March 3, 2016

Tyler contacted me several weeks ago and asked to write a guest post about the words “In God We Trust” on our currency and the words “under god” in our pledge of allegiance. While his post focuses on the history and constitutionality of the issue, I want to note that these phrases “other” those Americans who do not believe in god, who believe in more than one god, or who believe in a god other than the Christian God, the divine being clearly being referred to with these phrases. You can read my previous writings on this subject here. And now, without further ado, Tyler’s post.  

By Tyler Plofker

The first sentence of the first amendment of the US Constitution begins with “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” However, the United States of America continues to do just that. Through the use of the phrase “under god” in the pledge of allegiance, as well as the presence of “In God We Trust” on all national currency, the U.S. government has tied itself with religion.

The origin of these two phrases has been somewhat shrouded over the course of history. It seems that, however arbitrarily we came about this intuition, a large portion of the American public believe these phrases to be as old as America itself. The truth is that both phrases have been fully enacted fairly recently, and for specific purposes at that. The phrase “under god” was added to the pledge of allegiance on June 14, 1954, while “In God We Trust” was made the national motto on July 30, 1956, and then added to all paper currency over subsequent years.

There are two main reasons for the addition of these phrases; one of a personal bias, and one of a national strategic bias. The personal bias stems from the fact that President Eisenhower – who presided over both inclusions – had become baptized as a Presbyterian in 1953. Maybe that had a something to do with his pushing of religious messages to the entire American public? Of course it did.

The second, and arguably more important, factor that caused the creation of these phrases was a need for the United States to separate itself from the Soviet Union at the time. During this time period the U.S. was in the midst of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, in which any possible advantage was of the upmost importance. The United States was desperate to distinguish itself from the state-endorsed atheist Soviet Union. What better way to show difference than to publicize your religiosity on your currency, and force your children to recite these religious ideas?

Regardless of how these phrases have come about, they are highly unconstitutional. As stated above, the United States is prohibited from “…respecting an establishment of religion…”, which they are in clear violation of in regards to the continued usage of these two phrases. Not only is the unconstitutionality outlined within the first amendment, but the “separation of church and state” is something that Thomas Jefferson clarified through a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association; a clarification in which it is made completely clear that there is an absolute wall between church and state.

So we know that the presence of “under god” in the pledge, and “In God We Trust” on currency, is unconstitutional. However, not only is the presence of these phrases unconstitutional, they also cause obvious harm to the country from an objective standpoint; specifically the phrase “under god” in the pledge. While having “In God We Trust” on our currency is unacceptable, and embarrassing, I would make the argument that it has little effect on the complete indoctrination of any person. There is just not enough of a focus put on this portion of currency – as in not enough attention paid – to cause a substantial negative effect on any person (while what it represents is still nauseating, and could contribute to the problem). However, the public problem becomes immediately apparent when discussing the presence of “under god” in the pledge.

The vocabulary in the pledge is of the upmost importance because it is effectively mandatorily required for children to recite. Children have no ability to properly discern what they believe about politics, let alone the origin of the entire universe. Yet, they are basically forced to recite a pledge including “under god” every day of their lives. Now, some people may point out that a child has the right to not say the words “under god”; in fact they have the right to not recite the pledge at all. However, when the entire class – with the encouragement of the teacher – is reciting the pledge, it creates an atmosphere in which the child effectively must recite it.

Whether you believe in god or not, it seems that it would be universally abhorred to put ideas into a child’s head that they are not yet able to contemplate; as in, it is certainly highly immoral to push ideas on a child before they are able to make their own decisions. If these children grow up without push back on the ideas they took for granted, which is often the case, they will inevitably be predisposed to believing something which they may not have if the full plethora of information was available to them. If a child recites these words every day, coupled with what they see on their own national currency, it is no surprise they may be biased towards a certain line of thinking.

We have to end this. We are a secular nation. The unconstitutionality of these phrases, coupled with the immorality of pushing them upon children, is undeniable. As you may have noticed, I have not remarked at all upon the veracity, or value, of these phrases (or lack thereof). That is because they are irrelevant to my argument. Regardless of how you feel about the phrases themselves, they are certainly unconstitutional, they are pushed on a segment of the population that can’t make a real decision on what they believe, they go against our concept of “separation between church and state”, and they threaten our status as a secular nation. It is time to end this. It is time to remove “god” from our pledge and our currency.

Tyler Plofker is currently a Umass Amherst student, atheist and political thinker, and sports writer for BigThreeSports.  You can check out his sports related content at, and his other ideas in various locations including @TylerPlofker on twitter.

February 23, 2016


By Darcy

Originally posted on Darcy’s Heart Stirrings

From babyhood they said “You are a dirty sinner, there is nothing good in you, you are destined for hell because of your nature.”

So we, small humans, awoke to a world where toddlers need the sin and foolishness beaten out of them with switches and wooden spoons and belts.

They said “Only with Jesus are you worth anything.”

So as small children we begged Jesus to come into our hearts and make the dirty clean.

They said “Because of your sin, God cannot look at you, Jesus had to die. You killed him.”

So we mourned that we were so sinful that God couldn’t look at us without someone else standing in our place.

They said “You are human, a sinner, you cannot help it, only Jesus can make you worth anything.”

So we felt that we were worthless, that no matter how hard we try, we will never be good enough, while some kept trying anyway and some completely gave up.

They said “If you fall in love with a boy, you are committing emotional fornication.”

So we guarded our hearts lest sin defile us with merely a thought, and when our hearts betrayed us and we fell in love with a boy, we hated ourselves and knew we were worth less than before, we had lost a piece of our hearts we would never get back.

They said “Your body needs to be hidden because it is dangerous and if a man lusts after you because of your clothing or movements, it is your fault”.

So we covered our bodies from head to toe, swathed our femininity in fabric hoping no one would notice the curves, and spent years of our life worrying that we may cause a man to stumble and thus defile our own hearts and his.

They said “Boys only want one thing, so be sure you don’t do anything that makes them think they can take it from you. They can’t help it, this is how God made them, we must help them.”

So we lived in fear of men who God made pigs then placed the responsibility for their pig-ness on us.

They said “If you kiss a boy, you’re like a lolly-pop that’s been licked, a paper heart that’s been torn, you are worth less than before, and you’ve given away a part of you that you can never get back.”

So we spent our days afraid, terrified we would lose our worth and have nothing to give a future spouse.

They said “Virginity and purity give you value, don’t give that away.”

So whether virginity was taken forcefully or given lovingly, we were left worthless, used goods, and told no godly man would want us now.

They said “You cannot hear God for yourself, you must obey your authorities. They know what is best for you.”

So we submitted to things that no human being deserves to suffer, because otherwise God would be angry and not bless our lives. Submitting to unjust treatment was what Jesus did, after all.

They said “You are rebellious. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.”

So we begged God’s forgiveness for the ways we wanted something different than they wanted.

They said “You are a woman, emotional, incapable of leading, easily deceived. You must stay in your place, submit, and only then God will bless you.”

So we felt loathing for our womanhood, wondering why God would make us inferior, and feeling guilty that we dare question the Almighty’s plan, that we are not happy with his decree.

And now… we are told “Why are you depressed? Why do you have anxiety? Why the addictions, the anger, the rage, the self-loathing? Why can’t you just be happy and normal?”

As if no one can connect the dots. As if their actions did not have consequences. As if a child can be raised to hate themselves in the Name of God and suddenly grow into an adult that is healthy. As if a lifetime of emotional trauma and spiritual abuse suddenly vanishes because a person changes their mind about who they are and their place in the world.

That’s not how it works. That is only the beginning of a journey that could take the rest of our lives. A journey we are told not to speak of because it makes people uncomfortable, because they’d rather call us names like “bitter” and “unforgiving” than to look deep into the darkness of our hearts and hear tales of pain and see the rawness of souls taught to hate themselves. Because those stories aren’t nice ones.But we will not change them in order to make others comfortable.

Do not tell us to “forgive”. Forgiveness has nothing to do with it. Do not tell us to “get over it”. One does not “get over” years of trauma and brainwashing and brain-wiring from babyhood just by making a single choice. We do not choose the nightmares. We do not choose the triggers and the gut-level reactions and the panic attacks. We had 18+ years of being taught that we are worthless, that God cannot stand to look at us, that we killed Jesus, that our worth is in our virginity or how well we obey our parents, that who we are is dirty and sinful. Give us at least 18+ years to re-wire our brains and heal those festering wounds and to learn to love ourselves where before there was only self-loathing. Some wounds cannot be healed. They can only be lived with. And scars do not disappear on a whim. But they can tell our stories and make us strong.

And tell our stories we will, and get stronger for the telling. We heal a little more every time we speak out loud what was hidden and decide that we are worth loving and our stories worth the telling.

December 23, 2015


By Darcy. Originally posted on Darcy’s Heart Stirrings.

“You’re different these days.”

It was a compliment this time. Though I usually hear it in a chiding tone from someone who thinks it their right to comment with displeasure on my life-journey. But this time, surprisingly, it was in admiration from someone who has known me a long time. It made me smile.

I am different these days. I am….happy. Confident. Free. Comfortable with myself and my place in the world.

But mostly, I am unafraid.

Fear has shadowed my entire life. I can never remember not being afraid. My earliest memories were tainted with fear, even the happiest of them.

But these days, that fear is gone. It’s amazing how that changes a person.

I am no longer afraid of god. Afraid of displeasing him. Of not following his will for my life. Of making a mistake and disappointing him. Of him ruining my life because that’s what god does when you rebel, it’s how he shows you he loves you, by not letting you get away with your own selfish desires. His plans are so much better than yours, after all.

I am no longer afraid of hell. Of accidentally sinning and dying before I can repent. I had nightmares about that as a small child. I was terrified of spending eternity in hell. It seemed so easy to screw up and end up punished after you die. I was so afraid of my friends going to hell too. I was so afraid that I wouldn’t get to tell enough people about Jesus in my life and would be responsible for them dying and going to hell.

I am no longer afraid of punishment. For most of my life, I lived under fear of punishment. From my parents, from god. Messing up meant harsh punishments. Spanking, grounding, losing friend privileges, having to do extra chores, writing out a hundred sentences that say “I will not blame-shift”. But mostly spankings, until I became a teen. Then it was lectures, control of resources, and groundings that killed the small social life I had. For every little infraction, because all sins are the same, and foolishness must be driven out of the heart of a child. Afraid of punishment from god who could not only send me to hell if I died unrepentant, but he could make my life miserable too. He could do all manner of horrible things to teach me a lesson if  screwed up. He could even take my child’s life if I loved her more than I loved him, if I loved her too much. That’s what god does, because he’s a jealous god. My entire life, death, and afterlife could be punishments if he decided I needed them.

I am no longer afraid of missing god’s plan for my life. I make the plans for my life now. I take the responsibility, I pay the consequences, good and bad. No one is waiting to punish me for planning badly. I’m not going to ruin my life if I don’t hear god correctly and take a wrong step. I’m in charge. If I screw up, I will try again. There are many different ways to live a successful life, I’m not fucked if I miss The One. There is no “hedge of thorns” sent to hem me in and bring me back to god’s plan.

I’m no longer afraid of failing to be who god wants me to be. I don’t have to ask permission to be me. To follow my heart. To love whom I want to love. To be passionate about what matters to me. I don’t have to make sure my character fits someone else’s idea of right. I choose my values, who I want to be and what that looks like.

I am no longer afraid of what other people can do to me. Of whether the ones I love and used to be dependent on will walk away, reject me, and break my heart. Because I realize now that giving my heart to them means they can hurt it, but they cannot ruin it. Only I can do that. I am not dependent on how others treat me for my validation or my success in life. I adore all the people that are part of my life, but my life is not dependent on them anymore. I am no longer defenseless and powerless.

I am no longer afraid of the darkness in me. That part of me that is just as much human as the light, happy parts. That part that scared people, that they taught me to fear. I am those things too, in all their rich glory, and they don’t scare me anymore. I don’t have to deny the darkness exists or pray it away because it turns out it’s not evil. I know evil; and the anger, passion, depression, anxiety, rage, rain, storm, and shadows that reside in human nature are not it. I can be a whole person now.

