Ever since I was a child I’ve felt comfortable in church.
Growing up a Christian, a church becomes a place for everything. It’s a school, a theatre, a music venue. You feel a sense of ownership over the building. It’s a place for you.
Yet in a few days I’m doing something quite uncomfortable. I’ve been invited to stand up in a church, Bondi’s Wayside Chapel, and talk about why I gave up on Christianity.
And Also With You is a show about growing up a Christian. It’s about grappling with life’s biggest questions and about finding your place in the world. It’s an attempt at an honest reflection on a foundational part of my life that has no doubt played a huge part in who I am today.
When I was a Christian, all my non-Christian friends thought my faith was weird and confusing. When I left the church at 18, all my Christian friends were devastated and wanted to know what went wrong. This show is an attempt to explain myself to both groups.
It’s also about your girlfriend breaking up with you because God told her to. That is not a joke, it actually happened to me.
When I was 14, after meeting a girl on a youth camp, I called her to ask her out.
She responded that she thought we should pray about it. Her devotion made her seem even cooler to me so I went off to pray. Funnily enough, God told me it was a great idea. We dated for six weeks, until she finally admitted to me that when she had asked God if we should date, he’d said no.
Perhaps the voice in my head had not been God after all.
I tell this story not only to poke fun at the misfortune of my younger self, but also because it’s a perfect illustration of what being a young Christian is. On the one hand you’re trying to commune with the creator of the universe, while on the other, you just want a date so you can be cool like every other teenager.
You’re constantly bouncing between the divine and the mundane and trying to reconcile the two. It can be exhausting.
When I pitched my show to Bondi Festival, I was surprised when festival director Phil Spencer called to say that not only were they keen, they wanted to put it on in a church.
I got nervous. Had anyone told the Wayside Chapel what my show was about?
Sure there’s a lot of nostalgia for my time as a Christian and the things I still miss to this day, but the crux of the show is talking about why I left. Phil assured me they were on board, enthusiastic even, two thumbs up. It’s obviously the perfect venue, but it does raise the stakes somewhat, especially if the Wayside team attend.
In the end though, I suppose I shouldn’t be worried.
After all, Christians are famous for forgiveness.