The Day I Ripped Up My Bible

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Before I even fully think through what I’m about to do, I grasp the edge of one of the pages and with a swift yank the tissue-paper page tears out with a satisfying rip. I’m holding a crumpled, torn page from my gray fake-leather bible in my hand. The page barely weighs a thing and yet the words on it feel as if they’re printed in the heaviest element in the universe.

I toted this particular bible around with me as I went to youth group camps, volunteered with the middle school group, and sat through countless messages on purity and modesty and “a woman’s place.” It was my companion as I strove to be “on fire” for God,  to follow the modesty dress code (which was continually growing and changing by the day), and to invite my “non-Christian” friends to church because the fate of their eternal souls was my responsibility. It was there as I had nightmares about the End Times thanks to my church’s fixation with the Rapture and it was there as I wore my light gray hoodie — JESUS SAVIOR written in enormous lettering on the front — around town in order to be a “witness.” It was there as I swallowed more and more mouthfuls of salty, toxic messages about my identity and self-worth until I was beginning to drown.

Nearly every morning during my adolescent years I opened its pages, praying that God would show me wonderful things from his word (a paraphrase of a verse I was taught to pray). I even snuck it along on sleepovers the way children bring along a favorite teddy (I’d read a few chapters early in the morning before everyone else woke up). I even read the painfully boring books like Leviticus, the books like Judges that could rival Game of Thrones in gore and violence, and the confusing, scary books like Revelation.  Each word, I was told, was “God breathed” — so I read them all, again and again.

I highlighted so many passages in my favorite gel pens, took so many notes in the margins that it was transformed into my spiritual diary. When I read it, I read not only the text but also all of the messages I heard, all of the articles and books I read, and all of the bible studies I went to. Even without the notes, I could hear the voices of so many people in my ears.

It was no longer a book that I read; it was a book that conjured up the dogma I’d been conditioned to believe without question.

Thanks to my Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome I haven’t even been able to look at it for a few years, so I’ve been storing it out of sight, behind a row of books on a rarely-used bookcase. But I’ve still known it was there. It’s still been there haunting me. As I held it, I just couldn’t take it anymore. And in a split-second I decided to rip a page out, hoping it might make me feel a little better. I’d planned on finding some meaningful way of disposing of it; maybe something therapeutically artistic or maybe something more somber like a funeral service for my old self, my old life, and this old book. But that rip was so satisfying, freeing, healing.

I immediately grasp the back cover of my small bible and rip it right off.

Rip.

I wrench a handful of pages out of the New Testament, and then begin shredding them into little bite-sized bits until the highlighted portions of the text are shredded and the marginalia is unreadable.

Rip rip rip.

My jaw is set as I fragment the Holy Text, taring and shredding as fast as my hands are capable. This is a violent, sacrilegious assault on a holy book — the holy book. This is a declaration of my freedom.

Rip rip rip.

I never thought I’d want to destroy a book, but now I feel as if I won’t find peace until the job is done.

Rip rip rip.

Tearing. Ripping. Breaking. Destroying. The pages, thin as they are, fight back — leaving red, raw marks on my fingers. But I keep pulling the pages apart as if my sanity dependeds on it. And maybe it does.

Rip rip rip.

Shredding some of the pages brings Younger Kelsey — with a passionate love for Jesus and a desire to be everything a Good Christian Girl is — back to life. She didn’t know she was being hurt; I didn’t know I was being hurt. And I cry for her as the rip rip rip continues.

Some of the thin bits of texts, like ashes, cling lightly to my clothing and float onto the ground. Ashes of my old life.

Rip rip rip.

Finally, when there is nothing left but a pile of paper shreds, I stop.

The bible no longer exists. I forcefully ripped it out of the present tense and damned it to the past tense. It’s gone. I metaphorically and literally destroyed the lies I’d been taught about my self-worth, personhood, and value; the lies I’d been taught about the people outside our  particular church building, the world, and even Christ.

I destroyed it, but not because I ripped it up. That book was destroyed the first time I’d graffitied religious cliches and self-loathing inspired theology on its pages. Today, I didn’t destroy it; I put it out of its misery.

It no longer exists.

It’s gone.

As I survey the literary carnage that lays in a pile on the table, spilling onto the floor, I notice a few tears on my cheeks; I notice how much my ink-stained hands are beginning to ache. Sometimes you don’t noticed how much something is hurting you until it’s over.

