Not a Nice Story

Image copyright 2016, Darcy.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Darcy’s blog Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings. It was originally published on February 19, 2016.

From babyhood they said “You are a dirty sinner, there is nothing good in you, you are destined for hell because of your nature.”

So we, small humans, awoke to a world where toddlers need the sin and foolishness beaten out of them with switches and wooden spoons and belts.

They said “Only with Jesus are you worth anything.”

So as small children we begged Jesus to come into our hearts and make the dirty clean.

They said “Because of your sin, God cannot look at you, Jesus had to die. You killed him.”

So we mourned that we were so sinful that God couldn’t look at us without someone else standing in our place.

They said “You are human, a sinner, you cannot help it, only Jesus can make you worth anything.”

So we felt that we were worthless, that no matter how hard we try, we will never be good enough, while some kept trying anyway and some completely gave up.

They said “If you fall in love with a boy, you are committing emotional fornication.”

So we guarded our hearts lest sin defile us with merely a thought, and when our hearts betrayed us and we fell in love with a boy, we hated ourselves and knew we were worth less than before, we had lost a piece of our hearts we would never get back.

They said “Your body needs to be hidden because it is dangerous and if a man lusts after you because of your clothing or movements, it is your fault”.

So we covered our bodies from head to toe, swathed our femininity in fabric hoping no one would notice the curves, and spent years of our life worrying that we may cause a man to stumble and thus defile our own hearts and his.

They said “Boys only want one thing, so be sure you don’t do anything that makes them think they can take it from you. They can’t help it, this is how God made them, we must help them.”

So we lived in fear of men who God made pigs then placed the responsibility for their pig-ness on us.

They said “If you kiss a boy, you’re like a lolly-pop that’s been licked, a paper heart that’s been torn, you are worth less than before, and you’ve given away a part of you that you can never get back.”

So we spent our days afraid, terrified we would lose our worth and have nothing to give a future spouse.

They said “Virginity and purity give you value, don’t give that away.”

So whether virginity was taken forcefully or given lovingly, we were left worthless, used goods, and told no godly man would want us now.

They said “You cannot hear God for yourself, you must obey your authorities. They know what is best for you.”

So we submitted to things that no human being deserves to suffer, because otherwise God would be angry and not bless our lives. Submitting to unjust treatment was what Jesus did, after all.

They said “You are rebellious. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.”

So we begged God’s forgiveness for the ways we wanted something different than they wanted.

They said “You are a woman, emotional, incapable of leading, easily deceived. You must stay in your place, submit, and only then God will bless you.”

So we felt loathing for our womanhood, wondering why God would make us inferior, and feeling guilty that we dare question the Almighty’s plan, that we are not happy with his decree.

And now…..now we are told “Why are you depressed? Why do you have anxiety? Why the addictions, the anger, the rage, the self-loathing? Why can’t you just be happy and normal?”

As if no one can connect the dots. As if their actions did not have consequences. As if a child can be raised to hate themselves in the Name of God and suddenly grow into an adult that is healthy. As if a lifetime of emotional trauma and spiritual abuse suddenly vanishes because a person changes their mind about who they are and their place in the world.

That’s not how it works. That is only the beginning of a journey that could take the rest of our lives. A journey we are told not to speak of because it makes people uncomfortable, because they’d rather call us names like “bitter” and “unforgiving” than to look deep into the darkness of our hearts and hear tales of pain and see the rawness of souls taught to hate themselves. Because those stories aren’t nice ones. But we will not change them in order to make others comfortable.

Do not tell us to “forgive”. Forgiveness has nothing to do with it. Do not tell us to “get over it”. One does not “get over” years of trauma and brainwashing and brain-wiring from babyhood just by making a single choice. We do not choose the nightmares. We do not choose the triggers and the gut-level reactions and the panic attacks. We had 18+ years of being taught that we are worthless, that God cannot stand to look at us, that we killed Jesus, that our worth is in our virginity or how well we obey our parents, that who we are is dirty and sinful. Give us at least 18+ years to re-wire our brains and heal those festering wounds and to learn to love ourselves where before there was only self-loathing. Some wounds cannot be healed. They can only be lived with. And scars do not disappear on a whim. But they can tell our stories and make us strong.

And tell our stories we will, and get stronger for the telling. We heal a little more every time we speak out loud what was hidden and decide that we are worth loving and our stories worth the telling.

Isn’t This Why We Don’t Send Them to Public School?

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Quinn Dombrowski.

Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Eleanor Skelton’s blog, The Girl Who Once Lived in a Box. It was originally published on December 14, 2015.

I was four years old.

We were visiting my dad’s childhood home in New York, and we went to the house of an elderly lady who used to be his neighbor. She had a caretaker, a single mom homeschooling her son, who was around my age.

My favorite TV show was Barney the Dinosaur, my only 30 minutes of live television once a week. I also played my Barney’s Favorites cassette tape every day and I knew all of the songs by heart.

The little boy and I started chattering and playing on the floor, and I sang “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” for him and his mom, very enthusiastically, with all of the hand motions and marching.

“Do your ears hang low?
Do they wobble to and fro?
Can you tie ’em in a knot?
Can you tie ’em in a bow?
Can you throw ’em o’er your shoulder
Like a continental soldier
Do your ears hang low?”

His mother turned to my mom and said, “Isn’t this why we don’t send them to public school, so they won’t be exposed to garbage like this?”

I remember this deep sense of shame and wanting to crawl under the carpet. I felt like I’d humiliated my mom and I wondered what was so terrible about my song. I think the little boy’s mom called him to come sit on the couch next to her, away from me, and we weren’t allowed to play together the rest of the visit.

This was the first time that I was that child, the bad influence.

Usually it was my parents keeping me away from other children that could lead me astray. This time, they hid their children from me. My mom didn’t understand at all why the other mother objected to the song.

The fear would follow me for years.

Later on in my teens, we ended up in a church with mostly other homeschooling families, some of them Quiverfull. All the other churches we’d gone to before were mainline denominations, and their children went to public school. But homeschooling was becoming more common by 2004.

I’d hear stories from the other families, pick up things in snatches of conversation.

My sister got a craft book for her 8th birthday party, the only party she ever invited friends to since we stayed to ourselves. The other children said, “Oh, look there’s a witch on this page! We’ll have to cover that up.” Their mom glanced over and said, “Oh yeah, you can just cut out black construction paper and glue it over those pages like we do at our house.”