I am no longer afraid of being happy. It’s OK to be utterly happy with myself and my life. It’s OK to love and to live. It’s OK to feel satisfied and enough. Conversely, it’s OK to be sad. To be unhappy. To want more. To wish and not be OK with how things are. I am no longer afraid of the entire range of human emotions. They are not good or evil, they just are.

I am no longer afraid of my passion. I am a passionate person, and that is perfectly OK. Though I still get shamed often for this, get sanctioned, invalidated, told I’m too much and not enough, told my passion doesn’t belong or is misplaced, told to be quiet, be nice, sit down, shut up. But since I no longer need validation from others, I am no longer afraid of my own passion or what others think about it. I can shout from the rooftops or speak in whispers in quiet places, and it is enough and it is valid.

I am no longer afraid of so many things, fears that have been a part of my life for as far back as I have memories. And that changes a person. It takes a huge weight off their shoulders that makes every aspect of their life lighter.

So, yes, I am different these days. I am whole. I am unashamedly, gloriously me.

And I am not afraid any more. 

June 25, 2015

A Guest Post by Rita ~

My first bachelor’s degree is in elementary education from Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. Taylor is an evangelical Christian liberal arts college that consistently is ranked #1 in its category by US News and World Report and happens to expel students for things like consuming tobacco and alcohol, premarital sex, and homosexuality. During my four years on campus I was nearly oblivious to the fact I am a sexual being, much less a lesbian. My sexual awakening began in my late twenties and required many steps to shake free from beliefs that had frightened several aspects of my entire self into remission.

By this time, I had quit my fourth grade teaching job in the same school district I attended from grades five to twelve to reside as a student at L’Abri Fellowship in England and as a volunteer at the L’Abri branch in Massachusetts. Additionally, I lived briefly in Northern Ireland and Scotland and taught English in Korea. Just before leaving Korea, I exchanged my plan to ride the Trans-Siberian Railway for a second bachelor’s degree at Massachusetts College of Art & Design (aka MassArt).

I’d say moving to New England and studying visual art for the first time since junior high was culture shock–and it truly was–but so was every situation into which I had thrown myself after stepping away from life as I knew it in Indiana. I was accustomed to perpetually feeling like Alice in Wonderland. The most remarkable aspect of my new life as an art student was being surrounded by the highest density of free thinkers I had ever encountered. Thus began the most exciting and enriching adventure of my sheltered life. I embraced the experience with such wide-eyed enthusiasm that I was aptly nicknamed Rita, the hairdresser-turned-academic-scholar protagonist in Educating Rita by Willy Russell.

My formative years that culminated in receiving a sensible degree from an uber-conservative Midwestern college included a unique infusion of dogma from the US Navy, Bill Gothard, Navigators, Pensacola Christian School, ACE School, Good News Club, Good News Summer Camp, and nearly a new Protestant denomination for each of my family’s navy-induced relocations which criss-crossed us over the US several times.

Our relocation journeys were always undertaken in a pale yellow Ford Falcon station wagon. It was two wood panels short of a Brady mobile but did sport two exciting bumper stickers. One said Honk if you love Jesus, and the other said One Way and featured a silhouette of a closed hand with the first finger pointed upward. This was Jesus code for One Way to Heaven and served as my parents’ counter response to the Hippie Movement’s peace symbol, a closed hand with two raised, open fingers.

Our bumper stickers helped break the monotony of endless highway travel, and we heard many horn honks. Maybe it was a quick toot-toot from an elderly couple or a young family like our own who smiled sweetly as they passed. Other times, a trucker would wait until he was twelve inches from our back bumper and blow his air horn so loudly we nearly wet ourselves. Occasionally, we encountered a carload of teens riding parallel to us who incessantly honked, laughed, waved, and leaned out open windows as far as possible to wildly wag a raised finger that happened not to be the first but the middle. My older brother and I stifled giggles and avoided eye contact lest we burst into laughter while my younger sister asked too many questions. Mom turned it into an opportunity for a spiritual lesson about the influence of Satan in society and led us in an impromptu prayer session for lost souls such as these hooligans. I wondered if God was able to hear Dad’s prayer since he couldn’t close his eyes while driving. I was a habitual eye opener during prayers and already knew that God found my prayer habits questionable. Being saved by the blood of Christ was hard work.

The first time I heard the gospel message was as a kindergartener at a Good News Club meeting in our living room. Good News Clubs are to children what Tupperware Parties are to housewives. The difference is that it is repeated for five days and each session ends in Nilla Wafers and Kool-Aid. We sang songs and heard color-coded stories that grew more surreal each afternoon. The stories went something like this:

Before the world began, there was only God, his angels, and his golden streets in heaven.

Then, God created the earth and animals and two people named Adam and Eve. God said to them, “Do not to eat the apples on the tree.” One day, a snake told Eve to eat an apple. She took a bite and shared it with Adam. Their hearts turned black and now everybody is born with a black heart.

God’s son Jesus was born in a special plan to heal black hearts. He was nailed on a cross. There was red blood.

Believers’ hearts are washed white, and they go to heaven when they die. Non-believers and their black hearts are punished and burn forever in hell.

In utter terror, I raised my hand above my pounding, black heart so I could be a believer and was promptly led into our dining room to pray with an overly excited woman. I begged Jesus to save me from my five year old sinful ways.

In addition to the blissful promise of eternally strolling heaven’s golden streets with Jesus when I died, I was gifted a white leather-bound King James Bible made complete by a zipper that opened and closed by pulling on a dangling metal cross. Tucked inside the frail pages of the New Testament was a picture of Jesus. Years upon years of Sunday sermons provided me with ample opportunity to internalize his character based on this picture.

He appeared to be the sort of fellow my parents would invite home to Sunday dinner, had we lived two thousand years ago, before wider clothing and hair styling options were available. In the 1970s, long haired, poncho-wearing hippies were to be feared and never received invitations into our home. Gentle Jesus probably would have enjoyed my mother’s cooking. I wanted to know what she would prepare on the day he came to dinner but always forgot to ask once church let out. He stood barefoot in the dirt with open arms, blue eyes, long beard, and flowy white robe. He was surrounded by well-fed Caucasian children who were clad in matching, miniature white robes which, like his, were finished at the waist by primitive ropes with tidy knots. I wanted to be one of those children.

