Authors note: I realize not all fundamentalist, Quiverful or patriarchal churches believe in signs or dreams. I’ve seen a number of them that are strictly Bible-based but just as many that do believe God is talking to them through their dreams and a million other things.
From the movie “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”
Simone: Do you have any dreams?
Pee Wee: Yeah, I’m all alone. I’m rolling a big doughnut and this snake wearing a vest..
During my years at Possum Creek Christian Fellowship there was a great deal of emphasis put on dreams and other totems being key to knowing the mind of God. They were always looking for deeper meanings in the natural and in the everyday. As a result I got to witness a number of very foolish choices during the years, wrapped in the language of “God did it!‘ instead of taking responsibility, manning up and admitting, “I’m an idiot that cannot make a real decision so I’m going to use a lot of silly gobblety-gook instead.”
It’s another way to pass the buck and avoid taking any real responsibility. Kind of like when Adam blamed his apple eating binge on Eve. Did she hog tie Adam, shove a feeding tube down his gaping maw and pour in applesauce? No. But then again, any lady with history with QF can tell you that kind of male blame shifting is part and parcel of what you experience, even without omens and portends being bandied about.
I found the dream interpretations at my old fundamentalist church to be the most frustrating. It’s not that I don’t think dreams can contain a grain of truth, because I have had those. But you really cannot say every dream means something deep.
Take, if you will, Pee Wee Herman’s dream about rolling a doughnut with a snake wearing a vest. The average person is going to dream that dream and think, ‘Wow, I should not have had that last slice of pizza before bedtime.’ or ‘Gee, that was odd.’ But you give that dream to a card-carrying searching the skies for hidden meanings fundie and you’ll have them writing that dream down, asking various pastors and believers to help them figure out the meaning, obsessing over it, instead of realizing that it’s a random dream usually without any deeper meaning.
Woe you that asks a fellow parishioner what that dream means because I can guess all too well how they would view it. You’d probably get something like, “The snake represents evil and the vest dressed up fancy evil. The doughnut is clearly temptation. It means sin is crouching at your door to overtake you, brother!”
So how bad can the dreams, visions, signs and wonders believing get? I’ve seen a man uproot his entire family, abandon the teenagers to various and sundry friends and family, sell his home, move to a foreign country without knowing the language or a soul there to be a missionary. The dream told him to do this and he decided the best way to figure out the ‘where’ part of his dream was to throw a safety pin at a map and go just where the pin pointed. He and his pregnant wife ended up in rural Brazil. It didn’t end well. I’ve seen those people refuse all medical treatment for things like cancers and other serious illnesses and watched them die because of dreams or signs they’d received. Bankruptcies, ruined lives, pain and more.
Whenever I’d hear this discussed at church I wanted so desperately to believe, to have a sign of my own telling me where to go, what to do. But at the same time I felt very conflicted, like I should start singing Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians song, “What I Am” - “Shove me in the shallow water before I get too deep.”, that this was more self focused navel gazing by the congregation.
I never got those signs or dreams when I was immersed in the lifestyle. I only got dreams like Pee Wee’s that I couldn’t help but laugh off with one exception. Every Sunday morning right before the alarm clock summoned me to get up and get ready for church I’d have a terrible nightmare involving some aspect of the church body. Once I dreamed I beheaded the pastor at the alter, another time I dreamed of a massive church-wide brawl and yet another time I dreamed of being called out for fail during the service. Any negative scenario you could come up with I must have dreamed it.
I shared my disturbing nightmares right before church with some of the folks at my church cell group and was soundly told that I’d somehow ‘allowed’ Satan into my soul. I was instructed to ask God to reveal where the open door was in me that allowed the Devil free reign in my dreams on Sunday mornings. Then I had to pray in such a way as to close the door.
That entire idea just struck a false note with me. But I didn’t know quite what to think. Like a superstitious fool looking for the Boogieman in the closet I tried to do as they suggested but still the dreams came.
It’s only now, many years after leaving that particular fellowship that I realize that those disturbing dreams were my subconscious trying to warn me. It was shouting at me that what I was doing and believing in just did not compute. That Lost In Space robot was busy every single Sunday morning around about 5 am, shouting warnings and waving his arms again, telling me I was in ‘Danger, danger!’
Once I left PCCF the Sunday morning nightmares completely vanished. No nightmares.
The lesson I took away from this was that if it’s causing you nightmares or your unconscious mind is sending you negative signals about something you should just get the heck out as fast as you can, just like Pee Wee Herman running from the basement of the Alamo because, just like Pee Wee, you’re not going to find anything good from it. You definitely will not find your bicycle.