Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Story of Libby Exline, Installment 1 - The Only True Church


Hi!  My name is Libby, and I found this blog while researching the Duggars.  Before watching the show, I'd never heard of “Quiverfull”, “patriarchy”, Bill Gothard...any of it.  I was raised in a legalistic church that strangled any freedom, grace, and love even, so these blogs stirred up a lot of stuff for me.  I reached out and was asked to share my story, so here goes.

I was raised in the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist (Original Allegheny Conference) Church.  (Gotta get the name right; the church sued for the right to use it after a VERY IMPORTANT split with a part of the church that began disagreeing about some of the rules.)  It's wrong to sue people generally - says so right there in the Bible - but over the name of the church, well, that's different!  Especially when it's the One True Church.  Only the members of the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Church (AWMC) will get to go to heaven.  Everyone else is lost.

AWMC was built on the teachings of that great and good (*snort) John Wesley.  I'm 43 years old, and it has never dawned on me until just now that the very name of the church is basically Wesley's methods.  Methods to bring salvation, keep it, keep the people submitted and bound up.  Maybe you'd think The One True Church should be built on Jesus' teachings, but you'd be wrong. The one I was born into was built on John Wesley's.  Just an accident of birth, I guess.

I'm going to share the beliefs of the church, then get into my story:

AWMC believes in two works of grace: First, salvation. When you confess that you suck, and always will suck...I mean…when you confess your sins.  This is best done at the altar at church, where you get to parade your “suckiness” in front of everybody.  Salvation can be lost with a sneeze, by the way. 

The second work of grace is sanctification.  This is where the roots of sin (the very thing that makes you sin) are removed.  After this you'll be a holy robot…er…person.  The roots of sin are evidenced by anger (the big one), jealousy, pride...all the negative emotions we exemplify as humans.  To be sanctified, you have to "be willing."  While sometimes you are given specific things you have to be willing to do, for the most part, it means denying all of your natural feelings, denying your person-hood, and denying any rights you have to that person-hood. Since this isn't easy to do, you'll be encouraged to "pray clear through", which was never really explained.  Basically, you have to make yourself miserable in prayer any way you can.  Self-punishment, if that is what it takes, is encouraged, also.

While the church was vaguely patriarchal, women did have rights – as long as we stayed in our place. The husband is the head of the home, and women really have no thoughts worthy of being expressed, but it wasn't the blanket oppression I've found while reading other stories of ultra-conservative Christianity and patriarchy.  It was expected that young women get married, keep house, and have kids, but we could choose to do something else without endangering our souls.  The church also didn't care how many kids we had.

The big oppression was the outer standards, and the denial of the right to be a well-rounded, feeling person.  According to the church's standards, the Duggars are LIBERAL.  The church I was raised in took the Duggars' standards and ran with them.  Yes, we had to wear dresses or skirts.  We had to have long hair, but it had to be up in a bun.  Sleeves had to come past our elbows.  Just the women's.  Men were exempt.  Back in the day, somebody, John Wesley maybe, declared that our elbows looked like breasts.  There must be something wrong with my breasts!!  Or maybe it's my elbows, I don't know.  At any rate, they look nothing alike!!  We weren't allowed open-toed shoes.  We had to wear panty hose.  We weren't allowed to wear any kind of stretchy material for shirts without a blouse underneath.  Those pesky elbows…er… breasts, had to be bound at all costs. 

These standards became our "fruits", and it was the way we knew whether or not others were going to heaven.  This wasn't considered judgment because doesn't the Bible say "by your fruits you will know them"? 

Speaking of Bibles, God Himself wrote the King James Version, and other versions were of the devil.  The fact that maybe the KJV was harder to understand added to its appeal.  If it was harder to understand what god wants of his children, we'd have to work harder, and works are where it's at, after all.

So now you know a little of the mindset of the church I was born into.  In the next installment, I will begin to tell you how it started to affect me – from the age of three.
 


18 comments:

  1. I am so glad you're doing a blog...I'm appreciative of anyone who has gone through spiritual abuse when they share a blog, or their story. I was in a church who was spiritually abusive from the age of 6 to 21. I am also doing a blog, and I'm glad to have a comrade who understands!!! It's so hard to explain to some people and sometimes I don't even wanna try, because it seems SO worthless. They just stare at me open mouthed and ask the craziest questions, like, "Are you sure that happened to you?" Ughh. Even though I've been gone for almost 3 years from there, I am still hurting from them, and am striving for healing. Thanks for sharing your story! I look forward to reading each installment.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Libby, I had a laugh at breasts = elbows. Where in the world did Wesley even come up with that comparison? Seriously?