Coming out as lesbian was made a bit less traumatic with the aid of a compassionate and competent therapist who helped me deconstruct the homophobic, patriotic, patriarchal, white-centric, fundamental, evangelical world view of my childhood. She also patiently guided me into the process of rebuilding a fresh world view. To the chagrin of label lovers, my new, improved world view lacks a formal name or creed but does glean inspiration from many sources, none of which include theism, dualism, afterlife, reincarnation, angels, devils, and a few other things I find nightmare-inducing and therefore unhelpful. My ideological measuring stick has three sides: kindness, love, and respect. Another three-sided model I embrace is Maslow’s Self Actualization Theory. This triangle-shaped diagram fits my understanding of what it is to be human with more regularity than any other ideology. If anyone asks whether I’m aware that the Trinity shares my love of the number three, I will respond by borrowing a line from a popular 1970s Monty Python act: “I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition,” after which three red-robed men will burst in and declare, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.”

Near the end of my junior year at MassArt I was invited by a faculty member to be student ambassador to the Baccalaureate speaker for that year’s graduation ceremony. I would collect the guest of honor from the airport in a campus car, be her escort and personal assistant for three days of graduation-related events, and then drive her back to the airport.

I stood in awe, completely stunned. I shook, went white, felt honored beyond words. While browsing in the library as a freshman I discovered the work of this woman, an activist and art critic named Lucy Lippard. Her ideas and perspective helped me begin that chapter of my life as an artist, the one in which I was fully present with eyes and heart wide open.

After too long a pause I serenely said, “Thank you, but I must decline.” This would interfere with my planned trip to Indiana to sit my parents down and tell them exactly who I am: a non-believing abstract artist and lesbian. I had spent my every last dollar on that 100% non-changeable, non-refundable plane ticket and could not financially nor emotionally afford to change my itinerary.

I was begged to change my plans. I was told I was the one the faculty had specially chosen for this job and would make a mistake to turn this down. I felt trapped and said I would call on Monday with my answer.

After a sleepless weekend I made the phone call. I offered a vague explanation of how I am often haunted by the mystery of being me, especially in these crazy moments when it feels like there’s only one right answer–the one I dislike but the one that compels me. I hung up, cried, and promised myself to do my best to neither mention this to my parents nor resent them for this sacrificial gift I was about to give them that most likely would be unappreciated.

I arrived in Indiana with solemnity and was met with little ceremony. My parents knew my visit’s purpose was to tell them important news. They probably had guessed but withheld any speculation. I spoke separately to them. Each conversation was several hours long. I fielded questions rooted in myths about homosexuality, such as, “Who raped you to cause it?” To this, I responded honestly I had never been touched inappropriately. Mom was not convinced and suggested it probably happened when I was too young to remember; perhaps it was that time she hired a teenage boy to babysit when I was a toddler. My strong doubts could not dissuade her.

Dad denied I could possibly be happy, as I had stated I was, because I was too far outside the will of God to experience true happiness. He also said it was his duty as a grandfather to protect his grandchildren from me. I think he believes homosexuality and pedophilia are synonymous. Interestingly, he knew I worked part time as a nanny to help pay for my tuition and living expenses but never expressed concern for those children.

Mom said she’ll try to not be like the father in Fiddler on the Roof. In my opinion she hasn’t tried very hard.

Dad asked why the tears and why travel all that way to tell him and Mom what I knew they wouldn’t accept. I said in breathless exasperation that I had hoped for understanding but felt like I was only being judged. After a deafeningly long pause, Dad said, “Okay, I’ll give you some understanding.”

I wiped my tears and leaned back in my chair. Dad first reminded me that he had not graduated from high school because he failed a required math course during his last semester. He was too humiliated to retake it during summer session and without consulting his parents he walked into a military recruitment office and enlisted in the Navy. I knew this already. What came next still mystifies me today.

Dad then recounted that throughout that school year he had received weekly letters from his best friend on the high school Drama Team. The friend had graduated the previous year, and just like me, Dad noted with irony, had moved to Boston to attend college and study creative arts. The handwritten letters enthusiastically described the joys of escaping their Bronx neighborhood and encouraged my father to join him as a theater major the following year at Emerson College. The letters were always signed, “Love, Bruce.”

Dad said this troubled him because he loved his friend, but, as he told me, “Bruce loved many guys, and I knew what he was doing with them.” This was Dad-speak for “gay.”

His story continued that after boot camp Dad was stationed in New Orleans, where he met and began dating my mother. Then, “things happened” and he “took responsibility.” (More Dad-speak.) Dad leaned forward, slapped a hand on the kitchen table and emphatically said, “You see, I was only nineteen, and I made the right choice. Other things happened that you will never know.”

This is the closest admission I’ve been offered that my parents eloped and the reason was because Mom was pregnant.

Immediately, I thought, “Sure, Dad. Of course it’s a choice. You made the right one.”

My next thought was, “Whoa! My father might be a repressed gay man. This could explain a great deal.”

Then, “Just what secrets does my father harbor? Why even tell me secrets exist?”

Instead of blurting out my explosive thoughts, I said what I had planned out in therapy office rehearsals. “Dad, all my life you and Mom have said you love me. I cannot believe you if you don’t know who I am.” He pursed his lips and shrugged. That was the end of our conversation.

In the airport the next day Mom and Dad said they would always be cordial, but I was not to expect a relationship with them in future because “we simply don’t have enough in common, do we?” True to their word, they are generally cordial during our phone conversations that take place about once every year or two. If I ever happen to mention my partner or anything related to homosexuality, I am given the silent treatment until I change the subject. Even if they say to me, “I love you,” which they sometimes still do, it’s hard to believe.

Telling my parents in person I am lesbian was the horrible experience I anticipated, but I am glad I did it because, when it was over and my flight back to Massachusetts lifted into the air, I also lifted. Although Mom and Dad’s voices of dogmatic doom echoed in my ears, I felt new freedom to be me without the gravity of impossible expectations and an urge to conform and keep secrets in order to receive a blessing I knew would never be authentic.

Read Other Guest Posts Here ~ 

August 9, 2014

29-working-woman-w724Originally posted at I Turn and Burn

Read part I here

In my last post, I left off talking about the decision I made during high school not to have children, even though I knew my decision would be frowned upon by others in my Christian community.

