Coming on the scene only in January of this year, Fundamentally Free is a new ex-Evangelical blog that has already published a good deal of valuable and impressive content by a diverse array of authors. On March 20, 2018, Fundamentally Free’s Twitter account put out a call for #EmptyThePews stories–stories of why and how individuals left toxic Christianity–that it would begin highlighting in a new series.

Later that day, the blog’s editor-in-chief, Mandy Nicole, kicked the series off with her own powerfully written story. Here’s an excerpt:

All of my experiences in Evangelical Christianity were real to me. The tear-filled camp chapels, the conviction-heavy revival services. The time at Bible college, working out my salvation with fear and trembling. The house churches, the pastoral pressure, the sermon preps, the Sunday school curricula, the Christmas pageants and the door-to-door witnessing excursions. I felt my faith in my bones, and had what I am convinced were real experiences and spiritual encounters. They happened. And they’re over now.

Just like my marriage was no less real just because it ended in divorce, my faith was no less solid just because it’s ended. Ended, or evolved – I’m never really sure.

My breaking point came at the end of a thankfully short but powerfully abusive relationship with a man who manipulated, gaslit, assaulted, and isolated me. I began to read about the phenomenon of the Narcissistic Sociopath and my heart dropped as the person I thought I was growing to understand morphed in my mind from a human man to the very god I had worshipped my whole life.

I am adding Fundamentally Free to the Resources page on this website, and I appreciate the blog’s embrace of #EmptyThePews as a vehicle for bringing attention to the experiences of ex-Evangelicals that are too often erased in a media environment in which Evangelicals are given undue deference and, all too often, free rein to spin their own narrative in national conversations. But the stories of the #Exvangelical community are our stories, and highlighting our reclamation of them is not only empowering and healing for us as we push back against Evangelical gaslighting. It’s also important given that white Evangelicalism is essentially authoritarian and that conservative, mostly white Evangelicals, in power under their president Trump, represent the single greatest threat to democracy and human rights we face in America today. We need to reshape national conversations around Evangelicalism to include critical and ex-Evangelical voices, if, as I wrote recently “we are to have any chance of salvaging American democracy from the Trumpist authoritarian onslaught.”

I reached out to Mandy Nicole, both about her vision and purpose for Fundamentally Free and about her specific reasons for launching an #EmptyThePews series. About the blog, she told me, “Our goal is to help people who have left evangelicalism sort through their baggage and feel less alone. We write on everything from personal experiences, to social and political commentary, to resources for deconstructing and healing.” She makes sure to include the perspectives of nones and those who have settled in as spiritual but not religious, or in a healthy form of religion, and the authors also cover ” a broad range of racial, gender, and sexuality demographics.”

Regarding #EmptyThePews, Mandy noted:

It’s becoming increasingly and frustratingly evident that the political clout and social stature of abusive Evangelicals gives them a lot of cover.

There are many reasons people leave the church, but the sympathetic way the media covers harmful Evangelical ideologies silences and erases the very real experiences of average Exvangelicals.

Our goal with this new series is to highlight the true stories and validate the real reasons people choose to leave Evangelicalism.

I will certainly be looking forward to new contributions in the series. And if you have an #EmptyThePews story you’d be willing to share on Fundamentally Free, please follow this link to submit it.

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