I know I have a “privilege” of professed Christianity. Yet I struggle with this identity a lot, because I have been in hurt in various faith communities. I have also found healing. I wrestle immensely with my faith and making it my own. At the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and ability, I find partial supports in the faith communities I can enter into, but I never feel like I am fully embraced. I have attempted travelling a more solitary path, but I often miss the community of others. Moreover, I am convicted that I’m not growing as much as I could be.
The places where I feel I am truly growing, I have to wrestle with the fact that there are few, if any, people who look or love like I do. The place where I feel like I receive the most support regarding faith, mental and physical health, and an awareness of the privilege of socioeconomic status, I don’t have role models of color or of diverse genders and sexualities. I also don’t have anyone to talk to about the role of racism and other systems of injustice in the faith community. I want to learn more about the cultures, religions, and beliefs of my ancestors. And I have no clue where to start.
Christianity and Catholicism, in various forms, have been forced on Native peoples and people of color from China to South America. Forced conversion, condemnation, destruction of entire cultures to follow one way—I wrestle with the many atrocities committed throughout history under the banner of religion. Is God bigger than that? Yes. Is participating in or adopting Christian beliefs somehow a perpetuation of that history of oppression? Most of the time, it feels like it. I feel like I’m always betraying one part of myself or another—my race, my faith, my health—at the expense of what? How much do we sacrifice to reach higher ground? Everything? Is this worth dying for?
There are more ways to die than being buried in the ground, wandering between worlds, reaching heaven or being resigned to hell. I have killed many parts of myself—the child who dreams of love and care, the healthy teenage athlete, the carefree young adult. I have resurrected parts of those people: dreams, hopes, loves that will not die. I have incessantly questioned my existence, tested its limits, pleaded to move past it and on to some other iteration of hope of suffering. How do I pick up the pieces of my broken selves without cutting myself on the edges of resentment, of anger, of shame? How do I bleed out the bitterness so that only benevolence remains?
I keep thinking of a class-mate’s words—a closed mouth cannot be fed. I pride myself on my privacy. I boast my ability to cope, but I use it to cover up the hurt. I have let go of so many parts of myself only to reach now, where I am told to pick up those parts and hold them close. Did I ever have to let them go? Was the distance, real or perceived, intentional or not, ever necessary? Can I come back? Can I still live?