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Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Time To Search and a Time to Give Up

Religion was only ever used to control and hurt. To put down and shame.

God was why I had to be spanked for every infraction.

God was why I was worthless.

God was why the people in the Bible did horrible things to other people.

Church was where we were told how bad we were and how we don't deserve love or life but got lucky that God loves us anyway.

God was why peers were evil and parents were authoritarian and my heart was bad and not to be trusted. Why I had to dress ugly and repent often and try harder to be better. Why we had to be spanked, grounded, and punished. Parents had to do those things because, God.

In all my life, God, religion, church, and spirituality were only ever wielded as a weapon of control. Inflicting fear and pain. "For your own good."

Is it any wonder I cannot see through this to anything other than emptiness? I tried, for years, to find the God of grace and light and love, but I can't find him. I thought I'd found him for a while. But I'm not sure He exists anymore. I wonder if I and everyone else have just made Him up, made up this God of grace and love because the thought of a universe and life without divine meaning and reason is too scary for us. I fight and I fight, every waking hour and sometimes in my sleep, to find the idea of a loving Divine, but He is drowned out by the abusive, punitive version that has been carved into the walls of my heart and mind for as long as I've been alive.

Do you want to know how to raise an atheist? Teach them from the time they are young that there is a God who cannot stand them and a hell that awaits for every soul that doesn't do what that God says. Teach them they have to reject their gay friends and their unchurched friends and their Buddhist friends and every friend that doesn't follow this God the "right" way. Teach them they are nothing without this God, worthless scum destined for eternal punishment. Teach them there is this thing called "sin" that they are prone to and must avoid, even when the rules seem arbitrary because God said so and that things that look good and wonderful are actually SIN for no other reason than some big dude in the sky decided so. Teach them the ways of an abusive God. Teach them that every rule you've made for them and every punishment for breaking those rules are because this abusive God told them to do these things or else you'll get punished too. Teach them that this isn't abuse, it's actually love.

Then watch them grow up and realize they've been duped. Watch them have children of their own and realize that there is no way in hell they will ever teach these awful things to their babies. If a boyfriend treated your daughter the way Christianity says God treats us, you'd call that boyfriend abusive and try to get your daughter out of that toxic relationship. But because you've accepted the idea that you'll go to hell and have a miserable life if you don't do what you're told by this invisible deity, you can't see how very damaging this idea is to both you and your children.

Watch them struggle to figure out if there's anything in their religion worth hanging onto. Anything that isn't harmful and painful and doesn't dredge up repulsive feelings and memories. Watch them finally give up the struggle to find anything good in the mess.

You might think you're doing your children a favor teaching them your "we sinned but God loves us anyway" religion. But you're not. You're killing their souls slowly.

I wish I could approach religion from a clean slate. I wish I didn't have all this baggage and darkness and painful memories warring against the ability to think critically when it comes to matters of faith. But I don't.

No matter how hard I try, the abusive religion I grew up immersed in will always be there in the scars on my heart, screaming louder as I try to silence them in order to think. I'm so very tired of the struggle.

If you've managed to find a God that isn't abusive, kudos to you. I can't find Him. I only see what people do in his name, I only feel the fear of being a child afraid of hell and afraid of God, the overwhelming disgust at all the things I have felt and heard and said and done and wept about because of him.

For now, I'm letting go. I have to believe that if there's a God out there that's worth following, He'll have to come find me. All the asking, seeking, and knocking in the world hasn't helped me, it's only made me so very weary.

Micah Murray wrote these words and they traveled to my very soul:

Lean in to all your questions and doubts and emptiness.
Lean in to the void where the god you once knew is now missing.
There is no resurrection without death.
I’ve come to believe that a very real death of faith is necessary for resurrection of spirituality, especially for those of us who’ve worn the label “Christian” from an early age. You can’t try to anticipate it, steer it, and you sure as hell cannot shortcut it.
Lean into it.
Don’t try to “not lose your faith” Don’t try to resuscitate it or patch it together.
Let your expectations go. Let your faith go, along with everything you thought you knew.
Don’t be afraid.
If there’s a god, I have to believe that they’re more concerned with not losing you than you are with not losing what’s left of your faith.
If there’s anything out there at all, any Divine worth knowing, it won’t let you slip away.

