Domestic Violence Isn’t the Victim’s Problem. It’s OUR Problem.

Credit: Jason Jacobs, flickr, Creative Commons

Credit: Jason Jacobs, flickr, Creative Commons

I don’t think I need to explain how horrified I was Sunday when I heard about the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

But I’m not just horrified. I’m angry too.

We know there’s a link between domestic violence and mass shootings.

But when most of us think about domestic violence, we think of it as not-my-problem. If I’m not being hit, why should I care?

Besides the fact that it’s just basic human decency to care, it’s just not true that domestic violence is only the victim’s problem. If we let him get away with hurting that one woman, if we maintain a culture that enables him and encourages him to see women as things to be controlled, why are we shocked when the violence spills over into the rest of the community?

Before any information about the shooter came out, my sister stopped by my house, and I told her what had happened. We both had the same hunch. “I wonder if it was someone like Ray*.”

Here’s the thing about Ray.

I met him when I was fourteen. He was all about male headship of the family and female submission. With him, it was clear misogyny dressed up in biblical language so it’d sound nice to everyone in our congregation.

His wife left and divorced him after accusing him of domestic abuse and holding her against her will at their home.

Two years later, he began stalking me and eventually threatening to murder me.

Several years after that, he remarried. His new wife then left and divorced him after he was charged with domestic violence. She even had an order of protection against him.

Ray is not just my problem. He’s not just his ex-wives’ problem. Men like Ray are problems for all of us.

Ray’s still out there somewhere. He owned guns when I knew him, and I’m sure he still owns some. I don’t know if one day I might turn on the news and see his picture. I don’t know how many people he’s already hurt, and I don’t know how many people he’ll hurt in the future. But I do know he won’t stop.

If you’re trying to figure out what we can do, this is what we can do. We can stop these men before their violence reaches so many people.

We stop making excuses for men who treat women like they’re objects.

We stop tuning out the neighbor we hear hitting his girlfriend.

We stop letting these men sit in a pew next to us and pretend they’ve repented when their wives tell us they haven’t.

We stop enabling a culture that promotes toxic masculinity.

We stop blaming women when they’ve been abused, thinking they must have done something to bring it on.

We challenge attitudes of male entitlement.

We educate ourselves. Learn how to identify warning signs of abuse so you can identify these people in your community. Learn how abusers manipulate the people around them so that nobody will believe their victims.

We hold the men in our lives accountable for their actions and their attitudes. We have zero tolerance for men who try to control the people around them.

We believe and support women and children who are trying to escape these men.

We understand that “domestic” violence isn’t domestic at all. It’s violence against members of our communities. We don’t ignore it just because it doesn’t happen in public.

If we continue to ignore it, nothing will change.

And this has to change.

 

* Name changed.

Why Did I Write a Memoir?

Credit: Neal Sanche (Creative Commons)

Credit: Neal Sanche (Creative Commons)

Before I get into this, I want to congratulate Tanya Marlow. Her new book, Those Who Wait: Finding God in Disappointment, Doubt and Delay, launched today. So I bet you can guess what I’ll be reading tonight.


I’ll have some exciting book announcement stuff of my own coming soon (I want to make a video for that, but I honestly just don’t feel like putting on something other than a wrinkled T-shirt that says “Me? Sarcastic? NEVER!”). For now, I want to talk about why I wrote a memoir.

I guess anyone who reads my stuff would assume they know why I wrote it. When I was eighteen, I had a stalker. So I wrote a misery memoir about being a stalking victim.

Yeahhhhhhh . . . that’s totally not what it is.

What’s the book about?

Sure, the stalking stuff is in there, and sure it’s intense at times, but the point isn’t I was stalked.

The point is the same thing that made my stalker feel entitled to me makes a lot of men feel entitled to women. Stalking isn’t the disease. It’s a symptom.

It’s a book about male entitlement, how that impacts women–not just during the assault, but long after–and the cumulative effect it has.

I pulled stories from my own experiences to try to tell a much bigger story. It’s not my story. It’s our story.

It’s about how women are objectified inside the church and outside the church. It’s about how our allies, the “good guys,” so often turn out to be the guys who hurt us. It’s about how our communities are complicit and turn away from us rather than addressing these issues and solving the problem. Because women are disposable. Because we’re less than. Because supporting us isn’t worth experiencing a little conflict.

Why did I write it?

My short answer is, “God told me to.”

And that’s true. I mean, he didn’t speak to me from the clouds or anything, but I have always known I’d write this book. Over the past few years, I’ve felt a strong pull to write it, even when I really, really didn’t want to. I’ve done a lot of praying. Like, a shitload of praying, y’all.

Personal narrative humanizes. It can help people empathize. We should understand what drives sexualized violence by now, but we obviously don’t.

We still blame women. We still excuse the actions and attitudes of men.

