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.


Mary Peyton

My husband is the choir director at a small American Baptist college in West Virginia. There are lots of kids here like you used to be. Reading your post gives me great hope that they will one day see things differently. Less judgemental, more loving. They can't help it. They've never been exposed to anything different. For the most part, they mean well and are sincere in their faith, just a little misguided in how they show it.


thank you.


Wow. Well said. I bet there are a lot of people that feel the same way.


What a powerful post! I can relate. I'm starting to realize that faith is a personal thing and separate from religion. And I don't think you should worry about giving Noah a good moral compass- you've got it covered!


This was a beautifully written post of great intensity. I'm not christian and I know very little about christianity, which is pretty amazing growing up in this very christian dominated country. But I do know that G-d isn't restricted to Christians (capital C), and that if you do believe in G-d, you can do so as a Unitarian, a Jew like me, a Muslim, a buddhist or any thing else you chose. YOu don't have to remain a Christian because you were born into it. If you do plan to raise Noah in a religion, search for one that speaks to you and your heart. You don't have to worship G-d in a homosexual hating environment. G-d can be found amoungst liberals as well as conservatives, democrats as well as republicans.

I would not go to your reunion if I were you, but that's because I'm weak and wouldn't be able to hold my tongue. I admire you for deciding to go knowing how painful it might be.

Wacky Mommy

That was intense reading that entry. You are fearless, my friend. You've already been through hell, sounds like. You're not going there again.


great post.

Wacky Mommy

ps -- I don't believe in hell, anyhow, fyi. Although I did like how it was represented in the movie "Ghost." The reunion could be okay -- go if you feel like it, or bag out if you don't. Maybe it would be therapeutic?

Occidental Girl


I get how you feel shaky about this topic.

And I know what you mean about the word "Christian". Faith is such an intensely personal issue, and is hard to reconcile with all the politics surrounding religion.

I tend to try and distance myself if I talk about my own beliefs, in order to give the impression I am not a crazy. (Doesn't work! The crazy comes through! HA.)

I am a Christian, but I don't think I have all the answers. I just live my life with what I learn good lessons and try to live by them, but it doesn't always happen.

I was lucky enough to find a church with a wonderful, open-minded but also traditional, if you can believe that, minister. The message is welcoming, loving, and basically that we aren't perfect but we should just keep doing our best. That's all God wants of us, anyway.

I hope you can find something like that if you still want it, because it is a nice message and community to have. (Presbyterians rock...that would be me.)

I don't believe God hates homosexuals, and furthermore, who are we to know what God wants and impose it on others? The things religious people do to others is appalling.

We should try our best and be good to one another, for fuck's sake.

(See? Crazy!) ;-)


I was a Catholic school girl. Thank you.

When I was in sixth grade my religion teacher told me I was going to hell because my parents were divorced. I went home and cried.

When I was in high school and having problems with anxiety, I determined that if I didn't say my prayers enough, God would kill me, so I would pray obsessively.

Later in high school, I figured out that homosexuals weren't evil, birth control won't send you to hell and the ordained really aren't a superior people.

Of course, that all coincided with a priest being a total and complete ass to my father -- at his father's funeral.

Yeah, it's uncomfortable. It's really uncomfortable to still live in the same town. Thoughts of church turn my stomach because I just can't go to that place of my life any more. I admire you for going back.


Wow. What a powerful and amazing post. Though all I could picture was the part of Amy played by Mandy Moore a la "Saved!"

But, I, a member of the class of '97, am not looking forward to my class reunion next year, either. I will not go. I was also brain-washed into the whole youth rally thing. I feel like I missed out on a lot during high school, but I guess it made me who I am today...a beer-drinking, foul-mouthed agnostic.


I was raised much the same way. I still believe. But I don't believe in Christians, I believe in God. Christians let people down. Christians judge. Christians hurt people. Christians aren't very Christ-like, as a general rule.

It's hard finding a church where there are truly loving and accepting people. My church certainly isn't full of them. But I've found that there are Christian organizations out there with priorities that I value: helping the poor, loving those who are different, and trying to fix all that is wrong with our government today... and that includes our President. I hate that being a Christian to so many in our country means a blind following of our current elected leader.

I do agree with Lauren - Faith is certainly separate from organized religion.


great post amy!


And I refuse to go to my high school reunion this fall but I think that's going to be because I will have just given birth and who the hell does that impress? I refuse to wear a maternity dress to see people I haven't seen in 10 years. Perhaps we can have a DC get-together instead. Shunners of the Class of '96.


You know, I don't have nearly the reasons you do, but I'm also scared to go to my 10 year high school reunion this year. I've elected to just not go. I was too afraid that it would dig up in my mind all of the things that I was/did back then that I now regret, and I'm too afriad I won't be able to handle that.

Good for you for having the courage to go. And good luck.

Matt's Mom

A fellow Pioneer Girl! I lived the same religious life you did and have all the same guilt and fear. I remember being scared of going to hell as a child and freaking out when I heard my father say "crap" because I just knew he was going to be damned for it. I'm 38 now and still carry the guilt and fear. And I still believe in God, just not organized religion.


Well said, sweetie.


Wow! Amazing post!!


