My phone chirps with a message. I smile when I see the name of the sender. She’s a young mom with two young children and another one on the way and our friendship is a sweet and honest one that often leaves me feeling motherly and proud of her. Usually her texts bring laughter or cute pictures of her beautiful chubby baby girl smiling out of my phone. As I start to read her text, I can feel the smile sliding off of my face. From the exclamation marks and happy face with hearts emoji sprinkled between her words, I can tell that she was expects a response along the lines of “That’s fantastic! How beautiful! I’m so happy for him! ❤ ❤ ❤ ” I actually start to send this completely fraudulent endorsement but my God spark whispers in my mind before I hit “send.” “No,” the sparks says, “that’s not how you really feel. Only speak the truth.” I balk…If I respond in truth, my text will say “That breaks my heart…I am sorry this happened. 😦 ” I can’t do that…she’s so excited and it would be easier to just go along with it and let her keep feeling her groovy little groove. My truth will fuck up her groove. I just can’t be this young beautiful woman’s groovy groove fucker upper. I respond with just three hearts and no words…a safe loving response that deftly bridges the situational chasm between my blunt truth and her groovy groove.
“My son has been attending vacation Bible school this week and he told the preacher he wants to accept Jesus Chris as his personal lord and savior!!! 🙂 ❤ 🙂 The kids are having a special program at the end of this week and he’s getting baptized as part of it!!! 🙂 “
The vacation bible school her son is attending is the same one I attended when I was his age in our small hometown. I remember the pressure to please all of the adults in the program and “graduate” with the other “good kids” by reciting the “personal lord and savior” catchphrase and and getting dunked in water during the end of the week program. My childhood church had a hot tub in a room hidden behind the wall above the choir seats directly behind the pulpit in the sanctuary. When it was time to baptize, the doors to this secret room would be rolled open to either side; effectively creating a stage. And, like my friend’s son will be later this week, I was on that stage for the most special part of the special program at the end of the week.
I remember standing in line on the stairs leading up to the “stage” with the other graduating sinners from my bible school class. I was actually excited in the promise that I could be “washed of all of my sins” and finally be a good girl who made my mom proud and didn’t have dirty secrets inside. It seemed like such an easy thing to do…say the words, hold my breath, get wet and exit the hot tub a good little girl who didn’t feel dirty and ashamed. I wish now I could go back and snatch myself out of that line and run as far away from that church as I could get. I wish that I could go back and tell the preacher and the do-gooder vbs teachers to fuck off for their packaged ritualized salvation without regard to the risk of selling false hope to children. I wish that I could forget how, after emerging from the water and climbing the stairs out of that warm chlorinated water, I felt so ashamed and guilty. I wish I could go back and hug my little self and say “It’s ok, honey. These assholes are just putting on a show and you’re just a prop in their show…don’t take it personally. You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t make that water dirty. ”
Over the years as I’ve healed and sought a true relationship with my creator, I’ve become increasingly intolerant of religion and the ugliness in this world being created in the name of religion. I’m enraged by the sanctified and judgmental assholes who spout hate, exclusion and selfishness from a false platform of faith in God while recklessly proselytizing young children through the lure of free babysitting. I’m sickened by the thought of children being told to simply show up for a week of pizza, games and bible lessons and be handed salvation like a diploma once the week is over. I hate the emptiness of that promise to children in a world that is so entirely fucked up. From personal experience I know how badly false promises and canned gospel can really fuck up a kid who’s already fucked up.
My thinking I was so dirty that I tainted my baptismal water as a young girl was a fairly constant point of discussion with my therapist over the past several years. It was a revelation that came from a discussion about my confusion over faith and redemption and a key that turned a lock in my subconscious; shining a light on my deep longstanding battle with the demons of shame and self-hatred. I’m so grateful for this light and for the chance to overcome the damage careless religion inflicted on my soul as a child in order to find a true and healing walk of faith. I’m so glad that after more than 35 years after my dip in the hot tub, I’ve finally managed to wring that dirty water out of my soul.