I called my Bible Buddies partner during the week, we got into a theological discussion, and I asked, “Well, have you ever read Narnia?” “No,” she answered. “My parents don’t like that they talk about magic, and they think it’s too confusing for children to read about Jesus as a lion.” I explained that magic is like a substitute for divine power both in creation and redemption, and I read her some dialogue between Aslan and the Pevensie children. She said she thinks it’s probably safer not to read it and seemed uncomfortable, and I dropped the subject.

A homeschool mom traded some used A Beka textbooks with our family. The pages of the only Greek myth in the 8th grade literature book were stapled together. “Why should they learn about pagan literature when they could be reading the Bible?”

My dad bought clearance books and films from the Focus on the Family bookstore. He sent the kids Ten Commandments VHS series to a Quiverfull family we knew with 13 kids. My mom explained to their parents that the only time there is music with a beat in the series is the scene where the characters worship false idols.

I was always watchful around the other families, struggling to balance being honest about the books and movies I enjoyed but with the fear of not being allowed to talk to the other teens if I’m considered a “bad influence.”

In this patriarchal world, if one of the parents decided I’m not spiritual enough or too worldly, I might not be given space to defend myself.

I know because it happened to others. Teens and young adults were called into the pastor’s office and questioned about their music preferences, asked to stop hanging out with their children.

Because, you know. This is why we don’t send our kids to public school.

public school pearls

Wrestling With Skepticism After Fundamentalism

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Kate Ter Haar.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on December 31, 2015.

I grew up in a fundamentalist, homeschool environment, which means that from a young age I learned to defend my faith and be skeptical of all people who disagree with what we believed. And I mean all.

I spent my childhood on guard. I analyzed the neighbors, so that their “public school” mentality or behavior did not taint me. In homeschool, I learned about how all the scientists were wrong about everything. I learned that academic people in general had trouble getting to heaven because their minds were steered in the wrong direction. I was taught that Catholics were deadbeats with incorrect doctrine, and to beware of any liberal theology, lest it corrupt me. As I got older, I became the family watchdog.

I studied theology in highschool, and could tell you which theologians were okay and which were not.

I was not just trained to be a skeptic of intellectual ideas; lifestyle choices, too, were also something from which I needed to keep pure. I was skeptical of those who ate pork and junk food; those who did not know how to grow their own vegetables; those who went to public school; those who listened to secular music; those who dressed in a “worldly” manner; those who used bad language.

I always hated the fact that I judged people and was so territorial and guarded against outside ideas and outsiders. My best friend in the neighborhood was born from a teen mom (raised by her grandmother), and I called shit on the way in which some of the other girls at my church treated her, as if she had done something wrong. And yet, while I saw the downsides of how we judged people as the result of how we tried to defend the gospel and keep the church pure, I never could break free, shut my mind off, and pretend that ideas do not matter or have consequences.

As I continued to get older, I lived with a tension: on the one hand, I wanted to accept my liberal friends and liberal ideas, and on the other hand, I could not just turn off my mind. In college, I had lesbian friends, who were pretty much awesome. Yet I was not instantly convinced that my lesbian friends should marry and have children because I could not see how two children could be raised by two same-sex parents and not miss out on something. I could not just tell my friends, “I love you, so I’m turning my mind OFF.”

I had to work through my preconceived ideas and do my own research; I needed my own “proof.”

I’ve realized lately, that I’m still the same passionate skeptic that I was when I was 13 years old and that I was in college. I am, today, generally accepting of people different than me, but that’s not because I’m not skeptical. I’ve already worked out in my mind that there is no single “right” way to raise children, so I have no further comment about who live outside the box. But when it comes to ideas, philosophical, social, or theological, I am still the same skeptic I once was.

Whenever I encounter a new idea, I am instantly on guard, unable to assent, refusing to assent, demanding proof (not necessarily proof in a scientific way, but in a way that makes sense to me). You might say, “normal people struggle with skepticism.” I think that is true to a degree.

But my skepticism is far more intense than your typical person.

As an example, I took an entire course on Kant this last fall term. Most graduate students treated the class like a chess game: “isn’t it interesting,” kind of thing. For me, life and death was at stake.

After reading the first section of Kant’s first Critique, I felt like I was going to vomit.

Then I felt like crying. Kant’s basic thesis that we only conceive “appearances” and not reality as it is “in itself” was trouble for me – life and death trouble. I experienced a dual tension: If Kant is right, then my whole ability to trust reality was going to fall down the tubes. Yet, the strong Christian side in me was also certain that Kant was wrong; I just needed to figure out what it was. I spent every afternoon in September out on the driving reading Kant, trying to figure it out. When I mentioned how I was troubled to the rest of my classmates, they nearly laughed at me and said, “even science is starting to believe that Kant is right.”  It was not until December and 600 pages of reading Kant later (DECEMBER) that I finally had peace. I had an epiphany one day, independent of what everyone else in class was saying (because people’s opinions never do much for me), where I realized, “you know, Kant is just observing experience” and in that moment, I found peace. I still heavily disagree with Kant in many places, but I’m at peace at the same time, no longer guarded, no longer think his philosophy is the death of western culture.

I can’t just make my mind assent to an idea just because it’s popular by really smart people. 3 years back, when I first started really, really questioning the doctrine of fundamentalism, I couldn’t make myself believe the earth is old just because most people believe it’s old. I had to research it myself.  As old earth became more comfortable to me, evolution did not suddenly feel comfortable. It’s taken time for me to just to accept that we might have evolved from lower life forms.

My skepticism always makes me an outsider. Just yesterday, a friend posted on facebook a meme about an idea that is endorsed by mainstream research and liberal politics. I instantly reacted to the fact that the premises on the meme were not well argued. The first thing that a skeptic needs to be convinced is well-argued point. But besides this, I’m just not convinced that this particular liberal idea is true. I’ve yet to see the evidence for myself, and I can’t make myself believe it, just because conservative ideas are usually wrong.  (I actually think the truth is usually somewhere between the liberal and the conservative, but that’s another story.)

I’ve only recently learned to quit fighting the fact that I’m a passionate skeptic.

It’s overall a blessing, except when it turns into bigotry against others, and yet I’ve also seen my skepticism help me fight bigotry. For example, I’ve seen facebook friends post memes that argue for scientism, the belief that science is the ultimate authority, but the language of the memes celebrate science to the point that other “unscientific” cultures would be conceived inferior if the meme were really true.  My skepticism of anything mainstream – a skepticism that ultimately derives from my childhood – made me able to see this general problem of scientism.