    I've never been in the kind of church you described, so I can only imagine. I'm hoping the story you're sharing took a turn for the better for you and many involved.

    Hoping to catch the next installment.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you EWWG. I'm sure Libby Exline will appreciate those kind words.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Isn't "works of grace" an oxymoron?

    --Kyra

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow, the picture I got of John Wesley is entirely at odds with everything you are saying. I thought his story was that he was kicked out of the Anglican church for thinking and living like the gospel message of God's love was for everyone, not just the rich landowners. I also thought that HIS emphasis was on doing works of kindness and advocating for social justice was a rebuke to the (at the time) rich Anglicans who didn't give a damn about the deplorable conditions of the working people building their wealth in the Industrial Revolution. I also thought he was big into treating women as equals in the sigh of God.

    If all I learned is true, then the denomination bearing his name has gone way of course. But that doesn't surprise me at all. It seems to be the universal human condition.

    After all, we have wars waged in the name of Christianity, while the actual Christ spoke of turning the other cheek and loving your neighbor as yourself.

    I think I need a dandelion break....

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi everyone. :) I'm so grateful for this opportunity to share.

    EWWG, I SO get you! You really have to have lived through it to get it. I've been out 23 years, and while I still struggle some, I promise, it does get better

    Happyface: Mine was not to question why...LOL Maybe Wesley was a perv? But yeah, assinine.

    Anonymous: Well, the church is run by morons,so how fitting is that? :>

    Shadowspring, I think you're more right than wrong about Wesley. The church kinda wreaked havoc on his teachings. They didn't, however, make stuff up out of whole cloth.

    IC: Again, thank you.

    Thanks everyone for your feed back. My hope is to help even one person see this idiocy for what it is. I'll give you a hint as to the ending: THIS SHIP DID NOT SINK! (yet anywy) Stay tuned.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Funny how the name of the organization or name of the doctrine may change, but the abuse & its effects are the same. Glad to hear you are past it, or getting past it. I feel so broken & useless, that I wonder if I'll ever be over it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Pamela, hang in there. Get into a group of friends that love you for YOU. Yes...YOU! That will be the #1 thing to maintain the healing process.

    In the words of the weird dude in Happy Gilmore, "You can DOOOOOOOOOOOO it!!!!!"

    I.C.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Oh, Pamela. (may I, IC?) I'm sorry for the pain you're in. Don't don't whatever you do, give up on yourself. Coming out of that was hands down the hardest thing I've ever done. It is doable! IC is right about finding true friends. As you'll read, you'll see that it was -still is - a process for me. The really cool thing is that from my brokenness and pain I was able to build something beautiful. It IS possible.

    ReplyDelete
  10. My heart hurts for you, the pain you have gone through is absolutely horrible! I have read all your installments (up to Installment 6) so far and waiting to hear the rest of your story. You have gone through what no human being should have to go through! God does indeed build and restore though and can make something beautiful out of the mess.

    When I was younger my father pastored two Allegheny Weslyan Methodist churches. I know what you mean about the strict standards...God does want us to dress modestly but personal convictions should not be conference convictions.

    I don't know if all of them believe they are the only church going to Heaven...not going to lie some of them probably do think that. But there are many that are truly Godly men and women, a bad apple doesn't mean they are all that way. Denominational name doesn't matter what matters is your heart.

    I don't know what church you were in but obviously there were some church leaders that had spiritual issues. The sad part is because of their spiritual problems they turned many people away from Christ and severely damaged others spirits and lives all in the name of Christ! The damage they casued is horrible! God does not bless that kind of behaviour and He certainly wasn't in their actions!

    Praying for you as continue on your journey of healing!

    ReplyDelete
  11. CC,

    While I appreciate your comments for Libby, since this is my blog, I am going to take the liberty to disagree with you.

    If the same god has all the power to heal Libby Exline today, after such a horrible childhood and young adult experience, why could that same, all powerful, all knowing, all [insert whatever here] god not have prevented the hurt in the first place, eliminating the need to fix that which was broken. In my view, that is an evil god and one I want no part of.

    My advice to Libby would be simple. Get therapy and focus on the good things in life. At your own pace, life will arrive at something that resembles normal. Surround yourself with good people. Dump those who do not build you up and recognize you for the woman you are.

