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Coming Back, Faith, Fundamentalism

My Story with Fundamentalism

Lately when I pray I ask that I be continue to be led through this journey back to God and back to religion. And he’s definitely delivered. I’ve realized some scary and shocking things about the evangelical fundamentalist school that I attended for pre-school through 8th grade.

Mainly, spiritual abuse.

I came across Elizabeth Esther’s blog the other night and I stayed up until three in the morning reading. I could not stop reading because it was like she knew. Her experiences are my experiences. While I’m not willing to go so far and say that I was in a cult (I attended the school but she was in deeper since her parents and grandparents were fully involved) I’ve realized that spiritual abuse did take place.

And after I turned off my laptop I cried. A lot. I went to my room and just sat down on the floor and cried because I realized that some of the things I considered to just be my own personality quirks are not actually quirks at all, they are scars from spiritual and, by extension, emotional abuse. In Elizabeth Esther’s words which fit perfectly: “I am often wary of people’s motives (which comes across as judgmental), I assume future rejection and often disappear into my life to pre-empt abandonment (this comes across as me not reciprocating in the relationship), and I have difficulty and anxiety about attending group functions (which comes across as being a party-pooper).”

The words ‘cult’ and ‘spiritual abuse’ sound so weird in my head. Maybe I’m still in the shock of realization but I’m not sure I could ever say them out loud. Nobody imagines (especially children) that they will have an experience with a cult or with abuse. And that right there is the problem. Our guard is down. Religion can actually be a very dangerous thing yet people in the Western world aren’t prepared for that fact. ‘Fundamentalism’ and spiritual abuse is something that happens to those brain-washed Muslims with brown skin, not Christians. Not in cozy suburbs. Not in my neighborhood.

Well, it happened to me. In a cozy suburb. And my parent’s aren’t even fundamentalists. It happened at school. Go figure.

Things I saw/experienced in a fundamentalist school:
• An unnerving fear of everything government, whether that be government agencies or government schools. The government was out to get Christians. Always.
• People routinely got up and shared their ‘testimony’ and asked ‘are you saved?’.
• Halloween was a holiday of Satan. It was not to be partaken of.
• If you were a girl, the idea of ‘biblical womanhood’ and being ‘a Proverbs 31 woman’ were supposed to be your highest aspiration. (Elizabeth Esther on this.)
• We were reminded that the rapture could come at any moment. I remember being scared, like Elizabeth Esther, that I would be left behind.
• Families within the congregation practiced discipline a la To Train Up a Child. My school actually made the news once because the administration demanded that an unruly child be spanked by one of his parents in their presence to make sure discipline was happening. The mother declined and brought the story to the news.

And that’s only the beginning if I’m honest. I’ve realized that my whole view of God and religion is warped by fundamentalism. I’ve actually slightly ashamed to admit that I’ve been approaching Catholicism in this way. I guess admitting it is the first step right?

I’ve got a lot more to write about my experiences with fundamentalism, but I just needed to get this out.

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Discussion

7 thoughts on “My Story with Fundamentalism

  1. Keep writing until there is nothing left to write about . I didn’t land on my feet in front of the Catholic church. Rather, I crash landed in desperate need of help. It’s why the Church is there.

    Posted by Roy | August 28, 2012, 3:06 am
    • It is. But when you can’t fully trust the Church, then what?

      Posted by Amy | September 2, 2012, 5:07 pm
      • I don’t think you have to show up fully trusting the Church. Just my opinion. It would be kinda like me showing up holy before confirmation. It doesn’t really work that way. Christ has met me where I am, not where I could or should be. If you were raised Catholic there are groups within the Church for those that left and are having a hard time coming back. If you weren’t raised Catholic there is RCIA. My only questions would be what do you have to lose in trusting God? What do you have to lose telling a priest why you don’t trust the Church. Its not like you’ll evaporate into a whirling mass of electrons and the dissipate if you tell someone what is going on.

        Posted by Roy | September 3, 2012, 2:01 am
      • True. I guess that I’m just worried about receiving the ‘holier than thou’ treatment that some of the devout like to dump on people who aren’t in the same place spiritually. Similarly, I’m not sure I trust the Church as an institution. I’m currently reading about Pius XII who aided and abetted in the the Holocaust. By identifying with the Church I am, by definition, identifying with a lot of horrible things that have gone down throughout history that I do not approve of in the least.

        Posted by Amy | September 21, 2012, 2:39 am
      • Not to sound harsh, but you just sound really angry. If I took your line of thought and applied it to my life, I could not be american. I would be identifying with the systematic genocide of Native Americans, slavery, anti-suffrage, segregation, and the interrment of Japanese Americans in our very own concentration camps during WWII. I approve of none of those things and they all happened. People are people. There have been some very unsaintly people, and always will be. I had a huge axe to grind with the Church, Christ, and society in general for decades. I stayed angry for a long time. It was similar to drinking poison and waiting for the people I was angry at to die. I have read much of your blog and understand how you feel. My point is this…you know how you feel, towards whom, and why. Now, what are you going to do? Stay angry? Is there a solution to your anger? Which seems more difficult…staying angry, or forgiving? Keep writing…

        Roy

        Posted by Roy | September 22, 2012, 1:44 am
  2. Wow, bless your heart! This is so well-written. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and feelings honestly. I hope and pray that experiences like yours, shared in an honest and balanced way like you’ve done here, will someday help people in general come to a consensus about what is and isn’t a good idea in religious approaches to raising and educating children!

    Posted by Kamalini S. | September 19, 2012, 7:03 pm
    • Thanks for stopping by Kamalini! I do hope that people will be cautious when it comes to exposing their kids to too much religion. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, there definitely is such a think as too much religion!

      Posted by Amy | September 21, 2012, 2:42 am

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