Ninth place: Students of color essay contest — Idalina Du

Idalina Du

In us we trust

FFRF awarded Idalina $400.

By Idalina Du

The ability to indoctrinate is the greatest superpower to capture a young child’s mind. It twists their thoughts, from one day playing in the sandbox to another where they ask the vast blue sky to grant them wishes that their parents couldn’t fulfill. It evolves from praying for a doll to asking what the meaning of life is. It evolves from praying for good grades to asking why people suffer. It evolves from praying for everyone to be safe to asking why they were condemned to live a life where they were sinners simply for existing.

I didn’t mean to be religious. When I was 7, my greatest wish was to fit into my predominately white and Christian suburb. When my peers flaunted their commitment to God and their Sunday routines, I couldn’t help but feel as though I didn’t belong. My skin was already painted a different color, a faint yellow in comparison to the cool-toned porcelains surrounding me, so I did everything in my power to blend into the background. Somehow, I found myself reading the bible and frequenting vacation bible school where I sang jubilant melodies and promoted religion in the guise of arts and crafts. God was great. He saved us.

The message of the church has always been to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” the Gospel of Matthew regurgitated as a firm reminder that God loved everyone. Yet, that phrase was uttered in the same breath that they would ridicule those who didn’t live the lifestyle that they deemed “Christian.” Children are not born to discriminate, and I wasn’t an exception to that. My curious hands stumbled upon one documentary after another, engulfed in information about the LGBTQ+ community, reproductive rights, and the division of race in the United States. No, to be gay was a crime in the eyes of the church, to have an abortion was synonymous with murder, and slavery was only a “necessary evil.” The cherry-picked fallacies of Leviticus, Exodus and Genesis were the justifications, but I never saw their targets as the “sinners” that they were perceived as. 

The love and acceptance within those communities were ignored by my church, including members who sat outside in the sun with their posters attached on yardsticks, screaming profanities at others in anticipation that this act would be righteous in the eyes of God. They said, “God forgives you for all of your sins,” and utilized the universal cure of prayer to coerce people to conform to some nonsensical standard.

My faith began to fade in middle school. In the darkness of my bedroom, I questioned the validity of my church’s statements. The hypocrisy of their words only drew me further from scripture and, gradually, my conscience guided me. I saw a source of power within me, and I used that power to join with others in spreading awareness and education on rising social issues. Freedom from religion brought me to a position where I found solace in the community around me. My skin color, gender and sexual identity didn’t matter, and for the first time in my life, I saw the light beyond a predestined path. 

I didn’t mean to be religious, but leaving religion has allowed me to pursue my character. There need not be a guide to which I must abide by to be content with my life. While I joined the church as a way to mask my insecurities in a place where I didn’t belong, I have left as someone unashamed of being me. 

Idalina, 18, attends Rice University with plans to study biochemistry and statistics. Idalina is from San Antonio and is active in her community through organizations including Interact Club and the South Texas Veterans Health Care Systems.