Monday, February 10, 2014

5 Awesome Reasons to Leave Your Church

Recently, Relevant Magazine an article entitled 5 Really Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church. As someone who has experience leaving a church, I felt compelled to respond. 

There are five reasons in the article, but they all boil down to this one:

"My needs aren't being met"

Hooooo boy, American Evangelical churches hate when their members have needs. This is because they view themselves as locked in an eternal battle with the forces of Satan. The pastor is the general and his flock are soldiers. Soldiers obey. They don't complain, and they certainly don't have needs.

But the church also needs to put non-Christian asses in seats so that people hear The Gospel. So they have to provide whizz-bang worship services, engaging sermons, and comfortable seating. 

But here's the catch: these frills are not really intended for members. Once you become a soldier in God's army, you are expected to serve until it hurts . You are expected to surrender your comfortable seat if a potential recruit needs it. 
This is a bait and switch. 

Let's use my former church as an example.

One of the the pastors there bragged that when someone told him they didn't like one of the songs , he had replied, "Well, we weren't singing it to you."

A good soldier doesn't complain about their countries national anthem, you see.

Once they showed a video that compared a good church to a battleship and a bad church to a cruise ship. This means that in their mind, a bad church is keeps it's members safe, and if people get hurt, they apologize and make amends. A bad church recharges people instead of draining them.

On the other hand, a good church is one where people obey orders and people's comfort and safety aren't important. It's a place that you can't leave.

This is how the church was run. They pushed for people to become members as soon as possible. Small group leaders were strongly encouraged to have members sign covenants promising to attend the group so that, as one pastor put it, "if they don't live up to their end of the agreement you can hold it in their face and call them out" (paraphrase). 

People who practically lived at the church (because they were in so many ministries) were held up as shining examples that others should aspire to be.
Young couples expecting their first child were told not to just "check out" because they were parents now. And we were constantly reminded that it wasn't about us and our needs. 

But nothing could change the fact that members weren't actually soldiers and could therefore leave whenever they felt like it. So other tactics had to be employed. We would be frequently reminded that we were one of only a handful of "bible believing churches" in our corner of the state. The phenomenon of "church shopping" was roundly decried. The membership covenant with the church was likened to a marriage (and we all know how Evangelicals feel about divorce). 

So what? I hear some people say. Anecdotal evidence, that's all you've got!

Then why did Relevant feel the need to write the article?

Because what Relevant (and churches like MFC) want you to forget is that you have agency. You have choice.

You can leave if it's too big or too small or too far away. You can leave because the sermons are boring or because you don't like the style of worship. It's up to you. Just as you can choose to trade in your car, move to a different city, or start a new job.

They want you to forget that the best reason for leaving a church is the one that you pick.

They want you to forget that sometimes, it is about you and your needs, and that's OK. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I Don't Care If It Rains Or Freezes, As Long As I've Got My Magic Jesus

My former pastor once preached a sermon about another pastor who had invited a man to live in his home after that man was released from prison. The charge? Child molestation. The reason for the pastor's decision?

I'll give you three guesses. Actually, you don't get any guesses, you should have already figured it out.

Yep, the child molester had found Jesus while in prison. The pastor's decision made quite a stir, and he was interviewed by a local media outlet. He said that if Jesus was real and could change a person's heart, he had to put his money where his mouth is and invite this man into his home.

Anyone want to guess what Bible verse he referenced? Anyone? Bueller?
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)
But if you've spent any amount of time in Evangelical churches, you already knew that. You see, Evangelical Jesus isn't just the Son of God. He doesn't just forgive your sins. He's also a bloody wizard.

Not a magician who does crude parlor tricks. No, friends, the Evangelical Jesus performs actual magic. You see, when a person becomes a Christian by "asking Jesus into his heart", that person becomes a new person! It says so, right in the Bible! Avada Kedavra! I mean abracadabra!

Now, I don't know the end of this story. Maybe the molester in question had a genuine change of heart and the story ended happily (I certainly hope so). And don't think I'm bashing Jesus. I think Evangelicals are putting words in his mouth.

Because you see, at some point after a rookie Evangelical asks Jesus into his heart, they will experience their first Struggle With Sin. Perhaps they've even heard the above verse and can't understand why this is happening. They'll go to a trusted friend or their pastor for an explanation. They'll probably be told that Magic Jesus doesn't just wave a magic wand and change us all at once - it's a process. This process is called sanctification.

