A deadly game of peekaboo

 

Have you ever tried to play peekaboo by yourself?  I did. Once.  In a mirror.  I was bored.  And I don’t tell many people about that so if you don’t mind, please keep it a secret.  But that just goes to show how simple the game itself is.  In order to play, it only takes three ingredients: 1) somebody to hide from  2)something to hide behind and 3) something/someone to do the hiding.

As a kid, peekaboo is cute and funny.  As a lone teenager in front of a mirror, it’s just weird.  But as a fundy, the game of peekaboo was mandatory, and this is how we played.

Ingredient number one: Somebody (or something) to hide from

Simply put, we hid from evil.  And to be perfectly honest, we made up most of the evil that we hid from.  But, then again, what were we supposed to do?  Jesus neglected to teach about the wickedness of AMC theaters so we had to cover that ground for Him.  And we all knew that commercials on TV were a deliberate attack on our minds as a combined effort of the devil himself and the world (but only the really good Christians would actually turn off the TV when they came on).

We all liked to help each other identify new evil, too.  Where some of us had trouble seeing what was ‘so obvious’ to others, we were never far from somebody who was more than happy to point it out for us.  Heck, there were even situations in which I was the guy doing the pointing out.

And evil wasn’t limited to objects and places.  No siree.  If you weren’t lucky enough to be one of us, you didn’t stand a chance.  We may have smiled to your face.  But as soon as you left the room, we talked about how immodest your clothes were, or how despicable your tattoo was, or how worldly (which basically means evil for those that don’t know) your hair cut was.  And we could ALWAYS find something to criticize.  After all, we had to prove to ourselves how different and set-apart we were.

Because you can’t hide without something to hide from.

Ingredient number two: Something to hide behind

And what we hid behind was a fear.  Fear that our false reality would be contaminated by your fake evil.  Fear that God would reject me because I didn’t follow the rules that shouldn’t exist in the first place.  Fear that somebody might actually go to hell because they saw me buying a bag of ice in a liquor store.  Fear that I would lead other Christians down a path of destruction if I didn’t make every move exactly right.

Fear makes people desperate, and desperation, in turn, makes people irrational.  This irrationality is what allowed me to remain fearful for so long.

Ingredient number three: Somebody to do the hiding

So, given that there was something to hide from and something to hide behind, I played along.  But instead of finding that years of making the ‘right’ moves resulted in favor from God and an abundant life, I found a heart that was cynical, untrusting, and abused.

Peekaboo.

Out of curiosity what role did fear play in your life if you came out of the IFB, and what did you feel when you discovered that it was unfounded?

How did you move on?

 

Moving on takes three major forms for those of us who are ready to leave the IFB.

1) Becoming an atheist or an agnostic

2) Maintaining a belief in God, but writing off church and organized religion

3) Maintaining a belief in God, and becoming a part of a different kind of church

Which one did you choose and why?

The Anatomy of a Fundy Conversion Experience

How does one become a fundy? This is a quick post to outline the anatomy of a fundy conversion experience as I understood it while inside the bubble:

Step 1: Accept Christ – This is the beginning. Not everybody that takes this step will advance to the next.

Step 2: Put Off (alienation) – Destroy most (if not all) secular music, movies and books in your possession. Pour out all alcohol. Ties with old friends should either be severed or severely limited unless those friends are Christians (which means fundy). This also applies to family. Especially the ones that actively try to interfere with the new way of life. After all, you have a new family now and no longer have a need for the old one.

Step 3: Put On (indoctrination) – Be proud of everything that you gave up for Jesus in step two. Vigorously defend the separation from friends and family created in step two at all costs. Use a KJV. Develop a conviction against women wearing pants, long hair on men, and a hundred other things that oddly seem to reflect the mindset of the early 1940s. Ignore the controversy between those standards and the actual teachings of the Bible. If it helps, try to create logical arguments to rectify those differences. Above all, do not question biblical authority. In the church, this means the pastor. In the home, this means the father and husband.

Oh yeah, and try to have a personal relationship with Christ. But if you can’t, just follow steps two and three and you will be okay for the most part.

I grew up in the movement, so I’m not really surprised that I advanced through the entire process before I decided to get out. But what makes people coming in from the outside so willing to go through step 2 and step 3? Feel free to sound off in the comments if you have an opinion.


Innocent Criminals

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Remember that story in the New Testament where Christ and His disciples walked through the grain fields on the sabbath?  Overcome by hunger, they plucked the grain and ate it.  The Pharisees were quick to point out the gross violation of the sabbath law, but Christ rebuked them.  He said, ‘If you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” you would not have condemned the guiltless.’

Condemning the guiltless is the mission statement of the IFB.  Finding fault where God sees none.  Drawing lines where an all-knowing and just God has not seen fit to draw them.  Half of my life as a fundy was spent trying to justify these extra-biblical statutes in my mind and the other half was spent trying to live up to them.

