Do you have the same expectations of community (familiarity, intimacy, shared values) that you had while in (white) evangelicalism? Or do you have new standards for what you want and expect out of communities? Reply in the thread! (Testing out the thread function of Substack - let me know your thoughts.)
I actually think that I have all of those expectations... and I kind of did NOT have those expectations in Evangelicalism. I started making friends and family outside of the church in my early teens, and it was absolutely partly because I found those elements outside of the church in ways I never found it inside. I would also say that at this point I have a strong expectation within community of respect for boundaries and care and respect for a person's journey, which were not really values that I was taught growing up.
I am actually MORE intense about shared values than I once was. Growing up I was definitely taught liberals were trouble but I was always friends with liberals over conservatives, even though I consistently gave conservative talking points. At this point, I am not sure I could be friends with a conservative, and it's in large part because I really do believe that what we have here is what we get, what you do is who you are, and politics isn't the delightful game that my father tended to think it was when I was growing up - it actually has a profound impact on people's lives. I'm not interested in arguing with someone about the humanity of myself or anyone else.
I think coming out of evangelicalism -- now more than ten years out -- has made it much harder for me to join communities because of the strong reaction to *too much* intimacy and *too much* emphasis on shared values in my former life. Even after all these years, I feel so burned by the overcommunity of that first part of my life that I have a hard time joining a new one, or find that communities that better align with my new values -- like the current Democratic party to give a timely example! -- are so fractured and tenuously held together that compared to Evangelicalism it almost doesn't feel like a community. I worry, sometimes though, that this is a side affect of leaving a toxic relationship -- what if this is what community was supposed to feel like the whole time, and what I had before wasn't community it all, it was just a cult?
This fear, or maybe self-knowledge is a better way of describing it, that I might be prone to recreating unhealthy community has made me both reluctant to get too involved in any new one and also less willing to compromise on my own values in exchange for membership anymore. I think it's also in some ways made me appreciate the value of coalitions -- in which a group of people agree to cooperate in pursuit of a shared value or goal (like defeating Trump) without having to conform to one another or compromise on other things -- rather than looking for "that one thing" or one identity to be a part of. The community that I want to be part of now is one that loves and supports one another regardless of differences instead of trying to erase those differences.
More intellectual curiosity, less confirmation bias.
I think I actually have higher standards and a better understanding of relationships now. While my new friends who are almost entirely non-Christian do have similar guiding principles, no topics or angles are brushed off or reductionist. It wasn't until I left evangelicalism that I saw how shallow church relationships were, as they were largely based on performing culture and participating in similar rituals. Discussions and honesty were totally limited because they all had to take place within the shared agreement around certain theological doctrines (i.e., sin, nature of God, "the world", etc.). In that way, genuine development (and vulnerability) is totally limited: you can climb the ladder but the ladder doesn't lead out of the hole, just to a higher "refined" level of the same beliefs.
Doesn't this assume we had a good experience? I didn't. Other than seeing there was a tiny minority of 2CA early-church radicals acting like a Christian version of international communism in the 70s-80s (and often deranged spiritualistic and apocalyptic) I felt I had been unfairly dragged along into a series of cults where I was readily identified as a subversive and ejected/left with sexual maturity in the usual way. Only later did I realize how bad it was if you drank the koolaid, had the screws pressed in, and — worst of all — experienced "purity culture" in full bloom. Ha, missed me fuckers.