By Never Going Back
Looking back on my sixteen year "relationship" with Christ, hindsight has lent me the wisdom to discern that it was truly an abusive one.
I have an intimate knowledge of domestic violence. I experienced it growing up and as an adult woman in unhealthy relationships. My counselor defined domestic violence as controlling another person through the use of fear and manipulation. If that is the case, then I think it's safe to say that my "loving Heavenly Father" beat the shit out me!
For sixteen years I lived in morbid fear of this place called Hell, where he would promptly send me for any infraction. I was constantly confused by the scriptures that seemed to insult me one minute and build me up the next. For sixteen years I heard Him tell me that my righteousness was as filthy rags and that without Him, I was nothing. For sixteen years, I was told that nearly all my desires were sinful, all my thoughts and feelings were wrong, and all my plans- fruitless. For sixteen years, I was the ant living under the magnifying glass of God. I lived in constant mental anguish over my "sins" and over fear of Hell. I lived in constant fear of this "loving God's" fearful wrath.
My last abusive relationship with a man was a terribly traumatic one. Somehow, he was able to reduce me to a mere shell of the woman I had been when I had met him. I was ever aware of the tone of voice I used, the words I used, the volume of my voice, etc. I was not allowed to have my own opinions, thoughts or dreams. I was not permitted to confront HIS issues at all. I was not allowed to show any reaction or emotion other than pleasure. I could not have a bad day. I could not be angry with him for his misdeeds, and should he ever say he was sorry, I better forgive him OR ELSE. I was constantly threatened with neglect, abandonment and abuse. I walked the line in every way. I allowed this man to treat me inhumanly, because I had been taught from an early age and especially as a Christian, to be submissive, to not ask questions, to not trust my own instints, and to look to someone else to define my self-worth.
The more I looked at this god, the more I gave real consideration to his personality, the more I realized how similar his human attributes really were. I didn't leave religion because of the abuse, because like most victims, I didn't realize that I was abused. It was always my fault, of course. There was always some hidden sin I was unaware of, and if I was doing well in towing the line, then I had to be careful not to give myself any credit for my righteous living, because afterall, the glory went to God. No, I didn't know I was a victim; I truly believed that the problem was within me.
It took me a long time to leave, but I finally did it, and as my name so vehemently professes: I am NEVER GOING BACK. So many people are in this same abusive relationship with their "god", and I look on with pity, wishing them the same freedom that I have now. You really just don't see it when you're in it. As a Christian, as in all abusive relationships, you are reduced until you either die or run for your life.
In the Shawshank Redemption, Tim Robbin's character, Andy Dufrane, comments that he has two choices: to get busy living or get busy dying. One day, I realized that I was faced with those same two choices, and I chose life. Ironic that Christianity promises life more abundantly isn't it? It nearly sapped me of mine.
I wish that I could say the voice of madness is gone, but I hear it resonate now and then in my head, seeking to remind me that I am nothing, that I am unworthy, that I am wrong for having left, that it will be better this time if I just come back... That is the haunting legacy of abuse. It helps to know that I am not alone in my suffering and that many of you have felt the same angry blows of religion and often for much longer periods of time.
Anyway, thank you all for entertaining my rant. It has been therapuetic.