Religious Trauma

  • Poetry,  Religious Abuse,  Religious Trauma,  Trauma Healing

    A Hero’s Story Arc

    Night wrapped itself around me like suffocating cellophane
    My truth poking holes in the dark sky like stars
    Pinpricks of light invaded, eclipsed my pain
    Hope slipped between prison bars

    Promised love but disgusting corruption
    illuminated by black light was a rude interruption
    My true self stolen, they locked her away
    Irretrievable innocence the price I paid

    Haunted by ghost whispers,
    echoes in the hollow
    Hearing voices, “you’ll never miss her”
    A bitter pill to swallow

    I once was a shiny toy wrapped up so pretty,
    Admired if I stayed on the shelf
    Found out too late integrity isn’t piety
    Character doesn’t save you in the Bible Belt

    Sparkly bow pulled around my throat so tight
    Purchased with blood and a tithe
    Painted face bruised on the other cheek
    Pink collectors box, 6 feet deep

    My only salvation living in reveries
    My family of Christ set up as enemies
    This can’t be the best life there is
    Surely, there must be more than this

    A chain link fence of holy Red Rover
    “You’ll never break through” they repeatedly told her
    “It’s no use, you might as well stay.”
    But I only listened when they taught me faith

    Emboldened, but internal alarms rang loud
    To leave I must run at what I fear
    I break my body against the crowd
    Air knocked out, but I’m scrambling for the clear

    Flashes of light, head is spinning
    high-pitched buzzing, but I think I’m winning
    Shreds of my flesh still hanging from their claws
    But I’m breathing clean air, allowed my own thoughts

    Head on a swivel, is it really safe?
    The other side is a heavenly place
    From a distance I watch you spin out of control
    Lashing out at your pawns with pure vitriol

    Exploding from your sick and pitiful rage
    no idea what to do with an empty cage
    Lost your hold on relevance and power
    Screaming because you’re not my ivory tower

    This isn’t who you have to be
    I can share what I know and help you leave
    But your empty soul feels important as the villain
    And it doesn’t matter what you do if you’re going to heaven

    Saved and with God on your side, there’s no reason to be kind
    Morality customized to your theology and the most convenient design
    You’ll stay inside I know, it’s a power trip
    Deadly addicting high, but you can’t let go of it

    I sigh, turn my gaze and shut the door
    There’s a big world out there for prophets like me
    Who have always been called to something more
    It’s time to enjoy being free

    My past is defined but never my future
    Self-Doubt looks back, but I refuse her
    You had your time, but in the end, I left my mark
    All you gave me was a Hero’s Story Arc

  • Poetry,  Religious Trauma,  Trauma Healing

    The Long Road Home

    What if home is somewhere I’ve never been? Will I recognize it when I arrive?

    What if home is feeling safe? Will I know what that’s like?

    What if home is down a long and dusty road? Can I make it that far?

    Some people are born home, others find it. Some leave home, others have it taken from them. A few of us nomads aren’t sure if we can even define it.

    I can’t go back, to the past, it was full of fear.I long to move forward, at last, but I’m stuck here.

    I was born different; a visitor in a foreign land. But I imagine home is a place to rest, not obligated to impress.

    I believe home is acceptance, valued as we are. Not appeasing the masses to keep our image unmarred.

    Home is healing, patching up our wounds. Home is freeing, not indebted to who hates you.

    I thought I had a home – raised in a kind family. But our lives were tied up in cruel religiosity.

    Ugly ducklings are bullied to blend in, the scapegoat is sent far away. The black sheep ostracized; some of us are deemed unworthy by holy pious eyes.

    My parents did the best they could, while ruled by reverence and a call to obey. Their love was chained to “can’ts” and “shoulds”, governed like vulnerable prey.

    I grew up and thought I found a place to belong – their faith was progressive, their tenets impressive, but ultimately they let me down.

    Acceptance, but with a limit. And only the right kind of empowerment

    Favoritism and cliques – I’ve never been the golden child. Promises for misfits – but they didn’t follow through after a while.

    I never really found a home, so I created my own; building a life my daughter won’t have to heal from.

    I made a beautiful family, surrounded myself with a haven of love. I am happy, but my healing isn’t done.

