Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Answer to My Critics: My Childhood Opened My Eyes

UPDATE: 7/27/2015:9:01:34

The last few paragraphs end as a sort of sermon. I was a devout Christian when I wrote this piece. I am no longer religious and have no interest in ever being so, again, yet still have a deep appreciation for religious discussion. Bear in mind that this does not take away from the importance of the message of this post.

Recently, I was accused of only speaking out against Billy Boy G. and his patriarchal ilk because I have a vendetta against my life as a child.  While I do not disagree that half of my childhood was pure torture, I vehemently disagree with that accusation.

Here's a summing up of my childhood:

When I was seven years old, my parents divorced.  At the time, my mother convinced me, through the most holy word of the god man Billy Boy G., that divorce was pure evil - the cardinal sin of mankind.  The only sin (other than being a woman, women wearing pants, men having long hair, women cropping their hair, women working outside of the home, children being curious, not hitting your child whenever you pleased, not obeying all authorities without question the very first time, not taking the word of your pastor as if it were the word of God, even though the only word of God was supposed to be found in the Bible, questioning the inerrant nature of the Bible, questioning the holiness of the "inspired" canon, being suspicious of the counsel at Trent and other men gatherings, being a feminist, women speaking out in church, farting out loud, listening to rock music, using more than three sheets of toilet paper per bowel movement, answering a phone call without permission, not sharing the gospel to at least five people a day at school, playing sports in school, going to college, women not being homemakers, believing that a doctor was a good thing, immunizing, treating chiropractors with disdain, not accepting all weird eastern alternative "medicinal" therapies without question, while ignoring the obvious contradictions in religious philosophies, reading the words of Ghandi, studying evolution, saying anything bad about Ken Ham, not having a verifiable "biblical" world view, not swearing on a stack of Bibles that you would carry out your given "role" in life, drinking city water that had evil teeth rotting and population controlling fluoride in it, sex outside of government sanctioned marriage, sex for pleasure, masturbation, any sex that deviates from the missionary position, using birth control, desiring money, etc., etc.....sheesh!....seems to me patriarchy has some notion of paranoia) that disqualifies you from serving in a position of authority in the church - provided you're a man.  A woman is always S.O.L.

The divorce didn't affect me then.  I hardly knew my dad, something I blame my mother for completely.  She made a point to keep him away from my siblings and I at all times.  Even before she fell in love with Big G. (she told us many times that she wanted to marry the guy, Bill Gothard, once my father died and she was free to marry again) she had a notion that her way was the only righteous way and my father was always wrong.

She disciplined him on a regular basis.  The details, for privacy sake, I will not go into.  She also beat us from the age of...well...we actually had no age when she started,  She started in on my oldest sibling when she was just a small baby.

When the divorce happened, my father tirelessly went to court to gain custody of us.  My mother and our church pastor fought tooth and nail against him.  The state sided with her and my father had to go away empty handed.

She discovered Big G. very soon afterward and soon had us all converted to the "us vs. them" philosophy that kills all freedom and love in a life.

She had always beaten us.  One day, she found a pink pamphlet that taught her how to hit us the "proper" way.  Yes, there must be a proper way to hit a child.  Hitting, alone, isn't okay at all.  You have to hit, then pray a lot, then hug a bunch, then...well...I can't think of any more extra-biblical ideas, but these morons and the Swine Beads and Ezz-skimos that came after have built an empire out of beating children by dreaming up this bald faced lie.

She sat us all down that day and read us the entire skinny, four-page piece of trash and then told us all that she had to practice to get it just right.  So, she lined us all up on some soft black couch cushions that were lying on the dining room floor in front of the full-wall bookshelf and lit in to each of us.

Spank!  Hug, hug.  Spank!  Hug, hug.  Span....

Once all seven of us had been fully practiced on, that was the last time she ever hugged us after a beating.  After that, everything was fair game.  With a hardwood, boar-bristle brush, beating us on the head, back, shoulders, legs, bare bottom, six times, then eighteen, then thirty six, then it doesn't matter anymore because you lost count and it just hurt like hell.  She made my sister eat dish soap and toilet paper on a regular basis because she was a poor eater.  She kicked, slapped, bit, made us lay on our face on the floor for hours, forced us to stand in a corner for hours, even days.  Sleep deprivation was the norm.  Forced Bible readings for hours, sometimes days. Rubbing and massaging her legs and feet was my own personal punishment.

