Monday, May 10, 2010

Fear and God IV: Suffer Not the Witch to Live

The religious teachings of my family disallowed for the paranormal. As if being told the horrific old testament stories as literal history from my infancy wasn’t gruesome and damaging enough to a sensitive psyche, the punishing and judgmental God who ordered genocide, child-killing, and the wholesale slaughter of those whose cultural and religious practices marked them different also commanded the brutal execution of those who practiced witchcraft and spoke to the dead.  Anyone who performed paranormal acts or who had extrasensory knowledge but wasn’t specifically sanctioned by God was to be killed.

Would I have actually have risked my life to continue seeing the spiritual world I saw?  Did I come to block from my vision the spirits, the auras, the “ghosts”, because I knew I risked spiritual annihilation?  Would I have been stoned for a witch, if not literally, then metaphorically with punishment, shunning, and prayers for my release from Satan’s grasp? 

Oh, yes.  I’m sure of it.  The struggle with writing this post has been to recognize what it has cost me to live for the last forty-plus years in denial of my ability to live in the thin places—seeing what others can’t see, knowing what no one told me, feeling emotions that aren’t mine, knowing events that haven’t yet happened. 

God doesn’t work that way anymore, I was told.  God doesn’t give visions, send prophecies, or work miracles (unless it was the occasional answer to prayer for the ill or overwhelmed).  There is no such thing as a “ghost”.  Only Satan uses these tricks in this modern day. The unspoken corollary was that if I kept insisting that I saw, heard, knew, changed things, I must be under the influence of the Evil One.  

From at least as early as three years old, I was dreaming prophecy.  By four, I was confronted with the unspeakable truth—that I knew what my parents said couldn’t be. My parents, well-regarded as godly people in our community, my father a pastor, assured me that my dreams were “just dreams, they’re not real”, that “there’s no such thing as ghosts”.  My mother tried to prove false my dream about my babysitter’s injury after a car accident.

I dreamed that the doctors had put an eye in the back of her head at the hospital.  My mother took me to visit when she returned home.  The babysitter’s mother answered the door with “but she DOES have an eye in the back of her head now. Come, see!” We entered and the woman lifted the hair on the back of my babysitter’s head to reveal a line of heavy black stitches in a shaved spot still bloody and swollen.  It did look exactly like a large closed eye. The proof my mother had hoped to demonstrate instead proved her wrong and my dream the truth.

In that moment of screaming hysteria, I knew that I was evil.  It was much easier to believe in my own evil, bolstered as that belief was by church and family teachings on the utter wickedness of the human heart and the moral depravity of all mankind, than to accept that my parents and the fundamentalist evangelical church might be wrong about God.  According to them, the God who was so wholly Good could not abide Evil, anyone who persisted in evil must be wiped from the face of the earth. 

For the rest of my childhood, I prayed for forgiveness, for salvation, to be relieved of this terrible burden of sin. Lying in my bed at night, I developed long rituals to hold the Fear of God’s wrath from consuming me.  I became convinced that while God may despise my evil self, Jesus loved me.  I sang to myself through the night “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”.  After all, the Bible had convinced me of my terrible evil, I clung to any assurance that kept me from the Hell I so obviously deserved.  Not that it was much of a salvation, I experienced hell every night in the dark while I wondered if tonight God would let Satan have me.

Despite my best efforts, though, if was clearly apparent to me that God had not delivered me from my visions, my clairvoyance, my empathic knowledge.  I was still plagued by the evil. By nine I was horribly near-sighted, much more so than genetics might allow, I believe I was struggling so hard to avoid seeing the unacceptable that I was becoming blind. I tried my best to keep it to myself but things just seemed to leak out when I was talking to people.  And they came in my dreams.


  1. Wow. I am so sorry to read that your parents did not celebrate the reality that God spoke to you in dreams, etc.

    I wish you'd have grown up in the charismatic church. You'd surely be a honored as a prophetess, maybe even have become a pastor (Billye Brim comes to mind.)

    Reminds me of "Free" by Ginny Owens -"bearing gifts as if they're burdens, this is how it's been, till the day you pounded on my heart's door, and you shouted joyfully 'you're not a slave anymore!..."

    I hope you find fullness of joy in your walk with God every day. n_n


    *gifts I bore as burdens* certainly describes how I've lived my life so far. I hope the second half of my life will be lived in gratitude for who and what I am rather than in fear and loathing of myself.

    Ironically, I did attend an Assembly of God my first year in college, after having been in the Plymouth Brethren for several years before that with my family. Wow, talk about culture shock! It was a "name it, claim it" group with interests in shepherding, both things that left me feeling odd. But it was the whole speaking in tongues as a baptism of spirit to prove your salvation that ran me out of the church.

