Friday, April 29, 2011

And She Walked Away....


photo by andrewrennie in flickr

Thursday afternoon I experienced the best phone call an ex-cult member can receive: a friend escaped the cult.

She and her fiance made a mad dash for the courthouse to be wed (much to the cult pastor's horror I am sure). As she was forced to live in the cult pastor's house since birth I am sure this took might courage and to say the least, cunning planning on she and her fiance's part.

God bless you, friend, wherever you are and fill you to the full brimming of gladness and joy.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Guest Post: Desperately Seeking Validation by Eric Buckner

Lonely in crowd
"Lonely in Crowd" by Camillia Greve

What exactly is the deal with everyone seeking everyone else's approval lately? Why does it seem that I'm left out of the loop with this trend? Is it because I'm getting older? As I look around me, many of those that care the most are at least a decade my elder, so no, that's not the answer. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't want you to think that I'm out for no good. Truth be told though, I don't really NEED your approval. If you don't like me for who I am, then you can just kiss me where the good Lord split me. This doesn't mean that I will try to hurt you or anyone else. If you respect me for who I am, "great" I say, but I'm not going to go out of my way to try to make anyone like me for something I'm not.

Being comfortable in oneself is an acquired ability. It is either something that you can develop on your own or its something that can be pressured onto you from others. My apathy was formed by the latter of these two. I was not popular in Elementary school, not really having many friends. I had a horrible self-image and who wants to be around a kid like that? Who wants their child to be around a kid like that? I had a chemical imbalance at this age and I was a true odd ball as far as other kids were concerned. I always had one foot in the fantasy world and one tenuous foot within the realm of reality.

Middle school was even worse for me. I was enrolled into an even larger school, with kids that I hadn't ever met before. They either didn't know about my imbalance or they ridiculed me for the problem. Every day was a constant session in harassment. I became one of the misfits; why not, they didn't have self-esteem either. Its tough to find a bond with someone that doesn't have good self-esteem, not impossible, of course, just tough.

When High school moved around, our family, by the grace of God, moved out to a different school system. This high school had a fifth of the amount of students in its halls. I didn't have a reputation of being an outcast, so I tried to fit in and it felt good, for a little while, about a month or two. Suddenly, I was asking myself, is it worth it to seek their validation? What exactly is in it for me? Their kinship with me just felt superficial, I was a teenager, that's what I had in common with them. I couldn't live the way I wanted and I was unhappy. I had to live all the time in reality and that was confining to me. So I gave up trying to fit in, I was unhappy in trying to be somebody that I'm not. Even if I was only trying a little bit to be someone they wanted, I felt horrible, a fake, a phony.

William Shakespeare said it best, "To thine own self be true", because if you spend your life trying to make everyone else happy, where will you ever find time for yourself? Our lives are only a mere hundred years long, if we're lucky, why do we care about those that don't really care about us? To be honest, there is only one person in this world that I really care about how she feels about me and that's my wife, I have to sleep with her. I love her with all my heart and I know that she cares about me. Everybody else in this world is just one gigantic question mark. I'm sure if I had children, I would care about what they thought of me, but nobody else. I love my family and I love her family, but if someone from either family didn't love me back, it wouldn't kill me. This makes me free from judgment, I just don't care. I don't care if others see me as "a good person" because truth be told, I'm human, just like everybody else.

It is this apathy, this pure absence of caring that I believe makes me either a lovable, a respectful, and/or just a flat out happier person. You must set your priorities straight. Please, for your own good, ask yourselves the following questions. If you want, don't even discuss them, just meditate on them.

Who is it that you TRULY want to respect you?

Can you respect yourself for who you are?

Have you lost contact (or just social intimacy) with those that you honestly NEED their respect?

