This is a new series that I’m starting. I actually started writing about my history with the one person that impacted me the most during my days at the old church. I’m flip, I’m sarcastic in this series but mostly I am processing what happened to me because it seems like a plot straight out of the recently cancelled series GCB (Good Christian Bitches). After telling my therapist years ago about this man I was encouraged to write it all down. I did and if I didn’t laugh and poke fun I’d be crying right now. It was the most corrosive relationship I’ve ever been in and I didn’t even have the common sense to run from it. I’ve changed names and some small details because until recently this person still stalked me in an effort to make me return to my old beliefs. I have to believe his extreme inner hurt drove his behavior.
If there was one person that affected my journey both into and out of a Patriarchal Fundigelical church that man would be Tom Smith. He was there at the start and he still haunts me like a cackling insano Captain Ahab chasing Moby Dick around an endless ecclesiastical sea. He has a monomaniacal desire to either force me back into our old borderline fundamentalist way of life replete with a submissive attitude or to hound me about going to hell. Sometimes he seems to spit at me “ … to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. “ but it sounds more like, “You are going to HELL for going to THAT church with homosexual abortionists and unGodly UNSAVED!!!!” Eleventy1111111!!!!
Back when the husband and I were new believers we ended up going to the same church as he back in 1995, PCC. He and his wife pounced upon us at once, inviting us over to watch movies, play cards, or share a meal. We didn’t know anyone else in the church at that time and they, Tom and Tina, had four boys ranging from just older than our son to the same age as our daughter. The kids loved to get together.
From the first I was put off by Tom’s fake-seeming Jesus Freak persona. He would do things like stop in the middle of a movie or game to lecture about Jesus. He prayed very publicly in almost a showy fashion at the drop of a hat and constantly had Christian rock and roll playing at full blast. These things set off my internal bullshit detector but since we were newly minted kool aid drinkers I thought I was the wacky one.
But it always gave me pause. It was like the minute anyone was around Tom put on this Ned Flanders false self. But I swallowed hard and thought well, I’m the baby Christian, he’s been a Christian for more than twenty years, what do I know.
Around the same time our pastor at our new church pulled me aside and told me not to be so friendly with the Smiths because they ‘had issues’. Pastor didn’t tell me what those ‘issues’ were and I could not see anything besides Tom’s Olympian attempts to be “Super Christian – Savior of the Unwashed Masses of Sinners.” I wondered about that but I didn’t do anything. Even as my internal Lost in Space Robot was shouting ‘Warning Will Robinson!” every time we socialized with the family. But… I checked my common sense at the door because the kids loved hanging out with their boys and Hubby really liked Tom and Tina.
After awhile I noticed that Tom would do and say things to his wife Tina that just rubbed me the wrong way. Tina had progressive serious muscular skeletal disease very badly, had trouble walking and sometimes functioning in simple things. She also seemed to be one of the meekest, kindest ladies I’d ever met. Tina acted always like Tom was her knight in shining armor that could do not wrong.
Did Tom treat her well? No. He sometimes would ride her like a mule, ordering, whining, nagging her over some small things. I clearly remember one night when she was having a lot of trouble walking he ordered her to make a banana split for him. He didn’t offer to help, he just keep sitting there like king turd on a mountain of crap waiting to be worshiped. I thought this was pretty harsh behavior but it was nothing compared to what he did next. Tina brought him his ice cream, acting very servile, like a whipped dog sidling up to it’s master wanting mercy but expecting to be beaten. Tom started to berate her for forgetting to put wet nuts and cherries on his ice cream. She told him that they were out. His response was to order her out of the door in the freezing sleet that was coming down, drive to Wal Mart right then (around midnight) and get his cherries and a jar of wet walnuts in syrup.
Woman!!! Get me my wet nuts and cherries right now!
She did it. I so wanted to visit violence on him that night, give him real wet nuts, but again, what did I know? Tom was a MUCH more mature Christian than I.
Tom spent the rest of the night either telling Tina what a failure as a wife she was between telling Hubby that I needed to learn to be subservient like that. It’s Biblical, don’t ya know.
