How I Left Christianity Part Five: From Love to Condemnation
February 23, 2012 1 Comment
“Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.”
As a child, I was taught at church that Jesus loved me. Over and over again, this was the message I got.
Once I hit puberty, that all changed.
“You look like a prositute.”
“You’re leading your brothers astray. You need to dress more modestly.”
“What were you doing in the choir room alone with him? Were you messing around?”
Once I hit puberty, this is the message I got. This is what I was taught, over and over again. It wasn’t so much about love anymore. It was about my own depravity-my inheritance of sinful temptation that I received from Eve. I was to cover my body in layers of cloth. I was to change my behavior and cut off friendships that had existed since early childhood.
I wasn’t a loved child of God anymore. I was a filthy agent of Satan who had to be reined in at all costs.
“Jesus loves me! He doesn’t care what I wear! He loves me for who I am! He saved me despite my sins!”
I couldn’t say how many times I said some variation of that to my church. They never got it.
I felt like the church was dumping buckets of mud on me, and then telling me I was dirty, and it was all my fault. All I wanted was to go about my business: worshipping my Savior, talking to Him, and fellowship with my brothers and sisters.
Once I hit puberty, I was never allowed to do just that.
The adults in my church were so obsessed with the body parts I didn’t have, and didn’t know existed. I hadn’t developed breasts yet. I didn’t know I had a vagina. I seriously thought I peed out of my anus.
I had no interest in real boys. I loved the Backstreet Boys because I loved their music and I thought they were cute. But the boys in my life?
“Me? Kissing them? You are out of your mind. That’s weird. And gross. Ew. Pervert.”
I was so tired of it. How could I convince these adults to leave me alone?
I tried dressing more modestly. But it was never enough.
“Those pants hug your bottom. That’s inappropriate.”
“You shouldn’t wear tshirts with sarcastic remarks on them. That’s inappropriate.”
“Button up that shirt. I can see skin. That’s immodest.”
“Button that shirt up. No, it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing another underneath. Boys will think it’s not there, and that you’re naked. Button it all the way up.”
“Don’t let that sweater hang off your shoulders. Take it off, or wear it properly.”
I, along with the other girls, eventually took to wearing baggy pull-over hoodies and jeans. Of course, then there was bemoaning over the disrespect our generation showed to God because we weren’t dressing up.
I begged my mother to buy me more clothes. Of course, my parents didn’t have the money to purchase a new wardrobe to accommodate the ever-changing standards of proper modesty and dressiness of the church leaders.
You would have thought the song went something like this:
“Onward, Christian soldiers, to demean those teenage girls…”
It hurt me, deeply, to be treated this way by people I loved and admired…and trusted. I could never be good enough. I wasn’t a person. I was simply a tainted body.
When I took the purity pledge, I earned a brief respite from the constant barrage of insults and condemnations. It wasn’t long, though, before that was used as a weapon against me, too.
Why couldn’t I just be? I knew that I deserved better. I fought for it. I struggled to understand why it was so difficult for the people in my church to just let me be.
All of this? Once I ventured out into the world, once I had a taste of respect, of simply Being, I had no desire to go back to this.