It’s Sunday Morning – Time To Wake Up, God

In Spirituality by Caris Adel19 Comments

 

My story is rooted in whispers, conversations behind closed doors, arguments, struggles, isolation, and above all, a certainty that there is only one right way to be a real Christian.

My parents came of age in the Shepherding movement, which resulted in their arranged marriage.  We stayed in that church until I was 10, but the dysfunction lingered.

I don’t have one specific traumatic event that lets me claim the title ‘spiritual abuse’.  And so I think when people look at me, they wonder how or why I would struggle with church.  I’m on the bubble of the millenial generation, and their issues captured in books and research are my issues.  I want to be a story, not merely a statistic.

The system I grew up in, the only church system I know, has stifled, and continues to stifle me.  My culture gives me ample reasons to walk away from God and his people.  I want to cry a freedom song that is recognized by what it is not.

Something is there, buried under so many years and sermons, like a foreign odor in the house, prompting me to move from room to room, cupboard to cupboard until I find the forgotten potato, way in the back, molding and oozing, it’s stench far-reaching.  There is something in my story that makes me uneasy with church, and as I get closer to naming it, I find my discomfort growing stronger.

And so I sniff and search, trying to identify and root out the source.

How I was raised doesn’t directly correlate with my church experiences.  One parent had issues; they seeped into me, and spilled over into how I was raised.  In the end, I have a lot in common with IFBers and other fundie kids, even though I didn’t grow up in their churches.

But the churches I went to actually confirmed, encouraged, and even implicitly taught that the way I was being raised was the correct way.  The ideal way.

I sat and listened to so many sermons talking about what music we shouldn’t listen to, what movies we shouldn’t watch, what clothes we shouldn’t wear.

Not everyone had such a black and white parent, so they just taught those things more and more.

We had a burning party at youth group one time in high school, where you brought unholy things you owned to be burned – cds, movies, books, cigarettes.

I didn’t have anything to bring, but everyone else did, but knew they shouldn’t have.  That’s what sin was, why we needed revival, why we needed church and Bible and prayer, and ‘this generation’ – so that we could remind ourselves, even will ourselves back onto the right path.  The only path to be a Christian.

My story is that I did everything the church asked of me, preached to me.  I was an excellent Christian and with the exception of one major oopsie (which was handled gracelessly), I was on the right path.

But then, life.

I was out of my Christian bubble, out in the real world, with real problems, and it didn’t matter what music I listened to.  All of the Christian clichés that people spouted didn’t help.  Knowing my ‘role’ didn’t help.  None of it was working.  None of it was affecting what life meant, how and why I should live. 

I wanted to chuck the whole damn thing.

But Jesus.

I couldn’t abandon him.  And he lives in church, right?  So I stayed.  And struggled.  And struggle.

Ever since, I have found him more on the fringes of the church than I have in the fabric.  I’ve found freedom, acceptance, love of tension, love of differences, and a welcome attitude toward wrestling.

When I look at my life and the churches I’ve been in, I can’t help but wonder if the system itself is set up to be abusive.

I have been in many churches, many denominations, and they have all advocated the same thing: a clear reading of the Bible, a love of proof-texting, clear roles, habits, and characteristics rooted in gender, and certain personal habits that are preferred.  Heaven forbid if you swear or believe in evolution or believe there is more to the gospel than salvation, that God’s voice is not limited to the Bible, that incarnation affects us daily, that there are meaningful things in all denominations.

The churches I’ve been in have taught the Bible as authoritarian, living the perfect morally correct Christian life is the goal, and you don’t talk too much about problems – if you do, there’s only one answer, found, of course, in the BibleWe major on personal habits and minor on everything else.

And I look at this list and wonder.  How could I have spent so many years in so many different churches and feel like most of this fits them all?  I might not have been in a church that forced allegiance to a leader, but they forced allegiance to an ideology.

When churches don’t teach discernment and nuance, when there is no flexibility in belief systems, when we rely on ‘biblical’ instead of the Holy Spirit, it forces people to hide who they are in order to fit in.

Go to a mall, a restaurant, an airport, and people watch.  You cannot tell me there is a one-size-fits-all faith, a one-size-fits-all church.  This denial that life is complex, that life is different, that Jesus incarnates all of it makes church seem like a naive place to be.  And I just don’t know if I can do it anymore.