I completely relate to everything you just wrote!!! I had a very similar experience in my younger days only it was after I started college. I remember whistling dixie one day, catching myself and thinking "OHMYGOD, I mean GOSH, I can't believe I am whistling dixie that symbolizes slavery and the evil past of the nation. I must be evil, too.
Seems like there are so many of us out there that were so scarred by the same sort of scenario which I can only describe as an oppressive cult. I will say that I have made my peace with God and I have finally been able to separate the God I once associated with the old group I used to be a part of to the loving God I know today. So - there is hope yet.


Long time lurker and first time commenter to say what a courageous post. I have a hard time with organized religion. I believe in a higher power, whatever it is called, I only have to look at my children to believe. But man created religion, and I believe it therefore fundamentally carries the flaws of man. I have seen so much judgement and hypocrisy among church goers. I live my life as a good person, and will raise my children to do the same.


Beautiful post

Mrs. Davis

Wow, that had to be hard to write. I can so relate to the guilt, etc, although for me it was a catholic upbringing, and not quite so extreme. I started moving past the more rigid/extreme aspects of Catholocism in college, which for me was a catholic women's college run by a fairly progressive bunch of nuns (BVM's). I discovered that there were two distinct brands of catholicism - the "fire and brimstone" kind and the "peace and justice" kind. Even after being immersed in the "peace and justice" brand of catholicism in college, i fell away and never fully got back on board, though I am still technically Catholic and can receive communion.

It is hard for me to look at some of my childhood friends who stuck with being Catholic and never really saw any other possibilities, and never questioned a bit of it.

I hope you enjoy your reunion in some way. I have always loved reunions, whether school or family or whatever, and I used to work in alumni relations so I've seen what cool things can happen for people when they reconnect and re-live some of their past.


I grew up a Roman Catholic in a town where the question you asked people was which Catholic church you went to - not what religion you practiced.

I'm working to reconcile my own thoughts and feelings as to God and faith and whether I really believe in religion or just spirituality. Your post was insightful, heartfelt and powerful.

Thanks for putting yourself out there.


Okay. Three things:

1) Best piece I've read since I found you.
2) I understand in so many ways what you're talking about, being a former Assemblies of God girl myself.
3) Shoes that cost more than a mortgage? I would be afraid to walk in them. (Maybe my mortgage is just high.)


Delurking to say word up!


i HATE it that church-y people hurt you and made you feel all this! I'm MAD at them for you, which is SO not the christian response, yaknow.


Brave choice. I didn't go to mine because everybody I liked, I stayed in touch with. Screw the rest. And it didn't even involve any dogma!

Hope you have a Romy & Michelle kind of night...because that would be AWESOME if crazybitchteacher gets her dress blown up over her head, lol.

Make sure to take your camera! ;>


Wow, that was great. Thanks for sharing. Religion is a very "touchy" subject and it takes balls to speak about it as honestly as you just did.


This was a very real posting Amy, I think you said it all so incredibly well.

P.S. Wear the shoes.


Noah is one lucky kid to have such a brave, eloquent mom.

Great post, Amy.


Amazing, brilliant, and poignant.


That was an amazinf post and a brave one at that. My husband and I ourselves struggled with providing the "moral compass" for our child. We are both jewish but we don't really practice. We feel though that at the very least it is our responsibility to expose the boy to this religion and he can make his decisions from there.
And yes I agree that faith and religion are two separate entities and you don't have to practice any religion to have faith or spirituality.
Thank you for this post.



I am so moved by your post. I grew up in a very liberal church who accepted anyone and I felt very comfortable there...until I told my best church friend that I had fallen in love with a Jewish boy, and she said she would pray for his salvation. He's a good Jewish boy, not a devil worshipper who sacrifices cats! I haven't been able to think of church the same since.

I married the Jewish boy and we have two wonderful children and we plan on raising them to believe that God loves each of us for who we are inside and we have to love each other the same way. And we are sort of looking into the Unitarian church.

Don't worry about calling yourself Christian, I don't think the average person would first picture "that kind of Christian".

Thank you for sharing.


I forgot to ask in my earlier comment, but if you were raised Christian, who gave you the pretty Yiddish nickname?


Amazing post. Thank you for sharing that piece of your history. You are not alone in your feelings about organized religion.


De-lurking to say yes, I know exactly, exactly what you mean -- the physical, mental, emotional reaction to all of it. I grew up Southern Baptist in a small town in Mississippi and also had the sense to get out after high school. My reunion is next year, and I don't think I'll be going -- I had the fortitude to come out of the closet after high school too, and honestly I just wouldn't feel safe there now.

Do what Joy says. Go, and wear the shoes. And thanks for sharing this experience.

Angela F

Wonderful post.

The thing that frustrates me so much about most people who are overly religious is that they are so restrictive. If only they used their energy to be kind to everyone instead of trying to shun those they don't agree with or approve of.


Amazing. The small Southern Baptist college I attended for one year did more to shape my cynicism than save my soul. I was there for an education. Silly me. You feelings are valid. Be proud of who you are and don't worry about who you were.


wonderful post.


I'm de-lurking to say: Wow. Thanks.

(I'm also wondering if you're me, since we have the same name, and my ten year reunion is this summer, and I went to church all the time in high school...but I went to the evil public school, so we are after all different people. Whew.)