    After a year of having my membership in the God club doubted (by both the AG church who said I didn't speak in tongues because I lacked faith and by the elders of my PB church because I was dabbling in that satanic-influenced theology), I started attending the popular feel-good church that the cute fraternity boys went to.

    Like any other addict, seems like every time I join a group (church or otherwise) I seem to find myself caught up in fundamentalist "ours is the only right way" people.

  3. Plymouth Brethren? They are a curse to the body of Christ. My brother-in-law belongs to that cult.

    A Plymouth Brethren came up with the doctrine of dispensationalism and also the rapture. What a horrible person that man was- Dabney someone. You can find it on wiki. So, in a way, Plymouth Brethren invented fundamentalism.

    Oh vey. What ever happened to Jesus in all this?


    John Nelson Darby is associated with formulating dispensationalism in the mid-1800's. Yes, he was PB, but there were a whole lot of people jumping on that bandwagon--Moody, Scofield, Torrey, Gray, and more--who weren't at all associated with the Brethren. Christian Fundamentalism as a movement is historically American and dates from about 1870 (ironically, the Evangelicals started proclaiming biblical inerrancy within the same decade as Catholics claimed paper infallibility). It garnered it's name from a work begun at a Presbyterian conference in 1909 and further financed by Lyman Stewart of Union Oil fame through what became Biola University in Los Angeles.

    So I can't point my finger too rigidly at the PB. More a sweeping gesture that includes a wide range of denominations, schools, and preachers :)

    But your final point "where is Jesus?" is key. Nothing Jesus taught or did (or even what we think he taught or did, since it was all written down later) was anything like so divisive, exclusive, judgmental, punitive as what is promoted in these fundamentalist Evangelical circles.

    As far as we can tell, Jesus taught very little doctrine but lots of compassion, service, grace, and boundary-breaking inclusiveness. And that is really missing from doctrinally-heavy Chrisitianity.

    Wow, I've gone on so long, this comment has practically become a post of its own! I'll have to recycle some of this into a new post I've been meditating on.

  5. Ah, I have lucked out in so many ways. I don't know how or why, but I have had good fortune in that the charismatic church I started out in did not believe that speaking in tongues was necessary for salvation, though they did believe anyone could who wanted to do so. (Yeah, not...)

    Also, what other people deride as name it, claim it prosperity message was to me a lifeline! I went from homeless/living with other druggies to homeless/living with families to renting a room on my own from a family to actually getting my name on a lease! Hardly a Rolls Royce or a mansion, but it was huge for me to believe that God would meet my needs and bless the work of my hands.

    And the cognitive behavioral therapy aka renewing my mind to the Word of God- it changed my life! I saw Christ in me, the hope of glory- not just loser me. I discovered that when I failed, I confessed my sins to Jesus and He would cleanse me FROM ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS! Loser no more!

    I think it all depends on where you are and what you need, or I am just one lucky duck. When things went sour and the doctrine got really goofy at the charismatic church, I got out.

    But I still owe those people soooo much, and most of what freaks other people out (the practice of being "slain in the Spirit", laying on of hands, etc.) I never saw as anything more than a cultural practice of that church, just like altar calls and the dismally depressing way of taking communion that the Baptists practice.

    My high school sociology class has proven invaluable in understanding the people groups that make up American Christianity. =)

  6. How does one edit a comment? I meant to say "papal infallibility" and not "paper infallibility".

    My problems with "name it, claim it" are not with the theology/philosophy itself but with how it gets used to separate the "haves" from the "have nots" with a moral superiority.

    About the time "The Secret" came out, I was in school for applied kinesiology and we talked about the ideas as a life/business enhancement technique. I quickly realized it was the same basic stuff I'd heard at the AG church but in the school group there was no judgment about being better or holier or more loved by God if you had more material well-being.

    It had been explicit in both the Assembly of God I attended and in my grandparents' United Brethren church that material well-being was a measure of personal/spiritual merit.

    It is a philosophy that can quickly become a "blame the victim" discrimination. The basic how-to of it, though, as a way to clarify and attain goals (material or otherwise) is solid.

  7. I was just heading to bed and found this post. {{Sandra}} So sorry that your family treated you like this!

    Aside, I think the topic of my next (well, one of will be awhile) will intrigue you. From a wholly Christian perspective, it will prolly be a little edgy and uncomfortable for most. Maybe even me but it's something the Lord has been showing me a lot and I'm anxious to wrap up my current WIP and get started!