I Thought I Was Okay

woman-is-whore-500x500I thought I had moved on, that the things that go on inside the Christian church had just become laughable to me, but I was wrong.  It wasn’t until I started researching Mark Driscoll, that I realized just how dangerous the Church is and how it is the perfect “sanctuary,” for destructive and evil men.  At first I though Mark Driscoll was just a ridiculous boob and really didn’t carry much weight in the Christian community.  Again, I was wrong.

As I researched this man and his deeds, it became too much for me.  I had had a pastor like him and all the hurt and character assassination that pastor Arturo Azurdia was and is responsible for came back to me in a torrent.  The similarities between the two men are stunning.  As I read stories written by some of the people left in Driscoll’s wake, I could not believe how they paralleled the stories of those left in the wake of Art Azurdia and Christ Community Church.  I was one of them.  No matter what these men and others like them do, they continue to stand.  Why?  Because they use fear of sin and fear of causing “division” and of “gossiping,” to control their flock.  They make you feel special to be brought into their inner circle and if you are there you had better shut the f**k up and go with the flow, or as Driscoll is quoted as saying, “You either get on the bus, or you’ll get run over by the bus.”  If you cannot be a yes man, you will be cast out in a way you never thought was possible and your so-called friends, in an effort to remain in that inner circle, will be the first ones to toss you overboard.

So, I’m scraping Pastor Driscoll off and moving on to better things.  Of course, if you want to know more, check out his newest book on marriage.  Go to amazon and read the reviews and the comments on the reviews–extremely enlightening. I just can’t write about him anymore, although there is plenty to say. Reading about him and his church and the poor, pathetic people who still blindly follow him, makes me feel sad, and angry, and helpless to stop people like him.  But, set you down this, as Shakespeare would say, someday that man is going to fall.  Something big is going to happen to Driscoll and unfortunately, it will probably be his loyal followers that will be the casualties, not him.  That’s the way it goes for “spirit filled” men of god. That’s the way it goes in the church of god.

 

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It Isn’t Personal

Itisn'tpersonal BO

As I’ve gone through some of my old posts and relived some of the ways in which family and friends responded to my de-conversion, one important thing emerged. Much of my suffering hinged on me believing that they were responding to me personally and I was somehow in the wrong–the damager, the bad person.

As I read the old posts, I was reminded of a book I read a while back, by Don Miguel Ruiz, entitled “The Four Agreements.”  One of his chapters, “The Second Agreement, Don’t take things personally,” was extremely insightful.   Ruiz writes, “Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”  As I considered that idea, it struck me, when someone responds in anger and fear it’s because of their anger, and their fear.  I wish I had been able to see that early on in my journey out of Fundamentalist Christianity.

When my sister screamed at me that I was going to Hell, I wish I could have responded in love, maybe saying “I know this is scary for you, but I’m still me” and then believed it.  When a Christian friend got mad and told me that she took it personally that I would no longer be in church worshipping with her, I wish that I had not taken on her insecurity as my own, feeling like the bad guy.  When my best friend told me that she hadn’t invited me to her daughter’s wedding because she was afraid to have me there because it was a Christian wedding, I should have been able to recognize the fear in her eyes as being fear of her own doubts, not of me personally.  If I had understood that then, I would have been able to walk away from those encounters feeling empathy, not like I’d just been punched in the sternum.

I’m not sure if seeing those and other situations through that lens would have changed the outcome of any of those relationships, but it would have probably eased the heartbreak and shame that I suffered at their words and would have helped me understand them better. As Ruiz explains that when people spew anger on you, “You eat all their emotional garbage, and now it becomes your garbage. But if you do not take it personally, you are immune in the middle of hell.”  I wish I had understood that then, because, man, I felt like I was in the middle of hell.

Back then, I took everything Christian family and friends said and did personally.  I really felt like it was my responsibility to make them understand, ease their fears and their anger.  I’ve come to realize that I can’t fix those things in others.  Their responses to me, at their core, were not about me and that gives me the freedom to exercise empathy and compassion.  Will I still take things personally?  Of course, but I hope less and less.  For a while I thought that getting pissed off instead of hurt was progress, but I’m beginning to see that the concept of “it’s not about me; it’s about them,” is going to have a much more positive impact on me and the people around me.

His Banner Over Me Is Shame

NoShameLogoI’ve been reading a great book by Brene Brown.  It’s entitled, “I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from ‘What Will People Think?’ to ‘I Am Enough.’” I saw a talk she did at a TED conference on shame and it was life-changing for me.  Shame is universal, but I believe that those who have been raised in Fundamentalist Christianity suffer from shame ten-fold.

Think about it.  Christianity teaches us that we are born in sin, actually sinful from the moment of conception (Book of Psalms); we have to reject things that are natural to us as humans, because they are deemed sin: Adam and Eve saw their nakedness and were “ashamed.”  The sad part is that even if Christians get their external behavior in check, there’s the whole omniscient thing—their very thoughts condemn them. If you’re a woman, well…forget it, I mean, our mother, Eve, brought sin into the world that condemned everyone, forever.  The Apostle Paul clearly stated that women were and are, “easily deceived.” That’s a heavy burden to bear, one that is riddled with shame. The Song of Solomon says, “His (God’s) banner over me love.”  It should say His banner over me is shame.  The Christian mantra:  Shame, shame, shame on all of us.

As with fear, Christianity uses shame to control its followers, but for all of Christianity’s efforts to control human behavior, in my experience, it has failed.  We see it in the news every day, with pastors, Sunday School teachers, and assorted good Christian people,  “falling from grace.”  Shame doesn’t work for the long haul.  Not only that, it is destructive.  Shame creates inauthenticity, and that inauthenticity is prevalent in the Christian Church.  I call it the Character of Christian deceit–something I will write more about at a later date.

Brene Brown could not have put it any better than when she wrote, “You cannot shame or belittle people into changing… Putting people on the “loser board” doesn’t work. Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.“  The Christian Church just buries people in shame, telling them that only Christ can change them.  They eat away at our resolve to change, so that the Holy Spirit can do it for us and, well, there is not Holy Spirit to take over and Christians are left weakened and shamed.

Up until recently, I never realized that at the root of many of my struggles, even to this day, is shame, shame that was instilled in me by my Christian parents, by pastors, Sunday School teachers, and Church doctrine, from the time I was very small.  It’s powerful and damaging, shame is.  Although I don’t think I will ever be completely free from it, I’m learning to recognize it for what it is and handle myself more compassionately.  As a Christian, I never had permission to do that. Also as a Christian, I could never been allowed to believe this:  It is simply up to us. It is us. We have to see the changes that need to take place within ourselves, changes that are unique to each one of us, and believe that we have the strength within us to accomplish those changes.  No religion, no god, no Holy Bible, and no shame thrust upon us.  Once humanity is able to grasp this, we will all live in a healthier and happier world.

My new mantra is this:  No shame, no fear, only empathy, love and kindness. Try it.