David McMillian’s Story

Have you read this? You should! David is so brave to voice what the IFB churches teach men about women. He is 100% right in what men are taught and what this teaching does to families. Thank you David for sharing your story and I will join you in praying that as many people as possible get out of the IFB and run fast and far away!

RELIGION'S CELL

My name is David McMillian and I would like to share my Experience in the Independent Fundamental Baptist cult.

The Abused becomes the Abuser:

My story begins with my horrific childhood. My childhood was the epitome of dysfunction and chaos. My mom was married four times and I was subjected to horrific abuse at the hands of my step-dads and others. I was molested three times and quit school at the ages of 8, 10 and 13 because everyone picked on me. Needless to say, I had no clue what a normal loving family was like. I wound up being shipped off to three different children’s homes, the last being a Christian home up in Virginia. That was my first introduction into the world of the Independent Fundamental Baptist cult.

The home made us go to a strict Independent Fundamental Baptist church and, at the home, we were not allowed…

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Fundamentalism pushed me to become a mom and then stranded me to figure things out alone

It’s so easy to look back and see clearly how and why things came about in my life. I write honestly about my journey in motherhood because I know there are other moms and dads out there like me and you all need to know that you are not alone. And maybe there are some younger men and women reading and perhaps something I say will spark something in your mind and be a warning of sorts. 

Fundamentalism shaped my journey of motherhood. Not so much for what it did tell me but for what it didn’t. There is a huge emphasis on all thing marriage, motherhood, homemaking and feminine. The result is that anything not considered to fall into one of those categories was then an implication that that was not worth pursuing. It never told me or encouraged me toward any other options. 

I wanted to be a writer, from a very early age. I wanted to travel. I never wanted to get married, ever. Now I am in my 30s, and I do still believe that that life would have suited me just fine. I enjoyed dating, but I prefer not to be too tied down. I am a solitary person of sorts, I hate being stuck in one place or one town. This is the struggle I now have as a mom of four and as wife. I am home all day with kids, something I never thought I would be a good fit doing. I was conflicted in a major way. I knew in my heart what I wanted and who I was but the world created around me, Fundamentalism, confused me and pressured me. I still take full responsibility for my choices. Nobody physically forced me down the aisle at 20 years old. Nobody forced me to get pregnant ….and then again….and again….and one more time. 

In a nutshell, my childhood was one of abuse and neglect. When I met my husband, I was looking for something. I should have looked for that fulfillment and satisfaction in God and in myself, not in another person. But I didn’t know any better. I leaned on this person to fill in all the gaps that were there due to my upbringing. I placed on him a burden that he could never bear and that has lead to some issues in our relationship in the past. I know that now. I wished I would have known that then. I also got married to escape my parents household. There was no options for me besides going back to hell aka home or staying in hell aka a strict Bible college. Could I have walked out and started over in some random town on my own? Of course I physically could have, but I wasn’t mentally prepared to do that. I just could not even grasp at the time that that was an option. I really am in awe of some young adults that just strike out on their own and start businesses and go on adventures. It is very inspiring to know that some people have that sort of confidence and bravery. 

