Puncturing Declension Narratives

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Elena.

Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog, Love, Joy, Feminism. It was originally published on February 8, 2016.

Last week Homeschoolers Anonymous posted this photo, “an actual graph Reb Bradley created for his mental health curriculum.” You can see it here:

12654126_1015168265205956_327130378208914015_n

So you know what’s strange? A lot of Protestants argue that before the Protestant Reformation, most people were duped by the Catholic Church into believing they could work their way to heaven. These individuals weren’t really saved and weren’t really following the Bible, the argument goes, and the priests and monks—the ones who did read the Bible—were corrupt wolves who took advantage of the people. I’m wondering how this sort of chronology—which I imagine Bradley himself holds, given his other writings—squares with the graph in the image above.

There’s something else I find most people don’t know. During the middle ages, most Europeans were much more pagan and much less Christian than people today realize. People used charms, spells, and old folklore and ideas that the Catholic Church had never been able to fully root out, and that Protestant Reformers weren’t able to root out either. In fact, some historians have argued that early European settlers to the U.S. were more pagan than they were Christian, and more apathetic than they were churchgoers, and that it took until the mid-1800s for the American people to be fully “Christianized.” In other words, the idea that people before the mid-1800s were “relying strictly on the Bible for wisdom for life” is utter bullshit.

As for the idea that children were obedient before the mid-1800s, I’d say two things. First, there were disobedient children. Anyone who has read Romeo and Juliet knows that. It was also wasn’t that uncommon for children to run away from home during adolescence. But second, before the mid-1800s it was both legal and socially acceptable to beat one’s children if they didn’t obey. In fact, child abuse was not recognized as a thing until the mid-1800s. It’s not that it didn’t happen—it did—it’s just that before this, it was considered normative. So maybe we can stop saying how awesome it was back then, because children obeyed their parents in fear of a beating?

As for the divorce rate, it’s worth noting during the middle ages priests struggled a great deal to prevent spousal desertion and bigamy, things that did happen and were in fact surprisingly common. Many people practiced “common law” marriages, and the church was often hard put as to how to regulate marriage. I mean gracious, priests spent centuries working to eliminate concubinage, and initially allowed it (provided a man did not also have a wife) because of its prevalence. Similarly, the church was so concerned by the amount of sex taking place outside of wedlock that they ultimately decided that a verbal promise to marry at some point in the future (no witnesses required), when followed by sexual intercourse, instantaneously created a binding marriage. That in itself created problems, because there were plenty of cases where a pregnant woman a man had promised to marry her before they had sex, and he said he hadn’t—in those cases, the courts had to figure out whether or not the couple was already married. This didn’t change until the Council of Trent in the mid-1500s.

In other words, marriage and sexual relations during the middle ages were complicated, and the church didn’t have near as firm a grasp on the issue as people like Bradley appear to think. Domestic violence or other disturbances were common, and in some cases wife-beating was legally sanctioned. Even where divorce was banned, and couples were typically allowed to legally separate if they did not remarry, and they could also seek annulments in some circumstances. In many cases couples simply moved out and moved in with new partners, the church be damned. In a way, the middle ages is the story of the Catholic Church attempting to control and regulate an unruly mass of people who were more interested in simply living their lives than in following a list of rules.

The suicide rate is a bit more difficult to speak to, as statistics are nearly impossible to find. We do know, however, that murder rates were extraordinarily high, and that the common people consumed alcohol in rates that would be considered excessive to the extreme today. And that’s not even touching child mortality.

History is complicated, and fascinating, and profoundly messy. The narrative Reb Bradley tells in his graph above could hardly be more ahistorical. The same is true about just about every declension narrative I hear today. Did you know that one study of marriage and birth records in the colonial Americans found that one in three women who married was pregnant at the altar? Listening to conservatives, you’d think having sex before marriage was just invented yesterday. For their part, narratives about increasing crime rates after removing prayer from school ignore the reality that crime rates today are at a historical low. I am extremely skeptical of declension narratives as a genre, because history isn’t this simple, one-dimensional story just waiting to be plugged into your talking point. This shit’s complicated.

Stop “Knowing” What Anna Duggar Will Do

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on September 12, 2015.

The downside of the cute, quiet  ATI-patriarchal-quiverfull life of the Duggar family is now all over mainstream media. While it’s somewhat of a relief to see the public realize that conservative homeschooling is not as innocent as it seems, as an ATi alum myself, it’s also gets very triggering and downright weary to hear the media mock my childhood leaders as if it’s nothing but a good story for them. Likewise, seeing the Duggar kids pictures on the front page of the tabloids makes me sad. The Duggars aren’t a juicy story to devour. They are a broken, hurting family.

I don’t like what the Duggars have done and are doing, never will, but I am so sick of the media turning the victims into a juicy headline, as they seek to ‘unlock’ what Anna Duggar will do. Poor Anna, she is a headline: “Anna Duggar won’t leave Josh,” the headlines read. In philosophy, we call reducing a woman to a headline the equivalent to reducing her to an object.

Here is what I want to know: How does the media know Anna won’t leave Josh?

They are guessing.

The media is browsing around ‘interviewing’ homeschool alumni or any and everyone who can give them a juicy line about what it’s like to be a Duggar. But none of the juicy lines, usually which were pulled out of context without really understanding of the greater picture, yield any real knowledge of what Anna Duggar will do. The media is guessing.

We need to stop ‘knowing’ what Anna Duggar is going to do.

The media is assuming Anna won’t leave based upon what they think women in cults do when they are cheated upon. But here is the deal. I grew up ATI, and I have seen families divorce on grounds of infidelity. I’ve seen them not.

The media is going to assume the worse about cults, the darkest reality of a cult, not because they care about Anna, but if they can make the ATI religious group the darkest and most freaky group humanly possible, than they can get more page views. So ‘homeschool leaders could support her’ isn’t a good headline. ‘Anna is trapped for sure’ is a much better pickup line.

I should mention that if Anna wants to leave, she does have Biblical grounds for divorce. No, not everyone will argue that she has Biblical grounds for divorce (i.e. John Piper), but she has it, and most Christians know it.

I should mention that even the extreme fundamentalist leader Kevin Swanson recently admitted that Josh Duggar is a disgrace in the podcast Homeschool Murderers. Even leaders are starting to think Josh is kind of evil.

Within Anna’s own family, some have supported Anna all the way, including one of her siblings and cousin Amy. She and Josh have a lot of siblings; I’m sure there are plenty more who will also support her if she divorces Josh.

I do believe that if Anna wants to get out, she will find people within conservative homeschooling who won’t condemn her for divorcing Josh and won’t blame her for not having enough sex with him.

Josh didn’t just cheat. He willingly walked into bars, willingly set up profiles online, and cheated on her over and over. People know they can’t blame Anna for that. Sure, some of the homeschoolers will say Anna just should have had more sex with her wayward husband. But for pete’s sake, she was extremely pregnant with her fourth child when some of this was going on. Leaders can try to ‘blame Anna,’ sure, but it’s going to collapse in their faces. Plus Josh’s parents wouldn’t have sent him away if they thought more married sex was going to cure him.

It won’t be easy for Anna to leave, but she can, if she wants.

Another thing I keep hearing: “Anna Duggar won’t leave because she’s brainwashed.”

Stop calling homeschool alumni brainwashed. It’s insulting and rude.

At this point, we don’t know if Anna will leave or not. It’s her choice, not our choice. It could take her days, months, or years to work this out. Everyone has a different journey. But I believe in Anna, just like I believe in all other homeschool alumni. If other homeschool alumni have escaped, so can Anna.

I don’t have a clue what Anna will do. Neither does the media. But Anna owns this story. It’s her story, not ours, and the media needs to quite telling Anna’s story.

They need to quit ‘knowing’ what Anna will do.

Living with Cognitive Dissonance: Sonia’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

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

My mom told me a while ago, “It seems impossible to live it [the Gothard/fundie lifestyle] in moderation, although that’s exactly what I was trying to do. I didn’t buy the whole program. Instead, I took from it that which I thought was useful and healthy. I rejected a lot, but maybe you don’t have any way of knowing that. There were many women who perceived me to be a great ‘compromiser’, and I mean that word in a very negative sense.” She was right. I didn’t have any way of knowing that. (This reminded me of other posts I’ve read such as “PICKING THINGS UP FROM THE CULTURE, HOMESCHOOL EDITION” and Libby Anne’s “THEN WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL US THAT, MOM?” from a couple of years back.) What I did know intellectually and intuitively ended up producing a considerable amount of cognitive dissonance,
fear, and anguish that has plagued me for years.

My parents didn’t understand that even if THEY didn’t wholeheartedly buy into the entire program, the fact that for the most part they would only let us spend our time around other families who DID buy into the entire program gave tacit approval to the entire program.

Oddly enough, my mom was the one to teach me to think critically, though I don’t think she really expected me to use that skill to the extent I did to think outside my little box. She told me two things when I was young that eventually led to my most significant “lightbulb moments.” First, she told me very clearly that she was educating me as well as my brother because I was smart and it wasn’t responsible to do otherwise on the off chance I had to support myself. (Incidentally, she also said she got a lot of flak for doing this.) Second, when I asked why I was allowed to wear jeans/pants when the other girls weren’t, all I can remember is getting a response to the effect of, “Well we aren’t THAT strict.”

So, after a few years when I started noticing things weren’t adding up, I asked more questions and assumed, logically, that if my parents could bend the rules and pick and choose where they saw fit, I could too as long as I had a logical, reasonable explanation for wanting to do so.

Lightbulb. Obviously, we all know this wasn’t true, but I didn’t know that at the time, so I was very confused. This is where I ran into trouble. Whenever I had ideas that ran contrary to “popular” belief and I brought up those issues, I always came armed with a list of very respectful but coherent reasons as to why there were major holes in what we heard at church. I simply could not understand how my parents, who made the logical decision to ignore two VERY big parts of the dogma, i.e. female education and modesty, did not see the other gaping holes. Most of the time, I felt like my concerns and opinions were brushed off and treated as a nuisance. My speaking out was attributed to youthful rebellion and I was not taken seriously.

One of the issues I kept bringing up because it made no sense was courtship (or arranged marriage as I like to refer to it). For years, I had closely watched all the happy smiles, wedding day first kisses, and subsequent babies that magically appeared nine months after the wedding. I followed the ins and outs of The Courtship Files at my church with rapt attention. I was curious to see what my future looked like. Something in my gut told me that there was something amiss, and I was quite vocal about it to my parents. These marriages seemed to materialize with next to no input from the XX-chromosomed party and after the wedding, all the new brides had this glassy-eyed, “totally blessed” look. Oh, and they would quote Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 and Ephesians 5 ad nauseam and have their members-only Bible studies for newly married couples.

Nonetheless, I really tried hard to buy into it despite the cognitive dissonance because I didn’t have a choice.

I really did try until I encountered a classic, “let’s abuse Hester Prynne” incident during church that resulted in lightbulbs going off all over the place.

This girl from our church had gone away to a conservative Christian college and ended up coming back pregnant. They made her stand up in church on a Sunday morning and apologize for her “sin” when she was probably five or six months pregnant. Even as young as I was (probably 8 or 9), I was acutely aware there was something very wrong about the whole thing. I do have to admit, much to my chagrin, that my first response was to hop on the stone-throwing train everyone around me was gleefully riding because that was the “right” response to “sin.” However, two lightbulbs blinked over my head as I sat there. First, a little voice in the back of my head gave me some advice regarding my own future self-preservation. It said, “You better never do anything this bad because you know that if you did, they would turn on you too in a second. And if you do anything like this, you better damn well keep it hidden.” Lightbulb. Second, I wondered why the pastor and elders standing behind this woman on the podium didn’t also have to apologize in front of the church for their sins too. Lightbulb. I remember feeling much more guarded after that point.

Back to the subject of my own future, the last serious conversation I remember having with my parents regarding courtship happened at bedtime one night sometime during my preteen years. Inevitably, conversations about this courtship thing had begun to take place more frequently. My parents explained, yet again, what courtship meant and what its implications were for my future. I presented every logical objection I could think of as I had done many times before. What if I go to a college in another state? (Remember the educating me thing? Yeah…that.) What if I never move back home after college? What if I meet “the one” before you do? What if I don’t tell you about him? What if “him” is a…HER??? How do you plan to police me that carefully?

To my parents’ credit in this instance, my objections were handled calmly and without anger. However, the conversation concluded with, “We will deal with it when it happens and at that point, you’ll understand how important courtship and this transfer of authority over you are.” I remember very clearly telling them, “I’m not doing it.” They calmly responded that I would feel differently later, and it’s ok that I don’t feel like that now. I responded flatly with, “No you don’t understand. My feelings about this aren’t going to change. I am not doing this.” I was resolute. My parents said that that was ok for now and bid me sweet dreams. What they really didn’t factor in was how deadly serious I was. It is difficult to overstate the degree to which I meant what I said. If my parents had continued on the oppressive courtship track later in my life, I guarantee I would have staged some sort of massive, storm-the-Bastille style revolt. If I had had to choose between courtship and losing any relationship I had with my parents (or God for that matter), I would have chosen the latter in a heartbeat.

After all, I wasn’t just a walking uterus.

I had a brain too.

Fortunately, I was never pushed to make this choice because my parents ended up divorcing. This set off by far the biggest lightbulb. Over the years, I had “appealed” to my parents time and time again and presented coherent, logical objections to a wide range of topics as a result of the many little lightbulbs that were periodically going off in my head. I don’t even remember most of these encounters, but I do remember having the feeling consistently that my parents didn’t really hear me or take me seriously. 

And since I didn’t have the agency to make my own choices regarding my own beliefs, I had to live with what was there.

However, with the divorce came the freedom to start to carve my own path and with that freedom, I had to start reexamining everything I’d ever been told. There were some physical abuse issues involved preceding the divorce which I was witness to. The elder board and pastor of our church said that my dad should move out of our home temporarily, pending biblical “counseling.” Once the church said that both my parents had been sufficiently “counseled,” my parents were instructed to “reconcile.” My mom refused. Such began an extremely tumultuous few years for all of us and the unraveling of the proverbial carpet for me.

I knew instinctively that my parents needed to go their separate ways and that this was the best outcome for all of us.

I simply didn’t understand all the theological discourse that said that people couldn’t divorce for any reason whatsoever, even in cases of abuse.

On the heels of that came the next logical question: if divorce wasn’t unequivocally wrong in every circumstance, as I had been told, what else wasn’t unequivocally wrong? Lightbulb. My entire world was turned on its head and I felt like I couldn’t trust anything I had ever been taught or thought I had known. This was very traumatic, and I spent most of the decade following and more trying to sort out what exactly I believed. I have wondered in the years since why my parents didn’t listen to me or why I felt like they didn’t.

I have wondered why my concerns, opinions, and expressions of distress were not interpreted as red flags or catalysts for change.

