C-PTSD, Depression, Family, Fear, isolation, Rapture, Shame, Trauma, Uncategorized, United Pentecostal Church

The Process of Leaving and Dealing With Trauma

When I speak with survivors one topic comes up over and over again. The people in their lives who love them cannot understand why they continue to suffer from trauma and pain from the past. Friends, co-workers, and people they interact with online often seem to want to give them the same advice. They want to offer you a quick fix and often that fix comes with a warning about not forgiving or holding onto negativity for too long. What they don’t realize is that the process for working through trauma can take a lifetime. Forgiving and “moving on” is not going to resolve the trauma responses coming from the survivor’s body. It can seem like someone has moved on but if you’re not inside their head and their body you can’t really understand. Triggers can make it hard to not think about things and can effect the body in some very real ways.

When first leaving an abusive group you’re probably in survivor mode. You’re trying to figure out how to get away and then how to live without the community you may have been in since birth. People who have known you all your life might shun you or feel the need to warn you about hell and the coming end times. You may lose family and will most certainly lose friends in the process. Often you end up feeling much more alone than you could have ever imagined. You may not have the social skills needed to maneuver in the new world you find yourself apart of and you may lack job skills or be poorly educated. Add to this a fear of hell and the rapture and you can see why just getting out and acclimating to the world can be a very tall order. Once you’re out you may find yourself dealing with depression, anxiety, insomnia, and loneliness. I consider this to be phase one of three phases.

When I started phase one I was a teenager. I went from a very insular community out into a big world that I was not ready for. When I left the church no one came looking for me. I struggled through the realization that they didn’t care. I always suspected that but when it became a reality it hit me hard. I went to public school for a year and found I had nothing to talk to my peers about. When I was in the church I felt weird like I did not fit in and then when I went into public school I felt the same way. Everyone was planning for their future. I thought I had good grades and could have gotten into college but I had no one to help me navigate that journey. Neither of my parents attended college. By this time my mother was already pretty sick and preoccupied with raising my bother and dealing with her abusive husband. My father’s attitude was that if I had a husband I did not need an education. He felt the same way about driving which meant I did not learn to drive until I was much older. I discovered that I had missed many of the milestones that my peers had experienced and would continue to miss them because I had no way to know what was normal and how to get those experiences for myself. Over time I came to realize that my Christian school had supplied me with a subpar education. If I had someone to help me navigate the gaps I could have taken classes to fill in what was missing, the issue is I did not know what I did not know. I worked in restaurants for a long time and got a little apartment for myself. I did what I had to to survive and tried to tell myself that I had time and everything would be ok. I was always afraid of a wrathful god. When I cut my hair and pierced my ears there was this moment where I was just waiting for lightening to strike. This new world was both exciting and scary.

The next phase comes when you finally feel free from the group and you try to convince yourself that you can live without them and just get on with things. Many people I speak to can be stuck in this place for decades. They convince themselves they are doing great and have just left it all behind. Reality is usually much different. Sometimes during this period addictions will show up as a coping mechanism. Many survivors try to fill their lives with activities, family and work in an attempt to forget about the trauma, but the unresolved trauma is still there like a ticking time bomb. During this time if you talk about your trauma or pain people will often slap you on the back and say something like, “But you’re away from them now so life must be good!” This is phase two.

I left my abusive group and then jumped right into another one. I hear that is not uncommon. I only stayed in that group for a couple of years before leaving. During this phase, I reveled in my freedom and filled my life with having children and experiencing as much as I could after a life of real restriction. The pain of my past never went away. It was always lurking in the background with it’s best friend fear. I tried to listen to what pop psychology told me. I tried to release the past and I tried to forgive. I tried to get on with my new life. Now I’m not saying those are bad ideas, all I’m saying is that they are a very simple answer for an extremely complex problem. They did nothing to address my C-PTSD and in the end, I just ended up feeling more broken because I couldn’t just get over it. Over time I got more and more sick. I have always had insomnia but as I’ve aged it has become much more constant. The underlying stress and anxiety brewing within me caused me to have severe stomach issues that I am still trying to heal. I also have asthma which I do not think came from the trauma but it is well documented that mental health has a big role to play in how severe asthmatic symptoms are. My body was trying to send me messages and I just kept turning the music up louder and trying to convince myself I was ok.

Phase three is what I like to call the “wake up” phase. Sometimes it happens suddenly and sometimes in little things that add up to a creeping realization. By this time the addictions are at a breaking point or maybe you just don’t sleep anymore. However it displays, you reach a point where you can no longer ignore the toll the unresolved trauma has put on your body. Things will pop into your head that you just can’t shake and you can no longer make excuses for. I feel people often reach this stage when they are in midlife and things slow down a little. They have age and experience which causes them to view the world differently. They are fully adults now and are in a better position to judge where they came from. This is usually a crisis breaking point. Illusions fall away and the past you have been hiding from is waiting there for you.

