celebrities, controversies, religion, safety, true crime, YouTube

Fundie Fridays just covered one of my favorite pet topics!

I just finished watching the latest YouTube video by Fundie Fridays, a great YouTube channel hosted by Jen and James, and dedicated to exposing the fuckery related to evangelical and fundie Christianity. I don’t watch all videos by Fundie Fridays, but I have seen a lot of them, and I almost always find them interesting, entertaining, and funny. This week, they covered a topic I’ve written about and studied myself a lot over the past twenty years or so… Behold!

As weird as they were twenty years ago, they’re probably weirder today…

I’ve mentioned before that I used to follow a forum run by former students of Pensacola Christian College. Some of the participants were graduates; some were people who dropped out; and quite a few were people who were expelled. I don’t know how it is at PCC nowadays, but back in the early 00s, a person could get expelled at the drop of a hat. In those days, the school wasn’t accredited at all, and a lot of young people went there because it was cheap, and their parents wanted them to go to a college that was as strict or stricter than they were at home.

Of course, these schools have a lot of issues, and in fact, they aren’t necessarily any safer than a secular college might be. I mean, sure, there’s a lot less drinking and casual dating, but as Jen points out in a Patheos blog post she featured, there are certainly sexual assaults on these campuses. And the sad thing is, the victims are usually treated like terrible sinners. You can follow this link to read the blog post I’m referring to, but I will issue a warning that it’s got some pretty traumatic stuff in it. The post was written in 2014, but I was reading about what was going on at places like Bob Jones University and Pensacola Christian College as early as 2000 or so. I think policies have changed a bit since then, and I do know that they have pursued some Christian type accreditation now, since students place a value on that, especially if they want to go on to another university for graduate level studies.

Jen didn’t mention Christendom College, in Front Royal, Virginia. That’s a Catholic school, and famously boasts that it’s one of only 15 colleges recommended by the conservative Carson Newman Society. Last year, William Luckey, one Christendom’s most celebrated retired professors, was arrested for soliciting a child under age 16, and two counts of taking indecent liberties with a child. After he retired from Christendom, Luckey taught at Padre Pio Academy, a homeschooling co-op started by his wife, Julie. Julie has since resigned from the school, due to her husband’s arrest.

In 2018, several alums of Christendom College claimed that sexual assault was mishandled there. According to the National Catholic Reporter, Christendom, like some of the other extreme “fundie” colleges, does not accept federal funding. Therefore, it is not required to abide by Title IX rules that most other colleges and universities in the United States must follow. The schools that don’t accept federal funding are determined to run the way they believe their faiths see fit. Often, that seems to mean espousing racist, sexist, or discriminatory principles, and treating victims of assault as though they were in the wrong for being in the situation that got them assaulted. One alum, Adele Smith, has been very vocal about her experiences with sexual assault at Christendom. She has said that the school’s strict rules regarding fraternization and dating actually increase the risk of sexual assault on campus.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Jen does a follow up on her “fundie colleges” topic. It’s a hot one– and one that I have been very fascinated with for many years. It ranks right up there with so-called “teen help” brat camp facilities, which, not surprisingly, are also often affiliated with strict religions. I’ve been reading and writing a lot about that topic, too.

Jen did mention another Virginia school– yes, she talked about Liberty University, but I’m referring to Patrick Henry College, in Purcellville, Virginia. Patrick Henry College is very small– only about 300 students– and Christian based. It’s where Congressman Madison Cawthorn went to school, and where many of his female classmates claim that he harassed them. According to Buzz Feed:

Four women told BuzzFeed News that Cawthorn, now a rising Republican star, was aggressive, misogynistic, or predatory toward them. Their allegations include calling them derogatory names in public in front of their peers, including calling one woman “slutty,” asking them inappropriate questions about their sex lives, grabbing their thighs, forcing them to sit in his lap, and kissing and touching them without their consent.

The women also reported that he would get the women alone in his car and “entrap” them, taking them on long drives on country roads and asking them humiliating and inappropriate questions about their virginity and sexual experiences. Cawthorn is paralyzed from the waist down, owing to an accident in his teens, but that apparently didn’t stop him from being a disgusting, misogynistic creep when he was studying at Patrick Henry College, if the women interviewed for the Buzz Feed story are to be believed… and given the party he represents, and its worship of Donald Trump, I am inclined to believe them. Last year, over 160 former classmates of Cawthorn’s at Patrick Henry College signed a letter accusing him of sexual misconduct.

