Searching for Community… Again

Last year I found a wonderful church community in a local Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregation. My empty spots that needed spiritual community and the sharing of spiritual experiences found what they needed. I wasn’t able to attend frequently, but I enjoyed it when I could and was glad to interact with church members through social media. Our family joined the church and we were even married there. I was hopeful that we’d found our spiritual home. I really, really like the people we met at the church. They are very genuine and full of love and have shown me a whole new side of what religion and church can be. This summer the interim minister I loved moved on; the new minister, whom I really like, will begin her ministry in September. Lots of changes and exciting times are in store for the church, I’m sure, but I’m not sure we’ll be a big part of it. 

My idea of what “church” looks like or is meant to accomplish has changed greatly from my days as a Baptist. I like sermons about love, peace, religions of the world, and even how the church can be an active force in the community. The church we found seems to put more emphasis on being an active force in the community than anything else. That is what the majority of the congregation has chosen, so it only makes sense that the church would steer that direction. This emphasis on social activism is a bit much for me, though. Today I learned that the Religious Education (RE) curriculum for the fall would be about racial justice and social activism. One of the things that drew me to UU in the first place was the RE program for children – I love the concept! Religious education, from a progressive, open-minded perspective, that introduces children to many ways of thinking is a wonderful idea and something I’m totally on board with. I’m perplexed by this church’s choice of RE emphasis for the fall, though, because I do not see how a curriculum about racial justice and social activism fits the concept of RE. Naturally, this is just my own perception of what Religious Education stands for – the majority of the church feels differently and that’s fine.  Continue reading

Happy Easter!

picture is the property of funnyfacejess

I love Easter. I looked forward to it as a child and I still look forward to it now. Easter has always represented hope, rebirth, happiness, and life. In the past I tied those things to the Christian narrative of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Now that I’m no longer a Christian, how do I observe Easter?

This year I attended church for an Easter service – probably my first Easter service in three years. Since leaving Christianity I’ve had no desire to hear the gruesome details of a crucified Christ, nor have I had any desire to hear how the blood of Jesus is responsible for securing my place in heaven. At the Unitarian Universalist church I now attend with my family, none of those things came up. Jesus was mentioned, but in a way that was beautiful and healing to me. Everyone at church was excited about all the new beginnings occurring this Easter – new members were welcomed (including me!), a new baby and his parents were blessed, and Spring finally decided to show up. I was reminded of the cycle of life and found myself touched by this season of birth. The way my pregnancy coincides with the change of the seasons has helped me feel even more keenly the power of changing seasons (literally and symbolically).

Easter is Spring, the season of birth and new life. People have been celebrating this season for a very, very long time. Even the word Easter originates from ancient pre-Christian times,
when the marking of the seasons was the norm and abundant fertility was cause for celebration. The story of Jesus even resembles ancient stories where a god is born, dies a sacrificial death, and is then restored to life miraculously. It’s a beautiful story, regardless of who the protagonist is, and I find myself unable to feel disdain for the story of Jesus. I too can sense the wonder that comes with the story of his miraculous life, particularly the great hope surrounding his resurrection after defeating death. I feel no joy at the message of sin and salvation, though, so I will probably never choose to attend a Christian Easter service again. In the future I look forward to telling stories from all the mythologies of the world that are appropriate for Easter, not just the story of Jesus.

I’m thankful that my parents never bought into demonizing Easter eggs or Easter baskets. Our annual Easter egg hunt still holds a special place in my heart. 🙂 I was excited to find out that my UU church has an Easter egg hunt for the children every year. There are many ways to celebrate this beautiful day, and I’m saddened by Christians who withhold Easter fun from their children. The nicest people I’ve ever met all have this in common – they don’t let their religion get in the way of life. Enjoy life and celebrate it every chance you get – lighten up!

Happy Easter!

Trying to Get Out of the Mud of IFB

The road to recovery out of fundamentalism is long and painful. Sometimes I feel the pain more keenly and I wonder how people who didn’t start as fundamentalists became fundamentalists. Why did my parents, for example, pick IFB as the place to get involved and raise a family? They both have alluded to troubled pasts, particularly during their college years, and seem to carry continued guilt from whatever went on; I think perhaps fundamentalism offered them a way to absolve their sins and feel forgiven. Once we kids came along, I’m sure they thought that they were doing us a great service by raising us in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord,” because we wouldn’t be exposed to all the stuff they were exposed to in the past. They probably hoped our lives wouldn’t get screwed up because we would be raised in church, in the Bible, etc. I understand wanting to do the best you can for your kids, so I won’t fault them for their good intentions, but I must say that things didn’t work out as well as they’d hoped.