    Forget about God. he never did anything for you. If he did, this crap would have never happened.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. God is the only answer to Life. He gives people free will so we cannot blame Him for the actions of others.

      Delete
    2. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Yes. That's the difference between me and your god. If I saw a little girl being raped in a dark room by someone claiming to represent me, I fucking kill them. Your god HAS that power, KNOWS what is going to be "chosen" with the bullshit free will you speak of, and yet you STILL think you have free will? Your god is impotent at best, evil at worst, pleasuring in the hurt of others.

      Delete
  12. Well, I'm late to this party, but there are some thing I want to address.

    First, to CC, I'm sure there were godly people in that connection. In fact, I think I met some. Trouble was, none of them went to my church. I have to disagree with what you said about them not believing they're the only ones who'll get to heaven. Sure, other-named churches who believe exactly as they do will get there, but idk about others. In fact, it was preached from the pulpit at my church that if we found another church, and achieved spiritual peace, we were being deceived, and there wasn't alot of hope for us.

    IC, what you said. I get so mad when people try to spin these situations to make god not responsible at all.

    The big argument I hear is that he gave us freedom of will. If people HAD to obey god (or even not hurt children in his name), they wouldn't be doing it because they love god, and hey! better children get hurt than god not get loved! Would someone please reference the whole free will thing for me? The book of Idioticous, maybe?

    Another verse I have quoted at me is the one that says what man meant for evil, god used for good. (don't remember the reference) So I should be grateful to god that now, some 20 years of hard hard hard healing later I've achieved peace? That now I'm a well-rounded, loving, accepting, thinking (ok, god might not like that one) person? That I should thank him that what he allowed me to go through has wrought a pretty cool person? Bull puckey, I say. Couldn't this self same all powerful god have made me the person I am because I had a strong foundation with a loving godly family and church, and just grew up being healthy?

    There's a verse that says it's better a man be fitted with cement shoes and thrown in the ocean than that he should hurt a child. Fat lot of good that does the child!

    How can god, if there is such a thing, allow children, who want only to be loved by him, be hurt so badly in his name by his emissaries, and then expect that grown child to say, Awww, god, it's all good. Your hands were tied, and hey! you meant it for good.

    Whew! I need a cigarette!

    ReplyDelete
  13. PS, CC, the only comments directed at you were the ones that had your name in front of them. The angry ranting was directed at the people who have tried using those verses/beliefs to get me to roll over and play dead. Just wanted to clarify.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Replies
    1. First, I need to find a bible with the book of idioticous in it!

      Delete
  15. And another thing! (I'm preaching, IC!) When the people using the arguments above finally realize that what they're proposing makes no sense to a rational mind, they draw their trump card: FAITH!!! None of this makes sense? We're contradicting ourselves? Well, ya just gotta believe, see?

    Our all-powerful god of love (who IS love) is letting atrocious things happen to you in my name? Just have to believe, sister! Biblical promises not playing out in your life? Have faith, brother, can I get an amen?!
    Was it Paul -I used to know these things- who said faith is the evidence of things not seen? No it's not! It's belief, not evidence! Faith doesn't alter reality one bit. Only our perceptions of and reactions to it. You believe in god? Prove it. I don't? Can't prove that, either. Is there a heaven? a hell? What we may or may not believe in no way changes what is.

    Me, I tend to believe in stuff that's provable, or view-able through a microscope. Based on my last 43 years, I believe the sun will come up tomorrow. (sometimes to my chagrin) Electricity? Yup. Plugged in right now, as a matter of fact.

    And there are people who believe that god, who IS love, and all-powerful is letting terrible things happen in his name and it's incumbent on us; REQUIRED of us to believe it's the best thing in the world for us. god is letting things happen that go against who he is, and, although he's all-powerful, he can't stop it.

    When this god who is love, and all-powerful, lets two little boys get blown up by their dad, lets a 12 year old girl be held for years as a monster's sex slave; when this loving, all-powerful god lets a mother drown her two precious boys so she can have the man of her dreams, lets 7 kids have to sit through beating-and -then-a- hug practice (in his name), lets a young girl be raped, also in his name, then lays the burden of belief in his love and goodness on their shoulders, I say that that god was dreamed up by a psychotic, abusive monster.

    Faith I guess is necessary in life. But I cannot trust a god who allows shit to happen, then hides behind a required faith that it's all good.

    ReplyDelete