I was institutionalized. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic but how else could I sum up being sent off to live with a whole bunch of strangers, and lived on a strict daily monotonous routine?
I was sent to this Christian ‘Concentration camp-esque’ grounds. Naturally, it was expected that I would return home with a deep attachment to Jesus and doing morning devotions. This was not the case. Outside of the religious aspects of christian camp, there was so much more going on. Things worth writing about.
This is Montego Bay. I thought it fitting to give a visual of what I was working with. I stayed on this property for what felt like a lifetime but was actually 3 months.
I packed my bags which consisted mostly of tank tops, leggings, flip flops and oversized t-shirts. I got to the property, and realized I was staying on an ex-slave plantation. There was a huge great house on top of the hill with pictures of white slave owners on the walls and antique furniture. The Great House was then passed down in the generations where the descended family of this slave owner lives. At that time, I was very much into history and being sensitive about racism so I was already ‘squinted eyed’ at the whole dynamics of the place. I laugh now that I think about it.
We were shuffled into our different dorm rooms, our devices were taken away and I was rooming with 2 girls. One girl was from Montego Bay, and the other was from Ohio. Ohio girl never wore shoes, only wore cloth and pins as clothing and had blonde dread locks. I don’t exaggerate when I say that she NEVER wore shoes, but she did have a pretty decent Spotify playlist as she was the “room leader” so I accepted her. She was SUPER jesus-y but I knew something was off…
I knew something was off about the whole camp…
I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
It felt like prison for some reason. Conversations that first night among the 3 of us went a little something like,
“So what you in here for?”
“Never ask what someone’s here for. End goal is that we all love Jesus.”
After a few weeks of religious routines, 2 hours with one other person talking about Him, forced alone times where you have to go…talk to God then report what he told you. It felt like I was being brainwashed. It felt like I was forced to produce results. I found myself making stuff up.
“God told me that things are going to be alright….and to love myself.”
It was unhealthy. I became so brainwashed, I stopped wearing shoes too. Once I truly got initiated into a routine, I found myself doing it so thoughtlessly. I stopped wearing shoes, I stopped asking for my phone, I was disconnected completely from myself…but I didn’t even realize because that was my new norm. I was talking about Jesus all the time. It felt good to be apart of something bigger than myself I must say but I had no idea who I was. It was scary.
I saw Ohio girl, and this guy run to the back of the dorms. I followed. I saw them with a whole set up–bongs, spliffs, table full of weed and cigarettes. This girl who was literally the top Jesus worshipper of the camp…was around back smoking up. I was confused.
Super confused. After I caught her that day, we got closer because she didn’t have to put on a ‘front’ anymore. She told me things that I don’t feel at liberty to post here, but it was…so unchristian. I was shook. My other roommate started opening up too that she was putting on a ‘front’ and told me the things she was getting into.
I THEN found out that these girls were sleeping around with other guys on the camp itself after lights out, then preaching the next morning about Jesus and his disciples. My faith went crumbling, and I was BACK. I enjoyed the camp–sneaking out late nights to the pool, lighting up, sneaking off property and having bonfires after strictly being told not to. I felt free, ironically.
I had a smirk on at these meetings, I started being honest that Jesus wasn’t saying anything to me..and he never did. They would pray and throw olive oil at me. I pretended it worked, and they rejoiced and said that they felt Jesus’ spirit heal my mind and that He spoke to them and told them that they would get it done. False.
Since then, I’ve questioned what we believe. Christianity, to me, appeared like a performance. The way the pastor’s spoke and breathed, the way the music intensified and then people got up and rolled and ran and screamed like a theater drama class. I had questions like:
“Why would Jesus overlook the Jew concentration camps, slavery, indian genocide and innocent kids living with cancer and other life-changing diseases? Why does this religion sound like a scary cult threatening that if you don’t listen to what this book says, you will burn in a pit of fire for the eternity? Why if I question these things I’m told, I’m considered to have no faith and therefore not a real Christian? Why does this sound like some control mechanism to keep poor people poor? Why are all these people that have been in the church all these years still suffering and depressed? Why Why Why. “
These days however, I’m fully respectful of whatever anyone wants to believe because believing in something really does calm the mind. Knowing you have something to work towards (end goal being whatever your religion promises you), is good and I won’t take that way from you.
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