For those of us who had to undergo a fundie detox at some point or another in our lives, the following should ring quite true:
MPT: Can you tell me a little about your childhood as it relates to faith?
CN: Hmm… as it relates to faith… I don’t know if I ever was a true believer, I was just too afraid not to believe. I was completely controlled by fear. So many of the sermons in church ended with, “If you were to walk out of here today and get hit by a car, do you know where you’d spend eternity?” I didn’t know, and it was petrifying! If they were right about this place called Hell—a place of complete and utter darkness, a never-ending lake of fire where lost souls are tortured for all eternity—then I was screwed if I was wrong. I didn’t have the guts to let my chips ride on that one, especially at such a young age. I think I tried to talk myself into believing, and I recited the Sinner’s Prayer, just to be on the safe side. But because in my gut I didn’t really believe, I was constantly doubting myself, and incredibly insecure and anxious. And then the pastor would regularly preach things like, “You say that you’re saved, but are you really saved? Did you really mean it when you asked the Lord into your heart? Are you really living for him?” It totally messed with my head. I’d think to myself, Well, I said the prayer . . . I thought that was all I had to do! I’m pretty sure I believed it in that moment . . . But what if I didn’t? I became really paranoid and terrified of death. And I must have asked Jesus into my heart thousands of times: Before I’d get into a car or on a plane (just in case we got into an accident), and every night before I’d go to bed (just in case, for some reason, I died in my sleep), to name just a few scenarios. It was crazy! But it was very real to me at the time. Needless to say, it didn’t do much to build up my confidence and self-esteem, and it shaped my personality and worldview in some pretty negative ways. It’s taken me years to reverse this, and I’m still not all the way there yet.
MPT: Did your church experiences involve any true-to-life “Christian nightmares”? Care to share a couple?
CN: There was one Good Friday, when I was about 10 or 11-years-old, where I was forced to eat a heaping tablespoon of horseradish to get a better sense of “how much Christ suffered for you on that cross!” It was presented as “the least you can do considering all Jesus did for us!” That was pretty nightmarish, and ended with me hugging a toilet bowl.
I was also petrified of The Rapture, this idea that, at any moment, the Trumpet of the Lord could sound and all of the believers would get wisped up into Heaven, but that I might get Left Behind. Not only was I really scared and depressed by the idea that most of the people I knew might suddenly vanish and I’d be left to fend for myself, but I also thought that if that happened, then I would know that it was all true after all, and that my only chance of joining my friends and family up in Heaven would be to reject the Mark of the Beast, and then probably be beheaded (we’ve all seen those movies in church, right?). I became obsessed with The Rapture, really paranoid about it. There were many times when I thought that it had happened. I’d be talking with my mom in the kitchen or something, then turn around and she’d be gone, and I’d think to my self, Oh my God, this is it—it’s happened! And I’d yell out, “Mom? MOM?!!!” Of course, she’d just gone downstairs to fold laundry or something . . . I can laugh about it now, but I didn’t then.
Read the entire interview at Jesus Needs New PR.