Category Archives: Spirituality

Positive Changes I’ve Noticed After Leaving Destructive Church Environments

By now it’s not exactly a state secret that church and I have had a bit of a bumpy ride this year. As I said before, a church I was involved with had a very ugly church politics situation that people on both sides of the issue handled poorly. (And that’s the nice way of putting it.) Combine that with leaving a cult-like church about five years ago and I really needed a church detox. I have not attended any church services at all this calendar year, and it’s been a very healing experience.

Several people have told me that I need to come to their church because their church is “different.” I have to be honest: right now, no church is “different” enough to be worth my time. I am the westernized, Americanized church’s worst nightmare. I’m an introvert. I don’t vote Republican. I have friends of all backgrounds and beliefs. I have friends who identify as GLBT. I give smaller amounts of money to charity quietly instead of bragging about giving large amounts. I believe in vaccines unless there is a legitimate medical reason to avoid certain ones. I wouldn’t say I’m a hard-core pacifist but I’m not thrilled with how our country has handled military involvement from Vietnam onward. I absolutely believe that heaven and hell are real, in this life as well as the next, but I have issues with evangelism since I can’t make anyone believe anything before they are ready. I believe that toxic, manipulative people are a bigger danger to me than the “spreading” of Islam in America. The stigma against chronic physical and mental illness in the church needs to go, and it needs to go now. All of these viewpoints make up who I am, and they are not acceptable in most churches today.

If anyone at your church would berate me for any of these things, I’m sorry, your church is not “different” enough for me. That is the truth, and it is my decision to make, not yours.

Now that I’ve explained why church and I need a good long break, I want to share some of the positive changes I’ve noticed after leaving destructive church environments:

1.) I’m starting to own my own spirituality. I read books and listen to teachings when I sense there’s something in them I need, not when someone demands that I do it.

2.) I can actually answer when people ask me what my favorite food or my favorite color is. For years I couldn’t, because I have been told that it’s sinful and selfish to have a favorite food or favorite color when there were children starving in Africa. (Again with the over-focus on Africa when there are children starving in the US!)

3.) I don’t feel like a piece of crap 24/7. I’m not constantly trying to work harder at being a better person, and I actually have more energy to work on the character issues that are legitimate problems.

4.) I am becoming a nicer person. I actually listen to people now. I suppose it helps that I’m finally surrounded by people who actually listen to me.

5.) I have more time and more energy now that I’m not in tons of studies and small groups. Permanently quitting both was seriously the best decision I ever made.

As I’ve mentioned before, my husband and I have been exploring Messianism and we are going to check out a Messianic congregation sometime soon. I’m hoping to go to at least one of their Rosh Hashanah services, health permitting. Messianism has had tons of positive effects on my spirituality. It doesn’t feel like the right time to write about that, but once that changes, I will make a list of reasons I am falling in love with Messianism.

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Hard Questions

(Note: The poem I’m about to share with you is not directed at any particular church or ministry group. This is in response to several issues I’ve encountered in a handful of different churches and groups over the years. My intention is not to slander anyone but to be honest about the fact that I have been seriously bruised by many people in many different circles. My intention is to express the truth that our words and actions can affect others in extremely negative ways.)

When you stop going to church after ten years,
people ask you, “Why did YOU stop?”
“What are YOU doing to stop this format from working?”
It’s you, you, you

They expect you to answer THEIR questions,
not turn the tables and ask any of your own

I went from being afraid to ask questions
to not having anything but questions:

“Where are you when people need you?”

“Why do you scare people into eradicating healthy boundaries?”

“Why do you question my integrity when you have no reason to do so and when you know full well I have every reason to question yours?”

“Why do you care more about being right than about unity and connection?”

“Why do you assume I’m worthless just because I’m an introvert?”

The list could go on and on!

A good rule for writing is to write about things that scare you, especially when they don’t scare anyone else.

It scares me that no one has been able or willing to answer my questions.

More than that, it scares me that this doesn’t scare anyone else.

Where I Am, Spiritually Speaking

I’ve mentioned before that my spirituality has undergone some major evolution especially in the past few months. I am getting asked more and more questions about what Messianism is, and what my “version” of Messianism looks like. I’m also getting a lot of questions about why I’m done with church involvement for the forseeable future.

The short answer to why I’m not going to church is, I have been wounded by churches just as much as I have been encouraged and supported by them, if not more so. In the nine and a half years that I have been a Christian, I have belonged to four different churches. At three out of the four, I was on the receiving end of what I now realize to be unhealthy behavior and, in some cases, all-out spiritual abuse. (Spiritual abuse is a topic that deserves its own post, if not multiple posts. More on that another time.)

I know that not all churches are unhealthy environments, and that there can be unhealthy people in an otherwise healthy church. If you are happy with the church you’re at, that’s great! I’m not forcing you to leave. But for me right now, I am much healthier not attending church than I was in the last couple years of my church attendance. I am still a Christian in the theological sense of the word, but I am trying to figure out what that is supposed to look like. I say “I” but my husband has been searching along with me.

Last year when I became exploring Judaism and Messianism, I noticed some important differences between those traditions and mainstream Christianity. A big difference was the fact that Judaism provides a much more holistic way of looking at things. During the past couple years, I’ve gotten the message that self-care is synonymous with selfish, so it’s sinful. I held onto destructive relationships much longer than I should have, because I reasoned that it would be selfish to do otherwise. Mainstream Christianity has no regard for the Old Testament, which has a lot of common-sense wisdom for navigating tricky life situations, especially in Proverbs. The Jews and Messianic believers I know have a lot more self-confidence and take much better care of themselves than many Christians I know. I wanted that. No, that’s not putting it strongly enough. I realized I needed that if I was going to stop being exhausted by life.

I was going to write more about what Messianism looks like for me, and how I practice it in my daily life, but that could get pretty lengthy, so I think I will put it into another post.

Have a good weekend, everyone!