“The patriarchal, ego-fortifying, psyche-destroying, soul-crushing, domineering, brain-washing, fear-inducing, manipulative, spiritually abusive world of the fundamentalism I know”

This is a guest post by Christy Caine, who blogs at Leap of Fate.

[I was raised] in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church, home, and school. There was intense focus on the filthy rags verse. We were indoctrinated to believe that we were completely worthless in the eyes of God; and this is how we came to view everyone else as well — which leads to the hubris and judgmentalism so common to fundamentalism. We were taught we were dirt: undeserving, untrustworthy. Humility was expressed as: I don’t deserve God’s love; I don’t deserve God’s blessing; I’m so lucky He doesn’t just strike me dead right here this very instant because I am so evil and full of sin.

We were taught that Satan will take every opportunity to creep in and trick us away from the narrow path. Questions, doubt, and sin were of the Devil, evidence of weak faith, or of no faith at all. If you still struggled with sin of any kind, then maybe you weren’t really a Christian after all. Maybe you needed to pray the sinner’s prayer again, and really ask Jesus to come into your heart and forgive you — and this time really mean it. They preached eternal security, except when they doubted your sincerity of heart when evidence of change in your life didn’t meet their standards. You can be certain of your salvation once you are saved, they taught, but they worked really hard at creating doubt in the minds of their followers as to whether they were truly saved in the first place. Thus, we lived in perpetual fear and doubt of everyone and everything, including ourselves. If someone questioned our beliefs, a familiar response was that Satan was using them to try to trick us. And thus the focus on unyielding convictions and certainty.

There was such a strong focus on the verse, “not of works lest any man should boast,” that they did no works at all. There was no caring for the poor, no helping the homeless, no feeding the hungry, no clothing the naked. Getting people to church was the only “works.” Conversion and right belief were the cure for everything. Drug addict? Alcoholic? Smoker? Find Jesus. (It’s your free will to choose to do these things, after all; just stop doing them, and pray for God to take the sin away.)

Dance, drink, listen to worldly music, or go to movies? Find Jesus. Attend the wrong kind of church? Find the real Jesus. Your husband hits you? Bring him to church; he just needs to get right with Jesus (and, “that’s the the risk you run, honey, when you marry an unbeliever.”) About people who were down and out, they taught, “Well, that’s just evidence of them not having God in their life, not living the right way, and God not blessing them because they are sinful. And, anyway, they like their sin; they enjoy it; they don’t want to change; they hate God.”

Because of this their congregations learn to marginalize and fear “the other.” There was no compassion. No grace.

And we were taught not to question authority. How dare you ask God why that child died; how dare you be angry with God? You just need to accept God’s will. And by extension: How dare you question “God’s anointed” (the minister — who is always male). If you had tough questions about things that didn’t make sense, you were told that you just needed to pray and read your Bible more, and that clearly you were weak-minded and weren’t fighting off the influence of Satan. You aren’t “trying hard enough,” and “maybe you just can’t live the life; you obviously haven’t fully surrendered your heart and mind to God.”

And we were taught not to question our parents: they knew what was best for us (even if that meant reinforcing wrongheaded thinking, destroying our self-concept, and submitting us to the care of unhealthy people). “Of course the child won’t like corporal punishment,” they taught. “But you need to make sure it hurts. They won’t remember the next time if it doesn’t hurt. Your job as a parent is to break the will of the disobedient child, and conform his will to your own — just like we are to conform our own will to the will of God. Punishment isn’t supposed to be fun; it’s to get them to learn to obey.”

I can’t tell you how many sermons I heard on how the state and the government, if they had their way, would take away children from their Christian parents because of them spanking them. Thus the ingrained fear and distrust of government.

And we were taught as women not to question our husband, or men generally. The man is the head of the house, the head of the church — and God himself is male: “What right do think you have to question authority? You need to submit and obey and avoid idle talk.”

If anyone did question the minister and left the church, they were shunned, and the congregation was told that it was because that family couldn’t commit to the faith. Not, of course, because of the truth: that the minister was mismanaging funds, that bills were going unpaid, that he was protecting child abusers and rapists within the congregation, that he was manipulative and a narcissist, that people’s personal problems were routinely the subject of public sermons … .

And I’m sure I’m not the only fundamentalist kid to have a left-behind story: when I woke up from a nap, and for whatever reason couldn’t find a single soul, and went running through the house and outside looking for anyone who might possibly be born again so that I could relieve my anxiety that the Rapture hadn’t taken place. Fear and doubt: we were weaned on it.

This is the patriarchal, ego-fortifying, psyche-destroying, soul-crushing, domineering, brain-washing, fear-inducing, manipulative, spiritually abusive world of the fundamentalism I know. So it is very hard for me to see any good in it at all as an institution. Love, for them, is conditional. They know nothing of an unconditionally loving God; and they can’t teach what they do not know. This is how I have been able to let go and move on; that, and discovering the loving God I never knew.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • http://www.paradiserecovered.com Andie Redwine

    ‘Discovering the loving God I never knew’ has been the quest of my adult life. Thank you for sharing this piece, John. Christy articulates the conditionality of fundamentalist ‘love’ so very well.

  • A’isha

    Christy, you explain almost exactly what I felt growing up. I remember thinking I needed to say the sinner’s prayer after every single time I sinned, or even if I thought I might have sinned. That whole concept of never been worthy of God’s love, that we’re all rags, was particularly damaging to me since I was raised in a very abusive home where my self-esteem was shattered daily along with the rest of me. So not finding peace, joy, acceptance, or any of those other feel-good things at church where I attended with my grandparents eventually made me think, “what difference does it make?” I thought being saved and going to church should have changed things at home, but I was just further taught that I was scum, unworthy of love. Drugs took care of that for a long time. Drugs did bring peace, although temporarily. Self-injury helped, also bringing peace. But God? Church? Nope, didn’t bring me anything close to that, at least not until I met the true God, the one who does love me and accepts me. The God who says I’m his child, the one he loves and cherishes! That’s the God I want people to meet!

    • Christy

      Me too, A’isha…..me too.

    • Annie

      I like that God too, A’isha – that was the God I found the day my son was born…. I knew with every fiber of my being that if I could love someone as much as I loved that boy, then somewhere, I was loved at least that much. It still feels like my heart physically warms and expands when I remember that day, and still 22 years later when I see him, It has only grown deeper. And I am mortal. It boggles the mind to think how much God must love me, always will. it cuts deeply to find that there is a whole population out there for whom that is not good enough.

      • Christy

        Annie, this is beautiful. I’m amazed at how much we are able to relate to each other’s stories. This same epiphany struck me in the days after my first son’s birth. Motherhood and dealing with the concept of infant baptism is what set into motion the wheel of questioning everything I had ever thought and known to be true….and I’m so grateful I did.

  • DR

    She adds so much to this blogging experience.

    • Christy

      Thanks, DR. I feel lucky to be in such wonderful company. I’m inspired by the passion you express here on John’s page. Thanks for that.

      • DR

        You’re thoughtful, intentional, gentle approach is something I’ve been impacted by and convicted by as well. You have such a gift for writing and I love that it shows up here. You’re just lovely and the church is the better for having you.

  • Ann

    I agree with the basis for ur feelings and response to that. However, I know that u are as I am responsible to alter ur present and future with recognition that regardless of where u were and who did what, u r responsible for ur choices now. I find it a reflection of ur pain and ur continued resentment that u choose to ‘blame’. I have found that blame has no place in my life. And responsibiliy is the appropriate response and response of grace. Blaming does not release any of us from taking charge of our choices. I agree that false teachings adversely affected most of us. One would hope that those teachings have somehow experienced the light, but blaming an specific group of believers negates any positive impact of what ubseek to teach. If I don’t hear recognition and acceptance and release from the messenger, then I cannot trust the message.

    • vj

      ??? Ann – did we read the same piece?

      I read Christy describing her own personal experiences… it surely isn’t ‘blaming’ to state the truth?

      As for ‘recognition and acceptance and release’? That’s exactly what I see in “They know nothing of an unconditionally loving God; and they can’t teach what they do not know. This is how I have been able to let go and move on; that, and discovering the loving God I never knew. ”

      Christy – you have come through SO much! I am in awe of the way you have articulated both your negative experiences and the peace you have found in Christ. Every time you post something, I am reminded again to be thankful to God that my church experience has been nothing but affirming, edifying, supportive, loving, gracious and all those other good things that are supposed to flow from the body of Christ.

      • Christy

        vj, Thank you. I’m always encouraged when I hear of others who have had a nurturing and healthy spiritual experience. I’m so happy you did! It shows in the beautiful and insightful words of compassion you share here. Namaste.

        • vj

          You are most welcome :-) Keep doing what you are doing, your testimony is amazing.

    • Richard lubbers

      Ann, it’s a process. Good grief, cut her some slack. Who appointed you?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      “I have found that blame has no place in my life.” Really? Are you sure it hasn’t ever occurred to you to blame any of your old English teachers for anything?

      • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

        *snicker*

      • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

        I just laughed so loud the person in the office next to me wanted to know what the heck was going on.

    • DR

      What in the world are you talking about? There’s no blame here, there is simply thoughtful narrative on what her experiences are.

    • DR

      And seriously. Please stop typing “ur” and “u”. This isn’t a text message. Thank you.

    • Christy

      Ann, thank you for your comment. The wounds are old, but the recognition is fresh; acceptance of what is *is* the key to freedom, healing, emotional and spiritual health and growth – an ongoing process. I am responsible for my choices now, which is why I choose to live more aware of the Divine all around and within us, and worship in a community that is nurturing and accepting of curious seekers wherever they may be on their spiritual journey, and have claimed a peace and happiness through an awareness of this Divine Presence in my life. Realizing one has survived a cult is not a happy dose of frosting to one’s already emotionally shaky cake. “Forgiveness,” Anne Lamott writes, “is giving up all hope of having had a different past.”

      Most of this happened to me in my youth. I did not choose it. I could not leave it. I accept that I had no power then, nor now, to change them nor what happened, I can only change me and how I choose to allow what they did, and continue to do, to affect me. Like other types of survivors, telling our story is part of the healing.

      Blame is assigning responsibility for fault for wrongdoing. John has been writing about forgiveness, praying for our enemies, increasing our compassion and fundamentalism. This seemed an opportune time to share my experience. If you can help me see a wrong that I am not seeing for stating the truth of what was my normal and how it made me feel I welcome your insight.