Phew! So Christians will change in small increments over time as they gain life experience and knowledge. The only problem is, this sounds an awful like how non-Christians change. It's called "growing up" and it does not, in fact, end when you turn eighteen (a fact which continues to surprise me despite having passed that mark some time age). 

The example I gave is not an isolated one. Abusers within the church are frequently reinstated into positions of authority (or never removed) because they've repented. After all, Jesus has forgiven them, so why shouldn't their victims? They have, after all said the magic words - "I'm sorry". Sometimes with actual tears. 

I don't sympathize with abusers. I save my sympathy for their victims.
However, I will say that abusive Christians and I have one thing in common: we were sold a bill of goods by a church that promised radical change that never came. I wanted to be released from anxiety; this didn't happen until I got on medication. Fortunately for everyone involved, I never committed a crime due to my anxiety.

Telling people they have changed when they haven't is irresponsible. In some cases, it's dangerous. The unnamed pastor in my story held his beliefs so firmly, he invited a convicted child molester into the home where his children lived. In doing this, he sided with an abuser over his children.

Let's let that sink in for a moment. 

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. How many victims of abuse have been forced to forgive their abuser? Face to face, no less? How many families have had a member commit horrible abuse, only to demand forgiveness and refuse to go to counselling because of this theology?

Don't think I'm letting abusers off the hook - far from it. They are the ones ultimately responsible for their actions. However, it is possible to be an enabler of abuse. I defy you to show me an example of Jesus doing this. When he saved the woman about to be stoned for adultery, he didn't make her forgive the people about to throw said stones. He didn't make the other disciples forgive Peter for his betrayal. 

It is true that the early church made Paul, a man who murdered Christians like it was his job (actually it was his job) one of their chief missionaries. 

But could it be that they sent him on trips all over the world so the families of the people he killed wouldn't have to be around him?  

Of course there's no way to know. But there's certainly no account of those families being forced to forgive him.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Web Developer's Thoughts on Coke's Anti-Gay Marketing Disaster

Recently, the Coca-Cola company came under fire for being anti-gay. The company had launched a marketing campaign in which customers could personalize a virtual can of Coke with whatever words they wanted. The site disallowed profanity, but included the words "gay" and "homo" in it's list of banned words. 

I'm a web developer. My company is tiny compared to Coke, of course, but I couldn't help but envision how this might play out if I were asked to design such a site for my company, because profanity is something that developers run into from time to time. At my previous job, we shipped our product on CDs and required the customer to input a randomly generate product key. A customer called in to inform us that their key included the letters 'FUCK', and one of our engineers had to scramble to change the key generator to filter profanities.

I can't help but feel that I would have done a better job.

Most developers would probably choose to use a software library called a wordfilter to perform the profanity scan. Think of a software library as being like an app for your phone. You just download it and use it - you don't need to know how it works. In this case, think of an app that lets you input some text. You then press 'Done' and an alert pops up if there's profanity in the text.

Most of these libraries would come with a built in library of profanity, including multiple languages and alternate spellings, possibly even more devious entries (like 'f.u.c.k' instead of fuck) that wily users might enter to circumvent the filter.

Of course no software is perfect, and a wordfilter is no exception. It can only split words into two categories - non-offensive and offensive. That's good enough for a smaller company such as mine. But a company as massive as Coke should have at least attempted to define a tertiary set - words that could be offensive. Entries with words in that set would have to be approved by an actual human before being allowed.

Let's take a non-controversial example: suck.

"I love sucking down an ice cold Coke!"

Clearly only one of those examples represents the Coke company in a positive light. 'Homo' and 'Gay' could easily be plugged into the second example, and would be caught by a human, though missed by a software library.

If someone entered a word that could be offensive, just display a message like this:

Your message contains word(s) that could, in some cases, be used in a derogatory manner. It will be manually reviewed and, if the message is not offensive, you will be allowed to use it.

It's not a perfect solution. Some might still take offense. And a *cough* unenlightened employee might refuse the word 'gay' if it's NOT used in a derogatory manner. 

Y'know...hmm...this entire idea sounds like a PR disaster waiting to happen, and probably should have been nipped in the bud. Perhaps they should have talked to someone from Nike

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Biblical Truth of Reincarnation

For nearly two thousand years, the debate has raged among Christians: what must I do to be saved? Some say it is by faith alone. Others say it is by good works. Others, both. Friends, I've spent an exhaustive afternoon doing research on Google, and I'm pleased to say that I have solved this dilemna.

