Yesterday, I watched Amazon Prime’s docuseries, Shiny Happy People as I wrote my daily blog post. The series, which was eagerly anticipated by Duggar family snarkers, was preemptively condemned by Jim Bob Duggar, who hadn’t seen it before he wrote his statement on Instagram. I shared his comments in yesterday’s post, so I won’t repost them here. Suffice to say, I think he knew this wasn’t going to be great PR for his family. However, in spite of Jim Bob’s fears, although the series promised “Duggar Family Secrets”, I’m not so sure it really delivered too much more of what most of us already knew. I did notice, though, that both Joy Anna Forsyth and her brother, Jedidiah, have respectively announced the births of their son and daughter just in time for this docuseries. Joy Anna’s baby, Gunner, was born May 17th, and Jed’s daughter, Nora, was born on the 24th. Both births were just announced within this week. Jim Bob probably hopes people will pay attention to those blessed events instead of what’s on Amazon.
What the docuseries has done is shine a light on Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles. It has revealed just how sick and bizarre that cult is, and how so many innocent people have been caught up in it through no fault of their own. Yes, we heard from Derick and Jill Dillard, but they weren’t the whole focus of the series. Quite a few lesser figures in the IBLP were given a voice, including a couple of men. I think people don’t realize that culty groups like the IBLP are not just destructive to females. Men who don’t toe the line can also suffer greatly.
This morning over breakfast, as I was telling Bill about the docuseries, I commented that I was so glad I wasn’t born to super religious parents who were stuck in a fundie Christian cult. I’ve mentioned before that to a lesser extent, we’ve been getting an inkling of what it’s like to be raised by an extremely narcissistic control freak through listening to Bill’s daughter. The IBLP puts that micro cult experience on a whole new level, causing a generations of young people to be stuck, undereducated and too sheltered to function effectively in the world.
Heather Heath, who wrote the book Lovingly Abused, about her experience growing up in the IBLP, spoke about how even the most intimate aspects of life were controlled. She spoke of how she bought tampons at WalMart during one of the conferences she attended. When the tampons were discovered, she was severely chastised for “taking her own virginity” with “devil’s fingers”. To be fair, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard such ignorance. Years ago, I read and reviewed a book called Do Tampons Take Your Virginity by Marie Simas. Simas was raised by strict Catholics, who had similarly odd views on feminine hygiene products.
The series indicated that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were moving into leading the IBLP, since Gothard was forced out for being such a pervy old man. Maybe that’s a comfort to Jim Bob, who has been trying to get back into politics so he can help turn the United States into a theocracy. I don’t think he’ll ever get back into public office, but if he’s running the IBLP, that’s a measure of power. But, then, a lot of people have seen the Amazon series by now, and will be warned away from him and his like minded friends. It’s a lot harder to suck people in to such cults now, because of the Internet and the easy availability of vast information. So, their only hope of survival is courting the ignorant and keeping the members they already have busy with breeding and church activities, hemming them in with legalistic rules.
The IBLP is just one of so many religious organizations run by extreme narcissists. Some of what was said in the series sounded a lot like things I’ve heard about religious movements, such as Mormonism. Joseph Smith, founder of the LDS church, basically “married” the wives of church members and had up to 40 wives. Some were as young as 14 years old. The LDS church has obviously changed some of its problematic earlier policies and become more mainstream. But there are still offshoots of the official church that do things more the way they were allegedly done in the early days of the church. Some of what I heard yesterday reminded me of what I’ve read about Mormonism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, and lesser known religious cults. Really strict religious groups with lots of rules tend to have a lot in common with each other, even if their actual beliefs are very different. I was actually reminded of Scientology when I heard about how Jim Bob got a lot of his children to sign lifetime contracts that obligated them to work for him. After all, Scientology has their famous billion year contracts for members of the Sea Org.
Overall, I thought the series was very well done. Four episodes aren’t really enough… and I think the producers are going to find that people would love to have more. I won’t be surprised if they make another series or another season of Shiny Happy People. It’s giving people what they want and, ultimately, that means more money for Amazon. I did notice a bunch of people wishing the series were available on other platforms, as they didn’t want to subscribe to Amazon Prime just to watch the series. Fortunately for me, I use Prime a lot, so it was not an issue for me. I don’t use the video part of the membership much, so it was good to get to use it yesterday. Especially since I have memberships to both the US and German versions of Amazon Prime. Yes, that’s right. Amazon Prime on the US version of the site doesn’t carry over to all Amazon stores worldwide. I don’t know if just being able to watch Shiny Happy People is worth subscribing to Amazon Prime, but if you use Amazon a lot, like I do, it may be well worth the money.
One other thing that really seemed very sad to me was how young children were constantly reminded of Hell and how they would be tormented forever if they didn’t instantly obey their leaders. I mentioned it yesterday, but I was especially sickened by the pastor who demonstrated how to properly spank children, forcing them to be “grateful” for the corrections. The little boy who served as the model will grow up someday, probably married to a woman who didn’t necessarily want to be his wife. He will likely discipline his children in a similarly sick way.
