This body of work is an visual and written exploration about my time growing up in an extremist church. I am leaning on religious imagery, rituals, and reconstructions of past events to process the complicated and oftentimes confusing emotions surrounding such an upbringing.  

Check back periodically for updates. 

I was baptized in December of 2003. At the church, we believed that baptism wasn't a means of salvation, but a declaration of our devotion to God. Once baptized, you would be formally recognized as a member of the church. Being eleven years old, I understood what baptism meant, and I wanted to declare my dedication and salvation to all. 

I remember I had to stand in front of the congregation and state my intention for baptism. Everyone clapped and cheered, and we set the date for the following Sunday, during the evening service. I was told to show up and invite my parents, and that was that. 

I showed up for my baptism, and one of the women in the church lead me behind the pulpit and up some stairs to a changing room. She handed me a white robe and told me to change into my baptism clothes underneath. I didn't understand what she meant-- 

"Baptism clothes?" 

"Yes, you need to wear something under the robe, since it is white and will become see-through once it is wet." 

"I didn't know I needed to bring any extra clothes." 

She looked very put-upon and irritated as she stomped away to figure out a solution. She returned several minutes later with a pair of red basketball shorts and a t-shirt. 

"Here," she said, and left. 

I was baptized in front of the church, but it wasn't the celebration I thought it would be. I was cold, wet, and in borrowed clothes from a begrudging woman.

I changed back into my normal clothes and fell asleep during the sermon. 

There was an overwhelming sense of not being good enough. By the time I was a teenager, depression had sunk its claws into me. 

I prayed every single day, multiple times a day. I would wake up in the mornings before school and do a daily devotional. I read my Bible. I went to church about 3 times a week. I was trying so desperately to be a good child of God. It was never enough for the church. 

I remember missing a couple weeks of Sunday services because my depression and anxiety reared up and wouldn't let me leave my house. When I did return, it wasn't to a warm welcome and open arms. I was asked "Where have you been?" and told "You should have been here." 

One friend of mine was so judgmental, he told our other friends to stay away from me, stating that I was a bad influence and I would cause them to stray from the path of God. 

I used to get so angry about that, about how he had no idea how much I relied on God, how I would punish myself for not being good enough. That friend never reached out to me, never checked in to see if I was okay, never pondered the reason for my short absence. 

I can think of only one person who said "It's good to have you back." 

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