Here’s something I’ve been learning about myself and I want to see if anyone else raised in the Conservative Christian community has experienced the same. Writing not only helps me sort through my ideas but I’ve also discovered that when I share something that I think is strictly personal, I discover others who struggle with the same thing.
I was taught growing up that our human emotions, our feelings, are corrupted with sin. That our emotions are evil. I can’t tell you how many times I heard a man in a position of authority mock anyone talking about their feelings. In fact, I have trouble even now saying the word “feelings” without the hint of a sneer or disdain. Where I grew up, talking or acknowledging honestly what we were feeling was something that only women, hippies, and “Sodomites” did (as we referred to the LGBTQ community). Good Godly Christian Men didn’t do that.
Normally, this would move on toward a discussion of toxic masculinity but a lot of better words have been written on that topic by others. But the Conservative Christian world does something more deeply disturbing and abusive, especially to kids. While it is true that our feelings have no impact on scientific “facts” and I have some sympathy with the current “fuck your feelings” trend as people have confused their feelings with fact, we human beings do not experience the world through facts. The experience of our lives is immersed in our emotional state and to tell someone that their feelings are evil is to tell someone that their life and their experience of it is evil, regardless of their behavior. The more your think about it, the more sickening it becomes.
Your feelings have no impact on scientific or rational facts. However, your feelings are the very foundation of your existence. To deny that is to deny your humanity. Anything that forces children to denounce their own existence is evil. Period. Flip the dinner table, walk out, and never look back. It’s evil.
But that’s not what I’ve discovered about myself that I want to share. I’ve been beating this Conservative Christianity is evil drum for a few years now. This is more personal.
The whole purpose of brainwashing isn’t to simply strip the vulnerable mind of any thought and then walk away. That would leave only a catatonic. The purpose is to fill that mind, left blank through trauma, with behavior the brainwasher requires. So, for Stalinists and Maoists, they filled up that emotional void with political propaganda. For the Conservative Christian, it’s the Bible of course. I know this sounds abstract so let me make it specific, so you can see clearly how this works.
If the Christian boy sees a woman and feels sexual arousal, he has been taught that the sexual feeling is evil (outside of the controlling institution of the Church.) But you can’t just tell a child that sexual arousal is evil without replacing it with something else. So, instead of acknowledging that sexual feeling as natural and HUMAN, the child is told to replace that feeling with anger toward the woman (harlot!) and to themselves (I’m an evil sinner).
God help entire civilizations if that feeling is directed toward someone the institution of the Church doesn’t approve of.
The frightening thing is how quickly the mind can do this. Years of brainwashing can make this entire mental process nearly instantaneous. The human brain is incredible. I see a sexy woman, feel arousal, and then experience instant anger at her for that arousal and then self-loathing for personal weakness.
Now here’s the insidious part so pay attention: that feeling of anger at seeing a sexy woman happens so quickly that we mistake it for our actual feelings. We think we are legitimately feeling anger at that sexy woman, as if it were the root or base feeling, rather than acknowledge that what we really felt was natural arousal that we replaced with anger due to years of brainwashing. It’s instant. It’s insidious. It’s a brainwashing technique as evil and horrifying as anything the Maoists do and it’s happening to your neighbors and their children right now.
Conservative Christinaity is a cult. It’s a cult. It’s a cult.
I used sexual arousal as an example of this instant switch from actual emotional state to imposed emotional state because it’s the easiest to see clearly, but the truth is I experience this with virtually every emotion and feeling I have. When I was young, every feeling or thought was filled in with the Bible. The true self was an abomination. The essence of being “born again” means “broken, traumatized and turned into another human being that the institution of the Church approves of”. My own thoughts or feelings didn’t matter, only their interpretation of God’s word mattered. And so, I grew up completely unaware of what I was actually feeling at any moment, only what I thought I was supposed to feel and mistaking those imposed feelings as my actual feelings. This is why so many fervently anti-gay pastors turn out to be gay themselves.
I left Christianity in my twenties, but I couldn’t shake those years of brainwashing. My brain still (even now!) automatically suppresses my actual feelings under the unconscious assumption they are evil, and then seeks something to replace it with. Since I no longer had the Bible to dictate my emotional state for me, and I didn’t have the emotional tools to discover my actual feelings about the world, I tried to fill it in with anything else. Satanism, New Age, Western Philosophers, Rationalism, weed, hallucinogens, alcohol, anything at all. And all of it was empty because I was only trying to find a substitute for the Bible, something to tell me how to feel. I found some solace in Buddhism because Zen meditation helps turns it all off and pushes the practitioner to accept the resulting emptiness. But this too will leave someone unsatisfied unless they are willing to literally leave civilization and become a monk.
When we are searching for something to believe in, what we are really searching for is something or someone to tell us how to feel. The minute someone or something else tells you what to feel, you stop living your own life and are the empty automaton of another. The search for freedom is the search for self.
And let me expand that last point a little before I sign off because I can still hear it every time I write or say the word “feelings”. I can almost hear the sneer from the broken white men confusing their brainwashed pre-programmed rage with pure natural emotion. Your feelings are everything. Everything, God Damn It. No, they don’t impact philosophical truth, whatever that means. The outside universe is unchanged by your feelings. But your inner world dictates how you perceive the world around you. Your life *is* your feelings about it. Without acknowledging the turmoil within, the borderline insanity, the waves of confusion, and as long as you try to fill the emptiness inside you with someone else’s demands about how you’re supposed to feel about life, you are not living. You may as well be dead. Your feelings are not your actions, you don’t have to be a slave to the turmoil within. Be disciplined. But you do have to understand and acknowledge your actual feelings about the world. If you don’t, you die.
So, here I am at 46 years old searching for the me that I know is actually me. I’m in here somewhere. I lucked out. Big time. As I open myself up, I rediscovered the woman I married. A decade ago. I love her immensely. My wife and son are everything I know. Literally. Everything else is a walking discovery. I wish I had started down this road decades ago, but now is now and there is no other time to start.
Hello, me. Where have you been all this time?