The Hurtful Ways of the Ultra Religious

I could start ranting and raving right off the bat with just the thoughts the simple post title itself stirs up, but I want to make it clear and not hide who I once was and who I fight daily not to be. 

I, me, myself and I, was the ultra-religious person hurting others with my thoughts, beliefs and ideas, "built on the bible" beliefs, but really it was almost wholly my flavor or someone else's flavor of God, His word, etc.  Their own flavor of His love, Christ's love and how far it extended.   

I was the one.  In some way or another I did the things that I am about to describe to you here.  And little by little my intention is to make things right with the people that I have wounded and go back and attempt a sorry clean-up to the stinging mess that I have left in my long trail behind me.  As I can, I am denouncing, renewing, and asking for forgiveness from a long line of people.  I have achieved some of this process, but have much more to go and daily, daily, daily I need help from the true, loving, benevolent God to refute within me the sick habit of proping myself up above others.  Yes, some good ground has been covered, but I have so much more to go.

And here I am still connected with many people from my past, most of them coming out and stepping away from what they have known.  Some have jumped off the proverbial cliff in comparison with how they used to live the ultra-religious life.  And in many cases, there couldn't be a better life drop, literally falling to life, as fast as the speed of light, the light of the true, loving Christ. 

I recently went to a wedding reception of an older woman who I attended church with for almost ten years.  This lady was also a dean at PCC for many years before coming(or during) to the IFB church we mutually attended.  She spent many years being in church and working at the college, serving the youth in the church, being a pair of hands in whatever capacity she could.  Even though that was true, this woman always struck me as being very different than her counterparts in the church.  She wasn't married, didn't have children and held a job and lived on her own for years.  A woman like that attending a church where most of the women stayed at home with many children, homeschooled, wore long skirts, were keepers at home, etc.  She was out of the box.  She seemed rather unrattled by those conforming to the religious trends, she was independent from the influence it.  I never really knew her deeply in a full relationship, but I at least know that she has done "a lot for God" in the IFB circles and knew a lot of people and was a very dedicated person to helping people. I had lost touch with her, but would see her around town and she was always warm and friendly with me.  That spoke volumes to me. 

So she invited me to come to her wedding reception.

I came.  It was held at a small, country Assembly of God church.  And I thought, hmmm, I wonder why she didn't hold it at the church she was attending.  So, in the span of five minutes of walking in the door, I finally realized that she had married an Assembly of God pastor and he was the pastor of that particular country church.  The building was filled with his family and friends and I saw some of the ones there for her and I didn't see the people from her church or the college she worked so many years for.  I asked her if she inivited them and she said she did.

Where in the world were they?

SO, now I am making a bit of an assumption as I write, but really, it's not a far cry from the truth, I believe.

A conscientious, Spirit-filled, kind, giving woman married an Assembly of God pastor, who seemed like a great, kind, humble guy.  And to that I say, wonderful!  Yay for her!  This is what I can say now, but certainly couldn't say five years ago.  But truly, this is quite a leap from being in an IFB college and church for SO many years and I must say that the majority of the people and especially leadership from her former church/college she worked for certainly did not approve of her choice.  None of them were there, except for former members of the church and maybe one or two who dared to show up.  And the saddest thing?  The pastor of her former church was a mere ten minutes up the road from this small, country church.  Oh, I know, maybe he was in the hospital or ER with one of his kids, etc.  I'll give them that.

She was getting married to a great guy for crying out loud after all these many years of being sinlge and where were all these people who were her "friends", her "church family", those who have known her ALL those years over at PCC?

I'll tell you where they were.  Their love only extended so far.  Their friendship only extended as far as the close-minded, ultra-religious life would let them.  Sure, some couldn't make it for various reasons.  But so many couldn't make it?  SO MANY?  The people you have known and loved your whole life, the people you have dedicated yourself to helping and nuturing and supporting.   

