Losing My Religion – Part 4

Dark Days

In the late winter of 2004, the arranging brethren (the group of baptized men who’d been elected to govern the ecclesia) determined that my friend Jonathan had become too influenced by worldly affairs. He’d been dating a woman I’d introduced him to (she was one of the “worldly” influences) and now it had come out that they were going to get married. She wasn’t interested in becoming a Christadelphian, and this was the last straw.

The ecclesia had a special meeting to vote on whether Jonathan should be disfellowshipped. It was the weirdest thing I’d ever been involved in. It was on a Saturday afternoon. Debbie’s father, who was a pillar of the ecclesia, gravely read a statement about how Jonathan had been falling away, and that although the brethren had reached out to counsel him, he didn’t agree that his actions were wrong. He hadn’t repented or changed his ways.

Jonathan wasn’t at the meeting, nor was anyone from his family, that I can recall. We were all given little slips of paper that had a statement regarding disfellowshipping him on them and then little checkboxes for yes or no. I checked a box and folded my paper and put it into the collection box.

My head was buzzing the entire time. It was surreal to vote on something like this, especially when I was guilty of nearly all the same things Jonathan was being accused of, and especially since he was my friend. I hadn’t voted or gambled at that point (yes, those were some of his offenses), but I’d been shacked up with Dave for nearly three years and somehow everyone had just looked the other way.

After the votes had been tallied, Debbie’s father announced the results – the majority had agreed that Jonathan should be disfellowshipped. I wasn’t surprised, but I also felt like, at this point, why would the guy want to come back anyway?

I can imagine that Jonathan was hurt by this rejection. It was clear his father was enraged. I forgot to explain this earlier, but in Christadelphian ecclesias, the baptized men (brethren) would take turns giving the exhortation (sermon) each week. A few weeks after the disfellowshipment, Jonathan’s father gave a scathing exhortation about the hypocrisy in the ecclesia, all while glaring at Debbie and I. I don’t remember the exact time frame of events, but they withdrew their fellowship shortly after that. Now we were down an entire family.

I was heartbroken about losing Jonathan as a member of the ecclesia, but more so as a friend. His soon-to-be wife was furious and kicked me out of their wedding party and out of their life for that time. I felt horribly guilty, because we’d previously been on the same wavelength about these things, and I hadn’t defended him or joined him in solidarity.

I didn’t know what to do. In the interest of self-preservation, I slipped into my Good Sister role and kept quiet. I was too afraid to do anything else, although secretly, I was questioning like mad.

Next up… I persevere a bit longer before trying to negotiate my leave…

13 thoughts on “Losing My Religion – Part 4”

  1. The theme of guilt would tell any sensible person that it was a bad place to be. Nothing in life should make you feel this way. If it does, t’s more evil than the act of which you’re supposed to feel guilty. Jews and Catholics say they have a lock on guilt, yet all religion works the same way.

    I can’t remember if I was ever actually disfellowshipped. In my mind I resigned. I dragged myself over to one of the arranging brethren home and came out to him and his wife; explaining that the Christadelphians were making my life worse not better. He was more concerned about the exhortation schedule and had the nerve to play the guilt card regarding my mother. Whatever you may feel about Nana, she succeeded in raising a great family in the midst of Christadelphian guilt and a divorce. I think the biggest sense of guilt was manufactured by me because of how it impacted my mother. None of the kids stayed in the faith. My parents divorced, too. So, for her, it became a litany of guilt that eventually drive her to move back to Canada. For that, I am sorry. Yet, I am what I am and can’t change it.

    I ran. I moved out.Found a guy I didn’t love to live with but it was an escape.
    Recently, I was visiting mt mother in Canada and went to Sunday meeting with her.Would you believe they went out of their way to go to a more distant ecclesia because it would ruffle feathers at the one they normally attended. I was ready for a cat fight but my mom reminded me that wasn’t the purpose of the day. And, she was right. Everyone was gracious and friendly. I also reconnected with my Uncle which was a happy occasion.

    It’s a cult, Heather, I cannot describe it otherwise. It angers me that your life has been twisted by them. I do not feel for a moment that they teach the truth, only as they see it. I do credit the environment with reinforcing the right person to be, but the melting pot wasn’t a welcome concept there. In fact, I have serious doubts about the veracity of the Bible and a God that will allow so much suffering.He cannot exist within the construct of the Christadelphians. Believe me, I have argued about “free will”, omniscience and omnipotence. Nothing changes my mind, especially after the life I’ve led with a loving husband and excruciating medical problems. If He’s out there, he’s capricious and not someone I’d really like to know.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As always, I love you.
    Uncle Brian

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    1. Yes, yes, yes! The guilt card is heavily played in Christadelphia. I struggled with for a long time. FInally, after I’d been out for 5 years I went and saw a therapist and he really helped me out a lot.

