As far as conservative Christian families go, my family certainly isn’t the most conservative. But despite that, all my life I have had to contend with one particular conservative Christian: the hypothetical fundy.
The hypothetical fundy is my mother’s creation, along with the hypothetical “atheist evolutionist abortionist” (who has yet to hear my mother’s brilliant and original argument of “if evolution is true, why are there still monkeys?” that will surely shake their beliefs to their very core and leave them prostrated to God begging forgiveness for not believing in him).
But the hypothetical fundy in my house was always known under the name of “some Christians.”
“Some Christians,” my mother would tell me, “would think that was a sin.” Or, was the more common, “Some Christians would think that *insert action/thought/phrase/belief* would mean you aren’t saved.”
True, there were some “Some Christians” who were considered so far fringe as to have completely missed the point of Christianity and be themselves not saved. (These were known as Calvinists.) But for the most part, the “some Christians” were never seen as wrong or terrible as much as they were just more righteous. They were holier than us. It was just that God was more merciful than “some Christians” and would be okay with our meager worship. But the “some Christians” were always better, always, because in every part of their life they were doing something for God. They didn’t fall on the excuses that we did. My mother adores the Duggar family, for instance. That is the ideal Christian family in her eyes, that’s what she would want to have if she could do her life over.
For example, Foursquare is perfectly accepting of women being pastors. However, my mother has always curbed that acceptance with a belief that it is because we live in a fallen world that God “calls women.” Men shirk their God-given roles, so God has to settle for women. It’s God’s kind of punishment toward men a “glory will be in the hand of a woman” and won’t they feel so emasculated in the process, haha.
This is the kind of “Some Christians” attitude. Because you see, some Christians would believe we’re not saved for believing women can be pastors. And while they’re technically wrong on that count, they’re still more righteous than us, still following the Bible in a way we are not. It was a kind of “we’re all saved, but they’re more saved.” My mother’s “In a perfect world men would be the leaders like they’re supposed to be and we wouldn’t need women” is her concession to the “some Christians.”
Between “some Christians” and the God who sees every thought and action, I have never been alone in my head, never been able to think a thought free from potential judgment. If it wasn’t God, it was definitely Christians, and my last few years of Christianity where I was finally able to vocalize my thoughts are filled with “Christians would say this was wrong.” There was never any need for me to try and emulate the “some Christians” – I knew quite well that I would never achieve their levels of Christianity. Instead, my life has been spent justifying, explaining, apologizing, hiding.
There was no doing something in secret. There were no secrets. There was only me, doing things when no one was physically around, feeling the guilt and the shame of the God who sees all, and the thousand peering eyes of “some Christians” who all knew what I was thinking and doing.
This is how I spend my life. There is no break from this, no moment when I can think “okay right now I’m thinking to nobody but myself.” I’m always thinking my thoughts toward people – toward God, toward “some Christians” toward the Christians I know, toward my family, toward my friends, toward everybody – and endless stream of internal thoughts directed at the people who I can’t get out of my head.
And the more I try to find myself – or construct myself, as the case may be, the more I feel these people in my head. What would my former church think? What would my family think? What would my friends think? My family would think I’m crazy. The people I went to church with would think I’m a lost sinner going to hell. And for my friends? All I think is that they see me as a liar. If I am in some way similar to my friends, I’m afraid they’ll think I’ve stolen it from them. That because I know they’re legitimate, they’ll be able to tell that I’m not. That’s part of that repetition lately of calling myself a pretentious special snowflake liar. It’s not that I actually believe they think these things in reality about me. But I can’t get rid of the fear that that’s what they really do think and aren’t telling me. Yes, I’m a sinner, and yes I’m crazy. Better to agree with everyone than to risk the pain of standing in opposition.
These are the voices that I have to work my way through in order to speak. In order to assert some aspect of myself, whether a hobby or piece of who I am. There’s no ability for me to hold onto who I am in secret because there is no secret – I have to keep these pieces hidden even from my conscious mind where all these voices and judgments live.
It didn’t matter as much when I didn’t exist, when aside from my failings of being fucked in the head, I still was your typical conservative Christian girl trying desperately to please God. My “heart was in the right place” at least, and that counted for something. That appeased the voices in my head, who, while they didn’t like me, certainly were abated by my attempts to win their approval.
I don’t know how to exist without human approval. I don’t have the confidence to stand up and declare myself me without other people reassuring me that I’m okay. That I’m allowed to be this way. That who I am is real and legitimate.
The abuse, my Christian upbringing, everything was about destroying me and making me into what other people want. And it worked, it worked well, and I feel many times that all I’m doing is creating something liveable out of the wreckage. That there’s no point in even asking the question, “Is this because of the abuse?” because yes, everything in me is because of the abuse, is because now I have to find a way to put together something human, something I can maybe love and enjoy in this body and self of mine.
And sometimes, fleetingly, I think that I’ve earned that right. Or that maybe I shouldn’t even have to earn it. After everyone has destroyed me, everyone has made it so I can’t even look in the mirror and recognize who I am, that I deserve to put pieces together to make me happy. And maybe that is all that self is – that little thrill you get, that sigh of relief when you feel like you recognize yourself in something. Or feel like you can fit inside something.
But I don’t know. As time passes and I try and put myself together, I feel like I only know how to respond to these voices. Fill my head more and more with hate until I break myself down and then maybe, maybe I can be normal. I don’t know how to exist.
I know how to obey. I know how to follow direct orders. I know how to seek approval. And I know how to destroy myself. That’s what I know how to do.