When I was younger, I was very involved in the church. My mom and dad church-hopped a lot though. As soon as they settled into one particular church, I became very involved in drama productions, Sunday School activities, and many other things. I loved church because it meant that I could spend time with friends. I do remember enjoying the Bible stories in my classes though. I can’t count how many times I played the part of Mary in Christmas production.
When we moved again to another church, I think I was in the 6th. I became involved in puppet productions. I loved that. My dad had been in a gospel quartet and one of his friends went there. The guy he knew was maybe in his mid-twenties/early thirties. I remember they guy’s wife, who was significantly younger than him, calling me a whore because I wore a little bit of make-up. The blue and pinks were in at that time and I was experimenting with make-up. Not much, but I liked wearing it and I was allowed, so I did.
When I told my mom, I can’t really remember what happened. I do remember being in drama production in that church, too. These were adult drama plays; no more playing “Mary.” And of course the puppets made me really happy. We left that church, too. But, that was the first time I really remember being wounded by a Christian; being judged by my appearance, even though I was a child. STRIKE ONE.
The next church we went to was a community church and extremely corrupt. I became involved with that church as well, doing puppets and performing solos during services. I loves singing and took voice lessons, so I sang in front of the church without hesitation. I loved God. I began to understand that it wasn’t just about congregating, but it was more about a personal relationship with a higher power. Of course, I also remember being taught, hell-fire and if you don’t do “this,” you would go to hell.
There was a young man in that church who I really liked probably more than I should. He was significantly older than me, successful, and funny. We enjoyed being friends. I believe I was 15 or so. I didn’t have my license yet, I do remember that. When I did get my driver’s license, I still went to that church though. I remember being taken aside into a private “counseling” session with my mother and the pastor. My mother liked this guy. In fact, she was pushing for some sort of arrangement I think. I liked him, don’t get me wrong, and I really would have entertained the idea of dating him, too. See how messed up?
Anyway, during the meeting I was told that my association with the young man was not appropriate. Now, remember, I’ve done nothing physical with this person. He is a friend and that’s all. I’ve been allowed to ride in his car and he has spent hours at my mom and dad’s house with me. Nothing more. But, the “relationship” wasn’t appropriate. The church had another lady in mind for him and successfully arranged a marriage between them. STRIKE TWO.
My first thing was, what kind of God allows this stuff to happen. The plus was that I came out of that church with friendships with others who attended my school. I didn’t leave that church until my parents left yet again and attended another church. I even remember dating my first real serious boyfriend while attending that church and my second serious boyfriend while still going there. I admit, some of it is fuzzy. The one thing that isn’t fuzzy is the feeling of ostracism and hurt from being told I wasn’t good enough for the guy and when I asked questions about the Bible being told that I wasn’t allowed to have questions. I was just supposed to blindly accept everything.
My junior and senior year of high school we attended a very small church and I think we had actually been there prior to coming back. We church-hopped so much that I’ve lost track of it all. I also remember attending a Methodist church with my best friend sometime in there somewhere. I don’t really know. I think I’ve attended every church aside from the Catholic church, if I recall correctly. This is probably why I hate “religion.” I’ve seen too many sides of it and none of it really makes sense to me to this day.
At a young age, this is what I took away from the entire experience:
- Hate gays
- Hate lesbians
- You have to date/marry someone within the church
- Hate people with tattoos
- Hate people with piercings
- Hate people with “punk” hair
- Hate anyone who isn’t a Christian
- Christianity is the solve-all, end-all
- All other religious teachings will send you to hell
- If you lie, you’ll go to hell
- If you have sex before you’re married, you’ll go to hell
- If you steal, you’ll go to hell
- If you don’t give money, you’ll go to hell and God will send curses onto you in this life
- If you wear too much make-up, you’re a whore
- If you don’t dress the way the “church” thinks you should, you’ll go to hell
- If you don’t dress the way you should, you’ll be seen as “easy”
Not a very pretty list is it? Next time I’m going to talk about why all of this matters and where it all leads. This is an introduction. See you next time.