Message in a Bottle (Part 8)

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I woke up thinking about Power this morning and was going to blog about that. But after reading the rawness of yesterday’s post, I have instead opted to talk about thankfulness.

I find myself in a unique position. On one hand, I despise having to have gone through all that I did. I hate it. I hate what the churches under those men did to my family. I hate the way my parents abdicated to them. And I hate their garbage, shallow, theology.

100 percent guarantee of heaven is snake oil and the product of what happens when Capitalism meets Religion. It’s like those late night 19.99 commercials for whatever product some loud mouth boob is hoping your recent case of insomnia, as well as the resulting delirium, will pay for it. And this ‘free gift’ while free comes with an alarmingly high-interest rate paid out by pounds of flesh.

But through it all…I have to admit that I am also grateful for it. I know that sounds weird.

I know things other people don’t. I see things through a lens other people can’t. Now, I am not alone in this, I’ve found a massive group of others like me. Which, of course, makes me grateful as well since I don’t feel like a freak anymore.

I think that was the worst part. Thinking that the hell that went on inside my house was an anomaly. Now I’ve known other child abuse survivors but their stories consisted of alcohol or drug use. Ours happened in full sobriety. It was the sobriety of all it that drove me into madness. That’s the hard part.

When I was little, I was a gentle little kid who everyone called Freddie Boy. And Freddie Boy took that title and ran with it. I used to introduce myself as Freddie Boy to strangers. My dad said people used to think that was so cute, he relayed to me on the telephone. “Before…”

Before what? Before I came out as gay or before I stopped you from beating me? I’ll never know.

But I am also grateful for the path it’s lead me on. As screwed up and as bumpy as it’s been I feel like that to hate it would mean I’d have to be ungrateful for my husband as well. And I can’t do that. I won’t do that. I am a huge believer in providence, oddly enough. And I have worked out that because I was looking for love, I sought God. Because God is ultimately love.

As awful as those memories are. I wouldn’t trade them for where I am today. And it was only love that saved me. Isn’t love the only thing in the end that saves any of us?

People don’t like that. The ‘love’ God.

They like the God of Retribution. Revenge. Anger. Wrath.

Frank Schaffer made a good point when he said, “The same people that believe in that kind of God, believe the Jewish Prisoner who was gassed at Auschwitz also went to hell because she didn’t accept Jesus Christ as her personal savior.”

That’s not a god. As Frank also points out, ‘….that’s making God dumber than we are.”

I am not without fault. God help me, that isn’t the case.

But I went my entire life thinking everything bad in my life WAS my fault because of being a sinner. And that was before I even began to deal with my homosexuality. Throw that in. I’m just screwed.

So I guess this is about power in some ways because I’ve stripped those who used to have it over me by stripping back the belief system that for fifteen years was drilled into my head. Or perhaps that is what this blog is doing. Stripping it back layer by layer till all that is left is me.

I have the power. I am thankful for figuring out where that mess ended and where I began.Getting through that mess was hard. Learning to be thankful for it in part, is harder. It took me long enough.

I’ll write more later…

 

 

 

Message in a Bottle (part 4)

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It’s times like these that I doubt everything. It’s times when my husband is lying in bed asleep, the dog has his head under the bed (I have no idea why he does that but he does) asleep, and I am the last one awake.

It’s moments like these when I think – I have so much to be grateful for. I’ve come a long way. No, my life hasn’t been easy but then again, who’s life has been?

It’s nights like these after I’ve made dinner and we’ve watched a show on VUDU or Netflix that I find myself content to just be. Just being in the moment. And I find many moments like that. In the morning when I take Kaiser (or Stink depending on how long it’s been since I’ve bathed him) for our walk and I put my headphones in and listen to an old Fleetwood Mac album. Or when I’m doing yoga – which has been a wonderful outlet for me to center myself mentally, emotionally, and physically. Or when I am sitting down to add words to a page in one of my books.

And I think to myself, “Why not let things be?”

So often I’ve been told that I have to get over what happened. That I have to move on. And those words have come at the precise of the moment when I am not at my best as I am now. They’ve come when I’m so low I could do a snake a favor and scratch his belly for him. It’s in those moments when something comes across in social media, or I see something on television, or an old memory flares up in my mind and I beg the universe for deliverance to that land of ‘move on’. And I think to myself, I’ve lived with this stuff for so long – will there ever be a day I can say, “I’ve arrived.” I am fine, now, I’ve moved on.