      The second half of my life was summed up in the last two sentences, so I can see how you could interpret the piece to be focussed on the negative rather than on the positive. Compassion for those who cause this pain compels me to understand that they know not what they do. Compassion for others compels me to tell the truth of my experience as a means to warn others so that they are not harmed in the same way. Compassion for myself requires not hiding the truth for fear of what others might think about me.

      Pain, in its many forms, returns to remind us of the clay that formed us. We cannot divorce ourselves from this reality (doing so causes pain of another sort, the undoing of which, often requires the help of wise therapists), but I am no longer stuck by allowing it to control my life and limit the joy of the present nor my vision for future.

      What I seek is that we each come to know, in our own way, that beyond all imagination, we are loved by the One in whom we live and breathe and move and have our being; who will never stop drawing all of creation back to itself. I feel compassion for those who wronged me and many others like me who never knew the love and peace of this One.

      Blessings on your journey.

      • Diana A.

        Christy, this is lovely. This is far more forgiving and compassionate than I would have been had Ann’s remark been addressed to me. You are truly a Christian in the best sense of the word.

    • kimberly

      wow. really? REALLY?

      • kimberly

        this was meant for ann, not you christy… it can be a bit confusing… you are very level headed, and this comment of mine can’t be called that today…

  • Rebecca

    Amen, amen, and amen, Christy.

  • Don Rappe

    Congratulations Christy on your incisive analysis of the beast. I think I may not have realized previously how thoroughly anti woman it was. I understand it to be reactionary to a modern understanding of the world. particularly the great discovery of that Anglican Christian scientist Charles Darwin. In opposition, they adopted certain false positions as “fundamental” to the Christian faith. The two most egregious and common are the unbiblical notion of biblical inerrancy and insistence on a simplistic and highly uncritical reading of the Bible commonly called literalism. By a disciplined use of these two false principles it becomes impossible to understand what the Bible is saying on almost any subject. Once one idolatrously throws one’s reason, like an infant child, into the flaming jaws of Moloch, the Way, the Truth and the Life which are the Lord Jesus Christ inevitably drop out of sight. Thank you so much for your fine commentary.

  • http://gaychristiangeek.blogspot.com Rainicorn

    Good grief, I’ve never before felt so profoundly grateful to have grown up in a moderate/progressive home. God bless you, Christy. Your story reminds me of Razing Ruth, a blog chronicling a young woman’s escape from fundamentalism and her subsequent growth (highly recommend reading it all, btw).

    • Christy

      Thanks for sharing this, Rainicorn. I checked it out. Wow. And, yikes.

  • k.s.

    That article was so accurate it was downright scary.

  • HeatherR

    This. THIS. THIS!

    Christy does a wonderful job at highlighting the same issues I faced in my churches. The idea that you got to heaven through belief in Jesus and not through good works means that good works weren’t important. There were no helping the poor and the needy in my churches, either. (And both of them were the largest churches in their respective towns, so any help they could have done would have made a great impact.)

    Also, the idea that all sin is equal in the eyes of God was very prominent. So drinking alcohol was a bad as committing a felony in the eyes of the other members of the church. “Your stepfather tried to molest you? Well, you lied about doing your chores, so both of you are equally bad and sinful. Your stepfather has prayed for forgiveness. Have you prayed for forgiveness for your sin? Because if you haven’t, you’re going to hell.”

    And the focus on hell was intense. I was raised to fear hell far more than I was to love God. That was the whole point of going to church: you went so you don’t have to go to hell. It wasn’t to feel the love of God. It wasn’t to help the poor and disadvantaged. It was to make sure you knew you were sinful and to pray for forgiveness for your sins, and the others in the church were there to reinforce that notion. Remove the concept of hell and you remove the foundational purposes of those churches.

    What Christy writes about is what came to my mind for years when I heard someone say, “I’m a Christian.” But I’ve gotten better and met people from various backgrounds, so I realize that someone can be a Christan and not have this mindset. But I always keep in mind that this is what many, many, many people mean when they say they are a Christian.

  • Kara

    This was so similar to what I felt growing up that it’s almost eerie. (I definitely had a left-behind moment. Even having gotten out, I still have them sometimes if I can’t find people.) Thank you for sharing your experiences. Having moved into the progressive Christian world, I find that people often have no grasp of what fundamentalism really looks like, even though for me growing up it was as natural as breathing. This piece illustrates it well.

  • L. Fraser

    Bless you and Bless Christie! Fundamentalism (taking the “fun” out of Christianity since day one) is the main reason I will not set foot in a conventional church again, and haven’t in 20 years. But I can also be grateful, because patriarchal fundamentalism drove me away to learn, to grow, and to find my place in this world as a Quaker with Buddhist leanings…because of fundamentalism, I left to learn the beauty of stillness, of seeking God/Goddess/Source within, of meditation, and being engaged in the world, learning each day to be more compassionate. The cruelty, ignorance, intolerance, drove me to find peace…elsewhere.

  • Annie

    Christy, are you the same Christy that so kindly responded to my lengthy post after John Shore’s blog about the scary rooms in the Church Lady’s house? If so I want to thank you again, and to thank you for writing this. Perhaps my post should have been in the form of an email to John, but as this was my first encounter with this site, I simply responded where I saw fit – and perhaps did so publicy because I was reaching out a hand for help. And you took my hand. I am still scared, and although discussions are underway, I am scared I will lose a relationship that is meaningful and fufilling to me, but also scared that I will lose an important part of myself. Why am I crying as I type this?

    I did not share your childhood experiences, rather was brought up by liberal, tolerant parents with plenty of faults to mess me up, but who left me with a deep and abiding sense of the necessity social justice, patience with other ways of thinking, and equal opportunities for women, GLBT friends, and even rebublicans. My father taught in a Quaker school when he was a young man, my mother took me to an Episcopalian church, which I still love, and together they brought me to the Ethical Society, which taught me at a very young age that all faiths demand respect, and we learned about many religions and denominations and religions world-wide, including many eastern religions. I have a deep respect for Buddism especially, and think if the so-called “saved” Christians would examine that tradition, they would see that much of what Jesus purportedly said sounds alot like the Dalai Lama. But enough.

    I am still flummoxed about my situation, ready to marry a man who is revealing himself more and more to be quite the fundamentalist. In an organization that shuns any inter-faith communication, because those icky ‘other denominations” smack of the Anit-Christ (no kidding, that’s in the C&MA Articles of faith), I am completely lost. But not “LOST” as they describe me. My beloved has said I should give him a chance to be educated, and that he would remain open to learning just how insidious his group really is – he claims never to be aware of the “so-called” documents, even thought I SHOWED THEM to him.

    So I am taking this topic by topic, using their words to show him, and showing him how other, more moderate and reasoned churches approach these things.

    What really freaked me out as I read the C&MA official handbook as set down by their board of directors, was total LACK of compassion. Anywhere.

    Sorry all, I ramble. Please forgive me, I am deeply troubled by this situation and find here, at this site, a kind of sanctuary.

    Peace, and Christy, or Christy(s), thanks so much for writing this and sharing your story.

    A

    • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

      Annie, this site opened my eyes regarding my present and past relationships. Perhaps it will for you as well: http://www.baggagereclaim.co.uk/

    • Christy

      Dear Annie, I am the same one. My heart breaks. This must be so very difficult. I do not doubt that John has good advice to share in your situation, or other tender readers here. It sounds like you have a good plan in place. Sometimes the most difficult conversations we have with those we love bring the most intimacy to the relationship because of the vulnerability that is inherent to them. I will be thinking of you and sending my heartfelt love and concern in prayers.

      I do love the quilt of your religious experience. Buddhism has been helpful in illuminating for me, as you point out, the similarity in the compassionate Way of Jesus. It seems we can enrich our own cultural and spiritual experience by understanding other faith traditions and how they can enhance our own, rather than by fearing them.

      The Golden Rule is common to all the world’s major religions. It seems if we each, in our own path, took it to heart, much good would come of it.

      On a women’s retreat we once served each other communion. My dearest friend, and a maternal surrogate, turned to me and said, “Peace, my child, the Lord is with you” and we burst into tears. This comes to mind now as I hold you in my circle of concern. Blessings and hugs to you. ~ C

      • Annie

        Thank you Gina and Christy. So many thanks. I find myself heaving with tears now and barely able to keyboard. I need to go have a good cry. I will stay on this site as a regular now, and hope to be able to continue to communicate with you both again. I know God led me here to find kindred spirits in my time of need, but also because I have something to offer this world. After my good cry, Gina, I will be going to the website you reccomend, and read deeply.

        I want to mention that as my father grew older, in my lifetime, he retreated behind his hearlig loss and no longer participated in any church services, declaring himself a “devout agnostic” (lol Dad), and I totally understood his disgust at the corruption he saw in many organized religions. He was raised a Baptist, which he firmly regected. I am so grateful that my parents broke the cycle of bigotry and stupidity and did not leave me flailing in doubt and uncertainty. I grew up knowing peace and tolerence were the way to go. My heart goes out to you all who have suffered first hand as children born of fundalmentist families, and I am grateful to you for sharing. I went to the Razing Ruth blog as well, and now find myself overcome with compassion and gratitude.

        I am still confused, I am sad, I am ALL TORN UP really, but feel that I have found a thread of support. Thank you again for your compassion and prayers.

        Peace,

        A

        • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

          Strength and love to you, Annie. I’m on Facebook, and you can contact me anytime. There are quite a few women with my name — I’m the one with Poesies. Not to try to advertise, it’s just that I don’t know how else to identify myself to you!

          • Annie

            Thanks Christy. Will hunt for your on FB…

            This is very kind of you. A

        • DR

          What a difficult choice to make. I hope you’re ok. You will be, regardless of whatever decision you make. Much love to you.

    • kimberly

      please, if you don’t mind, can someone explain to me what C&MA is? this post, and all the responses, has unleashed such a torrent of emotion, and i wish to put those emotions to words, but i need to understand some of the things i’m seeing here. God bless you all, may you find peace, love and relief, i am so sorry for the pain you have experienced.

      • Maggie

        C&MA is the Christain & Missionary Alliance denomination. Both my father and maternal grandfather were pastors in this denomination, so I’m quite familiar with it. I’ve always considered them run-of-the-mill fundamentalists, not much different from your average Baptist, for instance. They have a big emphasis on sending out overseas missionaries.

