Scared Ten Year Olds

Detail from painting by Hieronymous Bosch

People raised in fundamentalist churches often have condemning thoughts. These thoughts are encouraged and voiced by friends still in the fundamentalist churches:

“Your depression is caused by your guilt.” “You have sin in your life.” “God is trying to tell you something.”

These are powerful messages when one has been raised in the atmosphere of a fundamentalist sect. These are silly messages when heard by people not raised in this atmosphere. It can be helpful to analyze these messages, ask questions, and unpack what is being said:

“Are you saying that God would prefer me to vote for a party that believes in x [fill in the blank]?”

“Are you saying that God is harsh and angry?”

Detail from painting by Hieronymous Bosch, ca 1500.

“Are you saying God sends depressed, angry, sad, immature, squashed people to me to discourage me into coming back to your church?”

In the case of the hard line Churches of Christ: “Are you saying that God has a rule book that is hidden in the book of Acts, that we have to ferret out?” “Are you saying that God is sneaky?”

“Are you saying God is unreasonable and unpredictable?” “Or maybe you are saying God is not very intelligent since He came up with a way of interpreting the Bible that doesn’t make much sense.”

“Are you saying God prefers angry, narrow-minded, zenophobic, self-righteous white people to worship Him instead of the happy people clapping their hands across the street?”

The hint of sneering disapproval or angry judgement is powerful, but turning on the light in a dark room lets you know that what you heard was not the reality. The reality is that people stuck in hard line churches are scared ten year olds who demand that we be scared ten year olds with them.

When we first emerge from the primordial ooze of the fundamentalist sect, it is scary to walk on the dry land and to have to answer so many questions and figure so many things out for ourselves. It would be so easy to go back in, yet we know that we can never live that truncated a thinking life ever again. We have to move forward. Those in the pool are furious we have left them, and they use every effort to pull us back in.


About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
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11 Responses to Scared Ten Year Olds

  1. Kim Winter says:

    I found your blog at the perfect time. My husband and I are going through what we are referring to as “church of Christ detox” right now. We were both raised in what I would consider semi-hardliner churches by parents who had been raised in the “we’re saved, they’re not” era of the church. We graduated from Abilene Christian University (gasp!) and soon attended a very large, some would say liberal c of C. Seven years ago we moved to a tiny town and of course were at the local church the first weekend we were here (can’t miss a service). After seven years of negativity and seeing just how hurtful those who have been saved not by grace but by their own knowledge and works (forgive me) can be to those who don’t agree with everything they do, enduring remarks about that crazy liberal college we attended, and being called a communist (yes really) by an elder’s wife after it somehow leaked out how we had voted in the primary election (my guess is the sweet little church lady who was manning the Republican station at the poll, that we passed by as we voted for the man is who for abortion), we have decided that there has to be something better out there.

    We have recently been driving about 60 miles one way to attend a Saturday night service at a church formally known as the c of C. They removed the name several years ago because of the stigma. We are worshiping with a full band, hands clapping, arms raised, and neither of us have ever felt more loved, more accepted, and more free from the burden of c of C doctrine. We can actually feel like God loves us and for the first time, maybe ever, we truly believe we are saved by grace.

    We are waiting for our “Elder’s Visit” which we expect any day to tell us how wrong it is to go to that “Feel Good” church and to guilt us about our little girl’s future, but I think we are prepared. We are still struggling with the little inner voices from “The Church”, but I believe in time, those voices will fade and we will be much happier and healthier worshiping a loving, forgiving God.

    Thank you for your blog and please continue to encourage those of us, who are struggling with our past in the Church. You are a blessing.

    • Hi Kim,
      You might not get a visit from the elders. They might have already given up on you. If you do get a visit, what are you going to say?
      Evidently, according to the elder’s wife, anything left of Republican is communism; there are two options in America: Voting Republican or being a Communist.

      • reyjacobs says:

        “there are two options in America: Voting Republican or being a Communist.”

        There are three options: Voting for the lesser of two evils (Republicans); not voting; voting with Satan (i.e. for the Democrats). Honestly, if you voted for a Democrat, you deserve to be thrown out of any church, since clearly you worship Satan, or cause your children to pass through the scissors to Moloch.

      • Snowbrush says:

        As for Rey, I don’t know how I will vote, the Republicans being content to allow people to die in the streets for a lack of medical care, etc., and Democrats not being nearly liberal enough to suit me. For one thing, they too included the mention of God in their platform when religion (specifically Christianity and Islam) are among our major problems.

        As for the elders dropping by, they gave up on me so quickly that I wondered if they weren’t glad to get rid of me, but unless you really care about these people or else you think you can make them see reason, I just wouldn’t let them in. Greet them politely at the door, say thanks but not thanks, and then get on with your life

  2. reyjacobs says:

    You’re calling this “condemning thoughts” but what you list sounds more like wanna-be-prophet thoughts. Specifically these: “Your depression is caused by your guilt.” “You have sin in your life.” “God is trying to tell you something.” How could anyone possibly know that kind of information unless God spoke to them? Its not “condemning thoughts” — its a Messiah complex.

  3. Kim Winter says:

    Are you kidding me? I am not going to turn this into a political debate because I don’t believe that is the intent of the author, however, your comment was completely disrespectful. I can only hope that you said it because you thought it would be funny or clever. If that is the case, you were wrong. If you truly believe that, then I feel sorry for you, as your life must be full of anger and have very little happiness and peace. It is comments like yours that are causing so much hurt and pain in the church.

    • reyjacobs says:

      I’ve always known the CoC to be grossly apolitical. “God chooses who get in office” and the like. So I’m a bit sceptical that political comments like mine “are causing so much hurt and pain in the church.” If you simply mean that equating abortion with “causing your children to pass through the fire to Moloch” (Lev 18:21) hurts you specifically, I don’t mind hurting the feelings of those who murder their own children. But I suppose your defense would be the standard Marcionite “that’s the Old Testament,” as if Jesus died on the cross to give you the right to kill your kids.

    • reyjacobs says:

      Incidentally, as a practical matter, I’m not zealously against abortion being legal because its better for the kids to let bad parents like you kill their kids than force them to raise them. I wouldn’t want people who are willing to commit abortions actually raising a child. Can you imagine how screwed up the kid would be in the end? I realize abortion is in reality politically a non-issue. The Republicans cannot and will not ever ban it — its just impossible. And further I think they mostly just use it as a way to get votes; they know they have no power to outlaw abortion. But, although as a practical matter I’m not zealously opposed to it being legal (for mercy’s sake on the kids who’d be raised by liberal loons without it) when someone specifically votes for a political candidate because he’s in favor of abortion, I consider that person evil. Furthermore, although not zealously opposed to it in the way Republican politicians claim to be when they want your vote, I would not vote for a Democrat–ever–because its written in Sirach 10:2 “As the judge of the people is himself, so are his officers; and what manner of man the ruler of the city is, such are all they that dwell therein.” The people we elect have more influence on the moral climate of the nation than we even realize. Elect the baby-killers and the people become more in favor of baby killing because evil is somehow contagious (churches prove that; just look how quickly evil spreads in them, whether it be the evil of condemning people over mere ceremony like church attendance as in the CoC or the evil moral laxity as in basically everywhere else).

  4. Kim Winter says:

    “….bad parents like you….”
    “When someone specifically votes for a political candidate because he’s in favor of abortion, I consider that person evil.”

    First of all, I think abortion, the act, is wrong. I would not vote for someone simply on the fact that he or she was “pro abortion.”

    Second, according to you, because of my comments and political stance, I am a bad parent. More judgmental accusations that are completely undeserved and unfounded. I thought that I had stumbled upon a blog that was an out reach for those of us in similar situations among churches. I thought I had found a support. What this has turned out is something crueler than the church I was attending. This has become an adult bullying session.

    No, Mr. Jacobs, you have not convinced me that my political or religions convictions are wrong. I will no long respond to your disrespectful and hurtful remarks nor will I be interested in this blog. I was obviously wrong in my understanding of what this blog was. If your goal was to sadden and kick someone while they were struggling than congratulations, you succeeded.

  5. Snowbrush says:

    ” I was obviously wrong in my understanding of what this blog was.”

    I felt that way too, Kim. The blog owner seems so full of hatred for anyone who disagrees with him that it’s like more like a gung-ho fundamentalist’s blog than a former fundamentalist’s blog.

    • Hi Snowbrush, The only thing I am angry about is people in the past who have used falsehoods and manipulations to defend keeping me in line. My comment about Republicanism or communists was supposed to be funny. Give me some examples of my hatred for people who disagree with me and I’ll think about it.

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