My phase three went on for a very long time. Over the years the creeping realizations would make it hard for me to ignore what happened in the past. When my oldest child reached the age I was when I was molested I realized how little she was. I could see how sweet and innocent she was and I had a bit of a crisis. These things would happen from time to time over the years. As I matured I could see clearly the past decisions that the adults made around me during my childhood as monsterous and cruel. For a long time I would make excuses for them and try to find ways to not face up to how bad things really were. Once I started writing this blog I started to really wake up. It felt like blindfold after blindfold was ripped from my eyes forcing me to look at the trauma I suffered and get real with myself about the repercussions of it. This can be really hard, when you get to the point where you can’t look away. You can no longer deny the truth in front of you or make excuses for people’s bad choices. It forces you to change the way you think and can really change your life in profound ways. Some people lose what remaining family they have, some people just realize the depth of what was done to them in childhood. With all of that comes fresh waves of grief, anger, anxiety, fear, and so on.

Once you can see the trauma you suffered clearly then you have to get to work on healing yourself and figuring out how to live in your new reality. This is where I am right now. I left the UPC when I was 16, I’m now 49, that’s 33 years to get to this point. I am one of those people who is always working on myself, I’m introspective and I’m always seeking self improvement and it still took me 33 years. This is not a quick process and I suspect I will be healing from it forever. I am ok with that and I hope that you can be too. One of the hardest things is when the people you love or just the people you want to like you seem annoyed that “you’re still dealing with that?” They question why you can’t just forget and be happy. If you love me or even just like me some the best thing you can do for me is accept me where I’m at. Understand that this isn’t something that is just going to go away. It is something I’m working on all the time. Sit with me when I’m sad and don’t try to fix it, just let me know you’re there. Take me out for coffee and listen even if you’ve heard it a million times. Lastly try to remember that I’m doing my best.

 

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, 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

A.C.E., Childhood, Fear, Rapture, Self Esteem, Sexual Abuse, Shame, Sin, United Pentecostal Church

Girl Interrupted

Once when I was in therapy the therapist asked me to envision my child self. My mind went to a field we had near my childhood home. I would run around that field playing Wonder Woman. I went sledding with my dog down the hill beside the field and I would make crowns from the dandelions I found in the grass. When envisioning my child self my mind immediately took me to that place and sitting in the grass making crowns and placing dandelions in my hair. That little girl was still pretty carefree but that wouldn’t last for long. By that time I had been exposed to rapture theology and my parents were struggling within their marriage and we were poor. Even with all of that to worry about I was still an adventurous, imaginative, happy-go-lucky little girl.

Little Debbie

We started attending Calvary Gospel on and off in 1978. By 1980 I was becoming pretty entrenched. You might think that Steve Dahl was the first thing to interrupt my girlhood but I don’t think that is true. What came first was fear. Calvary Gospel was awash in it at that point. Sermons like the one that lead to my salvation were not the exception they were common. My world kept getting smaller and smaller. It seemed like everything was a sin and the devil was everywhere just waiting to deceive and maybe gobble up a little girl like me. The seeds to all of my anxiety were planted, watered, and tended there. How can you be a little girl when all you can think about is hell, the rapture, and what sin you might have committed while just going about your day? It didn’t take long before innocent things like watching cartoons on tv or listening to the radio could be enough to damn me for eternity. This is where I learned to make myself small and it has impacted my life in a very negative way. I became super fearful and so I stopped taking chances/risks and instead tried to stay safe. Safety is good but it can go too far. I believe all success requires being willing to take some risks.

Soon I learned that women were supposed to be quiet in church. Women’s role in family life was to be submissive to the husband and to raise the children. I was never asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I think it was assumed I would be a quiet submissive wife. When I was a little girl I wanted to be a minster. I would line up all my dolls on the sofa along with my stuffed animals and Barbies. We would have church and I would lead the worship and preach the message. At about age 10 I stopped dreaming about what I wanted to be when I grew up. Soon my goals shifted to being an evangelists wife and going to a UPC supported music school. I knew that a good ministers wife needed to know how to sing and play an instrument in order to support her husbands work. I went from being the leading lady to being a support player. Wonder Woman was long out of my reach.