When I was in high school, I believed that public school damaged children in irreversible ways. I imagined students having sex and performing drug deals right there in the classrooms with the teachers there, condoning their behavior. I imagined teachers becoming abusive when they learn that certain students are Christians and Christians becoming martyrs in their own school. The way that my parents described public school, I believed that nobody’s faith is strong enough to withstand public and sending your kids to public school is basically like sending them to hell.

When I went to college, I was surprised to meet many people who went to public school, whose lives had not been ruined by drugs, alcohol and sex. I marveled at this totally new concept that someone could go to public school and still be a Christian and be a genuinely good person. I am embarrassed to say how shocking this concept was to me and how much it amazed me.

For this reason, I began to reconsider whether or not I wanted to have kids. But now instead of thinking of it in terms of how much I would need to give up in order to have them, I began thinking about it in terms of whether I am actually cut out to be a mother, and I still not sure. When I was in high school, my mom told me that she used to be worried about me because I had no interest in babies, and that she isn’t anymore because I join the other women in fawning over babies. I of course did not tell her about my plan to never have children but I have remembered that to this day because I know that I was socially conditioned to behave in adoration over every baby I see.

The truth is, I am not a very nurturing person. I don’t enjoy taking care of babies; I usually like to hold a baby for a few minutes and then I want it to go back to its mom. Most people who know me wouldn’t believe this because I work with children. I am an ABA therapist for children with Autism and I want to stay in this field (yes I have finally made up my mind!) I am so passionate about my career that I have to constantly remind myself not to talk about work too much in social settings. I love kids with Autism, I am fascinated by them, I love learning everything I can about Autism and I love seeing the difference that ABA (applied behavioral analysis) makes in their life. But then I go home and enjoy the time that I have to myself.

I think about what it would be like to come home after 8 hours of working with kids with Autism and then take care of my own kids. Sometimes I don’t feel like I would have enough to give to both. I feel like both my work and my relationship with my children would suffer. Because of my field, I work closely with parents and I know that being a parent means making sacrifices. All. the. time. It isn’t something I would decide to do all willy nilly. I know that some day I might feel differently about having children. I am still young and I can’t rule out the possibility of getting baby fever some day. I think that I would be a really good mom as long as I have enough time for my children.

There are two things I am very grateful for now. One is that I would not have to give up the career I love in order to have children. I actually want my children to be independent and know that I trust them enough to let them go to school. The other thing I’m grateful for is that nobody I’ve brought into my life since graduating high school would ever judge me if I decided not to, and at this point my family wouldn’t either. Everyone in my family has changed a lot since my parents split up 3 years ago. My mom is proud of what I do and she has her own career now as well!

Things turned out well for me but unfortunately this is not the case for every woman who grows up believing that being a stay at home mom is God’s will for her life. I have nothing against women who choose to do that but the key word is “choose”. Why should men have a whole world of possibilities and women only have one option? And why shouldn’t a man be able to stay home if that is what works best for him and his marriage? I think conservative Christian culture could be improved greatly if people realized there is no “one size fits all” formula.

August 4, 2014

momOriginally posted on I Turn and Burn

I was never planning on being a stay at home mom. When I was a kid, the thing I wanted to be when I grow up changed almost daily and there were so many possibilities, so many dreams that I had and I always just assumed that I would become everything. When my gymnastics coaches were mean to me, I would think “when I’m a gymnastics coach, I’m not going to act like that.” When I had to sit in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, I would think “when I’m a doctor, I won’t make people wait so long for me.” When my mom told me that I couldn’t go to public school because they teach about evolution I thought “well when I’m a teacher, I’m not going to teach about those things.” Things got more complicated when I told my dad “when I’m a pastor, I’m going to have my sermons be more fun to listen to”. My dad told me that I can’t be a pastor because only men can do that, but I can be whatever else I wanted. I think that was the moment I became a feminist even though I didn’t have the word for it at five years old. It never once occurred to me that I was not going to have every career in the world, and it definitely never dawned on me that many Christians at my church believed that as as a Christian woman, my role was to be a wife and mother and nothing else.

My parents were fully aware of my many ambitions and they never wanted to discourage me from my dreams. I’m sure they were concerned about how I was planning on doing all of those things and getting married and having kids and of course, home schooling them. My mom once told me not to have kids if I wasn’t planning on home schooling. She had a strong belief that you shouldn’t have kids and then send them off to someone else to raise them. The school is just going to indoctrinate them and why would you send them to learn all of that anti-Christian stuff and then have them come home and have to reteach them everything? When she said this I did not see it as an attack on any of my dreams. I figured I would just not have kids and it would be as simple as that. In my youthful naivete, I had not yet realized that nothing in Evangelical Christianity is ever that simple.

As I grew up, I started to realize that people in my church think that people who choose not to have kids are selfish. They are lazy because they don’t want to take care of kids, they are only concerned with the status of their high powered careers and they don’t want pesky kids taking time away from that and they want all their money for themselves and don’t want to deal with the expenses of childcare. Most importantly, they viewed faith as heritage and people who don’t want kids are not bringing another generation of faith into the world. I was at a total loss for what I was supposed to do; if I don’t have kids I’m regarded by some as selfish, but if I have kids, I have to give up all of my dreams and home school them. Nobody ever wanted to discourage my dreams, but their ideas of what a good Christian is supposed to do with their lives made my dreams incompatible with what I thought it meant to follow God.

One day it dawned on me that there was a way that I could do all of the things I wanted and still follow God. All I had to do was find a man who wanted to be a stay at home dad! I mean, who says it has to be the wife who stays at home with the kids? The husband can do that too. I felt that I had found the solution to all my problems and I didn’t think about it or worry about it until a few years later when I was trying to decide where I should go to college. I was about fifteen or sixteen and already thinking about it because I just knew it would be the most exciting thing in the world. My parents never had any objections to it because if my husband were to die or if God forbid, I never found a husband, I would need a degree to fall back on.

My youth leader did not see things this way. He asked me if I really thought it was a good idea to spend thousands of dollars and several years of my life on an education that I wouldn’t end up using. My initial reaction was “excuse me? You did not just say that to me!” He explained that he wasn’t trying to imply that I wasn’t capable, just that I wouldn’t have time for a career when I am home schooling my children. I laughed about the misunderstanding and assured him that he didn’t have to worry about that because I would just marry a man who wants to home school the kids. He told me that a man shouldn’t have to do that job, the woman is the natural caregiver and not only will a man not be good at that but it would emasculate him and eventually it would end up making him resent me and probably even want a divorce.