I am 100% certain that being raised/heavily involved in the world of IFB screwed me up in numerous ways. Many of the things that I struggle with today or have struggled with in the past I can easily trace back to something I was taught or influenced on by a particular teacher or pastor within the IFB. Here are a few things that come to mind:

  • Constant preaching about the end times, the rapture, and how terrible the current state of the world was = anxiety about the future and an impending sense of doom, distrust of humanity, “whatever will be will be” attitude towards the condition of the Earth, our government, and all global affairs.
  • Vilifying of self, self-awareness, meditation, personal experience, any spiritual experience considered Pentecostal = hatred and distrust of self, anxiety and depression, sense of disconnect and confusion, inability to relax and simply experience, need to control/fear of losing control.
  • Rigid rules and strict discipline for not adhering to the rules, rules for everything, persons in authority often needed to assert authority in heavy-handed ways = control issues, fear and suspicion of authority figures in general, and a constant need to defend myself/stay on the defensive.
  • The state of childhood viewed as a lesser state of being, children as willful brats deserving of punishment (even hellfire), adults put so far above children as to allow for easy abuse of power, children should always be obedient, happy, and controllable = I viewed the jump to adulthood as important and sought to reach it ASAP, I internalized the negativity towards and treatment of children as the right way to do things, I have a hard time not thinking I am obligated to control the behavior of children simply because I’m an adult and they aren’t.

Between the rules, the teachers, and how authority was or wasn’t used, the atmosphere of the church school I attended (all the way through) was hardly one of love and Christlikeness. Church/Christian schools don’t have very good reputations, though. Kids can be so awful to each other, as can teachers to kids. I think it was within the realms of school that I learned to keep up a constant defense. I worked hard to control myself and my surroundings to keep myself from messing up and becoming the subject of ridicule. I was an A student, so teachers rarely had reason to ridicule me; it was the other students who seemed to thrive off the misfortune of others. Leaving yourself open, relaxing, just enjoying life and who you really were was a recipe for being torn apart by the other kids. So, I closed up and learned how to put up walls. By the time I hit fourth grade I discovered the pain of betrayal, ridicule, and being left out; I graduated from that school still feeling those some things. How might I have turned out differently if I’d gotten my education in a different setting – one where religion and hellfire weren’t mingled with rules and expectations?

The part of myself I’ve lost that I mourn the most is my ability to let loose and open myself up to whatever I choose. We start that way as children, and then along the way we learn to avoid pain and shut ourselves up – perhaps more so when religious fundamentalism is involved. I never considered myself a control freak, but I’ve discovered that I do in fact have trouble with needing to control things. In highschool and college (and sometimes even now) I always wanted to know things, have the right answer, be right because it made me feel like I had worth. I went from a carefree child to an anxious, somewhat controlling adult. Why? Someone who struggled with a similar problem recently helped me a shine a light on at least one angle of things:

“My ‘need to be right’ and ‘have control’ was very much linked to the ‘God-Pleasing’ of the IFB as well as the concept that ‘If you are not right, you are wrong and God can’t bless you.’ We control because we fear the future. Wow!!! The whole fundy thing is about being terrified of God and who controls the future?? God does! So….they try to control God!! We controllers try to control in order to please God and earn His blessings for the future. This is actually Greek and Roman belief — not Judeo-Christian.

Regardless of who had what beliefs and when, I think she makes some excellent points that I had never considered before. I particularly like the part where she says, “We controllers try to control in order to please God and earn His blessings for the future.” As a Baptist I felt huge pressure to be perfect, to do a million different things to better myself or others, to find God’s will and do it, etc. Trying to do everything that was deemed good and even necessary was impossible. So you better get control of your life and your time and make sure you can give a good account for it one day to God, lest he call you a bad steward of his gifts. Huge pressure to do everything, and to do it right… very easy to get burnt out and stressed. I still struggle with feeling like I should be doing something productive all the time, must be multitasking, otherwise I’m wasting time and being lazy. 

I have goals I’m working toward. I have spiritual paths that call to me. I have so many ideas and hopes, but until I can relearn to relax, let loose and let go, I will stay stuck in the mud of the past. Through introspection and writing posts like this one, I feel I can begin digging myself out and moving forward. In fact, I hereby make letting loose and letting go my main goal for the coming months. Onward!

