After the rather serious amount of spiritual abuse I was subjected to in college, and upon exiting school a very embittered and angry person (and, as my mom will tell you, I’ve been angry a LONG time,) I had been wandering farther away from the church. I’ve read the Bible cover to cover dozens of times, studied different chapters in a multitude of Bible studies throughout the years. The blatant misogyny, rampant violence, and gratuitous sex made it extremely difficult to want to have anything to do with this patriarchal god. Jesus, I could get behind. Jesus was cool. But his followers? As Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I’d been prayed over, anointed in oil, told to just have more faith and I’d be healed. Nobody in my university was vested in me getting the care I needed for my very real mental illness. I just needed more Jesus, you see, as if Jesus can be slathered on a bandaid like neosporin and slapped over a wound. I needed to pray specific prayers, I was told. Pray the Lord’s prayer. Have the faith of a mustard seed. Evidently my faith was even smaller, because I definitely wasn’t moving any mountains, and I surely wasn’t getting any better.
Every time I talk to a graduate of my college, their faith has changed significantly. While it matured, it definitely didn’t mature how we were being brainwashed to be. One of my friends who was very much a believer has now switched to Judaism/agnostic/deist, and she welcomed me to the Heretic closet- for those of us who are afraid to tell our families how dramatically we have changed. I know my sister and her fiance are both leaning towards Unitarian or agnostic.
How much pain does a church have to inflict before it realizes just how much damage it is doing?
I know that often my clients find comfort in faith, but I find only more pain. The church has hurt the mentally ill so grievously over the years. How many have been ostracized, submitted to exorcisms, declared they don’t have enough faith to be healed? How long until religion catches up with the stark reality of mental illness and treats all of us like people worthy of love?
I know I will never want to be on the receiving end of the “compassion” I’ve been subjected to again.
But when I went home, and went to the candlelight Christmas eve service, I cried the whole time. I’m not sure why. Bitter tears, maybe. Angry tears. Tears of pain finally let go, because it isn’t worth it to be angry.
I have so much anger. It will likely take a lifetime to let go of what I have now, and I am still young. I hope I stop acquiring it.