In the “We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle” podcast, Abby Wambach spoke about her experience of religion and being gay. While it hasn’t always been easy to struggle with God, the church, and homosexuality, Wambach admits that she is dealing with her past trauma with religion.
“My first memories of church were actually very beautiful. I remember the music. I remember enjoying singing, ”the 40-year-old former US women’s football captain said in the episode. “But (there) was a feeling… like an overwhelming feeling to understand both who I was on the inside and who the church was expecting of me and these things just didn’t fit.”
Wambach remembers being a teenager and telling her friend from church that she was gay. Her friend’s reaction reinforced Wambach’s feeling that she was not welcome as herself.
“Unfortunately, we stopped being friends after that moment,” she said. “I understood that I had a choice to make. And I was either going to choose myself or God… I chose myself.
This decision was not easy, however. She loved the community she had at church and “feeling like I was part of something”. But this something was hurting her too and she was protecting herself.
“I had to turn my back on the church and what I thought was God, for self-preservation,” she said. “It was almost like you didn’t fucking accept me then.”
When she met Doyle, 45 – while the two were promoting their books in 2016 – Wambach was an atheist. Sharing a life with Doyle, however, changed his outlook on God and religion and helped Wambach see various facets of the faith.
“You see Jesus as a reason to fight for the underdog,” Wambach told Doyle. “One thing you were able to give me is almost like a dictionary on how to read some of the BS. “
Doyle said it was related to the stories of Jesus where he served others, such as prostitutes, tax collectors, and lepers.
“He spoke for them,” she said. “He brought these people together, these people who were injured, marginalized, pushed to the limit, he walked with them. This part that I love, he gathered them all and ate with them.
But Doyle admitted that she too had struggled. She felt that Jesus was standing up for one thing, but the way churches acted seemed to be different and those differences had a huge impact on LGBTQ people.
“If you’re part of an organization – a family, a conversation, a friend, a church that lets homophobia live on insidiously – you have three choices,” Doyle said. “You can stay and be quiet and that means you agree. It means that you are also anti homosexual. This means that this is what you pass on to your children. It’s a decision.
The other choices, she added, are to fight the organization or leave it. While it may sound scary, Doyle and Wambach explain that leaving an institution is not the same as turning away from God.
“The church is not God. And if you have a choice between love and God, you better think hard. It’s a false choice, ”said Doyle. “God is love.”
Wambach – who helps Doyle and Doyle’s ex-husband Craig Melton raise their three children – transformed his negative experiences by creating a positive exit for Doyle’s son, Chase, 18.
“We were at the table and he tells us who he is for the first time and I remember sitting next to you and I remember holding your hand under the table and shaking your hand really hard”, Wambach said. “I remember we did whatever we could to make this coming out story perfect for him… It gave us this lovely time to breathe out and process.”