Or maybe not… Here’s an unlocked article from the Washington Postabout a couple who were raised in Christianity and homeschooled, deciding to do things differently with their own children. It caused a huge rift in their family, but they decided they didn’t want to raise their children the way they were raised. They didn’t want to be instructed to beat their children with rods. So maybe there’s some hope.
While I’m sharing unlocked WaPo articles, here’s another one about a reviewer’s reaction to the series. I think it’s well worth reading… but really, I think you should watch the series, if you can stomach it and have the means. Hypocrite fundie blogger, The Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, is obviously dismayed about it… For that fact alone, you should watch. She’s an idiot who really needs to zip it.
Well, it’s noon, and we have some plans for today, so I think I’ll sign off. Have a great Saturday!
Today’s post is going to be kind of convoluted and philosophical. I had originally meant to write about the Duggarfamily, but then I had an interesting talk with Bill this morning that I think can co-mingle with this topic. Bear with me… or don’t bear with me. It’s up to you. But I think these two topics are relative to each other, even if they don’t seem to be.
This morning, I came to the realization that George Carlin, who was famously foul mouthed and frank about his opinions, really had certain truisms nailed. I learned a lot from George, even though he was “godless”. He didn’t believe in the magical thinking, legalism, and mind fuckery that comes from religion. Instead, he was all about common sense. I appreciated Carlin’s astute observations about life, and I looked up to him… probably more so than I did my own parents.
Much to my father’s chagrin, George Carlin, who was raised Irish Catholic and eventually rejected religion, had a huge influence on me. When I was growing up, I worshiped at the “church of George Carlin”, instead of my dad’s preferred faith, the Presbyterian Church USA. I think the “church of George Carlin” probably served me better than being raised Presbyterian did. Not that being Presbyterian was particularly “traumatic” in any way. In my experience, being Presbyterian was just kind of boring… at least until I realized that the Presbyterian is a big part of my heritage. In that sense, being Presbyterian is interesting. But not interesting enough that I want to go sit in a pew and listen to sermons.
My dad didn’t like George Carlin. He used to lecture me when he’d catch me watching Carlin on HBO. He didn’t like Carlin’s seemingly liberal politics or the language he used. My dad would lament about how I found Carlin so funny and brilliant, decrying Carlin’s use of profanity. Dad believed that profanity was a sign of stupidity and a lack of vocabulary. Of course, my dad was wrong about Carlin. Carlin was right about a lot of things… and he was certainly not someone who lacked vocabulary. I also don’t think Carlin was necessarily a liberal. I think he believed both political spectrums sucked. But I also think that many people believe that if you aren’t on their side, you must be on the other side. There’s no room for moderate views, and in my opinion, not tolerating moderate views can cause huge problems.
One thing I appreciated about George Carlin was that he had no problem pointing out hypocrisy and silliness, especially as it pertains to religion. A lot of religious practices needlessly complicate life. If you need an example, just have a look at the Duggar family, and how they’ve fallen from grace. This is a family that lived with a LOT of rules and control. But underneath it all, they were full of shit… carefully hiding their sins. I think if they had embraced their sins and been honest, they wouldn’t be in the regrettable situation they’re in right now. They went from being a family to emulate, to a family humiliated.
Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of clips from the original reality show that made the Duggar family a household name. I’m reminded anew of the many false stories and outright untruths the Duggars told the world. It turned out that a lot of what they were telling the public about their lives was straight up bullshit. They presented a fake image and a false reality, and a lot of people bought it, and their formerly huge reality TV show. The clips I’ve been watching have been uploaded on YouTube by someone who starts each video with a minute of the Megyn Kelly interview done in May 2015, showing Jessa and Jill. Jill weeps on camera, while Jessa glances sideways at her, having just said how “wrong” people are that Josh is a “monster”.
Jessa flat out lied in that interview, minimizing what Josh Duggar did to her and three of her siblings. That’s a direct violation of one of the Ten Commandments! So much for obeying the Bible! It’s more important to obey Jim Bob Duggar– “God” in their home, and its “mini cult”. To his family and friends, Jim Bob is not a mere man. To the Duggars, he’s “the MAN”… and those who don’t obey him pay a price. But recently, the whole world has been reminded that Jim Bob Duggar is, in fact, just a man. And as awesome men go, he couldn’t hold a candle to George Carlin. But Jim Bob would probably consider Carlin “satanic”.
Incidentally, Jim Bob and Michelle also lied in that 2015 interview with Megyn Kelly. Why did they lie? Because they’re full of shit, and they worship money and power more than they do the Bible. It’s not so much that I care about the Bible per se. I just don’t like hypocrisy, or people who try to conceal their sins with lies and convoluted religious bullshit.