Back to the story….I am now married and as my husband cannot fill these gaps for me and reality starts setting in, I begin to become depressed. I now know that I have generations of family that struggle with depression and the results….men that turn to substance abuse and angry outbursts and women that have low self worth and depend on men. I’d like to say that I was different, but I know I wasn’t. How can you be anything but what you were trained to be? I start thinking that maybe if marriage isn’t all it is cracked up to be, and I still haven’t found something that fills those holes in my life, maybe motherhood will do that for me. I should have been encouraged to work on me and not keep resorting to other people or other things to fill those holes. As a woman, I had no other options within the current church system. Keep in mind, my husband worked for the church off and on, we were heavily involved, and I had very few friends outside of church especially once I quit my job to raise children. We begin trying to have a baby and after about 18 months, finally a baby is on the way. The extended family is excited, my friends are jealous, and I have new found approval and attention from my church (also IFB at the time). I begin to feel that something is finally going to be right and something is finally going to turn out in my favor and be everything I thought it would be. You can see what a dream world I was in considering I grew up in a family of 9 children and knew well the financial hardships and other struggles that come with having children when you have little education and few resources. But we press on. Baby #1 is born. There is a pretty significant push for Baby #2 right away which was surprising because my husband was pushing for this too. We have discussed it thoroughly and come to the conclusion that he was just as pressured as I was to create this life that Fundamentalism told us was THE WAY. He would constantly go back and forth about our family size. I see now what the real conflict was about, him fighting between what he wanted and what the church and family would approve of, but at the time, I just felt unloved and confused. Baby #2 is special needs (again, we did not know this at the time). Fundamentalism does not prepare young people AT ALL for the reality that a child may have a special need. In fact, the system generally does not believe in the idea of mental disorders and medical assistance or worse, frames sermons and comments around the idea that medical issues are a punishment from God. There is a bigger pause at this time as we deal with a child that is not typical as well as an almost break up of our marriage (a whole different post….). We stupidly consider the pursuit of children because we feel pressure to have more than two. In Fundamentalism, two is like quitting. You gave up, you didn’t do it right, you closed the door to God’s blessing by not having more, and you didn’t trust him to meet your family’s growing needs. At this point, my husband is feeling really hesitant, but I will admit that I pressured him for more. Baby #3 comes along. The conflict continues….should we have more or not? Is it okay to pursue permanent birth control? Is it bad to let things like limited finances and obvious lack of resources decide your family size? In our ongoing conflict, we had a birth control mishap and 9 months later, welcome baby #4. At this point, our finances are stretched to the limit. We are both working more than 40 hours a week even though I am also at home with the kids! My husband was working 80ish hours a week for awhile. He had been working two jobs for years and now added on a third. We get on some public assistance just to feed our family (again, that is another post in itself). We are both exhausted. And you know what we heard at church? Tithe more. Give more. Be here more. Send your kids to school here and pay for it. Wear this. Go there. Do these ministries (with kids, serving kids, doesn’t matter if you are barely keeping upright in your exhaustion). Don’t wear this/be this/do this/say this/go there. No real help. Nobody checking on us when we are clearly struggling. No encouragement or spiritual helps in the sermon. No relief via adults only activities at church. No help with any real concerns, not even a food pantry. Condemnation about “people on welfare” as if only losers need help. 

I cannot even describe how alone I felt at this point. It is one of the reasons we left that church. We are real people, trying hard but needing help and not getting anything but judgment. Nothing is ever good enough. It is too exhausting physically and mentally to be in that type of church any longer. I saw good and well what the patriarchal systems results in….exhausted, overworked, under-appreciated mothers and wives that are continually disregarded and that was the best it was going to be. The worse of it was abuse or worse at the hands of men and nothing done about it. Thankfully my own husband was never like that. He was kind. He tried so hard to be everything they thought he should be. He never fit in….thank God! 

So now we are living fully in the results of this journey. I still struggle on a daily basis with the desire to pursue my own dreams and the responsibilities I now have. I created this family. I have a duty to my children. 

But they have hope. They are being raised in a more appropriate way in a MUCH better church. They will have options I never had and acceptance and love even if they choose an non-traditional path. They have gratitude. From me. They helped me see the big picture and finally make some real changes. 

And I have hope. Sure I am bogged down in diapers, meals and laundry. But it won’t always be like that. We aren’t having anymore kids thanks to modern medicine. And I am halfway through my college degree! It is hard work but so rewarding. There is something else out there for me. I can feel it. Someone once told me that whatever you are naturally drawn to is what you are supposed to be doing. And I believe that. I am still going to write and travel and help people and get an amazing career someday. Just with a few extra little ones on board this journey. 

Freedom to think

One of the things I love best about no longer being in Fundamentalist circles is the freedom to think about things. The system oppresses a person so much that I know for me, I felt scared or guilty to even think about doing anything outside of the status quo. Now I think about and talk about whatever comes to mind. Sometimes I talk about things that I seriously doubt I would ever do, just because I enjoy thinking about new things and coming to my own conclusions. 

