Monthly Archives: June 2012

doubting my faith

In the months since I left the UK for Norway, a lot has changed for me. Especially with regards to my faith and beliefs.

I was more or less a Christian from I was a little girl. Believing in, and praying to God, was as natural to me as breathing.

My parents were not Christians, but I grew up in a foster family as well in which the father, my dad number 2, is a priest in the Lutheran Norwegian Church. However, I was raised with a nice kind of Christianity only focusing on positives, no Hell and I was never really told God and Evolution were really conflicting.

Believing in Jesus and that he died for me was a choice I made myself, though I can’t remember exactly when I did so.

I have always been interested in religion, philosophy, ideas and how different people live. I read about many different ways of life, and in my teens, I had a brief flirtation with some faiths, although I think I always believed in Christianity deep down.

I didn’t become a serious Christian before I lived in Edinburgh where I studied. A friend of mine took me along, a little unwillingly, to a church service one Sunday morning I’d rather sleep in. But this was a cool church. They had a band, the preaching was done using contemporary props such as videos and music, there was dancing during worship and doughnuts afterwards. Oh, and the people were very welcoming. I wanted more and I had discovered Evangelical Pentecostalism.

I kept going back, and soon found myself both speaking in tongues, singing songs I believed came from God and even getting the whole congregation to join me and generally becoming a proper bible basher.

I got baptized and found this rebellious in some way since my father refused to have me and my brother baptised as babies. The church believed I had prophetic gifts which I showed through my singing. I was a great example of a devout and faithful Christian woman.

Moving to London, meant me needing to find a new church, but I didn’t feel at home anywhere because I never felt the same welcoming feeling I’d had in Edinburgh.

A couple of months ago, when I still considered myself a Pentecostal, I wrote a post on faith healing and disability, and being blind, made me a natural target for wannabe healers.

I decided to give up finding a church. I didn’t exactly live a Christian lifestyle then. I dated a couple of guys who were bad for me and had a negative attitude to life. I never lost my faith though and always felt guilty for not being pure and going to church.

But one day, as my life was at a low point with my mother being diagnosed with terminal cancer, the same friend who had introduced me to Pentecostalism, introduced me to some people in London who went to a Pentecostal church with attendees from all over the world.

I didn’t immediately love that church either. Not only was I told I needed healing, but that “the spirit of blindness” was living in me. I was tempted to leave, but I made friends among the people my age who were more accepting of my blindness, because I would get healed one day of course, in God’s time, and that would be a happy day. I also joined the worship team and I was made leader of a bible study group for young women, because the youth leaders had faith in me.

I loved the girls in my group and we had a great time discussing every topic under the sun from guys to Spiritual gifts. As much as I dislike and feel angry with the Pentecostal church today, this is the one good thing I’ve taken away from the experience and which I would change for nothing.

But there was a problem which became increasingly bigger as time went by.

I could not become religious. By that, I mean that I didn’t really believe the bible was the true word of God to be taken literally, that the earth was 6000 years old, that sin was anything other than destructive behaviour which certainly didn’t cover two people living together outside of marriage, or two people in a loving homosexual relationship and that a loving God would send most people to Hell. Because, most people weren’t and aren’t Christians.

I was also angry with God for all the suffering and unfair things in the world and didn’t want to quite accept that this happened because we were all sinners.

But being well indoctrinated by this point, I didn’t dare to question those things too much. I was scared that if I did, I’d lose my faith which would send me to Hell for eternity.

Being an evangelical Pentecostal, means taking everything in the bible literally and so I found myself forcing to agree with stuff I didn’t want to agree with. I was taught all thoughts of doubt came from Satan so I prayed for Jesus to rebuke them.

Leaving London, I wasn’t planning on never finding a church, but it didn’t happen and I could list lots of excuses as to why, though I now suspect I didn’t want to. I did though, take the time to read the bible and the more I read, the more questions I got.

First of all, I questioned original sin. If God knew what was going to happen to Adam and Eve, why would he put them in paradise, create some dangerous trees they would eat from and then throw them out again? And why would their sin have to reflect on all the rest of mankind for all time to come?