Many of us were eager to believe that the Duggars really did have a squeaky clean household. Lots of people thought Jim Bob was telling the truth when he said his children had no unfiltered access to the Internet or television. They seemed so wholesome and loving. Michelle Duggar wouldn’t show her knees or shoulders. The kids were shown wearing “Wholesome Wear” swimsuits, which were good only in that they probably helped them avoid sunburns. Jim Bob ran races in jeans. I guess that was supposed to make him appear to be “godlier”. Does Jim Bob really think God cares whether he runs races in jeans or running shorts? Or is he just doing that to look as if he’s a “hardcore Christian”? We all know now that Jim Bob is not any better than anyone else, particularly when it comes to being “Christlike.”
Hell, they even refuse to call “deviled eggs” by their proper name. Instead, they call them “angel eggs”. Supposedly, Michelle Duggar came up with the name years ago, saying that she didn’t like the name “deviled eggs”. Michelle supposedly said that the eggs were so “yummy” that they should be called “angel eggs”. Here’s a link to a photo of the Duggars’ famous “Yellow Pocket Angel Eggs”. I see someone commented that they’re, in fact, “deviled eggs”. Changing the name doesn’t change what they are. Michelle and her daughters could take a lesson from George Carlin, and his sermon on “soft language”, and how that language is used to conceal “sins”.
As George Carlin famously said, “Life doesn’t change because you post a sign.” Changing the name of a classic egg appetizer doesn’t change what the appetizer is, even if you’ve exchanged a “satanic” name for an “angelic” one. And, of course, deviled eggs aren’t satanic– that’s ridiculous. However, one of Michelle’s own eggs produced someone whom some might consider “satanic”, as he sits alone in a jail cell, pondering his bleak future. Of course, I’m referring to Josh Duggar, one of Ma and Pa Duggar’s so-called “gifts from God”. In fact, Josh was the very first “gift from God”… and now, he seems more like a ruined first pancake.
I remember in the early days of the Duggar family’s rise to fame, Jim Bob Duggar used to preach to the masses about “buying used and saving the difference.” The Duggar patriarch was famously cheap, doing everything he could to save money so that he could keep supporting the “gifts from God” that came in the form of his 19 children. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar proclaimed that their huge brood was a sign of God’s favor, even though having so many children meant that, for many years, the Duggars lived in poor conditions. The story back then was that they were a “humble”, Christ loving family, cheerfully accepting that there was always a line for the bathroom and never enough tater tot casserole to go around.
But then came the reality show, and many fat paychecks from TLC. Never mind that it meant that the children were forced to work, and they were on television, a medium that the Duggars claimed they eschewed in their home. Gradually, viewers saw the family’s fashion sense change. Instead of homemade jumpers with huge collars on the girls, and khaki pants and polo shirts on the boys, we started to see the family wearing name brand clothes. Granted, they supposedly bought those clothes at thrift shops and second hand stores, but they still changed their style. They were famously frugal and “cheap”… but because they focused more on legalism, collar lines and hem lines on the girls, and being open about praying and singing, they ignored the huge problem that was being covered up and has cost them so much.
Just this morning, I read a story by The Sun about how the Duggars can send Josh “care packages” through the prison commissary. Josh, who used to go to the grocery store with his family and load up on cheap, processed foods, and paper plates, can now get a package of several lunch bag sized bags of chips for a whopping $22. If he wants candy bars, he can get a package of those for $22. His wife, Anna, has to visit him by video, for which she pays 25 cents a minute. Or she can send him an email for $5.
When I think about how the Duggars used to demonstrate how they’d save money by letting the daughters give the guys haircuts or making their own laundry detergent, it boggles my mind at what Josh’s crimes have cost the family. The costs have been huge… not just in terms of the vast amount of money spent, but also their own reputations. I wonder if the outcome would have been different if Josh had been dealt with appropriately when he was much younger. What if he had grown up in a family where things could be discussed openly, and there wasn’t the constant pressure to appear like perfect Gothardite Christians? Would people have more respect for them if they had been honest instead of trying to cover up their lies? What if Jim Bob and Michelle had paid more attention to actually raising their kids and knowing them well, instead of making sure everyone wore modest clothing and “buying used and saving the difference.” I’ll bet actually raising and protecting their kids would have cost them a lot less than homemade jumpers and haircuts.
So many people think the answer to living a better life is to be someone they’re not, embrace legalistic belief systems… and to cover up their sins. This morning, Bill and I talked about this concept, as he discussed a recent session he had with his Jungian therapist. Bill had told his therapist about how, prior to Easter 2000, Bill had always enjoyed visiting his father and his stepmother at their home. But then, they allowed Ex to use their home as a setting for her humiliating ultimatum over Easter 2000. That was where she falsely declared Bill a “reprobate” of sorts. She didn’t use that word, of course, but that was what she meant.
The issue was, Bill wasn’t “bad”. He wasn’t a reprobate at all. That was a false narrative his ex wife was pushing, as she was also supposedly embracing Mormonism and using religion to present Bill as a bad person. By allowing Ex to use their home as the setting for Ex’s condemnation of Bill, Bill’s dad and stepmother changed the conditions of how Bill saw them, and their home. And then, instead of doing what he was expected to do and had always done in the past, Bill went off script, which really fucked things up, and changed the course of the future.
