Because Flickr is Being Even More Durrrish Than Usual
A completely inoffensive post, except possibly for the jokes about drunk babies

Class of '96

I just sent in a check and RSVP card for my 10-year high school reunion. I have no idea why I'm going.

A couple months ago, Dooce wrote very eloquently about why Big Love makes her, as an ex-Mormon, uncomfortable. Oddly enough, the very next Sunday, The Sopranos featured a go-nowhere storyline about a fundamentalist Christian pastor visiting Tony in the hospital while on a break from a protest about pharmacists being forced to dispense birth control pills. Tony expresses concern about dispensing Viagra, correctly drawing the line from point A to point B in the drugs-that-have-to-do-with-S!-E!-X! spectrum. The pastor smiles and tells Tony that he’d never have to worry about Viagra, because of procreation-blah-blah-blah-double-standard-cakes. He then attempts to witness to Tony and get him to accept Jesus into his heart.

The whole scene unnerved me like crazy. I had to leave the room.

I grew up in the fundamentalist evangelical Christian church. I was a born-again Christian. I went to private Christian schools my entire life. And I was into it. 

Every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night were spent at church, no matter what, and my weekends were filled with at least one youth group activity. I didn't have any non-Christian friends. Instead of Girl Scouts I attended Pioneer Girls.

I attended pro-life rallies with my parents. I thought homosexuality was a sin. I thought Rush Limbaugh was funny when he called women feminazis. I thought environmentalists were stupid. Global warming was a hoax. I believed in an extremely literal interpretation of the Bible and Creationism. Carbon dating was a conspiracy. I didn’t think you could go to heaven if you voted Democrat.

My sex-ed class taught us that it was possible to get pregnant from dry humping and women could only achieve orgasm when there was a penis present. (A penis you were MARRIED to, by the way, because YOUR CLITORIS WILL KNOW.) 

(Actually, I don’t think they covered that part of our anatomy, as I vividly remember turning to a boyfriend while watching Monty Python and asking him "What's a clitoris?")

I had a raging eating disorder, a compulsion to hurt myself and enough guilt to put an entire Catholic catechism class to shame. I got bent out of shape at sleepovers when my friends wanted to watch Dirty Dancing, but was myself a virgin mostly on technicalities. 

I never drank or smoke or did drugs until after graduation (when I promptly started doing all three, in a single night), living instead on a few emotional highs on teenage youth retreats where they basically made us sing praise songs over and over, standing up, on empty stomachs, until the oxygen supply to our brains ran low and the endorphins raged and suddenly everybody was crying and rushing to the altar to be reborn-again-again or confess their darkest sins and promise to never let their boyfriend feel up their shirt again.

I don't know why I’m going to this reunion. I don’t even know why I'm writing this. These words will sting and sadden members of my family and my fingers are shaking just from dredging up the memories.  I'm sure I'll get all kinds of hatemail and tracts about damnation and hellfire in my PO Box. 

Don’t bother. I've seen them all. I used to give them out myself.

My dad was diagnosed with cancer when I was in the ninth grade, and people at our church told us that if we had enough faith, God would heal him. Although radiation eventually sent the cancer into remission, I always blamed myself for not having enough faith to simply pray the tumor away. 

One of the graduation requirements at my high school was a mission trip. Our class decided to go to Jamaica and build a church. Which...great. Because if there's a group of people with 5,000 extra dollars lying around, it's broke-ass high school students who are trying to figure out how to pay for college in the fall.

I was a financial aid student to begin with, and had let my guidance counselor talk me into an expensive private Christian college in the Midwest that my family couldn't afford. ("Faith!" He told me. "God wants you to go there, and He will provide!") (Guess what: He didn't.)

So I (along with a bunch of other students) respectfully asked to be excused from the Jamaica trip. There was quite a lot of anger from the teachers planning the trip, for reasons I still don't get, and it was only after much protest that a second, local trip to clean up a homeless center in the west Kensington area of Philadelphia was planned.

I was sitting behind two teachers on the bleachers in the gym one day and heard them discussing the t-shirts they were having made up for the Jamaica students. 

"They look great," the one teacher gushed. "The Philly trip kids are gonna be so jealous."

"Well, it's not our fault they didn't have enough faith to raise the money," the other teacher snotted back. 

I grabbed my books and hauled ass off the bleachers, glancing back just long enough to see the OH SHIT expressions on their faces before I scoured the halls for a fellow second-class missionary to immediately report what I'd just heard. NOT HAVING ENOUGH FAITH. The ultimate Christian insult. The Biblical equivalent to flipping the bird.

45 minutes later I was being screamed at by one of the teachers in front of her freshman study hall students. She called me a liar and a gossip and a troublemaker. She started to cry because she was NOT GOING TO LET SOMEONE LIKE ME TAKE AWAY FROM GOD'S WORK. She talked about what a good Christian girl I used to be and started saying things about the devil.  I stared straight at her and didn’t flinch as she hurled insults at me. I narrowed my eyes and smiled, which sent her off on a new tirade of Crazy.

She finally calmed down and asked me if I had anything to say to her. She waited for my apology. I smiled and said no. I saw her draw herself up with rage and honestly thought for a split second that she was going to hit me. I sometimes think she would have if it hadn't suddenly occurred to her that there were other people in the room, staring at her with their mouths wide open. 

We all went on our respective trips. I cleaned up hypodermic needles in the yard outside the shelter and gave the children's play area a fresh coat of paint. We wrote papers about what we learned and how we served God and how the trip prepared us for being Christians in the real world. I wrote that only thing I learned was that Christians can be real assholes to each other.