For instance, I have been thinking about getting a tattoo. Now for anyone that actually knows me, they would know that I am a huge baby about anything that might be risky or painful. I would really surprise myself if I ever went through with getting a tattoo. I have no problem with the idea itself nor anyone that has a tattoo. I think body art can really be meaningful as well as beautiful although there are of course some horrendous tattoos I have seen in pictures online….we will save that discussion for another post! So anyways, if I got one, I am thinking about getting a phoenix or possibly a bird coming out of a cage. I know the bird cage idea is quite popular but what I was thinking about doing is having one bird opening the door for the other birds. I like the idea that one can help another to escape. Another idea is the quote “love is all you need” because I truly believe that a true, unselfish love can conquer anything. The kind of love that only God can give to us and can teach us to give to each other. I am still learning a lot about how to give unselfishly without blame or judgment, just love. That will take me a whole lifetime to learn, and I feel that the idea in general is something that I would be fine with putting on my body forever. Much more meaningful than a random cartoon character wouldn’t you say? 

All of this to say, I have been thinking about so many things and it is hard to focus my thoughts on particular issues to express in my blog. 

For now, I am focused on freedom of my mind. Freedom. 

 

Freedom. 

 

Soak it in. It is wonderful right?!

What I really want to say to my mom

I remember a time when I was a young school ager, not more than 7 years old, that I had this thought “My parents don’t know what they are doing”. It was scary. I am living in a house and not able to trust what the adults around me are doing. Feeling as if I needed to figure out motives behind actions, be suspicious of those around me, worry that I needed to figure out so many things that I never should have been thinking about as a young child. 

When you would sit me on the counter and vent about your husband, my step dad, I wish you would have stopped and said “I am not going to talk to about this. I am going to take care of it, and you can trust that you don’t need to worry about it”. 

When my step dad was beating and torturing our family, I wish you would have stood up for us kids and demanded this behavior stop immediately. 

I wish you would have protected me from adult discussions about infidelity, drugs and other inappropriate topics. 

I wish you would have shielded me from worry about food, clothing and shelter, even if you couldn’t provide those things all the time. 

I wish you would have told me that I was wonderful just the way God made me and not compare me to a sibling who was forever just a little bit prettier and smarter than me. 

I wish you wouldn’t have relied on me to care for a special needs sibling, or a younger sibling, or you for that matter. 

I wish you would have been real to those around us instead of forever scrambling to keep a facade up of the perfect Christian family. 

I never expected you to be perfect. I just wanted you to be a little bit stronger than I was. I didn’t want to be thrown out in the waves of life with no anchor, no shore to swim for and no lighthouse for guidance. 

I am an adult. I still need my mom. She is still not there. 

I feel lost and alone a lot of the time. I have no grandmother or mother to turn to. My older siblings are a long distance away both physically and emotionally. 

I am alone. The only thing I know to do is to hang on for dear life and try to create something different for my own daughters. 

Hey I actually met a few resolutions from last year! Go me!

I have been thinking about resolutions and in all the fuss to get this year off to a great start, sometimes we forget to review the last year. I have been a bit frustrated by some recent personal issues. I have a bad habit of getting down about too many things, and this post is my effort to give myself a virtual high five and see how far I have come.

Last year at this time, I was still in a very strict Fundamentalist church. Oppressed, discouraged and unhappy. Here I am 12 months down the road and happily attending a church that is well rounded, balanced, loving and encouraging. Sure we have lost some “friends” along the way and received a lot of judgment over  our decision, but we did it. We finally stopped complaining, stopped making excuses and stopped waiting for the church system to get it together.

This past year, even amidst all my personal struggles, I made some great changes! I can raise my girls in a home that focuses on equality and freedom and opportunity, something they never would have been given at our old church (and school). I can raise my son to be something other than a passive follower or a prideful leader. I can pursue my dreams of further education and working outside the home without constant preaching on what I should and should not be doing. My husband can finally let go of that guilt for becoming something other than a preacher. I can’t tell you how frustrating it has been to see him looked down upon for (gasp) being an honest, hardworking, lay person. It wasn’t right for the church to make him feel bad for not completing a pastoral degree at an unaccredited college, insert eye roll here.

We made a BIG change in 2013 and I am going to take a moment to glory in that victory and thank God that he kept telling me “this isn’t right” over and over again. Sure it took 10 years but I finally listened. Now He and I can move on to some new lessons!

