I am by no means an expert on the Bible. My failures in Christianity began when I attended a private Baptist school. Most kids had their row on the Bible verse memorization chart filled with star stickers. In all of 2nd grade, I had only managed to memorize one verse. I remember looking at the shiny star stickers with longing. I wanted to do well. I wanted to be good. But because of an undiagnosed learning difference, I had a very difficult time with things that were simple for most kids, including memorization. And because I seemed normal enough to my peers, parents, and teachers, I was just seen as lazy and odd.
To this day, my memory is a spotty beast. For example, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien are my favorite books, and I also enjoy the movie adaptations. I am a fangirl of the highest order, yet if you ask me to recall the stories in great detail, I am terrible at it. All of this is to say that I am not a source of authority on Christian theology. I am, however, an expert on fundamentalist Christian culture. I grew up with parents who were active in going to church, and taught me from a very young age that the main reason to believe in Christ as my personal Lord and savior was to avoid eternal damnation. If you ask them about this, they would say that they also told me about the aspect of grace and agape love in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. But to a small child with limited understanding, the threat of punishment stood out like a drag queen at a Baptist church picnic. The punishment aspect was also emphasized because that is all my parents demonstrated through their works.
Because of their authoritarian parenting style, my exposure to events that caused me to have lasting CPTSD, as well as my undiagnosed learning differences, I remember being punished often. I have no memories of grace or unconditional love being demonstrated in my family, or in my church. Any praise or recognition I received was strictly for making my parents look good in the eyes of others. The punishment aspect was also emphasized because that is all my parents demonstrated through their works. So naturally, my understanding of Christianity’s core tenets was skewed.
I do still consider myself a follower of Christ, but sadly I feel like I am this way in spite of Christianity, not because of it. God answered my prayers to overcome the overwhelming effects of CPTSD and my stigmatized neurodiversity — he sent me healing through great friends, both Christian and not, an amazing husband, and my wonderful children. He helped me to realize that I am worthy of his love and grace just the way that I am, and that I no longer have to fear criticism or punishment from the religious.
The verse that earned me my lone star in 2nd grade was John 3:16.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. NIV
If there was any one verse that would inform my readers of my spiritual perspective, it would be that. I am driven by my belief in God’s unconditional love and amazing grace, and by calling out the hypocrisy of fundamentalist Christian culture, I hope to peel away the rusted facade of Christianity in order to reveal a real and personal relationship with God to the world.