I am tired. I am tired of this need to compare. This is something that no one talks about in Church. There is this pressure to be a “Perfect Church Girl” (PCG, if you like). Someone who has the right hairstyle, outfit, bible verse or Christian sayings in her back pocket. Meanwhile, the night before she is sexting a guy she feels lukewarm about; she’s going to bars and clubs with her friends; they smoke, they drink together.
These are the friends that know her better than anyone at church. They are her real friends. They have listened to each other’s stories of heartbreak, loneliness, trust issues, confusion, struggles of #adulting. Maybe she is at home, watching a movie with that same guy that she feels lukewarm about and wants to give a blowjob because she does not want to engage in full sexual intimacy. It is easier to justify his dick in your mouth than your vagina to yourself because it’s not the real thing. It is not “the sex.” Maybe the night before she is at home watching a romantic comedy, eating ice cream and wishing that she had the leading actress’s life on screen or any life that seems to be better than her own.
I am tired of this bullshit. These same girls are encouraged that in addition to achieving the PCG look, you’re expected to take on the reproduction of domestic roles in the forms of child care or ministry and kitchen duties as examples. Sometimes, you’ll get promoted to a spot on, let’s say, the worship team, so you at least get to be seen. I feel like that church is very good at homogenization: every sermon, song, person and conversation is all the same. The church is a feel-good factory.
The first time I saw this was when I went to Romania in 2010. Within the small town that I stayed in, there is a pattern. There are three things to do in this beautiful, small town. 1) Go to the bars, clubs, restaurants 2) Go to the pharmacy. 3) Go to church. You go do your sin, get physical healing and prevention, and go to church to make yourself morally right. Then the cycle repeats. We do the same thing in Canada, but on a larger scale in religious communities. We lead a double life. Not even double — maybe triple or quadruple or however many times you want to multiply it.
For simplicity, I’ll stick with double life. The first life is your real life. You wake up, go to school and or work, text your friends, check social media, maybe post some things. You think and say dirty jokes, to fit in with your friends or the ones that you are trying to make because that’s more comfortable than talking about a morning devotional that you didn’t do. Confessing that you didn’t pray for your friend or a friend of a friend’s situation because either a) you forgot, or b) you genuinely don’t care. You just know how to say and do the right things to make people think otherwise. The second life is where you try to perfect the PCG brand that you have constructed. It’s a performance that combines the upkeep of real and virtual life of the person that you are only 30% of the time.
One of my biggest frustrations in the church is the amount of shame and guilt that gets passed around if either ourselves or other people do not measure up to some sort of standard for desired behaviour and attitude. One area where for me this is very prevalent is around pre-marital sexual activity. On the one hand, in Canadian society, most people would not judge me for being an unmarried sexually active woman in her 20’s.
This is the norm. However, this is a different context in a church setting, where the societal norm prevails in the church. In a 2011 study that was carried out by Relevant, popular Christian online magazine, claims that 80% of respondents have been sexually active at some point. I doubt that this statistic has changed much in seven years. Young adult Christians have a different battle to face than that of their parents and grandparents. We live in a society that is completely over-saturated and obsessed with sex and the Church is viewed by many to be something increasingly irrelevant in some ways. It has become counter cultural in many regards. Lolo Jones once said that of all the trials that she’s gone through in life, the most difficult is remaining a virgin. Not her athletic career or education: remaining a virgin.
A lot of the reason for the double life is because we are afraid. We are afraid of being exposed. We don’t want to have difficult conversations with ourselves and others. Sometimes, social media worsens this. It is another opportunity to convince people of having a life that we don’t have. On the surface, it is beautiful, inspirational. It’s also a lie. That picture that makes you look super spiritual, took roughly five to six hours to find the right angle and lighting. Never mind the filtering and maybe the Photoshop. Then deciding the right caption. No caption, a short one, or a long one. The longer makes you look extra spiritual and potentially garners more likes.
I am done with this “perfection culture” that the church is great at reproducing. I want to quit church. But I still believe that God created the Heavens and the Earth in six days and rested on the seventh. God sent his son Jesus to die on a cross. Jesus rose again three days later and is now seated at the right hand of God. I believe in the truth that I have learned through scripture. What is my goal in this? I want people to reflect and to listen to each other. Engage in dialogue, be open to interpretation of how people live their lives and to not judge, but instead have love, grace, mercy and compassion.