The Subtle Way I Became a Slave

A Spiritual Abuse Story

I am the oldest of four from a single mother home, so I have always had great responsibility put on me, conditioned to do things the right way. I have always felt that if I didn’t things would be catastrophic. I did not grow up with too many rules though. It was always a guessing game of what we were or were not supposed to do.  Rules like “Don’t cry too much, God will make you blind. Don’t laugh too much because that’s when bad things happen.” came up randomly.  Since my mom grew up Catholic, she used God to enforce rules.  God was father, disciplinarian, but not more. I imagined him like I'm sure many kids did, with a long white beard watching every move I made, like Santa.  This God was whatever my mom made him with no context of the church backing her up. God was only there when necessary, in and out of our lives like our actual father.

When my tired mom heard a van would pick us up, take us to a church and feed us once a week, she jumped at the opportunity. This is where I found out I had to be saved, though I didn’t get saved right away. It took me a while to adjust to the culture and speak of the Southern Baptist church my mom sent us to. This is where I learned about charity and donating my time to help others. This is where I learned that if you play Metallica backwards it says hail satan or something. I knew Satan was bad. My mom didn’t allow us to say those things. I didn't know that her superstitions were founded on anything until I went to church.

A few summers later, when I was 12, my mom sent us to camp when the church offered to pay our way. The emotional music, the plea to not be one of the left behind, and the fear of going to hell finally made sense and I got saved. Then a year later surrounded by thousands of people, pyrotechnics, and more emotionally triggering music; I got saved again. I learned that once saved, one can backslide, so I recommitted my life to Jesus. This is what they called it, recommitting, like a marriage that needed constant rekindling.  I did things wrong without knowing. I yelled and fought with my sisters. I listened to punk that wasn’t mxpx and I loved TLC. I think I liked girls and boys. You can get saved as many times as you want, but who wanted to run up to the altar in front of that many people that many times? I wanted to do better this time around. I stayed involved in this church. I became a good christian. I volunteered my time. I even became kind of a leader. I did this because I had things the right way or the worst could happen. I did everything I could to not “backslide” to not be a “lukewarm” Christian. It's not me to be half assed anyway.

I graduated from high school when I was 17 and decided to attend Teen Mania's Honor Academy. The Honor Academy was for the cream of the crop Christians; the “world changers”, the leaders.  There message got to my empathic and idealistic nature. I wanted to make a difference and this seemed like the way to do it. With sponsorship from my church I went into their year long program. Yes, that’s right people had to pay to attend this internship. At the honor academy, I learned that there are even more things wrong with me. I needed to be more feminine. I had to “beat my body to make it a slave”. My eating disorder really took off then, but that’s another story.  I couldn't be friends with boys anymore. I had also been denying my sexuality since I didn’t know how to do that right. Then I found out that was wrong too. I had to not be too friendly, but still want to eventually marry a boy. It was getting confusing trying to be good. Once on a field trip, a male leader asked the "ladies" to make those boys I used to be friends with sandwiches. This was not something that had ever been asked of me and it alerted me that something was wrong.  The first time I said no was about those damn sandwiches. Not making those damn sandwiches helped me get out.  That was the beginning of the end.

In the summer I worked 98 hour weeks at times (for free), so that Teen Mania could send missionaries all over the world. I had been one of those missionaries. I went to the Dominican Republic when I was 15. Now I was helping other 15 year olds go save other people. It was manifest destiny.  I was slave labor for Teen Mania's destiny. I was also a slave spiritually. There was a right way to believe, to express my spirituality. It was a very narrow path of the way, the truth and the life. I was a slave to their way, their truth and the life they were making for me. I decided I didn’t want to be a slave anymore.

 I finished the year long program, but left no longer a Christian. I knew as a woman I could not be part of that kind of Christianity. I knew that my spiritual path confined to Christianity would not work. I left with a black void in my heart that had been my foundation. Eventually, feeling betrayed I decided that I was atheist. I didn’t last long as an atheist. It’s just not for me. I found yoga by chance at art school I felt my own soul speak to me again, like it did when I was a very young girl. It implored and it wanted to experience.  I wanted to hack my own spirituality, piecing it together as I wanted. So I did.

 I saved myself by realizing that there was nothing to be saved from.

 I Rosemary Barria AM. I am my own way, my own truth and my own life.

 I identify as a divine feminist, a yogini, a witch. I am not tied to any definition of my spirituality though. No one can take me away from me. My path not even a path, it's like walking in an endless forest discovering things, resting here or there, as I see fit.  There is no backsliding or lukewarm because I am. There is not right or wrong because I am. It's more about learning and playing.

 This is why I am passionate about helping people piece together their own spiritual path. There is SO much there, SO much inside of us. It doesn’t have to be prescribed to us. It doesn’t have to be given to us by men. Even if you have a religious path, you can make it yours. Almost 15 years later and this story has still brought me shame, so I knew I had to get it out there. I hope it helps you. If you are interested in working together, let me know. I would love to hear your stories and help you see just how magical you already are.

“Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved?” – Carl Sagan