Longer story: a memory sparked from reading: Religious Trauma Syndrome: How some organized religion leads to mental health problems
When I was about 10 years old, and my disbelief was starting to grow, I had a clever little moment of clarity. I was repeatedly being set aside for “special attention” due to my irreverent attitudes (asking questions) and behaviors (I was uber-ADD). On this specific day, I went through Sunday school and got the “God helps those who help themselves*” bit, then had to go to the Bishop for a lecture at asking inappropriate questions in church (“How is God of Love when he keeps killing babies and little kids every time he gets his feelings hurt? [Isaiah 13:15-18] ).
The Bishop sat me down and began a long and laborious lecture about God’s love for me, His disappointment at my asking questions, and being too excitable, and how powerful prayer would be in fixing everything that was “wrong with me” – thus began the moment; the Genesis of that day’s clarity, if you will.
“Wrong with me?”
“Yes,” quoth the Bishop. “There is a lot wrong with you, and, if you pray, your Heavenly Father will fix you.”
“He’ll fix me?” I was a little confused.
“Heavenly Father loves you and wants you to be happy. If you pray hard enough, He’ll fix you.”
“Because I’m broken?”
“You’re not broken, but, you need to change so that you’ll be happy.”
“I’m already happy.”
“No, you’re not,” quoth the Bishop.
“And praying hard will make me happy?” I asked.
Setting aside the shitty system that lets uneducated, ignorant simple folk** lead the footsteps of a somewhat large group of people (or, as I came to call them, thinking myself erroneously unique and clever, ‘Sheeple’), here was a person, an adult, in a position of intimidating authority, telling a 10 year old that he was, in the eyes of an all powerful god (who, let’s remember, murders children in bulk [2 Kings 2:23-25] for dumb ass reasons) that the child was a thorn in the Almighty’s slipper.
It’s flat out abusive.
I was taken to my knees, and assumed the prayer position (don’t fret – it was just religious abuse, not butt stuff), and listened for around 10 endless minutes as the Bishop begged God to fix me; to make me behave; to make me stop asking questions about doctrine and scripture; to smother the flames of my enthusiasm***; to be, in my mind’s definition, Jeffrey, and not Jeff.
Jeffrey is boring as hell. He’s dull, ignorant, cookie cutter, and numb.
Jeff is hyper (well, was … I’m 42, fat, and slow now – these days, it’s just ADHD in slow motion), looks for deeper meaning, picks fights with bullies, makes mistakes, learns from failure … you get the picture.
So, there I am, listening to this fatuous gas bag entreat an imaginary Vengeance, on my behalf, to make me “better,” and to fix my aliments by smothering my intellect with ignorance and surrender. It was about a minute before I got angry, and another until I got cold, and one more to start fantasizing about dishing out a little vengeance of my own… and my brain locked into a simple, poetic, and blissful mantra:
I was mad, it was locked away, and there it sat, for decades … and I am so thankful for that day. No shit, this was a wonderful, glorious moment that formed the base of what I am, who I am, and what I do. It pushed me on the path the led to a very long walk to find the content of my character, as it were.
That path lead through – hell, still leads through – shit choices, painful consequences, confused decision making, flawed actions … and bliss. Total, unequivocal bliss at being free from the oppression of a self imposed homogenization – I am Name Brand ME – not the generic, mass produced stacked up meat-suits who waddle in lockstep with the protagonist of a 1600 year old collection of plagiarized mythology.
Yeah, there was a 10 year old in that room that was very hurt, and very angry; but the benefit to my years of anger-as-an-ointment life to follow is, to me, truly glorious (no matter how dented, scarred, and broken). I am the ME that I invented as I went along, not the ‘me’ manufactured by people who find fault in the pursuit of happiness.
I hate myself most of the time, yes – but I earned it, and I’m proud of it.
* Which, when you think about it, is a total scam. God is taking credit for your work, and chances are you’re passively (maybe even enthusiastically) letting “Him” do it. Think about it.
** There are exceptions. One of the smartest, kindest men I’ve ever met was a Mormon Bishop at the time.
*** That’s not me trying to find a fancy turn of phrase, he actually said that. Yes, 10 year old kids can eye roll.
**** Well, maybe “Screw You,” I was only 10 years old.