New Life

At the end of December my partner and I confirmed that we were expecting a baby; we were both overjoyed! Now, 11 weeks into the pregnancy, I’m finally emerging from the awful symptoms of the first trimester. I don’t feel like I’m in survival mode all the time now, which is wonderful. I’ve been able to enjoy reading and thinking during the past week or so, so hopefully my creativity is returning and I’ll be able to write more. The reading and the thinking has certainly taken a new direction due to the fact that I’m pregnant.

I’m assuming that my parents as well as my partner’s parents are hoping that this new addition will magically transform our hearts and we’ll come running back to the fold. The thought of getting involved at a local progressive Christian church has briefly crossed my mind, actually. Not because I want to be involved in Christianity, but because of the community and support such a church would bring. We’re far away from all family and friends of the past, and our lack of community is scary to me as I imagine life with a new baby. There’s a great UU church we’ve attended a few times… but we haven’t been able to attend very frequentlye. We keep missing services due to sickness, morning sickness, weather, my partner’s work schedule, etc. I sincerely hope that things will improve as we draw closer to Spring. Speaking of Spring, it’s fun to think about how the baby will be growing inside me right along with the growth of Spring, and then be delivered towards the end of the growing season in August.

So yeah… a new baby definitely has me thinking about my community, my home, my family, our spirituality, what the future looks like… so many things. I know this pregnancy will be life changing. One way it is already changing me is by reshaping my spirituality and refueling my desire to learn more and grow. I think I know where I’m headed – to a point – but my IFB background is holding me back. It’s so hard to let go, let loose, and simply feel and do things… because of fear. The IFB instilled within me many fears, one of the chiefest being to fear what other people think. My interactions with other Baptist kids (school, camp, and college) taught me to fear how I look and whether or not what I’m doing will seem stupid or silly. Now I still battle with fearing what others think, how they’ll see me. I also battle with a fear of not being in control, which is heavily tied in with my fears about how other see me. Early on I did my best to hide all tears, possibly even all emotion, in public because it opened me up to ridicule and pain. I never liked being asked to do things out of my comfort zone because I feared failure, feared how I would look. I missed out on a lot of opportunities thanks to all this; it’s only been since I left Christianity that I began finding the freedom to loosen up and have fun. I look forward to being further changed by the experiences of this pregnancy, giving birth, and holding my baby.

Fundamentalist Christianity And Self Injury

I saw something tonight that took my breath away. This:

 

This was a trigger for me – it triggered past pains, memories, smells… bad stuff. I personally know seven people who used self injury at some point in their lives. All of them were/are fundamentalist Christians. At least four of those people harmed themselves for reasons almost identical to those reasons listed above with the picture: feeling worthless, guilty, and in need of punishment. Those feelings (and self injury) are certainly not unique to fundamentalism… but fundamentalism creates the perfect environment for them to thrive. Fundamentalism is a world fraught with rules, judgements, punishments, rules, expectations, hierarchy, and did I mention rules? 
For the person who went all the way – attended church, went to the church school, the summer camps, fundie college – the amount of judgement and negativity that was faced is astounding. 
  • In church – hearing terrifying messages about Hell and all the people who would be going there (what child wouldn’t want to pray a prayer to get away from that?); that we deserve punishment, fiery death, and pain because we aren’t good enough for God (without Jesus); hearing Sunday School lessons about those terrible little children who mocked God’s prophet and were then mauled and eaten by bears, or of the many people God told the children of Israel to slaughter simply because they weren’t Israelites and worshiped the wrong god(s); women must behave differently and be submissive to men because Eve screwed up in the garden, not Adam; repeatedly hearing that we can do nothing good as humans because we are nothing, and all that we do is filthy rags because we are vile, “dirty rotten sinners” “but for the grace of God.” 
  • In church school – further ingraining of the teachings from church; teachers, preachers, special speakers railing at you about the evils of things as stupid as women wearing pants; getting a terrifying sermon on sexual sins as a sixth grader who didn’t even know what sex was; struggling with fight-or-flight through the messages of special speakers in chapel as the screamed and yelled and acted like angry devils. 
  • In camp – God is powerful, we are weak, so stop trying to do anything out of your own strength because you don’t have any; wait for God’s will, because your life will be terrible if you miss out on it; don’t let yourself have romantic feelings for many people because your heart is like a bag of Skittles (if you keep giving pieces away there won’t be anything left for your future spouse); guys/men are dirty-minded, lustful animals and us girls have to take every precaution possible to keep the guys from having any trouble at all with their minds.
  • In fundie college – further ingraining of all the previous messages listed above; the people in authority matter more than the people beneath them; us young adults are actually very immature fifteen year old kids who need our hands held and someone constantly telling us what to do, where to live, who we can and can’t date, etc.; that people who fall outside the box of acceptability must be crushed and broken, with no regard for their personal well-being (all in the name of love and turning someone back to Christ).

