My Journey from Christian to Polytheist
When I was brought from Vietnam to the United States, one of the first things my mother did was take me to Faith Assembly Church in Imperial, California. She had me baptized. There started my journey to where I am now-a flaming, bisexual, pagan.
When I was younger, the Christian church was a huge part of my life. Since (what I would call "birth", except I wasn't actually born here...bc...you know...international adoption) infancy, I was always in church. By that I mean, my family dragged me there. As a child, I remember attending the Assembly of God church in Brawley. I did what every good, forcibly Pentecostal child did: I showed up to Sunday school; distracted myself with candy through the sermon; and wrote myself checks from my uncle's check book-all while uncomfortably dressed in those stupid frilled ankle socks that nobody in their right mind legitimately gets excited about.
At some point, my grandparents took over the care of First Assembly in Holtville, and we moved there. That's when the floodgates for familial obligation really opened. From before junior high to high school, I was basically ass deep in the church, and couldn't see a way out. I would go on Thursdays or Saturdays for worship team practice; went to Saturday night service, and Sunday morning-Sunday night as well if there was any; we would go to Sunday school, service, and then youth group on other days. I also went to a different church in Brawley on Friday nights for youth group. At one point, I was in charge of the children's Sunday school class (idk who let me do that).
When I was younger, I would see the congregation so enthusiastic, happy, and believing. In elementary school, I was confused, and thought there had to be something wrong with me that I didn't feel what they were so obviously feeling. The connection was never there. As I grew older, I realized it was actually fake, and everyone was as miserable as I was-or if they weren't, completely brainwashed. Because of this, and a lot of other things, I had such a negative stigma of the church by the time I left for college in 2013, that I outright refused church at all. Sure, It was easier to buy in, and try when I was younger, and had no reference of the outside world; however, as I aged, I realized who I was and what was important to me. I realized that Christianity didn't fit into that. It just didn't resonate, and the family forcing me to fulfill those obligations that went against many of my core philosophies...harbored and led way to a long time of deep disdain.
My mother once told me when she was a child, she wasn't allowed to go to movies or get her ears pierced. Obviously, not the worst thing Christianity is credited for (that's probably the Crusades), but it is a small bit of how Christianity (in my opinion) is based in unnecessary oppression. The older I got, the more of those ugly parts of Christianity I saw. It started first, behind closed doors, and with family. Any major mistake was chalked up to demon possession, employing religion and emotional abuse to ensure that we (the children in the family) would stay "in line." Which totally worked. From an early age, that started pushing me away from both the religion, and my family. It really only worsened with time.
I have a relative in my family who is openly gay, and a pastor. I remember one Sunday at my grandma's house during our weekly "family lunch" (more like family harp on the black sheep fest), where that one gay family member was such a topic of discussion that I had to leave, because I didn't want to say anything too openly progressive and cause more of a problem. A local school has a married LGBTQIA couple, and my aunt wanted to remove her child from that school on that basis alone. When I was in high school, and realized I was bi-sexual...I really had to bottle that shit up for fear of being literally condemned and disowned. Past the very Christian hate of homosexuals, there were other things that I found in the church to be counter productive, and blatantly hypocritical. Like treating someone how you want to be treated-unless you're a woman.
As a feminist, and a minority, I have always had a problem with letting my life be dictated via the words of a mistranslated, half assembled document written by old men in times where slavery was acceptable, and women were literally sub-par subservient male objects. I have read the Bible more than I would like to admit, but the first time as a self aware young person, jarred me to my core. If you know anything about me, you know I value my independence, female sexuality, and general right to be an individual person. Verses like Genesis 3:16, Ephesians 5:22-24, and generally all of Corinthians basically solidified that Christianity was not for me-or any woman, really. I started looking into other alternative practices.
When I moved away from home, I took full opportunity to explore my spirituality, and take advantage of sleeping in on Sunday mornings. I became a witch, and started reading tarot. In my studies I found polytheism. It appealed to me, because the only time religion ever interested me was when I had to do school papers on it-and it was never about Christianity. I became Kemetic very early on. Obviously I didn't tell anyone, because I knew people would think I was ridiculous for following an old world religion. People were already looking at me crazy for openly being a witch (though not in the valley). I then realized...fuck it. If it's widely acceptable to worship a gentrified baby, then I feel like the Ancient Egpytians were on to something way before that and I was in the clear. I obviously hadn't told my family, and still have not. I don't need to though, because they don't speak to me either.
