I grew up in a very Jesus-y environment. Though my parents weren’t all that pious themselves, by any stretch of the imagination, church was life for several years. We lived in the country, surrounded by Baptists, and attended a tiny little country chapel approximately 5 times a week. There was Sunday School on Sunday mornings, regular church afterwards, Sunday night service, Wednesday night church, Youth Group on Fridays, and then a bible study or two thrown in at alternating member’s homes.
It never seemed like a bad thing at the time, it was just normal life as I knew it. I had friends there and we went to the occasional christian rock concert with musicians such as DC Talk, Third Day, and Jars of Clay. Meanwhile, back home, I was listening to the “worldly” music of No Doubt, Ace of Base, Stone Temple Pilots, and Van Morrison while dreaming of travelling the world one day.
Part of me never really believed all the church hype though. I remember thinking as a kid that how could a person go to hell just by being born into a different country and thus a different religion? How could I go to heaven just by virtue of being an American and asking Jesus “into my heart”? It never fully clicked.
The other part of me was being told to wear purity rings and promise never to have sex outside of marriage, obey my parents, don’t lie, and that the rapture is coming and I’d better be ready! This part would lie awake at night filled with fear and anxiety that if I accidentally thought something “impure” the all-seeing, all-powerful god would know, because of course, if he was inside my heart, then he was sure as hell inside my brain where the shit actually went down. This piece of me would recite prayers on repeat while lying in bed at night to prevent my mind from wandering into any kind of satan-ish territory. I had to guard against the evil forces because there was “an ongoing battle” for all the souls, especially those of the children, in this “spiritual warfare” taking place in a realm right next to us that we just couldn’t quite see. I’d even come up with little rituals to protect myself from being possessed by the devil himself. I was terrified of my own thoughts, actions, god, and the devil.
By the time I was 17 I had given up on religion and the church entirely, however, it’s taken quite a few years to realize how unhealthy of an environment it can really be when a child is submerged into a religion like that from a very young age. I’ll still catch myself lying in bed sometimes placing the white light of protection around our home…