And I could go on and on… but that’s enough. Anyone see a few things that might lead to depression, feelings of guilt, or a sense of worthlessness? Anyone see why women in particular might come out of all this feeling broken and insecure? 

I began this post by saying that the image about self injury was a trigger. Cutting is the form of self injury I’m most familiar with because six of the seven self-injurers I know cut themselves. One cutter was a close friend of mine in college. I still remember the day I found out she had literally carved the word love into her arm – I felt sick and cut a class because I needed the time to process what had happened. I told her to come to me in the future if she felt like cutting, because I thought that maybe I could help save her from the pain. Other friends I made while in college struggled with cutting as well, and I jumped into trying to help them with their struggles as well. Not the smartest thing I could have done, but I was naive and thought that I could “do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Instead of saving people, I found myself completely overwhelmed by this new world where people weren’t always happy and everyone didn’t have a happy ending. Then my health crumbled in the face of an unknown illness (eventually diagnosed with fibromyalgia and lots more) and I found myself in a black hole of depression. I wanted to try cutting, but a promise made to a friend held me back. I found other ways to hurt or punish myself, though, and it felt good. In a world where I was suddenly in control of nothing, I found a way to control something. At one point I discovered I could get a high off of not eating, and since it was my body that made me so sick I thought it could use some punishment. Then I started hearing and seeing  death and suicide in things around me, and I prayed for God to kill me. I wrote a poem around that time that illustrates a lot of things:

It is cold, terribly cold.
I am tired, no strength left.
I must push on.
I must fight through.
I must prevail.
It is always with me.
Escape has been forgotten.
I embrace it when I awake.
I tuck it in at night when I sleep.
It is my constant companion.
The battle is long.
I am weary and worn.
Is there an end?
I fight on.
But what?
The enemy is cold.
The enemy is weariness.
The enemy is pain.
The enemy is without name.
The enemy is within me.
 
I have wept for this enemy.
I have bled for this enemy.
Sweetness has been lost.
Sharpness has been gained.
Perspective has changed.
Where was I in the beginning?
Where have I been?
Where am I now?
Where am I going?
Where will the battle end?
Will the battle end?
Will I push on?
Will I fight through?
Will I prevail?
Will I win?
The cold enshrouds me.
The weariness encloses me.
The pain envelopes me.
A veil lies over my face.
Who can see me through this veil?
 
Who can see past the pall over my visage?
Who sees through to the hidden man?
Who will melt the ice seeking to encase my soul?
Who will lead me through this valley?
Who?
God is light.
God is love.
God is strength.
God is all knowing.
God is.
God will take my hand and lead me.
God will thaw the ice and warm my heart.
God will see what I hide from the world.
God will see the truth through it all.
God will.
God sees where I have been.
God sees where I am.
God sees where I am going.
God sees what I have lost and gained.
God sees.
God knows my enemy.
God knows my weakness.
God knows I have fought.
God knows the outcome.
God knows.
The cold still grips.
The weariness weighs heavy.
The pain gnaws and bites.
My enemy remains nameless.
But God is, sees, and knows all.
That is enough.
I will push on.
I will fight through.
I will prevail.
God will grant me victory (even through death).

I wrote that December 31, 2010. At that point in time I was still clinging to the concept that only God could save me and fix any of my problems. Everything and everyone else had failed me at this point, so I thought God was my only hope. A few months later I began to discover that what I needed lay within myself. People weren’t the answer. People with fancy letters attached to their names and lots of schooling weren’t the answer. Not even the God of the Bible was the answer. I had to learn that happiness, strength, and so many other things I needed were inside me all along. Had I been instilled with that mindset (at church, school, camp, and college), instead of being bombarded by my supposed worthlessness and inherent evil, I don’t think I would have ended up in that hole in the first place. How many of my friends who have struggled with self injury would have found themselves in a different place if their churches, schools, and families had not broken them?

For all the fundie folks (formerly or current) out there who have struggled with any form of self injury… know that you have inherent worth, you have immeasurable strength, you have unlimited potential for good, and that you can be happy. What you need lies within you.

