complaints, controversies, Duggars, education, religion

Christians sure are offending a lot of people these days…

This morning, I woke up to the news of the dismissal of the Duggar sisters’ “invasion of privacy” lawsuit against Springdale and Washington County officials, including Maj. Rick Hoyt of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Ernest Cate, Springdale city attorney and former Police Chief Kathy O’Kelley. The suit was filed in May 2017, two years after the Duggar family’s scandalous secret regarding eldest son/brother, Josh Duggar, and his penchant for molesting girls, was first revealed in the tabloid, InTouch.

An attorney for InTouch had made a Freedom of Information Act request for documents regarding an investigation done after the local Department of Human Services office had done after it received two tips about the molestation, which occurred between 2002 and 2003, when Josh was 14 and 15 years old, and his victims (four sisters and a babysitter) were between five and eleven years old. The police officials provided the documents, which of course, were made public. InTouch’s expose pretty much started the process that ruined the Duggars’ squeaky clean Christian image.

I remember being shocked about the revelations about Josh Duggar, but I had no idea what would happen a few years later, when Josh was busted for downloading some of the worst child sexual abuse images and videos that federal investigators had ever seen. Josh now sits in a jail cell, awaiting sentencing for his crimes. Meanwhile, four of his sisters, whose sexual abuse at the hands of their brother, have suffered another indignity.

I’m sure this lawsuit filed by Jill Dillard, Jessa Seewald, Jinger Vuolo, and Joy Forsyth, was very stressful for them, especially since it’s been very public and has dragged on for years. It would not surprise me if the lawsuit was Jim Bob Duggar’s brainchild, to help recoup the loss of income that occurs when a reality show falls into disrepute and gets canceled. Of course, I don’t know if that’s actually the case. I just feel sad for Josh’s victims… all of them. It’s an outrage that this family became rich and famous off of their supposedly Christian image, when it’s very clear that they were lying to the public and hiding egregious sins. Hypocrisy abounds!

The Duggar sisters’ lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, so they can’t file it again. God only knows how much money was spent on this legal action, and how much stress it’s caused the officials in Arkansas, as well as the sisters. But it’s over now. All that’s left are probably massive legal bills. I didn’t realize that lawsuits were a particularly Christian thing. Instead, Christians are supposed to work it out among each other. I guess that Biblical principle goes out the window when money is involved.

After I read about the Duggar sisters’ lawsuit being canceled, I read two more articles about Christians. Both articles were about Christian proselytizing in public schools in two states. Sure enough, one of the states was Tennessee, which I have been writing a lot about lately. The other state was, not surprisingly, West Virginia.

In the first article I read, there was a story about a Jewish girl from Chattanooga, Tennessee who was taking a Bible class in her public high school. The class, which was supposed to be non-sectarian, was to focus on the Bible as literature, and in a historical context. However, it appears that the teacher of the course did not get the memo that she wasn’t supposed to proselytize or insult other religious beliefs.

Mom Juniper Russo wrote in a now unavailable Facebook post:

“[The teacher] wrote an English transliteration of the Hebrew name of G-d on the whiteboard. This name is traditionally not spoken out loud, and is traditionally only written in the Torah. She then told her students, ‘If you want to know how to torture a Jew, make them say this out loud,’” Russo wrote, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, which first reported the story. “My daughter felt extremely uncomfortable hearing a teacher instruct her peers on ‘how to torture a Jew’ and told me when she came home from school that she didn’t feel safe in the class.”

According to the article I read, Jews typically do not pronounce the name of God as it is written in parts of the Bible, instead pronouncing it as “adonai,” which means “my lord.” I always wondered why my Jewish friends write G-d instead of God. Now, I know.

I remember our school had a Bible class offered in the late 80s that was supposed to look at the Bible as a literary and historical work. I recall that other religious books were also supposed to be explored. I was not at all interested in taking the class, since I hated going to church and wasn’t interested in religion at all. I have changed my views about religion over the years, although I still have no desire to attend church. I now find religion very interesting, mainly because I see how so many followers don’t seem to recognize how religion makes them behave badly, as they use religion as an excuse to act that way and be “forgiven”.

Interesting that the teacher would use the word “torture” in her explanation, especially as Tennessee is in the news because McMinn County’s school board removed the book, Maus, from its 8th grade curriculum. The incident involving the Bible class happened in Hamilton County. Russo and her family are members of Chattanooga’s Reform Mizpah Congregation. She has reported the incident to the Anti-Defamation League, which collects and investigates allegations of antisemitism.

It must be very uncomfortable for non-Christians to live in the southern United States, were many people are white, conservative Christians of the Protestant persuasion. Religion has become very polarizing in the United States since I was in school. In my day, most everyone I knew went to church, and the vast majority of the people I knew were Christians, and Protestants, in particular. I didn’t know any Jewish people until I went to college. That was also where I met my first Mormons, although I later discovered that a guy I knew in high school was LDS. I didn’t know it when we were in school, though. I did know a few Muslim kids in school, but they kept to themselves. I didn’t even know they were Muslim at the time; I just noticed that they dressed differently and were allowed to wear little beret type hats.