But– Patrick Henry’s problems didn’t start with Madison Cawthorn, who arrived on campus in 2016. Twice, back in 2014, Kiera Feldman, writing for The New Republic, reported on the sexual assault issues at Patrick Henry College that dated back to 2009. The school has only existed since 2000, and many of the students were homeschooled. There’s no drinking, smoking, gambling, or dancing (except for dance classes) allowed. Students are required to attend chapel daily, and they must wear business casual attire to class. It sounds much like the rules at Pensacola Christian College and Bob Jones University, where women have been required to wear skirts and pantyhose every day, and men have to wear ties to class. According to Feldman’s article:

The self-policing that courtship culture requires, however, is not egalitarian. Responsibility falls disproportionately to women, who are taught to protect their “purity” and to never “tempt” their brothers in Christ to “stumble” with immodest behavior. “The lack of men’s responsibility or culpability for their own actions and the acceptance of male ‘urges’ as irresistible forces of nature is the understructure of Christian modesty movements and their secular counterpart,” the journalist Kathryn Joyce wrote in Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement (an excellent book, by the way). These movements, she noted, see “women’s bodies as almost supernaturally perverse and corrupting.”

At Patrick Henry, one alumna remembers a chapel lecture that compared women who have had sexual contact before marriage to used cars. “You want to be a Porsche,” was the message, she says, adding in an e-mail, “They basically at no point accounted for sexual assault/rape etc (cases where girls’ ‘purity’ was taken from them) and left many girls who’d been victims in the past feeling ashamed.” According to a current PHC junior, the school puts the “burden” on female students to ward off the male gaze—be it from students or professors. She remembers being called in to talk to the residential director, who told her that a male professor had informed the Office of Student Life that her shirts were too revealing when she bent over.

In a follow up article for The New Republic, Feldman wrote that Patrick Henry College had come up with a new policy regarding sexual assault. However, given that Madison Cawthorn was a student there in 2016, where he was a notorious sex pest, the issue apparently continues. It continues at other conservative Christian schools, too, like Visible Music College, an institution I had never heard of until just now. The Memphis, Tennessee Christian college was the subject of an article by NBC News in April 2022. Student Mara Louk reported that she was choked and raped by a male classmate. She had expected that administrators would help her file charges and get support after the assault. Instead, they kicked Mara off campus. They also tried to prevent her from speaking to anyone else on campus about the attack.

Later, after they told Mara Louk that they wouldn’t be helping her, the student who allegedly assaulted her reported Mara to campus administrators for having sex with her ex boyfriend. That went against the school’s rules against premarital sex. Louk denied the accusation, but officials wanted her to sign a “pastoral care contract”, in which she confessed to breaking the premarital sex rule. She would be required to finish her degree online, barred from campus, and not allowed to speak about the assault. Louk refused to sign the contract, finished her semester online, and then withdrew from the school, just nine credits shy of earning her bachelor’s degree.

And finally, just yesterday, Christianity Today reported on the abusive culture in The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. I know from my many years living in Virginia that there is a Christiansburg, Virginia based college that adheres to the Foursquare Gospel movement. It’s an eastern satellite of the religion that is based in California. It appears that the school in Virginia, once called Life Bible College, but now known as Life Pacific University- Virginia, is being investigated because of its controlling environment that included sexual harassment from a high ranking administrator. The administrator asked female students probing questions about their sexual histories and made inappropriate comments about their appearances. He also shared private information about students, to include stories about their mental health issues or other personal details that weren’t for public consumption.

I think it’s pretty plain what I think of religious based colleges and universities. Some are not as bad as others are, of course. However, I think when it comes to higher education, it’s better to go to a school where freedom of expression and the exchange of ideas is celebrated and encouraged. And I think that people should not be lulled into the idea that a college is safe, simply because it’s religious and there’s not supposed to be any “fun” but sinful activities, like drinking, dancing, gambling, smoking, or… dare I say it? Consensual sex.

