For those unfamiliar with the term, retcon refers to changing something in a story after it’s been told. The word is short for “retroactive continuity.” It used to be in reference to fictional works, but it can be used in reference to any change in a narrative or memory that happens after the fact. Relating to me, retconning is one of the reasons why I find it hard to talk about my past conversion to Christianty (and some other aspects of my former faith).
I used to believe in much of the supernatural: a single deity, angels, demons, Christian afterlife, the list goes on. At the time, I had moments that I felt were points of conversion. They were mileposts in my relationship with Christ. When people talked about conversion, these moments were the ones I used to relate to them.
But this was a retcon of what happened.
I lived in an environment that encouraged getting closer to an allegedly real deity. By definition, one can only get closer to something if someone was further away at a previous point in time. So, over time, the mileposts of my relationship with a fictional deity became signs that I had truly experienced divine nudging in the correct direction.
Nobody in the faith would cure me of this incorrect perception. Nobody that I knew who was outside the faith had the tools to show me how I was wrong. It’s like trying to argue in a different language.
This retcon has made it difficult for me to come to terms with how I believed what I believed. It’s why I can’t write a single, short narrative of how it happened. If my suspicions are true, most of my conversion process happened before I can remember. The only evidence I would have is circumstantial: children’s ministry materials, seeing what churches do to young minds today, and the like.
All of this is important to me because I want to find the places where my mind was broken. I can’t reach inside my head to fix any of it. Instead, I have to live knowing something happened to create this gigantic blind spot in my reasoning. I have to hope that this blind spot isn’t hiding anything else.
What I do know.
There wasn’t a time in my youth where I didn’t seriously entertain the notion of invisible deities and supernatural forces at work. The few times I did have serious doubts can best be described as panic attacks soothed by biblical texts or conversation with people at church. Even then, I couldn’t entertain such doubts because I was too busy being afraid of them.
Moments of divine prodding – times when I dedicated myself to my deity – are more complicated. This isn’t because of some unseen force at work, but rather because they are times when my emotion intoxicated my perception of events. In other words, I felt the divine because I was emotionally primed to think of it in that manner.
Naturally, my other worry is that my mind is still trying to retcon things to fit it into a narrative whole. It would be nice to say that there’s one thing that happened which caused all of this. But life is messy, a series of violent acts conducted in a foggy perception. The most likely culprit in my conversion is a process of events over a period of time which gradually conformed my thinking into something else.
I don’t think I’ll ever know what my mind might have grown into on its own.