Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dead Air Church: Ex-fundies rock!

At left: A mere fraction of the copious religious propaganda that has been foisted on me here in fundamentalist Bob Jones University-land. My favorite is in the lower left of the frame, the million dollar bill with Charles Spurgeon on it. (Accept no substitutes!)

I recently discovered Stuff Fundies Like, when my blog was linked on one of their threads. Yow, thought Daisy, what kind of fundies quote ME? I was surprised, to say the least.

And now I know: These are the kind of fundies that quote me!

These are the EX-fundies. And it turns out, there are droves of them! Who knew? (Well, of course, the eager-beaver tract-distributors don't tell you about THEM, now do they?)

And... let me tell you: they are beautiful people.

Stuff Fundies Like (SFL) routinely gets hundreds of comments... and it is the comments and participation that drives the community. They are all over the lot, furious ex-fundies, funny ex-fundies (they are often quite hilarious in describing the lifestyle, creed, expectations), as well as those who desperately want to exit fundamentalism, but can't seem to figure out how to do it. Fundamentalist Christianity (and ALL fundamentalism, by extension) traps people; if they were raised in it, they don't understand the ways of the world. Everyone they know is like them. They have been told the world is evil and wicked, and they don't know which outsiders to trust. As a result, Stuff Fundies Like has become a warm and friendly surrogate family, extremely crucial and sorely needed.

Through this blog, I found a treasure trove of information... the next Bob Jonesoid that approaches me, will be sorry sorry sorry. On the other hand, I realize, I will likely be a whole lot nicer to them, too... I think I get it, now. It doesn't make the harassment any easier to take, but it does make me more compassionate. Buddha said if you want to understand your own suffering, focus on the suffering of those who make YOU suffer. (Something like that.) I often fail miserably at this, since when my enemies suffer, I usually giggle with glee, "Yeah, take that, bitch!" In so many ways, I am not the most spiritually-enlightened person, as DEAD AIR regulars have likely figured out by now.

However, I now know (for example), that the kids at Bob Jones are FORCED to meet "soul-winning quotas" (!) and the tract-foisting harassment is therefore required. They have "prayer captains" in every dorm room (does that give anybody else a flash of Grand Funk Railroad's "I'm your Captain"--conjuring up images of now-born-again Mark Farner with a Bible-shaped guitar in his hands?). The prayer captains tattle on you all the time, if you should stray from the Bob Jones path. And straying is inevitable, because the demands placed on these young people are incredible.

You are not allowed to face your accusers. The place runs on the gossip and whims of "prayer captains"--imagine your college if the goody-two-shoes were allowed to run the joint. Some of the ex-fundies were bounced out, in just this arbitrary fashion. Busted with AC/DC, there is nothing to do but plead guilty. You did the crime, you serve the time... and they first put people in lock-down, almost like prison. (To me, it sounds like a prison.) Demerits are given for all kinds of bizarre things, and the SFL commentariat like to give each other demerits in humorous fashion.

The blog and forum include everybody--the ex-fundies are best-represented, but the curious never-fundie and the fundie-victim (me) are also present and accounted for. Folks are diverse; some are still pretty strict Christians (notably, nobody cusses) and some are now atheists and agnostics. And they accept and tolerate each other, wherever they are. The tolerance is more than mere tolerance: it is 'capital t' Tolerance. Their tolerance is obviously a secular value that they have agreed upon; an explicit goal that they strive for, as part of their journey to find their own way.

As a result, they are far more tolerant than many liberals who pride themselves on "tolerance." No people truly grasp the whole meaning of tolerance more than someone who was never granted ANY, and fully understands what that means.

Learning the lingo of the blog/forum is somewhat daunting; they have more acronyms than the old Alphabet Soup of the Left. Some of these stand for the main colleges of fundamentalism--besides BJU, there is Pensacola Christian College (PCC), Hyles-Anderson College (HAC), and Ambassador Baptist College (ABC) among many others. They have their own culture, their own publications and their own entertainment, if you can call it that.

At left: BJU's Jonathan Edwards-themed coffee shop, Great Awakenings. (photo lifted from Mother Jones)

One of the most important terms necessary to understand is IFB, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist. This is the core "cell" of the movement. These are also known as "Bible Churches"--for whatever reason. (Implication: other Christian denominations don't really use the Bible, or in any case, don't truly understand it.) And "KJVO" stands for King James Version Only. (You wondered where the Catholic-hating would start, didn't you?) Sometimes they call this "King James Version Onlyism"--since it isn't just a preference, but a doctrinal point that has been stoked to a fever pitch.

