Monday, September 22, 2008

Share Your Story

The purpose of this website is to engage people of all different backgrounds in an ongoing discussion. Many people have been hurt by the Church or by a Christian. Yet, for whatever reason, Christians are reticent to acknowledge such hurt and pain.

In order for that to change, the Church needs to hear the stories of those that have been trampled on, beat up, and hurt by Christians.

So please, share your story.

24 comments:

~*starsdancing*~ said...
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James said...

I grew up in a typical Southern Baptist church. From the time I started school I was in church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. After years of Sunday school I could pretty much recite every Bible story and eventually came to understand my need for Jesus as my personal Savior shortly before entering my teenage years. Throughout my life I was heavily involved in my church, having attended the same church from Kindergarten through college. A few years ago I started to see what I was learning in Church and what I was hearing fellow church members say and do was not matching up with what I've been learning from the Bible.

Over time, these convictions became so great I simply could no longer be a member of my beloved Church, so I stopped attending regularly over two years ago. I felt very betrayed and untrusting of the evangelical church in the United States. It has become so corrupt and morally bankrupt that it no longer resembles any of the teachings of Christ. The Southern Baptists and conservative Christian fundamentalists of the Religious Right had become a misguided group who traded the Gospel of Jesus for the Gospel of American Empire; who traded Jesus' calls to end poverty and violence for the Empire's call to wage war and to profit from the underprivileged. I became so sickened at the notion that I didn't want to have anything to do with their version of God. I felt like the character John Proctor in the Crucible, in my heart screaming out "GOD IS DEAD!" God is dead, and the Church had killed Him, I thought. I wanted nothing to do with the corrupt Church or their "god." I wanted to give up religion and live and do as much good to help the needy of the world as a secular progressive atheist, even though deep down I couldn't truly deny my believe in God.

In fact, it would be by an atheist website that I would come back to fully embracing my faith in Christ. I found an interesting posting on an atheist blog, that lead to a blog called Revolution in Jesusland, which had a review of a book called Jesus for President. This book, by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, is put out by Christian mega-publisher Zondervan. "Uhg," I thought when I saw the title. "Another book about how Christians are supposed to 'take back this Christian Nation with the evangelical church as Head of State and force our twisted view of morality on everybody, and maybe bomb a few heathen countries while we're at it.'" Then I read part of a liturgy from the book:

“With governments that kill…
…we will not comply.
With the theology of empire…
…we will not comply.
With the business of militarism…
…we will not comply.
With the hoarding of riches
…we will not comply.
With the dissemination of fear
…we will not comply.
But today we pledge our allegiance to the kingdom of God…
…we pledge allegiance.
To the peace that is not like Rome’s…
…we pledge allegiance.
To the Gospel of enemy love
…we pledge allegiance.
To the poor and the broken…
…we pledge allegiance….”

Wait. What? What?! After having reread it a 3rd and 4th time, I knew I had to look into this. I rushed out and bought the book, and read the entire thing almost a once. The message of this book hit me so hard I had to catch my breath and reread it to make sure I wasn't imagining it.

I've been incredibly inspired by the message of this book, and I encourage every Christian to read it. I feel the call to take back my faith and to in fact take back the church from the powerful leaders that have corrupted it. We need a new Reformation in the church today; to take back the church for Christ and follow His true and righteous teachings; to love God, and to love our neighbor. For He says in Matthew 25: "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

I started a blog about my search to find the true church, or maybe even reform the church, in case you are interested in my quest.
http://newref.blogspot.com

Thanks, and God bless.

Sue said...

I think I will email my story to you. I found you via Friendly Atheist.

Santiago Flores said...

As with most people in Mexico my mom was raised catholic, although she doesn't really attend church and disagrees with the church on many things. She still fervently believes in God though, and she even took us to see John Paul II when he came to Mexico.
My parents got divorced a long time ago, and it was a particularly nasty, contentious divorce. Partly because of this, my sister became anorexic when she was just 14. My mom was obviously distressed to breaking point, not knowing what to do, crying, and so on. At this point she decides to attend the local church, which she's never been to, to see if she can find some help there. The priest is a nice man, completely sympathetic to her situation, prays with her, etc. But then my mom is upfront with him about the fact that she is divorced, and this man then kindly suggests that while it would be possible for her to attend church services, it would be best if she cold sit at the very back, away from everyone, and indeed, suggests that maybe she not come at all if there are other church-goers present.

