Honorable mention — College essay contest: Sonja Bimberg
Discrepancies: Christians and kindness
By Sonja Bimberg
When I was younger, I decided the best way to rebel and “not be like other girls” was to lash out against my strict Lutheran upbringing and declare myself an atheist. My parents still forced me to attend church on the weekends, but they couldn’t keep me from sneering at my religious peers. “I don’t believe in a ‘man in the sky,’” I professed when my friends talked about their Sunday morning services. “I believe in science.” This line of thinking stayed with me for several years, from about ages 11 to 15.
But by 15, I was no longer a sneering, stuck-up kid. I had started questioning my gender and was in desperate need of guidance. Throughout my crusade of the past five years, I had still retained a secret belief that God would catch me if I fell, and now I was ready to embrace him with open arms.
Ironically, at the same time I was ready to come back, my church started pushing me away. As a kid, I was taught that God loves everybody, no matter who they are. When I suggested I would like different, gender-neutral pronouns used for me, the same people who had been praying for my salvation now pushed me away. My friend group that had stuck with me throughout every single one of my angry anti-religion rants now stopped inviting me to hang out. At the same moment I needed religion, Christianity turned on me, and this did more to challenge my beliefs than any rebellious phase ever could.
Still, I was 15. Desperate, confused, and lonely, I turned to online forums for other people who had left or been kicked out of my specific church, and there, I found somewhere to belong. These forums were populated with all sorts of different people. Blacks, trans and gender-nonconforming people, gays, survivors of abuse and more all gathered together on those forums. We all had one thing in common. We had, in various ways, been rejected by the very people who claimed that God’s love was unconditional. This was where my break from religion truly began.
Questions raced through my mind, questions that had no answers. At first, I was angry with religion itself. How was I supposed to trust the bible that promised a loving God yet was used to hurt me? How could I follow something that taught its followers to be cruel? Then I began to attack God himself. How could a supposed loving God allow injustice to happen? If he created everybody and never made mistakes, why would he make me transgender and make his followers hate me? It isn’t fair. It just isn’t fair.
It’s been several years now. I’m almost 19. Technically, I’m still “not like other girls.” I identify as a man now. If somebody asks me, I would claim to be agnostic. Yes, there might be God, gods or a god out there. We don’t have any proof either way, and I don’t care. I don’t worship any gods now. I don’t need a higher power to assign me a moral code. However, my problem isn’t really with God, it’s with religion. I guess, to sum it up, I don’t care for religion because religion doesn’t care for me. And that’s never going to change.
Sonja, 18, is from Watertown, Minn., and attends the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where he is majoring in history and German. He would like to design museum exhibits for a living.