After leaving home I stayed away from church for several years. I had no pleasant memories of being raised by fundamentalists, and didn’t want to waste any more of my life inside church walls. After some time I married a lapsed Catholic who expressed less interest in religion than I did, and I thought I’d grow old with her. Within a few months she began attending mass at the local parish chapel and laying a head trip on me that I was in need of god.
Image by Christolakis via FlickrIt also annoyed her that I was writing poetry and short stories which were being accepted for publication by alternative and new age focused magazines. I was also smoking a great amount of weed and drinking beer with my friends. We were together for three years, and then we split immediately after our son was born.
I followed my ex back to our home town so I could stay in my son’s life. I had him with me on most weekends. One day when my son was two he asked me to take him to church. I had attended my ex-father-in-law’s funeral service at a Catholic church, and I knew I didn’t want to take him to that type of church. I hated the formality and ritual. I found a Protestant church nearby and we began attending occasional services. Usually I dropped him off in Sunday school, walked a few blocks to the local park to smoke a joint, and then walked back in time to take him home.
About this time I stopped writing.
When my son was nine or ten his mother sent him off for the summer to visit relatives in another state. I was lonely without him and hooked up with a lady I had been infatuated with when I was in high school. She was pentecostal and laid down two rules for me if I wanted to date her: stop getting high and to attend her church. It was easy for me to stop smoking weed, but attending church was awful. Not only did they adhere to fundamentalist teachings like the churches I grew up in, but they also did a lot of moaning, wailing and strange utterances that they referred to as “speaking in tongues.” It was nuts, but this lady was a babe so I let my penis do my thinking for me. I even learned to tolerate both of her spoiled brat daughters.
About a year later we were married, and then when my son was twelve his new little sister was born. I noticed tension between my wife and my son, but thought it was something we could work out. His mother thought differently, and she kept me from seeing him for about 18 months. I tried to resolve the issues and get back into my son’s life, but my new wife had other ideas and sabotaged all my efforts. Even into high school his mother insisted I only see him outside of my home. One pastor even advised me to entirely remove my son from my life. According to him my new life should be with my new wife.
Before our daughter was born we moved to a new church, but after several months we left it and started attending the local Calvary Chapel. For me it was a relief to not be attending a church where I was constantly hearing cackling and moaning during the services. CC calls itself charismatic where they believe in “tongues,” but they use it with more restraint. I felt more comfortable among the faithful, and I started studying my bible.
Though I had been raised attending fundamentalist churches I had never read the bible more than was necessary to complete my Sunday school lessons. Even at the IFCA church when I was a teenager I only read what the pastor had us read for the services. Now as an adult it still bugged me to read “scripture.” I enjoyed reading fiction, poetry, world history and science articles, but the bible was dry. I knew how to type so I decided I would type the bible instead of read it. This was in the nineties before I bought my first computer so I started typing scripture on my electric word processor. (I also started to write poetry again.) It took me about a year and a half to type out the complete NIV and New American Standard versions of the bible, and I was about to start in on the New King James when my wife began to behave in a really crazy manner. (Even crazier than typing out the text of the bible.) She had shown some signs of mental illness earlier in our marriage, but now she went completely over the edge of reality.
One evening we were at church when she told me she had to go to the restroom. She was gone for about twenty minutes and I wondered what was keeping her. Fortunately it was dark in the sanctuary because when I looked back toward the last pew I saw her standing totally naked. Without making a fuss I went to her and asked her what she was doing. She mumbled something about it being god’s will, and then I walked her back to the restroom, picking up her clothing that she had removed along the way. I’m not certain if anyone saw her. I kept it low key, and I only spoke to the assistant pastor about it.
The diagnosis was Schizoaffective Disorder. Life began to resemble the intensity of hell. Church was no help. I was told to have faith, to trust in god, to pray. I was even told that I was “blessed.” Then the situation became even worse when my wife’s oldest daughter died shortly after turning twenty-one.
We split up when our daughter was seven, and were divorced a year later. My daughter is sixteen now, and I’ve been raising her without the help of her mother. The truth is her mother can’t even help herself. She has alienated her entire family, including her surviving daughter, and she has gone on extended psychotic episodes where she calls up everyone we know in the middle of the night to tell them that I am a mass murderer and rapist, that I am in league with the devil, and that I am a practicing homosexual on my way to becoming the Antichrist. None of these accusations are true. She still attends different churches and seems to be highly influenced by prophetic studies of the book of Revelation. Occasionally I’ll receive a call from someone I used to know at church who asks me why I have mistreated my wife so badly. Often they hang up before I can reply.
But these aren’t the reasons why I left CC and no longer am searching for another church. What disturbed me about the people at the churches I was attending were the small things they would say. One guy told me that living in a dictatorship would be fine with him as long as the dictator believed in Christ. Another person said he was grateful for the churches distribution of voter guides because he didn’t like to have to think for himself about the issues. Then I finally pulled my daughter out of her Sunday school class after her teacher said that his purpose was to make the students believe that the creation myth was truer than the Theory of Evolution.
There is always a change that my daughter has inherited an inclination for her mother's mental illness, but I don't want it to be fueled by the insanity of biblical teaching. That would be too crazy.