Saturday, September 2, 2017
Leaving Fundamentalism Related to ACON Recovery?
This was my one of my favorite songs when I was in my early 20s: Funnily enough, I was revisiting this song the other day. A lot of people are outraged with God. I used to watch this video even as a Christian before I had my present doubts and used to think "How do I reach people like that?"
Recovering from Bad Religion is an earlier article that goes with this one.
I am still in a time of spiritual exploration but I know I am done with fundamentalism. I don't know if my final resting spot will be in some more liberal version of Christianity or not. I am looking into more liberal circles now. Right now I have to see if finding a God of love is even possible. Obviously many have diverted from the teachings of Jesus Christ in loving their neighbors. Many human beings yearn for a loving God. Some of us question what kind of God we even believe in. Can I love a fundamentalist God where almost everyone burns in hell? These are some really intense questions.
Some other odd questions about God have occurred to me. I always heard Christianity was a relationship. Why were so many fundamentalist Christians so plastic and fake? Why did so many support oppression and hate the poor? Didn't want God want actual "friends" and not just worshiping sycophants that told Him what He wanted to hear? Why would God want a bunch of Yes-men around? Wouldn't that make God like the narcissists I have warned about on this blog for years? ACON recovery can influence your spiritual viewpoints, of this I have no doubt.
There's good Christians who warn about narcissism out there, Smakintosh even warned about the disconnections in the churches, and the support of oppression and abusers, but I worried about the view of God I was given. In fundamentalist Christianity, I definitely was introduced to a God where nothing was ever good enough and legalism ruled. God was exposed as this perfectionist like my parents who always had to be right, and who punished people severely for not measuring up, even though they had been created with inbuilt faults not of their choosing.
Things with me and God have always been complicated. Abuse doesn't help when it comes to picturing a loving God. When I picture a "Father", it is someone raging not hugging me. As I have written when I was young, I was an atheist, after leaving my family's Catholic church. I explored comparative religions, humanism and other pagan religions for many years, and attended various Unitarian-Universalist churches depending on where I lived over a 12-13 year period. That included one large urban congregation, a college town one and a small start up fellowship that later closed.
Some ask why the world is unfair. I don't see me going back to full atheism, in my spiritual exploration. Someone made all of this but I know with certainty, I no longer consider myself a fundamentalist. Bible teachings and the good teachings of Jesus are still in my head, but there is a lot I have to reconcile and work through now. Obviously due to my past, I am familiar with those who are not religious but spiritual.
I wrote about that already but later I was pondering ideas about what pulled me into independent fundamentalist baptist churches in the first place? Why did I become a fundamentalist? Did it have something to do with my abuse history? For those who are new to this blog, I was in the IFB church, independent fundamentalist baptist, this includes a short stint in Calvary Chapel and some bible studies in mainstream evangelical churches too. The IFB is one of the most conservative and fundamentalist branches of Christianity out there.
Inside there was always cognitive dissonance between liberal values, being an artist and married to someone who loved punk rock. It's like I had my feet in two different worlds. One friend told me she always thought I had liberal values. This is true. The worsening dismissal of social justice in conservative religious circles has bothered me for years. The election and unthinking evangelical support of Trump is gasoline that has been poured on the religious questioning fire. Yes I had cognitive dissonance with a foot in each world. I would write things on Christian message boards, questioning Republican politics even years ago. Politically I never fit in. The lack of compassion I see towards the disabled, the poor and those who want to believe that God will keep them from all suffering in this world because they are "better" people separated me from from fundamentalism. Other disabled people have shared with me their experiences in the fundamentalist and evangelical world. They have told me they were blamed for their disabilities too, and constantly patronized, told they were in need of fixing or mentoring. They have faced much of the same pain I have.
My ACON recovery has changed me spiritually. It is changing the religious terrain. I can't do the fundamentalist thing anymore. Because of my abuse, I was stuck in the bowing, scraping and begging, saying "please love me" and "seeking approval". I ditched all the abusers I was "never good enough for" and is this spilling out God? It definitely spilled out on to the independent fundamentalist baptist church.
In fundamentalism, one is told they are a worm, some Calvinists take the depraved "worm" thing a bit further, but I can't even count how many times, we were taught that every human being is deserving of hell or how narrow the path to heaven was while I was in fundamentalism. One's religious beliefs can be a reflection of one's self esteem. There are Christians who warn against this negative side of Christianity like Dr. Donald Sloat, a Christian psychologist who has written books, warning Christians that a degree of self-assertion is not a sin and is imperative to forming one's own identity. He definitely warns of a harmful tie between abuse as a young person and toxic religious beliefs.
