I was told time and time again in the church that I had to attend AT LEAST three times a week–and often many more times–that Jesus loves you and wants you to accept him as your personal savior and you will be guided by him and he will tell you exactly what he wants you to do in life. Give your life to Christ.
So I tried to. But I got nowhere. I prayed and prayed and prayed and cried and cried and cried and felt–nothing. While all around me, people were constantly crying and praying and giving their lives to Christ. And within this frenzy of emotion, I began to feel that these people, my family and those around me, were in a different universe than I was in.
Their universe was one of an emotional high, brought about by the personal testimonials from the lay witness movement. This is a movement that began in the United Methodist Church in the 1970s and had to be addressed by the church because of its popularity. (See Guidelines: The UMC and the Charismatic Movement.)
As this movement swept through the small congregation that we attended, I began to feel extremely uncomfortable just being in the vicinity of the church. Even though I had some friends at the church, they were not the people I cared to socialize with in my community. In fact, some of them really creeped me out–especially the preachers who would put on this Texan, folksy, humorous façade. By the time I would leave the church service, my creep level would be in the red zone. The whole church experience for me became highly disturbing for me. I was constantly begging my parents to not make me go to church. The standard answer was that we were going to church, you HAVE to go to church.
Having extremely low self-esteem, this was just another in a very long line of things that were wrong with me. From my very angry father, I was incapable of doing anything right in his eyes. The pastor would preach that God loves me just as my father loves me. Well, that wasn’t happening; in fact, I wanted nothing more than to get out of high school and get out of the house for good where my father was incapable of showing love. I was confusing anger for hate.
I loved art and theater and from my parent’s eyes, these were just hobbies, nothing to take seriously, so I was not being “called” by Jesus to be an artist or to act, although these activities were the only things that I loved and that took me away from the miserable town in which I lived…so, you can see the mixed signals that I constantly received from my family and the church simply put me in a constant mode of fear and self-preservation. I simply could not reveal the real person that I was without fitting into these molds that my very specific society was trying to put me in.
My greatest desire was to simply leave and attempt to be the person I really wanted to be. Then there was college at Texas Tech and all of the Baptist bullshit that accompanied the university in Lubbock.
My resulting reaction to all of this was to shut down–for decades.
As I finally began to awaken from this fog that was thrust upon me (to my parent’s credit, they were only trying to do what they thought was right for me…they really knew nothing else but this brand of religion), I began to not only explore what made me happy, but I began to analyze why I was so angry and disturbed by the evangelical Christian religion in which I was simply–placed. I realized that I had ABSOLUTELY no interest in continuing with my religious upbringing.
So many Christians believe that a person leaves the church because they are angry at God. In fact, this is the only possibility discussed when reaching out to the non-believer. And when a person angry with God, then Satan must be the resulting culprit who is lead the person astray.
None of this has happened to me; in fact, nothing is further from the truth. I am not angry with God. I am not influenced by Satan. I don’t believe that God exists–and especially not in the form that is presented in Christianity today–so I cannot be angry with something that I do not believe exists. The same goes for Satan–I don’t believe in Satan, so I cannot be influenced by something that does not exist. It is a simple as that.
I’ve also realized that for so many people who grow up in the church, there is no choice to not believe. Therefore, Jesus loves you whether you believe or not and whether you like it or not. Because there is no option that Jesus does not exist. The same is for Satan; there is good and evil in the world and if God is good, Satan is evil. I live in a world that is not black and white; it is a world of nuances and all of the colors of the rainbow in between black and white. It is a world of reality. I cherish reality and loathe the black-and-white world of religion–the stronger the religious conviction, I find, the more black and white the tenets are.
Is there something spiritual in the universe? I really don’t know. I am a very CONCRETE person and I am not interested in big, emotional productions that accompany religious revival-type services. I know that this environment works for many people, but it does not work for me.
If something spiritual in the universe exists, then I will find out about it when I die. Otherwise, I’m not going to accept the ancient, magical stories of the Bible as the way it is, because it’s just…well, absurd.