Childhood, Compassion, Family, Forgiveness, Holiness Standards, Leadership, Parents, Poverty, Self Esteem, Sexual Abuse, Shame, Trauma, Uncategorized, United Pentecostal Church

You Are Worthy

Today I want to tell you that you are worthy. If you were sexually abused as a child you are worthy. You did not draw that older man into sin. He made his choices and he was an adult. You were a child and children cannot consent. I am so sorry if the church did not protect you, love you, and help you to heal. You deserve love, support, and an apology. I am still stunned at Calvary Gospel’s silence. I am experiencing them as no more loving now than they were when I was a child.

You are worthy even if your family did not dress right, or if you are brown or black, and even if your family did not tithe enough. A child shouldn’t have to pay for their parent’s choices. None of us can control the color of our skin or the family we are born into. We certainly could not have controlled our parent’s actions.

You are worthy even if you made mistakes, snuck into the movies, or listened to top 40 radio when your parents were out. These things are not sins, they are a normal part of growing up. No one perfectly listens to the adults in their life. Normal human development dictates that teens challenge adults, it is how we grow and become independent.

You are worthy if you wore a slit in your skirt, asked too many questions, or got bored in church. If you kissed a boy behind the church camp auditorium when you were supposed to be inside, if you faked being sick to stay home from church, and even if you faked speaking in tongues because you were afraid to disappoint your parents.

I see you trying to pretend that you are ok, trying to heal, trying to deal with the coldness coming from the people who raised us. I see you dealing with trauma, being the family outcast, never being 100% sure if you made the right decision when you left the church. I see you wondering if you should have kept your mouth shut about it all.

I understand not being educated properly and how that stays with you all your life. I understand playing small, staying invisible, always waiting for something bad to happen. I understand feeling weird in the world like you can never quite fit in. I understand the world not understanding where we come from and how exhausting it can be to try to explain.

For the men out there I see you too. Struggling to come to terms with what has happened to the women you grew up with, ministered to, your sisters and friends. I see you having many of the same struggles as I have only different at the same time. I know that there are survivors among you and when you are ready to tell your story we will be there for you as you have been there for us.

Consider this my love letter to all the survivors out there no matter what your damage is. You are worthy. Please don’t let those who refuse to ask for forgiveness, who refuse to take responsibility, and who choose to stand in judgment rather than lend aid define you. I see you as strong, brave, and overcomers. We have overcome the lack of love, support, grace, and normal human kindness we should have received as kids. We have found each other and created a life raft for one another and any new survivors who choose to join us. You are good even if you are not perfect. You are worthy.

 

Advertisements
Childhood, Crime, Forgiveness, Leadership, Parents, Pastor John Grant, United Pentecostal Church

What About The Parents

Mom and I

As things have unfolded many people have asked me about my parents and their role in all of this. I have covered this at length here in my blog. Feel free to go back through the archives and you will see I do not let my parents off the hook. Some have said that the parents should be prosecuted for not reporting. My parents are no longer with us. I feel one thing that is missing in the discussion about parents is an understanding of how Calvary Gospel works.

I tell my truth here in MY blog. I believe that the UPC and Calvary Gospel are a cult. In Madison, the church revolves around John Grant and a cult of personality. He may be a bishop now and not the senior pastor but that doesn’t mean that his shadow doesn’t loom large. Everyone within the church is expected to follow him and “question not God’s anointed.” Parents often let the pastor make decisions that really should be made by parents. If the pastor says do not report to the police they will most likely do what he says. I’m not saying they are off the hook, but I am saying many of them are brainwashed. I would ask for the same understanding of these people as you would extend to any cult victim. I know that pastor Grant told one set of parents to let him worry about reporting and the perpetrator. He instructed them to go home and take care of their daughter. They took this to mean things were being taken care of.

There is a strong message of not bringing the police into the church. This is for many reasons, one is because it could bring scandal and shame onto the church. It might keep new folks from coming in and getting saved. This message is sent to both victims and their parents. You also have to understand that these people believe God will handle it all. God will forgive, the victim will forgive, her parents will forgive, and then it will all go away. Meanwhile, the young person who has been victimized is left to twist in the wind. Their feet having been set on a path of trauma and burden. They suffer the trauma of what has happened to them for the rest of their life and along with that so much more. The burden of not talking about things is big, move on and forgive no matter the cost. If you can’t do that (guess what most can’t) then the problem is with you. You haven’t truly forgiven, you’re not trusting God enough, God would heal you if you’d just figure out the formula and get over it.

