On my Substack, I shared a newsletter a while back where I talk about denominationalism. This morning’s reading from ‘Nearer than Breathing‘ by Melvyn Matthews made me revisit that piece. I’ve decided to share it below because of the shared theme of purity.
The reason we build denominational prisons or isolate ourselves in other ways is that we don’t trust God. We are still afraid of the kind of intimacy that reveals His will to us. And because we don’t trust God, we put on a facade, pretending to know what he requires of us. It is much easier to follow a set of man-made rules that makes us appear pure and set apart.
In this morning’s chapter of Nearer than Breathing, Eating with Defiled Hands, Matthews quotes the Croatian Theologian Miroslav Wolf:
“The pursuit of false purity emerges as a central aspect of sin – the enforced purity of a person or community that sees itself set apart from the defiled world in a hypocritical sinlessness and excludes the boundary-breaking other from its heart and its world.”
Matthews posits that we engage in this sort of behaviour “because we cannot believe that God in his generosity has spread the table of his banquet before us and now invites all of us to come in out of the cold.” These words hit me right where I needed to be cracked open. I know I have been guilty of this mistrust. There are still many trauma-induced layers of calcification around my heart that make me reach for false purity rather than intimacy with the God I claim to love.
Boundaries (previously published on Substack)
I’m slowly learning that being authentic is very much about learning where to draw your own boundaries rather than being herded by groupthink. Please note that I’m talking about leaning on my own understanding but rather actually learning to discern God’s voice within for myself as well as through the Scriptures. This is different from accepting being told what to do and having someone else completely define my personal walk with God by imposing the rules of conduct that are culturally acceptable in that particular religious subculture.
CPTSD and the Right to Boundaries
As someone who was brought up with no boundaries and even directly told I had no right to boundaries, this lesson is only now available for me to digest and integrate properly. For many years, I suffered from anxiety, clinical depression and CPTSD from childhood abuse and abandonment.
So for a long time, I had no recognition of my personal boundaries. This made me an HSP, or an ’empath’ but also wide open (through fear) for all kinds of entity oppression and attachments. Because having boundaries of any kind was associated with feelings of guilt and shame, I’m definitely a late bloomer in this respect. And yes, I still struggle. It’s one of the reasons I keep myself to myself so much IRL.
Boundaries and Denominationalism
Denominationalism is directly related to the topic of boundaries. This is how Christians create us vs them paradigms. They often draw these boundaries by hardlining against specific types of sins. I guess it makes them feel more righteous than the other Christians.
After being delivered from a spirit of divination via a Pentecostal online ministry earlier this year, I so desperately wanted to buy their beliefs wholesale. Because I’m tired. I wanted some relief in the form of simplicity.
I didn’t want to have to keep seeking and doubting. “Someone, please just tell me the truth already–my brain hurts!” But just because you have one powerful experience doesn’t mean that you can take everything someone teaches as (literal) Gospel truth. You still have to use your God-given discernment and pray for wisdom. It’s in the Bible, folks!
Fundamentalist Religious Trauma
As a Christian who entered into the Christian faith via a fundamentalist, cessationist Evangelical Baptist denomination at age 17, I instantly got hijacked by those beliefs and group boundaries for a period of about ten years. But I always questioned several of their core beliefs, such as cessationism.
Later, I converted to Catholicism. Again, I wanted to buy the dogmas wholesale. But it turned out to be impossible. Now, after my third re-entry into the Christian faith, I finally get it. I have to stop. Because I have Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. I have God’s Holy Scriptures. And I do have boundaries. It’s enough.
And I trust that God will send me the right persons with whom I can fellowship regardless of their denominational (or non-denominational) adherence.
Transcending Denominational Boundaries
It just doesn’t matter. Not because boundaries don’t matter. They definitely do on a personal level. But if they matter collectively, they should matter out of LOVE. Because no one denomination has the whole truth. Each group of Christians are but one part of the body and only able to see what relates directly to their true and blessed function.
