Yesterday I worked at the Southern California Assemblies of God Conference, and it was a weird blast from the past. As I sat around and watched people all of the elements were familiar. People walked up to me and said "Praise the Lord". I watched the huge service on a big screen TV and the preacher spoke for over an hour and at the end had a long "alter call". People raised their hands to the loud worship music and bathed in the spirit.
The thing is that by the time I was at the end of wanting to be involved in Pentecostal Christianity I was kind of in the same place I was yesterday. A place where none of it played on my emotions as much it did in the beginning, but rather where all of these things were common place. I got to the point where the dramatic music and the demands of the preacher couldn't make me cry one more time, because I had already cried so many times. It was like I had to make this emotional separation between myself and what was going on, because otherwise I was constantly hysterically crying for some reason- spirit induced or not.
I don't mean to completely knock the church because I think there are some things in it that are important to people- the teaching to love your neighbor, the fellowship, etc. For me, the constant heightened emotion was the thing I struggled with the most. It's almost as if I felt like the preachers were performers and their goal was to make me cry, and with just the right rift of guitar and piano at the end, when they were asking people to come forward and ask for forgiveness they did it to me again time after time. It's hard for me to explain what I mean, except at some point I just felt so emotionally manipulated I shut down, and that made me doubt a lot of the realness of a lot of things that I had experienced- because everything was so dramatized that I didn't know which emotions I could consider to be legitimate. Another bone in the bag is that I am diagnosed clinical depression and sometimes felt like the church just always kept me on the downside of things because of all the emotional issues it created.
I don't know if this makes a lot of sense. I didn't sit at the conference yesterday and think that the people in attendance were ridiculous. I respect their beliefs a lot. I just can't take the emotional-ness of it because I am so emotional in the first place that I can't take another thing being thrown into the mix. Also I don't like feeling that manipulated all the time. I didn't like feeling guilty because I couldn't cry anymore.
I appreciate so much the freedom of being a Quaker. I feel like I am just at peace with myself and am not constantly having to make sure I am okay enough with all the preachers who are telling me that I am not. I appreciate the ability to be emotional when I need to, but at the same time having the peace of mind to really just sit an enjoy the silence without feeling guilty because I am not responding in the appropriate emotional manner.