Parents have often gone to the pastor for help. “Please keep this creep away from my daughter” they cry! They might inquire as to why 30+-year-old men hang out with the youth group. Often they are labeled trouble makers and dismissed and ignored. Here is where the real struggle is…they are taught that the UPC is the only place you can go to be saved. Calvary Gospel is the place or another oneness church. No one else has the truth. So they feel they must keep attending and bringing their babies to the church. So what do you do? If we don’t go to church there our babies won’t be saved, if we do go to church there the creepy guy is going to keep trying to groom our daughter. Plus the pastor seems to think we are nuts or overreacting. They are taught that the church is a godly place, a safe place and that the pastor is head over it all. This is why he is responsible. You can’t say “question not God’s anointed” and expect people to trust and obey their pastor when he makes good choices and then not also apply this when he makes wrong decisions.

In the end, the whole thing is about control and image. Children are sacrificed so that the church can continue to look superior. John Grant is crying about his reputation. His reputation is more important to him than the lives of so many who have been hurt by his decisions and leadership. Hell and damnation hang in the balance for these parents. They have been taught that if you go against your pastor or take your family out of the church you will go to hell. A literal hell burning you forever and ever hell. You might miss the rapture and your children might have to be beheaded to gain entrance into heaven. Many of these parents make the best choices they can and they now fully admit the choices were wrong and they were misled. Other parents see what is happening and allow it to happen because honestly, that is the church culture. You see it everywhere! Older guys and younger women. Because you cannot date outside the church some parents are just glad their daughter is being pursued by a “godly man.” Many parents would never expect that these men are trying to have sex with their daughters. Sex outside of marriage is forbidden. Plus the pastor sees all of this and says nothing. No one ever tells the men to stop, so it seems as if he condones the behavior and since he is like a god it leaves people confused.

Some of the men prey on kids like me who had sick parents. My mom sent me to church believing I would be safe and that anyone who attended could be trusted because they were God’s people. She trusted pastor Grant. I went to my pastor and not my mother because he was the highest authority I could go to. My mother had no control over Steve but pastor Grant did. Pastor Grant was the biggest man I knew, the highest figure in my life besides God. As a little girl I went to the man I thought had God’s ear and I told him my troubles. Sure my mother should have done more, but this doesn’t mean that pastor Grant has no responsibility. I spent more time at church than I did at home. Not a single person, pastor Grant or church member ever checked in on me. No one prayed with me or asked me if I needed a friend or support. Wouldn’t you think he would have directed people to take care of me knowing what he knew? Instead, I held all my truth inside and it crippled me.

I hope this helps folks to understand. As I stated previously please go back and read some of my other posts.

D

 

 

Book, Childhood, Family, Rapture, Trauma, United Pentecostal Church

The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid

Yesterday I finally finished Ronna Russell’s memoir! I posted a review on Goodreads.

“This book was not an easy read. I grew up in a UPC church as well and at times it all hits too close to home. The author is so brave in her telling of her story! This is a wonderful read for anyone who is interested in learning more about the Christian denominations that exist on the fringe. The author’s vulnerability allows us into a world that many people never see filled with rapture anxiety, purity culture, and the pressure to be good enough. Beyond the church and the damage, it caused is a story of hope, self-acceptance, and self-love. She touches on religion, family, love, lost love, and finding and accepting oneself. I’m grateful she shared her happy ending because it gives hope to all of us raised in that atmosphere. I can’t wait to read what she writes next!”

 

I love memoir’s and this one is even more special because I can relate to it so strongly. It is not often that I have the opportunity to read about another woman’s experience within the UPC. When I talk with other survivors their stories always share common threads. For many, the fear of the rapture and hell is very real and then there is the sense of never measuring up. Normal sexual milestones tend to be suppressed and twisted leaving women feeling wrong and dirty. Secrets are everywhere and there is a knowing that comes with that. They are only secrets because they are not openly expressed but that is not the same as no one knowing or suspecting.

Ronna’s story isn’t just about the bad times it is also about hope, determination, and self-discovery. I owe her a special thanks because she has been an encouragement to me with my own writing. Women supporting women!

D

Childhood, Depression, Fear, Justice, Sexual Abuse, United Pentecostal Church

The Walking Wounded

I am one of the walking wounded. I have been attempting to write a book. Even though the process of writing can at times make me feel all alone I know that there are so many others like me. I just finished listening to the NPR podcast “Believed.” This podcast covers the story of Larry Nassar and his many victims. Although their story takes place in the world of competitive gymnastics there are so many similarities. Last week was an awful week for me. I battled my demons daily as I continued to write and try to unwind the story of my childhood. ITunes helpfully suggested this podcast to me and I’m so glad I took a chance on it. Now if you are like so many people in my life you might ask why would I put myself through that? Well because listening to other victims tell their story makes me feel less alone and strange in the world. The podcast was hard to listen to. I could relate to many of the women and their experiences. They inspired me to keep going and their journey gave me hope that maybe my story can have a better ending than it has had so far.