After I read about the incident with the Jewish girl in Chattanooga, I saw yet another article about proselytization in a school, this time in West Virginia. Sixteen year old Cameron Mays and his classmates were told that they had to attend an evangelical Christian assembly at their high school in Huntington, West Virginia. The assembly was a revival, and was taking place during COMPASS, which is a “non-instructional” break period during which students are usually allowed to read, study, or listen to speakers. On the day of the revival, which was organized by the school’s chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, was supposedly optional. But Mays was told that he had to attend, and once he and his schoolmates got there, they were told to close their eyes and raise their hands in prayer. The assembly was being led by 25 year old evangelical preacher, Nik Walker of Nik Walker Ministries. Students were allegedly told that they must give their lives to Jesus Christ, and that those who don’t follow the Bible will go to Hell.

I was shocked to read about this incident, since it’s a clear violation of the separation of church and state, and should never have been allowed in a publicly funded school. But then I remembered my own high school years, and recall that a group called Teen Challenge came to my school. I think they were kids who had been in trouble with the law, but then found Jesus. They put on a show for us. It never occurred to me to be upset about it. I also remember the Gideons handing out pocket sized New Testaments to us in elementary school. But again, although I wasn’t interested in the Bible at all in those days, it didn’t occur to me to be offended. After all, I was raised a Protestant Christian– specifically Presbyterian. I can’t begin to imagine how awkward it must have been for the parents of children who weren’t Christian to have to deal with those situations.

In the case of the students in West Virginia, one Jewish mother said that her son had felt uncomfortable and wanted to leave the assembly. He was told by his teacher that he wasn’t allowed to leave, since the classroom was locked and there was no one to supervise him. The mother, whose name is Bethany Felinton said,

It’s a completely unfair and unacceptable situation to put a teenager in. I’m not knocking their faith, but there’s a time and place for everything — and in public schools, during the school day, is not the time and place.”

Cameron Mays’ father, Herman Mays, agreed, and added,

“They can’t just play this game of, you know, ‘We’re going to choose this time as wiggle room, this gray area where we believe we can insert a church service,'”

But, even though some of the parents were not happy about the revival at the school, others were happy to see it. They see the evangelical ministry as positive, and good for their kids, many of whom are struggling with anxiety, addictions, and depression. Personally, I don’t think a public school is a place for a revival, even if it is an optional activity. It really is very creepy how so many Americans completely ignore some of the standards the United States was founded on, as they cite the wishes of the Founding Fathers and yell about their freedoms. It seems they only want freedoms for certain types of people.

There’s a reason why religion is not supposed to be part of government entities, although if you think about it, religion IS a big part of our government. But it seems to me that many conservative Christians would like to see public schools completely destroyed, so their kids can be indoctrinated at school, as well as at home. They would truly like to see the United States turn into a theocracy. That, to me, is a very sad idea. One of the things I like best about American culture is that it is diverse. What happened to our “melting pot”? It seems to me that some folks would like to see the spicy melting pot disappear in favor of a more depressing, bland, white concoction.

Here’s hoping the people whose children have been affronted by overweening Christian influences in government funded entities will get some justice. As for the Duggar sisters, I think it’s time they moved on and enjoyed their lives in private. Jim Bob Duggar is a very poor example of a true Christian. It’s time he stopped having an influence on American culture.

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religion, videos, YouTube

A Christian diet cult crashes and burns…

Until last week, I had never heard of Gwen Shamblin Lara, or her husband, former Tarzan actor, Joe Lara. I didn’t know anything about their “church”, either– Remnant Fellowship— located in Brentwood, Tennessee. The couple came into my consciousness a few days ago, when news reports broke about how their 40 year old Cessna 501 airplane crashed into Percy Priest Lake in Smyrna, Tennessee, just east of Nashville. They had been headed for Palm Beach, Florida, home of many wealthy people and white Christians.

I didn’t initially pay much attention to the news about the crash. I had heard that Gwen Shamblin Lara’s ministry focused on breaking people out of addictions– particularly food addictions. I had noticed Gwen’s crazy high hair, and realized that she reminded me a bit of the late Jan Crouch, who famously had big pink hair and was seen on Trinity Broadcasting Network with her late husband, Paul. Those factors alone should have attracted me like a magnet to Gwen’s story. But I didn’t learn much about her until yesterday, when I caught Katie Joy’s videos about the Remnant Fellowship. I was pretty gobsmacked by them.

What’s with the hair?
Kudos to Katie Joy for dishing on this couple.

If you are interested in learning more about Gwen and Joe, I highly recommend watching Katie Joy’s videos from Without a Crystal Ball. I know a lot of people seem to have a problem with Katie Joy, but I think she did a good job covering this story. I watched and listened with some shock and disgust as I learned more about this couple, who claimed to be Christians, yet lived in extreme opulence and evidently promoted abuse and eating disordered behaviors.

