Tag Archive | fundamentalism

My Halloween Facebook “Coming out” as an ex-fundy, #exvangelical

I had not planned to “come out” like this but I think it is time.

I grew up in a very strict evangelical version of Christianity, and later I spent 15 years in a form of Messianic Judaism which was very much in the same vein.

In some ways fundamentalism is still my ‘comfort zone’, and I have certainly retained some aspects of those beliefs (hopefully the good parts) but I have been on a journey away from that type of thinking for many years.

I am no longer fundamentalist.

I am no longer evangelical.

I am not totally sure I am even still Christian.

I have moved from a 1 to between 3 and 6 in the Dawkins scale. I don’t usually mind or care what other people believe, providing they don’t push it on to others.

If you can be cool with my movement away from what you believe, then I’m happy to remain friends. But if you feel prompted to warn me that I’m going to hell or anything akin to that, let’s do ourselves a favour and part company.

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Time and Again

Quick Summary of the Episode

As Voyager starts to make its way through the Delta Quadrant on its way home to the Alpha Quadrant, they pass a planet which has been decimated by a polaric energy disaster. When the away team go to investigate, Janeway and Paris are pulled back in time to just before the disaster – the explosion had shattered time and space into fractures.

Unable to get back, Janeway and Paris attempt to investigate the cause of the detonation, but (to cut the story short), it transpires that it is Voyager’s own rescue attempt that causes the disaster, and when Janeway acts to counter their beam cutting into the past, the disaster is averted, and the whole incident never happened. We are returned to Voyager before they find the planet, and since it is a pre-warp civilisation, they just move on by without visiting.

Notes

This is the first time we learn about Kes’ special mental abilities – when the civilisation is destroyed, Kes sees the explosion happening.

I really love these time travel episodes, there are so many wild possibilities! I just love time travel!

In My Life

I have been physically out of fundamentalism for six years but it is only this year that I have started facing up to what that means, working through it, ‘deconstructing’.

Recently I have started to be flooded with flashbacks and memories of my years growing up in the church in the 70s and 80s.

The name of this episode always makes me think of Cyndi Lauper’s song ‘Time after Time”, which in turn makes me think of being a teenager in the 80s, in a world of conflicts between what I was seeing at school, in the news, and in ‘real life’ as compared with the worldview inside the bubble of the strict Baptist, evangelical church we were attending at the time.

Now, when I say “attending”, it wasn’t just once on a Sunday. It was 3 times on a Sunday (10.30 morning service, 3 pm Sunday school and 6.30 pm evening service), Bible studies on Wednesday evenings, and ‘Youth Group’ on Fridays, constant dinners and visits with other members – rarely a day would go by without some kind of contact or another. We had effectively exchanged one cult for another.

I regularly search for friends I had in these churches, but their names have zero hits on internet searches. It’s as if they have fallen off the edge of reality, as though I conjured them up out of my imagination. What happened to them? It always amazes me slightly when I search for the churches that there are no hits describing them as horrible, damaging cults. Did nobody experience them in the same way I did?

I’ve already mentioned my friend who was being abused by the Sunday School Superintendent. But I wanted to share another incident that really affected me at the time and which I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

One of the older girls got pregnant. It was never discussed openly, only whispered about in quiet corners. This was not long before my mother got ill with her Bipolar, so I don’t know how this affected the church but I do know the girl in question was forced to give up her baby for adoption. I often wondered whether she was given the choice of adoption or marriage. I suspect that she was never even given a choice. I don’t know how this affected her, I only know how it would have affected me. I was and still am heartbroken for her.

I can’t really put into words exactly how evangelical thinking is so toxic – so many other writers are doing so ably elsewhere.

“It seems I’ve found myself on the voyage of the damned.” – the Doctor

What really beats me is how, having got out of it almost completely when my mum got ill, I put myself under the same teaching again later on.

I wonder now, what our lives might have been like if we had never got involved with evangelical fundamentalism? What if, when my parents met the American missionaries, they just said “no thanks, we’re happy where we are”? We wouldn’t have moved on to another toxic church, I wouldn’t have put myself under such toxic teaching again as a young mother.

I am sure that my mother always had bipolar, as she had a breakdown before I was born, but she was stable for most of my childhood. I wonder, though, if she would not have got so ill if she hadn’t been triggered over and over by the toxicity of the church?

But ultimately, it’s probably not very helpful to go over the ‘what if’s’. Sadly we can’t go back and undo what we did and what was done to us. I just need to know how and where we go on from here.

Parallax

“I can do some wonderful things with vegetables, Captain! My feragoit goulash is known across twelve star systems.”

– Neelix

Summary

In the episode, the Voyager crew respond to a distress call from an unknown ship trapped in an anomaly, which – thanks to temporal mechanics, which are notoriously unpredictable – turns out to be their own distress call after they find themselves trapped in the same anomaly after trying to rescue the other ship, which is in fact Voyager.