So that's what I'm doing these days. I'm done trying not to lose my faith. It's time to rest and live and love and let resurrection come if it will or grieve my loss if it won't.


  1. I'm kind of in the same neighborhood right now. Going to church, but only because I found a safe place where I can just be me, and it's really more about the people than god. Do what you have to do to find that safe place where your heart can heal, whether it's church, the dog park, or riding horseback while watching the sun set over your Montana mountains. You are special and wonderful and this world is lucky to have you.

  2. Yes, let go of all that mess and don't be afraid. Matters of faith may need to lie fallow for a long time in your life, and those of your friends or loved ones who are fearful of that need to let their own faith/trust grow.

  3. Though I've been a victim of similar culture (not at my parents' hand, but at my own as an adult), and through the subsequent implosion of my life that inevitably followed, I am still so profoundly moved by grace. I have found a lot of comfort in Philip Yancey's classic, "Soul Survivor; How 13 Unlikely Mentors Helped my Faith Survive the Church." May I also suggest the following for your consideration?

    On legalism and lawlessness:

    Church, We Have a Problem - http://liberate.org/2013/10/23/church-we-have-a-problem/

    and Antinomianism, Legalism and the Relationship Between Law and Gospel - http://liberate.org/2014/01/13/antinomianism-legalism-and-the-relationship-between-law-and-gospel/

    Finally: http://www.pastortullian.com/2014/07/23/the-liberating-impossibility-of-repayment/

    I read and found a lot of wisdom in your post on the teachings of emotional purity. I can't help but think that God is absolutely not giving up on you.

    As someone (maybe Yancey?) has said, "from the crusades to the inquisition to Christian cable, much has been done in the name of God that God has absolutely nothing to do with"

  4. Thanks so much for being so brave, sharing where you are at. It must be so hard to shake free from all the teaching that made God out to be a monster. Religion does use fear to control behaviour, all the while taring God's face. I didn't grow up in the really intense religious churches, that preached those things. So I can imagine how much harder it is to detox from all that teaching. Awhile ago, I read a really awesome quote on facebook. It was something along the lines. Atheists are closer to embracing the true God, because they have already rejected the false one.
    And the true God is this:
    God is patient, God is kind. He does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud. He does not dishonor others, He is not self-seeking, He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    This video really helped me with getting a clearer picture of Papa's love for me.

    And it's funny, what has done more to change my picture of God, was through learning about parenting that is gentle, compassionate and patient. I see God in the parents that listen with great affection and empathy to their tantruming child.
    I just found this blog post and I love it! :)

    Best wishes and may you find how loved and adored you truly are! :)


  5. I personally think that where you are now is closer to the gospel that I know and practice than where you used to be. "By your fruits you shall know them," scripture says, and look at the fruit your life is bearing now compared to what it used to. I read your recent writing and I see love, joy, peace, and all the rest of it. I know you've heard it umpteen million times, but hear me out: you can tell the gospel you were force fed growing up isn't the real gospel, and this is not just a rhetorical trick that some people employ as an excuse for what happened to you. The gospel describes itself as good tidings of great joy, and that is what I experience in the brand of faith that I practice. So that is why I believe that there is a real gospel out there and that what you learned wasn't it. Even if you never do find your way to the place you referenced with the non-abusive God, you are nearer to that place now than it sounds like you ever have been before. That alone is reason to celebrate, and if there is a God out there who loves you, I believe he would be celebrating it too. You are free. And in the end, that is what Christ came for (Gal 5:1).

    Many blessings and much love to you.