    Shedding shame of being broken and bad,Shunning lies from the community I never had.

    Releasing anxiety from anticipating my rejection, managing anger at evil and corruption.

    Fleeing the fear of horrors and hellfire, after years of earning my keep…I’m tired.

    I see this journey will last all my life, but I’m starting to feeling whole again. It’s brighter on the horizon now… Each day somewhere I’ve never been.

    Follow that light and those good feelings and you won’t lose your way. Trust yourself, listen to your needs, and you’ll be okay.

    Don’t worry, I know its true – the pilgrimage won’t fail you.

    Healing is the long road home.

  • Grief,  Reflections,  Religious Trauma

    For Those We’ve Loved and Lost through Deconstruction

    To the best friend of over a decade who started treating me like a project.

    To the childhood favorite aunt, who I’m now afraid to share my address with.

    To the parent with whom I long to have a deeper connection, but conversations remain either surface-level or spiritually hostile.

    To the former mentor who is worried about me.

    To the friends who were important to me but ignored me in a time of need because they didn’t want to support my “lifestyle”.

    For all the relationships we cherished that will never be the same again after deconstruction, because they just couldn’t accept us as we are:

    You don’t have to miss me; I’m right here.

    You don’t have to mourn me. I’m still the one you loved all along.

    Don’t worry about me. I’m doing better than I ever was.

    There’s no need to rescue me from my own thoughtful decisions.

    Please, just see me, hear me, know me. Like you used to.

    Rip off the mask of your own making. It’s me underneath!

    You’re drifting farther from me every day and yet I am the one who has fallen away?

    I didn’t know love was supposed to ebb and flow like the tide.

    I don’t think this is the lesson you wanted to teach me, when you said God was using you to be a blessing.

    Your true colors are darker than they once seemed.

    What a heartbreaking legacy.

    Did you ever actually know anything about me, besides my theology? Or are they one and the same to you?

    Did you actually like anything about me that wasn’t just my religion? Because that’s all that has changed, and yet now somehow I’m a stranger to you.

    I’m pretty sure you were drawn to my truth-seeking, my tenacity and courage – all reasons I ended up here.

    Yet the gaslighting says I’m a monster.

    Now that I’m dead to you, did a little part of you have to die too?

    Or do you really prefer a bird in a cage? A shiny toy in a box? Never changing. Never learning. Just endlessly the same for your own entertainment.

    I thought Christians were the experts, but let me tell you, that isn’t love.

    You’ve changed too, you know. And I have loved you through it all.

    Even as your disdain and judgment grew, I tried to stay close to you.

    But now I have lost you –

    All for loving myself the way I thought you did.

  • Empowered Womanhood,  Reflections,  Religious Trauma

    I AM MY OWN

    I am my own. I know that now, but I didn’t always.

    Fuck purity culture. Fuck being shamed out of wearing shorts, tank tops, and two piece bathing suits because apparently having knees, shoulders, and a torso is ok for men but not for women.

    Fuck innocent friendly gestures being sexualized. Fuck the pastor freaking out at me for accidentally letting the office door swing shut for a millisecond. Fuck getting in trouble for giving a male student a ride to church.

    Fuck those church bros leaping away when I try to give them a platonic side hug, as if I’m a walking disease, like my body is toxic and will contaminate them.

    Fuck always being on edge, waiting for the next unwritten rule I might break.

    Fuck being fed a male-centric view of sex – being brainwashed to believe every time I had sex I was being consumed by a man.

    Fuck being injected with the nagging fear that I lost something and he took something – the idea that I was losing a part of my personhood, my identity, my soul; something too deep and ambiguous to pinpoint or define and therefore impossible to determine if it was actually happening or not. Fuck the intentionality behind that confusing chaos.

    Fuck being told over and over and over again that I’m an object to be utilized, a product that could be spoiled – that I don’t have any agency over my own life and body, that I belong to my future husband, someone who may or may not even exist. But he could somehow own me and was entitled to a certain lifestyle from me, just because he had a penis and I didn’t.

    Fuck having no where to turn when I was sexually assaulted because all anyone wanted to know was “what were you doing alone with him?” Not even realizing for years what happened wasn’t okay, that it wasn’t actually my fault for existing in a space near a man who wanted me.