I wonder if that teacher is coming to the reunion.

I don't keep in touch with anyone. I didn't have too many close friends there anyway. I was a huge goody-goody dork for most of my time there, and then became the mouthy gossip who hated the school and everything it stood for and every person there by senior year. I started eating again and got an after-school job where I learned to swear and found that non-Christians were really fucking easy to get along with.  I was in a car accident on my second-to-last day and barely made it to graduation. I left the Christian college after one overpriced semester when my dad's cancer came back, but I'd pretty much decided that it wasn't for me anyway. It was just like my high school, and I was fucking done with my high school.

But today, some of my former classmates seem like really cool, balanced people that I could probably be friends with now. Some of them read this site. Some of them married their high school boyfriends. Some of them had babies instead of going to college. A lot of them still go to the same church and live in the same towns where we grew up, while some of them couldn't move far enough away. The one girl I spoke to on the phone still said "oh my gosh" and I remembered how saying "oh my god" would get you detention.

Part of me envies them for still being so sure of everything that I once held dear. Another part of me wants to run screaming from the room. Another part is only going to the reunion for the cash bar and the schadenfreude. And one last small part wants to wear shoes that cost more than their mortgages.

I'm still bitter as hell. I'm still mad as hell. And I'm still totally afraid of going to hell.

Last summer, when I was pregnant, Jason and I decided to find a church. For Noah. For baptism and Sunday School and…I don't know. A moral compass we're afraid we can't provide because of the all-or-nothing approach to religion we grew up with.

(Jason's religious upbringing was, if anything, even crazier than mine, except he attended the evil public schools.)

We found a church we liked and attended for several Sundays. I remembered all the words to all the praise songs and all the prayers and found that I still know the order of the books in the New Testament. The church seemed alive and vibrant and accepting. We contemplated becoming members and volunteering in the nursery and they sent us free coffee mugs.

Then one Sunday, the pastor started talking about the next week's guest speaker. A young minister who was delivered from "sexual darkness and confusion" to "sexual salvation." 

Jason and I took one sideways glance at each other and got up and left. We never went back.

I'm not an atheist. I'm not even an agnostic. I still believe in something. I believe in God, but not in His people. I don't believe in the intolerant and legalistic bullshit that goes on in His name.

The word "Christian" carries so much baggage for me I almost bite my tongue every time I say it. I wish I knew how to fix that. I wish I could say the word with pride instead of rushing to clarify that I'm not like THOSE Christians.

I'm not the Christian I once was. But when you're taught that's the only type of Christian who counts, you can't help but wonder if you're actually nothing at all.

Comments

Zoot

Great entry, Amy. You've hit the nail on the head in describing some of my life (12 years catholic school) as well. It kinda made me sad to think about how our parents tried so hard to do the right thing, sending us to schools like that...they thought they were doing what was best, didn't they?

betti

good grief, I swear you took/borrowed half my memories of parochial school while you wrote this post. (Oooooooh and I graduated in '96 too . . .) How wierd would it be for a "love Jesus but can't stand most of his followers?" denomination to develop? Would they meet, or occasionally send each other postcards?

Trace

Guilt... the gift that keeps on giving...

This must have been hard to write, self therapy generally is, I do it every day. But it helps. I hope this post helped you.

I am sorry you grew up with intolerance. I want to hug the little girl you were and tell her that everything will be ok. It just may take awhile and be a tough journey.

Bravo Amy. You are so very much more than "nothing at all".

Jess

Non-Sequiter: (mainly because I can't identify with an upbringing that doesn't glorify The Sex)I learn everything I know from CSI, and it seems that it actually IS possible to get pregnant from dry humping, because sperm are powerful little swimmers. Doc Robbins (the coroner) prefers to call it Frottage, which I hope becomes the term they start using in schools, because it's just fabulous.

mizburd

I can imagine how difficult it must have been for you to write such a powerful post. I was shaking as I read it, and my religious upbringing wasn't even all that strong.

Amy

Great post. But one question: will they really have a bar at this reunion? I can't believe that a bunch of holy-rollers like that would even be drinkers! :)

P.S. Have you ever checked out Beliefnet? Its a great site for learning about different faiths, and the quiz on beliefs, which then matches you up with religions most closely aligned with your beliefs, is wonderful.

P.P.S. Not all "christian" faiths are like the one you describe. I am Presbyterian (and attend and was married at this church, famous from many movies: www.fourthchurch.org), and find that its beliefs -- tolerance, acceptance, and do good unto others -- fit well with mine.

Tara

Wow. Just, wow. Thanks for writing this post--it makes me feel less alone in my distrust of organized religion. I want to raise my son with a sense of faith, but I don't want him exposed to the judgment/intolerance/hatred of other religions, other lifestyles, etc. that many churches seem to propagate, whether overtly or under a candy coating.

I haven't found any answers yet, haven't found a place of worship that I feel comfortable in or that resonates with my personal beliefs, but I'm still looking. In the meantime, I know I don't have to be in a church every Sunday to have faith.

ashley

that was the best post ever in the whole entire world.

susie

For the tution our parent's sacrificed, we were slighted a real private school education. But if I left with any smarts, it was to not be like those people.
They exist everywhere, in every religion. They were particularly potent there for some reason.

Let it go.

What is it worth to hang on to a negative part of your past that still wells up such intense emotions? God is so much bigger.

One word. Grace.

