This is my testimony

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.

North Wales
UK
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.)

11 comments:

Dano said...

Sent in by SwissMiss:

"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"

Dan here, SwissMiss!
The enigma of the difficulty of something so simple as teaching our children to not believe in mysticism, fascinates me. Why is it so hard to keep them away from false beliefs?

Even though I, at 70 can spot a psychic scam or phony magic tricks from a mile away, there is still something deep inside me that would like to believe miracles are possible.

I find it hard to believe that a "force" that can create a billion galaxies in an instant, and put into motion the evolution of life, can have no heart or sympathy for us who have evolved enough to feel so much ourselves.

It is a "Catch 22," situation. If we buy into the first primitive belief system that comes down the pike and dismiss rationality, we may be able to convince ourselves that we are better than we are, and if we steadfastly inoculate ourselves against mind virus's like Christianity, and (..........fill in the blank), we are doomed to see life as it really is.

What is really strange though at least for me is, the latter condition has been much more comforting than the former!

Dan (Agnostic believer that since we invented God we somehow must own it)

SwissMiss said...

Hi Dan,

Thanks for taking the time to read my testimony and I fully concur with what you have to say.

I have actually never encouraged my daughter to believe in any fictitious character, not God, not Santa Claus, not the Tooth Fairy nor the Easter Bunny! I have never quite understood the logic of kidding children that something exists only to have to refute it later. (Children aren't stupid, they work out for themselves that Santa Claus is pretty unfair in giving all the great gifts to the rich kids!)

I don't see the biblegod as any different from any other myth. I firmly believe that we as humans will do everything we can to make sense of the world around us; it's what we're programmed for. Before the age of the great scientific discoveries we used gods and goddesses to explain our environment. Now we know better and we can see the scientific order of the world and universe around us. But I guess old habits die hard and some of us find those old superstitions much more difficult to off-load.

You are right with your difficulties in believing that an all-encompassing God can be so intolerant and that was one of the things I struggled with when I was a Christian too. That whole concept of an omnipotent, omnipresent God of Love, being petulant, jealous and vengeful just didn’t make any sense; as a mother I now think it makes even less sense (if that’s possible of course).

I absolutely understand that "Catch 22" situation and I guess it's like so many other situations in life; reality will always win over delusionment. If you are in an unstable marriage for example, you might deceive yourself that everything is fine and endeavour to live a lie but I would far rather see the truth of the situation and attempt to right the wrongs or leave; it might well hurt like hell but dealing with it is the way you learn to grow as a human being, surely.

I think it’s so much better to stand up to life for what is it with no smoke-screens or fairy tales and learn to cope with that than to stand on the shifting sands of superstitious religion.

Hugs, SwissMiss x

brigid said...

Growing up catholic was a helluva lot easier than growing up fundy. To this day I squirm when I read these stories. The catholic church puts its screwballs into convents and monasteries where they can't hurt anybody. But in fundamentalism, the fucking nuts are in charge.

Glad you are here, SwissMiss. I have a friend from Scotland, and she tells these stories that would be funny if they weren't so damned scary. I guess a Scots fundie is as crazy as they come.

Hugs to you too, sweets. My name is Brigid Brophy, resident fruitcake.

Bill Dearmore said...

SwissMiss,

You seem to have caught the attention of the "old men" here, so far, for whatever that means. I am 66. Maybe it only means that we couldn't sleep, so we got up and checked out favorite websites. I dunno. ;-)

Anyway, I wanted to tell you how much I empathize with you. My story was a little different, of course. You can read it at http://www.NoBull.ws/saved.html , if you're interested. But I shared many of your experiences and frustrations.

I fought the almost intolerable sex problem for forty years, even though I was married almost half that time. It was only one of many reasons for my "deconversion."

As Jesus himself is supposed to have said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." I wish you the very best in your present life of freedom.

Bill

Bill Dearmore said...

