Finding Faith After Spiritual Indoctrination
Samantha Field deconstructs her upbringing in a "cult-like" church in the South—reexamining the language, theology, and perspectives she grew up with to find for herself a truer understanding of Christianity. Homeschooled, she attended a conservative Christian college and then came to Liberty University to pursue a Master's degree in English, which is how I met her.
I never knew about Samantha's struggles and spiritual abuse until after she graduated and began blogging about it. One of her recent posts—a compelling narrative of how taking parts of the Bible literally can go terribly, terribly wrong—was praised by the Slacktivist. Knowing now a bit more about the young woman who wouldn't stop asking questions, I thought the readers of Her.meneutics would be interested in her story, too. You can read much more of it at her blog, Defeating the Dragons.
Your blog post describes a scene right out of a Flannery O'Connor story. Was this really the kind of religious environment you were raised in?
When I was 10, my family moved to a rural town in the Deep South, and we began attending an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church. The last two churches we had attended had been conservative Baptist, and when we first joined this one it didn't seem that different. But a few years after we joined, I started noticing a pattern. Families were joining—but after a few months, they would inexplicably leave. After they were gone, the pastor would preach a message dedicated to explaining why they were gone, focusing on some sort of sin. They were in the wrong. We were following Christ. We were being persecuted.
During the 11 years we attended, the pastor established a totalitarian control of "his" church. He directly interfered in marriages; he meddled in personal family issues. He defined what was appropriate for us to wear, to listen to, to watch, to do, and to eat. Anytime my mother got a new haircut, there would be a sermon about how women are required to have long hair. Any time I wore a new outfit to church, it was subtly approved or disapproved. Women were always at fault for a man's wandering eye. When I was 16, I wore a knee-length skirt to church, and the pastor's son told me that seeing my calves had "caused him to stumble." When I developed tendonitis and had to stop playing the piano for church, he preached a sermon about how God would rip away my talent because my sin was getting in the way of God healing me.
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