Mar. 11th, 2015

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Give me three steps, give me three steps Mister
Give me three steps to the door
Give me three steps, give me three steps Mister
and you won't see me no more.
There are people who will tell you that the Christian Church(es) never change.  If I'm in a good mood I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and try to figure out if they're naive, moronic, or lying.  I lived through the 180-degree transformation of one of America's largest and oldest Protestant denominations from their days in the early 1970s as the second most liberal church in America into a leading player in the reactionary American Fundamentalist Movement in the 1980s.  As a devout, Jesus-loving  child, I sat on my pew and watched the faith tradition I loved utterly demolished from the inside, to be replaced by an evil twin who championed the opposite of everything I had taught while all around me people laughed, cheered, and patted themselves on the back for the "good" job that they had done.

To say it left me a bit sanguine is like saying a tidal wave is a bit wet.

Most people today are astonished to hear that the Southern Baptist Convention was ever liberal; the Fundamentalists have done a very good job of burying the body and getting rid of the evidence.  But a few people have told their stories of the Takeover; this is mine.  It's about the church that used to be, the church that it became, and the three steps (not to mention a lot of pokes, shoves and outright trips) that led me to leave.

It's also my attempt to detoxify myself from the whole poisonous experience.  I have every right to be hurt, angry, and bitter over what happened.  But I choose to lay my burden down here and not carry it any longer.  To allow it to continue to hurt me would be to let the bad guys win, and I don't believe in that.

While I know many of my peers became atheists as a result, I would ask commentators to refrain from wholesale theist-bashing in the comments.  I'm all too aware of how hard it has become to find a church where one can have a positive religious experience in the wake of the Fundamentalist Movement, but I'm not yet ready to completely give up on the concept.

Shall we get started?

Part 1:  Recollection, Remembrance, and Discovery
Part 2:  That Old Time Liberal Religion
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Introduction

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red, brown, yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

In trying to write down my memories, I find that the earliest part of the story has changed the most.  There is what I recalled, what I remembered, and what I later found out about.

I recall only scattered memories of the late 1960s from around 2 1/2 years (when my adoptive sister was brought home) to 3 1/2 years, leading up to a moment a few months before my fourth birthday when I realized I was recalling more details, and would in general recall things from then on.

I later found out I had a rotten start.  I was adopted at birth by an unrelated couple looking for a baby to save their second failed marriage (each) and give them social credits.  My adoptive mother had been rejected as an adoptive parent in her first marriage, and it took three years for my adoptive parents to pass a home study before adopting me (average time is three - six months).

Apparently she couldn't handle a baby.  I found out later she'd bitten and pinched me when I cried, and her own mother had moved in and actually taken care me until her death when I was around 3.  I don't recall any of that, but found out about it later.  The only thing I recall of Granny is going to see her as she lay dying in the hospital, and looking at a figure under an oxygen tent.

After that Mom took a low-level clerical job, even though we were debt free and fairly well off, so she would require a maid to look after my adoptive baby sister and I during the day.   Dorothy was efficient, but neither she nor Mom was into cuddling or other shows of affection.

What do I remember?  I remember being very unhappy and not knowing why.  I remember being alone almost all the time.  My working class parents bought me the toys they thought were appropriate, but made no attempt to learn anything about early childhood development except through hearsay.  This made their purchases somewhat scattershot and focused on what was cheap and trendy.  It also meant no puzzles until much later, few manipulatives, and never, ever any of those nasty building blocks.  There were dolls, but dolls always upset me.  I didn't know how to play with them except to treat them the way I was treated, and I didn't want to do that to anything.  I didn't tell anyone, but I never saw a doll without wanting to cry my eyes out until I was over 30.

(When I was older my adoptive mother complained that I had loved her completely and we had been perfectly happy until I turned two when I suddenly hated her, and she still had no idea why.  You see what I mean about her knowledge of childhood development.)

(And that didn't gel with the later information I found out about her abusing me as an infant.)

Dad had a traveling job, and was only home on weekends.  Mom worked during the day, and Dorothy was busy with my baby sister and cleaning the house.  We weren't allowed outside to play much.  As for entertainment, video games didn't exist yet, and only my parents were allowed to touch the TV.


Of course there was another player in this drama -- me.  I appear to have always been an INTP.  Just as fish are born to swim and cats are born to hunt, INTPs are born to 1) concentrate, 2) sift through large amounts of data, 3) notice discrepancies, and 4) solve puzzles.

I spent most of my preschool years alone in my room with nothing that really engaged my mind. I was an INTP; I had a lot of mind to engage and not much inside it at the time.  But being an INTP who was not yet literate, I found it easy to concentrate on a single thought until I fell into a trance and entered an altered state of consciousness.  Through trance I met other beings and saw things that did not exist in the here-and-now.  It's incredibly hard to do that now because there are so many thoughts in my head that I have to shut down, but back then it was relatively easy.

I didn't tell  anyone.  I didn't have the vocabulary and nobody cared enough to ask me what I had done that day.  Nothing was broken, so nothing got their attention.  I recall one time when I tried to make them realize how unhappy I was.  We were going somewhere, and I slipped unto the floor of the back seat of the car (seat-belts were optional and infant car seats were nonexistent) and began pulling the hair out of my head in huge chunks, hoping they would ask me why.  They didn't.  They just yelled at me for making a mess.  The hair never grew back, and I have an elongated forehead to this day.  But it convinced me of the futility of self-mutilation as an attention-getting ploy, which kept me out of a world of trouble in my teenage years, so it was a win in the long run.

Anyhow, thanks to my mystical experiences I was not as lonely as I could have been, and I became a lifelong theist.  Those experiences would become a great source of comfort to me growing up and provide a solid foundation for my religious education.

Part 2:  That Old Time Liberal Religion

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