Republicanity (Or, When Politics Is Your Religion): Savannah’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Grufnik.

TW: Religious/Political Indoctrination, Religious Trauma, Fundamentalist Politics, Cults, Slut-Shaming, Abortion.

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Savannah” is a pseudonym.

“A liberal Christian is an oxymoron.” The sentence garnered applause and amens from Baptist churchgoers in suburban Georgia. Like many Southern Baptist churches, mine was primarily composed of staunch Tea Party conservatives, people whose pastime was gossiping about Obama’s birth certificate, the liberal media’s war on Christians, and homosexuals shoving their lifestyle down our throats. Whatever the preacher said the Bible said about a particular issue was what our beliefs must align to. Forget thinking it through for yourself if the conclusion you’d come to differed from the platforms of McCain in 2008 or Romney in 2012.

Here, political conservatism and true Christianity were inseparable—indistinguishable.

I can’t remember the preacher going more than two sermons without bringing up some hot conservative topic. The liberals want to kill unborn babies. The liberals want to jail men for acting on their natural desires when a slut prances around them with her tits out. The liberals want to squash Christians’ free speech and arrest us for calling out sin. He pointed to cases like lawsuits brought forth by same-sex couples that were refused services. How the media and internet vilified the poor business owner just trying to practice her beliefs in peace. How she could go to jail for her faith.

All of it proof that the era in which we’d enjoyed the luxury of a persecution-free life in America was coming to a terrifying close.

I remember being taken to a walk-through drama in sixth grade. The theme, “End Times.” It wasn’t particularly political, which, looking back on it now, was rather unusual for the denomination—and the topic. I don’t remember much about this drama (it was traumatic for a number of reasons), but I do recall that in this near-future, fictional but supposedly soon to be non-fiction setting, Christians were being slaughtered. I saw one actress play a young woman who stole bread from a garbage can because Christians were not allowed to buy food. She was discovered, and given a choice, just like all the others: abandon her faith—conform—or die. The stage lights went out as we heard a gunshot and her scream.

This was where we were headed, my pastor said. If we continued to let the liberal world win, it would come sooner—but if we resisted, we might be able to push it off long enough for us, and our children, to live in peace.

This was our culture war, and our side of the fight was not only divinely sanctioned, but vital to our own survival. The trademark of a cult is an aversion to the outside world. We and only we are your friends. We keep you safe.

Everyone else is the enemy. Everyone else will kill you.

Many places foster this mentality, but this church’s (and I have no doubt that many churches share this idea) was doubly potent. While failing to comply with the liberal world could result in being declared a bigot—or, if the world kept going to shit, death—rejection of conservative Christian principles had a much more serious consequence. The strong stance of anti-abortion, anti-LGBT rights, and pro-everything Republican was much more than a political alignment or a voting guideline.

It was delivered to us by God’s spokespeople, the pastors and spiritual leaders of our time, and to disagree with it was to disagree with God himself.

Over the span of many years, I heard more messages than I can count about what constituted a “true” Christian. Most of the characteristics on the list involved some kind of community service, particularly volunteer work with Christian non-profits or within the church itself. However, the one thing that was always consistent—and perhaps most important—was an adherence to conservative values. One could not be a “true” Christian if one did not hold to these.

A person who called themselves a Christian and held even one liberal political view was misguided at best, but more likely a fraud.

Oft-repeated passages that referred to false believers as “goats” or “tares,” and phrases like “going through the motions,” served to further cement the idea that failure to conform to the conservative ideal was a prime indicator of one’s placement on the path to Hell.

As I grew up and branched out of the sheltered homeschool world, I was met with things that challenged the political views that were beaten into me as a requirement for Heaven—and this experience terrified me. At times it made me suicidal.

I was not only worried about maintaining my acceptance by the cult (when a group convinces you that everyone outside the group wants to kill you, you believe that acceptance by the group is essential to survival), but also about the fact that I now was drifting down the road to damnation.

The more progressive the world gets, the fiercer conservatism-worshiping Christianity lashes out. The cults grow tighter. The bigots come out in full force, and become leaders within the pack.

Some adults may genuinely believe that the rest of the world is out to persecute them, and the rest may just be bigots, but children—children are oblivious. Innocent. Children are told what to believe and they believe it until they learn to question when they are older, if at all. When you tell a young child that a certain kind of person wants to kill them, they do not have the ability to think it through and weigh the evidence. They simply trust you.

I cannot speak for all people raised in such an environment. While I learned to abandon my conservative ideas in favor of what I thought was right (which will never include discriminating against any kind of person), I’ve mostly kept my faith—and reconciling these two things is nigh impossible. I still have panic attacks. I’m still afraid.

It’s been three years since I left the cult, but I’m still suffering.

College Isn’t For Girls (And Other Lies My Parents Told Me)

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap.  It was originally published on December 4, 2015.

It occurred to me that while I’ve mentioned how my sex determined what I learned in school I haven’t really mentioned how that translated into college.

This is actually a little complicated because my parents waffled quite a bit before settling on their decision. When we first started homeschooling my mother’s plan (with no input from me) was for me to go to the local vocational school and double major in cosmetology and culinary arts. Neither of these were things I was interested in and actively tried to make that known, not that anyone cared.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my family it’s that my preferences don’t matter unless they line up with exactly what they want from me, their idea of who I should be trumps the truth of my existence every time – but that’s besides the point.

This was solidly the plan until I was about 8 or so (give or take because the concept of time is a blur). I think part of what they learned in the cult (or maybe it was the one ATI seminar they went to) was that it’s not appropriate for women to go to college. Some people think this but still send their daughters to college to get, I kid you not, an M.R.S. degree. The thought being, college will turn women into evil feminists who aren’t submissive and tell them things that are directly contrary to god’s plan (get married, have babies, homeschool)!

This goes right along with courtship, staying under the father’s head/umbrella/authority until married, and using the in-between highschool and marriage time to learn how to take care of your family. I’m not entirely sure where they got all this, but they did. Anyway, at some point they came to me and said that I wouldn’t be doing college, because god said it’s not good for girls to go to college – and college isn’t going to prepare you to be a helpmeet and mother anyway. This didn’t bother me because my cosmetology and culinary arts future looked bleak to my very young self who was neither into adding more cooking into their life or painting other people’s nails.

I think my family was surprised at how well I took it because they’d been building it up in their head. But anyway. College was out of the question for several years and I kept living my life free of the worry of having to cook and do makeup for college.

Then I discovered politics, speech and debate, and Patrick Henry College.

I wanted more than anything in the world to go to PHC, and since it was a homeschool college and very much daughters-under-their-father’s-authority operating school…I probably wouldn’t have to worry about turning into an evil feminist.

Whether or not I could go to PHC seemed like it changed by the day, but I was several years out so I figured they’d come around.

They almost did – after they decided to break Alex and I up (because courtship = parents control all the things) they encouraged me to apply to PHC, sort of as a bribe – like the money and car they offered. I jumped at the opportunity to go to the college I dreamed of and get out of my parents house. I filled out the application and went through all the steps, got my pastor to write a letter of recommendation and all I needed to do was have my parents sign the waiver.

They refused.

They said they changed their mind, they couldn’t support it, they didn’t want to be responsible for me financially (and my living at home not allowed or able to get a job was what? or right, indentured servitude), and most importantly, college isn’t for girls. I’m going to be a wife and mother after all, I don’t need any further education. My consumer math and ability to read, write, and recite their interpretation of scripture back to them was all I would need and college wasn’t going to help me be a better submissive wife.

And like that, it was over.

After we got married I started applying to a school that did distance learning and was marginally less conservative. It involved re-writing my transcript (which is still a mess) and being a private school hot for Dave Ramsey, financially it wasn’t feasible. I was accepted but it just didn’t happen. I was still trying to navigate what being a Wife looked like and panicking that having a summer job meant I would have an affair (because women in the workforce have affairs, that’s why they have to be keepers at home) – the lies my parents ingrained into me were still so very very strong.

This is why getting accepted to a community college and taking the catch-up/pre-college course is so huge to me.

I’m finally at a place where I can break that jar and decide what I want to do.

Image copyright 2014 Kierstyn King.
Image copyright 2014 Kierstyn King.

Escapes and Rescues: A Call for Stories

By Eleanor Skelton, HA Editoral Team

Leaving any controlling system is messy.

But for many of us, getting out of a totalistic household required a literal escape, when guardians were away or with a large group of supportive friends.

Independence was discouraged. Freedom required a personal revolution.

Many of you have read the UnBoxing Project series recently crossposted on Homeschoolers Anonymous. The UnBoxing Project is the network Cynthia Jeub and I formed after we both left our dysfunctional households.

Since 2012, we’ve helped nine friends find new lives outside their cages.

But this isn’t just about our little group of friends in Colorado Springs. We’ve realized that we’re part of something much bigger. Informal networks like ours have formed in other states in other homeschool communities.

For our next open series, Homeschoolers Anonymous invites homeschool alumni to share their stories about leaving cults and controlling households.

Most of us never believed our own parents would bar our attempts to grow up and find freedom by emptying bank accounts, withholding identifying documentation, or taking away our means of transportation. Others were stalked by parents or fellow church members after leaving.

Some were kicked out by their parents because they wouldn’t comply with unreasonable demands.

We would like to hear your story.

As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly. Please let us know your preference when you contact us.

* Deadline for “Escapes and Rescues” submissions: Friday, November 16, 2015. *

If you are interested in participating in this series, please email us at

Please put “Escapes and Rescues” as the title of the email.

Words from God: Danica’s Story, Part One

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

HA Note: Danica is a MK and homeschool alumni. She blogs at Ramblings of an Undercover TCK.


In this series: Part One | Part Two


The thing about a cult is that you don’t know you’re in one, until you’re out of it.

Like most kids raised by Born Again Baby Boomers, I grew up hearing about cults from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Jim Jones, the Branch Davidians and Charles Manson were all intriguing villains whose manipulative and destructive exploits peppered my childhood story times with appropriate and delicious horror. The New Age cults in This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, Christian horror books by author Frank Peretti, were held up as examples of what to look for lest my siblings and I be led astray when we got out ‘in the world’.

What nobody told me was that cults can happen within Christianity, in good churches, under the noses of diligent leadership.

My first experience with Nancy was her vociferously shouting, “Amen! That’s right!!” in agreement with our senior pastor’s sermon. Although our church is Assemblies of God in denomination, it is very moderate on the charismatic spectrum. It’s definitely not, as I heard a pastor in Texas once put it, a “Woo-Hoo Church”. So Nancy really stood out from the incongruously orderly sea of former Catholics, military members, and recovering addicts that make up our congregation. A teeny, tiny little voice at the back of my head thought cynically, when I first heard her hearty agreement with the pastor’s words, Who does she think she is? But that voice was immediately quieted and overridden by an inner admonishment to quit being so judgmental, followed quickly by admiration of how strong her voice was. How dedicated she was to hearing the sermon. How unafraid she was to speak truth. I became a little star struck.

A few weeks later, Nancy showed up with her kids to the midweek prayer group I led.

She prayed eloquently about strongholds and principalities and hinted at ‘words’ from God.

I’ve always had a heightened awareness of all things mystical, so this excited me. I thought, Here is someone who knows my language!

She stayed that first night after everyone had left and chatted some about how they’d just moved into a ranch they’d bought. My dream was to own a ranch. She told how they used to be missionaries. I was a missionary kid. And her kids were homeschooled. I was homeschooled and planned on homeschooling my own kids. The pull I felt toward her was powerful. It seemed like so much of her story paralleled my own, almost like she was telling my story back to me, but a better, shiner version. One that was lacking even a hint of the mundane. Like Edmund offered a plate of Turkish Delight, I ate it up.

Over the next few months, Nancy and her kids continued to come to prayer group on Wednesday nights. She began bringing words from God she had printed off of the internet, sent out by prophets I had never heard of. Dutch Sheets. Chuck Pierce. Cindy Jacobs. Peter Wagner. I was encouraged because I was learning to hear from God, too. Here is someone who can disciple me, I thought.

Nancy, herself, also got words from God – long ones that she’d write down on pieces of pink paper and keep folded in the front of her bible.

She invited us all out to her ranch and showed us where she was keeping supplies ‘just in case’. “You mean like, the End Times?” I asked. Her ranch was going to be a way station, an End Times refuge. It was exciting to think about all of us up there, living off the land, a community. Nancy and her kids already knew how to live off the grid, she told us, because she had lived with the Amish for a while.

“The Amish don’t usually take to people on the outside,” she said, “But they loved my kids. They taught us lots of things they don’t normally share with non-Amish.”

This was becoming a recurring theme. It seemed that Nancy had experienced a lot of things in her life.

Her experiences were always ‘special’, things nobody else could ever hope to do.

They either had to do with normally unattainable insider information, like living with the Amish, or they were wildly exciting and somewhat dangerous. She had been married to an arms dealer, she whispered to me one night when we were supposed to be in a worship service with the rest of the church. He was exporting weapons under the guise of missions work. Another time she and the kids narrowly escaped in the dead of night from an armed compound where a cult leader tried to keep them captive. She’d once fasted for 40 days, and at the end of the fast had a vision where she was leading a group of children during the End Times through dangerous roadblocks to the safety of a cave.

I had the thought, once or twice, that her stories sounded a little too fantastical. I mean, what are the odds that so much would happen to one person? But I pushed down these doubts as judgmental thoughts.

Besides, Nancy made me feel special.

By being on her inner circle, I got to share in her reflected glamour.

Raising Godly Tomatoes: Book Review By Sarah Dutko

By Sarah Dutko, member of the LaQuiere Group (1991-1999). This review was originally posted on Amazon September 2, 2014, revision re-posted on September 9.

I feel that I need to write this review because as someone who knows Mrs. Krueger personally, and lived out the methods she teaches in her book, I feel I need to warn any parents considering buying this book or using her methods. This is the second time I’ve posted this review, because Amazon removed my review the first time, after someone apparently complained about it. I’m not sure why Amazon feels the need to censor negative reviews of Mrs. Krueger’s book, but no matter, I will keep posting it if Amazon removes it again, because I am determined to reach parents who are considering Mrs. Krueger’s methods and tell them the truth.

I not only know Mrs. Krueger, I grew up with her and her children: for 8 years I (and my family) were a part of the same fundamentalist cult that she and her family still belong to. I’d like to provide some valuable perspective on what it is like to grow up under this kind of child “training”, and the kind of damage it does to children.

Mrs. Krueger’s child-training methods are not original to her, or just “common sense”, as she claims: they come directly from a man named Joe LaQuiere who was the leader of our cult up until he died this past year (she mentions him and his wife in her book as a “godly older couple” who gave them advice). This cult to which Mrs. Krueger and her family still belong is an insular, legalistic group with neo-Jewish practices, such as eating no pork products, celebrating the Sabbath (Saturday), condemnation of Christmas trees for being “pagan”, as well as using emotional, spiritual, and physical abuse to control its members. Having lived through it from age 6 to 14, and having family members who are still a part of this cult, gives me a unique insider’s perspective, which will hopefully provide you with enough information about the damaging and evil results of this method of “child-training” that you will help in warning against it, as it has become far too popular in the ultra-conservative, homeschooling movement, which is beginning to see a whole generation of survivors speak up about the abuses they’ve experienced, and give warning to the dangers inherent to the homeschooling community.

I am going to quote here both from Mrs. Krueger’s book, and from an article she wrote at the same time as her book.

Here is the first quote from her book. Mrs. Krueger writes:

“Let me share my experience with my third born…One day we were visiting some close friends and he decided to exert his new found power. He blatantly refused to come to Dad when Dad called him. He ignored Dad and continued playing with our friend’s telephone instead, about six feet from where my husband and I were sitting. The friends we were visiting were excellent parents and offered their advice, which we readily accepted. They coached us to outlast him, instructing Dad to keep calling him. When he didn’t budge, Dad was directed to go over to him, administer a little swat on the bottom (over clothes and a diaper), then return to where he’d been sitting and call him again. We were encouraged to repeat this, pausing appropriately between repeats, until he obeyed us…Finally, after approximately an hour and a half, he began to cry and take a few steps toward us, but he still refused to come all the way. He still did not want to totally give up the power he had enjoyed exerting over us. Each time he took a few steps toward us then stopped, we would replace him back by the phone and call him to come to us again. We devoted the next half hour to making sure he obeyed completely, not just partially…This one outlasting session had a considerable and exciting long-term impact on our child. He clearly learned he was under our authority and must always obey us…The initial two-hour ordeal never needed repeating.”


These “friends” who were “excellent parents” that she refers to are Joe LaQuiere and his wife, her mentors, and they are the people who taught her to use the methods in her book (as well as much more abusive methods which they themselves used on children, including my own siblings). This method of teaching toddlers to obey by spanking them…and then repeating…and repeating…and repeating…for 2 straight hours….or as long as it takes (which is what she means by “outlasting them” – a concept she refers to many times in her book)…is exactly the kind of child-training my family and I experienced in the cult. I’d like to share one more quote, this one from her online article that she wrote at the same time as her book. This article is from “Christian Moms of Many Blessings” ( I quote a portion of what Mrs. Krueger writes:

“Don’t be afraid of a confrontation. It is helpful to set up a confrontational situation in the case of a toliler [my note: I think this is a typo for “toddler”] who is “out of control.” For example, tell him to sit on the couch next to you. When he tries to get down, give him a firm swat on the bottom and say, “No” in an `I mean business’ tone. Continue this every time he tries to get down until he stops trying. If he actually makes it off the couch, tell him to climb back up himself, if he is big enough, or replace him if needed. Don’t restrain him. Don’t give in. Ignore his crying. You are not done until he sits there quietly for as long as you want him to without resisting. Let him fall asleep if he likes. Even after he stops resisting, don’t let him down too soon. Ten or 20 minutes or even an hour is not too long. Once you have done this, continue to expect him to obey everything you tell him to do.”

Both this method and the method described earlier by her in her book were used to train young toddlers, as young as one year old, in our cult. These methods in particular were used on my little brother, Joshua, during one of the “training sessions” that Mrs. Krueger’s mentor, Joe LaQuiere, conducted in order to teach his followers how to train “obedient” children. Joshua was made to sit on my mom or dad’s lap, and spanked every time he tried to get down. He was a bright and happy baby, but very stubborn. He didn’t want to give in, but kept on trying to get down, and getting spanked for it, over, and over, and over, and over. He’d cry and cry, but he wasn’t allowed to be comforted until he “submitted” and gave in. The goal was to get him to “sit there quietly for as long as you want him to without resisting”, as Mrs. Krueger wrote. This “training” session started in the afternoon, and went on…all afternoon…and evening…late into the night. It was 2 or 3 in the morning before Joe LaQuiere okay-ed stopping for the night. At this point they had been “training” him to sit still and not cry for over 6 hours. He was not allowed to nurse during this time, or to see his mother (my mom), because that would “comfort him”, and they wanted him to be miserable until he gave in and obeyed. You may think “a small swat on the bottom” does not sound over-the-top for a small toddler as a way to get them to sit quietly (as if toddlers were created to “sit quietly” – their nature, and their developmental needs, as any child psychologist can tell you, require them to explore, not sit quietly for hours). What about spanking them over…and over…and over…for 6 hours straight? Does that sound abusive? Mrs. Krueger’s methods (really, Joe LaQuiere’s methods) say that you CANNOT GIVE UP until your child (or baby) submits to you and obeys, no matter how long that takes. If it takes all night, so be it. If it takes dozens, or a hundred spankings, so be it. This is not training, this is child abuse. My one-year-old brother Josh was subjected to this “training” day after day, until he finally, sullenly, gave in, and was now a “well-trained” baby, who would sit quietly on demand, and not try to get down and play in normal toddler fashion. In a few short months, he went from a bubbly, laughing one-year-old to a quiet, sullen, baby who rarely smiled. He was mostly silent from then on: he didn’t speak until he was nearly 4. Joe LaQuiere, (who, remember, is Mrs. Krueger’s mentor, and the one who taught her these methods) said Joshua was an exceptionally “rebellious” baby, and it was necessary to discipline the “rebelliousness” out of him until his will was broken.

See, Mrs. Krueger’s book, and her advice, is really the somewhat-milder face of Joe LaQuiere’s teaching: the public face, if you will. She watched more violent abuse occur, and was taught that it was acceptable: babies having their faces stuffed into couch cushions to teach them not to cry – children being beaten mercilessly with “The Paddle”, not once, as she writes in her book, but often 20 or 30 times. Children being dragged by their hair, thrown against walls, or dangled in the air by their throats. My own siblings endured all of these abuses, and I was made to watch.

Mrs. Krueger, whether or not she treated her own children quite this severely, watched this abuse happen to other children, and agreed with it. Her book is merely the milder, public face of private child abuse, because she knows that some of the stricter methods taught by Joe LaQuiere would be too unpalatable to put in print, as well as likely to land her (and him) in trouble with law enforcement. But make no mistake that it occurs. To be fair, Mrs. Krueger and her husband I don’t believe followed every child “training” (abuse) method that Joe LaQuiere taught: she and her family are best friends with him (one of her daughters is even married to one of Joe LaQuiere’s sons), and while their methods differ somewhat in severity, the principle is the same: OBEDIENCE is paramount, and it is of little importance HOW you get your children to obey, or how often you must beat them, as long as the end result is IMMEDIATE, UNQUESTIONING obedience, from children of any age, even through adulthood. THIS is the goal (which is in itself a very bad goal) and the methods used to achieve it, as touted by Joe LaQuiere, through the mouthpiece of Mrs. Krueger, are cruel and damaging.

To this day, I suffer panic attacks and horrible flashbacks to watching my brothers and sisters abused through this method of child-rearing. I grew up emotionally-stunted, being taught that ‘a cheerful face’ was the only acceptable expression, and that any negative emotions I felt, like anger, or sadness, or frustration, were sin, and needed to be corrected. Thus I learned to disassociate myself from my emotions, effectively divorcing them from my conscious mind, which is a process I am still trying, with the help of therapy, to undo. The children, including those in my family, who grew up under these methods, are emotionally unstable; are fearful of and often unable to make their own decisions; are unable to move into independent adulthood without the constant guidance of parents telling them what to do; and worst of all, have a false and damaging picture of who God is, and who they are meant to be.

After leaving the cult that Mrs. Krueger belongs to, I was confused, depressed, and suicidal. I believed that God was an angry God who despised me for not reaching His standards of perfection. I learned nothing about grace through this experience. Thank God, I discovered it after I left, and realized that God does not treat us like Joe LaQuiere and Mrs. Krueger do their children: punishing every crime and dealing out justice until we are perfect. Instead, He already provided the perfect righteousness that we can never achieve through Jesus, and gave us in one fell swoop, a perfect record and status with him, and complete forgiveness of all sins, past and future! He doesn’t demand perfect performance from us to gain His acceptance. We are not “spanked” until we learn to obey Him instantly, with no questions, and with a false smile. Instead, He loves on us, extravagantly, and at great personal cost to Himself, in order to draw us to Himself…by LOVE. LOVE is what calls us to CHOOSE to obey Him – not repeated punishment, or the fear that He will only “enjoy us” as long as we fulfill the letter of His law. THIS is how we need to treat our children: with the same mercy and grace that God showers on us. To follow Mrs. Krueger’s method instead will give our children an outward layer of “goodness”, on which they think their acceptance by God depends, while inwardly they remain full of sin and darkness, needing God’s redeeming love and GRACE to flood in and wash them clean! Mrs. Krueger’s book and methods create little Pharisees: looking pretty good on the outside, but with aching hearts inside, knowing the misery of never being “good enough”. Thank God we don’t HAVE to be “good enough” for Him: we already are, thanks to the sacrifice He made for us!

Please PLEASE do not buy this book, or use these methods on your children!! Try instead something like “Families where Grace is in Place”, or “Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Children with the Love of Jesus” both EXCELLENT books! Leave Mrs. Krueger’s book where it belongs…forgotten, gathering dust in her basement somewhere, while your children flourish in the LOVE and GRACE of God!

If you have any questions, or would like to ask me specifics about why Mrs. Krueger’s methods are so damaging, please feel free to email me at! I’d love to talk with you 🙂

I Fight These Demons So I Can Explain The Scars: Shiphrah’s Story, Part Two

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HA Editorial note: The author’s name had originally been changed to ensure anonymity. “Shiphrah” was a pseudonym. I am editing this today because I am ready to say that Shiphrah is me. I wrote this and asked that it was posted anonymously because I had only begun to explore the depths of my memories and my pain at that time and I needed an outlet to work through it. I no longer feel the need for anonymity, no longer am I afraid to claim the darkest parts of my story. I am Darcy, and this is my story and my pain and my healing. ~Darcy Anne, HA Editorial Team 

Part One

Part Two

I grew up thinking I was unworthy.

Unworthy of love, nice things, friends, God’s favor. I strove to be the kind of person who would be worthy of these things, but always fell short. I did everything I could to look the part on the outside: I dressed modestly and acted like a godly young lady and played the part as best I could.

“Fake it til you make it,” my Mom liked to say to me.

My journals of that time are so filled with anguish and desire to be accepted and to be good. I can barely read them. I want to go back there and hug that girl and tell her that she WAS worthy, she WAS good, she was enough. But I can’t. I can’t go back there and comfort that girl with the broken heart that was broken by the ones who were supposed to protect it. I am left with the woman she has become. The woman who has had to teach herself how to be loved and how to accept worthiness and how to see herself and the world through different eyes.

When a boy fell in love with me, and I with him, they all did their best to convince him that I was a terrible, selfish person and he would be sorry if he married me. That they knew me better and I was just putting on an act to impress him. He was skeptical, but thought maybe they really did know better. So he watched me, befriended me, and realized I was every bit the person he thought I was and my mom and sister were crazy.

I coudn’t understand why he would persist in loving a person like me, but he did and it was such a wonderful feeling.

I was so afraid he would find out who I really was and would run far away. But that didn’t happen. We fought for our relationship against my parent’s wishes and we married very young and very in love. Not too long after we were married, we were talking and I said “Well, I am a selfish person”. He looked at me in surprise and said, “Why do you say that?” It was my turn to look at him in confusion and say, “Well, my mom and sister always told me I was selfish and I struggled my whole life to not be, but I guess it’s just who I am and I thought you knew that.” He took my face in his hands, looked right into my eyes, and said, “You are the most selfLESS person I have ever met. Never let anyone convince you otherwise. You can’t fool me. I know who you are. They don’t know who you are.”

I cried that day, at 20 years old, for the first time thinking that maybe I wasn’t the person my family had tried to convince me I was, that my religion tried to convince me I was, that I needed to hide and pretend not to be so people would love me. Maybe I really was loveable and the fact this man had married me wasn’t because I had fooled him into it. But it would be 5 more long years before I was able to clearly see how dysfunctional my past was, the part that fundamentalist religion and homeschool culture played, and began to heal and figure out who I was really and to fight for myself. It would be 10 more long years before I was able to put a label on the treatment I received from them.

Emotional Abuse. The systematic diminishment of another person….their worth, their dignity, their character.

“Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidating, or under the guise of ‘guidance,’ ‘teaching,’ or ‘advice,’ the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting than physical ones.” (University of Illinois, Counseling Center)

Spiritual Abuse. The use of religion and spirituality to control, manipulate, coerce, dominate, and beat down. To control behavior and thoughts by religion.

“Spiritual abuse occurs when someone in a position of spiritual authority, the purpose of which is to ‘come underneath’ and serve, build, equip and make God’s people MORE free, misuses that authority placing themselves over God’s people to control, coerce or manipulate them for seemingly Godly purposes which are really their own.”   (Jeff VanVonderen, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse)

I can’t tell you what came first: the dysfunction or the religion.

But they worked together to create a complete brain-washing and erasing of my self-worth and self-concept. Our religion taught that self-esteem was really pride and God hates a prideful heart. We were not to think highly of ourselves but to remember that we were nothing without God and probably nothing even with His help. To be told that I was a selfish, horrible person but that they loved me anyway “because you’re our daughter/sister” is no different than this view of God that makes us all worms who are only worthy of anything because God created us and therefore must love us. Turning the idea of a “relationship with God” into an abusive relationship between a narcissist and a victim. A manipulative power-play. Is it any wonder that “God’s people” turn out abusive when they see Him as such?

If I try to say any of this to my family, to recount my experiences and feelings, I am told I’m overreacting, too sensitive, too emotional, that these things never happened or “didn’t happen like that”. I’m told that even if they did happen, I should forgive and move on because family is the most important thing in life and I’ll regret making a fuss over the past. That I was raised in a good home and was loved and am ungrateful. I am denied, belittled, and word has spread that I’m a crazy, unstable person who has a chip on my shoulder and is trying to tear apart our happy family. But I am done accepting their definition of who I am, their portrayal of my identity.

I am not who they think I am. I am so much more.

I am worthy of love. I am a good person. I am a human being, wife, mother, and friend. I love unconditionally and fiercely. I fight for the people I love and for people I don’t even know because I desperately want them to know that they are worth it. I fight my own demons to give my children a healthy mother and so I can explain the scars to them someday and they can know that I valued them by valuing myself —

— That I fought for them by fighting for myself. That I broke the cycle.

“Adult survivors of emotional child abuse have only two life-choices: learn to self-reference or remain a victim. When your self-concept has been shredded, when you have been deeply injured and made to feel the injury was all your fault, when you look for approval to those who can not or will not provide it—you play the role assigned to you by your abusers.

It’s time to stop playing that role, time to write your own script. Victims of emotional abuse carry the cure in their own hearts and souls. Salvation means learning self-respect, earning the respect of others and making that respect the absolutely irreducible minimum requirement for all intimate relationships. For the emotionally abused child, healing does come down to “forgiveness”—forgiveness of yourself.”

~Andrew Vachss, taken from this excellent website: The Invisible Scar.

I Fight These Demons So I Can Explain The Scars: Shiphrah’s Story, Part One

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HA Editorial note: The author’s name had originally been changed to ensure anonymity. “Shiphrah” was a pseudonym. I am editing this today because I am ready to say that Shiphrah is me. I wrote this and asked that it was posted anonymously because I had only begun to explore the depths of my memories and my pain at that time and I needed an outlet to work through it. I no longer feel the need for anonymity, no longer am I afraid to claim the darkest parts of my story. I am Darcy, and this is my story and my pain and my healing. ~Darcy Anne, HA Editorial Team 

Part One

I was never good enough.

From as far back as I can remember, I was never good enough. I was told I was selfish, lazy, prideful, rebellious, and argumentative. I was told I needed to ask God to forgive me and make me a good person through Him (because we could never be good on our own, only with Jesus’ help and then it was never to our credit, only to His).

When my little sister picked fights with me and I lashed out at her, I was the one scolded, grounded, spanked, had things taken from me, forced to spend time with her to “help us get along”, told to get along and be nice and stop being so selfish and be a better example because I was the oldest. She often got away scott-free, even when she started it. I was told numerous times that if I couldn’t learn to get along with my sister then I couldn’t have friends. Family is more important than friends and how you treat your family tells you how you will treat friends. And if you treat friends better than family, you’re a special kind of hypocrite. I tried to explain why it was easier to treat my friends better. Because they were nice to me.

I was then told that Jesus said “what good is it if you love those who love you?” but loving people who aren’t nice to you is much better in God’s eyes.

Everything I did was criticized. It was never good enough. There was always something to be fixed, some way to do things better. I remember being about 12 years old and telling my mom in exasperation, “All you ever do is criticise me. You never tell me what I do right, only ever what I do wrong.” She first acted surprised and denied it, then promised to try to notice the good before telling me the bad. That didn’t last very long and felt very fake even when she tried. Like she was straining to find something good to say to get it out of the way so she could go on to grasp “this teachable moment”. Of course, when I resisted the “teachable moment”, I was the one at fault for being “unteachable”.

To this day when someone says “teachable moment” I recoil.

I was always “unteachable” because I often argued with my mom’s criticism. Because her words stung and fighting them off was my only defense, as little as it was. I was good with words and knew how to wield them as weapons of defense. I often had Proverbs quoted at me that said that people that were unteachable were fools and only those willing to listen to constructive criticism were people of good character whom God loved. So I guess that was just another thing that God hated about me too.

I was told constantly that I was selfish, and it didn’t take long for my sister to take up that anthem against me. Of course, sister had “a servant’s heart” and was selfless and kind and I should be more like her. She was generous and I was stingy. I only thought of myself and my needs and God was not pleased with that. I should ask God to give me a servant’s heart. I spent many hours as a child crying to God to give me this elusive servant’s heart that I apparently lacked and needed before my mom would accept me and my actions. Then maybe my sister wouldn’t hate me either. We were given roles very early in life and we played them well. She learned early how to manipulate our parents against me and she was always believed over me.

I was a child of many emotions. Sensitive, thinking, opinionated, deeply feeling.

But I quickly learned that some emotions were not acceptable, maybe even a sin, and I was not allowed to express them.

I learned that if I was angry, it was “godly” to forgive and forget that anger and definitely don’t express it. “Be angry but do not sin” meant “be angry but never tell anyone or show it”. There were times I wanted to scream because of the pent-up feelings of anger at my parents, anger at my sister, and anger at myself for being angry with them. I must be the terrible person they said I was because I couldn’t stop being angry and sad all the time. I begged God to make me nice and happy and sweet. “Why can’t you be sweet like your sister?” was something I heard often. I often escaped with a book into my favorite tree, away from everyone I could possibly sin against, away from the constant criticism of my actions and “bad attitudes” and the reminders that I was rebellious against God and my parents.

When I was an early teen, things only got worse. Thanks to a cult leader called Bill Gothard and his seminars and his followers, my family finally found answers to all our problems and embraced the promises to have the perfect godly life if we followed the Basic Principles. I was 14 and I thought, yes! This is the answer! The rule list that will finally make me a good person whom my family will love, who will be worthy of their love and acceptance. I poured my heart and soul into the materials, spending hours praying to God to forgive me for all the ground I gave to Satan. For not accepting my parents as the hammer and chisel that were molding me into the diamond I was meant to be. My resistance of their umbrella of authority must be the reason I’m a bad, selfish person. I was determined to finally fix my broken soul. I befriended many “godly girls” who were homeschoolers and whose families understood and followed the secrets of a godly life, hoping their goodness would rub off on me. Eventually, those girls popped into arguments between me and my mom….”why can’t you be more like them? They would never treat their parents and sister the way you do.” I wanted nothing more than to be “more like them” and tried even harder.

I had many teary confessions to my parents for being rebellious. They piled on the modesty books and the courtship books and all the books that told me I was a naturally bad person and needed my parents as my authority because I couldn’t trust my heart to know what was best for me. I ate them up, thinking i would find the answer to all my problems. When my sister would lie about me, get me into trouble, pick fights with me until I snapped at her, I would take a breath, search my own heart for any evil thoughts, and beg her to forgive me for being selfish. She always did, of course. It was very magnanimous of her as a good, generous person to forgive my selfish actions.

There were some dark times in there. For a while I was convinced that since I was such a terrible person and my family hated me so much, that maybe God hated me too and what was the point of me living? I began to fantasize about ways I could kill myself and relieve my family of the burden of me. I never went through with anything.

I was afraid of death, that God really did hate me and would send me to hell and I couldn’t die until I turned into a better person.

Part Two >

And The Music Was There: glor’s Story

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“Rock” music. Simultaneously my oppressor and my escape, we have an unusual relationship. Going from “anything with a strong beat will fill you with demons” to “oh hey, I just bought the newest VNV Nation album!” may seem extreme, and I admit that I sometimes suffer from whiplash, but at the same time it’s been a very freeing evolution and something that mirrors my general escape from my childhood/immediate family.

The first memories I really have about specific music was trying to defend myself at a camp-out.

I’d been found crying in a dark place by myself, and my fellow campers [all the same general age as myself, 9-12ish] didn’t believe me that the song made me cry because it reminded me of a friend who’d died. The song was played at his funeral. It was the first example of exactly how strongly music hits my emotional centers – and for that song, having to “prove” it made it hit me all the stronger in the following years.

Following that, the next set of memories is about music being “awesome” – or rather, not. The cult we were in at the time were very adept at using the “Sunday morning worship” to twist us this way and that, and I can distinctly remember how you could tell what the sermon would be about by the first half of the very first song of the day. I remember dirge-like music playing as we lined up in a school’s gymnasium to “repent of our sins.” I remember the slightly happier songs that the children danced to. I remember everyone in the room being scathingly rebuked because one of the singers had dared to say that a song was “awesome” – because, you know, only God is awesome. Never anything else, even a song literally praising his name.

The music collection at home wasn’t too much better. Michael Card. Sandi Patti [maybe… if we were lucky]. Some random Maranantha song tapes. Plenty of classical. That was about it, that I remember. I had very little interest in music outside of that, for the most part, simply because I didn’t know anything about it. There was the usual hush-hush about KISS and Marilyn Manson, stuff like that, but it was all mostly above my head. Then, I was introduced to DC Talk and Michael W Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman. My brain just about exploded from glee – finally, something that fit me!

I could put my emotions onto these songs and I could finally understand things about what I felt that I never could before.

See, I have bipolar disorder. I have rapid and multiple mood swings, from seriously depressed to extremely manic, and until that point, none of the music could encompass either end of the curve. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt [because Jesus!] – to steal from Vonnegut. Any emotion other than happiness and joy was Wrong. You were a bad Christian – nay, a bad person, if you weren’t always basking in the love and companionship of Jesus. Being human, though, that wasn’t possible. So I struggled along in my lonely childhood self, trying to deal with these big emotions and not having anywhere to turn.

And then lo, DC Talk and “Jesus Freak.” They were my introduction to a larger world, and were, in fact, the very beginning of my long and slow departure from the church.

Teenagerhood hit. I was “rebellious,” according to my parents, and it was all because of my music. They had it backwards, of course. I was in an abusive home situation and I had found an escape in the music that expressed all the emotions I was feeling and allowed me to survive day after day, because there was nowhere else to go. Once again I was stifled under the “no emotions except happiness” expectation – which became more and more difficult the worse my bipolar got. It’s very hard to be “blissfully happy in Jesus” when one day you’re suicidal and the next you’re on a cloud and can do ANYTHING! that you could think of. I hid my music and snuck it as often as I could [or dared… woe betide me if I was found listening to [oh my!] Superchic[k] or the Newsboys or [quadruple gasp here, people] the Cruxshadows.] All of the songs that I listened to held deep emotion and symbolism for me, and allowed me to blindly feel my way through the disaster that was my home life.

There were fights about the music. My mother tried to convince me that rock music was of the devil. She emailed me all these “studies” about plants and rats [and since those have been addressed elsewhere on HA, I’ll refrain from doing so here], talked about the “demon beat,” and tried to take my CDs away. Fortunately, by that point, there was the internet and it was easily accessible. When it got really bad and my parents tried to take that too, I was attending the local community college and could use their computer lab to retrieve what I needed.

Eventually, I escaped. Barely.

When I got out of their home, I stopped attending church, I stopped seeing them, and I fairly quickly stopped identifying as Christian. My music needs changed – from the “life sucks and God’s still there for you” of the Christian rock world to the “you’re alive, you’ve survived some awful shit, and you’re still here” of VNV Nation, the Cruxshadows, Linkin Park, movie soundtracks, and so many other artists I can’t even list them. For the longest time, my playlists were nothing but loud anger and rage. I had to purge that from within myself eventually, I knew, but at the time all I could do was cope.


I was sexually assaulted at work. More rage and bitterness. And the music was there.

I was extremely sick and almost lost my job. And the music was there.

I moved halfway across the country. And the music was there.

I was raped. And the music was there.

I had a psychotic break… and the music was there.


Four years later, I had enough, and said “this anger, this bitterness, this rage and hate and harm will not be a part of me any more.”

And the music was there.


It was there as I burned out the bitterness, screaming my tears of pain to the heavens. It was there as I sobbed in my friend’s arms. It was there the nights that I woke up screaming from the nightmares of the pain and the terror.

And the music was there when I finally broke through and let the love out.

Maybe it’s about the time
To let all of the love
Back in the light
Maybe it’s about the perfect place
To let go and forget
About the hate

Love into the light.

Kesha, “Love Into the Light”

Grace is For Gothard Only

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Guess what? There’s a new Facebook page for defending Bill Gothard against “persecution.”

Here’s the page’s Description:

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(Because complaining about cold fajitas is totally comparable to “complaining” about being molested by a religious leader?)

The page is run by people who think calling Bill Gothard out for a history of sexual harassment and molestation is pretty much the equivalent of stoning Stephen or persecuting Jesus himself.  But don’t worry your pretty little head about whether or not that’s legitimate theology. Just get back under your umbrella of protection.

There’s also a public Facebook group for “friends” of Bill Gothard. It’s been around for a while, existing to “appreciate the wit and wisdom that Mr. Bill Gothard has shared over the years from his practical study of God’s Word and heartfelt desire to help young people find success in life.” But it has recently been revitalized to defend Gothard against everyone who is mad about the many disturbing allegations concerning him sexually harassing and abusing young women under his “umbrella.”

Full disclosure: I refuse to link to the Facebook page and group and thereby give them increased attention.

But I am happy to share screenshots from the public group.


First of all, you should know there might be a “huge backlash” from IBLP directors and ATI parents who are “mad” and “repulsed” by Recovering Grace, the evilest of organizations dedicated to furthering the work of Satan by “helping people harmed by the teachings of Bill Gothard, the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), and the Advanced Training Institute (ATI).” There might even be a “rebuttal website” soon against Recovering Grace. This is according to Robert Norvell, who was the Director of Gothard’s Eagle Mountain Training Center:

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Norvell is “glad there are some standing” with Bill Gothard because, basically, for every one girl Bill Gothard allegedly molested, there’s at least a hundred girls he didn’t molest. So that’s something, right? Especially since Recovering Grace is so “liberal.”

People are pretty mad at Recovering Grace for standing up for abuse victims. Abuse survivors and allies are like “children” who “mock the prophet Elijah.” Abuse survivors and allies are also like people who stoned Stephen:

So thank God for people who stand with abusers. These brave people are voices “crying in the wilderness”:

…and it’s a wilderness for IBLP indeed. A wilderness of $84,000,000 in assets and an annual income of $12,000,000. It’s a rough life.

What’s particularly weird is that the same people who accuse Gothard of being “cultish” also accuse his defenders of being “cultish,” too. But people in cults never defend their cult leaders, right? So that makes no sense. And really, everyone who is mad that Gothard might have sexually harassed and molested kids just want “to continue on in their sinful lifestyle.” After all, “it’s why they persecuted the Messiah too.” So if you think about, Gothard is pretty much like Jesus.

So come on, everyone. Let’s not try to “destroy” people by bringing abusers to justice. And let’s not focus on “who is right or wrong.” “Right and wrong” is doublespeak from the pit of Hell. People should just “move on.”

It’s all “under the blood” anyways. We might as well ignore abuse victims at this point.

It’s a free country. So let Gothard have the freedom to keep abusing and let the victims have the freedom to shut up.

