Sent in by Jannah
Growing up in a Christian home has been an adventure. My parents were pot smoking hippies until the year before I was born. They had friends who were Christians, and they became "born-again" Christians into the Foursquare/ pentecostal/ non-denominational church. They thrived in the environment, and so did I and my 5 sisters.
I went to Sunday school, then taught at Sunday school and went to youth group, then became a youth pastor and attended church where I was the praise and worship leader, the women's ministry leader, a church elder, an itinerant leader leading praise and worship at newly established churches, became involved in the victims of crime ministry, community ministry, and I was in a Christian band that traveled and recorded with famous Christian musicians.
You name it, I did it. My parents were proud.
I wanted to experience God's miracles, love, and awesomeness. But, nothing ever came of the promises. I believed I had faith bigger than a mustard seed, and yet, I got nothing. I remember when I was eight years old that I went up the front of the church to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I got prayed for and the girl next to me started to speaking in tongues. Nothing happened to me. I waited, but nothing. I believed, but nothing. I thought I had failed.. I thought my faith wasn't enough, or I wasn't free of sin. It only made me try harder.
Through school I went through ups and downs in my beliefs, I doubted and thought I was sinful for losing my faith. I would recommit and cry out to God..., but nothing. I never once heard God speak, nor did I experience any miracles. I've heard stories, but never seen. My own ability to hear, and actually being alive, is supposed to have been a miracle from God, but I don't remember. I prayed for people believing in God's miracles. I prayed believing for answers, but I never received them. I prayed for miracles for my friends with cancer, but they died. Just this week my friend is dying (definitely her last week of life), but she is believing for a miracle. I'm not counting on it. I don't even believe in it anymore.
My journey began coming unstuck in 1997 when i met my first girlfriend (I'm a female). We were together in hiding for three years. We told no one. I promised to tell nobody. I didn't tell a soul. I hated myself the entire time. I believed that the Bible said it was wrong, that I couldn't like girls, that I was evil. My self loathing was great. But, even while I was hating myself I still ministered to others and led at my church.
Eventually she hated herself enough to quit our relationship (she's now married to a Christian male) and tell the pastor. They (the pastor and the staff) never confronted me. I did, however eventually confess it to them, though I still didn't mention “her” name. My sister told my parents about it, and they disowned me. The church put me in reparative therapy. My parents started talking to me again when I went into reparative therapy, but I wasn't supposed to be allowed to lead until I had completed the program. I didn't complete it, but very soon I was leading again. At this point I was doubting everything I believed.
I would always come back to the point about not experiencing any biblical promises: nothing of god's love, no voice speaking to me except me speaking to myself in my head. But, my fear of being unfaithful, of being wrong, and hell, overwhelmed me, so I'd always go back.
Then I met another woman. This was my end. For the next five years I struggled with this. I read my Bible faithfully, trying to find answers. I decided that I would not be happy in the relationship even though I was not sure about the scriptures, so I quit my relationship and focused on the church. While I did this, I spoke to my pastors about my Christianity doubts, and they said they had them to, but to just fight our own doubts and keep trusting.
I studied ancient history and religious books and found that I did not agree with the current translations of the Bible, and that the original really said nothing about homosexuality. So, I told my pastors, had a wonderful fight with them, and was given the option of submitting to their leadership and attending their church, or please leave. So, I left. I also hooked back up with my beautiful, amazing girlfriend from before. She is a die-hard pentecostal Christian; she was and is a pastor. I got spat at, received abusive letters -- you name it -- when we got back together. Her family started the Foursquare church in Australia, so I was considered the evil one. I had been in my church for ten years from 16- 26. I was finally free. I look back now at some of their behaviour and it was abusive, manipulative rubbish. You could and can do what you want as long as no one knows about it. They have people in leadership who are gay. Everyone knows about it, but as long as it's not spoken about, it's fine. They have a pastor who stole all the tithes, and stole from his flatmates, and from his ex-wife. He was “stood down” for seven months and now he is back into it as if nothing happened. He lost nothing. He didn't have to pay anyone back! Nothing
At the same time my friend was starting a charismatic service at a gay friendly church. I was happy to get involved. I have been doing that for two years.
Throughout this time my doubts have felt safe to talk about. I have been studying the ancient history, the pagan stories, the history, and just generally the Bible with its mountains of flaws. I have spoken to many learned friends about their views. No one has given me sufficient enough answers. Even my learned friends have had to decide they look at the Bible as allegory and not literal.
I have been reading this site for about six months and I have found like minds: clear minds. logical thoughts...
I still cannot accept atheism. I believe the earth was created by something, not just the BIG BANG THEORY. My current beliefs could be considered pantheistic. I look at nature and am so awed by its magnificence that I cannot fathom a world without a god figure. I am a pantheistic. However, I am very much a freethinker, and I am just open and waiting for some distinct clear answers.
I still attend and do the music at my current church. I don't see this as a contradiction and the leaders at this church have no issue with it. I love the music and the feeling of family. My partner, our kids and I all attend. My partner is still die-hard pentecostal. She is struggling with my current belief system (pantheism) and doesn't know if she will be able to stay with me. She doesn't like it, and finds it really hard to deal with. We will see. But, I feel free, like the weight of the church and Christianity has been lifted. The lies have been taken out of my life.
Thank God I'm free at last...
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