        • Annie

          Dear Maggie,

          I ask this with all due respect since you grew up with this group: What exactly do they DO overseas? Besides build more churches? I see that here in the states they say they did some good works during Hurricane Katrina, and have other missions to help overseas, but they do not get specific about how they help. I cannot even find a soup kitchen that is C&MA sponsored around here. Do they do any community outreach/work with the underserved in any capacity (besides evangelism) ?

          I am truly confused. If they do anything at all to help anyone, then I need to know that.

          Did the parishes your father and grandfather head have food drives, or anything like that?

          Their mission statement includes much on the “Great Commission” – which seems to mean they want to build more churches, but I see little else.

          Thanks for any insight you can offer.

          A

          • Maggie

            Annie,

            Their main thrust overseas is indeed conversion, although they also set up medical clinics and schools, etc. I think you’re right about the domestic churches not being very concerned with any social justice outreach. It’s been many years since I’ve associated with them, but the Great Commission was their raison d’etre. They felt if they could preach the gospel everywhere they’d hasten the second coming of Christ.

            And no, they didn’t take a strong position on speaking in tongues (unless it’s changed in recent years) – my rememberance was to neither encourage or discourage it, and I never encountered any of that in my growing up years.

      • Annie

        Christian & Missionary Alliance. They are an enormous organization which is incredibly lock-step, fundamentalist. As I have been researching them, through their own websites, handbook, and discussion groups, as well as looking at all the stuff about them written by others, I am amazed and appalled.

        Here is the link to their website, you can read what they have to say for themselves, don’t take my word for it:

        http://www.cmalliance.org/

        But I dug deeper and found their hand book, as well as lawsuits (including charges of Conspiracy, Fraud, and Racketeering. Check out the disaster that the Chinese Christians faced when they hitched their wagon to C&MA in Colorado Springs. They lost everything. This after emmigrating to the United States to enjoy one of our inailiable rights: Religious Freedom. C&MA even refused to return their Chinese language translation Bibles.

        They are trying to create an empire, with “80% of donations going overseas”. Really?

        Women are not allowed to be Pastors, or an Elder of any Kind.

        Homosexuals are catagorically banned.

        And a “believer” shall NOT marry a “non-believer”.

        and more.

        Their churches MUST, by their own doctrine, be financed or mortgaged by their own finance company, and they have been quick to take over or forclose on many congregations.

        There is so much more here, I write about them because I am involved and am (still, for now) planning to marry a man involved in one of thier groups. I am freaking out, but hope to resolve this with reason.

        Anyway, if you want to read about them, be prepared for a lot of C&MA – hate for all of us “Lost” Christians. They have some hard and fast rules for salvation. Accroding to them, there are “Two kinds of Christians”, and they seem to heartily eschew any intermingling of denominations or Inter-Faith groups, as evidenced in their handbook, and on their discussion groups.

        PS: They whole-heartedly approve of speaking in tongues!! Check out their “Gifts of Spirit” section found on the website…

        Peace,

        A

        • http://ragarambler.blogspot.com Steve F.

          Dear Annie – please, please, please – RUN, do not walk, from any relationship tied to this insanity. I have watched two dear, sweet, Jesus-loving people (one of each gender) walk into the C&MA firestorm, and fortunately only ONE of them actually succeeded in committing suicide!

          Trust me: the Blue-Collar-Comedy-Tour folks tell you “you can’t fix stupid” – and I’d add, you can’t fix crazy, either!

          Normally, I would never suggest that I have any clues about relationships – but you have shot up to near the top of my prayer list. The inbred attitudes, reinforced by the church, are virtually unstoppable, short of death or other similarly-traumatic events. Treat this like walking into a pit of vipers: you may last for a while, but by the time you realize you’re in trouble, you may very well have no energy to get out.

          The image from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy of Gandalf in the Mines of Moria shouting “SAVE YOURSELES!” comes to mind.

          • Annie

            Oh! Thank you so much Steve, and I am thanking all of you who are “butting in” !

            I asked for it! This feels like an intervention, Divine Intervention? LOL – pun intended! I’m not laughing, I took a break today and did a lot of crying and am still. I am so sorry I feel so needy. But the people here are reaching out to me, and are giving me the guidance where I was/ am not listening to my own voice.

            I am overwhelmed. now with gratitude.

            Peace

            A

          • LisaDee

            Hi Annie, I read this blog fairly regularly and don’t always get to the comments. For some reason I made the time today and came across your post. I’m reading between the lines with some of the details because I think I missed your first post re: your partner, but I still felt compelled to jump in with my 2 cents. First, so you know the platform from which I speak, I am a lesbian, my partner of 3 years was raised in a “one-step away” from Pentecostal church in Florida where her father is the minister. When she came out she lost many of her family connections and was from then on an embarrassment to the church. The crazy thing is; her parents love me and my son. They now see me as family. And recognize our family as a family. I don’t know if they will ever understand a lesbian partnership totally, but they try. I give them huge credit for trying. While surely I am no expert on your situation (hardly even an expert on my own), I do know that people, contrary to what we normally believe, CAN change with love. I would suggest that you ask him to leave the church for a while. Test the waters without church. See what it would feel like to lose those connections and how he fares without them. If he is truly open minded he will see that along with the benefits that he has seen with the church there are also negatives. Perhaps church “hunt” together if organized religion is important to him. Go visit a bunch of different churches…the UCC, the Quakers, Buddhist temple…..go shopping at them all and have the “well, what did you think” conversation after. I know people are telling you to RUN. I get it, and 5 years ago I would have agreed. But 4 years ago I sat across from the most beautiful woman I had even seen and she told me she was pentecostal and her family was sure that we would burn in hell. I knew I was entering into a relationship with her and her family. We don’t go to her family’s church, in fact we moved 900 miles away. But we visit often and they have embraced us. I guess the point of the ramble is that if you love this guy, and he loves you, a two-bit crazy church shouldn’t stand in your way. Removing yourself from these cult-type church is very difficult and the difficulty seems to increase exponentially by the years you’ve been involved. It is a huge paradigm shift for many and takes a lot of difficult contemplation, but If he is willing to talk I think you have the battle half won.

            Namste’

            Lisa

          • Annie

            Thank you Lisa,

            We are tentatively church-shopping, as I asked him months ago if he would change congregations to find something we could both be comfortable in…. We went to Christ Church Episcopal at Yale, and I loved it: very high church but also a very high level of intellectual discourse (hellooo – all their interns are from the Yale School of Divinity), and the Rev.’s are wonderful and welcoming, but no-go for him: to churchy, I guess, and he didn’t like the incense (lol)(seriously). Next the colonial-era of our local Congregational church, he’s better with that, but now digging in his heels. We are talking.

            Peace,

            A

          • Diana A.

            “Next the colonial-era of our local Congregational church, he’s better with that, but now digging in his heels.”

            Yes, I would imagine he’s scared to death. From what I’ve been reading about this church (this denomination?), it sounds like a Fundementalist Christian Cult to me. He’s probably been brainwashed to believe that by even thinking of questioning the beliefs he’s been taught that he will have bought a one-way ticket on The Hell Express.

            Be very careful. This is either a deep ocean or a dark cave with lots of tunnels. In either case, you need a long rope with one end tied to familiar territory and the other end around your waist. Make sure you keep up relations with the people in your life of whom this church would never approve. That probably includes the majority of people on this blog–including (especially?) John Shore himself.

          • DR

            Man. The people who post here are just incredible. What a lovely, gracious person you are.

          • Granny Jo

            Annie, as a woman long, long married (probably a lot longer than you have been alive), I can only say with all my heart, PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU ARE SEEING. When we are young, we can write off so much, pushing it aside and refusing to look at it because it is contrary to what we want. But if you marry this man, THIS WILL BE YOUR LIFE. Is that really what you want…

          • Annie

            Thanks Granny! LOL I am 50! not a kid, 20 years divorced, he is 56 and stubborn. I am looking very hard at this very hard situation. Clearly I am still not grown up enough to figure it out…

            A

        • Lili

          Annie, I have had very little time to post anything here for some time, but have been trying to check in briefly now and then just to read some of the posts. But yours caught my eye and I feel compelled to add my voice to others here, to strongly encourage you to rethink your marriage plans. I don’t normally stick my nose into other people’s relationships, but if this guy buys into even half of their ugly doctrines, you are setting yourself up for a great deal of misery. Whatever pain a break-up would bring you now would be nothing compared to the misery of trying to escape an ugly marriage later, not to mention the torments you would go through before coming to that decision. I will be praying for you for great wisdom and courage, along with others here.

          • Annie

            Thank you Lili,

            As with the other voices, I have never been so grateful for a bunch of strangers to tell me what to (not) do. This experience, here, reaching out, recieving so many kind words, prayers, and honest advice, it’s very emotional for me. I thought I was a mess before I stumbled on this site! wow.

            I won’t keep up my rambling posts, I will sort through this. Thanks so much.

            A

        • Maggie

          I wouldn’t say they’re trying to create an empire, per se, although I don’t doubt they do earmark the 80% to the missionary work. See my comment above about the Great Commission – that is what they’re trying to do.

          But yes, they’re hard-core fundamentalist so women are second class, and you sure as hell don’t want to be gay. They take the Bible literally (except the parts that they don’t) and they believe it to be inerrant (skipping over the inconsisitencies therein).

          I, too, would hesitate strongly to marry someone who is devoted to any form of fundamentalism. Good luck with your decision!

        • Christy

          Annie, If I can interject on the relationship front, which I will admit I am hesitant to do…..

          You haven’t given us any indication that he is resistant to the questions you are asking. Nor how important religion currently is to either one of you or how it plays into your relationship. It is a very normal and healthy discussion to have prior to marriage to discuss issues of faith: what you each like and dislike about your own faith traditions, what you have in common and where there are differences, what you are willing to compromise on and what you hold dear, how you would each like to continue (or not) to practice your faith, whether or not each is willing or wants to adopt the other person’s faith, etc.

          You said he was open to learning more about the group – this is GOOD news. He’s open to talking about it. That’s a HUGE thing. Depending on how you all have been worshipping together (or not) perhaps this is an opportunity to share even more together. (?) The other thing that comes to mind is that perhaps having a third party to work with you as you talk through this might help. An unbiased, neutral third party. As much as I hope folks avoid the pain of the fundamentalism I experienced, I would also hate to see you lose a loving relationship that can in a healthy, honest, and open way successfully accommodate both of your spiritual journeys.

          • Diana A.

