Saturday, March 24, 2012

Unwelcome Epiphany or What Christianity is to Me

Growing up a scapegoated child of a narcissist affected my personality development in many ways.  Some of those ways have turned out to be assets; others not so much.  I like to think that the good outweighs the bad over time, as I shed the destructive traits and celebrate the positives.

I am a major Girl Scout at heart, working so hard to always "do the right thing". This drive to always make the sacrifice, go the extra mile, avoid even the appearance of any negative trait like "lazy, unconcerned, careless, sloppy" has affected my relationships in different ways.  Bosses loved it, of course.  I put my all into any  job, no matter what it paid or didn't.  It makes me an A student: never miss a class, a deadline, or pass on an extra credit.  My children received an excellent education, as I was never casual or unconcerned when it came to home schooling.  I avoid debt, pay my bills on time, and generally make healthy choices where diet and exercise are concerned.

The dark side of this trait is the motivation.  I have been accused of every evil character trait, motivation and practice under the sun growing up as the scapegoated child.  All of this pursuit of excellence is motivated by an inner compulsion to prove to "them" (my mom and sisters, the world at large) that the accusations are not true.  I live with the pain of being misunderstood, wrongly accused and rejected every day, even though most days I do not openly acknowledge that inner reality.

Another trait I have that is a direct result of growing up the scapegoated child of a narcissist, is the hidden compulsion to get angry, unbalanced people to like me.  I have a long past of falling for friendships with angry, emotionally unbalanced women.  As time has gone on and I have achieved greater levels of emotional healing, this particular trait has diminished.  Like the story of walking down the street and falling into the pit (I'll try to find a link later), I got out of these relationships with less and less damage over time. Eventually came the day where I no longer feel obligated or attracted to befriend such people.

Crazy as it sounds, I was once compelled to make excuses for such people, pray for them, serve them in love, and hope for their wholeness.  The mother of my daughter's abusive boyfriend was the last such "friend".  As awful as that was, I had finally grown to the point that after THAT betrayal, I was done trying to bring healing to crazy women.  It is so obvious to me now that I was recreating my family of origin dynamic, hoping that this time by my super-commitment to love and support, the outcome would be different.  I have had many friendships that fit this dynamic.  All of them ended with my being summarily dumped and vilified by the friend I had sacrificed so much to love.  It was a very familiar story. Except for this last situation, when I finally recognized what I was doing and summarily and unequivocally ended the relationship, forever, end of story.

Growing up the scapegoated child of a narcissist has contributed to my becoming a religious person.  The gospel to me is the story of a God who so loved me (adored me!) that He would never hold anything against me.  In fact, any wrong I was in fact guilty of, He took the blame for me and declared me "not guilty" instead.  In spite of the fact that I was full of shame, and very cognizant of every deficiency (real or merely ascribed) in myself, Jesus loved me.  He wrapped me up in His perfect righteousness and goodness.  This was His doing because He loved me.  He created me, and though I may have looked ugly to everyone else, I was precious to Him.

And so began a love affair with Jesus.  I thank the charismatic preacher who taught me that "who I was in Christ Jesus" was a reality; I just needed to renew my mind to that reality.  I needed to convince my own mind to reject the script it was given in my formative years, and replace it with God's truth.  He loved me with an everlasting love.  I was holy and blameless before him in love.  I was his chosen, royal, holy, peculiar treasure, created to be loved by Him and to share that love with others.  I was now the temple of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within me, (ME!), who will lead and guide me into all truth, and who makes me an able minister of the life-giving Spirit to others.  Christ, the hope of glory, dwells in me.  I am the temple of the Living God; Christ lives in me; I am a member of His body.

I could go on, but you get the point.

I threw myself into my walk with God with the same zeal I put into everything.  I don't regret that for one minute.  I will always love Jesus, and there is nothing on earth as beautiful to me as the One I know as Jesus.

But here is the unwelcome epiphany: the church, the religion of American Christianity, is just another narcissistic mother to me.  *ouch*

I spent the last thirty years walking with Jesus, but that's not all.  I was also trying to earn the church's approval and love.  For those (relatively few) believers who actually know Jesus and believe the (true) gospel, I don't need to do anything to earn their approval or love.  We instantly connect. The shine in their eyes and the smile of their faces match mine as we share our experiences with the Divine Love who is Jesus Christ.  The words of Jesus are true: the world will recognize we are truly born-again, Spirit-filled by our love.  It's a tangible love.  It's not something that needs to be worked up or worked on.  We have it.

The organization, on the other hand, is a whole different story.  It just struck me today how much like my narcissistic mother the church really is!  When you go to church, you will be ignored at best, unless you have recently done something for the people in charge.  Tithing is good; tithing when you're rich is even better.  Service counts, but only if you also give financially.  Service alone is suspect.  Affirmations to those  in leadership, while helpful, is only a temporary lift to your status.  Affirmations to those in leadership, combined with money AND service, that's the way to obtain approval from mother church.

