Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism


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Me and the great punisher

I don’t remember when I wrote my last post on believing in God and Jesus. It must have been over a year now. This post has been on my mind for so long, but somehow I never found the words. I feel some sort of inner pressure to write this, yet I don’t know how. I’m not the kind of person who doesn’t find words to say things. That should say something.

You know, I really want to be an atheist. Sometimes I believe that’s what I am. There are days when I have that summery, beachy way of freedom. Those days where you think that your entire life is in your hands. That you’re not just some sort of marionette in the hands of an all-knowing, universal punisher. Those days can be so reassuring that you’re on the right track, that your life is going well and that your decisions really matter.

Other days I find myself deeply wanting to pray. And on some of these days, I do. It’s not very often anymore. Most of the time I will delay myself somehow. Do some house work, go somewhere, read some blogs, whatever. I will pray before I fall asleep, I tell myself to calm my mind. God won’t strike me dead if I pray an hour later. These are the days where I usually fall asleep just before I remember praying. But on those other days, those on which I pray, I pray fervently. Please God, please forgive me, please forgive me for being blasphemic, for saying those terrible things about you. I was angry, you know that. Please look into my heart. Please do something, please change me so I can be good and right. Please forgive me forgive me forgive me I will do anything but please forgive, tell me what to do. I am so alone without you. And then I feel better for a while. I’m thinking it’s a bit like an alcoholic drinking his first beer in months. Desired, fulfilling, but somehow it feels wrong.

There’s one thing I never say, though I’d said it so many times before: “I surrender my life to you.” It’s the one thing I don’t want to say. I don’t want to “surrender” my life. It’s my life. It’s mine and I will not let anybody decide what I do with it. I think that’s what makes me feel so bad on the days I pray. My prayers are useless because I am selfish and despicable. I don’t trust God anymore. Nothing can fix that. It’s what will send me straight to hell.

Other days again I am angry. No, I am furious. I don’t know if you can understand just how furious I get. I hate God with all my being. I know he’s there, and I hate him, and I want to spit in his face for all the terrible things he does. He is not good, he is not just, he is an evil, evil and mean little child who steps on ants and burns them just for fun. I feel for satan – I wouldn’t want to deal with the evil big guy either. Maybe satan is actually trying to save us from God’s wicked ways. Maybe he’s the only one who understood everything that was wrong with the big punisher all along. I want to scream and yell at God that I’d rather spend eternity in hell than with him, because hell can’t be worse than an eternity at the feet of such a gruesome, evil being. I get so angry that I want to hurt everyone who believes in God. I want to tell them that hating people for being gay is awful and disgusting and terrible. I want to tell them that treating women as doormats is stupid and gross. I want to tell them that all they believe is a joke. So an extraterrestrial being snapped us all into existence? And you want to tell me that evolution doesn’t make sense? Please!

And then, I am sad. Because there is no God to save us, and nobody will be there when we’re dead. And I hope that the evil punisher is real, even if that means burning in hell for me. But I hate him and I want him gone, and I want him to be there so badly. Sometimes I hear those one minute ads by the catholic church on the radio. They make me want to be part of it. Somehow I always feel better when I heard them. A few days ago there was one on christians living normal lives. A girl talked about how she can go out at night, be a bartender, even drink. That’s not against her religion. Catholic doesn’t mean boring. Catholic is young, cool and hip. I can see behind the marketing here, but I still wish this was true. I wish I wouldn’t have to throw everything away to be religious. For me, there is no middle ground, no grey area. Faith in God still means complete and utter self-denial. I thought this might change at some point, but I’m losing hope. I want to be a part of christianity, but I don’t want to join the choir of hate speech and judgement that I see everywhere.

So yes, that is my update on my faith. I don’t think anything has changed.

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Ex-Evangelicals and Catholizism

Many evangelicals are fascinated by the Catholic churches once they leave their old lifestyle. I realized that I share the same fascination. And today, I want to say something about that.

Living in southern Germany, I’m naturally surrounded by more catholics than I was back in the US. Many people here are catholic, the catholic churches are prominent buildings in pretty much every city, Catholicism is simply a part of the history of this area and that shows. If you take a hike in the woods, you’re likely to encounter old statues and tiny little chapels dedicated to Virgin Mary or another Saint.

The members of my German family are catholic as well, as is my boyfriend, hence I can hardly escape catholic life and ritual.

And I have to admit that I like it.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the mexican traditions of day of the dead – you have seen it, heard about it. What I didn’t know (and I’m sure you don’t know, either) is that there is a similar tradition that’s lived out in German catholic communities. Here, the catholics too decorate the graves of their loved ones with rather expensive flower arrangements. The graves are completely made up – softening the soil, planting new plants, scrubbing the stones, replacing broken decorations and so on. On All Hallows day (day after Halloween), the families go to the graves in the morning and the catholic priest hold a mass on the cemetery. It is impossible not to attend this if you have catholic family. Especially when there are multiple graves, you need everyone you can get. That is because on every grave of the family, at least one family member must be during the mass. Hence it is common for families to split up in order to have somebody by everyone’s grave. This year, it was me standing by the grave of my grandmother’s sister, who did not have any children of her own. After a round to visit every grave of the family and praying a short prayer, everyone went to their designated family member. As you can see, extended family counts as well, and it’s on you to take care of the dead when they don’t have any direct descendants. (picture: German cem before the beginning of the mass)

It felt weird, standing there, remembering a woman I never met (she died young), knowing that I was the only relative to think of her that moment. I could not help but fervently try to pray along Mary’s prayers as well as I could, which felt even weirder. But, despite the weirdness and unfamiliarity of all this, it felt good.

I liked standing there, the entire cem filled with people. Some graves had only one person standing next to it (like me), others had large families huddled around them.

And what felt even better? Realizing that catholics aren’t as “lunatic” as they’re made out to be. When the priest went into a lengthy prayer, asking God to take the sinners to heaven who weren’t ‘saved’ in their lifetime, praying for those who do not know the gospel and nevertheless act according to it in their best conscience, and pretty much for everyone to be saved despite their wrongdoings. Yes, Catholicism feels much more “real”, much more doable, much more just to the realities of life.

I do not think that I will become a catholic because, to be quite honest with you, right now I have no taste to actually “live” religion. But nevertheless, Catholicism is fascinating and, once you get over the evangelical viewpoint, very beautiful.


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What do I believe?

I receive frequent questions about my faith – from readers, friends, family, everybody who knows my story. Do I believe? What do I believe? My only answer is “I don’t know.” I really don’t.

Sometimes I wish I could just leave it all behind and be an atheist. Enjoy my life for what it is now, be responsible for myself, have my own opinion on things. Sometimes I even am like that. A life with no guilt, no fear of a heavenly punisher just waiting to teach me a lesson or two. No judgement from a being who I don’t even seem to know.

Other days I’m really angry at that being. I’m not an atheist on those days – I know he exists, I know its his fault, everything that goes wrong is his fault. And I want to hurt him. With my words, thoughts, actions. I want to tell him to get out of my life. That I’m not afraid of his stupid hell because Id rather spend my eternal afterlife there than sit next to a violent, punishing wannabe-father who has no other joy in his existence than burning ants and torturing cats.

And then, there are other days again, where I feel like there’s a good chance that he doesn’t exist, that we’re all making this up in our minds to soothe the fear and pain that the knowledge that nothing will ever wait for us after our deaths causes in our minds. The days were I’m longing for a good, heavenly Daddy who waits for me with open arms, cries for me, forgives me all that I have done and will be doing. The Daddy that hugs me and says “It’s all forgotten now, now you’re with me, I never meant this to happen to you.” I wish I could be Daddy’s little girl on those days.

So here, that’s my belief, I guess. I suppose you’re not much smarter now, and neither am I.

 


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Oh God, where art thou?

I’ve been a bit depressed lately. I know we can’t find out truth about God in this life. I’ve given up upon this a while ago. But it would help me to know that there is a God or at least something.

I really admire the way atheists can deal with life. Life is a journey, there is no judgement, enjoy it while you can cause once the light is out, it’s really out. Nothingness. Darkness. The end. And the audience gets up, wipes the last pieces of popcorn off their clothes and leaves. That was a nice movie, they’ll say. What was it about? Forgotten before we reach home. Who cares, there’s many other movies to watch.

If that is true then I have wasted my life. Or at least parts of it. There is nobody who wants my best, who makes sure I do all the things I need to do before I die. I might get hit by a bus tomorrow and that’s that.

Time is worthless if there is eternity. If time is an endless resource, like in the world of fundamentalism, then you needn’t worry about what you’re doing with it. Sure, there’s only one lifetime so you’re doing something you like and make sure you’re not going to hell, but at the end of it you’ll go to super paradise-heaven land where Jesus plays football with the boys and goes shopping with the girls all day long, at the same time. He’s just cool like that.

What if that’s not true? What if my time is limited? Here’s an easy market law: If a good is limited, price will increase. And suddenly, my time is worth something. I can waste it, or I can put it to use and do something I find my time worth spending on. Whenever I think of this I feel like my parents owe me. Big time. Why’d they waste my time when I would’ve prefered spending it on something else?

