Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thoughts on Christianity Flame Wars... From a Jaded Ex-Fundamentalist

(Originally from Daily Kos)

OK. I must admit it. Even though I try to deliberately avoid the religion flame wars of late, I sometimes feel compelled to read a few of the diaries anyway. However, I'm nonetheless saddened by all this nasty infighting. It's really compelled me to open up and talk about a personal experience I don't always share too many details about.

Believe it or not, it helps me put into proper perspective all the flame wars here over Christianity and progressive values.

I grew up as a frightened, closeted gay kid in a scary fundamentalist church. I was constantly told I would go to hell if I were to live my life as the person I really felt I was. I tried to repress what I was feeling inside. After all, I knew how the church felt about "those wicked perverts".

You see, my family was part of no ordinary church. My mother was "saved" there, and she subsequently placed me in "Christian School" there. She listened dutifully to the wise pastors and did as they told her. But when I started to question what I was being indoctrinated "taught", she became very concerned.

She took me to pastors for brainwashing "counseling". She had friends pray over me to "remove the demons". At one point, she even removed me from school, had us fleeing from our own home, and then did the unthinkable: She hit me with her cane, then called the police and falsely accused me of attempted murder. County social services later removed me from my mother's custody, and my relationship with her has never been the same since.

Why, you ask? Why would a mother turn on her own child like this? The pastors at Calvary Chapel encouraged her to give me this "radical treatment" because I didn't conform to the church's "godly standard" of a typical straight Republican blindly following every command sermon given from the pulpit. And instead of recognizing my mother's mental health problems stemming from unresolved issues over her mother's death, they allowed her to engage in destructive "spiritual warfare" conspiracy theories that ultimately resulted to permanent division in my family.

Needless to say, I did not have a great church experience growing up. And though I tried and tried and tried again in my early college years (after coming out as gay) to rediscover Christianity, I ultimately found solace in Julia Sweeney's musings and allowed myself to let go of god.

So why am I not comdemning all churches and calling Christianity the greatest evil known to humankind? Let me explain.

In the last five years, I've come to experience another side of Christianity. When I still lived in Orange County, I found plenty of comfort in another Costa Mesa church... And attended LGBTQ community meetings at the local Irvine UCC.

And when I moved to that dreaded Sin City two years ago, I continued meeting new friends who I now call part of my family. Some of them are atheists, some of them are Jewish, some of them are Muslim... And yes, some of them are Christians.

One of the most important things I learned out of my painful Calvary Chapel experience is the constant need to think critically. And strangely enough, I see this lacking in the comment sections of far too many religious pie fights here at Daily Kos.

When I read this from commonmass...

I have a great deal of understanding about why some people are angry with religion in general, and Christianity in specific. It's not like we have a stellar record when it comes to human rights and other things most progressives hold dear.

However, in this day and age, some of us--Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, Lutheran and others--are standing up for human rights, including LGBTQ rights, standing up for the end of war, for a human, fair solution to issues in Palestine/Gaza, for a lot of things. We're working hard on social issues. We're committed to them. Jesus demands it.

We may not be "you", but we stand with you. We stand for peace, justice, love, equality, representative democracy, you name it. We--at least here on Anglican Kossacks--ARE you. We are us.

I knew what he was saying, because I've seen it in action myself. Just because we're all on our own respective spiritual journeys doesn't mean some of us are "holier" or "smarter" than others here.

Just because I found comfort in letting go of god doesn't mean my Christian friends and family are wrong in finding comfort in embracing god. Again, we're all on our own respective spiritual journeys. I learned the hard way the consequences of blind allegiance to one set of beliefs.

All I ask is that we remember to think for ourselves and treat others with respect and dignity when we discuss matters of faith.

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