What I’ve Learned After Leaving The Church

What I’ve Learned After Leaving The Church

By Mia Dunlap

My parents didn’t go to church. I started going on my own with my best friend and her family when I was 10. I loved it because I was away from home for hours and hours! Every Tuesday for choir rehearsal, Wednesday night for bible study, and early Sunday morning in time for Sunday school and I prayed we had an afternoon service!

My mom resented me and my dad didn’t see me. I was alone. At home and in the world. When I invited them to church, my mom came a couple times and critiqued my second language — church jargon! She hated it. It made her feel small and like an outcast. But it made me feel connected…. Like I had a tribe.

When I got to college, I attracted church people — like me. They loved the lord and also knew the “language of God.” They knew when to say “Amen” and when to moan, they knew when to stand up and move their bodies side to side and when to pop up and say, “You better preach!” We were connected. We were churched! When I took a class called “religious studies” at Spelman and began to learn about the root of religion, I became curious. Not about what we were doing, but why we did it. I asked questions. And if you know anything about church folks, we do not allow folks to question Jesus!


I was stuck! Asking meant distance from my church tribe and not asking meant distance from myself!

What I learned in that season:

  1. I went to Jesus to get away from a psychologically abusive home — when I introduced Jesus to my momma, she abused me more.
  2. I was churched! I was a child of the King… but I felt silenced. Like it was a blind faith that didn’t allow room for critique. That felt and still feels dangerous.
  3. I lost my friends.. my tribe when I chose to stay connected to myself. They didn’t demonize me, but I was a sore spot. I didn’t understand my process and neither did they. I talked less about Jesus and more about ancestors and God being “woman”… and well… we stopped being super compatible.
  4. I judged my mother harshly because she didn’t know or want to know the language. I hated her not because she abused me but because she didn’t come into the fold of Jesus. C’mon, it’s JESUS and she wasn’t interested! All I was told to do was pray she comes around and sees the light.
  5. There were too many damn contradictions in the Bible and I didn’t like that Jesus seemed to have favorites. “Mia, you are favored by the lord! You are chosen!” I got questions, what about my family? Can “This Lord” favor my siblings.. and shit, sprinkle some of that on my parents, too?? Nah!? That feels sticky and like I’m being set up to be hurt and alone and isolated! I didn’t ask for that. I wanted to be set up to be loved and accepted and seen and embraced. How come Jesus didn’t ask me what I wanted before just giving me something? Wait. No questions!

I allowed myself to feel the hurt. It hurt badly. And I couldn’t actually figure out what hurt, but I knew it had something to do with Jesus.

I’ve since learned that the highest power…the spirit… God… The universe…. Is whatever we need it to be…. And is working for us all, not just some of us. I’ve since accepted that asking questions and living tenderly is my preference and helps me feel free. And so as I lost respect for Jesus, I found respect for you… in all of your differences and for me in all of my inquiries.