How fundamentalism sabotaged my life

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I recently picked up the book “I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing,” by Kyria Abrahams, from the library.

It’s a story about a girl growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, later to be “disfellowshipped.” I’m not particularly interested in reading about JWs but a snippet from the cover jacket caught my eye …

“… explores the ironic absurdity of growing up believing that nothing matters because everything’s about to be destroyed.”

And that resonated with me, because that’s pretty much what I grew up believing.

I wasn’t taken to particularly extreme churches as a child, but the groundwork was laid. And when I found myself cast out of my mother’s house after turning 18, newly married and out in the real world on my own for the first time in my life, that early conditioning took control.

I never finished high school. I was failed my senior year for handing out “Chick tracts,” and I didn’t go back. College was out of the question because the rapture would happen any minute, why waste time in class when I could be out “winning souls.” Not that — to my knowledge — I ever actually won any souls. Funny how constantly arguing with people about how wrong they are tends to turn them away.

Eventually I realized how insane I was being and quit. Quit everything to do with Christianity. In fact, I declared myself pagan. But by that time the damage was done. I was too busy earning a living to go back to school. I’d found myself a career that I was good at that didn’t require schooling (photojournalism) and I coasted on that for nearly 10 years.

Now here I am 31 years old trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. One thing I will be doing … living.

Exclusion

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Christianity today is a religion of exclusion, i.e. what we don’t do, who we exclude.

But reading the words of Christ it seems to me that he intended to create a faith of people who were inclusive. He said “Love one another,” and he lived it while hanging out with the “dregs” of society.

Christ came not to condemn (John 3:17) and told us frankly not to judge (Matthew 7:1), and yet Sunday after Sunday so-called men of God thunder messages of condemnation and judgement from their pulpits.

I think it is very important to note that Christ’s only recorded words of condemnation were aimed squarely at the religious leadership.

How have we as followers of this man fallen so far from the ideals that he taught?

I was impressed by a monologue found at the end of the movie “Chocolat;”

“I think that we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we create and who we include.”

Lay it down

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Laying down our “all.” Even for those who hate us.

Christ gave us that example to live up to. Most of us think of it in terms of dying for someone else. What if we think about it in terms of laying down our pride?

Quite a bit harder, it seems like.

Few of us will be asked to give our very life. But our testimony of Love is damaged every day because we refuse to lay down our pride.

It is human pride that leads us to declare; “We are right, you are wrong!” It is pride of the worst sort that compels us to damn people to an eternity of unimaginable suffering because they disagree with us.

Where do we humans get this insatiable need to be “right?” I’m more than guilty in this regards. I spent much of my adult life arguing right and wrong as it comes to religion, while ignoring what the religion was trying to teach.

Live life! Be good to one another! Love one another! How did we ever turn that into “you’re going to hell!”?

Faith is believing in something without knowing (Hebrews 11). How do we figure that we could ever convince folks of something we don’t know ourselves?

I have faith in Love. I  believe that Love could transform this world. But I’ll never convince anyone of that with words. I can only live it, and allow Love to transform me. And hopefully Love will infect those around me, and we can have a Love epidemic! 🙂

God is Love!

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