This happens all the time:
A friend or new co-worker casually mentions an Old Testament reference, and suddenly we realize a bond: religious trauma. We’re exchanging stories of the nightmare-feeding stories we heard as young children:
- Vivid depictions of blood sacrifice
- Eternal damnation in hell, with lakes of fire illustrated in our Bibles for Children
- The screaming mothers of Isreal over the slaughter of the innocents (also illustrated. My bible had two paintings of infants being sliced by swords. King Solomon in the Old Testament and Roman soldiers in the New)
- Graphic abortion videos of chewed up babies to scare us into chastity
- Constant fear our loved ones would be raptured, but we’d be left behind, our heads severed by the heathens who kill us for refusing to accept the Mark of the Beast.
We trade stories of exhausting summer camp sessions. For them, it might be anxiety and pressure to fit in by speaking in tongues while people around them are slain in the spirit. For me, it’s shrinking down in the pew as sweaty, red-faced preachers scream about sexual practices I wouldn’t have heard of as a young kid, even if I grew up in 2020 with porn online.
The stories trigger me back to hours sitting in a pew feeling dirty, afraid, and confused. Why would I feel that about church? Why do these memories override other teachings about creation, love, forgiveness, and redemption? And why do I shut down inside when I see them now, even after all these years?
Walt Disney is Dead
In 1968, a few years before I was born, the Motion Picture Association introduced the rating system for movies. The purpose was to flag content that was inappropriate for young children, so parents could avoid exposing them too upsetting imagery. The R rating indicates adult subject matter: nudity, profanity, and violence that no one under 17 should see unless accompanied by an adult.
The churches I attended upped the ante of censoring violent and profane movies. They taught us that any movie rated beyond a G — although sometimes a PG-13 was allowed in certain circumstances — would contain ungodly behavior that would lead us to sin. At one point, we were…