I have been introduced to some amazing bloggers and some amazing Christians... some have courageously dedicated themselves to fighting for the victims of abuse. And the extensive abuse has only recently been publicly documented.

After 20/20 blew the IFB movement out of the water back in April, various websites and instructional videos (that make similar allegations look substantial) have been suddenly pulled in the dead of night.

[Warnings, triggers and so forth.]

Compassion or Cover-Up? Teen Victim Claims Rape; Forced Confession in Church

[Tina] Anderson was only 16 when she said she was forced to stand terrified before her entire church congregation to confess her "sin" -- she had become pregnant. She says she wasn't allowed to tell the group that the pregnancy was the result of being allegedly raped by a fellow congregant, a man twice her age.

She says her New Hampshire pastor, Chuck Phelps, told her she was lucky not to have been born during Old Testament times when she would have been stoned to death.

Phelps says that Anderson voluntarily stood in front of the church, but Tina says it was the first step of "church discipline" at her Independent Fundamental Baptist Church (IFB).
Her mother sought help from the pastor and they agreed to send her thousands of miles away to Colorado to live with another IFB family.

There, she said she was homeschooled and restricted from seeing others her age until she gave her child up for adoption.
And that was 13 years ago.

How did this come to light? Let's hear it for the INTERNET!
Thirteen years after the alleged crime, Matt Barnhart, a former member of Anderson's church, decided to write a post referencing Anderson's story on a Facebook page for ex-members of IFB churches.

The site supervisor, who runs an advocacy group for former IFB members, Freedom from Abuse, alerted Concord police.

Anderson, who at the time was teaching voice at the International Baptist College in Chandler, Ariz., got the police call out of the blue.

"Right now I feel completely overwhelmed," said Anderson. "It's been tough. In my mind, I didn't think he'd be arrested, and when I got the phone call I was completely shocked. My whole world has changed."
And that last sentence sums up the experience for all the fundies... all of whom have dealt with emotional and spiritual abuse; some have been beaten, and some have been raped. (And at least one, murdered.)

They are leaving, one by one... they take a look around, they decide to take in a movie or listen to music of their own choosing. They talk to the non-fundies around them. They take a deep breath, emerging from lies and subterfuge.

And in so doing, they decide to find out the truth... which as we know, will set us free.

Thank you for sharing your amazing journeys with me, and with all of us. You have shown us courage, justice and true Christian love.


bint alshamsa said...

I was raised in a fundamentalist cult. It's been years since I was considered in "good standing", but I still fear these folks and that is no exaggeration. This was and continues to be the reason why I do not use my real name online. If I did, my family--most of them are still "true believers"--would be harassed, hounded, and pressured to make me stop speaking against the church.

I'm a victim of clergy sexual abuse. I was also sexually abused by several others in the church. Sadly enough, it was quite common. My mother still thinks it was a matter of a few bad individuals and not a systemic issue.

Daisy, I could tell you so many things that I lived through and watched that I'd barely have time to speak of anything else. There were the kids who committed suicide, who ran away, who were kicked out onto the streets, who were in such pain that they were already alcoholics and drug users before reaching high school. These are just the ones that I personally knew, those within the district/circuit that I was a part of.

As a child, I had to spend every single weekend out proselytizing. There were constant sermons about how many hours the average person should be spending in the "evangelizing work". Those who weren't keeping up with the average, were counseled and castigated and ridiculed.

Even when I was diagnosed with lupus and could not engage in the door-to-door proselytizing, I was assigned to do the telephone and letter-writing witnessing. Those who lived in gated apartments that didn't allow proselytizers to come in and bother people were still not safe from our efforts. We would mail them letters preaching to them and include little tracts with our contact information. We would also use the telephone to reach those who we couldn't access otherwise.

I really appreciate the people who were kind to me when I knocked on their door or approached them on the streets. I had been taught my whole life that this is what people who care about their fellow humans are supposed to do. I had no choice about being out there.

Of course, it's now easy for me to understand why people had the right to be upset about being interrupted from their day and preached to. However, it honestly didn't make sense to me back then. I really felt like we were carrying out a vital public service. The Grand Poobahs really played up the altruism angle to us. You know, it was like "If we don't teach them, then they are going to be destroyed by God and what sort of person would just sit back and let that happen?"

I still wonder if I'll ever consider myself fully healed from those experiences.

Clara English said...

Hmm, I don't remember specific quotas for soulwinning when I was at BJU in the mid-90's. Then again, I wasn't a Bible major, so perhaps it depended on your major. I know those quota-type things are much more typical of a place like Hyles-Anderson.

