I've been circling the drain on leaving organized religion for a long time, since well before I switched the name of the blog to Every Breaking Wave. When I heard U2's song of a love gone very wrong by that name I couldn't help but reflect on how I felt about my relationship with God.
It's felt like a break up with a lover to me. Over a long period of time. Like a longer, more hurtful version of my divorce after my early marriage. In the course of the ten years I've been out of Evangelical Quiverfull Charismatic movement this has been an ongoing thing.
What makes my shifting theology so difficult is that I cannot just go full out balls to the wall atheist like so many I know coming out of toxic abusive faith environments. Why? Simple. I have had just too many experiences with the dead since I was three years old, seeing spirits, talking to the dead. I know I don't talk about that aspect of my life much here. But it is the one thing that prevents me from letting go of the idea that there is another dimension out there. To quote a worship song I still love "It shines in the darkness and I've touched it at times."
But I think the realities of the spirit world and what's in the Grand Adventure beyond death is nothing like anything in American Christianity.
When I came out of the old toxic church ten years ago I followed Jim to our local Methodist church while my former friends were lobbing stones at me. I wasn't entirely happy to do that, but as someone that has spent many years on worship team I could see why I was supposed to be there as the Methodist church was starting up a contemporary worship service. I was immediately asked to join because the team was minuscule and only the leader had any worship team experience. I was so burned out from being part of the 5% of hardcore True Believers at my old church that I was relieved to only being involved in worship team instead of the myriad of teams, services, prayer teams and complete drama at the old place. Being able to simply sit on the pew was a relief after all those years.
The church kept trying to plug me into the activities, but I resisted. My experience at Possum Creek taught me that small groups, cell groups and prayer circles that were toxic with the possibility of abuse and gossip. I held myself pretty aloof at the Methodist church because the theology being taught seemed shallow, simple and pretty middle of the road.
The problem of my inner damage and spiritual abuse from my old church robbed me of my ability to participate or be open to anything besides our little worship team family. There, I could be myself and continue on. After the pastor found out I'd been a major part of the old church's healing and prayer team I got recruited for that as I started to feel a bit more comfortable and grounded there. But it was a total disaster. I got called upon the carpet hard after operating in a word of knowledge for a lady, something simple and encouraging. Turns out this was extremely frowned upon and I got quite the dressing down. I quit the prayer team.
When we first joined the Methodist church and I joined the contemporary worship team the service had perhaps 20 attendees. Over the last nine years it grew to the biggest service in a church that is the biggest one in three counties. But I started just gagging over the flood of new members carrying in clearly IFB, Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God theology and trying to take over the contemporary service. The very Evangelical theology started to trigger me horribly. I could not even sit through the sermons any longer.
During this same time I'd been doing a great deal of reading of things that would have been frowned upon, like Bart Ehrman books, historical books on the origins of Biblical translations. The church has started to turn more ridiculously conservative.
While I was only participating with worship, aloof and quiet I could see that many of the members were more pontificating, self-focused and hypocritical. I got more and more turned off, I stopped reading anything Old Testament related, only concentrating on the worlds of Jesus, gagging over the sermons of submission of women.. I'd started to realize that the things people were praying for, both at the new church and the old were ridiculous, stupidity like the closest parking space at Wal Mart and against gays, transgendered, the poor. Prime Donald Trump territory.
During my last three years at Possum Creek I'd gotten heavily involved with volunteering at the homeless shelter, the soup kitchen the USDA surplus commodities give aways and the senior nutrition site. I was dismayed to see that a few of those things, while they were happening in the Methodist church, there was a great deal of people behaving horribly to the poor, yet were going on mission trip/vacations around the world. I took my volunteerism to the poor going on but not affliated with the new church. That people at the other traditional services behaved horribly holier than thou towards our service, making cutting remarks if our service ran five or more minutes late. I remember one instance where a blue haired older lady in her expensive suit started railing at me that the service was very late and it was going to inconvenience her by making her late for her Sunday dinner at the steak house, while I hissed through gritted teeth that someone had a heart attack at the first service, meaning every service was running late and someone's life was more important than being the first one at the restaurant.