My hope is this book can help educate people who are open to understanding, but need to live through some of this alongside someone to really get it.

I spoke with another author early on in this process. She asked me if I’d considered fictionalizing my story. It’d have made things a hell of a lot easier on me, emotionally. But I decided not to because it’s so important for people to understand that these things really do happen. And they really do happen often.

The thing about my story is that it sounds unique and strange, but it’s not. At all.

It’s a common story that just doesn’t get told very often.

I want to be clear here. No victim is obligated to share their story. Not everyone is in a place where it’d be healthy to do that, and there is a real cost associated with coming forward. Sometimes it’s not worth paying that price, and I fully support anyone in that position. If you’ve been through anything like this, please don’t feel bad if you aren’t comfortable speaking out.

I’m telling these stories, not for myself, but for everyone who has stories like this. We shouldn’t all have to bare our wounds to the world to change things. Maybe if I show my wounds, other women won’t have to show theirs.

Am I afraid?

I’ve had several people express some concern for my safety. I really do appreciate that. It means you think I’m valuable enough to keep walking the earth. So, thank you for that. I plan to keep walking around, tossing puns out there, and sharing dank memes.

I am going to have to burst your bubble, though.

The reality is, I’m never safe. You’re never safe. None of us are ever safe.

Yes, I’m putting my name on the cover of this book. Yes, my stalker is still out there somewhere. No, that won’t put me in any more danger than I’ve ever been in.

If he wanted to find me, he’d already have found me.

Next year, I might get a new neighbor and maybe he’s a stalker. Maybe someone online will latch onto me.

I’ll probably get more of this shit. I fully expect it.

The thing is, women are stalked and harassed and assault no matter what they do. That’s also why I wrote this book. To show that.

I could write a book or not write a book. It wouldn’t make any difference. At some point in my life, something will happen to me again. So I may as well do something productive with it all and try to open some eyes.

I’ve counted the cost. So, no, I’m not afraid. And, yes, I know exactly what I’m doing.


If you’ve stuck around this long, here’s an excerpt [trigger warning: non-graphic mention of rape]:

When I was ten years old, I repeated something I’d heard on some late ’80s sitcom. We were driving home from the skating rink and I piped up from the backseat to ask, “When do you think I’ll go through puberty?”

After a tense pause, Mom cocked her head back and told me not to use “language like that.”

Eight years later, I felt more than a little awkward as I sat in a cramped sheriff’s office and described my sexiest pair of underwear to Dad and the balding police officer sitting behind the desk.

Maybe I’d have been better off tossing the underwear and picture into the trash, but I was worried about Ben. Erasing a person by taking away his face was about the creepiest thing I could imagine, so I showed the picture and my underwear to my parents.

Dad drove me down to the sheriff’s office to file a report about it, even though I didn’t want to. I asked Dad why he couldn’t go down and file it for me, but he said I had to because I was the one who found everything, and I was the “object of obsession,” according to those websites Mom kept looking up to read about stalkers. That phrase was the worst. I wasn’t an object.

But Ray had made me into a thing because things can be controlled.

And hadn’t my own church done that to me when they quoted Romans 14:13 and told us girls to be careful about the way we dressed so we wouldn’t be a “stumbling block” to our Christian brothers? A stumbling block isn’t a person, made in the image of God. It’s just a thing. Something you can blame for tripping you.

I didn’t want to be a thing, so I sat across a desk from one of our local officers and tried to tell him what happened without sounding either too hysterical or too relaxed about it all. If I got too worked up, he’d think I was overreacting and shrug the whole thing off. If I didn’t seem upset at all, well, he’d shrug that off too.

The officer listened to me, and then Dad, and nodded as we spoke. Dad wanted a restraining order, or for the police to at least warn Ray to stay away, but the police officer couldn’t fulfill either of those requests. Because what real proof did we have?

Ray had driven up and down our road several times over the past few days, but that wasn’t illegal. And, sure, Ray knew Dad was going to be away from home the night of the break-in, but everyone from our church knew that. Just like anyone from church would know exactly where I sat every Sunday.

Except not everyone from my church had been hanging around me all summer. And not everyone in our church had a history of delusions and violent outbursts. But that still wasn’t enough proof. Besides, Ray couldn’t be arrested for trying to have a conversation with me. He hadn’t been jumping through any plate-glass windows lately, and unless he publicly did something that outrageous again, people would just go right on thinking his delusions were under control.

The police officer leaned forward and rested his elbows on the desk. “If he touches you, then we can do something.” He lowered his chin and raised his eyebrows on the word “touches.” It was the kind of eyebrow twitch people shoot at one another when the thing they’re thinking of is too vulgar to say out loud.

I shrank down into the metal folding chair, and my jaw clenched down painfully. So, all I had to do was sit tight until Ray raped me, and then the police would be all over it. Did he really think I was in that kind of danger? Ray was being creepy, but could someone who’d known me since I was fourteen really do that to me?

