Don’t get left behind! Catch up on the Devangelical 11-Step Survival Guide first:
Step 4: We make an honest inventory of our issues.
I love lists. I make one almost every day. What to do, when to do it, how long I have until the world crashes down around me like a 10-year-old IKEA shelf if I don’t.
I’ve made so many lists in my life, it borders on the ridiculous.
I once made a list of the main thing I learned from each year in school–not an impressive list, by the way. I’ve made lists of the things I’m most afraid of, books I want to read, the things I want to accomplish before I die, and of the times I’ve had a gun pointed at me and why (I am, apparently, a very threatening individual).
It is because of this habitual practice of list making that I have kept myself on task as a writer, I have remembered to file paperwork with the IRS and I have learned that one of my biggest fears about death is that someone will spontaneously inherit the job of going through my underwear drawer. And that it could happen at any moment.
Lists, to me, are immensely satisfying.
Part of this, I believe, is due to the “brainstorm” quality that goes into list making, in which a person turns off their inner filter and writes whatever comes into their head. The words don’t matter so much as the concept. Editing is for later. If it turns out one of the ideas was stupid, a simple line-through takes care of the errant entry. If it was the wording that was off, it can be rewritten. Chances are, though, it won’t be. Lists are meant to be conceptual. Talking pretty just ain’t a necessity.
So when I came to “Step 4: Make an inventory of your issues”, I was all over it. I mean, hey, I can rock the list.
The assignment is simple: Make a list of the things from your past in the world of religion that you feel have affected you adversely as an adult. They could be disjointed memories from the youth group, fear-based ideas that interfere with your life today, or anything that left a funny taste in your mouth from a hardcore fundamentalist past.
Now, everyone’s list is going to be different. For example, your inventory might focus on things from the past that affect you in your daily life today:
* When somebody asks me what my religion is, I begin by telling them what I am not.
* I am compelled to turn my Christmas letters into things that look suspiciously like tracts.
* I wonder which is worse: talking to that telemarketer or going to Hell for lying and telling them that I’m not home.
* I can’t shake a feeling of guilt when I listen to Another One Bites the Dust.
* I feel the need to overly assure my gay friends that God loves them and so do I in an attempt to compensate for once telling them the opposite.
* I overcompensate for my anger toward my upbringing by burning old church bulletins in effigy.
* I get a freaky image in my mind of David dancing naked every time I do the Macarena.
Or maybe it includes things you did that you regret in the name of fundamentalism:
* I made a girl (or two) cry by telling her she was going to Hell…because she was a Presbyterian.
* I used to practice speaking in tongues at night in my bed so that I would sound more fluent in church.
* I used to deliberately throw bottles and cans in the trash rather than in the recycling bin to prove my faith that God would save this earth, not pagan New-Age hippy recyclers.
* I spent an evening handing out tracts at a KISS concert and throwing red paint on everyone who wore a lightning bolt shirt.
No matter what your list looks like, one thing is certain: it will be unique. You may just discover a few things on there that might explain why you react a certain way these days. You know, things that you did in the name of God (the way you defined ‘God’ then) that might just keep you from being the person God (the way you define ‘God’ today) meant you to be.
So, write that list and share it if you dare. We promise not to laugh. Too hard.