I normally try to avoid being dramatic at all costs but the only words I can use to describe that situation was that something inside me died when I heard that. My will was broken and became depressed over the next several weeks and then I became angry. I lived for years in silent, outwardly submissive rebellion and decided again that I wasn’t going to have children. If that made me a selfish bitch, then so be it.

February 26, 2014

A guest post by Laura

Originally posted on Homeschoolers’ Anonymous

The 14 years I spent as a student in Bill Gothard’s ATI taught me many valuable lessons for my life. Here are some of the highlights:

* Parents are always right.

* Men are always right. Therefore, your father is double-right.

* Getting out from under the “umbrella of authority” means you will have many problems, including being raped. (Not sure what the warning is for boys who get out from under their umbrellas. I’m a girl so always heard the rape thing.) The fiery darts of Satan will have nothing to stop them from hitting you. We all know that an umbrella is the best possible analogy because their thin, flammable fabric is the perfect substance with which to stop fiery darts.

* If your umbrella – dad or husband – has holes, then Satan will get you unless you pray really hard that they’ll patch up their holes. If you don’t, you’ll probably get raped.

* Family is everything. Except when young people go to a Training Center or Headquarters. Then it’s okay to not be together as a family unit. Or when young people go to Apprenticeship Sessions at Knoxville and make binding vows that their parents know nothing about. That’s okay. You do not need to seek your father’s permission to make such vows that will control what you do the rest of your life. Your father’s permission is implied because he sent you to this Apprenticeship Session.

* Young people, given the option, will always choose the wrong spouse. Therefore, their parents – most of whom chose their own spouse – will choose or at least approve their spouse for them.

* If you date, you’ll have all sorts of problems and can never have a happy marriage. Dating is practice for divorce. Courtship is practice for marriage. If your parents dated and have a happy marriage anyway, it doesn’t matter – dating is still bad and you will get divorced if you date.

* You should court (aka “let your parents pick or approve your spouse”) so you don’t get divorced.

* Talking to a boy is dating him. Especially if either of you have romantic thoughts about the other one. To be on the safe side, it’s best never to talk with young men. (At some Training Centers, talking with a person of the opposite sex for longer than a few seconds, unless it was obviously work-related, was grounds for discipline and/or being sent home.)

* Even thinking about a boy is probably dating him. You should immediately confess any such stray thoughts to your father, ask his forgiveness, and make yourself accountable to him lest you be tempted to have any more thoughts about boys

* If it happens that the boy you are thinking about has already asked your father for your hand, or does so in the future, you will not be informed of this until your father deems it the appropriate time. This means you could spend years fighting attraction to the man you will eventually marry, but it’s still a sin to think these thoughts.

* If you marry the “wrong person,” then after you’re married they become the “right person,” aka God’s new will for your life. You’re stuck. Deal with it. You shouldn’t have dated him anyway, or married him without your parents’ permission. We know you either dated or married without parental blessing or both, because duh, you married the “wrong person” and you would never have done that if you’d courted and gotten your parents’ blessing!

If your parents lead you to marry a guy who’s in the Mafia (yes, this example is in the Basic Seminar, or maybe the Advanced Seminar… it’s been a few years since I watched either of them) then you need to be submissive anyway. Because your parents chose him for you, God will bless your marriage even though he’s in organized crime and likes to beat you when he gets home. You still can’t divorce him.

* Not only should you NEVER EVER EVER marry someone who’s divorced, but you probably shouldn’t marry the *child* of divorced parents.

* The sins of the fathers will be passed down to the children unless a very specific prayer is prayed over said children. We are very blessed to live in a time when we have Bill Gothard to teach us such things. Thousands of years’ worth of Christians simply had to fight inherited sins on their own, without Mr. Gothard to show them the RIGHT way to overcome such things!

* Adoption is bad. You don’t know what “sins of the fathers” are being introduced into your home.

* Birth control is bad. God will give you as many children as you deserve. Susanna Wesley was a favorite example – she had 19 children although less than half of them survived infancy.

* If you can’t have children, then something must be wrong in your life. Clearly God gives many children to those whom he favors. He really loves Mrs. McKim. (Now I’m showing my age… these days it would be Mrs. Duggar!)

* Only have sex between days 15 and 28 of the wife’s menstrual cycle. Days 8-14 are maybe okay, but if you’re trying to be ultra-Godly, or get pregnant, wait until day 15. You want the “seed” as strong as possible.

* It’s not awkward to talk about periods and sex in mixed company when single “fellas” and single “girls” are present in the room, as long as it’s in the Advanced Seminar. Plus, we use terms like “relations” and “monthly cycle” instead of “sex” and “periods,” so we’ll all just pretend we don’t know what we’re talking about so it’s less awkward.

* Tampons will kill you. Toxic shock syndrome and all that. They’re bad. Follow God’s design for your monthly cycle and wear pads.

* Rock music is bad. It will kill your plants and cause you to be demon-possessed. It will also cause you to drink, take drugs, have sex with anyone and everyone, wear jeans, and generally rebel against everything Godly. Rock music with Christian words is even worse.

* If your family visits a restaurant or store that is playing ungodly music, you must ask the server or store employee to turn the music off. If they refuse, then the most Godly thing would be to leave the premises immediately so that your family is not harmed by the ungodly music. Plus, you’ll be a testimony of God’s principles.

* The only okay music is hymns. Classical music is okay as long as it doesn’t have a back beat. But if you’re really Godly, you’ll listen to hymns. Preferably played on a harp. The harp is the most Godly of instruments. After all, David used it to charm the demon out of King Saul. Until King Saul threw a javelin at him. Twice. During harp music.Somehow that part never got talked about when I was in ATI. Forget that. Just listen to harp music anyway.

* Cabbage Patch Kid dolls will cause you to be demon-possessed. They will also cause your mom to have her labor stall, until the doll is found & burned, at which moment, labor will resume and the baby will be born within minutes. (Another anecdote, told in the Basic Seminar I believe.)

