One of the biggest issues when you leave Quiverfull, or Evangelicalism or any version of Fundamentalism is what you believe upon leaving. Do you pick yourself up, dust off and find another church, or do you sit and ponder awhile before making those very real and difficult decisions? What is your core bedrock belief and how are you willing to exercise that?
We’ve all read the stories here of people leaving, of rocks hurtled by former friends, of the shunning, the manipulations and every imaginable bad behavior by people claiming to follow Christ. When you step away your church family tends to go completely nuclear toxic to former members. But what happens when you engage in another faith community that claims to be different than the one you left?
I have a friend, I’m going to call her Alice, that I’m watching her go through the difficult journey of where she is on the scale of faith, or no faith. This is her fourth church after leaving Quiverfull. She no longer speaks “Christianese”, she does not pretend to be anything other than another human with all the faults and foibles as everyone else.
The last month she’s experienced significant harassment by those at this new church. It started innocently enough, she made a Facebook post involving mercy towards others of different races and countries. A guy I am going to call Tweedle Dee decided to post after her, telling her that she didn’t know what she was talking about. That certain cultures and colors were demonic. She chose to ignore his comment.
This really miffed off Tweedle Dee, and he rallied his Facebook troops to spam this woman how wrong she was. Again, she ignored it. She’d never once spoken with Dee in church. He’d never once deigned to lower himself to speak actually to her, just her boyfriend.
Alice kept on ignoring, right up until about a week ago. She was sick, she was tired, but she attended a church function with her boyfriend. Dee was there. He didn’t speak to her at all.
As Alice was climbing into her car Dee’s buddy Tweedle Dum came running up and accused her of making a very rude hand gesture at Dee. She was upset, telling Dum that she didn’t do that at all, but Dum got very insulting and nasty. Alice told Dum to do a biologically impossible task and drove off.
Dum is a piece of work. He’s tried a number of times to overthrow the pastor. He complains constantly behind the pastor’s back about the pastor and theology, seeking to manipulate the basic theology of the church. He’s driven a few church splits, yet acts very righteous and nice in front of the pastor. Dum also loves to spew sexual innuendo all the time, and when asked not to says he was ‘just kidding’
Alice gets home, feels bad about all of this, so she sends Dee an email reiterating that she did not make a rude hand gesture. She tells Dee that it is okay if they do not agree on social issues, and that she wants no trouble. Let’s forgive and forget. She swallows her pride and seeks to be the bigger person.
What she receives back is the type of self-righteous missive you might expect from a fundamentalist instead of the very young Tweedle Dee. He says he forgives her, then proceeds to spew every kind of judgement against her, ending with claiming she’s no Christian and he’ll see her removed from the ministry she is part of.
She ends contact, and blocks Dee after receiving seven or eight of those missives.
This is where I come in, Alice turns to me and asks what she did wrong. I had to tell her she did nothing wrong. She’s a woman using a loud strong voice to defend others. That’s the problem.
Notice that the detractors are all male, trying desperately to shut down the voice of a woman with threats of God. This is one of the tricks of a patriarchal belief, even if this is a church that is supposed to be liberal leaning.
Patriarchal men do not like women who will not cower, who will fight back, who will stand up for what they believe in. They can only see women in subordinate positions, propping up their own weak masculinity. In their eyes every woman is theirs to correct and reprove.
I asked Alice what she planned on doing. She said she’d already told someone in church leadership about the initial happening, so they are aware that very middle school things happened. Leadership just nodded and said yes, they’d also experienced some of the same things from others.
But this is the litmus test of all of this faith journey of her’s at this place. I tried to gently point out that the Dees, Dums and others of this church had already failed a few litmus tests, never helping out when she was sick, never acknowledging her presence, and never being involved in any project or ministry that does not allow them to self-aggrandize.
It’s unlikely that anything good will come of this. Perhaps the pastor might step in, and tell the Dums and Dees to back off, and go do something useful.But it’s just as likely that she is told to behave like a Good Christian Lady. She’ll have to come to a decision either way, to stay or go.
If it were me I would likely go. Nothing is worth the abuse of others like this.
Learning boundaries, appropriate behavior from others and putting your own emotional and spiritual needs first is something we do not do well in the aftermath of walking away from Quiverfull. Sometimes we stray into these unhealthy churches, or even secular organizations because it’s what we know. I’ve heard Alice’s story told about atheist organizations, about even recovery groups. The question this brings up is how do we make sure we don’t go from the frying pan of abusive church to another abusive organization? I’m afraid I don’t have answers for that one. What would you suggest?
How is any of the behavior of the guys “Christ honoring”?
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