10/25/2010 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Patrice ~
I wrote a short description of how I was feeling at the start of my deconversion. One thing I know is that mentally, I am pretty far gone from Christianity--even the fear of hell is SLOWLY dissolving. What I think I'm dealing with now is a lot of ANGER, mixed with confusion. I know that I am in a rush to be completely free of this but I can't rush myself. I just recognized that there was a BIG problem in my belief system and I'm determined to start listening to myself for a change.
Image by tizianoj via FlickrI just keep thinking of all my experiences as a Christian. And most if not all of them were laced with the emotion of guilt. Even from a young age. During communion we always had to pray first and examine ourselves and me being a perfectionist was always, always so deadly afraid of something being wrong inside me. Something I didn't confess or really didn't believe-this is at around nine years old. I shouldn't have felt guilty about anything at nine but there I was thinking, scrutinizing myself for some hidden sin at nine. Fearful that if I didn't get myself in just right order I'll eat a communion wafer and die.
What kind of love is that? Why did it feel like everything that went wrong was my fault? I always had serious issues with guilt and fear, I re-dedicated my life back to Christ after coming out of my first serious and mentally controlling relationship just to jump into another one. I was told that I was sexually tainted--how does that help my self esteem? Obviously it's not my self esteem that matters since I'm considered a selfish sinning worm in the world of Christianity.
Back in church, I was trying to get myself back in shape for Jesus and I decide to go to Christian counseling. I'm dating a childhood sweetheart thinking things will be different this time since he's a believer, and for some reason I started having weird intrusive thoughts about being with his brother sexually. Not knowing anything about intrusive thoughts at the time and that everyone gets them--I go to counseling to get over the "sin" I committed with my previous boyfriend and trying to do battle with the devil for my mind. The counselor half of the time doesn't even remember the stuff I tell her from the previous sessions. I tell her that I'm struggling with sexual thoughts about my current boyfriend's brother (who I don't want), and along with that a side order of masturbation. I'm told that I have a lust problem (add on some more guilt) and to read some verses on that. How the hell am I going to get rid of my guilt when you're just adding the weights on? How the hell is everything my fault?
A year of counseling, mental oppression and sadly more oppression from my current boyfriend and still no help. But I mustn't stop trying. Thankfully, me and Christian bf number one break up, but hey.. now it's time for me to just have one on one time with God. Why when it seemed like nothing, absolutely nothing was going on in my life that God didn't decide to give me at least one word of encouragement? "I see what you're going through Patrice. It's a lot. I'm here for you. I will help you...I love you." I never experienced any of the love that Christians are so ecstatic about.
I never had a slain-in-the-spirit moment. I'd always think when that would happen, "Well what's wrong with me?" "How come I never feel those things?" I never felt them. Only things I felt was uncertainty, fear and guilt-guilt about not doing all I can, guilt for not fitting in with lots of the other women in my church, guilt for not being able to tame my natural urges, guilt, guilt, GODDAMN guilt! I used to stick notes on my wall encouraging myself not to do you know what at night. I was always the one at fault...always. And not to mention when I did have a boyfriend and you all know how hard it is to not do the "do", and when that happens--the woman is the one to be in charge of keeping the relationship pure. Well, if women are the ones in charge of that, why are the men in charge of just about everything else (nothing against men)? Why put me in charge of something that is obviously too hard for me to uphold,especially since I'm the WEAKER vessel.
Periods of church go by...no revelations, no inspiration. Just dry..church. My family isn't even attending anymore at this time, my father is struggling with an on again, off again drug addiction. My mother told me they went to the church for help with marital problems and they were helping but as soon as the offerings got low on my family's end they turned them away. I'm so sorry it took me this long to see how cold church clergy can be. At that time, I just couldn't believe it--I was too far in. Me, trying my darnedest to be the best Christian ever so that I can just enjoy life (Is that too much to ask of god?) decide that God is calling me to another church. I leave the baptist church of my youth and start attending a calvary chapel church. Everyone seemed so laid back and not legalistic, which I thought my former church was suffering from. I heard a sermon on spiritual warfare and desperately needing some help for the guilty voices that was plaguing my mind decide yes, this is the church for me. I feel at peace for a while, wait a couple of months to make my decision and then I make this church my new church home. Someone is already badgering me about joining a ministry, I haven't even gotten settled in yet. I never did well with the ministry aspect of church in any church. I always chalked it up to me having a rebellious spirit.
