His new project, Christian Nightmares Too, is a collection of stories and interviews with people who have been hurt by the church. For those of us still in the church, I think his work should be a powerful reminder to all of us of the pain we can and do inflict when we fail to be the people of God we claim to be.
What makes this story stick out in particular is that it is a personal story from the man behind Christian Nightmares, a glimpse behind the mask, so to speak, and a look at part of his own story of leaving the church.
I really hope you’ll take the time to read it and more importantly, that it might in some small way help you to become more sensitive to any spiritual abuse that might be taking place in your own community of faith and embolden you to act if it is.
I didn’t know Kevin that well. The truth is, I didn’t know anyone at my church that well. Church is where I learned to wear a mask, to hide my true thoughts and beliefs. It was a fire and brimstone Baptist church. “Where the Old-Fashioned Gospel Is Preached,” the bulletin boasted each week. The pastor regularly yelled, “God said it, I believe, that settles it!” from the pulpit to a roaring round of Amens. Throughout my childhood, I spent several hours a week there. So did Kevin.
Kevin’s mother sang in the choir, had lots of friends at church, was on committees, and hosted dinners at her house on a regular basis. She was an extreme germaphobe. Houseguests were always required to leave their shoes on her walkway outside before entering—even in the dead of winter. Both children and adults had to wash their hands before coming to the table. And if, say, your dinner roll accidentally slipped from your plate and onto her bleached-white tablecloth, she’d quickly snatch it up and drop it in the trash like a dead rat. She also rarely paid attention to what anyone else was saying and was the queen of nonsequitors. Someone might remark, “So the doctor put me on these new pills for my heart condition.” To which she’d reply, “Did anyone else notice that Ron and Betty Wilson weren’t sitting together at church this past Sunday?” Her husband, Kevin’s father, never said much. He traveled a lot for work, which seemed to be the secret to their marriage. Kevin never uttered much around his mother either, but he always sat close to her and seemed to long for her recognition, which he rarely got. He was always well groomed and would nod earnestly at her remarks. “Finish your meal, Kevin,” she’d say. “You’ve barely touched anything on your plate.