Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

LJ Idol Week 6: Not of Your World

I used to be an Evangelical. At least, that's what I think we were. All I know is that when I watched Jesus Camp, there were a few moments when I said, "Oh, I remember that."

I was not raised Evangelical from the beginning, rather, I attended an Episcopal school for ten years and a Catholic church on the side. My concept of religion involved larger-than-life crucifixes, polished wood pews, and kneelers that crippled me after a Rite II Eucharist service. When my aunt died in a tragic accident, my grief-stricken family changed their religious path. We began to attend my aunt's church, a different world of Christianity. Services were held in a large converted warehouse downtown. The sanctuary packed people in by the hundreds, then thousands, sometimes so many that the sanctuary overflowed into rooms where congregants watched the services on a television screen. It was a megachurch, one of the country's largest.

Our church had rules, and all of them came from the Bible, which was the pure, infallible word of God. Every single word was true. It called for all of us to be born again, to commit our lives to Christ and confess our sin before the congregation. Wash me clean, for I have decided this day to follow You, Jesus.... The pastor intoned that when we said this prayer, the angels in Heaven rejoiced. God would write our name in His book of life, and we would be "saved". My entire family said that prayer and attained salvation. I became immersed in the world that was our church. I began to speak the language of Veggie Tales, contemporary Christian music, "Praise God!", and life verses.

I cannot explain the sensation that came with being a part of this world. When I try to tell people about it now, I am often met with confused expressions. It is the most intense happiness you have ever felt, I say. You're almost always happy, and other people ask you why. No one has ever understood this, perhaps because they have not been a part of it. I experienced an inexpressible joy in that sanctuary, the kind of joy that made others wonder. I could close my eyes and go into a world where I was alone with the Creator of the Universe, a being who cared deeply for me and knew me intimately, in a way no one else could. God was my drug, yet the high could not last.

As I grew older and entered high school, I began to see the cracks in the seemingly flawless facade of this place. The hammer came down on the chisel again and again as I came out of my euphoria and heard things my heart would not allow me to push aside. Anyone not like us, who did not subscribe to our beliefs, was not saved. Therefore, unless they became like us, they would go to hell. This included my friends at school, my homosexual neighbors, and anyone of a different religion. Since I was a girl, they suggested I learn how to cook and clean now, in order to prepare myself for my future as a wife and mother. Dating was frowned upon. Secular music led people like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to carry out the Columbine tragedy. Homosexuals could become heterosexual, if they prayed about it. Women should submit to men. To truly love God, to obey Him, I would have to become part of this world completely.

I reached a point where I had to walk away. I never felt good enough for the God of this church. Not because I was a sinner, but because I could not subscribe to every unwritten belief and rule He seemed to require of me. I wanted to slip back into that euphoria and comfort, but it no longer fit. I shed that life as a snake sheds its skin. There were people there that I loved, and aspects of it I truly enjoyed. Prayer, Christian music, and a relationship with God came away with me. It was heartbreaking to walk away, but impossible to stand in that sanctuary and pretend I was the same girl who was on fire for Jesus. I lost the religious fire and dove into an expansive ocean of spirituality, where I could be free to explore my God and begin to know what it was like to believe as I chose, rather than how I was told. One could say I was burned by the church, and perhaps they would be right. Yet that burn has left an indelible mark upon my heart, and I will always be grateful.

This is my entry for therealljidol. Thanks to everyone who voted in the tiebreaker and kept me around! I hope to stay around even longer and continue writing. Please remember to vote for me if you enjoyed this entry.


( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 10th, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
Really strong entry. You've put out such personal stories week after week, and I really respect you for doing that. :)
Dec. 10th, 2010 04:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I really appreciate that. I wanted to challenge myself to do that since I always grew up being told you shouldn't. ;)

You're a quick reader! I just edited it a little bit to add some things (not too much, but a little bit). I'm glad you liked the first version!
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 15th, 2010 12:10 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry you went through that. I hope that you are away from that situation now and are healing.

