When you’re black and growing up in the South, it is mandatory that you grow up in the church. Church on Sundays, evening service, guest churches, choir rehearsal, usher board rehearsal, Easter services, repeat Christmas plays using the same old Wise men every year, Bible Study, and after church socializing, admiring Sunday hats, designer stockings and your Sunday’s best (outfit).
Seriously, if you’re black from the South, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
That was everything I remember. At 38 years old, I can’t tell you I remember learning a single thing in the Bible or through a single sermon. I will tell you what I learned in church.
- About sex
- How to judge and be judged
- If you mention God, Hallelujah, Amen, Prayer, Jesus, and any similar religious word, people seem to pretend as if nothing else matters.
You see, as a kid, I had zero interest in church. It was always mandatory to go but I never understood why I had to be there. I never believed in science fiction or fake things, was I really supposed to believe some white man walked on water, turned water into wine, or was born to a virgin?
I have a confession: At 8 years old, I was a fraud. I completely remember discussing joining church with others my age. When we were going to do it. How we were going to do it and who would do it first. You see, black churches expect children to know what they are doing when they stand up, walk in front of the congregation and profess to live right, do right and be right. A child.
Anyway, I did what was expected. Got baptized, joined the choir, the Usher Board and whatever else they allowed kids to do where I went, it surely wasn’t much! While walking in that faith, after “giving my life to God” eventually pew conversations turned from who is coming to Bible Study to who is dating who and expected to sleep with whom. Conversations that taught me more than at home or the hallways of school did. Conversations that obviously took the place of extreme boredom and fairy tales.
I can still picture two little old ladies that would sit in the choir stand and appear to discuss everyone that walked into the church. I don’t remember them ever singing but I remember the look of judgmental disgust on their faces. I remember seeing older women always “turning their noses up” at the kids and teenagers. I remember dinner serving lines of women saying ugly things towards others, never saying them to the person they were discussing. I just remember the feeling of always being judged.
One thing I don’t remember discussing was how to use a condom cause I dang sure gave them old ladies something to talk about. And talk they did. Talk everyone did. I felt the most shame about my pregnancy and childbirth through family and members in the church. From people who preached the word, pretended to live by the word, and used the word to justify any and everything.
Every year on Mother’s Day, they would do all these recognitions for mothers. Most children, most grandchildren, oldest, mother who came the farthest, mother with red on. The silliest of the silly awards. Then the one I embarrassingly accepted year after year, “Youngest Mother.” Who in their right mind thought this was appropriate? Someone intent on embarrassing me? Someone intent on making me feel even worse for my situation? Someone who wanted me to stand up in front of all these judgmental people and continue to be judged? Apparently no one ever saw my hurt and shame.
Today social media gives us increased opportunity to be someone we’re not…or someone we want to be. You can curse on Wednesday, sleep with John and Shawn on Thursday, go clubbing on Saturday, and get up Sunday morning and pretend as if the previous days no longer matter. Then repeat the next week. As long as we ask everyone for prayers and thank God publicly every morning, all seems to be forgiven. If our prayers are supposed to be between us and “God,” is it appropriate to pray for likes?
I know, I know, when we are from a certain family or community, it is expected to be holy and righteous. I remember going off to college, trying to hold onto my roots (whatever that was) and joining the local church. I remember family and church members being so proud and accepting, almost forgiving. I also remember feeling like a fraud again.
You mean to tell me you only accept me if I am a bible toting, prayer requesting, tithes paying, white dress wearing fraud?
My truth allows me the ability to be myself without the pressure and memories of something I am not comfortable with. I choose to be without a faith, but with an understanding that I am not who I am without a higher power granting me unlimited blessings. There is something greater than anything I could do by myself. For that, I am extremely grateful that the experiences I did have, have contributed to who I am now.
Walk in your own faith but don’t judge or talk down to others because they are not on that same journey with you.
I too grew up in the church. When I moved into my own place I stopped going to church. My mother would always complain because I didn’t go to church. I told her that when I was ready to go to church, I know where its at. I was 25 at the time. I was partying too much to be going to church just for appearances. About five years ago, I decided I wanted to attend church regularly. I attended the church where I was married, my husband’s church. I’m comfortable there. I can wear a pair of jeans or sweat pants if I want to. Last year I decided to join and become a member. At 44, I was ready to commit by time and energy to church. Church isn’t for everyone and I understand that. Everyone has different views about religion. I’m at the age now where I truly appreciate going to church. I read my bible regularly. If I don’t attend church on Sunday, I feel lost during the week. But, that’s just me. Continue to be the person that makes you Happy.
I too grew up in the church. When I moved into my own place, I stopped going to church. My mother would always complain because I didn’t go to church. I told her that when I was ready to go to church, I knew where it was. About five years ago, I was ready to go to church. I started going to the church that I was married in. Last year at the age of 44, I joined that church. I joined my home church at the age of 13 but I didn’t fully know what I was doing. Now, I truly understand what it means. I attend church now because I want to. I read my bible regularly. I feel lost if I miss Sunday service. People view religion in different ways. Attending church is not for everyone. Now at the age of 45, I feel like I have to attend church on Sunday mornings. But, that’s just me.
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That is so true, we all view religion indifferent ways. It’s a beautiful thing that we are able to. We should be free to discover our own faith or spirituality without pressure from those who think we should have it just because it is expected. Thanks for reading!
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The quote, “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know”, IS THE TRUTH! I am sharing it. Though BLUNT, You are filled with WISDOM.
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I think I chose to be blunt a long time ago when I realized I didn’t want to live lies to protect others. Sometimes the truth is in our discomfort. Thanks for sharing and thanks for the support.
I am glad that I finally got a chance to read this! It makes me understand some things more about your view of “church people”. Although sometimes I can’t imagine life without my house of worship, the members of the church and the mission that God gave me….I hear these type feelings a lot. I NEED TO HEAR THEM. As painful as it is to hear..It teaches me what NOT TO DO. I pray every day to keep me real, keep me pure, keep me humble! There are STILL a lot of imitators out there. But, there are thousands who take it serious and look down only to pick up!! Wayyyy past my 8pm bedtime so I hope this makes sense.
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Lol…..yeah, those are my main issues or experiences. People like yourself are definitely needed for those who are seeking that path….you give me hope, I’m just no longer seeking to walk that path
I about fell out my seat reading this! So many memories and best believe I do remember so much of this. It’s funny as I was thinking back how I was expected to go being that I lived next door to the church and my great-grandfather started it. I also remember when I left for college I felt free from tradition and for years told myself nobody making me go to church, I’m grown. Lol. In the end, to this day, I appreciate the entire experience because it was truly a learning experience especially how not to treat people since I saw so much of what you saw and been through and that we choose our own path. Great read, Chica….
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Lol….I cracked up laughing, having flashbacks of it. Thanks for reading, laughing and taking this trip down memory lane with me. It’s amazing how experiences growing up in the church are all so different, yet we each take whatever makes us better or stronger. I don’t think I’d ever be as open had I never been so hurt in my experiences