Losing My Religion – Part 5, The Bitter End

How she wishes it was different
She prays to God most every night
And though she swears it doesn’t listen
There’s still a hope in her it might
She says, “I pray
But they fall on deaf ears,
Am I supposed to take it on myself?
To get out of this place”

Dave Matthews Band,  Grey Street

During that year following Jonathan’s disfellowshipping, Debbie and I did a lot of walking. I’ve long felt that walking with someone is a good way to talk intimately – kind of like when you’re in the car and one of you is driving. You’re both looking straight ahead, with maybe some occasional glances at each other, but no need to hold eye contact during moments where you may be nervous about saying something.

I desperately wanted Debbie to understand what I was feeling during that time. Even though we’d been friends for nearly a decade at that point, our friendship maintained a level of casualness that I found frustrating. We hid a lot of our true feelings behind humor. It was hard to talk about anything really serious, because one of us would burst out in awkward laughter if it became too heavy.

Eventually I worked up the courage to tell Debbie I wanted take a break from the Christadelphians. To have some space to think. Aunt Jenny had told me that sometimes it was helpful to step away from something when your feelings on it weren’t clear. Being away from it could help you see things better, and in a different light.

In August, I wrote up a resignation letter to send to the Arranging Brethren. I didn’t have to do it, but I wanted to make an official statement. I wanted them to know I wasn’t being flaky anymore – that I really meant it. I was out.

Mom proofread my letter for me and encouraged me to mail it, rather than email it, since it would be more official. I mailed it on a Friday and on Saturday night, my phone lit up with calls from Debbie’s father and a few others. I nervously let the calls go to voicemail. I wasn’t sure what I would say. Hadn’t my letter said it all?

I did end up having a series of dinners and discussions at Debbie’s parents’ house in the weeks that followed. As I recall, I didn’t get to say much. I would bring up an issue and her father would go off on a series of tangents. Her mom would sit, smiling sweetly and adding a few thoughts here and there.

Debbie’s parents were much older than mine and they had always reminded me of a 1950’s couple. More like my grandparent’s generation, where the woman did all the housework and child-rearing, while the man spent much of his time away at work or in his study doing important manly things and coming out only to eat supper and relax in the evenings.

While I loved them and jokingly referred to them as my second parents, I found it hard to relate to them sometimes – especially her dad. And while I enjoyed the one-on-one time with them during these dinners and discussions, I began to feel a void growing between us. I was no longer buying what they were peddling.

Debbie and I continued our walking routine, and I spent a lot of time socializing with her family. It seemed like a good compromise to me – I would still hang out with these people who were like family to me, and I would just avoid the boring parts I didn’t like.

This went on for about 6 months. I was thinking that this whole resignation thing wasn’t so bad after all. I was making it work. As time went on though, Debbie and I began to see each other less and less, and I was spending more and more time with Dave.

That spring, I was accepted into the Landscape Architecture program at UConn. I’d finally realized that I was nuts about Dave, and planned to move back in with him and start over. I was feeling pretty good about things.

In early spring of 2005, Debbie and I got together for an evening walk. We hadn’t been spending much time around each other at that point, but I was busy planning my next steps in life, and I figured she was busy too.

We walked and caught up on recent news as usual, and then, just as we were at the farthest point from the house, she turned to me and said, “We need to talk.”

Oh crap.

I could tell by the tone of her voice that it was not going to be good. I crossed my fingers and hoped that she was having marital problems, or was struggling to get pregnant and needed a listening ear. I was good at being a listening ear.

The topic of choice was my lack of interest in going to meeting, that I was no longer breaking bread, coupled with the fact that I was a fornicator. Oh, and by the way, every time I mentioned Dave’s name it made her cringe with disgust.

She told me that our friendship had crumbled because the foundation of it had been that we were both Christadelphian and once I decided I didn’t want to be one anymore, we no longer had anything in common. (Totally disregarding our mutual love of Dave Matthews Band, scrapbooking, laughing hysterically over anything, and clearly, taking long walks together… but I didn’t think of that then.)

I didn’t know what to say in response. I was stunned. I shouldn’t have been, but I was. While I’d noticed she’d become more distant over the months prior, I hadn’t even thought that this was the reason. I’d been giddy with the prospects of my new life – of finishing my degree, of playing house with Dave, of seeing where my life would take me.

The entire walk back to her house consisted of me struggling to think of something valid to say, while she spewed forth the appropriate bible verses to support her case. When we reached her house, we sat together in her living room and tearfully continued the conversation.

Her solution to all the problems she saw with my life was for me to break up with Dave, stop spending time with my family or the Tebbs, stop befriending non-Christadelphians, come back to meeting, and be happy about it.

