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RE/COMPOSITIONS

Beyond Evangelical Faith Deconstruction:

Using Narrative Collagto Rebuild a Coherent Worldview

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I grew up in a strict evangelical environment. Doubting too much and questioning authority were met with disapproval. People in these spaces were suspicious of art for art's sake and of anything that might challenge their most precious doctrines. I have made previous attempts to address the way that, regardless of the possibly good intentions of some individual evangelical people, the hegemonic power structures within the White American evangelical community have caused lasting harm to me. I left the evangelical Church 10 years ago in search of a more accepting church community or maybe no church at all.

 

Though those text-only or text-dominant compositions were well-researched and held reasonably effective arguments, I was dissatisfied with how they did not create enough meaning or cause other people to truly understand my perspective. I was attempting to tell a story counter to the hegemonic White evangelical narrative, by adopting the normative form of writing in black-text uniform paragraphs on an 8-1/2" x 11" sheet of white paper. I was continuing to buy into the hegemonic forms of communication.

The rhetorical strategy of counterstory allows me to challenge oppressive doctrines and practices, expressing the truth of what happened to me while growing up within evangelical spaces, which is not dissimilar to what happens to many women and other people minoritized by White American evangelicalism.

 

I have long desired to mix my visual art with words to communicate arguments, but I never thought of collage as a serious mode of communication in either discipline of visual art or writing. For years, I have collected scraps of paper and interesting things that seemed important even if I didn't know why. Maybe it's because they each contain a bit of truth, or at least a bit of a way to express something. As a writer and a visual artist, I discovered using the transgenre mode of narrative collage, a form that crosses and transcends two genres. It includes elements of visual art and writing in a way that is more useful to me as a process and a form of storytelling than either element on its own.

Many former evangelical people and evangelicals who are questioning talk and write about deconstructing their faith. After doing that myself, I found that I was left with a lot of parts that did look like nonsense. Instead of leaving things in bits, I wanted to create something new. Through the use of narrative collage, I create re/compositions, juxtaposing elements in a way that helps me to understand past trauma and a way to piece together something better for the now and the future.

 

In my collages, I challenge norms about proper modes of communicating. Because I am arguing against attempts to control me (and other people) and challenging norms in the White American evangelical community, it makes sense that I would use a subversive, non-normative process to express my subversive arguments. 

Aside from being a subversive process that communicates a subversive message, another reason that I use this transgenre, multimodal approach is that indoctrination is multimodal. We heard stories, we sang songs, we made crafts, we fell to our knees, clasped our hands, closed our eyes, read books, carried our Bibles, memorized entire books of the Bible (or maybe that was just me), covered our bodies, and shunned secular media, movies, and music. Creating a new framework that is multimodal seems like an appropriate form of counterstory to untangle some of this coercive indoctrination. 

In my collages, I work purposefully through various topics (doctrines, teachings, or values in White American evangelicalism) that were formative for me through collage compositions. I try to remain open to discoveries that I may encounter through the elements and the physical process of cutting, marking, copying, altering, juxtaposing, and fixing the elements in collage.

 

Most of my collages contain two elements:

  1. a bottom layer collage composition that expresses some of the harms done in the name White evangelical doctrines, teachings or values, and

  2. a counter-narrative collage REcomposition that either "fixes" or talks back to the harmful hegemonic narrative on the bottom layer of the collage composition. 


Checkout my collage re/compositions below:

A Subversive Process
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A Subversive Message

Stationary photo

#REcomposed

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