Thanks for writing this.



As the child of athiest anthropologists raised in a predominantly Mormon community, I think I saw much of what you talk about from the outside but never truly understood it. Thank you for creating a window to that world through sharing your experience.

katie b

Other than I grew up in Kentucky instead of outside of Philly this is exactly why the mere mention of the word Christian gives me cold chills. That Saved! movie gave me NIGHTMARES...

I lived that lifestyle as well until my junior year of college when the guilt & fear just got to be too much. Becoming the party girl I'd always judged so harshly helped shake off the guilt/shame/fear of never being "good enough".
I still deal with that snotty christian girl in my head sometimes....
This was an excellent posting Amy!


I got chills just reading that. I went to a small Christian school for my entire grade-high school experience, and know exactly what you mean. I'm so screwed up and scarred from the experience that I don't even know how to classify myself or what I believe in anymore.

You really nailed it on the head when you said it's such a weighty thing to call yourself a Christian, since the word has ties to such hypocritical, hateful, and miserable people.

I'm still looking for something to believe in, something that fits, something that feels right, and I guess you are too. Good luck to both of us! :)

Vaguely Urban

Wow. That was a huge post. I loved it.

I don't think you have to know why you're going. Just go. Be yourself (or an extra-fabulous version thereof).

There's no way it'll be the worst case scenario, and it will definitely be curiosity-satisfying.


I feel like I should give you a hug.

I am a K-College Catholic edumacated chick, and with the exception of 6th grade (move to new city, 'rents didn't know better) I was taught by the BVMs or Sisters of St. the warm glowing loving light of parochial school. I wasn't raised a fire and brimstone Catholic.

Both my husband and I practice our faith...but in a moral context of peace, love and acceptance. I put my moral soapbox away a long time ago when I realized the great big world included a lot of people who didn't think or act just like me...and far be it for me to reign down judgement on them. We are who we are for a reason...and as long as we all take responsiblity for our actions and not make excuses, well, then, go forth.

Amy, you are a strong, bright, beautiful young woman with a heck of a lot more going on at your age than I did. Your confidence and wit shine though.....



Great post. I relate.

Irony Queen

Oh, honey, I just want to give you a big hug!!!

I'm amazed that your sex-ed class included the words "dry humping" and "orgasm" because mine sure didn't! Catholic schools, gotta love 'em.

Only, not really. The Catholic school I attended for middle school taught me all those wonderful lessons you learned in high school, and then some. I'm going to my Class of '96 (public) high school reunion in two weeks, and the people I dread seeing the most are the people I went to middle school with. So, I feel ya. Enjoy the reunion! And wear the expensive shoes.


Me too. Thanks, Amy.


long-time reader, very infrequent commenter. but i had to give you props (yes, i just said that.. what of it) for this post... not just for the raw honesty and insight and emotion and fantastic writing that you always pour into your posts (particularly these more long-winded ones), but also because i can so relate. that was me, too... with the added bonus of an ethnic (korean) church for Extra Special Fun and Torture! what fun! i'm going to a wedding for one of these people in a few weeks (an individual that i really care for because despite her association with the Extra Special Fun and Torture church she is a great person), and am so not looking forward to all the questions and comments about my non-church-going, heathen-esque, selfish mid-20s career-driven lifestyle. oh the joy.

i admire you for being so open and honest on your blog... pls keep doing what you do.


Everything you said is exactly why I finally stopped feeling guilty that I no longer identify myself as a Christian.

I say, go to the reunion, find that teacher, give her a big hug and tell her "thanks for helping me figure out who I really am!"

Schadenfreude, indeed.


I've been reading your blog for a while now, and deeply admire your writing, your wit, and your strength. It takes a lot of courage to post something like this, but I'm so glad you shared it. My husband and I considered joining a church when our son was born, to provide him with the morals and values and built-in community that come along with being a member. But we ultimately decided that the morals and values we want him to learn are not exclusive (and in some cases, are not even present) in the church. That doesn't mean that we don't often second-guess ourselves. It's just that for now, this works best for us. When he's older, we'll expose him to many different philosophies and religions and if he gravitates towards one, then we will encourage it. But for now, I think we're happier being heathens.

Good luck at the reunion. I didn't bother going to mine, so I have no assvice to offer, except drink well and often.

Take care.


Wow. Thank you for that. I don't know how it is you are able to so eloquently and powerfully write what is going through my head.

And *definitely* wear the shoes. I'll help search for the perfect pair if you want. :-)


You have no idea how significant your entry is to my current place in life.

I got married two weeks ago. I'm Catholic, and Luke is Methodist. Luke doesn't want to convert to Catholicism, and I don't think I can break away from the cultural and emotional bonds I have with Catholicism. Even though I don't agree with a lot of the church's doctrines, I still hold the main creed to be true. With all of this, we still believe we can find a religious life that will be right for us and any future children. It's a hard process, trying to sort out what you believe in your heart versus what you believe because your crazy fundamentalist grandmother told you to believe, a woman who made grand statements like anyone who lived within a seven-mile radius of a gay person was going to hell.