She understood it wouldn’t be easy, but ultimately, I would have to choose between my relationships with Dave and my family (aka, “the world”) and my relationship with Christ. If I wanted to continue being friends with her and being part of her family, I would have to do this.

I wept bitterly as I drove home. (Luckily it was a short drive.) I felt like I had been dumped. My best friend of nearly 10 years had given me an ultimatum I couldn’t meet.

I knew that her family had put her up to it. I knew she’d been coached on what to say, and my possible reactions. I felt bad for her. She didn’t have much confidence in her own thoughts and was always afraid of doing the wrong thing. She did whatever her father or her brother, or by then, her own husband told her was right.

I don’t know if she really understood that as I stepped out of her house that day, I would not return again.

Next up: The Aftermath of Friendship Lost


20 thoughts on “Losing My Religion – Part 5, The Bitter End

  1. Wow. You had to deal with the peer pressure “big time”. Shame on them. You’re so brave. Developing a loving relationship, being a role model in your community all embody the principles that God would approve of. I’m proud of you and what you’ve accomplished.

    I guess being gay made it “easier”, somewhat. The topic, back in the 80’s. was won they had no clue how to deal with. So, they left me alone.

    You have nothing to be ashamed of and everything to be proud of. I can’t wait to meet Dave one day and get to know him better.


  2. Friendship is not mainly based on the religion one has; A real Christian or real Christadelphian should show agape love to all sorts of people, whatever belief they may have.

    Being from what you call your grandparent’s generation we do find it a pity you could not find your place in our Christadelphian brotherhood. We only can hope you will not have lost the connection with God and hope that one day you shall find a lovely community to share the Word of God with.

    With kind regards from the Belgian Free Christadelphians


    1. Except by Christadelphian definitions, Heather will not find salvation in any other religious community. You are for some reason peddling a remedy that Christadelphianism doesn’t believe in.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We did not say Heather had to find another religious community which would not necessarily believe our Christadelphian points of faith. But we said she could search for another Christadelphian church which would welcome her with open arms. Also by other Jeshusaists she could find a safe haven.

        For sure we would not like to see her to become a member of a Trinitarian Church.

        In any case we are convinced that it is God Who knows the heart and shall be able to judge Heather to come or not to be able to enter the Kingdom of God. It is not to us human beings to decide such a thing.


  3. I can see why you called it the bitter end. It’s tough when religion trumps relationships, or when withholding friendship becomes a weapon.

    My experience was that some friendships have continued (so far), while others ended. And I wasn’t very good at predicting which ones were which.
    It is harder maintaining friendships without the regular contact encouraged by ecclesial life. And it can also add stress if some sensitive topics are understood to be “off the table” and need to be tip-toed around.

    BTW, thanks for writing this. I’ve enjoyed the entire series.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A standing ovation for the entire series. They say the way to make a plant or tree grow is to prune it regularly. The process must be painful for the plant, but it takes it into growth that it otherwise might not experience. You are the human example of that.

    In my own situation, the Christadelphian religion became Bizarro World. Despite a facade of religiosity, behind the scenery, in my family there were arrest records, domestic violence, adultery, sexual abuse, etc. The fact that maintaining a “facade” was paramount over our welfare, is to this day extremely offensive and damnable to me. How many of us are aware of such dark situations or even care to know about them?

    Makes me think about the serial killer in Vermont, who turned out to be a …..Christadelphian.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thank you! I like the pruning analogy.

      I actually didn’t know about the Christo serial killer until recently but I have to say I wasn’t surprised. There were some creeps hiding among the Christos for sure. Congrats to you on getting out of Bizzaro world as well. 😃


  5. Thank you for writing this. I feel it odd to be reading it 5 years later after madly googling for other stories of ex-christadelphians to compare to my own. I see a lot of apologists in your comments saying “not all Christadelphians”. (Time & Place, people) But, to an extent, it’s somewhat true. I know of several people I consider very good people and who would be hurt dearly if I chose to make a public matter of my leaving the group, and I don’t want to hurt those people. But they are misguided people. And they are not aware of how that lifestyle damages people. Especially children. There is an EXTREMELY strong emphasis on “training up a child in the way they should go” i.e. indoctrination. That, and the cult-like environment of constant judgment and guilt, and feeling like you need to be “separate” from the world, sticks with you into adulthood, leaving many people as insecure and socially maladjusted adults. I feel like I was raised in a similar fundamentalist group to you. A lot of your stories sound the same, even though I think we’re from different generations. I mean, I’ve BEEN to Shippensburg Bible School! We used to drive all the way from Canada for it every year (so at least they gave me good roadtrip skills). We probably even know similar families. Anyway, I hope that helps you feel validated a bit. I know you’ve done that for me + more. Thank you again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your feedback! I do sometimes think about this series of posts and I contemplate taking it down or editing it to change the names of people in it, but it is all true and I don’t think I’ve thrown anyone under the bus in writing it.

