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Worship Withdrawal


Guest Yarrow Gordon
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Guest Yarrow Gordon

I really could have used this community over the past few years, but am still immensely grateful to find it and share what I have been through. It seems the strangest and loneliest of journeys. I was raised in a Christian home, though I had a bit of secular influence from my mostly absent father (my parents divorced). When I was 20 I found a church and the family I felt I had searched for my whole lonely life. I had recently recovered from a deep depression and tormenting panic attacks, and this family (the pastor's family) was a beacon of the brightest light of love I had ever encountered. I became best friends with his daughter, and a near adopted daughter as I spent every second of free time at their house or taking part in the church's activities. My entire life I have been driven by a deep spiritual hunger, and for the first time someone was able to feed it.

 

The church began as a spirited "non-denominational" fellowship, but over the course of my first year with them, veered sharply in the direction of the charismatic movement. Most had foundations in seminary and much theological and philosophical practice, and we upheld deep penetrations of the scriptures in all our pursuits. Even so, the years following looked more like shamanic explorations of the spirit world than anything like a normal church, and I liked it that way. These 8 years of "worship" were the most profound of my life, as I experienced ecstatic out of body trips, visitations, manifestations and hallucinations. I registered Jesus and the Holy Spirit in my body like a drug, and I was always the first to arrive and the last to leave, and spent many hours on my own in trance like states of loving meditation. These experiences were not just emotional, as over the years my internal condition changed from a hard hearted victim too afraid to love, to an open hearted and fearless "child of God."

 

When I was 27, things with my group began to slow down, spiritually speaking, as many were marrying, engaged or consumed with school. And, after years and years of praying and REALLY BELIEVING, and crazy asking strangers to pray for me kind of praying, long sessions of laying on of hands, oil, tongues, the whole gammut, I still had a lot of physical issues that had not been healed. I decided to heal myself through nutrition, herbs and supplements and went to work at a health food store. Suddenly, my most intimate friends who knew me better than I thought anybody ever could began treating me with suspicion, asking constant questions, even making fun of me for dietary and lifestyle changes I was making for my health. I felt I had been suddenly jolted from the center of the circle to the fringe, as if I was questioning God (a definite no-no in this group, but I wasn't), or partaking in some other dangerous activity. I was honestly befuddled for a long time, as I had no intention of questioning Christianity or our very narrow beliefs, or of ceasing to pray for my physical ailments. On the contrary, I was determined to proselytize all the pagans at my work place and shared with my friends excited updates constantly!

 

And then I met Mike. Mike had the most open and loving heart of anyone I'd ever met, and instantly reminded me of the Jesus that I loved, though he was not a Christian in the slightest. However, me being "different than any religious person he'd ever met," he decided to give it a try. He came to my spiritually charged and highly intimidating meetings, befriended my friends, and after some months had his own experience with Jesus. But it wasn't enough. They insisted he needed time to have his own spiritual life with Jesus, so we spent 3 excruciating months totally separated from each other. But in those three months our love for each other deepened so much, that he proposed to me less than a week after being re-united. My friends were not happy, and spent the entirety of our engagement "confronting" me, getting vague "words from the Lord," controlling important aspects of our wedding, and pressuring Mike to make all kinds of life changes he had not ever considered in his own heart.

 

A month or so before the wedding he finally gave up trying to be a part of the group, as he fit in like shell fish at rosh hashanah, and I was devastated. On our wedding day, my friends showed up, but sulked the entire time and we have the wedding pictures of their scowls to prove it! My pastor's wife read us a blessing as a toast, and if it hadn't been for that I would have lost my shit on my wedding day, as not one other friend gave a toast or a comment or spoke a word. We did not receive one card, one present, one momento, one word - nothing. Not one thing. I feel so much hurt and anger still even as I write these words.