Because Luke and I weren't sure which way to baptize our children, we decided to get married by his pastor, which resulted in my grandmother (who was *not* invited to the wedding) spread rumors that I was being married in a pagan ceremony. So hurtful.

I feel so lost with religion right now, because Luke and I love each other so much and want to do right by God and also respect each other's faith traditions. I've done so much Web scouring and book reading it's ridiculous. And we still don't know what to do.

My biggest comfort right now is that God is bigger than any religion, and he will eventually lead us in the right direction.

And now that I've written you The Longest Comment In The History Of The Universe, I'm out.


I went through the same kind of thing, except Catholic school. I took 15 very cynical years off, which were very important for me although painful in a different way than being doused with blind faith, judgement, and naivete. I came back to the church a few years ago, found a parish (after a LOT of walkouts like you and Jason had)with a pastor's style that I could really relate to and people in their 30s like me. It's a great part of my life now and I don't have to feel like I did when i was a kid or put up with the luggage. Sometimes particular communities in and of themselves are sick, not so much religions. Just look around at all of the factions within parishes. That's just human bullshit at work, it's everywhere and has caused no shortage of wars or tears. It's nice that you want to share that part of your life with Noah, and I'm certain that if you keep looking and find a place that doesn't churn up all of the old baggage, you'll never look back and have a whole new thing to share with Jason and Noah. The reunion could go either way. I weathered mine (although I got very drunk and God knows what I said, who cares), but my girlfriend went into a memory-riven tailspin to the Dark Side. She cried for a day. I would just have a good, fun, escape clause with Jason --have a trigger that gets you guys the hell out, no questions asked! If it's fun, you won't need it-- but have a contingency plan at the ready!


What a great post! I am Catholic, and attended school K-12 in a Catholic school. I *shocked* people by attending a Presbyterian school, to give you a frame of reference.

And if you wouldn't mind sharing (you, obviously, don't have to), which school did you attend in the Midwest?


That was a flatout, kickass post and this line?

I believe in God, but not in His people.

Effing fantatic. I have this one truism: Whenever I hear someone start a sentence with "As a Christian," I know that whatever follows will be the most non-Christian thing I'll hear that week.

I realized in high school that faith was a private matter to me and I am uncomfortable around those for whom it is so public. I can't imagine your upbringing and applaud you for the courage in revisiting that whole scene. I'd probably have campfire at the bridge that would still be burning.


Amy, that was incredible. Thank you so much for writing that -- the honesty!! YAY!

My dad is a minister, and I grew up in the asshole bible belt of my province in Canada. Fortunately, my parents are and were some of the most sane, nonjudgmental Christians I know -- save for a few points we argue like cats and dogs -- so I didn't grow up feeling like sin was a big dog waiting to bite me in the ass.

But I hated that town and the repression and the anger and all the horrible things that festered under the surface.

One bad thing did happen to me in my early teens there that I am only just now having the courage to address -- I am a chickenshit when it comes to dealing -- but I tried to let go of my anger about it.

I went on to work for a faith-based organization where I tried to stamp out every hideous stereotype and judgmental thing I could get my hands on, and while I made headway, eventually I had to quit.

I don't do that job anymore.

I barely go to church anymore.

I'm pretty angry about many aspects of how Christians behave in the name of God.

But I, like you, believe in God and try to let people know that it doesn't have to be like it was for you, and in some part, for me.

It's supposed to be about love, and nothing else.

And I can see you have that down.

Jerri Ann

wow that was a tough read! I know it was difficult to write. I didn't go to my 10th reunion and don't know if I'll make the 20th which is this year...I have some of the same thoughts as you, only not the religious part..the part about teachers and other students and folks not being real...


Very powerful post. It angers and saddens me what the ladies at your school and people at your church said to you. Its wrong. Completely wrong.

First, let me preface -- I consider myself to be a "born again Chrisitian". I am very involved in church and all that. But more than that, I consider that I have a relationship with God and Jesus. Because in the end, its not really about the "religious aspects" but about if you and God are tight.

Not saying you shouldn't go to church, of course, I love my church wholeheartedly... just, yeah. This is a comment I'll try to make it brief. :)

If it was all about faith, I wouldn't have had a struggle with infertility. People wouldn't get cancer. People wouldn't die. My good friend Jeff woudln't have had a rare complication from surgery that killed him, because he? was awesome and extremely faith-filled.

Bad things happen in this world. And lack of faith or abundance of faith will not always correct it. We live in a fallen world, and I think sometimes some Christians forget that.

Its not your fault. You are awesome. And please, please don't think that all of us are like that, because we can be pretty darn cool.

mama speak

Wow. Well said.

I went to public school & like to joke that I'm Catholic Light. (Kinda like Diet Coke or something.) I grew up in Silicon Valley & have been exposed to LOTS of different faiths. I would consider myself a spiritual person, but not really a religious person. I’m sure the Catholic Church would really claim me given an option. Honestly, I don’t agree with a huge amount of the teaching of the Catholic Church, so if it came down to it I guess I wouldn’t claim them either. However, if I am going to church I have to say that it’s really about all the formality of a Catholic service that I’m looking for, but I suppose that has to do with familiarity more then anything else. All of this was fine until I met my husband. His family’s religious values sound close to what you described (although he did attend public schools—and then went to the Christian College. He went to a Christian College partly because that was part of the requirement on how his parents would pay for school. I have so many issues with that one I can’t begin to tell you…). I’ve always basically considered Catholic/Christian more or less the same, it’s just the way you choose to practice it, right? Not so with his family. It was a major issue for his parents that I’m Catholic. They’re Protestant, it’s not like I’m Buddhist & we have a different basis from which our belief system is drawn. (There’s nothing wrong with Buddhism, just using it as an example of what I would consider different, and something I could at least understand being upset over.) I was floored that they considered our religions so different. They tend to overkill on the Children’s Bibles & such now with our 3YO. And the worst part is that I feel they’ve made me uncomfortable about what I’m teaching her in this respect.

A very long way to say, “I hear ya sista!”


Your post left me a bit light-headed--it brought up feelings that are constantly close to the surface.

I grew up in a Christian household, attended private Christian school all the way through college, and married a youth minister. My faith never wavered. Then six months ago, my husband was fired from the church we'd served for four years, with no warning and for no other reason than that the elders thought him too liberal. Since then my world has not stopped spinning, everything is different--we moved, I now work, husband is unemployed--and I have trouble sitting through a church service without crying or having an anxiety attack.

BUT, I have learned one important thing. Christians are just people, and people will let you down, but God will stand with you, let you cry and ask questions and demand answers, and will give you strength to get through each day. You can't equate people or church with God, and you can't let people get in the way of a relationship with God. Don't give them that power.


Awesome post! Wow, I never would have thought you grew up that way based on your awesomeness now! :-)

I was raised Catholic but I questioned things pretty early on. I got in a yelling match with a CCD teacher (Catholic 'Sunday' school that takes place during the week) about abortion. I was screaming at him about rape and incest and no one in the class was hearing anything I had to say. Scary... Then there's the whole being a female in the Catholic church--the diocese I grew up in didn't allow girls to be altar servers, there was this whole "women be submissive" stuff...In 7th grade I got a TWENTY minute lecture on the evils of my tongue during confession when my sins were cursing, arguing with my brother, and mouthing off to my parents. Yeah, I think there were MUCH worse kids out there.

The list goes on and on, but now I am an atheist. I've always been a logic person--I have never seen any of it for myself, so I can't believe in it. If someone can show it to me, as something I can touch, see...then we can talk. Until then, I don't want the crazy.

I luckily found and married an atheist and we live good lives. We don't need "god" or the Bible to guide us to live good lives. I volunteer, don't cut people off in traffic, don't judge others based on their lifestyles...I live a pretty decent life.

Anyway, I am rambling. I highly recommend the book: "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason" by Sam Harris--VERY VERY good. It gives me a glimmer of hope in this world that there are others out there like me. It's a fantastic book!

Cheers to you for writing this post! It was brave! I can't give an opinion on the reunion because I went to public school, wasn't involved in any religious stuff, and had a BLAST at my 10-year back in 2004. But if you go, wear the shoes!

Three cheers to you!!

Y from the internet

Grew up exactly the same way. Except my dad was the pastor.

I haven't been to church in years. (except for Easter) and I don't know that I'll ever go back.


I love Jesus. I think he was an amazing man. One who didn't think he was too good to hang with the people that the RELIGIOUS LEADERS looked down upon. I loved that about him. I just think it's sad that people "representing" him had to go and give him a bad name.


Amy I think this was an awesome post. You are very brave to write about such a polarizing topic -- especially when you know people reading will be saddened/hurt by what you said because of their beliefs.

My husband was raised Jewish, I was raised Catholic (with catholic grade school and high school to boot) and neither one of us practices anymore.

We're planning to raise our son without organized religion. We tell people we're raising him with morals and values. To us, that is better than any religion out there.

Great post. Have fun at the reunion and you are sooooo right about the shoes!


Wow. You just organized all the thoughts that I've had forever from the very same experiences. (Except mine were in the Church of Christ.) It's kinda good to know that someone else feels the same way I do. And also doesn't know what to do about it. Thanks for this post.


I was once told at my Assembly of God teen summer camp that I would not get into Heaven unless I led at least one person to Christ...

Still dealing with the issues of my childhood to this day...

Guilt - Check

Shame - Check, Check

Setting bar of perfectionism and then berating myself when I can't meet it - Check, check and check.

Thank GOD my children will not grow up as farked up as I am!!

Thanks for the post - it is really nice to know I am not alone in my thoughts on religion...


Delurking again to say this was a really fabulous post. Topics like this always fascinate me - because we rarely talk about these things for fear of offending/being non-PC/going to hell. But it's so, so important to talk about them and be rational about these subjects, lest we stray into mindless extremism (of any kind, Christian, Islamic, Other). So well done, really, for talking about it.

I never grew up in any religion at all. My father was atheist, but brought us up to respect other people's religions and find one if we so chose. I went to a number of churches out of curiosity with various friends as I was growing up. My sister became a Mormon and I became a happy atheist - go figure. We don't discuss our religious differences anymore because I got so tired of her telling me I was going to hell for any number of my imagined sins.