Brigid,

Sorry about the "old men" crack. I was writing it before your post came up. I'll try to be more careful next time. ;-)

Bill

brigid said...

No offense taken, Bill. How have you been? I just got back from 7 day's vacation. Great time. Made new friends. Drank too much.

Jim said...

Hi Swiss miss, you had it rough but so have many others. Just how many lives does Christianity destroy? Religions are the curse of the earth. Cheers Jim Lee

Bentley said...

Thank you Swiss, That was interesting, it totally amazes me how people are like wondering sheep and have lost their way and find immaculate security in religion, it's like god will provide, all I have to do is pray.

Whats with these tents that pop up in the middle of a field one day and you have Instant House Of Tha Lord....lol

I see so many people wondering around for the Lord, it's just frightning, they wear these old out dated clothes and shoes, that apparently were donated to someone somewhere and then they have a message, a message from the Lord...lol

It's just amazing how people can let a little black book drag them around though different parts of the country, like wondering gypsies.

I suppose this is pleasing to god huh?

Sell all you have and give to the poor, now you're poor too...lol

Thanks, great testimony! Welcome to freedom, you'll have lots of friends here.

Bentley said...

Swiss, check this out...lol

http://www.coasttocoastam.com/gen/page1414.html?theme=light

frreedy said...

Sex,..this seems to be the #1 underlying thread between xtians and pagans.

Well I don't think this is an issue,....fundies do!I too want to thank webmaster for this site,...it may have just saved my life!
Thank -you webmaster for your effort and endurance concerning this site,...it means alot to many,...peace freed,...!!
1

SwissMiss said...

To Brigid:

Hi honey, thanks for reading. It's funny you should mention Catholicism since I've done the ultimate thing in immunising my daughter against Roman Catholicism, I've sent her to a Catholic High School. Actually, it was mainly because it was the closest school for blind children in my area (about 70 miles away) but they know that we are non-believers and respect that. In fact it's quite good because it gets her out of communion during masses. I have been to mass with her once and because she is blind I can get away with talking to her during the service; but was I describing the finer points of the Eucharist?? Er... No!! I was quoting Eddie Izzard's "Who ordered the Body of Christ?" routine! Look him up if you haven't heard of him, he's a British stand-up comedian and fabulous, and just for good measure he's a TV too!

The Scots are great and their country is magnificent, you should visit her if you haven't already.

To Bill:

I'm not fussed how old anyone is, I'm happy that you took the time to read my testimony, it was very kind of you to do so. I did look yours up too and I have to say I am quite humbled by what I read. What a compassionate, intelligent man you are. Thank you for making your story so available, you certainly put things in a way that I would never have been able to and for "turning th'accomplishments of many years into an hourglass". I feel privileged.

It's strange when you read other people's stories how it can resonate so well with you that you are reminded of long-forgotten memories. Your childhood experiences reminded me of the times that I used to wake up in the middle of the night as a child and get terribly scared by the silence because I worried that the rapture might have come while I was asleep and that I had been deemed unworthy to be taken. I used to have to creep into my parent's bedroom to check that they were still there before I could think about going back to sleep again. What a screwed up thing for a child to have to contend with.

Thank you for your story, you are in my thoughts and I know you know what I mean by that.

To Jim:

I absolutely agree that many people have been scarred by the effects of Christianity and I am so glad that Websites like this exist to support those who have to cope with the aftermath.

To Ben:

You are so right, it's strange that certain Christians feel the need to be like their medieval counterparts and go crusading. I loved the "Instant House of the Lord" comment, so true. I guess that's a bit like instant soup or instant coffee, easily available but ultimately unsatisfying.

The "Church on Wheels" picture was priceless but another case of something Brigid said that it'd be funny if it wasn't so damned scary.

Thank you, Ben, for your warm welcome.

To Everyone:

I hope love, in all its forms, touches you often.

Hugs SwissMiss x

Archived Testimonial Pageviews this week: