(Cross posted from Sierra’s blog – the phoenix and olive branch)
Welcome to another round of the Religious Fundamentalism and Sexuality Project! This time, our writers are Calulu, Jenn, Meggie, Parker, Shadowspring and Vyckie.
Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot, a conservative Christian women’s ministry leader.
Last time, we heard from Melissa and Haley, Lina and V, Latebloomer and Katy-Anne. If you’re like me, you laughed and wept with them, and I’ve no doubt you will with this group, too. Sexuality is a facet of life that seems to color all kinds of other things, from body image to relationships with our own friends and children. The previous group included people who were raised fundamentalist and who married before or after leaving. This group, however, includes people who came to fundamentalism in all kinds of ways, mostly (but not all) as adults.
Throughout the project, as before, you’ll be able to follow those of the respondents who have blogs by clicking on their names. I highly recommend checking them out – not only to learn more about the writers, but also to benefit from their many insights about fundamentalism and evangelical Christian culture.
You are also invited to join the project! I have two more groups scheduled after this one, and am receiving more answers all the time. The Sexuality Project is going to be a very long-lived part of this blog.
I go by the name “Calulu” online just so that those people I used to go to church with cannot find me. Using that name as allowed me to whine, rant and rave at my blog Calulu – Roadkill on the Information Superhighway very much removed from those still trying to toss rocks at me. I’ve been married to the same wonderful man for the last twenty six years. He’s been gracious about allowing me as much freedom as I need, even back in our old quiverfull (QF) days. One of my old pals in the movement used to call me her ‘heathen’ friend because my husband and I managed to have a mere two children before my Quiver refused to cooperate. We’re straight but not straight-laced.
For fifteen years our family was a member of a non-denominational church that started out very QF, Bible-believing conservative patriarchal-bend. It wasn’t that different than many of the local Assemblies of God churches except our pastor didn’t ban makeup and jewelry. We did dress quite like the AoG and other conservative churches with loose jumpers. Our church was small, perhaps a 150 members and being that we live in a small Southern town it’s a place where everyone minded everyone elses business.
It was a place where many different types of teaching seemed to be the flavor of the month. For a few years it was Gothard and his ATI teaching since most of the families home schooled and used the ATI materials. Then it was William Branham before we moved on to the teachings of Mars Hill Church. After about nine years many of us split off and started attending charismatic revivalist church conferences and teachings. We traded Branham for Heidi and Roland Baker, John and Carol Arnott, Todd Bentley and others in the charismatic revival.
All of this was uncharted territory for me because I’d been raised Catholic and sometimes attended Episcopal church with my father and grandparents. My mother was a holidays, marryings and buryings Catholic after 12 long years of Catholic school yet she sought exactly the same educational experience for me. Many years of Catholic school had led me to conclude there was no God until I had an angelic encounter at thirty one that led me to seek faith and visit many different churches.
My name is Jenn and I am 40 years old and married with no children.
My parents belonged to a couple of non-denominational churches when I was growing up, usually small churches that started in someone’s living room and then grew to lease conference room or office space over time. We usually left as the church grew larger and experienced scandal or schism. The religious leaning could be classified as Pentecostal, charismatic, and fundamentalist. Big leaders that my parents were influenced by include prosperity gospel leaders like Kenneth Copland, John Hagee, and Jim Bakker as well as family-oriented leaders like James Dobson.
My parents actually moved to Charlotte, NC when I was 5 to be close to PTL, Jim Bakker’s former ministry. I went to school at PTL in first grade and later in ninth grade at the same time as the Bakker scandal broke. Being on the “inside” of the scandal gave me my first cynical crack, especially in regards to the prosperity gospel.
I blog, but my blog is not active at this time: Who I Really Am Inside.
Hi everyone. I’m Meggie. Married. Mid 30s. Three teenagers plus various extras. (We do foster care.) Sexual orientation is something I prefer not to label. I like men. Hey, I married one. I like women but more in a visual way than a desire to act physically upon an attraction. Bisexual seems to imply more than what I feel. I am very comfortable within myself and with my sexual attractions – I just don’t like or need the labels.
My childhood can be summed up in one word: boring. Middle class, liberal, protestant christian, dad, mum, girl, boy, good schools, excellent marks, friends were liberal protestants, catholics and muslims. I grew up in an environment of love, accepting everybody regardless of race, religion, sexuality or any other difference. There was a Christian fundamentalist community but I never really had much to do with them. They dressed differently and had to miss out on some of the activities at school but so did my Muslim friends. I never really thought anything of it. My first encounter with fundamentalism came when I met my husband, a liberal Christian but whose family ranges across the full spectrum of Christianity. My answers/comments won’t really fit into the catagories below as I am going to be comparing the way I was raised and the way I am raising my kids to the way I am seeing my nieces and nephews being raised.
