How Christian Fundamentalism robbed me of my mother

    By Gardenite | 10 April 2017
    Daily Kos

    I lost my mother at an early age. I don’t mean that she died or that I was separated from her by an accident. I mean that her Christian parenting made me understand that I meant nothing.

    My mother only attained an 8th grade education. Her family were Southern Methodists who demanded complete and immediate compliance from children, so she was steeped in fundamentalism from infancy. She was kept so far from reality that when she had her first period, she thought she was dying.

    Early into their marriage with two children, my father had his first stroke. They found a Berry aneurism. He was the first person in our small town to have surgery on his brain. Part of his skull was removed to relieve the pressure caused by the aneurism. I can’t imagine what would have happened to my family had he died. He learned that his condition could drastically shorten his life, so he became obsessed with providing for our futures.

    My mother stayed home to raise us, and to deal with her fears she turned to her church for comfort and advice. Their advice was to discipline us with beatings. Also called “breaking the child”, it is a tenet dear to the hearts of fundamentalists and sadists alike. For an example, read James Dobson’s book on Christian child rearing (he even relates as “good” an account of whipping his Dachshund for half an hour). Mother beat us with switches, belts and anything else in reach, but was usually careful not to leave lasting marks. We were also shamed and verbally abused. They told her to beat us until we stopped crying, that crying was a sign we were not yet repentant. She beat me until I couldn’t breathe. This is “breaking the child”.

    Sometimes mother was so furious that the beatings left her breathless. My older brother took the worst of it, he was mercilessly ridiculed and punished for having difficulty in reading. I guess he learned that Jesus’ love for dyslexics was especially harsh.

    I’ll never forget my fifth birthday. My excitement must have tried mother’s patience, because at some point I remember her losing it and screaming into my face “It’s all about you isn’t it?” I wandered into my brother’s closet and vomited. That’s all I remember about the day.

    The abuse continued all throughout my young childhood. Once after a particularly satisfying beating, mother bragged to a small group of the congregation that she had indeed beaten me till I no longer cried. Their response was to laugh and chide me about “surviving”. I was 7.

    Although my father spent most of his time working, he was involved enough to see that I didn’t like my mother’s church. When I was 9, he announced that after I turned ten, he would not allow her to force me to go. Since I already knew that none of my questions would be answered there, I gladly quit. I will always honor my father for keeping that promise.

    Mother never gave up her “right” as a parent to abuse us, and part of punishment was being made to watch as she beat the others. A victorious moment of my young life came when my younger brother was about seven. He stayed out longer than he should have, and when he came home mother confronted him in an absolute rage. She got a belt, and began to beat his bare back unmercifully. I blurted out “if you hit him again I will fight you”. I don’t know where it came from, but it meant that I would rather be beaten than ever again be forced to back her in her deluded dogma. Of course she was so arrogant as to threaten me again so that she could continue. When I repeated my threat she looked at me and hesitated. Then I said “Wait until Daddy sees what you have done”. My seven year old brother bore stripes on his back that would have resulted in judicial intervention, had a police report been made. At the age of 14, my precious brother shot and killed himself, something I will always lay at the feet of my mother and her loathsome christian friends.

    (Photo:  David Beale / Unsplash)
    (Photo: David Beale / Unsplash)

    The evening of my brother’s worst beating, my father came home to a house filled with anger and hatred that hung in the air like poison. When he pulled up my brothers shirt and saw the long red swollen welts across the child’s back he became very quiet. His only statement to my mother was, “Only degenerates beat their children. If I ever come home again and find marks on my children I will put marks on you.” At that moment I learned the value of the “good father”. It was one of the proudest moments of my life to stand up to her, and to see her shamed. Mother never paid for the damage she and her ilk caused, but she was careful never to push her rage off on us that way again. When she died I felt nothing. It is possible to beat the love of a child to death just as you can his body.

