Part Three: Rejection
HA note: The following story is written by lungfish, a formerly homeschooled ex-Baptist, ex-Calvinist, ex-Pentecostal, ex-Evangelical, ex-young earth creationist, current atheist, and admin of the Ask an Ex-Christian web page.
Also in this series: Part One, Introduction | Part Two, Isolation | Part Three, Rejection | Part Four, Doubt | Part Five, Deconversion | Part Six, Conclusion
“But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.” Romans 14:23
The doctrine of sin effectively maintains many Christians in a cycle of guilt and self denial that they cannot escape.
The Bible teaches that, whether a person is a believer or an unbeliever, everyone on this planet is a slave to sin. The Bible also teaches that a lack of faith results in sin – and sin results in evil and destruction in this world. In other words, evil exists in the world because of you. Destruction exists in the world because of your sin. People die of famine, disease, and natural disasters because your faith is not strong enough to avoid breaking God’s law. When this is the belief that you hold so closely, there is no choice but to drown in an unending sea of guilt – because, everything that causes sorrow and loneliness in this world, is your fault.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9
But there is a dangerous loophole to this doctrine: forgiveness is available to anyone who merely asks for it. A sort of “get out of jail free” card that can be played – no matter the enormity of the sin that may have been committed. So you ask for personal forgiveness with little concern for those whom your sin may have affected and you pray for strength to deny your own thoughts and biological functions so that you may not sin again. With effort, this denial of self can often be accomplished and the guilt may even subside – but it is always only temporary because you are fighting who and what you are as a human being. All of this traps a believer in a continuing swell of rising and falling periods of guilt and self denial. This emotional roller coaster comes at a psychological cost that Christianity refuses to acknowledge and often even considers beneficial to the individual’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ – because the pain that this cycle causes is Jesus himself forming and shaping you into a person closer to His likeness. And to be more Like Jesus is the ultimate goal of a Christian.
Battered Person Syndrome is defined as the medical and psychological condition of a person who has suffered persistent emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from another person.
When Battered Person Syndrome manifests as PTSD, it consists of the symptoms: (a) re-experiencing the battering as if it were recurring even when it is not, (b) attempts to avoid the psychological impact of battering by avoiding activities, people, and emotions, (c) experience of being constantly tense and the need to maintain an increased awareness of the surrounding environment, (d) disrupted interpersonal relationships, (e) body image distortion and (f) sexuality and intimacy issues. Victims of Battered Person Syndrome often believe that the abuse is his or her fault and the abuser is somehow omnipresent and omniscient.
This is often the effect that Christianity has on many of its followers and the effect it had on me.
“The righteous chooses his friends carefully: but the way of the wicked leads them astray.“ Proverbs 12:26
We began attending a large Evangelical church. I knew many of the youth at this church from the Christian school I attended when I was younger; but I had developed a social anxiety I did not have before. I don’t know if I was afraid that if I made friends again I would lose them again or if I had just become used to a lack of social interaction. But it did not really matter. Most of the youth’s parents would not allow me to be friends with their children because my father was not a Christian. A fact made painfully obvious by his absence from our pew each Sunday morning.
The thought was if we could not convert our father to Christianity, then there was something wrong with our own Christian walk.
I was told this straight to my face on multiple occasions. No one invited me to events that took place outside of church or youth group. I often saw everyone at the sledding hill or the ice cream shop, but no one ever called me to ask if I wanted to join and that hurt me in ways I would not admit to myself.
However, there was one who did accept me. He was the pastor’s son. We were once friends at the Christian grade school we attended and we managed to rekindle that friendship. Together, we became the youth group video production team. He as the camera man and I as the actor. We filmed many videos for the youth group and this gave me purpose. Eventually, he invited me to teach sixth grade Sunday school with him. I found that I had a talent for Biblical teaching. I believed that the Bible meant what it said and, therefore, needed no interpretation beyond that. I began giving long talks in youth Bible study about the meanings of Bible verses. This sometimes brought out sarcastic remarks towards me from the other youth. But my clear and direct approach to the Bible impressed my youth pastor and he suggested I get further training in seminary. We toured Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and I loved it. I began fabricating plans in my mind to become a missionary to third world countries.
After a fund raiser for the church, the pastor’s son, my only Christian friend at the time, informed me that he and his family were moving to Texas.
The church elders asked his father to resign as head of the church. They believed him to be too liberal and wanted the church to travel more in the direction of fundamentalism. I was devastated. He was the only Christian that accepted me and he was being removed from the church by the Christians that did not accept me. Soon after, I was asked to resign from my position as Sunday school teacher and replaced. When the kids asked me why I was no longer their teacher, I couldn’t answer them.
I did not want to cause these kids doubt by making the church look bad.
“But Peter and the apostles answered and said, we must obey God rather than men.“ Acts 5:29
I became lonely and after constant begging, my mother once again agreed to let me attend public school. I attended full time my senior year. I consider this the best year of my life. I made many friends; but, I was still afraid to let them get close.
Although I had never felt as accepted in my life as I had been among these unbelievers, my indoctrination still held me tightly.
I thought their influence was a danger to my Christianity and my eternal soul. I was often invited to parties and small get-to-gathers but I would never attend them. I wanted nothing more than to let these people in. I wanted to drink and talk about life with them more than anything I had ever wanted before.
I just wanted to be normal.
But I wasn’t normal; I was a child of God. These desires were merely a temptation from Satan and I was a pillar of Christian morality. I knew that people must look up to my morality, even though no one ever told me this. I thought that if I faltered even once, someone who looked up to me would be devastated. That person, who may be considering accepting Jesus, might decide the teachings of the Bible are a lie. That person would be sent to hell and I would be responsible. But I soon found this not to be true.
Halfway through the year, one of the kids in my neighborhood, whom I had reconnected with that year in public school, committed suicide.
I still do not know why. I thought myself a failure. I could not understand how he could not see hope in the Jesus that I strived so hard to be like. I attended his open casket funeral, but I trivialized the experience and repressed any emotional response. Losing people I cared about had become a normal occurrence. So, instead of mourning, I sunk even deeper into Christianity. I became more devout, I become stricter, and I began to verbally evangelize for the first time in my life. Christianity had emotionally shut me down and I coped with it by adopting even more fundamental views of the same doctrine – avoiding the reality of abuse by becoming more abused.
It was around this time, I befriended a girl at school. She showed an interest in Christianity so I invited her to church. I became closer to her than I had ever been to anyone else. I took her to a presentation by Kent Hovind at a local church. He talked about faith and science – connecting the two in a way that never gave my faith more validity. On the drive home, she told me of how interesting she found the presentation. The talk had given me a confidence in evangelizing I had never experienced before. I pulled the vehicle over and told her all the reason that I believed the Bible to be truth over any other religion in the world. I told her how we are born into sin, separated from God; but He sent his son to die so we could be with Him in heaven. Soon after, she accepted Jesus and I began a romantic relationship with her.
She began attending church with my family every Sunday and, eventually, I asked her to marry me.
To be continued.