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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education, 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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