What about free will? Certainly if we are told that we have free will, but choose the wrong because only one thing is right, we’re going to suffer eternal punishment, and then is that free will?

In the New Testament, Jesus clearly states that he didn’t come to abolish the law, but fulfil it. However, it would not be fulfilled until his return. Didn’t that mean we’d have to practice all the stuff from the Old Testament? Killing gays, burn adulterers and so on. Not adhering to this meant we were picking and choosing something we humans should not do is the Bible was divine.

And then, the claim by Christianity that being saved only meant having a relationship with Jesus and not a religion, but having a religion after all because the Old Testament was still valid?

This literal way of reading the Bible, is not so common I think in the Lutheran denominations, but I learned to understand and read it as a Pentecostal and so for me, it’s either the case that everything is true, or nothing.

I asked a lot more questions, such as why would God create the sun on the fourth day and why would he rest on the seventh day? And I am still asking and raising questions. But from my Evangelical understanding, I have come to the conclusion that there is so much in the Bible that isn’t divine that none of it can be divine. It’s a beautiful piece of literature with some great stories in it, but many of which are irrelevant today. A divinely inspired book would be just as relevant today and would not need so much human interpretation to be made sense of.

A divine book from a God who loved unconditionally, would also not say that the condition for his love and eternal bliss would be to believe in him/her/it in only one way and it would certainly not be possible to use this book to abuse mankind. Take the crusades, Spanish inquisition, witch burnings and killing of Jews for example.

I do not want to put a label on myself just yet, but I don’t think I can be called a Christian anymore. Perhaps I’m an Atheist, Agnostic, or Deist, but what is more important to me now than what my label will be, is to learn to shift my focus and live without Christianity which no doubt will be a hard process to which there are no quick fixes. God has always been there and now I have to put my trust in myself and the wonderful people around me.

I didn’t leave Christianity because I don’t want moral guidelines. I think they won’t really change because Christian or not, we can all agree that lying, steeling and killing is wrong. Or that drinking in excess or taking drugs lead to no good. I am the same person now as I was before. Only now, I think I’m good enough the way I am. I’m human and I have shortcomings, but so do we all. And now as then, I feel a great responsibility to make my life count for something. Greater now in fact that I’m not sure there is an afterlife.

Someone who is doing right in fear of eternal punishment arguably has lower morals than someone who does right for right’s sake.

I will inevitably lose friends over this, but I will have many left and both they and my two fantastic families will support me whatever I choose to believe as I will support them whatever they choose to believe.

(This post was originally written on June 29 2012, but rewritten and edited on July 12 2012.

When the lovemaking contains no love

Disclaimer: Firstly, I have to admit that I really wasn’t sure whether to put up this post because I realise I am on rocky grounds writing about a very delicate and emotional subject… However, after explaining the concept and reasons for it to some girlfriends, I was encouraged by them to publish this. So though I’m still unsure, I am doing this with the blessings of good friends, one having experienced something along the lines of what’s discussed later in this article. I ask you to forgive me if you find it offensive in any way and know I didn’t mean for it to be so.

There is a proverb which states: “You learn for as long as you live.” This is one of my favourite sayings, because of it’s undeniable truth. And with learning comes surprising insights both encouraging and discouraging.

One thing I learned through having conversations with women for the purpose of writing about the topic of self worth and image, which still doesn’t fail to shock and anger me, is that an alarming amount of women have experienced some form of rape. At first, I was shocked about this because as a young girl, I thought rapes were committed in dark back allies by strangers, or during wars but now I know this certainly is not the case.

The definition of rape is that it is a sexual act to which one of the parties, I.E. the victim is not consenting. And most rapes do not happen in dark back streets, or have the majority of women who have experienced rape been assaulted by a stranger.

I am going to present 3 typical stories told to me by women who have experienced sex without their will. Names are not used and details have been changed, but the stories are true. The illustrate how blurry the line of rape can be and hopefully it can be of help to those who have experienced this and know a wrong has been done, or those who think you have experienced it, because you are bothered by a past incident, but isn’t sure whether you can define it as such.

