Bitter? My Fundamentalist Years
An Ex-Fundamentalist Describes Life In The Fundamentalist Church
Bitter...yeah, a little. I don't mind discussing it; I
figure it helps me work on it and clarifies my
thinking. and, if anyone else can draw strength or
comfort, all the better.
Realistically, I shouldn't be bitter. Think about
it--I was a kid, whose parent made the decision that
this is the church we'll attend. It wasn't a good fit
for me at all, but as a child I wasn't able to make
the decision for myself to find another church. I was
pretty well held to my mom's decision.
To my credit, I did leave as soon as I moved to
college ("My house, my rules" no longer applied). I
was drawn to the Lutheran Church, and am still
technically a member, although I don't feel
comfortable in most churches because of the "one way"
message I perceive. I simply don't believe that
The bitterness comes, I think, because I feel I've had
to play a constant game of catch-up when it comes to
my life sans xtian religion. The rigid, fundy rules
that for over 15 years governed what I wore, how I
dressed, how I entertained myself, how I related to
people, were impressed on me during my most formative
years. For the first 7 or 8 years after I totally left
the AoG, I still had that "tape" in my head reciting
the rules and detailing every little transgression of
them. I mean, heavens, getting my ears pierced and
wearing makeup in a college yearbook photo was big
rebellion to me--pathetic, don't ya think? The tape is
less noisy now, but when my stress is high and my
resistance low, it still has a powerful command.
I'm also bitter about how much of my life and
intellect was wasted thinking the world was about to
end. I was in agony, dealing with the command to save
everyone I met from eternal hell while cursing my
natural shyness and youth. The misery of being
intellectually inclined in a world on the cusp of the
computer age, yet being told time and again that
computers, supermarket scanners, video games and
credit cards were luring unsuspecting people to take
the Mark of the Beast.
Do you know, to this day I still can't play a video
game to save my life because the first one I ever got
to touch was my junior year in college? Video games,
from Frogger to Pac-Man, were banned as tools of
satan. I had to take a computer class designed for
senior citizens when I was 28 because I'd been kept
from working with computers when I was in school? Can
you even begin to imagine the shame of being so
But, the biggest reason I am bitter about my church
experiences is simple: it did nothing about my abusive
home situation. The fact that my dad was an alcoholic
who liked to physically and mentally torture (no
exaggeration) his kids and wife was well known.
Instead of offering to help us out of the situation,
we were told it was our xtian duty as wife and
children of this man to submit graciously and serve as
xtian witness to him, in the hopes he'd be won over
for God. During the worst abuse, we'd be told this was
good news--God was working on him, and our pain,
bruises and tears were only the devil's illusions to
make us stop praying for him. As if to add insult to
injury, not even the church was a nominally safe
place, because I was assaulted twice within a month by
two people (one the minister) when I was 11. As if
abuse at home wasn't enough...
When I entered counseling, my entire story made the
therapist cry. I was an utter basket case, barely
capable of functioning in my daily life. Several years
were spent wading thru the crap, and xtianity was a
big component of that mix. Probably one of the most
frightening things I did in therapy was admit I hated
God and anything to do with the religion. But, once I
did that, I felt free. Not a wide-open free, but the
free you feel when you know the open road is in front
of you. All you have to do is put the car in drive and
So, that's what I've been doing. I tentatively put my
life in Drive and am slowly catching up. I can handle
Tetris on an old Gameboy I picked up cheap. I'll put
on makeup occasionally and the initial ear-piercing
has been since joined by a second set and two tattoos.
I read voraciously because it opens my mind to new
ideas. And, I've embraced Paganism because it has
given me a more realistic yet gentle comfort of Deity
as feminine and masculine.
But yeah, there are still times when I feel angry,
cheated and stupid because I wasn't strong enough to
resist the theology crammed down my throat. I resent
that the very adults who were supposed to be
protecting me then guiding me through my growth years
were the very ones exposing me to this, all in the
name of loving me in christ. And I get frustrated with
myself when that fundy tape plays in my head and I
can't find the OFF switch.
On the bright side, my experiences have encouraged me
to be more open-minded to other views, tolerant,
compassionate and non-judgmental. I'm extremely
determined to read, learn and experience everything so
I don't regret things left undone at the end of my
life. I've also decided that my religion won't "wear"
me; instead, I try to integrate my beliefs and ideas
into my daily life, so that I live with integrity,
responsible only to myself and the state of my soul.
OK, hope that helps! Actually, I am glad I am able to
talk about it. Maybe there's hope for me yet!