Except it's not.  Even that is only as good as your most recent contribution.  If their are wealthier people in your congregation who give a higher dollar amount, are willing to do more acts of service and/or who agree more completely with everything your leadership says, then it does not matter how "faithful" you are.  It's a weekly competition, and all you have to do to fall of the top ten standings, is fail to be giving the very most comparative to others.  All they taught you about "God looks at heart" is true, but it is not true of the church. The church claims to stand in the place of God, to be God's representative on earth, but these businesses with buildings and denominational affiliations (or proud lack thereof) are not who they claim to be.

Very few churches lift up the Lord Jesus Christ and his great love for humanity every Sunday.  It is far more likely that there will be a forty-five minute to an hour harangue about sin.  If you are not guilty of this sin, then you are in denial and full of pride (definitely been the topic of at least one of these sermons, as it's a recurring theme, along with unforgiveness, and the sin of not being committed enough to the church) to even think such thoughts.  People may go to hear about Jesus, but what they get is their weekly castigation.  I used to go every time the door was open! That was a minimum of three times a week.

I went to the ladies Bible studies mid-week, worked in the nursery, and when my own children were born, dutifully set about to train them up to live within this subculture.  What should have been a weekly celebration of who Jesus is, how much He loves us, and how much He loves our neighbors too, was instead a weekly smack down of some area in our lives that was not up to par.  I did my best to conform to this mother culture of American Christianity, and try to win her approval and earn her acceptance.  I could not see that I was just recreating my family of origin issues in my adult life.

I am thrilled that someone shared the pre-eminence of Christ with me as a young child in my Grandma's Baptist church. That was the foundation of the faith back in the '60s, thought is has long since been abandoned.  Gender roles, the age of the earth, even political positions have replaced Jesus.  Of course they claim that such positions and practices have developed out of loyalty to Christ, but anyone who really knows Jesus sees the deception in such statements.  These men (and their women) don't preach the gospel.  There is no good news in what they preach or practice.

I am thrilled that I passed on the truth about Jesus to my children, and I am so glad I home schooled them so that they could see what genuine love, genuine faith and genuine worship look like. I am so glad they didn't go to a Christian school, where they would daily be taught lies about God and how He sees them and feels about humanity.  I understand their fascination with zombie movies.  I think most of the American church is being taught that living as religious reanimated corpses who want to eat (take over) the brains of the rest of humanity is what Jesus was describing when He promised eternal life and told us to go and make disciples of all men.

What I know of Jesus is not a doctrine, not a discipline, not a dispensation.  He is the Living God, and He is as real as the billion years old stars up in the sky.  He loves His creation, including and without exclusion the amazing and precious human beings who have same sex attractions.  He is above time, without gender, without limits of any kind.  He still dwells with us through the Holy Spirit, who really does blow into people's lives and fill them with Life- abundant Life, eternal Life.  You can see it in the faces of those who have experiences this Life.  It's not the result of saying words or agreeing with a doctrine.  It's the result of a real encounter with the Living God.

My unwelcome epiphany is that being a part of the American church is as futile and self-destructive as trying to get my mother to love me.  It is a waste of my time, and is doomed to end in rejection and exile.  If I could only be happy with the crumbs that will be tossed my way on occasion, I could stay longer. But if I don't leave of my own accord, I will be pushed out summarily at some point anyway.  It is inevitable, because the religious hierarchy is one narcissistic bitch at heart. That's probably why I stayed so long; it felt familiar.








4 comments:

  1. WOW. Thanks for sharing that! I have felt these things, but you put them into words beautifully. May I quote you in my blogs at some point?

    I can identify with you, because although looking back I never went through a teen rebellion, I was always called "the rebel" and "too independent" by my mom because I thought for myself and would question authority- to understand and gain respect, not to divide and conquer, though that was how it was taken when I would "talk back".

    I became a compliant person who tried to fit in by "not talking back" in an unhealthy church as an adult, and it retarded my spiritual and emotional growth/maturity for several years until I left. It helps to know I am not alone when I read your story. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Sure, you may quote anything, just always link back to the original. And we are far from alone, sadly.

    Best wishes for a great life, SS

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  3. yep, church is just another codependent trap, deluding you into believing that you are serving/servicing the Holy, who is really just another drunk on a binge--at least that is the god that the Evangelicals teach by their actions if not their words. I am just beginning to believe in my deepest heart of hearts that the Christian god I was taught is not the God who can be found in Christian love. Not sure that says exactly what I want to say but close enough--too exhausted these days to be articulate.

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  4. I wish you restful sleep, friend.

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