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Category: Spiritual Abuse

The Cult That Changed Everything

When I was between the ages of 5 and 7 my parents joined a bible study group through a family in our homeschool group. I guess it was less of a bible study and more of a home-church, because we went to their house for hours every weekend (I can’t remember if it was Saturday or Sunday, probably Sunday). This was not very long into homeschooling, maybe a year or two – my parents, I think, had been pressured by some of the group who had an incredibly spiritual persona that they weren’t godly or spiritual enough *or* homeschooling for the right reasons (but that’s a different discussion entirely). Anyway, My brother and I, we went along to this group with our parents and sat around being really bored, eating weird tasting food, listening to whatever it was we could understand and spending the rest of the time looking at the animals and wondering why it smelled funny at their house (they had a farm, and were into healthy/organic/self-sustaining life and for some reason that has a particular smell).

I don’t remember how long it took before my parents and the other couples at the group were introduced to this program called “Cleansing Stream”. Wanting to be godly and whatever, everyone hopped on board – they “learned” how to study their bible, use a concordance, expel demons (no, I’m not kidding), and we all had to make sacrifices (my brother and I lost many a loved plushie in the name of demon expulsion, and family heirlooms which didn’t matter to *me* as much) to make sure the demons didn’t have any “footholds”. There was a little red book, and any work by the Bevere’s  makes me run the other direction. A lot of this now is instinctual, I don’t remember exactly what was taught (besides that demons could inhabit christians if they sinned, and apparently my stuffed tiger) but the ramifications have lasted…well they haven’t stopped.

My parents “left” or dropped out of the cult when they realized that the whole demon-inhabiting-christian-thing wasn’t actually biblical, but they never exited. They learned how to interpret the bible (according to the cult) and this is what became harmful. I was too young to understand anything happening at the bible study (that, or the memory is just blacked out), but the price that came with the things they learned there and after cost a lot:

Somehow god had turned from a loving being to an angry, vindictive, bastard who sent bad things to people for the fun of it, to “test” them, and “try them by fire” and somehow you knew you were loved by how miserable your life was and how much you suffered. The years following the cult were packed with much “love” from this deity.

We became increasingly isolated, we were drilled on the family beliefs, we had unassisted home-births (two of which resulted in stillborn babies – that *could* have been prevented by cesareans), we were constantly told that suffering was a good thing, that we should expect to suffer, even that not suffering was a bad thing (so anyone who good things were happening to? doomed. Anyone happy? obviously not loved by god). I was so scared to leave (and get married) because I thought for sure that after living through my own version of hell, the cycle would start all over again with my husband and our inevitable family.

We never had friends that lasted for more than a year or two – when I was finally able to make my own friends (on the internet!) I built myself a group of people I could trust, most whom I’m still friends with. The friends my parents “made” usually end up having a falling out over some doctrinal issue. We were kicked out of churches and widely hated (or so it felt) by anyone my parents disagreed with.

It grew worse as I aged, in ways I don’t yet have words for. I went from believing and being told that I could hear from god, to being told that he spoke to me through my parents (from my parents – it was convenient and self serving). I was less because I was a woman, my god-ordained-job at home was to be a caretaker to my siblings; I was brutally reminded of that pregnancy after pregnancy, child after child. I was told that my god-ordained-job as a woman, when I was married, was solely to reproduce and homeschool and give my husband sex when he wanted it (because otherwise, he’d find it somewhere else don’t ya know?). Not only that, but I had to let god plan how many kids we’d have, because “he wouldn’t give us more than we could handle” – don’t dare interfere with any kind of protection because that would be getting in the way of god’s will and that would be sinning.

I was a little self-conscious (I resisted as long as I could), but not of my own volition. My mom freaked out about facial imperfections – I have hereditary upper lip hair, my acne was worse than hers at my age, my teeth weren’t straight (supposedly, we could pray my teeth straight. true story), I didn’t wear makeup, I wore clothes a size too big so I’d “grow into them” (with a large family, you do that sometimes) even though I stopped growing when I was 15. The modesty culture was rampant, though admittedly my parents had little to do with this themselves.

Image and appearance were everything: we had (had) to look perfect and perfectly happy on the outside to everyone. We had to be good examples and witnesses, we could never complain, or have a less than perfect moment whenever we left home – if we did, there would be consequences. I can’t tell you how many times people have come up and commented to me about how perfect my family is and how “I bet you help out a lot, huh?” and I just had to stand there and smile politely, and nod, and say “yes, I don’t mind” (or a better variation) even though everything within me was screaming “no! everything is NOT okay! my family is NOT perfect!”  There was no room for human moments or authenticity (which is why I treasure them so).

We had to attract people (those poor, ignorant sinners) to our lifestyle, so we had to seem perfect. I have a great smile.

The version of christianity/god I knew, “loved”, and served was egotistical, demeaning, self righteous, superficial, and fear based (much of christianity I’ve seen so far is fear based, don’t you dare say love!). If my parents didn’t like someone, they’d rip them to shreds as soon as they were out of earshot, if I was less than perfect I’d get dragged out of bed and made to sit through several hours of Kierstyn-is-evil-thus-saith-the-lord lecturing until I would finally give up and act how they wanted (usually it was for minor infractions, like not hearing or understanding something correctly – sometimes it was for *gasp* wanting a life) I never knew when this line would be drawn or what the boundaries were.