In one clip Katie Joy provides, the skeletal looking Gwen is wearing a tank dress that is clearly at least a size too big for her. She stands with her hands in the air, the dress shifted to one side and the strap falling off her shoulder. Her voice is thick with a southern accent as she commends one mom for spanking her child. Another mom, Sonya Smith of Mableton, Georgia, followed Gwen’s advice to punish her son, locking him in his room with a Bible for days (starts at 8:20 in the second video). Gwen commends Sonya Smith for not “spoiling” her child.

In 2007, Sonya Smith, and her husband, Joseph, ultimately went on trial for the 2003 death of their eight year old son, Josef. In October 2003, Josef Smith passed out without ever regaining consciousness as the family had gathered in their kitchen to participate in a prayer session over the Internet. When Josef collapsed, father Joseph touched him, noting that the boy was “warm to the touch” but sweaty. He thought Josef was overheating, so he carried him outside to the carport and laid him down on the concrete. When that didn’t help cool off Josef, the family called 911 and Josef was brought into the dining room. Paramedics first encountered the child there; he wasn’t breathing and was without a pulse. They took him to a hospital, where he was determined brain dead. A day later, he was dead.

Medical examiners determined that Josef Smith had died having suffered extreme abuse from his parents. The police stated that the child was frequently locked in a closet and forced to pray to a picture of Jesus. His parents admitted to striking him with a glue stick, although they didn’t think the punishment was abusive. See the featured photo for an example of what a glue stick looks like. The ones in the photo are about a half inch in diameter and 12 inches long, but they come in different sizes and colors. Before I started learning more about fundie Christians, I had never heard of people spanking their kids with glue sticks. I always thought of them as being much smaller and in a plastic push up tube. Even the hot glue sticks I’ve seen were a lot shorter than the ones used by fundies to discipline their kids.

I always thought the “rod” was the gospel, not an actual rod…

Many devout Christians are particularly enamored of the Bible verse about sparing the rod and spoiling the child and take it very literally. I’m not sure if Gwen and Joe were fans of Michael and Debi Pearl’s controversial book, To Train Up A Child, but that book is infamous for its strong emphasis on corporal punishment for the purpose of “training children” to be obedient Christians. It goes as far as advising parents what implements they should use for spankings. It sounds to me like the Remnant Fellowship, which, like the LDS church, claims to be the “one true church”, might be in favor of the Pearls’ teachings about breaking children’s wills to turn them into good little Christian robots.

If you listen to Katie Joy’s video, at around 9:19, you hear Gwen Shamblin Lara preaching about not spoiling children and being sure to “spank” them to show love. But then you look at how she lived. She and her husband had a huge mansion decked out with gilded furniture, and they owned their own airplane… which ultimately led to their demise. And here she is telling her followers not to “spoil” their children, when she herself appears to be very pampered, living a lavish lifestyle on donations from her flock. Ultimately, her privileged lifestyle led to her early death, didn’t it? What a hypocrite!

Sonya and Joseph Smith became members of Gwen Shamblin Lara’s church in 2000. The Remnant Fellowship Church is an offshoot of Gwen’s “Weigh Down Workshop”, which is a diet program she started in 1996. The church is known for its focus on saving souls from Hell and reforming people with addictions to drugs, alcohol, and food. However, according to Katie Joy’s expose, this church’s methods are extremely controlling and abusive and many people have been harmed by it. The Smiths’ case led to authorities raiding and investigating the Remnant Fellowship Church in 2004; the church supported the Smiths in their legal fight.

As for the Smiths, according to Wikipedia, they were “each charged with four counts of murder, five counts of first-degree cruelty to children, three counts of aggravated assault and two counts of false imprisonment.” On February 12, 2007, which would have been Josef’s 12th birthday, a jury found them guilty on eleven counts: “one count each of felony murder, reckless conduct, false imprisonment; three counts of aggravated assault, and four counts of cruelty to children (two specifically pertaining to glue sticks and others to unknown objects).” On March 27, 2007, Joseph and Sonya Smith were each sentenced to life plus thirty years– the maximum allowed by Georgia law. The case was appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court in 2010, but the original convictions and sentences were upheld. In February 2011, a petition was filed with the United States Supreme Court, asking the justices to review the decisions made by Georgia’s lower courts. The petition was denied.

I would not wish a plane crash on anyone. I’m sure the crash was horrific for everyone on board. Katie Joy said that the aircraft basically “broke” and there’s debris everywhere with no chance whatsoever of any survivors. However, after listening to Gwen Shamblin Lara speak and hearing about Josef Smith’s very sad case, I kind of feel relieved that Gwen will no longer be around to spread her particular brand of “the gospel”.

I’m sure the Remnant Fellowship won’t be going away, but at least now more people know about it and the potential dangers it poses to innocent people. It’s not hard to fall into abusive situations… whether they be abusive relationships with other people or abusive organizations like religious groups or cults. These systems thrive on attracting people who are weakened because they are in trouble. People with financial or health problems… people with low self-esteem or addictions… people who are desperately looking for a way out of a bad situation– these are all examples of folks who might be lured into joining falling into abuse. Sometimes, those situations lead to terrible tragedies involving innocent people like Josef Smith, or plane crashes that kill innocent people, like those who were onboard the private Cessna aircraft with Gwen and Joe.