For years I felt like I didn’t have a voice and even now, I have a pathological, anxiety-attack-inducing fear of not being heard.

I am, however, very grateful for the lightbulb moments and the conversations they inspired. I hope I remember more of those moments as I grow older and I am grateful for the moments of mental clarity along the way I do remember that allowed me to navigate the twilight zone of my growing up years. Those moments of clarity kept me sane and kept me from being fully brainwashed. They kept my spirit alive to fight, and when I think back on them now they give me a sense of peace that I can find my way in the world, and I can trust what I know is right.

10 Things Your [ex]Fundy Almost-Ex Husband Will Do During Your Divorce

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 11.06.42 PM

The following post was submitted to HA by an anonymous contributor.

.

1) Pretend nothing is wrong when you tell him things aren’t working until you start making changes to make yourself happier and saner. And then he’ll snap.

giphy

.

2) When you suggest finding a therapist, he’ll tell you you don’t need meds and suggest that maybe you should try talking to your pastor instead.

giphy

.

3) Finally starts listening to things you’ve been saying for months, and abruptly co-opts feminist lingo and tells you that you’re gaslighting and oppressing him because you’re calling him on his shit.

giphy

.

4) Gets angry and resentful when he learns that (since you’re not allowed to go to a therapist) you’re talking to your mombest friendnon-Christian yoga buddy about your marriage problems.

giphy

.

5) Offers to sit down and make a list of ways he wants to change and make you feel more secure in your relationship. Tries to follow through for 3-5 days. Stops following through and tells you it’s just too hard to please you.

 

giphy

.

6) Agrees to try something sexually experimental for your marital track record. Freaks out when it’s too good or makes him realize he’s probably bi. Stops initiating sex, until he realizes other men find you attractive. Suggests a fuck-buddies relationship with no strings attached if you break up. Get angry when you say no.

giphy

.

7) Does something out of character and surprising right before pulling the plug. This may be violence, a one-night stand, financial rashness, stalking you, or some other risky and reckless activity. Refuses to see a problem with his choice when you lay out the negative ramifications these actions have for you. Because autonomy.

giphy

.

8) Gets irrationally fixated and obsessed with the idea that you are abusive andor cheating on him. Tells his pastorparents that you’re abusive. Especially because you’re crying a lot and it makes him uncomfortable. Accuses you of having an affair.

giphy

.

9) Gets surprisingly petty about dividing up stuff and suddenly cares about things you didn’t think he remembered you owning. Gets malicious about making the process as difficult for you as possible in revenge for making him Feel Things. Accuses you of depriving him of fatherhood by not being willing to try to make a baby as a last-ditch effort to save the relationship.

giphy

.

10) Moves on to someone who doesn’t make him think or feel uncomfortable about himself at all, a lot more quickly than you think he should. Blocks you on social media when he starts posting pictures with her.

giphy

Mary Pride: Don’t Divorce Your Drunk, Raging Husband

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 2.26.19 PM

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

The following passage is from the 2010 “25th Anniversary Edition” of Mary Pride’s seminal book The Way Home: Beyond Feminism Back to Reality, originally published in 1985. The emphases are in original:

The reason the church is getting lax about divorce is that we no longer understand marriage. If a spouse has problems, such as drunkenness or fits of temper, the other one concludes it is not a “good” marriage and moves on. Those who take this perspective end up allowing divorce “for any and every reason,” just as the Pharisees were doing in Jesus’ day. Jesus answered the Pharisees that destruction of any God-ordained marriage is always wrong… Only adultery, which breaks the partnership by pouring its resources into a spiritually fruitless extramarital union, as well as (in the case of an adulterous wife) jeopardizing the children’s legitimacy, and desertion, which nullifies the partnership, are biblical grounds for divorce… Christians may never, never, never divorce Christians. (21-22)

Image from page 21’s excerpt of the book:

IMG_20141229_143356

You can read more about Mary Pride and her book The Child Abuse Industry here.

I Am Learning To Love Myself: Mara’s Story, Part Five

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 11.00.08 AM

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

< Part Four

Part Five

A week later he started taking narcotics again.

In the following months I lost both my grandmother and the great aunt that had lived next door to us. One the day after the other’s funeral. My mother’s swings were escalating. She had a hard time keeping down jobs and holding onto money. She blamed all her problems on my father.

Shortly after the deaths, she divorced my father and gained full custody. (They had been threatening this every other day for the last 14 years.). Two days after, she kicked out my sisters who were 20 and 18 at the time. The 20 year old had travelled a lot with work-stay and had just been home a quarter to finish college. The 18 year old was working and in school and gave a majority of her paycheck to my mother. They weren’t given any notice. My sister and I had gotten an apartment together after I had separated from my husband and we invited them to move in with us until they could get on their feet.

Shortly after, my husband started spiraling down with his drug use. The men in our community group talked with him – but they did it from where they had come from and with love. They told him that they were scared he was going to kill himself or others driving as high as he was. They told him that they would pick him up and drive him home. They knew that he wasn’t ready to change and didn’t ask him too. They just told him they were here when he was ready and that he wasn’t alone. I felt at complete peace to give him up, my pastor told me something that has stuck in mind. He said “Know this isn’t yours to carry alone.” They weren’t pitying me, they weren’t trying to help me, they weren’t taking over my problem. Instead they were standing beside me and loving me.

My husband recently told me he was going to start selling. I know the road this will take. I have decided for the sake of my unborn daughter and me, that divorce is going to be the best choice and a way to protect ourselves. He has already stolen money from me and I have accepted that he still has a long way to go before he decides he wants to change. I’ve stopped trying to control and manipulate him. It’s pointless.

I can only change myself and what I allow in my life and I have accepted that.

For many years, I never knew who I was… just who I was supposed to be, who everyone around me needed me to be. My boundaries had been so trampled growing up – I had no idea I was allowed boundaries and limitations. I had become – still am- bitter and resentful. I still can’t forgive everyone.

I was told that forgiveness is closely related to acceptance and for me to forgive I have to accept what was done to me. For me to fully accept that, I have to accept that I wasn’t as powerless as I wanted to be. I couldn’t separate love from pity and didn’t even know what love was. I was supposed to love my mother but all I could do was pity her.

I couldn’t love God because I didn’t know what to pity in him. I couldn’t imagine God loving me because I just felt He did everything for me out of pity or condemnation.

Now I truly am learning who I am.

I am learning my limitations and boundaries. I am learning how to love without pity. I am learning how to trust people that love me. I am learning how to love God and that He loves me – not who I want me to be – but plain old me. I am learning to love myself.

The sinner’s prayer has long confused me – how can saying those magical words make you a Christian – who decided those words were the one they were going to use? But I think I’m starting to understand true Christianity and some of that prayer. I think when it says confess your sins –

He doesn’t really want you to confess your sins, he wants you to stop hiding and simply confess yourself.

I wrote this poem recently. It’s my confession of self…

 *****

Confession of Self 4/29

When she stops using,

The bitter bite of withdrawal sinks in.

Blood dripping from the gaping wounds

Her habit has left on her.

She tries to smile politely and courteously

So that no one discovers the secret she holds inside.

Another day hidden behind the mask of a perfect little girl

The fear of survival looms in threat of stopping

How will she be able to make it through the day without her addiction?

Her drug of choice gives her a dose of denial

So that she doesn’t have to feel reality.

So that she can ignore the fears, anxiety and horrors that await her in reality.

So that she doesn’t have to face the eyes staring back in the mirror in reality.

She fears letting the world down again if she stops using.

She’s never had enough strength to stop before.

She used to be strong – so beautiful – so full of life

And, here she is now, just a shell drowning in tears.

Suffocating in sorrows she’s too scared to feel.

She uses her body to feed her habit.

Abuses her body to fuel her habit.

She’s scared of the person that remains if she stops – the person she’s become.

The only way to support this habit is to sell her body.

To give up every piece of her in hopes that it is worth it.

That the high last longer this time

That she never comes down this time.

She’s died so many times before – what’s one more?

 

I am an addict.

Addicted to deceit,

Refusing to own who I am in the place of who I want to be.

Selling my life in hopes of keeping my soul

Buying an image that doesn’t require a God.

I am addicted to hiding myself – to wearing a mask.

I am addicted to selling myself to prevent being myself.

To prevent owning my depression, my downfalls, my numbness.

— The fact that I am but human

I am addicted to pity in the place of love

I am addicted to the misconception that I don’t need more than myself.

That my independence is my castle – my everything.

I am an addict.

 

I need more – I am worth more

I am loved and I can accept love

Your love isn’t a favor to be repaid at the cost of my soul.

Your love is what will allow me to buy myself

What will give me a soul

What will allow the wild, crazy, passionate life within to be loved and lived.

Your love is what will save me

Your strength will shelter my weakness

This isn’t pity – this is the opposite.

I’ve gained a soul, a self, a life.

 

Yes, I am an addict

But I am not alone.

I am truly loved,

I have gained a soul in owning myself,

And I can finally love the girl staring back from the mirror.

End of series.

I Am Learning To Love Myself: Mara’s Story, Part Four

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 2.17.23 PM

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

< Part Three

Part Four

I wanted that image to haunt him as long as he lived.

He called the pain clinic and told them what had happened and then left with our only car and all of my personal information. I packed a suitcase and called my best friend to pick me up. I went and hid at her friend’s house for a couple of days. My husband was furious and started saying that he wanted me back and went out driving looking for me all night. He had stopped going to church shortly after we had gotten married, but I had kept them abreast of what had been going on.

On the third day that I was gone, knowing I had to work the next day, I called them up and asked if they could go with me while I went to pick up my work ID. I told him to leave my stuff outside the door. I remember shaking, trembling walking down that pathway to pick it up, afraid he was going to come out the door. My best friend’s mom, who had come with me, went and knocked on the door. He opened it up.

I could smell the cigarettes even from a distance. She came in and we talked and he said he was sorry for doing that but that I shouldn’t have done that. He added that he was going to stop narcotics. She seemed assured and left me there with him. I remember trembling again as she left.

The church only believed in divorce upon the grounds of physical abuse and adultery.

I had a long talk with the men in the church, I know my husband had dabbled in selling a couple of his pills, but had no idea if he was doing it then. They said if I knew for sure he was selling drugs that I not only was allowed to divorce him, but for my safety should. He started using again, and, although I had suspicions, I never could find any concrete proof. He started a new contract job at that point after he decreased his narcotic use, but after a couple of months started complaining about neck pain and got doctors to increase his prescription.

He soon lost his job and his car subsequently broke down. Right after he had gotten a job, I had found a good car at a great price with the help of one of the men at the church. It had a manual transmission which I knew how to drive but that my husband didn’t. My husband’s narcotic use started to spiral downward again after he lost this job.

At the same time, my 24-year-old best friend who was part of the only remaining family in the church, was offered an opportunity for a job raise, college funding, benefits, and a link to her dream job in the corporate office of a Christian company. Her father had had a brain injury when she was 14 years old and most of the girls worked to support the family at a minimum wage job since they were old enough to be hired (her mother stayed at home with the younger kids having more kids). The brother-in-law of her store owner had recently been placed in charge of another store and after being trained by her, wanted to bring her and some of the other managers with him. The caveat — it was in a different state. This manager’s wife was close with my best friend and became her mentor, but neither one had met her family closely. They were both strong in the Christian community, but because they hadn’t met them, my best friend’s parents saw this as her being deceitful.

They told her she was in sin because she wanted to move for a job without knowing of a 1 cor 14 church.

They told her she hadn’t been communicating with them and she hadn’t been open for the past couple of years and they questioned her faith. They would talk about the rebellion in church service without mentioning names. They told her if she couldn’t find a verse that spoke — told her to go — that she must respect her parent’s wishes. If she didn’t want to do that she could bring it up with the other two men at church.

She left anyways.

Her parents cut ties with her and told her siblings she was in rebellion and in sin. They told the kids they couldn’t be with her because of her sinfulness and were not allowed to talk to her. During this time, two of the other sisters left as well. I kept in contact with both her and her parents and still attended the church. Her mother had been like a mother to me, since mine had started swinging crazier and crazier. She had become my spiritual mentor.

I was so confused: my best friend was not doing anything rebellious and she still loved her family despite the circumstances. But here her parents were, talking about her like she was in sin and wasn’t a Christian for merely moving. Any feelings that didn’t agree with her parents were sin.

Her older sister put me in contact with her best friend who I was able to ask a lot of questions to. Every time before, anyone I had told about a 1 Cor church told me that I was wrong and I was wrong because it was cultural. This friend was the first one to gently walk aside me and give me the tools about how I had been told to interpret it. She never told me I was wrong, she merely told me why she didn’t believe that interpretation. She was patient with me as I reviewed what I had learned and researched and studied it and came to the same conclusion she had. I sat down in front of all the men in the church and told them why I didn’t believe that how they interpreted 1 Cor was the only way to practice a service. I told them that I couldn’t have fellowship with them if they were going to call people sinners based on the type of church they attended because the only commandment in that verse is to have an orderly service.

That was my last conversation with the church.

As everything I had learned about faith began to crumble apart, I didn’t know where to begin. I knew God existed. I am an artist and a nurse, both of those require sensitivity to feelings and intuition and faith. I found that if I had a feeling it was usually based in fact.

I had felt God, I had no doubt in my mind that he existed, I just didn’t know who He was anymore. I remembered something my mom had always told me : “Go from what you know to what you don’t know.” I knew God existed and I knew he was love. I decided to walk forward based on those two facts alone. I would use that as my ruler, my measuring tape, my tool to assess truth.

My new friend and her husband walked alongside me patiently, and for the first time, I began to understand love.

As I met more people from their church, I decided to give the church a try, even though I had read that they believed Calvinism. I told myself just because I went to one service didn’t mean I had to attend for the rest of my life. I could always leave if I disagreed. My church had always used the verse about being “of the same mind” to mean that they had to agree as a church on every little thing. But I learned at this new church that some aspects of Christianity are primary — for example, God is love, God died for us. Some are secondary, such as doctrine, or method of worship (protestant) and that we didn’t have to all agree on those secondary things to still be Christians together. I told them that I didn’t believe in Calvinism, and immediately flinched expecting the backlash I had always faced around the Calvinists my dad brought around, but it never happened.

Instead I heard, “Yeah, a lot of us don’t.”

It surprised me that they could love each other without having to agree on every little thing.

It surprised me to see the way the really cared about the community and would go out of the way to help someone in need no matter the religion and without trying to indoctrinate them. Yes, they witnessed to others, but they did it from love and not a need to increase their numbers or be a good Christian. These people were upfront with their struggles. One service they asked anyone who had ever been in jail to stand up, half of our church stood up. There was such a transparency to everyone’s life that attracted me. These weren’t “good Christians” these were real people who chose this life because it was what they truly wanted. I took me almost a year to start going to church regularly, but I am still in awe that the first one I went to was just the one I needed.

At the end of July last year, I told my husband he could stop taking drugs or I was leaving him. He stopped and even started going to Narcotics Anonymous meetings, but he never really worked the steps. He even got a job — a good job. However, he told me toward the end of November that he was mad at me, that I had taken everything that made him happy away from him. I told him I was miserable too and if we were both so miserable why it might be better to just divorce.

After that he was really nice for a while.

Around this same time, I met the wife of one of the men who struggled with addiction at church. She was so refreshingly honest it was beautiful. She talked me into going to Nar-anon (Family support groups for people who are affected by the addiction of another). That is when I truly started learning about addiction and, more importantly, codependency and enabling.

Up until this point, I had viewed birth control as a sin and was taking no measures against getting pregnant.  The only reason I hadn’t gotten pregnant after three and a half years of marriage was that my husband didn’t want any and was taking precautions. In December I told him that I wanted to start birth control, he told me that he wanted a family and a baby and he didn’t want me to. Later that month, I started smelling cigarettes on his breath again and asked him if he was smoking. He denied it without blinking an eye. That lie, among 3 years of lies, was it.

I separated from him in January and found out I was pregnant on the same day.

Part Five >

A Homeschooling Adventure: Homeschooling on the Open Seas, Harmony’s Story

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 1.33.09 PM

I have been following Homeschoolers Anonymous for quite a while, after searching for a social group I could be part of that reflects some social issues I’ll expound upon below. I was really not expecting to find what was posted here — stories of abuse, religious restriction, brainwashing, even death. It has been an enlightening experience, and I would like to extend my heartfelt sympathies and support to everyone whose stories I’ve read.

It is because of the harshness and true struggle of these stories that I have refrained from trying to tell my story. How can it compare? How can I hold myself to the same standard as these brave men and women sharing their suffering? But I think it is important to share my story, as it illustrates a detrimental effect homeschooling can have on your later life, even if it is well-meant, non-religious, free-form, and even in a setting that still amazes people to this day.

I had grown up in Colorado until I was 10, and up to that point I had been going to public school, brought up by my Dad after my mother divorced him when I was three or four. I began by going to the local basic elementary school, but I didn’t like it, so the last few years I had been going to a normal charter school. I was not an exceptionally smart kid, but I had a great imagination, and no problems making friends and keeping social with my little group. But in 2000, when I was turning 11, my dad remarried, and retired from his job to sweep us all away on an adventure of a lifetime.

His plan was to sail down the Caribbean, in a 40-ft boat, and go through the Panama Canal, across the Pacific, and finally settle in New Zealand.

Even at 11, I was no stranger to travel, having been to Tahiti, the Bahamas, Venezuela, and New Zealand itself, as well as yearly camping trips to Utah or Grand Mesa in Colorado. So the idea excited me, as it would any young boy, and it was only with a faint inkling of what I was really losing that we hauled our way to Florida to begin the journey.

So, obviously, since we would be moving so much and so quickly, homeschooling was the only real option for our continuing education. Our education largely came from textbooks and workbooks, and some educational computer programs. There was no religious undercurrent — my dad had disliked going to church, and had not wanted to foist that on us as well. So we were free to read the Bible if we wanted and make our own decisions on that front. We largely taught ourselves, going through the books and doing assignments for about four or five hours a day (year round, no winter or summer breaks), going to our parents if we needed help understanding something. For extra-curricular activities, my new step-mother was teaching us Russian and art, and of course we had all the swimming we wanted.

In exchange, however, my social world had shrunk enormously.

People had been voicing their concerns to my dad (who was in charge of everything) about our social development, and he had simply voiced confidence that we would be stronger, because we would be free of peer pressure, drugs, alcohol, violence, all the dangers he had begun seeing grow in our world. I believed and accepted that rationale, and prided myself on skipping the rebellious teenager phase, and being a teetotaler until I was 23.

But the reality was that, without outside input, my development had simply been short-circuited.

There were indeed other children on other boats down in the Caribbean, and we would try to make friends with them. For the most part this worked out great, although in some cases we were forced to try to interact with people we didn’t like. But each and every one of us were going our own routes, and most friendships would only last a few months before our paths split again. So for the majority of those 5 or 6 years on the boat, we had a very inward-focused social world, and depended on the family almost entirely.

Eventually, though, our homeschool supplies became inadequate for continuing education, and it was starting to become time to think about higher education. We were about at Grenada, near the southernmost tip of the Lesser Antilles, one island away from the mainland of South America, when we decided to head back to the states. We stayed in Miami, Florida for a few years, usually at a marina or a dry dock as we restocked on educational supplies and tried to get a new, bigger boat ready for our next foray to try to get back on track.

The reality was that Dad had been growing older too, and he didn’t feel like he was in condition with growing medical concerns to risk sailing across the Pacific. If he didn’t feel like he had to be in charge, and train us and trust us to run the ship if he had to be helicoptered to a hospital, things might have been different, and I might be in New Zealand now.

But the point is to show how Dad, even if he wasn’t overtly religious, had still absorbed a lot of the patriarchal ideas from his parent’s church and his upbringing.

He had been passing that down to us as well, though we didn’t know it.

In Florida, things slowly got worse for our family. We stopped homeschooling, on hiatus while we tried to work things out, but we were more restricted than ever, because Miami was a hotbed for the peer pressure, drugs, and violence we had been warned about all of our lives. So going to normal school there was out of the question. My older sister and I got our GED’s, where I had my first glimpse of college and wanting to really feel like I wanted to go there. But we were stuck in limbo while Dad tried to work things out.

Long story short, we made a last ditch effort to make an art gallery in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and it failed. My family split apart with another divorce, with my older sister and my step-mother and her daughter remaining in Eureka Springs. I went to Tulsa with my Dad, because he had a friend there and it was a good place to continue my education.

In Eureka Springs, ostensibly I had more freedom than ever. I had a car I could drive, and a whole town of people I could socialize with, if I wanted. I had nothing but time on my hands, and nothing to do except go to town and help with the gallery every now and then. But I was more isolated than I’d ever been before- I was forced to stay in a camper in the back of a pick-up truck, because my mother and sisters had rented an apartment that didn’t allow pets, so I had to stay there with the dogs and the cats. But I hardly ever went out- I kept myself confined, worrying about the dogs, not having any motivation to leave. I was by myself most of the time- Dad was hired as a trucker to supplement the gallery’s income and keep it afloat, so he was away for weeks at a time, and my sisters lived in town. But I just couldn’t leave the camper except to get food.

When Dad and I moved to Tulsa, it was actually worse.I stayed in the trailer for a year while we waited for residency to get into college, too afraid of that peer pressure/drugs/violence world out there. When I finally enrolled for classes, at first I could not even talk to the teachers- though the homeschooling now apparently paid off, as I was literally steam-rolling through the classes, only getting B’s in Composition because I had never heard of and didn’t know how to use MLA format. But even though I was doing great academically, I was still suffering socially. I didn’t make a single friend, as I just didn’t have the courage to talk to anyone, and I had no connection to them.

I often felt like I was a time traveler, as I had missed so much of what was integral to everyone else’s development and frame of reference.

And I was dismissive of them too- it seemed like all the girls were dressing like sluts, all the guys were idiots, the teachers were liberal scum. I even refused to write a paper for a sociology class about the gender/orientation spectrum, protesting that it was complete nonsense.

From these last few sentences, you can see that I had pretty much unthinkingly adopted my dad’s point of view. Growing up in that homeschooling environment, so inwardly and family focused, had denied all other points of view. And even though Dad wasn’t aware of it, he was one of the only guiding points we had available. He was unconsciously passing along his parent’s strict, conservative religious teachings to us. It was only after I finally decided on archaeology over paleontology, and studying anthropology, that I began getting a global perspective.

I had dismissed sociology as just liberal propaganda dressed up to look scientific to push their agenda- but anthropology gave me the tool of cultural relativism to realize that Western notions of right or wrong weren’t necessarily the right one. I learned about how other cultures express sexuality, religion, and family relations. I learned more about how people worked, in a sense of all of humanity, not just Americans.

Slowly, I began to change my accepted views. I saw how ethnocentric right-wing politicians really were, pursuing an agenda focused solely within their Christian-political world-view. I explored my own sexuality, coming to terms with it and even completely changing my gender identity.

I also began seeing the need for my own independence. I needed to get out from my dad’s apron strings, and begin learning how to do things on my own. So I moved from Tulsa to Norman to attend OU, to attempt to make it on my own. But I still find myself secluded- I stay in my room, lacking the incentive or energy to go out, even to see my other room-mates. I have gone to several campus organization meetings, but most of the time I find some excuse not to go. Like before, even though my intellectual development expanded again, my social development still lags far behind.

So many homeschool parents intend the best for their children. They want them prepared for the world that they see, to be good, upright people, or to protect them from the evils of the world. But, as hopefully my story illustrated, even homeschooling in the amazing setting of the Caribbean can give much different results than you could imagine, and how parents can rarely foresee the outcome of what they are really doing.

My Changing Body, My Changing Mind: Abishai’s Story

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 7.48.57 PM

Series disclaimer: HA’s “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)” series contains frank, honest, and uncensored conversations about sexuality and sex education. It is intended for mature audiences.

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

*****

“No way, they don’t get naked! A baby is made when a Mom and Dad pray for it.”

In spite of the neighborhood kids’ efforts, I tried so hard to defend what I’d been taught. Their version of making babies by getting naked would mean three things:

1. My parents had lied to me.

2. The public school kids had been taught correctly.

3. The jumper-wearing moms in our homeschool group were doing things (naked things!) with the stern dads.

I think I somehow made it to about ten or eleven years old when my mom finally had to sit down and have her version of “the talk” with me.

It wasn’t really informative though, at least not in the way I needed it to be. She had purchased a typical Your Changing Body book through one of the homeschool book catalogs. I learned about periods and that my hips would get wider and that I should be glad I’m not a boy because they have something called wet dreams. Then came the sex part – the extent of which was that a married couple would get naked, move around, and it would be emotionally fulfilling for the wife and sexually fulfilling for the husband. She would become pregnant. The end.

As I grew older and heard more things, the info from my Mom was pretty… uninformative. Birth control and condoms were things that irresponsible people used when they were sleeping around. Those methods always failed, and because the type of people who have sex before marriage are selfish, they will inevitably have an abortion once they get knocked up… if they don’t die of an STD first. Sometimes people are confused and dress like the opposite sex – we should pity them for being so conflicted. Gay people? They choose to be that way and they have an agenda!! Oh the agenda!! Seduce the kids and make everyone gay. They will also all get AIDS. Men look lustfully at women, and as a woman I should dress in such a way so that I don’t lead them astray. God-forbid they should be in control of themselves and their thoughts.

Girls at church wearing low tops or short skirts were always referred to as sluts.

It’s hard, twenty years later, to look back at all of this and laugh about it as a coping mechanism. I can’t, it’s still too painful. I can also see now that I was very interested in sex from a really young age. Yet I was taught to feel ashamed of those feelings.

I knew that the craziest things would give me that “funny feeling down there” and I was pretty sure that in addition to liking boys… I also liked girls. Yet, I knew that not only was I suppose to not be boy-crazy (though I should pray for my future husband!) but any feelings for females meant that I was confused, and was as bad as those “dykes” who were the butt of many of my Mom’s jokes.

Oddly enough, it was those early days of AOL, it’s Instant Messenger and the chat rooms that came with it that were my sanity and my education. When I was about 16 I finally had found a place to find answers to my questions. I was able to engage in a really colorful online life where I could be myself but not have to take any risks – which was especially important given how very naive I was. It was a perfect way for someone like me to finally figure out who I was.

Now, at 30, I harbor a lot of resentment for the limited information I was given. I’m now in year seven of a happy, monogamous, kinky relationship. To my parent’s dismay, we live in sin. To my dismay, nearly all of my friends who quickly got married out of high school like they were supposed to, are now divorced or separated.

A few of my younger siblings are now married; each got married very young, to their first loves. Their speedy relationships were grounded in purity and of course won my parents’ approval. Meanwhile, I’m still told that this cow is giving her milk away for free.

Some things will never change…

The Many Valuable Lessons I Learned in ATI: Laura’s Story

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

The 14 years I spent as a student in ATI taught me many valuable lessons for my life. Here are some of the highlights:

* Parents are always right.

* Men are always right. Therefore, your father is double-right.

* Getting out from under the “umbrella of authority” means you will have many problems, including being raped. (Not sure what the warning is for boys who get out from under their umbrellas. I’m a girl so always heard the rape thing.) The fiery darts of Satan will have nothing to stop them from hitting you. We all know that an umbrella is the best possible analogy because their thin, flammable fabric is the perfect substance with which to stop fiery darts.

* If your umbrella – dad or husband – has holes, then Satan will get you unless you pray really hard that they’ll patch up their holes. If you don’t, you’ll probably get raped.

* Family is everything. Except when young people go to a Training Center or Headquarters. Then it’s okay to not be together as a family unit. Or when young people go to Apprenticeship Sessions at Knoxville and make binding vows that their parents know nothing about. That’s okay. You do not need to seek your father’s permission to make such vows that will control what you do the rest of your life. Your father’s permission is implied because he sent you to this Apprenticeship Session.

* Young people, given the option, will always choose the wrong spouse. Therefore, their parents – most of whom chose their own spouse – will choose or at least approve their spouse for them.

* If you date, you’ll have all sorts of problems and can never have a happy marriage. Dating is practice for divorce. Courtship is practice for marriage. If your parents dated and have a happy marriage anyway, it doesn’t matter – dating is still bad and you will get divorced if you date.

* You should court (aka “let your parents pick or approve your spouse”) so you don’t get divorced.

* Talking to a boy is dating him. Especially if either of you have romantic thoughts about the other one. To be on the safe side, it’s best never to talk with young men. (At some Training Centers, talking with a person of the opposite sex for longer than a few seconds, unless it was obviously work-related, was grounds for discipline and/or being sent home.)

* Even thinking about a boy is probably dating him. You should immediately confess any such stray thoughts to your father, ask his forgiveness, and make yourself accountable to him lest you be tempted to have any more thoughts about boys

* If it happens that the boy you are thinking about has already asked your father for your hand, or does so in the future, you will not be informed of this until your father deems it the appropriate time. This means you could spend years fighting attraction to the man you will eventually marry, but it’s still a sin to think these thoughts.

* If you marry the “wrong person,” then after you’re married they become the “right person,” aka God’s new will for your life. You’re stuck. Deal with it. You shouldn’t have dated him anyway, or married him without your parents’ permission. We know you either dated or married without parental blessing or both, because duh, you married the “wrong person” and you would never have done that if you’d courted and gotten your parents’ blessing!

* If your parents lead you to marry a guy who’s in the Mafia (yes, this example is in the Basic Seminar, or maybe the Advanced Seminar… it’s been a few years since I watched either of them) then you need to be submissive anyway. Because your parents chose him for you, God will bless your marriage even though he’s in organized crime and likes to beat you when he gets home. You still can’t divorce him.