I am so tired of the heresy hunters, running around sowing division in the body of Christ. I’m so sick of feeling that I have to watch what I say out of fear of being judged by some petty religious subcultural standards. I don’t fit in anywhere. And that’s okay. I’m finally okay with that.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
The Purity of Pentecostalism
As I continued to listen to the Pentecostal ministers through whose ministry I had received deliverance from the spirits of divination and witchcraft, I started growing increasingly anxious. There was an ever-growing list of sins that I had to heed to stay pure. And of course, I was told had to throw away, or better yet – BURN – any objects even remotely associated with the New Age.
This made me anxious about fitting in and the opinions of other Christians, especially Pentecostals. Because in my heart, I do not believe that crystals act as portals for demons. And when I finally plucked up the courage to think about it, I realised that I do not believe that the tarot cards themselves are evil, even though my witchcraft-related abuse of them had been. They are literally just a pack of playing cards. It’s what was in my heart that defiled the cards, not the other way around.
If I am not willing to buy wholesale the teachings of a specific denomination, they will exclude me. Or they will at least try to make me repent. This is the law you are still under if you choose to enter into a covenant with a denomination.
The Purity of Tarot
During the past ten days or so, I have been praying to God to show me what a tarot practice that honours him might look like. I have also revisited The Contemplative Tarot by Brittany Muller for ideas.
I’m seeking to look at the tarot as a tool for simply tapping into my intuition rather than relating it to occult practices that exclude the message and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
When I attended the discipleship training group on Monday this week, we were invited to look at ourselves as learner drivers. The handout displayed different types of drivers and scenarios on the road. I identified myself as two of them, showing the battle that is still ongoing inside of me due to religious trauma.
One of the drivers was scratching his head while holding a map. The other was a police officer handing a driver a ticket. I actually identified as the police officer, or rather the morality police, instead of the driver. Deep inside, I wish to stay open to the mystery and keep asking the gazillion questions I have about it. But another part of me is still acting as the morality (or purity) police. It’s like driving with the brakes on.
Tarot with a ‘t’ not a ‘T’
Moving forward, I hope God will continue to show me how to play with the cards I decided to keep and use for contemplation. But I will never again capitalise the ‘t’ in the word tarot. That was a sign of me creating an idol and using the cards in a way that wasn’t healthy.
I was a slave to the fear of my mind when I was caught in the fundamentalist trap. And I was just as much a slave to fear, seeking to control my destiny instead of surrendering to providence when I was engaging in occult and witchcraft practices.
Setting Ourselves Apart and the 4 of Pentacles
As part of my morning lectio divina, I have started pulling a card from the Margarete Petersen Tarot. The Four of Coins showed up and it symbolically ties everything I shared above together. It reminds us that there is a setting apart done by God that leads to holiness. And then there is the setting apart that we do ourselves that builds walls and divides us against each other, keeping those ‘less pure’ out.
Prayer for True Purity
God, help me to not defile what is pure through my own fear and judgment. Help me to not be the source of more division in the world. Save me from my tendency to isolate myself. May your compassion clothe me in true holiness through the grace and mercy of your son, Jesus Christ. Take my heart of stone and turn it into a heart of flesh. Amen
Amen. God will give you the answers you seek to find.
May I ask what you mean by idolizing tarot? Do you mean manifestation techniques?
BTW, I love the above prayer you wrote. Gave me chills. I resonate with that isolation issue as well.
Thank you, Tara. The tarot with a capital ‘T’ is idolized in the community that uses it for fortune-telling and I allowed that to rub off on me. It became my go-to instead of prayer many times. I relied on it way more than I should have and I used it to try to predict the future instead of trusting in providence. Only God knows the future and we are much better off leaving it that way. Learning to trust and depend on Him is all part of our journey as believers. Casting lots, as supposed to fortune-telling, is for discernment in the moment, not for predicting the future. And the Tarot, I believe, can still act as a mirror for our hidden self as well as a contemplative focus for prayer. But so can any images. The tarot isn’t the only visual tool that can be used that way. The images themselves are not evil but trying to take control of our lives apart from God is.