The police officer cleared his throat and addressed Dad. “Y’all got a gun in the house?”

I guess the officer thought Ray really could do that to me. I hadn’t even been touched, but I felt violated. Stripped naked in that bright office. Knowing Ray had held a pair of my underwear was bad enough, but now other possibilities ran through my head. We didn’t freely say the word “sex” in our house, but now I was talking to Dad and some stranger about my impending sexual assault. Because Ray forced me to talk about it.

We didn’t have any guns, of course, since Dad was a Mennonite pastor. A pacifist. The Bible says, “Do not resist an evil person,” and Dad lived it. At least he lived it in theory since he’d never had his theology tested before. There wasn’t much religious persecution of Anabaptists in the late 1990s.

All through junior high, I’d heard about men like Dirk Willems, who’d been arrested for his Anabaptist faith. Dirk managed to escape his prison and flee across an ice-covered lake. When his jailer tried to follow, and fell through the ice, Dirk turned back to save him. He was repaid by being imprisoned again and executed. But that was all OK because Dirk’s real reward was in heaven and in knowing he’d stayed true to Jesus’s instructions to love your enemies. Following Christ meant laying down your life, literally, if it came down to that. You couldn’t be a Christian and commit a violent act. You just couldn’t.

The officer was a little flustered by Dad’s admission, and turned back to me. He gave me a hard, steady look and said, “Sweetheart, you need to go get yourself a bat. And you sleep with it under your bed every night.”

I glanced at Dad, and forced out, “But I’m a pacifist too.”

The officer closed his eyes for a second and leaned back in his chair. I expected him to spout, “God helps those who help themselves,” but he didn’t.

After we left the station, Dad stopped by Radio Shack to pick up a webcam. He was going to point it out the window, into the parking lot. We’d at least catch Ray on video if he skulked around the front of the house.

But last time he came around back, through my window, and we couldn’t point cameras out every entrance. So, I drove myself back into town and bought a crook-handled umbrella with a big, pointy tip because the discount store didn’t carry bats.

This Post is Definitely, Absolutely, Positively Not About Mike Pence

freely-75026

I don’t normally jump on the latest topic that’s flying around on social media. And I’m not going to jump on Mike Pence. (I mean. I’m a pacifist. Jumping on people is frowned upon.) What I do want to talk about is something I’ve mostly seen people talk around instead of about.

Some people believe that men and women should never be alone together. That might mean they never ride in a car without a third person, or that might mean they can’t even eat dinner together in a public place.

People who have this rule have it for different reasons. I’m not going to talk about all of those reasons. (If someone wants to defend their reasoning, I’d love it if they wrote their own post. Link it in the comments, if you want).

I’m going to talk about the reason I have personal experience with.


Here’s a journal entry I made when I was 16 years old*:

After we were done at the job site [my dad and a few other adults took the youth group on an MDS trip], we went to a Waffle House by our motel. I took a drink of my water and then dumped two Equal packets into it and Nick asked, “Why’d you do that?”

I told him the water was bland, but he said water couldn’t be bland. It can too be bland.

Then we heard a crash and turned around. Joe had spilled his Mr. Pibb all over Angela and Daniel. It was hilarious.

After we got done eating, me, Andrea, and Nick wanted to go watch TV but all the adults were taking forever. So we decided to walk back to the motel. When we were leaving, Candace yelled, loudly, “Y’all need to leave the door open!”

I just stood there, like, “Huh?” I thought maybe I had the only room key or something and she didn’t want to get locked out.

Then she said, “You know, boys and girls. Together.”

WHAT?!?!?!?!

I tried to make a joke of it, so when we were walking back, I told Andrea, “Hey, are you excited for our big orgy? Do you want to share Nick?”

That’s when I realized Nick was literally right behind me, so I real quick said, “Just kidding,” just so we were clear. I need to stop saying everything that pops into my head.

Anyway, it didn’t even matter because Candace sent other kids out after us and they were mad because they didn’t want to sit in the motel room and watch TV, but they had to because of us.


And then I talk about watching Volcano, but that’s another story.

I want to break this down a little.

At first, we were just a group of kids, being kids. There were absolutely zero sexual thoughts going on. My focus was on bland water and Mr. Pibb accidents. When we went to leave, it never even occurred to me that something sexual might possibly happen while I was watching TV. At that point in my life, I’d never even had a first kiss yet. Never held hands. Nothing.

The woman who didn’t want us to be alone is the one who sexualized that situation, which I tried to defuse with a dumb joke (because, let’s be real… that’s always been my way.) It was embarrassing for her to say that, especially in front of everyone else in our group. And, since my father was there with us, it wasn’t that she was “in charge” of me for the trip or anything like that.