Ex thought Bill would beg forgiveness and bend to her will. But Bill had had enough, and it was time for a reckoning. So, when Ex told Bill he was “bad” and needed intensive church based “therapy” with his LDS bishop (who was a lay person with no professional training in counseling) or she would divorce him, Bill decided he wasn’t going to accept her conditions. He asked, “Where do I sign?” instead of “What can I do to make you love me again?” And that decision was not what Ex expected. It made Bill seem “satanic” to her… suddenly, he wasn’t the man she arrogantly thought she knew, inside and out. Suddenly, he was someone who was capable of saying he’d had enough. He couldn’t be controlled, and that somehow made him “evil”. She had to banish him. She used Mormonism and its strict “moral code” to justify what she was doing, which was ultimately harming the children and Bill.
Then I came along, and I upset the apple cart even more by refusing to dance to Ex’s tune. I refused to go along with her plans for Christmas in 2004. Because I insisted on being treated like an adult, instead of one of Ex’s flying monkeys, I became “evil” and needed to be cast out of the cult. I couldn’t be trusted around the children, because I might influence them. I’m sure she thought of me as “Satan”, too. But they were influenced anyway, and as most children do, they went their own way… or, at least a few of them have. That’s how it is in Jim Bob Duggar’s little fiefdom, too. Some of his children are going their own way. Jim Bob might think of his wayward children who have gone astray as “touched by Satan”.
If you think about it, in some ways, Satan was really just an agent of change. Sometimes the change was bad or difficult, and sometimes it was indifferent, or even quite good. After all, what would the world be like if Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten the apple? Would we all still be living in the Garden of Eden, naked, and frolicking in paradise? What fun is that? How does one grow from that experience? Sure, working all the time is hard, as is having to birth children… but hanging out in paradise isn’t very challenging or rewarding. Being stuck with Ex, likewise, wasn’t rewarding… although it was pretty challenging.
The “church of George Carlin” taught me that people have to be allowed to think and act independently. Blind obedience to one person or idea isn’t healthy. Independent thought is essential. That’s how positive change and growth can happen. George Carlin was a brilliant man… but he was also humble enough to propose that people worship someone other than him. He said, instead of worshiping God, we should worship the sun… or maybe Joe Pesci. In that sense, George Carlin, as an atheist, was probably more Christlike than Jim Bob Duggar will ever be as a “Christian”.
Imagine the heartache that could have been avoided if the Duggars had just worshiped George Carlin instead of Bill Gothard. Maybe Josh would have still been a pervert, but at least they could have a laugh about it. Naw… there’s nothing funny about a man who is so sick that he wants to watch children being abused and gets sexual gratification from it. That’s a problem that should have been taken care of many years ago… and maybe could have, if not for the distraction of religion, and the illusion of power and money grabs that come from adhering to strict religions. For all of the emphasis the Duggars place on being “saved”, religion and control couldn’t “save” Josh or spare his victims. He’s still sitting all alone in a jail cell, probably hoping someone might think enough of him to spend $22 on some Doritos and Cheetos for him.
So, given Josh Duggar’s pathetic example, I’m sticking with worshiping at the church of George Carlin. I think it serves me better than Duggar style fundie legalism ever could. And with that, I think I’ll praise George and get on with the rest of my day.
It’s the first day of December 2021, which means that Josh Duggar is FINALLY in court, answering to federal charges that he received and possessed child pornography. Although cameras and recording devices are not allowed in court, this trial promises to be a spectacle of the highest order. Josh Duggar, as many people know, is the eldest child of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. The Duggar family is extremely well-known for being fundamentalist Christians. For years, they made a lot of money promoting their beliefs on reality television with their show, 19 Kids and Counting. They were famous for having extremely strict and conservative Christian– specifically Baptist– religious beliefs.
Many people admired them, and fully believed in the wholesome image they projected. Some people went as far as to try to emulate the Duggars. Ma and Pa Duggar were often asked to speak about their beliefs, selling them to people who were looking for a way to survive our turbulent times. Their image of closeness, coupled with strict morality and behavioral guidelines, were very appealing to the masses. It helped that most of the children were bright, articulate, and attractive, and came across well on TV. They made their strict lifestyles seem normal and desirable, as if they had a blueprint to God’s favor.
In 2011, before the shit hit the fan, I can remember being admonished by a high school friend when I criticized the Duggars on social media. In fact, my old friend pretty much quit communicating with me when I didn’t react with shame following her public chastisement. She indignantly wrote that she “loved” the Duggars. But then the skeletons started falling out of the closet. I don’t know how my friend feels about the Duggars now, or even if she remembers that she once criticized me for criticizing them. Knowing her for as long as I have, I suspect she doesn’t “love” them, or their image, as much as she did in 2011. The Duggars are certainly no longer that shining beacon of hope and prosperity that they once were. They’ve been tarnished by the worst kind of scandal, and it’s been perpetrated by the eldest child– the one who was supposedly “golden” and promoted as the straightest arrow in Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s quiver.
