Visiting My Old Church, Or A Lesson In Incremental Maturity

This weekend we visited the church I grew up in. I quietly left in college for a sexier mega church not so bent on condemning those outside of their walls. Almost always when I write off stuffy religion and judgmental conservatism on the blog I’m picturing the red plush pews, the wooden cross and Christian flag on the stage and the 80 year old organ player drowning out our dull, routine-enslaved voices. I am picturing the church of my youth.

For all my emphasis on forgiveness I don’t know if I can say with confidence that I’ve forgiven that childhood church for the innumerable ideas planted deeply in my mind that still cause me to wonder if I’ve gone off the deep end and abandoned God’s holy and cautious truth.

I barely survived my upbringing in the faith. Plenty of my peers didn’t. I’m still undoing much of what I was taught there, and I’m amazed at how it creeps up even though I hadn’t been to the church in half a decade.

I have villain-ized the church some in my head, so it was good to come back and see some positives. The people are polite. I think they are well meaning and aren’t malicious or purposefully distorting the truth. I must credit them that the church supports dozens and dozens of missionaries around the world.

I was more than surprised to learn that the church is growing. I think I’m learning that God truly does use everything – and though most certainly they are not the church for me others seem to be finding much life there. So I’m happy for them that they are growing. I felt no need to challenge anyone on their beliefs – they can go ahead and believe the Second Coming is imminent because of all the natural disasters lately and that Obama is likely the Anti-Christ (they aren’t totally sure).

Ultimately, I think I’d be bitter at almost any church I would have grown up in. I really think that’s true. I think it’s immensely difficult to raise someone in Christianity and not turn it into a legalistic religion. The line really is quite fine. Though certainly I learned how to efficiently judge and condemned in those “open” doors, almost everyone has to visit that aspect in order to know it’s not the way of Jesus. So I don’t blame them too much, they are common and easy mistakes that I too make, still.

What kind of church did you grow up in (if at all)? Is it very different from the faith you have now? Do you have any bitterness? Was it difficult to visit it after a long absence?

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9 Responses to Visiting My Old Church, Or A Lesson In Incremental Maturity

  1. David says:

    I grew up in a small New England Congregational Church. They did not preach salvation. They mostly were nice (except for that stinky kid Mark), but I knew other nice people from the other churches in town too. I didn’t know any Born Again Christians in school as far as I knew, although it turns out 35 years later, there was one family.

    My mother (with 3 degrees from Yale) taught a Sunday school class on how the Red Sea tide went out and that is how the Israelites escaped the Egyptians. So I am wondering of the Egyptians drowned in a few inches of water? Confusing.

    I came to faith in the Episcopal Church where my wife’s parent’s went. The pastor used to joke the that Congregationalists would have married dogs and cats. But I had faith and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. That changed everything.

    I am not bitter, they were just religious. They didn’t believe the Bible was the word of God, and most thought Jesus was a good man. How sad to waste all that time in church for a feel good sermon and not enough truth to change your life. It took some years to undo, but God met me at every step on the way out of the fabric if intellectualism.

    • David says:

      Oh, and my mother’s memorial service was there – nothing had changed. More religious platitudes about how God knows everything, and we know nothing. Not a big deal.

  2. I grew up in a Christian Church that had two pastors from Moody. So i was raised pretty conservatively. I left at 17 for college and became more indoctrinated in a different kind of faith: legalism. Not strict like the IFB but more of it was self-imposed, i.e. if you didn’t believe as I did, then you too bad. Glad I got out of that. Glad I got out of the KJV of my youth. i do have some fond memories of it though. It was there I learned to memorize Scripture, some of which is still in there. There are also some other things I learned that I will not share. 🙂 I have not gone back except for my grandmother’s funeral dinner. A church that once “boasted” of 2-300 people was barely hanging on with about 10-20. Sad.

  3. I am still incredibly sad to be so separated from the people that I love most – and that loved me the most – because of religious belief.

    I miss the people that I grew up with. They probably think that I am away from them in some type of anger or active disagreement. That’s not true. I have no anger at them at all.

  4. Charlie, I think we were seperated at birth. Or in our teens, after going through the exact same spiritual upbringing. We need to meet over coffee or beer sometime and vent together.

  5. Carla says:

    I grew up in the Catholic church. I have no bitterness. I have lots of great memories of youth group and Catholic school. I met Jesus and became saved through Catholicism. Now that I am an adult I still like to go to Catholic services every now and then, especially at the beautiful church I grew up in. It’s Catholicism so not much has changed except the people (though many are the same) and the priest. I recognize the unbiblical doctrine that the Catholic church preaches but I also recognize the stuff that is Biblical. There are many things about the Catholic church that I still like- I still have a lot of family that are Catholic so it’s never too long before there is a wedding, baptism, or first communion to attend. My faith is much deeper now and much more rooted in the Word. Even though I know it’s downfalls I refuse to bash Catholicism. It’s just not for me anymore.

    I know plenty of others who were raised in legalistic, fire and brim stone churches who have lots of bad feelings for the churches of their youth. It is sad that there are so many churches out there preaching a distorted Christ, but it is commendable that you were able to go back and see the positives amidst the bad memories.

  6. HolyRollerNovocaine says:

    Grew up in a Lutheran Church which was one of the largest in the area at the time (1970’s) but now has shrunk considerably. I kind of miss it though – I have more bitterness toward the church I currently attend: an Evangelical Free Church full of judgemental right-wing Fox News kooks who preach “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship” just before they blast you with “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” and “supposed to’s”

    • Much legalism is couched in “you don’t have to do this to GET saved, but if you truly have been saved, this is what you will do.” This is where basic Calvinism and I butt heads. It’s also where Independent Fundamental Baptists and I butt heads. The message is basically always the same – live a certain way or you are going to hell.

  7. Pingback: Dude Watch Where You Point That Thing, Or The Manipulative Power of Religion | Charlie's Church of Christ

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