On the ride home that night I told Hubby exactly what I’d been itching to say all night, that it wasn’t Biblical submissiveness we were witnessing, it was a power tripping assclown verbally abusing his disabled wife. Hubby, bless his soul he always tries to see the best in folks, said that just because their marriage and way of dealing with each other was different than ours it was just their way. Sure, he said, if Tina was being abused she’d leave.
So time marches on, I grow enough in my religious faith that I become more and more uncomfortable with the treatment of Tom towards Tina. I befriend her and discover that she’s about an intellectual as a kumquat or a lump of coal for all her niceness and sincerity. I also discover that she really believes that she should be submissive to Tom in all things and all ways. She says if she were a better person or a better Christian that Tom would love her better, be happier and not have to correct her all of the time.
.During all of this time Tom wastes no time or tact telling me when he thinks I’ve screwed up, have a wrong attitude or don’t treat Hubby with proper Christian womanly deference. I grit my teeth and for the sake of both Hubby and Tina I don’t knock Tom’s block off or curse him out like I secretly itch to do. Maybe I’m the wicked one that needs Christ and Christian love I’m not feeling, I think.
Also two other couples came into our circle of friends. Mike and Cathy, from Vermont. Mike works at in federal office in our town and Cathy, like Tina and most of the women at the church doesn’t work. Mike and Cathy squabble a lot over dumb things but Cathy is feisty and smart, plus we both love antiquing and interior design. The other couple, Sam and Alice, are brand new at church and also have kids in the same age brackets as ours and the Smiths. Sam is a insurance agent and Alice is studying for her masters in arts. I tried to be friends with Alice but I kept hearing warning bells in the back of my mind about her for no reason I can see. I remember one get together when Alice, Cathy and I were dancing, taking turns swing dancing with Sam and Tom got very angry before declaring dancing a sinful tool of the devil. Yep, he was being a tool once again.
About three years after we start going to church my father has a stroke and I have to leave town with my Hubby for our far-away hometown. Because I trust Tina and know she’s a great mother regardless of Tom and I knew that my father’s death would create massive family drama I leave my two kids with Tom and Tina Smith.
When we come back ten days later something has happened, something no one will tell us about. Alice and Cathy were always in a huddle whispering, cutting me out of the conversation. Tina was clueless as ever along with Sam and Mike. Tom, oh Tom, kept acting like an egg-sucking dog looking for another hen house. It was just a very weird time, strange vibrations. It was a very strange time, I felt uneasy, that robot shouting “Danger Danger!!!” again my mind but I kept mentally berating myself for having a suspicious mind.
A couple of weeks later I run into Sam in town and he asks me how I enjoyed the Vermeer exhibit in a nearby big city. I tell him I don’t know what he’s talking about. He tells me that sure I must know because Alice and I spent last weekend in Big City before going to the exhibit. Sam tells me how night it was for me to treat Alice out to a hotel room at the Four Seasons and exhibit tickets. Unfortunately I have to tell him that Alice was not with me, I didn’t spend the night in the city and I’d seen the exhibit last month before my father passed.
Tina calls me and references the same thing except she tells me how nice it was that I met Tom in Big City for the exhibit and that I didn’t have to give him the hotel stay for the night. One of the hotels near the museum was giving out those hard to get exhibit tickets for the Vermeer show. I make vague noises and get off the phone without telling her I was no where near the exhibit last last weekend.
So I call up Tom and Alice separately, confronting them about why each of them used me as an alibi. Alice bursts out crying and tells me it’s nothing, just a platonic friendship. When I reach Tom he tells me to my horror that he’s deeply in love with Alice, they are going to both leave their spouses and be together living the hipster outre life of artists.
Now this is a guy I’ve known for 3 or 4 years and never once heard one word of interest in art before. He starts babbling out that Tina has the mind and intellect of a 12 year old, that he doesn’t love her and never did. His life is crushing him, blah blah blah… and it gets worst.. to be continued.
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NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce
Calulu lives near Washington DC , was raised Catholic in South Louisiana before falling in with a bunch of fallen Catholics whom had formed their own part Fundamentalist, part Evangelical church. After fifteen uncomfortable years drinking that Koolaid she left nearly 6 years ago. Her blog is Calulu – Roadkill on the Internet Superhighway