sent in by SwissMiss
Firstly, I'd like to congratulate the owner of this Website for a very thought-provoking read and for providing this resource for people like me.
This is my "testimony":
I was born into a church-going family, my parents belonged to the Salvation Army but it was definitely more my father's "thing" than my mother's since she was always more rebellious by nature (she grew up in an incredibly strict Lutheran family) which makes my "conversion" all the more incongruous.
When I was a few days past my 9th birthday, my father dragged me and the rest of my family to a tent crusade which had been pitched at a local park; he had been attending the meetings and was keen to see his family do likewise. On this fateful evening, the preacher announced that he had a "Word of Knowledge" about someone in the congregation (my mother[!], apparently) and that that person was invited forward to give their heart to the Lord. I never did remember what this Word of Knowledge actually was but the next thing I knew my entire family (parents and two older siblings) were making their way to the front of the meeting. Of course I followed, what else was a nine year old girl to do? We stood there as a family and I remember some men surrounding us, laying their hands on us (I would love to know what a Child Protection Officer would make of that these days) and praying. That was it! That was my "conversion". Hardly Road-to-Damascus stuff but what I didn't realise was how much of an impact that one event would have on the rest of my life.
Up until that point, we had lived a fairly normal existence, my father had had a decently paying job, my mother worked part time and they owned their own house. But about a year after the "conversion" took place we were selling up and moving about 100 miles away to answer God?s ?calling? and move into one of the bases of the Christian Mission who had organised the tent crusade. From relative security, we were transplanted into a situation where we were entirely dependent on the Mission, we weren't supposed to earn money from "worldly" organisations and so could not work our way out of the poverty that ensued. Many was the time that we didn't know where our next meal was coming from, literally! This was okay to begin with because we used to have our meals provided for us but pretty soon the Mission decided that we were to trust in the Lord for him to provide for us individually.
During this period I was enrolled into the local primary school (apparently "Worldly" schools were okay) where I was like a fish out of water, I found making new friends incredibly hard and was doubly disabled by the fact that I lived in "that religious nut-house" down the road! Until then I had always been a very happy child, but I began to change and was quite unhappy if truth be told. If primary school was difficult then high school was awful. I felt under constant pressure with the double-life I was forced to lead, one that made me acceptable to the Mission and one that made me acceptable (up to a point) at school but all the while having to live with the guilt that I was "compromising" my belief in Jesus. During this time, the leaders at the Mission decided that God was "telling" them to go in a new direction and to form a Church rather than be involved with the Mission. From that time all practical support stopped and my parents had to get jobs.
I look back at that time with a mixture of emotions. Sometimes I smile because I think about an abandoned bus that used to stand next to the main Mission building where we lived and I think about what I used to get up to in the that bus's top deck when I was about 11 with the son of one of the senior elders (someone [the elder, that is] who is still actively involved in setting up churches to this day!). We were both very young (he was even younger than me) but we explored quite a bit for little kids, predominantly at his instigation, and it was him who taught me how to kiss (he was bloody good at it too). Today I wonder how the hell he knew at such a young age. Other times I am saddened at the times I prayed so hard that I cried myself to sleep through lack of any answers to my prayers only to be told by the eldership that my faith wasn't strong enough. Or times when I saw deliberate favouritism bestowed on the daughters of the eldership team. Favouritism (or ingratiating yourself with the elders, call it what you will) was rife in that organisation with one notable exception. A young man came to lead the youth group, he was good-looking and dynamic but he didn't buy into the favouritism thing and he often gave me the opportunity to shine in what he could see I was good at, namely the performing arts, and to this day he is the only Christian that I look back on with utmost respect because he saw who I was and encouraged me. If I met him today I would shake his hand; not so anybody else! Of course the jealousy that this provoked in the eldership's female offspring was something to behold and very less than Christian.
If I had to single out one catalytic reason for my subsequent "back-slide" I think it would have to be sex! The church was pretty puritanical when it came to sex. Sex outside marriage was strictly forbidden as was masturbation, relationships between young people of the opposite sex was heavily policed to the extent that if a young lad wanted to go out with a one of the girls he was supposed to consult with the eldership first who would then pray about it to see if it was God's will before they gave their blessing or their disapproval. As a highly sexual person this was pretty hard to deal with and I struggled vainly to keep in God's good books. Ultimately, I failed when I was 18 and finally said "yes" to a man 11 years older than me during a holiday I went on with my sister but by that time I was well and truly disillusioned by the whole thing and was questioning everything I'd ever heard. Even so the legacy of my Christian indoctrination motivated to marry that same man (even though he wasn't a Christian, he'd taken my virginity, so by marrying him I could somehow vindicate myself) but he was so unsuitable for me and in the end we hurt each other a hell of a lot.
Now, at 37, I have a daughter of my own but I teach her to live the life she wants to live and be the person she wants to be. Her body is her own to do with what she pleases I have never put restrictions on her in that respect unless it is to preserve her self-esteem which is the one thing I AM religious about to this day. I want her to have the self-esteem I never had as a young woman and then let that take her on her journey through life.
Thank you for reading I wish you all love and contentment.
How old were you when you became a christian? 9
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? 18
What churches or organizations or labels have applied to you? Evangelical, Charismatic, Pentecostal, Happy Clappy (I'm sure you get the picture)
What labels, if any, would you apply to yourself now? None, (I don't see the necessity for replacing one label with another.)
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)