I’d only known that boy for a couple of months. One of my friends was walking over with us. Maybe she thought we were playing a trick with that… I’m not sure. We just wanted to watch TV. It’s an innocent activity.

The suspicion that we might get up to something gave us the impression that we were dangerous to one another. The lack of trust was insulting. The idea that my awkward self might tempt him down some dark, sexually deviant road was mortifying.

I wasn’t Kristy in that moment. I wasn’t a sister in Christ, which is how Christian men should see me. I was a female body that could be the object of sinful lust. I was something to be protected from.

About a year later, this woman was teaching our youth group. She was an advocate for courtship, which required a chaperone to accompany any boy/girl pair. She extended that to adults as well, and gave us an example.

The example she presented was a time, a few weeks prior, when she’d been in the church doing something and my dad had walked in. She told us all she felt extremely uncomfortable being alone with him like that, for the whole, maybe 5 minutes he was in there. My dad was the pastor. Of course he’d be walking into the church sometimes.

How do you think you’d feel if a woman told a group of your friends that she was uncomfortable being alone with your father? What does that make your father sound like?

I pressed her a little on it, asking if he’d actually done anything inappropriate. She said he hadn’t. It was just his presence that made her uncomfortable. Why, though? Because her belief was that you couldn’t trust a man and a woman, alone together. Something might happen, even if the risk was extremely low. And, even if nothing sexual happened, it wasn’t appropriate, even for a congregant and a pastor to share the same space for a few minutes.

What sharing her “caution” did was make my father sound like the kind of creep who would make a woman uncomfortable. (If you knew my dad, you’d know that’s a weird thing to say about him.) What sharing her “caution” did was make me sound like the kind of girl who’d jump a boy the second the motel door closes.

It’s hurtful and shaming.

I can’t speak for every single person out there who’s been touched by the “no boy/girls alone” rule. I can speak for me, though. The idea that this rule isn’t ever used to prevent temptation is just wrong. I’ve got a copy of my very first orgy joke that proves that’s exactly how this rule can be used. This was my introduction to the rule, and when I talk about it, this is where I’m coming from. If that’s not how it’s played out in your life, well, great. But you can’t tell me it hasn’t played out this way in other people’s lives.

*Names have been changed.

I’m Just Getting Warmed Up

Credit: Amy

Credit: Amy

One of my cousins posted this Medium article today.

I’m not exactly crying, and the language goes a little further than I would sometimes, but yeah. A lot of women are feeling this right now. I’ve been the most competent person in the room, but was interrupted and talked over by men who didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. I’ve been the woman who worked harder and contributed more than the men at my level, and was still valued less. I’m her too.

Maybe I’m coming across as extra obnoxious lately, but I have two daughters and a whole generation of girls coming up in life right behind me. Do you think I want any of these girls living through my experiences? I can’t afford to ignore sexism anymore, even when it pops up among people I really like. So, I’m fine with coming across as extra obnoxious. I’m fine with ruffling a few feathers. I don’t have time to sit here and hold your hand and teach you how to treat women like human beings. You’re a grown ass adult. Figure it out.

In case you really need a little help, here’s a quick tutorial:

  1. Find a human being.
  2. Treat this human being the way you would want to be treated.
  3. Now, add a uterus.
  4. Congratulations!

I don’t care if you call yourselves egalitarians or  complementarians or some hybrid of those two. I’m just as valuable as you are, and you will listen to what I have to say. And if you refuse, I’ll make you listen. Y’all, I haven’t even scratched the surface of obnoxious yet, and I’m not even close to being alone out here. It’s going to be a long four years if our culture doesn’t shape up fast.

You want me to stop harping on this and shouting so loudly about sexism?

Stop being so fucking sexist, and I will. Until you do that, I’ll be here to fuck shit up.

Murderous Theology

When I was eighteen years old, I broke the law and was condemned to a violent death. I would burn for my sin.

I didn’t live in some far off country where honor killings are common, and I’m not a time-traveling witch or heretic. I was just a church girl from rural Arkansas who graduated high school in 1999.

How could this happen, and in a Mennonite Brethren church of all places?

I’ve been trying to figure that out for a long time, and I’ve found the answer is as simple as it is complicated.

I had sex with my boyfriend.

Christian Reconstructionism

Some of the members of my church were Christian Reconstructionists. In order to understand what happened, you first have to understand Christian Reconstructionism.

Christian Reconstructionism was originally rooted in postmillennialism. It’s an attractive view. They believe we’re already living during the reign of Jesus. The world will become more and more Christianized until Jesus finally returns for the Second Coming.

That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Under this belief, almost everyone will eventually be a Christian. However, their end-times theology leads directly to their next belief. Christian Reconstructionists believe that one day we will all live under a theocracy. When that day comes, civil government will reinstate all the Old Testament laws.