As I wrote in yesterday’s post about culty churches, Shamblin Lara’s followers were required to close themselves off from other influences. They weren’t allowed to read anything not produced by Gwen or listen to music not made by Gwen’s son, Michael Shamblin. That raises some red flags, right? Gwen also says that her followers should not use antidepressants and they should disconnect from their families. More culty red flags!

For more information about this “cult” of starvation, check out Jen’s Fundie Fridays’ YouTube channel and its lengthy expose of Gwen Shamblin Lara’s “church” and weight loss program that combines religion with anorexic behaviors. This video below was made about a year ago. I wonder if Jan will do another video soon, now that Gwen and Joe are dancing with whatever they found in the great beyond after their plane crashed into Percy Priest Lake.

That hair on Gwen… wow. I like Jen’s style. She has a great sense of humor.

In the above video, I see clips from Gwen’s videos and they all depict her living the perfect, romanticized life, complete with music from Shrek (really?). All of the people are dressed to the nines and there are romantic gazebos and depictions of perfect family living… but that’s all it is. It’s just a facade– a highly staged, manipulated, fantastic facade– that sadly roped in enough followers for the Laras to be able to afford this very anti-Christlike church they promote. It’s obvious that Gwen was idolized by her followers, which is pretty much not what the Bible promotes, right? Idolatry is specifically forbidden, according to the Bible. See below, where it’s spelled out…

Yup… Idolatry is not Christian.

In yet another example of idol worship, Gwen Shamblin Lara even compared herself to Michael Jackson, claiming she was persecuted. But I think it’s fair to say that the criticism she got was warranted. People died following her… a child died! His parents are now in prison for the rest of their lives. She promoted pro-ana ideas, which are extremely dangerous, especially for people who already have tendencies to fall into eating disorders. And frankly, I think her hair was a crime against nature. So, while I don’t rejoice in the death of Gwen and Joe, I am glad that their toxic brand of “Christianity” has been dealt a serious blow. If the church continues, I hope it is run by people who are less dangerous and hypocritical… and culty.

Anyway… a week ago, I had never heard of Gwen Shamblin Lara. And now that I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, I’m glad I didn’t find her until she was dead. What a toxic load of shit her church is. I thought Teddi Mellencamp’s diet program was abusive and predatory. At least Teddi Mellencamp doesn’t marry dieting with religion. She just charges a lot of money to bully her customers into starving themselves down to a more “acceptable” size.

And she has more normal hair, too. Of course, her weight loss program is also pretty fucked up and dangerous.

In other news… I was successful in getting my second shot yesterday. So far, I feel okay. My arm is a bit sore and I’m a little tired, but otherwise, no sweat. Bill suffered a lot more from his second shot than I have so far. But I hesitate to celebrate too much, since I have heard that the side effects can come on within a day or two. I may be down for the count tomorrow or over the weekend. We shall see. I’m just glad it’s done.

Edited to add: Fundie Fridays posted a new video about a half hour ago (as of June 5, 2021 3:30pm Central European Summer Time)

Very newsy! This video is done by James instead of Jen.
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book reviews, religion

Reviewing Undertow: My Escape from the Fundamentalism and Cult Control of The Way International, by Charlene Edge…

I just finished reading my latest book, Undertow: My Escape from the Fundamentalism and Cult Control of The Way International, written by Charlene Edge and edited by Ruth Mullen. This was the first time I had ever read anything about The Way International, a a global, multi-denominational, Christian organization based in New Knoxville, Ohio and founded by Victor Paul Wierwille in 1942. Wierwille had started his ministry as a radio program, and it eventually grew into The Way, Inc. in 1955. The Way is now officially known as The Way International, and is now widely regarded by many as a religious cult.

I was curious about The Way after seeing some viral videos a few years ago. You may have seen them yourself, as they are quite hilarious. I’ve shared them on my blog, but I’ve also seen them on Facebook. Behold…

This is from The Way International’s 2007 Concert Series… but as cheesy as this is, it’s not as famous as the video below. I’ve had this song stuck in my head for days. That choreography is enough to make me cry.
Oh my God… They sure look happy, though.

I discovered these videos in 2014, while visiting Nice, France. My cousin’s late husband shared a funny post about Christians making cringeworthy music videos and the one directly above, along with “Jesus Is a Friend of Mine” by Sonseed, were the best of the lot in the most embarrassing ways. Sonseed was a Catholic group, though, and not as intriguing as The Way was. I say “was”, because I’ve just finished reading Charlene Edge’s book, Undertow, which, at 475 pages is a pretty substantial and informative read about what she, herself, now defines as a cult.

Who is Charlene Edge, and why did she write this book?

