I think I cried off and on for a solid eighteen months after we switched churches. It was difficult. What made it even worse was the fact that Tom Smith had apparently told everyone in the Del/Mar/Va area that a) we weren’t believers any longer, b) we went to a church of homosexual abortionists and c) we were going to hell. He had said this so long and so loudly that when I tried to keep up with friendships from the old church I was told things like what my friend Dana said.
Dana and I had roomed together at conferences. We’d hosted each others kids to conferences. We were like sisters. I took her son on an international vacation with us for several weeks and my son and daughter had traveled with Dana and her family. I didn’t hear from her at all following my leaving so I tried to call her, figuring there was no reason we couldn’t be friends. I hadn’t paddled down the river Styx with 666 tattooed on my ass, I’d merely changed churches.
To my surprise Dana told me to never call her again. Her husband forbid her to speak to me or have anything to do with me at all, because I was going to a church full of homosexual abortionists. She berated me, wanting to know how I could experience the powerful moves of the Holy Spirit through the Toronto Revival and go to this false religion. I asked her who she’d gotten her flawed information about my spiritual life from. It was straight from Tom Smith. The same Tom Smith they all talked about behind his back and said he was fake, this is the person they chose to believe over their friend they’d entrusted their kids to many times.
Sadly that phone conversation was repeated several times over and if I’d see old church members in public either they’d not acknowledge my presence or they make polite noises and RUN like I had a bifurcated tail, crimson skin and cloven hooves and I’d come for their very souls to steal away.
One of the worst incidents involved Tom’s sister in law, a lady I knew well who attended another church but frequently attended our old church as well as went to all the old conferences I did. She, Lizzy, saw me in a downtown parking lot along with her teen daughter, Rhiannon, who’d I’d taught during youth group. Lizzy actually charged over to me and told me she could not understand how I could become a non-believer after all I’d experienced. I wanted the parking lot asphalt to open up and swallow me as I got a long lecture that I could not get a word into till Lizzy finished.
Fortunately for me Lizzy actually listened to me as I told her that I still believed and what she’d been told about my new church was untrue. We walked down to the coffee shop and spent nearly an hour visiting while discussing our faith. She was surprised to hear my beliefs weren’t much changed since she and I had hung out last at a conference. She also told me that there had been prayer vigils for us to come to our senses and return, surprise, surprise, Tom and Tina Smith had held prayer meetings geared towards praying for my hubby and I, that we would stop our false religion, atheism, liberalism and return to the one true church, Possum Creek. More praying for hot coals being dumped on our heads.
I tried to combat the lies whenever I had the opportunity to but most of my old church family seemed fully determined to believe all the lies being said about me, my children and my husband, making a difficult time in my life even harder. I started getting depressed and again, I cried a lot, prayed a lot and kept trying to move forward.
Even as it had initially been my husband moving to the new church and telling me to go where I felt the Lord was leading me, that it was okay with him if I stayed at the old church, most of the condemnation over his leaving was being heaped on me, not my husband. People didn’t say some of the same hurtful things to him that they did to me. More than once I was told that I hadn’t been a good Christian woman if I hadn’t prevented my husband from leaving the old church. I’d failed in my duties as a dutiful wife.
One of my few friends still at the old church was my best friend Josie. Even if we didn’t always agree with each other we were still close. We’d both be dissatisfied about many of the same things at the old church and both of us had a heart for the poor of the community. Josie had been my sidekick not only in conference land but also we’d worked together at the local soup kitchen to the homeless,the senior citizen nutrition center, the food closet and the homeless shelters. One Thanksgiving she’d cooked up the idea that we needed to give away homemade soup on a street corner in our downtown instead of sitting at our own dinner tables overstuffed with too much food. She and I did just that with the help of a few others and had the most blessed and fun time you could have. She and I really enjoyed going into the midst of the homeless community to help them, pray with them if they asked and try to get their needs met.
It was with Josie that I learned that giving selflessly to others in need was one of the most fulfilling things you can do. Helping others really helps you, particularly when you’re depressed. But at the same time she and I would talk about what would really happen if we actually started bringing these homeless and poor into our old church. We both knew the others would never accept that, they’d be outraged.
After I switched churches I kept volunteering with those same charities working with the poor. This time though it was Josie representing the old church and myself as a representative of my new main stream church. We still did our volunteering working with the poor together.
The change over from the old church didn’t have the same devastating affects on my hubby as it did me. My husband was like a different person, he was happy, relaxed, satisfied during the same time I was brought so low. Here at the new church we attended he was allowed to have a genuine role, instead of being brushed aside as not a good enough believer to participate. He was asked to put his MBA training to work by being one of the officers on the church finance team.
From the second week I was at the new church I was one of the vocalists in the worship band. When I got there the band only had two female vocalists, neither who had sung before, both shy of the microphone. There was also only bare bones instrumentation. That first time I sung and as I started to loosen up and do other worship I started having people seeking me out after the service thanking me for being there and taking the worship to the next level.
It sort of freaked me out, here I was still getting emails from Tom Smith and his buddies telling us that we were going to hell, yet at the same time both Hubby and I were getting praise from the other members of our new church from bringing in a different dimension with our service. A very schizophrenic existence.
While Tom Smith was no longer in our day to day life he still loomed large, like a dark cloud eager to sent down thunderbolts each time we started to recover a little from our ordeal at the old church. Then a change occurred.
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Calulu lives near Washington DC , was raised Catholic in South Louisiana before falling in with a bunch of fallen Catholics whom had formed their own part Fundamentalist, part Evangelical church. After fifteen uncomfortable years drinking that Koolaid she left nearly 6 years ago. Her blog is Calulu – Roadkill on the Internet Superhighway
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce