The faith of my father is something that has troubled my soul for decades. I'm blessed to have a mom and grandmother who actually raised me. (It does take a village.) This was my saving grace. In the "House of Macy," faith was personal, faith was between you and God. In our household, faith was never used as a weapon. My grandmother used faith to get us through poverty, to get us through struggle and strife. Faith in my grandmother's house and in my mom's house was a precious aid, not a weapon. I share my personal experiences in hopes that they may apply to your life, and in some way you might see that healing can always take place. My father left the Catholic church because they were 'too liberal' for his tastes. The Southern Baptist church gave him solace and succor. The faith of my father was not inclusive nor was it a faith that was friendly to women and children and those who were 'different.' My father used his new-found faith as a weapon, a weapon that also gave him immunity from his responsibilities as a man and as a father. The "church" had an impact on my early childhood. One of my recurring nightmares as a child came directly from the church located across the street from my father's home, a small-minded Southern Baptist congregation whose leader believed that women were nothing more than servants who produced children, women speak when allowed, minorities are not welcome, and children must honor and obey their parents, at all costs. In my father's church, women wore dresses and makeup, and men and boys wore long pants and covered their arms because showing any skin was 'sinful.' Breathing without permission was a sin in his "church."
Lesson 1. I got pulled into a small darkened room by the minister, an associate pastor, and my father. 'God says you will burn in hell for the sins of your mother. Your mother divorced your good daddy, and both you and your mom will go to hell.'
I had nightmares for years because of this lecture. I believed in my soul that I would burn for the divorce, for the 'sins of my mom.' In my nightmares, Satan or someone who appeared to look like Satan, would approach me and cause physical pain, so realistic I awakened in terror.
Lesson 2. "Little boys who wear their hair long grow up queer. It's a sin to have hair that is longer than the top of your ear. Your mother wants to raise you as a little girl."
Well that's a great thing to introduce into a small boy's psyche. No worries about him growing up with issues about sexuality or masculinity. In my mom's house I knew who I was. She always called me 'big boy or young man.' Even as a single mother, she knew that protecting my identity would have a lasting impact. In mom's house I grew up a man many are proud to know. In my father's house I learned only shame.
Leaving your parent's religion, in some cases is a healthy choice. Your responsibility above all is to protect your soul, at any cost. If you march in step with a religion that causes you nothing but pain and fear, you are the cause of damage to your soul. The purpose of my father's religion was not to nurture his faith but to obtain obedience by those around him. My father's religion was a weapon and he wielded it with great skill. He could quote the scripture verbatim and could name every sin in the book, except his own. I learned to forgive his crimes, but never forgot. My advice to those who raise their children in "ultra-religious homes," be mindful of what you teach. Your children will grow up someday and remember every lesson you taught, good and bad. Some of them may even write about it.
Copyright©2014 Michael Einspanjer
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