EQUALITY, RELIGIOUS ABUSE

Male Headship From a Young Girl’s Perspective

The first time my mom took me school shopping,
she suggested I have a fashion show for Daddy.
I twirled around in my new plaid dress
until my eye caught the 
look
of disappointment on my father’s face

When I turned to look at him,
his eyes fell to the floor and he asked, 
“Why are you dressing her in men’s clothes?”

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Photo by ANDRIK LANGFIELD PETRIDES on Unsplash

She said they weren’t men’s clothes–they were plaid dresses which was what all the little girls were wearing. Daddy asked her to take the clothes back. Mom said it wouldn’t matter because it was the only style in the stores at the time. As they continued to argue about my new clothes, I lowered my head and slunk back to my room. There was no use in trying on another dress, everything we bought—including my lunchbox was plaid.

This was my first experience with male headship. No one called it that, but I began to pick up these messages after this encounter.

1. It’s Wrong to Dress Like a Man 
As I grew older I was told that long hair was given to a woman for a covering and it was wrong to cut it. I was not allowed to wear jeans because they were men’s clothing and it would be a dishonor to God for me to dress like a man. I once started to hand my little brother a purple towel, but I was told not to give him purple. This confused me.

While I was not to dress like a boy, I was also not encouraged to wear many girly things because they fit into the category of vanity. All nail polish, makeup, and jewelry were forbidden. I was once threatened with belting for wearing tinted chapstick. I was told it was inappropriate to show any skin at all or swim with boys and I was taught that what I wore might cause some boy to sin, so I had to be modest at all times.

2. Men Are Superior 
In my family of origin, it was a man’s world. Women were given a supporting role. Men got to make the rules and decide what you wear and if they didn’t like it, they could make you take it back.

The issue of my Dad being in charge went beyond clothing. It covered just about any part of my life. It meant that food must be ready the minute my dad came in the door. That if he was in a bad mood, I had to tiptoe on eggshells and do whatever he wanted or I would be belted. Sometimes it seems I was belted just because he was in a bad mood. When I was small, my mom used to say she hated it when my dad punished me in anger, but she didn’t stand up for me because they were a team and they had a pact to remain in agreement even when they weren’t.

When it came to music, I could only listen to music my father approved or if he was in a good mood. I have been belted several times in my life for listening to music. I’m not talking about rowdy music, I’m talking Amy Grant and John Denver. Meanwhile, my dad like the song “You picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille.” If that was not patriarchal I am not sure what is and I sided with Lucille. If all a man wants you for is to cook and have babies then it hardly seemed fair. perhaps I felt this way because I was the oldest and had enough of changing my siblings’ dirty diapers and fixing their bottles. Of course, if a woman wants to do these things by choice, then that’s a different story. The idea is for every woman to be able to make her own choices just like every man does.

In order to keep control of me, my parents decided to keep me out of school to protect me from getting contaminated by the world. Basically, I stayed home and worked as their slave for most of my teen years. From an early age, I was expected to bake six loaves of bread every week, do a large portion of the housework, cook large meals for a family of six and babysit my siblings. But they never bought me one book to help me get my GED.

3. Women Are Not as Spiritual as Men
My mom never did anything to lead our family in prayer or worship. She actually never did anything my dad didn’t want her to do. She deferred to him in everything except cooking and cleaning. In that realm, she was in charge, but she still had to have supper ready when he was ready to eat.  Everything in our home rotated around my father’s moods. We were not a quivering family, but my parents’ had specific expectations for women and they did not include me learning to be independent.

The weird thing was that my father once told me that he felt bad because his mother never learned to drive and said he wanted me to learn to drive and have a way to make a living, but somewhere between his ideals and reality he didn’t teach me to drive. Another time he told me if my husband ever asked me what I wanted to do, I should have an opinion and not act passively. I got the idea from both of my parents that my opinion mattered—but only as long as it agreed with theirs.

It’s the saddest mystery in my life that my father actually tried to encourage me to be a strong woman, but then told me not to be like other strong women we met. When a woman showed leadership, my parents said she wore the pants in the family. If a woman didn’t have children, she was called selfish. If the pastor’s wife worked for a living, she was called worldly and material minded. The women we met were none of these things, but to a young girl, this made an impression that I had no right to do anything but be a housewife and child bearer.

Nowhere was this idea of men in charge more obvious than when it came to what we believed about God. My mom taught me to trust God and obey and I will always have a special place in my heart for her loving ways of teaching me about Jesus as a small child, but as I got older, my dad was the only one in charge of worship and then only if he was in the mood.

My maternal grandmother was a Bible worker who brought nearly a hundred people into the church in her lifetime, but my father never agreed with her about God. If Grandma began to teach me something she was reading about, it almost always guaranteed that my dad would end up in an argument with her. When we drove away, he would say she never went to theology school and didn’t know what she was talking about. It wasn’t until I was in my forties that I discovered my grandmother had a much better picture of God than I had grown up with. She was powerless to speak to me much about it during my childhood, but she still tried to give me the crumbs under the table.

4. Women Don’t Need to Get an Education

The place my father’s control affected my life the most after his spiritual control was my education. My going to school was never a priority for my dad. I was jerked in and out of schools with every move until the day he decided giving me an education was too much work. Then we had no schooling at all. During my teen years, I was told to tell people at our church I was being homeschooled, but they never bought the books. If I asked for books and complained about not keeping up with kids my age, I was called spoiled and selfish.

