While I appreciate and accept other people’s paths in life, religion is not for me whatsoever. Even when I was a small child, I had interest in the occult, which major religions seem to despise.
If you’ve followed me long enough or read my first book, Unheard, you’ll know that religion was a big part of my childhood that led to the ultimate demise of the relationship with my biological father.
This is an excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – as told from a child’s point of view:
Grandmaw got Daddy to go to a big church called Calvary where Aunt Marylou went, and he became born again. That meant that he loved Jesus, who was the only person to show him how Daddy was getting to Heaven. They told me I should be born again too, but I decided that I would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. The spirit part scared me, because I thought that God’s son was a ghost. One night I was baptized in a big bathtub at the big Calvary church in front of a big audience. That’s when they handed me a microphone and I told them I love Jesus, even though I wasn’t sure I trusted Him, because I was afraid that I wouldn’t go to Heaven with the rest of my family if I didn’t do exactly as He said in the Bible. I think that water must have been dirty because I got sick a few days later. Maybe it was because my sins were still washing away. I wasn’t sure I liked the Calvary church because it was boring and they made us read like they did in school instead of color and do crafts like some of the other churches we went to. Besides, they made me feel stupid when I didn’t know what some of the Bible meant.
I stopped liking the Sunday school after they asked us what we knew about Abraham. I raised my hand. I knew all about Abraham from school.
“Abraham was the sixteenth president of the United States!” I proudly announced.
“No,” the teacher scrunched up his face. “We’re talking about Abraham from the Bible.”
I guess he thought I was a dumb kid because he never called on me again. I liked the story about the president Abraham better anyway because he freed the slaves.
I was an impressionable child that believed what adults told me as truth, because that was what I was taught (even when my gut said not to). There was another portion of Christianity that I was exposed to but thought it was not only horse shit, but outright nuts – the Pentecostal church. This is another excerpt from my book Unheard:
Grandmaw stopped going to the big church because they asked for too much money and started going to the new small Pentecostal church next to her house. I wasn’t sure I liked that one much either, because the music was old and boring, and so were most of the people. Most of the congregation was a bunch of people raising their hands and talking in a funny language they said was their tongue, even though I thought my tongue looked the same as theirs. The preacher would call up people to the front of the church and start yelling at them and push them on the head until they fell over raising their hands in the air and crying for Jesus. All of that yelling made me want to vomit sometimes because it scared me. The only part I liked about going to that church was meeting other kids and when Grandmaw gave me mints out of her purse when I sat next to her. The other part I liked was when they had food after the service because I was always starving by the time it was over.
Once I educated myself and had a mind of my own, I realized that religion is complete and utter bullshit that was invented by men to control the masses and take property from single/widowed women they deemed as “witches.” One college class I enjoyed most was World Religion, where I grew to learn about and respect other religions, which I feel pretty much all have the same basic beliefs and values. I gravitated towards Buddhism, Paganism, and anything considered “occult” because none of them were religions; they were ways of life and not defined by rules like Christianity or any of the other major world religions. Plus, they made sense.
One of the last times I visited my father was when I was in college. My daughter and I went to my stepmother’s mother’s house for New Year’s Day dinner. During the visit, my father asked me about what I’m doing in college, and at the time I was planning to become an art therapist, but first my plan was to become a high school teacher before working my way into art therapy. Both he and my stepmother discouraged me from teaching in public schools (my stepmother homeschooled all of their children), but I was determined to do whatever I wanted. (This was in the late 90s when schools aren’t what they are today.) After explaining how art and psychology helps people, my father basically told me psychology was a bunch of “hogwash” or whatever Southern term he came up with. That hurt me more than anything, because he has never helped me as an adult, nor have I ever asked, and I was doing my best raising a child and going to college and working on my own. He gave me no credit whatsoever. Everything I said made me wrong in his eyes. I was never good enough, no matter what I did for either him or myself. His words also made me angry, and they saw it. And then things got really fucking weird.
At that point, my stepmother said, “Let’s pray for Susanna!” … and they put me in a chair in the center of her mother’s living room and tried to “take the devil out” of me. By that, I mean they were praying loudly and speaking in tongues and putting their hands on my head and saying things like, “Let Susanna believe in God and let Susanna believe in Jesus! Rebuke the devil in the name of the Lord!”
I was pissed and wanted to get up and scream, “What in the holy HELL are you people doing?!!” But I also didn’t want to scare the small children, because it would “prove” to them that the devil was surely inside of me, and I didn’t want to be a part of the children witnessing “the devil” that only exists in their small minds. They had never even asked me what my beliefs were, and at the time, they were probably a little different than they are today.
My daughter was probably about eight at the time, and I believe she was scared for me and scared of them. It was confusing and weird and a total WTF moment. She and I have a bond like no one else, because it was just her and I for several years. I was fuming mad that they humiliated me like this in front of my young siblings (around her age) and my child. I left so angry, and I vaguely recall my daughter and I speaking about it on the way home, and she said that was the weirdest thing she’d ever seen. No shit. To this day, it’s one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced. This was only the beginning of the end of my relationship with my father – by his choice (although there are other theories I’ll write about later).