When I started this blog, I had yet to think of a proper title. I put “Christopher Stroop” in as a placeholder, and I’ve been mulling it over ever since. As of today, “Christopher Stroop” has been replaced with “Not Your Mission Field.” I also registered www.NotYourMissionField.com, which directs to the homepage here.
So, why Not Your Mission Field? For starters, while I may blog about other things, including my expertise in history and Russian Studies, I was looking for a title that would capture the centrality of ex-Evangelical experience to my own identity, along with the importance I place on helping to build ex-Evangelical and broader ex-fundamentalist community; to foster healing for those harmed by hardline conservative religion; and to raise awareness of the theocratic threat to American democracy and global human rights that the U.S. Christian Right represents. To evoke all that requires a title with at least a hint of defiance (which I believe is part of why some of the other ideas that ran through my mind, like “Accidental Apostate” and “Weird Everywhere,” just didn’t quite cut it for me).
Secondly, I associate rejection of proselytizing with the assertion of moral autonomy, which is necessary for ex-Evangelicals and others harmed by authoritarian religion to reclaim our own stories. Conservative Evangelicalism, which is pervaded by spiritual abuse, is a variety of Christian fundamentalism, and as such it deprives its adherents of moral autonomy.
As Cindy Brandt of Unfundamentalist Parenting has discussed, Evangelicals indoctrinate impressionable children into faith through fear, and then from their earliest years place the incredible burden on them of having to convert others, for example their friends, lest those others burn in hell forever. This, along with attempts to “break the wills” of children, is one mechanism that preempts children’s natural development of moral reasoning and agency, instilling instead anxiety and an authoritarian outlook promoting blind obedience to rules and doctrine. At best, this arrests the development of moral autonomy and of an understanding of concepts like consent and agency. To reclaim your moral autonomy after this type of socialization demands a herculean effort that comes with a high psychological and social cost. Declaring ourselves nobody’s mission field–reclaiming our own moral agency–is to proclaim strength and self-validation.
Finally, the very act proselytizing entails objectification of the individuals targeted. The perception that others need conversion indicates that they are less than, that the one who knows “the Truth” has a right, essentially, to colonize those others. Indeed, in practice, conservative Christian missionary efforts often exhibit an ends-justifying-the-means approach, and the very notion that proselytizing is a moral imperative is one that dehumanizes others and at the very least undermines any acceptance of pluralism (on which see this Twitter thread).
Finally, much of the commentary I read on the “nones” (of which I, as an agnostic with some Kantian-ish leanings am one) from progressive Christians seems to me to imply that the nones are a mission field that can be “won back.” I find this aggravating in the extreme, and so in giving my blog the title “Not Your Mission Field,” I am expressing defiance to these progressive Christians as well. I am more than happy to work with progressive Christians if I am treated as an equal with full moral autonomy. The minute I get the sense one is trying to convert me, though, we will be having words. I am #NotYourMissionField.
If you would like to respond to my blog and engage with me and others in ex-Evangelical and related discussions on Twitter, I encourage you to use the hashtag #NotYourMissionField along with our community’s standbys of #YouDontKnowEvangelicals, #ChristianAltFacts, and #SpiritualAbuseIs (the latter one coined by Emily Joy).