Sunday Morning Musings

Sunday was supposed to be a day of rest for Christians, but for most of my 20 some years as a Christian, Sunday was far from restful. The day started out with my family scrambling to all get showered, dressed, and out the door in time for Sunday School (at 9:45). Three out of four of us were not morning people. My mom tried to have a special breakfast for us on Sunday mornings plus she needed to prepare the lunch we would eat after church, so she had added burdens that required more time and less sleep. Getting out the door was incredibly stressful and hardly helped at least me to be in the right frame of mind for spiritual things. The Sunday events at my home church consisted of 9:45am Sunday School, an 11am service, 4pm teen meeting (for the few years we had that), 5pm choir practice, and a 6 pm evening service. The 11 service often ran until 12:20pm or later, but we didn’t get home until close to 1pm because we socialized with friends. By the time lunch was made and eaten, there really wasn’t much time left in the afternoon. We made the best of it, though, by taking walks, playing games, or watching something together. As we kids got older we discovered the joys of Sunday afternoon naps. Some families didn’t allow any activities on Sunday (based on Old Testament principles); I was very thankful my family wasn’t that hardcore. When I reached college I did begin to question spending time on non-spiritual things on the Lord’s day, but quickly abandoned my questions.

My Sundays in college were rarely restful. I chose to attend churches that were at least an hour away all four of my semesters. The first two of those semesters were spent at a church where I did what I could to help the pastor by teaching a Sunday School class, knocking on doors (even in the snow), and working on whatever odd projects came up. The next two semesters I attended a different church, largely so I could be with some new friends that I had made. We spent our afternoons crashed at the pastor’s house, at a nearby mall, or otherwise having adventures together. It was during this time that I began to question how conducive to a day of rest the model of church I was used to actually was. My friends brought this up and I found myself in agreement; if one of us was sick or just feeling wiped out we chose to come back early or, rarely, skip church altogether. The college would have never approved of what we did, but to an over-tired (and very ill, as I was experiencing a mystery illness that would turn out to be fibromyalgia) college student, it hardly seemed important. My body, mind, and spirit needed rest; God had commanded that we observe a day of rest, so I rested.

After I left college I returned home to be with my family. My illness kept me miserable 24/7, so I missed a lot of church, particularly Sunday mornings (mornings are the worst). My parents couldn’t understand and gave me a very hard time about how much church I missed. It became a source of stress and pain in my life and put a kink in our relationship. I spent the time sleeping (I suffered from killer insomnia at the time), doing personal devotions, or listening to the church service being broadcasted online. I discovered that I felt more spiritually refreshed when I had the time by myself than if I attended the Sunday morning services. One Sunday morning in particular stands out to me. By that point in time I preferred to use the ESV translation (my background was militant KJV only). I sat outside in the sunshine with my Bible, a journal, and a cat to keep me company. I read the beautiful words from my ESV Bible and then wrote in my journal. I encountered the Divine that day in ways I’ve rarely felt in a church setting. It was so perfect and healing to my soul. I tried to tell my father about it, but he did not share in my excitement because he felt I should be in church on Sundays. A few months after this experience I left my Baptist beliefs and Christianity as I knew it.

I still attended church as I was able, at least for awhile. I grew up in that church and its school, so it was a huge part of my life. I remember the Sunday my father told me I needed to leave the choir because it was hypocritical to be up there when I didn’t believe what I was singing about. I knew he was right, but I hated to leave because singing in the choir brought me such great joy. Church services became fuel for what I wrote on this blog; what I heard brought me to anger and disgust. The awkwardness of being an unbeliever amongst fervent believers also made it hard to enjoy church. Very few people knew my lack of belief at that point, and I was deathly afraid of how they would react to me if they did know, so did my best to smile and nod and maintain my secret.

When I moved away from home and was no longer pressured to attend church, I found great relief in spending my Sundays as I saw fit. There was no rush or bustle, no need to dress up, no shouting preacher… it was nice. I did try to keep the principle of a day of rest because I thought it necessary for maintaining good health. I toyed with the idea of a low-tech or no-tech day. I spent time outside when I could; Nature has always felt like a spiritual place to me. I also spent time exploring new ways of viewing spirituality through a variety of books. I never wanted to attend church again – I was tired of oppression and embracing my freedom wholeheartedly. I discovered and claimed the title spiritual but not religious; I was definitely still spiritual but wanted nothing to do with organized religion and churches. Things went south with my then-husband, I moved back home for a time, and I was again thrust into the world of busy, Baptist Sundays.