In May 2015, In Touch magazine published damning reports of how Josh Duggar molested four of his sisters and a babysitter when he was a teenager in the early 2000s. Suddenly, the world heard about how Josh, who had grown up on television, and had a highly visible job promoting conservative “Christian family values”, was not the paragon of virtue he purported to be. Later, there were reports about how Josh had cheated on his wife, Anna, and met with a sex worker, with whom he was accused of having “violent sex”. Then it came out that Josh had a paid account with Ashley Madison, a Web site that is notorious for providing married people with the easy means of having affairs.
What is so sad to me is that even though he did these horrible things, his sisters were basically forced to defend him. And, in fact, in their belief system, the girls were basically told that they were at fault for tempting their brother (and other males). They didn’t get any real help in recovering from the abuse. Instead, they were told to cover up and “keep sweet”. Meanwhile, their brother got away with what he was doing… at least until that bombshell dropped in 2015. And it’s only gotten worse as the years passed. He’s probably about to face a reckoning… God willing, anyway. 😉
I think the below video is about when Jill started to separate from her toxic family. While I don’t necessarily agree with some of the things her husband, Derick Dillard, has said, I do think he’s done a lot to help her become healthier. She’s reportedly gone to counseling and, just this morning, it’s been reported that she may be called to testify against her brother in court. I pray she tells the whole truth.
None of these stories are those one would expect of someone who is a strict Christian, as Josh was supposedly raised to be. I remember how, before all of this bad stuff came to light, the Duggar parents would proudly tell everyone about their “strict” Christian values. We all heard about how they didn’t allow their children access to television or the Internet. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were held up to be excellent parents. However, it’s pretty clear that they’ve failed spectacularly on many levels, in spite of their religious beliefs. And now, a lot of innocent people are paying the price.
Having observed this phenomenon, and having known some so-called “religious” people who have turned out to be total dirtbags, I am now convinced that strict, controlling religions can really damage, or even destroy, families. I have seen how charismatic people get in power and start to believe they are above the law. They invoke “God’s favor” to explain why they can and should be allowed to do terrible things. The people who are involved in the strict religious groups somehow accept and even cling to those beliefs, even when it puts them in danger and makes them miserable. And then it comes out that the so-called “leaders” are about as far from Christlike as a person can get.
Please note– I am not referring to mainstream religions that aren’t “culty” and controlling. I don’t think that most mainstream churches are that damaging. I base that on my own experiences growing up going to church. I mean the churches that dictate everything from how you will spend your free time to what kind of underwear you’re allowed to wear. Those religions don’t work well. The Duggars are just one example of how they can really fuck up an otherwise nice family. The Turpins are another egregious example. Later in this post, I will share an example of a non-famous family that has been damaged by religion and the bad behaviors promoted in the name of religion.
I grew up at a time when almost everyone I knew attended a church of some sort. I was raised mainstream Presbyterian, which is a fairly benign and undemanding denomination. We went to church on Sundays and my parents were very involved in the music programs. Mom was an organist and usually didn’t work at the church that my dad and I attended (my sisters had all moved out of the house). But I didn’t grow up with any strict religious rules or anything, and I wasn’t subjected to “worthiness” interviews with a pastor. No one ever asked me about my sexual habits or anything else that is super private like that. We didn’t even say “grace” at the table.
At some point during my young adulthood, people started becoming more polarized about religion. I noticed many people became very devout. A lot of megachurches started popping up, and people like Joel Osteen became extremely popular. Shows like 19 Kids and Counting were on television, promoting strict religious beliefs. On the other hand, I also noticed a lot more people identifying as atheists. And I noticed that while many people were going to church more often than ever, a lot of people had also completely abandoned religion.
Then I married my husband, who was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when we met. When Bill and I first encountered each other, he claimed to be a “true believer”. Later, I found out that he actually wasn’t a TBM, but was going through the motions in an attempt to save his marriage to his ex wife. Ex supposedly was, at that time, devout. Or, she claimed to be, anyway. One thing is for certain, though. She used the church to hurt other people. I have noticed that Ex isn’t the only one who’s done this, either. I have known many high-conflict types who have invoked religion as excuses as to why they should be allowed to act like perfect assholes or, in the case of Josh Duggar and others, do illegal and immoral things. After all, Jesus always forgives, right?
A couple of days ago, I ran across a heartbreaking video by a YouTube personality called Exmo Lex. A few months ago, Exmo Lex, who is a former Mormon, posted a video about how her in-laws were calling her a “jezebel” behind her back. I watched that video when she posted it, although I’m not sure if I wrote about it. I happened to see it while we were in the Schwarzwald, so I’m not sure if I ever got around blogging about this. However, I do remember seeing this video and feeling terrible for Exmo Lex. She was describing a very toxic situation that was partially caused by religion.
Exmo Lex indicates that she thought her in-laws were respecting the boundaries she and her husband set. They don’t want their kids indoctrinated or influenced by Mormonism, which is a strict religion. To me, that sounds very reasonable, but I also know that true believing Mormons are often very convinced that they alone have the “truth”. And when someone decides to break ranks because they no longer believe, or are unwilling to submit to “authority”, families can go on the attack. The battles can become very toxic and even illegal in a hurry, and as Exmo Lex points out, sometimes they aren’t above using children to further their agendas. In the video below, you can hear Exmo Lex talk about the aftermath of the decision she and her husband made to leave Mormonism and be public about their choices.
