A Church Background

As you may have picked up on from my previous posts, I had a religious upbringing, and while I liked it at the time, it’s caused me problems that only became obvious in hindsight. I want to begin to tackle the highly complex feelings I have about the Church in my blog because not only does the backstory shed light on who I am today, it’s also still causing me problems and I don’t have anywhere else to talk about it.

As a child I was raised by loving parents who loved each other and who were committed to doing good in the world as their chosen faith taught them. My Dad became a Christian at 18, and after completing his undergrad at Durham, went off to study social work because that was a great way to make a positive difference. My Mum likewise went off to train as a Nurse after reading theology there. Mum was raised in a United Reformed Church and moved into the Church of England, I think, at university. So I was raised in the Church of England.

I loved it, I loved Sunday school, I loved knowing God loved me and I chose of my own free will to go to a Church of England Secondary School. We used to go en famille to a Christian Holiday camp called Spring Harvest and it was there I discovered music that didn’t come from the ‘Songs of Praise’ book. I discovered worship that made me feel alive and Bible study that took me deep into Scripture. Sometime during my teens, I started going to a local community church with a mate of mine, and after moving house went to the Church of England on Sundays and the Baptist Church for youth group on Thursdays. Through the people I met there, I was introduced to Soul Survivor, of Mike Pilavachi fame, and the worship and Bible teaching there blew my mind. Here was a movement that was actually trying to practise what it preached, by organising large events to raise significant money for the poor, organising social justice campaigns and running long term projects in Africa and other places. It was amazing. I began to speak in tongues and could not imagine never believing in God.

Along the way, I heard about another community church that by all accounts had an absolutely banging youth scene, and a growing church body, with lively worship and good teaching, and I started going there. I got sucked in, nothing could’ve been better.

Obviously, I wouldn’t be writing this if it had stayed perfect with magic unicorns and rainbow stars for ever and ever. I wouldn’t be writing this or viewing the events that occurred and the ideas that shaped me as bad things, if I was still sure I believed in God.

The things that happened hurt me. The teachings I took to heart about sexuality made me vulnerable to abusive dickheads and filled me with guilt that I still haven’t shaken off.

I haven’t been to a church service in about three years, maybe longer. I’ve visited Churches and Cathedrals and had to leave when a service started because I physically could not stay in the same building and have the faith I’ve lost rubbed in my face. I think I’ve probably had a minor panic attack in response. I can’t discuss why God is a load of bollocks with people who no longer believe or never did because the hurt is just too damn close to the surface and to break down in tears about it is not a good look. I can’t discuss my fading, wounded faith with those who are still active Christians because trials of faith are a phase, of course God still loves you! They may even be kind, but they won’t understand. I can’t discuss it with militant atheists because they will think me a fool for believing. And those for whom religious faith has been a non-issue, they won’t understand why it was so damn important to me in the first place. If you’ve never known that level of love and belonging, how can you know how much I miss it?

If God loves me, he’s an abusive, neglectful deity and his Church fucking sucks.

Christianity has been such a huge part of my life for so long, that even now I am defined by its absence. The pain I’m in is all the worse because when it was good, it was so good. Everything I did and was, I judged in the light of my faith in a righteous God. To have that no longer is a great loss. I miss the community, I miss wrestling with a God who loves me and wants to see me do well, I miss having someone to turn to when I feel everyone else has deserted me. To have the people responsible for my hurt ignore me and belittle me and tell me it’s all my fault, while proclaiming to love and serve God, well that is just to much to bear. I am angry and I have every right to be. I am hurt and it was not my fault.

And I am fed up of carrying this ball of grief and anger around with me. But I’m afraid to put it down and forgive and forget because if I do, who will hold them to account? From whence will justice come? I need compassion and understanding to help me draw this out, and I think the only person to give it to me is myself, but the ball is so big and so heavy, I’m afraid if I start to unravel it all hell will break loose.

2 thoughts on “A Church Background

  1. Ahhh, I have so many things in my head it’s hard to know where to start, so… list?

    1. There is middle ground between “forgive and forget” and “ball of grief and anger”. It’s something along the lines of “accepting”, and I won’t say it’s easy… I still have a fair bit of anger myself… but it is doable.

    2. You don’t have to work through this alone. First off, good friends can be sympathetic even if they DIDN’T go through the same things. Secondly, therapists are awesome for this. Thirdly, there are other people who HAVE been through something similar. Speaking of which…

    3. I was very religious at one point in my life. It meant a lot to me. I came alive during worship music. I felt loved and real and whole in a way I never had before. It also ended up damaging me in many of the same ways you’ve alluded to here–my views on sexuality were fucked and left me guilty about everything and vulnerable to douchebags, for one.

    4. I think you should reconsider your assumptions about atheists/other non-religious people. I’m an atheist, and I came from a similar background to you. I struggled a lot in the transition, and I found many people in the same boat or who had been there to empathize with me…. through my campus atheist group. Yes, a lot of the atheist/non-religious blogging that goes on on the internets seems harsh/militant/in-fight-y, but there are other sides to it too. Including the “recovering from religion and still struggling with the loss” side. I mean, there is an entire organization to support just ex-ministers/pastors/priests who have lost their faith!

    5. If you want someone to chat with further, I’m around.

    • Hey Keely, thanks for your list – lists are good! I started replying to your points point by point then realised I was knocking each of your suggestions back as unworkable for xyz reasons, without adding anything positive, which isn’t actually helpful at all! So, I’ll re-start by saying, it’s good to hear I’m not the only one, and that yes, I may well take you up on the offer of a chat with virtual tea and biscuits.

      Can you point me in the direction of some blogs that are more on the recovery side of things? Greta’s awesome, at certain things, not so much at others.

      I didn’t mean to tar all atheists with the same brush, mind. My best mates that I actually talk to about things mostly happen to be on the vocally atheist end of the spectrum, and unfortunately, we had to agree not to talk to about religion with each other because feelings were getting hurt on both sides.

      As for therapy? The free university counselling service doesn’t have the resources to support that many people who aren’t in immediate crisis mode, and I don’t particularly like it there. :-/

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