Former Evangelical Says the Church Was Gaslighting Her By Supporting Trump November 30, 2018

Former Evangelical Says the Church Was Gaslighting Her By Supporting Trump

A woman stood up to the people in her church for supporting Donald Trump — and pointing out the hypocrisy that comes with preaching the Gospel while supporting someone does everything Jesus told people not to do — and she’s now paying a steep price for it.

Elizabeth Baker still loves Jesus, but she has no desire to be part of an organized religion community after how she’s been treated. She specifically says the church is “gaslighting” her.

I don’t sleep through the night anymore. I suffer from near daily panic attacks and almost constant anxiety. The source of my joy, my security and my identity has vanished, leaving me with an angry grief that almost no one in my immediate circle understands. I have relationships that were once life-giving but have turned toxic. I feel manipulated, deceived and abused. And why?

The church that raised me is gaslighting me.

“Gaslighting,” for anyone who isn’t aware, is a term for when a person’s valid feelings and experiences are dismissed by everyone around them. It’s being told that something you know is true isn’t true at all. It’s telling your abuser that you’ve finally had enough, only to be told that you’re the problem, that you’re the crazy one.

The ensuing self-doubt makes it difficult to discern what is real and what is false.

In Baker’s case, she was taught that the GOP was the party of God and that being a Democrat meant you were a bad Christian. It was only a few years ago that she became more aware of what was outside her bubble:

Starting in about 2014, social media, specifically Twitter, began to open my eyes and widen my world. I listened to and learned from people with different voices and experiences, and for the first time, I heard terms like “white privilege,” “systemic racism” and “progressive Christianity.” I had no idea that someone could be gay and also be a deeply committed Christian who has a high regard for Scripture. The people I followed online challenged my conservative Christian worldview and I learned that following Jesus isn’t nearly as narrow a path as I grew up believing. I started to doubt and question the integrity of the insulated Christian bubble still benefiting me. My faith was shifting, but slowly and privately.

And then came 2016. Donald Trump, a man whom until then I most closely associated with “The Apprentice,” was now the Republican nominee for president of the United States. Trump’s campaign and election was a breaking point for me and many other American evangelicals. This was when we realized that everything we had been told was non-negotiable didn’t matter when there was power on the line. The election was like a floodlight on the underbelly of the evangelical church, and this is when the church started gaslighting me.

Baker’s experience mirrors that of many people who are part of a growing “exvangelical” movement: they were sold a bill of goods, that the Christian life is characterized by certain uncompromising values. But ultimately, evangelicals were more than willing to compromise everything Christ supposedly held dear in exchange for all the federal judges they could get (and restrictions on LGBTQ rights to be named later).

The church’s obsession with sexual purity defined my adolescence. The ethics of sexual behavior limited physical intimacy to the marriage of man and woman. And at the time, the political values of Christians lined up with this teaching. Bill Clinton’s infidelity was unforgivable as well as evidence of a political party embraced by Satan.

But when the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape leaked to a shocked nation in 2016, Christian Republicans doubled down on their support of a man who openly bragged about sexual assault.

It doesn’t take much imagination to consider how the same Christians who rationalized Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” tape would have demanded a lynch mob against Barack Obama if the situations were reversed.

It simply does not matter to the evangelical church that Trump is racist and that his dehumanizing rhetoric is emboldening radicals and costing Americans their lives. Americans are dying in mass shootings at the hands of white supremacists, while the church is celebrating the nation’s return to traditional values. For Christians who reject the MAGA mindset, this is absolute crazy making.

No wonder I live with crippling anxiety and spiritual trauma. The church that warned me against moral relativism now calls me a heretic when I apply the very principles they taught me to real situations, with real stakes for real people. I don’t know where to turn or whom to trust. Is any of it true? Have I wasted my life on a religion that hurts more than it helps?

That’s not rhetorical. The answer is yes. But Baker hasn’t left the religion entirely. Just the organized conservative wing of it.

Though it may be tempting for more progressive Christians to dismiss the ones in Baker’s church as fringe, the statistics suggest otherwise. We now know that 81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump, regardless of their reasons. Whatever Trump did, none of it was damning enough to convince them he wasn’t worth a vote. For some, the lives of unborn fetuses mattered more than the lives of actual people currently suffering at the hands of this administration.

While some of those Christians have backed off from their earlier support, too many have doubled down on it. They are, like it or not, the face of American Christianity to the rest of the world. It is anything but pretty. Baker, and other Christians who have walked in her shoes, are right to be disillusioned.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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