Um, and when were you a dork? Weren't we all? Are not all kids that age? Even the beautiful, tan ones on Laguana Beach. So easy to look at, but only entertaining because they are such dorks.

I can't wait to see you.

If that teacher is attending, I will kick her for you.
We must protect your shoes.

Stephanie A.

My husband and I consider ourselves agnostic. We're very understanding and cool with all religions. Recently, though, a really good friend of my husband's "re-found God." This has been a challenge for us because he is always trying to convert us and is telling us that there is absolutely no way to have a moral compass without religion. My viewpoint is that if you need religion to keep you moral, you really have more problems than God can tackle.

Looking at the standards he (and others like him) has set for himself and those in his life, I can't stop thinking about what an exhausting life that must be.

TB

As a recovering Fundamentalist Christian, I can relate to every word of this post. Except I was never into it, I was forced by my parents until I called bullshit on it and refused to go to church and begged to be put in public school in the ninth grade.
The hardest thing for me now is to believe that anyone who calls themself a Christian is not a hypocrite and sincerely believes and follows the teachings of the Bible. It's mostly my issue because I know there are wonderful people out there who find peace and strength in their Christian beliefs, but being around them is still just too difficult for me after everything that I experienced.

LCA

I grew up around super-Christians. I never exactly was one, but it was only about a year ago that I stopped identifying as a Christian at all, and it was such a freeing act. I've always taken spirituality over religion. And I've always loved that Anne Lamott quote: Religion is for people who are afraid of hell. Spirituality is for people who have been through it."

That said, the main reason for commenting is to thank you for mentioning your disordered eating. I've struggled with that for years, and it's so encouraging to see someone as wonderful as you are come through it alright.

bad penguin

You've pretty much nailed everything that makes me uncomfortable about organized religion -- the hypocrisy, the narrowmindedness, the judging and most particularly the attitude toward women. Of course, my resentment of religion is also tied up with my resentment of my dad's craziness, which is (mostly) Christian based. You have no idea how many bibles that man has given me.

Truly, an excellent post.

ccj

I really appreciated reading such a sincere post. Thank you

andy

Dude, I like that you said that. I think it's a shame that this stuff happened to you.

But, I think it's sad that people let bad experiences with certain misguided groups turn them off so much. I know that if I was mugged outside a store that I would be afraid to go back, and I get that whole thing. I was a lot more put-off by some of the comments too, because people have bad experiences and then hate everyone who is "churchy". What's up with that?

Sorry to be mr. downer, you're cool. I understand, from reading your story, your pain/struggle with church. I just think that some of your peeps up in here are so fast to throw stones, that I wanted to let them know that they hit someone. Keep on, dude.

Amy

Thanks for writing such a sincere post; it must have been difficult. Just wanted to say that if you ever feel like trying a church again, you should look into the Episcopalians (disclaimer: that's my brand) or Lutherans. My Episcopal church is open to and welcoming of all (one of our priests is gay and in a 13-year relationship) and encourages us to think for ourselves. I was raised Catholic but have found this to be a much better spiritual home for me, and I love telling people about it, because hey--not all Christians believe that Adam and Eve had dinosaurs for pets and that homos are hellbound. :)

Again, great post, and thanks for sharing this...

Paula

WOW.

Pam

It couldn't have been ALL that bad of a place if you're having alcohol at your reunion, now could it? Having grown up in a Christian school in the same county you lived in, I'm DYING to know what school you went to since I'm familiar with all of them. You're six years younger, but I'm sure our schools played each other in sports and all that and I know you didn't go to the school I went to......just tell us the initials....FB? PCA? UB? Pretty please? :) I came out of my Christian school experience unscathed - definitely unhappy with certain elements of it, and my children will be going to Christian school, but the things you wrote about are exactly the kinds of things I will be watching for in my children's Christian school experience. Your experience and interpretation of Christians is uncharacteristic of what the majority of Christians are like (at least the ones in my life) and reading your post and these comments makes me sad :(.

Elizabeth

Wait, I thought you and Jason belonged to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, non?

But seriously-- you spoke for many people in this brave post-- how the hell did you break free from that headspace?!! And? You are better than most to want to go back and see everyone at the reunion--

lisa

THIS is why I will never send my children to a Christian school. I am a Christian (and a liberal, tree-hugging Democrat) and I get so sick of other Christians dicussing the evils of the public schools. I went to public schools and have worked in them for 4 years and yes, some shit goes on here that I wouldn't necessarily want my children involved in. But a teacher in a public school will NEVER tell my child that he or she is going to hell or tell that child that it's ok (or even morally superior) to hate any group of people. I grew up going to school with kids of different ethnicity, religious background, socioeconomic status, and ability level and I think it enriched my life and allowed me to grow up without the us-them mentality that Christian schools tend to foster.

Amanda

OH MY GOSH... this is a great post... go to the reunion you may be surprised.
I was raised in a Seventh-day Adventists(father) and a Christian Scientist(mother) home. So I always considered myself a Seventh-day Scientist.
I didn't eat pork or shell fish (do a bit now) and I had a hard time taking medications and going to the doctor growing up knows most of it was in my mind or could be fixed with prayer. Now that I have seen the good and bad my folks have with their upbringing we raise our son with faith and respect and we will let him decide what path he wants when he grows up. (we had him baptized Catholic like my husband but they aren't practicing.

Religion is NEVER an easy subject… something I am fearful of talking about on my blog… I am as of now a faithful reader!

mothergoosemouse

Courageous post.