Did all the high expectations and being trained to beg for approval, take me into fundamentalism to begin with? My family was not IFB but in the Catholic church where leaving meant you were hellbound. By age 10, I was the family "heretic and apostate", being in a different branch of Christianity did not change this decades later. I had decades of spiritual abuse accompanying the other, simply because I refused to follow my family's religion.
How about life being all about performance, and following rules? Certainly life under Queen Spider was all about rules and being perfect by her definition of it. Her religion was all about following the right rituals, and rites and looking good to others. Religious rules outlining a certainty, trying to obtain a "proper life", and finding a place to fit in? Did my own weaknesses from abuse attract so many religious people who were out to "fix me"? Even the card-making ex-narcissist friend did with me, was the religious woman [conservative Lutheran] in her case trying to reform the way-ward disabled "sinner".
The fundamentalist god is a perfectionist where nothing is ever good enough. Even if you think about the gospel via grace, okay Jesus gets us into heaven but how many churches make this about being perfectly saved and perfectly obedient? The IFB definitely did. I was taught in one church only 5 percent of professing Christians were even saved, add in all the non-Christians and most of humanity was then destined for hell.
Fundamentalism preys upon a self-loathing in humanity. There is no elevation but this view of humans as just being chaff to be burned in God's furnace. If one's God acts just like the narcissists you escaped, how are you going to form a loving relationship with someone like that? This is a spiritual wall I massively hit. Wouldn't a loving God take the built-in flaws of people and their imperfections into consideration? The whole set up was abusive.
In fundamentalism, I was taught nothing was ever good enough for God. More and more I was reminded of the abusive perfectionistic parents. Preachers who concentrate on hell and all of us going there, did any of us ask to be born on this earth? I am supposed to believe their version of God is loving when He does nothing but make demands and threatens me and others with punishment beyond the horrors this world gives to many people?
I am struggling still with the concept of hell. Some people have joked to me, "We will be with all the cool people in hell then having a party"but really when I got down to brass tacks, I got severely depressed thinking of a loved and agnostic aunt who probably committed suicide in the 80s being in hell, and all my non-Christian friends. One close and very loving friend was an anti war activist who had very New Age beliefs, she was an ex-Catholic and she died of cancer. Is she in hell too? My cognitive dissonance in fundamentalism started years ago with these matters needling at my mind.
I and my husband got in weird conversations--he is agnostic, where he asked me to rescue him from hell, I would say "get saved" of course, but then I found myself saying if I end up there by some chance you come and get me. We have seen the movie "When Dreams May Come" maybe a few too many times. Like Robin Williams, I know the degree of love in this world that had him chose his wife in hell.
There is a cruelty to hell that is beyond the pale. I had bad thoughts starting that only a psychopath would create a place like hell, it's one reason I became troubled regarding God. Imagine Him sitting back and there are millions there, all burning for eternity. Outside of some sociopaths like Ted Bundy, 99.9% of humanity would free people like that from their pain. I am scared to write this thought by the way, not wanting to upset my Christian friends but it's an honest one I have. Here I need to rethink the fundamentalist teachings that just about everyone goes to hell. I was given a very cold and cruel version of God.
Yes think of all the victims of the Holocaust burning not only in life but eternity. I see all these Indian people around me, they are moving to my town and many are Hindu all going to hell. I would see little children,smiling parents and others. They are nice people. It is an horror to the senses. I had to take another look at what I had been taught in fundamentalist churches and it wasn't lining up with my conscience.
When people say Christians are haters, how much of that is centered in these views of hell, and the fact Christians preach so many are going there. Many Christians who are more liberal then fundamentalists do not believe this way. There are churches that teach those of good conscience who even are of other beliefs do not go to hell. There are Christian Universalists who say hades means sheol or "the grave" and not literal burning fire and those who believe in Universal Reconciliation.
I have noticed since leaving fundamentalism, I feel more open to other people. I don't have to worry about "being corrupted" as constantly warned by my churches anymore or the pressure to "witness", which in my case, I am polite and shy and would do it once and then leave someone in peace but it is torture on our end too to think people we love and care about are going to hell.
I asked myself how much brutality now in our society today with the prison industry, love for police state and war, hatred for disabled, coldness of Republicans, and punishment politics is related to the core teachings of fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity especially regarding hell?