All of this in the name of love and obedience to god-given authority.  Yes, small 'g'.

Now, you know why I speak out? 

Don't even try and come at me and tell me that my mother was the exception to the rule.  I won't even give you the time of day.  That doesn't even matter.  Her way of doing things was simply her way of exemplifying the doctrines that propped up her way of doing things.  The exact doctrines that prop up everything in the false lifestyle of patriarchy. 

I learned from my childhood.  It was harsh and I ignored it for years.  Tried to push it away with humor.  But I can't do it anymore.  Not because I care about me, as a victim.  I don't give a rat's rear end about myself.  I care about my wife and kids, the kids and young adults (even old ones) that are forcefully involved in this controlled and evil lifestyle, and those who are in it and yet have questions of what the hell they are supposed to believe in.

And now the kicker.  I don't care at all for those that are inflicting the pain, the spiritual, physical, and emotional abuse on the least of these.  Sure, I want them to change, but I've met them.  I've hung with them.   Patriarchy breeds the most prideful, arrogant, pompous, self-righteous, pharisaical, holes of arses I have ever met.  God can deal with them.  Others who care more can deal with them.  But I will not.

I will follow Christ's words to do what is right to the least of these.   I am at peace and yet yearn for the freedom of controlled souls who have not tasted true freedom in Christ.  Or even, freedom at all.  Freedom without Christ is better than the prison these hurting souls find themselves in.

Maybe not sufficient, but I don't care.  Don't cheapen my message, if that is what this is.


  1. Dear God. I am so sorry. I've known it, but to read it expressed so rawly just breaks my heart.

    Keep writing and talking.

  2. I hear ya, Joe, and even though I was brushed by this stuff from the outside rather than being on the inside of it, I can relate to the sentiment even if I can only guess at what your experience was like for you.

    Keep writing amigo.

  3. Ugh. Horrible!!! Makes me all the more determined to watch out for abuse and report it. Didn't anyone know she was doing that to you? :(

    Thanks for speaking out!

  4. Oh god it makes me SO annoyed when someone tries to say stories like this are just the "exception" and there isn't really anything wrong wit patriarchy and all that. That's SHIT. I actually have a blog post addressing this very issue written up and ready to go tomorrow. The point I try to make is this: it isn't the PARENTS that are the problem. It's the IDEOLOGY. Period and full stop. Feel free to applaud when you read it tomorrow, lol.

  5. Keep writing.
    Keep healing.
    Keep gaining ground.

    Tenacious souls that survive and thrive inspire me.

  6. IC, all I can say is that you're remarkably well balanced for having gone through all of that. Keep pressing forward!

  7. I'm sorry about your childhood. That's awful.

    I guess they can't handle reading the adult's prospective on the viewpoint of living that lifestyle as a child.

    I pray more people listen to you!

  8. Jill. Thanks. More coming that will show you both the shocking parts of my childhood as well as eyebrow-raising happy times. I loved most of my childhood. The abuse was bearable for me, but nothing I would wish on anyone else.

    My single mother was very adventurous (she took all seven of us behind Minnehaha Falls during the winter when all you had to walk on was solid ice...yes, adventurous...or crazy!). The good times outwieghed the bad for me, anyway. I cannot and will not say the same to about my sisters and younger brother.

    Patriarchy has a funny way of picking winners and losers. Most of the time, the male persuasion is the group most victorious.

  9. Lewis, you would have made a great patriarch. I can see you now, sitting in your Michael Pearl designed easy chair with the too high foot rest, just at eye level for the wife to get the idea that a foot massage was in order...blah blah blah.

    Never mind. Bad joke. Anyway, thanks for the encouragement.

  10. Sharon. Short answer. Not that I know of. The longer answer is a bit complicated.

    My dad knew and fought in the Minnesota court system but it was heavily weighted against father's at the time - even if there was a documented history of reported abuse, which there was. Just like those stories you hear these days, the reported abuse investigations relied heavily on my mother's testimony (which you can imagine what she said) and our testimony in rare cases (which was always in the same room as my mother). Seriously, for a kid living in fear every moment of the day, would YOU admit to abuse, knowing that those government peeps would leave and do nothing and you'd be left with a newly enraged adult in the room?