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Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week

Next week I’ll be joining my friend Hännah for spiritual abuse awareness week. I debated between saying that here or just posting for no particular reason, but figured it made more sense to say what was going on so there’d be less confusion and more people could join in if they desired.

Next Week, I’m going to be sharing my story. The posts will most likely be long and probably as hard to read as they are to write. As of right now I only have the first of three written, if that says anything.

After next week, I’ll be back with a PAX East roundup, and more than likely, lots of pictures. /dance

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Women are less

Growing up in a religious conservative circle taught me this ever so explicitly. They would try to water it down and say “no you’re equal, but different” the place of women is in the home, in the kitchen, pregnant or raising children. Not in the “world”, not working, not doing anything that would in any way put her in equal standing with men.

This article makes me sad – no, angry because it’s true.

People very close to me believe, truly, that women are in some way stupid and need men for guidance. I was taught that women are “easily mislead” and thus need men to teach them and “lead” them the right way. Like we are animals to be trained, or horses to be broken. It follows that women, once they reach adulthood, should not be listened to – that it’s okay to completely write them off as “emotional”, “misguided”, or “hormonal” – it’s all too easy to take anything anyone with a vagina has to say and instead of taking them seriously, say they’re just whining, not happy, or one of those evil feminists not worth listening to.

It’s taken me years to come to terms with my womanhood, with the fact that I have the horrible ability to reproduce within my body. It’s taken longer to accept the fact that I am human, and that as a human I have value – that isn’t reliant on whether or not I have a penis on my body.

Unfortunately, I still find myself in circles, exposed to the lies of my youth – who believe that women are for reproducing, teaching, cooking, cleaning, and if you’re lucky, making things and maybe having an in-home business selling house-wifely things like sewn goods, jewelry, or food.

I take issue with the god I grew up with. The god who decided that as part of “the curse” women will be in horrible pain during their reproductive cycle, while men just have the “curse” of pulling weeds or  “hard labor”, and the snake lost its legs. I can’t separate the misogyny of the religion of my youth, with what may or may not be true about christianity. I can not see god as loving when he inflicts half the population with a lower status, half a life of pain, and sets them up for being written off and told they’re stupid until the end of the earth.  People say Jesus raised the status of women, which, in the culture of his day may be true, but people who are supposed to be “like Jesus” massively fail and take the easy way of misogyny as written in the apostles over the example of the deity they claim to love and serve with all their heart and soul.

Women are “equal” in the sense that they are “people”, complete the largest chunk of reproduction, and in christianity have “equal access to god”. But in practice? Women are less, women are challenged and put down when they say things or step outside of the box, they’re labeled and personally attacked when they “make a crack in the glass ceiling”. Because  women being assertive is not allowed, still. Women having a voice, or control over their own body is still frowned upon.

Things I thought were resolved with the suffrage movement and the right to vote are resurfacing in this election and it hurts. It makes me feel ashamed to be a woman (scared, even), having been born with boobs and without a penis makes me feel trapped. I feel like everywhere I turn I hear old men, and some women trying to fit me into a box – the box I worked so hard, and wrestled with and tore myself apart over to escape. The box I’m still trying to completely escape – because completely leaving a gender box is more than just one process – it’s many, over a lifetime.

I don’t talk about feminism, womanhood, or anything like that very much, because a large part of myself has rejected the idea of gender. Because gender does. not. matter. At the very least, it should not matter. We are all human. We are all entitled to the same rights and opinions and control over our own bodies. We all have the right to say no – we do not deserve to be stepped on and half of the population does not deserve to be stripped of their rights just because their genitalia is different. Women are not more prone to misguidance or stupidity than men, nor vice versa. People are prone to flaws. People ARE flawed and we all have traits that are unique to our personalities, not our gender.

I’m tired of being subtly told I’m less, of being subtly hinted to that I should live in a box. I’m tired of watching men in power debate over whether or not I am smart enough to decide what happens to my body and when. I’m tired of people protecting the embryos that my body painfully destroys on a monthly basis, to the extent that it lessens my value and my rights as a fully existing person. I’m tired of people telling me that I’ll “get over it” and want to reproduce, I’m tired of people frowning at and judging me because I’m different and do not fit in the box I was supposed to belong to. I’m tired of people treating me as though I am the same clone, as though I’ll come around and find my rightful place in the stifling box of conservative womanhood. I’m tired of people thinking that they can speak, act and think for me because I cannot think for myself.

I’m tired of people lessening my value as a human being because I have decided not to have children – or trying to justify it because I’m young and I’ll “change my mind”.

All these messages, all the subtext just continue to beat me down, to tell me that my past was right, I am less because I am woman, I am even more less because I reject that being female dictates the way I live my life. It doesn’t matter how much you verbally affirm “women are equal (but different)” when you say, believe, and act in a way that demonstrates otherwise. Women are equal when they live in a box, but that is not equality at all, and I thought we were past that.

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