Besides… I went to two publicly supported universities and I managed to graduate from both with my virginity intact. I didn’t need any rules imposed to do that. It was a choice I made. If I can do it, anyone can… but no one should feel like that’s something they have to do, especially when they are adults, and especially when they are PAYING to go to school. Just my two cents.

Anyway, I hope you’ll watch Fundie Fridays’ video about Fundie Colleges. Jen and James did a very good job on it.

In other news… Bill told me that actress Anne Heche is in critical condition because she evidently drove her blue Mini Cooper into a someone’s Los Angeles area home at a high rate of speed. As Bill was telling me about Heche’s accident, I couldn’t help but remember how, back in 2000, she was in the news for wandering into some guy’s house wearing nothing but a bra and a pair of shorts. She was very disoriented and said she needed a shower. The guy ended up having to call the police to take her away, and she was brought to a psychiatric hospital, where she spent a few hours. I remember at the time of the 2000 incident, she and Ellen DeGeneres had just broken up. She later married a man named Coleman Laffoon, had a couple of kids, and then got divorced. She sure has had an eventful, and often very sad, life. I hope she recovers from this latest setback.

And finally, here are two videos I put up yesterday. I think they turned out very nicely. I need to explore Doris Day’s catalog more. I especially like “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, although that one is getting fewer hits.

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funny stories, religion

Partial repost: Unsuccessfully making fun of Jack T. Chick with Pensacola Christian College alums…

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.

I enjoyed this video. I went through a Jack Chick phase myself about twenty years ago.

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.

A Chick tract in Dutch I found in Amsterdam.

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.

Mood music for this post. It’s profane, so don’t listen to it if cursing offends you. I can play this on the guitar.

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. 

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mental health, psychology, religion

Getting “right” with God!

I got bored yesterday and started reading the Internet, as I often do. Before long, I was reading about a scandal at tiny Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia. Having familiarized myself with Front Royal when I worked at a church camp up that way, I was interested in the story about young women who were allegedly sexually assaulted there. But, as anyone who’s ever surfed the Web knows, one thing leads to another, and before I knew it, I was reading about yet another controversial “teen help” program for girls.

Someone had written a blog post about Hephzibah House, a “school” located in Winona Lake, Indiana. I found the post because I had searched for Hyles-Anderson College, a school in Hammond, Indiana, affiliated with the Independent Baptist Church. I have written about Hyles-Anderson College before. It’s a place where young men go to become strict, fire and brimstone Baptist preachers, and young women go to learn how to be good wives and helpmeets. But when I added the word “horror” to “Hyles-Anderson College, I stumbled across this blog post about Hyles-Anderson College and its connection to Hephzibah House.

The blog entry is posted on No Eden Elsewhere, which appears to be a blog mostly dedicated to the subject of clergy abuse. The person who wrote the post happened to catch a two day expose on the Dr. Phil show about the horrors of the Hephzibah House. If I were living in America right now, I probably would have seen the show myself. It originally aired on January 13th and 14th 2020, and featured the son of the founders, Ronald E. and Patti Williams, who implored viewers NOT to send their daughters to the school.

The son of the founders describes how his parents disciplined him, as well as the girls at the school.

It appears the Hephzibah House is still operating. There is a very simple, Blogspot-esque Web site that is still available to inform parents about the school. According to that site, the girls are not spanked. However, according to the survivors on the Dr. Phil show, corporal punishment is a major ingredient in the school’s recipe for “straightening out” young girls, aged 13 to 16 years, 8 months. Why don’t they take girls older than 16 years, 8 months? Because the minimum stay is 15 months. Do the math, and you see that 16 years, 8 months is the latest a girl could attend the school and spend 15 months there before she turns 18 and can legally walk out of there.

A woman explains how she was paddled at Hephzibah House.

The above video is a harrowing description of how girls were allegedly disciplined at Hephzibah House. I can believe the woman’s account, since I have become well versed in the practices of similar schools. Corporal punishment, and abusive correction methods such as forcing girls to copy and memorize Bible verses or write sentences, are pretty common at these types of places. The description of the abuses at Hephzibah House might have been “spiced” up a bit for ratings purposes, but my guess is that it didn’t have to be spiced up too much.