The answer? Well, really, we've been asking the wrong question. The concept of 'salvation' is nothing more than a heretical fiction straight from the demented, maggot infested mind of the Father of Lies himself. You see friends, salvation is irrelevant, because when we die, our souls are reborn. Reincarnated. Recycled, if you will, as if they were so many aluminum cans. You may laugh. You may call me a heretic. That's because you're deceived by Satan. Those who have ears, hear me. 

It all started with this unsuspecting verse from Ecclesiastes:

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.                       
                            Ecclesiastes 1:9

Do you see it? I didn't at first. I read that verse so many times, but only now has God revealed the truth to me. "There is nothing new under the sun.". Nothing. NOTHING. Beloved, this includes your soul.

Due to my own sinful nature, I resisted the truth at first. So I searched the Scriptures.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 
                       2 Corinthians 5:17

How had I not seen it before! Those who are in Christ will be a new creation when they die! Their soul will be raised up in a new body!

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
                         John 3:3

THIS MAKES SO MUCH MORE SENSE NOW! How can someone be born again without dying first? Nicodemus was half right when he said "how can a man enter his mother again." We will not enter our mother again, but exit from another mother! We will be our own "brother from another mother", as the kids say.

For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
                        John 6:40

How could it be any more clear? If you believe in Christ, you will have eternal life. You will not die, your soul will raised up on the last day of your life and put into a new body, like a AA battery moved from the smoke alarm to the remote control.

Of course, there are verses that refer to the judgement we will receive from God when we pass on. It is this judgement that will determine the quality of body we receive in the next life. Will our body be the equivalent of a Ferrari or a Ford Pinto? The choices we make in this body will determine that.

I shared this with my pastor and he threw me out of his office. No matter. This, of course, just shows that I'm on the right track:

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.
                         John 15:18

What can I say - the life of a prophet is difficult. I am hoping that this mighty work the Lord is doing through me will qualify me for a body that is not quite so gassy the next time around. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Guest Post: Everything I know about Evangelicals, I learned from this blog.

Today's guest post comes to you from my real life friend Amy Kosh. She's a life coach and you can view her website here: Amy and I frequent the same coffee shop and one day I heard her talking about how she enjoyed The Bloggess. The rest is history.

It wasn't intentional. I didn't realize what I was learning about until it was too late. Too late being months into reading this blog and the comments to each posting. That’s where my real education has come, in the comments.

Let me backtrack a bit to how I got here. It all started in a coffee-shop with a stray comment about The Bloggess and her site and humour.  I read that blog a lot and I also read the comments. She is funny and they are sometimes funnier. One day there was a very funny comment from HereticHusband. That led me to his blog, which I admit I got totally sucked in by in the first five minutes of reading. Here was someone from a background completely different from my own, writing in a way that made his experiences and ideas compelling. I read a post, and then another and before I knew what had happened six months had gone by and I was hooked. I was also learning.

So here’s the interesting part for me: I really didn't expect to get so interested, but something about the passion with which people were commenting on the posts made me read and then re-read them to see why some comments were so heated.  If I was going to learn about a religion, this seemed to be a great way to do it - from the insider’s view and through the eyes of an avowed, (and smart) heretic who had the morals of a Buddhist, (meaning do no harm in the world).

So what have I learned from reading this thing for months?  Well here’s the short list:

1. John Piper and Mark Driscoll are scary and I had never even heard of them! How many more are out there?  Granted, there are people like this in every religion but these guys take the cake!  Somehow the misuse and abuse of power seems more egregious to me when we are talking about groups who have banded together because of what they believe about things other than politics, but hey, that’s just me. In the past year I have seen the yoga community torn apart by people who are just as divisive as John Piper and Mark Driscoll. Where we have "gurus" who trademark thousand year-old ideas for their own "schools of yoga", these religious leaders/speakers are trying to hoodwink the populace into following a school of thinking that holds them above and apart from other human beings. How is this what god, or even GOD would have wanted or meant? Even if I don’t believe in god, I do believe that division can’t be a good thing for humanity in general.

2. People who comment on religious topics are often very close-minded, (and then…some aren't). What really struck me was how many people who commented really could not get past their own ideas and beliefs to step inside of new ideas about their religion. I guess this isn’t new in any way but it makes me sad...and worried. 

