Spiritual abuse, religious trauma or whatever other terms are coming along to define what happens in Christianity that shouldn't is something I grew up with. Before I was born, my parents found each other at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. I wish that had never happened (and I think my mother did, too). My father had been a Freemason for some time and even though he left it, it never left him, that's for sure. They settled in the Independent Baptist Fundamentalist church and these factors combined to set us on a path of spiritual abuse, religious trauma and church hurt on steroids.
It would take too many paragraphs to describe what I went through growing up in this family - parents and one brother, all of whom bought into the Fundamentalist beliefs and lifestyle. One of us did not. I was termed 'rebellious' and quickly became the black sheep of the family. Not because I was doing anything wrong, but because I didn't believe in that and did not follow along like the obedient sheep that I was told to be.
Some things too personal to share here happened when I was between the early years of 1-6 that set the stage more dramatically and that my mother did not know about. Additionally, my brother was deathly sick and mostly in the hospital for the first 4 years of my life, so my parents and brother bonded even more around his illness. No one seemed to think that I should still be included in the events of going to the hospital to see him, etc. Very early on in life, I lost my entire family to their own bonding with each other and their adherence to the cultic rules/lilfe of the Independent Baptists Fundamentalists.
Fast forward through the intervening years, I had a dramatic conversion experience in college at a public university where I met Christians for the first time who weren't cruel, bizarre and obnoxious. I had already been having a long walk with the Holy Spirit who was shepherding me through it all. Maybe I was saved before, I don't know. But, I wanted a more concrete way of knowing, and the Lord delivered on that.
After that initial time, I thought "oh, now I bet those Christians will accept me, and my family will accept me, because now I understand what they understand, etc." but, I did not find that to be the case at all. Sadly, this has been my continued experience for the ensuing years all the way up to my age of 62 where I no longer attend church. I have found that we aren't really all equal. That, there are only a couple of 'priests and kings' not all of us. That there are special, godly women who will always be chosen to do everything. That not repeating and following the narrative will always be the end of you. That kissing up (like they do in the regular world) is important. That women were made to produce godly children, keep the home, and serve kool-aid at church. The real spiritual ministry is always done by the men and their wives. The rest of us are left-overs. Feeling frustrated by this as time went on, I became an unwanted voice at church. Church people who still haven't understood the difference between natural talents and spiritual gifts, insisted that I was using my spiritual gifts at church when I sang or volunteered in the kitchen (and that was even hard, because people wanted even THAT coveted position).
So, sad to say, but the church institution has never done me any good, really, except for a few intervening years here and there. I have learned more from women's Bible studies that I have ever learned from a pastor in any pulpit. Women, as underrated as we are, are nurturing and speak to the emotional spiritual struggles we have. That is where I have gained my growth.
I now prefer to stay at home on Sunday mornings and will occasionally join my husband at a harmless mega church where we will sing meaningless songs and listen to a simple sermon. It's so big, you will never really get to know anyone or actually be able to see anyone, since the lights are turned down low in order to see the big screen and the neon lights on the 'stage'.
After a specific time of prayer, the Lord led me to a ministry in the Netherlands, where I have been doing spiritual 1:1 coaching with the founder and attend his teachings. He too understands what happens in churches and like me, has flown the coup. He was a youth pastor after seminary and had his very flourishing program taken over by another pastor on staff who transformed it into a splinter of what it was before. His parents also discovered the hazards of church attendance when they started a business and invited another couple they had known for some time to join them in it. At some point, the other couple stole the business from them and his parents (who founded it) were out.
What can I say? It's not our grandmother's church anymore and that can be said for the good qualities leaving and a lot of bad ones coming. I don't think I will ever really go back to church ever again, even though I tell my husband from time to time that I'll start going with him. When it comes time to do it, I rarely do.
I never thought this would be my life. Church attendance has been a staple of my life since I was born - but, we saw how that worked out. At this time, I breathe a sigh of relief that I no longer have to go and deal with those 'church people".