            One book I can recommend that might help you with the process Christy recommends above is called “How Can I Be Sure? A Pre-Marriage Inventory” by Bob Phillips. It actually comes from a somewhat fundamentalist (this time, I spelled it right!) viewpoint but it’s open-ended enough but the questions it recommends you ask each other are quite thorough and I think would be helpful for even a non-Christian couple. Plus, I had fun answering some of the questions with answers that would probably shock the poor guy who wrote it: “Privacy in lovemaking is important because:” My answer: “You don’t want other people embarassing you by holding up scorecards judging your performance.”

          • Annie

            LOL! Diana, thank you, I will check that book out. I am deep into research and writing. I am like a sponge now, in student mode really, which is what I am right now. I work for a lawyer, and my job is to assemble documents and other data for evidence. To my mind, if the facts are there, Iif there is evidence to support a more rationed viewpoint, surely a rational person will see it for what it is. I shut down when I hear anything that smacks of, “Jesus said there is only one way”. or “Women cannot preach, it’s in the Bible”. Reason cannot cut through stubborn I guess.

        • DR

          Annie, this looks like something that would not be healthy for your relationship with God or for you. It’s hard, these kinds of people and places can hold a very strong appeal for those of us who love to be led (I was caught in something like this myself, just through the Catholic church). So I know the intoxicating aspect of it. I’d put the brakes on for sure. You’re so wise to really be looking at all of this as objectively as you can, that’s so difficult.

          • Annie

            Thank you very much DR. The funny thing is that I, personally, do not want to be led ( I don’t think). The deeper I go exploring this, the more I feel a physical pain in my stomach, as if a huge panic attack or some kind of stage fright has gotten hold of me. The feeling is like a vise tightening around my body. If that is not my inner voice telling me something, then I sure dont know what is. It’s quite a maze right now. .

            Peace

            A

  • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

    Holy crap. This sounds almost exactly like my Catholic upbringing.

  • Leigh

    I could have written this. That’s all I keep thinking after reading. I could have written this, word for word, without changing a thing, and it would’ve all been true.

  • Penny

    My mouth is hanging open. This could have been lifted chapter and verse from my former church. Truly, WHAT is going on, that this kind of a situation is so ubiquitous?????

    • David L. Caster

      Perhaps the antichrist has already arrived. Maybe this is indeed the manifestation of the true Opposition of Christ—a usurper that claims to be what they are not and turns the gospels and the Word against itself to ensnare the innocent child or confused believer in a double bind from which there apparently is no escape. Or perhaps its just a corrupt rot from within Christianity itself that has turned parts of it into an industry to prey on the weak, easily led, and helpless. Whatever it is, it isn’t born of love.

      • David L. Caster

        Think carefully about what you are told and discern.

  • http://www.quiveringdaughters.com Hillary

    It’s not only IFB churches, but there are also a number of families who exhibit these traits as well. I am a layperson who works with many women recovering from highly authoritarian, patriarchal homes where typically the father operates as a mini-god overseeing every aspect of life. For example, even down to how a daughter can cut her hair at nearly 30 years of age. Many adult daughters remain at home until marriage believing that to leave home (for some, to go to college, to work, or other reasons) steps outside God’s ordained sphere for women. This means that some of these women near the age of forty, living at home learning how to be a wife while still waiting on a husband. This is only the tip of the iceberg. The ptsd, emotional and spiritual abuse, and faith struggles that are experienced by the daughters of patriarchy extend well into life and affect all aspects of it. This article just begins to describe the milieu of what I’m talking about: http://www.quiveringdaughters.com/2010/04/cultic-family-part-i.html

  • http://www.solascripturas.com Allen Sanchez

    Great Testimonial! Strikes at the Core of what the IFB Really is!! A manipulative, evil corporation of Jesuit Priests indoctrinating Christians through fear and manipulation into a false Gospel that brings them into a Spiritual Bondage and leads them to despise the Very God that came to give them Liberty and Life!! They are the Matthew 23 of this Generation!! The scum of the earth getting filthy rich from the money of Christians and turning their lives upside down with their lies!

    • Lois

      How are you tying Jesuit priests to this group? As a former Baptist (though fortunately not of this ilk) I know that in their views there is little worse than a Roman Catholic unless it’s a Roman Catholic who actually teaches people to think and question.

      • Christy

        True, Lois. We were taught that Catholicism was a false religion and that Catholics were idol worshipers. No lie. I had to chuckle to myself later on in life when our friend and best man in our wedding and his dear wife (who are Catholic) told us when they moved into our community her mother asked, “Don’t you have any nice Catholic friends.” Exclusion, misunderstanding, and distrust runs in all directions……but then, thankfully, so does grace and compassion.

        • Christy

          run. They run in all directions.

      • Diana A.

        (snicker) If this was Huffpost, I’d fan and fave you!

    • DR

      The Catholic church is filled with theology that needs to evolve and change but the Jesuit order of priests are one of the most liberal parts of the Catholic church, they are constantly pushing the envelope in us embracing science and more. They are in no way able to be equated with the types of backwards-thinking, ignorant cretins that somehow convince thousands of people to follow them.

      • Mindy

        Having received my higher education from Jesuits, I have to agree. No idea what Allen Sanchez is talking about, as Jesuits have always been about education. In my six years of schooling, I was only required to take one religion class – and is was Comparative World Religions, taught from an historical perspective.

        I have no personal experience with the kind of fundies of which Christy speaks, although I’ve sparred with a few on various internet sites. Reading her perspective brings into sharp relief why many think as they do – generation upon generation of that kind of authoritarian control and suspicion of everyone else obviously skews one’s thinking in a big way. Can’t imagine living life with my mind snapped so tightly shut.

  • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    I read this last night.

    It makes me glad I wasn’t “raised in the church.” I didn’t go to church as a youngster – a few times with friends, but my family was such that my father worked most Sundays and having been raised Jehova’s Witness, himself, grew sick of church and liked to avoid it. (He was far from anti-religious, though… he was the most religious man in our family, even becoming an ordained Protestant minister at some point, but he was just… very independant). Heh, he actually pointed out to me “evidence for reincarnation” in the Bible – so that’s how open he was. (He converted to Mormonism a few years ago).

    Still, no church until I had something of a “spirutual awakening” / period of searching as a teenager and attended the local Southern Baptist church. Reading this shows me…. some things were similiar and some things were completely different! I think that’s the thing with Baptist churches – they’re allowed a degree of independence in the preaching as long as they hold to the basic SB tennants.

    The first pastor I knew there was a very sweet man. He was big into “God is Love.” He did believe in an eternal Hell, though, but instead of making him condemn the “damned” he tried his “damndest” to try to save them. He spoke of how he had emotional/moral delimma whenever he was called upon to do a funeral for a person who’s “salvation” was in question (he was the kind who wanted to rescue people but knew that “your loved one is in Hell” is a poor way to approach the subject). And well, the most polite man you could hope to meet. Infinitely paitient because he had to deal with teenage-me. I think he was the pastor who told me that “It’s okay to question God, in fact, He wants you to because that is how you learn.”

    Yet, he is also also the man who, upon his wife dying in a car accident (I knew her, a fun lady), preached a sermon a week later about his own personal failing for “not giving God the glory” in it. He wasn’t condemming (of anyone but himself). He basically felt that he had done some grave moral error for being angry with God and not praising him for taking his love Home. Remembering that – that was just sad. Very, very sad. I remember feeling like he was being too hard on himself, that he shouldn’t condemn himself for that – but it was something he needed to work through.

    He retired sometime later and the pastor we elected after that – ugh. Not all bad, he helped me through a tough time (worrying I’d lost my salvation, he was big on the “eternal security” thing) – though, if he saw me now, he’d probably question my salvation. Very Fundie – I think I mentioned him before (how he once told me “I don’t believe in mental illness, only in demons”). Tried to preach Young Earth Creationism (with evidence from Ken Ham, if I’m not mistaken). Had me buying it for a while (I feel so stupid). He actually caused a great deal of strife in our church, not wanting to listen to people’s input, our people not liking his “in your face” style, plus he had almost no control over his children, who caused problems. Not all bad, but the whole family was a bit on the nuts side. We told them to find pastorship elsewhere.

    The last guy (before the church disbanded for financial reasons), was in between. He was mixed-race, Black/Filipeno if I recall correctly and his wife was a riot – very funny. Some good, some not so good – Not as Fundie as the last guy, had a lot of the first guy’s love, but was prone to being overprotective of the children from the culture. Preached against Harry Potter, for instance. Genuinely preached gay as sin (“It’s going against the way God made your body.” “It is rebellion”). Was worried about me when I talked to him about wanting to move in with my fiance’ in order to escape my abusive brother… told me “That I shouldn’t put myself into a position of temptation.” In the end, I decided that my life needed saving and that I didn’t even *have* enough temptation to warrant concern. And, even if I did, well, I think we make a “Biblical” marraige, anyway – two people commited to each other, just without legal documentation with the state rights and financial detriments thereof. (We would be married if our financial/debt situation were different, I basically won’t be able to get services I need if we were pleasing to conservative pastors).

    So, I guess what I’m saying is that my experiences with “conservatives” has been weird. It seems like some of it has been what people call “fundie” and some of it has been anything but, even with Baptists. As it is, I don’t want to go back – the dogma keeps me out of church, even if I’ve known a few genuinely good people.

    The best conclusion I can come up with is, to paraphrase “Futurama” – “We live on a dirt-ball ruled by psychotic apes.”

    I think we humans, when it comes to holy books, holy “ways,” philosophies, anything dealing with the “meaning of life, the universe and everything” (beyond “42″ ) have a tendency to get a little crazy about it, develop a form of collective obessesive-compulsive disorder and run with it. From what I’ve seen, it happens in some measure to all religions and even to non-religion (I’ve seen some atheists try to lay out “athiests are like this” and “what makes a “true” atheist” beyond, you know, the only-one technical reqirement). I think humans, no matter what the “way” have a natural tendency toward “dogma” that has to be broken up every once in a while.

    • Don Rappe

      I think you’re right. Maybe the only alternative to dogma is bad dogma.

      • Diana A.

        Yes. I’ve always believed that dogma needs to be held with extreme lightness, and that it’s actually the least important part of the religious experience.

        One of the books I’ve read that’s actually helped me to put dogma into proper perspective is a book by (of all people) a Gardnerian Wiccan High Priestess by the name of Deborah Lipp. The book is called “The Elements of Ritual” and basically analyzes the Wiccan Circle using the four elements of Air (Theology/Why We Do What We Do), Fire (Experience), Water (Mythology), and Earth (Ritual–what we actually do in the course of worship) I see a correlation in this to the Wesleyan Quadralateral (yes, I’m a Methodist!) of Reason, Experience, Scripture, and Tradition–though perhaps not a perfect one.

