I broke a personal rule in my last full-length post and knowingly indulged in a logical fallacy. I presented a false dichotomy, suggesting that one must either be a disillusioned non-believer, or a fervent believer whose faith hinges on a personal relationship with Jesus. In fact, just as there is world of possibilities between the east and west coasts, there are worlds of paths to devotion or doubt, including mine.
The other day I came out to my family and my boyfriend’s family as a non-member of the locally dominant denomination. The funny thing about the doubter’s closet is that coming out doesn’t necessarily imply any specific label. In fact, all that could really be learned from my admission is what I’m not. I am not an Adventist.
I don’t want to focus on the denomination I left (yes, ‘left’), but on the fact that like most religious communities it creates its own culture. Thus, to publically admit that I no longer self-identify with the community is to distance myself (to some degree) from an entire culture, a set of values, and a way of life.
My admission yielded mixed results. My mother was stoic, almost without reaction. My brother was unsurprised and supportive, my father—disappointed. My boyfriend’s family reacted with various degrees of concern, and already simmering questions about our ideological compatibility rose to a full boil. But coming out of any closet is never just about making a formal announcement; for me it was about expressing my personal integrity through public honesty. Publically acknowledging a piece of me to the people who matter was an act of both internal and external honesty (After all, what is honesty if it is only selectively expressed? Of what value is the truth if it is only spoken to an empty room?).
The conversation with my mom yielded a helpful analogy. I told my mom that claiming to be part of my old faith community would be like claiming to be a man. I am sexually female, and indentify myself as a woman. I could act like a man, dress like a man, do things that men do, and claim to think like a man, but that would not change my essential nature. It would not change my sex, it would not change my gender, and my farce would be disrespectful to the male experience (sexually or gender-wise) because my pretending would make a mockery of their reality. For me, Adventism is the same way. I could self-identify as an Adventist indefinitely.
I could dress the way Adventists stereotypically dress, act the way they stereotypically act, and outwardly assent to all the doctrines, but that would not change what is in my head. Ultimately, my need to distance myself from the faith community of my youth is not based on disillusionment with culture or frustration with community (although these factors did help me on my way). I rejected doctrines and ideologies that, collectively, are integral to Adventism. I no longer embrace any of the doctrines peculiar to the denomination, and thus can have no motivation to call myself a member beyond a genuine desire to live within the culture. I have no such desire, thus, to pretend to be an Adventist would be disingenuous and disrespectful, it would make a mockery of the faith of genuine Adventists, so out of respect for them, and myself, I must respectfully take my leave.
Related articles (just some interesting reads)
- ‘Two and a Half Men’ actor’s criticism of show shines light on Seventh-day Adventists (religion.blogs.cnn.com)
- Warm Welcome for “Seventh Gay Adventists” (queeringthechurch.com)