Charlene Edge was, for many years, a dedicated member of The Way International. She was raised Catholic, mostly by her father, because her mother died when she was a teen. She has an older sister, Marie, who at seven years older was never very close to Charlene. When Charlene was suddenly left without a mother, she became disenchanted by the religion in which she was raised and went looking for something new. As it so happens with many future cult members, Charlene was basically a sitting duck when she first encountered recruiters for The Way. They found her when she was young, inexperienced, and weakened by misfortune and tragedy.

Back in the late 1960s and early 70s, when Charlene was a young adult, she had a Jesuit boyfriend who liked to surf. She really liked this guy, but bristled when he pointedly told her that The Way is a cult. She lost touch with him, and seemed to regret that they didn’t marry or at least have more of a relationship. She went to college at East Carolina University, but could not focus on school as she became more and more involved with The Way. Soon, she dropped out of college, blowing off her exams and leaving school with a 1.8 grade point average.

Against the objections of friends and family, she got a job working for The Way, researching the Bible and learning Aramaic. Her work led her to spend a lot of years studying the Bible, and even reading ancient texts in libraries around the world. I don’t know if she’s ever visited Armenia, but I do know that her enthusiasm for reading ancient Bibles would make her a prime candidate for visiting the Matenadaran, which is a museum in Armenia where ancient Bibles and other manuscripts are displayed. I visited there myself when I was in the Peace Corps.

Speaking of being of service, Edge eventually joined The Way Corps, which she made sound like a cross between Sea Org (in Scientology) and the Peace Corps (which isn’t a cult, but does have kind of a churchy/missionary vibe, even though it isn’t a religious organization). It was an intensive two year program, designed to make followers of The Way even more dedicated and loyal to the ministry. Edge also had to raise money so that she could join The Way Corps. Naturally, that experience bonded her more to the ministry and its followers. She found friends and, at least at first, the church gave her what she needed. But it wasn’t long before that sense of belonging turned into a form of slavery.

Based on Edge’s story, I got the sense that joining The Way Corps was the kind of thing the die hard cult members did. She legitimately worked for the organization and was paid about $30,000 a year– enough to live on, but not enough to save much of, particularly after she married her first husband, Ed, who was also a cult member. Edge writes that she and Ed were not all that compatible in 1973, when they married. They just felt it was what God wanted them to do. Soon, they had a daughter named Rachel, but she didn’t bring them closer together.

Charlene Edge becomes trapped in The Way…

For seventeen years, Charlene Edge was a devoted employee and follower of The Way. However, she didn’t seem very happy in the religion. Little things bothered her– lies she was told and asked to promote. But she’d put her concerns aside, believing that following the tenets set by The Way was truly the best way to live life. She diligently did all that the church asked her to do, ignoring the cognitive dissonance.

The church’s founder, Dr. Victor Wierwille, was called “Doctor” by everyone. He had German Shorthaired Pointer dogs and basically made himself the king of the compound. Like all good cult members, Edge listened to her leader and did what he commanded. When Wierwille warned of a potential government attack against the church, Charlene prepared to live off the grid. As her charismatic leader grew ever more abusive and paranoid, and increasingly asked his followers to do more and more bizarre things, Edge continued to ignore the signs that she was deeply entrenched in a cult. Wierwille denied the Holocaust and began promoting his personal false interpretations of the Bible as truth.

Meanwhile, Charlene’s marriage was continuing to decay. Ed was drinking more and more, and he was unfaithful to his wife and daughter. They were constantly trying to make ends meet with the meager compensation they got from the church. There was never time to make plans, to think straight, or to enact changes that would get them out of the predicament they were in. Although it was clear that the couple wasn’t happy together and the marriage wasn’t working, they stayed married for 18 years, finally divorcing in 1991.

The shelf collapses…

One day, Charlene heard something that might have seemed banal to her colleagues. Wierwille was trying to put out literature about a Bible verse of which he didn’t agree with the official interpretation. He wanted his researchers to ignore what the Bible verse actually said and promote Wierwille’s false interpretation as the truth. Although she had been able to ignore Wierwille’s crazy shenanigans for years, for some reason, on that day, Charlene Edge suddenly gained awareness. And it happened when one of her colleagues leaned over to her and whispered that he liked Wierwille, but “sometimes his Greek isn’t so good.” Somehow, that simple comment– so mundane and trivial– had made Charlene realize that her leader wasn’t sent by God. He was a simple, narcissistic, power-hungry, greedy man, who had taken them all for a ride and swindled them out of everything from money to their precious youth. Later, toward the end of her time in the sect, Edge discovered that Wierwille had a sex ring, and female church members were stroking more than his ego.

Then, in 1985, “Doctor” died, supposedly of a stroke. Later, Edge found out that Wierwille’s death had actually been caused by cancer. He’d never let it be known that he had cancer, since he had told his followers that cancer was caused by the Devil. This was just another lie that Charlene Edge could not reconcile. She soon noticed other deceptions that she could no longer ignore… and each lie that unfolded made her angrier and less supportive of The Way’s teachings. And yet, she had to keep up the facade, because her livelihood depended on appearing to be faithful to the church… as did her housing, at one point. She had rented a house that belonged to a member of the ministry who had let her have it at a discount.

