I grew up strict Baptist. I lived in a household where my mother would take me to church three times a week. Thankfully, my father showed me that I always had a choice as he was devoutly agnostic. He believes that different beliefs lead to different destinations, but from the time I was born until I stopped living under my parent’s roof, I was expected to attend church regularly with my mother. If I didn’t or threw a fit, she would guilt trip me into submission, telling me that Jesus is ashamed of me or that my dead relatives could see me acting up or that God doesn’t like children who throw fits or that if I couldn’t spend a few hours a week with Jesus, how could I expect him to spend eternity with me… yadda yadda, the list goes on. So based on this fear, this loathing of being guilted into feeling that the indoctrination was MY choice… I attended church 3 times a week, every week, with a two weeks in the summer spent at church camp and vacation bible school. What my parents didn’t realize was that at church, like at school, I was the bullied one, I was the “cootie girl” even at church, treated that way by ALL of my peers. My mother didn’t see it because from the moment we got there I was ushered away to the kids sermons. She did’t see the bullying, the taunting, the fact that the only friends I had at church were, embarrassingly enough, the adults. Even some adults treated me like crap. I’ll never forget when we were choosing teams for some bible version of red rover, a youth leader gathered all the popular girls for her team and looked me in the face and looked at her team leader and said, audibly enough for me and others to hear, “Don’t pick her, she’s terrible.” That was the day I felt “God’s” love the strongest… from hateful words spewed from the leaders of the religious youth. That wasn’t the only time something like that had happened, just the time I remember the most. After I turned 19 and finally got out on my own, I’ve never gone to church of my own accord. I’ve never felt that nagging sense of guilt since. I’ve never had to listen to bigoted words spewed forth to a brainwashed audience, never had to look into the eyes of an elderly woman and smile and nod while she sits next to me since no one else would. I feel happier and better about my future since I stopped going to church. It’s one thing I don’t regret at all.
Today, when I visit my folks, sometimes I’ll go with my mother to her church, but she’s stopped asking me to go since the last time the pastor spent the entire sermon condemning homosexuality. I scoffed loudly and shook my head the whole time, I’m thinking it embarrassed my mother. In my opinion she should have been more embarrassed to be associated with a group of people who think like that.