The great thing about reading comments is that I can follow them to the source, and often that source is another blog. So I got a chance to see more than a single comment from many of these people. That’s also the bad part. When people are posting how strongly they think that I should believe what they believe…I feel a bit pressured. 

What worries me is that generally speaking these people are the same kinds of people who make broad statements on T.V. and radio about how we are "living in a Christian nation". As openly non-Christian, that frankly scares me. On bad days I start to wonder whether I need to look over my shoulder when I don’t pledge to god, or whether I will be asked to leave if I sing in a choir that performs in a christian church. After reading many of these blogs - I would not be surprised if much worse happened in the name of an organized, "Christian" religion.

3. Fundamentalists are even more dangerous than I thought. I was pretty naive when I started as a reader here. Though I understood that Radical Islam was a danger to just about everyone else on the planet, including the vast majority of Muslims who abhor violence as much as the rest of the peace-loving population; I was unaware of just how dangerous fundamentalists of any stripe were. Intolerance, screaming one’s beliefs at the top of one’s voice (so to speak), berating all who fail to heed their words, these Fundamentalists and Evangelicals in the Christian world are just as bad. Secondly I wonder that there seem to be more men than women yelling at what people should do and believe…but perhaps that’s merely my lack of experience in the world of the "preacher".

4. There are a few voices of reason in the world. Whew! This is what saves me at the end of the day. That I can find, amongst all the yelling and pushiness, some calm voices who can talk me down the path of tolerance and moderation and let me see that there are spaces in the world, on the web, wherever, that sanity reigns and introspection and consideration of ideas are values.

Unorthodox as it may have been, I actually would recommend learning about religious groups, (or any other groups who are really foreign to you), through a blog. People are heated, They are honest and ideas get poked, prodded and with luck, dented and bent and examined.

The path I traveled while reading started with humor and delight in someone willing to examine the ideas he grew up with. I moved through commiseration and booster-ism to really thinking the leaders of these religions were nuts and should be shot. I read on and my feelings shifted again as I started to see the wide variety of people who wrote in on guest posts and comments. It’s been an education and I think, a good one.  I've come not quite full circle. My thinking has been changed and my eyes are wider open to the messages flitting across the airwaves. At the end of the day, I thank all of you for the education.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Garbage In, Garbage Out

When I was in my early twenties, I had not yet discovered the magic of coffee. My wife was visiting family out of state and since we didn't have children yet, I decided to visit some friends from college who loved about an hour away. After a night of craziness (read: playing Dungeons And Dragons), I started the drive home around 4AM. I was stone cold sober, but soon I started to get tired. I started to doze off, just for half a second. I swore that I saw a deer in the middle of the highway, and slammed on the brakes.

I wound up stopped on I-95, in the high speed lane, facing the wrong direction. Oops. Luckily, it was 4AM. I was the only car on the road, and the subsequent adrenalin rush got me home without further incident.

I was acting on something I thought was true. Had it actually been true, it would have been a legitimate reaction. But, since I was getting bad data from my eyeholes, I reacted in the wrong way and could have easily gotten killed.

We have a phrase in the software engineering industry: Garbage In, Garbage Out. It simply means that if you give a computer the wrong data, you will always get the wrong result. The human brain works in a similar way. It needs good input to function properly, or it can't be trusted to make good decisions.

This doesn't only apply to emergency situations. Good input is a must in every situation, from driving to business to personal relationships. It's also true in the realm of religion. And that's what makes religion so hard.  Everyone thinks they have the correct information, when in reality no one knows for certain (though many are not willing to admit this).

John Piper thinks he has accurate information about who God is. He believes that God allows things like hurricanes to happen - that God could stop them but chooses not to. So when some hurricanes hit recently, he tweeted a verse from Job. About Job's house falling down and killing everyone inside. Because he thought it would be comforting.

Based on the information he has, that's a well thought out, rational response. It just so happens that most people don't agree with that. This is what happens in the realm of Evangelical Christianity (not just that realm, but that's the one I'm talking about here because I have the most experience with). There are people who do terrible things because of the information they have about God. Information they can't even verify.

The brain is, of course, much more than a computer. 
A computer just blindly accepts everything it’s given. It will do exactly what you tell it to do - nothing more, nothing less. Whereas the brain
can analyze the information coming in, judge it to be inaccurate, and then search for better information, or fill in gaps.