I would encourage you to look back at this past year and focus on the positives and become excited for the future. Anything can happen! Make those big changes that you have been waiting years to make. You can do it!

Book Review 1: A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

I purchased a sack full of books from Barnes and Noble for my Christmas gift. The first book I read in three days! I have been meaning to read this book and am happy to share a short review on my blog. The book is titled A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. The premise is that the author took one year to explore many different definitions of Biblical womanhood especially in reference to traditional gender roles and traditional Jewish customs. Each month of the year is a different focus. I enjoy reading her experience and perspective although I may or may not agree with all of her approaches or opinions. The book does have humor and a good flow, as well as being an easy read. I think it would be appropriate for teenage girls as well. 

I’d like to share some of my favorite portions. 

The month of October has a focus on the trait of gentleness. The author comes to the conclusion that “….I think maybe that God was trying to tell me that gentleness begins with strength, quietness with security”. The question of gentleness is a big debate especially in Fundamentalist circles. I have always been of the opinion that gentleness is more about appropriate behavior and self control versus being a doormat for others to walk over. It is a great topic and I feel every Christian person needs to come to terms with what this trait means. 

The month of November has a focus on the trait of domesticity. The author comes to the conclusion that “…in our efforts to celebrate and affirm God’s presence in the home, we should be wary of elevating the vocation of homemaking above all others by insinuating that for women, God’s presence is somehow restricted to that sphere.” I really appreciated that quote. I am currently furthering my own education with the goal of returning to work outside the home once my littlest is school age. I know that I have struggled with pressure to remain as a homemaker as well as include homeschooling into our life. These choices are not bad. I fully support others choosing this. However, it is not for me and I have made peace with the knowledge that God’s presence and approval is not restricted to the 5 by 5 foot area that is my kitchen. 

Skipping to the month of January which has the focus on the trait of valor. Here the author spends a lot of the chapter discussing the Proverbs 31 woman. This passage is often used as a checklist of sorts, especially in Fundamentalist groups. The Proverbs 31 woman is used as a weapon to oppress Christian woman into one role, one mold, one definition of Christian womanhood. The author discusses the fact that there is no proof that the Proverbs 31 woman was an actual person as well as discussing the Jewish traditions associated with the passage. It is traditional in Jewish culture for the men to quote the passage to the women and recite it in song at the Sabbath meal. According to the author, the passage “…at its core is a blessing – one that was never meant to be earned, but to be given, unconditionally”. I love the intent that the passage was traditionally an encouragement to others with the assumption that any woman could be a woman of valor, that there wasn’t just one definition to earn that. Love it. Additionally, the author says “The Proverbs 31 woman is a star not because of what she does but how she does it-with valor”. The final conclusion being that many things can be done with valor and that woman aren’t restricted to just the activities of the Proverbs 31 woman. 

Skipping to the month of March and the hot topic of modesty. This is a huge debate especially with Fundamentalists. Way too much to cover, but I would like to share my favorite quote. The author says “More often than not, this (regulating modesty among church members) backfires, and our attempts to be different result in uniformity, our attempts to be plain draw attention to ourselves, our attempts to temper sexuality inadvertently exploit it, and our attempts to avoid offense accidentally create it”. This exactly explains my issue with the modesty rules at my previous church. It is not just me being a “rebel” and wanting to wear pants and whatnot. It is the principle behind the rules. I don’t have a problem with individuals choosing to wear very conservative clothing. I do have a problem with others feeling like they have the right to regulate the clothing for my family. I also have a problem with the consequences of a system that regulates others apparel and activities. 

April discusses the subject of purity and contains a great overview of the Biblical account of the woman who was healed of her blood disease. 

Skipping to June, submission is discussed. Another hot topic for Fundamentalists! What a great chapter with some thought provoking subjects. My favorite quote “Women should not have to pry equality from the grip of Christian men. It should be surrendered willingly, with the humility and love of Jesus, or else we miss the once radical teaching that slaves and masters, parents and children, husbands and wives, rich and poor, healthy and sick, should submit to one another”. 

July discusses justice. Great topic. Love it. Includes a great explanation about the differences between charity and justice. 

