A Battle Weary Man

Yesterday, I spent the bulk of the day reading “Leaving the Fold.” I couldn’t put the book down. It has been an eye opening emotional roller coaster. I didn’t realize just how much Fundamentalism RUINED my life and squelched my true self. More importantly, it destroyed my relationship with God.

Castelluccio, la pineta "Italia"

This post is authored by John Wood. John is a survivor of fundamentalism and now runs the community “Homeless Faith.” This is a good community for those who still feel connected to a Higher Power but don’t have a structured home to practice. You can find his online community at https://www.facebook.com/homelessfaithhomepage.

In Christian society, your “testimony” is like a spiritual resume: telling those in your fold of your conversion experience, allowing them the chance to critique you, and to decide if you were really a “true” Christian. My testimony is different. It is the story of how Fundamentalism almost destroyed my soul. Most of these details I have never shared with anyone before, only those in my Facebook group “I Survived Fundamentalism.” I have agonized for almost a week about posting it publicly. But, I have to. There may be one of you going through this same turmoil and I want you to know you aren’t alone.

Yesterday, I spent the bulk of the day reading “Leaving the Fold.” I couldn’t put the book down. It has been an eye opening emotional roller coaster. I didn’t realize just how much Fundamentalism RUINED my life and squelched my true self. More importantly, it destroyed my relationship with God.

I realized just how much of my life was wasted trying to conform to a standard that was impossible to measure up to. I realized just how contradictory the Bible is. I realized that I was both created in the image of God and an abomination in His eyes for who he created me to be. I realized that this loving God was capable of killing us all in an instant, if we weren’t satisfactory in His eyes.

I so desperately spent my youth trying to fit in. Trying to fit into mainstream society as a homosexual, only to be shunned, made fun of, tormented and cast aside. Trying to fit in to “Christian Society” as a sinner with a secret to hide, only to believe that I would NEVER get into heaven. Time and again, I walked down the aisle, “Just As I Am,” desperate to secure my place in Heaven, only to fail once again.

I want that 8 year old boy back. The one who had the shit scared out of him at Bible Summer Camp by a red-faced screaming man, telling me my 8 year old Matchbox car playing sinning soul was headed straight to hell. Yet, the next day, the “counselor” who was there to save our souls, drove me to the beach in his brown Pontiac Bonneville only to molest me on the sands, telling me how much God loved me and how much he loved me.

I want the 16 year old boy back. The one who desperately sought someone to love, someone to talk to, someone who he could be himself with. The one who threw himself into church to make himself worthy of God, yet always fell short. The one who hid his secret from the world, terrified of exposure.

I want the 24 year old man back. The one who was told by his mother that he would be considered dead if he “chose” this life. The one who had no self-esteem and sought approval by sleeping with anyone that would have him. The one who felt he was so unworthy that he had to buy love. The one who felt so guilty after every sexual encounter that he would strip the bed sheets and bleach the sin out of them. The one who lost 40 lbs from colitis from the stress of life.

I want the 32 year old man back. The man whose sin had enveloped him into a life from where redemption was not possible. The man who still sought approval through his sexual currency. The man from who love always escaped.

I want the 40 year old man back. The one who bargained with God to save his mother, the good Christian lady who did all the right things, only to be shit upon by life. The lady who’s husband was taken from her at age 33. The lady who felt her back problems were caused by God punishing her for keeping a clean house The lady who was convinced her death was because she didn’t live right and that God was once again punishing her. The 40 year old man was desperate to save the good Christian lady, so once again he became a weak and laughable character, diving in to Christian culture in a desperate attempt to be good enough to ask for a favor from God. All semblance of self reliance gone, the prayers were sent up daily, the donations sent to Joyce Meyer and the like, the library filling up with books such as “Battlefield of the Mind” and “Being Christian.” Obviously, this didn’t work since she died.

As the 40 year old man plodded along, he was punished for not being Christian enough. Panic attacks set in… you know, those attacks from the enemy. To him, fear meant you weren’t strong enough in your faith.

So, now, here stands the nearly 48 year old man. He is battle weary. He may have some cracks in his soul, but he is not broken. He is wiser. He wants the 8 year old boy, the 16 year old boy, the 24 year old man, the 32 year old man and the 40 year old man to know that they are loved by him. The 48 year old man will take care of them. He will protect them. And he promises them that they will never be subjected to that kind of a god again. He isn’t really sure where he is going at this time but, in another 8 years when we check in with the 56 year old man, he will be a much better adjusted person, with a deep connection to the God that loves us all, the God that rises above all doctrine and dogma.

New Racism: The LADream Center’s “Outreach” to Minorities

I noticed a new follower on Twitter the other day. The LA Dream Center which is pastored by Matthew Barnett.

Yay?
Yay?

Interesting…not.

In my line of work, I’m apparently building a reputation where churches and ministries stalk my every move online. Or…they’re asking me to write about them? Maybe that’s it.

But that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that honestly, the Barnetts aren’t at the top of my list of heroes. In fact, I’ve learned a great deal from them of what not to do in life.

One. Don’t treat the idea of Heaven and Hell as a marketing scheme. It’s easy to do, being a mega-church pastor. Hell is a big, fiery dungeon that you get all excited about when you preach and spit all over the microphone. But hell is just a made up marketing scheme for the Barnetts. Hell is how you build up your numbers.  So are crack heads. If you can scare the shit out of people by threatening them that they’ll go to hell, several hundred random people will raise their hands in church to “get saved.” Then, you can boast on TV that you saved the entire ghetto of your city. Single-handedly.

Two. Drug addicts are people, too. To Tommy Barnett and Matthew Barnett, drug addicts aren’t people. They’re numbers. They’re a tally, a mark on the belt, so to speak. “I saved a drug addict, Mamma!” I can just hear Matthew telling his mother now. And God gave him a private jet and a pretty wife because he’s proud of Matthew for saving them all. That’s how God works, you know?

Three. Minorities aren’t put on the planet by God for you to exploit. I’m just going to go ahead and put this on the table–the Barnett’s have always struck me as a bit exploitative of minorities. There’s something heirarchical about visiting a church service–Whites on top, then Hispanics, then Blacks. If you’re a minority in leadership, you probably run a “street” ministry, because you know, minorities are “street people” and “ghetto.” In other words, racist much?

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What a humanitarian Matthew is. He lets people live at his church.  Or so the photo above says to most people.
I attended Tommy Barnett’s church for a few years. His sermons were focused on soul-winning, outreach, and prosperity. Matthew has duplicated that same process, but he’s modernized it a bit. What’s disturbing, though, is that many of Tommy’s sermons that related to outreach and soul-winning were centered around ideas that minorities were a token that God put on the earth for him to save. Anytime minorities were “saved” from poverty, they were paraded across the large church stage. Families were brought up with their street pastor to “give their testimony” about how the church had saved them. It’s clear that Matthew does the same thing from the photo above of their girl Candice.
Is it just me, or is that a big exploitive? I think some of the soul-winning practices at the Barnett’s churches are just plain bad religion and perhaps even a bit racist.