***

The journey towards healing from religious trauma, just like anything else, is such a personal thing. What are some ways — sacrilegious or sacred or something else entirely  — that you’ve found a little peace and healing in your own life? 

42 thoughts on “The Day I Ripped Up My Bible

  1. And in the end, it’s gift to you is your freedom from it. I have been reading about ‘creative destruction.’ Where something better replaces something that has lost its value. It was about business but I see it in how we live our lives as well. I’m a “tosser.” I love to throw things away if they have a negative impact on me when I look at them. They may have once meant something but that moment has passed or was tarnished in some way. I think we constantly need to ‘clean house’ to free ourselves and allow ourselves to evolve. Whatever needs tossing, go for it and free yourself from it’s power over you. Well written post!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I love that term “creative destruction” — it fits so well with this post and the idea of destroying something that’s become painful. I’m a tosser, too. I didn’t used to be but somewhat recently realized that when I kept things that became painful it was like there were emotional landmines scattered throughout my house, and no one needs that.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment! I’m going to think of that term the next time I have to toss something. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s great! I do feel like everything gives off some kind of energy. Emotionally charged items that trigger negative thoughts need to be gone and replaced with something better or just lovely empty space.

        Like

      • Lauri

        I am so grateful to have come across your very heart felt and beautiful writing. I feel as though each word I could have written and I am finding healing in sitting here this Sunday morning allowing each word to wash over me. Post traumatic church syndrome….so appropriate.

        Like

  2. Pase Lupeamanu

    My full peace and healing will come when I die. This life is full of hurt, pain, and suffering. And I am at peace with that. My real life will begin at death. No more pain, no more suffering, life full of love. During this current lifetime my temporary up-and-down peace ultimately comes from knowing my future is with God. It also comes from my family, friends, playing volleyball and video games. My peace also comes with teaching students that in a world of hurt, God loves them. Loving people is the key to everything in life. Jesus does not care what your profession is, what your race is, what your sexual identity is, or if you like Chipotle or not. He loves us all the same. If he can sacrifice his life for us, I think I can endure this worlds pain and suffering during my short existence on this Earth. As for todays peace and healing, it comes when I love others as much as He loves me, no matter how hard it may be. (at this point Bryan Adams music video for “Everything I Do, I Do It For You” plays to end this comment)

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Jesus does not care what your profession is, what your race is, what your sexual identity is, or if you like Chipotle or not.”

      You win favorite comment of the day for this line. Made me laugh, and it’s also so true. Welcome to my blog! And thank you for taking the time to comment. I’ll hope you’ll stop by again. 🙂

      Like

  3. AW

    Kelsey, you couldn’t have written the experience more perfectly. I need not describe mine as you just described it WORD for WORD. Thank you for sharing your experience and post. Everything you said is so absolute true, the sudden impulse, the satisfaction of the rip, the way in which the paper is so thin but ‘fights’ back’ all the ‘effort’ like a diary put into it, the need to live up to perfect to standards, standards I can’t even RELATE to anymore and could never live up to. That has only ever instilled a fright, fear or a sense of eternal dread. While all the while never find victory reward or anything remotely ”promised’ in reality. Just got so sick of it! The burden the lies the never being enough. The fighting, I had enough of it and put an end to it. Exactly as you described. And yes with every satisfying rip, until there was nothing left. There it sat on the floor, unaffected an unmoved as I was, I was finally free.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, girl, hug times ten. I’ve only destroyed one thing in my life, and it felt great. The next few lines are just my opinion but possibly some are facts. There was a time when “government leaders of that time” noticed a trend of following the written word. Now we see on side-bar on the laptop “trending” you get the gist. So the bible was revised for their “pretense” / control. This is what it looks like: if ten plus generations tell their children (the only one we have) read this book and don’t question anything. My take on it is religion is the absolute best example of evolution on Earth. It proves itself over and over, even if a group is wrong on many points – they are all organized and pulling in the same direction- it works.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I get it that this particular Bible represents all the pain and angst from your church of your youth. I do feel so much sadness that the time in church has caused you all of this sorrow .

    I have all of my Bibles since I became a believer at 16. They are ripped and torn from use . I wrote in them all and I can not imagine getting rid of any of them. I have a very old one in my car, so I can read it when my hubby goes fishing and I read.

    All of the verses that have helped me through my trials and tribulations and brought so much Peace, Hope and Joy to my heart and life.

    The times of our life now is very strange and hard for so many around the world. They are dangerous times and I know I need the Bible for strength and courage.

    I can really relate to the fact of Preachers turning so many against the truth of God’s Word, for there are many in my life that used it for their own agendas and were not living the truth of it. I for one do not like all of the churches ,but love the people anyways.

    But getting rid of The Word of God , my life line to Christ and to God…..no way can I do it for He talks to me and walks with me always and speaks to me Peace be still….. ❤ you always, Carla

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Adrian Younger

    I remember questioning my convictions too. I then went on a quest for the Truth. Four questions helped me in that search. Who am I? Why am I here? Where do I come from? Where am I going?

    I find the Truth has a way of clarifying simplifying and is natural. Ask questions, notice the clarity, the simplicity and the natural logical development when Truth answers!

    I hope this helps somehow!

    Keep seeking Truth!

    Like

    • “Who am I?” — I’ve been thinking a lot very recently about what a huge (and hugely important) question that is. 🙂

      Thank you for the encouragement. And welcome to my blog. I hope you’ll stop by again.

      Like

  7. A few years ago, some of the pages in one of my Bibles fell out and I never got around to gluing them back into that Bible. When my wife half joked about it at one of our Gypsy Bible studies, I replied that those were the pages that were ripped out while I was working at the Baptist church.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My first thought when I was reading your comment was that it sounded like your bible’s pages are being a bit nomadic, which fits rather well with the name of your study. 🙂

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. And welcome to my blog!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Barbara CT

    It hurt my soul to read the heading of your post, but not just because it was a Bible. It’s the way I feel about any book (except a phone book, which is becoming more and more scarce). After reading your post, however (having my own PTSD issues from my youth), I totally get WHY you did it and I’m glad it helped you on your healing journey.

    I absolutely get the “creative destruction” label, too, that another reader mentioned. It reminded me of a long ago day when I was still super pissed when I got home from work and wanted to destroy something. I went next door to a condemned house, picked up an old curtain rod (the kind that was hard to bend with your hands) and started smashing window panes. I had almost cooled down completely when I hit one more window pane, but it didn’t break. I got pissed off all over again and hit it where the upper and lower windows met, resulting in the whole window, frame and all, falling apart. Temper tantrum over and I never had one like it ever again.

    I have often thought, though, that someone could make a good living out of buying up some old cars from a wrecking or salvage yard then renting a ball-peen hammer out to people for 10-15 minutes at a time to just smash away. I bet there would be a lot of business and a lot fewer angry people around.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “It hurt my soul to read the heading of your post, but not just because it was a Bible. It’s the way I feel about any book (except a phone book, which is becoming more and more scarce).” I loved the last part off this … except a phone book. I completely relate. I’ve always felt that way about books too (still do, in fact), which is why it was so odd for me to actually rip up any book, let alone a Bible I used to lug around so frequently. Odd for me but so healing.

      I think you’re completely right; someone could make a good business out of renting out ball-peen hammers so people could beat on old junker cars. And possibly less angry people running around, too. Sometimes a little creative destruction can go a long way. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Kelsey – Everyone needs a carthartic break at least once in their lives. I’m a minister’s daughter who spent many years furious with the church because they blackballed my dad from the ministry for being alcoholic. I prayed to Yoda for a while “the force is strong in you young Skywalker” and explored faiths. What I’ve found is that each church is different whereas religionsis are probably more uncomfortably similar than they’d like to believe. You were traumatized as a child. I stopped praying in the cafeteria in 7 grade because I couldn’t take the heat. You held out and faced many repercutions as a result. I wish I could wrap my arms around you to let you grieve. Rage, be cynical, even weather any depression that might come your way. Maybe you’ll adopt a new bible or a new path but God will still be watching over you, loving you. I have 5 or 6 bibles of various kinds I’m reading from what interests me at the time. Archeologists ,Women’s, Study , Catholic, Protestant, Books not included ( love the Book of Mary Magdalene) and when I need a break, I take it. But I wasn’t brainwashed to the extent you were. You were shredding the verbiage and actions and indoctrinations that hit you before you had the filters and boundaries to protect yourself. It might be that that you destroyed. Give yourself time to heal