But in the Evangelical world, this is discouraged. People may be told “not to touch the Lord’s annointed” if they start questioning a pastor or similar figure. They’re told not to “not lean on their own understanding, but lean on the Lord’s understanding.” I had a pastor at my previous church tell me I shouldn’t trust my emotions because “you’re emotions are the first thing to lie to you”.

Well if I can’t trust my emotions, and I can’t trust my thoughts, and I shouldn’t question my pastor...where does that leave me? Well, it leaves me in an environment ripe for spiritual abuse.

A typical Evangelical response to this might be "well, by their fruit you will know them." This refers to Matthew 7:16. In other words, if people have inaccurate information about God, they will do bad things, and you will know that their information is inaccurate.

The problem with this is that no one can seem to agree on what these "fruit" look like. Let's take homosexuality. Judging the "sin" of homosexuality is considered a good fruit by many evangelicals, because after all, if you love someone, you'll call out the sin in their life. Which might be true, but we can't even agree if homosexuality is a sin.

Their's a list of "fruit" in the Bible, but they're pretty vague. For instance, self control. I'm sure Mark Driscoll thinks he has great self control. Most of his critics would probably disagree with that statement.

If you're reading this and you're an Evangelical, you're probably thinking "What about the Bible? That's the standard by which we can judge our information!" Well that's all well and good, except you can use the Bible to justify just about anything. It's all about what parts of the Bible you emphasize and which you ignore.

I know, I know. "I'm an Evangelical! I would NEVER ignore part of the Bible!" Calm down, hypothetical Evangelical person. I'm sure you would never knowingly ignore part of the Bible, but have you considered that this book you base your life on is freaking long and you don't actually know everything contained within it? There are verses that make it quite clear that God does indeed cause hurricanes and we should shut the fuck up and be grateful that there aren't more, thank you very much. There are also other verses that talk about God's mercy.

EVERYBODY creates the God they want. For some reason, Piper wants his God to be wrathful, dropping bridges on people and whipping up hurricanes and tornadoes. I don't know the man, but I would bet money that he had issues with his father.

Information that you create based on what you need is not good information for making decisions. I don't care what it is. Some might say that if your religion gives you comfort and causes you to do good, who cares? I've always felt it's better to have the truth...which is probably why I can't stick with any particular religion very long.

Progressives do this too. When Mark Driscoll talks about what a tough guy Jesus is, and how he's coming back with a tattoo on his thigh and a sword to fuck shit up, progressives might say something like, "Jesus isn't like that. Not my Jesus."

Evangelicals like to sneer at talk like this. Never mind that they have "their" Jesus as well. Or that there is no "my Jesus" or "your Jesus" any more then there's "my George Washington" or "your Martin Luther King". There's just Jesus, the person we're pretty sure lived 2,000 years ago and got nailed to a cross. In the intervening time he was an itinerant Rabbi for a few years and some claim he performed miracles and was the Son of God.

Or, maybe the opposite is more accurate. Maybe "my Jesus" or "your Martin Luther King" is all we have. Some focus on King's heroic efforts to promote equality. Others focus on his adultery and alleged Communist ties. Some view George Washington as a defender of freedom and the father of our country. To others, he was a slave owner who established a system that perpetuated the dominance of white males.

Lately, I've felt as though my faith is starting to regenerate in some tiny, quantum way. The question is, faith in what? God? If so, what God? Jesus? If so, what Jesus?

I think, that for the first time in my life, I can answer "I don't know, and I'm OK with that."

Because lack of data is better than bad data.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Guest Post: I am not a victim, I am a survivor of fundamentalism

Sheldon Cooper is a blogger from the St. Louis area who works in the warehouse industry. He talk about his past, and his views on life now (as well as the busy life that comes with becoming a first time homeowner) at his blog, Ramblings of Sheldon.

“Where are you going?” she kept asking over and over again, with defiance and a hint of amused contempt as she stood in the middle of the only doorway out of the room. I had told her just minutes before that I was leaving, and she immediately blocked the door. I had some of my stuff packed, and I was desperate to leave her home for good, but she just stood there and said I had “no right” to leave. 

Was I some pouting 12 year old kid at the time? No, I was 21 years old. I was desperate enough that I was willing to leave the home of my Mom and Dad with just a few hundred dollars to my name and an old van. 