        Another experience I had that helped me put dogma in perspective was taking the Christian Believer class at my church. It’s a long and involved class but it’s really well worth the time and effort. I’ll provide the link here for those of you who are interested in learning more: http://www.cokesbury.com/forms/DynamicContent.aspx?pageid=212&id=17

        • Jill

          Diana A., when I’m ready (and that day may never come!), I might want to ask you more about this CB class. I checked the link, and the notion of another bible study made my stomach lurch. I’m more comfortable reading the Wiccan book–I’ve wanted to read that one for some time anyway!

  • http://mysticbluerosegarden.blogspot.com/ Debra Masters

    I wasn’t raised a fundamentalist, I went into it as an adult, with eyes wide open (or so I thought) and I tried, I really tried to fit into the narrow boxes that defined their beliefs…but in the end, I just couldn’t anymore and remain true to myself and the GOD I’d known as a child…

  • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

    Christy,

    You were involved in a near cultic form of fundamentalism commonly known as IFBx, the “x” denoting “xtremism’. They twist Scripture to manipulate the dumbed-down sheep (because the “man-o’gawd’ never could exegete the Bible). It is a tragic what you had to endure, but I can say it is more the exception, than the rule. You indeed hit the nail on head on some important issues and described the IFBx movement to a “T”.

    • Christy

      Thank you, Brian.

    • DR

      This is most certainly, not an exception to the rule. It is in large parts of our country, the majority religious belief (the Bible belt being one of them).

    • Christy

      Not the gestalt, but aspects of the same does exist in a broad swath of evangelicalism.

      • Christy

        darn it, do. Aspects do.

        • Don Whitt

          The first rule of most groups is to preserve and enhance the group, not necessarily the individual members. One of the most powerful tools, psychologically, is mortification. You tear down the person’s ego as a way to get them to assimilate. It’s an ancient method. It works. Almost all groups use this technique, even if subtly. The most obvious techniques are things like “hazing” where you reduce members to a lowest common denominator through shared embarrassment. In religious settings, you are even more exposed. Your very heart and soul are in question and the doubts we all have re. our self-worth are played upon. I find this so insidious, so disturbing. This is the line where a religion or group crosses into cult status. Where individuals are thrown like logs onto a fire to fuel a movement. There is no love. Just momentum.

          • Annie

            yes Don, I think that is so true… As I learn more, see more, read more, I see that what I always believed to be the purpose of a church community – tending to the flock, if you wil, is turned on it’s head. The sheep don’t matter a whit. It’s all for the glory and enhancement (or expansion) of the organization here. It’s ironic that the Catholic church is considered evil, because of false idols…. Isn’t this the same thing?

          • Jill

            This is exactly why my search has to be first for healing what’s broken inside about this, correcting what I can in regard my understanding–I most definitely threw out the baby with the bathwater 15+ years ago, now

            I’m starting from zero. I know nothing about Christ, scripture– not because I don’t know, but because I don’t know which parts are real and which aren’t. The homophobic doctrine is absolute falsehood. The one true religion doctrine is false. What else is untrue, and how do I figure it all out? (Part of me wondering why I care to go through this again.)

            It’s not about becoming a religious person again. Now it’s about removing the shroud of darkness hiding my view of Jesus. I want to see him through open eyes, only then can I know who he is to me. I no longer want to blame him for the wrongs of others.

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    Christy, I’m stunned. It is as incomprehensible to me as reading about John’s childhood with his father. I’ve had only glimpses into fundamentalism, a few years in a church in my twenties that turned me off the concept forever, some college indoctrination by fundies who were part of my Fellowship of Christian Athletes group. The thought that children are being raised to believe they are worthless and lost and must be subject to constant fear and struggle against the world they’re supposed to inhabit makes me want to vomit. I’m so grateful at this moment for my Episcopalian upbringing which taught me that I have value and that God’s lovingkindness excludes no one.

    Your letter contains so much horrible detail, but as someone who appreciates great writing, I just want to tell you how powerful that last paragraph is, how you take the entire package of pain and subjugation and misery and tie it up with a simple message of not forgiveness, but of acceptance, understanding, and moving forward.

    This blog of John’s has become a sort of online home for a lot of people I have come to feel like I personally know, respect and care for. The discussions we have here, the support we receive from one another, the full expression of God’s love for each other and the opportunity to learn and share — its truly amazing. Powerful.

  • Susan Troxell

    Christy, I don’t know you but your comment really struck a chord within me. I was raised in a Non-denominational Protestant Evangelical Church since age 5, and what you say could equally be applied to my experience. They were good people, and it was a very large congregation in suburban Philadelphia that placed a great deal of emphasis on missionary works overseas rather than tending to the suffering that was occurring right under their noses. On a more personal level, there was a *constant* drumbeat of questioning whether we really deserved God’s love, an emphasis on our inherent “unworthiness”, and a type of introspection and focus on our past (and present) sins that seemed overwhelming to me. I lived in constant *fear* of not being “right” with God. I feared that I had thoughts that must have derived from Satan because they clashed with what was being preached in Sunday school and from the pulpit. It got to the point that I developed Panic Attacks whenever I imagined my “unsaved” loved ones going to hell, and -worse- that I was a Fake Christian merely by virtue of having thoughts that didn’t conform to what Pastor was saying. I really freaked out, and needed the help of a psychologist so we could straighten out the source of my panic attack disorder.

    That was many years ago. I am now 46 years old, and I have left not only that church but have chosen to leave all others as well. I cannot accept that God would anoint any other human being to interpret Scripture for me. It is something that I have chosen for myself but I respect those who still believe and attend church. I am starting to understand that what bothered me *most* about my experience was the rigid sense of “certainty” that some people bring to religion. It’s a form of substitution for what they can’t explain for themselves. I still live with a very divided family. I can’t go to a Christmas dinner without my father and brother praying for me to “accept Jesus” – right in front of the whole family. I am a leper, and they only see me as lost. It breaks my heart because they just don’t love me in the same way they use to when I was “saved”. I just sit there, and take it in, hoping one day they will really accept me as a Christian. Because I AM A CHRISTIAN and NO ONE can take that away from me.

    • Diana A.

      “Because I AM A CHRISTIAN and NO ONE can take that away from me.”

      Yes, you are!

    • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

      Dear Susan, I’m so sorry about your family situation. I can certainly relate to that….and the “rigid sense of certainty.”

      You said, ‘I am a leper, and they only see me as lost. It breaks my heart because they just don’t love me in the same way they use to when I was “saved”.’ This breaks my heart too. It’s what breaks all of our hearts, when those who are supposed to love us best don’t or aren’t able to. This is the conditional love of which I spoke. It is devastating. Anything disguised as love that seeks to bend our will or lives to someone else’s is not love; it is control and true love never seeks to control another. It is patient. It is kind. It is not selfish or ego filled, it doesn’t want what does not belong to itself, it doesn’t boast. Love never fails.

      You are right. Your relationship with God is yours – a unique and beautiful and genuine thing. It is not dependent at all on their approval of it. It exists beyond the reach of their judgement and fear and doubt.

      The hardest thing I ever did was to stop wanting what I couldn’t have. To give up hoping someone would change or things would be different. It is still painful from time to time, but it set me free from the emotional bondage of wanting things to be not as they are…..and it has been far less painful to let go than to hold onto the perpetual pain found in the gaping wounds where love was missing.

      What we never learned is that God loves us already. God loves us now. God takes us as we are and we are enough. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more.

      What I know now is that we aren’t always born into the families who can love us the way we want and need them to, so we make the family that we need from the friends we meet along the way. They are in our lives not out of duty or obligation, but because of our choosing…..and they so very often save our lives.

      Love and hugs to you, Christy

  • Susan in NY

    What is the “sinners prayer”, and what is the “filthy rags” verse? I was raised Catholic.

    Susan

    • Christy

      Susan, this outlines the prayer well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinner's_prayer

      Usually contains the ABC’s of conversion: Admit you are a sinner. Believe Jesus is the Son of God and that he died for your sins. Confess your sins to God and your desire for Jesus to become the Lord of your life.

      “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6

      “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

      • Susan in NY

        Thank you very much for the explanation and link.

        Susan

  • http://www.moonchild11.wordpress.com moonchild11

    I found myself nodding way too much while reading this. I’m so glad I’ve recently decided to leave my last church. I will always love the people there, but I need to surround myself with church members that fill my life with love, truth, and hope. Not fear and doubt.

  • http://www.expentecostals.org Joseph

    This is pretty much what I went through growing up in a Pentecostal church. Their Bible verse of choice was Acts 2:38, which summed up their belief of salvation. There are the holier-than-thou Pharisees as evidenced by their putting on a show complete with speaking in so-called tongues. When people testified, they just gossiped and bad-mouthed other people and said about how those people were going to Hell.

    I am proud to be an EX-Pentecostal!

  • http://ninure.tk Ninure da Hippie

    All I can say is I wish that the world would be better if the :”fudnies” would just take the commands of Jesus as literally as they take the parts that they like to bash, and scare the rest of us with.

    But that aint likely to happen, I suppose :(

  • LostinSheffield

    Thank you for sharing this piece, John, and thank you Christy, for writing it. I’m sorry you went through this, but at the same time, I’m relieved that I’m not alone. I left the Christian Church at 15, came back and finally found a home with a group of Methodists who believed in helping the poor and loving unconditionally (my dad referred to their teachings as “cultic”). Now a Methodist minister, I still struggle with all the hate, hurt and abuse that was part of my childhood. Thanks for showing me that, despite what my family says, I didn’t “make it up.”

    • Diana A.

      Methodists are a cult? LOL!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=682069687 Dominique

    My experience of growing up in church wasn’t as extreme, but I can relate to much of what is written in the article, and in peoples comments. My dad was very authoritarian as I grew up, and it seemed the church stood firmly behind him (btw he and I are good friends now). My first and 2nd husbands were both christians, and both abusive. I committed the almost unforgivable sin of divorce…3 times actually. My 3rd husband was unsaved because I could not bear to be married to another christian man… the marriage didn’t work because he never accepted my kids (from my former marriages) and made them miserable… but he was kinder to me than my former husbands. These days I’m happily single.

    “I’m not the only fundamentalist kid to have a left-behind story: when I woke up from a nap, and for whatever reason couldn’t find a single soul, and went running through the house and outside looking for anyone who might possibly be born again so that I could relieve my anxiety that the Rapture hadn’t taken place.”