I should also say that I am a professional musician, working mostly in music theatre. Ever heard the jokes about everyone in theatre being homosexual? They are mostly true. Sexuality amongst theatre people is something very open and very flexible. I think perhaps theatre attracts people struggling with their sexuality because everyone is accepted, no matter what their tastes.
My name is Parker. I’m straight and monogamous, married with one child and one on the way. I was raised in William Marrion Branham’s Message of the Hour. We home churched, and on occasion we would attend other Message churches if they were operational.
My name is shadowspring. I am a middle-aged mom who has been married for twenty-five years. I have two children, one just graduated from college and the other will start college this fall. I home schooled both of them through high school. My husband is a missionary kid. His parents were full-time workers on the foreign field. I thought marrying such a pedigreed Christian meant I had won the Christian woman’s marriage lottery. Turns out, that happens to the one part of my husband’s life that has caused us the most problems.
I was born in the sixties, was a teen in the seventies, and became a religious addict in the eighties. I have a twin sister. From about birth until we were five, we twins lived with my grandmother in a tiny town on the Great Plains. A story she tells from my childhood was that when my Sunday school teacher told us that God loves us sooo much that He gave His only son, I said in all pre-school earnestness and wonder, “That’s amazing!” I remember sitting on my grandmother’s piano bench singing hymns with her as she played. It seems to me that I have always connected God with love, probably because of the fierce love and beliefs of this amazing woman. I miss her.
I have an older sister whom my mom never sent away. My family history is a complicated, “white trash” long story of deceit and manipulations, so here is the short version. My mom was a party girl who got pregnant with my older sister and so, as people did in the sixties, my dad married her. Unfortunately, my mom’s got serious problems. I am convinced she has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), so obviously, the marriage wasn’t working out. She got pregnant again, I think purposely in an attempt to wrangle a deeper commitment out of her husband. Instead, she would up pregnant with twins, and he headed for the hills.
My grandmother came to help when we were born, and shortly after she returned home, mom called again and asked if she could come get us and care for us herself. Of course grandma did. Weeks turned into months which turned into years. Mom came to visit, but never stayed long. My older sister was her little confidant and codependent, poor kid. There was no escape for her.
When I was five, my mom married my step-dad and came for the twins. We were now part of a family, at least in theory. I went to an excellent magnet school in an affluent suburb of Washington DC. My parents fought a lot, but I was best friends with the girl next door and my twin sister. I remember many good memories from this time. My step dad didn’t go to church, which was just one of a long list of things my mom spoke against my step dad about. Occasionally my mom took us to a Southern Baptist church. I wanted to stay home with my step dad and read the Sunday comics.
While all these details may seem irrelevant to my religious background, they’re not. My mom’s life is typical small town red state “Christian” behavior. She was a selfish, violent, cruel and conniving person. She slept with whom she wanted when she wanted her whole life, but held others to the severe standards of Christian sexual mores. She lied when it suited her, bullied people she had power to bully, took what she wanted without regret or remorse, and then prayed for parking spaces and sang loudly in church. It is typical of the small town religion I grew up with, to claim forgiveness, mercy and grace for all that YOU do, but gossip, criticize, despise and bully others who don’t live up to the standards set by your religion.
My mom gave birth to my younger sister, my step dad’s only blood child, when I was six. My step dad then adopted we older three, so we would all have the same last name. Six months later my mom filed for divorce and asked for child support for all four children. She groomed us to lie about our step dad, accusing him of sexual abuse. The judge didn’t believe us because the stories were so obviously fabricated, but in 1972 no judge would give custody of four young girls to a man. My mom moved us back to that small town on the Great Plains once the divorce was final.
She had our family in and out of fundamentalist churches the rest of my childhood. She would always choose authoritarian, patriarchal churches which seems odd because at home she was a staunch feminist. I grew up listening to Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman”, my mom actually owned the fish/bicycle t-shirt, and while other divorced women in our small town were “white trash” according to her, she was a brave feminist pioneer in her own estimation, a courageous single mother throwing off the shackles of marriage and family obligation to pursue her own career and bliss.
