Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Worst Night of my Life: Dead Kitty, Confrontations and Feeling Betrayed

When I was 17, I spent the night at a Korean family’s house from our church. I enjoyed the company of the mom, and really like their family. They had 3 boys; all of them were younger than I was. So, at night, while I was about to go to sleep, their 16-year-old came into my room and we talked. He had his pajamas on; I had a long nightgown on. We had a very enjoyable talk and it really did not have anything to do with sex, or physical attraction, although I remember at the time I thought it was nice to have him in there with me. At one point, before he went to bed, the boy laid down next to me on the bed and we talked. That was it. Then he went off to bed, and I went to sleep.

At school ( A very small private school that was run by the pastor and my dad) I told my “best friend” at the time about my interesting night because I thought it was cool, and for a sheltered preacher's daughter, it was very exciting and fun to tell my friend about it. Well, I am not sure why, but this “friend” thought she needed to tell her dad about it (an elder in the church) who told the pastor about it. So, you can guess my parents found out about it pretty fast. I was told after church one Sunday night that my dad and the pastor wanted to talk to me in the pastor’s office. (uh oh!)

At the same time, my cat was really sick and was unable to even hold his head up to eat. I was worried about him and knew my parents could not afford to take him to the vet. My dad was the assistant pastor at the church, and we lived in the church parsonage across the street from the church. He was retired from the Navy, but they did not pay enough for a family of 5 children to survive on.

So, I headed to the pastor’s office. By this time, the church was empty of everyone but my dad and the pastor. I sat nervously in the chair and I am sure my hands were shaking. I had no idea why I was there, but I knew it must not be good by the way my dad was acting. Here is the way the conversation went: (as well as I can remember)

Pastor: So Lori, I guess you know why you are here?
Me: (looking confused at my dad) No?
Pastor: Well, we heard about you and (lets just call him) Billy
Me: Okay?
Pastor: We want you to tell us the truth and we are going to get to the bottom of this if it takes all night.
Dad: What did you do with Billy?
Me: What do you mean what did I do with him? (red faced, I am sure!)
Dad: We heard that he came into your bedroom and was in bed with you.
Me: Umm ya. He was in bed with me.
Dad: (freaking out) WHAT? What happened? Why did you do this?
Pastor: Did he touch you?
Me: No, we just talked
Dad: We want you to tell us what he did to you.
Me: He talked to me? (I have to say I was pretty innocent and virginal and had no idea what they really wanted me to say)
Pastor: What did you talk about? Why was he in your room?
Me: We talked about school and our parents and our siblings.
Dad: What else?
Me: Nothing.
(Both of them looking skeptical)
Pastor: Were you in your pajamas?
Me: Yes
Pastor: Did you take them off?
Me: No! (How humiliating to talk to this man about that!)
Pastor: Did he take his off?
Me: No
Pastor: Did he touch you?
Me: No (You can see where this was going, right? I feel like maybe this pervert was getting off on this and I was way too innocent at the time to understand it all. I was thinking: Why am I talking to two men about this? Where is my mom and why is she not here to protect me? What did I do wrong? Why do I have to talk about this to the pastor of the church?)
Pastor: We know more happened and you are going to tell us what happened!
Me: (crying) We talked and we didn't do anything else.
Dad: Are you sure you are not leaving anything out?
Me: No!
Pastor: Are you still a virgin?
Me: Yes (Wow, this was humiliating for someone so shy and private!)
Dad; Well, we want you to make a promise to us and to God right now that you will stay a virgin, which means un-kissed, until your wedding day.
Me: Okay (this is what was really going through my mind as I said “okay.” I am going to find a way to get a boyfriend who will kiss me if it takes me begging him to do it. I will never stay a virgin until I get married and I swear I will make them pay for this!)

I broke down crying from pure exhaustion and humiliation and walked home (across the street) ahead of my dad. I could not even look at him. When I got in the door my mom looked like she had just killed my best friend. I wondered what the heck was going on. So then, after the most humiliating night of my life, my parents sat me down to tell me that they had asked their friend, a man who had a gun, to “put my cat to sleep” (by shooting him) and told me that my cat was dead and that the friend had buried him in the woods. They tried to rationalize this by telling me that they could not afford a vet and that it was cruel to keep him alive and that he was in cat heaven, or some other such bullshit. Somehow, this was not making me feel any better.

I cried the whole night. I felt so betrayed by my parents! How could they do that to my cat without telling me? I had horrible visions of my cat, looking up at a man about to shoot him, and wondered if he hated me for not protecting him. How could my parents be so subservient to a pastor that they would allow him to talk to me the way he had and not do anything to protect me? I tried to think of people I knew or relatives that would take me in if I ran away. I could not think of anyone. I wished I could die, but I really had no idea how to end my own life. I was pretty sure Billy was not in this much trouble, which was fine, but why was I?

