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If You Are Questioning Leaving Your IFB Church, This Letter is For You

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Dear Friend, No, we haven't met, although there's a good chance that if you're reading this, we've lived very similar lives. That being said, I'm not going to pretend that, even with the similarities, I know what you have been through. I just want to say I see you. You, who are struggling, carrying the heavy burden of indecision, of fear, of the unknown. You, who feel miserable, wondering when that started and where that misery came from. I see you. You, who are tired, downtrodden, forcing your head to stay above water. Confused on why The Master of The Sea has even allowed you to start drowning in the first place. You, who feel guilty, ashamed and discouraged. Wondering, why you just can't be happy, serve your god, be a Christian. You, who past memories haunt, are relived every day. The wounds of abuse still feel so raw and you wonder when they'll ever start to scab over, scar. Heal. I see you. And I weep with you. Y

Purity Culture Insults Men, Too

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  By  Laurie Penoyer-Phillips Purity Culture doesn't just suppress, enslave, and harm Christian women psychologically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually...Believe it or not, Christian  men  are targets, too. It recently occurred to me as I contemplated the depth of this deceptive and divisive subject, that the types of Christians who participate so willingly and fully embrace Purity Culture, especially Independent Fundamental Baptists (my personal upbringing) and the like, are really "man-haters" even more than they are misogynistic. Purity Culture (PC), and the Christians who uphold it, treat all men  as totally helpless, mindlessly rutting and grunting, sex-driven Neanderthals who walk, and talk, and think with their penises. It's really quite insulting when you think about it .  In their version of manhood ,  all men remain sexually , emotionally, and intellectually immature way past puberty. Ever-hormonally charged and lust-driven, they can never be trust

Billboards, Church Houses, and Cathedrals

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  I recently enjoyed a fantastic vacation down South. While making that drive, as a religious abuse survivor, I was greatly aware of signs and messages with religious sentiments being shared and often in fearful ways. This is nothing new as I’ve grown up in the Bible Belt and as a former fundamentalist, the tactic is one I know all too well. But it seemed that the further south I went, the more prominent these messages became. I continued to see billboards, stating they were truth. “Repent,” the Sinner’s Prayer, and the fact that I needed Jesus were constantly thrown in my face while making that drive down Interstate 95. It didn’t always bother me. Sometimes, I would laugh. Other times, I’d feel my stomach twist. I even reminded myself that they have a right to speak freely. Then there were the moments that I let out a relieved and yet frustrated breath. I hated that kind of “in your face” witnessing. I hated Chick Tracts, knocking on doors each Saturday, passing out Gospel tracts, and

Celebrating 3 Years of This Blog & My Journey After a Cult

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  When I look back at the beginning of this blog and where I was, in that moment of my healing journey, I’m left in awe of how far I’ve come not only with this blog but as a person. Revisiting the day I started Once Upon a Time in My Oceania, looked like staying up all night to craft the first draft of my blog while crashing on my couch. I had just experienced major burnout and my health was against me. I had spent eight months steadily researching both a personal initiative with my twin sister to see how many crimes were connected to the IFB, along with providing that data to a reporter who I now consider a friend (that series was published late 2018 actually). My inbox was filled with victim after victim sharing their story, and then, also frantic family members who were looking for relatives who had been sucked into the more isolated churches in the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement. I was exhausted adding more abuser names to an ever-growing list and having little to no re

As a Cult Survivor, Here's Why I Don't Always Want Your Curious Questions

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  Trigger Warning: Abuse, religious trauma, childhood abuse, sexual abuse I openly share about a lot of difficult things that have occurred in my life as someone born and raised in a toxic religious environment, that I feel fits the criteria of a cult. I don’t throw that term around haphazardly. I’m careful for a few reasons, including trying to prevent misinformation from being sent out into cyberspace and also because my experiences, like many other cult survivors out there are real stories that should never be taken lightly. When you are one that hears a lot of tough accounts of those who have survived trauma, it is easy to be desensitized. This is part coping, part exposure. But down deep, compassion and empathy are there. You understand what it’s like to walk in the often-unique shoes of those who recognize that there are two worlds if you survived a cult: the real one and the cult’s. I was in a cult. Like I said, I share that publicly. And like many other cult survivors of ever

That Time the Church Locked Us Inside

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  From childhood, I was afraid of being stuck. I always cringed and felt nauseous watching Alice in Wonderland where Alice shrank and then grew tall inside that house until it exploded. I felt that my emotions and fears could be similar. There were actual instances that contributed to this fear and ones that I’m not yet ready to share with others outside of my close family and therapist. However, some instances include being locked in a room with abusive people or being tied up by those same abusers just for their entertainment. My wrists still sting as I remember the struggle and my chest burns at the memory of the panic. Just writing this, I broke out in a sweat. (PTSD is fun. Sarcasm, obviously.) The point is, being stuck has been a terrifying trigger for me created by traumatic events that caused it. It’s difficult to have complex trauma that contributed to my chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As my therapist told me a few months into our sessions over a year ago, not many

Holiday Reflections

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  Christmas used to be banned while I was just a child growing up in the IFB world. With the often complexity that can sometimes be in homes and in churches in that environment, some members would celebrate, and others would not. Some embraced Christmas trees and Santa to a degree, while others swore such things were complete evil and would shun them. In my experience, the first IFB church to influence my family had shunned everything to do with the holiday, including gift giving. My family celebrated gift giving on a day that emphasized thanks and gratefulness more, and that was on Thanksgiving. This tradition brings back a lot of fond memories for me and as child I would be so excited to get my gifts a whole month earlier than most kids. However, when I reached a certain age and realized that others, especially the outside world, celebrated Christmas in a more acceptable way, I longed to experience that Christmas spirit in the same way. My first Christmas was when I reached the age

No, You're Not a Burden: Here's Why

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  Confronting a past that has harmed you without any say from you is difficult. Trying to process the decisions and actions made by others against you is a new level of confusing. I remember when I was a young adult, and my one imprisoned abuser started the process to seek an early release after a few years into his sentence. I started to search for anything I could use to speak up on my behalf if the process ever made it farther. What happened was that I stumbled upon notes and information taken by social workers and the detective on my childhood abuse case. It was very difficult reading those notes, seeing the sadistic mindset of my abuser. I remember that when asked why he molested me as a child that his response was that I was “annoying.” In his abusive and twisted mind, he molested a child for being a child and to him who was annoying child at that. I remember the turmoil reading that unwarranted explanation caused in me. I was always told that I was annoying growing up and even