“I wish I could point out a catalytic moment, but my journey out of fundamentalism has been very gradual,” explains Assad. “Actually, I have found that fundamentalism was not just a descriptor for my childhood beliefs, but also a deeply ingrained worldview through which I looked at everything in my life. It has taken far longer to soften the effects of that lens than I had imagined it would when I left my Plymouth Brethren church behind at the age of twenty-one. Even in my mid-thirties now, after having been Catholic for ten years, the residue of fundamentalism remains. I live in a slow, constant process now of encountering the vestiges of fundamentalist thinking as they present themselves, assessing them, and putting them to the side if I am done with them.”
Continues Assad: “I do remember hitting a wall in late 2014 when I was experiencing some serious burnout, and when I finally took some time to breathe and examine my interior state in early 2015, I found scorched earth. I had always struggled to relate to believers who heard the voice of God at every step, but it had gotten even more desolate, and I truly felt no sense of God's presence at all—in my heart or in the universe. I would say that is when I truly began to actively deconstruct the religion I had grown so comfortable with. It seemed very bleak at the time to me, but looking back, it was a really healthy experience of disillusionment that led to greater detachment—I learned to live with open hands around everything, even my belief.”
However, Audrey will be the first to admit there was a point where her sense of belief was practically non-existent, specifically relating to ancestral empathy for those slain in one of the modern world’s most brutal conflicts. Having been raised in an Arab-American household with a father of Syrian descent gave her a laser sharp perspective on the country’s violent civil war, and ultimately, the traumas and tragedies that happen to innocent victims in a state of unrest that’s in process to this day.
“As a younger person, I had been used to scoffing at people who expressed disillusionment or despair at wondering why God lets bad things happen to good people,” recalls Assad as she traces some of the earliest seeds of her Evergreen renewal process. “But when the Syrian civil war broke out, I finally began to understand what they were feeling. My father is a Syrian refugee and so the war hit me in a very tender spot. As the horrors of that brutal conflict unfolded and then kept rolling out year after year, as I saw images of children killed by nerve gas and parents holding their babies who had been pulled dead from the rubble of yet another collapsed school or hospital. I began to feel an anger I had never experienced. I didn't just wonder why God let bad things happen to good people—I truly began to wonder if God existed at all. Really, I think I had always wondered that, but never given myself true permission to ask. The war was revelatory of my underlying doubts, and once those finally had a voice, the clamor was deafening. It was so strange to feel so bitter toward a God I didn't think I believed in. But I didn't know where else to put my emotions, honestly. My prayer life was reduced to a few snarling journal entries every few months.”