When I finally went to college, I had few career choices that seemed acceptable to my family. My interests included psychology which was considered evil, becoming a pastor which was out because my father had tried to talk me out of attending the Christian University I chose because they had a woman preacher. And there was no way I could consider anything in the medical field because I had never had science since the sixth grade. It seems that from my father’s perspective, my obvious career choices we just as inappropriate as those plaid dresses he wanted my mother to take back. Because I was so unprepared, college turned out to be a very confusing and depressing time in my life.

If I gave the impression my father didn’t love me, that’s not true, but there was this dichotomy between his words and his behavior. My mother contributed to my role expectations too because she told me in third grade that my mind (like hers) was not made for math. This sort of justification for sexism really confuses a young girl and makes her wonder if she can be good at anything besides cooking and cleaning.

This blog has explained the subtly of male headship to a child. Others have had a much more brutal treatment, but I certainly needed to reframe these events in my life to gain a better perspective. I don’t believe that what I experienced is the norm. Many children who grow up with male headship struggle in different ways. If you are one of those, please feel free to share your experience with me, I would love to hear your story.

Did you grow up with different rules and expectations for girls and boys?
How is it affecting your life today?

 

Male Headship 1–How it Feeds Narcissism

Male Headship 2 – What is Male Headship?

Male Headship 3–Where Did Male Headship Come From?

Male Headship 4–A Young Girl’s Perspective

Male Headship 5–Adam’s Denial

Male Headship 6–The Exoneration of Eve/Ezer

Male Headship 7—The Headship of Jesus

 

 

EQUALITY, RELIGIOUS ABUSE

Where Did Male Headship Come From?

Male headship, polygamy, and slavery
have something in common–
they have Biblical models and they empower
one man to use his power over others.

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Photo by David Thomaz on Unsplash

One of the biggest arguments fundamentalist Christians use to support the false doctrine of male headship is the example of the patriarchs in the Bible, but they also practiced polygamy and slavery too.

The Bible calls Abraham a friend of God, yet he practiced all three, so does God condone these practices? It’s important to remember the Bible is not a code book, but a casebook of stories. These stories all have beginnings and endings. Many times they start without God and reveal God’s leading humans to a better and more compassionate way to live. If Abraham’s fathers worshiped false gods (Joshua 24:2), then surely Abraham had a lot to learn. God was calling Abraham out of a culture that was abusive to women and children. Child sacrifice and selling wives were common in that day. God led Abraham by asking him to separate from his family and move out in faith. Even after he moved far away, Abraham’s life was a journey with God leading and teaching him lessons throughout his lifetime.

Some people say God never changes and what God allows in one period is okay in another. While God’s character of love never changes, it doesn’t take much reading of the Bible to notice God’s methods of dealing with the human race have changed over and over. The big picture shows us how God stoops down to earth so he can meet people wherever they are in their journeys. Never was this made more clear than when God became human and lived among us in the form of Jesus.

Jesus is our example of how to treat others. Abraham might have fathered a nation but he was merely another human on this planet. Jesus stood up in church one day to make his mission known; he came to set ALL captives free and that includes removing the curses of polygamy, slavery, and patriarchy.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom
for the prisoners and
recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free.
-Luke 4:18

Despite the words and life example of Jesus, some fundamentalist Christians continue to endorse the false doctrine of male headship by claiming Paul endorsed it. At first glance, it seems this could be true–but only if we single out certain texts without reading them in context. Paul was writing to people in societies where male headship and feminine cults were the norm, but if we read through all of his writings, we discover he was trying to set people free from any mindset where someone uses power over another. This is why he wrote:

There is neither Jew nor Greek;
there is neither slave nor free;
nor is there male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
-Galatians 3:28

Paul contributed to the understanding that the ground at the foot of the cross is level. No hierarchies there–especially since Jesus gave up everything to become the lowest of the low and the servant of all. Male headship is the opposite of what Jesus did because it puts one person above another. Yet some people still claim Jesus is subservient to the Father. They say this because they are not reading the entire Bible.

While Jesus did submit to the Father, the Father also GLORIFIED Jesus. The Spirit LED Jesus into the wilderness, but Jesus SENDS the Spirit to us today. Jesus says, “The Spirit will only tell you what I tell the Spirit to tell you.” Why would Jesus need to say this? Because he wanted us to know The Spirit will never contradict His teachings. The members of the Godhead serve each other with other-centered love, always putting each other first.

The Trinity is our example for marriage, the church and in all relationships. The scripture says male and female were both created in God’s image. By designing Eve from Adam’s rib, God was making them one. It wasn’t until Adam had someone to love, that he even could bear God’s image because he bears only one part of God’s image and the Godhead lives in other-centered love. Eve is the other half of God’s image in the human race and she and Adam both provide someone for the other to love. Without love, there is no image of God, because God is love.

As for the Father being the head, Paul used such an illustration as an example of the church submitting to Jesus because while Jesus was living here on earth He submitted to the Father in all things. But this is only one half of the equation because Jesus Himself said:

“The Father and I are one.”

“If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”

When Jesus prayed in John 17, He prayed that His followers might be one like He and the Father are one.

Even the Hebrew Shema states, “The Lord Our God is One.”

I am not a theologian, but I will use the words of one to say it better than I can:

“I prefer to argue that we have misunderstood what the Bible means when it says that the husband is head as Christ is head (Eph 5:23). From my study, the head-body relationship in the Bible does not indicate unilateral authority. Rather it indicates mutual submission and shared authority.

