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Religion Compounded Family Dysfunction


Guest ZombieJesusAteMyBrains
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Guest ZombieJesusAteMyBrains

My story is similar to some others I've read here... I was born into a fundamentalist Christian family. My mother and father met at a Christian college, both sets of my grandparents were Church of Christ members so naturally, my mother and father raised myself, my sister and my brother in the Church of Christ as well. I remember when I was young asking my mother “if God made everything, who made God” and not being happy with her reply which seemed not so much an answer but a blow off. We went to church 3 times a week and again on Thursdays when the youth group met. I was baptized at the age of 12, which seemed to be the age the other kids in my youth group were doing it and also seemed like a great way to make my parents proud. I did believe in my heart that Jesus was the Son of God and that I had to be baptized to live forever but I had never been shown any other way. We attended a church for several years but when my mother and father divorced, it rocked the boat so much the church excommunicated our entire family. Though I was just a child, it saddened me a great deal.

 

Over the years, my father and mother have both been hospitalized on several occasions for mental problems. They both remarried “Christians” and continued to go to different churches. Both of my stepparents were abusive. My stepfather, a leader in our church youth community, was sexually abusive and my stepmother was physically and mentally abusive. We lived with my mother at first and started going to another Church of Christ with some of our relatives. I was 14 and thought I had the whole religion thing all figured out, then my father got custody of us and made us go to a Pentecostal church which only served to confuse me a great deal. I was very troubled that one group of Christians could vary so completely from another group of Christians, simply because they translated the Bible differently. Could one be right and the other wrong? If they were both technically right, could other churches be right too? I was also confused as to how my step parents could behave so horribly but expected everyone to forgive them because it was what the church taught us we should do (if we expected God's forgiveness for our own sins). At this time I was also very concerned that I was not "blessed with the Holy spirit" because I never talked in tongues or passed out when someone prayed over me. It is thought by the Pentecostals that you are not truly saved until you have been filled with the Holy Spirit. Though I posed lots of questions no one could seem to answer, I stuck with it, fearing hell, not wanting to admit to anyone that I had doubts as to whether either sect were right about anything at all.

 

There was a lot of family drama and abuse during those years that has left me scarred. The conflicting religious doctrine coming at me from all angles only served to compound my pain and confusion. I was expected to forgive and forget, no matter how many times I had been abused. I went back to live with my mother again in my junior year of high school. I was expected to go to church with her and she enrolled me in a private school funded by the CoC. This was when the brainwashing truly began to sink in despite my protests that there were not any books on evolution in their library. It seemed like if they were so certain that evolution was wrong, they would want to educate their students on the reasons why. I didn’t know anything about the theory at all. It was forbidden for me to even research as it was considered “the devils work”.

 

I felt very guilty for wanting to have premarital sex so I married the completely wrong man at the age of 18 for fear that if Jesus came back, I would be made to pay for giving into mortal sin and the price would be eternal damnation. He went to church with me, alternating between my mother's church and the one my father belonged to. We were both baptized again into the Pentecostal church. I never “received the Holy Spirit” (which bothered my father so much I thought maybe I should fake it). We had two children right away. He worked; I stayed at home with the kids. I thought I would be happy living my life that way, however, with time it became harder and harder for me to accept the life of a submissive wife. The more I resented the lack of consideration for my opinion or feelings, the more trapped I felt. When I finally stood up for myself, things became physically abusive between us, which led to the dissolution of our marriage.

 

Neither of the churches we’d been attending was very supportive of my decision to leave my husband, though paradoxically, it was perfectly all right for my mother to forgive her child-molesting husband and remain married to him. My father disowned me and would not return my letters or calls. Oddly, my other family members didn't seem concerned when I stopped coming to church. No one called to ask how I was or why I wasn't at church, though it was obvious to anyone who knew me that I was struggling. I totally expected to have to defend my decision to leave the church at some point but the confrontation never occurred. My mother allowed me to live with her until I got back on my feet but she has never once mentioned my absence in church. Meanwhile, a close cousin offered to send my children to the private school we had both graduated from (which was pre-K to 12 grade). I agreed because I still believed in God and wanted to do the right thing by my kids.