When I left home the next time, I remained content with church-less Sundays for several months. I didn’t spend much time looking for the Divine at that point, but eventually found myself on the path of searching once again. I found spiritual connections in discussions with other people, time spent outside, books and the internet, and within myself. I found the Divine in everything if I took the time to look for it. I also found spiritual healing. With healing I found I was ready to give church another try and began looking for an acceptable church. I became familiar with Unitarian Universalism (UU) many months ago, but never had the courage to attend; I was also afraid of the concept of church and what it might entail. A few weeks ago I found a local UU congregation that fit what I was looking for and found the courage to attend. It was wonderful! I’ll have to dedicate another post to tell you about it. Anyway. I was missing the community that comes with church, the experience of group singing, and hearing words of inspiration. I have found these things again, but they are better than they were in my Baptist church back home because there is no judgement present. There is no pressure, no negativity, no guilt-tripping about lost souls going to Hell. There is support, love, and acceptance. I didn’t attend the service this morning because I needed the rest, and that’s totally fine – nobody will get on my case. My spirituality is my own, and the UU church respects that. I am pleased to be reclaiming my Sundays, church and all.

Again… Really? (5-22-2012)

Here we go again! North Carolina has yet again made it into the public eye through the actions of a Baptist pastor. Pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, NC spoke out rather forcefully about the Biblical wrongness of homosexuality and has warranted the attention of national media. Here are two links to the story: http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/21/pastors-anti-gay-anti-obama-sermon/?hpt=ac_bn2 and http://www.wtsp.com/news/national/article/256113/81/Pastor-wants-to-isolate-gays-until-they-die-out 

After reading the lengthy quotes from this pastor’s sermon, I am appalled at his ideology.
I am also appalled because I used to be a part of churches who took similar stands on issues like homosexuality. Not all Christians or even Baptists would endorse putting homosexuals into concentration camp settings just to prove that homosexuals cannot reproduce, or if you take it to the logical end, to watch the so-called blot of homosexuality die out. Sadly, I know several people who would probably be fine with that scenario playing out. The Bible, mostly in the Old Testament, does refer to homosexuality as a gross sin, and labels it as a stoning offence (Leviticus 20:13). The Bible also says that Christians are to love their neighbors and be peaceful people (mostly in the New Testament). Christians have a hard time balancing out those two ideas, often being on one extreme side or the other. It’s issues like this that have led me to make the observation that the God of the OT is not the same God of the NT, despite Biblical claims to that end. The OT is full of harsh, brutal, intolerant and unloving acts that were commanded or committed because of what God supposedly said. The NT, particularly the teachings of Jesus, speak of love, equality (or close to it compared to the OT) and peaceful living. When I was a Christian, I read my Bible and became confused at the apparent contradictions I saw. I understood that it was the NT I was supposed to follow, since Jesus had essentially nullified the former requirement of following the law, but I also read that Jesus and God were the same person and did not “change.” Looking at the change in the message of the OT and NT from a historic perspective, it certainly shows that ideologies can progress towards tolerance and love over time, as humanity becomes more “civilized.” Modern Christianity seems to be proof of that, as it tends to focus on the message of love and peace that Christ did preach, while often ignoring other messages in the Bible that disagree. Those who try to embrace the ENTIRE Bible all at once, and not only follow it to the letter but also force their beliefs on everyone else – they are the ones who end up making the news. 

The pastor may have been trying to prove something when he mentioned that homosexuals don’t reproduce, but his logic is faulty. There are many heterosexual couples who cannot or do not reproduce either. Sex is pleasurable, for both the heterosexual and the homosexual. It seems that the Bible’s biggest beef with homosexuality is the inability to reproduce, and of course the idea that one of the men has to take “the role of the woman.” Oh wait, then how does this apply to lesbians too? Why is it not such a big issue if it’s women with women? I can only recall one passage in the Bible that specifically references lesbians, whereas several come to mind that specifically refer to gay men. The root issue here is not the pleasure of sex without reproduction so much as it is an issue with women and men being equal. It’s no secret that inequality was the norm during Biblical times, particularly the OT. “Leaving the natural use of the woman” is a phrase used in reference to men choosing to sexually love other men rather than women (Romans 1:27). I am a woman, and I do not see my womanhood as being a “natural use” for a man to please himself sexually. That phrasing seems to take the female side of things rather lightly, placing the importance on the male. If this is a translation issue, great, but most people who still hold to this view of sex and women are stuck on the KJV translation as being “God-breathed.” 