I wondered why it was so important to God that I stay a virgin. Would kissing someone eliminate me from heaven? I angrily told myself that hell would be better than being a Baptist preacher’s daughter. Could that fire from hell feel this bad? I doubted it! Any religion that made their females feel this shitty was one I wanted nothing to do with! I felt angry at God, my parents, the pastor, religion, the man who killed my cat, and so many other things. But mostly I wondered why God cared that I had a fun night talking to someone of the opposite sex, and what kind of cult was I involved in anyway? I lost so much respect for my parents that night. I began to think that they were brainwashed and beyond help. But I also knew, from then on, that once I found a way out of this cult, I was never going back!
Picture: Our cat, Casper. We call him "old man." He is about 13 years old now. :-)

Next: My first kiss! :-)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Come on Down; God is Waiting!

As a child, and later as a teen, I always wondered why the pastor of the church always had to have an "altar call." In case you aren't familiar with the term, this is a time at the end of the sermon, when the congregation sings songs like "Just as I am" and other really boring songs to convince the unsaved sinners in the audience to come forward and accept Christ "into their hearts."

It was usually at around 12:30 or 1:00 in the afternoon when people were hungry (I once heard a pastor say, jokingly, (?) that it did not matter if your roast was burning in the oven at home, God calling "sheep into his fold" was much more important than that roast- or, presumably, our house if it burned down? lol) babies were tired, kids were weary of sitting still and the pastor had already said what he wanted to say about a million different ways. But often he would order the congregation (standing) to sing over and over and over!

This is what was usually going through my mind:

From about age 9-14 Why is he doing this? Isn't everyone here already "saved?" I am so hungry. I wonder if mom and dad are going to let us go out to eat today. lol

From age 14-19 Is he seriously going to make us stand here and sing again? I wonder if I really am a Christian, I don't feel like one. I would not walk down that aisle in front of all of these people if the devil held a pitchfork to my head. One more verse? Wow! Oh my god [insert person's name] walked up there? Are they nuts? Wow, they are so weird. Maybe they just need attention. Does saying a prayer really get me in to heaven? Why don't I feel any different? Am I the only person in this church who thinks that this is so redundant and crazy? I am so hungry! Didn't God make us hungry so we would eat? If God wanted us to come to him, why does the pastor have to beg and plead?

One pastor we had would say something if you got up and left, (ie... God is calling people here, so show some respect and please sit down). My mom, who was nursing a baby, was terrified to go nurse her baby because she did not want to be chastised in front of the church. Apparently God thought people walking up the aisle was more important than feeding a baby.

I don't want to sound mean or anything, but seriously, my final thoughts and conclusions about church, Baptist preachers and religion was that this shit had more to do with PEOPLE feeling good about themselves (ie.... "We led 4 people to god in church today, bless god!") than it was about showing people a better way to live. Because, really, if this religion (at least the one that I was in) excludes certain kinds of people (like gays or lesbians) then were they really all that "moral?" The way I saw it (back then- and now- only I don't believe there is a god anymore) is if God said to love others, I was pretty sure he meant everyone: Rich, poor, prostitutes, people living with someone- even though they were not married, women who wore shorts, men with long hair, bisexuals, gays, lesbians, Catholics, people who used drugs, people who drank alcohol, people who had pre-marital sex, people who listened to rock music, people who did not go to church, people of other religions (crap this list could go on for so long listing the people who "Christians" that I associated with thought were not going to heaven) etc... So, why did these people who claimed to love God, make so many people feel like so badly about themselves?

These thoughts eventually led me to others, and I found I could no longer hold on to these beliefs and be a rational, moral person. Most of the time, Christians are the most judgemental people I know. They judge people based on their religion (any other than theirs) their sexual orientation, the way they dress, how often they attend church, how often they read the Bible and on and on. It seems to me that this is no one's place to judge other fellow humans.

I would love to hear what you were thinking during alter call at your church. Am I the only one thinking these things? What do you think?

Friday, January 8, 2010

"Jesus Freak" is not a Positive Label

"Who will say with confidence that sexual abuse is more permanently damaging to children than threatening them with the eternal and unquenchable fires of hell?"