August discusses silence, specifically the idea that the Bible supposedly supports women being silent in the church and not exercising authority over men. The conclusion has another great quote of “There is a big difference, after all, between being silenced and silencing oneself”. That about sums up my beliefs….focusing on individual self control and appropriateness versus one authority figure making mass decisions and silencing and oppressing one gender in favor of the other. 

I highly recommend this book. It’s an easy read in that the flow is great. It was hard for me to put down but also, not a big deal if you need to take a break and come back to it later. Some lighter moments as well as a feeling of relatability versus superiority. 

 

Why every Christmas sucked when I was little.

A quick blog post with random memories for Christmases in my past. I will say here that I do suffer from PTSD and was told that my spotty memory is due to this disorder. There are huge chunks of my childhood that I cannot remember. I have been told that there are therapy approaches to help recover some of that memory, but I can’t say that I am interested in recovering those. For now, I feel that my mind is in protective mode, and I don’t know that I am ready for any recovered memories. What I do remember is more than enough. 

So what is Christmas like when your parents are increasingly more conservative as the years go by? What about if you add in the fact that one parent is bi-polar/abusive/addicted and the other is co-dependent/depressed/childlike? 

My earliest memory of Christmas is one of my older sisters making a tree out of paper and hanging it behind the bedroom door as a quiet protest for my step-dad’s “no Christmas” rules. I know she was caught, the tree taken down, and I don’t know for sure what happened next. Judging from the fact that my step-dad was incredibly abusive, it was not good. 

I was confused about what the rules and why they were put in place. I know we did not have a Christmas tree, any decorations or any presents because my step-dad thought that Christmas was a pagan holiday. The rules evolved to become stricter over the years. We had to sit out of school or church activities, including any parties, plays, nativity scenes or any other holiday gathering. This included anything at church even if it was centered around the birth of Christ. I think there were times that we did not even attend church services if there was a decorated tree on stage. We weren’t allowed to give or receive gifts from anyone else. We did not spend time with any family or friends over the holidays lest we be influenced. I know we were told that decorations on the tree symbolized the fruit on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Bible. Taking gifts from under the tree and then giving to others supposedly  symbolized Eve giving the fruit to Adam which he accepted. Every single Christmas character, story or event had an evil foundation and purpose or so my step-dad thought. He was pretty creative in finding evil symbolism in the simplest of traditions.  I think at one point I was actually afraid of Christmas trees. I thought maybe the evilness would be an invitation for Satan to come into our house. As the years passed, my step-dad became more and more unpredictable and crazy and my mom usually caved to his demands. Every now and then, she was sneak something past him or allow us to participate in some way probably just out of guilt for what she was putting her kids through each year. 

One year, we were going out of town to avoid all Christmas of any sort, including church activities. I put a note on top of a bookshelf in our living room. I wrote a note to Santa. I was maybe around 10 years old. I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, but I do remember wanting to believe that Santa was real. I needed to know that someone was out there that cared about me, even if it was just one day a year. I asked Santa to read my note and then move it to the other bookshelf as a sign that he was real. I don’t think I even asked for any gifts. When we returned, the letter was of course still in the original spot, and I remember feeling so hopeless. No one knew what I was going thru, and I felt I would be alone forever in abuse and isolation. 

The first few years as a young adult in my own house, I was definitely still fearful that my step-dad was right and that celebrating Christmas would being evilness into my home. It has been around 15 years since I moved out, and while I really enjoy Christmas now, my husband does almost all of the decorating and purchasing. I can’t help but think that my childhood is still ruining the amount of enjoyment I could get from the holidays. I also have no traditions from my childhood, and it has been very hard to start traditions for my own kids. I don’t know where to start, what would be fun, and what would be “okay” to do. I have no idea why I still feel that tiny need to get approval over my holiday goings-on. That said, each year has been better and better. We try to balance having fun with our minimalist approach to life. I am trying not to swing to the other extreme in effort to get as far away from my childhood as possible. 

Things are really changing though. My mom has since divorced my step-dad. She texted a picture of her Christmas tree to me recently. I can safely say that no one has been demon possessed since going to see Santa at the mall or attending a cookie exchange.