So often, we hear about how “lovely” religious families are. They are promoted as close and loving, having each other’s backs. We see them well-scrubbed, singing pretty songs about religious faith, Jesus Christ, and God’s love. But then it turns out that religious people are as fallible as anyone is. That’s because everyone sins. But some religious people turn out to be the worst sinners of all– and they leave a lot of heartbroken, damaged, people in their wakes. Many times, people who have been hurt by religion are left with nothing, not even their so-called loving families.
I have heard and read so many sad stories of people who grew up in very strict religious families or belief systems. More often than not, rather than providing safety, comfort, and security with the knowledge that someone always has their back, people in these families are actually members of a mini-cult. They must engage in group thinking, and anyone who deviates from it is cast out. This is not what I would call loving or “Christlike” behavior. This is toxic control, and it’s very harmful.
I have written so many posts about this phenomenon, and I have learned that even when the belief systems are “different”, the mechanics of the highly controlling groups are surprisingly similar. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, have different beliefs than Mormons do. But if you take a close look at the way their groups operate, you see that a lot of their control tactics are the same. Ditto for groups like the Cooperites of Gloriavale, The Way, the Children of God, and others. The groups all have that thing in common– once a person has seen beyond the smoke and mirrors and wants out, they are ostracized. Why? Because the rebels are a threat to the group’s power and resources. Those who won’t toe the line are treated as if they have a disease that can spread and kill everyone… or, at least kill the belief system, which a source of power, and often, money.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with believing in God or going to church, or following any other religion. It’s when religion turns into fanaticism or cultism with strict controls and legalism that I think problems arise. That’s when we start seeing supposedly “loving” parents turning on their own children, kicking them out of the family circle, and defending abusers instead of protecting victims. I would also argue that a lot of abusers started out as victims. I think Josh Duggar was a victim before he started hurting others. If he could have gotten some real help from someone other than Jim Bob Duggar’s fucked up fundie friends who are not any better than Josh is, maybe some of this tragic shitshow that is now commencing could have been avoided. Or, at least, it might not have been on such a public stage. Imagine how hard this is for his children, and all of the other innocent people who will be affected. Meanwhile, the public will revel in watching this legal drama unfold.
I have to admit, I will also be watching to see how Josh’s case progresses. I am as interested as anyone is. It’s not because I delight in seeing his family humiliated, though… well, maybe I don’t mind seeing Jim Bob humiliated. I think it’s long overdue. I think Jim Bob is about as far from a decent Christian as a person can get. He hides behind the Christian facade, but it’s really about power and money for him, and his “reputation”. It’s certainly not about following Christ.
I do hope some good will come out of this latest chapter of the Duggar family saga. And I also hope that Exmo Lex and her husband are able to heal from the rift they’re experiencing. I think people should be loved for who they are, and allowed to follow their own beliefs, as long as no one else is harmed. I don’t think it’s harmful to grow up outside of religion or any other kind of extreme indoctrination. Maybe if more people were allowed to evolve naturally and authentically, we’d have fewer people hurting others.
A few days ago, I reposted a couple of book reviews about author Frank Schaeffer. As I was looking up those reviews on the old version of my blog, I noticed that I included Schaeffer in a post I wrote about cartoon religious tract artist Jack T. Chick. It so happens that Fundie Fridays also recently did a video about Jack Chick.
There is something fresh I’d like to write about this morning, but I’m not quite ready to put it into words yet. I think I need to talk to Bill a bit more before I’m ready to compose. But Jack Chick is always a fun topic and it IS Sunday, so here’s a partial repost of an article I wrote in February 2016.
When I was a graduate student, I had a surprising amount of free time on my hands. Though I did not have as much free time in those days as I do now, as The Overeducated Housewife, I did have plenty of time for messing around. I bought my very first personal computer in 1999. I felt I needed to have it, even though the University of South Carolina had computer labs. It was a good investment, especially since it ultimately led me to Bill. Of course, I’ve already written that shocking story (which I will probably repost on 9/11).
Today, I want to write about the Christian evangelical comic book artist Jack T. Chick and how I came to learn of his existence. I had never heard of him until 1999 or so, when I bought that first Gateway machine for $999. I spent hours on the Internet, looking at everything that was available in cyberspace. At one point, I landed on The Student Voice, a site for former students at Pensacola Christian College. The site used to be http://www.pensacolachristiancollege.com, but it’s now defunct. The school sued to get the URL released to them, but they lost. It looks like the guy who had the domain finally released it and now if you go to http://www.pensacolachristiancollege.com, you end up on the school’s official Web site. I see a lot of the stuff that used to be on The Student Voice has been taken down. That’s a real pity, though it’s still worth looking around if you’re interested in how weird PCC really is. Here’s an article written by someone who experienced PCC and didn’t like it.
