I grew up Seventh-day Adventist and was educated at Seventh-day Adventist schools all the way through college. I can tell endless quirky stories about growing up – about the time my parents gave me The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to read at the age of seven and I was certain, certain, that they had no idea what devilish literature they had given me (all those horrible hags and werewolves), so I promised myself never to tell them because they would feel so bad for having led me astray. (I figured it out when I reread the story at the age of nine.) About my joy in meeting missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, at the train station on my way to and from school, so that we could proof text against each other. I was always certain that my marked Bible (marked with Sabbath texts, carefully traced with different colored pens, based on a pamphlet I had picked up somewhere) would eventually lead someone to the truth. (Again, I was nine.) As I entered adolescence, I became increasingly worried about the early Adventist dictum that the degree of responsibility you have as a believer is proportional to the degree of light you have been given – after all, I had a lot of light! In fact, I knew the truth.
But no stories like this will tell the truth of my relationship with the church. Yes, I grew up in ways that seem strange to many people: keeping Saturday holy starting Friday at sundown, without TV or movies until about the age of eleven, as a life-long vegetarian (although I became a pescetarian in my twenties), believing that Jesus Christ will return soon, having read the Bible cover to cover by the age of nine (do you see a pattern emerging?), and so on. Having spent the last decade plus outside Adventist institutions, I know much more than I did then about the ways in which my upbringing and beliefs were unusual by mainstream standards. Yet unlike many people who become theologians, and unlike many women who become feminist theologians, I never experienced the church as a particularly repressive site, even though the external forms of my life look very different now. I loved the church, and despite some unfortunate experiences with authority during my high school and college years, the church gave me gifts that I have valued ever since.
This article originally appeared on the Religion and Feminism blog. For the conclusion of the article, please click here. (link has been corrected)
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5760