With Christian Love,

Eric Buckner

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My Two Cents of Good Reading for Easter

escape reality
"escape reality" by ghostonstage in flickr

Demythologzing "Radical Christianty"
by Chaplain Mike @ Imonk

The Necessary Non-Hallmark Part of Easter
by Ann Voskamp @ Holy Experience

The Cross and the Crucifix
by EE @ Elizabeth Esther

Rethinking Fundamental Literalism
by Lewis Wells @ Commandments of Men

by Eric Pazdziora @ Words and Music by Eric Pazdziora

Repost:The Manipulative Power of Peace by Lewis Wells

Raven's Call by This Year's Girl in Etsy
  Through several weeks Commandments of Men blogger Lewis Wells has and will be sharing the story of courtship and ultimate loss of a daughter of Patriarchy.

Lewis wrote a brilliant post concerning ill-gotten peace and the manipulative effects for The Cult Next Door in July of 2010:

Show of hands...

Who among you has based a decision solely on whether or not you had "peace" about it? (my hand is raised)

Who among you has rationalized or justified a decision solely because "God gave me a peace about it"? (my hand is again raised)

Peace is a beautiful thing. It's to be desired. It's also, against every platitude that's ever been instilled in those of us of the Christian faith, sometimes worth the fight that precedes it. When that very important aspect of the pursuit of peace gets left out of the equation, peace can become a very, very dangerous manipulative tool in the hands of the spiritually abusing. Even those who abuse unwittingly. The idea that peace can be used as a benchmark or plumbline in decision making isn't a biblical one. Disagree? You believe there's biblical evidence for this? Okay then, let's examine some prime biblical figures...

Moses...Oh, umm, wait, we can't use him. He tried to come up with every excuse in the book to avoid God's purposes. He was scared to death of his calling.

Abraham...Hmmm...We'd have to dodge the Ishmael thing and the offering Isaac thing.

Jacob...Doh! The man's name meant "swindler", and was changed to Israel only after spending his entire life swindling and an entire night wrestling with God, for which he was allowed to limp for the rest of his life. He sounds desperate to me.

David...Now we're on to something, err, or not. I forgot about those Psalms where he's pleading with God and his skin is hanging off his bones.


Elijah...Curled up in the fetal position under a broom tree, which is little more than a glorified tumbleweed.


Wait! I've got one! (drumroll)....Jesus!...Jesus, right?!...No?...Gethsemane? You mean when He was is distress and despair, sweating blood, pleading with the Father that if there were any other way? And just think - Christ had the Spirit of God, the Comforter, without measure.
There's an enormous case to be made for obedience in these examples, even if some of it was more eventual than immediate, but little evident peace.

Now, if you're wondering why I consider peace a manipulative tool (the "peace" game, as I call it), allow me to try to explain it. Authoritarian teachers like Bill Gothard, the Vision Forum crowd, and all associated with the Shepherding movement - essentially, any group or system which operates on a hierarchical authority pyramid or structure - have long taught that you make decisions based on being "at peace" with it. They base this belief on the following scripture...

Colossians 3:15: "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful."

More accurately, this teaching is based on this prooftext from the above scripture: "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts." That prooftext, standing alone, looks like clear, "biblical" evidence that we are to use "peace" as a barometer and benchmark in our decision making, i.e., "I have peace, therefore it's the right decision", or, "I don't have peace about this...I must be doing something wrong." Sadly, this passage from Colossians 3 is not even vaguely implying any such thing. If one reads the whole passage, one can clearly see that Paul is speaking on interactions with fellow believers - being loving, forgiving, living in peace, et cetera. It in no way, shape, or form applies to decision making. Unfortunately, this line of thinking has seeped even into mainstream, non-abusive churches, becoming a regular part of the Christianese language.

This is where the "peace" game comes into play. In an authoritarian system, one has to clear decisions and life choices with an authority figure. For those who don't know, I lost my bride, on the threshold of our wedding ceremony, to a patriocentric/hyper-fundamentalist/Christian Islamic family. Her father, and his like-minded cohorts, believe in an authority hierarchy. For women, it's brutal. They MUST be under the authority of a man and in submission. Her father felt it was her obligation to be submissive to him - even in her mid 20s. She ultimately succumbed to the emotional manipulation, abuse, and brainwashing, paralyzed to move forward with her life and plans without his permission and approval. In the final two days of our relationship, she was bombarded with 26 incoming calls from authoritarians, all of whom played the "peace" game on her.