“God is the head of Christ who is the head of the husband who is the head of his wife (1 Cor 11:3). What does this mean? I think it means that God is embodied in Christ; Christ is embodied in the church; and the husband is embodied in the wife–as his own body (Eph 5:29-30). Jesus as the embodiment of God says all power is given to me in heaven and earth (Mt 28:18). Therefore the Father has no authority that is not shared by the Son. So it should be with the family. The husband has no authority that is not shared by his wife.”

“The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor 11:3). On the one hand, in chronological order, “man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man” (11:8-9). On the other hand, in Christological order, “Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God” (11:11-12).
-Martin Hanna

We see how after sin entered this world, God gave Adam responsibility for the family because two sinful people vying for control could create constant fighting and chaos. If you don’t believe this, just listen to a few divorce stories. But this was never God’s original plan. Jesus came to teach us God’s ideal of loving each other with equality and other-centered love just like the members of the Godhead treat each other.

Paul agrees with this by teaching wives to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives like they love their own bodies. The Spirit of the Godhead teaches that we are both to submit to each other and to love each other as we love ourselves. Any form of using power over each other goes directly against the golden rule to do unto others as we would want to be treated and destroys love.

Slavery, polygamy and male headship have never reflected the Godhead intentions for any human life whether in a marriage or not. If a religion teaches this, it’s only because they are using the example of Abraham over Jesus and taking human cultural traditions over God’s law of other-centered love.

Male Headship 1–How it Feeds Narcissism

Male Headship 2 – What is Male Headship?

Male Headship 3–Where Did Male Headship Come From?

Male Headship 4–A Young Girl’s Perspective

Male Headship 5–Adam’s Denial

Male Headship 6–The Exoneration of Eve/Ezer

Male Headship 7—The Headship of Jesus

* For greater understanding of why true Christianity doesn’t use power over, compare The Steps of Jesus vs. The Steps of Satan.

For more information on Male Headship within the denomination I grew up in read: Andrews University on the Unique Headship of Christ Statement

A Short History of the Headship Doctrine in the Seventh Day Adventist Church by Gary Chudleigh

EQUALITY, RELIGIOUS ABUSE

What is Male Headship?

When I asked women to share what
their definition of male headship is,
this was one of the best:

“Male headship is patriarchy in a marriage or a society.
It’s the idea that males should be given
some ultimate advantage, priority,
or responsibility in decision-making and leadership.”

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Photo by Anne Edgar on Unsplash

There are many variations of male headship which might look different across many cultures, but male headship usually boils down to the practice and belief that a man is superior to a woman. Not all men who practice male headship are cruel, some lead their wives and daughters lovingly and with great affection, but the underlying lie is still there that the wife is inferior and is not capable of making her own choices. She supposedly needs a man to tell her how to act and what to think and ultimately needs his guidance about how to listen to and what to believe about God.

Because male privilege places all the power in a relationship with the man, it leaves the women subjugated to the man’s will and denies her voice. The result is that many male headship cultures treat women as property much like a cow or horse. Even in the United States, a woman had no rights a century ago and women were still fighting for the right to vote.

Male headship in practice can leave a woman vulnerable and with no recourse when a man is cruel. In Christian circles, some like to say women are “different but equal,” and some men who believe in headship are very kind to their women. If this were always true if every husband treated his wife as Christ loved the church and treasured her body as his own, then perhaps there would be no reason to write this, but this is not the reality for most who practice the false doctrine of male headship.

For an example of male headship within distorted Christianity check out, “The Witness Wore Red.” book review and Things I Found in Common with Polygamist’s Daughter. A Fundamental Latter Day Saints might seem like an extreme example, but many Christians who practice male headship are only a stone’s throw from similarly abusing women.

I firmly support all people to live out their religious convictions, but I could never place myself under a man for him to use his power over me. That’s why it puzzles me to hear so many male headship Christians who are firmly against Islam. While they preach against Islam and share horror stories about Islam, they fail to recognize that male headship taken to its natural conclusion looks a lot like Islam. When male headship is allowed to flourish, women continually lose one right after another until they fade into the background and become invisible.

One woman described it like this:

“Given ultimate power in a relationship makes it too tempting for a man to interject selfishness and get his way–often at her expense. Under extreme male headship “women can’t drive, can’t travel without a male escort, can’t shop in male only stores (anywhere that isn’t grocery or women’s clothing) can’t go to museums (except on women and children days) can’t swim unless there are women only days at the pool, is subject to genital mutilation (to make sure sex is so painful that she will never have sex with anyone but her husband–who will have to cut her open the first time) will be killed for being raped, because SHE “SHAMED” the family. Must cover her face at all times (even in her own home) if a man who isn’t her husband, brother, or son (brother-in-laws don’t count) is present–the list continues to infinity.” -Kathy

Another wrote:

“Male headship is that just by being born a male they are in charge of all who are born female. It is saying that females are born second-class citizens. It says that females start out under the rule of their fathers and are then passed on to be under the rule of their husband and if they are widows, they are under the rule of elders. Ultimately, the husband is the priest of the household he stands between God and the wife.” -K.S.

Some Christian proponents of male headship often use an umbrella as an illustration that the man is superior to his wife and children. Regardless of the many ways “Good Christian men” might use their privilege, it seems placing a man between a woman and God is the most significant lie of all. There is no justification for cruelty. We can often see the violent and base behavior for what it is, but packaging God in such a way as to make Him seem more accessible and more in favor of men, robs women of their direct access to God and their God-given right to act freely on their conscience.

Taken from the FaceBook Page Ezer Rising

How does male headship look in a traditional Christian environment? It looks like a father telling his daughter how to vote or what to say in court. It looks like a father treating his wife as if her rights and opinions don’t exist. It looks like a father refusing his daughter an education. It looks like shunning a woman at church who’s been given a gift from the Holy Spirit. It looks like starting a witch hunt to criticize and condemn a woman for leading.

