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Former Member Post #3

Below is our third Former Member Blog Post. Normally we'd feature a current member this week, but due to a lack of submissions, we must revert to the alternative. Thank you,

-BCCTheTruth


When I considered writing an article for this blog, I thought I shouldn’t bother, because in certain ways my time in the Church differs from others. I grew up in it, but I also left at a younger age compared to those around me. I didn’t leave abruptly like some, and it wasn’t like I left because I had gotten a boyfriend/girlfriend. And unlike other ex-members I’ve heard from, I didn’t suffer the same ostracization from their church friends or abuses from older members after leaving. This got me thinking, and I realized the reason it was so “easy” for me to leave the church was that I had never even felt like I truly belonged. The Church had never been a helpful friend to lean on for me, instead as I grew older the Church began to seem more and more like a looming principal meant to keep me in line.

At least, that has been my overwhelming interaction with the Church. I had been picked on and treated as an outsider

by most of my “friend” group for my whole adolescent life, without anyone noticing or taking action when I spoke up. I was always forced and pressured to go to activities, which I came back from feeling like a fraud. The lack of sympathy or understanding for those struggling with mental health issues was obvious. Whenever I tried to bring up my state of depression, I was always told to pray more or to read some psalms, no one ever brought up the idea of seeking real help from a counselor. This isn’t a one-time occurrence, many others have no-doubt also been told the answer to any emotional issue is to simply pray about it as if that will banish the problem.

Any joyous memories of my time in the church are stained with feelings of self-hatred, embarrassment, anxiety, and a sense of shame many members are made to endure. There were good moments when I was much younger and given more berth to actually be my expressive-self, afforded tolerance because I was still seen as a child. But these few happy memories are all overshadowed by the way I would get an invitation to go to a gathering/event and be too afraid of the groups' judgment to decline, or when someone I knew had a horrible experience with a member and nothing was done, or the time I was asked to donate my Christmas money to Brunstad when I was only twelve. Before I weaned myself off the Church’s influence, I had been forced to attend the youth meetings multiple times. I think many ex-members can relate to their parents pressuring/forcing them into church activities and attempting to get them to hold the same beliefs. More than once I cried on the way there, and always sat in the car as I waited for it to be over.

Once, an older member came out and got into the car with me. I was unmistakably distressed, sobbing, and sitting in a dark vehicle. They asked me what was wrong, and instead of admitting, “I can’t make myself fit in any longer. I feel trapped, I feel like I am being suffocated every Sunday,” I told them I was feeling sick. Despite my obvious resistance and how distraught I was, this person kept trying to get me to go inside and sit through the meeting. It was painful to have to dodge their insistence. With some bargaining on my part, they agreed to take me home. This is another aspect of being in the Church. Showing any “negative” emotion too much or too strongly isn’t acceptable, as everyone is supposed to be happy. This was exceptionally damaging because many experience emotions more intensely than their peers, so as I did, they may spend a significant amount of time masking their pain.

Another time, I was again hiding from the effort of having to put on a smile and act as if everything was peachy by the grace of God when a different member got into the car (which knew me better than my church friends at that point). Despite my clear discomfit with them, they began pressuring me to come in until I reluctantly agreed. I told them I would in a bit, and then hid away in a different spot until I was sure they wouldn’t be able to find me and force me to go inside. That is how badly I feared attending the meetings because I knew

I'd be asked what I "got out of it" and would have to come up with a false answer to please them.

So what have I taken from my experience with the Church? I think people need safety, they need comfort, and they need to feel like there is a foundation to their lives. If the Church didn’t provide a sense of all of these, people would be less quick to go along with every overly-strict rule and unspoken social guideline. But if someone wants to leave they should be able to without the fear of being ridiculed/cut-off by those they’ve spent their whole lives around, and that’s the real problem with the Church. Too much of how they operate is based on keeping their members fearful of going against the norm or leaving the group.

It’s not up to me to try and sway anyone's opinion or beliefs, that’s something only the person themselves has control over. All I can really say is that almost any change is going to be uncomfortable, but uncomfortable doesn’t always mean bad. I needed to be made to feel uncomfortable by the Church to realize I didn’t belong, that it wasn’t a place I was meant to be. I hope whoever currently feels the same way I did knows that they aren’t alone, that many others have been through the same struggle and came out better for it.


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