Now, place yourself in her shoes: You've never made independent decisions, you've been indoctrinated with "Submit! Submit! Submit!" your whole life, you've been raised to believe that your dad is God's conduit into your life - and anything God has to say to you will come through him, your family's circle is small and like-minded, and the people in it are trusted because they're what you know, then, a man comes into your life, you fall in love with him, new truths begin to be revealed about all you've known, you then begin to reject what you've known, despite the pain it causes you, and you stand on the threshold of losing everything and everyone you've known in choosing to seek the last minute, these long-trusted friends, who you've always believed and been instructed are "over" you in the spiritual food chain, call you and say, "I'm so scared for you. I think you need to pray about this some more. Rest and pray."

Do you see what they've done there?

In those few words, they've conveyed the message that they disapprove, the urge to pray conveys the message that God disapproves, and in creating a mindset of "What do they see that I'm missing?! Why don't they have peace about this?!", they've very successfully, and very subtly, shifted the true benchmark for any decision that follows away from pleasing God...and focused it solely on making a choice that they demonstrate "peace" with and approval of, because they have usurp God in the mindset. They've made their decision for her, yet in such a way as she never realizes it. They've manipulated their outcome of choice - and God had nothing to do with it. At the same time, they haven't outright told her "No!", and this protects the abusers illusion of "Who, Me?" innocence, and strengthens the belief of the abused that there's been no abuse. Emotional leverage has been created and used with the cunning of a serpent. Pressure, release, repeat as necessary.

This happens every day. In cults, Shepherding movement groups, authoritarian groups, patriarchal/Christian Islamic families, and even in individual relationships.

What happens is, such emotional turmoil and tumult is built up within the abused, being so knocked out of balance, questioning themselves, their own motives, their own godliness, their own worth,"Can this be right?! I can't risk losing everything and end up wrong! I just can't!" Then...defeated submission. The abuser, having persevered, releases the applied pressure and switches to love-bombing and "healing", and with the pressure released, and with such a "loving" environment now created...the illusion of peace. But it's a false peace. Much like a volcano, after years, decades, even centuries of inner turmoil, blows it's top, releasing the pent up pressure, and in the following days, after the tumult of the blast has died down and the damaged has been assessed, the illusion of peace exists on the surface. But underneath...the earth still churns, and pressure is already building once again.

It's enough to make one rethink "God gave me a peace about it."

Look at it this way - if the greatest recorded events in the bible couldn't have transpired until the involved parties had peace about it, the bible wouldn't be very thick. False peace can be an enticing elixir, a beautiful facade, and a restful mirage, especially to a starved, battered, and troubled soul, because it's our habit to put our peace in the wrong place, the easy place, and base it on the wrong things. We reach temporal peace with the perceived outcome of our decisions far too often, instead of finding our peace in an unchanging God and his beautiful, life-giving words, trusting Him to care for us regardless of outcomes. What's right is right, whether we're at peace or in turmoil. Earlier I spoke of Christ in Gethsemane. He did reach a peace, but not with the situation. He found His peace, which would realistically have to be described as a "troubled" peace, in trusting the words and plan of His Father. (Matthew 26:52)

How easily we forget that there's another spiritual force at work on this earth that can create the illusion of peace to steer us in the direction he prefers. A false peace. Ask Ahab. He can tell you all about it, or at least he could if it hadn't killed him. It's also sobering to think of the platform the son of perdition will use to make his grand entrance onto the world stage...a false peace. The great manipulator certainly knows how to use it.

Don't discard or marginalize your emotions, whatever they may be, whether peace or turmoil, but do yourself a favor and measure them by God's word and NEVER by human approval. There are far too many people who are far too willing to subtly make your decisions for you, both well-meaning and not so well meaning. Sometimes the genuine, lasting peace requires turmoil.

