Advantage point

You know that dark, suffocating feeling of a panic attack? You’re not sure if you can breathe, and you’re pretty sure you’re being forced into this shallow box that comes with a lid. It fits, but only because you’re so crouched down into that box that you can’t feel your feet — you’re pretty sure they’ve fallen asleep.

That’s what church feels like to me.

Dressing up makes me feel as if I’m putting on this look-at-me-God attitude — as if dressing up makes him see me, makes him love me, makes him want me. I’m putting on this look I wouldn’t normally put on for someone who sees me all the time, even in my worst, all for what, exactly? If he loves me greatly like everyone claims he does, why add in restrictions on that? Why say he doesn’t love so-and-so because of their sexuality, or because they’re having sex before marriage, or because they’re not being Christians as defined by you?

Speaking of, what even is a Christian anymore? Down South1, people in the label have a rather sour rep, and I’m not quite sure what it is in other parts of the ‘States.

There is a lot of shoving and pushing and forcing of beliefs into others’ throats, and pastors thinking they’re right. There are many different versions of a Christian2, thus there are many different teachings and perceptions — how you should think, how you should feel, how you should act, how you should dress, etc.

Last year, I went to church for Father’s Day and walked away feeling worse than I had before I went there. It reminded me of the bittersweet personality church made me had when I would go — that horrible, rotten hatred I continued and continued to gain for myself that only further built into my depression.

I’m still depressed, but I’ve been using my hobbies to work in favor of therapy since I’ve not been able to go lately, and it’s much better and easier than not going at all. And I started to love myself again. I started to be happy with me as a person and who I am. I have this totally different perspective of the world because I was abused, because I have mental illnesses, because I grew up the way I did — and I like that. I like how those things make me this person who sees things differently, because if anything, it means I’ve a slight advantage. I know what things are like, and I can relate on a strict, no-BS level with people — so I know how people feel when others try to make me feel as if God can really solve all my problems if I just release them into thin air.

Because apparently, going through child abuse is similar to losing your mom in a grocery store. It’s not — I did that a few times, and child abuse is much, much worse.

Because Major Depressive Disorder is apparently similar to failing a class, and at least I didn’t do that — little did they know, I have, and I even failed the eighth grade TAKS for reading.

Because they’d rather be a survivor of child abuse than have a broken arm.

Because at least I don’t have cancer.

I mean, silver lining, anyone?

Church isn’t kind to those who are different. It’s not kind to those who love themselves and find comfort in themselves, at least none that I have gone to. It’s not kind to those that want to be happy with themselves and who they are. It’s also not productive in getting closer to God, or anyone other than the preacher, because all you’re doing is sitting and listening. It’s like those lectures in school: You’re listening to the information, but you don’t really take things in until you actually do them — and even then, you’re only getting one perspective.

Most of the time, it’s what you’re doing wrong, what you should do instead, and, “Why haven’t you done this?”

Isn’t there only so much you can teach from one book? Isn’t there only so much you can digest? Are we sure it isn’t the lust to be right that is the cause of the many perspectives?

Why should I have to change myself because a person feels it isn’t something I should be concerned about?

So, I didn’t go today.

I didn’t go today, because I’ve been so OK with myself — because I’m at a point where I “love” myself in the I’m-OK-with-myself sense, which is “love” to me — and I didn’t want it to be stomped all over by some guy I’m supposed to respect even though he has no idea who I am, other than the fact that I’m the pianist’s granddaughter.

I didn’t go today, because when people tell me to “dress nice” and to “wear nice, long dress pants”, I suddenly feel as if I’m one less — as if I have to put on this charade and look “decent”, or like just another judgmental person attending the place. That’s how it feels to me.

I didn’t go today, because I don’t have anything I can wear that won’t make me feel like I’m someone else.

I didn’t go today, because I’d like to please myself before I please them, my family.

I didn’t go today, because I’m already judged enough.

I’d rather be compassionate and kind and tolerant and understanding toward everyone, and translate what the Bible says3 on my own.

I believe I have to love myself in order to love God, and that I have to be comfortable in my own skin before I can do anything for anyone else. Because I don’t really have that natural need for connection, even though I crave it.

…and even with that, there are Christians who believe you have to put your love for yourself into God, who will love you instead of yourself, and that loving yourself is prideful, which is one of the seven sins.

So, now I have to survive the day. We’re having a family dinner/lunch/thing. It’s monthly, because they’re family-oriented.

I’m feeling rather claustrophobic in the family sense these days, to be honest.

Thanks for reading my ramble.

  1. I capitalize it because here it’s considered a place.
  2. e.g. First Assembly of God, First Baptist, Fellowship, etc.
  3. When I read it… I haven’t and don’t read it as much as one would think I probably should. (And really, if Christians believe what happened in the past isn’t important, why do they teach from a history book?)

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Comments on this post

Raisa’s gravatar

I have a lot of complicated feelings about Christianity. I was raised in a Christian household, went to a Pentecostal school, church more than once a week, etc. But as I got older, I started questioning it more and more, and I was never happy with the answers I got. Plus, I got tired of all the hypocrites and holier-than-thou attitudes said hypocrites had. Being a Christian doesn’t instantly make one a good person. The reverse is true too. The best people I know don’t identify with any religion.

I still think that if your faith gives you peace of mind and strength to overcome obstacles, then by all means practice it, but don’t try to impose it on others.

Agent Q’s gravatar

I must preface that I’m privileged enough to have been raised in a secular household. I’ve got xx problems, but religious hypocrisy isn’t one.

All that aside, I like how you always ponder about your own sense of love and avoid complacency. However, just like you indicated, there is this social pressure that holds you down, and I’m sure there are many closeted skeptics out there who feel the same way. It’s one thing to have faith as mere guidance. It’s another when one asserts flawless logic on the basis of a religious scripture.

Another way of looking at it is how [it appears] you felt the need to justify your not going to the church. Doesn’t that show an internalized guilt that shouldn’t have been there in the first place? Although I applaud you for thinking things through so that you can have a peace of mind, the very need to rationalize that is pretty telling.

And people wonder why I get wary of religious institutions.

Liz’s gravatar

What do you mean by avoiding complacency? Just curious, as the term is a bit confusing to me. 😡

Agent Q’s gravatar

By that I mean not being blindly content or satisfied by the status quo. Sorry if the phrasing was a bit off.

Liz’s gravatar

Oh, I see. :p It’s alright, I just misunderstood.