What Extreme Religions Have in Common

(NOTE- this post contains triggers of religious extreme. As with anything in life, there are goods and evils on both “sides.” In no way do I mean to imply that every person who distrusts the government or is an evangelical is evil or like the Taliban.)

I grew up in a household where being a Christian was confusing.

My father, who had grown up Catholic, left Catholicism around seventeen and lived without faith in the beginning of his marriage to my non-Christian mother (who had endured many years of physical, mental and sexual abuse and hadn’t even been allowed to attend church).

Later, my father was introduced to a man who convinced him the only true religion was the evangelical Southern Baptist religion. And so began the next decade or so of our family’s demise.

I’ve often thought about exactly what caused our family to implode with regards to religion.

I think it was that my father wanted to be this holy-rolling, hardcore, firm-believing Saint, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t.

He was a drinker. Loved a good crown and coke. That, of course, did not fit in with the Southern Baptist narrative.

He was a rock band man. He’d played bass guitar in a group named Shiloh. He traded the lifestyle in for Steven Curtis Chapman (nothing against him- he’s a precious man).

My father and mother were both smokers, until my father put his cigarette down one day and judged my mother for the rest of their marriage.

There were a host of other odds and ends that fit and didn’t fit into this newfound spiritual awakening of my father’s.

We got rid of cable. He wanted my mother and me to wear no makeup and only dress in lady-like clothing.

I vividly remember him telling me once that women should only be “barefoot and pregnant.”

He was a control freak and hated his secular bosses.

He would get angry at us for not conforming to his ultra-conservative ways, scream, punch holes in the wall, throw our Bibles to the curb, and tell us to get the hell out.

For the record, although a simple blog post makes him sound like a monster, my father was so much more complex than that.

He took us to play tennis and didn’t mind when we quit after five minutes.

He came upstairs and watched Full House with us. He loved that show.

He could tell a joke so funny you’d wet your pants.

He always said I love you, and even though he was a horrible apologizer (and still is), I always knew when he was sorry.

And I’m pretty sure my mother drove him absolutely insane, which has a lot to do with some of the problems we had.

I look back on that miserable time in my life and have not one ounce of anger in my heart for my dad.

It’s easy as an adult to see that my father was struggling.

He wanted to be one way– this super good Christian, a pillar of our Church and the community– but he hadn’t been raised that way and couldn’t change, no matter how hard he tried.

The yin and yang of wanting to be one way but knowing you’re another left him confused, frustrated, and, ultimately, bitter.

I’ve been there. Maybe you have, too.

Because of the way I was raised, I never really understood a concept of a good, loving, forgiving Father.

I feared the ramifications of not being an evangelical Christian, but I knew deep down in my heart that something was terribly wrong with the religion.

It left me with those same confused and bitter emotions my father felt.

A few years ago, I almost lost everything in my life.

My marriage was on the rocks, my kids were unhappy, and I hated my job and my life.

I was drinking more than I drank in college as a single gal with no worries.

My faith had completely faltered and my beliefs were crumbling right before my eyes.

I was ready to throw it all up in the air and run. Running had been my modus operandi for a long time.

But instead of running away, I sat.

Sounds silly, I know, but I decided to check out of my problems and to just be still and silent.

I didn’t change one thing around me except my emotional reaction to those things.

What happened was a season where I felt closer to the Creator than I’d ever felt in my life.

True to what usually happens to human beings when it comes to change, once I started to see the real me, it scared me.

This belief that I could literally be the person I’d always dreamed of felt too good to be true, and too opposite from what I’d been raised to believe about myself, which was that I was not good, unclean, not forgiven except by “repentance” (which in evangelical circles means living by their set of rules and conformity, which they can’t even follow themselves).

I got scared of my value, crazy as that sounds, and I started to return to the comfortable and familiar of what I knew (and hated).

Funny how the thing that’s supposed to look out for us, our brain, can go wonky trying to protect us.

For the next few years, I returned to this crazy back and forth of knowing who I was meant to be, but not being ready to face the change.

Then, on January 6, 2021, I watched the insurrection take place at the Capitol.

It’s a strange sort of thing to explain, but watching that happen was like watching my childhood play out before my eyes.

Everything I’d been raised to believe about being a Christian was storming one of the most sacred buildings of our nation.

I saw Jesus 2020 flags and watched “Christians” smash windows and act like fools.

A lightbulb–bright, brilliant and eye-opening, as opposed to blinding–turned on in my mind, and I wept harder than I’ve ever cried in my life.

I knew in that moment that everything I’d been taught about Christianity was wrong.

And it was the greatest moment of my life.

I began what some would call a “deconstruction.” Although it’s a trendy word right now, I think for me, that’s exactly what it was.

It’s funny that this deconstruction coincided with the new classes I was teaching on medieval literature and history. Because it allowed me to see that the illness of the Church has been happening since the minute Jesus stuck his big-toe into heaven.

The Church went right back to its Jewish synagogue, dog-eat-dog ways. And now it’s up to us to come back to the center, to Jesus.

On that note, I mentioned to a friend the other day that Jesus was the only thing at the moment tying me to Christianity.

She laughed and said, “Wait a minute. Isn’t that the point?”

And then we sat there for a moment, both of us dumbfounded.

Because, at least for American Christianity, Jesus doesn’t seem to be the center, not now, maybe not ever.

America, freedom, the right to decide how other people live, that seems to be the point.

Helping the poor? They can help themselves.

Caring for widows and orphans? Let the government do it.

Loving all? Oh, heck no. “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” has become our mantra, as if we even know what that means.

And I guess I’m just a little tired of all that. It’s weary to balance this belief in perfection with a reality that Christ came and gave His life for the very thing we can’t achieve.

We seem to have forgotten than His greatest commandment was “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength,” but that he called the next part just as important.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Are we doing that, my Christ following friends?

Because if we’re not, if we’re just going to be those “Christians” storming the Capitol, demanding our way is the right way, choosing to not follow the laws of the land, then we might as well call ourselves…

The Taliban.

Yes, I went there. And if you really sit with it, my friends, if you really think about all that is happening over there right before our very eyes, and all that we “Christians” believe we are fighting for over here, you might end up coming to the same conclusion, too.

And I hope it scares you as much as it scares me.

With the utmost of love (and caution), see you soon,


*Did you know that fear of the government and belief in conspiracy theories has risen exponentially ever since the advent of social media and the ability to form and pass information at the blink of an eye? Did you know that most information on social media is either blatantly false, not quite accurate, or full of misquotes and lack of vetting? Think about what your life was like before social media existed. If you were more trusting, less likely to get angry and more loving of your neighbor, it might be time to take a break.

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