I can't relate to the fundamentalist Christian upbringing personally, because I have always been a heathen - no religious training whatsoever. But being atheist/agnostic/just plain confused has its pitfalls as well.

What really struck me was the part about praying for your father when he was ill. My husband was raised as a Christian Scientist, and I know he has gone through hell coming to terms with the illogic of CS and being honest with his parents about his atheism.

It's incredibly difficult to reject beliefs that are near and dear to people who are near and dear to you. Just as I admire Kyle for doing so, I admire you as well.

I think you will need to post a picture of the shoes you choose.

Nikol

Thank you for writing this.

And...

My 10 year reunion is also this year. I don't know if I want to remember.

Colleen

Awesome post!

Carrie

I totally understand what you are saying. The church we go to now is a part of the Evangelical Free Church and every time I say (or type) that it makes me all nervous and twitchy. Because of people like the ones you've described, there's such a stigma that is associated with Christians. And I hate it because I love my church now. I wish there was some way to fix it too, but for every person that realizes legalism isn't the way to solve things, there is about 500 that believe it is. Craziness.

Great post.

Lori

Another Delurker responds:

Based on the number of comments on this one, this is a very common American experience. Me too. I am now a card-carrying athiest and studying to become an anthropologist, largely because of experiences like this.

I just want to say one thing: You DO NOT have to have faith in any sort of god to be a good person and raise a moral child. I have told my children that my one goal as a parent is to get them to adulthood with a good set of critical thinking skills. Name me a religion that teaches that.

Laura

Very powerful post. I grew up Methodist, where people let things fly so to speak. It's religion, not Southern Baptist or Catholic. I don't hate religion, but like you I don't like the people that feel free to judge others - although it says CLEARLY in the bible that's God's job.

Over the years I have come to find that my faith and religion are personal. I believe in God but I don't believe that I have to attend a church to be religious.

Maybe those people judge because they are scared. Because if they judge it reinforces they are doing the "right thing." I don't think there is anything wrong with the way you feel at all. I think it's whatever works for you and Jason and Noah that is important.

Jenn

Thank you for writing this. "I believe in God, but not in his people." Just...thank you.

Becci

All I can say is wow. I can relate to the eating disorder, too and the guilt for every little thing. Honestly the hardest thing for me was when we lost our child last year and people in the church tried to put a time limit on my grieving process. I was told to move on and that the only thing we were told to wait for was the return of Christ, so I shouldn't wait around to get pregnant again. Nice. This almost put me off from church altogether.

I was raised in a Christian home, but lived a double life for so long (in the church's eyes). I smoked (oh my I was asked to stop singing on the worship team at one church because I had the occasional cigarette at the age of 21!) drank occasionally (of course some people don't take issue with the whole drinking thing anyway) and I do cuss, sometimes under my breath, sometimes right out loud. Through everything where I was judged because of my outlandish style of dress and not your typical good church girl reputation, the way I found peace was knowing that regardless of what those people thought of me, my relationship with God had nothing to do with them. I have been hurt a LOT by people in the church, but continue to go because my spiritual peace is there not because of the people, more like in spite of the people.

All that being said, I can relate to a lot of the feelings. I still struggle with why my daughter was taken from us and how that can all be part of this good plan that God has (although in my heart I think He does have a plan). I am tired of people talking about her like she didn't matter, that it's a test of my faith (why would God test someone by taking someone like that???) and that whatever happens it is good!

SOmetimes I fear that God will take this baby too (I am now 25 weeks and on bedrest trying to keep her) because of no other reason than I want her more than God or actually told Him I wanted nothing to do with Him any more. I did mean it at the time, but not any more. It's hard to swallow when people make comments like, "well no matter what happens with this baby, God has a plan," and "well, you know God is a jealous God and won't have us put anything before Him. He'll just keep bringing the same test until you learn it." Are they really serious? DO they really think that God will just kill my babues one by one until I learn my lesson?!

The God I know is not like that. Just my two cents.

mrspooley

Dearest Amalah -
I am yet again amazed by your honesty. I'm also amazed at how many of us have similar lives, thoughts and hopes for out lives despite the weirdness of organized religion we grew up in. You are not alone.
I do have stopped going to church. For all the same reasons. I still believe in a God, one big entity in control of things. But its hard to keep the "relationship" I'm supposed to have with him when all the supposed Christians act the way they do. We hold them to higher standards and yet they're still humans who are trying to align their individual moral compasses to something... good and larger than themselves.
My tenth is coming up next year. I still haven't decided if I'll go.

Sandy

WOW! I am so glad "toadyjoe" sent me here! This is so hitting close to home at this time! I'm Catholic. I was raised Methodist. My children are being raised Catholics. Our oldest (15) is dating a girl of another religion. ONE similar to yours! No dances, STRICT, No hand holding etc. Very strange to say the least!
While it is difficult to understand at the same time it's giving my son a lesson in understanding and compassion.
Although I do believe this poor girl is going to rebel eventually if not already!
Since when does dancing lead to S-E-X? Heck, if that's true I should have had lots of it! DANG...

Julianna

Amy..... lovely. Because you summed up so many people's feelings. I am still believing and somewhat practicing.. and i say somewhat because I work all the time and hardly go to church, often fall into bed at night and sleep instead of read, and the family favorite.. am now going to hell in a handbasket because I married a Muslim. But in him I saw a good man, and someone who loved me and loved God. He has a firm faith.

My parents are growing more and more conservative in their old age. I have noticed goner is tolerance for anything.. and I don't mean acceptance.. but tolerance. Like there s a difference between believing it's OK to do something versus accepting someone for who they are. And they have lost even this.

