Previously published on my Tumblr page, http://a-woman-apart.tumblr.com/
Today my co-worker asked me how did I think it was that people came off with the criteria for diagnosing someone as autistic, or placing them on the autistic spectrum. I gave a number of reasons why I had heard that this was said to be done, and our conversation expanded to people who self-diagnose as various things, including (but not limited to) autism or mental illness or disorders. He talked about something called the “forer effect” which results in people considering a certain set of statements to be highly accurate for them, even though the statements could be true of many people. We talked about MBTI assessment, horoscopes/astrology, and a little bit about the New Age (indigo children, etc). He concluded that it wasn’t a good idea to pay too much mind to labels, clinical or otherwise, because we all have characteristics of all of the different diagnoses and personalities in each of us. Attempts at self-diagnosis in particular could prove to be limiting or harmful.
This got me to thinking about how I define myself as an individual. Here on Tumblr, I tend to affix the tags “deconversion” and “ex-Christian” to my posts, but I’m starting to see that it may be possible to just change my definition of what it means to be a Christian so that it fits me better (this is what Bishop John Shelby Spong did). Strangely enough, most of my non-Christian friends and acquaintances, to whom I’ve opened up to about my struggles, tell me that in their eyes I’m still Christian. They see me as a person of “deep faith” that feels strongly about Christian convictions.
I can’t say they’re incorrect about this. When I went to the Moorish Science Temple of America, I reflexively referred to myself as Christian, using sentences like, “Some of us Christians have these preconceived notions about what Islam is like” and so on. It felt natural for me to respond this way at the time.
I guess when choosing to believe- or not to believe- may be considered a matter of life and death, or of heaven or hell, then what I believe is really important. If I can divorce my faith in a Divine Power from these kinds of implications, however, I open myself to new possibilities. It’s definitely true that if I do decide to go along with not believing in the virgin birth, singular deity of Christ, and His literal resurrection, that I am going to alienate myself from some people of a fundamentalist Christian persuasion. On the one hand, I have the affinity of millions of Catholics who agree with the official church stance that the Bible is mostly allegorical (whether they extend that belief to exclude the literal belief in the virgin birth is another matter entirely). On the other hand, I have Evangelicals and Word of Faith-ers who go around saying, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it” in the face of ever mounting evidence, scientific and otherwise, that disproves the Biblical account.
Really though, it’s not the by and large church that I fear. It’s my parents, my siblings, my close relatives- it’s what they will think of me that gives me the heaviest heart. I can take the cold shoulder of strangers, but the idea of my dad in particular turning his back totally on me is more than I can bear at this time. I live constantly in that shadow of fear. He really hardly speaks to me as it is, and I find it undesirable for him to have even more of a reason to disdain me.
So yes, I have a lot of ways that I could define myself. I could define myself as a person of color, a woman, an artist, or a believer. All of those things are part of me, but they’re not the whole sum of me. Some may say that I don’t really believe, that I’m just a seeker. These are the same people who complain about churches becoming too “seeker sensitive”, too inclusive of society as a whole, too accommodating for people like me who refuse to fit into a “holy mold”. Supposedly the church should be about “being the light”, with the alternative, I suppose, being giving everyone night vision goggles.
I could define myself by my psychiatric diagnosis, throwing around words like “bipolar” or “schizoaffective.” I could talk about the fact that I’m sexually attracted to women, and that the church believes that that’s a sin, and woe is me for being in this kind of idealogical conundrum.
Jesus was recorded as saying, “If you’re not for me, you’re against me. If you’re not with me, you’re scattering.” He was also recorded as saying this;
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. / For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. / And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” – Matthew 10:34-36
I can see that that separating sword in my own family and I know that I’m not the only one. I fear it. I fear shaking off these false labels of who I really am and embracing my real self.
It’s funny though, that God/the universe/synchronicities keep bringing things into my life exactly when I need them.
I needed someone to give me strong advice and support, and I found my caseworker.
I needed to know more about my heritage, and I found classmates connected with places where I could learn about my African roots.
I wanted to learn more about different religions, and I found the Moors. (See my post, “More Alike than Different”).
I needed an outlet, and a friend introduced me to Tumblr.
The truth is, that I have everything that I need to be happy and whole. Also, I know that if I just believe in it, good things can happen for me. In the short term, coming out and being who I am could prove to be divisive and difficult. Even as I lose old relationships, though, I open myself up to new ones. Friends come and go. Situations come and go. The one thing that stays the same is the unshakable truth that I am worth it, and there is someone out there who will value the authentic me far more than people I used to know valued what they perceived as my authenticity. Somewhere out there there are people who will love me just for being me.
I have a few, and I’m ready to seek out the rest.