Here’s the kicker.  Jesus clearly stated that His desire from us is Mercy.  Not sacrifice.  Showing God how awesome I am by making my life harder than He intended for it to be is selfish, arrogant, and stupid.  Passing those standards on to people who are trusting me to lead them in the right path is irresponsible, sick and twisted.

If only it was that obvious from inside the bubble….

Quadrapalegic Camels

The story that I am about to tell is regrettably true.

The details are extremely hazy, but the first part of it that I can remember is that I was playing pin the tail on the donkey.  I must have been about 6 or 7 and I was at a birthday party for some kid whose name I can’t even remember now.  It was my turn.  No one else had even come close, and the poor donkey had tails on his face, legs and back but the rump was completely unoccupied.  I distinctly remember laughing to myself.  These kids had no idea how smart I was.  There was no way I was walking away from this game without taking first place.  Some kind unsuspecting mother stepped towards me and placed the blindfold over my eyes.

‘Can you see?’ she asked.

‘No’ I lied.  She had no idea.  Just as I had figured, there was a small slit between the bottom of the mask and my right cheek.  I had a clear line of sight straight out of the bottom of the mask.  They spun me around three times and sent me on my way.  So far so good.

My only problem was that the donkey was not on the floor at my feet.  Somehow, I had to line up the space in the mask to that I could see in front of me.  No problem for me though.  I had a plan.  In order to give the illusion that I had no idea where I was going, I stuck both hands out in front of me and grasped at the air as I inched forward towards the prize.  I knew I was going in the right direction because my head was tilted all the way back, masked face looking directly up at the ceiling.  It hurt my eyes, but I rolled my eyeballs as far towards the bottom of my eye sockets as possible.  The pain was worth it.  I could see everything.  And nobody had the slightest clue.

‘He can see!’ one of the Mom’s was onto me.  Time for damage control.  I switched to my sweet angel voice.  ‘No I can’t.’  I was positive that with my reassurance, they had given up on the possibility that I was cheating. Three or four of the Mom’s started laughing.

‘Should we stop him?’ cackled one mother to my right.  ‘I bet he thinks we don’t know.’  Who where they talking about?  Certainly it wasn’t me.  There was no way that they could realize what I was actually doing.  My acting was flawless.  My eyes were covered.  They must have been talking about someone else. Maybe, one of the other kids was stealing candy out of the prize bag.  Maybe, one of the girls was trying to kiss one of the boys.  Whatever it was, it was robbing me of the attention I deserved.  How dare they.

Truth be told, I was deluded.  And it didn’t matter what anybody said, I was going to believe that I had not been caught.  Long story short, I didn’t win the prize.  They popped my bubble.  Brought me down to earth.  And I didn’t like it.

Coming down to earth is not always that easy.  And this is especially true about my life as a fundy.

Sure, there were a lot of things along the way that made me wonder if our way was the right way, but they were quickly silenced by my recital of circular reasoning and shoddy logic.  No matter what arguments were thrown at me, or what evidence was brought up, or what source was referenced, or what the Bible actually said, nobody was going to pull me away from my position.  I had an answer for everything.  And it might not have been founded in truth, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from fortifying my position comfortably inside the bubble of the IFB.

And then, it happened.  The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

I was walking through the mall handing out gospel tracts when I spotted him.  He was about 20 yards ahead of me.  His mohawk was green and the sides of his head were shaved and tattooed.  I couldn’t figure out what he was doing, because he was standing in one spot in the middle of the walkway.  I told myself that he was probably high.  As I got closer and his extra wide-leg black jeans came into focus so did the chains dangling from his belt.  This guy was long gone.  Nobody needed Jesus more than he did.   As I made the final steps to approach him, I prayed that God would give me wisdom to break through to this guy.

But before I could get the first word out, this heathen reached out and handed me a piece of paper.  I looked at it.  It was a pamphlet about Christ.  I was stunned.  I looked up and the tattoos on both sides of his head were one word, Jesus.  He looked at me square in the eye and said, ‘Hey man, do you know Jesus?’ His voice was full of genuine concern.

I could only stammer.  He continued.  ‘Jesus changed my life, man.’  Did this guy really think I needed to hear about Jesus?  For one thing, I actually looked like a Christian.  I had my khakis on, and my polo shirt was tucked in.  This guy had looked like a freak!  What right did he have to tell ME about Jesus.  I said the only thing that I could think of.

‘You mean, you’re a Christian?’

‘Yeah! Of course!’  I was dumbfounded.  The conversation lasted about five minutes.  He did most of the talking.  The few times that I found my voice, my comments were mostly questions about his appearance.  My brain was melting by the time we finished talking and I awkwardly shuffled away.  I had never met somebody with so much passion for Christ and so much love for other people.  Period.  And it bothered me.