And it hurts and it wounds and it tears at the hearts of the people it is directed towards and those who wound and hurt do so in their righteous indignation and full of some sick satisfaction or out of total ignorance that they are doing something good and right.  The aftermath, no matter the motivation, is sadly still the same.

It reminds me of the time my parents would not attend the baptism of their infant grandson.

And the religion has done it's damage and my brother and his wife haven't forgotten that to this day.

It reminds me of the times that I, me, I would not bother to engage myself with another because they were not like I was, because they did not think like I did or would not fall to my side on a matter.  ALL the times.

And these things, this disengagement from the whole of society, except for those like yourself, for fear of mixing in or giving approval of or for the building of your ever-growing, self-righteous plank, this ultra-religious thinking won't help anyone, it only hurts.  Trust me, I have tried it.  Most people will run away from you and the ones who stick around will live in your mutual bubble that grows and with its growth, the threat to pop and leave ruin in its wake ever increases.

And then a new bubble is made with new people to put in it, only to pop and leave ruin again.  And some could spend their whole life helping the people left behind in in the ultra-religious, unloving, spiritually fruitless aftermath.  Their. Whole. Life.    

Yeah, where were they?  I want to know.  Here is a woman who has always been there for them, where were they on this very special day?

And where will they be in the coming months and years?  Encouraged by the "leadership", as I have been in the past, not to enter into a relationship with those not like themselves and thereby, throwing their freethinking brain into the trash.

Sad reality. 

 

Eye Service as Men Pleasers

The desire to produce visible, measured good works plagues our souls night and day as Christians.  Well, I would say the desire plagues most Christians night and day.  And then there are some people who wake up excited and cheerful by imagining how much good they can accomplish during the day.  I wasn't even close to one of these kinds of people until recently and never consistently even now, of course. 

Going to church week after week, year after year for almost thirty years, yes, since birth has, I believe, thwarted God's true and total purpose for my life.  I have been put in my place for thirty years by various people, well-meaning and or, devisive, instead of being encouraged to find my real and true place in this world, to find my way with God.  With God, yes, with God. 

I could sing.  I loved to sing and at every turn I was being shoved up to the mic by others.  I was even told by one pastor from a church I attended in high school that he was the pastor and that he commanded me to sing a song that he picked out, that I did not like and did not want to sing.  I thought it was too worldly. Seriously.  I have been strongly encouraged and manipulated to do what others wanted me to do for so long, instead of being led to do whatever it was or wanting to do something out of a sheer passion and hunger for that particular act. 

Week after week, year after year, being poked and prodded to do better as a Christian did take its toll.  As much was spouted: we need teachers, we need helpers, we are running this event and that and we need help.  Come out to the church so we can count heads and go pass out tracks(pamplets that contain info on how to put your faith in Jesus for forgiveness of sins) to people who could care less.  Making meals for people you didn't want to make meals for, being involved with events that you didn't want to be involved in, following the church's pattern when it exhausted you and your family life.  There was nothing left.  You were so busy.  Choir numbers, solos, bus ministry, teaching, nursery(oh, let's not forget the nursery), visitation, children's church...these were the visible, charitable acts that got noticed and even applauded and awarded and rank and file promotions were given to those who "followed through". 

Eye service as men pleasers. 

What do I mean?  Well, I mean that this whole set up is certainly set up for failure and the isolation of God's true and misled people ensues daily when this mind set goes on uninterrupted by freethinking, stronger Christians.  Well, actually, freethinking people usually end up leaving such establishments.  What mind set am I speaking of?  The mind set that what we can see is what is pleasing God or the only thing that is pleasing God.  That measured, visible works are the only works. 

I have heard long diatribes in various, "Christian" circles by "Christian" leaders or from the sheeple about how there needs to be more workers or more people doing this, that or the other or how five percent of the people do a hundred percent of the work in the "church". 

Sheer nonsense.  Utter.