My friends and family worry about me. People tell me to take breaks and to take care of myself. They worry that telling this story might hurt me more than it helps me. I’m grateful for everyone in my life who has reached out to check in and give me advice. The thing is I cannot quit. I carried this trauma inside me for decades and now is the time to give it a voice. I cannot sit back and do nothing when I know that young people are continuing to be abused in the church I grew up in and others like it. My abuser is still out there doing god knows what. This isn’t about revenge but about justice. Justice for myself and all of the others like me.

Right now I will speak anywhere I am asked to speak and share my story anywhere I can get a platform. I am afraid because I don’t know if I have the skills to make my book a reality and I know for a fact that I am not a public speaker but the time for fear is over. Fear can be really hard to let go of, especially when you are raised on fear and it is what you know best. When you are told to keep yourself small and to go unnoticed it can be hard to step into the sunshine. So I keep going. I do it for myself and all of the survivors of Calvary Gospel and the UPC organization. Most importantly I do it for her…

Age 11

D

Childhood, Confusing, Fear, Shame, United Pentecostal Church

Listening To That Inner Voice

During the process of writing about my childhood I’m finding more questions than answers. Opening the door to my past has caused me to remember things I have not thought about for a long time. Many of these events seemed weird at the time and now through my adult eyes they seem inappropriate. As these memories bubble up into the now I have asked people if they remember and if it all seems odd to them as well. In a recent conversation a friend and I discussed how we remember two things from our childhood growing up in the church, fear and sex.

For the lips of a strange woman drop as a honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil. Proverbs 5:3

I started attending Calvary Christian Academy when I was 11 years old and in the 6th grade. We started attending the church when I was about 8. I was excited about starting a new school and finally being a part of the in-group. The principal at that point was Brother Rutherford. He seemed nice enough but had some strange quirks about him. Every morning we would read a passage together as a group. The goal was to memorize the verses and be able to repeat them back by the end of the month. If you wanted any extra freedoms or honor roll you had to have those verses memorized and signed off on. The thing is the verses we studied seem really strange when I look back on them now. The Bible is a long book and full of topics to focus on so why these verses were chosen is beyond me.

Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.

Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets.

Let them be only thine own, and not strangers’ with thee.

Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Proverbs 5:15-18

Every morning we would stand and say the pledge and then read our verses. We read them as a mixed group out loud. I can remember being pretty embarrassed to read these things in front of the boys. It did not help that the older boys would tell bawdy jokes about them and snicker and laugh at my discomfort.

Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.

And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger? Proverbs 5:19-20

I have to ask if the men working in the school got some kind of perverse pleasure from watching teen girls recite these verses both as a group and then one on one. When we reached the end of the month either our supervisor Roy Grant or Brother Rutherford would come to our little office and listen to us recite the verses back to them. I can remember being really uncomfortable. I was very good at memorization so that wasn’t the issue, it was all of those breasts and lips.

O that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother! when I should find thee without, I would kiss thee; yea, I should not be despised.

I would lead thee, and bring thee into my mother’s house, who would instruct me: I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate. Song of Solomon 8:1-2

We would have a sort of chapel time and Brother Rutherford or Roy Grant would preach a mini sermon or teach a lesson. Often the subject matter would have something to do with the verses we were working on. So it isn’t that the verses were not explained, they were but I still have to ask, why was this something I needed to read/know at age 11? Why so much focus on cheating spouses and sexual love? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial for us to be studying the fruits of the spirit or maybe the sermon on the mount?

We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for?

If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: and if she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar.

I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that found favour. Song of Solomon 8: 8-10

I have turned this over in my head time and again and I just don’t get it. Why all the verses about breasts? Of all of the topics available why this kind of thing over and over? If there is one thing I have learned in my life it is that where there is smoke there is fire. If it makes you feel uncomfortable there is a reason for that and you should listen to that inner voice. I do not know who picked those verses. It could have been Brother Rutherford or Pastor Grant but either way I think it was inappropriate. I could understand if we were older like 17 or so or if it was a class for people about to be married.

A side note, we always read from the KJV and we were taught that the Proverbs verses were about staying faithful to ones wife, and the Song of Solomon verses were about marital love. Imagine my surprise when I found that some view the Song of Solomon verses to be about Christ. That is not how it was taught to us.

Brother Rutherford and his family eventually left and I think they moved back to Texas. I do not remember why but I do remember that it seemed kind of sudden and fast. After that we had a new principal and the verses changed to more normal content.