My skepticism is also what makes me a good philosophy scholar. My skepticism is what makes me a refreshing and needed voice in the academy. I presented work this semester, just as an example, of what characterizes the modern subject and how that has influenced how we conceive of history, and from there, I made a bold move to try to critique this. The night before I presented this paper I was really unsure what would happen – after all, I was presenting a paper critiquing modernity, when most of the academy is very modern. But you know what? it was well-received. It got people thinking. And this paper would not have been possible without spending the last 2+ years of grad school unsatisfied and skeptical.

I’ll never feel settled in this world; I’ll never truly “become worldly” or find a home. I often tell people I have left fundamentalism only to become a wanderer, without a home. Even the place that feels closest to home, the philosophy department, I am the most skeptic of them all. But that’s okay. I must learn to accept this.

One thing has changed since I was 13: I am keenly aware that I might not be right, that I could be wrong. I am aware today that I don’t have the final voice; I’m just a voice in the sea of voices. I know that when I present a paper, others get to present their papers too. Sometimes I feel like tearing my work up because I’m aware that I really, REALLY could be wrong.

The 13 year old me did not know I was wrong. But the 30 year old me knows that I could be wrong.

And yet, I am no longer afraid of my skepticism, because underneath my skepticism is my passion. I am passionate about ideas and philosophy because truth matters to me. When I encounter new ideas, I can’t promise anyone that I will agree or be open-minded. The truth is, I will probably be extremely close-minded and hard-hearted about it. But I can promise that I will read; I can assure you that I will assume that the research or author is intelligent, even if I disagree; and I can guarantee that if I read and find out otherwise, I will change my mind.

Lesson of the post: if you are an ex-fundamentalist, learn to celebrate your skepticism, although do yourself the favor of reading. If you know an ex-fundamentalist, or anyone skeptical in general, don’t call skeptics stupid just because they won’t believe in something everyone else believes in.

Please Don’t Deny Our Agency

 

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog, Love, Joy, Feminism. It was originally published on November 16, 2015.

I wrote the first draft of this post last summer. I wasn’t satisfied with it as it was, so I set it aside and promptly forgot about it. A conversation with one of my sisters reminded me of the post, so I’ve pulled it out and dusted it up.

In writing, last summer, about Josh Duggar’s Ashley Madison account, I noted that:

Josh and Anna didn’t have sex until they married, so they had no way of knowing whether they are sexually compatible. Further, Josh doesn’t believe in birth control and he and his wife Anna have had four kids in five years. There is no way this hasn’t taken a tole on the couple’s sex life. Josh also does not believe in divorce. None of this justifies Josh’s cheating. He is a grown man, and in choosing the beliefs he has he has made his own bed.

Quite a few commenters objected, arguing that Josh didn’t chose his beliefs, his parents chose them for him. While I understand where this is coming from, I have a problem with where this logic leads—namely, that any individual who grows up in the Christian homeschooling movement and does not deviate from their parents’ beliefs as an adult is some sort of automaton, bereft of agency.

I grew up as the oldest of a dozen homeschooled children in a family similar to Josh’s in many ways. If I hadn’t left the fold, I would probably be pregnant with my fifth child right now and homeschooling my oldest, but instead I am part of the Homeschoolers Anonymous community, one of scores of other young adults now critical of our Christian homeschool upbringings. While I was not raised in ATI, as Josh was, dozens of individuals of my generation who were have formed Recovering Grace and found other outlets for opposing Bill Gothard’s cultish teachings.

What I am trying to say is simply this: Being raised in a Christian homeschooling home does not rob a person of agency. If it did, I would not be where I am today.

It’s true Christian homeschooling is often centered around ensuring that children will adopt their parents’ beliefs, but you know what? We all turn 18 at some point, and at some point we leave home. When we become adults, we make our own choices. Some of us chose to reject our parents’ beliefs entirely. Others pick through, keeping some things and setting aside others. Still others choose to make our parents’ beliefs our own. We exercise our agency in different ways, but we do have agency.

I am familiar with the concept of “bounded choices.” I understand that some of us have more room to question than others, that some of us have more exposure to other people and beliefs than others, and that some of us have more resources and marketable skills than others.

There are indeed young women in these communities who go straight from their parent’s home to their husband’s home, with no college or job skills, and immediately commence bearing and raising children. But you know what? Telling these women that they only believe what they do because their parents taught it to them, denying their agency and their ability to make their own choices—these things will only contribute to the sort of infantilization many of us experienced as adolescents. It doesn’t help.

That conversation I had with my sister? She wanted to make sure that I respected her agency. She was concerned that I knew that she held the same beliefs as our parents because she believed them for herself and not because it was what she had been taught. She was worried that, because I had a rather dramatic experience of resorting and choosing my beliefs as a young adult, I might assume that she was not exercising her own agency. She wanted to make sure I saw her as an autonomous person making her own choices.

When we speak of young Christian homeschool graduates being “brainwashed” we push people like my sister away. When we affirm their agency and autonomy (while also challenging their beliefs when necessary) we help promote both. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider the challenges faced by homeschool alumni from controlling or dogmatic homes, and we should absolutely promote greater freedom and openness by speaking out against harmful practices and supporting scholarships and other initiatives to help those who may find themselves stuck. But denying the agency of those who espouse their parent’s beliefs helps none of this. We can affirm agency while also promoting expanded options.

But let’s return to Josh Duggar. Some of you may argue that Josh was, in some sense, trapped. He had a wife and four children and no marketable job skills that he could apply outside of his parents’ circles of influence.

Let me tell you a story about a Christian homeschool graduate who, like Josh, courted, married, and set up house with a young woman who had just graduated from homeschooling herself. Together they had four children in five years. This homeschool graduate was trained for the ministry, and only for ministry, and was expected to follow in paternal footsteps. In the early years of marriage the fledgling family was financially dependent on family. Small children in tow, the young family moved several states away for a new job pastoring a church.

Are you noticing some parallels? You should be. Josh also married young through a parent-controlled courtship, had four children in five years, was financially dependent on his father, and moved several states away to take up a much-lauded job doing what he was expected to do to further the family name.

But this story ends differently. This homeschool graduate struggled with dysphoria, entered a period of intense questioning, and then left the approved path. Though assigned male at birth, this homeschool graduate came out as transgender and transitioned to living openly as a woman. She left the ministry and had to find an entirely new career, starting from scratch with four children to care for. Neither she nor her wife had any job skills to fall back on. And yet, they overcame overcame. You can read Haley’s story, as told by her wife Melissa, here.

Hayley chose to question her parents’ beliefs and leave their subculture. Josh chose to adopt his parents believes and stay in their subculture. Both had agency.

Yes, children who grow up in Christian homeschooling families are often more sheltered than other children. We may study out of textbooks that are extremely limited in ideological scope. We may not have any friends whose beliefs differ from ours. But the entire premise of this blog and so many others is that Christian homeschooling does not work. Children are wildcards, not robots waiting for programming. Regardless of how controlling our parents may be during our childhoods, once we turn 18 we make our own decisions. Please do not deny us that.

 

Homeschooled in New Zealand: TheLemur’s Story, Part Three

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Chris Preen.

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

*****

In this seriesPart One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

*****

In any situation, my mum excelled in introducing some socially disruptive element. For example, I participated from ages circa 12 – 14 in speech and drama competitions. All the other competitors were dressed in mufti, but she insisted I wear formal black pants and white shirt.

They were ‘sloppy’, and ‘we are not going to be dragged down to their standards’.

Conforming to a dress code which mum arbitrarily deemed ‘decent’ was far more important than my feeling like a fish out of water. Mum was totally oblivious to that anyway, as, you see, I was not ‘peer dependent’. And because I was not peer dependent, I could only frame my opposition to the clothes in terms of stylistic preference (to no avail, of course). For a competitive class known as ‘reading at sight’, in which each participant expressively read a passage from a book they had not seen before, all involved had to be taken together out of ear shot so no one heard the passage before their turn. For some reason, the demographics favoured girls in speech and drama at a ratio of 5:1. You can imagine my predicament. Firstly, it took me a while even in homeschool situation to leave behind self-consciousness. Second, I related very poorly to socialized school children. They knew how to strike up interactions between each other, so the child with poor social skills is always in an out group among his more gregarious peers. Third, being all dressed up impressed itself as another me vs. them barrier. Lastly, I had no idea at all how to even platonically talk to girls. It turned out I and a rather competitively prominent girl were penultimate and last in the competitor order, in the particular instance I’m channelling. We spent an awkward few minutes alone together. I didn’t know what to say, and given my anti-social body language, nor did she probably. Later, my mum had the nerve to ask what happened. That really pissed me off inside. Why the hell would you ask that, when you should know I have no concept of how to navigate that sort of social terrain? Some voyeuristic desire to know every detail of my inadequacy? Describing my internal state like this seems rather solipsistic. Sometimes I wonder if I have the right to single out events like these after reading through what some of you in America went through.

Naturally, mum found fault with the other families who attended.

Their children performed unbiblical pieces (about witches or wizards, or worse, dictatorial parents). The girls wore ‘disgusting’ clothing. I recall in crystal clear quality after one competitions ended, we went to Subway. Across from where I was sitting, in my line of site, sat the same girl I mentioned earlier. Leaning forward to eat her subway, her top rode up, exposing her lower back. Mum then insisted I swap places with her so my back was to this 14 year old hussy.

This is the kind of sexually repressive culture endemic in fundamentalism, and fundamentalist homeschooling. Teenagers can be granted no sexual agency. It’s not just they abide by the teaching of abstinence before marriage. The unwritten rules consider the idea a post-pubescent male would like to insert (consensually) his organ into the female, and that she would like to receive it, to be thoroughly improper. That would be part of the Marxist plot to destroy families by ‘teaching the kids about sex when they’re young’. The point of allowing someone to be a sexual being relates to socialization, because the repressive approach perpetuates a self-enforcing segregation. If boys and girls wanting to fuck each other silly is ‘dirty’ according to the unwritten norms, then the cognitive dissonance of the unconditioned response (sexual desire) clashing with an internalized mindset that completely gaslights the desire’s legitimacy, demands eschewing any sustained contact with a member of the opposite gender.

So during their sexually formative years, fundamentalist Christian youth subconsciously ascribe each other the role of toxic triggers.

Cultish, homeschooling conventions run by the likes of ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) confirm the behaviour by insisting on the ‘six inch rule’. All male female haptic interaction is sexually fetishized. You can never make a fundamentalist understand an argument, as their dogmatic modernism cannot really grasp post-modern deconstruction. That the statement ‘Sex is God’s gift to married couple, and we see no problem with it in that context’ does not decisively plant them in the garden of healthy sexual attitudes is an anathema to them.

Anyway, handling myself around girls was something I had to consciously learn mechanically at (a secular) university. I’m sure some female readers can attest to their version of that experience too.

Another dysfunction of isolation derives from the concomitant dynamics of habitualized isolation and the perception interactional partners are scarce. By habitualized isolation I mean the point at which the negative interactional outcomes owing to substandard social skills, overcome the desire to socialize.

You learn to do without social interaction, and thus lose any desire for it.

You become, effectively, asocial in a tightening, downward spiral. Only now do I have the objectivity and critical tool kit to see what happened; at the time I drifted aimlessly on a sea of calm, functional depression. It’s like moving in suspended animation. I couldn’t stand being on Facebook and seeing group oriented behaviour. A wall of unmotivated inability stood between me and pro-social activities. Now from time to time, for a variety of reasons, certain people will break through your bubble of isolation. Since the mind perceives them as scarce, you become emotionally fixated on them, a sure recipe to destruct a relationship. You obsess over the slightest signal of non-reciprocation. You need them more than they need you. You feel small, and constantly unwanted. And you must constantly deal with a power imbalance. He who cares least about a relationship controls it. In a way, it’s an objective scarcity too. Few people understand the unique personal histories of homeschoolers.

There’s often an outsized intellect compensating for a bereft emotional state.

Adults laud your academic achievements. Children feel jealous and push you away in spite. You condescendingly look at the ‘ignorant fools’ around you, trying to pretend you’re not envious of their social capital. To this day, I still struggle with these two dynamics. In quiet moments, I feel quite fucked up. Sometimes, a wave of intense loneliness sweeps over me, and in one of them I wrote these two poems/songs:

Lifestream

I feel the reservoir press against my spirit
A weight of water unmarked by morning light
Or cheerful souls drifting on the edge of my ken.
This mortal current sweeps my soul within it
And against the firmament I wage an unceasing fight.
I want to go beyond the 12 mile limit
Join two streams into one
But you are lost and never found
Beyond the horizon to which I tend.
Let me stretch out my hand away from the sirens in my mind
And live in hope I’ll feel your grasp before we sink in sorrowful seas.

Guides

In my sleep I found it
Found the glow that lights our path
Took the meteor to bits with my bare hands
Strew my dreams through the aftermath
[chorus]
Yeah they don’t know what I want to know
They don’t know where I wanna go
down the river in my mind, down the the river in my mind
I’ll flow, I’ll flow, through grains of time
I stretched out my heart
Touched the cheek of the girl next door
Her candle light eyes lit up my face
But I let the fire fall apart
If you want to see me
Before the man comes around
See the shooting stars in the north
Then turn the other way round
[chorus]
Embers scattered in the snow
Red white red white red white glow
Melting heat melting flakes
ceaseless fusion, silent sound
[chorus]

If there’s any good news, it’s that my mother realized her mistake when my brother, around 12 or 13, exhibited all the signs of a nervous breakdown – obsessively checking switches were turned off, checking under beds for interlopers, and general neurotic manifestations. He’s had a vastly more natural social life.

Homeschooled in New Zealand: TheLemur’s Story, Part Two

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Chris Preen.

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

*****

In this seriesPart One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

*****

While still quite young, my maternal grandparents health went into decline, and fate decreed mum was the one who had to consistently deal with that, year after year. She cumulatively became vastly more stressed, and thus, I believe, subject to a more emotional application of the already strict ‘rules’ in place. Let me deal with how her preoccupation, super imposed on the extant regime impacted on me – first in what she failed to realize and do (socialization), and secondly in what she did do (authoritarian parenting).

Mum brought wholeheartedly into the homeschool talking point the family alone was the ideal unit of socialization.

Not a base vehicle, mind you, for a broader socialization with the world, but a self-sufficient social ecosystem.

Although Mum was forty when she had me, her first child, she had two mischarges out of three more pregnancies. Such attempts are related to the supposedly ‘Biblical’ role of a woman to have large families and to be ‘keepers at home like it says in Titus 2!’ (a rather wanting interpretation of the context). She was a gender essentialist zealot, appropriating all the ‘Godly’ hang-ups. Women should only wear skirts. Modesty is essential. Dating is wrong. Oral sex is wrong (even in marriage). Women should not be educated like men, and mum wondered out loud sometimes if they should be allowed to vote (curiously in the country that first universalized the franchise). With beliefs like that, it’s no surprise she swallowed the relatively more modest claims of family-centric socialization. I remember overhearing dad say to her at one point, ‘don’t you think the boys should be with people their own age group more?’ Mum definitively responded, ‘NO, because once that happens…[insert all the ‘evils’ of peer pressure]. So it was just my brother and I, 95% of the time. He was four years my junior, which proved the ideal gap for squabbles. We were old enough to be interested in the same things but sufficiently temporally removed to grate on each other’s differing abilities. I often behaved like a bit of a beast toward him, exploiting my greater development to torment him. But when you’re constantly around someone to the exclusion of all others similar to your own age, you view the person like a chronic annoyance. Stripped of positive associations, they become easy to treat poorly. But I was still castigated for not ‘being my brother’s keeper.’ (Fortunately, the older we both got, the better we related to each other).

Although it would be a distortion of the truth to say I saw no friends ever, for the vast majority of the time, I dealt with a rising sense of isolation.

Because I could adequately converse with adults, mum deemed I was on track socially.

The problem, of course, with this little gem of homeschool counter think, is much of our social development comes through interaction with our equals in authority and ability. A child-adult interaction will always incorporate a measure of formalism. You don’t exactly grow as a person respectfully answering Mrs Smith’s generic inquiries about your education. Indeed, it wasn’t until university I made a friend with whom I could openly discuss personal matters.

I remember I became very upset when my parents wanted to drag me up to Auckland to see some show involving aging stars like Diana Rigg read extracts of English literature. My younger brother got to stay the day with a friend who lived down the road. At ten years old, I envied his dumb luck no end. Missing the rare chance of socializing for an ‘educational opportunity’ burnished the event onto my mind. It exemplifies the narrow definition of development some homeschoolers appropriate. The strange thing is you come to defend your peer abstraction; to say otherwise would mean you had succumbed to the great evil of ‘peer dependency’.

In my reality, my social interactions suffered. I feared school children. They were ‘the other’, a horde of confident, yelling, heathens. Mum used to take us for ‘nature walks’ in the local park, which boarded a number of classrooms of the local school. I cannot describe how uncomfortable I felt walking with my mother in my home made clothes under the scrutiny of what felt like a thousand eyes.

Paranoid about being dobbed into the ERO, mum would mutter ‘you are being watched’, which only served to make my feel like the Powers that Be could be making detailed notes on why I should be removed from the family.

That, of course, would be a disaster. She let us know the storm troopers of the state were always ready to snatch away children and herd them together with all the other juvenile fuck-ups.

My parents confessional progression since the American Baptist fiasco had domiciled then within a doctrinal persuasion that stressed grace, rather than law. Unfortunately, the doctrinal fealty to grace did not translate into mum’s everyday attitude. What’s more, the adherents of the sect were few in number. The reprieve of Sunday socialization would not be available to me. A lot of ‘services’ I attended were informal Bible studies that ran for an interminable three hours. There was no youth group, and my parents didn’t believe in them either. We split off from the group after a while and started our own group in a church building near us. When I say ‘group’, I mean my family, and at most, two other families. Mum’s first concern was to inform me I would be sitting still and listening with the family, and I would NOT be allowed to sit with my friend from the other family.

Most weeks, my social life was limited to twenty to thirty minutes after church.

My friend from that time is one of only two homeschoolers I still know today. Every now and then, the other family would take themselves off to a larger homeschooling church for greater social contact. They would have to drive past where our group met in order to do so. I would get to watch my slim social life literally drive away.

I also began to notice how mum sabotaged her relationships within the homeschool network. She acted in a catty way toward the mother of my friend because her parenting style did not exactly conform to mum’s view of the ‘good.’ See, mum would become massively enthused with a particular family or group for a while. They would be held up as the Ideal, Godly Standard. Then she would get bored of deifying them, or they did something to upset her (an easy task); and she would cut ties. The constant grandparents saga also ensured her preoccupation and stress, two traits not conducive to social attractiveness. A homeschooled child is entirely dependent on the network parents foster for social connections. But thanks to the anti-peer ideology, she had no qualms about wrecking her own relationships, and thus breaking off mine.

Homeschooled in New Zealand: TheLemur’s Story, Part One

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Chris Preen.

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

*****

In this series: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

*****

When I happened across Homeschooler’s Anonymous, I immediately related to the stories presented. As the first generation of the homeschool movement in the States critically considers their past, I will endeavour to start the conversation for kiwis (and Aussie too – we’re two very similar countries).

Out of a population of some four millions, there are on average 5,000 homeschool students. I was a (male) part of that statistic from attaining school age in 1997 to 2009. My brother and I were homeschooled our entire school lives. Now we’re both completing tertiary studies.

Like in America, a sizable chunk rejects mainstream education out of religious and philosophical conviction.

Our Education Act permits what’s called an Exemption (from attending a recognized school) if a parent makes a written submission in which they demonstrate a child will be taught ‘as well and as regularly’ as in a public school. Once the exemption is granted at the Ministry of Education’s behest, the Education Review Office (ERO) can review the child’s curriculum and academic abilities commensurate with public school and age expectations. I was reviewed once before I was ten. Evidently, I satisfied their criteria; I have heard of other families who received check-up visits. Unlike the more laissez-faire United States, a basic regulatory framework exists. Spanking was also recently legislated against.

I’ll begin with my parents to give you a background on my home educated experience. My mother converted to a fundamentalist Christianity, specifically Reformed Theology, while she was a registered nurse. Whereas her’s was a typical evangelical conversion, my father adopted Christianity after seeking life answers from Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri apologetics ministry in Switzerland. Schaeffer’s discursive concept (something quite foreign to the average evangelical) so enamoured him he planned on replicating it on a smaller scale back in New Zealand. After meeting in an evangelical church, they married. The next significant event was there attendance of a hard-shell American Baptist’s missionary church. This joker was a legalist of the highest order, demanding congregationists sign a Church Constitution which he could then use for punitive purposes. For a reason that escapes me, my mother did something which in his mind violated the Constitution. Although my father had signed, she hadn’t. Thus, he could not ‘discipline’ her. Rendered impotent by his own rules, he became enraged, and in my mother’s words ‘stamped himself into the ground like Rumpelstiltskin.’ At this juncture, I believe, my parents’ long, fitful journey away from legalism and the excesses of fundamentalism began.

Not long after these events, I was born. Mum decided to home educate me. She was always the dominant force in the household, and excepting financial decisions, dad generally deferred to her. The matriarchal dynamic represents one difference from what I glean my American equivalents lived. Ironically, my mother enforced an explicitly patriarchal belief system without the slightest cognitive dissonance. Two drives, I believe, explained my mother selecting the homeschool option.

Firstly, fear.

Her family was rather screwed up. My maternal grandfather harboured guilt, stemming from leaving his mother to fare for herself in England while he immigrated to New Zealand in search of better economic prospects. His children developed their own various pathologies. Mum’s brother ran her off the road one time. She determined, by hook or by crook, she would eliminate the repeat of those patterns in her offspring. Turning a very focused attention on her children was one way of achieving that.

Second, a belief schools were the inferior pedagogic option.

Their secularism, unimpressive student performance, and what she perceived to be deleterious socialization and structure closed that possibility.

Growing up, I came to accept my mother’s great emphasis on discipline. I knew stepping out of line could easily warrant ‘six of the best’ (whacks, the equivalent of ‘spank’ in the NZ lexicon). I was whacked as far back as I can recall, and I know my brother was hit at little more than two years of age. These ‘we’re doing it because we love you and if we don’t the POLICE will have to’ sessions were generally administered with a wooden kitchen spoon; the hard, tubular rod for elongating the sucking hose of the vacuum cleaner; or a stick from a tree. On days I sensed ‘danger high’, I would wear two pairs of underpants, hoping in the event of a punishment my shorts would not be pulled down. After being ‘disciplined’, I would be banished to the other end of the house for an hour or so. Mum thought being sent to your bedroom rewarded ‘disobedience’, as toys were present there. Funnily enough, I can remember being whacked there. Mum took care to draw the curtains first lest any nosey neighbours should see.

You’ve probably picked up here mum was almost always the judge, jury, and executioner of punishment. Dad did it too to a lesser extent, and then usually at mum’s behest.

She had a strict, parochial view of what was ‘acceptable’ in a Christian household.

No ‘snivellers whiners, grumblers’ and so on, she would say. We didn’t have a TV or computer till I was 15. In fact, Dad hopping over to the neighbours occasionally to watch the Rugby enraged my mother. We were allowed little choice in what we wore, and shirts HAD TO BE TUCKED IN! (otherwise one would end up like the heathens). Peer pressure was a great evil, and thus socialization had to be curtailed.

3 Things You Should Know Before Writing About Josh Duggar

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Sarah Joy.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on August 21, 2015.

With the latest round of Josh Duggar scandals, it’s time to address a few things that have been floating around, both in the religious blogosphere and tabloid and mainstream media. If you’re going to write about the Duggars, here are some things you need to know.

Before I begin with my list though, I want to say one other thing. If you defended Josh Duggar the child molester I don’t even want to hear your condemnation of Josh Dugger the adulterer. Consensual sex between two adults isn’t in the same universe as child sexual assault. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to reexamine their life.

With that said, here are some things you need to understand if you’re going to write about Josh Duggar.

1. Fundamentalist ≠ Quiverfull

It’s tempting to conflate the two concepts, especially since those who were involved in the latter insist that they’re the only true fundamentalists, but they’re not the same thing.

Fundamentalism is, at its core, a theological position dating to the formulation of the Five Fundamentals of Christian doctrine and the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy of the early 20th century. The five fundamentals were the core doctrinal beliefs that those who came to be called “fundamentalists” believed were central to orthodox Christian doctrine. Those fundamentals were the inspiration of scripture by the Holy Spirit and Biblical inerrancy, belief in the virgin birth of Christ, that Christ’s death was an atonement for sin, the bodily resurrection, and that Christ’s miracles happened.

Pretty much every Evangelical church in America believes in those Five Fundamentals, though most of those churches would eschew the “fundamentalist” label because of the additional baggage the term has taken on over the years. It’s entirely possible to believe in the Five Fundamentals and still believe in women’s equality, marriage equality, evolution, and left-wing politics.

What most people, including evangelicals, mean when they refer to “fundamentalists” are people who have taken the first fundamental—inerrancy of scripture, and turned that into an extremely literal and rule-based reading of the text. The distinction that I was given growing up was that fundamentalists are rigid and legalistic. The Bible is a rule book and as long as you follow all the rules you’ll have a happy life.

