9/23/2010 | Share this article:By Southern Man ~
I am a man in my 40s who lives in the South. I was raised by loving parents and attended a small denominational country church as a child. This church was a fundamentalist - holiness based group. I would be remiss if I did not recognize a few positives about this upbringing. Hearing the message of Jesus Christ did teach me to be humble and to love others as myself. However, I was also exposed to a constant barrage of hellfire and brimstone sermons, altar calls, speaking in tongues, and all the other things that have become so typical of fundamentalist Christians. As a young man entering college I remember writing term papers for political science class based on a world view that Christ would soon return and that prophecy explained lots of world events like the rise of this powerful leader from the Soviet Union who I was sure was the Antichrist.
Image by Bindaas Madhavi via FlickrAs with most people I left the church once entering college. I was very tired of the salvation message, the strict lifestyles that must be adhered to and the unforgiving, non-compassionate nature of many christians that I new. I would feel guilty about not participating but at the same time enjoyed being away from religion.
As time marched on I found myself a father in my late twenties and like any good dad returned to the church with my young family in tow. We did Sunday school, Bible school, retreats, youth group, mission trips, etc. I taught, sang, mentored and counseled. I belonged to a Methodist Church and enjoyed more of the message of grace rather than damnation. I really thought I had found the better ground. No hell fire and brimstone sermons, educated ministers, a more socially tolerant denomination, etc. However, I found that the more I got involved the more I grew uneasy. It was as if nothing satisfied my desire to be closer to God, fulfilled, to connect with people of faith in an idealistic Christ-like way. Well you can probably guess where this is heading.
I worked, prayed, studied, sacrificed and became lay person of the year as a father of two and vice president of an engineering company. Between work and church I was never home. Conflicts arose with the parents at Youth Group and our Youth Pastor. He ended up stepping down and I volunteered to lead the Youth. The parents still were never happy. They seemed to ignore almost everything God and Christ was telling us through the bible and scriptures. It was me first, my child first, go through the motions, play favorites, etc. I worked harder thinking that just sacrificing as Christ did, it would all work out. People would change. The holy spirit would sweep down and make all things new in me and everyone else. Yet Sunday after Sunday I left the Church after giving it my all, surrounded by tons of people, as the lonliest man on earth.
So I have left the Church and the Christian faith. I am a much happier person because of it. All this work, service, and God was still so distant so quite. Soon enough another controversy arose and out went our Senior Pastor with only a year of time at our church. I grew more and more frustruated and bitter in the way my fellow Christians were behaving particularly the ministers who in my opinion were only interested in the career ladder of appointments and power in the organized church.
I grew very depressed and had an extremely rough year. A new youth pastor was finally hired, and I finally started slowing down. However, the parents soon began to turn on this new pastor and I made a grave mistake and unloaded several years of frustruation with them all in an email tirade. To make a much too long story a little shorter, I was alienated by the parents and my guilt was off the charts high. I had to take a break from the church and all the drama that I had created in pursuit of a Christian ideal. People loved that person who gave it all. Those same people were the same ones who nailed me to the cross I had been carrying all those years.
After trying to heal from the depression I began to explore the things that motivated my and my faith. I soon learned how deeply my fundamentalist upbringing created a overwhelming sense of guilt in me. I then began to question God and understood that ultimate perfect love from God would never be satisfied.
So I have left the Church and the Christian faith. I am a much happier person because of it. I realize that my dedication to the cause was not very healthy for me, made me angry with others who did not share my zeal and devotion and who would not simply be anything but human. I became a christian al queda member a fundamentalist. I was right and everyone else was wrong. I was angry.
Today I see the danger in fundamentalism. I see what it helped do to me. With my experience I can see the 911 attacks being justified in the mind of a fundamentalist of any religion. I am largely quiet about my self discovery and new found beliefs. I am having to work to build a new social network and system of friends based on a new healthy and real world view. And finally I have found the peace I was looking for all along.
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