Organized Religion Can Cause Trauma
The tears that have been shed over church abuse
I grew up attending a small Baptist church that was the center of the African American community. The focus was on pleasing Jesus and having a personal relationship with Him. I cannot recall anything bad about my young experience but when I got older, things changed. I attended several churches where the focus was on making the pastor happy and obtaining a certain lifestyle. In these churches, people were often told they needed to smile, dress better, hold their heads up and improve their countenance. Instead of spiritual growth, it became about how much money you could give, where you lived and the vehicle you drove.
In one such church the pastor yelled at members from the pulpit and implied he was representing God. He would remove people from leadership positions for small infractions, tell members they were not giving enough money, and not serving as much as they could. Everyone was always on edge and parishioners stopped greeting each other with smiles and hugs. People came in the building and hurried to leave without greeting anyone on the way out.
Everyone looked so unhappy and it was miserable. We were in a place that was supposed to bring joy but instead heartache ensued. Leaders began leaving their positions and over 600 members left. If you had a leadership position you were forced to attend prayer services, clean the church and tithe or your position would be taken away from you. Members who were struggling financially were told it was because they did not give to the pastor over and above his salary. In the midst of it all we were being told that God would get us if we did not obey every rule because everything the pastor said came from God.
Eventually my family walked away from the foolishness but it was difficult. My husband and I both had been attending church since childhood and it was the center of our lives. I cried many tears in the beginning and had to endure people saying I was backsliding. I was so uncomfortable on Sundays that I began visiting churches and eventually something began to change in me, I realized that during Bible times there was no church set up with a pastor ruling with an iron thumb. People worshiped as they chose in their own homes.
I spent so many years believing that everything depended on what happened in the building. I now know differently, but I am not trying to convince anyone else. Each person has to walk their own path regarding what they believe. I am still evolving and trying to heal. Recently I watched the television show Greenleaf on the OWN network. Women were in their big hats and people were in the church building greeting each other with God is good all the time. It seemed so phony and I wondered how I had endured this foolishness in my later years.
I understand that this story will be viewed harshly by those who believe you must join an organized church and obey rules that a man set up in a building in order to connect with a spiritual being. I have cried so many tears for the church I used to enjoy that I will never experience again. I cry for the people who don't have the sense to see the foolishness for what it is and the guts to walk out. I've lost friends, and been deleted and blocked on FB for my stand. I will however continue to stand on what I believe.