 

It wasn't long after that, I attended my last meeting. When a woman whose name I did not even know, looked straight in my eyes and gave an "anonymous word" OUT LOUD to someone who was being tempted to "backslide," I knew I would never go back. I had no intention of backsliding, Jesus was everything to me, I was the most devoted of the devoted. But the behavior of these people when one of their own strayed ever so slightly to just do things differently, made me take a long and excruciating look at myself, my beliefs and my culture. The following years were so humiliating and lonely, all the while mourning the loss of my community and my God as one mourns a divorce or a death. Humiliating being the ugliest and dumbest of ducklings who knew nothing of history or politics or science and just sitting still and shutting up and listening to very kind and generous people who did not judge me for my ignorance, but simply shared their lives, experience and knowledge. Lonely because no one in my new life had the faintest concept of the pain I was experiencing, and my ever patient husband tried desperately, but how could he fill the emptiness left behind by an entire community and a beloved god?

 

In addition, as I mentioned before, my old friends were and are very active in the spiritual world, so they didn't just pray for "backsliders," they do "spiritual warfare" on our behalf. For years afterwards I experienced such extreme psychic attack as to have them running around like circus freaks in my dreams every night, and consuming my constant obsessive thoughts by day. It has not been until recently that I have been able to free my mind and emotions from whatever they may still be doing, and I finally feel free to live in the present and pursue my own life. The hard part is that I still miss them desperately, and I try to keep in contact with the pastor's daughter who I miss so much, though that has proven to be quite sticky. I never wanted to burn these bridges, but when natural healing and a mate from "the outside" is that offensive to them, how am I supposed to be able to think freely and pursue the life path I desire with constant antagonism? Now I have so much anger and hostility toward xianity, when Jesus was for so long, my deepest well of love, safety and as I said in the beginning ~ ecstasy. I once felt a power so fierce I wondered if I would die, surge through my body like electricity, knock me softly off my feet, and consume me with what felt like the laughter of the universe roaring out of my own mouth. I don't believe that xianity is the only way to experience such a state, but I have not dared to try elsewhere, now that I know how much of the rest of reality you have to kill in order to participate.

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I hope you can find some common ground here. Welcome to the site.

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Yours is a fascinating story and I am very sorry about the issues at your wedding that is totally uncalled for! I had a bit of it at mine, but it was just my dad and brother who were scowling while everyone else had the proper joy.

 

I never experienced a feeling of family at church, but did find it in an intimate group of friends I met in high school. I think sometimes groups start to be more about what you do, rather than who you are. Fortunately my group of friends was about who we were, mostly because none of us 'did' anything. Its unfair that they would judge you for changing a few habits when you are still the same "you". When your emotions and devotion were no less.

 

I left Christianity for paganism, but now practice rarely and do not believe in anthropomorphic gods. I am open to ideas about spirituality, however and look forward to your posts and experiences. I have never had anything like your experiences, not even when in the midsts of my paganism. Peace, joy, understanding - yes, but nothing seemingly paranormal. I always wish it had though. I have never even been hypnotized either (though its been tried) and I have wanted to experience that. I don't think my brain is wired for these things. But I am sure there are ways to experience the joy and love you felt before without being exposed to judgmental people.

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Yarrow,

 

Your anger is part of the process that I would say everyone who deconverts goes through. I still get angry from time to time, but for the most part I have gotten past it. It takes time; in my case, a lot of time. After all, your sense of reality has been altered. You realized that you've been lied to, betrayed, and had your mind filled with Christian BS. Your anger is only natural.

 

You comment about spiritual warfare made me think HAH! I remember doing that sh*t. Getting on my knees, crying, speaking out against demons, waging war on "the enemy" (Satan). I swear that anybody who saw me must have thought I was insane (and I don't blame them). So you're not alone, plenty of people got suckered in that sh*t as well. Now I just try to look back and laugh at it.

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Sounds like you were in a serious cult, the way they could not tolerate any deviation from the party line.

 

May you always ask the hard questions instead of going along with the flow. If a community can't handle deviation or criticism, then it's not really a community in my opinion.

