Today’s topic comes not only from my own personal life but also from the lives of many people. In the United States, and I’m sure in many other places across the world, there is a high number of spiritual trauma. This post was inspired by two things: an Instagram post and a podcast that I listened to.
I come from three generations of Pentecostals. My great grandmother and my great grandfather decided to take part in the Assemblies of God in the 1950’s. By the late 1960’s to early 1970’s, my great grandparents were ex-communicated from their local church because they adopted the oneness theology that a small portion of Pentecostals believe. In this oneness theology, there is usually a parallel adaptation of strict Wesleyan holiness. This movement in Pentecostalism is quite harsh and leaves a lot of people with trauma.
When I decided to adopt Christianity, Oneness Pentecostalism was my vein. I wanted to see revival flood the country. I wanted to warn people of Hell and to cast the demons out of everyone who didn’t have the Holy Ghost. I look back at that and realize that I was quite wrong of my ideas.
I went through a deconstruction phase that started last fall and began reconstruction about three months ago. Though my deconstruction was full of dark and confused emotions, I began to see the error of the things that I previously believed. My ideas of God had shifted and my perspective of life had changed. Instead of giving people a ticket to heaven and proclaiming the flames that I thought would devour the world, I began looking at life through the love that Jesus had. I realized that we only have one life, and as a Christian, I needed to show the love of Christ to the broken world. Christianity became a here and now thing instead of a future world and some sort of reward system.
As I have gone through the deconstruction and reconstruction of my faith, I realize that I have had a lot of hurt from my earlier experiences in the Pentecostal tradition. I still claim to be Pentecostal today, but my ideas are much more reformed and postmodern in a sense. I would even say they could be metamodern in some ways. These new ideas have given me the realization that the things that I was taught were not ways of God and hurt me.
I want to share with you a few different events that have caused me such spiritual trauma.
There was a church in North Carolina that I visited. My grandparents are traveling evangelists, so the church that we went to was one of the many normal stops that we did. We stopped so that my grandparents could preach and play music like they always did. While I was at this “revival”, there were many things that became frustrating. One of them was that I was at the altar and while everyone else was speaking in tongues, I couldn’t. I thought something was wrong with me and that I didn’t have faith. I questioned my salvation in that moment and questioned whether I was going to heaven because I wasn’t falling out and speaking in tongues like everyone else was. The questioning didn’t stop there. The next day there was an open forum on whether or not white people should be able to marry black people in the church. They argued that we are “not of the same tribe” as depicted in Numbers 12:1. Then the debate turned to contemporary Christian music. They kept going on about topics that seemed so sour and hateful. I left that debate really heated and angry.
Another instance was when I was in a mall. I began to notice that gay men talk differently than straight men do. I talked with my grandmother about it. She told me that gay men all sound the way that they do because they are possessed by demons. Saying something like this to a thirteen-year-old isn’t the most calming of ideas.
The last example lies in the countless amount of times I have seen people “cast out demons”. In the Pentecostal tradition, demons and angels are a real thing. Demons are the coworkers of Satan and they set out to destroy your life and make you a miserable person. Angels are thought to be the messengers and warriors of God who fight the demons so you can have a better life. These things are actually taught and practiced. For example, there was one night where I witnessed a man trying to fight many different believers in another “revival” that I was a part of. As the men of the church prayed for this man, he began to foam at the mouth and fell on the floor. Minutes later, he was speaking in tongues. My grandparents told me that if I ever see that, I need to just worship God because the demon could jump on me and possess me. Honestly, I believed them. It’s a rather stupid and illogical idea, but it traumatized me to think that I could get possessed even though I believed that I had the spirit of God living inside of me.
I’m not the only persons who experiences this. This last story is about a friend of mine.
My friend lives with her grandparents. Her grandmother told her that she “has demons in her” and that she is “not in life for salvation”. She told her that there was “a generational curse on her”. She told her that she “is evil and hates God”.
These stories go on. Some people experience sexual abuse. Others see a greedy church that takes away from the struggling and poor congregation. In the end, many of us experience this. If you haven’t experienced it, I hope your eyes are opened and you can be loving and compassionate to those who have.
As a Christian, I want to apologize to those who have experienced such trauma. The world is imperfect and so are the imperfect people who make up a church. There is evil all in this world. You are not alone in this and I hope that through each experience, we can learn to make the world a better place.
For a better understanding of some of the things I discussed, check out these articles.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossolalia (speaking in tongues)