Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Begging for Spiritual Bread (Part 1)

I was 14 at the time. The pastor of our church was hosting a family BBQ/Baptism at his rural house with a pond. A few of my friends were being baptized, so I mentioned it to my father on the ride home from church. I told him about the event and asked if he would allow me to be baptized. He said no.
I was deeply disappointed. All my fears came flooding back. I was a fake Christian, God expected more of me. Dad was right to say no. Even though I was sure I already knew the answer, I asked him why the answer was no. He explained that it was inappropriate for a woman to be baptized by anyone other than her spiritual head. It was his duty and he would baptize me himself when the opportunity presented itself.  My mother suggested that he speak with the pastor. Maybe he wouldn’t mind letting dad do the dunking. My father agreed to call.

And so with no discussion of my heart or soul, I was scheduled to be baptized. For two weeks leading up to the event, I tried harder than ever to get my heart right with the Lord. I spent hours just praying, begging God to reveal himself to me. I poured over every page in the bible, looking for something that would move me to tears, or at least make me feel like this was real. I started to think that maybe God would show me something after the baptism. Or maybe even during! I dreamed of rainbows and rays of sunshine that God would send especially for me. My dreams turned to faith. I KNEW God would come thru. So I waited.

The day of the baptism was one of the most exciting days of my life. I talked glowingly about the Lord to my friends at church. I listened intently to the sermon, despite the butterflies in my stomach, waiting for a hint from God that he was planning something great. The sermon was about some Old Testament character and did not apply to me in the least, but I shrugged it off in anticipation of the baptism.

Later that day, I watched as, One by one, people waded out into the pond to be dunked by our cheerful pastor. Each one came up smiling. They scurried out of the water to hug their families and be congratulated. Nobody was speaking in tongues, or prophesying, and I knew that God was saving that for me. Finally it was my turn. My dad cuffed up his sleeves and waded out into the pond. I tucked my skirt between my legs and with one last silent prayer, I followed him. I heard the pastor reciting something about the father, son and Holy Spirit.

                                     ............and then down I went.

(To Be Continued)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Almightly Pearls. Part 1: Preacher, Doctor, Psychologist, and Exorcist

On the No Greater Joy website, there is a section called “answers” in which Michael Pearl shares his infinite wisdom with his avid followers. It’s set up “Dear Abby” style: people write in with questions and problems and Pearl attempts to answer them to the best of his ability. The advice he gives these poor, sheepish people is horrendous to say the least. I would go so far is to call it criminal. As I browsed through the question and answers, I came across one that made my heart stop.

(add www)

In this article, a mother writes in, concerned about the behavior of her 3 year old daughter. She believes that it must be something “spiritual.” She begins by saying that she has been following the Pearl method will her children and is pleased at how “REALLY well behaved” they now are. She says that she has slacked a little with the 3 year old and only very recently begun implementing the Pearl method with “consistency.”
She goes on to say:

“there are times she (the 3 year old) wakes up in the middle of the night just babbling - things we don't understand (and I get a sort of scared feeling just listening and being with her). This morning as I read the Word with her, she just started to stare into space and when I asked her a question about the passage, her eyes rolled back and she just said "I don't know." We have also noticed some intense rebellion (openly lying) and bad attitudes especially with her. There also seems to be a rift between her and her father and we don't know why. We both try to encourage the relationship but it is usually "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy." Anyway, anything you could offer us would be greatly appreciated - we would like to hear what you would have to say.”
Shortly after the implementation of a drastic and violent training method, this baby girl begins to show signs of severe emotional distress. The cause and effect here is glaringly obvious to all of us I’m sure. I did a little research on this girl’s symptoms and found them to be remarkably similar to that of PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD can occur at any age in any individual who has suffered through some kind of trauma (rape, war, domestic abuse, etc…). Symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, emotional numbing and detachment, lack of interest in normal activities, exaggerated responses, difficulty concentrating, outbursts of anger, avoiding people or situations that remind one of the event, and trouble sleeping.

Maybe the babbling is a nightmare, she’s reliving the horrors of her every day while she sleeps.

Pearl’s response to the question is both ignorant and arrogant. He starts by agreeing that “the behavior of the 3-year-old does sound aberrant.” He also suggests that it could possibly be a health issue. “Without knowing your family I could not diagnose the problem” says Pearl. But then he immediately launches into a list of things the family should do in order to fix their little girl.
1. “The first thing is to heal the relationship with her father. She should spend time with him alone, looking to him to supply all her needs, feeding her, reading to her, playing with her.”

