I have felt the need to write this because I have been asked why I haven’t been to church in so long. I was originally going to post on Facebook, but decided to post here in case any of my readers have felt the same way. I have spent my entire life in the church. I was raised up Baptist, my parents and grandparents were extremely involved (as was I), and as an adult I was lightly involved as well. My husband, kids, and I have been attending our church for nearly 16 years – both of my kids have grown up there. I wanted them to have the same upbringing as I did, but hoped they didn’t have the same experiences that I had while growing up…but unfortunately they have and are left with the same bitter taste in their mouths as I do. We were having a bit of a deep discussion one morning over breakfast and it just kind of all came out into the open.
They hate going. Not just because most kids don’t like going because it’s “boring”. But, they hate it because they’re uncomfortable there and filled with bitterness. They hate it because the pews are filled with the same people who outside of church have shunned them, rolled their eyes at them, made fun of them, and stabbed them in the back. Sadly, I have had the same experiences not only as a kid, but as an adult as well. And I’m done. They’re done. All three of us are done.
When I was growing up we belonged to a church in my southern California hometown. My parents were Sunday school teachers and I went to Sunday school, church, AND children’s church every single week. I was involved in Awanas (hated it because the kids that attended my church were snobby assholes) and was in the church plays. At home we prayed and the scripture was drilled into my head. Even though we were heavily involved, we weren’t part of the “in” crowd. The clique. Because let’s be honest, every single church has cliques. I was made fun of, ignored, left out, and made to feel inferior not only by my peers, but the adults as well! I have stories for days! Needless to say, my memories of growing up in the church were not fond ones, yet I didn’t let it rattle my faith. As an adult, I STILL went.
Fast foward. My husband and I wanted to make sure our kids were raised with the same beliefs and values that we were. We would go as much as possible (I can’t say we went every week, but WAY more often than I have as of late), my kids were in Awanas and in the Christmas plays, I was once a children’s church teacher while my husband volunteers for children’s church check in (still does). I loved going for well over a decade. Then, something changed and I can’t quite put my finger on any one occasion. There have been many sour experiences building up from many different directions. And a majority of the people are wonderful folks, but it’s the snotty ones who have ruined church-going for me.
My son, who has Aspergers Syndrome (very mildly on the autism spectrum), was made to feel like shit by his peers for years. He HATED going. So, you know what? I stopped making him go. Why would I plop him in the middle of social situations with the same kids who made him feel like a piece of shit? The ones who ignored him and rolled their eyes at him, the ones who made him spiral into such a deep depression that he began to talk about suicide because he felt so absolutely alone without a single friend anymore. The kids who caused him to be so depressed that I was afraid that I would come home from work and he would be “gone”. You’re supposed to feel comfortable and at peace at church and unfortunately, he felt the complete opposite. It stressed him out a majority of his life. So, I said many prayers, his transfer to the school where I work was approved, I stopped making him go to church, and voila! I have a happy kid again. He’s made new friends who are totally cool with his quirks and has attended youth group at his friend’s church instead where he had a blast. I thank God for his best buddy from school; I had prayed and prayed for him to find a friend who accepted him for who he was and once he started at the new school, there was the friend we had prayed for.
Like any church, you have the people who walk around with their noses in the air and think that they’re holier than thou when they’re really just condescending and arrogant. Not everyone is like that by any means, but there’s always a handful of members like that. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not one for socializing, not because I’m stuck up or full of myself by any stretch, but because I have social anxiety and I want to get out of there as quickly as I came in. But, if I did socialize I was always, always genuinely friendly and pleasant. But, there are some there that you could just feel the judgement oozing from their pores. A girl actually told my daughter that she was a lesser Christian because she didn’t attend church every week and argued with her about it. Seriously?! That was the turning point for my daughter since she was already seething from how her brother was treated.
I went to a local mother/son dance many years ago and saw a gal from church who I had casually spoken with before (our kids were friends not only at church, but in the same class at school). I didn’t know another single soul there, so I was happy to recognize a familiar face (like I said before, social anxiety). I asked if I could sit with her and she flatly told me no. She said the table was full. (it remained half full for the entire night) …… Bitch. You snobby, fucking bitch. And every time I saw her at church it took everything in me not to tell her off and flip her off. One time she actually spoke to the congregation about her path to Christianity, her love for people, blah blah blah and I actually walked out and went home. You hypocritical, fake, bitch.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m a foul-mouthed, hot-tempered asshole, but my heart is usually in a good place. I only become that way when I have reason to be, not just because. I am a sinner, I am judgemental, I am a hot mess. I am real, though and am no longer interested in pretending to be someone I’m not just because I’m in God’s house and fear getting looked down upon by others. I used to enjoy going and I would walk out feeling warm and fuzzy inside. But I gradually became jaded when it was one bad experience after another and I went less and less. When I did go, I wasn’t happy. I was just going through the motions of being there mostly because my husband wanted me to go. The last time I went I was very reluctant to go, but my sweet hubby really wanted all four of us to go together. So, we did. After the service someone came up and said this one sentence to me in a tone that was dripping in sarcasm. “It’s about time you finally came.” That was it. I was done. It was the moment where the crack in the ice could no longer bear any more weight and everything crashed into the frozen lake. When we walked out the doors to the parking lot I knew it was going to be my last time. I have been going to church my entire life and I have been left feeling cynical after one bad experience after the next.
I haven’t lost my faith in God, but I have lost my faith in people. I happily say my prayers and have my own relationship with God from the comfort of my own home and away from all of the people who caused bitterness in my heart. I’m so much more relaxed (well, at least on Sundays I am!). As for my kids, if they don’t want to go, I’m okay with it. I only feel bad for my husband because he enjoys going (seriously, nothing ever phases the guy and all things just roll off his back – I wish I was more like him!). And he still goes, only by himself (and the single broads there had better not get any funny ideas and think he’s available…he has a whole truck full of crazy that he’s married to at home. Fight me). I’ll never say never – I could very well end up back in a church one day. But, since things were always the same at multiple churches over the past 40 years of my life, I highly doubt much will change.
I’m still spiritual and I still love God, but I am done.