    The personal costs of my exposure to fundamental christianity have been many. Depression and anxiety are chiefest. I’ve suffered from up to 20 of the 25 characteristics of people with anxiety disorder, and many of the symptoms of PTSD. I have flashback like feelings if I hear a child screaming or witness child abuse. I’ve spent thousands of dollars trying to beat back suicidal feelings that came from my abuse.

    I have informed myself as to the cults, their goals, their ways of recruitment and colonizing innocents. I know where the money comes from for the propagation of these cults. I know who is on the take for the purchase of Christian advantages not given in the constitution. It is on the internet for the taking. Just google “Christian child abuse” and you will likely be overwhelmed by the broad array of atrocities committed under the sanctified cloak of this “social good”. While slogging through the mire of all this there has also been an incredible benefit in that I found the scholars of intelligence. With the wonderful Internet I discovered Richard Dawkins, Michael Goldberg, the brilliant Christopher Hitchins, Jack David Eller, Bertrand Russell, and so many more intelligent atheists, who can no longer remain carefully hidden by Christian influence. The religious right and their poison took my mother and some of my friends. They gave me despair and doubt that real love exists. The proponents of free thought gave me back the world of justice and hope.

    I have done everything in my power to remove any trace of this repulsive belief from my life. My husband is a loving, wise atheist who has stood with me against parental cruelty. I have seen to it that my children remained un-indoctrinated. It hasn’t been easy. This damaging belief system sends its minions out to our public schools to indoctrinate any child that will listen. All too often these are unfortunate children who are already in trouble; easy prey.

    Not all mothers are willing to reason with their children when abuse is so much quicker and more profound. My children never heard the words I heard, like “I’ll beat the shit out of you”. They never had to build a fantasy in which alien spirits took over their mother as I did, so that in the morning I could hug her without a trace of the revulsion I really felt. I still don’t understand how others can subscribe to such an abusive misogynistic patriarchal “belief system” that not only advocates violence against innocent children and women, but anyone who can be identified as “other”, an ideology that supports slavery, racism, and genocide. How long can we ignore the true nature of Abrahamic religion? This kind of thinking does not belong in a modern democracy. NO religion that advocates these things really accepts the tenets and laws of our nation. It is un-American.

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    5 COMMENTS

    1. Though my childhood wasn't anywhere that bad, my mother has always been quite catholic.
      She was raised in a very cold, guilty style, and she passed that on her 8 children.
      (Yup, she was "ordered by god" to overpopulate this planet.)

      She was always making us feel like crap, always complaining, never loving, caring.
      Oh, and of course towards strangers she always looked like some "mother Teresa".
      Helping the poor, being kind and patient to anyone but her own children.

      I'm not sure if it's the religion or some genes, but the damage is there and I guess it will remain.

      I've attempted suicide myself a few times. There's this everlasting depression inside of me.
      I don't see her since maybe 10 or more years, and I don't even intend to.

      Anyway, I'm glad I escaped this sort of religion.
      I'm a convinced atheist and I try to be a decent human being in my own terms.
      I rescued some stray kittens. Does that count?

      So, there's life after religious abuse.

      Have a nice day all of you.

    2. this was almost like reading my own story – except both my parents were abusive this way. james dobson should be tried for crimes against humanity and punished with the beatings he prescribed for countless innocent children. it makes me wish there were a god and a hell for people like him, death is too good an escape for such a sick, evil monster.

    3. I was raised by parents much like the mother described here. I hate this culture of church-sanctioned child abuse. This is not what Jesus taught. This is not the way he lived. He said, " Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

    4. Your mother never truly knew Christ. She may claim to be a Christian but, her actions are completely incompatible with the Christian Worldview. For example:
      “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)
      I would very much say that abuse is an inability to provide for your household’s emotional needs.
      There was so much wrong with your mother’s “Christian” actions that her behavior is the very antithesis of Christ’s teachings. The same way one is not a car if they are in a garage, one is not a Christian just because they go to church.

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