Um... why am I sharing this? ;o) Anyway, seriously just wanted to say I loved this post - thought-provoking and leaves you looking very vulnerable - so it was brave of you too. The reunion will probably totally freak you out - these things have a weird way of throwing you right back to who and where you were at a very unhappy time. Just remember that when you're there as well as when you leave, you're not the same person you were then.

And if that teacher IS there, punch her in the eye.



Wow - that was an amzing entry.
I say go to the reunion and wear your awesome expensive shoes and an awesome outfit. And have lots of pictures of adorable Noah. And show all those people what a great person you are!


I want say that I went to a small Christian school in Collingswood, NJ (from your archives, I suspect you attend Lower Bucks -- am I right?). While I did choose to complete my schooling there, it was more for friendships than academics or liking the school. The principal was a prude (who to this day I cannot fathom how she ever bore a child (it requires sex!!)) who believed we were all a raging bunch of hormones waiting to have orgies in the hall if not for the 6-inch rule, and not permitting girls and boys to travel in the same van to sing at the nursing home at Christmas. I had (and still do to a degree) such negative feelings about my school and the hypocrisy of certain teachers who forbid movie-going, but then snuck to the theaters; and suspended kids for dancing on their own time either in the mall or at their own church (yes, that really happened at my school). I totally understand Post Christian School Trauma.

However, after a period of "rebellion", where I had a black boyfriend, became pregnant by same boyfriend, placed said baby for adoption and moved across the country, I have learned much. Church, while instituted by God, is full of people who aren't perfect and make mistakes and offend people -- I mean REALLY OFFEND PEOPLE. But I believe that God will be there for me no matter what I do and will never offend me. People offend in His name, but that is not Him. I faithfully attend, with my husband and 3 children, a fundamental Christian church because church is about what God wants to teach me about Him.

My goal here was to share my story (because I know everyone was dying to hear it), but more importantly to at least encourage you to keep looking for what you want for you and your family, if anything.


29 years since I walked the stage in my graduation gown. I keep up with one of my ultra Christian friends. Saw her a few weeks ago. I had sent her my blawg address. She said it was "too rough" for her.

As Ricky Nelson sang,

Can't please everyone,
so you
Got to please yourself.


Wonderful piece, Amy.

You know, I'm a Methodist. I always tell people "I'm a Methodist" instead of "I'm a Christian" because "Christian" conjures up all of the WRONG things about Christianity, for most people. For me, too, oftentimes--I rush to assure people that it doesn't mean that I'm a bible-thumping, judgemental, dogmatic bitch.

And when I think about that--that the default assumption of "Christian" is "crazy"--I think that's depressing.



i have lots to say about the brave post you''ve just shared with us, but i suppose i'll leave it at this...

i just got the invite to my own 10 year high school reunion, and the first sentence on it said this:
"we have PLANED a great party for you all."


That was an absolutely amazing post! Thank you!!


Wow, Amy. Thank you for this post.

I was raised Catholic and everyone in my family went to a Catholic high school. Private, all girls (or boys, depending), uniforms, blah blah blah. I never was really into church though. I went to youth groups with my friends but they were never catholic youth groups. I loved my school... but then they never got really overbearing either. That's one thing I can't stand... overbearing religion.

We've tried going to a catholic church and it just doesn't *fit*. So we're going to a Baptist church now. Which is incredible if only for the fact that our minivan sports both a John Kerry and a Lord of the Rings bumper sticker. We are Democrats and proud of it. We don't always agree with everything our church stands by, but that's okay. Because at least this church lets you feel welcomed in spite of differences. I imagine if they ever got in our faces about some touchy subjects, we'd be out of there in a heartbeat. But for now? It works.

So many Christian groups, churches, people... just frustrate me. Make me angry. Disappoint me. They let the little stuff get in the way of the big message, which is so, so sad. How welcoming can that be?

Anyhow... best of luck with the reunion. I totally agree. You definitely need some kick-ass shoes to show off. :)


I also wanted to add, GET THE DAMN SHOES!!!

(and of course, post them here so we can all gloat with you!)


One of my biggest pet peeves in life is people who are so into their religions that they forget that the basic principle of almost every religion is to be good to others.

It bugs me when fellow jews are so busy being the 'better' jew by following more laws that they forget to not gossip, or cheat, or even lie.
It bugs me when "good Christians" are so judgemental and mean.

This was a beautiful amazing post. I am again in awe of your writing and your spirit.


Thanks - that was great. You were able to put into words what I've been trying to express my whole life.


Another great post. I'm glad to be one of your readers.


Doesn't Jason have some Jewish in his heritage? Couldn't Noah find his moral compass at some reconstructionist Temple?

Lori McF

Ugh. I'm a long time reader, though I rarely comment, but I just wanted to say that I'm SO SAD that THIS is what "Christianity" has become (note the quotes). I HATE that this is now what "Christians" are calling Christianity. I'm a Christian - and I think the best compliment I've ever received has been the look of complete surprise when I tell people that. Christ was never about all this - I mean, some of his best pals were what the religious people considered total scum.

I hope you guys find some truth out there, amidst all this untruth. I'm so glad to say that Jesus is ALL about grace, and not anything about legalism. I'm sorry you've had such a horrible experience. I hope I've not said anything to add to that horrible experience.