I might seem like a calm person but I’m constantly afraid. Where’d I put my time? It’s running through my fingers like water, dripping on thirsty ground. There’s nothing I can do to get it back. Sometimes I want to scream, at my family, my friends, at my readers, at random people on the street: “DO SOMETHING! Time is short! Do something with it! You’re wasting!”

I look back at the time spent and I have nothing left. My time wasn’t put to a good purpose. I have nothing. I didn’t make money, I didn’t learn anything useful, I didn’t make friends for life, nothing. All that I have is a bunch of memories in my brain, and once my time is over they’ll rot away with the rest. Forgotten for eternity. Who will remember me?

My aunt has an old family album. Some photos in it are as old  as 100, 110 years. I look at them, I look at strangers, looking into their blank stare. Who are these people, I ask. That’s your great-grandmother and her sister. That’s an uncle of your great-grandfather. That’s another person you’re related to. I stare at them and I know they’re part of my past, part of my life. Because of them, I exist. And that shames me deeply – I don’t know them. They are forgotten, shadows in the past, and if it wasn’t for that one picture they took (and probably spent a lot of money on), nobody would even know they existed.

Vanishing as if they’d never been there. That is my fate, and yours too, if there is no God.

I know it doesn’t make much sense to believe in something supernatural. But it’s the only thing that calms my mind. And the question of what I should do with this box of life, broken open already, becomes less torturing.

The one thing I cling to in such moments is something I read a long time ago:

Animals in the deep-sea have no eyes because there is no light to see. If we lived in utter and complete dark, if there was no light at all in the universe, we wouldn’t have eyes either. Would we know about light and dark? Certainly not. The ability to even imagine the possibility of light and darkness is based upon the fact that we have eyes. If we can wonder if there is a God or not, doesn’t that mean that there must be something at least remotely similar?


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This is going to be a long winter

I struggle with faith a lot. Some days, I don’t want there to be a God. On others I wish for nothing more than a heavenly father who protects me. I wish so badly to KNOW the truth but I guess nobody does. I sometimes even wish I had a near-death experience like some people do so I can see if it just goes black or if it actually continues. Yes I know about the theories with the chemicals and vivid dreams, but then I’d feel safe – for myself.

Today I’m having a day pondering God a lot. This morning I walked past the elementary school while I was running some errands and I heard a choir of small kids sing: Great God, you hold me in your hands, I can not fall deeper than that, your love brightens my day, something along those lines (note: Public schools offer classes on each religion, if you don’t want your kids to go to any sort of religion class you can simply send them to philosophy and life classes). I looked around and saw fall. The leaves are already turning brown and red, the trees are already losing them.

I’m not a summer person, I love fall and winter. Too many people associate these seasons with destruction, death and cold in my opinion. Fall and winter are beautiful signs of life to me.

Fall removes the old, the used, the problems and burdens of the year. The trees rid themselves of what they don’t need anymore, what will be restored in spring. The flowers grow dry and tired and recede into the ground, preparing for the cold weather. I always thought this was a great picture of what Jesus does to people: He makes them rid themselves of the burdens and unnecessary of the past seasons and prepares them to be renewed.

As fall grows colder and colder, more and more things in the world go back to the basics. The leaves are gone, leaving the tree with nothing but a vital stem to survive on. The flowers are hidden in the ground as nothing but a seed or a root. Life is stripped to the basic, to the only things it really needs to survive.

And then, winter comes. And winter isn’t the harsh time of testing and death. It’s a time for sleeping, resting, waiting. Yes, sometimes it means death to some, trees, plants, people, but it kills gently, putting them into a deep slumber at first, then covers the deathbeds with its white linen sheets and simply doesn’t let them wake up again. Winter isn’t the time of painful death but the time of gentle home-calling. And the others sit and wait to be renewed.

Isn’t that just how faith should be? We get rid of what we don’t need, are reduced to the basics in order to be renewed when it’s time.

Snow is so soothing for me, it’s always been like that. As a child I couldn’t wait for snow to fall. When the first flakes of that glimmering white fluff appeared in the sky I ran outside or ran to open a window to listen to the joyous sound. I think many people consider me crazy because they can’t hear it. But I know many others can but don’t want to admit to it. When snow falls, it’s the most beautiful sound I can imagine.

Close your eyes and listen to it. There’s going to be a muted feeling, a muted sound. A sound as if you were standing somewhere in a castle like in the fairy tales and from far away in the castle, from some huge ballroom you can hear it: The soft muttering of excited, elegant masses, the sounds of flowing long satin dresses, delicate fabrics rubbing on each other, a quiet footstep here and there. It’s a huge ball and the couples are preparing to start dancing. Can you see all the dancers dressed in beautiful white gowns, smiling at each other and waiting for the musicians to play?