It bothered me because I wasn’t like that.  It bothered me because for the first time in my life I had come face to face with my legalism in a way that I couldn’t ignore.  And it was in those moments that I started to wonder if maybe, just maybe, God could work outside of the small, stifling bubble that I lived in.

And the rest is history.

If you have come out of the IFB, think about that moment, when you first started to question.  That point in time where you first mustered up the strength inside of you to cut through the fog of the brainwashing and the guilt and the manipulation and genuinely questioned that the IFB way was the right way.  And when you think of that moment, be thankful.

Not a real post

Just a quick FYI:

I would love to post on this blog every day, but I have discovered that doing so is much more difficult than I had anticipated.  My plan going forward is to post twice a week.  We’ll give that a shot and see how it goes.


Facing My Grown-Up Version of the Bogeyman

Do you believe in the bogeyman?  I did.  At least, up until a few months ago.

Let me qualify that.  The bogeyman that I am referring to is not the childhood horror of the night.  Although I did believe in him for a short time as a kid.  Of course eventually logic caught up to my imagination and I began to have serious questions about this alleged monster terrorizing my nights from under the bed.  I wanted to know why I never actually heard him.  And better yet, I wanted to know why I never saw him come and go.  He certainly wasn’t there during the day.  I said that my logic had caught up to my imagination, though, not overcome it.  I was still scared to death to look under the bed.

Eventually though, I decided to face my fear, so with a little bit self motivation I finally got the courage to look.  My eyes were squeezed shut so tight that the jaws of life would have had a hard time prying them apart.  I waited.  My heart was pounding in my chest.  Much to my delight, however, after a few moments of dangling my head as bait, nothing had happened.  Not so much as a growl.  Confident now that my logic was right and my imagination was wrong I slowly, slowly opened one eye.  Then the other.

There was nothing there.

What does this have to do with my blog?  Great question.

For months after my wife and I had left the movement, I couldn’t bring myself to share it with the people who we had left behind.  I would tell myself that there was no reason to hurt them, or that there was no point in bringing it up.  I didn’t want to become a statistic or a sermon illustration.  I didn’t want to let them down.  I couldn’t see it right away, but I was still living my life for the IFB even after I had left.  But what I could see was the storm of conflict inside of me.

What was wrong with me?  Every time that I hid the alcohol in my house because a fundie was coming over I was ashamed of what I was doing.  And my wife was ashamed of what I was doing.  The look of disappointment on her face made me feel like a traitor, every single time.  She knew we were living a lie.  And so did I.

Don’t get me wrong.  Around anybody except people that we knew from the movement, I was myself.  I was honest.  I was transparent.  There was nothing to hide.  But as soon as I was back around the people that I grew up with or went to church with, I reverted back to the cover story avoiding all topics that could lead to a discussion about the changes in my life.  Sometimes I wish I had a camera to see myself squirming in those rare situations when I was with someone from the old life and the new life at the same time.

The truth? I was scared.  I will even go so far as to say that I was a coward.  In my grown-up adult mind the bogeyman was very much alive and kicking.  This time he was in my head.  He was the dark ugly consequence of losing the approval of the IFB movement.  He was what kept me clutching at straws, playing games, wearing masks, letting down my self, my wife and my God.  I saw him in the shadow of every fundie.  I imagined him in every corner when I was out in public, because I just never knew when one of them would walk around the corner.  I needed their approval.

And I needed those things because I was conditioned to need them.  Just like Pavlov’s dog.  Oh sure, my personal relationship with God was top priority.  I was supposed to read my Bible and cultivate a personal relationship with God.  But bear in mind, that relationship had better meet their standards and fit into their box.  And if it didn’t, it was wrong.  Period.  End of discussion.  And I bought it.  Hook, line and sinker.  I lived my life by their standards.  I loved my God just like they said I was allowed to, but not any other way.  I interpreted the Bible just like they said I could.  I swallowed their faulty logic and accepted their vain tradition.  Asking questions was not allowed.  And when it was allowed, the answers that they gave were the right answers because they said they were.  Stepping outside of their box was not only dangerous, it was a sin against God and the bogeyman was sure to get me if I strayed.  And it had happened that way for so long that it had become a subconscious part of myself.

Until a few months ago.  I was ready to face the bogeyman head on.  I no longer needed their approval to follow the course that God had laid out for me.  It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t comfortable, but I knew that I could not keep living a lie.  So I got rid of the masks.  My eyes were closed tightly at first.  But after waiting a while for the bogeyman’s wrath, I opened one eye slowly and then the other.

But there was nothing there.

In the end, I can sleep at night next to my beautiful wife without being ashamed.  And I can pray to my loving and merciful God without being ashamed.  And one day when I have children and I tell them this story, they can know that their Dad is not afraid to do what he believes is right regardless of who is looking.

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