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Bitter? My Fundamentalist Years

An Ex-Fundamentalist Describes Life In The Fundamentalist Church

By Rachel

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 anymore.

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 intellectually backward?

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 go.

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!

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Created 6-30-03
Revised 6-30-03