Yet she picked these strict fundamentalist churches to attend, and then played the “helpless abused woman” card for sympathy and support. We went to Southern Baptist, Pentecostal, and charismatic independent fundamentalist churches. One year we went to a hippie Jesus people church (I loved that!) but when it split we headed off with the fundamentalist, patriarchal branch. I think we went to churches that talked a lot about authority/submission because mom, as a single woman, was allowed to be the authority in her home. Like many abusive people in authority, she was attracted to those sorts of churches because it justified her behavior, and groomed her children to agree that spanking and other physical abuse was normal, even godly.
I blog at Love. Learning. Liberty.
My name is Vyckie Garrison – I am a single (divorced) mother of 7 children, ages 26, 19, 18, 16, 14, 12, and 9.
I was not raised in a Christian home. My mother was “spiritual, but not religious.” Her search for spiritual experience led us to some rather strange New Age, pagan, Eastern mystic – type practices including astrology, meditation, OUIJA, Tarot, the I Ching, Buddhism, pyramid energy, seances, “faith healing,” witchcraft, and other bizarre stuff which I didn’t really understand but was intrigued by nevertheless.
We attended Jim Jones’ church in Ukiah, CA for about six months when I was about 9. I remember Jones as intense, dynamic, kind of scary because of his loud voice, but also personable and good-natured. At the time, the church was making plans to leave the country. My step-father, who was a small-time con artist – in trouble with the law as well as with the outlaws – believed that moving to Guyana would be the perfect chance to escape his troubles and get a fresh start in life. “Lucky” for us – one day, he thought his car was being followed by a hit man, so he made the snap decision to flee to Southern California that afternoon. Later, when I was around 14, my mother and I watched in horror as the television news reported on the mass-suicide tragedy at Jonestown. I was deeply distressed and from that time forward, I was fascinated by cults and wanted to learn everything I could about the cult dynamic and how it is that normal, intelligent people can be so thoroughly deceived that they would drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid and even give it to their own children. I was horrified – and determined to be wary lest I be similarly deceived!!
The chaos and instability of my childhood compelled me to seek “Truth.” (I wanted to know the true truth so I would not be susceptible to the wolves in sheep’s clothing.) I prayed to God to show me the way – and shortly afterward, I discovered a Christian radio station and listened intently to Dr. Walter Martin, “The Bible Answerman” every morning. It was through studying Christian apologetics that I came to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and I experienced a very dramatic conversion at age 17.
Though I expected that my life would be happy and blessed from that moment forward, things didn’t turn out quite so peachy and by the time i was 23, I had been married and divorced, and I was the mother of the cutest, smartest, three-year-old daughter on the planet. (✿◠‿◠) I was terrified at the thought of being completely responsible for the life of a trusting, innocent human being – and so I redoubled my efforts to learn God’s perfect plan for my life – and I was determined to do whatever was necessary to secure His protection and His blessing for my daughter’s sake.
My prayers, diligent searching, and dependence on God’s guidance, led me to remarry – we decided to home school – and it was through our homeschooling connections that we were introduced to the Quiverfull ideals of patriarchy and trusting the Lord with our family planning. Although I had insisted that my husband have a vasectomy following my third c-section delivery (which had been absolutely miserable and life-threatening), after reading Mary Pride’s “The Way Home” and Nancy Campbell’s “God’s Vision for Families” – I then insisted that he get a reversal. Before my “quivering” days were over, I experienced 10 pregnancies, resulting in 7 children. All of those pregnancies were high-risk due to ongoing health conditions, and with my last delivery, I had a partial uterine rupture which nearly killed the baby and me.
Over the years, I continued to be extremely careful not to be led astray by false teachers – it was my desire to be a “workman who needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” which led me to “dig deeper” in my search for biblical truth – especially in the area of womanhood and family life. That is why the “biblical family” materials of Vision Forum, Above Rubies, Jonathan Lindvall, R.C. Sproul, Jr., S.M. Davis, Bill Gothard, etc., appealed to me. I wanted to be absolutely certain that I was not drinking the Kool-Aid or poisoning my children with “doctrines of men.”
We eventually became so “biblical” that even the local Independent Fundamental Baptist church we were attending seemed too compromising and wishy-washy with their youth groups and age-segregated Sunday Schools – so we found a few “like-minded” families and began having home church with them in order to shield our children from exposure to “worldly” kids and “pew-warmer” churchianity.
Comments open below
Sierra is a PhD student living in the Midwest. She was raised in a “Message of the Hour” congregation that followed the ministry of William Branham. She left the Message in 2006 and is the author of the blog the phoenix and the olive branch
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