“Christians have been taught for over three centuries that the Old Testament is ‘off limits’ judicially to Christians in the New Testament era. Only the Christian Reconstructionists today affirm the continuing validity of Old Testament law.” – Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t [1]


“Whole nations must be discipled by Christ. How? Through the imposition of sanctions by Christians in terms of God’s Bible-revealed law—not just in politics, but in every area of life.” – Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t [2]


Old Testament Laws Affirmed by Christian Reconstructionists

Rousas Rushdoony is considered the father of Christian Reconstructionism. His three volume work, The Institutes of Biblical Law forms the backbone of the movement.

In Volume One, he lists the death penalties cited for women in the Old Testament [3]:

  1. Unchastity before marriage – Deut. 22:21
  2. Adultery after marriage – Lev. 20:10, Deut. 22:22-23
  3. Prostitution by a priest’s daughter – Lev. 21:9
  4. Bestiality – Exodus 22:19, Lev. 20:16, Lev. 18:23, Deut. 27:21
  5. Being a wizard or witch (sorceress) – Exodus 22:18, Lev. 20:27
  6. Transgressing the covenant – Deut. 17:2-5
  7. Incest – Lev. 20:11-12, 14, 17

It’s the End of the World as We Know It

Something else was going on, though. 1999 was winding down and the Y2K panic was in full swing.

I want to take a little time and explain this for anyone who’s too young to understand what happened.

The Y2K panic happened during a time when our society was just starting to use the internet. This was well before the reign of the smartphone. Most families didn’t even have a computer in their home and were fairly ignorant about how computers and the internet worked.

Computers were using two digits for the year instead of four. (99 instead of 1999). When 2000 rolled in, the computer would think the year was 1900. Doomsayers started popping up in the mid to late 1990s.

Michael Hyatt’s book, The Millenium Bug came out in the fall of 1998. On his website, he expressed what he believed would happen when the calendar rolled over [4]:

  • No electrical power
  • No clean water
  • No telecommunications
  • Shortages of food, gasoline, clothing, and all retail goods
  • Wide-spread bank failures and inaccessibility of funds
  • A stock market crash
  • A dramatic drop in real estate values
  • An economic depression
  • Wide-spread unemployment
  • Civil unrest, including protests, riots, and general lawlessness
  • Inability of government agencies to deliver welfare, Medicare, Social Security, and Veterans benefits
  • No meaningful leadership from the Clinton Administration

Some people began to stockpile. Some even sold their homes and moved into rural areas where they believed they would be better able to provide for and defend their families.

I personally knew people who were stockpiling. They weren’t just stockpiling food and gas. They were stockpiling weapons and ammunition. They were getting ready for war.

Christian Reconstructionists and Y2K

In my church, this was directly influenced by a prominent Christian Reconstructionist, Gary North. He came through our area in the 1990s. Some of our church members bought his books. I can’t say for sure if any of them subscribed to his newsletters, but I found them archived online and they are full of alarmist predictions about Y2K.

North even hunkered down in northern Arkansas in the late 1990s to await the coming crisis. He advised his readers to follow his lead and seek refuge in rural areas, just like my home town. When I was in high school, we had some people move into the area for this specific reason. They were afraid.


“What we are going to see between now and the year 2000 will the most abnormal period in the history of the West since the bubonic plague of 1348–50.” – Gary North, Christian Reconstruction newsletter, 1997 [5] 
 

“Our day is coming, sooner than you think, and sooner than today’s power elites think. Be patient. Be prepared. Be out of the city.” – Gary North, Christian Reconstruction newsletter, 1998  [6]


Y2K was a Christian Reconstructionist’s dream. If the civil government fell, it provided the church an opportunity to rise up and fill the vacuum. Naturally, these brave new Christian leaders would institute Mosaic Law.


“Think of the year 2000 if the computers go down. A lot of them will go down, taking with them the organizations that are dependent on them. A great overturning is about to occur… conditions after 1999 will not allow the church to sit on the sidelines of culture, as it sits today. The collapse of the humanist welfare-warfare State will put the church in the center of society in most small towns. In central cities, the churches will compete with the gangs. A new generation of Christian leaders will spring up overnight at the local level. National leadership will disappear… The world will move to localism.” – Gary North, Christian Reconstruction newsletter, 1998 [7]


 “Leadership will return to churches that rediscover the importance of God’s law.” Gary North, Christian Reconstruction newsletter, 1997 [8]


It’s a seductive idea, especially for Christians who’ve been living with an “us vs. them” mentality against the secular world. North is telling them that they could be leaders in the new world after the collapse of civilization. They could do God’s will. They could be in power.

Who doesn’t want to be important and powerful?

What Does That Have to Do With Murder?

There were people in my church who sincerely believed the collapse of secular civilization was imminent. This meant that the civil government would no longer be in power, but the church instead would become the de facto government.

