Lately we’ve been diving a bit into the swirling dark waters of Christian fundamentalism (The fundamentally toxic Christianity, yesterday’s She’s terrified of her growing attraction to Christ.) Ugh. Talk about wanting to put on a wetsuit and bring your own oxygen.
Check out this letter I got in just this morning. The subject line of the email was So ****ing isolated.
I left fundamentalism a few years ago. I started learning about sexual abuse (as well as emotional/spiritual/physical abouse) in the churches I’d left behind. I became energized and enraged and active against fundamentalism and abuse. As a result I’ve lost my extended family, who are fundamentalists. But at least I had the other former and recovering fundamentalists. We spoke the same language. We connected online and sometimes in person. At least I had them, right?
Wrong, as it turns out. I’ve been burned by other ex-fundamentalists who don’t understand how ugly the black/white, good/bad thinking is. You can’t disagree with them—and if you do they “separate” from you, like good fundamentalists do. They bully people, but people keep following them because at least it’s better than isolation. No one seems to know how to stand alone. We moved a number of times in the last few years. I don’t know how to make friends, because friendships always formed at church. I have been so innocent and trusting that after being hurt so often I don’t know how to recognize a good person from a dangerous person, and so now I have trust issues. I am not normal. I don’t know how to relate to the PTA moms or anyone else, really. I’ve moved far to the left of almost everyone I know. I am so lonely. I have nothing to show for my life. I don’t trust myself, so projects fall to the wayside. I’m not suicidal or anything. I just wanted someone to hear me. (Moses was a late bloomer. So there’s that.)
“Moses was a late bloomer. So there’s that.” Oh, man. I mean … how does that not at once break your heart and crack you up?
Would you guys please please please show this woman some love? Just a word or two here to let her know that we’re out here, that we’re listening, that she’s not alone.
This is the [bad word]ing nightmare of fundamentalism. People think that once a person has gotten up the nuts to leave fundamentalism, they’re sort of necessarily good to go. But leaving fundamentalism is at once a gloriously brave culmination and a dismantling, terrifying beginning. Fundamentalism thoroughly skews you. To you up is down and down is up and everywhere Satan droolingly awaits your weakness. Your sense of self is … embryonic, basically. Especially if you’re a woman raised in that mess. Talk about starting the race with weights on your legs.
Woman who wrote me this: Listen: you’re honest. That’s what’s necessary in life. That’s the only thing that’s necessary in life. That’s the power before which all else finally fails. The very best thing Jesus ever said (which I know is saying something) is The truth shall set you free.
The. Very. Best. Thing.
You have the truth, sister. Cling to it—insist on it—and soon enough your path will be clear. Just hang tight, stay low, let things flow as they do. If people betray or hurt you, let ’em have the last word, curl yourself into a ball, let that crap roll off your back, and then straighten up and keep going.
Oh, and here’s a truth: being driven to have something to show for your life is completely detrimental to actually having a life. Show me someone with a huge list of worldly accomplishments and I’ll show you someone almost guaranteed to bore the crap out of me. Anything that you can show is rarely worth seeing. Again: the truth is the only thing worth having. And that you hold in the only place it can be held, which is in your heart. Which is yours, and yours alone, and subject to no display at all.