Malidoma Patrice Somé, who authored “Of Water and the Spirit” says his village elders believed that it is utterly impossible to survive being caught between two conflicting belief systems. In his case, the conflicting beliefs occurred between his family of origin and the residential school system, with no common ground. Unhappily, in his case, coming from two such opposing backgrounds was a deadly combination.
I believe that clear statement to be a deep truth. I know that upon leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I had to purge their old beliefs with which I was raised. Otherwise, I would self-destruct. The family religion set me up to fail if I left. As a result, I was compelled to replace those toxic ideas with something more conducive to life and freedom from religious bondage, if I wanted any measure of sanity. Lamentably, conflicting beliefs were lethal to my emotional health and well-being.
If only secular people knew how sick and twisted religions can be. People need to be free, not enslaved by dogma, abuse, and outright lies.
Being Dumped into a Residential School
How can inexperienced young children cope when faced with conflicting belief systems?
We have all heard horrific stories about children of the first peoples being ripped away from the security and love of their family and village. We learned how young children were unceremoniously deposited into residential schools. It happened in North America, and now Malidoma Patrice Somé relates his experience in Upper Volta, Africa at the hands of Jesuit priests.
Perhaps child kidnapping at the mercy of religious fanatics is a world-wide phenomenon. It’s like this: a child has its secure foundation nicely set in place. Next, along comes someone who thinks they are superior, takes the child, and transplants him/her into an extremely harsh alternate setting. There, the so-called “advanced” or “civilized” intruders attempt to destroy his/her early foundational bonds and replace them with something utterly loathsome and most unnatural.
“Born Into” Conflicting Beliefs
Well, there is another way the human child gets born and ruthlessly conditioned on this planet. It’s “from birth” without a normal foundation or sense of belonging — ever. And that is where my story comes in.
I never had a village and I never had loving parents. I was born, arms flailing, and deposited directly into a dysfunctional “white colonialist family”. Of interest, my family didn’t see themselves as having dysfunctional conflicting beliefs. Instead, my family figured they were modern, civilized, and advanced. It’s true, I learned to read and write. I was educated. Unfortunately, I also learned about a terrifying deity called Jehovah who was a cruel, jealous, exacting, violent, and punishing God. Apparently, I owed this evil being my loyalty and love, which made no sense to me.
Along with my religious parents, my six brothers and I lived on a farm in the Interlake region of Manitoba, Canada, where we were virtually isolated. We lived a half-mile away from the nearest neighbors who wanted nothing to do with us — all because of our weird religion, filled with conflicting beliefs. How come outsiders could see what my parents couldn’t comprehend?
Running Away from Home
Our father was a violent man, and an alcoholic. My mother did nothing to protect us from his rages because she, too, was terrorized by him. His religion — mixed with his homebrew — made him a madman. He attempted to kill my brothers and make it appear like a “farm accident.” Thankfully, he failed. However, he did successfully murder my maternal grandfather, as described in my memoir, Phoenix of Faith. Also, it is quite probable that he killed his own father, except I was too young to remember more of the details. But looking back, a second murder certainly was possible.
When he prophesied my death, I fled forever from the family home at the age of sixteen.
Consequently, I endeavored to transplant myself without knowing what “normal” was. I ran away to Winnipeg and hoped I might fit into my friend, Linda’s family. But, her family didn’t want me. After all, why would anyone want to take on our family problems?
Somé Flees Residential School
Somé spent eleven days to find his way back home from the Jesuit school from which he fled. Upon arriving home, he discovered he could no longer communicate with his family or the village because he had “lost” the language — which was literally beaten out of him — by Jesuit priests, no less. Sadly, after fifteen years in the white religionists’ hell hole, a future in his village appeared bleak.
Assuredly, I fully relate to the challenges of the aforementioned author, albeit my circumstances were different in some ways. Not that I would diminish someone else’s misfortunes. Validation of others’ experiences with conflicting beliefs are always appropriate. The author may have very well felt that upon his return he didn’t fit into either world. Now he was a man caught between two worlds — a less than comfortable realization, I’m sure. Here he was, undeniably with two foundationally conflicting belief systems — and here he was standing with unplanted feet. Was survival even possible?
Fortunately, the tribal elders in Somé’s village decided over a period of a few months that he was worth “salvaging” and decided by small majority that an initiation back into his community was in order.
Nice community, wouldn’t you agree? They decided he was worth salvaging?
Salvaging vs Destroying Souls
When a religion operates from strict rules and policies which supplant the heart, the result is quite different. The religious elders of my colonial family’s religion quite figuratively “killed” me by the use of a Disfellowship Order. I am now considered “dead” in my children’s eyes. Dead and gone. Apparently, I wasn’t worth saving, according to my family.
Straight-away, I dare to pose the question: White man’s colonialist religion, known in my family as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, is “civilized“?
As a result of the demonizing and discrediting of my character, I moved three provinces away from the religious community’s prying eyes. Fortunately, no one in British Columbia seems to care about my past. No one here deems me a threat to anyone’s spirituality.
Unhappily, my family’s death wish now remains hanging over my head. A Babylonian belief system in which it was impossible to exist independently of the cult persists. Well now you might know why it was imperative that I purge the dysfunctional family belief system. It was filled with conflicting beliefs Their claim to love — while at the same time they shun me — stares me in the face!
My Journey to Safety
That’s my journey to safely — a long, circuitous, confusing, and complex route. And I’m only part way there. I have my ups and downs. Some days are really wonderful — and other days — well, I slide into a dark hole. Yet at a soul level, I have not given up on my right to live. Instead, I crawl out of my despair and seek the root source of the split belief within myself, in order to bring myself into balance.
I, too, believe as do the elders of the Dagara community that it is utterly impossible to co-exist caught between two conflicting belief systems.
I highly recommend reading “Of Water and the Spirit” for anyone recognizing conflicting beliefs within their psyche. Rest assured, your soul knows how to set you free from such a dilemma as conflicting beliefs. You will find the help you require to be free from within your Self.
 “Of Water and the Spirit” by Malidoma Patrice Somé is available on Amazon.
 Members of Jehovah’s Witnesses who leave are treated as dead via the execution of a Disfellowship Order. Their reason? “Satan’s influence…will be to cause the other…members of the family to…join…his course…To do this would be disastrous, and so the faithful family member must recognize and conform to the disfellowship order.”—Watchtower 1952 Nov. 15, p. 703.
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