      I’m so curious now whether we do know (or know of) each other – idk what part of Canada you are from but my grandmother is in Brantford. We used to go up there occasionally and I went to Brock a few times for bible school in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. Also did the Toronto Easter gathering a few times. (Hated it!!)


      1. Well, it is your truth and you have the right to tell it. I agree with you, I don’t think you’ve “done anyone dirty” in your story. You’ve been very fair about what happened and how it made you feel. For what it’s worth, I’m glad you’ve left it up as long as you did, at least.

        This is amazing but I actually grew up in the Brantford ecclesia! I wasn’t part of any big family, and I moved a lot as a kid, but we definitely lived in Brantford the longest, especially once the CHC school started. They actually split into two groups a while back… I guess it’s a Christo thing 😛

        I remember going to the Toronto gathering once or twice haha. I had a panic attack there once. Now I live in Toronto, Christadelphian free! Funny where life can take you.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Kudos for this entire series. PLEASE do NOT remove it, for ANY reason. These kinds of lights and insights helped guide me out of Christadelphianism. Without them, I’d probably still be sitting in one of their halls, wasting my life instead of living it. One things cults do is monopolize their adherents’ lives and time and energy. Don’t waste those things on this sad and retrograde bunch.

    I would partially agree with Ayn Rand’s contention that most of one’s energy should be expended on one’s own interests and welfare. Being in this sad little cult did actually nothing to benefit me — it instead exposed me to the worst of human hypocrisy, dishonesty, dysfunction and, ironically, violence. Most CDs (an abbreviation for members of the cult) will cringe upon hearing that last sentence, but it doesn’t alter its “truth.”

    Sometimes the real “Truth” is something other than the ones being shoved into your face.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I am glad to hear that my stories helped you find your way out. I am thinking of doing a follow-up post, something along the lines of “15 years later” or “what I would tell my former Christo self, if I could go back in time”.


  7. Please don’t take this series down! I’ve been reading through comments and I grew up in Brantford as well – I even went to CHC. I moved across Canada for university and I found the same issues that you seemed to have with your friend Debbie – at the meeting I went to all the “young people” had gotten married and had little time to get to know me. It seems like life as a single woman in christadelphia makes you pretty isolated. I found it hard to connect with anyone because my life felt so vastly different. I started arriving late to meeting and leaving early so I didn’t have to talk to anyone. Then I moved to England and haven’t really attended the meeting here much at all. Of course it’s been covid which has been a helpful excuse, but now that you’re allowed to meet again im struggling to figure out what to do. My family is very well known in the christadelphian community and I can’t figure out how to leave without upsetting everyone a lot. I even found out that my family’s meeting communicates with the meeting here to tell them I am not attending so I’m in lots of trouble for that. I wish so badly I could run away somewhere and leave for good but it seems like everywhere I go it gets back to my mom and hurts her deeply. I have had such a hard time finding people going through the same struggle – either it’s my “worldly” friends telling me its a cult and i should leave, or my family worrying about my eternal salvation. Please if there’s any way I can contact someone to talk about this, and if it would be helpful to you too please let me know. I will probably delete this comment soon to keep myself anonymous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! My heart goes out to you, you’re in a really difficult place in life. We can certainly chat about this in a more private setting- you can email me at heather@callunararis.com or you can find me on Facebook or Instagram messenger (Heather McKelvie) If you email me I can also give you my WhatsApp number if you want to chat there. I actually have a friend who is a young single woman, probably about your age or maybe a little older who I would put you in touch with too. She left CD-land but still lives in the same area where her Christo family are- and she is thriving! I hope you’ll reach out- it might feel like no one understands what you’re going through, but there’s actually a good amount of us who have gone through what you’re dealing with and have come out much happier on the other side! ❤


  8. “Debbie” exhibited typical CD behavior. “Debbie” is a creep. And you can bet that she was getting her rocks off when she did her number on you. This is a CULT. It should be regarded as a CULT. Like all CULTS, it should be avoided. You fled the CULT. You survived the CULT. You deserve a lot of credit. Please keep all of this material on the Internet, as it provides beacons for others processing out of the CULT. It is needed. For twenty years, I would say nothing negative about the CULT. That’s because the CULT had crawled into my psyche and caused terrible, terrible damage.

    And who would expect anything less from a CULT?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. It’s close to 20 years now since I’ve been out and I still look back occasionally and think about how ridiculous it all was. Even though it was painful to leave, I have never regretted that decision.


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