Meanwhile, Torres fights with Jo Carey who was in line for the position of Chief Engineer, and shows herself to be the most competent despite her issues with self-control and disliking the suffocating Star Fleet structure.

Having realised they are looking at a time-delayed mirror image of themselves, they have to punch their way out of the rift in the anomaly, making sure that they head for the real Voyager and not the mirror image.

Notes

I just love temporal mechanics! Time loops, time leaks, temporal incursions, effect preceding cause! It’s great! Some of my most favourite episodes and films (within Star Trek as well as elsewhere) involve time travel or related weirdness. Unlike the real Janeway – who makes a point of trying to avoid time travel, temporal mechanics would definitely be my favourite subject at the Academy! (If only!)

Real Life

In the last few weeks, I have started looking at my childhood and young adulthood within Christian fundamentalism, and the effects it has had on me, my family and my children. Thankfully I got out before I allowed it to do any significant damage to my children. But coming face-to-face with what I was, what I believed and now what Christian Fundamentalism continues to do, is a little horrifying. I can’t believe that I’m looking at myself, even if it is a ‘time-delayed reflection’.

Ironically, when it all gets too much to face, my natural inclination is to retreat back to the bubble of Fundamentalism, because it is so familiar and comfortable, it feels like home. This is classic Stockholm Syndrome. Even when the opportunity to escape presents itself, the world outside has become more scary (due to indoctrination) than the toxic world you know.

I read just a day or two ago that it can take years if not decades for survivors to recover from the effects of spiritual abuse. I swing through a range of emotions, including a lot of self-loathing and lack of confidence, as well as an underlying arrogance I know I need to keep in check. I think this is all probably quite normal under the circumstances. But I’m beginning to realise that I need to be less hard on myself. What happened to me was not my fault. But I do need to take responsibility for my part in perpetuating the abuse, the legalism, the judgementalism.

Where do I go from here? I feel as though I can’t trust my own judgement anymore. I don’t know what I believe, or what is true. I keep asking myself the question, is it possible to come out the other side with a ‘sane faith’? I think I need to go right back to the very basics and start again from scratch. re-examine what I thought I knew, what I believed to be unquestionably true. Somehow I need to throw off all the baggage of negative teaching and get to the other side. If only it were as simple as making a one-time decision, to ‘punch through’. I suspect it will be a little bit like forgiveness: I forgive, but I have to continue to forgive the same infraction over and over, every time it comes to mind. I must ‘walk in forgiveness’. Perhaps, equally, I must ‘walk’ in re-examination, critical thinking, accepting the good, rejecting the bad, over and over. My Dad’s motto in life, which he often repeated to me, was “Eat the meat, and leave the bones.” I think that’s a useful philosophy. Weigh it up. Analyse. Question.

I particularly like the way Janeway and Torres bounce ideas off each other in this episode. I have seen a bit of talk on finding a ‘Spiritual Director’ lately (as well as an ‘Elder Board’ of peers to keep one accountable), and I am reminded how much I miss my Dad who was my mentor for a long time. I don’t know anybody who could match his intelligence and knowledge, or his warmth and kindness and depth of insight. Despite his experiences within Fundamentalism, and the real damage it did to him, it was he who showed me the God of love.

In command school, they taught us to always remember that maneuvering a starship is a very delicate process, but over the years, I’ve learned that, sometimes, you just have to punch your way through. Mr. Paris, full impulse power.

LLAP, Kathryn.

Etz Chayim – reaching for the Tree of Life

It has been almost a full year since I last posted on this blog. Much has happened. After almost 7 years of ‘wilderness wandering’, we finally have our own home again and are settled, albeit out in the rural wilds of north Cornwall, far away from any kind of Messianic fellowship or congregation. I am so thankful, so surprised with joy to receive such good fortune when we thought all was lost. But still I am terribly isolated and lonely and effectively alone in terms of religious fellowship.

I may have mentioned that I had been in search of some fellowship – any kind, really, but it was a very mixed bag of good and bad experiences.

I really liked the Anglican for its freedom of conscience, although there seemed to be no understanding or interest in the Jewish side of the faith and I had the particular bad fortune of being under a priest who had a real bee in his bonnet about evangelicals. The fact that I was verging on being an ‘ex-evangelical’ seemed not to temper his ire. As far as he seemed to be concerned, I was an idiot for ever countenancing such ideas. If anything, his attitude pushed me back into the fundamentalism I was trying to leave. (Freedom of conscience didn’t extend to evangelicals, as far as he was concerned.)

We also tried an independent Pentecostal group who said they were pro-Israel, but they turned out to be extremely negative, narrow-minded and fundamentalist in every way, and the Pentecostal displays of worship put some of my children off church entirely. After everything we have been through, I can hardly blame them.