I've been an atheist long before this happened, and one of the reasons I am an atheist is that I'm sure that the priest would never have suggested something that humiliating if he had been an atheist. He is a good man, but his religion tells him that divorce is wrong, and so he does something that only a horrible man could do.

Imperfect Church said...

Starsdancing,

Thank you for sharing your story. It is evident that you have experienced a great deal of hurt and pain. Unfortunately, your story has a lot in common with other stories that I have heard over the years. I sincerely hope that you will find help and healing as you deal with the hurt that you have experienced.

If you don't mind, I have a few questions that I would like to ask in response to what you have written. I ask in an attempt to clarify some things that you wrote, in an effort to ensure that people will not read into or misunderstand what you have written.

1) You mention Christians who "flaunt" their Christianity; what do you mean when you say that?

2) According to your understanding, how does flaunting differ from exuberance to share about something that excites you?

Imperfect Church said...

James,

Likewise, I appreciate your willingness to share your story.

A couple of questions came to mind as I read, and I was curious as to whether you might be willing to clarify them in an effort to make sure that you receive a fair hearing.

First, your problem seems to be with the American church rather than with God, Jesus, or the Bible. Would that be an accurate assessment?

Second, you wrote, "I wanted to give up religion and live and do as much good to help the needy of the world as a secular progressive atheist." Some of our readers may not know what a secular progressive atheist was, so I was wondering if you might be willing to summarize what a "progressive secular atheist" is?

Imperfect Church said...

Santiago,

In your writing, your disappointment with the church is quite evident. It breaks my heart and upsets me to hear that your mother was asked sit in the back, or even not come at all.

James said...

First, your problem seems to be with the American church rather than with God, Jesus, or the Bible. Would that be an accurate assessment?

Yes, I felt like the evangelical church in America wasn't being true to the teachings of Jesus. One only needs to read Matthew 5 & 25 and then look at the actions of the vocal majority of churches here in North Carolina to see they don't match up. The churches here refused to speak out against inuhmane treatment of immigrants, against immoral and unjust war, and the churches in NC even rallied to defeat an anti-bullying policy for the school systems simply because it included anti-discrimination against gay students among a long list of others. Churches, CHURCHES, against anti-bullying policy simply because it recognizes gay students?! At first I blamed God, but then I started to see the beautiful, wonderful, scandalous message Jesus brought. I renewed my faith but have remained cautious and untrusting of the church, and I'm a bit scared of trying new churches.

Second, you wrote, "I wanted to give up religion and live and do as much good to help the needy of the world as a secular progressive atheist." Some of our readers may not know what a secular progressive atheist was, so I was wondering if you might be willing to summarize what a "progressive secular atheist" is?

The day I became a progressive is the day I stopped thinking of myself as an American and a Christian, and started thinking of myself as a neighbor and brother to the entire world. I wanted to do all I could to help victim of violence in Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan, and help those discriminated against in my own community including immigrants, gays, and the poor, and those in my community who are struggling to provide for their families. Unfortunately, there were not really any churches evolved in helping people. In fact, often the churches supported public policy in opposition to peace and justice for all people. It seemed like atheists, liberals, and progressive non-religious people were doing much more good in the world that the church.

R. Moore said...

Imperfect Church wrote:

...yet, for whatever reason, Christians are reticent to acknowledge such hurt and pain.

Based on your replies so far you are going to continue in this direction. One of the key ways religion hurts those in need is by constantly deflecting the pain back on those suffering, implying they are at fault. Never acknowledge that if God exists, he is at fault. We should be clear -- if God exists, he is responsible for genocide, starvation and pandemic. He is responsible for the human history of religious wars and persecution. Almost everyone in this discussion left a church because it used the bible to manipulate their lives with lies. This is painful when coming from those who claimed to be your friend.

Instead of asking others to share there stories in order to further humiliate them, why not rise above the hypocrisy and come clean on how nothing you preach as a pastor has any basis in fact or history, and that money is the real religion in America?

Imperfect Church said...

R. Moore,

I have a few questions regarding what you wrote:

1)In what ways is pain being deflected back on the suffering?

2)In what ways is God responsible for the things that you have mentioned?

3)How is asking others to share their stories humiliating them?


In response to what you wrote, I would like to say a few things, as well. First, you indicate that "one of the key ways religion hurts those in need is by constantly deflecting the pain back on those suffering, implying that they are at fault." The premise of this sight is clearly to do just the opposite. Not once has anyone been asked to admit their fault (accept Christians and the church). Neither has it been implied that any of those who have (or will) shared a story are at fault for the hurt and pain that was caused them.

