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Three strikes and Christianity is out for me

By mezzokitty ~

Well, the challenge for me is where do I begin with my testimony, such as it is. I was raised by a single mom in California who was angry all the time, and who had a serious substance abuse problem. To put it mildly, our family was dysfunctional.

In addition, my maternal grandmother was a devout Seventh-Day Adventist, and she did her best to bring us all back into the fold. Part of this belief system is that the Pope is the Antichrist, and that anyone who worships on Sunday has taken the Mark of the Beast. This became a serious issue for me when I was about eight, after I had come home from a sleepover with one of my best friends from school. My friend’s family was Catholic, and had taken me to Mass with them on Sunday morning. I was fascinated with the pageantry in the church, the ceremony, and the kindness that people showed me. It was the opposite of what I considered to be the boring Sabbath services and foot-washing ceremonies I had attended.

When I got home, Mom and Grandma were at the kitchen table and they asked me how the weekend went. Excited at all I had heard and seen over the weekend, I told them what we had done – and then capped it off by saying I wanted to be a Catholic so I could spend every Sunday morning with my best friend.

My grandmother’s immediate reaction reminded me of that scene in The Exorcist where the little girl’s head spun around and stuff began coming out of her mouth. It was that bad. I was sent to my room for the rest of the night, and later my mother told me not to ever mention anything like that again, nor could I see my friend anymore. Grandma was convinced that my friend and her family had taken the Mark of the Beast and she was concerned for my eternal soul. It was then that I began asking what kind of God would condemn anyone who was friendly and kind? Strike one!

Fast forward about 12-15 years. I was married to a good Christian man. At least it was a marriage in the legal sense, until he began drinking and abusing me physically and verbally. By that time, we had three kids and were attending an evangelical church. When I went to the pastor to ask for help, he told me to pray and submit to my husband instead of calling the police. That ended when he beat me viciously in front of my children while he was in a blackout state. I took the kids, fled, and stayed with my mother until I could get it together enough to start over as a single parent.

For the first time in my life, I went to secular institutions in the community to get the help I needed because nobody in the church would help me. Their view was that I was going to hell for having the audacity to leave my husband and seek a divorce, and they could care less whether my kids and I had enough to eat or a safe place to live. As far as I was concerned, we already were in hell. To me, hell is a place where self-righteous people create God in their own image, judge others by their standards, and change the rules as they see fit. Strike two!

The end finally came in early 2003, during the run-up to the disastrous war in Iraq.The end finally came in early 2003, during the run-up to the disastrous war in Iraq. My second husband and I had started attending an evangelical church (hell, I’m a believer in second chances) when the pastor got up and started going on and on about how George W. Bush was God’s man in the White House, and how we needed to go along with supporting what they called his mission in the Middle East regardless of what we thought about violence and war. As someone who was active in the peace movement, I found this pronouncement from the pulpit appalling and I ran out of the sanctuary and waited in the car for him. Then, I told him I wasn’t going back to his church. Ever. Our marriage lasted another eight years before we ended it. Strike three! I’m outta here.

Other things have occurred that have turned me off to this belief system, more recently the unquestioning and unqualified support of evangelicals for the current resident of the White House. In addition, after my kids grew up and moved out I began attending college. My initial motive was to secure better employment than I could get with a high school diploma, but along the way I began reading about the ways people who were not white, male, or Christian were treated by the dominant culture. Slowly, I began to realize that religion has been used as a bludgeon against people, and has been used to justify ills like the subjugation of women, child abuse, slavery, corporate greed, environmental degradation, and efforts to subdue and exterminate indigenous peoples. I also began questioning why people’s interpretation of “God’s will” so frequently aligned with their own ambitions and desires, and others be damned.

So, I walked away from religion and all of its strikes. Currently, I am in a loving relationship with another ex-believer, am making a career change into work that is satisfying for me intellectually and emotionally, and see myself as spiritual, rather than religious. While I don’t have all the answers, I find a lot of freedom in not being tied to a narrow, negative belief system. To me, each of us has a spirit that can exist and express itself anytime, anywhere, and by any way that we choose, whether through meditation, creative expression, self-care or voluntary service that comes from a good heart and a genuine desire to make our world a better place to live, rather than out of a desire to score brownie points in heaven by converting someone else to a dead faith. Instead of an awesome god, we have an awesome choice.


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