A few years ago, some friends of mine went to a marriage seminar weekend by the Raineys who are leaders in the male headship movement. They came home to inform the rest of our study group that men are the leaders in the home and the church and women are merely here to assist them. I was a co-leader of that team along with a man, so I just rolled my eyes–until I realized they were serious.

At the time, my pastor had asked me to serve communion with the men, and one day he had asked if I would consider becoming an elder. Because I knew there were some in our church who adamantly were opposed to women leaders–including my friends, I felt it would only cause trouble, so I said no. I didn’t say no because I felt inadequate. I said no because I didn’t want to fight with people.

Since then I’ve noticed many elders who take zero interest in my life or the lives of others. They wear the badge as a sign of authority and honor without serving as Jesus did. I knew I had the gift of encouragement and teaching, but I still said no and I think it was a mistake, but I couldn’t see it at the time because I had been raised in a male headship home. Part of the problem was I perceived to be an elder meant to put myself on a pedestal because that is what the elders I knew were doing. Today I realize God’s true church is not built from the top down, but the bottom up.

When the husband of this couple heard that I had turned my pastor down, he came to tell me he was proud of me for saying no–that I was “too sweet of a person” to be standing up for women’s leadership in the church. I wish I’d asked what he meant, but I’d been conditioned by my father to let men lead, and I’d been taught by my mother not to make waves, so I shrunk back from following God’s lead because I was listening to the opinions of other people who taught men were supposedly superior to me and had a more direct line to God. Today I know that isn’t so.

This incident happened more than a decade ago. After studying the life of Jesus these last ten years, I realized God not only calls women, but the Bible reveals how women were strategically placed in the gospel story to empower all Ezers (God’s original name for Eve) to reclaim their rightful place as Adam’s equal. But before we get into Eve’s restoration, let’s talk about where the false doctrine of male headship came from.

Do you see Male Headship as described above,
or do you have a different way of looking at it?

Male Headship 1–How it Feeds Narcissism

Male Headship 2 – What is Male Headship?

Male Headship 3–Where Did Male Headship Come From?

Male Headship 4–A Young Girl’s Perspective

Male Headship 5–Adam’s Denial

Male Headship 6–The Exoneration of Eve/Ezer

Male Headship 7—The Headship of Jesus

 

RELIGIOUS ABUSE

Is It Un-Christian to Go No Contact?

Laura had no plans to see her abuser,
but he was out of jail and living with her parents.
They felt sorry for him and decided it was time to forgive
because he was a family member
and they expected her to do the same.

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Laura never wanted to see his face again. For one thing, her abuser had never apologized for all the trauma and abuse he’d put her through. Every time she saw him, she felt ill and relived the experience all over again. She refused to go to her parents’ house as long as he was staying there. She wanted to go no contact with the abuser, but her parents said it was unchristian.

One of the worst misunderstandings about surviving narcissistic abuse is when people accuse survivors of being unforgiving and bitter because they refuse to hang out with their abuser. Choosing to have less contact doesn’t mean survivors haven’t forgiven their abuser–it merely reveals the relationship hasn’t reconciled yet and it may never be resolved. Lack of reconciliation is not always the survivor’s fault. Many abusers deny what they’ve done and continue bullying until their dying day. These people, like a rabid wolf, are unsafe to be around no matter what they say.

When people ask: Isn’t it un-Christian to go no contact?” Perhaps they should be asking a different question, “Is it Christian to abuse people?”

Some people say Jesus tells us to love our enemies to say this includes abusers. Such people need to take into account everything Jesus says. He also says liars are from their father the devil. He warned the devil to get behind him. Jesus never permitted abusers to continue harming others.

When Jesus told his friends to leave a house where they are unwanted and kick the dust off their feet, he was permitting us to go no contact. If we are unwanted even within our own family, isn’t it better to leave, than to stay and fight? To go no contact is merely turning the other cheek and walking away from a fight.

Going no contact is one way to stop being a victim and stand up for yourself. No contact can even be a part of the final stages of grieving for some people. Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross defines the five emotional stages of grief as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Many adult children of dysfunctional families have been in three of the stages–denial, bargaining, and depression for years. Sometimes we need to get in touch with our healthy anger before we can find acceptance for our situation.

If you’ve been in an ongoing, abusive situation of any kind, healthy anger might include going no contact. No contact doesn’t have to be forever, but it should continue until both parties can respect each other. When we put our family members on low or no contact they have several options–

  1. They can ignore the situation
  2. They can continue the same lies and behavior
  3. They can play the victim and complain
  4. They can call us up and ask us how to repair the relationship

Relationships always require two-way communication. Silence speaks too.

No contact is one way of taking our power back. We can’t change anyone but ourselves, but we do have control over who we let in the door.

No contact is a form of acceptance. It’s saying “I realize I can’t change you and I accept that we can’t be friends, so I will leave you alone and fill my life with people who care about me.”No contact is better than having an ongoing martyr relationship with an abuser.

Wherever we are in the process, the sooner we stop bargaining and leave denial, the sooner we can get in touch with our healthy anger and the less we might be depressed. The sooner we can accept that yes, we came from a dysfunctional family, but we are taking control of our own lives we start a healing journey. When we decide who stays and who goes, we gain our life back, and we are no longer victims.

