Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Empathetizing with My Abuser

Dear Lovelies,

Yes, you read the title right. No, I haven’t lost my mind (not yet anyway). Just, let me explain.

During a conversation I had yesterday with a friend, I realized why my abuser left Christianity. It was because of people who claim to be genuine Christians but are hypocritical, graceless, and so close-minded to anyone who does not believe what they believe, or believes exactly as they do, that they damn them to Hell (his words, not mine). I used to tell him weak arguments like “Not every Christian is like that” and “You can’t blame God for what Christians do in His name.” Now I see the foolishness of those statements. While it may be true that not every Christian is like the ones described, enough of them are so that it turns people like me away from their message.

Here’s how the conversation went yesterday:

Me: How do you deal with nonbelievers?

Her: Pray for belief

Me: Why?

Her: That’s the only way to have hope and meaning in life, through Jesus. Without Jesus, there’s no hope.

Me: …So every atheist and nonbeliever is just slowly dying of depression and has no morals?

Her: Yes, because you can’t have hope without Christ!

Me (internally): I call bullshit

Me externally: Huh, okay.

Thinking about that conversation now, I have to chuckle. It’s funny, not in a hilarious way, but in a “this is the sad reality of many people” way. I didn’t start the conversation to argue with her, I just wanted her to think a little, but blind faith is powerful I noticed. The whole ordeal goes back to my last post. How can Christians expect those outside of their circle to come into the circle, if that be desirable, if they are graceless and close-minded to those who have a different mindset, or background, or methodology from them? In this, they often exclude the ones they’re trying to convert. I can speak with some authority on this because I used to be like that when I was a Christian. Now that I’m on the opposite side, I have to say, it’s quite frustrating. It’s similar to being institutionalized: When you’re in a mental hospital, you’re not a human, you’re a patient in need of controlling; likewise, when you’re a deconvert or nonbeliever, you’re not a person with your own story and ideologies, you’re a potential candidate for conversion.

So, where I could not empathize with my abuser previously, I do now. It’s an interesting realization. One that helps me see him as a whole person instead of “the man who hurt me.”  And ironically, or maybe not, it helps me be gracious and patient with those who are graceless towards me.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

If You Were a REAL Christian, You Wouldn’t Doubt

In my experience, there’s one thing that is seldom, if ever, discussed in Evangelical Christian circles: doubt. If mentioned at all, it’s said with a disapproving tone and usually accompanied with a head shake that is supposed to convey genuine sadness and grief over “that poor backslider” who had “such a strong relationship with Jesus”, but usually is just a poor justification for judgement and isolation for those who are either seriously struggling with fundamental beliefs or who have left the faith and are slowly publicizing it to friends, family, and other members of their community. The first time I questioned anything I had been previously taught, I was a 16-year-old junior in high school. The question that burned in my mind all semester was this: “Is the relationship I have with God really mine or am I just blindly following the religion of my parents?” Naturally, more questions followed as I got older. “If the creation story is to be taken literally (as in 7-day, 24-hour periods) then what about dinosaurs and fossils?” “Do people who profess to be Christians still go to Heaven if they abuse other people?” and so on.

In my teenage and college years, I inherently knew that I was not supposed to ask the kinds of questions I was pondering over, for if I did, I would be met with blank stares or worse, dismissal. “Why are you asking me that? Shouldn’t you know the answer, by now? I mean, after all, you have such a strong relationship with God.” What they were really saying with their questions was this: “If you were a real Christian, you wouldn’t have questions or doubts.” That “strong relationship” I supposedly had was demonstrated by passionate worship displays, at least at church, hence their assumptions. Take note: A convincing outward display of worship often masks a troubled and conflicted inner soul.  After engaging in religious practice and church routine for so long, it’s hard to decipher what’s genuine or counterfeit and people, I have found, will hold you to your past in unexpected ways.

For example, until mid-April, I had been apart of a Christian group on Facebook that discussed mainly things related to apologetics and defending the faith. One night, I wrote a post in which I expressed serious doubt (I almost didn’t post it because I feared the reaction of the group). A lively discussion ensued afterward, in which most members of the group were helpful, as they were empathetic and tried to understand where I was coming from. One person, in particular, was a rude brute who bluntly stated, to the best of my memory, “If you are doubting whether you believe in God, then you never knew God at all. You need to repent and beg the Father for forgiveness.” I have never wanted to punch someone in the face so much as I did that night. When I woke up the next morning, one of the admins messaged me and told me I was kicked out of the group for lack of belief. My heart was shattered because that was the only place I could ask questions and receive actual answers instead of weak Christian platitudes that serve no purpose than to drive me, and others in the same and similar position, into further doubt and isolation.