* To be on the safe side, better not have My Little Pony, Care Bears, troll dolls, and definitely no souvenirs from Africa such as masks or figurines. You will be demon-possessed. They must be burned. Simply throwing them away is not good enough to break the demon’s power over you. It doesn’t matter if such toys are your child’s favorite toy(s), they must be burned anyway.

* Denim is bad. It’s a sign of rebellion. Even boys should wear Dockers, etc., not denim jeans.

* T-shirts are bad. They’re a sign of rebellion. Only collared shirts are allowed. Therefore, a polo shirt is acceptable attire for “fellas” or girls. A t-shirt is not. (How a girl wearing a polo shirt is not “wearing that which pertaineth to a man,” I don’t know. I never heard that addressed.)

* If you are going to rebel and wear a t-shirt, don’t ever wear one with words or a design on the front. Girls, don’t you know what when a man’s eyes are reading the words or looking at the picture, they’re really checking out your body? You’re going to get raped if you encourage men to read your chest – I mean, shirt – instead of focusing on your bright, Godly countenance.

* Beards are bad. They’re signs of rebellion. (During the 1980′s and part of the 1990′s, if the dad had facial hair, the family would not be allowed to join ATIA/ATI.)

* Men must have short hair that is obviously masculine in style. The best hairstyle for a “fella” causes you to look like your photo – complete with a navy suit – could fit right in to a high school yearbook from the 1950′s.

* Women should have long hair, with gentle curls. If God made your hair straight, then you must curl it. If God made your hair ultra-curly, then you must straighten it. Blonde is the best color. The Principle of Design (accepting your body as God made it) is suspended for hair. Mr. Gothard dyes his hair so apparently hair dye doesn’t violate the 10 Unchangeables regarding physical features or aging.

* Pants or jeans or shorts on women are so bad that I can’t even begin to stress how important this is. Men will lust after your body. You will get raped. (Girls can’t wear pants because they pertaineth to a man, even though men in Bible times wore “dresses” or robes. That was okay, though, because their robes were distinctly masculine in style, so it was still easy to tell at a distance if you were looking at a man or a woman. But pants are never okay on women because they’re too much like men’s garments so you can’t tell from a distance if it’s a man or a woman.)

* Hosiery should be skin-toned and should never have a pattern woven into it. This is an eye trap, and will draw rapists’ – I mean, men’s – eyes from your bright and shining coutenance down to your legs. He will be so busy looking at your patterned hosiery that he may very well rape you without even realizing what he’s doing, and it won’t be his fault, because you were the one wearing the eyetrap.

* The most modest attire for a woman is a navy skirt, a white blouse, and a navy neckbow. Or in later years and/or if you or a close friend have been to Russia, you may wear a black painted Russian pin at your neckline, as the ATI version of a status symbol. (Just don’t let it rain while you’re wearing your modest white blouse, or it becomes… um… less modest and more see-through… maybe *that* is why were were always supposed to be under an umbrella… and Heaven help the full-chested girl whose blouse kept wanting to gap or pop buttons in the wrong place…!)

* You must vow (not promise, but VOW) to never go to a movie theater. Bill Gothard made such a vow when he was a young man, and look how wonderful his life has been! Therefore, you MUST make this same vow.

* You should also commit to fasting regularly, at least on Sundays. Bill Gothard made such a vow when he was a young man, and look how wonderful his life has been! Therefore, you MUST make this same vow.

* You must also vow to read your Bible every day for the rest of your life. At least 5 minutes a day. Bill Gothard made such a vow when he was a young man, and look how wonderful his life has been! Therefore, you MUST make this same vow.

* You must also memorize Scripture. Preferaby by the chapter. Or the book. The most Godly of Godly people memorize the whole New Testament, *and* Psalms, *and* Proverbs. But at least start on Matthew 5, 6, & 7. And Romans 6, 7, 8, & 12. And James 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5. If you memorize random scattered verses, you aren’t Godly enough.

* Simply reading the Bible isn’t enough. You must also *meditate* on Scripture. If you meditate on Scripture, then you will get good grades in school. You will breeze through college. Bill Gothard made such a vow when he was a young man, and look how wonderful his life has been! Therefore, you MUST make this same vow.

Public school is bad. Christian school is almost as bad as public school.Homeschooling is good. Bill Gothard attended public school, and look how… oh, wait, never mind.

* Sunday School is bad. Children’s Institutes are good. Groups of peers are bad. Young people must spend time in groups of all ages. If you insist on attending Sunday School at your church, then you should attend a class as a family, because then your children won’t be tempted to make friends with people their own age.

* Character is the most important thing in life. Education doesn’t matter – just have character. Just have good character and employers will hunt you down and beg you to come work for them. Unless you’re a girl. In which case you’d better not work for anyone but Bill Gothard or your dad, or you will have sex with a co-worker or boss. Or get raped.

* College is bad. Public school is bad. Christian school is bad. Normal homeschooling is okay but less Godly than enrolling in ATI. If a girl goes to college, she’ll almost certainly get raped. Boys who go to college will be taught about how great Satan is. After all, Bill Gothard went to college, and look how… oh, wait. Never mind again.

* The most Godly homes have Scripture posted on the walls. Generic pictures of landscapes or portraits of people were never forbidden, but if you’re *really* Godly, you’ll have Scripture on your walls. Or CharacterFirst! posters.

* It’s okay to teach in public schools, but only if you are teaching the CharacterFirst! materials. Otherwise you should avoid any and all contact with the public schooled, sex-crazed, denim-wearing, rock-music-listening, rebellious youths of the world.

* TV is bad. Horribly, horribly bad.

* The Interent is bad. But since so many of you insist on having it in your home, you should buy protection from CharacterLink. It will cost you a bunch of money every month, and won’t let you see half of the perfectly-legitimate sites you want to visit, but you must spend the money on it anyway. Especially if you have men or boys in the home. Men or boys who are allowed to touch a computer without CharacterLink installed on it will become addicted to porn and will probably become rapists. (Bet this one’s really hard to enforce nowadays, since CharacterLink is no longer owned by ATI, and iPods and iPhones and iPads and their cousins would be incredibly hard to control. I suppose ATI kids these days aren’t allowed access to such technology.)