I spent most of my life doing what was right.  Being what was right.  But now that I have turned into a different person, the places I’ve been don’t fit me.  I don’t know if the places I am now fit me.  I’ve been raised to believe that Sunday morning is the be all, end all of Christian community.  But what if it’s not?

Can we even ask this question?  Or do we trigger symptoms of abuse with the possibilities of having different ways to run after Jesus?

I’ve been indoctrinated into not being gut-level honest.  I’ve found more freedom in hiding than I have in being authentic.  I have found more community in this new crazy thing called the internet than anywhere tangible.  And so I wonder:

Is Sunday morning essential to following Jesus?

I’m not sure the answer is no, but I’m not convinced it’s yes.

The source of my struggle to be with Jesus in my culture is the system that turns divinity-humanity into a one-dimensional figure, and a collection of letters, poems, and histories, into a set of clear mandates.

The source of my angst with church comes from their denial of life.

I don’t know if my story qualifies as spiritual abuse.  But I do know it doesn’t qualify as safe.

 

This post is linking up for Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week.  Check out the other stories.




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    18 March 2013 at 11:03pm
    [...] her blog post for this synchroblog, Caris Adel ends by saying, “I don’t ...
  • Safe | Bethany Beams
  • http://www.eloranicole.com/ elora nicole ramirez

    Wow, Caris.

    “I spent most of my life doing what was right. Being what was right. But now that I have turned into a different person, the places I’ve been don’t fit me. I don’t know if the places I am now fit me. I’ve been raised to believe that Sunday morning is the be all, end all of Christian community. But what if it’s not?”

    Love the questions you pose here.

    • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

      thanks. The answers kind of scare me.

  • http://www.shaneyirene.com/ Shaney Irene

    “And I look at this list and wonder. How could I have spent so many years in so many different churches and feel like most of this fits them all? I might not have been in a church that forced allegiance to a leader, but they forced allegiance to an ideology.”

    Yes! This is me too! It’s been so difficult, because as long as it’s one place, it can be contained, it’s a problem “over there.” But when it’s in so many churches? So much more dangerous.

    • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

      and my churches were alllllll across the board. Shepherding, ‘community’, Brethren In Christ, Baptist, Evangelical Free, Assemblies of God, Lutheran, Missionary, Vineyard (which actually I thought was the best), an odd spin-off of Vineyard that was more like IHOP (which was when we left), and now, a community one again.

  • forgedimagination

    It’s amazing how this has been such a systemic problem almost since the church’s inception. Almost right from the get-go you had people claiming that they had discovered the one real, best, way, and everyone should just fall in line with their “correct” approach. And it’s still happening.

    • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

      and with thousands of denominations, why can’t we just be honest and say, hey, there are many ways to read this?? I just don’t get the arrogance anymore.

  • http://twitter.com/justalittlerae rachel serine

    “I do know it doesn’t qualify as safe.” Way to cut to the heart of things! When I first asked myself “shouldn’t the church be a safe place?” i was 24 years old. That was the first time I even had the thought that maybe it wasn’t good that church was completely unsafe, at the very least. This post was just tearing bandages off old wounds, in a very good way.

    • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

      Yeah, I’m wondering why it is that just because something is christian, we automatically assume it’s a safe place, or that what they are saying is completely true. Glad this wasn’t too much of a painful tear. :)

  • http://charityjilldenmark.wordpress.com/ Charity Jill Erickson

    I had a visceral reaction to this post, partly because I found a rotten potato hidden in the back of the pantry just a few days ago.*shudder* What a strange and perfect image that is for a post like this one. Some damn fine writing.

    I also want to thank you for providing that link to the Shepherding movement. I found out that a church that I had been involved with at one time was a part of that movement. Blows my mind, but explains so much.

    • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

      This made me laugh. I found one a couple of weeks ago, and in cleaning out the cupboard, I found a second one. I think that was the grossest thing I’ve ever seen.

      Yeah, isn’t that bizarre? And when we left that church, we were pretty much shunned, and it was a really small church. We kept one family as best friends. I ended up connecting with a lot of those people probably 7 or 8 years ago and they were all incredibly nice and normal acting people, so I wonder if just over time, since the movement has died, that they’ve become more normalized. I don’t know. I found out a few years ago that that whole thing had a name and leaders. It blew me away that we weren’t the only ones. My parents are the only ones I know of that had an arranged marriage, so even in that group, I felt a little out of place.