I read a quote this week and it said something like, the only way you can free your mind or put something in it is to keep it open.  Where in the world or in the bible does it say that we must live this kind of Spiritless life, living this way, with have-to's and must-do's and oh, look at me, look what I did today?  An act of ego building that comes from seeing so many heads together in one room to pursue what the leader thinks you should do that day?  I'll have none of it.  I'm totally done with that kind of life.  It's all so set up for complete and indefinite failure and discouragement of the body of Jesus Christ. 

Open your mind and consider the world as wide as an ocean and everything in it as varied and as different as it gets.  Let yourself imagine a world of God guiding each one of us as true and freethinking believers in Jesus Christ.  Come, let us reason together and fully contemplate the good that is going on endlessly and is never seen or noticed by the naked eye or very many of them at least. 

The extension of a mother's heart to her child privately and daily and even hourly as she nurses her baby.

The stop on a street corner to give a transient a cup of cold water in Jesus' name and encouraging word, "I know you can find a job!  You can do it!"

A private, anonymous monterary gift, not a tenth(He gave you everything), or a showy display of weekly giving.

A meal to a neighbor(you know and love your neighbors) who just lost a loved one.

The message of Christ given privately, quietly to someone God, Himself, led you to, someone wanting or ready to hear it. 

I could go on for ages.  Imagine living every day of your life like this...in the moment of listening to the Spirit of God speak to you directly.  Following your gut, that tool of direction inside of you...I believe it is the Spirit of God in the life of the true believer.  Don't go along just to get along any further.  Stop and listen.  Listen.

And Christ's kingdom has no end.  There isn't a list, just a leading.  And it could be anything and take on any form that pleases God in heaven.  A passion. A hunger.  A yearning.

And not someone else's, but your's.


  

    

Atheism Won't Heal You

I am not afraid of atheists.  I am sure atheists can be some of the most conscientious, giving and kind people on the earth or so I've heard and I really mean no condescension when I say that.  I don't deeply know too many atheists, but, frankly, I don't blame many of them for their stance.  I look at all the confusion in the world around me in the "Christian" or religious world at large and it is definitely enough to drive a person to drink or drive you deep into a state of never wanting to think about "Christianity" or religion of any kind ever again and all the blame for people and their stupidity gets put on God.  God takes the flack.
  
So many groups, people, ministries, churches, organizations have come in the particular name of Jesus, purporting their own thoughts as Christ's and have sat upon and squashed those who have followed their twisted teachings.  And, yes, I do believe that is most of what makes up this particular group of people, the Jesus follower category.  I have seen people leave "Christianity" or "church" or religion or Jesus to pursue atheism as a knee-jerk reaction to all they have endured in a severe, spiritually abusive environment.  And, yes, I truly believe that many atheists throw off anything God or Jesus because they have been invloved in some seriously tainted versions of who God and Jesus really are.

I don't blame them.  I don't agree with them, but I certainly don't blame them.  I was this close to becoming an atheist myself.  I was so sick of all that was put upon me in my religious world by others and by myself.  The pressure, the stress, the strain and constant doubt in my mind about teachings that seemed so off and not like God in any way, it was all just too much.  If anyone only knew what I went through to cause me to literally want to say there really isn't a God they wouldn't blame me either.  The pain was so unbearable.

Even during my short attempt to believe there was no God, I knew that atheism couldn't heal what was really broken inside of me, the part of my soul that was bent up into a pretzel at the command of others.  I had to chuck, purge and start completely over with God and yes, His son, Jesus Christ.  I threw out mostly all that I had been taught, I began to find out what He really wants me to believe for the first time and not what some other person wants me to believe.

And, you, whoever you are, who have been so lied to, controlled, manipulated and spiritually abused by so many, your parents, your siblings, your "pastor", your neighbor, yourself, I dare say so much of what has been preached or taught to you about who God is blantantly flies in the face of His true self.  Trust me, I also thought God was only my great, big judge in the sky, ready to pounce on me whenever I sinned.  I had to beg Him for forgiveness for every single transgression because that's how I thought He rolled.  Was He going to kill me if I didn't confess my sin right away?  I'm serious. 

Where did I get this stuff?

Somehow these thoughts were derived from my upbringing and the many years I spent under the teachings of others, who God is and what the bible said.

So, no, I don't blame atheists for being atheists in many cases.  I only wish to convey my deepest, sincerest thought that I believe there truly is a God and the one portrayed to you is not Him and never will be.  I truly believe there is a Jesus, the Son of God, that came to die for us and redeem us because He loved us.  And, yes, I believe that His sacrifice for the world on the cross in love for us is the real deal and I do believe it can heal the most wounded souls or any soul upon the earth.  The real and true Jesus I know can heal you.  He totally healed me and brought me back to a place where I desired to also know God better.  Get to know the real Him and, I assure you, everything you have been told or most of what you have been told about Him and His father just isn't true.

Atheism won't heal you, but I can't blame you for trying.        

The Great Web of Control

I wrote before that I attended an Independent Fundamental Baptist church for eight years.  During this time I experienced many different situations and settings that I would look back now upon and totally be awe in over.  The many ways that the people in this church were manipulated and controlled by those higher up or those who were "in charge" or who were the "better Christians" or who had been revered in front of the church as doing "their share"(works seen with the eyes and measured out by those among us) seemed to be never ending, subtle and also completely blantant. 

I remember one such occasion where the ladies of the church had met in a home for a time of fellowship and a scrapbooking 101, etc.  The session was over, we had our refreshments and now we were all in the living room chatting about various subjects.  As we were talking, a certain lady's name came up in someone's conversation.  This lady used to be a very recent "member" of our church at that time and had left and from what I could remember, not on bad terms and either way that shouldn't have mattered.  She had just given birth and had a very difficult time and a friend of hers who was still a member of our church had called and asked some ladies in our church if they could bring her a meal to help her out.  These ladies that were asked were now gossiping in depth about their being asked to bring a meal to a non-member.  "The nerve of her asking for help right after she leaves our church!"  I was completely appalled and stood up for the lady and her kind friend and said that I couldn't believe that they were acting in this manner. 

In the mean time, the pastor's wife is in the background giving me hand signals to stop speaking.  I guess in her mind I was being inappropriate and went too far in defending this poor former member who had a terrible delivery and her kind friend who was only trying to help her.  I didn't pay heed to her hand gestures and proceeded to talk and actually had a good conversation with one of the ladies who was speaking so ugly about this woman.  She was sorry she had said those things and agreed with me that we should help anyone in need that we can and not just "one of our own".

Well, the meeting was over and as I walked out to my car someone was waiting for me in the drive way.  It was the pastor's wife.  I thought, oh, boy, here we go.  She proceeded to scold me and tell me that what and when I said what I said was totally inappropriate and she wanted to know why I had not listened to her when she had signaled me to stop talking.  I told I could not tolerate that kind of gossip and that we ought to help all people and not just church members.  I felt like I was in the principal's office.  I didn't listen to this one acting like my mother, my principal, the police officer, the judge, oh, you get my drift.  I think she even alluded to the fact that she was the pastor's wife and that I ought to listen to her for that reason. 

No words about the uncharitable nature of the women's speech were brought up, only that I should be listening to her and how inappropriate I was. 

And all I can say now is beware of others coming in the name of "Jesus" who want nothing more than to control you, that want nothing more than to use their power over you, and try to manipulate and shut you up and down and all around.  Beware.  This web of control comes often with subtlty and many smiles and cordiality, but it remains the same, not theirs to dole or have or use or wield.  Not no way, not no how and the real Christ has nothing to do with sort of dictitorial control over others. 

If it feels oppressing it is.  If you feel controlled, you are.  If something is missing it is.  God gave you your gut...go with it when it comes to diciphering and escaping the great web of control over you.  Word up.