In the end, I started going to a Salvation Army while my mother was living with us (only for 6 months as it turned out) and I have continued there although it’s far from ideal. Again, there seems to be no understanding or interest in the Jewish roots of Christianity, and the occasional anti-semitic sermon is never a surprise. It takes a lot of energy to keep looking, so for now I am staying put. I can’t say that I am entirely happy, but they do at least put Christianity in action and reach out to the poorest of the poor.

I had wondered recently in what way I can still claim to be ‘Messianic’ – without fellowship or a believing husband to encourage me, the feasts and fasts and even a proper observation of Shabbat has fallen by the wayside. I wonder if I can ever get it back again.

I have made a very good friend online with a woman who had a very different experience of the Messianic movement, having first converted to Orthodox Judaism and come into Messianic Judaism from there rather than as I did, through evangelicalism. We disagree on many things, but her lack of Christian fundamentalism has been an eye-opener for me.

I also have a very good real-life friend who is not a believer, but who was raised in Orthodox Judaism. We have a surprising amount of experiences in common, and her friendship has been a real balm to my soul.

I have started thinking though in terms of abandoning the trappings of religious tradition entirely and instead reaching out for and trying to find the ‘Etz Chayim’, that is the Jesus/ Yeshua who embodies the Tree of Life, and ‘Ha Derek’, the Way itself, Himself.

Coming out of fundamentalism is a very emotional and difficult thing, and in a way I am having to start again and weigh everything up to see what is good and what is bad. That’s probably not a bad thing in itself.

I am trying to get to know the ‘real’ Yeshua from a different perspective now.

I am still at home, muddling through being a wife and homemaker/ housewife, still home educating my youngest.

So what is the future of this blog?

Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t want to lose my Messianic identity, and I would love to be able to start again from scratch and incorporate more of the Jewish feasts and traditions into my life.

What I don’t want to do, however, is to fall back into the trap of legalism or fundamentalism. It wasn’t life-giving, it was a bottomless pit of darkness that I slipped into gradually without even realising I was doing it, and it nearly ate me up whole before I realised. What I need now is to find the good path, and the Tree of Life.

Wounds to Dress

This blog was originally going to be talking about handicrafts and gardening and cooking and learning to ‘homestead’ through the lens of Janeway and Chakotay finding themselves marooned on New Earth in the Delta Quadrant. I thought it was a good metaphor for my isolated life in rural Cornwall. I still hope to include those aspects – part of me longs for that ‘Good Life’.

But there are other issues which have come to the fore recently – related to my self-named status as a “progressive fundamentalist” which are forcing me to look long and hard at who I am and how I got here.

I have been speaking recently with another Star Trek RP account – Christian Janeway – and I have been amazed at how much we have in common. Conversations on Twitter, and with my children over the last week, have prompted me to recognise just how damaged and damaging I became as a member of a fundamentalist church in my youth and again as a young mother, and so I thought that, in the first instance, I would write a brief summary of what that has entailed. I wasn’t expecting to bare my soul or look deeply into difficult and painful corners, but I think it needs to be done; and as I have said elsewhere many times, my two favourite forms of therapy are Star Trek and writing. Even if nobody reads this and it helps nobody else, I hope it will help me to move on.

Beginnings

When I was very young (this was in the mid 70s through the mid 80s), my parents were happily attending a lively Pentecostal church in a small town north-west of London which happened to have a US ex-pat community. Somehow my parents came in to contact with American fundamentalist Baptist missionaries to England who dazzled them with personality, charisma and authoratative confidence and persuaded them to leave the Pentecostal church – which they convinced them was at best fake and at worst, probably of the devil – and start a new fundamentalist Baptist church with them. Before long there were a number of families and additional children associated with the new church.

I was mostly too young (approximately ages 6-13) to fully comprehend the depth of what was going on, what was being preached, and how my parents were more and more controlled in every area of their lives – to  my conscious mind, all was good, these were the best days of my life – because we saw so much of them, because they often stayed at our house, we were practically living in community with them. Our whole week was in some way or another controlled by the church. It wasn’t just Sunday morning and evening, it was Sunday lunchtime, midweek dinners, Bible study evenings, prayer meetings, members’ meetings, social calls. It was completely engulfing.

What I didn’t realise at the time was that my parents’ mental health was suffering in different ways (my mother later had a mental breakdown, my father expressed it as physical ill health).

We eventually escaped the church in two stages – firstly, the American Missionaries went home on furlough for a year, fully expecting my father (who had been partially trained, for about three years for the pastorate with their organisation) to keep the church going in their absence. What actually happened instead was that my father rebelled and pretty much immediately after the Missionaries left, allowed the families to go to another church during that time.