      I can’t believe you went to meeting with Nana! I don’t know that I could set foot in an ecclesia again without having some kind of PTSD flashback. That was good of you to go.

      Thank you for commenting and sharing your thoughts too! I love you too Uncle Brian. 🙂

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  2. I had one more thought, Heather. In spite of the angst you experienced, the outcome was the creation of an independent woman who brings great joy to the world. You became strengthened and unashamed of who you are. Those are gifts that the Christadelphians inadvertently gave to you.

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  3. having read parts 1-4 it looks like you have been part of a very conservative and non-realist christadelphian group. How can they come to disfellowship someone fro marrying a non-christadelphian person. Would they prefer to have what we call “incestial” relationships. There are just not enough christadelphians around to have all kids marrying with Christadelphians.

    When a group does not make you feel comfortable sometimes it can be good to look for an other group in the same religion, why did you not try that. We understand being in isolation or not having many ecclesiae in the neighbourhood that may have been impossible by why you never tried to make your own housechurch – your own ecclesia?

    Christadelphians are not at all a cult. It is not because certain village groups or entities may behave very “narrow minded” that all would do that.

    Always keep investigating and researching yourself.

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    1. I was familiar with many different ecclesias in the area, but they all would have frowned upon a baptized member marrying someone outside.

      Plus, I did not agree with a lot of the doctrines anymore, in the end. I began to doubt that any of it was true. I had no desire to try other religions… I’ve found that I enjoy living life without the confines of religion.

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      1. When there is no church in your neighbourhood which gives you the feeling of “being where you should be” there is the place called “home”, your own safe surroundings where you in your own family can grow with the Words of God by Bible reading and study by yourself and those close to you. churches are just a tool and a way to help people to find strength by the togetherness. When in isolation or without a church God does not abandon you. If you are willing to put your hands in His hands He shall be there for you. Therefore trust Him and count on him.

        Jesus came to save and to liberate man from the chains of mankind, so feel free to develop by the word of Gdo (the bible) at your own time in your own space.

        Good luck.

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  4. You sound like you went through what many young people go through. Feeling the need to appear a certain way but feeling fake for doing it.
    I was raised Christadelphian in Australia, I began going through for baptism around 17 but didn’t finish it, I realised I was doing it from expectation and I knew if I did it, it had to be because I wanted it. I stopped going around the age of 21, married a Muslim, had 2 children, got divorced because it was a bad marriage, I always looked at other faiths but always knew what I’d been taught made sense. Nothing else made sense. I eventually started going again when my 2 children were very young, so they could attend Sunday School, I met and Married my current husband, who’s Catholic, not Christadelphian, we talk about religion but he’s not that interested, I had another 3 children with my new husband so now have 5 children. After much reading and discussions, I finally felt now was the right time to be baptised and did so 3 yrs ago, it felt right. I don’t go to socialise, I go for my children’s sake. Christadelphians ARE NOT a cult. It’s unfortunate you saw antiquated ways. Most rarely if ever disfellowship any longer and it would have to be serious (like criminal stuff) to even consider it. Like the parable of the lost sheep, if a member is lost, when you disfellowship you cut them off, they can’t find their way back. Many over the years have realised the senseless stupidity in this. Christadelphian is only a man made name, like all other religions. With God, there is no religion, only truth. Don’t allow people to take away from your own relationship with God. You don’t HAVE to label it, grow that relationship, talk to Him, ask Him for guidance in day to day. Your not likely to get huge revelations back but be open to possibilities. BE like that little child you once were, filled with wonder and possibilities. As an example, The other week, my 2 daughters, my eldest 15 and youngest 6, were sitting on the trampoline outside, my youngest told her sister she wanted to pray to God, so my eldest said ok, say a prayer. As she began praying, a gust of wind picked up, during her little heartfelt prayer the wind continued to blow, as she concluded her prayer with an amen, the wind gently stilled. My eldest ran to me to tell me all about it. She said it was the most amazing thing and she felt like God was with them and really listening. Now could be coincidence, or could be as they felt, but either way, that innocence of childhood allowed them to have that experience and sense of awe and joy. So be as a little child and allow yourself to experience without preconceived notions and expectations. I wish you well. If you’d ever love to chat, I’d love to. God Bless.

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  5. Aha. I see. If you were unhappy with one ecclesia, you should have sought out another that was a better fit. Sure. As if these ecclesial groups aren’t few and far between. And Christadelphianism isn’t a “cult,” it is simply the real McCoy, the “Truth.” Right. And what cult doesn’t reject the label of being a cult group? What cult group doesn’t stress that it alone possesses “The Truth”? That it has figured out all of the answers.

    God is your “invisible friend.” He can’t be perceived, but put your right hand on your left shoulder and your left hand on your right shoulder and squeeze your little nubs and pretend he’s invisibly hugging you. Because he’s there, smiling at you and protecting you. Because we say so.

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