What drove me to this point? It was many different things, and I should start from the beginning. Just two years earlier, I had come back from a prominent Southern Baptist college after a nervous breakdown that included severe depression with constant fatigue, muscle pain/weakness, and some bizarre panic attacks. Needless to say, I couldn’t keep it together, and had to return home.

When I did return home, I explained what had happened, and all of it was dismissed as “guilt” and “not having a right relationship with god”. You see, in her mind, my struggles with mental illness were not an illness, they showed a lack of character. Her attitude reflected much of what what can be seen in fundamentalism: that true happiness can only come from serving god, and if you aren’t happy, then that must be a sign that your relationship isn’t right.

The real kicker is that I actually believed for this for two years, and generated a lot of self hatred and frustration. I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working. I begged god for “forgiveness”, I doubled down on my dedication to my faith, but it wasn’t working. I was beginning to realize that the relationship with god had little to nothing to do with it, and that I had a real disorder. The problem was that my mother was never going to see it that way, and dealing with her ignorance left me feeling trapped in this situation.

It was pushing me to the point that I was starting to become suicidal. For a while I pondered jumping off a local bridge during the winter, but then I started to think that if I did, I would be giving my mother exactly what she wanted: control over me for my entire life. That thought bothered me more than the thought of ending my life. I knew I had to do something, anything, to break away, but I was stuck. 

At the time, I was in a local college, and I was starting to realize that they were a scam, but of course, she didn’t see it that way. I proved it to her in so many different ways, I even told her what some people in the field that my major was in told me at a summer job (that the college was a scam), but all to no avail. It didn’t work. 

She told me the only acceptable plan for my life was to go to college, and she kept pontificating about how supposedly I would never make it financially without that piece of worthless paper from the scam of a college I was in at the time.

Allegedly, I would be working 3 minimum wage jobs, have no time for anything, and would be starving. She called me “lazy” because I would rather work (I still haven’t figured out the logic behind that argument). She tried to make me feel without hope, that I would never leave, and that I couldn’t make it without her. I knew that was a lie, and meant to keep me defeated and powerless. I knew I wasn’t getting anywhere while trying to reason with her. I knew that if I stayed, it would be many more years suffering under her rule, and it might just lead me to finally end my life. 

So I packed some things, and was going to leave that morning, but there she was, standing in the doorway to barricade me in the room. "Where are you going?" It’s not as though she didn’t know, I explained it to her just minutes before. It was more of a challenge than a question. I had a phone sitting out, because as angry as I knew she would get, she hadn’t become violent with me since I was 11 years old. But she loved to threaten it when nothing else worked, and I couldn’t be too sure. 

She noticed the phone sitting out, and insisted to know why it was laying on a desk. She figured it out, and told me (keep in mind I was 21 years old at the time), that if she were to hit me, I would deserve it. I pointed out to her how hypocritical her statement was, due to the fact that she was always ranting about how bad her childhood was with a physically abusive father (and rightfully so). She had nothing to say for once, she simply walked away. 

I realized that if I was to ever reclaim my life, and get back any sense of hope, I had to push back, and resist in any way possible. Eventually I would wear her out, reasoning sure wouldn’t work. I refused to go along with her plans, and finally won on the college front. I got a job (not three minimum wage jobs), and saved my money, paycheck by paycheck

She tried to slow me down by making pay “rent” for living in her home (the home “I had no right to leave”),  which I payed, but I kept pressing on anyway. The muscle pain and weakness came back, but I fought through it, sometimes working up to 64 hours a week, despite the pain and stiffness. She told me that I was so lazy, that even if I did get a job, I wouldn’t stay at it very long. 

Guess what? I have not only been at the same company since September 2011, I have moved up within the company (thankfully to a job that is no longer physically demanding). I saved up enough money over the last 2 years to buy a foreclosure house, and closing procedures will take place next week (the week of June 10, 2013) [Note: this has happened. Congratulations Sheldon! -HH]. I paid cash for it, and won’t ever have to worry about house payments. My finances will be a little stretched to say the least while rebuilding it, but I never would have thought I would have gotten this far only 3 years after that day that I was barricaded in that room. 

There are times, like when I’m writing a post like this, that I feel much the same way I did that day: defeated, humiliated, like a victim, but then I remember, I’m a survivor. I fought, and clawed my way towards finally getting the right to start my own life, and won. I survived the toxic self hatred and ignorance of fundamentalism, and cast it aside.  I have a long way to go to rebuild my life, financially, emotionally, and in so many different ways, but I won the fight for my freedom.