(I'm so not going to raise my kids in a uber-"Chrsitian" environment. I'd rather raise them in a real Christian environment instead. Gah.)

*Internet hug.


Wow, there are some looong comments here and I haven't read them all, but I wanted to contribute.

It's so sad that your upbringing and your school had that effect on you. I grew up in a church that was for all intents and purposes "spiritually dead" - I didn't even understand the concept of salvation because it was never actually preached. It was more like a social club, you know, something to do on a Sunday. It was pretty meaningless.

So when I slipped into the realms of depression, self harm, attempted suicide (you know the drill) I turned my back on it totally.

I went through years of completely self-destructive behaviour, medication and therapy and along the way met some amazing people, some of whom happened to be Christians.

So, two years ago, I went to church with them and I was born again. It is the best thing that's ever happened to me. Not that life is easy, cos it's not - I've still struggled with self-harm and depression - but I DO feel secure in the knowledge that God is always with me.

I haven't commented on here for ages (well, a few weeks at least) because I've been going through some really crazy stuff. I won't bore you with the details, but the long and short of it is that I can't worship at my church at the moment, because of some people's attitudes.

This makes me incredibly sad and somewhat angry as I'm sure you can imagine - especially when I tell you that some of these people I thought of as my friends. I'm not saying that I haven't done ANYTHING wrong, but they're not seeing the bigger picture AND if God has forgiven me, then I believe they should too, although I know it's not always that easy to forgive someone (believe me, I know that only too well).

But there are people at my church who love me and are sticking by me. My pastor is doing his very best to ensure I'm ok and his desire is that I be able to stay at the church when this is all over (please, God, let that be soon!).

If anything this whole situation has brought me closer to God and I've realised that there are a lot of "Christians" out there who aren't really prepared to practise what they preach. Which is just awful. But God is consistent, forgiving and unconditional.

Don't let anyone feed you all that hellfire and damnation stuff, Amy. Once saved, always saved as far as I'm concerned (it does say that in the Bible, I just don't know where! Lol).

I hope this hasn't come across as all preachy, I'm trying to kinda back you up here with my personal experience. You can't rely on people, even the ones who call themselves Christian because sooner or later in one way or another, people will always let you down, whether they mean to or not. And I believe you can rely on God. JMHO, hope that's ok.

Loving the posts, sorry to not have commented more recently. You still rock!
Laura xXx


I'm sorry you were hurt by people who called themselves Christians. FWIW, not all of us who are devout and believe strongly are like that. I'm Roman Catholic, and love my faith, but I don't (I hope) use it to beat people over the head with. I know I don't have all the answers, that's why I keep going to church. ;) I hope that you and Jason find a faith community you feel at home in.I would suggest the Unitarians; a family I used to babysit for attended the Unitarian church--the parents were Jewish but wanted a more "inclusive" faith community for their children. The people there were very nice.


Thank you for the wonderful post. Awhile ago my husband was asked by a co-worker to play in a Christian Softball tournament. No biggie, we're Christians. But during a prayer, they actually asked God to help us help those who believed in Allah, the Jews, etc from going to Hell and start believing in God and Jesus. ACK! We left shortly there after. The nerve...


Wow, you had alluded to your religious upbringing in past entries, but I had no idea it was so, um, fundie. And you should take it as a compliment that I couldn't tell, because it means you are now open-minded, worldly, and swear-y enough to blend in with the rest of us cool heathens. Thanks for sharing this.

I have no "my religious upbringing" stories to share, but I will share that my 10-year-reunion is this year also; my mother only yesterday handed me a little dreaded reminder card that came to her house. I am pretty sure I won't go, not because my classmates are Christian weirdos, but because I seem to remember that everyone in high school was just an asshole.


Wow. Brave of you to write, and I just want you to know that I... well, I agree.


Do I hear an AMEN? Took balls for you to write this and can I just say, I love your BALLS! I think there is so much more to life than going to church. I know so many people that go to church every Sunday and are some of the most hurtful, mean-spirited people I know. It has really turned me off! I hope to find something, someday, but for know being kind and helping other people is enough for me! Again, NICE BALLS!


De-lurking to say, hey, feel your pain. Seriously. The sad thing is that many Christians will be offended by what you say, versus seeing it for what it is... a mirror reflecting that we are not doing what Christ asked of us. Your journey is like everyone else's... intensely personal. I'm sorry that you were hurt, and I pray that you can look past the people, and see the Christ. He loves you and so do I.


That was a really interesting post, I'm a long time lurker and decided to finally post!

Anyway, if you Christians think you get looked at funny when you reveal your beliefs - you should try being Muslim! It's open season for both unwanted opinions and really stupid questions. Someone even asked me if I wear my headscarf in the shower.


Damn, you have ALOT of Catholic readers. And I'm one of them. Thanks for being brave.

One of the Amys

Amen, sister! Well thought out, well said and WELL DONE!


Wow, great post! I was raised Catholic, but my mom was obsessed with finding a Catholic church that was liberal. (I use that term loosely.) She did a good job, too, and while I no longer go to church regularly, I truly admire the fact that she managed to instill the things that are important about religion while dismissing the bullshit.


Wow, Amy. You are so brave to write this. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for you.

