I was born into a family that believed in going to church every Sunday and every holiday. I grew up in the church, met many friends through the church, and for the majority of my life the church was all I knew. But like most things, I grew out of it. My views changed so much that they no longer correlated to the ones of the church. I began to question God and religion, in general. My discomfort with the church stemmed from the political tension that had spread from church to state. I realized the cross that stared back at me for so many years, meant something different from what I had thought it stood for. Religion is like a bad taste in my mouth, because I see what’s happening in “the name of God” in government policies. I see that religion is used to justify taking away people’s human rights. As if all of a sudden, God wrote a new bible that gave certain “moral” rights to only straight, cis-gendered people. LGBTQ+ are excluded from this religious narrative and even if they are religious, they are persecuted and targeted for openly being themselves. That is why I stopped believing in God. The God that religious people follow was not the one that I wanted to associate myself with. And with many people that's how it is for them too. Yes, I know many people who remain religious and remain true to their faith, but they go against much of what the church says. They don’t follow the church narrative, they go by how they perceive religion. But I’m not most people, as a queer woman of color, I recognize the church has no place for me. Even with a reformed ideology, I still see the hatred and discomfort from people who continue to believe that I’m going to hell for being queer. That’s why when I moved Oregon, it was a better atmosphere to live in. The inclusive environment made me feel comfortable in how I identified myself. It allowed me to take my time to find myself without being viewed as an outsider. Oregon didn't have a religious agenda and the people I met were wonderfully inclusive. For a brief period, it made me rethink religion and about my stance with God, but I have not done anything beyond that point. I listen to different religious practices, experiencing the difference in their ideologies and compare it to the one I grew up in. I found comfort at the University of Oregon and a family that I never experienced before.
I appreciate our differences and I’m more aware of the power that religion has on the political sphere; I hope to create a larger divide between church and state. Because though I respect people and their religion, there are certain attributes in the Bible that are not important to our current time.
It is time to send the message of love and hope rather than hate and exclusion. LGBTQ+ are important, people of color are important, women are important, everyone is important. Do not use religion to dehumanize people, instead open your heart like the God I used to believe in. Accept people, because as long as they are alive, God made them for a reason and made them who they are. They would not be on this earth if He didn’t.
The author is a sophomore at the University of Oregon, and grew up attending Westchester UMC in Los Angeles.