“I was sixteen and at my boyfriend’s house. His parent’s hadn’t come home from work yet, and knowing they were strict on physical contact, we took the opportunity to make out. It was nice and tentative at first, but the kisses got deeper and the caresses more intense. After a while, the clothes started coming off. It was as he was getting on top of me that I knew I didn’t want to go the whole way. At first, I told him, but he said that everyone else was doing it and that if I loved him I would let him do this to me. I tried pushing him away, but he just laughed and pinned my arms down. In the end he got his will. I don’t think it lasted long, but those were the longest minutes of my life. Afterwards he called me frigid and told me to leave. I was so ashamed. In a way, I hadn’t helped the matters by going so far with him in the first place. Also, I really thought there was something wrong with me because I didn’t enjoy it. I wasn’t sure if this was rape, because in the end, I submitted to it. Today I know better of course and no longer blame myself for not doing more to stop it.

“I had invited some friends over for dinner, but only two could make it. A boy and a girl. The night started off great. I’d opened some wine, the food tasted well and the conversation was going beyond my expectations. The boy started flirting with me. First it was so subtle that I wasn’t sure whether it was flirting, or me thinking so in my tipsy state. But as the night progressed, I was more and surer. I hadn’t been drinking much, but I suddenly went from being tipsy to not quite realising what was happening around me. One minute I was sitting down, the next, me and the boy were dancing and next, we were on my sofa making out. I felt myself drifting further and further away. I heard the boy whispering stuff to me. What he wanted to do when we were alone, but none of it registered. I vaguely remember him seeing the other girl out and then I fell asleep. I woke up with him at his business. I wanted to move, but my limbs were so heavy I didn’t manage to do anything. Anything except cry. He kept asking if it felt good and that he had wanted to do this to me from the first time we met. I wept unable to even speak. I never reported him, because at first, I wasn’t sure if it was rape. I hadn’t fought him off so surely it couldn’t be. I cans say now though, that had I been sober, this wouldn’t have happened, because I had a boyfriend. I also know for a fact he had spiked my drink, so it’s no doubt that what he did was a crime.

“I was feeling awful and had gone to bed early. My husband had been understanding and even made me a cup of herbal tea which, in combination with some Paracetamols might ease my sore throat and get my fever down. It was just a normal flu, so nothing serious, but you can imagine that I did not exactly feel beautiful or in the mood for making love. My husband was a man with a high appetite, and he had “persuaded” me to have sex with him a few times in the years we had been married when I really didn’t want it. I wasn’t thinking of it as rape. We were married and because I thought being a good wife meant submitting to my husband in everything even if I didn’t want it, I surely was consenting. This particular evening, he came in and woke me up from a deep sleep. I was less willing and more protesting than the other times he’d forcibly got his way, but I submitted in the end. It was worse than usual because the cold has dried me up which meant it hurt. Today I’m wondering how he found me tempting in my ill state. And although we’re married, I also know now he raped me. Not every time, but the times I didn’t want to make love to him and he forced me on account of me being his wife.”

All kinds of women have experienced this, no matter their ethnicity, religion, age or marital status.

And many never report the incidents because they are not sure whether they have the grounds for doing so.

The purpose behind this post is not to rip up in anything that might have happened to any readers. Rather it’s meant as an encouragement in the sense that as a woman, you are not alone in having been through something degrading which you struggle to put a name to. Something which may in some cases be almost forgotten, but still pops up to haunt you every so often in certain types of contexts or situations. And getting confirmation by hearing other stories can sometimes be a huge relief. Taking long showers, feeling dirty and like it was your fault, is not a nice feeling, but knowing that millions of women have been through the same and that YOU are not the only one, can be of comfort to some.

Finally, you can always look for reasons to why this happened to you. “I was too drunk.” “I dressed too tarty.” “I almost went all the way.” But that doesn’t make it anymore your fault. Sure, in some situations, behaving in a certain way is not smart, but a nice, decent man would never take advantage of you if you are drunk, wear revealing clothes and if he really loves you, he will respect your wish to stop if you are not ok with it.