Monday, March 12, 2012

The Story of Libby Exline, Installment 5 - Spiritual Abuse Turns Sexual

Hearken back to Installment 4.  There, you'll read about Libby's attempts to become the most holy little girl on the face of the earth.  The only problem with that ideal was that everyone around her kept convincing her that she was worthless and sinful beyond all reason.  This led her to work harder toward perfection, wrapping herself in a prison of rules.  There was no joy left.

We left off with a small view of a camp meeting.  Let's look into that a bit deeper.

*****

There were three camp meeting sessions during the summer months: business meetings, in which rules were set, in June, youth camp in July, and family camp in August.  Those were times of great and intense spiritual battles for everyone, which is to say being told how scummy we were, and how hot hell is for those "not willing".  Spiritual battles became 1000 times more intense in the company of thousands of saints than in the quiet church at home where the attendance was about 20.  I looked forward to these every year.  I don't know why I never caught on that it wasn't working for me.  No matter how scared I got, I just couldn't be willing.  Even in the midst of thousands of saints, and hundreds of sinners, I became known. Being the only one at that infernal altar all the time will do that for a person.  It was here that I became enslaved to another rule (looking back, this embarrasses me so much). 

One thing the church wanted was testimonies.  You had to get up and share what god had done for you.  That was relatively easy at home in front of 20 people.  But here, people got up and testified. Shoot, people ran screaming around the tabernacle.  And god began to require it of me.  Or someone began to require it of me.  Do you have any idea how scary it was to stand up in front of thousands of people and talk about how unworthy I was, but how grateful I was that god hadn't struck me dead?  And then!, I thought, if testifying was good, walking (never could run) around the tabernacle had to be better.  I thought if I did the stuff that was hard for me, god would see that I was indeed willing for my will to be broken. 

Just like that, testifying became something I had to do if I wanted victory.  I testified EVERYWHERE.  At first, I let other people open the floor to testimonies; then I began to think I needed to be willing to do the opening.  So I did. Every where.  Every service, even when it wasn't appropriate.  I completely humiliated myself in front of I don't even know how many people to show god that I was willing to die to myself.  I only succeeded in making myself the object of scorn and pity.  Even that wasn't enough to balance the scales in my favor.

By now, I was an older teenager.  My life had been hell, but apparently not hell enough.  After having gone to the altar without success more often than I changed socks, the pastor and his wife decided it was time to get serious.  'Cuz up til now, I'd been having a ball.  So we talked one night at church, and it was decided I had demons. 

Now, demons were just not talked about in that church.  Ever.  So this was a serious charge they were leveling.  And, understand, outwardly, as far as they could tell, I was toeing the party line.  I wasn't any different outwardly than anyone in the church. The only reason they knew there was a problem was my frequent trips to the altar.  By this time, though, I'd given up.  I'd made myself miserable, demanded the impossible, denied every single thing that made me me, made myself sick, even trying to break my will enough to be worthy of god.  It was when I quit going to the altar that they decided I had demons.  So, plans were made to pray with me at home.  At first, it was the pastor and his wife.  We spent time reading about hell, and the need to repent, and be willing.  If I wasn't willing, god would have to break me.  By this time, I didn't think there was much left to break, but that didn't matter much. 

Prayer was not the only thing happening during these meetings.  Somehow, someone figured that raping me would drive them out.  When the meetings were with the pastor and his wife, she'd observe, clapping her hands and rhythmically chant "Drive them out!  Drive them out!"

When another board member was introduced into the meetings, he also took part in this new "ministry". The tone ranged from angry and painful to jovial and painful.  During the angry part, they listed my sins, in time to what they were doing.  I was sinful.  I had the spirit of rebellion.  I was scum.  I deserved this because I was making them do this to me.  I was responsible for them sinning.  I was in direct cahoots with the devil.  Maybe I WAS the devil.

After they wore themselves out being angry, they'd take a break, and when they came back, that was when it turned jovial.  Now, in time with what they were doing, they chanted, "Bang the devil OUT, bang the devil OUT", the whole time laughing at me, at their ability to have their way with a child who could not, would not, complain to any one or fight back.

Looking back, I know the whole demon thing was a sham.  They simply used what was available to them to excuse what they wanted to do.  At the time, I thought this was something I had to endure as a punishment for being so bad in god's eyes.  I was just that bad.  I deserved this.  god had made me good and pure and whole, and look what I had done with that.  I was hopeless.

*****

Yes.  I know.  Horrible.  I wept when I read it.  How could authority figures be so cruel to a child, using religion to further their sick desires?  But this wasn't the end of Libby's existence.  She kept pressing on, trying to find an answer to life.  Maybe Christian college?  We'll look at that chapter in Installment 6.

4 comments:

  1. Oh. My. God. That is horrible. That poor child. Those horrible adults.

    Elisabeth Parker (aka Lisa Brown)

    ReplyDelete
  2. How very very horrible! That is not true Christanity! Those adults were the one with "issues" not the poor girl!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Libby, I understand, it may be too painful, can you please clsrify were you raped by someone in the church/pastor or such during those meetings?? if so i can definetly undestand the profound effect of that as a survivor of sexual abuse (NOT related to the church). i think it would be fair to though they may be legalistic, I NEVER MET ANYONE in Allegheny that condoned abuse. Not to say there were not abusers, just like there are unfortunately anyhere, scouts, churchs, preists, schools etc. But it would be unfair I think , in general to blame that on the beleifs of the church. I guess why i am asking was that rape/abuse directy related to the beliefs or teachings of someone. I am very interested in your story having come from there, and i too attended AWC 85-TO 89.

    ReplyDelete