Daughter of the Patriarchy: Admissions

by Sierra “When I was your age, my parents wouldn't send me to college,” my mother was telling me. “I had to work my way through on my own. I don't want you to have to stop. I will do everything I can to help you keep going to school. Your education is the most important thing to me.” We stood in the kitchen, a printed letter lying on the counter between us. It was not good news. I glanced up at my mother with a strained smile. I knew that if wishes could be cashed at the bank, I'd be writing my admissions essay to an ivy-coated castle. Instead, I was trying to find a way to pay the bill from my last semester of community college in time to register for fall classes. It was … [Read more...]

Throwing Out the Moral GPS

by Sierra Growing up in fundamentalism was like living with a moral GPS navigator installed in my head. Every decision was mapped out already; all I needed to do was listen to the voice telling me where to go. Sometimes I could stop and look at the map. Most of the time I was looking ahead, trying to live, listening and following directions as best I could. The GPS gave me directions for living: Read the Bible and pray every day. Obey your parents. Be respectful of elders. Those directions made sense. They were there to help me get where I wanted to go: straight ahead. There were no twists and turns yet. Then the directions got a little stranger: Listen to one of Branham's … [Read more...]

Daughter of the Patriarchy: Doing the Math

by Sierra Turning eighteen was magical. Suddenly, all the job applications I seemed to be throwing down an empty chute were bounced back with interest. Sven had already landed a job at Wal-Mart in his town. Now it was my turn. I nervously sat through my job interview, not daring to hope that I might actually be on my way to earning money. When they called back with an offer, I could hardly contain my excitement. Not only did I have a job, I had a real driver's license. No longer did I need the supervision of an adult driver. I could take myself anywhere I wanted, whenever I wanted. The freedom was intoxicating, and I found myself driving everywhere at the slightest excuse. Now that I was … [Read more...]

Daughter of the Patriarchy: The Waiting

by Sierra I loved driving. I'd always known I would. As a child, I collected Hot Wheels cars until they numbered in the hundreds. When I was twelve, my mother decided to teach me to drive in case my father's rage spilled over completely and I needed to escape. It was both terrifying and exhilarating. The car felt huge and seemed to move so much faster when my hands were on the wheel. I crowed with pride as I successfully navigated the winding roads of our rural neighborhood, passing a UPS truck with wide eyes and short breath. As I grew older, I periodically stowed away money for a car. At my bakery job, I thought I might finally have a chance when I amassed $1,000 – a year's savings. … [Read more...]

Daughter of the Patriarchy: Surveillance

by Sierra Thick summer haze blended with the spirals of smoke belching from the backyard grill. A teenage girl in a sepia-colored seventies outfit poked at the flames with a stoic face, silently urging them to gulp up more pages from the notebooks she fed them, one after another. The fire surged with joy and then abated, leaving only charred fragments sinking into dust or drifting lazily into the air. The  grill was stuffed, but not for long. Soon the makeshift altar had reduced its sacrifices to embers. The girl sighed with relief, though the anger blazing in her chest had not subsided. Her mother had read her diaries. They had to be burned. Her most private thoughts unmercifully … [Read more...]

Daughter of the Patriarchy: When Dreams Become Promises

by Sierra As followers of God’s final prophet and members of the elect Bride of Christ, we made a lot of promises in God's name. We promised safety to a world we presumed was in its death throes, ready to face tribulation, destruction and ultimate renewal. We promised healing, hope and happiness to those who accepted God’s provided way of escape. We promised individuals that their broken families would be restored, that their financial problems would vanish when they tithed, that God's will would give them purpose and the strength to deal with the wearying parade of everyday troubles. We promised Alissa that God would heal her daughter. Alissa was a single mother of two young boys. She … [Read more...]

Daughter of the Patriarchy: The Shift

by Sierra            Clear morning light filtered in the empty door of the bakery. I was alone behind the storefront, a wall of bagel baskets hanging like a curtain between me and the rest of the world. My mother busied herself in the front of the store, wiping counters and making coffee as I methodically drew and cut the clear plastic wrap in its long rolls. I wrapped another sponge cake, applied the golden bakery label, and set the finished product on a tray to be stored and sold for the Jewish holidays. It was normally one of the busiest weeks in the store: the owner was Jewish and had many connections with the synagogues in northern New Jersey. We were a hotspot for holiday … [Read more...]

The Dead Village: Living With Disapproval

by Sierra Leaving 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: “Why do you look that cow in the face?”

By Sierra Courtship took my church by storm in the 1990s. While I never read I Kissed Dating Goodbye, I was given a number of books about marriage and intimacy and taught explicitly that dating was preparation for divorce. Having never dated, I was not in a position to protest. I listened patiently to the story of the couple in my church who had married without so much as holding hands. They were the happiest couple after Eamon and Pearl, so clearly they'd done something right. I learned that smitten young Message couples would walk around holding each end of a shared stick, in order to express their affection without risking finger-to-finger contact. I thought to myself that it sounded a … [Read more...]

Daughter of the Patriarchy: The Sickness ~ Pt 2

by Sierra William Branham never claimed to be a faith healer. That is, he claimed that it was the power of the individual's faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that healed their diseases. Christ had finished the work; there was nothing left to do but believe. In a 1955 sermon entitled Jehovah-Jireh, Branham explained that faith was the force that brought healing to the believer: If I could heal anyone, I'd come down here, and go to each one and heal everyone. I would, if I could. But I can't. And there's no other man can. And--and if Jesus was here, He could not, only if you'd believe. Look. That sounds strange, that Jesus could not heal unless you'd believe. When He went to His Own … [Read more...]


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