    Christy, reading this almost made me cry… it’s what happened to me when I was in the middle of a very serious nervous breakdown (due to taking lsd and enduring domestic violence from my boyfriend). 22 years later and I’m still in recovery from that experience (the breakdown)… and still enduring dental surgery because of the damage to my teeth from being hit so hard in the mouth. (He wasn’t a christian btw… and I’ve forgiven him – there’s no animosity there at all for him). That “left behind” feeling is very frightening and was a big contributing factor of my breakdown.

    And like Susan said in her comment, “I developed Panic Attacks whenever I imagined my “unsaved” loved ones going to hell”.

    This thought has tormented me for decades, especially when my unsaved boyfriend was stabbed to death (28 years ago)… the grief was terrible, not just because of his murder but also because of the thought of where the fundies said he’d gone. It caused me to attempt suicide myself because I just couldn’t cope with it.

    I’ve been trying to pinpoint exactly why I’m so unsettled in any church I go to, but reading through all of this has clarified things for me a lot. Bless you, bless you for telling your story Christy, and thank you to everyone who has commented here. It’s given me a feeling of “coming home” that makes me feel quite tearful.

  • Carol

    I remember our class being handed 10″ nails on Easter as a reminder of what Christ suffered for our sins. I don’t recall exactly how old we were (definately not yet sixth grade) but was told to kneel on the floor to pray for our sins; to ‘confess’, and ask for forgiveness. I remember crying uncontrollably – scared for a long, long time; confused and unable to speak my unspeakable sins. Thankfully, we eventually stopped attending that church and I have searched many different religions to finally come to my own safe place with God. Thanks to eveyone who shared – as fundamentalism( of all kinds) and politics become more entwined, we need to help people caught in the middle.

  • Leah

    Oh my word. I went to a IFB church for a couple years. I was told I was a horrible hell-bound sinner for believing in extraterrestrial life, for watching Disney Princess movies, for my parents abusing me, for listening to “sinful music” (since when did Barlow Girl and Newsboys become “sinful”? They may be rock but they are CHRISTIAN rock, for pete’s sake!), for the rape I suffered in 2006, for occasionally wearing pants, for being KIND to gays & lesbians, for supporting interracial marriage, for daring to watch Star Wars and LOTR, for kissing my boyfriends before marriage, even for attending Catholic and Mennonite churches. I told them about my mother’s constant authoritarian abuse of me, my father’s physical violence towards me, the lack of healthy food, the hoarded house…all they said was “We’ll pray for them, but there’s really nothing we can do.”

    A few weeks ago, around the 4th of July, my fiance’ (a wonderful, compassionate, and amazingly sweet ATHEIST who along with his parents rescued me from my parents) went to a local carnival, and wouldn’t ya know it, Calvary Baptist Church of Pottstown was there, with a basketball net in their booth (“Hoops for God!!”) and a podium nearby where a lift-the-flap-to-see-what-God-can-do! book was publicly displayed. I yelled at them, calling them “Fundie Freaks!”. I felt incensed that such a hateful extremist “church” could be there, but the local UCC’s and Episcopal churches and Unitarian fellowships and Quaker meetings couldn’t. *sighs* It really breaks my heart… :(

  • Dave

    I was raised a filthy worm as well. It set up such a strange cognitive dissonance in me that rings sometimes to this day. I’ve always had a hard time trusting my own judgment because of the deeply ingrained conviction of my own evil. When God began healing me at 36 the first thing he did was tell me that the sin He was most worried about in me was my self-hatred.

    My mother was shunned out of the congregation for being contumacious (asking questions). However, the rest of my family continues in the same denomination in just the next town. When I ask her why she just blames the pastor of that one church.

    I am so thankful that I somehow never lost my love of Jesus as a result of the psychoemotional abuse I received at the hands of truly kind and well-meaning people. They believe their own truth as strongly as anyone I know. It’s just a truth I don’t believe myself any longer. And I am so thankful and glad.

    But there are still times, even though I am now 52, that when I come home and find it unexpectedly empty that I wonder if the Rapture has occurred and I was left.

    Peace.

    • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

      Bless you, Dave. The affect of that kind of abuse is deep and long-lasting…..how I know. Know deeply now that the One in whom you live and breathe and move and have your being loves you beyond all imagination…..and you are not alone. Blessings on your journey and namaste. ~ Christy

  • rae

    i grew up in the most extreme fundamentalist christian home you could ever imagine. once i grew up i realized that my family was even more severe than other fundamentalist homes because my parents both have emotional/psychological problems and both seemed to come from unhealthy homes. anything and everything could be “evil” and end up getting my siblings and i punished (screamed at and repeatedly hit). examples of things that were “evil” according to our parents were….talking to boys, being outside in the vicinity of boys, reading about other religions (including as school projects), many kids cartoons, being a vegetarian, having a different opinion than they did, dancing, most movies, most music (i never heard the radio besides christian radio until my late teens) and believe me it goes on forever. i grew up being forced to parrot everything my parents wanted (i never wanted to be a missionary or a “pastor’s wife” but if somebody asked me what i wanted to be when i grew up, thats what i would say. thats what i had to say…i knew of nothing else). my sibs and i were abused and neglected in many ways. i had to wear the same clothes over and over and over. i knew nothing (nothing!) about the outside world (if my sibs and i asked “innappropriate” questions about life we would be punished). i was terriffied of the rapture and hell and death. my early 20s i finally had a complete, absolute breakdown lasting about 2 years where every single day i would cry, and where i was convinced that i was damned without hope. i know that i will never, never heal from all this. absolutely never. i am lucky to have made it this far without suicide. i will attest that it is better to be dead, than to live a life like this and indeed i wish that i had never lived at all.

    • DR

      Rae,

      This is a devastating thing to read. You must be incredibly strong to have endured that with the consciousness and fortitude intact to realize that it was so damaging. A lot of people would have just adopted it and repeated it. You’re breaking the cycle, it must be SO hard. I can’t even imagine. I hope you’ll find support, strength, encouragement and love here. And a fabulous therapist.

    • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

      My dear Rae……I hear you and I hear your pain. And like DR, I also see your strength. I too have seen the bottom of that deep dark hopeless hole and to fight it off is a testament of your will to live. Know this: It. Gets. Better. It does. What happened to us was not our choosing, and it was not our fault. And it was so very wrong. But it was beyond our control, and no matter how much we didn’t want it then nor how much we don’t want it now to have been real, we can’t change it. What we can change is how we choose to live……a different path. A different life. A better life. It is possible….with help.

      These are the words that saved my life. They are from someone, who at the time was an acquaintance, but who has grown to be my dearest friend. I am still in awe of her great love and her wisdom. She said:

      ‘thank you for bearing your soul…yes, the journey is it…and remember too that none of us will ever get it all right…our human-ness means we’re imperfect no matter how hard we try to be the perfect servant, and so then letting go of “we’re not enough” is important. We are enough…the Lord takes us just as we are. With a humble and loving heart it’s a joy to be led where we need to be…I try to listen for his voice and if not sure, wait. I know from personal experience that it’s sometimes very hard as being a problem solver and independant by nature compounds the struggle, but I do feel that I’m getting better at letting go…and it’s such a relief! Perfection will never be achieved, and it’s not important…open-ness and letting go is. The more I practice, and just try just to relax and enjoy the journey, the more joy I find. Your heart is in the right place, and God is already using you for good, my dear friend. Just let go and enjoy who you are now. God is already taking care of you…and each trial is an opportunity for growth…He wants you to experience this [not this pain but this recovery, this understanding, this support, this love]…He isn’t waiting until you are a perfect servant to love you…he loves you now…’

      And I wept…..because no one had ever told me God didn’t expect me to be perfect.

      I had never met this unconditionally loving God. I never knew I was enough. But what 11 years of Baptist school and 30 years of life in the church never taught me was this: we are loved already; there is nothing we can do to be loved more. You are enough. Just as you are. And my heart breaks knowing the pain you are going through.

      When I reached the bottom of that pit I knew I needed help. Knowing when we need help and asking for it is key. You can do this. A good counselor can be a compassionate guide through uncovering what is, helping us take it out of the dusty mental boxes we have hid it in and look at it and name it, and find a way to let it go so we can move beyond the hold it has on us. For many people, therapy is the best thing they never wanted to do; it is so very worth it….. so we can move beyond the pain and find true joy. You will find support here and in compassion centered journey churches and you can private message me through my blog. I am happy to offer other resources that I found helpful – rock cairns on a path that led to new ways of seeing….that led to hope and peace.

      The most healing thing about writing this piece and reading the comments here, for me, has been to see that I am not alone – I didn’t imagine these things – and there are other people who do understand. Know that you too are not alone, rae…..and you are deeply loved.

    • Stephen

      I grew up in an extream bible beleving Church I was molested from age thirteen to fifteen by a church elder I was told by the pastor that if I said any thing I would ruine this “godly man’s” life

      now let me prefess this with I am an open and proud Gay Christian Man of 32 years I knew I was gay ever since I was twelve I was just frightoned to reveal my orientation and regardless of what every one who hears my stories say I IN KNOW WAY BELIVE BEING MOLESTED MADE ME GAY. any more then I believe young girls who are molested become lesbians it’s Ironious.

      ok so I was dateing a young man in High school while I was being abused I didn’t tell him because well he would hve killed some one litterly. not me but the elder. lol

      so we couldn’t go to prom we had planed to go out to the big city and dance you know celebrate… However you see he had a congenital heart disorder and needed a transplant I watched him become sicker and sicker until on prom night he just died. I sat in that hospital and I remember praying to god Please Lord don’t take him from me he’s all I have I cant do this on my own

      I was young and angry and tired of hideing so being young I didn’t think and came out too the wrong person my half sister

      she told the pastor and instead of attending my late boyfriends funeral I got shipped off to a change ministry where I was torchered with electro shock therepy “sorry not trying to trigger” and molested by the good “doctor” there he called it touche therepy but it was something different altogether

      I survived that and stayed a Christian even though I had to give my self a little space from God for a while here I am 32 in a commited loveing relationship with my male partner… it’s funny how the fundies gloss over the verse that talks about the devil roaming about like a hungry lion seeking whome he may devoure probably because they would see that they are such a lion.

      I love this blog and I am happy that some one is speaking out against the hatefull decietfull practices of those who call them selves servants of my Lord.

      thank you John for this blog.

