Wednesday, March 23, 2011

oh, yes, I'm going THERE

Yea, I've broached the subject of my politics, some personal demons of my past, random vents about particular persons, vents about whatever, personal triumphs, and the life I enjoy now with my family.

I haven't really approached the subject of religion yet, most specifically, the "Christian" religion.

This is the post that I broach this subject. It is not my place to judge someone else who believes their system of beliefs is correct. This post merely highlights some of my experiences with organized Christian religions. EVERYONE, regardless of their religious, or lack there of, belief system they hold is ENTITLED to their OWN beliefs. What I BELIEVE, is just that, a BELIEF. I have FAITH that MY beliefs are CORRECT, just as you do. What stands out to me as hypocrisy though is the paramount piles of shit that is passed off as 'the only right way' religious doctrine, while other key aspects of that doctrine is blatantly ignored, excused, or twisted to suit the individual person or group as they personally please.

Yes, I had a Christian upbringing.

My mother brought us up to be astutely Baptist. The things I remember learning from her were:
1- We'll go to a fiery pit of torture for all eternity known as Hell, if we screwed up.
2- Sex before marriage was horrible, punishable in Hell, that's why I was born almost three weeks after my due date, only 7 months after my parents were married.
3- Interracial & inter-religious mingling was horrible, because we were to remain 'pure' in mind and body, no associations with others "not like us".
4- One must obey their parents, or face going to Hell.

That's all I remember about my Baptist upbringing. Basically, even as a small child, if we weren't perfect, we were going to Hell...if we were perfect we faced the prospect of going to a perfect spirit world known as Heaven. Of course I've never heard of anyone NOT going to Heaven upon dying, regardless of how they lived their life, so by the age of 8 I had started pulling away from the Baptist religion. I still went to church, I didn't have much choice, my mom put us on the church bus every Sunday and off we went, I'd spend some of my time in Sunday school "arguing" with my Sunday School teacher about the contradictions, she expelled me from Sunday school class, I was then forced to sit on the front row pew instead during the adult sermons so that I could be closest to the message being taught to me. Just before my 9th birthday I was completely excluded from going to church at all because I questioned the preacher, mid-sermon, in front of all of his congregation.

When I was 9, almost 10, we were put into the foster care system for nine months. I was placed in the home of a 'loving Christian family' for the first three months. Their Christian church was the Church of the Nazarene. I really have no clue what any of their religious beliefs entailed, but if I was to guess, based upon my experience, I'd have to say:
1- Any wrong doing was punishable with a Hell sentence - yep, I'd heard that story in the "evil Baptist" Church I'd been raised in.
2- I learned that it's okay to lie, so long as no one at the church found out about your secret habits of doing things such as leaving an already poor abused foster child out to sleep on the porch because she occasionally wet the bed as a 9 year old who'd been ripped from her home.
3- It was fine and dandy to preach about serving others and being selfless, so long as you weren't inconvenienced by the selfless acts.
4- It was perfectly fine to be mentally and verbally abusive to the child who did not understand how this home was so much better than the home she had been 'saved' from. Her own parents she was torn from had never made her feel like a second class citizen, never made her feel unwanted, had never really denied her from being able to participate in school activities, because girls shouldn't be taught anything put how to serve men, sing, look pretty, but not be vain about being the prettiest girls at church and school, and should be able to play 'righteous' musical instruments, such as the organ and the harp, that was it.
5- Easter was a time for being ridiculed for not having a fancy Easter dress and shoes and when the congregation showed for Easter dinner I was to remain out of sight, since I wasn't fully embracing their way of life and wasn't a real part of the family, nor was I going to be there for very long anyways because I was so insufferable. The only thing I know I did wrong was wet the bed a few times, sleep with a teddy bear that I'd had since I was a year perfect grades in school started to slip, but I don't remember that ever being an issue...and skin my knees it seemed every time I got on a bike, scooter, or skateboard, then drip blood in the house.

Yes, I had a wonderful experience while living with the Nazarene preacher, wife, and two daughters.

I switched to a new foster home, one I'd be sharing with my baby brother, at the end of that three months. Our foster parents were an older couple, who had two grown children (twins I think) and a few grandchildren - two of the grandchildren were newborns when we lived there. Neither of my foster parents went to church, as far as I can remember, outside of a service here and there, maybe. They did pay to send me to a Baptist church camp for a week over the summer that I had begged to go to because some friends of mine from school were going to be going. The church camp wasn't horrible, there was a lot of sermons, that I don't remember really learning anything from, but there was also swimming, crafts, and various other 'fun' activities. The foster parents allowed me to continue going to the sponsoring church with my friends after the church Immanuel Baptist church. I learned how to use my Bible at that church and emmersed myself into reading it. I had the whole thing read within my six months of being in that home, and have read it 16 times cover to cover since. Of course I again fell into the category of insubordination to the church because I did not always have spare money from my allowance to put in the collection plate, or the nickles and dimes I did contribute weren't enough...and of course I would 'challenge' the preacher by asking questions about the things I had read in my Bible that did not seem to be the same things they were teaching. That foster home experience was wonderful though. I still keep in contact with "Grampa Don" and he continues to be a big part of our lives. He was there when each of us graduated high school, had children, got married, divorced, and even at my dad's dad's own older sister couldn't be bothered with coming to the funeral, even though she only lived 5 minutes away. Grampa Don traveled two hours one direction to be there. Because of the relationship he developed, not only with us kids, but also my parents, while we were in foster care became a cornerstone turning point in the foster care system. (I only refer to Don because his wife Ann passed away several years ago and I have a bit of a hard time talking about the dead.)

In 1992, when we first went into the foster care system the system said that abused children should have no visits or communications with their parents, family members, etc outside of the court arranged visits. Don did not believe in following that system to the letter. He knew the case details and knew that by standards my folks were a trifle harsh in the way they handled discipline, at times, he also knew that I was often left as the primary physical caretaker of my three younger siblings, because both my parents had to work to keep what food on the table that they could. That was the whole reason we were in the system to begin with, because we were left without adult supervision quite a bit, we were dirt poor, and once in a while, to spare too much further bullying on the school bus, my brother would lie and say that the bruises, bloody nose, bite marks, etc he'd end up with were from our dad. He'd spend the hour visits we had each week hanging out with all of us and developed a relationship with my folks. A few months into this Don had brought up about his newest granddaughter (only granddaughter, out of 7 grandkids) was quite sickly, her stomach couldn't handle soy, nor could it handle lactose based products. My dad introduced him to goats milk. At the next visit my dad brought him a gallon of fresh milk he'd gathered that day. Within two days Don's granddaughter was no longer fussing, no longer throwing up, and was showing signs of great improvement! He started 'sneaking' us over to my folks' place several times a week to get more goats milk from my folks. I taught Don how to properly milk a goat (I'd been doing it since I was 5, twice a day, three goats), he ended up buying the goat for himself, but it saved his granddaughter's life and she just graduated high school.

My point is, Don and Ann did not go to church on a regular basis, maybe only even on a bi-yearly basis, they didn't cram Hell down our throats, and they were righteous persons. They believed in the Christian God, but did not see the need to be judgmental, harsh, or self-righteous about their beliefs. They LIVED their beliefs. They did not need to have bumper stickers, walls of crosses, tote a Bible, or spew hatred to let you know that they were Christian. You knew they were of the Christian belief by the way they lived their life - with kindness, love, compassion, and honesty.

THAT became the cornerstone for what I had started looking for in a religion to call my own.

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