no longer have as much compassion to draw from. The ruination of lives that evangelicalism has caused and is causing is too much for me to gently draw anyone away toward another path. My only way to do this right now is to shout fire down from the sky about it, which is perhaps helpful to only a handful of people, and only those that are already radicalized and trying to figure out how to build a life out of slivers of the things they used to hold so dear.

So maybe that’s not the best way to start writing about this. I do find that fire from the sky is a comfortable metaphor for me, but that may be more personal than anything else right now. I’m not sure that I have the discipline not to burn everyone with it. I’m not confident in myself not to do harm that I can’t see and therefore can’t rethink ahead of time.

The best way to start this particular kind of memoir writing is to say that I was born into it. Into a Christian household, to parents that wanted to do their own thing but still remained tied to the beliefs that harmed us all. I memorized Bible verses every week for Wednesday’s Awana meeting (that link is a Wikipedia page, not their actual website, because I don’t want to give them any web traffic if I can help it). I grappled with the idea of sin, because it was tied to how my dad disciplined us. If I took his idea of the world as my own worldview, then I was fucking up all the time without meaning to and without any apparent way of understanding HOW I was fucking up.

I can still remember eight or nine-year-old me, asking my dad a question that was heavy on my young heart, hoping for an answer that would help me: why do we do things that are wrong? And he paused, which I thought was an indicator of upcoming thoughtfulness, but instead he screamed: “You want to know why you do bad things? BECAUSE WE’RE ALL SINNERS, THAT’S WHY!!!” I left crying, unable to understand how I’d managed to make him angry again, in fear and anguish without the answer to the question I sincerely needed.

That’s how I’ll end today. Small Nix, trying so hard, swimming in Bible-speak and my father’s rage.

featured image is a photo of my mom and my baby self, probably taken by my dad

Nix Kelley
Co-parent to multiple kids. Writer. Death doula. Member of the Order of the Good Death. Seeker on the Path of Light. Queer, non-binary, & trans.


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