I have PTSD, from the church I grew up in. To some of you that sounds ridiculous, others might relate. It is not as uncommon as you might think. As far back as I can remember my family was a part of this “church”. It was Bible based, nondenominational, and originally a very loving environment. By the time I was a teenager, I was fighting deep depression, an eating disorder, and more than anything I was fighting myself. I had been on the shit end of bad leadership over and over. I can’t speak for what the adults went through, but this is what I experienced:
When I was 11 and 12 I was not a leaders daughter, and even though I had literally grown up with these kids, I was cast aside, uninvited to sleep-overs, family events, and finally, when it was time to change from the “Pre-Teen” group to the “Teen” group, I was asked to stay behind, even though a leader’s daughter, younger than me was placed in the teen group. My parents fought for fairness, and would eventually be asked to leave, they were “marked” by the church for sticking up for what was right. Unfortunately for me, and my little sister, this did not happen soon enough.
As a teen I questioned my leaders. I did not take the round about “because the bible says so” answers. Nobody could explain to me why god was so angry and destructive in the Old Testament, only to suddenly be so humble, sacrificing his son for our sins in the New Testament. Supposedly, we are all god’s children, yet here is god’s REAL kid. Why he had to die? Because Old Testament god did not think things through and wanted all of these sacrifices, which did no good so now god decides, HE will sacrifice something. It’s a mess! I could go on, but I won’t… this time. It was branded in our brains that all of our friends were going to Hell, and we might, too if we were not careful. This made it difficult to have friendships outside of the church.
Eventually I was silenced. I was told not to ask these questions because I had no faith. I was used as a doormat, I was told to be the greeter, because I was so friendly, they used me to draw people in and then they pushed me away. My closest friends, one of which I have literally known since I was in diapers, and the other I had known in elementary school, were instructed not to spend time with me. I caused too much confusion… they did not want me poisoning the flock. Once I was told to stop flirting, when I had not even spoken to a boy the entire evening. The teen leader who confronted me said, “You don’t have to talk to any of them, it was just the way you are.” Gee thanks…
I tried to believe. I studied The Bible, and found no comfort, only inconsistencies, confusion, and my faith in EVERYONE fell apart. I even went as far as to go through the church assigned studies, one of which is called, The Church Study, where they tell you this is the one true church, and anyone not in it will go to Hell. In another study, The Cross, I believe, after reading you a disturbing story of what EXACTLY happened when one was crucified, an account of what Jesus went through, you were asked to confess your sins. At 14 I don’t believe I had true “sins” to confess to, but I humiliated myself anyway recounting everything I had ever done wrong… I was made to feel overwhelmingly ashamed of things that are completely natural. This is when it was convinced that I am not OK. The person I am, my personalty, my body, no part of me was OK, no part of me was deserving, no part of me was worth anything. I was broken, officially. While I could not imagine a god that would create someone so worthless, I submitted, and was baptized, with the promise that when I came out of that water I would be free from my “sin”, and I would finally be “good”.
When I rose from the freezing Pacific Ocean, I understood that it had all been a lie. Everyone here was fake and had been sold the same bull shit, and instead of being honest, they turned around and started selling the bullshit. I knew from experience that I had to pretend, too. If I wanted to keep my friends, if I wanted my parents to have any faith in me, I had to lie. I kept up the facade for over a year, I think. A year of torture, I got Mono, and if you don’t know, Mono causes depression, so on top of being depressed, and being medicated (by Zoloft which causes worse depression in teens), I was… depressed-ER. I don’t really think I can describe my misery that year. I was so alone, and I had nobody to be honest with. During all of this, my little sister was told by a teen leader that she was “too fat to study the bible and get baptized”. That’s a really loving thing to say to an insecure 13 year old. Comments like that drove my sister to use and sell drugs, and eventually rehab… many times. I can’t blame it all on the church, addiction runs in our family, and she caught the bug, so to speak. She is sober and doing awesome now, I am so proud of her. She has come a very long way.
By the time I was 16, I was through with pretending and “fell away” from the church. My eating disorder became obvious. Anorexia with Bulimia. I would restrict, and when I did eat I would purge. I was sent to a treatment center for eating disorders for three months, a few weeks into my Junior year of high school. During this time my parents were marked and asked to leave the church they had been a part of for, I don’t know, 14 years. Coincidentally the church had a huge falling out right around this time, so many people left.
Why on Earth did I tell you this story??? Oh yeah, I wanted you to understand where I am coming from when I explain why I believe it is important to let children, and young adults make their own decisions. I will not send my children to church. Personally, I do not believe in the Christian god, and I certainly do not want my children to be taught to hate, that they are not worth love, that they are not good enough or that they will burn in the fiery pits of hell. You might be thinking, “But Christians follow Christ, and Jesus was so good!” Yeah, JESUS was good, he was loving, accepting, forgiving, he spent time with the sinners and he did not judge. I don’t know many Christians who do ANY of those things. If my kids want to go to church, can they? Absolutely. I will also spend time reinforcing their greatness, because we have no idea what they take from these biblical stories.
You now understand why I will not be raising my children Christian, now let me tell you why I am not raising them vegetarian. Personally, I choose not to eat meat, or dairy and only occasional fish because morally I can’t justify it. Thousands of animals are mass murdered after torture, and disgusting living conditions so you can go to your nearest Mc Donalds and get a double cheese burger for 99 cents at the drop of a hat. It is not natural. Humans are genetically hunter-gatherers. So your body tells you to eat as much as you can at each meal, because historically, you didn’t know when you would get your next one. Since food is readily available, you would think you could slow down and listen to your body, chew. You don’t, and unless you make the conscious effort, you won’t. The factories, and the cows are causing pollution. The animals are given growth hormones, which everyone is ingesting, and we wonder why the obesity rates are so high. CHILDREN are being diagnosed with diabetes. It is disgusting to me. Yet, here I am, allowing my kids to eat meat. Do I buy organic meat? Yes. But if I am so against even eating animals, why do I let them eat animals? Because I want them to make their own decision, when they are old enough. I do not want to my kids to be guilted into doing what I believe is right, I want them to choose what they believe is right.
****If you are reading this because you have had a similar experience, have history with the ICOC/ICC, or you need help leaving, I am going to post some resources here for you. Free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find my “recovery page” on facebook www.facebook.com/icocrecovery Here are a few blogs and websites from people who have left the ICOC/ICC and have shared their experiences and knowledge:
http://www.reveal.org/ <— This page has the truth about the ICOC.
http://www.spiritualpornography.com/ <— Don’t worry, it’s totally appropriate, she named it Spiritual Pornography because that’s what Kip McKean called it when you read anything negative about the church. They post information it might be harder to find, such as Kip’s (supposed) resignation, and letters written to the church.
http://henrykriete.com/ <— Here you can read what REALLY happened with Henry Kriete and his family.
http://ministeriolatino.blogspot.com/ <—- Here you can read a blog from a former member of Kip’s current church (City of Angels International Church of Christ). He has written actually experiences between himself and Kip, AND other “leaders”. A very interesting read. He came across my blog and actually recognized someone I had written about (I kept it confidential).
http://www.tolc.org/ <—- Here you can read Henry Kriete’s letter and other letters written to the church. You can also click “debate” and you will be transferred to http://forums.delphiforums.com/n/main.asp?webtag=ICCdiscussion&nav=start&prettyurl=%2FICCdiscussion%2Fstart where you can interact with current and former members.