Oh, the things you’ll need to UNLEARN to be a halfway decent person!
It’s amazing how the Evangelical Christian church teaches that the only way someone could possibly have morals and values is if they “give their life to Christ”, when in fact good, beautiful people are everywhere. After always being told that being a good person won’t get my father in law into heaven and that it didn’t matter how much good a Mormon family was doing for their local community, they are still condemned to hell, I can now confidently say “I CALL BULLSHIT.”
I have seen dozens of Christian churches over 18 years brag about all the good that they’re doing in the community… when, once a year, they do a community service day and help a local school, or homeless shelter, or clean up next to a stretch of highway. The day to day, hands getting dirty to help others type of “service” just wasn’t there. Caring isn’t there. It does matter when you do good because you are filling a need that someone else has. You can’t hold a hand out on the right and reach back to pat yourself with the left. People notice.
The work of deconstruction has involved a lot of learning AND un-learning.
Unlearning prejudice and homophobia were the first two for me, and they actually hit me while we were still deeply involved in church service. I wrote about my daughter’s friend and that horrible situation I was a part of. That remains my biggest regret from my Christian life, even though she and I have talked it through, forgiveness has been given, and we still love each other. I hurt her and the realization pains me. I won’t make that mistake again. I never felt that other sexual orientations were bad, but under the influence of the church, I said and did things I never intended and hurt someone I never wanted to. I have friends of various sexual orientations and I can’t imagine the harms they’ve lived through. I refuse to be a part of it.
Unlearning misogyny and “biblical submission” is another area where I vacillate between coming across as an outspoken feminist–
Ha! There’s a new development!
— and falling into the submissive behavior patterns I lived in my entire life. I wasn’t raised in the church, but even as a child, it was understood that we didn’t question my father. He was in the military and he demanded obedience or he was quick to hit. We didn’t cross him, didn’t talk back, didn’t question… I kept my head down and did the eggshell walk. I’m still dealing with PTSD from that childhood trauma, and when we joined the church I wasn’t even really aware of it, so falling under the headship of men and into the role of the submissive wife happened naturally. But that has changed. Men are not the rulers of women. There is no reason a couple cannot have an egalitarian relationship– another term I recently learned through deconstructing relationships– being completely equal persons in their relationship, with individual ownership and autonomy. I think that would be ideal. We are not there yet.
The concept of dying to self is really tied to submission, but it’s bigger than that.
Dying to self biblically means letting go of all of your human emotional trappings and taking on only that which God would want you to be or have. What that means for the dying self is that your personality, your values, your deepest desires, dreams, fears, and hurts are all supposed to just disappear. If you cling to those, you aren’t giving God everything he deserves. Here’s the rub, when I let go of all of those things, I lost myself. I let myself disappear behind the mask of Christian Dawn. I’ve seen it over and over in so many others too. Mothers in particular: we give everything up for our families and church and many of us are lucky to pull together a few scraps of our own, genuine personal SELF and most of us don’t feel that part is acceptable in those Christian circles because it’s “not godly”.
And it’s NOT godly. It’s personal.
My personal self need only be acceptable me ME. I will not martyr my SELF-worth, my SELF-esteem, my spiritual SELF, or even my SELF-evaluations to anything ever again.
It’s all a giant steaming pile of fucked up brainwashing.
I am thankful that I went into evangelical Christianity as an adult because I am coming back out of it with my memories and ideas of HOW TO BE MYSELF again and not the self-righteous asshole I turned into for 20 years. As I’m unlearning these unhealthy attitudes I’m also doing the work of learning more compassion, better self-care, getting rid of toxic trauma and attitudes. I am aware of myself. I am okay not being entirely SURE about everything but I am also confident in my ability to use reason to process it.
I am thankful that I wasn’t raised in church.
I have been talking with my kids a lot. I was able to apologize for what I put them through. My girls and I have had some good talks about all of it. As my oldest daughter told me recently, “Mom, I don’t blame you. We were all brainwashed. Every one of us was. It’s not your fault.”
The only thing that matters to me is that they understand.