You Are Not Your Own: And Other Lies Evangelicalism Taught Me

“You best learn to live while you’re alive.” ~Cloud Cult

Healing from any trauma, but especially religious trauma, is like an onion: many-layered and often tear-inducing. Tear-inducing comes with the territory of trauma. But the many-layered aspect is the tricky and often surprising part. You find that healing comes in waves, but those waves also bring new, suppressed memories to the surface. Or you find yourself telling someone a story from your childhood and they look at you, horrified, when you thought it was just normal. Every day can surprise you and make you begin the healing process afresh.

I recently recounted on Facebook a story about the purity culture I grew up in while being homeschooled in white evangelicalism. As I was typing up the story about being placed as a teenager in the middle of a semicircle by other homeschooling families and interrogated about my relationship with another teenager, the absurdity of the situation arose anew. It was as if an old wound never healed—because it hadn’t. It never had the chance. I had buried that memory along with many other similar memories.

Therapy has been so helpful in my own healing journey. It is in therapy where I can verify that a lot of the things I grew up with as normal and healthy are in fact absurd and harmful. When I told my therapist about my being interrogated by parents like that, seeing her reaction provides me with a reality check—yes, yes I do have a right to my emotions about a given situation. I am not just making trauma up where there is no trauma. 

Therapy has helped a lot with getting me back in touch with my own will and voice—those very things our evangelical parents and leaders said needed to be beat out of us and crushed. Therapy has helped me regain a sense of selfhood, that I belong to myself, and that I have a right to speak up when others’ actions harm me. 

Evangelicalism taught me a lie: that I am not my own, that I owe myself to God through spiritual slavery because I was “bought with a price.” The very premise of this equation is religious abuse. It baptizes manipulation and enslavement as holy and redemptive…

Read the full piece at the Vashti Initiative.

Published by R.L. Stollar

R.L. Stollar is a child liberation theologian and an advocate for children and abuse survivors. The author of an upcoming book on child liberation theology, The Kingdom of Children, Ryan has an M.H.S. in Child Protection from Nova Southeastern University and an M.A. in Eastern Classics from St. John’s College.

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