I went years without knowing what was wrong with me. Yet I knew something was. In college, I was given a diagnosis of extreme ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). I scored off the charts even to the point where the health profession said that I may have Bipolar disorder. So I did what I thought I should have done and went to a psychiatrist with the diagnosis and got on medication. And while the pills worked. My concentration was such that I could hear a mosquito fart and be able to describe it to you – it kept me up for days on end.

ADHD medications aren’t supposed to do that.

But I didn’t know any better. I thought they were just supposed to help you concentrate. And another thing I wasn’t aware of was that the symptoms of ADHD look a heck of a lot like the symptoms of PTSD  (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). And even at that point I thought PTSD was a soldier’s illness from being in war. Well, I had deployed to the middle east for Operation Iraq Freedom but the unit I was with was in Kuwait. And that was an experience that was long, and hot, and I missed home, and yes it was a little intimidating – but nothing bad happened there. We were never involved in any firefights, no I.E.D’s went off, and even though we got there when Saddam was still bombing Kuwait (Sharq Mall got hit (If I remember correctly), it had been a couple of hours prior to us showing up.

So there was a part of me that was unable or unwilling to see what was in front of me. Or maybe there was a part of me unwilling or able to associate my PTSD with something that hit very close to my heart and was personal. My family. My life growing up. And the idea that a church or a doctrine of a church could be the culprit was something I was again unwilling or unable to put together.

Church is supposed to be a place you feel the safest. Our Family is supposed to be the place you feel the safest as well. And neither place was safe at all. Added on to the stress of living in a war zone like Detroit in the 1990’s, it’s a miracle I’m not a heroin addict. Or not permanently locked away in some psych ward somewhere (although I did do a stint in Detroit Receiving Psychiatric Ward an indigent care facility, at one point after I returned from the service, but that’s a story for another time). I can’t just put event after event on here, because like I mentioned in blogs before – I’m afraid there would be so many that no one would believe me.

For fifteen years of my life, the physical abuse starting at an early age, the slaps, punches, beatings with extension cords, belts, switches, watching my older sisters get hit and/ or kicked out of the house – things that I’d witnessed and was powerless to stop- at young ages went on like clockwork. Saturday nights before church were always hell on earth in our family. The explosions in tempers, the skanky inner workings of the church that thought it was appropriate for a sixteen-year-old girl to marry an almost thirty-year-old man, the lies, deceit, the cover-up of a rape, the usury of another sister to pay bills as she killed herself working whilst dealing with an eating disorder…all of that was inside of the house. Detroit would be and do other things.

All these things were ingested like poison to a child scared out of his mind waiting for what was going to happen next. And it was pure insanity. It was all based on a fucked up version of Christianity. It was all enforced with rhetorical flourish, emotional manipulation, spiritual manipulation, fear of the wrath of God to stay quiet, and physical violence.

And maybe its self-preservation in moments like this that tell me to stop. To let sleeping dogs lie. Or maybe it is cowardice or fear that says I could be stirring up a hornet’s nest. But I know the moment i see something that triggers a memory – I know I’ll wish I’d have started something like this. Started talking. Some kid will get killed, some young lady will have to apologize to the wife of her rapist for him taking advantage of her.

I know I am pussyfooting around the main event. The actual diving into the heart of what happened to me and my siblings. And I think that too is based in fear. Not fear of anything I may cause, but fear of all those emotions rushing to the surface and me descending into expletive-laden rants about what fuck shits, what cowards, the people involved were.

I don’t want to do that.

But what I have learned is my reaction to those things that happened is not unusual. As a matter of fact, as research is expanding in the field of psychology concerning what’s called Adverse Childhood Experiences (or Aces). I’ve come to realize just how much an impact what had happened had on me. Aces is a way for doctors to test how adverse experiences can effect a child over a lifetime.

(Watch Nadine Burke Harris give an approx. 16 min talk on the nature of ACES, here)

(Read up on Aces and take the quick test:  here)

So it’s the realization that even though this happened fifteen years ago it is still impacting me in a very serious way today – even physiologically. So I’ll take a moment, at fifteen minutes past the Witching Hour, to be grateful for some clarity and some peace.

Goodnight

I’ll write more when I can

 

 

Message in a Bottle (Part 3)

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My husband is my primary source of inspiration. His presence, his love, his patience with me, his dedication, his tenderness, his faithfulness, and his desire for me has pulled me out of the shaded gray area that I lived in all my life.