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First off, welcome to the forum, I think you may find people here still very helpful and many of the topics still very applicable even where you are at right now.

 

I can't say that I ever had those types of spiritual experiences myself, so I cannot relate to that feeling of loss, but I know others here can. As for losing friends and your community, that I can attest to. Given more time, I think you'll find that there are other people out there, outside of the christian cult, who can love and appreciate you for who you are, just as your husband does. It takes awhile, but once you figure out where you're going, then things can start to come together. It's a long journey, and a difficult one, but in time you'll figure out who you are and what you believe without those others who have caused you so much pain.

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Humiliating being the ugliest and dumbest of ducklings who knew nothing of history or politics or science and just sitting still and shutting up and listening to very kind and generous people who did not judge me for my ignorance, but simply shared their lives, experience and knowledge.

But it sounds like they were judging you nonetheless. It's just that before you tried the health food, they judged you as acceptable, and as long as you were "acceptable," their judgments didn't make themselves felt.

 

It is now, looking back, that I can see the extreme judgmentalism in a cult that, ironically, prohibits judging. When a deacon in my (former) parish sought a divorce, the talk got so bad that the bishop fired off a stern letter to the parish to knock it off. And this was a parish that, in the bishop's own estimation, was the friendliest in the diocese! Numerous extimonies, plus a few more of my own experiences, have convinced me that, in general, Christians are a judgmental lot, though they fail to see themselves that way. Apparently, something about Christianity encourages a holier-than-thou attitude.

 

I never wanted to burn these bridges, but when natural healing and a mate from "the outside" is that offensive to them, how am I supposed to be able to think freely and pursue the life path I desire with constant antagonism?

Sounds like it was your "friends" who burned all the bridges around you. You are left with nothing to burn.

 

I don't believe that xianity is the only way to experience such a state, but I have not dared to try elsewhere, now that I know how much of the rest of reality you have to kill in order to participate.

Christianity holds the premise that it is admirable to believe things that are impossible. See John 20:29 and Tertullian. Not all world views are so averse to reality.

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Guest Yarrow Gordon

Thank you all so much. This site feels like such a gift, to have others who actually know how this feels is...something I didn't think I would find. Do you really think this is/was a cult? I have wondered a lot about that, but I was so deeply immersed, and believing, it's a hard pill to swallow on a lot of levels. And it's not like there was abuse and some of the really dramatic stuff that goes on, so I have gone back and forth a lot on this question.

 

As for the mystical stuff, Midnight, I think my brain is wired for this stuff, as I have always seemed to draw it too myself my whole life. But that is another reason why this has been such a mind f**k too, because I could not logic my way out of those experiences. I think groups that move into that kind of power, really have a deep kind of control at their finger tips because it is repeatedly expressed that our religion, and our kind of practice within that religion is the reason for the "signs following," ie, the Holy Spirit proving itself, undeniable. It's really f**ked with my head, that's for sure.

 

Non-redneck, it's good to have comradery on this! I have felt like such a fool. We did excorcisms too, and Iook back on that and shiver...next time, I'll try a laugh. But that too, I am so sensitive to that realm, whatever it is, when we did "warfare," I often ended up with tormenting nightmares, terrible depression, horrible things happening around me, etc. Did you or your group ever experience what seemed like bad luck, or bad vibes, or a backlash?

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Non-redneck, it's good to have comradery on this! I have felt like such a fool. We did excorcisms too, and Iook back on that and shiver...next time, I'll try a laugh. But that too, I am so sensitive to that realm, whatever it is, when we did "warfare," I often ended up with tormenting nightmares, terrible depression, horrible things happening around me, etc. Did you or your group ever experience what seemed like bad luck, or bad vibes, or a backlash?

 

Not really. There was stuff I attributed to backlash (e.g. from demons), but now I see how silly that was. Any backlash never really happened, it was probably one of several things. It could have been normal stuff going wrong in life (life isn't perfect, stuff does go wrong). I also suspect that since I mentally expected a backlash from "Satan", I may have subconciously created the problems myself. Evangelical Christianity also produced a persecution complex within me that caused most anything bad to be attributed to the working of "Satan" and persecution by the world.

