Ah yes...courageous Dary!
It is not easy to phrase these types of experiences and feelings in our culture permeated by In God We Trust, etc.
What language to use in honestly describing how humans used the Bible to, IMO, saddle me with massive hang-ups from a tender, vulnerable age?
And, before others try to help in love and offer that it isn't the real Christ or real Christians who hurt others with Biblical verses, I must clarify that the Christian religious persons who instructed me during my youth were extremely faithful to the Bible, verse for verse. In fact, I would have been spared a ton of pain if these same elders had only educated me in the Christian tradition, not the Bible. For then, I could have heard mostly 'invite Christ into your heart as your personal Savior' or 'God only wants the best for your life - seek His will and you will have righteousness!' or 'Jesus loves everyone!'
Those statements/philosophies are not in the Bible but comprise much of Xian culture in most churches. I won't even get into the whole 'you need to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, as your Lord and Savior' types of proselytizing because that, too, is not advocated by Christ in the Bible. Unfortunately! It would be alot easier to go with the kinder, gentler, 'only believe, only believe! All things are possible, only believe!' type of spiritual path to Christ except that he himself never advises that.
I used to really dig Christ because I liked how he upset the applecart (pun intended) amont the Judaic tradition in his time. I dug how he called out the fakers in the Saducees or Pharisees and basically gave alot of people with 'questionable backgrounds' (i.e. prostitutes, lepers, some beggers, etc.) a vehicle to denounce the powers that be. He seemed to be a socioeconomic do-righter...telling the rich that they needed to sell everything to get into heaven, telling people 'your faith made you well' and he was he had lots physical affection with his male friends.
The only problem is that Christ said the way to heaven was via obeying the commandments (Ten Commandments) and good works and then added commandments which are not in the Torah ('defraud no man') which confused me terribly in my youth.
I'm getting to my point!
I think my damaging exeriences within Christianity stem from not only Christians themselves in my past, but with the doctrines and Bible verses themselves. I know one is not supposed to question the Holy Book upon which one swears in a courtroom, but here I am doing it. The Bible was filled with such inherent contradictions, violent images, irreconcilable factions (i.e. a 'loving' God who is so 'jealous' he tells his people to rape Babylonian women, doesn't help his 'only beloved son' when he asks for help - I don't need that kind of dad), I was left with absolutely no way to make sense of it UNLESS, I picked out those verses which supported Christian Tradition, as taught in most theological seminaries, and went with it. And sung hymns which supported it. And listened to pastors preach sermons in that Tradition. And ignored those parts of the Bible which contradicted the Tradition.
I grew up hearing that the Word of God was the Word of God because the Word of God said so. It was inerrant, too because the Bible said it was inerrant. And that was enough for my family and church family. But it wasn't enough for me since every other sacred text was claiming the same thing - what's a girl to do??
My extreme sensitivity to spiritual concepts and images coupled with a huge desire to memorize (I memorized entire books, not just a few verses of the Bible) created a very threatening little girl for the pastors of churches I attended in my youth. I knew this Bible backward and forward and the contradictions demanded some kind of answer, I felt! When I'd ask my questions, pastors didn't know the answers, couldn't go back to their seminarial training, or the flavor of the month book (Dobson, McDowell, MacArthur, H. Lindsey, etc.) to find the answers and I was judged in the harshest manners for my 'lack of faith', 'rebellious attitude' and 'contamination of others'.
So, I spent 15 years of my youth going from church to church, only to encounter the same attitudes in the religious leaders and community. During my teenage years, I had youth pastors anonymously mailing me Bible verses filled with hatred (like, 'ye think ye are rich, but you are poor' sorts of stuff). When these same pastors were exposed (by my parents) for mailing these verses to me, they defended their actions saying, 'she needed to be humbled and repent.'
I feel confident that my religious upbringing led to my struggles with eating disorders, extreme social phobias, and an overall distrust of people. These Christians took my precious curiousity about spiritual matters and my voracious love for researching the Bible and just dashed those attributes on the rocks. I learned that it's me who is the problem, not 'Them' and to go along to get along. B/c it is damn lonely to be a teenager, kicked out of the second church in two years, with only yourself to 'blame.' I felt that I caused my family to be a pariah in the Xian communities. Everyone knew that I was a 'Jezebel' and the Xian boys were not to be around me, according to their parents.
Interventions were done by my peers countless times in attempts to 'get (my) life back on track with God' or 'stop the backsliding you're doing' or 'stop giving Satan a foothold in your life.' Again, I felt alone, alienated, misunderstood and yet, when I looked out at the Amerikan culture at large, all I saw were examples that the Christian Tradition was The Way to go if I was to navigate successfully in this culture.
Okay, time for me to stop so everyone doesn't fall asleep.
I really appreciate you raising this issue, Dary. It is a very delicate subject in our culture. And so many people feel they are helped by having a deity in God who is (allegedly) 'omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent'. Anyone who has studied the lack of stress for the omega in pack animals can understand 'casting all (one's) cares upon' such a deity. If the alpha has it together, then whew, what a relief! And every Xian I know feels that God/Jesus is/should be in control of every aspect of their lives and as my DH says, 'to be able to put all this stuff one can't control onto someone else is a big exhale'.
DH and I are not sure which approach we will take with our children but we have ruled out some kind of organized thought being a system in our home. But DH grew up without much Christianity and feels he is limited in Amerika as he doesn't know the Christian Tradition. I would like DS to be exposed to many different religions and always be encouraged to find his own path. And yet, I don't believe in CAing either. I will talk with DS about not CAing whatever one wishes from different religions. I believe it is possible to respect religions and their sacred paths without CAing those ceremonies or traditions.
I do come in peace with my experiences, in case it is not clear.