Daughter of the Patriarchy: epilogue: What does leaving fundamentalism look like?

leaving

by SierraOccasionally, I get asked whether or not I ever actually left my old fundamentalist church. My story on No Longer Quivering followed my journey up to the first year of college. I’ve wrestled with how to explain what happened in a proper narrative form, because the circumstances that led to my cutting ties completely with the church ranged from financial to emotional to practical to ideological. There’s not a clear, linear story from here on out, just a constellation. But I’ve decided that it’s high time to tie up the loose ends and explain how, exactly, I cut and run.When I first went to college, my mother still picked me up for our weekly drive to church. In fact, the first … [Read more...]

I Voted! (Suck it, Mr. Branham.)

by SierraI voted. Deal with it.Growing up fundamentalist, I was reminded on a near monthly basis that I shouldn’t be allowed to vote. It was inescapable. Central to the Message of the Hour theology was a set of seven prophecies by William Branham that were supposed to usher in the end of the world. My church vigilantly watched, alongside its sister churches, for an earthquake to topple Los Angeles and for a Roman Catholic takeover of the US economy. Amidst all this doomsdaying was a more personal attack: the “evil” of women’s suffrage. … [Read more...]

BelieveTheSign.com Issues a Public Apology for Promoting William Branham as a Modern Prophet

branham

by Sierra(Cross posted from Sierra's blog - the phoenix and the olive branch)If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll recognize William Branham as the name of a faith healing evangelist in the mid-20th century who inspired a group of churches that collectively call themselves “The Message of the Hour.” The name refers to the belief that Branham served the role of a major Old Testament prophet for the modern age, delivering the Word of God “fresh” to pre- and post-World War II America (and, increasingly, the rest of the world). Though few have heard of him now, Branham was actually rather famous in his day. He preached a circuit similar to Oral Roberts and Billy Graham (tho … [Read more...]

The Dead Village: Living With Disapproval

by SierraLeaving quiverfull/patriarchal Christianity means losing approval. It means your parents, children, or spouse may reject you - or worse, implicitly disapprove while claiming to maintain a loving bond. That means that every time you talk, there's another dagger through your heart - the feeling that you'll never again have their respect (if you ever did in the first place) or be a whole person in their eyes (if you ever were).It almost certainly means your community evaporates like a holographic illusion. You walk away, and it's like you left behind a burning village with only ghosts pacing the streets. Sometimes they haunt you - follow you into your new life, reminding you at … [Read more...]

Daughter of the Patriarchy: Two Snakes and a Virgin – The Serpent’s Seed

 by SierraI was about nine years old when I started paying attention to some of the doctrines that were slowly infiltrating my life over the past two years. I’d stopped wearing pants or cutting my hair by the end of the first year, following my mother’s lead. The last pair of pants she wore were a lovely pair of wide-leg trousers with a sheer lace overlay; they could pass for a skirt until she took a step. She wore them to church, then threw them away – she felt “convicted” for wearing a man’s garment. She threw away her makeup, too, keeping only a sheer moisturizing lip gloss as a token of her past.I liked my new dresses, and I liked the long hair slowly descended across my shoulders. I’ … [Read more...]

Daughter of the Patriarchy: Scooby Doo and the Angel

by SierraBy my eighth birthday, Anna’s church had become our own. My father attended sporadically, but my mother and I adopted a weekly ritual of driving forty minutes through the woods, to the highway, passing numerous small churches on our way to the secret annex of the YMCA. No one would have guessed there was a church there, unless they happened by as we all bustled in with our flowing skirts and dresses and exited under the mid-afternoon sun. My mother was enthralled, talking excitedly to Anna and her new friend Sheila every day. A frequent topic of conversation was her journal, in which she recorded her thoughts and prayers as well as verses from the Bible that seemed to answer e … [Read more...]

Daughter of the Patriarchy: Old-Girl in Young-Girl Disguise

by Sierra“What did you think?” My mother asked, as our blue Chevrolet rolled smoothly out of the parking lot, mingling with more expensive cars on a fresh-paved freeway.“I liked it,” responded seven-year-old I. “I actually listened.”We were talking about our first visit to Anna and Sven’s church, an informal affair that gathered weekly in the upper annex of a suburban YMCA. The church had begun in the pastor’s living room, hosting only two or three families. Over the next few years it had grown to six or seven. The pastor and his wife had six children, the youngest still a newborn. They’d welcomed a new child every two years since their eldest.Church wasn’t a new experience for me. … [Read more...]

Anything you can do, I can do in a skirt!

by SierraYoung women following the patriarchal doctrine of William Branham’s “Message of the Hour” liked to refer to themselves as the “skirt girls.” Skirts and dresses were the only attire sufficiently modest and feminine for young ladies raised in the shadow of the prophet. Hemlines had to fall below the knees – and stay below them when the wearer was sitting down. Hair often besieged the knees from above, making them a kind of modesty battleground that should never, ever catch a gleam of daylight. Tanned knees were the mark of a harlot. As a little girl, I didn’t mind it much. I was convinced that my wrinkly knees were unsightly and ought to be hidden in the first place. What was I com … [Read more...]

Daughter of the Patriarchy: A Terrible Secret

by SierraWhen we went to visit the house in Pennsylvania, it seemed remote, dark and expansive. At the inquisitive yet reticent age of seven, I hovered behind my mother’s leg as we looked around the basement of the long ranch house. It wasn’t quite a finished basement, but there was a bar installed with Heineken cans lining the ceiling. A child about my age was sitting on the floor playing with some ugly 1990s toys. We shared a mutual glance of childhood understanding: we were not agents in this business of buying, selling and leasing real estate (I couldn’t yet wrap my mind around what “real estate” meant in the first place). We were the dolls in our parents’ dollhouses, and I was displa … [Read more...]


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