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When Religion Hurts

I remember the evening quite clearly. I was around 5 or 6 years old, and I nervously approached the stairs of the stage and knelt down. I was there to repent, to accept Jesus into my heart, really I just wanted to avoid the fiery pits of hell. From my earliest memory I was told that I needed to pray and ask Jesus to forgive me of my sins so I wouldn't go to hell.

This was my introduction to Jesus and Christianity. What follows is a wild, and complicated story of my relationship with faith. I was raised in an evangelical home. I went to a Christian school and attended Bible study and church about 3-5 times a week.

As a young woman I was taught that it was my job to cover my body so I wouldn't tempt men to lust after me. I couldn't wear shirts with words across my chest, for fear men's eyes would be drawn to look at my boobs. Jeans with rivets on them were forbidden as well, as a man might look at my hips.

I was taught that if I had sex before marriage, I was, "a chewed up piece of bubble gum, or equivalent to trash." If I did happen to make this mistake, my future husband wouldn't want me because I wasn't "pure" because I hadn't saved myself for him. Being gay was one of the worst sins you could commit along, with abortion of course.

There was another incident when I was pulled aside by a teacher, and informed that my heart wasn't "pure enough" to enter worship. She knew that I had unconfessed sin in my life.

As a child I was inquisitive, and wanted deeper answers to everything. I pushed back on things I was taught, and this was absolutely frowned upon, so I learned to stay quiet and pretend I agreed with everything.

I witnessed and experienced violence as a child, and instead of being able to reach out for help, I was told to be quiet. Christians don't have those problems.

I learned from a very young age to not express myself, to internalize all of my feelings. I've struggled with mental health issues for as long as I can remember. We didn't seek help, because the answer to all of our issues was prayer.

Alcoholism and mental illness are not a result of my Christian upbringing. But, now that I'm in recovery, I've been doing the work of digging into my past, and trying to heal myself. I was brought up in a culture of shame, guilt and silence. I was raised to Being quiet and submissive was expected.

Since I've gotten sober, I've come back to my faith. I'm not exactly sure what that looks like. But, I do know as a result of recovery and AA I now have a God of my own understanding, and realize that faith is a life long journey of discovery and growth.

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So powerful, Christina. I am such a huge advocate for speaking up, speaking out, being open and honest, sharing our feelings and whatever it is we're going through at any given time. Your past sounds painful and yet you have such a hope and strong spirit through your words, there's no doubt you're on an exciting path now. Write On!

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