My thoughts

I have read a whole lot of books about people who have escaped cults and abusive religious organizations. Much to my surprise, The Way International is not among the worst of the religions I’ve read about. I don’t, for instance, think The Way is worse than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members of The Way aren’t encouraged to shun their family members who aren’t involved. They aren’t told what they can drink, not to smoke or use drugs, or have to wear special underwear.

The Way International does have a “missionary-esque” organization in The Way Corps, but it doesn’t sound to me like it’s akin to what the Mormons do. I don’t think The Way is as extreme as Scientology or the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Christian Scientists. It’s promoted as a research based religion, but as Charlene Edge discovered, some of the research was shoddy, and the inner circle of researchers were pressured to ignore facts and promoted untruths that propped up Wierwille’s (and subsequent leaders’) egos.

Edge’s writing is jam packed with similes and metaphors. Sometimes, they were clever, but after awhile they became noticeable and somewhat annoying to me. She often would describe people in animal terms, writing things like “He paced like a caged dog.”, then turning around and using another animal simile to describe someone or something else. On the other hand, her style does have a pleasant flow to it, which made getting through all 475 pages somewhat easier. I do think some of the manuscript could have been pared down a little bit. There seems to be a lot of minutiae slipped into her story that made getting through it tougher going, although another positive is that Charlene includes a lot of photos.

I still don’t feel like I know as much as I would like to know about The Way International, even though Undertow is so long. Again, there’s a lot of mundane information about Charlene Edge’s life that could have been exchanged for information about what the ministry believes and how it recruits members. I think I would have enjoyed reading more about the organization as a whole. For example, Edge only mentions the music groups in passing, but as you can see from the above videos, they do have a musical ministry that is no doubt intended to lure new members and entertain existing ones. She could have added that information and deleted about 100 pages of the minutiae, and I think the book would have been better.

Charlene Edge mentions that she lost a lot to the “cult”. She joined at such a young age, which caused her to delay her education, lose precious years of her youth and time with friends and family members who weren’t involved in the cult, and hamper her own aspirations for her life. However, I would suggest to Edge that she did get something out of those years. She got her book, which has no doubt had an impact on many readers in some way. For instance, I know more about The Way International than I did a couple of weeks ago. That counts for something. I see from reviews on Amazon that her book has been well-received by others, too.

As I was describing Undertow to Bill this morning, I was reminded of Elizabeth Smart. Before she was kidnapped in 2002, Elizabeth Smart was on her way to becoming the perfect Mormon “Molly”. She majored in music at Brigham Young University, which I suppose would have led her to doing work with the LDS church’s music ministry. Or maybe it wouldn’t have. My point is, Elizabeth Smart’s life’s work is toward activism and the prevention of children being abducted and abused the way she was. If she had not been a victim of a deranged man who had warped ideas about religion, she would not be doing the important work she’s doing. She probably would have been Mormon royalty, living a posh family life in Utah instead. I’m certainly not saying I’m *glad* Elizabeth Smart was victimized. What I am saying is that she’s chosen to turn that ordeal into something that benefits people all over the world, and if not for her personal experience, I doubt she would have chosen her activist career path on her own.

Likewise, in her own way, Charlene Edge has turned her negative experiences into something positive and beneficial for other people. Yes, it’s unfortunate that Charlene paid such a high price to gain this knowledge. She fell victim to the predatory methods of a cult, who swept her up when she was young, naive, and heartbroken. It happens to a lot of people. Bill joined the LDS church when his marriage was failing, thinking it might help him save his family. All it did was make things worse… and cause his life to be much busier and more complicated than it needed to be. I think the same thing happened to Charlene Edge.

Anyway… I’m glad Charlene Edge has found her own way… and gotten out of The Way of her own success. I would give this book a rating of four stars out of five.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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careers, rants, religion, sexism

Repost: According to a Christian blogger, women are destroying the medical profession…

I just got a wild hair up my ass and decided to repost a couple of blog entries I wrote about Lori Alexander, otherwise known as The Transformed Wife. I am reposting them because sometimes it’s handy to be able to link to old posts from my original blog, particularly where Lori Alexander is concerned. This first one was originally posted May 14, 2018. It made quite a stir three years ago.

First thing’s first.  I need to state upfront that I don’t regularly follow The Transformed Wife, which is a blog written by a Christian woman named Lori Alexander.  I had never heard of this blog until I started following the Duggar Family News group on Facebook.  I did see a recent post by The Transformed Wife where I felt compelled to leave a comment, only because she’d misspelled “censorship” in her title and it was making me twitchy (sorry).  But no, I don’t regularly read her blog because I’m pretty far from being a devout Christian.  Sometimes people share her more ridiculous posts, though, and that’s usually when I take notice.