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your very kind comment. 🙂

      You said, “You were shredding the verbiage and actions and indoctrinations that hit you before you had the filters and boundaries to protect yourself. It might be that that you destroyed.” You’re exactly right. That is exactly what I was shredding, and exactly what I thought as I was shredding it. It wasn’t that it was a bible … but that it was THAT bible. The bible that had all the notes from all the people who taught me such destructive, toxic crap about myself and even God before I had filters and boundaries to protect myself; when I was still just a kid so what the adults in authority said were always right (or so I thought).

      I’ve never read the book of Mary Magdalene. I’ll have to look that up. 🙂

      Like

  10. schlenkerkelly

    A very provocative post Kelsey…and one that struck me on many levels. I too struggled with the weight of being a good witness, (which I fail at daily it seems), and I had a dream at 13 about the end times which outlined my brother being taken to Heaven first…he drowned at age 21. The First of our family to leave this earth, which I knew in my spirit would be the case, somehow.

    But I became overly obsessed with the End Times, and it dominated my well-being. After my dream, I am nervous about weird weather, and worry that I am not a good witness with my brash ways..I have never been able to destroy a Bible, but I understand completely your feelings about the weight of all of it being too much sometimes. I had a Bible during my first marriage when I was so young, and I had to put that one in storage because it was just a reminder of how bad that first one was, even though I still believe every experience in life has value on some level.

    I too have been disenchanted by so-called Christian values over the years…you know the ones where it was said well, you are sick because you havenèt enough faith…or you are not insanely wealthy because you have sin in your life…(and who said that there wasnèt value in suffering…ie Henry Nouwen writes beautifully on this subject…) Apologies for my È it is supposted to be an apostrophe.

    What I believe, and continue to believe, is that the Grace and Mercy of God is new every morning, in spite of Man, Church doctrine, or rules and regulations designed to keep His children in bondage with false guilt, and feeling the weight of the witnessing banner..we will continue to fall short, and He will continue to extend Mercy and Grace. God knows we all need it.

    I continue to be both blessed and amazed by your boldness in proclaiming your Faith, while acknowledging doubt, unrest, fear, and not having all the answers. Thank you Kelsey, for being the voice of so many of us out here that have not the courage to put it out there.

    Like

    • “I continue to be both blessed and amazed by your boldness in proclaiming your Faith, while acknowledging doubt, unrest, fear, and not having all the answers. Thank you Kelsey, for being the voice of so many of us out here that have not the courage to put it out there.”

      This is one of the most encouraging comments anyone has ever left me. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it. Sometimes it’s nice to know that someone is out there reading. It makes it feel worthwhile and makes pushing that “publish” button a little less scary. 🙂

      Thank you for taking the time to share a little bit of your own story. I truly hope you’ll stop by again.

      Like

  11. project_FIVE_23

    This is truly amazing. I used to be a Christian and when I left the religion, I felt terrible, but mainly because it had been instilled in me that living that way was the ONLY way. Every day as a Christian I felt I wasn’t true to myself. The day I left, I felt this weight off my back. I love God, but sometimes a religion can really distort you. Since the day I first read my bible, without the interpretations of others, No other readings have inspired me as much as yours. Cheers to you and to those who defy the conventional and look for their true happiness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Since the day I first read my bible, without the interpretations of others, No other readings have inspired me as much as yours.” That is extremely high praise. I’m flattered and kind of shocked all at the same time. 🙂

      Thank you so much. I love what you said: “I love God, but sometimes a religion can really distort you.” I agree so much. And, at least for me, it can be hart to find yourself again, hard to reimagine yourself, after you’ve spent so long being crammed into a little box.

      Thanks again. I hope you’ll visit again, and it’s nice when people comment because then it’s not just a monologue. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. One particular day I was reading about john the baptist when he saw jesus coming to the river jordan (?) anyway, the words he said were… “behold the lamb of god who takes away the sin of the world.” At the age of 45 I had probably read this part thousands of times…. any how… I looked up the words in the dictionary… ‘take’ and ‘away’ I literally sat there for hours stunned out of my mind… took away…. well when I came back around to my senses, I had my first awakening as some would call it…. if sin is gone … what the hell is everyone bitchn about? long story short… after reading your story I wish I would have had the knowing to do just what you did… but I guess I did it in a different way. Inside I was never the same… I am far far far away from christianity now eight years later….and I have never felt freeer… it took a while however to drop all of the programming from my daily life…. now I can’t believe how far I have come and I look forward to every day ahead now without fear… thank you for sharing your story….