Three years ago, after moving back home, I finally was able to put my foot down, and at least tell my family I was no longer going to church. This came after I really saw how volatile the Christian church can be. If we're being honest, conservative Christians are the judgey-est people on this frickin planet. An individual from the church community my family had known very well, had decided to start a new "less complicated" church in the Valley. The new church would follow the same model as the original, MUCH LARGER, church the same pastor started in LA many years ago.
It did give me a little bit of hope, because it focused on doing GOOD into the world, and doing your best, instead of all the things you were doing wrong. It focused on personal responsibility instead of how bad the rest of the world is, and how elevated Christians "are"-which is kind of the general basis of Christianity anyway. I had become very good friends with a girl from my workplace, and her stepfather who had remarried was part of the new church, which was still meeting in school multipurpose rooms until the funds would be raised for a physical space for the church to meet.
Later on, when the new church was growing, members from other churches in the Valley started attending services-which in no way conflicted with their home church's service schedules. They would go on days their home churches didn't even have service. Apparently this pissed off the Assemblies of God churches in the Valley, and they launched an all out campaign against the new "uncomplicated church" on the basis of stealing members. The other churches encouraged congregations to write letters to the AOG (Assemblies of God) headquarters, which the new church fell under the jurisdiction of. The letters contained slanderous, untrue accusations against not only the pastor trying to start a new church, but most members of his family as well. False allegations of adultery, illegitimate children, homosexuality (GOD FORBID) were so awful, that the headquarters had to find a "compromise." The compromise was absolute bullshit. The pastor was blackballed from the Valley, and under the premise that he never step foot in it to perform a service, the headquarters would reimburse the money put down for a new building, and buy it out. So the church was out a pastor, out a building, and out a good number of attendees because the petty hypocrisy of the same religion. The worst part is, the apparent church to lead the call to action was the AOG of Holtville that I had given so much of my life, time, effort, and life moments to. This instance pushed me completely toward my gods, and my practice, as you never see a Kemetic acting like Chanel Oberlin, yelling about members being stolen, or ruining people's lives because they're mad they aren't popular anymore.
So here I am now: happier, healthier, and spiritually sound. Following my own path allowed me to actually find a belief system I resonate with, and that resonates with me. I've been able to connect with myself, and a higher power that I actually think has much more basis than an oppressive, fear based condemnation machine. My practice is spotty, because I am busy, but I do continue to communicate with my gods, grow, and prosper every day because I no longer feel trapped in something that I was never to be part in. My journey is still not over, as well. Very recently, deity (what witches generally call the gods/goddesses they work with) has shaken things up a little bit and the Norse pantheon has made itself known to me. I felt a calling towards becoming Kemetic, and now I have been called towards the Norse pantheon. So now, Odin and Ra work together when I work within my practice.
As crazy as it sounds (and I know it does), if we really sit and think about it...does it? Christians have angels-a literal hierarchy and pantheon-and so do many of the polytheistic religions. These deified beings appear in visions, and God himself "speaks" to His followers. In my mind, it may actually be God, but bless him for knowing I am so turned off by Christianity that coming to me in the form of a whole other religion was the best move. Don't get me wrong, the problem I have is with the RELIGION, and the shit head people who take it, and warp it for their own gain. My best friend-who I lovingly refer to as my sister-loves Jesus with her entire heart. We find a way, because she loves me, and I her. We respect each other, and she would never push her practice on me, as I would never push mine on her. That's the only type of Christian I like...the kind that respects the boundaries of belief for individuals. Unfortunately, my experience has found those people few and far between, but I have faith. Until then, I'm just going to drink beer with Odin, read cards with Isis, attempt to go to the gym with Sobek, and that'll be that.
It is so odd for me to look back on my life and see where I have ended up. As a teenager playing keyboard, and singing songs about a God I don't even believe in (because the story of Jesus seems eeeeerily familiar to the earlier story of the birth of Horus......), you probably could've told me I wouldn't be religious and I would've seen the plausibility in it. If anyone had told me I would be advocating for archaic polytheism, I would've been pretty solid on a "no." Yet, here I am: thriving (as much as I can), and a little less of a train wreck than I already was. At the end of the day, I think that's what is most important.