They have lost themselves in Fox News. And Bush. And they can't see how much hate they posses and how it is increasing by the second. I wonder if they could ever step back...

I hope I never lose my tolerance or my faith. And I hope I can follow the true example of christianity, not the one you see so often inside churches.

I ran far, far away from a church like yours when i left my private schooling. my parents took me out of it then... but now i am sure they would wall me into it.

Meg

I have an insanly similar background, although I always thought that most of the people in my church and school were a wee bit crazy. About 10 years ago I first heard what is now one of my favoite quotes, from whom I don't know. "Lord, save me from the Christians and do-gooders, I'll fight the lions myself".

Teacher Lady

Delurking to say, "Wow, I never would have guessed" and "Thanks for writing that." Another "Recovering Catholic" here. In eighth grade, the nuns told us that if we didn't go to Catholic high school, we were going to hell. Guess whose parents couldn't afford Catholic high school? At least in Catholicism, I think so much of the dogma is about money. It sounds like in your church it was about blind, unquestioning obedience which is almost as scary. But this is about you. Amazing post.

fcali

I totally, totally relate. This post resonated with me on so many levels. While I've remained in the church, I frequently struggle with these attitudes. I'll never give up on God, but I am very skeptical at times about His people. The bottom line is that we ARE people and we do a very, very bad job of conveying His love. In fact sometimes we don't even try at all.

By the way, not all of us are lost in Fox news and Bush!

the pixie color

So right on, miss amalah!

You sound like you might be a big fan of a Unitarian Universalist church if you found one in your area. They are all about tolerance, social justice, and have amazing youth programs that teach your kids to love other people... no really, all other people, not the just the other people who came out of the same mold as you and put their pants on the same way as you.

Good luck either either, way. Congratulations on surviving your traumatic youth, and sparing your precious offspring from similar fates.

michelle

Thank You. There's a certain sense of relief when you see your struggle put into the words that you couldn't find.

Tamara

As a former Catholic...
As someone who once studied to be a nun...
As an adult who couldn't figure out how to make new friends without belonging to a church...

I say:

RIGHT fucking ON, sister!

dorothy

I had a raging eating disorder in high school and early college. My mother had cancer twice, once when I was around middle school and once my freshman year of high school. My eating disorder sprouted from my belief that with all the bad shit that was going down in my world, what I put in my mouth was the ONLY thing I could control.

For many years, I was very, very hard on myself. I carried that into parenthood in the little angel's first year. I thought I had to do everything perfectly. When she started refuing to sleep and kept up with that for nine months, I finally realized how little in life I can control. Though I've recovered from the eating disorder through a long road of smoking, vegainism, vegetarianism, extreme exercise and finally being forced to gain forty pounds during pregnancy and LIKE IT, I still occasionally hear that old voice in my head - that no matter what I do, I'm doing something wrong.

My sister was a counselor at a Lutheran Bible camp. The guy she met and dated there turned out to be a drug abuser. She left the faith and to this day has a hard time with it, even though she's the little angel's godmother.

I never hated God for anything that happened in my life, but I gradually came to the point where I feel that everything that has happened and will happen in my life happens for a reason, maybe God's plan, maybe not, but that God isn't there to protect me from the world, but perhaps just to protect me from myself.

We joined a church when I was pregnant, too. I had to convince and wheedle my recovering Catholic husband to see religion my way - in that your relationship with God is a personal one. Going to church doesn't make you good, as not going doesn't make you bad. Church is there like any other social club or community - a group of people that should love you and try to help you if something goes wrong.

Two weeks ago, the little angel's teacher at Lutheran daycare came home to find her husband dead. Though we don't go to church at the church that sponsors the daycare and its associated private school (which the little angel will not be attending - I feel public schools will never improve unless concerned parents send their kids there and become active in them), I found myself gathering up my resolve to be a good Christian in the true sense of the word. The other parents and I started bringing Ms. L. dinner every night. We are going to keep doing it through the summer or until she tells us to stop. Not because we even love her, though we do, but because that's what good people do. And some good people are Christians. And some Christians are good people. And some agnostics or Jews or Muslims or Buddhists or what have you are good people. And some are not.

It makes me insane, like it does you, when people judge and hate in the name of my God. Jesus hung with thieves and prostitutes. Whether you believe He was the Son of God or not, He set a damn fine example in the categories of open-mindedness and forgiveness. I'm so sick of hearing about the religious right. What about the religious liberal Democrats, who believe in nonjudgement and love?

I discussed grace in context with virginity and sin this week on my blog, and it's been an interesting conversation. It's made me think a lot about my faith and how it plays out in my life. I take the little angel to church about once a month, partly so she'll get used to it and partly because once a month I need to connect with the ritual of it all. Rituals are soothing to humans.

I do admit, I love hearing her sing Jesus Loves Me in the bathtub, but she learned it at daycare, not at home. Not because I wouldn't have taught it to her, but because I'm more concerned with teaching her what Jesus taught than to proclaim her faith from the mountaintops. I know my church wants me to evangelise, but I believe personally in leading by example. I hope that she sees us making dinner for her teacher and learns that that's what good people do when someone needs them. That's what people did for my family when my mother was sick. I hope that those same people would have done that for us if I were an out lesbian or my parents were living in sin, but I know in my heart many of them wouldn't.