Only things I felt was uncertainty, fear and guilt-guilt about not doing all I can, guilt for not fitting in with lots of the other women in my church, guilt for not being able to tame my natural urges, guilt, guilt, GODDAMN guilt! I'm an artist, I love comics and action movies with blood and gore, I love the mars Volta, Nirvana, Rradiohead and all the other things that a church would deem carnal. I never felt lead to get into any ministry and whenever I did it was always forced.I just barely fit in anywhere...when it came to church. I start to feel safe enough to request Christian counseling again..bad idea. The assistant pastor, not even knowing my background--throws me into one on one counseling with this woman that's like three generations away from me age wise and I had a feeling in my gut that this was a bad idea. But did I listen to myself? Sadly, no. I felt like I should let The Spirit lead me. This was not a good experience. The lady lives alone--and I really don't think it's by choice. Have you ever heard of the gift of singleness? Is that something that was spoken of in your church? I've heard it, but I never met anyone that had it. I don't think this lady had it. At first she seems nice and sincere. I start to have hope that my mental and emotional anguish may come to and end. But all I got again was more guilt. "Patrice, I wasn't going to say anything about it but I really think you should mind your dress." "What?" She didn't approve of my shorts, I never had problems with how I dressed, neither did my mother or my father..the only problems I had with my dress were the problems that women in church told me to have.
That one session left me confused and just gave me something else to feel BAD about. I go to another session, "Well I used to have really bad headaches (guilty feelings) because I like to drink wine and enjoy a glass of beer. I don't know how to feel about this because I don't know if it's okay--I mean, it's not a sin to drink right? The pastor even said it's a part of our Christian liberties." "Well", she glares, "why do you need to drink?" "Well I don't see how that should be a question if you can do it." She then goes into this whole bizarre contorted explanation of how you will never hear the pastor endorse drinking (Is he god?) but I had clearly heard him say that it was a liberty (He still isn't god). Then this lady from the same congregation is confusing the hell out of me. She then explains how she likes white zinnfandel, so I say SO DRINK IT. She then goes into but I'm in leadership and I can't set a bad example, so setting a bad example I guess is being yourself. You can't be yourself if you're going to be an example to anyone. She then talks about how she was at a restaurant and ordered one and tried to put it into a regular glass so that it wouldn't look like a drink (it's still a drink). Then she said, "Well what if the waiter was Muslim, how could I witness to him? Or what if someone from the church walked by and saw her, what would they think?"
Your life, in that system is truly not your own. I'm slowly starting to dislike coming to counseling. The last straw came when I was talking to her about music. I LOVE music--and I used to feel so guilty going into tower records and never thinking about getting a gospel record. I remember buying one just to appease the guilt. I almost returned a Radiohead CD out of guilt. I never liked gospel. I never will. I explained to my counselor that I was confused about what I could and couldn't listen to. My best friend, who's still a Christian would tell me, "God will slowly take those desires away from you". He never did. And why should I want those desires to go away? Those things...are me. I told her how I liked The Mars Volta and for anyone who's a Mars Volta fan that may read this, you guys know how they feel about religion. I was even honest enough to tell her about them and their beliefs. I told her that they were my favorite band in the whole world. She said, it sounds like you're listening to something that god doesn't approve of. She told me how she has all these jazz CDs that she is trying to give away because they take her mentally and emotionally to bad places.
Being a Christian is just mentally tormenting and emotionally stifling. By the time she was done with me and that session, I was in tears and she just couldn't understand it. I never went to her again.
Those are some of the things that were floating around in my mind today. Most days are pretty good..some days are really confusing and I find myself trapped in my head questioning, is my deconversion my fault? Is there something I missed? I can't go back to that...it would be intellectual suicide and worse, I would be giving up on me. I'm not trying to put a time frame on when I can burst out with my FREE AT LAST moment, but I'm sure this is a normal phase.
...just done with religion.