First step: My foray into Fundementalism wasn't my choice

That old proverb about a journey beginning with one step is always true, no matter how clichéd it seems. Today I'll take some first steps, and start this blog off right, by talking about my childhood. At least a little. It's contrariness and general oddity will probably go miles into helping me understand me... the real reason anyone writes is to know themselves, after all. I hope I don't lose you. If so, let me know, and I'll circle back and pick you up.

I'm the oldest of three. My mother and Dad married young, and Dad worked at the paper mill. I lived in a (now) fairly big city not too far from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Most of my peers had parents who worked at James River's or Manasha, or Plainwell Paper, (all three paper mills) or the various steel mills. We were poor, everyone was poor, but we were well fed and had plenty of space to grow and play outside.

Dad worked seven days a week, "swing". That's when you work 11p-7a one week; then switch (or swing) to 3p-11p the next. Third week is swinging to 7a-3p. Switch was Sundays, so we didn't see him much some weeks. I know it was hard on him, as he's told me more about it as I've grown. He never let on when I was little, though. I remember many times he'd come in, dead tired from working all night, scoop me up, and kiss my face. Then he'd say, "I've got something around here" and pat his pockets, switching me from one arm to the other, tickling my face with his moustache. When my sister was bigger, he'd juggle us before patting his flannel shirt's pocket. There'd be a roll of Necco wafers, or Rolos in there for us, something he'd picked up getting petrol, and something he'd split for us to have after breakfast!

My mother went to beauty school, and then later went to school to be a bookkeeper. Eventually she went to college for accounting, and I think got her Masters a year or so ago. We haven't spoken since Mother's Day 2009, and didn't speak much for two years prior, so I'm not certain. She never worked outside the house when I was a kid, though. Not until I was about twelve. She'd complain how bored she was, keeping house (which I never saw her do, she made us girls do it, they were called "chores") or minding kids (for her daycare). She never read anything, preferring to sit on the telephone with her mother, or watching television, smoking her long, long cigarettes and waving a wooden spoon at us (beating us with it, too) if she didn't like something we were doing.

We would go to church on Sundays; what would now be called a "main-line Baptist/Protestant" church. We left one when I was about eight. I don't know why, but I do know "some thing very bad happened" and the church split. The new one we went to was your typical, little town church, complete with wooden balcony for overflow and dark pews. Back then it was just church, but I liked it very much. Sunday School was songs and colourful flannel people dancing on boards telling stories of how much Jesus loved me, and how he healed sick people. The sermon itself was often inspiring, what I can remember of them. You don't go to a church for all of your formative years, though, and not remember something.

The Pastor, one of the very few people I would actually call a Christian, loved everyone. Pastor Dan and his wife wanted so badly to show the entire world that Jesus loves them, just the way they are. So they set about loving everyone! These were "shirt of their back" kind of people, and are even now. I saw him a handful of years ago and he remembered me, recognised me (he hadn't seen me since I was about 12!). I felt the love roll of him like a wave as he asked after everyone, and "How are you? Wow, you're little ones are beautiful!" His sermons were full of "Jesus loves you, so love him back and love each other just as hard as you can. What can we do, to take care of the world til he comes?" He advocated conservation, preservation, and never once told anyone how to vote.

Of course, Pastors like him aren't "real Christians" (TM) any more. They're imposters, or soft, or something vile. Seems to me, though, that according to that book they worship, he is and was a real Christian, he loves God and loves his neighbour. That covers the two commandments his Jesus made, right?

My Dad went into the service when I just turned 12. We moved down south, to New Mexico, and stated with my mother's parents while Dad was in Basic and AIT (advanced infantry training, the part of the Army where you learn to do your job). In that year my mother found religion in a huge way! And it was all bad for us kids.

She worked in a nursing home/rehab hospital. So we all got up a the same time, heading out to school and work, and "have a great day, I love you". A couple times on the weekends my Grandmother, sister and I popped up to the hospital to take her surprise lunch, to find out she wasn't scheduled. I do not know where she was, or what she was doing. I know she told us she was working, left in her work clothes, and came back as if nothing happened.

Still, she found god, and we were going to like it, dammit all! The church was your typical hellfire and brimstone Baptist Churches. The scary ones who think women that wear jeans/trousers are going to hell, and university is for boys only. Women are good for breeding, bedding and raising good luittle christian babies. In other words, women are nothing. I learned all about the Madonna-Whore dichotomy there, and it has affected me my entire life. Of course sex was dirty, evil, vile stuff, and any women who wore pants was a Jezebel, leading good christian boys astray.

I wore jeans, and shorts then. I still wear them.