As someone who happens to have found a religious tradition she is comfortable with, I feel slightly weird commenting on this entry, because I'd be lying if I said I'd had similar experiences. I'm not sure exactly why I feel such a need to post, except, well, you really touched my heart. Especially that last sentence.

So I just want to say that I'm sorry you were hurt so badly. That I think the things those people did to you were truly awful. And that you are not nothing. Absolutely not.


Hey Amy,
I took "time off" from my Christian upbringing to have a baby at 19. My church family was actually extremely supportive of me, until I refused to marry. When I felt like the best thing was for my baby's daddy and I to live together and see how things went from there, they were very upset. So I stopped going to church at all. After a few years of focusing on my spiritual self alone I went back, not because I thougth it would save my relationship with God, but because I wanted my kids to experience the love that I had known from these people my whole childhood. I always felt like I belonged somewhere. Those people that judged me are still there, but I'm a big girl now. They don't bother me. I go to enjoy the people and the God I love. It has actually provided a neat way to discuss spritual matters with my now older kids. We talk different viewpoints instead of keeping the "moral majority" line. It has provided a nice foundation to our lives to be back. Also I kind of feel like a double agent which is so cool! I hope you and Jason find something that feels good to you and Noah. Sometimes going back is great, sometimes moving on is better. Peace!


Absolutely kick-ass entry, Ms. Amalah. I know where you're coming from, and I've struggled with a lot of the same stuff myself. The problem for me was that I stopped believing long before I would admit it to anyone, even myself. I was miserable throughout high school and the first year and a half of college because I couldn't let go of the expectations about what I was SUPPOSED to believe. I was absolutely convinced my friends and family would hate me, and that I was a horrible person. I still can't bring myself to discuss my agnosticism/atheism with my mother...

Why do we let ourselves get so concerned about what the rest of the world thinks of something that is such a deeply personal belief?

For years now, I just haven't been able to make myself believe in God. It depresses me because I want very much to have something to believe in, you know? I want some sort of reassurance that there is a heaven, and it will all be okay in the end. I miss that sense of hope and faith.

My husband and I have discussed how we'll raise our future kids, and we had thought we'd attend a church for the same reasons you and Jason had, but the more I've thought about it, the less point I see to that. I feel like if I can't teach my kids how to be decent people without the help of judgmental, small-minded people, what business do I have even having kids?

Oy. I don't know.. I keep hoping I'll have some sort of epiphany.

So did you and Jason abandon the church together, or meet up after you had each done so?

Anyway, thanks for the post. It helps to remember that other people struggle with the same issue...


I completely agree with your posting. I feel like the "Christian" title has been hijacked. I read your blog regularly, and I enjoy it, but this is the first time that I have felt compelled to leave a comment. Thank you.


Amy, thank you for a great post.

I grew up very Christian, pro-life, the whole conservative nine. I was obsessive about it and developed anxiety about how many times I could pray in a day. Went to church Sundays and Wednesdays, and prayed for people's souls in my spare time.

My grandpa died when I was in catechism classes. My pastor led a prayer, saying, "but we are happy because Cara's grandpa is in a better place." Hello breaking point. Any G-d who would take Pop away from me after making him slowly and painfully die could go screw.

Many years later I've discovered my part-Jewish roots and am still trying to decide where I stand on the spirituality versus religion deal. I'm about to marry a great guy who is half-Jewish and we've decided to get married in a liberal church that works for social justice.

I guess my point is that I believe spirituality is constantly in flux, and it can come and go, just like the tides. Do what feels right to you. You're obviously a caring, kind person and your moral compass as it is will be a good guide to little Noah as it is.


Except for a few minor could have been describing my life. This was an excellent post. I know I wish I had the courage to say so many of those things to the mom that raised me that proud of you for not letting the fear I know you were feeling hold you back.


Wow. I've been wanting to write a very similar post for a WHILE now (my 10 year was last year, did I go? Heeeeeeeeeell no, I'm way too fragile even now for that shit.) 15 consecutive years in Catholic ed, nuns, all girls, super vindictive and fundie...It's a miracle (excuse the pun) that I didn't kill myself. I'm amazed by that all the time. I'm finally happy with being an agnostic punk living in sin, but the scars still bleed when I read posts like this one. You are SO BRAVE for going. I never, ever would have been able to be so brave. Wear the fab shoes, show off the gorgeous Noah pix, and GET THE HELL OUT if you start feeling bad. They should NEVER make you feel bad again. NEVER.

Thank you so much for this post, Amalah. You rule.

Nap Queen

I have three words: Universalist Unitarian Church. I am spiritual but not Christian and for the longest time I couldn't figure out where I belonged. Then I found the UU church which accepts people no matter what "God" means to them, no matter their sexual orientation, etc. EVERYONE is welcome. The best part is that their Sunday school teaches children about all the world's religions. I'm totally blabbering now, sorry...........


I'm an Atheist (though I DETEST that word) mostly because of how cruel many religious people were to me as a child (and the whole "not believing in god" thing). But I don't hate religious people, like many think I must, because they believe in something I don't. I am just frustrated by how unforgiving and unaccepting so many seem to be, despite the "love" they preach. So thanks for giving me a different perspective.

And I can't believe you are only a year older than me. I feel so...behind.

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