Best of luck at the reunion - those are rough regardless of who you were in high school and where you went. It's clear from this post, though, that going through that made you the person you are today with the soapbox you have today to open us up to this discussion. That's what blogging is about - opening things up for discussion. An interactive dialogue with people from all walks of life. And maybe someone will see from your words that people can be good people regardless of your faith. Jesus was a Jew who spoke out against hypocracy in His church. Part of being a good Christian, a good anything, is to point out when people are ignoring what religion is supposed to bring to our lives - love for our neighbor. Let he who has no sin throw the first stone.

velocibadgergirl

Great post, Amy!

Watch "Grosse Pointe Blank" to get yourself in the proper frame of mind for your reunion. It'll help! ;)

Beverlee

I been in it from many different sides. Having your faith shoved down your throat is not the way. Putting on a front is not the way. Being a person who is living her life in a loving manner is the way. We all have to find out who we are and live our lives as authentically as possible. I believe that is the way I want to live my life.

Gabbiana

At first I was going to tell you that this is a beautiful post, and thanks be to W/whomever that there are people like you in the world, who think and question and take what's good from what you're taught and know to throw away the bullshit and hate and not look back, and whether or not you ever join a church Noah will have a hella moral compass with a mommy like you.

And then I realized, 1996?!!

I graduated from high school in 2000!!!

Which means you are four years older than me! And MARRIED! With a BABY!

GAH!!!!!

And clearly that is *far* more important than spiritual awakening.

Amar

Thanks for your raw honesty and emotions. Hope your courage gives you strength.
Your post reminded me of two quotes:
1. "I do not reject your Christ, I love your Christ.It is just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ." - M.K.Gandhi

2. "Being a christian is like being a homeless person. The only difference between you and the other homeless person is that he/she is yet to find their way to the soup kitchen that you go to for help. The fact that your life is now different has more to do with the soup kitchen than to do with you" - anonymous.

I am a Christian but I was not always one and I am sorry for everything you have been through in the name of christianity.

Accidental Poet

Someone I heard speaking recently challenged us to "find the God that exists outside of religion".

Christy

I've grown up in the church and have always called myself a Christian, but in the last few years I've begun to see the stigma that has been attached to that word b/c of what other "Christians" are out doing in the name of "Christianity." I almost hesitate to associate myself with that word. I now simply say that I am a Christ-follower, and urge others to follow Christ's teachings and not the teachings of other "Christians" b/c, sadly, many of them have completely missed the point of it all.

Real Girl

Wowwwww. I, too, was a scholarship kid at a private school, and that was enough to screw up my high school experience without the constant religious judging. I totally skipped my 10 year reunion, but now people I went to high school with are emailing me out of the blue because they've seen I have a book coming out. I wonder if I would have felt "closure" if I had attended the reunion.

You're brave to do so.

And I'm so thankful for the 1 Christian missionary I've ever known well--a Baptist named Nicole whose "Christian values" included voting democrat, helping those less fortunate, and only sharing her Christian values when asked to. When she got cancer (Hodgkins), no one said it was because she didn't have enough faith.

But in general, religion fanatacism of any creed scares the hell out of me--or rather, the actions that follow from believing you're doing the only right thing.


Lori

I didn't read the comments, but I wanted to say that gave me chills, it was so on the mark. Thank you for writing it--you're not the only one who feels that way, that's for sure.

h

Thank YOU! This post put expressed so fully my experience that I couldn't.

karla

Powerful. Thank you.

poobou

This was an awesome post. I grew up in Mississippi, and your school sounds frighteningly like mine. Only I started rebelling against the whole idea of being "born again" when I was all of about 7 years old. Made things pretty rough for myself over the next 11 years. :-) It's strange, though, reading this reminded me of a lot of stuff from high school that I had blocked out (i.e., I had abusive teachers that specialized in public humiliation too!).

I skipped my 10-year reunion a couple of years ago - I have no desire to see any of those people again, I don't care to know what they're like now, just... meh. I'm not really angry about it anymore, I just don't care.

Ashley

I imagine that was very difficult for you to write and share, but thank you for doing so, it was beautifully written and held such intensity that I found myself unable to turn away. I hope that you find something, I was not raised in religion and have never had an affiliation but part of me wonders if it is important in the long run to have such.

Kirsten

I don't know why I'm commenting because wow! 250 comments! And not even comments really, more like short stories. Just wanted to say thanks for the post and I totally get where you're coming from. I just found a church - it took a looooong time. They are very open and non judgy and I feel better when I go there. But I'm really hesitant to say I am a regular church goer because I don't want people to think I am like a lot of "Christians" I know.

supa

I knew this one would be worth revisiting for the comments.

Lately I've been finding myself longing for a Secular Church: It would still have weekly meetings, and bingo on wednesdays, and a little newsletter, and maybe even statues and incense, but none of the jesus-god stuff. And you could drop your kids off at Sunday School and maybe they could, I dunno, learn about dinosaurs.

I want a church without the Church.

Christy

Sorry...didn't finish before I hit post...Point of it all being to live a life glorifying God - not to live a life of hypocracy, condemning others. I'm sorry for the experiences you've with that latter group.

Amytoo

So what are you going to write for a follow-up? No pressure or anything.

--From someone who is not religious at all, but probably a lot more moral and a better person than a lot of people who call themselves Christians. I do belong to the Church of SIOS, though.

Erin

Amalah - you put into words what I've been feeling for quite a few years. Thank you!

Me

amy, you need to hear "My Jesus" by Todd Agnew. He's a local artist...very cool song.