~

Similarly, I recently emailed an old mentor I had back when I attended a Christian university and told her that I was wrestling with God still but was, primarily, an agnostic. Her response saddened and angered me all at once. Here is an excerpt of her words: “You are a cynic because your faith has been by-passed by disappointment and suffering. And then compound cynicism with SELF-PITY and you are laying in the dark pretty hopeless…I sure hope that someday you will put away childish behavior and begin the journey of a consistent, daily growing relationship with Jesus IN HIS WORD!” So, basically, what she told me was to grow a pair of balls because shit happens and life is unfair and to read the Bible because Jesus is awesome. This woman had made a huge impact on me spiritually as a college sophomore but as I read her email yesterday, I wanted nothing more than to cry because she doesn’t understand where I am right now; she’s operating based on who I was and that hurts.

The problem with this type of rhetoric is that it does more harm than good. If a person doubting is classified as “childish behavior” where does that put David, who was “a man after God’s own heart” and writer of many Psalms that start off with “God where are you? Why are you forgetting me?” Where does that theology put Thomas, and hell, even Jesus? It baffles me, truly it does. How do evangelical Christians expect former Christians and nonbelievers to engage them if they can’t even ask questions? Maybe instead of bashing us for asking and doubting, they can come alongside us and be patient as we struggle to figure out our beliefs, regardless if we (re)convert or not.

 

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Birthday Post

Today is my birthday. I’m now 26. I feel no different than I did yesterday, except that I got better sleep last night than the night before. I’m putting up clean laundry while listening to NF, a Christian rapper whose raw honesty draws me to him. I don’t know what to do with myself today, so I’ll just rest, relax. I might read a bit or watch Beauty and the Beast on Netflix. Today, I am unicorn and at peace. Who could ask for anything better?

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Triple Threat: Dissociation, Anxiety, and Insomnia

Dear Lovelies,

As I write this, it is almost 6:00 in the morning and I have been awake now for three hours. This is my normal. I keep my phone next to me so I can play calming music or a thunderstorm on YouTube in hopes of falling back asleep. I keep snacks in my reusable bag to fight away the munchies and sometimes, I just end up staring at my dark ceiling for hours as my anxiety flips my brain over and over.

Last night, I had to work. It was a short shift but a weird one. In a lot of ways, it was normal. I helped customers, bagged groceries, and ignored the pain in my back, quads, and hamstrings. I was also, once again, hit with the reality that I can’t drive. I was outside collecting carts and a woman needed assistance. She asked me to bring her an electric scooter, so I ran inside and got one. She then asked me to back it in so she could have an easier transition from her car. That’s when the trouble started. I tried hard to do what she asked, but the neurons in my brain wouldn’t cooperate and I ended up accidentally hitting her car. After a thousand apologies, I ran inside and asked a coworker for help and he did what I couldn’t.

As I type this, I struggle to keep from crying from embarrassment and helplessness. When I was a high school freshman, my neurologist diagnosed me with cerebral palsy and basically told me I couldn’t drive because of the effect it had on my gross motor skills. I took her seriously, but I didn’t believe her. I was 14. I thought I was invincible because I had no need to drive then. Man, was I ever wrong. Now, at 25-almost-26, I should be independent. I should, by all means, be driving and not taking public transportation or waiting for my parents to pick me up from work. I know this neurological condition is a part of me, and something I have no control over, but I feel ostracized. Especially since this is an invisible condition, a mild case, and I “look normal” with no need for additional assistance to help me walk.

Additionally, something else weird happened later on. After I clocked out, and as I was waiting for my mom to come get me from work, I walked around the store trying to figure out what I wanted to eat for dinner. I couldn’t decide on anything and went outside. I was trying to get to the gas station nearby because I figured I could get something cheap to satisfy my hunger. Why I thought about going to the gas station when I had literally just left a grocery store is beyond me. That should have been my first sign that something was wrong. Even though I had music in my ears (Be More Chill musical to be precise. Broadway junkie!), I was not entirely there. Apparently, I ended up walking in the road, in the midst of grocery store traffic, completely unfazed and unaware of my actions. My coworker saw me and walked me back into the store.  I think I scared him. I’ve experienced dissociation before, and have lost countless hours, and even days, over the years because of it, but I’ve never experienced anything like what happened last night. That was scary. I could’ve gotten hurt or worse. I’m glad I didn’t. I’m glad he found me. What doesn’t make sense to me is that most of the time when I dissociate, there’s a trigger involved. There was none this time. Maybe that’s a mystery of the brain I’ll never solve. For now, rest is needed. It’s 6:27 now. I think I’m going to try to get some sleep, be more chill, just relax. Whenever I wake up today, I’ll ground myself using my senses and maybe a hot cup of chai tea. Remind myself that I’m still here.