2013 seems to have been the year to be talking about female physicians…

This morning, someone shared Lori’s thoughts on women doctors.  She writes, “women are destroying the medical profession.”  To back up her claim, she cites a five year old opinion piece done by the U.K.’s Telegraph.  That piece is about female doctors who only work part-time because they are raising families.  It’s apparently causing a problem in countries around the world because part-time doctors lead to a shortage.  The opinion piece, written by Max Pemberton, is actually pretty sensible.  He writes:

…attempts to raise these issues are routinely met with accusations of sexism. But it’s not sexist to acknowledge that women, more than men, often appear to place family life ahead of their career. Nor is it a bad thing that women want to focus on having and bringing up their children, and caring for a partner. Underlying this is a larger debate about the 24/7 working environment and lack of affordable child care that leaves so many women torn between a career and a family. This is where the real sexism lies. But until there is a shift in the way that domestic responsibilities are shared, we need to accept that most women want to work part time so they can combine a career with family life – and, in medicine at least, start preparing for it becoming the norm.

But then Lori Alexander writes:  

Men were created to be the supporters of families and women were not. Women are taking men’s positions in medical schools that should belong to men.

Hmmm… very interesting indeed.  I happen to know a couple of women doctors who are raising families.  One is a very successful trauma surgeon.  Her husband is an Episcopalian vicar and takes excellent care of their two kids while his wife works to save lives.  The other just recently had her sixth baby.  And yet, according to Lori Alexander, these women are absolutely wrong to pursue careers in medicine.  Alexander reminds readers…

Men can be doctors but they can’t be mothers. Only mothers can be mothers and NO ONE can replace a mother in a child’s life.

What exactly makes someone a mother, anyway?  Is it the simple act of giving birth?  Because if that’s the case, adoptive mothers are apparently worthless, according to Alexander.  Is it simply being female?  Are women inherently more nurturing than men are, simply because they have female parts?  What about fathers?  Can they be replaced?  Actually, Alexander would probably say fathers can’t be replaced, but apparently they aren’t as important as mothers are.  Why is that?  Is it because they aren’t nurturing?  I would challenge anyone who has ever met my husband, Bill, to compare his nurturing instincts to mine.  (ha ha ha)  But then, I know that Bill is a pretty rare individual, especially for a military veteran.  He’s unusually nurturing and kind.  He’d probably be a better mother than I would, though.  Or, at least he’d probably be more like the type of mother idealized by folks like Lori Alexander.

Lori continues with the following thoughts…

No long-term good comes out of women leaving their homes. Nothing. Satan convinced women to spend years and a lot of money getting a higher education and then a degree. When they finally have children, they still have their God-given instinct to care for their children, thus they are in conflict with what they were convinced about concerning their career and being with their children. Their children are the ones who suffer and society is suffering too.

Oh… so it’s the fault of women that society is suffering?  That sounds pretty familiar.  Women get blamed for all kinds of shit.  That’s been going on since the dawn of time.  But then Lori ends with a quote from Proverbs:

She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.  Proverbs 31:27

I wonder what she’d think of an overeducated housewife with no children whose housework skills are lacking…

In fairness to Lori Alexander, I don’t know her at all.  I have no idea what shaped her opinions about woman in the workplace, other than her obvious love for the Bible.  My guess is that she’s actually against women who work, not just women who choose to be doctors.  Somehow, her blog has attracted a lot of attention.  This particular post has been shared well over 1500 times.  Maybe I should start writing really badly written provocative stuff that causes outrage.  And… to be honest, I don’t necessarily disagree that children in the United States need more exposure to their mothers.  Actually, I’d argue that they need more exposure to BOTH parents.  

What I like about Europe is that the powers-that-be have recognized that young children need their mothers and fathers, so employers here allow them to take time off from their work to take care of their kids.  That time off is paid, and they do have jobs to go back to when their time off is finished.  But this generous leave has nothing to do with religion.  Instead, it’s a simple product of common sense.

Europe, in general, is also a bit less work happy than the United States is.  In the United States, there’s this idea that one must constantly be working in order to keep their jobs.  Plenty of folks who are lucky enough to have jobs with benefits, to include paid vacation time, are pressured not to take any leave.  Those who dare to enjoy their lives off the clock are often considered unproductive and poor performers.  They don’t tend to climb the ladder of success the way their more driven colleagues do.    

In Germany, workers get more time off and shorter work weeks, yet the German economy remains very strong and the people, by and large, seem to be a lot happier.  I think Germans tend to work smarter, too.  They focus is less on how long a person works and more on the quality of their work.  I would imagine that having time to rest allows them to work smarter.  It’s probably better for their overall health, too, including their mental health.

Let’s face it.  Living in the United States is very expensive.  A lot of families need both parents to work just to be able to pay their basic bills.  The need to work makes it harder to focus on the family. And yet, we keep voting in Republicans, who are in bed with Christians, yet seem hellbent on making money and ruining any family friendly programs that might make it more possible for one parent (not necessarily the mother) to stay home and take care of their kids.  The United States is not a community friendly country.  Many people are focused on their own needs and things that only benefit them personally, rather than society as a whole.