But, why wait for it to go down before you start obeying Biblical law?

I found that some Christian Reconstructionist literature is ambiguous at best and incendiary at worst regarding this.

Rushdoony says, “Men cannot be allowed to take the law into their own hands,” [9] in one breath and then (regarding stoning an unchaste woman), “Its place in the Bible is due to the ability of the witnesses and the community to take part in the execution. Since the police power of the people required that they recognize their duty to witness and to execute in all cases of established crime. The principle of general police power is still valid and basic,” in the next. [10]

North and DeMar are even closer to crossing the line between civil government control and vigilantism.


“Christians must begin immediately to reconstruct their own lives, families, and churches before God’s judgment on society begins. We must prove ourselves ready to lead. We must do this by following God now, before His judgment beginsDisobedience to God’s principles produces His judgment: man’s disinheritance from God’s riches, both in history and eternity.” Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t [11]


In both the Bible and Christian Reconstructionist literature, we find statements saying that God will punish the community that doesn’t root out wickedness. If a person honestly believes that God demands Christians follow Mosaic law and he honestly believes that God will punish those who disobey, it’s not much of a stretch to see how he could decide to take matters into his own hands.

In my case, one law from Leviticus seems to have been the focal point.


“And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.” – Leviticus 21:9 (KJV)


My father was a pastor. I assume this man equated that with being a priest. It came close enough, I suppose.

This was one of the Bible verses he underlined and left for me. He also set my bed on fire one night (when I wasn’t home), so this wasn’t an empty threat.

Granted, he was mentally ill. Originally, he’d been romantically interested in me. But, somehow he found out I wasn’t a virgin—I assume it was through one of the friends my boyfriend or I had told—and his stalking behaviors switched from threatening anyone who was protecting me to threatening me. He latched onto Christian Reconstructionism’s Old Testament laws and used that to justify his behavior.

It’s easy to blame that solely on his mental illness. That certainly played a large role, however I can’t ignore the opportunity that Christian Reconstructionism gave him.


“Polluting a priest’s household brought pollution into God’s presence. This was a sacred boundary violation: profaning the temple. This violation of household authority was a capital crime…Her harlotry put the nation at risk of God’s negative sanctions.” – Gary North,  Sanctions and Dominion [12]


A newsletter Gary North currently (as of 2015) has available on his website says the following regarding unchastity: “This whole passage serves to declare God’s special concern that chastity be maintained among His people. And from this we may gather that if whoredom has full liberty among us, it is such an abomination in the sight of God that it provokes His wrath and vengeance. Such a people will have to be cursed, among whom there is open liberty for whoremongering and where this vile filthiness is not cleansed.Calvin Speaks [13]

That sure sounds like a call to action.

(Slightly) In Defense of Christian Reconstructionists

I didn’t find anything in the literature that explicitly indicates any of these men would have condoned one man from my church threatening to kill me. They advocate following the Old Testament laws, which isn’t at all the same as mob justice or vigilantism.

Additionally, the man from my church focused on a single Old Testament law and ignored all the ones he himself had broken. This isn’t what Christian Reconstructionists teach.

However, they do explicitly state the dangers of “whoredom” and leave plenty of wiggle room for vigilantism between some inconsistent statements about the civil government, especially if a governmental collapse is heading our way.

What Makes Christian Reconstructionism Dangerous?

For one thing, it’s just wrong. The laws they propose only applied to Israel. I’m not an ancient Israelite, therefore those laws do not apply to me.

But, being wrong doesn’t necessarily make you dangerous. I do believe that killing teenage girls who have sex with their long-time boyfriends is dangerous, though. Anything that even comes close to condoning the death of another person is dangerous, especially when that’s mixed with a general sense of panic and desire for power and control.

We aren’t facing a Y2K panic these days. These days, we’re facing a panic about baking wedding cakes. The “us vs. them” mentality of the Christian Reconstructionists is alive and well in our country.

I’ve run across people who quote Old Testament law and believe people should be executed for “homosexual acts”. Of course, they always say the government should do this (which somehow makes it OK). That is Christian Reconstructionism. It’s still out there and it’s still dangerous.


“God is plowing up the modern world. This is softening the Establishment’s resistance to many new ideas and movements, among with Christian Reconstruction is barely visible at present. This is good for us now; we need the noise of contemporary events to hide us from humanist enemies who, if they fully understood the long-term threat to their civilization that our ideas pose, would be wise to take steps to crush us.” – Gary DeMar, Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t [14]



I was troubled to find that Gary North is educating children right now. He laid low for a while after the world didn’t blow up, and now he’s the main contributor to Ron Paul’s homeschool curriculum. Another generation is at risk.

Why Write This

I started out researching Christian Reconstructionism because I wanted to understand why this happened to me. It was only one man who wanted to take God’s law into his own hands, but there were others who shared his foundational beliefs. It was these people, who hung on Gary North’s word, who turned their backs on me when it happened.