You don’t have to homeschool to be a fundamentalist. Fundamentalists send their kids to public and private schools. Fundamentalist homeschooling says that if you’re a really good Christian you’ll homeschool your kids, but just as not all homeschoolers are fundamentalists, not all fundamentalists are homeschoolers.

All quiverfull are fundamentalists but not all fundamentalists are quiverfull. Quiverfull adherents will tell you that they’re the only true fundamentalists, but the vast majority of fundamentalists in the last hundred years that the term has been in use have taken steps to limit the size of their families.

Quiverfull is a politicized ideology based on Psalm 127 that says you should have as many children as possible because those children are arrows in the culture wars. It’s explicitly about taking over society by outbreeding the rest of the population.

Fundamentalism itself wasn’t even politicized until the rise of the Moral Majority and related groups in the late 1970s. Prior to that, most fundamentalists believed that Christians should stay out of politics. The quiverfull movement came even later and didn’t gain much foothold until the 1990s.

Bottom line? Quiverfull is a subset of the politicized fundamentalism that developed in just the last forty years.

2. Quiverfull is an Ideology, ATI is a Cult

The Duggars are members of ATI, the high-control, authoritarian homeschooling cult founded by Bill Gothard. Bill Gothard teaches quiverfull ideology, but ATI is about so much more than just quiverfull.

As I’ve written about before, like Scientology, ATI even has its own set of definitions of common words and concepts.

image

I’m not sure if there’s an aspect of life where Bill Gothard doesn’t tell members how to live. He tells you what kind of bread to eat (whole grain), how to dress (navy blue and white are especially godly), when a husband and wife can and can’t have sex (follow the Levitical purity laws, so wait a week after a woman’s period, 80 days after a girl is born, 40 for a boy), and even how to do road safety so as not to get raped when your car breaks down (really).

If you don’t follow all of Gothard’s rules then you’ve stepped out from under the Umbrella of Authority and are open to all sorts of attacks from Satan.

You can be quiverfull without following any of those rules. Heck, you can be quiverfull and believe that dating is okay and that women can dress however they want. Anyone who talks about the Duggars and doesn’t make the distinction between quiverfull, fundamentalism, and ATI, or who treats fundamentalism and quiverfull as the same thing doesn’t fully understand the issues at play.

3. I don’t know if Anna Duggar will stay, neither do you

I feel the need to emphasize this because all of the tabloid speculation and comments from unnamed “insiders” is just that, speculation.

The only person who knows what Anna will do is Anna, and she may not know yet herself. Whatever she decides to do, she’s got a difficult road ahead for her and for her children, and the choices she makes aren’t going to be easy ones no matter what decision she finally makes. Her life has been turned upside down these last few months, she has a newborn, and the entire world is watching her. For all we know, she’s been weighing her options since the molestation story broke. She may not make a decision for a long time, and that’s okay.

Know this though. Adultery is the one area where divorce is unquestionably Biblical. This idea that because she was raised in a fundamentalist, quiverfull ATI family and married into another one means she can’t leave is bogus. That’s not how any of this works. Leaving because of the molestation scandal? That could have gotten her shunned, told she was being unforgiving and bitter over something that happened before she met Josh and that he’d repented over. Leaving because she discovered he was cheating on her? That’s acceptable because the Bible specifically allows divorce for adultery. It’s a messed up standard, but that’s what it is.

If anybody tells you they know what she’s going to do because of patriarchal culture, they’re bullshitting you.

Conclusion

This whole story makes me sad for Anna because she was sold a bill of goods, that if you followed all the rules, did the courtship like you were supposed to, and got to work on having the dozen kids while staying under your husband’s umbrella of protection your life will be great. And it’s not. ATI breeds dysfunction and she and the kids are paying the price.

I feel awful for Josh’s sisters too. They got trotted in front of the camera to do damage control and proclaim how he had changed, he wasn’t the same person, and they’d all moved past it. And now they know without a shadow of a doubt that they were sent out in front of cameras to sell a lie and protect the Duggar brand.

There are no winners in this.

When Your Parents Stalk You

 CC image courtesy of Flickr, Tobias Leeger.

By Eleanor Skelton, HA Editorial Board

Eleanor Skelton blogs at eleanorskelton.com. The following was originally published on Eleanor’s blog on March 2, 2015, and is reprinted with permission.

Stalking is usually applied to a romantic relationship gone bad.

This is why people hesitate to believe me when I say I’ve been stalked by my parents.

After I moved out, my parents showed up unannounced at work or on campus, asking me to reconsider and go to Bob Jones University. The first time it happened, I was walking down the sidewalk to visit a new church since I had no car.  A car drove up behind me honking, my family rolled down the windows, shouting, “Just remember, Bob Jones is still available!”

They often bring gifts: sandwiches, keychains, homemade soup. They seem to think this proves they are good parents. They say this is how they show me they love me.   The professor who was my supervisor when I tutored on campus saw them do this. He said their behavior was abnormal, intended to wear me down and make me give in.

I’m not the only one. Other homeschool alum have had parents drop off identifying documents at work without asking, another told me her mom found her between classes and gave her a gift card and sent a sheet and towel to her apartment. She hadn’t told her mom her class schedule or her address.

I don’t know what their motivation is.

Maybe it’s guilt. Maybe they think I’ll be brought back into the fold with organic baked goods.

This is how my parents demonstrate that they love me.

My first apartment was unfortunately near the church that shunned me. My parents drove by often to look for my car, texting me “did you sleep at your apartment last night?” I explained my roommate and her boyfriend invited me for a movie night and I slept there. My mom told me it was inappropriate to sleep at a single guy’s place. Never mind that we had a couple of drinks during the movie and I wasn’t safe to drive.

Being honest and open about my decisions only provoked criticism. And they wondered why I stopped telling them things.

In summer 2013, my dad parked outside the nearest stop sign when he knew I would get off work. When I drove by, he jumped out in front of my car so I had to stop. He wanted to change the air filter in my car. He didn’t understand I was startled and angry, that I was afraid I could have hit him.

My parents barged into the middle of a staff meeting for the student newspaper in fall 2013, handing me a parking permit. My dad didn’t wait for me to buy one myself.

I told them I thought their actions were inappropriate in group counseling.

I wrote, “If anyone else who I wasn’t related to followed me around the way you guys do (leaving me random sermon CDs in my bicycle bag when I’m in class, etc), it would be considered really creepy and stalking. Think about it.”

My mom replied, “I do not think it is creepy if we are coming by UCCS from a doctor’s appt., and leave a gift for you in your bicycle sidebag. Sorry you took it that way. We are not checking up on you.”