 

God d@mn fundies. It took me a while to get accept that bad stuff just happens, and it's not the devil! It's a part of life!

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A very interesting testimony, Yarrow.

 

 

At this site, you won't be under scrutiny every day for "backsliding", nor will you be judged for having your own thoughts and feelings. You won't be cloned, emotionally manipulated, attacked, spindled, or ignored.

 

Our only agenda is to help each other achieve expression, examine what we've been through, and find joy and confidence based upon the premise that inside we are all the same.

 

...or something like that.

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Non-redneck, it's good to have comradery on this! I have felt like such a fool. We did excorcisms too, and Iook back on that and shiver...next time, I'll try a laugh. But that too, I am so sensitive to that realm, whatever it is, when we did "warfare," I often ended up with tormenting nightmares, terrible depression, horrible things happening around me, etc. Did you or your group ever experience what seemed like bad luck, or bad vibes, or a backlash?

 

I was in the same kind of church. Assemblies of God. Your description (first to arrive, last to leave, spiritual warfare, visions, hallucinations, determined to save the heathen around you) sounds just like me 4 years ago! Yeah, talk about an embarassing past! However, I have found that my experiences make for very entertaining stories to share with friends. The friends I have now (nonreligious, mormon, nonpracticing catholic, pagan) have helped me to see the humor in it. I included a chapter in my book for ex-Charismatics (see my signature) and it was the most fun to write!

 

Having said that, talking about it with nonreligious friends is a whole lot easier than confronting my past directly. I have a church camp DVD and DVD's from 2 missions trips where some of my antics were caught on film. Copies of these DVD's are floating around, hundreds in the case of the church camp one... I can get sick if I think about it too long. Curse modern Christians and their obsession with recording everything! I actually went on YouTube and did a search to make sure none of the videos ended up there. So far, so good :)

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Guest Free Thinker

The thing I seem to be having the greatest problem with is separating what was taught in the churches I attended, and what I feel just...is. Do I feel bad about a decision or course of action in or out of my control, because something I was taught? Or, is it simply my human nature at work?

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Non-redneck, it's good to have comradery on this! I have felt like such a fool. We did excorcisms too, and Iook back on that and shiver...next time, I'll try a laugh. But that too, I am so sensitive to that realm, whatever it is, when we did "warfare," I often ended up with tormenting nightmares, terrible depression, horrible things happening around me, etc. Did you or your group ever experience what seemed like bad luck, or bad vibes, or a backlash?

 

I was in the same kind of church. Assemblies of God. Your description (first to arrive, last to leave, spiritual warfare, visions, hallucinations, determined to save the heathen around you) sounds just like me 4 years ago! Yeah, talk about an embarassing past! However, I have found that my experiences make for very entertaining stories to share with friends. The friends I have now (nonreligious, mormon, nonpracticing catholic, pagan) have helped me to see the humor in it. I included a chapter in my book for ex-Charismatics (see my signature) and it was the most fun to write!

 

Having said that, talking about it with nonreligious friends is a whole lot easier than confronting my past directly. I have a church camp DVD and DVD's from 2 missions trips where some of my antics were caught on film. Copies of these DVD's are floating around, hundreds in the case of the church camp one... I can get sick if I think about it too long. Curse modern Christians and their obsession with recording everything! I actually went on YouTube and did a search to make sure none of the videos ended up there. So far, so good :)

 

Wow, decafaholic, I just finished reading your book and yes, I've seen just about everything you talk about in the chapter, "Confessions of a Former Pew-Jumper". Whew, brought back memories! I enjoyed your whole book. I deconverted five years ago and went thru similar processes and stages in the process.