Richard Dawkins

I was thinking today about all of the strange practices of the churches we attended as I was growing up. It really makes me feel even more freakish when people who have been swallowed up in a church/cult themselves and hear things about my life and are shocked. That is bad, right? Here are a few of them:

1) One thing that people find interesting is the fact that my parents always told us as we were growing up that there was no such thing as dinosaurs. When we would ask about them, we were told that scientists were "making up" dinosaurs to prove evolution, which, to them was a lie. So, as we got older, my brother and I would wonder where all the bones came from. We asked my mom one time where the bones came from and she told us that they made the bones to help scientists to continue lying. (watch this hilarious video "explaining"dinosaurs) I would have had an easier time believing that we evolved from apes. It was so hard for me to buy the story of Adam and Eve. Church people always want to say that Eve (that evil bitch) was the bad one here. The man is off the hook because he was tempted by eve to eat the fruit. Oh I could go on, but I started thinking about the inconsistencies of God creating the world. If there was nothing, then where the hell was God? Sitting in nothingness waiting to create us? And if he is all-knowing then what kind of “good” all-knowing being would create people that he knew he was going to wipe out with a flood and start over. If we were in church to learn to be moral, this seemed a bit evil to me.

2) We were also not allowed to listen to “The devil’s music.” My boyfriend, a wild Vermont farm boy who listened to heavy metal as a teen, laughs when I tell him that my brother and I thought we were badass growing up because we listened to “The Carpenters” and “Ronnie Millsap” Oh, I am laughing as I type this. If the music had drums in it, at all, then it was devil music.

(My brothers and I had a difficult time with this reasoning because some people, who claimed to be Christian, had drums in their churches. So, we started thinking that perhaps my parents were wrong. Which really, when I think about it, got me to start thinking that perhaps they made this god up to control us. Hmm or maybe they believed this stuff? I would like to think that my parents are smarter than that. I think that they were so engulfed in this cult of a church they did not know any better. The church taught that questioning things was wrong. Knowledge outside of the church was frowned upon. This is one reason why I did not get to graduate from high school when I was supposed to. My parents moved across the country in the middle of my senior year and could not afford a private school for me, but refused to put me into a public school where I would be indoctrinated and become badly influenced by “worldly” teenagers. So I sat around and read romance novels that my brother snuck to me from his library runs on his bike. I also listened to rock music EVERY time my parents left the house. Badass, I tell ya!)

3) People in most of the churches that I attended told their children from a very young age that if they were not "saved" by asking Jesus into their hearts that they would burn in a burning lake of fire for all eternity. I worried constantly as a teenager that I (or my TuTu-grandma-who was "unsaved") would have to spend my after-life in tourment because perhaps I didn't say the right words, or pray the right prayer. This is abuse. Plain and simple. There is no loving god who would tell his followers to "love thy neighbor as thyself" and then turn around and burn those neighbors (and their small, unsaved children) in eternal hell-fire because they read the wrong bible. I will never buy that! It is expecially sad that people are telling their small children lies like this. It looks to me like control- and abuse! [This was added as an update on February 18, 2010 because I felt it was a necessary addition to this entry]

4)  Women were not allowed to speak in most of the churches that we attended. They were only allowed to sing, teach Sunday School (To kids) or speak to women’s groups. This sent a very strong message to me as a child which said, “You are not important as males.” Men were “the head of the household” and women were to obey and submit to their husbands' wishes. I had a real problem with this, even as a shy child who wanted to please my parents. At around age 14, like most kids, I really started getting angry and could not see the reasoning my parents and the church followed. I began to see the church for what it really was and this caused me some real problems with my parents. More on that later.

What about you? Do you have any strange practices from your former Christian life you would like to share? Have at it!

(pic, my son Amelia Island in Florida)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Time to be a Lady

"Women have little voice in the Bible, and what voice they do have is given them only to illustrate the deviousness, silliness, untrustworthiness and general insignificance of their sex."
Alice Walker- excerpt taken from "Anything we Love Can be Saved"

Some people say that you remember the things most that caused strong, intense emotion. Well, I was an extremely sensitive child, so I think that I blocked out a lot of memories.

One memory I have is being twelve-years-old. I was going on a “date” with my dad- I think maybe one of about five or less where I actually spent time with my dad- to see a baseball game. I was so excited to be going out alone with my dad. Being the oldest of four at the time (my sister had just been born) I did not always get time alone with a parent (unless I was in trouble for something). I was wearing my favorite orange (hey, it was the 70s, give me a break) bell-bottom jeans and a t-shirt. It was spring time in Washington State and I felt excited to have a plan for the night. Then, I noticed my parents having a private chat and discussing something. My mom started acting weird and got her I-need-to-talk-to-you-but-I-am-scared-of-confrontation face on. She started talking; these are definitely not her exact words, but close:

“Um, Lori? Your dad and I (It was never just “I”) think that you are a nice, Christian young lady now and we have been reading the Bible a lot and talking to Christians at church and we think that you should start dressing like a lady. You should start wearing skirts and dresses, instead of pants” She looked hesitant, like she knew I would object.

“What? Why? What is wrong with my jeans? These are my favorite jeans!” I was feeling confused and wondered what was wrong with my parents. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach; felt a sinking, sad feeling.

