As told to Mariam
I have known Wendy for about three years and during this time, I have watched her go from being irreligious to religious and back to being irreligious. As an irreligious person myself, I was curious about her journey so sometime in March I asked her. Here’s what she told me:
I grew up watching the people around me practice different religions. My grandparents would curse people who wronged them in a shrine but I would also follow them to church on sabbath days during holidays. My mum told me that when she was a child, water children came to her in her dreams and woke up with cane marks on her body. She told me her parents took her to a spiritualist who cut marks into her thighs and the dreams stopped. I found out my father was a Freemason when I was 8 but I never judged him for it. He taught me a lot about African spirituality and folklore because he was a King. When he died, they combined traditional rites with a church service.
When I went to boarding school at 14, I learned that Jesus had to be the only way to salvation. The matrons often singled me out to say that I was not Christian enough. In my third week at school, one of my classmates lied that he had sex with me and the boarding house mistress believed him. That night, she flogged me for about an hour, asking me to confess my sins. When I didn’t confess to it, she asked me to give my life to Christ because I was the seductress sent to ruin the life of the good Christian boy who was from a family of evangelists. I did what she asked so she could stop flogging me.
The next morning, my hands were swollen so I asked her for pain killers. She said I had to bear the consequence of my sin. I kept trying and failing to be Christian enough until I left that school. One time, the school’s proprietress insisted that I attended the school’s Easter holiday retreat at Obudu Ranch. She even paid for it when my mum didn’t. At Obudu, they held a deliverance service to cast the demons out of me. After prayers, they counselled me to stop masturbating. I didn’t know how to tell them I had never done it before.
They believed every rumour about me because I came from a secular school. The funny thing was that I wasn’t even attracted to boys then — I only liked girls. I spent the rest of my time in that school going from one deliverance service to another. I learnt the perfect fall that signified that the demon had left my body.
Somehow, I remained a Christian. After secondary school, I joined a popular teenage ministry where I became a leader. I moved into the ministry’s family house to be closer to God. As a leader, I contributed to outreach events and the church’s growth with my time and money. After a while, I started to feel underappreciated. On my 18th birthday, as is the tradition, the family house members gathered to pray for me. They kept alluding to my stubbornness in the prayers, saying that they prayed God helped me with it. I was annoyed because it seemed like something they had all discussed, so I moved out of the house within a few days.
The more I studied the bible, the more my doubts grew. No one was willing to answer my questions about Christianity. Instead, they labelled me a troublemaker. So I stopped going to church and abandoned all things Christianity. I focused more on learning about my ancestors. Rumours that I was a lesbian started flying around the Christian circles I used to be a part of. One day, a Christian brother was sent to convince me to come back to the church. Instead, he kept asking me to have sex with him. It was a hilarious experience for me and proved my point that everyone was faking it.
When I turned 23, I survived an accident so I decided to give Christianity another chance. I understood that they are supernatural forces guiding us and I felt like Christianity would help me understand it better. But I was older and able to see misogyny in the church as what it is so I didn’t last long. I had also become aware of my sexuality, and even though it is possible to be queer and a Christian, the church isn’t welcoming of queer people. I got tired of defending my humanity as a non-binary person to my church members so I left.
I don’t believe that people can be good all their lives and still go to hell for not declaring Jesus as their saviour. I hate the idea that people can rape other people then ask for God for forgiveness afterwards and end up in heaven. I do not want to be in the same heaven with people who have caused me harm — it doesn’t make sense to me.
I do not believe Christianity is the only path to God. Currently, I do not worship any deity. I have become what white people would call a hedge witch. I work with herbs and roots as a way to connect with my ancestors. I chose this because it is what resonates with me. My family has always worked with herbs. My granddad had a herb that used to cure cataracts. I intend to continue in his path as it is where I have found peace.