She put us into the church school. Which while horrible, wasn't as bad as the home-schooling she forced on us for years up to that point. She swore up and down it was so we'd get a good education, but I think (speaking honestly and openly) that she did it so she wouldn't have to get up early and get us off to school. I hate mornings as much as she does, but I get my ass up and get my kids out the door with breakfast in them, and lunch in their bags. It hasn't killed me yet, and my oldest is 14, so I think I'm doing alright.

The church school had a dress code from the 1950's. Skirts, and these vile, repulsive things called "culottes", also known as a divided skirt. They're hideous, ugly, and really uncomfortable shorts. In order to look like a skirt, and therefore fit the outmoded ideals of modesty, they had to be full, round and full of gathers-- making every girl there look like a Weeble. Remember Weebles? "Weebles Wobble, but they don't fall down!" Yeah, egg shaped, wobbly toys, that was what the girls looked like. Every. Last. One. Of. Us.

I was twelve and thirteen, gangly, more spoon-shaped than curvy, tall and willowy. It was 1990 for crying out loud! Not 1945. But no, we had to wear those things, to school, and be modest.

Let me tell you a little bit about that modesty thing: it places all the responsibility for how other's feel about you, on your shoulders. But, it places your looks on display. So, you're damned to hell if you tempt some guy who's 14 and horney, becuase you're wearing a shirt that he might be able to see your brastrap line through (if the sunshines just right on you), and therefore you're a terrible, sinning woman. But, you're also damned if you don't try to cover up in every perceivable way. If they'd have known about them, we probably would have been forced into burkas. No, I'm not joking... although this post is highly lacking jokes.

My mother took the doctrine to heart; not for herself, oh, no, she was perfect, redeemed and Jesus looooooved her! She took it to heart for my sister and I. My brother could continue to be his perfect self, and we girls would have to be pushed, moulded, formed, tormented, tortured, yelled at, coherced and punished until we fit that mould, too.

It didn't take. Just in case anyone was wondering.

See, she didn't take into effect that this christianity was so opposed to what we'd been taught our entire lives before. I had been taught Jesus loved me, just the way I was. To ask questions, to try to understand what the world was going to teach me, and to see God in everything, not just this leather bound volume. I was taught what I call, "the thinkers Christianity", and she wanted me to swallow the stupid man's faith. Anything Pastor So-And-So says must be right. "Don't touch God's annointed!" "God said it. That settles it! That's good enough for me!" That sort of rigidity doesn't go well with someone like me. Especially when I saw and asked about the hypocrisy, the lying, the general "do as I say, but not as I do" that I saw the Pastor, Deacons and everyone else getting up.

"They'll pray and ask Jesus to forgive them, and that will take care of it," my grandmother told me.
Then the preacher fucked the secretary, the fifth one running, I believe it was. Embezzled about a million bucks from the church renovation fund, and asked the church to forgive him from the pulpit, crying and claiming that the "Blood of Jesus had washed away his sins!" I was taught that's how it worked, after all. Right?

They forgave him alright... right into prison.
My mother was proud to call herself a, lemme see if I can get this in the right order, "A Fundamentalist, Independent Baptist church member". Her parents are missionaries now, (more on them later, they're a real peice) and they still brag about being Fundamentalists. They want nothing more than for Jesus to return, and kill everyone that ever disagreed with them. "Kill them all, bring on the Rapture, even so come Lord Jesus!"

I never could do that. Even as a kid, involved in the youth group, I was uncomfortable. No one asked qustions they didnt' already know the asnwer to. Any question I asked got shoveled away, ignored, or "Don't ask that, it's bordering on blasphemy."

Here I thought the Protestant movement was built on blasphemy and heresy!
Then I learned that the early churches voted on the Divinity of Jesus.
Voted on it...
Along with the politicking to get their own books into the Bible, and not anything that didn't fit their interpretation... I learned about Constantine, the Council of Nicea, the Schism.

I walked away from Christianity when I was sixteen. I studied religions from around the world, seeking to find a philosophy that was mine, that spoke to me.

It took about a year, but I settled on Neo-Paganism. No, I'm not a Wiccan. Please don't ask that again. Wiccans and me, we don't always get on-- they're too fluffy bunny, and I'm too, shall we say, mean.

The core of my faith is simple:
Be excellent to each other.
Do not do to others, what you do not want them to do to you (I prefer the Buddhist version of the Golden Rule)
Take care of the planet, it's the only home we've got.
Ask! Ask! Ask! And Never Stop Asking! Otherwise, you'll stop growing, and then you'll stagnate, and that's bad!
See? Simple shit.

However, I can still speak Fundie. I understand the buzzwords that Evangelicals use, and I know exactly what they want to accomplish. So, if you're in the need of a translator, let me know. I'll do my best!

That'll do it for now, I think. I don't want to write a book,
yet!
-WW



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