But… in fairness to my countrymen, I can understand where this attitude comes from.  And now that I don’t live in the United States, I can also see where people like my Italian friend, Vittorio, see the United States as a “weirdorama” country.  We have all these God fearing people who don’t seem to love their fellow man very much at all… unless, of course, their fellow man lives in a way that they claim is Biblical.  It doesn’t seem logical to me.

Anyway, allow me to go on record as saying that I think it’s great that women are following their career dreams.  I also think it’s a good thing that so many of those women are focusing on their own fulfillment.  Perhaps that means they have fewer children or none at all.  But, as Alexander points out in the comments section of her post, women doctors are here to stay.  Women will keep going to medical school.  So… I guess in her opinion, the medical profession is on its way to being well and truly fucked.  She’s entitled to her opinion.  I’m not sorry she wrote her post, even if I disagree with her.  She gave me some food for thought.

I guess we’re in the end times…

I think I need an aspirin now.       

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bad TV, celebrities, nostalgia

Repost: The evolution of Lifetime TV and the regression of Kirk Cameron…

This post was originally written on December 5, 2017. I am reposting a slightly edited version of it because it’s about a fun subject that has nothing to do with current events.

Back in the 1980s, when cable television was still fairly new, we had some very interesting programs to watch.  The mid 80s saw the birth of the now female friendly network called Lifetime.  Many people recognize Lifetime as a channel for women with lots of women centric television shows and movies about bad men.  But if you were around in the mid 80s, you might remember that Lifetime used to be a health channel. 

February 1, 1984 marked the first day of Lifetime TV.  Prior to that, it was known first as Daytime, which was a channel dedicated to “alternative” women’s programming.  Then, for about nine months, it was called Cable Health Network.  Then, in November 1983, it was Lifetime Medical Television.  I remember the programming aired on that network was mostly medical stuff… I mean, stuff doctors would be watching.  I remember the channel’s logo featured an apple…  an apple a day keeps the viewers away, I guess.

Some of the clips in this video came from Lifetime Medical Television.

Something had to be done…  the new network was losing a lot of money.  Some people even thought it was a religious channel.  That’s when Lifetime started its incarnation of what it is today.  It was around 1985 that it started featuring Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the tiny German sex therapist who hosted a call in sex advice show on Lifetime.  Her show was called Good Sex!  With Dr. Ruth Westheimer.  In the 80s, it was cutting edge stuff… scandalous, even.  The tiny woman soon became a huge star.

I don’t know why, but for some reason, I thought of Dr. Ruth last night.  It was right before I read a nauseating story about Kirk Cameron, also an 80s icon who underwent a massive makeover (and in his case, not for the better).  Kirk made a statement about how wives are to honor their husbands…

“Wives are to honor and respect and follow their husband’s lead, not to tell their husband how he ought to be a better husband. When each person gets their part right, regardless of how their spouse is treating them, there is hope for real change in their marriage.”

I made the mistake of sharing the story and immediately got a comment from someone wanting me to know about the Bible verse from which this directive comes.  For the record, yes I know that the Bible says women should follow their husbands the way their husbands follow the church.  However, I think many “Christian” men misunderstand or misuse this passage and end up abusing their wives.

I’m not so sure Cameron or others like him do a good job of explaining it.  Moreover, my initial comment was more about how Kirk Cameron changed from a goofy, boyish, funny, likable guy to a religious zealot.  He probably could use some advice from Dr. Ruth.

Dr. Ruth’s show was saucy!  Even in the 80s, she had progressive ideas about homosexuality.

I didn’t watch Dr. Ruth’s show because it aired at 10:00pm and I was about 12 or 13 years old.  Although my parents probably would neither have noticed nor cared that I was watching her program, at that age I found it boring viewing.  Most talk shows that would probably fascinate me today were dull when I was much younger.  I couldn’t be bothered to sit and listen to anyone who wasn’t a musician.  However, she did become very famous when her show was on Lifetime.  I think she and Regis Philbin helped put the then fledgeling cable channel on the map.

Here, Dr. Ruth counsels Richard Lewis, whom I well remember as Rabbi Glass on 7th Heaven.  God, he looks so young!  

For some reason, I used to love to imitate Dr. Ruth’s voice.  It’s so distinctive.    

This poor guy is a 21 year old virgin.  I was a 30 year old virgin, so I can relate to his angst.  He seems kind of sweet, though.  It was brave of him to be on Dr. Ruth’s show.  I hope he has since gotten laid.

Dr. Ruth was born in 1928, which makes her quite elderly.  She still has a channel on YouTube and, if she’s the one who is actually running it, appears to have a pretty good sense of humor.  I notice she favorited one of Robin Williams’ routines about her.

Bwahahahaaha!  This is pretty damn hilarious.

Anyway, I can’t help but miss the good old days sometimes.  Sure, the Internet is great and television has even become somewhat obsolete.  But I do miss some of the stuff that made it on the airwaves back in the day.  Lifetime and other cable channels like Nickelodeon used to be fun to watch.  Then they kind of evolved into crap… but then, that’s kind of the way of the world.  Radio used to be cool, too.  

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