A letter To Sarah

By Joseph Strong

A village near Spalding
United Kingdom
21st November 2014

Dear Sarah,

 It was good to read the letter from you that John Bedson published recently. I’ve been meaning to reply personally for a week or so, but things got in the way.

 Firstly you tell us that you are “not sure what to do with this whole Christadelphian thing”. You should see that as a positive sign, it means that you are thinking for yourself. I wonder if you were ever really sure, even at the time of your baptism ? Was it really what you wanted or was it just the done thing?

 You haven’t told us why you feel that writing an email to John feels like a sin to you. But you should not think that it is. You have reached out for help from people who can understand your position, and won’t judge you. Whatever you believe, you can rest assured that that is not a sin.

Sadly, it is a fact that belonging to a religious group can cause mental health problems. What is good, is that you are able to recognise this. With any mental health problem, recognising that you have one is often the hardest, but first, step to coming up with a cure for it. It gives you the ability to reach out for help.

I have no idea if you believe in God any more, or if your belief has faded away, however I will write now as if you still believe. No Christian religion should cause you feelings of guilt or anxiety. If you have those feelings, then it is because of the works of man, not God. I do know that those not brought up as Christadelphians, or who enter with no Christian background are often surprised at how poor Christadelphian’s knowledge of, and application of, Christ’s teaching is. I think it may be to do with the fact that the Sunday School instructors manual specifically advises against concentration on gospel teachings, and is far more concerned with prophecy, the hope of Israel, warnings of future disaster, etc. Such an upbringing often leaves people unable to find a practical meaning to their beliefs and leaves them in a never ending tangle of un-assured salvation and isolation from their fellow man.

 You mention hats, and clothing. Firstly, hats. Well you know the scripture reference used, It wasn’t Jesus saying it, and it was a specific message to a specific church, at a particular time. It also happens to tie in nicely with prevailing attitudes in the Victorian era when the Christadelphians formed. I have no idea why any brother could feel disrespected by a woman's clothes. Do you think that any of your brethren would walk up to a woman in the street and say that? No, I didn't think so, so why are they doing it to you? It is what is known as abuse, although they may well try to deny it or dress it up

Clothing is an interesting one too. Ecclesial attitudes vary, which is in itself rather odd. What is even odder is just how important it is to Christadelphians. Br Peter Baines, speaking at this years Swanwick Bible school, made a great play of how appearance matters, and of how it demonstrates “seriousness”. Pictures were shown of how brethren and sisters “should” look when going to and from the meeting. I hardly need to tell you that none of this has any basis in scripture at all. I wonder what the working class disciples, Mary Magdalene, and Christ himself would have made of it

  My former sister in Christ, Leslie Craddock, wife of an AB, once turned up to the Spalding Bible class in trousers. She had ridden her bicycle from home, some 2 miles away and would return later that night. It caused murmerings. It was “mentioned” at an AB’s meeting. Guess what? No more trousers for Sister Leslie! I wonder what the AB’s were thinking? More to the point, what was God thinking? Or was nobody really thinking at all?

 Perhaps you have read that one of the signs of a cult is that they control what members wear?

With regard to the cleaning roster, again this is a strange thing. I have to say that in my former ecclesia the cleaning was always done by couples. Perhaps you just have a lot of lazy brethren.

Christadelphians promote ideas and gender stereotypes that reflect the era that they were formed in, and of a thousands of years old book. The rest of the western world, Christian and secular alike have moved on.

 You are right to be concerned that if you leave, a family rift will develop. But family rifts can develop over just about anything, not just religion. If your parents despise you for not following their religion, then that must tell you more about their religion and them than it does about you.

 Your parents may well try to teach your siblings that you are stupid. But look at it another way. What are YOU teaching your siblings? You are teaching them that your parents have done their job and that you are now grown, and able to make your own decisions. You may teach them to do likewise. Christ taught that all persons are to be treated with love and compassion, in other words “respect”. Not just those who happen to agree on a few very odd doctrinal points. This is very often something that Christadelphians forget.

Your leaving has nothing to do whatsoever with your Grandfather. He has chosen his way of life, and you will choose yours. If it makes him sad, then that may be understandable, if it makes him angry, then again that must tell you more about him and his religion than it does about you. Does he love you, or does he love to see his religion reflected back at him by you?

The advice that I am going to give you, if you take it, will get you into trouble with your family. It might get me into trouble with the other admins here too!

If you believe in God, and Jesus Christ’s central message of love and compassion, then you should try another church. No matter that your family consider it “apostate”. The things that are upsetting you and making you feel ill about the Christadelphians will be stripped away by doing this. You will be able to consider your religion away from what are, when all is said and done, nothing more than the traditions of a millennial sect that is rapidly losing following after decades of false teaching. You can then consider if you really believe, in an atmosphere that will be non-judgemental and less demanding. If you then leave Christendom altogether, you can never be accused of not searching out the truth.

I am immensely uplifted by your letter, so many Christadelphians in your position just sit and let themselves be taken advantage of, you have awoken and are thinking for yourself. I wish you the very best on your journey into the light.

Joseph Strong

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