Some things to think about. While you're thinking, my hope is you'll find peace in God alone.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Repost: Dancing Despite Dade City

print for sale by ThisYearsGirl in etsy

A friend and I recently spoke of the 'conditioning' that sometimes lies subtly dormant in the minds of ex-cult members.

Conditioning being, according to the encyclopedia Britannica:

"Conditioning is a form of learning in which...a given stimulus...becomes increasingly effective in evoking a response... a response occurs with increasing regularity..."

Any questioning of the authority in a Dade City cult elicited sharp and swift consequences. The 'errant' member had 'touched God's anointed mouth piece' according to the cult leader. Public humiliation in church services were the effective tool in 'evoking' a response'.

Who wanted to to be held up as an example of shame in the midst of their peers? Silence was safe; so "a response occurs with increasing regularity" was the silent submission to the cult leader's will.

Now, as we voice loudly and often our dissent with the abusive practices, a 'knee-jerk' conditioning trigger hops in the way of the stretching of our atrophied muscles of speaking aloud wrongs committed.

However, we shan't be stopped in our dance of freedom. We speak the truth, in the faith of God's love, extended even to the flagrant abuser, and dance in the gladness of truth.

We even hope, should God be merciful, that the abuser finds themselves dancing to tune of God-given freedom and mercy.

A fearful, 'conditioned' muscle might put a slight crimp in our joyous bound, but we dance to the words of truth anyway.

Because truly, only by speaking out will the abuse's effectiveness be silenced.

As only by stretching and dancing will the stiff muscle become limber and supple once more.

 11-12 You did it: you changed wild lament
      into whirling dance;
   You ripped off my black mourning band
      and decked me with wildflowers.
   I'm about to burst with song;
      I can't keep quiet about you.
   God, my God,
      I can't thank you enough. (Psalm 30:11, The Message)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"It is an ever-fixed mark..."

Couple by peanutbutterbandit in Etsy

I had to stop reading Commandments of Men at work. Twice I have had to dive into the bathroom while no one was looking to dry my tears.

In the last few weeks Lewis has been sharing his experience of growing in love with a beautiful woman and then losing her to Patriarchy (almost literally) at the alter.

I have no personal experience with the Patriarchal movement but the cult I was enslaved in reads hellishly close to the madness. I understand the paralyzing indecision his bride must have experienced as she struggled between "God's will for her life" as dictated by her family and the beautiful love and life that her groom offered.

Even though I know what her choice will be I find myself hoping, HOPING that the ending has changed. That she will choose the absolute love of her groom. And wiping tears once more as I know she will not.

Maybe that is how God Himself feels when we choose religion or works over His divine and unending love.
Thank you, Lewis, for your willingness to bare your heart-break so that others may be made aware of dangerous beliefs and practices. I pray that the God of all comfort stays close by your side.

"I found her innocence beautiful. Also, it became very clear to me that she didn't care who I was, who I knew, what I did for a living, or how many (ignorant) people would want my autograph. I can't put into words how attracted to her that made me, as that was something I'd always wanted...
"...On the day she was to fly here (for our soon upcoming ceremony), her last words to me were "Love you. See you soon." Two hours later, her grandfather called me and said, "She's not coming, and doing so on MY strong advice." He proceeded to say several extremely hurtful, intrusive, meddlesome, and ignorant things, telling me the various ways I was responsible for the situation. It was a good old fashioned Christian "eff U" coming from a good old fashioned Christian a-hole. He made it clear that if I made the venture across the continent to get her, "You'll be met with unfriendly faces if you do it!" Unless they'd hired some serious muscle, I wasn't worried about facing the whole lot of those fools. The reason I didn't go was that I knew it'd be pointless. They'd have her hidden somewhere. And, sure enough, a week later, I was able to locate her (and I won't disclose how). She was in another state, holed up with another group of patriarchal imbiblers and religious fools, being reindoctrinated but convinced, by them, that she was "waiting to hear from God about the situation."

Lewis, your love for your lost bride is stunningly beautiful and I see in it shades of Christ's love for His church.

I wish I could quote this sonnet to the young lady:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever love

God bless you, Lewis