This is the first in a 5-part series of my major life influences. Of course having EEC is a big influence, but since this whole blog is pretty much dedicated to that, I figured I’d choose 5 other things to talk about.
The first major influence on my life (aside from being born with EEC, of course) was the religion and associated culture that I was raised in. The group was called the Christadelphians. The name means Brethren in Christ. We also referred to it as The Truth.
My parents, their parents and their grandparents before them had all been born and raised in Christadelphian families. It was more a part of our identity than our Scottish or English heritage. It was the default setting on our religion meter.
Being a Christadelphian was a good thing during my young life. My first friends were the ones I made at Sunday School. We had a community of people whom we trusted and cared about and that gave me a real sense of security and belonging.
Whenever I was recovering from surgery, I got tons of get-well cards from all over. Some were from people I didn’t even know, but who knew my parents or my grandparents or had heard through a Sunday morning announcement that I’d had surgery. We were all family in Christ.
Every Sunday we would go to Meeting, which was what we called our Sunday morning service. Sometimes there would be a luncheon and an afternoon program, called a lecture. These were supposed to be preaching or recruiting efforts but we almost never had visitors who weren’t Christadelphian. On Saturdays before lectures, we would go campaigning, which involved walking around apartment complexes and sticking flyers announcing the upcoming lecture into people’s mail slots. Flyers we had stayed up late folding the night before. I really didn’t like campaigning because I was always afraid I would have to actually talk to someone.
I did enjoy the long Sundays though, because it meant I could spend more time with my Sunday School friends. I was too young to be made to sit still and listen to the speaker, so instead I got to sit on the floor and play with toys and when I got older I was allowed to sit and read books quietly. We also had Wednesday night bible class and Thursday afternoon Sisters’ class, which was for the ladies only.
The highlight of each year was bible school. There were multiple bible schools held throughout the summer but we were loyal to the one nearest to us. It was held at Shippensburg University every July. It was basically a week of playtime with friends I only got to see once or twice a year.
There were drawbacks to being Christadelphian. I wasn’t allowed to be in Brownies or Girl Scouts, though I was never exactly sure why. I was taught not to recite the pledge of allegiance at school because my allegiance should be to God only. I couldn’t participate in any sports or extra-curricular activities because it would have conflicted with our worship schedule.
Because of these religious limitations, plus the fact that EEC made me look different, I often felt like an outsider. I was a little afraid to make friends with people at school because they weren’t my religion and I guess I sort of thought they weren’t as special as me.
My early teenage years were especially lonely at school. I really believed that I had been chosen by God and that my classmates were all hopelessly lost sinners. I made absolutely no effort to make friends with anyone. I didn’t even consider trying. In hindsight, I was a total snob! I realize that now but at the time I really felt like I was the persecuted one having to expose myself to the vulgarities of high school. I literally couldn’t deal.
I spent my time after school drawing, writing letters to my friends from bible school, practicing hymns on the piano and doing bible marking. I actually hated bible marking – it consisted of highlighting passages and writing a series of notes in the margins of my bible. All of it was just copied from a packet that you could buy through the mail. It was supposed to help us understand prophecies and be a guide when we went out preaching, which was an idea I dreaded. I just wanted it to look like I was a good bible scholar, with colorful pages and microscopic handwritten notes everywhere.
Growing up as a Christadelphian child, you anticipated getting baptized once you were old enough. Being ready for baptism meant that you had reached spiritual maturity and understood the principles of the Christadelphian faith. When I was 14, my friend Jay announced he was going to prepare for baptism. He was almost a year younger than me! I suddenly felt that I must hurry up and get baptized too. I told my parents I was ready, even though I really was just doing what I thought was expected of me. We immediately began preparing, with a series of study guides and classes. Just like with bible marking, I was quite bored but I wanted to do the right thing, so I pushed forward
I got baptized on September 3, 1995, barely 15 years old. I was nervous and excited that morning. I knew deep down that I’d never really had a deep spiritual experience, even though I really wanted to. I hoped that being baptized would change all that. As I let myself be pushed beneath the water, I anticipated the magic that would happen. I would rise from the water a changed woman! I would be washed of my sins, pure as snow, and I would start my life anew. When I emerged from the water, I opened my eyes and saw the entire congregation giving me their full attention. I was suddenly embarrassed and began to giggle like a little girl. I didn’t feel special or changed at all. I felt the same as I ever did. Confused, unsure and unworthy. It was a special day, of course. Gram gave me a beautiful lace head covering. My friends were there with me. Everyone was nice and paid extra attention to me. But nothing inside me changed.
For a long time, I would have said that growing up Christadelphian was similar to growing up with EEC in the sense that I could not imagine life without it. But eventually, I would get to experience life without it. I’ll write about that in the Losing My Religion post.
Now that so many years have passed and my emotions have cooled, I can see both the positive and negative aspects of life in a Christadelphian family. I am grateful for the experience of growing up and feeling a part of something so special, even if I would later turn and run from it. I’m glad I got to go to summer bible schools, and learn about the bible inside and out. It comes in handy sometimes. I had a lot of happy times and I have a lot of happy memories from my young life. I got to meet a lot of people as a Christadelphian that I might not have met otherwise. Some of these people I am still friends with today.