* Not only should you NEVER EVER EVER marry someone who’s divorced, but you probably shouldn’t marry the *child* of divorced parents.

* The sins of the fathers will be passed down to the children unless a very specific prayer is prayed over said children. We are very blessed to live in a time when we have Bill Gothard to teach us such things. Thousands of years’ worth of Christians simply had to fight inherited sins on their own, without Mr. Gothard to show them the RIGHT way to overcome such things!

* Adoption is bad. You don’t know what “sins of the fathers” are being introduced into your home.

* Birth control is bad. God will give you as many children as you deserve. Susanna Wesley was a favorite example – she had 19 children although less than half of them survived infancy.

* If you can’t have children, then something must be wrong in your life. Clearly God gives many children to those whom he favors. He really loves Mrs. McKim. (Now I’m showing my age… these days it would be Mrs. Duggar!)

* Only have sex between days 15 and 28 of the wife’s menstrual cycle. Days 8-14 are maybe okay, but if you’re trying to be ultra-Godly, or get pregnant, wait until day 15. You want the “seed” as strong as possible.

* It’s not awkward to talk about periods and sex in mixed company when single “fellas” and single “girls” are present in the room, as long as it’s in the Advanced Seminar. Plus, we use terms like “relations” and “monthly cycle” instead of “sex” and “periods,” so we’ll all just pretend we don’t know what we’re talking about so it’s less awkward.

* Tampons will kill you. Toxic shock syndrome and all that. They’re bad. Follow God’s design for your monthly cycle and wear pads.

* Rock music is bad. It will kill your plants and cause you to be demon-possessed. It will also cause you to drink, take drugs, have sex with anyone and everyone, wear jeans, and generally rebel against everything Godly. Rock music with Christian words is even worse.

* If your family visits a restaurant or store that is playing ungodly music, you must ask the server or store employee to turn the music off. If they refuse, then the most Godly thing would be to leave the premises immediately so that your family is not harmed by the ungodly music. Plus, you’ll be a testimony of God’s principles.

* The only okay music is hymns. Classical music is okay as long as it doesn’t have a back beat. But if you’re really Godly, you’ll listen to hymns. Preferably played on a harp. The harp is the most Godly of instruments. After all, David used it to charm the demon out of King Saul. Until King Saul threw a javelin at him. Twice. During harp music. Somehow that part never got talked about when I was in ATI. Forget that. Just listen to harp music anyway.

* Cabbage Patch Kid dolls will cause you to be demon-possessed. They will also cause your mom to have her labor stall, until the doll is found & burned, at which moment, labor will resume and the baby will be born within minutes. (Another anecdote, told in the Basic Seminar I believe.)

* To be on the safe side, better not have My Little Pony, Care Bears, troll dolls, and definitely no souvenirs from Africa such as masks or figurines. You will be demon-possessed. They must be burned. Simply throwing them away is not good enough to break the demon’s power over you. It doesn’t matter if such toys are your child’s favorite toy(s), they must be burned anyway.

* Denim is bad. It’s a sign of rebellion. Even boys should wear Dockers, etc., not denim jeans.

* T-shirts are bad. They’re a sign of rebellion. Only collared shirts are allowed. Therefore, a polo shirt is acceptable attire for “fellas” or girls. A t-shirt is not. (How a girl wearing a polo shirt is not “wearing that which pertaineth to a man,” I don’t know. I never heard that addressed.)

* If you are going to rebel and wear a t-shirt, don’t ever wear one with words or a design on the front. Girls, don’t you know what when a man’s eyes are reading the words or looking at the picture, they’re really checking out your body? You’re going to get raped if you encourage men to read your chest – I mean, shirt – instead of focusing on your bright, Godly countenance.

* Beards are bad. They’re signs of rebellion. (During the 1980’s and part of the 1990’s, if the dad had facial hair, the family would not be allowed to join ATIA/ATI.)

* Men must have short hair that is obviously masculine in style. The best hairstyle for a “fella” causes you to look like your photo – complete with a navy suit – could fit right in to a high school yearbook from the 1950’s.

* Women should have long hair, with gentle curls. If God made your hair straight, then you must curl it. If God made your hair ultra-curly, then you must straighten it. Blonde is the best color. The Principle of Design (accepting your body as God made it) is suspended for hair. Mr. Gothard dyes his hair so apparently hair dye doesn’t violate the 10 Unchangeables regarding physical features or aging.

* Pants or jeans or shorts on women are so bad that I can’t even begin to stress how important this is. Men will lust after your body. You will get raped. (Girls can’t wear pants because they pertaineth to a man, even though men in Bible times wore “dresses” or robes. That was okay, though, because their robes were distinctly masculine in style, so it was still easy to tell at a distance if you were looking at a man or a woman. But pants are never okay on women because they’re too much like men’s garments so you can’t tell from a distance if it’s a man or a woman.)

* Hosiery should be skin-toned and should never have a pattern woven into it. This is an eye trap, and will draw rapists’ – I mean, men’s – eyes from your bright and shining coutenance down to your legs. He will be so busy looking at your patterned hosiery that he may very well rape you without even realizing what he’s doing, and it won’t be his fault, because you were the one wearing the eyetrap.

* The most modest attire for a woman is a navy skirt, a white blouse, and a navy neckbow. Or in later years and/or if you or a close friend have been to Russia, you may wear a black painted Russian pin at your neckline, as the ATI version of a status symbol. (Just don’t let it rain while you’re wearing your modest white blouse, or it becomes… um… less modest and more see-through… maybe *that* is why were were always supposed to be under an umbrella… and Heaven help the full-chested girl whose blouse kept wanting to gap or pop buttons in the wrong place…!)

* You must vow (not promise, but VOW) to never go to a movie theater. Bill Gothard made such a vow when he was a young man, and look how wonderful his life has been! Therefore, you MUST make this same vow.

* You should also commit to fasting regularly, at least on Sundays. Bill Gothard made such a vow when he was a young man, and look how wonderful his life has been! Therefore, you MUST make this same vow.

* You must also vow to read your Bible every day for the rest of your life. At least 5 minutes a day. Bill Gothard made such a vow when he was a young man, and look how wonderful his life has been! Therefore, you MUST make this same vow.

* You must also memorize Scripture. Preferaby by the chapter. Or the book. The most Godly of Godly people memorize the whole New Testament, *and* Psalms, *and* Proverbs. But at least start on Matthew 5, 6, & 7. And Romans 6, 7, 8, & 12. And James 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5. If you memorize random scattered verses, you aren’t Godly enough.

* Simply reading the Bible isn’t enough. You must also *meditate* on Scripture. If you meditate on Scripture, then you will get good grades in school. You will breeze through college. Bill Gothard made such a vow when he was a young man, and look how wonderful his life has been! Therefore, you MUST make this same vow.

* Public school is bad. Christian school is almost as bad as public school. Homeschooling is good. Bill Gothard attended public school, and look how… oh, wait, never mind.

* Sunday School is bad. Children’s Institutes are good. Groups of peers are bad. Young people must spend time in groups of all ages. If you insist on attending Sunday School at your church, then you should attend a class as a family, because then your children won’t be tempted to make friends with people their own age.

* Character is the most important thing in life. Education doesn’t matter – just have character. Just have good character and employers will hunt you down and beg you to come work for them. Unless you’re a girl. In which case you’d better not work for anyone but Bill Gothard or your dad, or you will have sex with a co-worker or boss. Or get raped.

* College is bad. Public school is bad. Christian school is bad. Normal homeschooling is okay but less Godly than enrolling in ATI. If a girl goes to college, she’ll almost certainly get raped. Boys who go to college will be taught about how great Satan is. After all, Bill Gothard went to college, and look how… oh, wait. Never mind again.

* The most Godly homes have Scripture posted on the walls. Generic pictures of landscapes or portraits of people were never forbidden, but if you’re *really* Godly, you’ll have Scripture on your walls. Or CharacterFirst! posters.

* It’s okay to teach in public schools, but only if you are teaching the CharacterFirst! materials. Otherwise you should avoid any and all contact with the public schooled, sex-crazed, denim-wearing, rock-music-listening, rebellious youths of the world.

* TV is bad. Horribly, horribly bad.

* The Interent is bad. But since so many of you insist on having it in your home, you should buy protection from CharacterLink. It will cost you a bunch of money every month, and won’t let you see half of the perfectly-legitimate sites you want to visit, but you must spend the money on it anyway. Especially if you have men or boys in the home. Men or boys who are allowed to touch a computer without CharacterLink installed on it will become addicted to porn and will probably become rapists. (Bet this one’s really hard to enforce nowadays, since CharacterLink is no longer owned by ATI, and iPods and iPhones and iPads and their cousins would be incredibly hard to control. I suppose ATI kids these days aren’t allowed access to such technology.)

* If you are visiting friends or relatives who turn on a TV or a computer or do anything else that goes against your Scriptural convictions, including the ones for which you have no Scriptural basis, you must stand alone. You must say, “I’ve given my life to Jesus and I can’t do that.” Sleepovers are probably not a good idea because it’s almost certain that someone will do something to offend you, at which time you must stand alone, and probably call your parents to come pick you up from said sleepover. (A sleepover where the mom decided to hold a seance was the example given. As a mother, I don’t send my children to sleepovers unless I know the parents well enough to trust my child to their care. However, in the example, the parents who sent the child there were never criticized. Rather, the child was praised for refusing to participate in a seance.)

* Whole wheat bread is the answer to all of the world’s health and nutritional needs. It only counts if the wheat was ground *that morning,* the bread was made *that day,* and you eat it *that day.* After all, “give us this day our daily bread” definitely does NOT refer to bread purchased at the grocery store, or even made the day before. White flour will kill you. Whole wheat flour will save your life. Eat lots of whole wheat bread every day. (We have to assume that Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance are the figments of evil people’s imaginations. We’ll never know, since Celiac & gluten intolerance were unheard-of back then. I suppose that if those people were eating whole wheat bread, then they wouldn’t have Celiac Disease. ‘Cause whole wheat bread is the answer to all of the world’s health and nutritional needs.)

* A desire for white bread was a major factor in beginning the French Revolution.

* You’ll know you’re getting enough fiber when your, um, bathroom business floats. (During that Wisdom Booklet and for a time thereafter, our family announced our results to each other after leaving the bathroom.)

* Don’t eat pork. Ever. It’s bad.

* Don’t eat dairy and meat together. It’s bad. No more cheeseburgers, ever. Or milkshakes with a burger. But sometimes we’ll order pizza at our Training Centers, with pepperoni toppings. That’s okay.

* Don’t chew gum. It’s a sign of rebellion since that’s what rebellious teen-agers do.

* Games are a waste of time. Unless it’s Character Clues or Commands of Christ.

* You should avoid any game that teaches you about demons or hell. Except Commands of Christ. Its picture of hell is okay.

* Dungeons and Dragons is a game that must be avoided at all costs. It will cause you to be demon-possessed.

* Folly of any kind is a waste of time and damages your testimony. Avoid all practical jokes. Avoid loud laughter. Your time would be more productively spent reading your Bible, memorizing character qualities, or fasting and praying.

* If you memorize all 49 character quality definitions, including the ones that are so similar that no one but Bill Gothard can differentiate them, then you will not only have such great character that you don’t need college to be successful in life, but you will also beat everyone else in Character Clues. Every time. Just don’t be proud of that fact, or you obviously don’t have Humility. Since very character quality has a Bible verse reference on its card, you know they came straight from the Bible.

* There are seven non-optional principles of life. Aren’t we lucky – oops, can’t say “lucky” – fortunate – no, can’t say that either – BLESSED to live in this time of history when Bill Gothard has figured out what these seven non-optional principles are? We are so much better off than people like the Apostle Paul, becuase he didn’t have Bill Gothard to help him know how to live.

* If you reject the way God made you – any of the 10 Unchangeables – then you will be bitter and have a horrible life. (“Principle of Design”)

* If you get out from under your umbrella of authority, the boogeyman will get you and you will be either demon-possessed, raped, or both. (“Principle of Authority”)

* If you don’t meditate on Scripture, your life will be mediocre at best. (“Principle of Success”)

* If you zone out during most of the Basic Seminar and fifteen years later can only remember three of the seven non-optional principles of life, then you are surely doomed!!

* Bitterness is the root problem in this world. You need to learn how to draw little checkerboard diagrams with castles, so you can remove the strongholds of bitterness that Satan has in your life, and so that you can then teach other people how to clear their checkboard souls of Satan’s castles.

* If I, as a 12-year-old student, followed these principles in my life, then not only was I qualified to teach adults how to solve their marriage and financial and business problems, but the leaders of Russia would practically fall on their faces to worship me as a Godly young lady attired in modest navy and white with a navy neckbow. Or I might even be given a walkie-talkie to carry around at Knoxville!

* “Bright eyes” are the ultimate expression of one’s spirituality. One can accurately gauge the depths of another person’s commitment to Christ by looking at their eyes. If their eyes are “dark,” then they clearly listen to rock music and therefore have given all sorts of ground to Satan and have strongholds all over their checkerboard soul. (Note: native Russian speakers have since clarified that “bright eyes” is the translation of a Russian idiom meaning that a person is happy. It has much more to do with one’s emotional state than with one’s spiritual state.)

* If someone compliments you on anything, from having “bright eyes” to playing the violin in church, you must deflect the praise. The best praise-deflectors can turn every compliment into an opportunity to thank God (for the musical talent), but of course one must also praise one’s parents (for paying for the violin lessons) and one’s teacher (for teaching so skillfully and diligently). No compliment is ever to be answered with a simple “Thank you.” That would be prideful.

* If you’re enrolled in ATI and have learned all of these Godly principles, then you don’t really need to go to church. The only reason you would go to church is to minister to others. Or be a testimony to them. Since you can’t subject your family to the evils of rock music, if your church has compromised to the point of allowing such music, you must either stand up and leave as soon as a rock beat starts, or if this is a regular occurrence, you must time your arrival at church to coincide with the end of the song service so that your family will not be exposed to the evil rock beat. If a rock beat is used during the invitation time as well, then you must leave at the end of the sermon. Because a large, floral-jumper- or navy-suit-clad family parading in and out of church to avoid the back beat is a definite testimony of God’s principles at work in your life.

* When you are in church, you don’t really need to listen to the sermon, because you know all of these non-optional principles, therefore you are wise – wiser than your teachers, which includes the pastor of your church. Anything your pastor or anyone else says that is in opposition to the teachings of IBLP/ATI is clearly wrong. If possible, such a preacher or teacher should be lovingly confronted with the truth, as taught in the big red textbooks and/or Wisdom Booklets. (Presumably one never becomes wiser than their primary teachers, their parents. Because parents are always right.)

* If you are persecuted for your Godly testimony or standards and/or for shoving such testimony or standards down other people’s throats, rejoice! And be exceeding glad! For great is your reward in Heaven.