Bill Gothard’s weekly marriage class was run by Pastor John Hartzell and his young protégé, Chuck Raichert in a little Independent Fundamental Baptist Church in Bloomington, Minnesota. Normandale Baptist was the name. The seminar was called Rebuilder’s and was all about loving Jesus Christ so much that your husband or wife simply rushed back into your arms and lived happily ever after. The only problem, it never worked that way. It merely created religious zombies with strict principles.
Mama was one of these zombies. She would have hours of “conversation” with my dad over the phone. She never let him speak. You knew when he tried by the rise in the volume of her voice and then, when he obviously shut his mouth, her voice would lower again. She would preach at him and tell him what Bill Gothard said about marriage. He wanted none of it.
One principle Billy Boy G. put forth was the idea that a husband and wife was married for life. This meant that, even if a woman was divorced from her man, she still must wear the ring and call him her husband. She could never remarry. Divorce was the scarlet letter but remarriage was the act that got you burned at the stake.
So, his wife Mama was, which meant we had to keep attending the little American Lutheran church down the street from us because it was my father’s church. I loved this little church. It teemed with life on Sundays and was bright and airy. An old brick building with a steep roof and a bell tower that was rung three times before a service and another three times after. Sunday school was up a few flights of stairs in the bell tower and run by an old lady who always gave us Kool-Aid and cookies. We learned nothing but colored a lot.
Then, we would go into the sanctuary that smelled like candles, sing and chant from the green tome on the back of every pew, go up and kneel in front of the altar, sticking out our tongues. Pastor Eric Strand would lay his hand on my head and bless me, then lay a wafer on my tongue, give me a sip of wine from the chalice in his hand, smile warmly, and move on. I loved Eric Strand. He was one of the warm bright spots in my life and even loved a good sauerkraut and peppered rutabagas.
And we got pinched.
Mama would bring little sandwich baggies of cheerios and raisins, which actually was a brilliant idea in my book, and satiated us with them. But when the food ran out, as any group of seven kids would do, we fidgeted. She would pinch us on our legs, our shoulders, our backs, really, anywhere that was below the pew. I hated the pinches but I loved to fidget more. If pinches didn’t work, we were lined up and beaten when we got home.
Comments open below
I am a 30 something husband of one and father of 6 dynamic and loud children. My wife and I are still madly in love – at least in my view. My world is exciting, tense, and full of life. I love to write and hope to one day, do it full time. – Incongruous Circumspection
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