One thing that many don't know is that compared to American English speaking Pentecostals the Spanish church is the strictest of the two sects and the most extreme. We were what I like to call a very charismatic church. When I say charismatic I don't mean in a great sense of humor and charming sense. We were the most fanatical group of the whole bunch and interpreted the bible in its entirety literally.
Charismatic Christianity (also known as Spirit-filled Christianity) is a form of Christianity that emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and modern day miracles.
I don't like to use Wikipedia for a source but I found that the above description is right on the money. Another aspect of Charismatic Christianity is that they were very austere. You lived for the Lord and thus represented him as well. There was a dress code for the women. They were not allowed to use make up, short skirts, or v-cut tops, pants, jewelry, and their hair had to be kept simple. The men for the most part wore suits or at least dress shirts and slacks and were not allowed to wear any jewelry other than a watch.
Oftentimes we had overnight prayer vigils where we literally prayed at the church as a group all night long. We fasted as a group at times and were encouraged to do so on our own when in the service of the Lord. We did not watch television shows that were not of a Christian nature nor listened to music that did not glorify God. We ate, lived, and breathed Jesus Christ 24 hours a day and believed that everything that happened to us was part of God's great plan. When things were going bad for us we attributed it to either God trying us or the devil tempting us.
We sought the 9 gifts of the Spirit as described in 1 Corinthians 12:8-11. We were very emotional and fed off of the subjective experiences that accompanied our extreme emotionalism we displayed in worship and during services. Some cried, others laughed hysterically, some passed out, others ran around the church under the power of the "Spirit," and some danced with joy.
My specialty was exorcisms Pentecostal style. I did not rely on any rituals or books as the Catholic priests use. I believed in those days that I had the power of Christ flowing through me and that with the word (bible) and my forceful command demons had no choice but to obey me as they obeyed the Lord in the scriptures.
I often did house visits to the homes of fellow believers or visited hospitals. On Saturday and Sunday I was on the street corner with mic in hand and my ministry partner preaching the word of the Lord. I prayed for the sick and ministered to those I believe the Spirit led me to. I was as Christian as any "true believer" could ever be. But with all of that commitment spent on edifying my spirit in order to be closer to God I struggled with the urges of the flesh.
I was 20 at the time and single and as a young man at that age I also had desires. The toughest part of my walk as a believer was struggling with those desires. My life as a believer was a constant struggle against nature. You see it is now my opinion that it's not natural to be a believer and try to live a life against your nature.
I was not tempted by much and immersed myself in prayer and fasting so I felt I was a spiritually strong individual. But I realized that the sexual desires were much stronger than myself. Sometimes when I was alone I relieved myself through masturbation and then spent hours crying and asking God for forgiveness for giving in to my desires. But sometimes on rare occasions because of my position, I found that I was not the only one going through this. It was one of those things that a lot of the single members of the church community struggled with and in a way it was comforting to know that I was not alone.
It is because of things like this that I feel that Christianity forces one to live as a hypocrite because it makes you struggle against your own nature. Who loves their enemies? Any psychologist or psychiatrist will attest to the harm you commit against yourself when you suppress your emotions. I am convinced because of my own experiences as a believer that this level of belief is detrimental to ones mental, emotional, and physical health.
For those out there struggling with their own natures as I was I just want you to know that there is nothing wrong with you and it's not the devil. It's the belief that is the actual root of your problem. Your religion asks you to do things that it knows damn well that it is nearly impossible to fulfill. It tells you you are a sinner for desiring an attractive woman even when you are single, that if you masturbate you are sinning in your mind and against your own body. It threatens with eternal torments and hell and keeps you in your neurosis through fear.
1. former name for a category of mental disorders characterized by anxiety and avoidance behavior, with symptoms distressing to the patient, intact reality testing, no violations of gross social norms, and no apparent organic etiology.
2. in psychoanalytic theory, the process that gives rise to these disorders as well as personality disorders and some psychotic disorders, being triggering of unconscious defense mechanisms by unresolved conflicts.
The only way to free yourself from neurosis caused by religions is to find the root cause and nip it in the bud. It took me six years to completely be rid of the roots and detrimental effects of my former religious beliefs. It's been a long way back to normality but as my experience has shown me it is not impossible. When I left the church and began my quest towards mental freedom and psychological well being I did it alone. Today you have so many resources you can reach out to for advice and help if you need it.
Here are some good starting places online if you want help in getting back your health and mental freedom.