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The Church of Christ and Education

Not long ago I read Tara Westover's memoir "Educated," in which she recounts her childhood in a Mormon separatist group that did not believe in formal education. She didn't go to a school until she was 17, when she went to college. Her family disowned her for doing so because they believed that getting a secular education was a sin (her story is more complex that that, but this is the nutshell version). Even though my upbringing was not nearly as extreme as hers and I was sent to secular schools from preschool onward, I also encountered similar antieducation sentiments growing up in the church of Christ.

The mainline churches of Christ are actually affiliated with some prestigious schools, including Abilene Christian University and Pepperdine University, and kids who grow up in that branch of the church are encouraged to attend those schools. Unfortunately, I grew up the noninstitutional branch of the church, which is much more conservative and, to my knowledge, is n…

Child Sex Abuse in the Church of Christ

Let me state immediately that I have no statistics on rates of child sex abuse in the COC. I haven't been able to find any stats online and I suspect it's because each COC congregation is independent, and there's no single governing body to keep such records. If anyone can find such information from a reliable source, please pass it along because I would be very interested in reading it.

All I can tell you is that, of the four COC congregations I attended in my lifetime, half of them were plagued by adults who behaved inappropriately toward children. One of them hired a preacher who liked to date underage girls (see my previous post on how I was nearly a child bride), and another one had a full-blown pedophile ring operating in it, and my sister and I narrowly escaped being among their victims.

The church in question was the very first one I ever attended. My parents were married out of that church, and they brought me to church services starting a week after I was born. W…

The Church of Christ and Mental Health

Last night a friend and I were talking on the phone, comparing notes about the various physical problems we're facing as we skid into middle age. As much as my body is creaking under the weight of the years, in some ways, I've never felt better. In particular, I almost never get the horrible stress headaches that plagued me when I was younger. I used to have one almost every week. Funnily enough, they stopped around the time that I made my decision to leave the COC, and I don't think it was a coincidence. Being in that church and having to put up a front all the time really took a toll on me, and I often wonder how much longer I could have held out without cracking under the strain.

As with much of what I write on this blog, I have no scientific data to offer--only my observations and personal experiences--but I can confidently say that a good quarter to a third of the women in the COC are taking antidepressants, assuming that the churches I attended were representative sa…

I Was Almost a Child Bride

OK, that headline is somewhat misleading because my parents NEVER would have consented to me marrying before the age of 18, but there was a much older man in our church who expressed interest in marrying me when I was only 14. Can you imagine? But I'm getting ahead of myself....

I have absolutely no statistics on the age of marriage in the Church of Christ, but anecdotally, I can tell you that people tend to marry young, either right out of high school or college. Since most of them in the noninstitutional churches tend to go to 2-year colleges like Florida College, they're getting married in the 18-21-year-old range. Most people I knew in the church were married by age 25. Anyone who was still single at 30 was written off as a "confirmed bachelor" or a spinster. Still, most people in the Midwestern churches I knew waited until they were at least 18 to marry. I did know a few people who married much earlier, though, and all the stuff in the news recently about Roy Mo…

Dirty John and Evangelical Christianity

Recently, I read the 6-part story in the L.A. Times about a man nicknamed Dirty John. If you haven't read the story or listened to the companion podcast, I highly recommend that you do so. In brief (and without spoiling the ending), it's about a con man named John who marries a woman, Debra, and victimizes her and her family.

The aspect of the story that jumped out at me was Debra's evangelical Christian faith. Years before the events of this story occurred, Debra's brother-in-law murdered her sister, and their mother pleaded for the whole family to forgive him immediately. She felt that it was required by her faith. She passed this ideal down to Debra, who was extremely quick to excuse, overlook, and forgive her husband John's many misdeeds. She believed that she should always look for the best in people, always give them the benefit of the doubt, and always forgive, no matter how heinous the crime.

I'm not trying to blame the victim here. No one is responsibl…

The Church of Christ Turned Me Into a Feminist

I've been looking through old posts, and I don't think I've told this story before, at least not the whole story. So here goes.

Most COC congregations have gospel meetings (i.e., revivals, but they don't use that term because the Baptists do) once or twice a year, when they invite a guest preacher to come in and preach every night for a week. When I was 6 or 7, the church invited this old Southern preacher to hold a gospel meeting.

One night during a sermon, he started yelling from the pulpit and pounding on it. He was so worked up that I actually looked up and listened to what he was saying. Mind you, up to this point in my life, I hadn't paid a bit of attention to a church sermon because they were unremittingly boring. Instead, I sat there playing with my little dolls or coloring in my Jesus or Noah's ark coloring books.

This guy had the thickest accent, so I had trouble understanding him, but I finally realized what he was saying: he denounced the women'…

Why Do I Still Go to Church?

It often happens that when I tell someone my horror stories about growing up in the church of Christ, the person will look at me in amazement and say, "I can't believe you still go to church!" Honestly, I can't quite believe it myself. After all those years of spiritual abuse, you would think I would be done with religion. Both of my siblings have left Christianity altogether, which seems to be typical of people who escape the COC (I have only anecdotal evidence to back this up). I won't say my siblings are atheists, but they simply refuse to be involved in any kind of organized religion. They think it's all a scam--that all preachers are money-grubbing charlatans and all congregations are full of toxic, controlling people. I don't judge them for feeling that way. The sad truth is that a lot of churches are like that. I guess I've been lucky to find a church that I find uplifting and nourishing, rather than soul draining.

So why do I still go to churc…