Second, the goal in this discussion is not to humiliate anyone who is sharing a story. They have been hurt enough. It is time, however, for Christians to hear about the hurt, pain, and damage that they have caused.

Third, I cannot follow your suggestion regarding what I preach. Quite simply, I have become a Christian based upon fact and historicity. This site, however, is not the forum to discuss such facts (as per my promise). However, if you would like to have that discussion, please feel free to email me at: ImperfectEkklesia@gmail.com.

Fourth, I would have to agree with you that money is the religion of choice for many people in America. Money, indeed, seems to be the driving force that determines where people live, what they do, where they work, how many hours the put in, how much time they spend with their family, etc. While I would agree with you about that fact, I fail to see how it relates to your suggestion about my preaching.

~*starsdancing*~ said...
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R. Moore said...

I see -- while you said this discussion was to address the issue of how "Christians are reticent to acknowledge such hurt and pain" you have no interest in Christians actually taking any responsibility for the hurt and pain. You would never make it through AA.

Each year 6 billion dollars is spent in the US constructing new churches. Billions more are collected. This money is mostly used to create safe havens for hatred and bigotry. You yourself are unable to do anything more than offer mindless platitudes, for which you ask a salary. If is obvious the purpose of this discussion is to contact unbelievers and try to entice them back into a theological discussion. One hand held out in friendship, the other holding knife behind the back. I am trying to stay on topic -- this is the cause of the pain -- the constant manipulation and duplicity, of those in need.

~*starsdancing*~ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
R. Moore said...

Starsdancing --

I doesn't bother you that imperfect church has started this discussion, claiming good intentions, and is just exploiting your pain for his own purposes? I must ask, what are you getting out of a discussion that belittles your experiences? What I have been trying to point out is that imperfect church, while claiming to have started a discussion to based on atonement, has in fact performed the classic bait and switch, and found a new platform for his evangelical views. (I am safe in assuming he is a man -- the Christian religion has done little to encourage equal footing for women in its power structure. If wrong, I apologize.)

Based on your story, you deserve an apology for your treatment, from your father, but mostly from the religion that encouraged such attitudes. An atheist would certainly never be able to justify such misogynistic behavior. Your comment on which colleges to apply to certainly struck home, I had exactly the same experience with my family -- in fact to this day my college education brings me quite a bit of ridicule. But as a man I was able to easily escape; much more difficult for women in the past.

Demand direct answers for your treatment from representatives of religion. Ask why the bible considers women little more than property. You deserve it.

~*starsdancing*~ said...

If the discussion bothered me, I wouldn't participate. Duh. I'm a grown-up.

I am entering the dialogue assuming the intentions are good. I have no reason to believe otherwise. Should I begin to feel I'm being manipulated or exploited, I'll exit the dialogue.

This discussion has not, so far, belittled my experiences. As I wrote in my original response, I do believe in God, although I don't believe organized, institutionalized faith communities have served us well, especially when they're on the scale of the Catholic Church (power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and all that...). I am interested in knowing if faith communities can evolve to something more productive and positive, however, so here I am.

I believe the Catholic Church owes a lot of people a lot of apologies for a lot of destructive behavior they've perpetrated over the centuries. I also know enough about the Catholic Church to know I'll never see a genuine, heartfelt apology from them. I can either stamp my foot and continue to whine about their bad behavior and demand an apology, or I can use the knowledge God gave me when he showed me what they really are and move on. Same for my father, although seeing him now as the rather silly, pompous and ineffective man he was just makes me feel sorry for him.

I'm not a Biblical fundamentalist or literalist by any stretch of the imagination, so "what the Bible says" doesn't interest me much. When people, people in power, use the Bible to insist they're right in oppressing others, however, that's about those people, not the Bible (which is just collection of handmedown stories and traditions from thousands of years ago, colored by time and place). Here, too, I can use my knowledge and judgment and either accept or reject what they preach.

I guess I just don't have a big axe to grind with all people who believe in God. That's not the issue for me. For me, the issue is the corruption that naturally ensues when people try to control and organize and regulate belief.

R. Moore said...

starwind --

Thanks for the response, no quibbling about your beliefs from me, and you seem to come to terms with everything to your satisfaction. This thread seems to have died, so I will leave you with my best wishes.