    Fuck all the fear and the shame and the missed opportunities and the dampened experiences and the panic attacks and the nightmares and the insecurities with my loving and committed partner. Fuck it all.

    Purity Culture can die and go to hell.

    I am not the problem. I know that now.

    Contrary to popular opinion, God did not make a mistake when creating my body.

    I am not a temptation or a stumbling block. I am a human being.

    I am good. My body is good. My identity and value aren’t in how or with whom I choose to share my sexuality. I’m not forever tied to past decisions or still connected to anyone I don’t want to be.

    Fuck purity culture and fuck purity rings; those little finger-sized handcuffs.

    And for the biggest “fuck you” of all – I’m happy. I’ve struggled free. I’ve learned to manage the residual effects. My life is my own. I make my own decisions without the smallest consideration for what the oppressors think.

    I know now that my body is a temple for the light inside of me. I am my own. I bought back my life at a price. Therefore I honor my needs, my authenticity and my divinity with my body.

    I am my own. I know that now.

  • Progressive Christianity,  Religious Abuse,  Religious Trauma

    The Name I Never Thought I’d Lose

    It’s been about 13 years since I first earned the reputation of a “backslider”.

    It’s been only about one year of them maybe being right.

    The first 6 or 7 years relegated to an outlier was really difficult. I was constantly misrepresented, lied about and betrayed by the church. What made it even worse was that while they were busy branding me a heathen, ironically I was busy working hard to be a better Christian. The very things I believed Jesus called me to love were the same things the church hated me for.

    You see, I had discovered the teachings of Jesus that the church buried and kept hidden, and it set my soul on fire. Once I saw this side of Jesus there was no going back – values like social justice, welcoming the foreigner, caring for the poor, not accruing wealth, sharing resources, interdependent living, and practicing non-violence – it all spoke to me powerfully.

    There grew in me a deep burning passion to practice these tenets BECAUSE of my faith, not in spite of it.

    And yet most of the Christians I knew were wary at best and horrified at worst. To some, I was most certainly influenced by the devil.

    It’s true I was frustrated and upset with the church, sure, but it was because they weren’t being Christlike, not because I didn’t want Christ.

    Making these changes to my life was extremely costly but I continued to push forward in radical obedience. I paid the cost for it because I was so deeply convicted it was the right way. Doing the right thing was always worth it, or so I had been taught.

    And yet to these Christians I was taking the easy route, giving in to worldly temptations and desires.

    Believe me, there was nothing easy about letting my faith dictate my life.

    I lost my status, I lost my friends, I lost my job, I lost the closeness of my family for a long time.

    And yet to all of them I was doing the popular thing, taking the wide road.

    But there was nothing popular about my convictions; I was the most hated and shunned person in town.

    The harder I tried to be good, the more sinful they said I was.

    I would have stayed and tried to help make the church better because I loved the church. I tried that for as long as I could. But it was Christians who ultimately made me leave.

    I deeply believed that at the core of Christianity was the call to community, but I was ostracized from my Christian community and oftentimes had to go it alone.

    I do believe there is a remnant of true Christ-followers living out their faith by making a positive difference in the world. They are the ones who inspired me for so long, but in the end it wasn’t enough.

    I kept the name Christian for years after deconstructing and I thought I would forever – even if I had to strip away almost everything recognizable.

    I clung to the last shreds of that identity because the teachings of Christ truly blow my mind and healthy Christian community has radically shaped my life in the most positive ways. But ultimately, retaining my faith was like trying to hold sand between my fingers. Eventually it all slipped out.

    I never thought I would lose a part of myself that used to be everything.

    I will always respect progressive Christians, but I reached a point of realizing that when it becomes more rare to see a Christian bringing good into the world than it is to see one spreading hate, it’s not something I want to be associated with.

    I feel when it is more surprising when Christians act Christlike than like what they preach against, there is no point to me sifting through the ashes trying to find a few flakes of gold.

    When I am more damaged and scarred from Christianity than I am healed and transformed, it’s just not worth it.

    When the explanation and disclaimer I have to give for my faith is more extensive than the faith itself, nothing is left.

    “Christian” is a name I never thought I would lose, but ultimately it was Christians who took it from me.

    And you know what? They can have it.