A New Hope

sent in by Trudy

My journey is like many of yours. I grew up in Christianity.

I was born into a Baptist family. When I was young, my mom and dad taught Sunday school and six of us kids trailed behind. One of my sisters played the piano in church and the others I think sang in the choir. My brother and I were younger, so we just sat quietly in the pews with our parents. Our family was a mess, and as we grew older, our parents no longer attended church.

When my brother was about 11 and I, 12 and our older siblings gone or at least one-foot-out-the-door, my brother and I were on our own, our parents only coming home to sleep for the night.

I clung to the church. The pastor became a lifeline to me. While he wasn't perfect, I suspect that I would have killed myself had there not been someone who cared.

Life was very difficult. To feel abandoned by my parents, and then having been sexually attacked by a friend's brother - I had no one to tell. (I never told anyone for about 20 years later).

Throughout my high school years this pastor continued to take my calls or see me day or night. I can not tell you how much that meant to me - and still does. In my school there were many Christian teachers, one from my church and others whom I met. They became a real support to me through my remaining years.

My Jr year I began visiting a charismatic Baptist church which one of the teachers referred me to. Having a bit of a musical background I fell in love with this kind of worship. The Baptist Church I had grown up in was in the middle of firing the senior pastor (not the one I was close to), and I found it a good time to exit.

The pastor to whom I was close to, did not want me to leave; but was very gracious and said that he was afraid there would not be anyone there to catch me if I fell.

So, a new journey began, I became "spirit-filled". I met my husband that year and his family was very devoted to this "spirit-filled" life. His uncle was the pastor of his church, his cousin the asst pastor, his brother the youth pastor, his other cousin the music minister, his sister married a pastor from a similar denomination, his oldest brother a Baptist pastor...etc, you get the picture. I joined his church. He went a year to bible school, and we married.

The family didn't like me. I wasn't the quiet, submissive kind of woman they would have chosen. They didn't even know me (although I'm not quiet and blindly submissive), yet they judged me harshly. Three months before our wedding, they called it off - only to recant when they found out that we would elope if they did. Looking back now, my husband says we should have eloped and just left.

After we married I tried to fit into my husband's family church. It was a group of about 50-70 people. Mostly family. I went to every prayer meeting, every bible study. I think I needed them to accept me in order to believe that God could accept me.

The music minister/cousin seemed to care about me. He encouraged me in music and his wife taught me how to play the piano by ear. Playing the piano and singing, I began to write songs. I wanted to please and love God. Music and prayer seemed fulfilling but I think it was an escape from the reality of not feeling accepted.

Five years and two kids later, we heard about a couple in another state who needed help with there church. We thought maybe we could go...long story short - we went, but didn't end up at that church.

We ended up in a new state at a new church which was just like the "family" church we left behind.

We were very poor, my husband finishing college while I worked - and we poured our life into this church. Again, I'm sure out of a need to belong and be accepted; we made all the same mistakes. My views and opinions weren't kept in check and I wasn't received with open arms...until...the pastor found out about my musical abilities.

I accepted the invitation to become a part of the "music team" and while a part of me truly enjoyed my time there - I felt a check that something wasn't quite right.

Upon my husband's graduation we both came on staff at the church.

We wanted so desperately to be in the "ministry". After all, it is the highest of all calls in christiandom. To feel that we, the least of the family, could be accepted by this new family, was a gift to us.

After many years of service to this church the pastor called my husband and I before the elders and said that they felt that I "needed a rest" from leadership. My husband didn't know what was going on and told the pastor that he was an angry man; the pastor swung at him, but his son stopped his arm. Later, I angrily questioned the decision and was reprimanded.

We had tried to leave the church a year earlier and I was told that if we left the church we would "loose our children". Those of you in the know, know what that means. That scared the shit out of us so we stayed. Until this last incident.

My husband and I agreed that we needed to leave. Leaving while under church discipline is a serious matter. Knowing we could be denounced (like others had), we left. A few weeks later some friends at the church told us that we were publicly rebuked and I was accused of making sexual allegations against the pastor. Our former friends did go to him and tell him that that was not true, but he said that a "pastor" had told him that I alleged that. Can't imagine who that "pastor" was. I guess if a "pastor" says it, it must be true. Well, it never happened in my reality.

Looking back, the only thing I can imagine that I would be singled out for was being proud. I think I became/was/am very proud. But no one ever came and talked to be about it. I also was very needy, needy to the point that I needed outside help, but outside help was never encouraged — and if that was true, I was not the only "needy" staff member. Perhaps it was because I was controlling, and again, I was not the only controlling staff member. I just don't know.

After we left the church, we eventually left the state, found a Christian therapist who helped us, then we moved on again.

Ours are not the only scars, but our children were deeply wounded. This was the only "family" they had.

We moved to a new state, got involved in a few more churches - even went on staff at another one, only to get burned again.

We've had some good experiences and some terribly bad ones in the church.

I have come to the place in my journey to find that religion fails. I don't believe that God has been revealed in person or in written form. I am reading Payne's "Age of Reason".

I do believe in God; however, I don't know to what extent God is or isn?t involved in our lives. Maybe I don't need to know. Good people pray, and bad things still happen. Bad people don't pray and good things happen. There is no logic to it. There is a place in my heart that believes in goodness - believes in a God that is good - that we were created and made to reflect goodness, that could be our purpose?

I have told my husband and children of my ex-ing. My children are proud of me, and my husband supportive. I have not told my family or my husband's family. It doesn't really seem necessary since we live our own lives many states away from them.

I told a Christian friend of mine that I am no longer a Christian and she offered the conclusion that I am angry and unforgiving of the churches/people that have wounded us.

As I mentioned, I do believe in a loving God. A God that loves us so much that he/she understands our journey and even if we?ve got the whole thing wrong, wouldn't hold that against us.

Joined: 6
Left: 45
Was: Baptist, Assembly of God, Non-Denominational/Carrismatic, Free Evangelical, Episcipal, Catholic, Covenant
Now: Deist
Converted because: Wanted to please God.
De-converted because: Found religion to not be true.

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