It’s been six years this month since I began my journey from an abusive religion (United Reformed Church) and slowly began to see that what the church is selling is not truth at all.
It doesn’t matter which church you attend, they all seem to have some variation of the same thing:
If you follow our teaching then you will have (insert whatever that church is selling–peace, love, etc).
This extends to all religions. Regardless their roots, they are all selling you something.
The Reformed church I was a member in was part of something Dr. John Frame called “Escondido Theology.” Its roots mostly lay in teaching from Westminster West, but I have found variations of the same throughout all branches of Reformed and Presbyterian churches as seminaries.
Growing up in a conservative Baptist church while being severely abused by my “Christian” parents, I listened with rapt attention to how it was supposed to be. I always knew what was going on at home was wrong, but I was thoroughly confused because the Sunday School teachers insisted I obey my parents and that because I was a naughty girl who sinned my parents MUST beat me (and my siblings).
On the other hand, the church sold the lie that if I would pray harder and obey Jesus and my parents better, I wouldn’t be beat…as much.
I used to think that most children who grow up the way I did become atheists by high school. The truth is, we become ardent supporters of the evil. We become zealous for the lies we’ve been sold and know that if we, and others would just do like our religion teaches, the world would be better.
Some of us get to a point where we begin to question this. Few of us walk away, most of us just start a new religion. That’s what happened to me and how I ended up in the Reformed church.
I questioned the truth of Evangelical promises when they certainly weren’t coming true. I was praying, reading my bible, trying to conform my life to Christ, and, above all, I was trying to be more submissive to my now ex. These are the things that would change my life. If I just did these things, my family would be saved and all those lies I was told about godly heads of households would become true and my now ex would love me.
It was all bullshit.
But I wasn’t ready to give it up yet. I believed there was a God so I had to find a new church, preferably one that got it right. Reformed theologians convinced me that it wasn’t God, it was Evangelicals who were the problem and if I would just get my theology right, then I’d have the promises. Sure, life wouldn’t be perfect, but it would be better.
It was worse.
Then I walked away from that.
I have a lot of issues with “my church.” I don’t think it does anything for abused people and I have seen the burdens heaped upon victims like they are in all religions, but in this church I was first exposed to the idea that God really did love people. That suffering wasn’t always his design (this is a huge point I disagree with my church…suffering is never God’s design).
My story was not to be the great success story promised by this church either. It’s just not a possibility since my ex is still the same lying, twisted jerk he was long before I met him.
My story is a different type of success story, the type that no one, especially pastors, like to hear about.
My story is this…I stopped following the dos and don’ts dicated by all the churches, started reading the Bible without the weekly brainwashing session, and have a far stronger faith than I had before.
I no longer hate and berate myself. My first impulse when something goes wrong is not “God is punishing me because (insert the one million reasons religion gives).” Life throws punches, I deal. I don’t think I’m under attack by Satan because I didn’t pray right. Life happens, I respond, end of story.
I have two best friends. One is an atheist. One is a Christian. Both are amazing people. Both have impacted my life in ways that have vastly improved my condition. Both have similar world views despite their difference in faith.
I’ve learned that the church is a religion, just like all the other religions in the world. The rules and regulations are what drive us to evil. We want to be right so we enforce our cruel legalism (and ALL religions are legalistic) onto the victims.
We ask what would Jesus do, then we turn around and spit on the poor and the weak and the suffering and anyone else we deem to be a threat to our faith, a threat because they live differently than we do.
Christianity demands a different way of living. Christ demanded things of us that should, if every single person who attends church did, would radically change the world.
But the world does not matter to us. So we pick out the verses that we think will give us our “best life now” and leave the rest in the rubbish heap. We take these verses and preach them to people with the promise that “if only” then their individual lives would be better. And the more fundamentalist of us demand everyone conform to these, regardless.
If Jesus was being honest, if his list along with his promise was really true, then I know more non-Christians on their way to heaven than there are in every church this morning.
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 NRSV
Which verse will we serve, or better, which interpretation of Christ’s commands will we serve? The ones that make us happy? Or the ones that demand we do something?