For every person that has been ‘saved’ by the church, a person has walked away from the church with scars that have yet to heal. I attended an all-girls Christian school from age seven till I turned sixteen. That’s a good chunk of my developmental years that I’ll never get back.
It was a testing time for me–not of my faith, but of my tolerance and my ability to withstand the mental indoctrination directed towards me. Almost every morning the principal would get on the podium and give us a sermon. She was a convert. The zeal with which she condemned her previous religious affiliation had always made me feel uneasy.
We had Religious Emphasis Week at school. Everyone was required to attend. It was when evangelists from the church would come to convert impressionable young minds. Many people did convert and I was not one of them.
Pastors would come and preach what can only be described as hatred and condemnation against the ways of their own ancestors. They had found the good religion and they had been saved; and now they had come to save us.
But the love, grace and mercy that characterises the teachings of the Christian faith was completely absent in the conduct of those who had come to condemn us.
Between what I was learning at home, regarding the ways of my people, and what I was learning in school; I reached the conclusion that there might be a God–but there may also not be one. I became agnostic.
After years and years of hearing that I was condemned and in need of saving, I walked out of my school and never looked back. The stories and sermons are etched somewhere in my memory, but they are hazy. They are a blur of stories that I was zealously taught, yet never fully comprehended or understood. It went against everything else I was learning in school–science, history, mathematics and so on.
With time, one starts to feel that the love is not there. There was only dogma, authority… and above everything else there was fear.
When I turned 22, I ended up going to Jerusalem to study. It was a twist of fate that led me on that path. I studied at a secular university, where discussions and debates regarding religion were encouraged. If I was so ‘condemned’ then why did this door open for me? It was not to bring me back to the religion, but rather, to understand it through reason, rational thought and my own inner guidance.
I believe I wound up there to discover the truth and heal from all the false teachings that had been shoved down my throat during my childhood and adolescent years. As the truth came to light, I saw all the religious traditions of the world through new eyes. I learnt of the Second Temple period in history, when these ‘new’ religions were born. I learnt that archeology, history and open discourse in a secular setting allowed for more open discourse than rules, regulations and false histories that were forcefully masquerading as fact.
Over the years, I have met many people who have either left the Christian faith, changed their stance on it or converted to other religions. It seems that when we lose our faith in the institutionalised practises of the faith, we lose our faith in God. As more and more people turn to atheism and science–the gulf will grow between believers and non-believers.
When we are young and under the care (or should I say authority) of people who think it is their God-given right to mould young minds, many of them have shown us the antithesis of what faith actually is. If faith means, ‘talk right, but walk left’; it is no longer faith, but politics.
It is the toxic emotional manipulation of young people who do not yet wield the power to stand up for themselves. It is bullying.
Not only did they exercise their authority as leaders of the school; they did so in the name of God. They really did believe that God was on their side. Perhaps it was a ‘nice’ ideology to soothe their guilt and their conscience.
The Church has been criticised for being a patriarchal institution, but I attended an all-girls school. I’ve always believed that power is power and as long as it is in the wrong hands it will be abused.
In my mind, it is all very simple, though. God will show you the way, but I have never been led back to my school days. I left feeling that as non-Christian, I was not worthy of love, respect and care.
I am glad that God brought me back to the Word with gentleness, pragmatism and rational thought. And the journey brought me all the way to Jerusalem and right back to my true home.