RELIGIOUS ABUSE, STORY

Things I Found in Common With The Witness Wore Red

While I was reading, “The Witness Wore Red,”
I was surprised by how much I could relate to
Rebecca’s life in the Fundamental LDS Church.
I’ve never met anyone from the FLDS church.
So why have I found so much in common with
the daughter of an FLDS polygamist?

No one in my family would consider polygamy. I have never been sexually molested– if any man had tried, my father and grandfather would have threatened them with death. While I am very grateful to have been raised in a healthier environment than Rebecca, fundamentalism has a certain black and white mindset that seems to pervade all who embrace it.

Narcissistic abuse and control seem to run hand in hand with fundamentalist thinking. My experience was on the milder side of the spectrum, but in many ways, I can relate to some of the abuse Rebecca went through. For the sake of my readers who have been through such abuse, I feel it’s important to mention these tactics and discuss why they do not represent God.

Having to Hide
The first thing that really touched my heart as I read this book was the story of hiding in the basement while her father’s first family ate a nice dinner upstairs. This gave the writer an immediate connection with me. I know that feeling–the feeling of hiding my very existence and the false shame that comes with it.

I spent much of my childhood hiding. I was forced to hide for non-schooling because my parents might go to jail if they were caught with kids who were not in school. When I hid in a shed once, I stepped on a rake and was told, “If we were hiding from the Nazis, we would all be dead because of you.” At thirteen, this was a heavy and unnecessary cross to bear.

I also learned to hide behind curtains from bill collectors, to hide my real story from church members and to hide my own feelings eventually behind a wall of fat. I was taught to just shut up and stuff my feelings and eat.

When people ask us to hide–whether it’s our physical body in a shed, our emotions around certain people or expectations to keep quiet about our past–this is a denial of our very life and existence. It is a though we are being asked to be dead before our time.

Physical Abuse Through Beatings
Whether with a stick or belt or any object, beatings equal bullying behavior. Beatings strike fear into the heart of the child beaten. Once this process happens a few times the child will do whatever their parents and leaders say to avoid this in the future. This is a form of coercion that ultimately ends up being a form of mind control because the fear remains long after the bruises heal.

Others who have been beaten have agreed with me this feeling never goes away–not even in adulthood. Whenever our parents raise their voices, some of us still experience post-traumatic stress disorder as adults. Using physical force creates a foundation of fear instead of love. Fundamentalists like to use this verse–

Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
but the one who loves their children
is careful to discipline them.

-Proverbs 13:24

What fundamentalists often overlook is context. A shepherd does not beat his lamb black and blue to get it to obey–as a matter of fact, most shepherds will tell you that sheep follow, but they don’t respond well to beatings. So what is the rod to be used for? Guidance–and to lift the lamb from a cliff where it has fallen.

Beatings are not God’s way because God does not coerce us against our will. If He did, there would be much less suffering in this world, but God has granted everyone the freedom to choose. The object of true discipline is to teach, not beat.

Taught to Fear of the Government
When children are taught the government will eventually take them and possibly kill them, they feel the stress as if they are living in Nazi Germany. If kids believe the rest of society is against them, they will feel they can trust no one but their inner circle. This creates even more enmeshment with the dysfunctional family or cult.

The truth is all of the world’s governments have acted corruptly at some time–this is part of human nature. Jesus lived in a time when the government was very brutal. The Roman Empire was not known for being considerate of its subjects, but Jesus never spoke against the government, nor did He rise up against their abusive regime. Jesus says His government is not of this world, yet He still told us to pay our taxes.

I don’t live in fear of the government because Jesus is my King and He takes care of me. I don’t look to any earthly government to fix my problems, but I also don’t spend time focusing on conspiracy theories. I have no control over events and Jesus told us to not worry about tomorrow. I believe in putting faith over fear.

Fear of Time of Trouble or Desolation
A general focus and fear of the crisis before Jesus comes. The end of the world scenario was used to convince me that I did not need an education. And when events on the news seemed to be fulfilling Bible Prophecy church members and parents would tell me to get my heart ready. This didn’t encourage me to serve God out of love, but fear. I was terrified because I was told the requirement to be ready was to “Be perfect like your Father in heaven.” I knew I’d never be perfect so I was in a lose-lose situation. This fear controlled me and my life choices until 911, when after sorting out scripture and some counseling; I discovered I can be ready now by choosing love over fear through my relationship with Jesus today.

Dress Strange to Prove We are not of this World
For a couple years my parents sent us to an unaccredited school where we did mostly child labor and very little learning. We girls had to wear dresses and we could never wear jeans. Jeans were considered men’s clothing because someone might mistake me for a man. This contributed to my scarecrow look as I worked in the school garden with pants under my dress. It was mortifying to me as a teenager.

I was told my sweet Bible reading Grandma was vain for wearing makeup and I was punished once for wearing tinted chapstick. My parents taught me women are to wear long hair because it was given to us for a covering, but I never had to follow that rule to the letter of the law like the FLDS do. We were allowed to cut our hair but expected to keep it at least shoulder length. When I grew up, I discovered there is no morality in hair length.

Some Christians wear strange looking clothes as if they are a badge of righteousness. This mindset includes all variations of mean people who supposedly dressed and eat in what they believe is God’s way while treating other people like dirt. External behavior does not equal spiritual behavior.

Not Allowed to Play Competitive Games 
I have found this concept ironic since the fundamentalist people who usually insist on no games are often competitive about who looks like the best Christian. A little friendly competition can be healthy and teach us how to deal with competition real life as long we avoid the dangers of cutthroat competition.

