Here at FNHC we like to contemplate unconventional wisdom, because we believe true wisdom is anything but conventional.
This morning as I was getting dressed I was thinking of my Christian upbringing. There is a certain brand of Christianity that seems to revel in the suffering of mankind, and I believe I was raised with a large strain of this thinking.
My whole life I struggled with clinical depression, and at the same time was told that the Lord loved me and was blessing me. That there was somehow a blessing in my brokenness that would eventually bear fruit. We didn’t call it depression because mental illness was either not understood or too stigmatized to be allowed as an option. Much better to believe I was just born broken, and Gawd liked me that way.
Instead of going to pre-school I was raised playing quietly in the back of a bible study, or roaming the halls at a Women’s Aglow Fellowship meeting. My mother could and did take me everywhere because I was the perfectly compliant child. Well, at least in public. My childhood revolved around her activities, in quite the opposite manner of the way we parent today.
I spent a lot of time absorbing Evangelical bible thought, and listening to women give their testimonies. You can imagine what an oddball I was when I participated in my Catholic side and understood the bible better than the majority of my religious instruction teachers.
Throughout my childhood my mother held a bible study every Monday night at her house. Our house became like a refuge for single mothers and women who married a particularly dip-shit brand of men. Of course, there were a few exceptions but they weren’t the women crying at our kitchen table. It was always hard for me to tell if there were more Christian women than men because men were dip-shits or if it was because they were actually just smart enough to not get involved with Christianity.
Women would come over and cry their eyes out about their cheating spouses while my brother and I were eating cereal in our family room and watching TV. They would say, “I’m so embarrassed. Your kids must think I’m crazy.” My mother would respond, “Oh no, they don’t think that. They’re used to it.”
Some of them became like my mother’s sister-wives as she recruited them to also have a relationship with her preferred second husband, Jesus. As I aged I would listen to them pray their incantations and tease them by calling them the Witches of Eastwick. I was a Christian, but I got a kick out of how they tried to control life by telling God what to do, and then thanking him for it. I am fortunate that my Mom happened to attract good Christian women friends who also had great senses of humor.
Recently, my kids begged me to walk them to the bus on a morning where I spent so much time running around getting them ready I didn’t have time to get dressed myself. I told them, okay, but if you want me to go, I’m going to have to wear my mumu. (I am on a starter program of an eight-year plan to convert my wardrobe fully to the Mrs. Roper look.)
I was telling my girlfriend later about the good times that were had at the bus stop that morning. I said, “My kids weren’t even embarrassed. They didn’t care at all. They were laughing.” And she told me, “Oh yeah, your crazy is their baseline now. They don’t know any different.” This made me laugh, and pause. If I am to be honest, I like being funny and joking around, but I AM trying to raise my kids without the full-blown crazy. Which I understand isn’t easy given my DNA.When my son tells me he wants to become a comedy writer, I think, well I should start fucking around with him more. His childhood is way too stable for him to even become half as funny I am. He’s just not going to find the success he wants in his chosen career if I don’t start traumatizing him a little.
But that is what I think when I look back on being neglected as a child for Jesus, and my mother telling family friends, “Oh, they’re used to it.”
Her crazy was my baseline.
It’s no wonder I took me until the age of forty to unpack all the ways in which I am damaged.
I think back to those testimonies, and nearly every testimony I have ever heard. There is a formula:
1) I was raised Christian/Catholic and/or but not religious and/or had one Christian grandmother, relative, friend . . .
2) I lived my life in the world and/or I back-slided.
3) I hit rock-bottom.
4) Some bottom-feeder found me at my weakest and manipulated me into accepting Jesus Christ as my personal savior.
5) Bing, bang, boom, I became born-again. Instantly an entirely new human being. AKA I joined a cult.
My favorite part is Christians converting to Christianity. Literally living an entire life in a Christian culture, believing in the Abrahamic God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and going to church regularly or during the holidays. Actually participating in religious instruction and/or doing sacraments if they were Catholic, but then claiming they didn’t become Christians until they were SAVED. This is the dumbest of dumbass behavior.
I think I my entire Christian childhood I maybe met one person who wasn’t a Christian before they got born-again, and I think they were Jewish, which isn’t exactly a dramatic stretch in this country.
I was fascinated by that radio show Unshackled. Which by the way is literally one of the best radio programs ever after Howard Stern and Prairie Home Companion. Every episode was a dramatic retelling of horribly abusive childhoods, alcoholic, drug-addicted, Satan-worshipping, lying, stealing, cheating, whores who found Jesus. Praise the Lord! My mom would flip out whenever I watched a soap opera, but she was totally cool with Unshackled.
The original FNHC at my Divinity School had a male member who hailed from Australia. Let’s call him Bazz. Bazz was a former rock-n-roller who either experimented or was a full-blown drug-addict before he found the Lord. He used to say the most brilliant, and hilarious thing to me, “I am fully convinced that every Christian is either born in it, or is a former drug addict.” There is a lot of truth to this statement, and it was also a little funny of him the former drug-addict to say to me born in it.
Apparently the Lord never finds a person when they are at the top of their game. Sometimes you do hear those kinds of testimonies, they are rare. The person who had everything in the eyes of the world, good looks, great job, money, etc . . . . but then they just had this empty feeling inside. They just didn’t know why they were so unhappy, blah to the blah.
Usually, when I hear this stuff I look to their spouse. Because a lot of times that empty feeling was a person they really wanted to bang who wouldn’t get with them until they got Born-Again. I find that one the funniest of all. We sometimes get Christian commenters like that over on Godless in Dixie. Where they try to convince us they were really, really, really, atheists before they converted to Christianity. But you never hear about that spouse that helped them out until much later.
Huh, I bet sexual attraction does as much for conversion as drug-addiction.
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