On the other hand, sometimes the unspecified quotas are the more nefarious ones, because you can never be good enough to fill them...

sheila said...

Soul winning quotas. My gosh. I really enjoyed this post Daisy!

QueenKnitter said...

Hey, hey! Thanks for the shout-out, Daisy!

We're trying! We're trying to tell the truth . . . one story at a time.

Camille K. Lewis

Naomi said...

Thanks for writing about this, Daisy!

As far as the quotas, I think they were/are just in place for "preacher-boys." "Extension" is strongly encouraged (or unofficially required) for everyone, but it doesn't always have to be a soul-winning extension.

j.lowe said...

Thanks for posting this Daisy!

@bint - Yeah, there was a missionary family supported by my fundy church to a Western European country. In this country, it turned out that most people live in gated communities, which meant that you can't just go door-to-door soulwinning. Of course, this didn't stop the family from discovering that you CAN proselytize to people sitting in the park, or by mailing tracts to people.


YogaforCynics said...

I have a cousin who's currently at Bob Jones--home-schooled in a hardcore fundamentalist family (the last wedding I went to in that branch of the family was kind of 1/3 traditional wedding, 2/3 right wing political demonstration against "some people" who want to change the definition of marriage and the proper roles of men and women within it--I assured my mom that this would, in fact, be the last wedding for that branch of the family I'd be attending), so I doubt he'll have any problem with the proselytizing requirement. Apparently, he's also really obviously gay, according to my gay younger brother, who got the impression from talking to him that he's also been through some fundamentalist pseudo-military programs to make a man out of him while praying the gay away. Maybe some day he'll be a happy, gay ex-fundie, but, sadly, I doubt it. My cousins are the complete opposite of popular stereotypes of dysfunctional fundamentalist families with parents who found Jeeeeeesus through twelve step programs and their kids who inevitably rebel. They're healthy, well educated and very, very together (in fact, growing up, there was no question that they were a lot more functional than my more secular, liberal branch of the family).

Marion said...

Thanks for this post, Daisy...I really had no idea, especially about soul quotas. Very interesting and sad! xx

bryce said...

u already know what i think of fundies: the fewer, the better.

cant they just go away?

cabochon said...

Wow, Daisy, what a great blog you've turned me onto! I just read a little on it, and I know I will go back until I've scraped the archives.

Anonymous said...

i know you mentioned prayer captains just so you would have an excuse to link "I'm Your Captain" - you can't fool me, d.


btw - a beautiful classic + thnx said...

I fully agree with anything you've printed here.

Zadig said...

After spending a little time there I would agree with you that they are nice people (most of them), but very tortured (some of them). I think calling them ex-fundies is a bit of a stretch though. A few of them are, but most of them seem to still be very steeped in a fundamentalist mindset. The black and white, us vs. them them attitude is still present in many of them. The authoritarian (my way or the highway) personality. The far right politics. They "debate" Biblical issues that only fundies would care about like Calvinism vs Arminianism.

You made a comment that they are willing to question their fundamentalism but not their basic conservatism and that this was confusing. I agree that it is. They don't seem to recognize that many of their political beliefs are the result of religious beliefs they claim to be questioning.

Several of them are still attending fundamentalist universities and churches. BobM apparently is still a homophobic fundamentalist preacher in Minnesota but he calls himself ex-fundy only because he adheres to something called "historic fundamentalism". Another poster who claims to be ex-fundy just revealed that she's a lesbian who has chosen to marry a man because she thinks that's what God wants. Myotch (the Dwight Schrute of the forum) is an extremely conservative Catholic. A few others claim to have left fundamentalism just because they switched to a different church that calls itself evangelical. That's not much of a journey. Some of them are apparently still creationists. It doesn't get much more fundy than creationism.

I don't mean to sound critical of them, we all have to find our own path but I think its inaccurate to refer to them as ex-fundies just because they allow their wives to wear slacks to the mall. You don't have to abandon Christianity to be an ex-fundy but you do at least have to be willing to question the authenticity of the Bible and acknowledge it's barbaric history. Most Christians are able to do this and still maintain their faith. I have Baptist friends who are more liberal than the majority of people on the SFL site. A friend of mine was the dean of the school of religion at a very conservative Baptist university and he would discuss many of the same things I posted on that site, in his classes. But when I mention these things, I'm accused of being a pot stirrer, rabble rouser, or that I'm "atheist bating" (whatever that is).