Told the Rest of Church has Fallen into Apostasy
I grew up suspicious of everyone in the mainstream denomination because I was taught they were in apostasy. While I think there could be a place to discuss apostasy, most of the arguments I heard growing up were nit-picking about external behavior. I remember one website that listed apostasies around the world. They targeted one church in Australia that had rock music, a group in South America that allowed what they deemed scanty dresses and makeup and a church in the US with teenagers wearing mohawks. Seriously, is this apostasy? They’ve got to be kidding. But thousands follow these cues and go on witch hunts in their own local church criticizing anyone who falls into these categories.

I view apostasy as something so much deeper—like the way the majority of the Christian world has misunderstood God. I think the perfect example of true apostasy is the fallen church after Constantine corrupted it.

Focus on Repentance and Reformation

It’s good to have revival. It’s good to reform our habits, but who can change another and how? Only God can truly change our lives. While this idea sounds noble, revival and reformation have often been used throughout history to coerce people through the fear of being lost. I have sat through fear feeding sermons about God coming to kill because He finds us not up to His standards. This type of religious abuse has been used as a form of crowd control.

Such leaders often fail to show people how to prepare to meet God. Fear of not being ready mixed with hazy requirements only creates more fear. Such fear causes people to take insane actions without purpose and go through motions without thinking. True revival comes only from the Holy Spirit and no person can orchestrate it for a crowd.

Church Membership Equals Salvation
I was taught if someone who was in the church left said denomination, they were likely lost eternally and forever and it would be okay to distance yourself from them or possibly even shun them to avoid contamination. This might sound sensible until we realize we are not talking about a nuclear reactor, but human beings. People grow at different rates and what acted as one person’s fertilizer might burn another. God reaches out to meet all people wherever they are regardless of church membership. Jesus tells the requirement for eternal life in His prayer to the Father in John 17–

Now this is eternal life:
that they know you,
the only true God,
and Jesus Christ,
whom you have sent.
-John 17:3

Must be Ready for Final Crisis or Armageddon
All fundamentalists seem to love prepping. For me, preparing for the end physically is similar to trying to save ourselves spiritually. I grew up thinking salvation meant a move to the country, can all your own food, sew all your own clothes, build an underground shelter, stock up on everything as if Y2K is still coming and be prepared at all costs to protect your life. My question to these people is when do you stop taking care of yourself and trust God?

I have come to understand the best preparation for the end is to trust Jesus who told us–

So do not worry, saying,
‘What shall we eat?’ or
‘What shall we drink?’
or ‘What shall we wear?’
For the pagans run after all these things,
and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.
-Matthew 6:31-33

Keep Sweet and Never Complain
My family never used the FLDS saying “keep sweet,” but I was lectured on how Jesus loves happy girls and told not to complain. This was often in reference to my non-schooling. I was told if I was unhappy, I might get cancer like my grandma. I was told to take more B vitamins. I was told, “God wants us to be positive and not negative.” Looking back, I realize this theme is still repeated in my family today. Now they say, “Stop living in the past,” and “If you haven’t forgotten, then you haven’t forgiven,” but no one ever addresses the issues or speaks honestly about what actually happened. I find comfort knowing God is the silent witness to all of our secrets and pain. I now know I can share all of my pain with Jesus.

Family Members Who Lie
I mentioned one of my favorite parts of the book is where Rebecca stands up to her father for his lies and abuse. I’m not sure we can ever get over our own parents lying about us. It’s not pleasant to realize the people we once trusted with our lives are really about protecting their own image. Even our siblings who were once abused often continue the cover-up because mind control dictates they never question or complain or they too will be considered as betraying the family.

I have crossed this line as an adult and found that I have very few friends in my own family, but I also decided I want honest friends who can talk about real issues without name calling and slandering someone who tells the truth. My hope is in Jesus who not only calls Himself the Truth, but He endorses all truth and says that anyone who lies is from their father the devil who has been a liar from the beginning.

Lack of Assertive Theory
At the end of her book, Rebecca Musser declares there are two extremes that facilitated such abuse–Aggression which allowed bullying and passivity which stood by and did nothing, but what was needed was an assertion. In assertion, everyone’s rights are examined. I agree with her one hundred percent. This is the problem at the heart of most cults and dysfunctional families.

When I was a young college student, I took a class in assertive theory. I was thrilled to discover everyone can have a voice and I eagerly tried to share this with my family. I was met with disgust and told this class has ruined me. I am sure it did from the point of view of someone who wanted to control me.

Teaching Rhythmic Music is from Satan

Warren Jeffs probably said this to prevent the people from finding joy outside of his control. While it was not a large part of Rebecca’s story, my own memories of being beaten for listening to rock music are strong. I can’t forget the pain of paving the way as the oldest child in a family where innocuous Christmas music had to be turned off because one of our parents was in a bad mood.

I still go into a deep depression whenever I hear Bing Crosby and Perry Como who are considered by most to be wonderful singers. Because I lived in fear of being punished for listening to them depending on the mood of my parent, I have to fight depression every time I hear such music. For me to enjoy Christmas, I have to choose songs that have no childhood memories.

I have survived having an Amy Grant tape thrown out the car window and a belting for listening to John Denver when I was twelve.  I have been told I have the devil in me for listening to Don Williams.

Even though I no longer allow anyone else to make my choices for me, my choice to listen to what I choose has created a drift between me and some who belief syncopation is evil. I obviously do not.