2. “It could be a physical issue. Get her checked for worms. Check all her vitals—sugar levels, blood pressure, oxygen levels, etc.”

3. “if there really is something supernatural about it. I would do a housecleaning spiritually.”

           A. “Make sure she has not been molested. Suspect everyone—male    and female…all ages.”
            B. ” Has she been exposed to any witchcraft? Harry Potter, etc.?”
           C. “Have you allowed her to watch inappropriate things on the TV?”
4. "Pray over her, sing spiritual songs around her, read the bible to her, surround her with the spirit of God and the “devil will have to leave her.”

When I was a kid, and even in my early teen years, I used to struggle to fall asleep at night. I imagined there were demons in my bedroom, just waiting for my heart to invite them in with rebellious thoughts. I woke during the night with loud angry voices in my head. They raged in a language I could not understand and often brought me to tears. I was never molested and we didn’t even have a TV, but Daddy told me they were demons anyway. He prayed over me and “surrounded me with the spirit,” but they always came back; louder and more terrifying than ever. Was I possessed by the devil? Or was I suffering from the trauma that was caused by too many beatings and too many prayers?

According to the US National Library of Medicine, symptoms like this little girl’s are evidence of a chemical imbalance. If she has PTSD, she is at high risk of depression, substance abuse, panic attacks, and suicide. She needs “early diagnosis, prompt treatment, and strong social support.” Michael Pearl fancies himself a Dr, Preacher, Psychologist, and Exorcist all rolled into one. He finishes his excellent bit of advice by assuring the mother that steady “authoritative training” will purge their baby of her “rebellion” in time. Oh and it will also purge her of the sinful habit of clinging to mother.

The Pearls posted this question/answer on their website. It is clear evidence of the negative effects of their training method. Are they really so blind that they can’t see what is so obvious to everyone else? 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday Debate

This is a video put out by a member of the Pearl family. Its a tutorial on how to avoid predators.

Is this good sound advice, useless paranoia, or something in between? Lets hear your thoughts!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In Which My Husband Writes a Guest Post

I thinks it's time to tell you a little about my Husband. He grew up in a semi-religious family that never went to church. His childhood was punctuated with tragedy caused by alcoholism and infidelity. When he was around 11 years old his mom found Jesus. His little brother jumped on the bandwagon, but my Husband followed much more cautiously. All throughout high school he studied and researched the subject of religion. As he searched and learned and struggled, he watched how the God began to change his family. At some point he finally decided that he believed in God. His family has been healed and He has an incredible and inspiring faith in God that i wish i could share.

Over the last few months, he has been learning about the darker side of Christianity. The side that i was raised in. He has been shocked and horrified but what I've shown him. After reading This Post By Lisa of Broken Daughters, my husband emailed me at work. It is clear by his writing that he is startled and supremely annoyed by the Fundie interpretation of his religion. I liked what he said so much that i decided to re-post it here. He is responding to the three YouTube Videos that Lisa linked to in her post.

These men are the definition of interpreting scripture without historical and cultural context.  Their entire argument is as follows; "there is nowhere in the bible that says anything about dating" and "there are betrothals that take place in the bible."  That is the same painful anti-logic that the Amish follow in order to conclude that pants and electricity are the work of the devil (but girls wearing skirts and riding horses are God's two favorite things).  What's worse is that these genius's then go on to perform a ritual betrothal that they readily ADMIT is found nowhere in scripture (but some historian says its from around the time Jesus was born so its gotta be OK).  
They look so proud of themselves when they point out that their form of "betrothal is not accepted by our current culture" but they fail to realize that there are a hell of a lot of things that are far better about our current culture than the culture that Jesus happened to be born into (see slavery, governmental oppression, racism, and sexism).  
The truth is that these men are worshiping a culture.  They are placing an inordinate amount of emphasis on the culture surrounding the time the bible was written because in areas where the bible doesn't explicitly tell them what to do, they are unwilling to use their own brains.  
There are clearly matters of biblical indifference where the bible is silent (I have yet to read a verse telling me whether or not it is a sin to deep fry a twinkie).  Rational human beings can have disagreements, Paul even addresses some directly (meat sacrificed to idols).  However there can be no gray areas for these people because if there were, then how could they claim to be perfect in EVERY aspect of their anal retentive lives?  If Jesus had come to earth yesterday and these guys were alive in the year 4011, then we would all be treated to a holographic video of perfect dad 1 and 2 telling future you and me how awful our current culture is.  If only we would have our children date like they did in Jesus' day then surely we would truly be following God...
Like i said  in my last post,  Patriarchy promotes a lifestyle that is supposedly Godly only by virtue of being different from everyone else. Of course its all old hat to me. I know all the rhetoric by heart. But it is fascinating for me to watch him hear this stuff for the first time.