I could say a lot more, I'm the grad of a Evang. Christian school, lifetime church member (of about 20 diff churches ha ha couldn't make up my mind), blah blah. Same drill as you, if not worse. Remember Girls in Action? Been there, handstamped the T-shirt.

Regardless, I left it all for a while. still get fed up often with the nonsense of the Sunday morning Christians. But truth is, its not about them, its about me. My relationship with my Creator. Who loves me. Who is there for me. It gives me comfort. It isn't about all them.

Hey, maybe your blawg is gonna start a revolution- Gen X'ers and younger not just playing church or making up rules to stress out the world, but people enjoying a relationship with God, and the peace that comes with it, and sharing that with others like we share tips that Ben & Jerry's is giving away free scoops.

I'm imperfect and still know I belong to God. I can't worry about the "give me 10% of your cash or burn in hell", or "how many committees are you on? None...oh my" crowd.

I wish you luck, Amy, at your reunion. Not for the religion stuff, I know you'll laugh it off and stun them with your snarky comebacks.

I'm more worried about the pentecostal girl in the corner who makes her clothes from flour sacks choking you to death with her never cut 18 foot long hair to try to get your bee-yu-tee-full shoes!

Me

oh you can hear that song (its very good) at www.toddagnew.com

the lyrics to it are at http://klove.com/lyrics/lyrics.asp?2458

don't laugh til you hear it. It pretty much sums up todays post

Me

Ok last comment anyway---

did anybody catch how Brittney Spears recently renounced Kaballah or Kabbalah or however you spell it

....in favor of the "religion of my child".

Kind of funny. I wonder if Sean Preston passes the offering plate or makes her kneel at the alter.

But I do bet I know what kind of baptism the Church of Sean Preston conducts: SPRINKLING

but last time I checked, pee pee isn't considered holy water, so I'm not sure if it counts

Have a great weekend, parent of Noahalah!

Amanda

I went to Pioneer Girl clubs too, while all of my friends wore the coveted brown and orange uniforms of girl scouts. We have had a similar experience, although mine was not fraught with as much pain. I have been lost and confused about my faith ever since I left my one year of post-secondary Bible school. That was 6 years ago. I'm about to have my first baby and don't know what to tell her about life and God and what really matters. Thanks for sharing this post.

Isabel

I didn't go to my reunion. And I didn't really ever hear from anyone that went. I wish I would have so I could hear them tell me about how fat everyone was (or that they all had 6 kids. Because seriously, there are a couple of them that HAD SIX KIDS IN TEN YEARS!) So wear your best outfit and rub you life in their faces.

As for the religion...you just have to do what's best for you and your family. I believe the rest will just work itself out.

kerri anne

Amen.

God is love. Real, true, neverending love. We, as church-goers and people are less than perfect, less than ideal, less than love. Sometimes we are even judgy and mostly moronic. I know I myself have definitely been there. And like you, I hate(d) it.

But life is learning, and I would like to think God gets that. That He's patient with all of us less than perfect people out there.

Utlimately I believe in God, and believe that there is power in His love, even when so many misrepresent Him.

(Continuation of the already mushy-ness) I also believe that you are an amazing writer, wife, and mother. : )

Joy

Amy,

You are amazing. I've been reading your blog for a few months now and I don't even have children -- just enjoy your honesty and personality.

I could hardly believe what you were writing! It's so similar to my own experience, only it took until my late 30s to finally start living my own life. Better late than never.

Independent fundamentalist, and my dad was the preacher and physically abusive. A cultish type of thing. It's not been easy, but I've spent the last 10 years learning how to think for myself and live for myself. So important.

So here's to 10-year reunions. I hope you will be able to see how different you are now from what you were then and experience great pride in yourself.

Are you open to sharing the date and appx time? I would like to raise a glass of wine or two in your honor.

Joy

rebecca

it's ridiculous when people think a christian churhc is the answer to providing a moral compass for their children... i definitely understand the desire for a foundation / sense of community, but try a unitarian church (church is the wrong word) where junior will grow up alongside people from all spiritual walks of life. the journey of religion / faith is something each person achieves him/herself.

Tasha

You are my new Amercian Idol. I also stated that on my site cheeka-beeka.blogspot.com. You are AWESOME in so many ways...In the famous words of rockstar mommy....GIRL CRUSH :)

Heather

Great post, sounds like you should check out a Unitarian church. That is the only one I've ever felt comfortable at as an adult. My grandfather was a minister and he was one of the few people I've known who truly walked the walk. His example led me to know it doesn't take church to make someone spiritual. I know he'd be proud of me, no matter what church I attend or don't attend, because I live what I believe.

Phyllis

I was brought up Roman Catholic and I can tell you they are the most hypocratic people in the world. In fact, I believe anybody who brags about their religion or their christianity is a hypocrite. I truly believe in God, but I don't believe I have to honor him by going to church. I honor Him when my husband and I adopt a dog or cat from a shelter, I honor Him when I feed the ducks in my yard. I honor Him when I am kind to my fellow humans. You,Amy, honor Him by taking such good care of Noah. You honor him by being faithful to your husband. And that is one cute little boy! You must just love him to pieces, meeces!

natalie

Is anybody else amazed at the number of comments on this post? I mean, I didn't think we would ever so more comments than when Amy posts super cute pics of Noah. It is just so comforting to me to see how many others out there struggle with their feelings about religion. Sorry, that may sound bizarre that I am comforted by the discomfort of the rest of you, but coming from my background I sometimes am made to feel that I'm the outcast for not being in the church every Sunday weeping & praising. Good to know I'm not alone.