I believe God is the creator of rhythm. Consider all the rhythmic sounds in nature including some birds that sound like drummers. We have been given choices and many chords and harmonies to put in our music

Choosing a Loving God
As I read Rebecca Musser’s story, I felt that familiar feeling of nostalgia as I remembered how I was controlled. Not all of those memories were good. There was a pain in the reading, but I also felt a sense of healing. I felt God saying, the fundamentalists have been confused, they have abused in My name and despite their black and white thinking, they have made salvation too complicated.

It really is simple–there are only two ways to do life in this world–whether you grew up in a dysfunctional family or a cult. All people operate either from a selfish, survival-of-the-fittest mentality or other-centered love. They use power over or power under. They exhibit control or offer freedom. God’s government and the way He treats people is always based on freedom.

Toward the end of her book, Musser finally states–

“Along the way, 
I discovered I could choose the loving God 
who honors choices
and free agency in our humanity.”

-Rebecca Musser

When freedom has been taken from us, when we have been manipulated by fear and coercion, if we have been threatened with eternal death for not obeying obey orders, we will eventually learn to block out all the noise–either by leaving God altogether, or we will search until we discover what God is actually like. Then, once finding a God of freedom and love, we throw off all human pressure that does not measure up.

We are the grownups now; we get to decide for ourselves. No one will ever do our thinking for us again. We cannot allow fear messages to manipulate us into following God. I choose to follow Jesus out of a reflection of His love for me.

RELIGIOUS ABUSE, STORY

The Witness Wore Red–Book Review

Nearly every light in the top half of the house is ablaze,
while the daylight basement is shrouded with darkness
except for one small candle hidden from the street.
The family upstairs is enjoying a feast,
while the children downstairs hover around their flickering light,
eating crackers and listening to their mother tell
stories about hiding from her own childhood. Screenshot2013-07-27at12.26.32PM

Upstairs it looks like a warm and loving family celebrating a meal together. Guests arrive in formal attire to the smell of a roast in the oven, a spotless house and a crowd of children dressed in their Sunday best. While the kids politely gather around the large table, their father introduces his family to his business associates.

Hiding in the dark, in the minds of these young children is comparable to Nazi Germany. “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom is a popular book among their friends. They have been warned that someday they too, will be persecuted, but for tonight they must remain silent because their father is having dinner with his other family and his business associates have no idea he has more than one.

Rebecca Musser, the author of the book, “The Witness Wore Red,” is a daughter of the second wife and she was one of these children hiding in the basement. Her book is full of candid details about growing up in the cult of the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints.

Before I read this book, I found it difficult to imagine why any woman would allow herself to be anything but an only wife, but this book explains how mind control and fear messages create the perfect environment to support slavery and pedophilia.

Rebecca chronicles her childhood brainwashing, the coercion that forced her to become a prophet’s wife and the daring escape when she realized the truth, but her story doesn’t end with just finding a better life for herself–she was drawn back to face her abuser and testify in court at least twenty times against the leaders of the FLDS to do what she could to stop the abuse.

It is a long book (340 pages), but I found it to be such a fascinating read that I couldn’t put it down until I had finished it.

Women in the FLDS are given very little rights of their own. They are treated like commodities with little respect for their minds or feelings, while the men scramble for power and the right to collect more women.

When person after person gives up the right to choose for themselves, it’s obviously not a religion, but a cult. As with many cults, the innate human need to belong and feel a part of the community and the desire to be good enough for heaven, work together along with the manipulations of abusers to control minds. Some view the FLDS Church as simply a sex ring–masquerading as a church, but because of the culture of mind control it is also so much more than illegal and abusive sex.

Musser’s description of consummating her so-called marriage to the 80-year-old prophet Rulon Jeffs when she was nineteen, would be hilarious as a Saturday Night Live Skit–if only it weren’t so sad and true. She literally had to lift him onto the bed and help him undress. Under his rules women always obey men. He said, “The greatest freedom you can enjoy is in obedience.”

After being forced to do unspeakable things
with him, she states–

“I had always followed the church’s teachings,
why would God punish me in this way?
I finally decided that I did not like God.
Nor could I trust Him.”
-Rebecca Musser

Can anyone blame her? Things only got worse after the old prophet died and his son took over.

Warren Jeffs had little respect for the people he was leading. He separated children from their parents and husbands from wives as though he was God himself. When they sent him envelopes with money and prayer requests, he didn’t bother to read their prayers but just slit the envelopes to take out the money.

Jeffs talked about “blood atonement” a secret priesthood ordinance. It’s supposed to be a way to absolve an otherwise unpardonable sin by literally giving up one’s life. Those who take part in such a tragedy could be tried for murder, so it has to be done in secret. How twisted that a leader of a group proclaiming to be Christian would not recognize the power of Jesus and the blood He shed to forgive all of our sins.

When it comes to raping young girls, Jeffs seems to have no conscience. Over and over, He has stolen what was pure in the name of God, while blasphemously calling on the Holy Spirit to help him. He was worse than a pedophile with the power of a church president, he was facilitating other men to become pedophiles as well by holding out young girls like carrots to reward those who did his evil work.

One of the most inspirational scenes for me was when Rebecca, still living in the community, stood up to her father who reprimanded her for telling the truth. He said it was no one’s business to know the timeline of abusive events in their family. To cover up his own sins, he called her a liar and denied the things she remembered. When Rebecca reminded him of her excellent memory, he raised his hand as if to hit her, but she reminded him that he had already married her off to gain more position and she was now the prophet’s wife and he didn’t dare hit her anymore.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil
is that good men do nothing.

-Edmund Burke 

The atrocities that have happened and continue to happen in the FLDS Church keep proving Burke right. Rebecca Musser is an exception; she stood up and let her voice be heard.

