I just read this article, and was compelled to write to the author. You should probably at least skim the article before you read this.
I just read your article on Patheos, and I would love to sit down and have a conversation with you! I’ve met a lot of former Christians who left because of the hypocrisy and the self-loathing, but it’s hard to find those who still appreciate Jesus’ teachings.
My mother was 18 when she had me. My biological father moved to Massachusetts from California to avoid being a father. She had another baby and was pregnant with her third when she got married for the first time.
I can remember her reading stories to me from the Bible story books. She always taught me that being nice, sharing, and loving were what good Christians did. I think she actually took me to church fewer than 5 times in my life.
By my mid teens, Mom had left first husband (a good thing) and had married a new man whom I would one day come to love, but in those first few years, he and my mom began selling and using meth. My house was in absolute chaos, and I was prone to anxiety.
A friend invited me to her church, and “love bomb” is the best description of what they did to me. I embraced everything they told me because they made me feel valued and special.
But they also taught me so much nonsense. I was so desperate to be accepted by someone that I was willing to believe that I was doomed to hell if I didn’t embrace what they told me.
Everything that you said – I experienced it. Almost immediately we were recruited into the “pro life” group.
My youth minister, the greatest influence on my life at that time, actually told me that he hated a friend of mine. Why? “Because he’s gay.”
This was the mid 80’s in a pretty rural small town area in Northern California. I barely knew what gay meant, much less wondered who was.
It took me years to be able to be able to talk to anyone about it, but I was literally bullied into speaking in tongues. I was told that if I wasn’t speaking in tongues, I wasn’t “giving it all to God.” I was sobbing because I couldn’t do it, but they wouldn’t back off. There were dozens of people gathered around me. It was this frenzy of prayer and weeping, and vocalizing, and I just wanted it to stop. So I faked it. I was immediately told, “that voice that says you were faking it? That’s Satan.”
I went into this world with a different last name than anyone in my family, because I was “illegitimate.” I’d had multiple experiences with men who didn’t respect boundaries – most of them family members. I am highly intelligent, and my rational brain was literally at war with my heart and soul. I learned to hate everything about myself.
Some of the craziest things that I heard:
- Everyone in the Old Testament is in Hell because they hadn’t accepted Jesus as their “lord and savior” (what do those words even mean?)
- When a person has sex, a piece of their soul tears off and attaches their partner. That’s why people should be married first.
- The Bible is the literal word of God, and if I don’t believe it, I don’t believe in God.
I began to have legitimate panic attacks. Again, this was 87/88, so no one was really talking about such things, openly. I was convinced that the rapture would come any day now, and God would leave me to suffer because my rational brain wouldn’t shut up about how none of it really made any sense. I’d never really considered the idea that someone else could judge if I was a Christian or not.
I made big decisions in my life based on what I was brainwashed into embracing (not the same as believing). I got married at 18, and I submitted to his controlling ways. He thought I should be a teacher because I’d be off work when our kids were home. He actually had a date on a notepad in his pocket on which we would conceive our first child.
Fortunately, when I got to college, I had the opportunity to study Judaism and Christianity from an academic perspective. I began to see how the God of the Bible had evolved to suit the maturing understanding of humanity. I saw how it had actually evolved from other ancient mythologies.
I walked away from the idea of God all together after college. I divorced my controlling husband, and began to do the things I enjoyed, like theater and renaissance faire. I did become a teacher, and I loved it. Even with the taboo of teachers discussing religion with students, I had multiple experiences with young people who were confused. I felt like teaching was my calling.
To answer your question, “what is wrong with Christians?” I would say that they are the most fearful people on the planet, and while I’m still struggling with bitterness for my own experiences, I still feel compassion for those who are sincerely just trying to find their own peace.
Believing in a loving, healing, forgiving God gives a person a small sense of control in a world that has manual steering and no breaks. “If my child is ill, I will pray and God will heal her.” If God doesn’t, then there must be a greater reason for it.”
When you questions someone’s beliefs, you weaken their sense of security.
I once had a very self-righteous “friend” say of me, “so much knowledge. So little faith.” I told him that I never had peace with my beliefs until I got to a place in which I could question and find satisfying answers. “The devil may be able to lie to you, but he cannot give you peace.”
I fear I’m just rambling at this point, so I will close. I just want you to know how deeply I felt what you wrote. I’ve come to a place in which I believe that God is Love and Love is God. As a friend once told me, “every act of Love is an act of God.” I don’t believe that Jesus was divine in the sense that he was magically conceived and knew exactly where he’d come from and where he was going, as that, to me, is not a sacrifice. It’s a short term loan.