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Preacher Son, Black Sheep.

By JB ~

When I was three years old, my father, who was a violent drunk, became a Christian. The night he was saved by his bedside, he tore through the house, throwing out anything and everything he felt would be displeasing to god, including his porn collection and the television. My mother soon followed suit and accepted god three weeks later.

We began attending a Nazarene church, where I was baptized and my father felt the "call" to the ministry. Within a year we moved miles away from our hometown and my father began pastoring his first church. He worked third shift and went to Bible College during the day; the only time he and I interacted was when he would beat the crap out of me for any and all infractions my mother had deemed sinful throughout the day. And this was in addition to the abuse my mother handed out. My parents put on a good front within the church walls and when socializing with church people, showing stern love and kind correction, but at home it was another story.

Being the firstborn son of three, and the only child who was born before the conversion of the parents, I was the one piece of the past they could not leave behind when we departed the hometown of their previous years of sinfulness. I felt unwanted, treated as if I was a product of their dirty past, beaten at times to the point of bloodiness; I believe they wished to rid themselves of me, and since they weren't about to commit murder, they did the next best thing. Many times I wound up in the emergency room to be stitched up from a "fall" or an "accident"; I still bear facial scars today from these occurrences.

When I was five my brother was born. From his grand entrance into the world and our family, he was treated like the god child, the product of two parents who had left the old life behind. He was coddled, loved, protected, and doted over. I was neglected except when my parents needed an outlet for their pent up rage, all the while claiming "sanctification", a second work of grace which supposedly rid one of the carnal natures. I don't think it rid my parents of anything, because all I ever knew was rage and hatred. It seemed everything I did was labeled a "sin", and I was treated as if I were sin incarnate.

As time went by, I learned how to stay out of their way, how to pretend to be someone I wasn't, how to hide in places I couldn't be found, how to escape within my imagination. Since there wasn't much attention paid to me if I was quiet and made myself scarce, I devoured books like candy. They gave rise to my childhood imagination, took me to worlds that didn't include abuse or neglect. I fell deeply in love with words, with the feel of turning pages in my fingertips, the slight musty smell of the old library in my neighborhood.

At the age of ten my youngest brother came along, my parents later admitting he wasn't planned for, and crowned a "miracle child". Along with my middle brother the "golden child", both were treated with tenderness and ease, fawned and fussed over. I watched as my brothers received the love and affection I knew nothing of, and I became even more withdrawn.

By the age of twelve, when a child's imagination begins to wane in favor of adolescence, I began finding new escapes in the form of drugs. Anything I thought would give me a "high" was fair game. I stole pain pills, cold medicine, huffed paint and whiteout until my head floated above the din of physical and verbal abuse, until I no longer cared for the love and affection from my parents that would never be mine. At fourteen I began drinking, rebelling even more against the double lives I watched my parents living, against this "god" they served, against the claims of so called "change" they showed to the outside world.

Years later, when I was old enough to leave home, I did with a fury, delving more and more into the darkness of the world, running the streets of night with the dregs of society where I felt more accepted and at home than I ever had within the church or my own family.

I am now in my forties, looking back on a life of severe addiction, drug abuse, alcoholism, living for the next escape. Two years ago I hung myself, believing if this was all life offered, I wanted no part of it anymore. But I survived, and here I am, almost nine months sober, my longest consecutive period of sobriety since I huffed paint as a young teenager.

My father is still a pastor; he and my mother no longer speak to me. They claim there was never any abuse, that I've made it all up in order to defer blame and avoid responsibility of my actions, though I willingly bear the weight of my choices. I've made apologies and asked forgiveness, and though they claim to have forgiven, they shun me as if I were a leper, the same as they did when I was a child.

If there is a hell, it isn’t reserved for people like me. My two brothers went on to become good men with families and careers, solid in personality and belief. My middle brother followed in our father's footsteps and became a pastor...and here's another kick in the teeth....he is head of Celebrate Recovery Ministries at his church, yet just like my parents, he doesn't speak to me or want anything to do with me. He deals with people just like me in his day to day ministry, but refuses to speak to his own brother.

This is just a touch on the life I've lived and all I've experienced. I will never accept or have anything to with a god who is served by people who act holier than thou, who treat their own flesh and blood like a pariah, who live double lives. I have very few people I am close to, one or two who believe in god but know not to try and shove it in my face. Yet from time to time, in the midst of deep discussions, they will interject that god is love, that he is nothing like what I experienced. I still want nothing to do with their god.

I do not see how I will ever believe anything other than the refusal to accept such a god. The claim of “love” simply does not compute in my heart and mind. Every claim of faith I hear rings hollow, without merit. The endless contradictions of Christianity grow by the minute, and like sheep, dumb and stupid, the masses follow blindly, secure in their beliefs, refusing any sane intelligent debates or arguments contrary.

If there is a hell, it isn’t reserved for people like me. It’s got a waiting list centuries long for the hypocritical morons like my parents and brother, who live double lives as followers of a hollow god.