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Guest Yarrow Gordon

I do feel embarassed about my past, especially when people around me are talking about crazy Christians. But I also treasure it. I feel a huge loss. If I were to tell my new friends the stories of those events to their laughter, it would be like laughing at an ex-husband whom I am still in love with. I no longer agree with the things I participated in, but not because they weren't real, but because they weren't ethical. Maybe they weren't real, but I'm just not sure. I am not saying it was all BS, I am saying I don't know what it was. Whatever it was, it was really really powerful, and I don't think we were a bunch of idiots for being a part of it. I don't feel like I was hypnotized and one day snapped out of it. I think we all had powerful experiences that caused us to take a long journey to understand those experiences, but in the end we just couldn't conform. I also want to say there was a lot of value for all of us in those experiences, they add a layer of richness to our lives that most people do not have. We understand a very ubiquitous aspect of the human experience; feeling the presence of a higher power, and connecting with others in that presence. That is such a powerful situation, and most who feel that never leave ~ we are uniquely situated in this culture, and I feel like there must be some use for the knowledge we have, and the pain that it took to get it. Religion is such a destructive force in our society today, but all religious people are not idiots. Skeptics like to pin up little cardboard stereotypes of the dumbest religious people, and then shoot a f**king canon through it, but that is so intellectually dishonest (though I did very much enjoy Religulous, thank you). Many many people have deeply intellectual, mystical and devout practices and do great things, and those folks are never acknowledged.

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Yarrow Gordon, I understand your point of view and can feel your anguish, and I think you will find that most of us here have wrestled with the same issues in deconverting. For me, it's taken nearly 30 years to separate who I am from who I was shaped to be by the church, and by Christianity itself. I'm still learning, but maybe I can help you by giving you a few things to consider.

 

There are good people everywhere. You can find them in churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, Internet forums, baseball games, picnics, model airplane clubs, on ships, airplanes, trains and Greyhound buses. People who are good people are kind and accepting of everyone, and it does not matter what their theological concepts are, or what labels others put on them, or even the labels they put on themselves.

 

Good people are good people, often in spite of religious programming, or a particular organization they might belong to. The truth is that good people tend to seek other good people out. Look at this website, for example. Yes, it's true that you will find a lot of anger, bitterness and regret here, but you have to expect that from good people who discover that the Wizard of Oz is just a little man behind a curtain, pulling strings and levers to intimidate and deceive them.

 

My advice to you is to methodically separate those things that define you as a unique individual, from those things that you have been taught to believe about yourself. If you have fear, follow the fear to see where it comes from. This type of knowledge really is power, and knowledge will ultimately set you free.

 

If you have friends or family who are good people, but happen to be Christians, or Jews, or Muslims, or Buddhists, or Atheists, or Agnostics, or just people without a particular axe to grind, treasure them and love them. Good friends and family are precious in this life.

 

But keep this one thought in mind: You have been "nurtured" by family, church and culture to think and feel along certain lines. Your values are a mixture of your own and those of other people. Sometimes even good people will have dark thoughts and destructive attitudes that have been hammered into them. I submit that even good people can have ideas, concepts and religious beliefs that separate us from others, and that cause us to fear and mistrust others for no good reason, extending even to self-loathing, self hatred, and distrust of our own thoughts and feelings. Here's the hard part: The people who hammered these ideas into us - well meaning though they might have been - are as guilty of abuse as a well-meaning but misguided parent who beats his child to a pulp to "raise him up aright." The difference is that the scars from these beatings are invisible to the naked eye, but they are no less real, and in some ways are worse, because they can be permanent.

 

I was one of those well-meaning abusers. I was a Pentecostal youth minister. It is my biggest regret, and I can't undo the damage I did to my own children, and the other children I "ministered" to. But I can help people get healed if they want it, and in the process, heal myself. That's why many of us are here.

 

So, reach out and seek knowledge, and it will lead to the only real salvation there is. It starts with you.

 

 

Rob

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Yarrow,

 

I can relate, as I'm sure most people here can, to your anger. In fact, I could feel anger just reading your story. Why some people have to be so judgemental and try so hard to invoke fear I'll never understand. It's good you saw the truth behind their controlling nature and set yourself free from a very potentially dangerous way of life. Take care and welcome here!

