“A fundamentalist is an evangelical who is angry about something.” --George Marsden
I was raised in a family of evangelical fundamentalists who were living in Colorado Springs at the same moment that James Dobson founded Focus on the Family, whose dogma figured prominently into my upbringing. Their subsequent indoctrination and religious fervor created a stranglehold on my life and experiences that cannot be overstated. Decades later, I have unexpectedly found myself living in Colorado Springs again—which has since become an evangelical mecca—and in a current political moment whose very origins, I contend, can be traced to this place.
How did modern Christianity get so angry? How did its outer-most fringes become the center of contemporary American life? How did a relatively small group of people come to dominate our current political discourse, shifting policies that disenfranchise vast swaths of the population based on race and class? Where did it all start and how can we begin to understand it?
My point of entry for this project has been to photograph the physical structures that house Christian church services within the city limits—there are nearly 400 of them. Taking the notion of the typology as point of departure, I am subverting its conventional meaning for the purposes of investigating what sensations these spaces evoke for those who left them. What can one learn by examining the architectural language of these houses of worship? What other kinds of intangible information is made visible by looking at what these places call themselves by name, by whether they appear welcoming or austere or commercial, by how the sky appeared that day? What does immersion in the collective imagery of hundreds of churches in one town do to one’s notion of “church” or “holy” or “sanctuary?” Through this taxonomical analysis, I am able to explore my experience and understanding of these buildings as spaces that encourage alienation, bewilderment, fear and the uncanny.
Of equal and vital importance to this project is finding, speaking with and archiving the stories of those who, like myself, were raised in markedly fundamentally Christian households whose tenets they then rejected as adults—even as many continue to identify as Christian. When someone becomes a religious convert from a state of non-belief, they are said to be "born again," but what is it called when it happens in the reverse? When one has lost their faith, or never had it to begin with but later deliberately renounces it? What is it to suffer the loss of an ideal?
As I continue to be involved with this community and identifying with our similarly traumatic and frankly bizarre stories of collective upbringing, I recognize that the importance of these accounts being shared serves as an in-roads for the rest of our society to understand the context of our current political moment, and how it affects those harmed or otherwise influenced by policies driven by fundamentalist evangelicalism. The story of the #exvangelicals is the story of the end of a way of life, but it is also an account of the fall of what we’ve collectively recognized as The American Dream; a legacy that is more presently its living nightmare.
nota bene: if you had an upbringing such as described in this statement, or experiences like those described in this project, and are interested in participating, contact me at: email@example.com