  • Roger Smith

    I was raised in an authentically gracious, loving environment (home and churches), where Christ was more shown through people living the golden rule, than he was talked about — so I cannot relate to the horrific experiences described in either the article or in many of the readers’ responses here. Instead, to me it seems like watching a ghastly horror movie, or perhaps stumbling across the fence to a concentration camp, and catching a glimpse of the nightmare that people within it are suffering. All I can say, I guess, is that the Jesus of the Bible is so far removed from the totalitarian, cultlike perversion of him presented by these “churches” as to be completely opposite to what they told you. The God of compassion and mercy sees the beauty in us as created in his image, and wants only to help cultivate that so it can grow to its full height and potential — and is interested in encouraging that, not spanking and barking at us for how “wrong, wrong, WRONG!” we are. In fact, one of Christ’s names for God’s Spirit, the Counselor (paraklétos), can also be rendered “Encourager”, and that is what I’ve always seen him to be. Grace, love, and encouragement to all who read here, especially for those escaping and healing from the horror of that death camp and its nightmares.

    • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

      Thank you, Roger. My husband and our children have been led to the UCC where we have found love and compassion and community engagement and living like Christ in ways we have never experienced before. A “journey church” they call it, unlike the “answer church” of my youth, that accepts everyone where they are and walks with them along their spiritual journey. I cried when I learned that this church has been an active, vibrant, engaged, cohesive, encouraging, respected presence in the community for over 100 years – without a split or a scandal or a goatee (no offense to goatees, in general, but I think you know what I mean). What a profound difference it has made and how encouraged we do feel. Awakening to the stark reality of this difference was painful, but it was a vital part of the truth that set me free. I pray everyone finds this freedom.

      Blessings to you and all you do to live the message of Christ that finds the lost, heals the broken, and sets the captive free. We need people like you to show people like me what Christian community can be and what we missed out on all those many years on the other side of that fence.

  • Lisa G

    Wow…all I can say is, wow. I can relate on every level with this writer’s experience. My family of origin is Southern Baptist, and I had an almost identical set of beliefs thrust upon me from birth. Nothing I could ever do would be good enough for God or my family, but my parents never understood why all three of their children suffered from such low self-esteem. My brother was suicidal for years, and probably continues to suffer from depression. Both of us daughters entered into abusive marriages at a young age, where we were told that if we would only submit to our husbands, they could be changed by God through our submission. Luckily, we didn’t listen to this admonition, and instead, worked to extricate ourselves from those relationships. Yes, we were told that that’s what we got for being “unequally yoked” to nonbelievers. We were shielded from worldly influences and reared to be dependent, fearful, shamed and broken creatures, crippling our chances of making healthy choices as adults. I finally made a conscious choice to leave these religious beliefs forever when I was 20 years old, and I have never regretted that decision. Everything about how I reared my daughter was consciously different from my own upbringing, and I now have an intelligent, thoughtful, independent 18-year-old with incredible strength and self-confidence. She is also agnostic because I never told her what she must believe, but instead taught her to trust her own instincts and do her own research and soul-searching on her lifelong, personal spiritual journey. I am still on my own spiritual journey, and I only know more about what I do NOT believe than what I DO believe. Thank you for writing about your own experience. You are not alone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Barb-Ulrich-Patterson/1683455220 Barb Ulrich Patterson via Facebook

    G’nite!

  • Kristen

    While I wasn’t raised in such an extreme “Christian” family, I can relate to a few of the things mentioned in this posting. I, too, was taught that I didn’t deserve God’s love and that Satan is just waiting to get me. I was also taught that Christ is the cure-all for any struggle in life. One reason I have been in therapy for the past year and half is from the confidence crushing religion I was a part of.

  • Amy

    Wow. Did we grow up in the same church? This is *exactly* how I grew up. And people wonder why I get the heebie-jeebies and break into a cold sweat when “Christianity” is spoken around me. I’m still not over it, and it’s been 19 years since I left that church.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Armyhippiechick Amy McLaughlin via Facebook

    Thanks for sharing this. I hadn’t seen it before. I swear, Christy and I grew up in the same house. It’s uncanny and so scary that mine wasn’t the only one. It makes me wonder how many more are out there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mechelle.hutchinson Mechelle Hutchinson via Facebook

    No,it is not an uncommon experience at all.Unfortnately.I am still trying to relearn truth!

  • http://www.thegoodnewsbook.com Shay Dawkins

    Imagine if people really understood the truth that the Bible was written FIGURATIVELY in that what is most important to understand is that “God” and “Jesus” both represented LOVE, first and foremost.

    God is Love

    1 John 4: (7-8, 16)

    7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

    16God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him

    John 13: 35

    35By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love for one another

    Roamns 13: 9-10

    9if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 10Love worked no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

    Matthew 5: 9

    9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God

    Galatians 5: (6, 14, 22-23)

    6The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love

    14For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself

    22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,23Meekness, temperance: AGAINST such THERE IS NO LAW.

    Jesus wanted people to believe in his teachings; not just simply the name, “Jesus!”

    John 14: 23

    23Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.”

    John 8: 31

    31Jesus said, “If you hold to my teachings, then you are really my disciples.”

    John 15: (10, 12, 14, 17)

    10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love

    12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

    14You are my friends if you do what I command.

    17This is my command: Love each other.

    Luke 6: 40

    40A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher

  • Michael Eugene West via Facebook

    What a difficult way to be raised

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Liz-Peryam/100000746253028 Liz Peryam via Facebook

    Thank you. I grew up terrorized by these people and ran away from them as fast as I could. I think we revolt instinctively.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dana.david74 Dana David via Facebook

    I don’t think my experience is something I will ever escape. While I’ve recovered for the most part, there are still things that haunt me to this day. How do you justify your church playing the suicide recording of a man who killed himself with a shotgun just to scare third, fourth, and fifth graders into being “saved”? It helps to know you’re not the only one, and that your breaking away from this insanity was indeed the right thing to do.

    • Diana A.

      “How do you justify your church playing the suicide recording of a man who killed himself with a shotgun just to scare third, fourth, and fifth graders into being ‘saved’?”

      Just when I think I’ve heard the worst story of spiritual abuse ever, along comes another story to rival it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cathy.elings Cathy Elings via Facebook

    @ Dana That is so sick I don’t even have words for it. That’s just child abuse.

  • Mary Ellen Mayo via Facebook

    @Dana: <3 (((((((hugs)))))))

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chrissy-Massaro-Wesner/100002297829112 Chrissy Massaro Wesner via Facebook

    Thanks for sharing. That was extremely well written and beautiful and heart breaking too. I wish so much that we could break down the walls that separate us if we could all make love the focus humanity would have hope.

  • Thomas Mills via Facebook

    Damn! This sounds exactly like many of the “churches” I was forced to attend as a child. This kind of stuff is not a rare occurrence as it generally thought. It happens ALL the time. It also leaves lasting scars. If people,e would open their eyes and really see, they would know why so many are leaving the churches in droves, never to return.

  • terry

    This article is so well-written; it really hits the nail of my experience right smack on the head as well. I have seen and/or experienced these kinds of things myself and still struggle with the spiritually toxic thought and belief patterns I was taught. Those teaching really do leave behind so many scars. The Jesus Christ of Scripture is a Healer of Broken people, not an inflictor of more hurt. I always wondered why–since we were such filthy,worthless, wormy, rags to God–why in Heaven’s name did He send His only begotten Son to die for us to redeem us? Seems to me that God must think we are pretty valuable to do something like that.

  • Linnea Lundeen

    I spent many months in a nursing home, then in a rehab facility, to do physical and occupational therapy after a severe stroke paralyzed my left arm and leg. Despite all my hard work, the therapy was largely unsuccessful. A nursing assistant told me that if I truly had faith, I would be healed. When I mentioned this to the chaplain, he thundered, “THAT is spiritual abuse!” Since then I have wondered how many other people think that I am such a horrible sinner, I deserve to be permanently crippled. I doubt that Christ would think such a thing, so what would make some who claim to be Christians believe it?

    • RosePhoenix

      I’ve heard that line before. I have Crohn’s Disease. I’ve been told that I haven’t been healed because I don’t believe I am healed, or that I am not healed because I need to forgive people more. Basically, they told me that it was my fault. The people Jesus healed did not proclaim that they were healed until it actually happened, so why should I? Telling myself, “I’m healed!” while still having symptoms would be denying the truth, not faith.

      • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

        Crohn’s Disease is rough. My step sister got diagnosed this year, and spent several sessions in the hospital as they figured out which treatment would be best for her.

        Who says that coming down with a chronic disease means that we are going to get magically healed? Where is that guarentee? It doesn’t exist. What we do have are humans bodies that often have system failures or breakdowns, sometimes repairable, sometimes only managed. They are designed to last for a period of time, and then stop working all together.

        What we do have in the 21st century is a wonderful range of treatment options that didn’t exist just a few years ago. We can managed symptoms, while researchers look for cures.

        So the next time, someone has the audacity to look you in the eye and tell you the reason you have Crohn’s is your fault, you can tell them to STFU, or you can smile, tell them how much your treatment is helping and recommend your gastrologist as someone who’s been a real asset in making your life much easier to live while having a chronic disease. If they persist in trying to lay guilt upon you for something that isn’t your fault, then resort to option 1.

        • RosePhoenix

          My gastroenterologist is awesome, usually. He actually does research, so he knows the latest treatments and such. I am glad that I found him. Originally, doctors tested me for Celiac Disease–about three times, until I said, “Look, can we test for something else now?!” At one point they decided that I needed more fiber–which was basically telling me to go poison myself, because anything high in fiber does not agree with me. I don’t know if that’s true for everyone with Crohn’s, but my “brand” of it hates foods high in fiber.

          I think God did help me somehow, by perhaps making the medicine help me. I was weak, tired, and sick, and my soul felt like it could take no more. I told God, “You are going to have to carry me, because I cannot walk anymore.” Metaphorically, of course. You know, like in that poem about the footprints in the sand. I did go through a period in which I was angry at God and nearly lost my faith, until I realized that blaming God was not helping me. It was not His fault that I got this disease. It just happened.

          After that, I began to get better. It wasn’t instant. But eventually, I was deemed “in remission” and slowly taken off of my medicine. But even though I got better physically, the side effects of the medicine left me with psychological scars. I had always been bullied, but it became even worse when the corticosteroids and immunosuppressant caused me to gain a lot of weight. Only in recent years have I begun to accept what I see in the mirror again. Now that I am off the medicines, I have lost about 20 pounds of mostly pure water weight. If the immunosuppressant hadn’t begun to give me jaundice, my GI doctor might have kept me on it, actually…he felt really bad about that, because I really did no longer need it. He had wanted to keep me on it for a certain period of time.