Also, his intelligence and wisdom satisfies my wandering and inquisitive mind.

When John and I first met, our fights concerning God were epic. I mean bad. I believed in a God of Wrath and Anger and John believed in a God of Love. We are both Christians, he was a Catholic (to fundi’s that isn’t a real Christian) and I was an escapee from Fundi Land still wrapped up in the hug-me jacket of that religion. Needless to say, he and I had very different religious experiences.

He’d been a monk at one point in his life and wanted to be a Jesuit Priest. But for circumstances pertaining to homophobia and an associate of his, he was shamed for his sexuality and he made the choice to leave. It was an experience that hurt him.

But looking back on both our lives it felt like something (god, the universe, the source) had put us on a collision course toward each other.

The differences in our faith came down to the intellectual foundations of those faiths. John’s Catholicism believed as St. Thomas Aquinas said,”..Mankind is a pile of snow. And every once in awhile the snow gets dirty. And every once in a while we need the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to cover that snow.”

Essentially, their belief is that mankind is inherently good.

However, Martin Luther – the founder of Protestantism took Aquinas’ words and ideas and inverted them saying, “Mankind is a pile of shit. And the grace of the lord covers that shit to keep the stench out of God’s nostrils.”

Not only was he a foul-mouthed man, Luther was a notorious Anti-Semite who later penned a book called, “The Jews and their lies,” After the Jews rejected his new found faith.

According to Luther – mankind was inherently bad.

And that viewpoint is strengthened and promoted to the nth degree in Protestant Fundamentalism. And sometimes it’s taken to an extreme. Coupled with the King James Version of the Bible that was translated by a King with an authoritarian agenda – the agenda of fundamentalism becomes clear.

Convince the world how bad it is, paganize God and make him a god of anger, wrath, and war, and the power you can wield becomes unlimited. Grow strong enough, your power goes unchecked. Unchecked power and influence become inherently corrupted and people suffer. Abuse of that power – runs rampant. But those abuses aren’t likely to be reported because the pastor or head of that organization is the ultimate authority, by divine right, and you are seen as someone trying to usurp that power. You are a trouble-maker and probably under the Devil’s influence.

And they accomplish all of this, by cutting people off from the world. Isolating them. Using 2 Corinthians (Two Corinthians ha- ha) 6:17: Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

Well, that unclean thing is the world and everything of the world. Including laws and those who enforce them. The natural mistrust of government – which I believe is inherently an American trait given the nature of our founding- was substantially increased to the point of paranoia. And looking back I realize it would have been hard for sociopathy to hide behind the cross should someone fear that a member of the church would go outside of the church to tell on them.

Now to most people that sounds ridiculous. Chief Justice John Roberts in Snyder v Phelps ruled that the signs and website of the Westboro Baptist Church while disgusting were so extreme that they became hyperbole and the rational person would see it as such. And in that regard, I agree with him. People would see it as such.

If they were rational.

But the question I have, is what happens to those who are inside and a captive audience to so said speech and authority? Children for example.

Here is Nate Phelps talking about leaving Westboro.  ((Now some see this church as an extreme church for what they do. But the views aren’t far from what other fundamentalist churches believe.))

There were two brothers in upstate New York recently who were subject to brutality and even torture. There was a nineteen-year-old and a seventeen-year-old and they wanted to leave the church. The nineteen-year-old was beaten to death over countless hours of torture. The seventeen-year-old was put into a hospital in critical condition. As far as I know – he survived and the people responsible were arrested.

Follow the link to read about it here

However, their defense is that they had the authority granted by God to do what they did.

Now we know in a court of law that would never fly. I  believe the standard is the ‘Belief-Action distinction’, you may believe a certain thing but you can’t act on it because the act is against the law. And that’s great.

IF YOU’RE IN A COURT OF LAW. However, that amount of ‘Will Breaking’ was not only viewed as okay, it was expected. And even if the state (the state in this case being the government) were to have stepped in – all it does in confirm the paranoia that the government is trying to surpress their free excersice of religion.

The brutality that I and my siblings endured (and thousands more like the two aforementioned young men) would have NEVER flown in a court of law. But we were not protected by the laws of this country as we were not citizens of this country. We were citizens of a kingdom of preachers who while they maintain their Independence of each other – were and probably still are – ideologically linked. And we weren’t governed by a President, we were governed, lorded over, by the doctrine of a King. And all roads, for us, led to Crowne Point, Indiana.