It seems to me they're mainly bothered by their parent's fundamentalism and are working to create their own version of it. One that fits their generation. One that still adheres to The Fundamentals sans the homophobia and misogyny. In fact, much of this new fundy-lite movement seems to be fueled by gay and lesbian fundies (with the exception of a couple of posters).

I commend them for their willingness to fight against abuse and for being more open minded on sexual orientation than their parents and grandparents. I hope at some point though, those who haven't are able to completely reject the inanity and irrationality of fundamentalism, and not fool themselves into thinking they've broken the chains just because they found a way to had a couple of extra links to them.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Zadig, admittedly, Myotch drives me crazy. If it wasn't for the evilll liberals (in the guise of Vatican II) he would not even have been allowed to convert, as an ex fundy. Before Vat II, the church used to judge whether any given Protestant was deemed worthy of conversion, and ex fundies would have been barred from the door by simple fiat. I could tell you some stories. But in short, that type of unawareness drives me CRAZY... Ohhh the irony! Its just like loud-mouthed conservative women who trash feminism. Excuse me ladies, if not for feminism, you'd be barefoot, pregnant and told to STFU. You're welcome!

I just want to continually say "you're welcome" to Myotch.

Myotch also loves Ayn Rand, apparently unaware that Ayn thought Christianity was for suckers. Again, that kind of hypocrisy, I find genuinely unsettling. For this reason, have been avoiding the forum for awhile.. I honestly do not know how to respond to this kind of thing. It is very different and weird... totally unlike the conservatives I am used to arguing with, who are pretty self-aware by comparison.

I call them ex fundies since that is what they call themselves, and I usually grant people the respect of using their own terms to describe themselves. I want people to do that to me, so I oblige.

They don't seem to even SEE nonChristians or to understand that nonChristians approach life differently. Certainly, if they can't deal with believers who believe differently, you can't expect them to have respect for agnostics or atheists. I think its still important to challenge the right wing demagoguery, but I am not the one to do it.

In lots of ways, I don't really understand them... in a recent conversation with Chris Peterman (I read his Tarot!), I decided much of their behavior and approach is simply over my head.

I'll still visit of course, and I wish you well. Don't let them get to you. And don't let them make you mad.

Not worth it.

Zadig said...

On a different topic, speaking of loudmouth conservative women, do you ever read the letters in the Greenville News from a woman named Karen Humeniuk? There was one in there yesterday (|newswell|text|opinion|s)

Seems like she writes about every three months and it's always some sort of mindless railing against liberals, full of cliches about socialism and illegals. Along with a heavy dose of hyperbole about Bolsheviks and Xanadu, she even used the hackneyed bumper sticker slogan, "freedom isn't free" in this latest letter. What's curious though is that the letter is promoting what appears to be the new Obamacare talking point. Remember how angry the wing nuts were with Roberts a couple weeks ago? You even mentioned it on your show. Well now, they think he's a genius again because as she states, "By calling the health-care[sic] law a tax and disassociating it from the Commerce Clause, he told the American public to grow up and vote wisely."

There was another letter the day before saying essentially the same thing and if you google the keywords from her statement "obamacare + tax + Commerce Clause + Roberts" you'll see it's making the rounds on the blogosphere. (These people don't ever seem to have an original thought.)

Zadig said...

I was just reading your comments on SFL about why Darrell banned me. I found it rather amusing that he claims the reason he did so was because my posts were "directed at him," particularly after he previously stated, "Actually, that wasn't what got him put in time-out. You can attack me all you want."

Darrell is an intellectual coward. Both times he banned me were following his loss at a political debate. Classic fundie. He encourages dissent but only approved dissent. Like most fundies he suffers from an overly active authoritarian personality. In fundamentalism dissent is allowed only if it allows the leader to step in and stomp it out in front of his adoring followers. Should he find himself incapable, the only other choice is banishment. Ironically Mr. Ex-fundie banned me for the same reason I've been banned from the campus of BJU - being a rabble rouser.

BTW, have you read The Family -

I think you'd find it fascinating.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Zadig, yeah! In fact, Jeff Sharlet was on my radio show talking about the Occupy writers. Link given with the caveat that the interview isn't of the highest quality, it was a call-in and I think he was walking around/pacing during the interview. (sigh) I tried though!

Follow up post is here--and you might enjoy the way I shut up my teabagger-stalker. ;)

Zadig said...

Wow, that's cool. I look forward to listening to that. I just downloaded the podcast for past weeks show this afternoon but haven't had a chance to listen to it yet. (Your stalker sounds like that West guy.)