 

My oldest daughter was in 1st grade when she gave me a drawing she did in class of Jesus hanging on a cross. It blew me away that they were already teaching them about the crucifixion. While I knew the teachers would be peppering their lesson plans with moral stories from the Bible, I just couldn't rationalize why a 7 year old would need to know the brutal details of the way Jesus died. I remembered having harbored a hatred for the Jews when I was about 9 or 10 because they were, in my child's mind, too dumb to see Jesus was the Son of God and murdered him. For some reason, this occurrence rang out as a warning bell in my head. I knew that if I continued to allow my cousin to pay for my kids tuition, I might as well be filling their innocent minds with the same hate/fear/intolerance and superstitions that I had suffered with all those years. I wanted my kids to be able to make their own choice. I came to the realization that indoctrinating them at such an impressionable age would take that choice away. I let the kids finish the school year, and then told my cousin I would not be enrolling them the next year.

 

I was nearly 30 and still didn't really know if I believed in the Bible or not. I remarried; he is a wonderful, supportive man who felt the same way I did about religion when we first met. We had both been baptized in the CoC but had stopped attending church because of our dislike for organized religion. We both considered ourselves Christians then, but over the past 4 years, we’ve grown so much together and our perception of who God is has completely changed. Now I no longer consider myself a Christian. I no longer consider the Bible to be the word of God nor do I believe Jesus is the only way to God.

 

A few years ago I stumbled upon the words of Timothy Leary. I’m certain the fact that I was previously sheltered from his message to think for ones self and question authority was no coincidence. I had an epiphany when he spoke about how for centuries, it's been the political, educational and religious leaders who have given us rules and laws, defining our individual realities in their attempt to find order within the chaos. Wow, heavy man. It was as though scales had been lifted from my eyes and I could see more clearly than ever.

 

My decision to leave the church has caused definite strain on nearly every relationship I have with my Christian family members though they will never speak of it. My mother coerced my 13 yr old daughter to be baptized recently and that has caused some major problems for us since I had specifically told her she should wait until she had done some more research. I’ll save that for another post though. I sure could use some advice and support right now, which is what caused me to look online and find this site. It’s good to read other testimonials to know I am not alone in this. Thanks for reading my long story :)

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Thanks for reading my long story :)

 

No problem! You write well and it did not seem long at all. That your mother coerced your daughter to get baptized is really disturbing. Seems like the dysfunction of your family is following you to this day. I wonder how your daughter really feels about the whole thing. Not that I expect an answer to this. But many people on here talk about important decisions they made or insights they had re religion anywhere from age 8 to their twenties or thirties. Thanks for sharing your story.

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Wow.

 

For starters, you've shown a lot of courage to extricate yourself from the religion fueled dysfunction of your family. You have a lot going for you now being paired up with a supportive and like-minded spouse.

 

It's so good to hear that you've got your children removed from the same indoctrination you had to endure at that school. It's horrifying the ravages that some fundamentalist families unleash on their children: there are a number of other people here who were seriously traumatized by fundamentalist parents, myself included.

 

You've yet to post more on how your family is trying to program your children, but you and your husband are there for them! Welcome to a more functional life than you were offered from your upbringing, welcome to the board, and thanks for inspiring others with your story!

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Hello ZJAMB,

 

Sorry to see how much hell fundamentalism has caused for you and your family.

However, I am glad that you have managed to free your mind from it and move

on as much as you have. I wish you the best of luck in loosening the clutches of

your fundy parents on your children. Oh, and welcome to ExC!

 

 

:woohoo:

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I don't know if I'm right but sometimes I think religion exagerates any dysfunctions that exist. Parents, pastors, and teachers love telling kids that "You have to do what we tell you because the Bible says so." For older kids, it can be pulling up the Ten Commandments to prove it.

 

There was a time in my life, as there probably is for most people, when I so desperately needed a biblical handle for getting out of that commandment. But it's repeated in various forms in the NT, too. And then there is the golden example of Jesus obediently going home with Mary and Joseph when he was twelve. What bothered me about that story was that he didn't get slapped on the mouth for rebuking his mom.

 

"How come you were looking for me? Didn't you KNOW I'd be here?" he asked when she asked why he did this.

 

Never would I have gotten away with talking to my parents like that. It's totally arrogant. It's putting the parents down for being so stupid, for not knowing him better than all that.

 

The way parents hush up their kids on that part of the story is that "Jesus was holy and without sin, so it was different than for you. YOU are just a human kid. YOU NEED a lot of scolding just to keep you in line!"

 

That kind of thing convinces the child of either:

 

Mom and Dad know me better than I know myself (which I sincerely believed, due to the many times they inferred it),

 

or

 

Mom and Dad tell lies (which a more emotionally secure child might be inclined to believe since the parents are more often wrong than right about what the child intends).

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