Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Memoirs of a Recovering Fundamentalist

I have been doing a lot of thinking these past few weeks. I have had a great opportunity to as I have been in NC, and without a job since January...long story...but anyway, it has afforded me a lot of time to think - a lot of time to study - to do some "house-cleaning" in my brain...

I have long feared making decisions - perhaps that's why the last year has been so loopy for us - I could never make a final decision about what was right or wrong in regards to where to live, work, etc. But, that's another blog, because this one is about the fear of decisions...

Now, I'm not like my friend, who has the hardest time in the world deciding what to eat when we go out; no, my problem is much more serious. I have a hard time with big decisions, with important decisions...and even when I make a decision, I end up second guessing it to death...ever heard the phrase "beating a dead horse"? Yeah, I am out there still kicking the skeleton as it turns to dust most of the time...

So, where did this problem originate? As best as I can tell, besides some family issues that I faced - being incredibly independent with a super-strict mom - most of it came from being immersed in the Independent Fundamental Baptist church from the time I was about 14 until my early 20s...the church I attended as a teen wasn't always like that - but for several years, when some people split with another church in town - over I think the wearing of a bedroom shoe to their Christian school instead of a uniform shoe - they came and basically took over our church...and BOY, did things change...

They started teaching things like women can't wear pants, all music is wrong unless it's 'old-timey' Gospel music accompanied by a piano, the KJV 1611 is the ONLY version of the Bible in English that is "God-inspired," and on and on...I was immediately picked out by these people - and I never really understood why until I was older - as being a sinner - a "bad girl" - a slut... I wasn't, but they sure believed I was... and as I said, it wasn't until years later that it finally registered that they didn't like how outspoken and independent I was...I was a threat to their very way of church...what do I mean?

Well, see, a church like that counts on ONE thing to keep going - the submission of its members and the absolute authority of its leaders - and when you have one like me, who thinks for herself, who questions everything, who wants to know the truth - that is a threat...I wasn't "submissive" enough; I wasn't "quiet" enough; I wasn't "compliant" enough...so, in these peoples' minds, I MUST have been of Satan...

I eventually fell into that line of thinking, that there WAS something wrong with me...that I was somehow flawed - more than others - and not just with "sin" as all people are, but with something Devilish, horrible, and evil...so, what did I try to do? I tried to "fix" it - I changed who I was entirely...started wearing dresses all the time, started carrying my KJV Bible to school, changed my music, my readings, and on and on...and eventually, of course, wanting to be accepted and loved, decided to go to the "best" Baptist college there was (according to these people) - and I went to Hyles-Anderson College in Crown Point, Indiana...it was there the real damage was done...

We were told from the beginning how insignificant and horrible we were - how useless our Christian testimony was - (at least until we were in our 40s, then they MIGHT consider us to have some measure of success)...we were told that we had to do everything the leaders told us to do. We were told NOT to EVER think for ourselves, for if we did, we would just be tricked by Satan - since our hearts are desperately wicked...so, how were we to think? We were to gather a group of counselors - Fundamental Independent Baptist counselors - and always run what we were thinking or deciding by them, and only do as they said...we were worked for hours and hours every day. We attended classes; we went soul-winning, we worked in the bus ministry (bringing in the poor kids from the ghettos of Chicago to church), we had chapel five times a week, church three times a week, dorm devotions seven times a week, bus ministry meetings four times a week, and more...we were lucky to get 4-5 hours sleep a night. The cafeteria didn't cook or serve food on the weekends, (although NO ONE went home from the college), they figured they didn't need to since 98% of the student were working in a ministry - they made bag lunches that we could grab, but inevitably, we ended up giving out food to the bus kids who were poorer and hungrier than we..many of us got physically sick from all of that...and if one tried to leave? HA! Every chapel service, every church service, every dorm devotion, every bus meeting, every time there was ANY kind of group meeting for the month before Christmas break, the leaders either played a recording or read a letter from someone who had "left Hyles-Anderson" and it had ruined their life...if you knew someone was planning on leaving, you were encouraged to "turn them in" to the proper leaders so they could be "talked to." And I was turned in - and I was talked to - told that if I left Hyles-Anderson that I would be forever sorry, that it would ruin my life...that it was all Satan...I left anyway - had no choice due to money - Thank-God! (There's so much more to this, but we'll call this "part ONE" for now...)

I didn't realize it at the time, but that was brainwashing...it was a cult...

After years and years of removal from that situation (Thank-God he got me out), and after therapy, and after much soul-searching, Bible reading, and just observation - I realize that I was robbed of something in those years - I was robbed of ME...and it has taken me years to get even part of "me" back...I left Hyles-Anderson when I was 18; I am 44 now; and I am still recovering from it...

Many of my friends have laughed at me, teased me, said, Come on, Tammy, all that was stupid, get over it." But they didn't understand...I had honestly begun to wonder if anyone would ever understand...and while counseling with a dear friend, she said to me, "Tammy, have you looked at the horror stories from that place?" I hadn't in several years, so I did last night...and I was up until three a.m. - and started reading again this morning when I got up...

SO many people have been damaged not only by Hyles-Anderson, but by similar churches...so much pain, so much destruction...people who can't think on their own, people who can't function on their own, people who are broken - all because their very sense of identity was taken away...their very relationship with God was taken away...

Then the really horrible stories appear - the girls and boys who were molested, who were raped, who were taken advantage of because of these people...the pastor of the church from Hyles-Anderson, Jack Schaap - a man whom I admired, who was my Bible teacher while I was in college there - was sentenced to 12 years in Federal Prison for having sexual relations (and crossing state lines) with a sixteen-year-old girl...that's bad enough...but the part that makes me the sickest is HOW he did it...when she questioned him about it, he told her it was "God's will" that she be with him...that "Jesus Christ wanted them to be together sexually." He used his complete authority over her to convince her that he was "God's spokesman" and that she couldn't and shouldn't think for herself...that is sick...

And that is where I find myself...no, I was never physically molested by these people, thank-God for that, but my mind and soul was raped, I was brainwashed from a person into a shell - and it has taken 25 years to get to the point where I can even say that publicly. I wrote a memoir about it in 2006, but have shared it with precious few... Why so long? Fear...fear that Satan was tricking me, fear that God would kill me - give me cancer or something - that God would kill my children (that's the kinds of threats they use constantly)...fear of repercussions from these people, fear of losing people as "friends" that I have known my whole life...and truthfully, this post might "run off" some people - for I still know quite a few who adhere to that religion - they follow its leaders as if they were God himself...their leaders have had affairs, have been divorced and remarried, have been hateful and liars and arrogant...but yet, they still follow them blindly...truly believing these men are right...are God's spokesmen...and it's pathetic...

I am a recovering fundamentalist...it is still very difficult at times for me, but I will make it...and I will tell my story to help others out of that mind-prison, that brainwashing that steals your very self...

3 comments:

  1. Can I just say, THANK YOU GOD, for MONEY PROBLEMS?! :) (And for downtime that allows you to go excavating for splinters buried deep!) What a waste it would be if you let this cult steal one more minute of freedom or gram of joy from your life! Paul says it best: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Gal. 5:1) Excited for you, praying for you, love you!

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  2. My Dear Sister, I am so Blessed by the Fact that you are literally shouting this from the Mountain tops! GOD is cheering you on! I love you, Pray for you and Encourage you!

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  3. You're not alone. Here is my story about coming away from IFB, fundamentalism, and the like: http://beautifulinhistime.com/about-me/the-wilderness-between-legalism-and-grace-a-blog-series/

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