Rebecca is a good writer who does not bother the reader with disgusting details. This is less a book about a diabolical false prophet and more about the story of a young victim who overcame mind control to become a free thinker in a chorus of Stepford wives. It is the story of a young woman finding the courage to leave and return to stare down her abuser and confront him with the law. It worked because she helped to send Warren Jeffs to prison for life. Sadly, he still controls the cult from prison–but little girls are safe from him now.

Rebecca Musser–You are definitely wholehearted. You are a walking miracle and hero. Bravo!

Here are few quotes from the book–

“There is a girl…The Lord wants me to take.
She is thirteen. Oh I just want the Lord’s will…
If the world knew what I was doing,
they would hang me from the highest tree.”
-Now Incarcerated False Prophet Warren Jeffs, in 2004

“If that is holy and that is divine
and that is heaven, I will take hell.”
-Rebecca Musser

“The power of words means breaking your silence. 
To be silent is to be enslaved.
And there’s an amazing thing called choice–
and that is freedom.”
-Rebecca Musser

http://www.rebeccamusser.com/about/

http://www.sheroesunited.org/Rebecca-Musser-Storyline.html

The Witness Wore Red

RELIGIOUS ABUSE

No Longer Freaked Out by the Plagues

When I was growing up I thought
Exodus and Revelation are two of the creepiest books

of the Bible because of the plagues.
I’m not sure if teachers and parents taught this
to guilt me into being a good girl
or if they themselves were scared
and just passed their fears on to me.

fear of God, plagues, seven last plagues, Egypt, Moses, littleredsurvivor.com

They stated these facts: you disobey God, He hardens your heart, and then (as if life without hope in God wasn’t bleak enough) God torments you with reptiles, bugs, blood and eventually death. Who wouldn’t want to come along for such a ride?

From my childish perspective, God was a merciless deity cruelly punishing Pharaoh and the Egyptians for being bad guys. The plagues scared me more than anything else because I was taught that God would send such plagues again in my lifetime just before Jesus comes. This contributed to me being afraid of Jesus coming.

My parents once read a story to me about the oldest Hebrew child who couldn’t sleep because he kept asking his father to check to make sure there was blood on the door post. We had no blood! We didn’t kill lambs or eat the fatted calf–we were vegetarians. It all seemed so arbitrary and the only way to survive was to disassociate from that kind of God. I was the oldest in my family and I wondered what kind of God would kill the oldest child.

Every time my dad read the headlines and somberly announced to the family that we needed to get our hearts right “because Jesus is coming and it’s sooner than we think,” I was left sleeplessly shaking in my bed.

A few years ago, I discovered God was NOT on an arbitrary tormenting and killing rampage that I had formerly imagined. He was actually creating boundaries to protect His people.

God used one tree for the boundary to keep Satan from harassing Adam and Eve at all the other trees in the garden. They crossed the boundary and invited Satan into our world, God had to do some drastic things.

By sending the plagues, God was erecting new boundaries to show ignorant people He is the Creator and only God. He used the plagues to expose the impotence and futility of all the false gods of Egypt because He was trying to set people free from believing in imaginary gods who were non-existent and could never help them.

On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt
and strike down every firstborn son
and firstborn male animal in the land of Egypt.
I will execute judgment
against all the gods of Egypt,
for I am the LORD!
-Exodus 12:12

Wow! That changes things! I’ve read several sources who explain this but this morning I was reading one a blog by Kelley Lorencin and I felt she did a great breakdown of what each plague did to expose each god, so I will share her words:

“Did you realize that each Egyptian plague was designed to humiliate and expose as frauds the most prominent gods in Egypt?

1. The plague of the Nile turned to blood was a direct affront to Hapi, the lord of the fishes, birds, and marshes. It also targeted Osiris, the god of the underworld. The Egyptians believed that the Nile was his bloodstream. (Perhaps that’s why God literally turned it to blood!)

2. The plague of frogs was designed to expose Heqt, the goddess of birth, who was always depicted with the head and body of a frog. To even accidentally kill a frog was a crime punishable by death in Egypt. Yet, after God sent this plague, the people had to heap the decaying bodies of frogs in great piles.

3. The plague of lice exposed Geb, great god of the earth, as a fraud.

4. The plague of flies humiliated Beelzebub, prince of the air, whose “ears” were flies.

5. The plague of cattle disease targeted Apis, one of Egypt’s most prominent gods (who was represented as a bull), and Hathor, the cow-headed goddess of the desert. (She was also considered the mother of Pharaoh.)

6. The plague of boils humiliated Imhotep, the god of medicine, who was powerless to help the people against such a terrible affliction. It was also an affront to Serapis, the deity responsible for healing.

7. The plague of hail destroyed the belief that Nut was in charge of the sky.

8. The plague of locusts targeted two gods—Isis and Seth—who were in charge of protecting crops.

9. The plague of darkness signaled the death of Ra, the great sun god. He was the most-favored god and considered the most powerful. (He was also considered the father of Pharaoh.)

10. The plague of the firstborn was not only against Pharaoh, but all the gods of Egypt (Ex 12:12). This is because the Egyptian firstborn were dedicated to the priesthood. Surely, if there were any gods in Egypt, they would protect those who were charged with attending to them in their temples. Thus, the death of all the firstborn in Egypt proved that either there were no Egyptian gods at all, or if there were, they were totally impotent.”

God has often been given a bad rap. Contrary to popular belief, He never acts in an arbitrary or random or power hungry way. God does these strange acts to expose the lies of Satan and set people free. Just realizing this has set me free.