Apparently, the people who run PCC are extremely uptight folks. They are very quick to give students the boot for not measuring up to standards. If you choose to attend this college, you will be paying to be treated like you’re on house arrest. Pensacola is near beaches. PCC students are allowed to go to the beach, but they have to go to gender segregated ones… or, at least they did back in the early 00s. Students were not allowed to be in mixed company and had to travel in groups. They had to scan off campus and were only allowed to go to certain places. They were only allowed to see G rated films. And ladies, you can forget about wearing pants. Indeed, women have to wear dresses and skirts of an appropriate length along with pantyhose. Imagine how pleasant that is in Florida heat! And guys are to wear ties, which are not allowed to be removed until the afternoon.
Man almighty, if I ever thought the rules were strict at Bob Jones University, BYU, or Liberty University, they were nothing compared to PCC. Men and women had to use different stairwells and sidewalks and avoid touching or staring at each other for too long (making “eye babies”). At night, everyone had to draw their blinds in a particular way to prevent peeping. Books, magazines, and the Internet were strictly regulated and filtered. Anything remotely suggestive was censored. If you got sick, you had to check yourself into the infirmary. And almost every student was required to live on campus, where, if they broke the rules, they could be grounded (campused).
I’m not sure if the rules are as strict today as they were twenty years ago, but back then, they were almost unbelievably strict. What was really crazy in my view is that the students were all legal adults paying for this experience. And the degrees they were paying for weren’t even accredited. It’s my understanding that PCC now has some sort of accreditation designated for Christian schools, but I don’t think it’s the kind that is universally respected. I, of course, found the whole thing fascinating and used to hang out on the Student Voice’s messageboard to get the dirt. The stories were crazy and positively addictive.
Anyway, not being a particularly devout Christian, I had never heard of Christian tract artist Jack T. Chick. Chick makes Bible tracts that many Christians pass out to others, leave in lieu of tips at restaurants, or litter with in parks and public restrooms. They can be entertaining to read, even if some of the messages within them are hateful. Basically, according to Chick, everyone who doesn’t live their lives in accordance with Biblical principles is going to go straight to Hell.
The PCC crowd had heard plenty about Jack T. Chick. Some of them had handed out his tracts to innocent people. Once I found out about Chick, I felt the insatiable need to find out more about him, so I continued my sleuthing and eventually came across a Web site called Weird Crap. A guy named Psycho Dave had created several parodies of Jack Chick’s tracts. Most of the parodies are hilarious, even if they are also quite sacrilegious. If you have an irreverent sense of humor and are not offended by blasphemy or extremely off color humor or language, I recommend having a look, especially after comparing them with Chick’s originals. If you are at all sensitive about such humor, I recommend simply taking my word for it. Also, be aware that the site is a bit wonky because it hasn’t been updated in ages. Your patience will likely be required.
Psycho Dave wrote that he got a ration of shit from Jack Chick after he created his parodies. He got phone calls and emails demanding that he take down his parodies because they were copyrighted. I can’t help but get a huge kick out of the fact that the people at Weird Crap had loads of fun poking fun at Chick. Their Web site kept me entertained for hours when I was in grad school and not able to chat with Bill. And, as you can see, despite Chick’s saber shaking and harassment, Psycho Dave’s parodies are still online. He says he’s ready to pass the Web site on to someone else, though.
I made the mistake of sharing the parodies with the folks on the PCC board. I got quite the dressing down for that because even though a lot of them seemed to think Jack Chick is an asshole and they were a bit on the rebellious side, they didn’t like how Psycho Dave made fun of their holy book. I got chastised for being blasphemous. Aside from that, they were pretty accepting of me, even though one person said I reminded them of Janine Garofalo (really?!). I guess to them, I really was super liberal. I’m definitely even more liberal now than I was back then.
I can credit PCC folks for introducing me to the writer Frank Schaeffer, who was himself raised by famous Christian evangelists in Switzerland. Schaeffer has written several very entertaining novels as well as a few non fiction books that I’ve enjoyed. His son, John, joined the Marines against his parents’ wishes. Schaeffer had never been exposed to the military and was against John’s enlistment, but later educated himself and wrote a few excellent books about different aspects of the military experience, including his experience as the father of a Marine. When Bill came home from Iraq, I passed on Schaeffer’s novel Baby Jack to him. That book really resonated with Bill on many levels and I probably never would have known about it if the PCC folks hadn’t turned me on to Frank Schaeffer’s writing. So I offer them thanks for that. And, I also see from Amazon.com, that I’ve missed a couple of Schaeffer’s latest books. He’s very prolific and, if you write to him, he will write back.
I don’t really hang out with PCC folks anymore, though I am still a member of their relocated forum. Every year on my birthday, I get an automated birthday greeting from them and I remember how much fun I had learning about the wacky world of PCC and fundie Christians. I only wish I could find a similarly entertaining community so I could pry myself off of Facebook.
Here’s a book review I wrote for Epinions.com in 2009. Since I’ve been on a fundie kick lately, I’m reposting it here as/is.
