CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.
Scripture talks about the great sower sowing the seed of the word of God.
When I look at my journey away from fundamentalism, I see that same sower preparing the soil of my heart in preparation for that “lightbulb” event that set me free from fundamentalism.
The great sower began preparing the soil of my heart before I was born.
On Mom’s side, I am descended from Anabaptists, Quakers, and other free thinkers. Mom grew up in a Grace Brethren church that encouraged its members to study the Bible, and when she became an adult, she did. The more she studied scripture, the less she wanted to go to church.
On Dad’s side, most of the fathers were either absent, sick, or died young. Both his maternal grandparents were illegitimate, a fact his mother concealed. Eight years after her death, I learned the truth, and it helped set me free from the purity culture.
How could I breathe fire on fornication when I would not have been born had it not been for fornication?
In addition, the story of how my paternal grandmother’s paternal grandmother basically died of a broken heart after the father of her baby paid a fine and fled seized my heart and has not let go.
Mom and Dad were engaged the day Jim Jones murdered* hundreds of his followers in Guyana. In processing the tragedy, Mom noticed how Jim Jones’ followers had blindly followed him and decided that it was dangerous to blindly follow religious authority. Partially as a result, I grew up knowing that it was okay to question religious authority.
As I grew up, I began dislike religious authority aside from the knowledge that it was okay to question them. The pastors I knew were heartless, arrogant, lazy, fake, and distant. They only seemed to care for us if they wanted something. Dad is a genius with his hands, and the only time any of the “men” in the churches he attended took any notice of him was to get him to do something.
Growing up, my family never fit in church and the homeschool community because Dad is not a leader and was not involved with my brothers and I spiritually or educationally. I desperately wanted to fit in, to belong. Besides, the outside world scared me.
According to everything I heard and saw from the religious community, the only way for a woman to do that was to be a wife and mother.
And being a wife and mother would protect me from that scary world.
The year I turned 18, my older brother left the GARBC Baptist church my family was part of, and I followed him to his new church. Then Mom left the GARBC Baptist church, and Dad refused to attend without her. Several weeks later, a series of circumstances forced older brother to work on Sundays. Without a driver’s license, I had no way to attend church.
Even when I did get my driver’s license nearly a year later, I refused to attend church because I did not think organized religion was Biblical and I was hurting from previous bad church experiences. For three years, I refused to attend church.
In those three years, without me realizing it, an amazing thing happened.
My walk with Christ became something I wanted to do, vs something I was expected to do. My faith grew far more in those three years than the 18 before them.
A desire to be part of a community drove me back to church.
In the years that followed, I had one bad church experience after another.
In addition, I was struggling to find a career and live the unexpected life of autism, singleness and childlessness. During that time, without me realizing it, God was releasing fundamentalism’s grip on me.
Finally, in 2010, I asked God in desperation to either give me a husband or make me content to be single.
God gave me contentment to be single and much more. Via J Lee Grady’s books 10 Lies the Church Tells Women and 25 Tough Questions About Women and the Church I was introduced to the egalitarian truth along with some blogs God put into my path. Because of God’s careful preparation of my heart, it was truth I joyfully received.
Yet I was not fully convinced.
Every year, I read through my one year Bible. At the beginning of 2011, I decided to write down every reference I could find regarding women to see what the Bible really said about women. On July 29, 2011, I read Rom 11:29: “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable”. The verse hit me like a rock between the eyes. I had seen how some women had the gifts of teaching and leadership while some men did not.
That verse showed me that God would never give a woman gifts and callings he did not expect her to use.
I felt like a bird set free.
I was every bit as valuable to God as a single, childless woman as a married with children woman!
I had a voice in the church and could be a church leader! It was okay to be assertive and independent!
Later in 2011 I said my final goodbye to organized religion. I could not find it in scripture and could not endure feeling like a freak and misfit in church because of being single, childless, and autistic.
Today Christ and women’s equality are my top passions in life. I still suffer from the scars of fundamentalism, but they are nothing compared to what family members and others are suffering from it.
Despite the struggles, I have much to be grateful for.
One of those blessings is being set free from fundamentalism.
*Contrary to popular belief, most of those who died at Jonestown were murdered and did not deliberately commit suicide.