Looking Back & Moving Forward

If you read the earliest posts on this blog, you’ll quickly realize there was a time when I practically hated all things religious and many things spiritual. I was angry and bitter after spending the first 20 or so years of my life in fundamental Christianity. The day the blindfold came off, I began realizing the many things I had learned, seen, been part of, and had done to me that were wrong. The lies, the imposed guilt, the many options I should have had but didn’t because of my upbringing. The many evils done in the name of my former religion that had been swept under the rug by fellow Christians. So very many things crossed my mind and fueled my anger.

As I look back, I realize my anger was one of the five steps of loss and grief. The five stages are denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (I pulled my list and quote from this site). They don’t necessarily occur in a specific order and you can move through them several times. I’m going to list the stages in the order that I experienced them.

Before I officially renounced my faith, I went through the first stage of denial and isolation.
”Block out the words and hide from the facts” is used to describe this stage. I think I was going through that first step long before I realized I was coming to the end of the road with fundamental Christianity. I was in a state of denial for a large portion of my thinking years, it just took me awhile to realize it and then figure out what to do with it. Indoctrination does that, though.

The fourth stage is depression. I experienced this stage as I questioned my beliefs, as I experienced the confusion of denial, as I worked through the anger, and later as I worried about what I could have done differently. In short, I experienced it simultaneously or directly after all but one stage of loss and grief.

Once I left, anger hit and burnt passionately for several months. Anger is the second stage and is the stage that took me the longest to work through. I still get riled up from time to time, but seem to have moved away from it as a stage.

I experienced the third stage (bargaining) several times, but usually went through it quickly. I can recall many horrible, stupid things I did because I thought I was supposed to… all because the Bible or a spiritual leader said so. Had I not had the fundamentalist indoctrination, I believe I would have acted differently, because I’m really not a bad person. I hesitate to make that statement (knowing how many will react to it), but it is the truth. My mind has obsessed over what I did wrong and what I should have done instead. I should have seen through the lies long before I did. I should have been braver in my questioning and thinking. And on and on the list in my head goes.

The fifth stage is acceptance. I thought I had reached this stage a few months ago, but have recently realized that it is now that I am truly experiencing it. I am accepting of my upbringing. I am accepting of what my past was. Perhaps most importantly, I am accepting of religion. Rather than having a blanket disregard or hate of religion, I hate how it can be used to abuse people; that will never change. I’m very happy to have moved past the anger.

I have moved past a lot of things but I will never forget them. There will always be a certain level of anger when I think back or hear new stories about the crazy things that come with fundamentalism. I will still write about these things, but I will also write about other things. I now see positive aspects of religion and can accept its presence in the world. Religion and mythology are often tied together quite strongly. Mythology has always fascinated me; now I see how important it is to the human experience. We learn from stories. We find ourselves amongst the characters and learn from their triumphs and failures. Learning from a story and taking it too seriously are quite different approaches, though. Fundamentalism comes into play when people take their mythology too seriously. Fundamentalism is something I will never accept.

Again… Really?