A.C.E. did not help. I attended the church school and those old PACES did not show women doing much other than working with kids. We did not have many great electives to take and the work itself was not inspiring. Most of the time I was bored out of my mind. I went in a bright straight A student and left hating school and just wanting it to be over. No one ever talked to me about college or offered to help me with picking a career. The staff seemed just as miserable as the students. It was not an environment that fostered curiosity, questions, or deep thinking. It was learning by memorization, no real thinking required. Things that could not be taught that way, like algebra turned into a nightmare for me. I am a kinesthetic learner and I love a good discussion. There was no place for any of that within my Christian education. In my late high school years, I toyed with the idea of becoming a teacher but nothing ever came of that dream. The idea of college just became too much to try to figure out in the midst of all of the other things going on in my life. Even being a teacher was a downgrade from another childhood dream of being a doctor. Public school in the 70’s taught me I could be anything, the church and Christian school undid all of that.

Steve Dahl took what little bit of self-esteem I had and crushed it. That experience made me feel dirty and sinful. I had a pretty good body image before he came into my life but that all changed. I started to see my body as a sinful trap that kept ensnaring this godly man. I felt betrayed by my body because at times I enjoyed the attention he gave me. I started to see my body as something that needed to be hidden, controlled and prayed for. I certainly did not feel fearfully and wonderfully made. I did not feel created in god’s image. All of the things that made me a woman seemed evil and wrong. Eve was my mother and well we all know how things went for her.

Age 11

Catching a husband seemed important. I worried about being attractive but not too attractive or attractive in the wrong way. I was half Mexican and so that added an extra level of difficulty. I could not get a straight answer about who it was ok for me to marry. At that time interracial marriage was considered wrong and there were no other Mexicans in our congregation. I felt that my being half Mexican meant I needed to find a Mexican husband, and that seemed like a tall order. I dated Caucasians boys but I always felt the undertone of racism that existed there. I would not be anybody’s first choice. I was tainted by my molestation and the color of my skin. I felt lesser. My parents were not part of the in crowd and that also lead to me feeling like a second-class citizen. It made me feel even smaller.

About 15

Yesterday I was talking with some other survivors about who we could have been had we not grown up in the UPC environment. We all feel like girls interrupted. Our childhood interrupted and corrupted by Calvary Gospel church. Our innocence was stolen. We were not allowed to be kids. The adults always seemed to have their minds in the gutter and so every innocent thing became an opportunity for sin and especially sex to invade our lives, and yet no protection was offered to keep us safe from the real dangers. Predators were protected and supported while victims were scorned and not to be trusted. We received a substandard education and the church seemed to care more about whether or not our skirts had slits than whether or not be could go to college. The adults in my life didn’t seem to care about the lack of food in my home or about the devastation that my abuse caused in my life. If they had done that one thing, protected me from my abuser my life could have been so different. If they had offered loving support and reassurance my life could have been so much better. They took beautiful, bright, and hopeful young girls and turned them into anxious, fearful, and damaged women.

Now as we try to raise awareness about what happened to us all the church can do is scorn us. They can’t seem to understand or they don’t care to see what they have done to us. These things are not things you just move on from it takes hard work, support, and a lifetime of striving to overcome. There isn’t a single one of us who hasn’t been striving to be better no matter what our damage is. We don’t desire to be bitter we desire justice and we hope to save other children from the fate we have suffered. We were girls interrupted but now we are women seeking to bring about change.

Last year my word for the year was restoration. I wanted to go back to the time before I was so afraid. I wanted to see my body as a miracle and a blessing and I wanted to say goodbye to shame once and for all. I worked to remember who I was before my worth was called into question. Last year was a big year. My life has totally changed. I feel like my life has been restored. I’m taking chances again and I’m daring to go after what I want. I’ve stepped out of the shadows and I’ve become more engaged in my community and politics. I’ve been reunited with old friends and found many new friends and supporters. I’ve learned I’m not alone thanks to #metoo/#churchtoo. I am not the person the church might like you to think I am. I’m not bitter, I’m strong. I’m not trying to engage them in spiritual warfare, I’m trying to seek justice for my child self. I’m trying to tell the truth and speak for all of those who cannot speak for themselves. Wonder Woman doesn’t seem so out of reach now.

D

Crime, Fear, Leadership, Sexual Abuse, United Pentecostal Church

On The Edge

Today I feel on the edge. Last night the dam broke and all I could do is cry and there doesn’t seem to be an end to these tears. My heart is wrecked from my own pain and the pain of all of the other victims. Yes, some of these tears are from sorrow, but mostly they are tears of anger. People keep reminding me that I’m brave and courageous, I don’t know about that. What I do know is that I’m filled with rage towards the people who hurt so many and those who covered it up. My heart is so heavy and the tears threaten each and every moment of my existence.

My mind always seeks to understand. How can it be that so many children were left unprotected? How can those in authority sleep at night knowing they’ve allowed predators to go free? Forget the Bible and Jesus, how can any moral human be ok with all of that? How can anyone with a soul watch children grow up and be a part of their lives on an almost daily basis and then just shrug when they are wounded in a way that will profoundly change the rest of their life?