    My mother became involved in a church, Normandale Baptist of Bloomington, Minnesota, pastored by Chucj Raichert. Certain facts make me think that he was acutely aware of what was going on, but had his hands tied due to two things.

    1. He didn't want to make a scene.

    2. The doctrine of patriarchy prevented him from going against my mother. Which is weird. She wasn't my dad (who fought for custody and lost, with Chuck Raichert as a consenting counsel) and Chuck was pastor.

    Many questions roll around in my head to this day.

    So, I'll stick with the short answer and write later about the long answer as time goes on.

  11. Mara Reid. You are part of my inspiration. Please do the same.

  12. Brian. Thanks. What you don't know won't hurt you.

  13. I just stumbled across this blog. What you describe sounds horrific and hypocritical. I am a born-again evangelical Christian - but what you have described is unrecognizable to me. I hope this isn't rude to say but it sounds as though your mother has mental illness. Please know that my heart grieves for you and for the image of "God" that your upbringing gave you. What you went through was evil.

    - Tammy

  14. I also just came across this blog Tammy, but I did through "Young Mom". I can attest that his abuse was not that far from normal. Many kids I knew went through it... Mental illness in that environment is worse... Far worse. I have almost identical memories to the type of abuse he mentions... Including that damn how to booklet. Except ours was daily to beat the devil out of us. A hundred strikes or more. With a vacuum cleaner cord. I never could sit comfortably in class. Those were the good days. My mom is mentally ill. The bad days were a terrifying nightmare trying not to let her kill me or my siblings. I am over here reading because it is part of a blog group that Young Mom recommended for abuse survivors in a spiritual family context...

    One thing I have to say. If you haven't recognized that fundamental religion and patriarchy promotes abuse, it is because you haven't opened your eyes. Not all families are abusive. But in those that are, if a child goes to a trusted church official about the abuse, the child is often told that the parent knows what to do for that childs good. Then the patent is often told and the child is beaten more. This is why blogs like this man writes exist...Because those of us struggling to survive and overcome our pasts, need the community and sense of reality it helps provide

    Thank you for writing your blog... I am a bit upset at the moment... So unfortunately I can't remember your name. But thank you.


  15. I just read this post after reading about your difficulties loving your children, it makes sense to me now, your own childhood and the associated emotions must have something to do with it that are freezing you up. Also the separation from your own Dad. All though I cant say the exact mechanims by which it all works...
    I hope you will be able to re-establish a relationship with your dad, if you want to.

  16. I felt that the "enforced poverty" was abuse in itself. How embarrassing to go to public school in shoes that were falling apart and the long skirts and baggy clothes. Your mom would talk in almost a tiny squeak with a... what's the word? some sounds don't come out right? It was obvious to me she ruled with an iron fist. It made me angry. I remember her telling me you kids wouldn't get Christmas presents. I knew, she would try to sabotage anything I did. I had no idea you were being physically abused. I'm sure you were all terrified that it would just make things worse, and that sometimes happens. I doubt your Dad even knew. It truly is evil and I do think your mother is mentally ill.

    1. Who are you? You can message me privately at

    2. Anonymous, there have been a few references in this thread about mental illness being a cause but I think that misses the point. Sounds to me like Joe's mom was a mean-hearted Religio-Christian type who used the offered virus of Bill G and his ilk to sicken herself and her whole family. To suggest mental illness lets Christianity of this sort off the hook, doesn't it? One can say, Oh Jesus loved you all the while your mother was beating the fuck out of you whenever it pleased her.... Or as my parents said to me, You are doing it wrong. Do it right and everything will be fine...
      All this Denial lives like a tenacious virus within the Church and people like Joe tell the truth about it while others say, oh dear, gentle Jesus doesn't like all that rude stuff. Joe's mother may well have been 'sick' but that is not the point. She tortured her kids. Hearing Joe express it honestly brings tears to my eyes and I am sure many others relate.