Growing up this way made me an odd mix of mature and ridiculously naïve. I could always read at an advanced level, thanks to the King James Bible being part of my early reading lessons. I think it gave me a good foundation for becoming a good and kind person. I was quite sheltered from a lot of the harsh realities of the world, which was good, but of course I would end up learning about these things eventually.
The negative aspects were that I grew up with a bit of a superior attitude, having always been told that we had THE TRUTH, and that everyone else was foolish for not figuring it out like our forefathers had. There was a constant need to try to prove everyone else wrong, rather than genuinely listening and considering other views.
Growing up so sheltered meant that once I did finally reach adulthood, I had a bit of catching up to do. I learned some lessons the hard way. I had to learn to stand up for myself and to take action with my life, rather than just accepting everything that came to me as being “God’s will.”
I’m not saying my experience is the same for all former Christadelphians. This is just my recollection of life as one. It really wasn’t terrible, just kind of odd once I look back at it.
All that being said, it was definitely a huge part of who I was as a child and young adult. Feel free to ask me questions if you want to know more. There is plenty of content on the internet about Christadelphians if you’re interested in knowing more about what they actually believe.
13 thoughts on “Major Life Influence #1: Being Raised Christadelphian”
You’re a Beautiful Person inside and out! Great post!
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In whatever denomination or in whatever religion or atheist or humanist group we are brought up we do have to grow up sometimes, not to say often, learning some lessons the hard way.
Each of us , no matter of which religion or being an atheist, have to learn to stand up for oneself and to take action with his or her own life, rather than just accepting everything that came to them as being “God’s will” or the “parent’s will” because they “say so”.
It is nice of you sharing your previous experiences in a Christadelphian family. It is a pity you lost your faith, but I do hope you may find back the way to God and come to find peace with yourself and those around you.
That God may bless you.
I’ve been raised a christadelphian and am currently in my early teens, thinking about how to tell my parents that I don’t want to get baptized. I just don’t agree with certain things they say! I must admit, I have definitely felt content and happy at certain times as a christadelphian, but as of now, I just don’t feel that warm and happy feeling I used to when I go to the meeting on a Sunday. I don’t want to disappoint my parents, and I definitely don’t want to be cast out of my family (as a friend of my parents did with their son, when he left the church. Although that was a long time ago, and I know my parents love me enough that they wouldn’t do that, it’s still frightening). Also, I have had a few crushes on women in the past, and being a girl, I’d feel guilty to stay in this religion as they condemn same sex relationships. I mean, I’ve been told it’s a sin my whole life, so it’s not like I chose to happen to like girls, it just happened.
This was kind of just me venting, as this isn’t connected to my name, but nonetheless, I feel the same as you do. I see the good parts of being raised christo, but also the darker parts. Not to mention the pressure to get married, have kids, and be the ‘perfect housewife’ by the age of 30. Euck.
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Wow! Thank you for commenting and sharing all that! I’m impressed that you’ve already come to this realization. I think when I was your age I was just so eager to please that I wouldn’t even let myself think about any alternatives.
I’m glad your parents won’t cast you out – but still I understand you don’t want to let them down. It may be hard for a time, but it seems that most parents eventually come around. Literally half my family is gay now. When I was a kid, only my two uncles were gay (weirdly enough, one was on my dad’s side and the other on my mom’s side) and at the time they were sort of outcast from our family. As time went on, one of my siblings came out, and then another… now we’ve got a whole LGBT rainbow of a family, and it’s great. I often laugh with happiness when I think of how far we’ve come.
If you ever want to chat about leaving the Christo life, feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes, there are pluses and minuses connected to belonging to any unusual group — and the Christadelphians (CDs) are definitely an irregular kind of group. They are bible thumpers, obsessively fixated on bible study, fundamentalists, and described by many former members as being a cult group. Each CD group is independent of the others, and personal experiences can vary greatly. Some of the groups are relatively mundane and normal in appearance, while others are disturbingly weird.
In my own CD group, growing up I experienced extreme corporal punishment, rigid behavioral controls, trauma, hunger, child neglect, and unrelenting indoctrination. All of these things were later explained away with flowery language and rationalisms.
How to say this properly: As a child, as a member of this group, I was both literally and figuratively raped.
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Thanks for your comment, Wanda! Your experience with CD sounds like a rough road. I hope you’ve been able to heal from those traumas in the time since you left.
Your writing is articulate, insightful, and moving. I greatly enjoy it.
It was a natural evolutionary process, that in time you moved away from Christadelphianism. Let me reassure you that you should have no regrets about your departure.
Let me also add that it is my impression from Internet surfing that some people visit websites like this one to function as apologists for Christadelphianism.
You’ll want to read between the lines regarding the last comment.
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Thanks! I’m glad you enjoy my writing!
And yes, I understand what you’re saying about apologists. Fortunately I’m far enough out of the indoctrination that seeing those types of comments has literally 0 effect on me.