It should come as no surprise to you by now that I’m an avid blog reader. I get instant posts in my WordPress feed from exactly fourteen different blogs, all of which except two (my two sisters’ blogs) are well-read blogs about Christianity-related topics. So of course I’m exposed to a lot of different narratives about church and how it impacted the lives of these various writers. I read stories in which church taught orthodoxy but not compassion. I read stories in which church shamed its congregants to a degree that can only be described as spiritual abuse. I read stories in which church taught that men are to have unquestioning authority over women. I read stories in which God was a cruel and vengeful dictator instead of a loving Father.
I read these stories, and I grew bitter and resentful of the Church because these people’s lives were made more difficult and more complicated because of wrong and harmful religious teachings. And somehow, I internalized those stories and projected them onto my own history with the church and started growing angry and resentful of my own upbringing.
Now, I do think some of that anger is justified. I think that I have every right to be angry that I feel as though I learned to have a homophobic mindset, to flippantly dismiss evolution, and to see easy answers in Christianity and senseless rules in other religions from the church. I won’t deny all that. But my own history with the church—my own story within the four walls of the North Waverly Chapel—is not the same as the stories those bloggers write about so vulnerably.
I know what you’re thinking. No duh, Tiff. But I’ve come to realize that perhaps because of these stories of others that I read, I’m denying grace to the church, and I’m denying all the good things I learned from my deeply religious upbringing. Because the truth of the matter is, my story is not their story. My story is not as extreme, and even though I was taught a lot of harmful things, I was also taught a lot of good things by my church and especially by my parents. I had a lot of beautiful role models growing up because I went to church every single Sunday. I learned to treasure my faith instead of tossing it away when my worldview started expanding beyond the tiny little box I’d always stuffed my heart and mind into.
And I’ve got to remember that every time I insist on criticizing the Church because of someone else’s story. Because really, the only story that I have any authority over is my own.
So, when I find the time, I’m going to write out my story. My own experiences—both positive and negative—growing up in the NWC. And of course, I’ll also write about my most recent experiences after leaving home and attending college then moving two states away to where I live now (I’ve already written about these experiences to some extent). I have lots of church stories to tell, and I hope that telling them all will bring me a measure of desperately needed balance in how I view my history with the church.