His perspective is refreshing don't you think?

Monday, August 8, 2011

I Am Human

In my senior year of High School, I attended a “rebolution” event hosted by Brett and Alex Harris. They are the little brothers of the infamous Joshua Harris (author of “I kissed dating goodbye”) and the sons of Gregg Harris (a well known leader in the Home School community.) The “rebolution” is a movement that challenges young people to rise above the low expectations of the culture and become men and women of honor. At first it sounds like a great idea. The American teenager is often pushed aside and discounted. We are not treated as full members of society. I loved the idea of a movement encouraging kids to fearlessly pursue their dreams and step outside the “irresponsible teenager” box. However, the Harris brothers do not want kids to pursue their dreams. They want them to pursue “God’s” dream. Much like Eric and Leslie Ludy, they teach young people that God has a plan for them bigger than any dream or desire they might have. They talk about our fallen, depraved culture and about life’s struggles, and then proceed to give us the recipe for success. No matter what your situation in life, you can fix it by “selling out” to Jesus. They tell us that it is impossible to engage in the world and still be a real Christian. All our problems are caused by our lack of faith, by our inability to leave the world behind and trust God fully. They challenge kids to stand up in the middle of the seminar and confess their apathy. They demand that we forsake all, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. I saw kids with tears streaming down their faces, convinced that they had finally found the answer. I watched them commit to purity and promise to throw away all their secular music. I saw girls zip up their jackets, ashamed of the clothing that so clearly represented the world. I watched an auditorium full of my generation get swept away.

Christians get all excited about the idea of being set apart. It makes you special, part of something bigger, and definitely on the winning team. I’m not sure when Fundamentalists decided that the highest form of devotion was separation, but somewhere along the line, they decided that our souls were the only important part of our being. The human body, Emotion, Culture, Self expression, and the fruits of the human mind have somehow become the enemies of our souls. We all want to be fulfilled. As humans, this often leads us to make radical decisions and do crazy things. There is nothing more radical than denying our very humanity.

To remove yourself from “the world” is to remove yourself from your humanity. Humans have bodies and minds as well as souls. We create art and music and scientific theories. A lifestyle that demands only spiritual expression will squelch human emotion. A worldview that rejects any knowledge and beauty apart from God will not engage or value the power of the human mind. We cannot pick and choose which parts of our being to keep or throw away.  When you do this, you run the risk of setting yourself above all others. I was taught from an early age to look down on women wearing makeup. I was taught that my emotions were something to hate and my sexuality was something to be ashamed of. I was taught Doctors were liars and the Psychology was the devil’s work. I was taught disdain for fashion and culture. Fundamentalist groups see human nature as evil. They promote a lifestyle that is supposedly Godly only by virtue of being different from everyone else. They have lost site of the enduring and troubled beauty that is humanity. Humans are blessed with a range of emotions and senses as wide as the sky and as deep as the ocean. History and culture are a canvas painted by human hands, minds and hearts. We are an excellent and fascinating creation.

I love knowing that i am no different from the guy sitting next to me on the bus. For the first time in my life I acknowledge my feelings as valid and natural. I am fascinated by psychology and the study of the human mind. I am free at last to engage in my culture without fear of demons or destruction. I LOVE BEING HUMAN. Brett and Alex Harris mean well. They were taught what I was taught. They think they have found the answer and they are passionate about sharing it with their peers. But they are missing out. Humans are so much more than a soul. 

We cannot live fulfilled lives without accepting the fullness of our humanity.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Chasing Perfection

My Mother and Father were born into broken families. Both had alcoholic fathers and were raised in poverty. Both had troubled siblings and my father was physically abused. Christianity provided them with hope and purpose. They met and fell deeply in love. He was a soldier, she was a teaching student. They married and started a family right away. A beautiful baby girl, and then two, and then three. They loved their children and each other very much, but i imagine they were still afraid. Would love be enough to keep these precious little ones safe? What if the lies of the world drew them away from the love and hope of Jesus? What if they were brainwashed in school and there was nothing they could do to stop it? What if bad people drew them into drugs and alcohol, like Dad's sister? what if they made mistakes in raising them and they ended up bitter and wounded like Mom's sister?