I am kind of scared of uber-religious people now. I was one of them and question myself hoping I didn't hurt anyone myself. In my case I broke all the rules which some of them definitely would tell me is one reason my faith has "faltered". I got rebuked once at IFB church for hanging out with non-believers and "pagans". I listened and smiled and didn't fight but didn't follow their instructions. They didn't know at that church I had close non-Christian friends online and other places too. I just couldn't form the little Christian bubble in my life that most of them had been born into. I cared about people, dumping for them for disagreeing about religious beliefs seemed cruel and evil after all my own family had already done the same to me.
Did the PTSD left over from the abuse and other tragic events, spill into the paranoia and fear that rules the fundamentalist world? We were taught to be afraid of everyone. Honestly I got burned out on all the horrors promised me and others in the Tribulation. In my religious world while pre-trib predominated there was lots of post-tribbers around. Pre-Trib people believe the Rapture will take them up before the bad stuff happened and Post-Trib people believe they will be here for it. Revelation had locusts and the fear of nuclear war wrapped up into it. Many evangelical websites are full of endless doom porn. I still believe there is a lot of corruption in higher echelons and uber-rich jerks planning for wars and profit, but lately I realize how the Alex Jones contingent got Trump elected. Some of the powers that be love using fear for control. If one's religion has become all about punishment, fear and control what good is it? Those three things RULE in fundamentalist Christianity.
Was this fear taught me in the PTSD horror house I grew up in and taken with me into adulthood? If you want to know the main emotion floating the alt-right Trump boat where they have taught people to hate and fear other people, it is FEAR and fear works well to control people. Hell definitely is used to scare people.
When I converted, after my hard days in Chicago witnessing stabbings, robberies, and other horrors including my own medical ones, I was in a very vulnerable place. When I moved to a small very rural town, it was like escaping to heaven. It was as if I had been rescued out of the gaping maw of hell itself. I was still young and only had been married a few years and imagined I and my husband too having the ideal lives I saw around me. It was a naive and idealistic view but it was my thinking at the time.
My family is uber Catholic. As I have written here before, my mother and sister put on the ultimate religious parade. When I left the Catholic church at 17, and "came out" as an atheist. My scapegoat position in my family became even more cemented. I was actually called EVIL to my face and told I would go to hell multiple times. Even my own grandmother called me an "evil girl" and how dare you not believe in God. I was told I could not be in my sister's wedding because I was not a good Catholic girl besides being "too fat" for the pictures.
My mother chased me through the house hitting me and calling me heathen when she found an Unitarian Universalist church pamphlet in my bookbag during college. I have noticed on deconversion boards, they tell young budding atheists to make sure only to tell families they are atheists only over dinners they have paid for in houses or apartments that are theirs as well. In other words, keep your mouth shut until you are on your own! I agree with this advice! Religion can be quite the minefield.
All relatives and family friends were turned against me. The smartest ones were the ones who kept their mouths shut and just stopped going to church. Some relatives didn't even show up at my wedding due to religious differences. It was a spiritually abusive environment. My golden child sister before I went no contact would plaster endless Facebook photos of her children getting awards from bishops, her daughter kneeling in front of statues of Mary with a priest blessing her, etc. My mother's cousin was a creepy priest who slapped me once when we were alone and ran one of those abusive Indian schools, and her best friend this high power nun who worked with bishops and Cardinals. Holy people loved by God were those who had been given children, proper lives and good jobs. I know not all Catholics are like my family but this served as an different backdrop.
The freewill thing was used as a battering ram. In fundamentalism, there is definitely the message that your life is the result of your own choices. My family from their end held those views too. If anything goes wrong, it's your fault. Some nods are made to Job as a "good man" but for most who end up on the losing end financially or otherwise, there is the message that you put yourself there. Human beings are a product of genetics, culture, society, family and early childhood environment and experiences. These things are ignored in fundamentalism.
Narcissists make life all about punishment and about toeing the line. So do fundamentalists. Could this translate into one's chosen religious beliefs? Fundamentalist religion is all about obedience, and fear including fear of punishment. My churches taught me that every time I suffered God was "chastising me." I was told God had a "plan" for my life and that all my sufferings were a result of my choices. My disabilities were from something I did wrong or a curse. God was not blessing me because I had not obeyed him. I was wicked because I never had children etc. These things were concentrated in the deliverance ministry abuse.
There was a point where I felt like life itself was punishing enough without the promises of punishment in religion. On top of these sufferings, the threat of hell was always present for the smallest infraction. Is it too much of a reach to suspect, that my upbringing influenced my religious choices? I feel more free lately knowing I don't have to live in religious oppression, shame and endless guilt anymore either. More happiness has come in freeing myself from religious oppression.
Leaving the Fold
Mean Christians Want People to Die in the Gutter