Someone also posted this photo of young women who experience “brokenness” and “full surrender.” Not that that’s at all creepy in this context.

In conclusion: This last comment was probably prophetic, in light of all the screenshots I took.

On Feeling Betrayed, Validated, and Brave: Jeri Lofland’s Thoughts

An IBLP seminar in Atlanta.
An IBLP seminar in Atlanta.

Jeri Lofland blogs at Heresy in the Heartland. The following was originally published by Jeri on January 30, 214, and is reprinted with permission.


And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good,
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty

Why don’t you tell them the truth?

 Say what you want to say
And let the words fall out
I want to see you be brave
Show me how big your brave is
~ Sara Bareilles, “Brave”


Watching the Grammys was a last-minute decision. We’d kissed the kids goodnight but knew our congested sinuses wouldn’t let us sleep yet. So we turned on the TV and I’m so glad we did!

I had never heard of Sara Bareilles–no, I really don’t keep up with popular music–but I recognized Carole King right away. I sat absolutely enthralled with their amazing duet performance, only to be surpassed by their comments of mutual admiration afterward. Somehow the three minutes of interaction between those women affected me deeply. I have watched the segment again and again and replayed it in my head countless times.

Carole King’s words, her music, the emotions she shared with Sara and all of us in the audience, along with Sara’s passion and her song, felt like a gift with miraculous powers to repair some damage done to my heart long ago. I feel like a more complete person than I was before hearing them sing. The rest of the show was fun and amazing in its own way, but that one piece represented to me the magic of Art: sharing a gift with enriching powers of its own.

Perhaps “Brave” struck me the way it did because the last week has been so emotionally turbulent. Not in a bad way, but still…

Last week a shocking new series of revelations appeared on the Internet, exposing Bill Gothard, our cult leader of days long past, for the pathological fraud he was (and is). Reading the story as it dribbles out in serial form has been surreal. With each installment, I can picture my bedroom in Oak Brook, picture window facing Gothard’s office across the driveway.

I learned while working on Gothard’s staff that he was not what he appeared to be.

Not what many of his followers took him for. Not who my parents thought he was. While we his brainwashed army of second-generation devotees mentally flogged ourselves for every potential breach of the cult protocol, Gothard did not adhere to his own “non-optional, universal life principles”.

My husband and I each slipped away from IBLP quietly. I was sent away by Gothard in the summer of ’99, Chris left on his own six months later. From that point, we set about freeing ourselves from the legalism and reprogramming our poisoned minds. We weren’t aware of the poison at first, though. We were still nostalgic about our years at the Institute. It was where our relationship began, after all. We’d go back to visit friends occasionally, or just drive around the grounds reliving the good memories. Over time the locations lost their pull on us. We had dreams–sometimes nightmares–about going back to work there.

Judging Gothard’s teaching by its “fruit”, we concluded that many of his ideas were downright toxic. It was hard to speak out, though. So many of our friends, family members, and even new acquaintances were Gothard supporters, or had been exposed to his seminars in their youth and didn’t see anything dangerous in them. We just sounded “bitter”, the strongest pejorative in Gothardom.

When we felt safe we could sometimes talk about how “inconsistent” Gothard was in practice. Even this made some uncomfortable. People feel defensive when you question the authenticity of someone they trust, or trusted once upon a time. The more distance we put between ourselves and the past, the more clearly we could see that Gothard was just another manipulative cult leader.

Sadly for us, he was a slick fellow who convinced our parents he had the answers.

I started my blog partly as a safe place to question the Gothard narrative and to recount my experiences and the “bad fruit” it produced. I tried to maintain an even, journalistic tone, even as I personally came to regard William Gothard as a fucking asshole, a sham and a predator hiding under a guise of exceptional holiness.

Reading the firsthand account of Gothard’s former secretary over the last week, and watching others come out to corroborate her story, has been tremendously validating to me. While her tale might not seem all that offensive on the surface, it is damning when read in light of Gothard’s own teaching and strict standards for others. He made generous allowances for himself, while tolerating nothing less than perfection and submission from his subordinates. He patently violated his own rules, which he marketed as the very wisdom of God. Nothing I have ever said about my former employer was as harsh as he deserves.

As satisfying as it feels to be validated and to watch Gothard’s house of cards collapse, it is exquisitely painful at the same time. I rejoice to see his empire fall, much as a former prisoner would applaud the demolition of the walls of his captivity. And yet, that empire was built of my blood, sweat, and tears. Thousands of us can point to pieces of our selves that we sacrificed to advance that sick man’s vision. We lost much of irreplaceable value.

And that is why tears rolled down my face this week as I stood in my kitchen spreading cheese on lasagna noodles, listening to “Brave” and the rest of Sara Bareilles’ album The Blessed Unrest. They were tears to memorialize the things I was encouraged to “yield” in favor of Gothard’s ideal, for God’s sake. These things died before drawing breath, miscarriages I never knew in an adolescence I never had: my first date, holding hands, a boyfriend, my first curious kiss in a quiet corner, even talking to male peers without feeling queasy, pulling on an old pair of jeans, experimenting with makeup, realizing I was a free adult in the eyes of the law, choosing a college major, getting a degree, a high school graduation for that matter, a prom dress, high school pictures, a wedding dance with my dad, my favorite artists in concert, feeling sexy as I became a woman, feeling the sun on my legs, getting tan lines before stretch marks, years when I could have been earning money or college credits…

And the pain of steeling myself to believe in “God’s will”!

Against my emotions. Against what my body was sensing. Of giving myself fortifying speeches in the corner every time I felt my heart would come out of my chest, reminding myself that my heart was deceitful and wicked and not to be trusted. The times I cried myself to sleep, or pounded out my frustration on the piano in the dining room because the rest of Christendom wouldn’t see “the truth”.

My friends and I made these sacrifices and others to serve our God by working for his “servant” Bill Gothard. Now, I want Gothard’s empire to collapse, for the good of humanity. I am more than willing to help bring it down. At the same time, I recognize that each brick I tear out represents a child’s education, a man’s career, an abused child, a couple’s budding relationship, all burned on the IBLP altar in the belief that God would be pleased.

But Bill was a fraud and his empire was built on lies.

And we are all breaking the silence.

So after I cried over my lasagna, I danced in my kitchen. Because bravery is a beautiful thing.