* If you are visiting friends or relatives who turn on a TV or a computer or do anything else that goes against your Scriptural convictions, including the ones for which you have no Scriptural basis, you must stand alone. You must say, “I’ve given my life to Jesus and I can’t do that.” Sleepovers are probably not a good idea because it’s almost certain that someone will do something to offend you, at which time you must stand alone, and probably call your parents to come pick you up from said sleepover. (A sleepover where the mom decided to hold a seance was the example given. As a mother, I don’t send my children to sleepovers unless I know the parents well enough to trust my child to their care. However, in the example, the parents who sent the child there were never criticized. Rather, the child was praised for refusing to participate in a seance.)

* Whole wheat bread is the answer to all of the world’s health and nutritional needs. It only counts if the wheat was ground *that morning,* the bread was made *that day,* and you eat it *that day.* After all, “give us this day our daily bread” definitely does NOT refer to bread purchased at the grocery store, or even made the day before. White flour will kill you. Whole wheat flour will save your life. Eat lots of whole wheat bread every day. (We have to assume that Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance are the figments of evil people’s imaginations. We’ll never know, since Celiac & gluten intolerance were unheard-of back then. I suppose that if those people were eating whole wheat bread, then they wouldn’t have Celiac Disease. ‘Cause whole wheat bread is the answer to all of the world’s health and nutritional needs.)

* A desire for white bread was a major factor in beginning the French Revolution.

* You’ll know you’re getting enough fiber when your, um, bathroom business floats. (During that Wisdom Booklet and for a time thereafter, our family announced our results to each other after leaving the bathroom.)

* Don’t eat pork. Ever. It’s bad.

* Don’t eat dairy and meat together. It’s bad. No more cheeseburgers, ever. Or milkshakes with a burger. But sometimes we’ll order pizza at our Training Centers, with pepperoni toppings. That’s okay.

* Don’t chew gum. It’s a sign of rebellion since that’s what rebellious teen-agers do.

* Games are a waste of time. Unless it’s Character Clues or Commands of Christ.

* You should avoid any game that teaches you about demons or hell. Except Commands of Christ. Its picture of hell is okay.

* Dungeons and Dragons is a game that must be avoided at all costs. It will cause you to be demon-possessed.

* Folly of any kind is a waste of time and damages your testimony. Avoid all practical jokes. Avoid loud laughter. Your time would be more productively spent reading your Bible, memorizing character qualities, or fasting and praying.

* If you memorize all 49 character quality definitions, including the ones that are so similar that no one but Bill Gothard can differentiate them, then you will not only have such great character that you don’t need college to be successful in life, but you will also beat everyone else in Character Clues. Every time. Just don’t be proud of that fact, or you obviously don’t have Humility. Since very character quality has a Bible verse reference on its card, you know they came straight from the Bible.

* There are seven non-optional principles of life. Aren’t we lucky – oops, can’t say “lucky” – fortunate – no, can’t say that either – BLESSED to live in this time of history when Bill Gothard has figured out what these seven non-optional principles are? We are so much better off than people like the Apostle Paul, becuase he didn’t have Bill Gothard to help him know how to live.

* If you reject the way God made you – any of the 10 Unchangeables – then you will be bitter and have a horrible life. (“Principle of Design”)

If you get out from under your umbrella of authority, the boogeyman will get you and you will be either demon-possessed, raped, or both. (“Principle of Authority”)

* If you don’t meditate on Scripture, your life will be mediocre at best. (“Principle of Success”)

* If you zone out during most of the Basic Seminar and fifteen years later can only remember three of the seven non-optional principles of life, then you are surely doomed!!

* Bitterness is the root problem in this world. You need to learn how to draw little checkerboard diagrams with castles, so you can remove the strongholds of bitterness that Satan has in your life, and so that you can then teach other people how to clear their checkboard souls of Satan’s castles.

* If I, as a 12-year-old student, followed these principles in my life, then not only was I qualified to teach adults how to solve their marriage and financial and business problems, but the leaders of Russia would practically fall on their faces to worship me as a Godly young lady attired in modest navy and white with a navy neckbow. Or I might even be given a walkie-talkie to carry around at Knoxville!

“Bright eyes” are the ultimate expression of one’s spirituality. One can accurately gauge the depths of another person’s commitment to Christ by looking at their eyes. If their eyes are “dark,” then they clearly listen to rock music and therefore have given all sorts of ground to Satan and have strongholds all over their checkerboard soul. (Note: native Russian speakers have since clarified that “bright eyes” is the translation of a Russian idiom meaning that a person is happy. It has much more to do with one’s emotional state than with one’s spiritual state.)

* If someone compliments you on anything, from having “bright eyes” to playing the violin in church, you must deflect the praise. The best praise-deflectors can turn every compliment into an opportunity to thank God (for the musical talent), but of course one must also praise one’s parents (for paying for the violin lessons) and one’s teacher (for teaching so skillfully and diligently). No compliment is ever to be answered with a simple “Thank you.” That would be prideful.

* If you’re enrolled in ATI and have learned all of these Godly principles, then you don’t really need to go to church. The only reason you would go to church is to minister to others. Or be a testimony to them. Since you can’t subject your family to the evils of rock music, if your church has compromised to the point of allowing such music, you must either stand up and leave as soon as a rock beat starts, or if this is a regular occurrence, you must time your arrival at church to coincide with the end of the song service so that your family will not be exposed to the evil rock beat. If a rock beat is used during the invitation time as well, then you must leave at the end of the sermon. Because a large, floral-jumper- or navy-suit-clad family parading in and out of church to avoid the back beat is a definite testimony of God’s principles at work in your life.

* When you are in church, you don’t really need to listen to the sermon, because you know all of these non-optional principles, therefore you are wise – wiser than your teachers, which includes the pastor of your church. Anything your pastor or anyone else says that is in opposition to the teachings of IBLP/ATI is clearly wrong. If possible, such a preacher or teacher should be lovingly confronted with the truth, as taught in the big red textbooks and/or Wisdom Booklets. (Presumably one never becomes wiser than their primary teachers, their parents. Because parents are always right.)

If you are persecuted for your Godly testimony or standards and/or for shoving such testimony or standards down other people’s throats, rejoice! And be exceeding glad! For great is your reward in Heaven.

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