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Former Member Post #6

Hello reader,

I want to preface my submission with an encouragement. You are not in trouble, it is okay to ask questions. You are not in trouble, no one is looking over your shoulder, God is not going to punish you for reflecting on this article. Your life will not explode into a series of unfortunate events because you have questions and you want answers and peace. You are not in trouble and it is okay. Now that you know that you are okay, which is so important, here is my story.

I knew from a young age that my beliefs and my upbringing were starkly different than those around me. My earliest memory was in kindergarten at naptime. I was with three of my best friends and they were being silly; talking about chasing boys around at lunch, joking about male anatomy in a simply juvenile and natural way. Having grown up learning that sex and sexual innuendo was one of the greater sins, I emphatically expressed to the girls how horrible and sinful they were, I snatched my pillow and blanket and relocated. I laid there alone in the kindergarten classroom, and this would become a perfect metaphor for much of my childhood, teen years, and young adulthood. Isolating, separating, segregating, in the name of indoctrination.

Outside of school, in church, and at home I have many good memories, many bad and many in between as I have found most things in life to be, middle ground. I am one of nine children to two wonderful parents. When I was little I can remember bouts of fear and anxiety about Armageddon and the end times, I feared going to hell, and eventually I feared my own thoughts and I feared myself. You see, we heard since we were young to hate the sin within us, and as a child you cannot differentiate between the sin and yourself. So, you hate yourself, and you distrust yourself, and you distrust your thoughts. If you have an individual who is prone to anxiety, OCD, depression, or any other mental illness, the church can be a very dangerous place. For me it gave root to self-harm, eating disorders, exercise addiction, eventually sexual promiscuity, unsafe sex, and bad relationships. While I feel the church has cast a greater shadow than sunbeam, I also have many good memories of going to conference centers and activity club and children’s meetings. Many of my lifelong and closest friends remain in the church.

I only started to gain the courage to ask greater questions about this church I grew up in after I had my daughter. I had an unplanned pregnancy with a man who was not in the church. I had left the church prior to my pregnancy and initially returned once I learned of my pregnancy. In my mind, I was clean. I had returned, and God would not turn away from me any longer, and my child would not be dealt a poor hand in life for my sins. But shortly after my daughter was born, I began to feel unease. I had people make comments like “It is so hard, that someday she will have to choose between her father and the church” and “The church is the best chance she has to live a normal life”. My second break through was when I dated a man who was a Christian but NOT in the church. We believed all the same things (which I hadn’t thought existed in other Christian groups) and yet he was ostracized by my parents and by my siblings. You see, there is a belief in the church that they are the cream of the crop when it pertains to Christianity. Other Christians “just don’t get it”, they don’t have a “calling”, they are not one of the 144,000 destined to be on mount Zion! The true jews! And so there is exclusion. When that relationship turned sour, I learned many other things about religion and eventually relinquished my faith altogether.

I went through a dark period after losing my faith. I felt like nothing mattered and I deeply grieved my lost sense of community and I grieved so many years lost to fear, anxiety, and doubt. But life goes on, the depression fades and gives way to optimism. One of my family friends who left the church put it perfectly “I finally feel like a participant in my own life”. When I relinquished my faith and made a proper stand in opposition to the church some things changed and some things didn’t. I stopped getting invitations from the more die-hard moms, my mother made it very clear that I was different from the family (but not excluded), familial relations became somewhat strained, and overall, I am an outsider now. My closest friends still spend time with me and love me and that means the world to me. I know that many in the church will never be able to judge me for who I am objectively and subjectively; a kind, deeply empathetic, giving, selfless, and GOOD person. All they see is insider, and outsider.

I am no longer a Christian, so the one thing I would change about BCC was to eradicate the religiosity entirely. But that is not helpful. I think one thing that has caused a lot of damage is the lack of biblical context that has created a culture within the church. No dating, limited relationships outside of the church, don’t marry outside of the church, “The Church” is the top tier and other Christians are wrong, homosexuality is a sin, women are subordinate to their husbands, receiving all the children God gives you, essentially severing yourself from a massive part of the world and life. All of these are supposedly biblically sound and extracted from vague verses like “do not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever”, in church translation “do not create relationships outside of the church”. It is impossible to fully encapsulate the effect that an upringing in the church has on one’s life. I will try to summarize it. It is leaving a man you love for the church, it is missing prom because of the fear and guilt, it is tiptoeing around social interactions at work in fear of creating a bond with an outsider, it is broken friendships, broken relationships, and broken hearts, its missed high school trips, its missed college vacations, its exclusion, its gender segregation, and it is time you never get back, and it is a family you will lose once you leave.

In my heart, the indoctrinated version of the people I love is separate from the genuine people that I know and love. One thing is true for me, in this church you will find some of the most loving, kindhearted, and giving people. I think that is what attracts people to this church, we truly wanted to be better, we wanted to make a huge difference in the world where we felt we could do so little. I think the original message was lost. I have told friends that I believe that, if the originators of the church were alive, they would be very sad to see what has been birthed. I do not know much about the money or financial aspect of the church, so I will not include that here. The only thing I can attest to is the practice of BCC reinvesting millions and millions into ITSELF instead of those who are in need.

If I could say anything to current members it would be to ask questions, trust yourself, and being different than other churches doesn’t really mean it is right or better. To newly ex-members I would say it gets better, the fear and anxiety lessons, you start to gain confidence in outsiders and a whole new world opens up to you. It took me approximately 2 years until the fear of hell subsided, wondering if God was punishing me at ever little mishap faded, and the idea of ever returning to the church is lost on me. I would not say that my life is easier now, but it is different, the world feels larger and I care more deeply about people. People are no longer pawns in my eternal calling to get to heaven at all costs. We are all the same, flesh and bone. Oh, and I’ve also stopped using the phrase “well I think that growing up in the church made me a better person”. Because I believe I would have always been good, and kind, and sensitive, because it was in my genetic makeup and part of observing my parents and siblings.

I will close with a quote. “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” – Steven Weinberg.


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