Years ago, I chatted with a couple of people who attended the now defunct Mountain Park Baptist Boarding Academy in Patterson, Missouri and they had similar stories. I also read about the former Victory Christian Academy in Jay, Florida, which was later rebranded Lighthouse Christian Academy and has now closed. Below is a video about a woman who went to Victory Christian Academy– a survivor of the school, so to speak.

Similar methods… and she does mention the Hephzibah House. She also describes being “kidnapped” in the middle of the night and forcibly taken to school in 2003.

For the life of me, I don’t understand how these supposedly “Christian” people can run such obviously abusive “schools” that employ blatantly heavy-handed methods of getting their charges to obey. I was always taught that Christ was about love, tolerance, and acceptance, as well as mercy. These schools are all about pain, punishment, and humiliation. And typically, these places don’t allow any freedom of expression. In the above Dr. Phil clips, the guests talk about how they weren’t allowed to speak, unless they were asking permission to go to the bathroom or something.

And in the above clip about Victory Christian Academy, the former student, Mackenzie Millar, talks about how she wasn’t allowed to write the truth about how life at the school really was in her letters home. She speaks about the “get right room”, a room the size of a closet where girls were forced to stay for hours. The rooms were nasty and stinky, because girls would urinate on themselves. Meanwhile, they were forced to listen to Lester Roloff’s abusive fundie sermons, blasted at them. Mackenzie also talks about how the floors were equipped with sensors that would sense when girls got up. Likewise, in the Dr. Phil clips, the participants talk about how the floors had sensors and there were microphones everywhere, so the staff could hear every whisper. Creepy! Also, most of the girls at the school stopped having their periods.

I see the Hephzibah House uses the School of Tomorrow (Accelerated Christian Education) curriculum, which is a Protestant fundamentalist educational curriculum that is often used at these types of schools. Another popular curriculum is Abeka (formerly A Beka Book), which was developed at Pensacola Christian College and named after, Rebekah Horton, the wife of the school’s founder, Arlin Horton. Years ago, I used to hang out on The Student Voice, a newsletter and forum run by former PCC students, many of whom were kicked out of the school and wanted to share their stories. I also read about what it was like to work for A Beka Book at PCC.

The school administrators, of course, were very angry about the site, which used the domain http://www.pensacolachristiancollege.com. They sued to get the site’s owner to relinquish the domain, and students who were caught reading or contributing to it were expelled. Having been an active member on that site for awhile, I can attest that it was not a scandalous place. There was no swearing allowed, and the contributors, by and large, were intelligent and thoughtful people who were clearly Christians. But they rebelled against the school’s extreme teachings and policies. Here’s a blog post by a woman named Samantha Field, who attended PCC and has written about why people shouldn’t go there. At least people who are going to college generally have a choice as to whether they will attend. There is still a messageboard in existence, although it’s not all that active anymore. At one time, I was a member, but I don’t know if I still am.

They claim they were forced to eat rotten and bug infested food.

I know there are some people who believe that these kinds of schools, where brainwashing is the name of the game, are helping them “get right with God”. In fact, one of Dr. Phil’s guests supports Hephzibah House, and says it’s not a bad place to be. I’ve read accounts from other people who claim these types of schools, where students are beaten and force fed their own vomit (see Mackenzie Millar’s podcast video for that story), have “saved their lives”.

I wonder if this woman REALLY thinks that blatant abuse is the best way to help someone “get right with God”.

I am also sure that many of the parents who send their kids to these kinds of schools feel like they have no other choice. I’m sure, in many situations, parents feel like they’ve lost control. But so many of these facilities are legitimately abusive hellholes. The methods employed are abusive and damaging, and they destroy people. It’s shocking that in this day and age, in the United States, these types of schools are allowed to exist with very little oversight. Discipline methods that would merit a visit to parents from child protective services are apparently widely employed without consequence at these places. And the young people who endure them come out with lasting damage from the abuse.

More about Hephzibah House– a “haven” for troubled teen girls.

The more I hear and read about these places, a few of which have been shut down, the happier I am that not only was I not raised in a strict religion, but I am also way beyond the teen years. The kids that go to these places are treated worse than prisoners. At least in prison, religious indoctrination is a choice.

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