I grew up believing the world was going to end at any minute.
It’s funny, I remember a time that my mom and I were traveling through the fog and mountains and three lit-up crucifixes had me in a near panic attack thinking that this was finally it, the end of my life. The second coming.
It never sat right with me. The second coming, I mean. The sheer thought of leaving everything I knew for a paradise that would not even welcome my own cat, where I would be forced to sing and dance about God forever. I would be safe and happy while my friends suffered and were tormented — and I just wouldn’t think about it? or remember it was happening because I would be safe in Heaven?
Just blissfully dancing and singing over the screams down below. How the hell is that paradise?
And until Heaven, my “great reward,” I had to spend my life in terror. Terror because I never felt “safe” that I was “saved.”
I used to repeat my salvation prayer over and over at night because I was so scared that I hadn’t “really meant it, hadn’t really believed” when I had said it all those times before.
I think that the concept of the rapture and Heaven made me realize how cruel religion could be.
There is a paradise but you can only go if you have heard of Jesus and accepted him.
If you hear and don’t accept him, you burn in hell.
If you accept him and then reject him, you burn in hell.
If you don’t hear and don’t accept him, you burn in hell.
*Unless the rapture comes, then you might actually have a chance.
I had the distinct privilege of growing up in an Independent Baptist Church.
What does that mean?
It means women are treated as second-class to men. Women must ask their husbands for permission to do things. Women must not wear bright nail polish, ankle bracelets or two-piece swimsuits, because the male gaze is ever-present, and you see, they can’t help it. God made them that way. It is our job to make sure they don’t act on it. If they act on it, men are weak, and women are lustful.
I remember being allowed to carry the offering plate one Sunday evening. I remember the way I felt when I was finally chosen. It made my entire day, I was finally able to hold a basket and pass it up and down the rows. So minor, but in my 13 years of life, I had always been passed over. The two boys my age, and the younger ones that came after, would always be chosen instead of me. But not this time. Me, an usher. I was absolutely elated.
Years later, I remember being told that the man that allowed me to do that was punished by my pastor, He was told to never allow that to happen again. Being an usher is an honor, and it is not a job for women. It will never be. If a woman wants to honor the Lord, the kitchen and the children she raises are her trophy cases where she can hang her rewards.
At church, I remember they would *wink* not talk about politics *wink* because they could lose their tax-exempt status. It didn’t stop political jokes and nods and winks from the pulpit. It didn’t stop a pastor from another church printing out my Facebook page and smearing the word “Democrat” with a highlighter before handing it off to my pastor for judgment. It didn’t stop a church member from tearing the Barack Obama sticker off of my bumper and having a good laugh about it with my mom. Why would I ruin a perfectly good Buick like that?
What the church mostly meant though, was Fear.
Fear of attracting the wrong kind of attention, fear of letting the evil and dangerous “World” swallow me whole, fear of telling my mom the truth, fear of loving sinners, fear of people different from me, fear of new ideas that might contaminate me, fear of dying and going to hell, fear that my grandparents were going to hell.
It is said that God is the epitome of grace, love, and mercy. But during my time as a believer, I never felt more abandoned, lost, and alone.