One day my mother found an article in the newspaper about homeschooling. My dad, who had hated every moment of public school, loved the idea. They started looking into it. They soon discovered what they had been searching for all along. They discovered people who knew all the answers. Books that promised healthy happy children that feared God and loved their parents. This system taught them what God REALLY wanted for them. If they followed these steps, God would bless them. Their family would never suffer the way that THEY had suffered as children. It was calm in a world of chaos. It answered every question and calmed every fear. They implemented their new beliefs and soon began to reap the blessings of God.
It was may years before those babies grew up and rocked the boat. We are not the chaste, happy, selfless children they were promised we'd be. Between the oldest five there is depression, drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity, self mutilation, sexual abuse, eating disorders, and suicide attempts.  But still they will not renounce the system. They hush it up, brush it under the rug, and let everybody think that we're still perfect. They see the system as something good that they were never able to achieve.  Today i see my cousins falling into the same trap.

My father's sister struggled with alcoholism and bulimia her whole life. She and her husband made some terrible mistakes and eventually their family fell apart. leaving my cousin Wendy (not her real name) and her two siblings in a wake of destruction. Her brother got into drugs, she struggled with depression. Then she met Jesus at church, and then a boy at college. This boy has 11 siblings. He was home schooled in a family that looks just as perfect as mine. His sisters are submissive and his father is a strong leader. Wendy has fallen hard for this boy and everything he represents. She hopes to have his children, and teach them at home just as God intended. She wants to follow the system to a T. She has been promised that they will never suffer the way that she did. They wont get in to drugs like her little brother. they wont lose their virginity to a liar or lose their mother to the bottle. She thinks she has found the answer to all her fears and questions.

I have tried to pull her back from the edge, to save her like i saved myself. Maybe i still can. But right now, all she can see is perfection.The promise of certainty that just does not exist. I just hope that some day when her children tell her she was wrong, she'll have what it takes to admit it, and maybe stop this cycle once and for all... 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The ONLY right way to spank? My way!

Inspired by Heather over at My Life, I have decided to re post a pro-spanking comment i received on my Childhood Memories post. I hear this type of thing a lot. People express outrage at how "abused" i was, and then launch into enumerating what they think is the "right way" to spank. News Flash people: my parents thought they were doing it right too. Sure, maybe they got a little out of hand sometimes, but it wasn't the exception that was the problem, it was the rule. Even if my parents had never once hit me, just making bend over their knee would have been too much.
Here is the anonymous comment and my response:

"Anonymous said...
I am so sorry that you guys have had to live through the horrific beatings. Those parents were abusive!!!
I'm not against spanking, but I'm against beating. My parents spanked us, but it was, at the most, 5 swats. It lasted about 5-10 seconds and then it was over.
I cannot comprehend spanking someone for any longer than 5-10 seconds...that's abuse and if I EVER saw a parent do that, I would turn them in!"
"Enigma said...
Anonymous, who decides what type of spanking is abusive? Is it you? Is it me? Is a spanking okay as long as it only lasts 10 seconds? Or is it 20? Should a parent use their hand? or an impartial object like a spoon? Or a switch? Maybe a pvc pipe? Is 5 swats okay but 6 swats is abusive? should you force your child to bend over your knee? or do you just swat at them when they run past? My parents are wonderful loving people who tried to do everything right. They said the same things you're saying now. That they're apposed to beating, im sure they would have turned somebody in for beating children in way they thought was inappropriate. In my opinion there is NO right way to spank. Even the mildest of spankings can lead to lasting emotional, mental and sexual repercussions. You may be one of the lucky ones who is not permanently damaged, but another kid who was just "swatted" for 5-10 seconds might end up with self esteem issues, warped sexuality, self destructive tendencies, or low self worth. Any kind of hitting is dangerous to a child and your relationship with that child. Are you really willing to risk that based solely on what YOU think is acceptable?"

Do you think there's a "right way" to spank? If so, how do you know? Can you be SURE? If not, what would YOU say to someone who thinks they know the "right way" to spank?