Thanks so much for reading and sharing.
Dec. 10th, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)
Very thoughtful story of your spiritual journey. I enjoyed it a lot.
Dec. 15th, 2010 12:10 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!
Dec. 10th, 2010 05:50 pm (UTC)
I have so been there! I relate entirely to this. Thank you for writing it/
Dec. 15th, 2010 12:10 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for reading!
Dec. 10th, 2010 08:37 pm (UTC)
I lost the religious fire and dove into an expansive ocean of spirituality

I think this is beautiful, and decribes the difference between religious peace and religious fervor.
Dec. 15th, 2010 12:11 am (UTC)
Thank you very much. I always enjoy when people tell me a line that I've written that they enjoyed. :)
Dec. 10th, 2010 11:15 pm (UTC)
These sorts of stories always make me sad. And this particular one was told very, very well and even managed a largely-happy-ish ending.

Dec. 15th, 2010 12:13 am (UTC)
Thanks so much. I tried for the happy ending! There were definitely some positives to the experience.
Dec. 10th, 2010 11:34 pm (UTC)
I was like you except flipped (Catholic who attended an Episcopal school, then Catholic) as a girl :) My college roommate and her friends, however, were all Evangelical. I attended services with them sometimes, and you're right, the euphoria sank into the depths of your being and made you glow. I was never saved (prayed over, though!) for the reasons you mention...my feeling was, "If God is just and merciful, surely He wants us to think, speak, and love each other, no matter what."

My roommate is still Evangelical, albeit a quiet one. Everyone else fell by the wayside. I always found that curious.
Dec. 17th, 2010 01:20 am (UTC)
Sometimes I don't think that kind of euphoria can be sustained forever. I noticed a lot of people ended up leaving that church to go to other ones...maybe that's how it works for a lot of people.

Thanks so much for reading and for the comment.
Dec. 10th, 2010 11:40 pm (UTC)
Very intensely personal. Well written.

When the Southern Baptist stood up here at their last convention and stated all women should submit in all things to the male of their family, husband if married, father if not and she should stay home tend house and bear children.

They didn't explain how they were to have a house to live in or food for said children without a second income. And they set back feminist rights a hundred years.

They wonder why young people are leaving the church.

You did an excellent job of explaining it.
Dec. 17th, 2010 01:22 am (UTC)
Thank you very much for reading and commenting. It's nearly impossible to live up to those expectations. I have no problem with women who live that life...it only disturbs me when it's not really their choice to do so.
Dec. 11th, 2010 01:19 am (UTC)
Spirituality is such a personal thing. I have a hard time with religions that dictate how one should commune with the devine, or, how one has to strive to be good enough to be found worthy. That is not the type of deity I seek.

I'm glad you've found a way to be close to God on your own terms. That's a very powerful and difficult step.
Dec. 17th, 2010 01:23 am (UTC)
I just feel like I could never be good enough for their god...I've felt that enough in my life; I can't see having a relationship with a spiritual being who was like that too.

Thanks so much for reading!
Dec. 11th, 2010 05:07 am (UTC)
This was a moving story. I liked how you led us through the evangelical world, because I haven't had a chance to read much about the happy aspect of it--the cracks usually take over. You presented both those sides so well.
Dec. 11th, 2010 10:12 am (UTC)
This was fascinating to read, because you explain something that I've never fully understood (the deep attraction of that kind of religious world) as well as why you chose to leave.
Dec. 12th, 2010 09:04 pm (UTC)
1. Beautiful (intense) piece you wrote there.
2. How are you??
3. I think I'm going to use LJ again, but I'm not sure for what since none of my old friends really use it anymore :o/
Dec. 13th, 2010 12:43 am (UTC)
Yeah... I've been in a similar spot here...
Dec. 13th, 2010 01:38 am (UTC)
This was a really good post. Well told.
Dec. 13th, 2010 11:03 pm (UTC)
I admire your ability to put out such personal pieces for your entries.
Dec. 14th, 2010 12:28 am (UTC)
I've never felt that way about a religious service, but I can imagine it. I imagine it's how Rumi felt every day.
Dec. 14th, 2010 11:01 pm (UTC)

Raised Catholic, went to the Unitarian church for decades, even tried being an atheist, and a pagan. Now I'm living on an ashram that has 4 Hindu masters plus Jesus on their altar and accepts all religions as one. Mostly. Religion and faith are difficult companions.

Strong entry. Well thought through and presented.
Dec. 14th, 2010 11:04 pm (UTC)
Oh...forgot to mention. I love your icon!
Dec. 15th, 2010 12:05 am (UTC)
Thank you for sharing something so personal. Great entry!
Dec. 15th, 2010 01:11 am (UTC)
This was fascinating. The movie Jesus Camp scared the daylights out of me. I'm glad you found your own way!
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )