I appreciate Donna’s willingness to share her story, and hope that others are emboldened to do the same. More importantly, I hope that her experience inspires others to take action!
My Story, by Donna Bennum
In August of 2014 I made my decision to leave ‘the church’ (Stanton churches) which I had been a member of for thirty-six years.
In the weeks that followed I found Rising Sun church of Christ. I sat in their sanctuary and listened to their hymns, as they were accompanied by musical instruments of all sorts. I listened to the preacher speak about God’s love for us and about His GRACE, and how there’s NOTHING we could do to work for that grace of Christ dying on the cross for us. The message that made such an impact on me was “praise God in all we do!” All I have been doing is pleasing MAN by conforming to man-made rules/judgements for all the time I’ve been in the church.
It hit me that I have been held HOSTAGE for the past thirty-six years! Hostage to beliefs that are not inspired by God. Hostage to “judgements” that became DOCTRINE. HOSTAGE to the fear of MAN. HOSTAGE to the fear of God striking me dead if I text while driving, or if I forgot to bless my food before taking a bite (fearing a God of condemnation – not SALVATION.)
I have been HELD HOSTAGE to SCRUTINY! Being analyzed for what you wore, what you spoke, how you moved what you did or did not do. Life in the Stanton churches was NOT a joy and rejoicing of my heart. I would go to worship and classes and anticipate a phone call from a teacher over the next couple of days…your kids didn’t take notes during church, your girls didn’t wear socks with their shoes to Tuesday class, you could see the lines of your bra through the back of your blouse (I was not the only mom who was always equipped with a thermometer to find any excuse to miss classes or worship).
I realized why I never felt really close to my brethren, it’s because I felt I always had to have my guard up because they would eventually bring a perceived offense to me about me or my children.
The ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ came when my husband was counseled to bring our disabled 18 year old child back home to gain guardianship – no matter what legal fees entailed. We were working with social service agencies on a regular basis but it was the church that took away our ability as parents by taking away our ability to make OUR OWN decisions. The Bible teaches that men are to take the role as the head of their homes. The church does not give them that liberty.
Because I was considered a teacher for much of my 36 years I WAS part of the problem with teaching man-made doctrine. I became the enforcer of church rules in my home with my children and in taking away my husband’s authority. Having adopted three siblings out of foster care, and seeing results of “failing” (by Stanton’s measures) with our four bio children, I had decided to be stricter and more diligent with our adopted children. Between my pride and the church rules and three teenagers—it was all out WAR! They could do nothing right in my eyes as I scrutinized them the way the teachers do.
My husband and I were always at odds regarding discipline of the kids. He wanted time to weigh things out and I pushed him to ACT. I was rash. I pushed for what I’d been taught…don’t let ONE act of disobedience go unpunished. I became the enemy in the home but I had convinced myself that it was due to our children’s rebellion. I considered myself to be the righteous one because I was obeying my teachers. Meanwhile, my husband was ‘set down’ for NOT conforming to the hard discipline of the church, as I was doing.
I realized the church does not teach men to lead their homes, nor Christians to make their own decisions. Submitting to your teachers in the church means DON’T question church counsel and judgements. I learned to judge with harshness and hardness out of pride. My self examination became, if I’m approved in the eyes of my teachers then I MUST be approved before God.
Over the years in the church I was withdrawn from twice. Both were unscriptural for offenses fabricated by the church by intruding into people’s private lives. My husband attempted to contest the scriptural basis for my withdraw but was shot down as not having the judgement as the older ones. Once again, he was striving to be the man of his house.
I THANK GOD that he opened my eyes to see that I was NOT serving Him OR my family out of LOVE.
I am ashamed of having a part in teaching these doctrines of man. I don’t want to say that what I have been through in the church for decades is comparable to the three women who were held in chains in a home for decades—but I DO believe I HAVE related to that moment the one woman took courage to rush to the door and take the chance to BREAK OUT in the hope of freedom.
The moment I determined I was DONE WITH BONDAGE, God opened the door to FREEDOM! I praise my God for this! He has shown me I have HOPE. I found my MY hope. He will show you as well. Have faith to ‘step over the side of the boat’ and put away the premise that God exists only within the Stanton churches (another fable of man’s creation).
There IS hope after SCRUTINY! I pray for those still in the Stanton churches, but especially those who are recovering from the damage done by the man-made doctrines within the Stanton churches. So much damage has been done simply by largely omitting the GRACE of Christ from their doctrine. The Stanton churches are NOT a “taste of heaven on earth” because NO ONE will make it to heaven without following Christ’s commandments of LOVE.
You are in my prayers, Donna Bennum.
Do you want to see more stories like this? Submit them to me using the contact information in the sidebar. Thanks for your patience and readership as the blog evolves, and thank you Donna for submitting your inspiring story!