Imperfect Church said...

r. moore,

sorry for the tardiness in my reply. i have been preoccupied the last few days with a funeral and work for grad school.

You wrote,

I see -- while you said this discussion was to address the issue of how "Christians are reticent to acknowledge such hurt and pain" you have no interest in Christians actually taking any responsibility for the hurt and pain. You would never make it through AA.

Each year 6 billion dollars is spent in the US constructing new churches. Billions more are collected. This money is mostly used to create safe havens for hatred and bigotry. You yourself are unable to do anything more than offer mindless platitudes, for which you ask a salary. If is obvious the purpose of this discussion is to contact unbelievers and try to entice them back into a theological discussion. One hand held out in friendship, the other holding knife behind the back. I am trying to stay on topic -- this is the cause of the pain -- the constant manipulation and duplicity, of those in need.


In response I would say...

I do have an interests in Christians taking responsibility for their actions. This website is open to anyone who is willing to enter into this dialogue. Thus far there have been no apologies offered or extended. That could mean a couple of things: 1) there are no Christians reading (apart from me); 2) the Christians that are reading are not responsible for the treatment that has been mentioned; or 3) those Christians that are responsible, and are reading, are unwilling to admit guilt or responsibility.

Money is indeed spent on large church buildings. Many of these buildings are constructed out of want, rather than need. Much of the money used could be spent on other causes. You have no argument from me.

I do question your statement about creating "safe havens for hatred and bigotry." Are all churches such places?

Two final quibbles: 1) You suggest that I offer mindless platitudes, which I expect to be paid for. First of all, you have no idea how much thought or study goes into what I have to say. Secondly, you have no idea as to whether or not I collect a paycheck for pastoring. 2) You suggest that I am trying to entice unbelievers into theological debate. If you will notice, from what I have posted, I have asked questions and responded in an effort to clarify and better understand. I have made no effort to engage anyone in debate or change someone's mind.

Imperfect Church said...

starsdancing,

thank you for your last post. you wrote with a great deal of transparency and gave us some insight as to how you are dealing with the hurt that has been caused you.

you write a lot about your experiences with the catholic church. is this the only church that you have had experience with?

~*starsdancing*~ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason said...

I'm a deist. I wasn't raised very religiously. My parents never really took me to church. They both felt that religion is a personal thing to be thought about individually, as opposed to listening to a sermon to tell you what to believe. I'm extremely thankful for this.

Despite my nonreligious upbringing, I had always considered myself a Christian growing up. I prayed from time to time, I did my best to be a good person and follow Christian principles. Then something happened in high school that triggered my path towards deism. I was invited by a friend to an after school church service directed towards teenagers. It sounded fun, so I went, expecting the best.

As soon as I arrived, I noticed something very awry. Most of the teenagers who attended this service were the same teenagers who arrogantly picked on people back at school. They were the same people who went to house parties every weekend and usually got wasted. These were the same people who didn't look too highly on me or most of my friends, due to ourselves not being considered popular according to the high school social structure. They were nice to me here. They treated me kindly, and no differently from someone in their own clique of friends. But as soon as we went back to school they, for the most part, ignored me again.

The teenagers in these popular cliques go to church services and are good, nice Christians there. But most of them did not take back these Christian principles into their every day lives, and it made me furious.

It was here when I finally realized that it was usually the people who claim to be the most religious, who enjoy spreading rumors, and gossiping behind peoples' backs, and judge those who do not live up to their own standards.

This triggered a chain reaction in my head. For the first time in my life, I began to question my faith. I became an agnostic, and stayed one for the rest of high school, resulting in even more bullying from good Christians.

As soon as I took a philosophy class in college, I became a deist. I want to be an atheist. I really do. I've even read Dawkins, passionately. I agree with the atheist when he is debating a Christian basically 100% of the time. And I hate having to explain what deism is to people, and the funny looks that come afterwards. But the fine-tuning argument convinces me of some sort of abstract creator, and I've yet to come across a counter-argument to convince me otherwise.

I hate religion. I know that's a mean and arrogant thing to say, and I wish it wasn't true, but I honestly hate all religion. I think it's archaic, barbaric. I believe religious services are only meant for people of the same opinions to gather and go on about how awesome they and their views are. It's tribal in my opinion, and I cannot even begin to comprehend why it still exists in the 21st century.

Nick said...

