A few weeks ago I was interviewed on a radio show called “Different Strokes For Different Folks”, hosted by David Clarke.
He asked me some very good questions and one of them really took me by surprise. We were talking about the church that I was raised in, the Church of Christ, and he asked me something like, “Do you think you were religiously abused as a child?
My brain started spinning pretty fast because this was being recorded live. This was the first time I’d ever heard the term “religious abuse”, but something in the way the question was framed led me to believe that this might be a normal topic of conversation on this particular show.
I stammered some with my answer, but said “No, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “religious abuse”.
I’ve been thinking about this ever since.
Growing up in the above mentioned church, I was in fact told a lot of things that didn’t necessarily make sense to me. Just to make a long story short, and also to keep you from reading all about my experience which you probably already know about anyway, let’s just say that they portrayed God to be exactly like Santa Clause. If you are a good boy or girl, you get rewarded, but if you are a bad boy or girl, you get punished.
By the time I was ten, I had already figured out that these people were doing the best that they could, but that they had no answers any more than I did. And it is for this reason that I said “No” in answer to David’s question.
As a child, when I’d ask a legitimate question about something, they would get strange looks on their faces and say something like, “Well you better believe that it is just this way or you will go to hell!”
I just wanted to know what life was about, why I am here, and what happens when we die. The idea that if I “Lived a good life and was “God-Fearing”, I would be rewarded with a place in Heaven after I died never resonated with me in the least.
There was a lot of fear. There were a lot of threats. There were no reasonable answers to anything. There was talk about Gods love and the greatness of His love, but there were too many conditions on this love for a boy to count on his fingers and toes.
Certainly I thought at the time, and I still think that fear and shame based religions are really sad. I knew then and I know today that the Love of God has no conditions on it. I know that God IS Love and to me the idea that God would love one person more than another person is as silly as you could possible get.
You could say that what these people are doing is “abusive”, but again, they really don’t know any better. They have been taught fear and shame and that is all they know. So what do you expect them to teach?
In any case, thank you for having me on your show David, and for asking such thought-provoking questions!
You can listen to the show HERE