America has it’s own problems with fundamentalism that it refuses to address to the physical, emotion, psychological, and even spiritual detriment of many.

I’ll write more when I can.

P.S. John taught me more about the love of Christ than any of those churches ever did.

 

 

 

 

 

Message in a bottle (part 2)

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It’s hard to sleep at night when voices of the past come back to talk to you. Like ghosts stepping out of the wall, they kneel down by my bed to whisper memories of what had transpired in my life. And like the little kid in the Sixth Sense, I used to close my eyes and wish them away.

But by the time my husband goes to bed until sometimes after The Witching Hour has passed. I am in a deadlocked argument with these memories while I stand in my kitchen and my eyes see the faces of those memories from long ago. And instead of clenching my eyes shut I open them wide and receive those spirits into my presence and we do battle.

And every night it’s different scenes. A different cast of characters who step out of the void and between the hours of midnight and three a.m. I do battle in silence with them. Sometimes I write poetry during these times and post them on social media. Bits of the conversations with dead things that I’ve had with rhyme and style.

But there are other times when I look over at my sleeping husband and I am so moved by him. By his love for me. By his willingness to show me who God really is. And his presence in my life gives me the courage to face down all those ghosts. And then I’ll write a poem for him. I’ve never known love of another person or the love of God so much so then when I started to leave the old ways I’d been taught. There is this old Muslim poet who once said, “Do not seek love. Remove the things in your life that keep love from you.”

And for me, that is a constant, daily, nightly, endeavor. I feel like some kind of monk in a monastery somewhere saying his prayers and reciting his scripture and singing his hymns.

It’s such a strange thing for me. I should hate God. I should hate everything he is and stands for. But I don’t.I just don’t think the abuses men wage on each other – even in the realm of religion – has anything to do with God.  And I don’t mean to be sentimental, but I feel God put my husband in my life to show me who He really is. That wherever love is, he is. And I know that goes against Christendom in its majority, but like Dr. Angelou once said, “I have heard, and I believe, that one with God constitutes a majority. So I commend you on your courage to come and face me.”

I survived fifteen years of physical abuse which I believe was tantamount to torture. I’ve watched in horror as my sisters were hurt or thrown out of the house. I suffered in silence in their absence. And lived in dread as each one of them departed and like a prince in the midst of some white trash Shakespearean play, I would be the next in line for my crown of thorns. And my parents didn’t disappoint.

See, in our religion which is the Christian equivalent to Brokovich’s Hexavalent Chromium, there is a pecking order. The man is the head and absolute authority in the house, the women are to be silent and obey her master, and the children’s WILL should be broken. Some of the ‘intellectuals’ in our brand of fundamentalism – people like Dr. Jack Hyles – believed that you could beat a child as early as infancy to accomplish this. He even wrote about it in his book, Rearing Children. It’s available on Amazon. It’s similar to the book written by Michael and Debi Pearl called, To Train up a Child. This book has resulted in three known deaths of children due to torture. Torture that includes:

  • Using plastic tubing to beat children, since it is “too light to cause damage to the muscle or the bone”
  • Wearing the plastic tubing around the parent’s neck as a constant reminder to obey
  • “Swatting” babies as young as six months old with instruments such as “a 12-inch willowy branch,” thinner plastic tubing or a wooden spoon
  • “Blanket training” babies by hitting them with an instrument if they try to crawl off a blanket on the floor
  • Beating older children with rulers, paddles, belts and larger tree branches
  • “Training” children with pain before they even disobey, in order to teach total obedience
  • Giving cold water baths, putting children outside in cold weather and withholding meals as discipline
  • Hosing off children who have potty training accidents
  • Inflicting punishment until a child is “without breath to complain”

I went through some of that, including the infliction until I couldn’t breathe to cry anymore.

I was not a Martyr (willing or otherwise) for my faith because I didn’t die. I am a Confessor for my faith. And because of what had happened to me, to my siblings, I despise those who did what they did.

Like Henry the Fifths daughter,I think,  who when asked how much she loved her father told him: “I cannot heave my heart into my mouth,” words fall short in describing the loathing I feel toward these people. Perhaps this would clear some of this up, If there were an Anti-Christ with his eyes set on these people. I’d gladly hold his coat.

I’ll write more when I can.

F.E.

(P.S. It’s relevant to note that both children of Jack Hyle’s kid David, are also dead. I guess it could have been worse)