      • http://charityjilldenmark.wordpress.com/ Charity Jill Erickson

        So interesting. I was actually talking about this yesterday on Twitter w/ Leigh Kramer – this church I went to (maybe 4/5 years ago) still does, essentially, arrange marriages. It is a “Great Commission” church in Grand Forks, ND. There is this vestige of youth and sexiness and disciplined hyper-spirituality on the surface of the community, but once you get in deep the pastoral leadership assumes almost complete authority over your life decisions — where you work, who you marry. When I realized what was going on, I couldn’t believe it. So, it’s still happening! I’m so glad you and others are bringing this world out into the open.

        • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

          That’s still happening? omg.

  • http://notknowingwhere.com/ Anna

    It never ceases to amaze me how people can have such different backgrounds, and end up coming to a place of asking the same questions. Has to be the Spirit! I was thinking about that Sara Groves song the whole time I was reading the post. It meant a lot to me as well a few years ago when we were making some family worship decisions. That woman is a poet.

    (P.S. I’m getting flashbacks to the 80s when my older sister had a fit of unholiness conviction and broke her boom box to avoid the evils of Belinda Carlisle. About a month later I found her taping it back together. Haha!)

    • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

      Yes, I love Sara’s music so much. Yeah, it is kind of cool to see so many people in the same spot. It makes me feel less crazy, and that it really isn’t just me.

  • http://www.gabbingwithgrace.com/ Grace at {Gabbing with Grace}

    oh so true…. not safe. I think we can all relate to that craziness. thank you for sharing it. I bet there’s alot of folks in your boat that need to hear the affirmation of this particular feeling. ((hug))

    • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

      thanks Grace :)

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com/ Ed_Cyzewski

    The level of control you describe in your church certainly raises some red flags for me. Thanks for this post.

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  • http://danileekelley.wordpress.com/ Dani Kelley

    My story is that I did everything the church asked of me, preached to me. I was an excellent Christian and with the exception of one major oopsie(which was handled gracelessly), I was on the right path…

    Ever since, I have found him more on the fringes of the church than I have in the fabric. I’ve found freedom, acceptance, love of tension, love of differences, and a welcome attitude toward wrestling.

    When I look at my life and the churches I’ve been in, I can’t help but wonder if the system itself is set up to be abusive.

    I have been in many churches, many denominations, and they have all advocated the same thing: a clear reading of the Bible, a love of proof-texting, clear roles, habits, and characteristics rooted in gender, and certain personal habits that are preferred. Heaven forbid if you swear or believe in evolution or believe there is more to the gospel than salvation, that God’s voice is not limited to the Bible, that incarnation affects us daily, that there are meaningful things in all denominations.

    The churches I’ve been in have taught the Bible as authoritarian, living the perfect morally correct Christian life is the goal, and you don’t talk too much about problems – if you do, there’s only one answer, found, of course, in the Bible. We major on personal habits and minor on everything else.

    And I look at this list and wonder. How could I have spent so many years in so many different churches and feel like most of this fits them all? I might not have been in a church that forced allegiance to a leader, but they forced allegiance to an ideology.

    When churches don’t teach discernment and nuance, when there is no flexibility in belief systems, when we rely on ‘biblical’ instead of the Holy Spirit, it forces people to hide who they are in order to fit in.

    This. THIS. Thiiis. I don’t even have proper words. Yes, this. I was the poster child for my denomination, preachers everywhere taking special interest in me and my tender heart and love of Christ and willingness to do hard things just because they were right. I was The Good Child at home for pretty much the same reason (until I had thoughts of my own, then I was the most strong-willed woman on earth who needed to learn submission and obedience. it just varied.).

    I’ve been thinking about the whole aspect of hiding in conjunction with being considered a good Christian woman. Thinking about it a LOT. There was so much emphasis on hiding – the hidden person of the heart, a quiet spirit, hiding our bodies, in my denomination literally hiding our hair or our heads during church meetings. Hiding our voices, hiding our thoughts. Always hiding. It does something to a person. And it’s not good.