Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Ties that Bind

                Last time I wrote on the subject of legalism; I spoke specifically to the issue of music. I was never allowed the secular music of my current era until I stood up for myself and started driving my own car with its own radio, but with this blog I want to comment on the fact that a legalistic mindset kills that which it seeks to improve. Legalism is a slow binding of the mind that causes fracturing and damage. I instantly think of the ancient Chinese fashion statement of female foot binding. The women would very slowly tighten straps around the feet of children until the foot was crippled and deformed; useless. This is a quote from an article I found on the practice, “The process of binding feet (also known as “lotus feet”) started before the arch had a chance to fully develop – somewhere between the ages of 4 and 9. After soaking in warm herbs and animal blood, the toes would be curled over to the sole of the foot and bound with cotton bandages.”  The adult female could fit in tiny and delicate shoes, but she could not walk anymore. She was reliant on servants to carry her about. This is precisely the image of the legalistic way of life. For Christianity, I instantly thought on the horrible songs I was forced to sing, I even started liking the songs. Some were lively and fun, but they had lyrics like this. “Are you washed in the blood, in the life giving blood of the lamb? Are you sins forgiven is your life made new? Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?” Soaked in blood is a very real image to me. I was steeped in my savior’s blood constantly and reminded of that life giving fount. I was to imagine it pouring over my soul and cleansing it.
               After this strange steeping in blood, straps of binding are placed upon the mind and logic is replaced by forceful tightening of arbitrary constraints. Children are separated from anything that would help them relate to peers by removing from them any access to popular culture. In the 80’s I wanted to wear tutus and gloves. I was told that because Madonna was the one that started that look, I was not allowed because I would be taking on the appearance of evil. I did not know who Madonna was, I liked tutus and the stores carried quite a few of them. Tut tut noises were made and my access to pop culture was further denied. Music that encouraged dancing, fun or thinking was switched off. In its place came boring repetitive choruses that seek to point the mind in only one direction, the things that the church wants us to believe in. I remember one children’s song that I thought was pretty at the time. I see how very much the words are meant to dull and stupefy. They are as follows, “Father I adore you. Lay my life before you. How I love you. Jesus I adore you. Lay my life before you. How I love you. Spirit I adore you. Lay my life before you. How I love you.” We could divide the room in three sections and sing it in a round. The desired outcome was a willingness to do whatever a church leader representing God told us to do.
               We were taught to avoid places that served beer and wine. There was a lovely German restaurant in our little town that served amazing food. Everyone went there for Schnitzel, sauerbraten, and bienenstich cake. At the peak of their fame, they flew said cake to the White House for Regan. I never sampled it—because Jesus would not approve. Do I even have to say what the broken and horrific views on sex that existed? Let us just say, “abstinence was demanded, expected, and our lives were controlled.” (Rene and I will address the subject of sex more deeply in a different post.) If a child or teen thought that these rules were just ridiculous the emotional equivalent of putting a hand on a car battery took place. Small children are spanked and teens are shamed and shunned. Tough love in the form of kicking out or excommunication took place. I once heard a pastor say, “If a person that leaves the faith, I would pray for them suffering so that they will come back to the faith that will heal them. If they hit rock bottom, there is nowhere to look but up.” When I was a Christian I thought that was so asinine I thought how wishing ill on someone else was not the heart of the message we are to give out.
               The biggest weapon that Christian use to bind the mind of children is the threat of hell. I was told over and over again that all my unsaved friends and family members were going to hell. I sobbed into my pillow at night howling at the loss of my loved ones. I was 9. I swore to always cling to precious, blood covered Jesus so that I would be safe in his arms. I could not even say, “Hell.” The word caused such paralyzing fear that it choked in my throat and images, I had been shown at church, of burning people with black burnt skin writhing in agony.  This, above all the other straps of constraint, trapped me and held me down. I even came to the place where I knew that it was rubbish to think that the other good people I knew not saved would go to eternal damnation. But I would. I was the chief of sinners and had that thought ground deeply into my head. “Karen you are the chief of sinners, we all are. Without Jesus, you will pay for your sins.”
               I did manage to free myself and will continue on that topic in my next blog. It felt like crawling through razors that left tattered trails behind them

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