I don’t know what ire this behaviour invoked when the absent Pastor found out – I’m sure my father would have been on strict instructions to contact somebody else here in the UK from the organisation for assistance rather than allowing the church to close; my father kept everything close to his chest so I don’t know his thought process or decision process. I probably don’t know the half of it. I do know that my father never really ever recovered from the damage they did to him.

When the missionaries returned, they were obviously furious about what had happened and again although I don’t know the details, I can only infer that they made my parents’ lives a little bit hellish and so stage two was to move away from the area altogether. The missionaries were never able to re-establish the church in that area, and were eventually re-located by their organisation.

Initial Results

Right before we moved, I had a serious bicycle accident which was probably a hit and run (my memory of it is very hazy but my bike was definitely run over), in which I sustained a head injury which has affected my health ever since. This led to my mother becoming mentally ill. Around the same time I became mentally ill myself with Anorexia. I always thought that it was linked to my head injury, which it might be, but I am beginning to suspect that it might be an after-effect of the church. I will explore that at a later date.

My parents, prior to my mother’s breakdown, embarked on a search for the perfect church. Still affected by the fundamentalist teaching they had, and despite all the damage it had done to them, the new church had to measure up in some way to the church they had left, so after rejecting several perfectly nice churches, we ended up in another strict Baptist church with its own issues. (No doubt the most serious being that the Sunday School Superintendant was ‘having an affair’ with a 13 year old child. Note it was the 80s, so that was how it was phrased at the time).

When my mum got ill, the church were pretty incredibly useless and unhelpful, not being able to deal with mental illness, so that turned out to be a blessing in disguise and we were able to leave there.

Teenage

I spent some time at a very good church during my teenage years which was gently charismatic. A nice balance, not over-the-top crazy Pentecostal. (It was a Salvation Army by the way – they’re variable, and have their own issues, but I have to say that this was my happiest time and probably the healthiest church I ever attended.) The fact that it was charismatic would have bothered my parents considerably a few years earlier but by that stage they were beginning to realise that some of the fundamentalist teachings had been wrong and harmful, so they let it go. My mother even attended there for a while.

Marriage

To cut a very long story short, I hastily married the first boy I slept with and promptly regretted it, and hastily got into another relationship (with Chakotay). I was pretty consumed by guilt and shame which I had learned under the teachings I had learned early on, and so when I started home educating my children (for totally non-religious reasons!) I soon *put myself* under the teachings of extremely conservative fundamentalist teaching again. Everything was so familiar that I lapped it all up – quiverfull teaching, headcovering, submission for godly wives, corporal punishment for children (which I totally disagree with and regret btw) etc. I literally could not find a physical church conservative enough for me!

Messianic

Probably as a result of that irrational drive to find the most conservative form of Christianity, I started looking at the Messianic movement. I actually spent ten years in Messianic Judaism (one year of which actually involved rejecting the whole thing and seriously trying to convert to mainstream Judaism – another story, for another time), and I hope that I have taken and absorbed the best and most positive aspects. The actual physical fellowship I was involved with were absolutely lovely and kind and generous and unfundamentalist! But there is in Messianic Judaism – principally online, for me, as I’m in the UK – a very fundamentalist thread which is every bit as damaging as mainstream fundamentalism (if that’s a thing).

Unfortunately, I was under those two strains of teaching for long enough (20 years in total plus the original 6 or so) for me to perpetuate some of the abuse that was visited on me onto my children. It was totally unconscious and unintended, and I am utterly mortified at the damage I have done. Icheb, my eldest, seems to have borne the brunt of it all, while the others seem largely unaffected, thankfully.

I don’t quite remember how it happened, but something snapped at some point and I realised that I was part of something really very nasty and unhealthy that was replicating some of the exact same abuses that I had been part of as a child (being told that you must separate from every other sort of Christian, that the rest of the Church is wicked and evil and not of God etc for example).

Exile

Chakotay, who is not a religious man at all (alas, my Chakotay doesn’t even go in for spirituality) tolerated all of the above, mostly blissly ignorant of what was going on in my head, but he could see that I was getting physically and mentally ill and that was affecting the children. So he unilaterally decided to move us – hundreds of miles away from where we were, to a place so rural and isolated that there was no internet. I’m still a little bit angry with him for doing that (and I have mentioned my inability to speak up for myself earlier today). But in actual fact, it was a good call. The last six years have been long and hard and lonely and painful, but removing me from that whole social circle has enabled me to re-evaluate everything and begin to heal.

In many ways, he is my hero, and I am so grateful that he is such a gentle, kind, slow-to-wrath kind of man. He is certainly not without fault, but he has been so much more gracious and godly than so many Christians I have known.

Anyway. That is enough for now. These are some of the issues I want to work through here on this blog. I hope you will stick around and I hope it will help some people to heal too.

LLAP

Kathryn