Introductions are always awkward, so I’ll begin with the basics: My name is Sarah Jones, and I’m Americans United’s new communications associate.
I’ll blog here and contribute to Church & State, covering our ongoing work and church-state news.
My interest in this topic stems from my own history with the Religious Right. The issues AU confronts daily are issues that have profoundly shaped my perspectives.
I’m an ex-Christian fundamentalist, raised in a family that taught me that America is a “Christian nation,” that God created the world in seven days just a few thousand years ago and that my gender dictated a lifetime of submission to men.
I attended church twice a week and earned awards for Bible memorization. I spent the sixth, eleventh and twelfth grades in public school, but the rest were spent at home or at a local fundamentalist Christian high school. Later, I attended Cedarville University, a conservative Christian college in Ohio, on a full scholarship.
You’ve probably already guessed that this story doesn’t end the way my family expected it would. During my college years, I left the organized church and with it, my fundamentalist faith. The “culture war” no longer compelled me; rather, it repelled me. It’s not much of an exaggeration to call my decision a defection. Four years after my de-conversion, I’ve come to accept that my background presents positives as well as negatives, and it drives me to pursue my interests in politics and religion.
Specific activities include pro-choice activism and a recent partnership with Homeschoolers Anonymous, a group of ex-Christian homeschoolers dedicated to addressing abuse and educational neglect in the movement. My coverage of global and domestic religious and political issues has been published by the Huffington Post, Muftah magazine and Feministing.com, and I’ve provided guest commentary on Christian homeschooling and the Religious Right to a variety of radio shows and blogs.
In 2012, I earned a Master of Arts in Postcolonial Culture and Global Policy from Goldsmiths, University of London. My graduate work focused on biblical literalism, missionaries and Christian aid groups in Africa. And my interest in religion extends past Christianity. I interned at the Three Faiths Forum in London, where I worked on intercultural understanding and respect. For the past two years I’ve volunteered with Femin Ijtihad, a non-profit that advocates for women’s rights in predominantly Muslim nations.
I’ve come to work at AU now because of its proven dedication to protecting the wall of separation, a dedication it advances without demonizing religion itself. I support the separation of church and state not because I’m against religion, but because I’m against anyone who abuses religion in order to oppress women and other religious, racial and sexual minorities.
I’m also here because I believe that the wall of separation creates a space where necessary conversations about belief – or the lack thereof – can occur. Fundamentalism thrives on division and ignorance; a country dominated by the Religious Right is a country that forbids conversation. Since my de-conversion, I’ve watched my deeply religious parents confront the reality that in a culture war, like in any war, there are casualties, and my faith is collateral damage. As a family, we eventually found our equilibrium, even if we often disagree. I believe the same result is possible for America, and that a legal system that guarantees the separation of church and state is the most effective way to bring that equilibrium to pass.
It’s been a long journey, but I’m happy that it has brought me to AU. I look forward to blogging here, and I’m excited for such a fantastic opportunity to cover and comment on church-state issues.