Here we go again! North Carolina has yet again made it into the public eye through the actions of a Baptist pastor. Pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, NC spoke out rather forcefully about the Biblical wrongness of homosexuality and has warranted the attention of national media. Here are two links to the story: http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/21/pastors-anti-gay-anti-obama-sermon/?hpt=ac_bn2 and http://www.wtsp.com/news/national/article/256113/81/Pastor-wants-to-isolate-gays-until-they-die-out 
After reading the lengthy quotes from this pastor’s sermon, I am appalled at his ideology. I am also appalled because I used to be a part of churches who took similar stands on issues like homosexuality. Not all Christians or even Baptists would endorse putting homosexuals into concentration camp settings just to prove that homosexuals cannot reproduce, or if you take it to the logical end, to watch the so-called blot of homosexuality die out. Sadly, I know several people who would probably be fine with that scenario playing out. The Bible, mostly in the Old Testament, does refer to homosexuality as a gross sin, and labels it as a stoning offence (Leviticus 20:13). The Bible also says that Christians are to love their neighbors and be peaceful people (mostly in the New Testament). Christians have a hard time balancing out those two ideas, often being on one extreme side or the other. It’s issues like this that have led me to make the observation that the God of the OT is not the same God of the NT, despite Biblical claims to that end. The OT is full of harsh, brutal, intolerant and unloving acts that were commanded or committed because of what God supposedly said. The NT, particularly the teachings of Jesus, speak of love, equality (or close to it compared to the OT) and peaceful living. When I was a Christian, I read my Bible and became confused at the apparent contradictions I saw.
I understood that it was the NT I was supposed to follow, since Jesus had essentially nullified the former requirement of following the law, but I also read that Jesus and God were the same person and did not “change.” Looking at the change in the message of the OT and NT from a historic perspective, it certainly shows that ideologies can progress towards tolerance and love over time, as humanity becomes more “civilized.” Modern Christianity seems to be proof of that, as it tends to focus on the message of love and peace that Christ did preach, while often ignoring other messages in the Bible that disagree. Those who try to embrace the ENTIRE Bible all at once, and not only follow it to the letter but also force their beliefs on everyone else – they are the ones who end up making the news. 
The pastor may have been trying to prove something when he mentioned that homosexuals don’t reproduce, but his logic is faulty. There are many heterosexual couples who cannot or do not reproduce either. Sex is pleasurable, for both the heterosexual and the homosexual. It seems that the Bible’s biggest beef with homosexuality is the inability to reproduce, and of course the idea that one of the men has to take “the role of the woman.” Oh wait, then how does this apply to lesbians too? Why is it not such a big issue if it’s women with women? I can only recall one passage in the Bible that specifically references lesbians, whereas several come to mind that specifically refer to gay men. The root issue here is not the pleasure of sex without reproduction so much as it is an issue with women and men being equal. It’s no secret that inequality was the norm during Biblical times, particularly the OT. “Leaving the natural use of the woman” is a phrase used in reference to men choosing to sexually love other men rather than women (Romans 1:27). I am a woman, and I do not see my womanhood as being a “natural use” for a man to please himself sexually. That phrasing seems to take the female side of things rather lightly, placing the importance on the male. If this is a translation issue, great, but most people who still hold to this view of sex and women are stuck on the KJV translation as being “God-breathed.” 
That’s all I have time for now.

Brief Thoughts on "The Will of God"


She has a very good point…. 
When anyone (my past self included) presumes to know the will of God – be it from a sudden realization, from a passage of Scripture they read, whatever – their knowledge is tainted by their personal views, desires, experiences. So, what is the difference here between Christians and non-Christians? Non-Christians have sudden epiphanies and then tell people, “Hey! I just had a great idea! I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, and after a lot of research, counsel, and trouble-shooting, I now know what I should do.” Christians have the same epiphany experience and tell people, “Hey! Guess what God showed me today! Yup, He definitely revealed His will to me. Praise God for showing a sinner like me what He wants for my life!”
It’s not that they have a very different experience, just that one person has the guts to take responsibility for their work and ideas while the other group claims it’s divinely inspired and now a holy quest. Conversely, when the non-Christian discovers he/she was wrong about the former decision/action, they can take responsibility for the mistake and change the course of action. If the Christian feels he/she was in the wrong, either they must think God had a bad idea (blasphemy!) or His once-so-clear guiding was grossly misunderstood, and if the Christian so grossly misunderstood things, well, he must be “living in sin” or something, right? 
Personally, in my past, I would read through the Bible regularly, study it through outside writing about it, and pray to God every day – I wanted to know His will. As I read and prayed, I thought about everything I saw and felt, and from those experiences I drew conclusions about what was the right thing to do, and considered it to be God’s will. Then later on down the road, when I realized that my original conclusion was wrong, I would feel confused (it had been so clear before, and that was what Scripture had said) and then feel a sense of guilt for being such a sinful idiot for misunderstanding things. After all, God wasn’t cruel and vindictive enough to lead me on or hide His perfect will from one of His children… was He? If I sought Him earnestly and did as His Bible told me to do, was I not following Him and considered to be His child? Consider this passage:

Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.” ~ Luke 13:23-27

Ah, so apparently Jesus does not accept all those who seek Him out, which contradicts other passages in which He clearly states that all those who seek Him will be saved. A contradiction? Heavens no – it cannot be! Sadly, the contradiction of free will and predestination is very real, and has been for centuries – it has divided the supposed Bride of Christ into multiple camps, each claiming to be correct and warring with the other camps. If God were so loving and kind, why would He leave such confusing words in His book, because surely He knew it would divide His children and hurt the soundness of His words? After all, Paul teaches in I Corinthians 14:33, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”
All of this is a small part of why I have denounced the Bible and Christianity as being totally man-made and therefore not worthy of following. It claims perfection and divine authorization, yet its text is riddled with contradictions, confusing passages, and historical references that are not historically accurate. It is not what it claims to be, therefore it is a lie.