The sheer proliferation of christian fundamentalist blogs never ceases to amaze me. From the truly bizarre Under $1000 per Month, to the apparently innocuous musings of Maxwell family or Botkins sisters, they are all out there.
But equally, the list of opponents and leavers is growing too. From the Redheaded Skeptic to Razing Ruth, the sad underbelly of the reality is becoming apparent. Nowhere is this more evident than on No Longer Quivering, which from beginning to end, is full of painful stories and painful realities.
There is without doubt two sides to every story: and I am sure most of those that remain often do have good reasons for doing so and have happy lives and happy children. But equally, and perhaps more disturbingly, those that do leave, often times have stories of great pain and great abuse. And all share at least one thing: what was done to them, was, either directly or indirectly, encouraged by their faith. Many of them too, felt obligated to stay in their situation because of their faith.
I have heard it said on many of the fundamentalist blogs that these stories are from individuals that never truly had the faith to begin with: and therefore they had a "false" experience: god was not with them.
I don't believe so.
All these women, children (and yes, some men), truly believed what they preached. In many cases they worshipped along side those that stayed: they shared meals, cooking, sewing and homeschooling tips and childcare. They believed and practised most of the same things that those that stay do. They weren't more or less legalistic. They were YOU!
But something did not work for them. Often times the power and control that is given to men in the movement is abused, and in turn the women and children bear the brunt. Elders, deacons and pastors often overlook warning signs, or let off with a light warning. More often than not, however, the warning signs are missed because they are well hidden by all involved. Family image and presentation is very important to many fundamentalists: children are trained from a young age to be quiet and still in church, and "first time obedience" is an essential, and a highly praised trait. Thus any issues within a family lie silent and buried, and woe betide anyone who speaks up and presents another, less stellar reality, or seeks to question the illusion.
In many cases, wives (along with any number of children) chose to stay with these abusive men for years: they believe that either:
a) they have no other choice.
b) that by showing god's love/grace/forgiveness that they can change/fix things
c) that staying with an abusive husband is more preferable than divorce.
These are not women that tried the lifestyle for a year and dropped out. These are women that stayed at it for many years: in some cases had many children/ were pastor's wives/ ran Sunday School/ran newsletters. They didn't question the faith; they truly believed: enough to put their bodies, friends, family and minds on the line.
So to say to them that those years were wasted? To say that all their hard work is irrelevant because they left your church due to your lack of support because they left the male in their life whom abused them? It's wrong. It's a disgrace. And it is above all, appalling.
As for me? And my experience? I would like to think that I had the "faith". I forgave. I prayed. I worshipped. I believed. I read. I was saved. I had spiritual experiences, and I believed god answered my prayers. I was, and did, all these things and more. I wasn't faking it.
But ultimately? I came to the conclusion that it wasn't for me. I had too many questions, and the bible had too many answers. I wanted to learn to live with the questions instead of knowing all the answers.
And I have. The funny thing is, I am happy in my questions. I don't need the answers. I am happy with the stillness of my mind. With indeed, the questions that have no answers.