“Well, the Bible tells us that women should be ladies in God’s eyes and that women should always wear dresses and skirts and look like a woman of God. Your jeans make you look too much like a man. Don’t you want to look like a young lady?”

Ha ha how do you answer that one? “No?” Then you are being disrespectful and perhaps you are too boyish or even (shock) a lesbian or something horrifying like that. “Yes” then you are conforming to their stupid rules. But I was a very shy child and I knew my dad had a temper (if only the church people could see how mad he got) so I changed my clothes into this ugly flowered skirt and went, begrudgingly, with my dad to the baseball game. But the night was ruined for me. I had an extremely difficult time climbing the bleachers and felt that if anyone was down below me, they must be able to see up my dress. Is this really what God wanted me to do? Did God really hate women so much that he wanted to torture us like this? I also think that this was the very beginnings of me feeling like my body was something ugly, something that I should cover up and not be proud of. It was also the last day for a very long time that I wore pants. From that day on, my mom had her friend sewing up some of the most geeky, god-awful (hmm pun intended?) "cullots" (looks and flows like a dress, but has a cut for the legs like shorts, but long and not easy to move or play in- see pic above- except the ones that I wore were more full and had flowery fabric- ew) you have ever seen in your life. Age twelve is not really a time when you want to start looking like a freak. But my parents made damn sure that I did. I envied my brothers, who had no wardrobe changes due to our crazy religion.

Something I have never been able to understand about Christians and the churches we attended was the way they acted like women were evil, lust-filled creatures who should be controlled and covered up, because it was unfair for the good Christian men of the world to see their bodies (I guess their lust would get way out of control if they saw our legs? And then what? We would deserve what we got?). What an extremely sad way to bring up a young girl full of hope for the future; to be ashamed of her body and to feel like a second-class citizen. Women were not even allowed to speak in our churches. They were seen as unworthy to speak in a room with men present. They were only allowed to sing, or address other women. I will write more about this later as well.

I also began to wonder about this all-knowing God. I pictured a big-bearded man up in heaven- filled with harps, golden gates and white robes- looking down at me with a scornful, disappointed face when I did something “sinful.” As you will see in my future blogs, sinful could be anything from rock music (ANY THING with a drum in it) to G rated movies (Produced by the same movie makers who made the R rated ones).

Slowly, very slowly, I began to wonder if this God was someone with whom I wanted to be associated.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In the Beginning...God?

In the beginning, there was a very young and curious child. She grew up in a military household and at the time of her "conversion" had two younger brothers. That small child who was always in the very front and middle of her classroom pictures for school, due to her small size, was me. :-) I was a very gentle, good and obedient child who mothered my little brothers and never liked to see anyone hurt. I know that my parents meant well and loved me very much. I do know that, but sometimes, as you read this blog and future blogs, you may wonder if they really did. Trust me, in their own way, they did.

It seems, from my memory, that one day we were a "normal" military family for a while, and then we turned into freaks. Jesus freaks. I think this happened for the same reason the some people get pulled into cults (you may decide after reading some of my stories that we were in a cult, I will explore that later). I would like to study a bit more about cults to perhaps understand this.

My mom's dad died when she was a teenager and her mom was a working mom who had her own grief to work on. My mom and her sister were left to deal with their sorrow on their own. Perhaps a church family with open arms was appealing to her.

My father (from what I can gather from little stories here and there) was verbally, and perhaps physically, abused by his cold-hearted dad, who never knew how to show him love. He joined the military at age 17 and left his family behind. Maybe the pastor of the church represented a father figure for him to follow. It seems they were both searching for a family to love them, and church offered that for them. I can imagine it must have felt so good to have the Christian community gather around them and support them. In a very short time, my father went from being an ex-catholic who thought the church would catch fire if he walked in, to a leader in the Baptist church and eventually a Baptist preacher himself (but I am getting ahead of myself here).

As my brothers and I moved through our lives, we began to see some changes in my parents. Sunday mornings became a time of getting dressed up and heading to church. We were all pretty good kids, and I remember that I always wanted to please my parents. I learned Bible verses and went to Sunday school to learn all the Bible stories I could learn. I don't have specific memories of my actual "conversion" experience except that my parents were SO happy! We lived in Hawaii at the time and I remember I was baptized outside at the ocean on a cool, breezy day with several people on the shore watching with smiles on their faces. I am not sure if I even knew what being a Christian meant, but I knew that my parents were happy with me, and that was so important to me. So, I emerged from the water "born-again" and ready to start my new life. At age nine.

Picture: Me at about age 12 or 13 with my little sister.

Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin

Many extreme Christians have phrases and comments that I consider beyond ridiculous. I often just ignore their sayings and move along. Howev...