Many people declared me crazy when I told them about this. But it’s true. And I used to believe that God intended just this picture when he made snow.

And as the snow covers the world it’s like God covering the world with his soft white blanket, tucking us in like children.

You may find it weird that I’m already talking about now in September, I really don’t know myself why I just wrote what I did but I felt the need to explain where my thoughts today came from.

I feel like when I left the movement, my personal fall came, stripping me of everything I didn’t need, things that went wrong, things that weren’t good for me. And then, winter came. I’m waiting for something. I don’t know when it will come, or what will come my way. I don’t even know if it will come my way. I’m like a root. Maybe I’m on my deathbed, maybe I’m not. I’m hoping I’ll see spring and summer, though.


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I’m a cow, free at last.

As a girl you see the world as a giant candy store filled with sweet candy and such. But one day you look around and you see a prison and you’re on death row. You wanna run or scream or cry but something’s locking you up. Are the other folks cows chewing cud until the hour comes when their heads roll? Or are they just keeping quiet like you, planning their escape?

(Quoted from the movie “The good girl”)

When I watched this movie a few days ago I was struck by this opening passage. So much that I in fact paused the movie, restarted it and listened to it again. And for some reason, this very stereotypical quote from a hardly known movie made me think. And it lifted a weight from my shoulders that I didn’t even know about.

I know so very well just how you believe everything is a wonderful dream as a child. And I too know the moment of looking around and realizing – it’s a prison. I’m a cow, I’m on death row. Everybody is. I too wondered if I was the only one realizing what we were. Our deaths would come much too soon and someone would have to act, but for some reason, nobody did. The humans stared at us whenever we left our barn. They stared, made fun of our furs and claws, were shocked by our ways and always wondering why there were cows at all.

I accepted my inevitable fate. My death sentence was spoken the day I was born and no amount of pleading would reverse the decision. I took my case to the highest court, begged God himself on my knees to somehow let me out of the cage and remove my chains. God’s answer was simple: The butcher was sent to make it short and quick.

I was decorated and prepared to walk down the aisles of the slaughterhouse soon enough. I, the fearful cow, looked around at the other cows, just as chained as caged as I was. But they didn’t know. They didn’t see it. They didn’T see the blood splattered tiles on the wall, blood of hundreds and hundreds of other cows who weren’t able to escape the freezing cold deathtrap.

I saw my own death approaching with steady steps, a large knife in hand, smiling softly. “This is what you were made for” he told me. And just as he was about to swing his knife, he trembled. Let me go, I said. And to my surprise, he hesitated for a moment and his eyes told me to run for my life as long as I had the chance. And I did.

Running down the aisles, making my way to the backdoor, the other cows mooh’d and boo’d at me, threw stones, spit blood out of their half slaughtered mouths, and finally, as I could see the first flicks of sunlight at the end of the hallway, they joined together to form an unheard choir. “You are lost, you are lost, you are lost.” The steps approaching, the sound of metal banging against tiled walls, the slurping sound of dying meat dragging across the floor grew louder and louder as I finally pushed open the door and stumbled on warm, hard concrete. With a loud banging noise the door closed behind me. I looked back just to realize there was no knob on the outside, no way to get back in. From inside I could still hear the choirs, the dragging, the screaming but muted now.

I stood up just to realize that I actually had two legs and the warm breeze gently played with my flowery skirt. My bovine grimace was gone, replaced by a pointy little nose, almond-shaped eyes and small mouth with soft lips. My fur, which had subjected me to much joking from the human crowd had receded and formed a ponytail on my head. I looked at my claws, bloodied still, but now made of fragile fingers. As I started walking away from the slaughterhouse I wiped my hands clean on my dress. Not quite sure where to go, I left the slaughterhouse grounds through a little whole in the wire netting fence. Out on the sidewalk I was greeted with wild inner city traffic roaming on the streets. Cars, busses, trucks. The other pedestrians looked at my shook-up being with some suspicion, but I quickly adjusted as I walked down the street. As I reached the end of the street I saw a bus-stop. I took a seat on one of the worn down benches and waited with the other figures. Did they know what was happening right here, in the middle of the city? Had they not wondered about the cows? Had they not heard the screams?