It wasn't an ending to my faith in a huge severing of everything I believed, it was more like a gradual drip drip drip of a Chinese water torture.
But it spend up quickly in our last two years at the Methodist church. People started fighting, gossiping and trying to tell people they were doing things very wrong among the church. Jim was recruited to run the offering counting team, and he begged me to help him. Biggest church in so many counties, taking in as much as anywhere between 20 and 50 thousand in offerings each week. We both started getting a lot of push back from church members when we reorganized how it was to be done to make it conform to IRS rules and state rules. I had many experiences where I walked into a room only to hear the church mega gossip Faith complaining about Jim or calling him incompetent. She kept interfering in much that we did and started complaining that to anyone that would listen that we were craven liberals that were leaving for Costa Rica to 'run away from Donald Trump."
The church service started to have people engaging in power struggles to control everything. One man I don't agree with or like much seized control of the prayer team and just about everything else. He would get up and teach on things that run counter to the teachings of the United Methodist Church's stated positions, like he taught on how evolution was a lie of the devil. Over the course of the last year he told me I had severe asthma because I didn't take communion, not realizing that the worship team members took communion together before the service. He started nagging me to attend home group, telling me I was sinning by not attending a home group.
Things started to really fall apart and the contemporary service that we'd grown from 20 people to standing room only of around 700 has slid to about a 100 folks that would have fit in perfectly in my old cult church due to these politics in leadership and power struggles.
All of this started triggering me horribly, I never got the space and opportunity to heal from the spiritual abuse from my old church and as things got worse and I started to think seriously about large swathes of the Bible and believe that much of it was a misinterpretation mish mash. The behavior of so many up at the church acted more and more like self congratulatory assholes I knew I had to leave, and the move to Costa Rica would solve that.
I couldn't support the theology, stand the behavior of the most unloving people on the planet and kept backing away, only still loving worship, even if I was having to watch the dismantling of the dismantling of our service.
As soon as Jim flew off the Costa Rica last month and I stayed to finish the packing and remodel I started staying home from church every weekend. Two weeks ago I ran up against someone else that the church gets so wrong. I was attacked and sustained some injuries from the rogue painters. Jim was concerned because every time we used Skype I was in tears over what happened and getting the mistakes fixed. Jim decided he would call on his Wesleyian Building Brothers to help me out. I held out little hope because it was my experience that no one at the Methodist church helped out with anything that didn't earn them brownie points with the clueless pastor.
I have to admit this is one of the big things I miss about the old Quiverfull church. People would come out of the woodwork to help members, casseroles, help moving, so much help and support it was a blessing.
After Jim emailed the list, got no response, emailed the pastor who emailed the list again no one volunteered to come by and help me at all. I was not surprised at all. They just don't help anyone. It' all about them.
For the last two weeks I've been listening to scads of worship music here, feeling at peace, feeling connected to whatever force it is that exists in this realm. I've been thinking about how far from the words of Jesus and other great spiritual gurus across the world these people at the Methodist church were acting, how religion in America bears zero resemblance to anything spiritual at all. It's a mean spirited game.
This morning I decided to go to church just to say goodbye to the few people I am friends with, like the worship leader that I had helped train at Possum Creek as a teen, who now leads worship here. I got there just in time to discover she's been fired. Several people approached me in the narthex to tell me that they didn't respond to Jim's email because it was not the role of the church to help the members with crisis like that. The pastor himself talked to me for a few moments and he was very dismissive of the fact that I hadn't attended church since the confrontation with the painters, insisting everything worked out fine since I'm such a strong woman.
I turned around and walked out forever. Another cult, but more like a society country club cult that resembles the churches mentioned in some of Jason Uptons songs 'Freedom' and 'Lullaby For a Petrified Sacred Society'
I'm going to continue on with my meditation, my journey to what is truth and worshiping when I feel lead. But I am done with American Christianity.