This morning the full force of all of this hit me! It can be hard to see people you know so personally as evil but today I’m calling it like it is. I’m tired of twisting myself into pretzels trying to figure out their motives and all of the cultural reasons why seemingly good people go along with bad leadership. There is no excuse. No amount of marriage problems, lust problems, or whatever excuse he is using today will ever excuse what Steve Dahl did to me. There is nothing to understand. He is a pedophile and that is really all I need to know. He is out there in his community and still a danger to those around him. My feelings about Pastor Grant are the same. I don’t care who he was trying to protect, I don’t care about his bad publicity concerns, I don’t care if he was obligated by law to report, what he did in my situation was evil. He was supposed to be my shepherd and teacher. All he taught me was fear, and how little value I had within his congregation.

So I’ve said all of that to say, they should expect no mercy. My concern is for the victims. I believe in cause and effect. They are trying to play the victim now, saying that we are all bitter and seeking to destroy the church. Sadly they are not being honest about their role in their own destruction. I’m sorry if this post comes across as raw and unpolished. One thing you will always get from me is honesty and today this is where I’m at.

D

Assemblies of God Church, Childhood, Family, Fear, Government, isolation, Poverty, United Pentecostal Church

Isolation, Bootstraps, and Fear of the Government

My mother was a very strong woman. She often worked two jobs and still made the time to do things like refinishing the living room floor. We were very poor for most of my childhood but my mother would not consider asking the government for assistance. In the 70’s it was much easier for men to get out of paying child support and my father very rarely paid anything. Because of her stubborn resistance regarding asking for help, we often were on the edge of losing our housing and we often did not have enough to eat. I would walk home from school at lunch and scoop peanut butter out of the jar because that is all we had. I also have memories of my mother fishing for dinner. If she did not catch anything we did not have dinner. At times she would keep a cooler with milk, bologna, and maybe some kind of fruit. When you don’t have electricity it can be impossible to cook or keep food cold. It wasn’t always that bad but it happened pretty regularly.

Where did her resistance regarding asking for help come from? It can be traced back to her parents and religion. My grandparents were rugged people who believed you should help yourself through hard work and determination. They tended to only associate with others from their church because of fear of the world and the devil’s influence on it. They passed that fear down to my mother. They felt that you never ask the government for assistance and you don’t let them into your life if you can help it. This means don’t call the police unless you are dying and never answer the door for social services. You should never apply for things like food stamps because you would have to fill out government forms, thus giving them info about yourself and because you should be able to help yourself through hard work.

All of this kind of thinking tends to lead to isolation. You cannot ask for help without shame, you can only associate with others from your church, and your church is pretty anti-government. On the surface, it might seem like the UPC is patriotic and pro-government, but that isn’t really the truth. My grandparent’s Assemblies of God church was pretty much the same. Once you are isolated from the community around you all you can do is hope your church will help, in our case that help never came.

I have many memories of sitting on the floor at my grandparent’s house listening to the adults talking. They often talked about the end times and the One World Government. They speculated about who the anti-Christ was and how he would take over the U.S. They talked about the government being able to watch us through our televisions and about how someday they would be able to see through the walls of our homes. They felt we were already being watched. I know this may sound crazy to someone who has not grown up around this stuff but I assure you they believed it all. My mother and her family saw the government as evil and this meant you did not go to them unless you had no other option.

This distaste for the government may have led to my molestation not being reported. Sure the church did not want the bad press of having a molestation case coming out of their church, but there is also a distrust of the government happening there. In the end, the pastor is your government. He makes the rules, punishes the sinners, and decided who rises and who falls. You cannot question him because that is taboo.

1 Chronicles 16:22 “Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.”

Anyone could be the anti-Christ. It could even be the U.S. president. He might even be serving right now. With that always being the case then how could you trust the government? It will be the government that eventually gives out the mark of the beast so…you can see where all of the fear comes from. The end result makes pastors into kings of their own little kingdoms. They are not to be questioned and if you do you will soon find yourself out in that cruel world they have warned you about. You will be shunned and subject to a different type of isolation.

All of these beliefs kept my family in poverty and kept my mother suffering for much of her life. It makes me sad that she worked herself to death trying to live and pay medical bills. It makes me angry that her mental illness went untreated for so long because she thought it was sin and not illness causing her depression. If she had not been afraid maybe she could have received help from the county with childcare, food stamps, and medical assistance. How could my life have been different if I had better medical care, enough food so that I could concentrate on school, and childcare so I wouldn’t have to be a latchkey kid? If some of these things had been in place maybe I would have not been such a good target for Steve Dahl. Being with him was an escape from a pretty hard life, at least I knew he would feed me.

D