These were good people. These were people I’d grown up with. I’d played board games on their living room floors and eaten dinner at their tables. But, their beliefs cut them off from me. I don’t know if they believed a pastor’s daughter should die for having sex. All I know is I was the “them” in the “us vs. them”.

It wasn’t only Christian Reconstructionism and Gary North that led to this. Mental illness, faith healing, and hyper-complementarianism played a detrimental role as well, but advocating Old Testament law appears to have presented the real opportunity for life-threatening danger.

As I dug into this, I realized this wasn’t a one-time event. There will always be something to panic about, something that men like Gary North can latch onto to promote Christian Reconstructionism.

There is room for disagreement when it comes to theology. There is room for misunderstanding or not completely understanding some theological point. But, there is no room for prostelyzing and spreading bad theology to others. There is no room for not fully grasping the implications of your new theological discovery.

Bad theology is dangerous.

Christians have an obligation to carefully consider where their theology will lead. If someone’s telling you exactly what you want to hear, take a step back and evaluate what they’re saying.

The danger with Christian Reconstructionists is that not everything they say is wrong. They get just enough correct to make their beliefs attractive.


“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” – Matthew 7:15-20 (NIV)



What fruit has Gary North produced? What fruit has Christian Reconstructionism produced?

Discernment is a gift of the Spirit. Use it.

 


Notes

[1] Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t by Gary North and Gary DeMar (p. 43)

[2] Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t. (p. 51)

[3] The Institutes of Biblical Law Volume 1 by Dr. Rousas John Rushdoony (p.448-449)

[4] Michael Hyatt’s Y2K Personal Survival Guide – Introduction (archived on Oct. 13, 1999 by The Way Back Machine)

[5] Gary North, Christian Reconstruction Vol. XXI, No. 3 May/June 1997

[6] Gary North, Christian Reconstruction Vol. XXII, No. 3 May/June 1998

[7] Gary North, Christian Reconstruction Vol. XXII, No. 2 March/April 1998

[8] Gary North, Christian Reconstruction Vol. XXI, No. 6 November/December 1997

[9] The Institutes of Biblical Law Volume 1 by Dr. Rousas John Rushdoony (p. 681)

[10] The Institutes of Biblical Law Volume 1 (p. 659)

[11] Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t. (p. 57-58)

[12] Sanctions and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Numbers by Gary North

[13] Calvin Speaks, Vol. 2, No. 4, April 1981

[14] Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t. (p. xxi)

When I Was a Thing

Kristy - 1999

MINE

One word, scribbled across the picture of a bride he’d ripped out of a magazine. It was one of many “presents” he’d been leaving me. A pair of stolen underwear, generously returned to me when he left them in my church pew. An obituary notice with my name glued over top the deceased. Pages ripped out of my first Bible with underlined verses:

‘Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.’

Judah said, ‘Bring her out and have her burned to death!’ (For the record, I was neither a prostitute nor pregnant.)

Do not allow a sorceress to live.  (Even though Hagrid never showed up at my house…as far as I’m aware.)

I was eighteen. I had just gone through all that courtship, purity, a-woman-is-only-worth-as-much-her-hymen crap.  This was just an extension of that.  Any which way I turned inside that church, my worth was in providing a man with what he wanted.

“You belong to your future husband” isn’t a far cry from, “You belong to a crazy stalker, just because he wants you.”

Nobody told me, “You belong to yourself.” Well, screw that. 

Jesus told them to watch out for wolves and they embraced one with open arms.  Jesus told them, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” but there I was stumbling all over the damn place.

Only a few months before this, I’d had to defend a joke website I’d made.  But, here a man was threatening my life and that was totally acceptable.  What message could I take away from that except, “You don’t matter.”

After he broke into my house the first time, a woman I respected cornered me in the Fellowship Hall. She told me there was no way this man had broken into my house. After all, she had prayed for him. Her prayers had released him from his demons and healed his schizophrenia. At any rate, if he was doing these things I was “asking for it” because of how I dressed.

None of the Elders told this man to stop attending church.  So, when I came home on the weekends, I could either not go at all or sit in a small sanctuary with a man who wanted to rape/marry and/or kill me. I was cut off from the support system a church “family” is supposed to provide. I didn’t get a single phone call, letter, or visit from any church member checking up on me or offering any type of support.

I never felt safe. Never.

My take-away from all this? If he gets me, he’s going to torture and murder me… and none of these people care.

The Sunday we announced that we were leaving the church, an Elder put his arm around my shoulders and told me I was “precious”.

Precious?  Don’t we value and protect the people who are precious to us?

I wasn’t precious. I was just a prop they pulled out now and then so the church could feel superior about raising up good, God-fearing teenagers. The only time I needed anything, they shoved me into the closet and snapped, “Shh! Don’t make so much noise in there. You’re distracting us with all your, ‘I don’t want to get raped and murdered’ nonsense. We’re trying to preach the gospel out here, ya know!”

