Chapter Two

When I was about 59 years old I read a book, a memoir, about a girl who grew up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was not a happy book. Her story is not important for the point of this part of my story, except for the fact that as an adult she desperately wanted out of that organization.

I have often discussed spiritual issues with my son and still do. So, after having finish the aforementioned book, I was talking to my son about it and I said, “she really wanted to get out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but she was so scared to leave. What if they were right, she thought, and if I leave, I’m damned to hell.” I don’t know why she thought this, or maybe I made that part up, because my understanding is that the Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in hell. Regardless, that is what I said to my son. And his response to me was something like this, “Isn’t that what Christianity says?”

I was flabbergasted, and had to admit, well, yes, this is what Evangelical Western Christianity says. That was my Christianity at the time. If you leave, if you get out, if you don’t believe the right thing the right way, you go to hell. More accurately, if you don’t have Jesus in you heart, you go to hell. If you haven’t said the sinners prayer, you go to hell. If you deny Christ, he will deny you.

This conversation gave me pause. That is it caused me to question deep held beliefs of my own. Even while reading the book, I could relate often with the negative religious aspect of her life experiences and felt the fear undergirding both her religion and mine. There were so many things the same about both and yet I knew that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were a “cult”, right? And I wasn’t in a cult, right? Why did it feel that way? That was scary. She felt trapped in her religion because of fear. Me too, a little bit. I realized I believed this way because I’m scared not to. I’m scared if I don’t, I’ll go to hell. My relationship with God at it’s most primal and basic level ultimately was based on fear. (And guilt, but that’s another chapter.) This was not my everyday mode of operation or what my head believed, but deep underneath everything else. So deep and buried for so long that it was barely recognized and rarely acknowledged by me, but none the less at the root.

My prayer of late, to know the love of God, is being answered, I hope, by unraveling this messy foundation upon which I have built a crumbling fortress of self protection against eternal rejection. I am discovering a more peaceful path in Eastern Christianity.

4 thoughts on “Chapter Two

  1. One of the things I have always loved about you is your natural inclination to be “real.” Transparent. In this blog you bravely continue to be known for who you really are deep down inside. I’m proud of you!

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  2. I probably should have been more specific and said Eastern Orthodox rather than Eastern Christianity, because Eastern Christianity is a more broad term referring to “Christian traditions and churches that developed distinctively over several centuries in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, Malabar coast of South India, and parts of the Far East. The term does not describe a single communion to a religious denomination. Some Eastern churches have more in common historically and theologically with Western Christianity than with one another.” [Wikipedia] The Eastern Christianity I am more familiar with is the Eastern Orthodox and I am barely scratching the surface of it. But Eastern Orthodox differs from Western or Roman Catholic and from Protestantism in aspects of how they view sin, the after life, and the atonement. Personally those three things are important to me because they effect the way I relate to God. Generally the Eastern Orthodox view presents a more kind God who is LOVE period! I am gaining a deeper understanding of the atonement and it is much more beautiful than I can fully know. I expect this deeper understanding to increase infinitely because of the infinite love of the one who accomplished it.

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