You might ask why I am writing this entry, it is because as I try to figure out the past these things come to mind and then I can’t get them out of my mind. I comb over them over and over again trying to make sense of it all. Why did they focus so much on sexual topics? Why the pervy undertones? They had to have known that a young girl would feel uncomfortable reading those verses out loud, especially given how sheltered we were. If anyone remembers the Rutherfords and knows why they left I would love to know.

 

C-PTSD, Childhood, Sexual Abuse, United Pentecostal Church

I Have Been Away

I have been away from this blog for a little bit. Truth be told I think I needed to take a break from thinking about it all for a while. I have been working hard on political activism all spring and summer, pouring all of my energy into making the world a better place. I really try to keep politics out of this blog because I do not want to alienate any survivors who might find help here. That being said I am also devoted to honesty and telling my story from that place and current events definitely have affected that.

Art Heals

All of my social media is awash in Kavanaugh coverage. Because of the volunteer work that I do within my community, I am on social media a lot. I connect with others online about actions, events, and the news. When I’m away from it for even one day I feel like when I return I have all of these fires to put out and folks to support. This summer has required me to give all the emotional support I can both to those I love and to myself. I count myself lucky to have such an amazing partner who makes sure that I eat, sleep, and smile as much as possible. It helps to know that he is beside me every step of the way. He also keeps tabs on my abuser which is very comforting to me. Knowing that Steve Dahl loves Madison and visits often has made my home feel unsafe.

My Sweetheart

As I have observed everything going on with Kavanaugh I hear echoes of things that have been said to me regarding my abuse. It weighs heavy on my chest like a large boulder that I cannot lift off. Some days rage threatens every moment and every breath I take, other days I have to try desperately to keep the tears from flowing because I know that if they start I will not be able to turn them off. Then there are the days when I sit and stare into space, those days are the worst. I feel immobilized, frozen, like prey trying not to be detected by a world that feels unsafe to me.

I have heard people say they do not understand why Dr. Ford did not report when everything happened to her all of those years ago. I cannot say that reporting would have helped. Often when someone is caught not much happens to them and the accuser pays a very heavy price if she is even believed at all. What I hear those in power saying is, we believe this happened to her but we do not care. That was my experience. No one ever said they did not believe me, they just did not care. They still do not care. What they care about is protecting their male ally. They care about male authority and the sacredness of their organization. They don’t care about me and they never did.

Age 11

I hear some floating the idea that maybe she is just mistaken. It was really some other guy who just looks like Kavanaugh. I’m here to say that is unlikely. I remember my trauma very well, in fact, I remember it better than almost anything in my life. That is how trauma works. I remember what I was wearing, what he was wearing, where we were, what it smelled like, and what music was playing in the background. I might not be able to tell you the date but I know what season it was and what grade I was in. C-PTSD will ensure that you never ever forget.

The survivor knows that when she comes forward she is about to stand trial. There is always a price to be paid when you are a truth teller. Dr. Ford has paid and will continue to pay a heavy price for coming forward with her truth, for trying to do the right thing. When I started writing this blog last winter I braced myself for the backlash and it came like a storm into my life. I was accused of trying to ruin a good man’s life. They said he has led a clean good life since taking my childhood away. Apparently, the crimes committed against me mean nothing because he has been a good guy ever since. Remember these men rarely offend only once. Some questioned whether I even attended the church at the age I claimed all of this happened. All they need to do to figure that out is to look at their Sunday School, School, and Baptism records. The worst part is who came at me. Men mostly, many who have never met me, and some who knew me throughout childhood. Some of them wanting to protect the church and worst many who wanted to protect their friend. They have tried to shift the blame to me and my parents. They are happy for anyone to bear the blame as long it isn’t pastor Grant or Steve Dahl. They have been full of advice for me about how I should forgive for my own sake, take it to Jesus, and get on with my life.

Friends and supporters
Friends and supporters

The silver lining to this storm is women so many women and a few men. By telling my story I have opened the door and now I have so many allies. I have been telling my story since it happened but when I brought it completely out into the sunlight women came from all over to give me love, support, and even better they stood beside me and confronted my abuser. I hope that Dr. Ford sees all of the women protesting, holding vigils, sending her postcards, and sending her love and support. I believe her and I’m hoping my silver lining can be hers as well.

C-PTSD, Childhood, Fear, Rapture, Uncategorized, United Pentecostal Church

C-PTSD and Rapture Anxiety

*If you are triggered by rapture anxiety tread carefully with this post*

I have complex PTSD. My condition comes from many different sources and for multiple reasons. One of the biggest causes is rapture theology. I know that I have written about this topic often so today I want to come at it from a different angle. If you spend any time on the internet you have probably heard about triggers. I have many of them and some days they can really make life complicated.