Last October, my dad showed up at my apartment around 7:30 am, calling me over and over during an exam. He was upset that I didn’t answer right away. He wanted to trade out cars because he was afraid I wouldn’t get maintenance done, even though I’d asked him to let me learn how to take care of my car myself.

And they showed up at my work again last weekend, asked a coworker on his smoke break to bring me a package.

They don’t understand acting like this makes me feel incapacitated.

Fundamentalism doesn’t teach consent, it teaches you to respect authority. Control is normal, so you should be grateful for what they do, even if they don’t respect your wishes.

I don’t feel like an adult when my parents do this. I start to feel like a powerless small child whose parents are always going to check up on her, like all my independence has been taken away from me.

They think this is how to show me that they love me, but I just feel the walls close in.

And I don’t think this is love.

Beka Horton’s Theology: Eleanor Skelton’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

By Eleanor Skelton, HA Editorial Team. Eleanor also blogs at The Girl Who Once Lived in a Box.

Beka Horton wrote and edited most of the A Beka Academy curriculum, produced by Pensacola Christian College. And she’s also the reason I started questioning fundamentalism.

Christianity seemed so simple in the early days.

I was born in Southeast Texas, in the Bible belt. At two years old, I prayed to accept Jesus into my heart with my mom before bath-time. She cried over my folded hands.

I was on the right path; I lived in light and not in darkness.

If only life had fewer complexities.

I was homeschooled from preschool to high school graduation, primarily with A Beka Academy Video School and some BJU press and Weaver curriculum sprinkled in. My mom told me the stories of Adam and Eve, Daniel and the lion’s den, David and Goliath with flannel-graph cutouts and the A Beka Bible flashcards.

This was what we believed, and we had the truth.

We were not deceived like the poor Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Pentecostals. We had the True Doctrine™. And my churches and homeschool textbooks mostly agreed, until high school.

In 10th and 11th grade, A Beka reveals why all the Scripture their students had been memorizing since kindergarten comes only from the King James Version.

That’s because Arlin and Beka Horton, the founders of Pensacola Christian College, believe all other translations are part of Satan’s plan to confuse the church.

I asked my pastor at our IFCA church in Colorado Springs who graduated from the Bob Jones University Seminary about it. We used the New King James Version in our services, but Beka Horton said this was sinful and contributing to the downfall of modern Christianity.

KVJ tampering
From Jesus and His Followers, A Beka Book, p. 22
KJV infallibility
From Jesus and His Followers, A Beka Book, p. 24

The same textbook also argued that abstinence from alcohol was the most moral decision for modern Christians, because Jesus only drank alcohol because the water in first century Palestine wasn’t safe.

wine
From Jesus and His Followers, p. 67

This argument bothered me.

My parents and pastors had always told me that alcohol itself wasn’t sinful, but alcoholism hurt others. And we had a duty to not cause our brothers in Christ to stumble.

But Beka Horton was telling me the only way to follow Jesus was to be a teetotaler.

Something was wrong here. My textbooks disagreed with my parents, my churches. My parents bought me this curriculum so I could have a better education, so I could learn True Doctrine™.

I asked my pastor about these discrepancies. He told me, “I like Pensacola Christian College, but they are also legalistic. This is why young people lose their faith when they go to college, because they are told things like this, and then they learn it’s not true. So they question their entire faith.”

And he wasn’t wrong.

So in senior year of high school, I questioned when Beka Horton said that Adam and Eve never saw death before the Fall, not even dead plants.

leaf
From Genesis: First Things, p. 61

And arguing that the letters to the churches in Revelation was prophesy outlining the ages of the church throughout millennia seemed like an awfully convenient way to scare me into believing the Rapture and Tribulation were imminent.

revelation
From The Book of the Revelation, p. 5

I kept questioning, looking for more subtle legalism within what I’d thought was the safety of True Doctrine™.

Three years into college, I wondered if syncopated music was really evil or not.

My high school youth group textbook, published by Proteen / Positive Action for Christ, reasoned this:

Syncopated music is disorderly.
All disorder is of the devil.
Therefore, syncopated music (most modern music) is of Satan.

holywar
From The Holy War, p. 79

I made Christian friends in college who came from evangelical but not fundamentalist backgrounds, and their love for Jesus seemed genuine. I couldn’t believe they weren’t True Christians™ because they sang contemporary worship songs and listened to CCM.

Then the point of crisis came.

I read Harry Potter. I didn’t believe it was evil. I asked my parents to extend my curfew to midnight instead of 7:30 p.m.

My parents said I was being influenced by the world, that I had to move out or attend Bob Jones University. I told them I had prayed, and I felt like God wanted me to stay at UCCS.

They involved our pastor.

My pastor said I was disobeying God’s will for my life by moving out as an unmarried young woman.

He said it was wrong for me to leave because I was still under my parents’ authority if I wasn’t currently experiencing physical or sexual abuse.

And he said that God had clearly provided another option for me in transferring to BJU, a way to both obey my parents and gain independence.

He said, “If you are going to be obstinate and let Satan confuse you from following God’s will for your life, then I have nothing more to say to you.

And he walked out.

And I’d lost all trust for the label True Doctrine™.

I realized that fundamentalism is colorblind except for black and white. That fundamentalism uses fear to coerce obedience, that fundamentalism makes no exceptions, because that would be questioning Divine Will, and that is what Satan does.

My questions grew.

Did my purity ring actually remind me to stay pure, or did it just seem arrogant to my friends who weren’t virgins? I stopped wearing it.

Why did we use a handful of verses describing pagan temple practices to condemn the entire LGBT community? I remembered many more verses about loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Is creationism versus evolution actually a “salvation issue”? One of my chemistry lab instructors, who happened to be a Christian herself, pointed this out to me.

I took two semesters of Koine Greek, and I learned that museums have copies of scribal errors from the medieval period, something Beka Horton told me never happened, because the scribes destroyed an entire manuscript over slight errors.

scribe no error
From Jesus and His Followers, p. 5

Could I still be a Christian if the Bible wasn’t inerrant? My friend Cynthia Jeub reminded me that the disciples and the early church had no Bible. All they had was their experience.

I’ve been moved out since 2012, and I’m still questioning.

Still sorting through what I was told was True Doctrine™ and what the early church practiced historically, how I was told to treat “sinners” and what Jesus said about loving people.

Because I don’t believe Beka Horton has a monopoly on truth.