The bus arrived, smelling of gas and city dirt, making steaming sounds as it stopped. Together with the other passengers I got in line and stepped onto the bus. The friendly old driver shot me an understanding look and asked “Where to, young Lady?”. I was speechless. Where should I go? I tried to come up with something but my mind was empty. As the first tear started flowing from my eyes, the driver said “No worries. Just sit down. I’ll take you to the train station. From there, you can decide where you want to go.” I nodded thankfully and sat down and as I did I could hardly believe the thought which flooded my mind. Free, free at last.

So, as I watched this movie and the scene unfolded in my head I couldn’t help but take a deep breath. I hadn’t realized before just how lucky I was to get out when I did. I know that, once I had been married, it would mean my death. It would have been the point of no return. I jumped off the crashing train just moments before it hit the wall. And this realization was so… amazing.


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Dying to self

I was going to post some more Vienna talk today, but I made a quick change of plans because I have something different to say.

Growing up, dying to self was key. In case you’re not familiar with this specific descriptions, it basically means giving everything that’s “you” up in order to serve selflessly in any way possible. Sounds good huh? But it’s not. Dying to self is something you can take very literal. You will die in every way possible in order to be someone you’re not.

Some people don’t seem to bother that much, but it’s always been hard for me to be as selfless as I was expected to be. You see, I’m a very private, calm, introvert kind of person. Though I grew up in a big family, I always liked being alone. I’m not much of a team player, I prefer doing things all by myself. I didn’t hate having a big family where there was always somebody, quite the opposite, I loved it. But I always tried to make room for myself in some way. That didn’t mean that I wanted to do things I liked, it was more like just being by myself doing ANYTHING really. I hated washing dishes. I loved doing it alone. I didn’t like vacuuming. It was ok as long as I was alone. Everything I didn’t like in a group I usually liked if I could just do it by myself. I treasured the quiet moments, though my hands were busy, my mind was free to wander, not occupied by yet another conversation, prayer, training or anything like that. I loved asking myself the WEIRDEST questions. Like, is it possible that when you’re 9 months pregnant and you use the bathroom, could it just “fall out”? What would you do if that happened? Would the pain of hours of labor be condensed in that short moment or or or…? It really didn’t have anything to do with faith in those moments.

Now my Dad was eager to teach all of us, especially the girls, that dying to self is key to life and salvation. You weren’t allowed to do anything fun, you were asked to serve others every moment of your life. If you didn’t listen to him, he’d have a speech prepared. “It always about ME ME ME. Do you think Jesus was like that? Do you think he would have died on the cross for us if he cared about himself? NO! He would have hidden somewhere and lived happily ever after! He wasnt about ME. So why are YOU?” and so on. I felt really bad every time I heard that. I started wondering if Jesus could even love me if I kept acting like this. I tried to train myself. I didn’t allow myself to do things alone. When I had to wash dishes, I called one of my smaller sisters over to help me, to teach her to be a servant and a good housewife. How to keep things in order. When I was working in the garden, I asked my brothers to do boy stuff, like carrying the heavy water buckets for me. I desperately waited for God to reward my selflessness. I gave up what I liked in order to feel as good as the people who kept raving about how great it feels to be selfless, how God rewards you for it. But I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel any different at all except that I was more stressed out than ever.

Prayer time was the only occasion I allowed myself to be alone. I sat down in our infamous prayer closet and opened my bible. But after a day of constant conversation, I didn’t feel like talking to God or being talked to by him. I started reading a chapter and within seconds, though my eyes were reading, my mind didn’t understand a word. I switched the chapter. And the same thing happened again. And again. And again. I closed my bible and folded my hands across my face. Ok I though, I’ll pray some. And in my mind I said “Lord… tell me what to say.” Silence, emptiness of mind. “I don’t know what to tell you.” More silence. My mind started telling me that I needed to do this, I needed to do SOMETHING. I though that was God speaking to me and I couldn’t stand a single word he said. “Be quiet.” I told him. And the voices in my head started rushing with hate and anger and disappointment. How dare you talk to me like that? Pray now, pray now, pray now, or read some more. You can’t sit in your little puddle of selfishness now. And I grew angrier and angrier with the God who hated me so much for wanting a few minutes of peace and silence. “Shut up!” I said over and over until I started crying. I cried myself empty just to realize that my time in the prayer closet was over.

As I stood up, all I could think was “Great job, idiot, time well used.” The amount of shame and hate for myself was so big that I obsessively started being as selfless as I could for the rest of the day. This wasnt something that happened every day, but it happened on many days.

 

Right now, I’m sitting here in complete silence. I’m all alone, doing stuff by myself. I’m selfish. I’m detestable. I’m lost. And I like it. God is quiet, he doesn’t bother me with his voices anymore. I now will go into the kitchen and have a coffee in complete silence, closing my eyes and enjoying nothingness. And I know that God will still be quiet.