Jaycee

WOW.....Class of '96? Jeez, you're young! (Oh! And very interesting reading. You must go to the reunion, if only for the blog fodder.) Thanks for sharing.

Mary Tsao

Wow. Heavy post, Amy. I hope you don't feel bad about writing it. Not because you should (I agree with everything you write), but because I know how hard it is to question our religious upbringings; the indoctrination is SO strong.

Thank you for your honesty and courage in writing this; it's a great post.

Lin

Since you feel that you do believe in God, then I guess it's time for you to go church shopping. I'm sure that you can find some churches that are inclusive, non-judgmental, etc. Hey, how about the National Cathedral? The Anglican church is pretty liberal.


You mention feeling the need for a moral compass because of your all or nothing religious upbringing. Don't sell yourselves short. Good people can raise good children. Religious people can raise good children. Good people can raise total fuck-ups, as can religious people. I raised my children without church, without Sunday School, but with a lot of information. When they asked why we didn't go to church, I said because their Pa and I just weren't sure whether or not there was a God but always told them if they wanted to go to Sunday School or whatever, we'd check it out for them. I never said we didn't believe, just that we weren't sure.

You don't need a church or the framework of a church, to provide the moral compass for your child. He will get it from you. But if you believe it would make your job somehow easier or that you miss the structure of religion, then you've got a lot of choice out there. Good luck, kid, but don't sweat raising your boy without a church in his life... it's done all the time with great success.

Tiffani

Ugh. That brings back memories. I remember how manipulative those retreats were (the ones I went to featured the "break them down to build them up" strategy). Only now does my mother realize how much harm she did in forcing me to be so active in her church. I will never force my daughter to attend church - that will be her decision.
Thanks for your post.

2jaysgirl

That was brave, Amy. Good for you! I hope that you go. You might be glad. You might get some closure. Besides, I'd love to hear all about it. Be strong...we'll all be there with you.

Lisa

I think sometimes we forget that christians are still people even with thier titles. They still screw up, sin and do things that arent morally right. Thats ok thats not what gets you to heaven or right with God anyhow. It doesnt make you a non christian if you do those things. I think so often faith and religion get tied into each other when they shouldnt be. I dont believe in Religion but I rely strongly on faith.

Kimberly

I feel kinda silly posting a comment when you have, like, 300 others to read but this topic is a biggie with me. I hate having to explain myself when someone hears I'm a Christian. I hate feeling like they must automatically think of the people you hear about on the news staging hateful protests and blowing up abortion clinics and whatnot. It's so true what many of your readers already said; it's about the faith, not the legalism or hatred, the Bible makes that clear. A lot of my girlfriends from church struggle with what to identify themselves as, because as soon as you mention that you're a Christian or born again or whatever you risk watching the person you're talking to put up a wall, assuming you're a bigoted idiot. Blech!

Amanda

My heart so hurts for you, I'm a former 3rd grade Christian school teacher. I wish you could have known the grace and love I tried very hard to bring into my room everyday v. the judgement and snark you received.

Stefan

A post as courageous and brave as it is emotionally touching. Coming from a "liberal" european background I cannot do much, wipe my eyes in disbelief... I never thought that christianity would still be misused in such manner for goals it never was meant to serve. Makes me sad, and makes me think. I still would go, though, as it's a one off opportunity...

Jenna

What a powerful story. I have many friends who grew up with similar experiences--whether with fundamentalist churches or with the Catholic church. I am grateful every day that my parents raised me in the United Church of Christ, and I think that having grown up UCC is the only reason I'm proud to be Christian. Some of the earlier comments referred to the United church, which might be a name for the UCC church that I wasn't familiar with? But for you and for anyone else that finds the courage to give Christianity and Christians another look, I'd encourage you to check out www.ucc.org or a UCC church near you--but check for ones that are certified as "Open and Affirming" (you can find out at the website). "Open and Affirming" is a UCC program where individual churches can commit to welcoming all people--of every race, ethnicity, (dis)ability, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, etc. I would have thought this is something all Christian churches would want to do (isn't this what Jesus taught) but apparently that isn't the case. The church I attend lives this idea and ideal and commits fully to non-judgmental ministry and social justice. You would never hear condemnation of women, homosexuals, or modern science and reproductive freedoms in my church. Together with (to some degree at least) some of the other "main line" liberal Protestant denominations, such as Presbyterian USA and the Episcopal churhces, the UCC hopes to reclaim the word Christian from the Christian right, which as we all know, is neither.

Sarah Louise

I have just started reading your blog entirely by accident. I like that you're articulate, so I keep coming back. I'm Jewish and the militant guilt and insanity is not only a Christian sport. Believe me. Thanks for your entry.

Nadine

Well, this is my first comment to a post although I read your site all the time. What a trip down memory lane...I also grew up going to a baptist church every sunday morning, sunday night & wednesday night. I went to a private christian school (run by the same church) AND, I was in the Pioneer Girls. Do they even still exist? All I remember was the charm bracelet and when you finished a "badge", or whatever they called it, you got a charm for your bracelet. My mother made me get every single damn charm. In the summer, I would go a christian camp where we would attend no less that four sermons daily. Did I mention that I always knew while growing up that I didn't believe any of it? Finally, after years of putting up with my constant resistance, my mother decided when I was 13 that if I didn't want to go to church, I didn't have to. I am 34 and have not been inside of a church since except for weddings and funerals. I think if you want to ensure someone hates religion, just force feed it to them while they grow up. Everyone I know who hates church pretty much was raised the same way.

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