Ive considered myself an Atheist from birth, I was a science nerd from the first time I heard of the Big Bang theory.

But that didn't stop my evangelical southern Baptist family from trying to indoctrinate the "good word" in me. As soon as I was old enough to come out as an atheist with conviction I was Ostracized from my extended family, im no longer invited to marriages or family reunions and im glad of it in retrospect.

Not in small part from my failed brainwashing I am an activist for separation of church and state and secularism. Now I am a physics student in college and desperately waiting for the day I an move away from Georgia and the "bible belt".

I wouldn't say I hate religion specifically, I hate ideology in all its forms. Any idea that robs a person of rational thought. Religion is the biggest culprit but Naziism, nationalism, and others are just as dangerous.

Critical thought, Science, Logic, and the beauty of nature and the universe in its raw form free from religious lens's, bigotry and distortions makes religion obsolete.

a fellow sojourner said...

A big "thank you" to each and every person who has had the courage to share their story.

Imperfect Church said...

Hello everyone! I just wanted to pass along this recent email that I received from Doug. Doug writes,

Imperfect, google didn't let me post from a hotmail account, so here's this:

I grew up in a religious house, but not fundamental at all. I remember quite clearly the day that I realized that my mother's concept of religion said that she'd go to heaven, and I'd be in hell eternally, and she didn't see this as a deal breaker for her faith. In my mind, someone who realized she was advocating a faith that would have her eternally happy while her child was eternally suffering would stop and say "wait. That wouldn't make me happy. I'd be tortured as much as my son was". But, even when I called her on it, she pretty much just shrugged, and forgot about it. Ever since then, I have trouble respecting any Christian who believes in hell. In my mind, that believe makes them hard hearted, and selfish. I've tried to make many of them think about it ("Will mother Teresa, who devoted her earthly life to reducing suffering, really enjoy a heaven knowing that there's a group of people suffering"), but a large number of Christians I know figure I deserve eternal suffering, and therefore it isn't worth feeling sympathy for me.

And, just so you know, I was initially very suspicious of you and this site. After stardancing opened to you, you said:
"1) You mention Christians who "flaunt" their Christianity; what do you mean when you say that?

2) According to your understanding, how does flaunting differ from exuberance to share about something that excites you?"

From your other questions later, I believe you meant those as honest questions -- but recognize that Christians often respond to questions like "Why doesn't God help me/talk to me" with "Why don't you have more faith?". Because of that, I heard that as "Why do you mistake (morally right) honest exuberance of Christians as flaunting?" I don't know what advice to give you, because talking to people as a Christian about Christians who have hurt people makes you an easy target for irrational anger to be channeled at you. I guess I'll say: if your idea is to get info, and your questions are an honest attempt to identify shades of meaning, then that will shine through, and people will understand ( I hope ). If your point is to "explain away" the incident, you won't succeed, and people will hear that and be mad at you for it. Remember that each of these stories being shared is generally one example of a long line of stories, so explaining away one won't help the person telling the story. For instance, even if my mom woke up tomorrow and repented her callous views, I have friends, co-workers, and >10% of the American population that believes the same thing.

I hope this conversation helps you. Please forgive the atheists that verbally attack you for being a pastor and asking how christians hurt them. Ideally, we'd live in a civilized world, but I know there are mean, vindictive atheists, just as there are mean, vindictive people. I hope that you forgive any of them who verbally attack you, and don't generalize to all atheists.

Kelly said...

My story is brief. Several years ago, my husband and I were going through some tough times in our relationship. He decided to go talk to his dad about it, because he knew that his parents had also had some hard times earlier in their relationship. He wanted to heart to heart with another husband about how to help things in his marriage. His parents are conservative Christians, and my husband, at the time, was a skeptical Christian-personally opposed to organized religion, but still a believer although leaning toward agnosticism. I am a non-believer.
He sat down with is dad one day, and told him about some of the issues we were dealing with. His dad's response to him was "To tell you the truth, I have no advice for you. You cannot have a successful marriage without Christ."
That was it. Period. My husband was annoyed with his dad, but I was angry. His son came to him, man to man, in need of some guidance. Is that not what parents are for? I'm sure that we could have come up with examples of people that had had wonderful marriages outside of Christianity, but that wasn't his dad's point. It isn't that he really believed that only Christians could have good marriages, it's that he WANTS good marriages to be attributed to Christianity.
I lost a lot of respect for him as a father that day, as well as respect for him as a good representative of his faith.