I have spent much of my adult life trying to undo the damage done to me by the church. I know in my conscious mind that I no longer believe what I was taught but because it was taught to me at such a young age it did permanent damage. Over time things have become better but my triggers never go away completely. I have been putting this off because I know how crazy it sounds but I am also very committed to being honest here and so here it goes…

On most days these things don’t bother me that much but it only takes letting one in to start a cascade of anxiety. A bad day can come out of nowhere and before I know it it has taken over everything. I had a day like this recently and it all started on Twitter. I got up in the morning and I started to mindlessly scroll through Twitter. Another survivor retweeted a tweet featuring a photo of a guillotine. That person was talking about how that photo triggered her and seeing her post triggered me. I immediately felt a sense of dread and my pulse quickened. I started to breathe fast and shallow and I had to self-talk myself out of an unexpected panicked state. Once that door is opened it can be very hard to force it closed again. I start to move through my day trying to keep “I wish we’d all been ready” from playing on a loop in my brain. That first trigger opened the door for the second (that damn song) and that leads to the next, the dreaded white van. So a little later in my day I head out to walk my dog. I have my headphones on and I’m listening to a podcast in part to keep the rapture thoughts at bay. I turn a corner and there is a white van parked on the side of the road, my pulse speeds up again as I rush past it and try to push out the memories of the Unite van from A Thief In The Night. No, men are not coming to get me in order to force the mark of the beast on me, but my lizard brain doesn’t understand that. I talk to myself about how it is just a movie and how we don’t believe in that anymore but the dread lingers all day. My brain keeps shoving things in my face the guillotine, the song, the van. Over and over. Weird looking clouds and loud horns can add to my anxiety when I am in this state. Is that god returning in those creepy clouds, is that horn signaling the start of some apocalyptic hell scape? Later I decide to take a hot bath and pamper myself a little bit, while in the bath my eyes fall upon the shampoo bottle with the UPC code facing out towards me here again is another trigger. I try to resist my impulse to turn all of the bottles away from me so I can’t see the bar code. I don’t want to give into the anxiety soon I just turn them because I want to enjoy my bath, the song returns and my bath is ruined. Before long it is bedtime and I’m laying there trying to sleep. I’m on edge because the anxiety will not let me rest. I look out into the darkness and try to will my mind to be quiet. My inner child will not rest. She knows the danger out there, Unite might be coming for me at any moment. What if you are wrong lingers on the edges of my mind. I sometimes get up and go get a drink in the bathroom. As I walk into the room I see his electric razor sitting on the counter and I’m triggered again.

I know how this sounds, which is part of the reason it has taken me so long to write. It. Things are much better now than they were when I was younger. I don’t respond to these triggers in the same way every day. They have to catch me in the right moment, maybe I’m tired that day or feeling emotional. Maybe I’m already thinking about the church or rapture for some other reason. Sounds  and visual cues affect me worse than words but occasionally words can do it especially certain Bible quotes. “No man knows the day nor the hour…” “Two men will be in the field, one will be taken…”, 666. This is why I don’t participate in conversations online about the rapture because people will bring up these verses and always the Thief in the Night films, and then it is all over for me. When it gets really bad my brain just starts flashing images at me to force me to pay attention. When I was a kid this sweet woman from the church came to give my mother a Bible study. The Search for Truth Bible Study. This Bible study was very popular within our congregation and they wanted all new converts to go through it. It was a huge flip book that stood on the table by itself with large full-page black and white drawings. One of these drawings has stuck with my mind my whole life it featured the white throne judgment and after all of these years (I was 8 when I first saw it) I can still bring it up into my mind easily.

http://search4truth2.com/DOCs/study/search4truth1-chart.pdf

Start at page 54 and go through to the end and you will see what I mean. The night I had my salvation experience my pastor preached a fire and brimstone sermon that scared the crap out of my 10-year-old self. I fully believed that if I left that service unsaved I would burn forever. From my childhood church experience I have almost no memories of anyone talking about god’s love, it seems like it was mostly turn or burn on repeat. I heard it at home, at church, and at school. It was inescapable.

I wrote this to give you all an idea of what it is like to deal with C-PTSD. When the church exposes young minds to ideas, images, and thoughts they are not ready for or able to fully understand they are committing child abuse. My young mind was damaged in a way that I cannot fully fix. I cannot predict when all of these thoughts will rush at me. Rapture theology is not the only thing contributing to my condition but it is a HUGE part of it and the most unpredictable.

D