          I hope your stepsister does all right. The disease is bad enough, but the side effects of the medicines can be brutal. I can tell you that “roid rage” is real Though I didn’t hurt anyone or get really violent, I was an angry person when on corticosteroids; I would have mood swings and my anxiety level was through the roof. It didn’t help that my college roommate at the time had decided to go off of her anxiety and depression meds cold turkey, and I had to be the calm one. On immunosuppressants, I had to avoid sick people like they had the plague, because if I did get anything, it would take a month to get rid of it. I also developed skin issues, and if I got a teeny paper cut, it wouldn’t heal for a long time. I would not wish these side effects on anyone except for maybe the most vile scum of the Earth. I have never been in the hospital for it, but it scares me that one day that could happen. I have a mild form of it; most people seem to get it worse than I have, and when I hear what they have gone through, I remember how bad mine has been and…to have it worse…that sounds like one of the worst things in the world.

          I’ve been in remission for about 10-11 years now. I don’t consider myself completely healed. I see it as a situation in which the bear is in hibernation, and you hope and pray it doesn’t wake up, but the possibility is there. Now, if many years down the road, the gastroenterologist declares that there is no sign of Crohn’s in me, then I will proclaim that I am fully healed.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            Long term remission is a grand thing. I’m glad you are doing well, and have found a balance and a means to manage your life and your health that works for you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mechelle.hutchinson Mechelle Hutchinson via Facebook

    My mother has the date me and my sister got saved as a day we visited a different church and a football coach screamed at us till veins in his neck stood out,so we went forward.Who wouldn’t?I was 9 or 10 and scared to death! They never seemed to get that that was why we went up.Also my sunday school teacher told us when we die,on judgement day,it will be like being at a drive in with your entire life up on that screen for all to see.Every thought and deed,so if you don’t want people to see how bad you really are,don’t be bad at all then.I can’t tell you how long I saw that movie screen show my every sin–daily–for myself.Sifting out everything I did as bad then.And viewable.Someone later told me I had been harder on myself than God will ever be on that day.I am still trying to believe that as fully as I should.The whole focus was never unconditional love from God.And you surely wouldn’t get anything even close from people either.Not even parents.For my own kids,I tried very hard to not use guilt to get them to do anything,because guilt was the way to go when I was a kid.It was the teaching method of choice for sure.Fear mongering is again a popular method to get the people to do what you want unfortunately.It is a poor way to get people to be saved,thats for sure.

    • Stephen

      Thats Horrible wow people will do any thing to pad there members books… even at the expence of frightened children…I would like to apolagize for those people as a Christian it makes me sick and troubled that this happened to you,

  • Don K.

    We spent 18yrs. in the same baptist cult. It was a real show. Now i call myself a professing believer. Not a christian, because as that means Christ like that does not describe me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sharon-Aldridge-Kaufman/1328865837 Sharon Aldridge Kaufman via Facebook

    Thanks for this one again, John.

  • Survivor of A CULT

    Hello- wow, what an article! I wasn’t IBC, but my family and I were involved with a bible based “x-tian” church. I won’t call it “Christian”- what a slander to His Name! Anyway… after death threats, adultery in the pulpit, misuse of funds, manipulation, emotional, and spiritual abuse, and a pastor that encouraged women to STAY with abusive husbands, myself and my family GOT OUT and so did many of our friends.

    ALL CULT SURVIVORS need to keep speaking out!

    thanks again.

  • Survivor of A CULT

    Oh, PS: There’s a book out at Barnes and Noble… it’s called “It’s not GOD I have a problem with, it’s Christians I can’t stand”…. I’m NOT endorsing the book, and don’t mean to slander true Christians, but the title made me laugh! :-)

  • Samantha Smith

    its “christians” like those the writer mentioned, who slave to the demiurge instead of lifting their eyes to the Love of The God Most High. They do not want His Love, and shun Him :(

  • Linnea Sommer

    Oh wow. I went through a milder version of this sort of thing at a mainstream-to-slightly-conservative United Methodist church. It was the youth director: he was a real fundamentalist, and the message we frequently heard from him was along the lines of, “God loves you, but if you don’t accept Jesus and believe everything the Bible says, you’re screwed for eternity.” In some ways he really was a good guy, and I think he meant well, but as my current pastor says, he was guilty of “*really bad* theology.” It took me awhile to figure out that my bouts of depression since my teens probably had their roots in this. I’m now at a very liberal United Methodist church (so liberal, we’re really closer to the Unitarian Universalists in terms of theology!), but my journey has been a hard one, including seven or eight years when I was a complete atheist and wanted absolutely nothing to do with God. I’m now slowly finding my way into a faith that rests on the idea that we are loved, just as we are, and we don’t have to do *anything*, include believe a certain way, to be worthy in the eyes of God. I hope all of you who have been through this sort of spiritual abuse will hang on and find a way to believe in a God who is love…

    • Christy

      Linnea, The hurts are real and long lasting. I’m so glad your journey led you to love. Blessings to you as you help others know this love and continue on this path. Christy

  • Brenda Conry

    Amen to this. It explains the dichotomy we are experiencing in this country now, between fundamentalist Christians and the rest of us whom Rick Santorum claims aren’t real Christians. If this were real, I wouldn’t want to be a part of it. I cannot imagine living with all that fear.

    I’m happy she was able to escape.

    • Christy

      Thanks, Brenda. So is she.

  • http://peartheforbiddenfruit.blogspot.com Joshua

    Thank you for sharing this. It is horrible to think that anyone, let alone a child, had to endure this. I grew up in a Fundamentalist Christian home also. However, my experience was extremely different. The same tenets were adhered to, yet the message of God’s love and grace through Jesus were real and prevalent in the community in which I grew up. I wonder if this had to do with the fact that its location was in the heart of East Los Angeles, CA. The church did reach out to the poor, drug addicts, gang members, and anyone else who needed God’s grace. I guess one could say the church was forced away from “The patriarchal, ego-fortifying, psyche-destroying, soul-crushing, domineering, brain-washing, fear-inducing, manipulative, spiritually abusive world of the fundamentalism…” because of the social context of the situation. But, I’m sure one could find these churches in the inner-city also.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bethanyhorton Lauren Horton via Facebook

    Wow. I dont think I’ve related to anything better than to that description. Thank you for sharing. I’m not alone.

  • Ric Booth

    Write, Christie… Thank you for writing this.

    Religous-based child abuse sounds much worse than the plain old child abuse.

    • Ric Booth

      … that was supposed to be: “Wow, Christy”… my ‘smart’ phone and I have a love/hate relationship.

  • Jeff Blackshear via Facebook

    And there was my religious upbringing (Southern Baptist) in a nutshell, a bit milder in degree, but I made up for that by getting caught up in a local pentecostal-esque cult while in college. I finally walked away, came out (with the attendant accusations of being demon-possessed) and wasted over a decade on unyielding rage. At which point the Universe, as it’s wont to do, smacked me hard upside the head. ;)

    Slowly I come to realise grace and hope, but it’s been the damage that keeps on giving.

  • Sharon Williams via Facebook

    Oh how I can relate! Thank you for putting words to my journey!

  • Amy Blamey Michael Finnerty via Facebook

    Don’t question. If you do question then the Devil must be working in your heart. Women must submit. Good enough to cook the church breakfasts but that’s about it. Our path to God is the only way. That one scared me the most. I loved my grandparents and couldn’t believe they’d be languishing in hell for all eternity because they were horrible Catholics or as my Grandpa was likely an agnostic. I clearly remember him telling the pastor of our church to get lost when the gentleman called on him. Ah yes. Fear. Submission. And don’t go getting too smart or looking for your own answers. My childhood church experience.

  • Lori Knight-Whitehouse

    How I wish the writer could come and worship in my loving Presbyterian Congregation.

    We get to question–even God. She’s big enough to handle it with love. And we often are far more DIS-organized than organized!

  • Joseph O’Berry

    This article/comment relates so very much to the environment I grew up in. Thankfully, angels were watching over me and I was able to escape the hate and ignorance. I found my way into the Episcopal Church and have never been happier. Family of choice is a blessing and I rejoice with my family of fellow Episcopalians and church musicians & clergy around the world who love and accept and respect the divinity of every human being as Jesus did in showing his love to others. Soli deo Gloria!

  • http://www.facebook.com/linnea.sommer Linnea Sommer via Facebook

    Excellent. I was also exposed to this, to a milder degree, in high school and college. Still dealing with the fallout 15 years later.

  • Jill Hileman via Facebook

    @Jeff Blackshear- ‘the damage that keeps on giving’. A truer phrase was never uttered.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kelly.withee.1 Kelly Withee via Facebook

    wonderful! so true.

  • Tim Kelly

    Excellent and very difficult to get over. Well, it’s been decades and some of it still creeps back in, so very difficult is probably not strong enough.

  • Joyce Maloley

    My experience exactly! Left that church for reformed churches when I was 25 but it didn’t leave me. I struggled with rage for 25 years before 4 personal crisies knocked me down. I had to dig out the bad theology and replace it with positive, life-giving theology in order to live with peace and joy.

    • Christy

      So glad you found your way free, Joyce. Blessings on your journey.

  • Terri P.

    Same experience for me, left it behind many years ago, but my brother is still immersed in it, won’t even speak to me since I married my lovely wife, I fear my nephew will be the same as his father ( now an IFB pastor). His first wife left him d/t his abuse.

  • Bill Steffenhagen

    ******We were indoctrinated to believe that we were completely worthless in the eyes of God……. we were dirt: undeserving, untrustworthy. …… I don’t deserve God’s love; I don’t deserve God’s blessing. *********

    Here is the monkey wrench to toss into those mental gears. Think about this; If all that was true, then Jesus was a fool (to endure what he did) for us, for Love. What he DID, was make it obvious that we ARE worthy.

    THINKING is the key and thinking is anathema to fundamentalist religion. But once you start to think, there is no going back and that is what fundamentalists fear most. Once YOU start to think, THEY lose their power over you.

    So ask yourself if you think Jesus was a fool. You don’t even have to answer it. Just asking yourself that question starts you on the thinking path and opens your mind and heart to God’s real Spirit. To the fundamentalist that can be a fearful step to take, but once taken, once you ask the question, you will not be able to turn back no matter how fearful you are.

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  • Bones

    It’s child abuse to frighten a child into belief.


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