After I moved, I tried to keep going to church for a while, even though I wasn’t “feeling it”.  I really did try.  But, every time I walked into a church I felt like nothing.  When people talk about their awesome, supportive church family, I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.  All I got were lies, judgment, and indifference.

I was never treated like a person. I couldn’t be afraid, or have doubts, or need protection, or ask any of them to step outside their comfort zone the least bit to help me. If I didn’t play my role, I was useless. I was not loved. I was not wanted. I was not worth protecting. I was not a multi-faceted human created in the image of God. I was just an inconvenient, broken thing. We throw away broken things. I loved them and they threw me away to the wolf.

 

Interesting Things This Week

Link dump of some cool, interesting, encouraging, and/or insightful things I came across this week.

Why English majors make lousy fundamentalists by Morgan Guyton from Mercy Not Sacrifice

This might be my favorite thing this week. First, Morgan talks about personality type (which I have an unhealthy obsession with). Then, he goes on to explain some of the nuance, beauty, and depth of meaning that is lost when you read the Bible in certain ways. I may not agree with every interpretive example Morgan uses, but that’s not the point. The point is that you have to understand something about literature in order to have a fuller understanding of the Bible.

When the Bible is “nothing but the facts,” then it’s been robbed of a critically important layer of its beauty.

Wanna Save Marriage? Stop Patronizing Women by Yaholo Hoyt from Red Letter Christian

Yaholo takes a look at how seemingly self-deprecating jokes can further the tension and misunderstanding between men and women. It amazes me that certain Christian cultures continue to paint women as overly emotional, unreasonable, and downright crazy when that same culture claims men are the ones who are unable to control their animal urges (which is why I’m supposed to wear floor length skirts).

We may get a chuckle with our little “guys are stupid” and “women are crazy” jokes, but they are pointing to a major problem. The picture often painted by church culture is that women are unreasonable and over-emotional. Therefore, the only way to a healthy marriage is seen as the man just making sure to be “humble” and apologize a lot. This kind of thinking leads to growing resentment on both sides.

Who are the meek? by Paul Walker from As above, so below

I’ve been studying the Beatitudes lately and came across this post. Not only does Paul do a great job of explaining what “meek” means, he also asked, “Christian scholars, leaders, bloggers and authors to ‘tweet’ me their definition of meek”. He did a wonderful job of pulling everything together and it was interesting to see what the experts thought.

The Extra Burdens Faced by Young People with Chronic Illness by Toni Bernhard, J.D. from Turning Straw into Gold  on Psychology Today

I’ve lost count of how many people have said, “Oh, you’re too young for that. You should just exercise more and you’ll be fine.” (Sure, exercise will magically rewrite my DNA.)

This ignorance about young people with chronic illness has other consequences. Several young people have told me that they’ve been openly challenged when they park in a disabled spot, even though they have the required placard or sticker… A young woman with multiple sclerosis told me that someone spit on her when she didn’t give up her seat to an older person on the subway.

When God Calls a Complementarian Woman into Ministry by April Fiet at the Junia Project

I appreciate April’s honesty and her willingness to go into ministry despite her reservations. I’ve often seen woman ministers painted as prideful, power-hungry, militant feminists that are trying to wrest power away from men. April’s story doesn’t look anything like that.

I had already come to realize that you could take God’s Word seriously and believe that women could be used in church leadership. I wasn’t doing it because it was easier to follow cultural trends of equality.  I was being faithful to God’s calling and the Bible.

The Church Can’t Afford the Muskox Model by Jayson D. Bradley

I’ve been known to go off on rants about how Christians tend to view anyone who isn’t exactly like them as “that other group”. I get frustrated when we start other-ing instead of trying to understand and love. Christian culture has taken “in the world, but not of the world” to the extreme in some cases. A friend of mine flipped that phrase around in a way I thought summed it up even better “of the world, but not in the world”. We have Christianized everything that the “world” has to offer, but we keep ourselves separate so that we don’t have to actually interact with the world. That separation is more illusion than anything. We just stamp CHRISTIAN on everything that pop culture has to offer and hide out among our “own kind” so that Christianity won’t actually cost us something.

The problem with adopting the defensive strategy of the muskox is that we begin to live at odds with the message we say we believe. We talk a big game about taking care of the poor, but talk down to people who live on government subsidies. We speak endlessly about grace and forgiveness, but refuse to let people experience it until they’ve become a muskox themselves.

101 Amazing Facts from mental_floss

I really like random bits of trivia. I know way too many completely useless facts, but I just can’t help myself when I come across more of them.

Most Shocking Second a Day Video

War always involves civilians. When we’re talking about war, we can’t forget that.