Sometimes life can take you to places you never dreamed you’d go. Such was the case for Kevin Roose, who was, in the fall of 2006, a student at Brown University. Like so many other students of his ilk, Roose was very much a free spirit who liked to party. But Roose was also a curious reporter who happened to be working with author A.J. Jacobs. In 2007, Jacobs published his book The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. Inspired by Jacobs’ experiment trying to live his life as literally by the Bible as possible, Roose decided to trade in his wild ways at Brown for a semester at Liberty University, a conservative evangelical Baptist school in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded by the late Jerry Falwell. Roose chronicles his experiences at Liberty in his book The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University (2009).
I had just started reading Jacobs’ book when I got my copy of Roose’s Unlikely Disciple. Though I was thoroughly enjoying reading about Jacobs’ stab at living biblically, I couldn’t resist putting down Jacobs’ book in favor of Roose’s. You see, I am a native of Virginia and graduated from Longwood College (now University). Longwood is located in Farmville, Virginia, just a mere 45 minutes east of Liberty. I had some high school friends who attended Falwell’s famous school and had driven past Liberty on many occasions on my way to my grandmother’s house in Natural Bridge, Virginia from Farmville. Though I never in a million years would have wanted to attend Liberty– not even for a semester– I have always been curious about the place. So reading Roose’s book seemed a lot more urgent to me than finishing Jacobs’ book was, even though it appears that Roose’s project was inspired by his mentor’s earlier work.
Obviously, Kevin Roose is very intelligent, since he managed to get into Brown University. His parents are very liberal and not very religious. Roose explains that they most closely identify with the Quakers but were never a particularly churchgoing lot. When Roose proposed to attend Liberty for a semester, his parents and the rest of his family were not too thrilled. Like so many other people, they had heard Jerry Falwell’s well publicized remarks about how secular America had caused God to punish Americans with 9/11. They had heard him talk about how Tinky Winky, the beloved purple Teletubby of the children’s show, was actually a symbol to promote the acceptance of homosexuality. They had seen Falwell on television, blustering about how the liberals were degrading America with immorality. Roose’s family and friends were shocked that he’d want to be associated with Jerry Falwell, even just for a semester. And yet, though he wasn’t that into being an evangelical Christian, Kevin Roose applied to Liberty University as a transfer student and was accepted.
Using a witty and appealing writing style, Roose explains what it was like to be a fish out of water at Liberty. He writes about how he had to learn to fit in as an evangelical Christian. The process was harder than the average person might realize. For one thing, Roose had to learn how to refrain from cursing while, at the same time, not react too harshly when he heard someone refer to a homosexual as a f*gg*t. Next, he had to learn about the Bible and actually take classes in the Old and New Testament. He had to change the way he approached members of the opposite sex, including the way he dated them. And he also had to stop drinking.
The results of Roose’s new lifestyle had some surprising effects on him. Though he knew he would only be at Liberty for a semester, Roose found himself changing with the experience, mostly in a positive way. Just quitting drinking allowed him to enjoy hangover free weekends. He also managed to score the last print interview with Jerry Falwell, who died at the bitter end of Roose’s semester at Liberty.
I hesitate to think that Liberty University is actually America’s “holiest” university. There are quite a few evangelical Christian colleges out there, at least a couple of which are much stricter than Liberty is. For instance, as Roose points out in his book, at Pensacola Christian College (PCC) in Pensacola, Florida, men and women use segregated stairwells and are not allowed to stare too long at each other. A prolonged gaze at someone of the opposite gender is known as “optical intercourse” or “making eye babies” and can lead to significant punishment. At Bob Jones University (BJU) in Greenville, South Carolina, students were not permitted to date outside of their races until the year 2000. And women are not permitted to wear pants in public at either PCC or BJU; instead, they have to wear long dresses or skirts with pantyhose. But, I think for someone like Kevin Roose, Liberty was probably holy enough. Shoot, I always thought Liberty University’s name was very ironic, considering the restrictions its students live with.
In any case, I really enjoyed reading Kevin Roose’s story about life at Liberty. I was very impressed by how much research Roose did, both in terms of the school and the conservative Christian movement in general. His writing is very easy and fun to read, as well as insightful. Having spent some time around college students and graduates of prestigious universities, I think I was afraid Roose might be a snob about going to Liberty after being at Brown. But Roose manages to maintain a very objective and open-minded attitude about Liberty. In fact, he even reveals some of the guilt he feels about hiding his true agenda from his new friends and colleagues. I half expected Roose to decide he wanted to stay at Liberty after all.
I think this book will really appeal to anyone who’s ever been curious about the religious right or Jerry Falwell. Roose includes some tidbits about Falwell that humanize the man a great deal. I also think The Unlikely Disciple is good reading for anyone who’s either attended or is planning to attend Liberty University– as long as they have a sense of humor. I would also recommend this book to anyone who’s just curious about it. It’s often very entertaining, yet ultimately rewarding to read. I came away from reading this book thinking that Kevin Roose’s life was greatly enriched from his semester at Liberty; so was mine, as a result of Roose’s willingness to share.
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