The 29-year-old Connecticut social worker had been raised in the evangelical tradition; his parents were married in it. But Camire’s faith had started to fail a decade earlier when his church deemed his mother’s alcoholism—and his parents’ subsequent divorce—a sin. Later, a secular college education taught him that “the world”—the community outside the church—wasn’t going to drag him into a cesspool of sex and drugs, as he’d been taught from childhood. His pastor’s outspoken support of Trump convinced him he’d made the right decision.
Californian Jason Desautels similarly began to doubt his faith as a teen. In the week after the Oklahoma City bombing, his church’s minister railed against “sand people” and Muslims. “When it came out that the bomber was a white nationalist, he didn’t apologize or even say anything,” Desautels recalls. “And the adults seemed to be all fine with it. That planted the seed.”
Later, as an Army infantryman in Iraq, Desautels, now 39, moved further from the church. “I was in the land of Father Abraham,” he says. “I had this weird spiritual moment when I realized that these families had lived in this neighborhood for longer than America had been a nation, and here we were telling them what to do.” He cut ties completely with his church after his sister came out as gay and felt she had to apologize to their parents.
Blake Chastain, 35, entered Indiana Wesleyan University the week of 9/11, with hopes of graduating from the seminary. Instead, he began to fall away from the church when he couldn’t reconcile what he was learning in Bible study with his professor’s support for the Iraq War. “Conservative Christianity,” he says, “was at odds with the teachings in the Bible.” He left and started writing and producing his own podcast. Its name: Exvangelical.