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Guest Yarrow Gordon

Dear Rob, Thank you for your kind words. There is a lot of wisdom here for me to ponder. I understand what you are saying about good people, in fact, I've been deeply moved by this realization in my years away from the church. I have met many wonderful people, and am now close with a handful of them. But I still feel like my old friends were unique somehow. I used to think of them all day, dream of them at night, and follow their constant movements on face book ~ the only connection left when I moved thousands of miles away from them all! I've had many waves of letting go, and on the last swell I de-friended all of them on face book. There were some other things that happened that last time, and for the first time in years I actually felt "present" in my own life, instead of constantly living in the past and mourning the bridges I felt forced to burn. But now, I actually go to my husbands face book page and look at them. I mean, it's pathetic! I flip through their posts and pictures and nearly every time close the window with a "f**k you" because their happiness causes me so much hurt and anger. We were really intimate, this group, was like if you could choose your family, people you really like and related to and wanted to be in community with. It was utter and complete assimilation, not just culture and beliefs, but the intimate inner workings of our hearts and lives for many years. Recently I've been thinking of contacting some of them again, after I've spent so much time and energy freeing myself. I want to tell them I'm not a christian anymore, and everything that's been happening with me, I just miss them so much. One friend is pregnant, and I feel so sad and guilty for not sharing this joy with her. I really don't know what to do. I feel like re-connecting could be very healing, but it could also create a huge mess when things have finally settled down. I know they are hurt by me too.

 

I agree with a lot of what you've said here, Rob, and I do agree that this kind of influence is a type of abuse. But I don't think things are always so black and white, in xianity or outside of it. I look back at all those who "ministered" to me, and while I see instances of great harm, I also see great good. I experienced profound degrees of healing love from many of these people. I also had demons cast out of me and shoves to the ground from the 'holy spirit' and perhaps most harmful of all, destructive ideas hammered into my willing and hungry mind. And I look back at myself, when I "ministered" to others, and cringe and only hope that some of the love in my heart towards them got through.

 

This is going to be my mantra ~ "My advice to you is to methodically separate those things that define you as a unique individual, from those things that you have been taught to believe about yourself. If you have fear, follow the fear to see where it comes from. This type of knowledge really is power, and knowledge will ultimately set you free."

 

thank you Rob

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  • 2 weeks later...

Powerful stuff, Yarrow. I hope you find peace.

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Recently I've been thinking of contacting some of them again, afterI've spent so much time and energy freeing myself. I want to tell themI'm not a christian anymore, and everything that's been happening withme, I just miss them so much. One friend is pregnant, and I feel so sadand guilty for not sharing this joy with her.

 

Yarrow, I think it would be great if you could contact them again and let us know how it goes. My experience is that true friends still remain friends in spite of differences of belief in these matters. The friendship may be a different type of friendship, but if your heart tells you to try to reconnect, I say do it and see where it goes.

 

You could be very tentative about what you really believe now. Just ask them how they are doing. Just shop talk, nothing heavy, and see what response you get. Then you could judge it from there as to how much they need to know.

 

Just an idea.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Wait.. they started to question you and treat you bad because you started eating healthy? Man, those people are crazy...

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Wait.. they started to question you and treat you bad because you started eating healthy? Man, those people are crazy...

 

That's nothing. I once made a casual remark to my college pastor at the time that I thought this girl I meet a church function was cute. And he asks me if I plan to marry her. WTF? I should have known something was wrong when I heard that.

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Wait.. they started to question you and treat you bad because you started eating healthy? Man, those people are crazy...

 

That's nothing. I once made a casual remark to my college pastor at the time that I thought this girl I meet a church function was cute. And he asks me if I plan to marry her. WTF? I should have known something was wrong when I heard that.

What was your answer?

 

"No, but I'd like to have her sit on my face!"

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