    Liked by 1 person

    • “well when I came back around to my senses, I had my first awakening as some would call it…. if sin is gone … what the hell is everyone bitchn about?”

      This line made me laugh because, well, you’re really funny but also because I can relate sooo well. 🙂

      I read your post describing when you got your first crystal. I could really relate with feeling the need for comfort. I feel like I’ve broken up with my religion (even though I haven’t let go of all of it) and, like after a breakup, I feel like I’m in more need of comfort than usual but the person (or, in my case, the religious disciplines like reading the bible, praying, etc.) are no longer there to comfort. In need of comfort but the usual source of comfort is gone. When I talk to my husband about this I’ve started referring to it as my “comfort hole.”

      I appreciated your story because it sounded like you could relate with the comfort hole, but your story didn’t end there. It sounds like you’ve found new ways of finding comfort and you’ve found yourself. And that’s beautiful. 🙂

      Like

  13. Dear One,

    It will be understandable to me if you choose to read this comment with a bit of cynicism due to your recent and past painful encounters with harsh “religious” critics. please remember that man is imperfect full of issues and hypocrisy for certain, but it is because we have all fallen short from eh beginning of time. Perhaps…no ,certainly now you are in need of healing, understanding and love more than ever so know this…I will be praying for your fervently that you receive all this and
    and more. I do not condemn you for tearing up your bible, but I do ask that you , at the right time for you, forgive those who have hurt you . Believe me this is VERY HARD, so let us just leave it all in the Lords hands for now. He will never leave you ore forsake you, Dear Kelsey. It sounds to me like you have been taught falsely and my heart weeps your experience. You must come to the place where your faith becomes your own relationship with the Lord, not on the coattails of another.
    Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
    John 14:27

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  14. balefiremhael

    I liked your post, I applaud your strength to lose the shackles of intellectual tyranny that is Catholicism. I never had the relationship with god that many X-Christians had but trust me it is liberating to not be held to the hypocrisy of an archaic belief. You will also find it intellectually rewarding to begin to explore the world with your eyes open and find truth about your existence and beliefs through real experience and not some Bronze Age wisdom written before they even knew the world was round.
    “Take the risk of thinking for yourself. Much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way. “ – Christopher Hitchens

    Like

    • I’m actually not an ex-Christian, I’m an ex-Evangelical (never had any personal exposure to Catholicism). But thank you for your encouragement. And for taking the time to comment. I always enjoy hearing from readers. 🙂

      Like

  15. Hey Kelsey, really nice to read this article. I identify with having Religious Trauma Syndrome myself, and my story is a looot like yours! I remember the first time I cursed aloud (junior year of high school) – how I let each word form in the pit of my tongue, how I rallied them to the back of my lips and then spit them out one at a time, like a slow meticulous rite. It was really formative for me – a subconscious confirmation to myself that my mother was emotionally abusive and that a small part of my heart really no longer believed.

    Pretty sure I’ve ripped a few pages out of the ole Big Book myself, but I’m not quite there when it comes to tearing up the entire thing. First off, I don’t have one on hand – perk of dorming 5 hours from home – and second, my view of the entire religion is complicated at best, haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, Max! And welcome to my little section of the internet. 🙂

      I remember the first time I curse — okay, well, it wasn’t the first time but it was the first time I dropped an f-bomb (and it was actually in front of some of the deacons at my families church, but that’s kind of a long story). You said described spitting the words out slowly “like a slow meticulous rite.” That is exactly what it felt like.

      I can relate entire with “my view of the entire religion is complicated at best.” I don’t think I would’ve ripped it up if it hadn’t been THAT bible — the bible from my youth group days that had so, so many toxic messages about my self-worth and personhood written all over it’s pages; so many notes, so many lies.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m glad I described things in a way you relate to too! I really get that – but geez, taking such a definitive and permanent act to something so central to trauma or loss is a huge huge huge step. Awesome that you were at a place to do it.

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