False Fame

The one episode of reality TV that featured my family was a much smaller thing than we thought. Shared delusions are central to relationships with abusers, and the chance to soak up the spotlight was no exception for my parents. The show itself was embarrassingly bad – the production quality was abysmal, and we had our dysfunction as a family on display as the subject of entertainment.

Nevertheless, a few months after the first season of Kids by the Dozen aired in early 2007, my parents had already written a book about it, with a big yellow star on the front that says “As seen on TV”. They didn’t realize it was embarrassing at all. In fact, they saw it as a way to proselytize and convince other people to have more kids. By extension, we kids couldn’t express our embarrassment, either. We had to be proud of our “awesome” family. Being on reality TV was a big break for the family business, and other evangelical Christians were interested in the religious aspects of the book’s message.

I thought that my family was at least a little famous because my parents had a platform saying so. I had a part in that platform. I helped write my mom’s cookbook and several speech and debate resources. I didn’t have a choice, but I didn’t think I needed to have one, I believed wholeheartedly in the message. I thought god was directly talking to me, and my family members, and that he had told my parents to build this lifestyle for their family.

Perhaps the most confusing thing about becoming an adult was that I had to realize I was not, even slightly, famous at all. I’d always thought that the show had been a huge success. Yes, we had “haters,” as dad called them, but our Christian beliefs encouraged us that non-believers would attack us. What he neglected to mention is that people were commenting online about how he seemed to be a controlling patriarch, and out of concern for us kids.

It was naïve of me to believe it for so long. That is part of what I’m trying to say here, though – our isolation and lack of access to proper education made for a collection of naïve children and young adults. We believed what our parents taught us because they were the only teachers and source of safety and livelihood that we had.

Homeschooling as Indoctrination

The prevailing myth surrounding homeschooling is that it is a superior form of education. The problem is that homeschooling is such a broad and vague categorization. A wide variety of experiences exist. Furthermore, it is difficult to objectively judge one’s own quality of education. I know because when I first “graduated,” I believed that I had received a better education than my peers. The truth was that I had been indoctrinated with propaganda to interpret everything in the world through a lens of fundamentalist teachings. Part of what I had to believe was that I was highly informed and educated, and the rest of the world was in fact being misinformed and indoctrinated to believe in falsehoods, like evolution.

Homeschooling is as unique as any family might be who uses the term to identify their educational style, or lack thereof. For some, it indicates specialized emphasis with the help of teachers or tutors to thoroughly educate the children. For others, it swings to the opposite end of the spectrum, sometimes referred to as “unschooling,” that is, nothing resembling schooling happens at all. For me, schooling meant religious indoctrination, pro-US propaganda, and competitive speaking to defend what I’d been taught.

From early childhood, what I had to learn was centered around religious beliefs. I memorized verses from the bible before I could read, learning that Jesus had died for me because I was sinful. Every time we “did school,” bible study and prayer was prioritized, sometimes after singing some worship songs and pledging allegiance to the American and AWANA flags. Most of our curricula was written and published by Christians, so even seemingly unrelated subjects used biblically based examples. Everything I knew about the world was interpreted through a religious lens – science existed to magnify the creation of god, and the course of history had the clear influence of providence.

My mom’s idea of teaching us history was to read historical fiction aloud to us according to the time of year. For instance, we spent every November listening to her read a book called “Stories of the Pilgrims” by Margaret Pumphrey from Christian Liberty Press. This book followed children whose families were being persecuted for their secret church services in a time of hostility to true Christianity. It followed their daring escapes to Holland and then the new world. From there, it told how several indigenous people including Squanto helped them survive. There was a good deal of miserable talk about the harsh conditions that led to many white deaths, but none about the impact colonization has had on the indigenous people of this continent. While there’s nothing wrong with thematic reading, it’s not a substitute for actual history, and there was none. The only history textbook I remember was for third grade, and it was called “Our American Heritage,” published by Abeka. It had short descriptions of famous American founders from a Christian perspective.

Science was a subject that was the same every year. We learned about our bodies and about the world as creations of god. We would color in simple pictures of the body parts with crayons while Mom read from a book called “More About My Magnificent Machine” by William L. Coleman. Google describes this book as “an explanation of basic human physiology interspersed with Biblical references and related religious thoughts and prayers.”

For me, high school was focused around speech and debate competition. I have so much to say about how debate was used as a tool of reinforcing indoctrination, I’m saving it for multiple chapters on the subject in my book. In short, conservative Christian homeschool speech and debate has specific parameters defined by a political and religious viewpoint. Our parents had disagreements among the many denominations they adhered to, but they could all agree that abortion was inappropriate to bring up in a debate round. They say their children are “learning how to argue both sides” through debate, which is perfectly logical if you believe that there are no two sides to abortion. There was only the fact that it is wrong, and therefore bringing it up in a debate round is unfair to the opponent. I was also told that I was making friendships that would last a lifetime with the other homeschooled kids who were my competitive rivals. For that matter, my only friends were the children of my parents’ friends, the ones who shared their ideals about family and homeschooling.

The result of my education was that I was prepared to approach my college campus as an evangelist. I wanted to “reach out” to the secular world with the message of Jesus. I joined demonstrators opposing abortion. I campaigned for republicans and worked undercover to try and catch democrats and LGBTAIQ allies in acts of corruption. I thought I was a prophet with a mission from god himself. All these delusions were carefully sown and tended and protected from the invasion of alternative perspectives.

It would take years to get through to me that reality was not what I had been told to believe it was. I was influenced by the people I encountered who were LGBTAIQ and who didn’t share my religion. I fought to hold onto all I’d been taught, slowly losing my grip with each thoughtful conversation these people patiently had with me. Questioning everything took time, but the foundations of the system I was raised to defend crumbled under scrutiny.

I’m not saying religion sucks, but it hurt me, okay

Disclaimer: this is not an attack on religion or religious people for being religious. It’s just my thoughts about MY former faith and how I interpreted it then and now.

Seven billion lives to punish
This race will pay for their avarice
The odious destroyers
Leading our lives towards exile
The fickle breed will purge themselves

Seven billion people will be burnt from this earth
This world will never be safe
Glorifying christ like he saved us
With a thousand eyes we watch but refuse to act
We will bathe this world in our blood.
Pain is your guide.
Pain is your god.
Pain is your guide.

I wasn’t exposed to a lot of good music growing up, so my partner has shown me many rock and metal albums that I missed. I don’t think I could even name all the bands he’s gotten me into, including my current favorite band, He Is Legend.

This album is his favorite of all time, but I haven’t been able to emotionally approach it for years because the themes are so strongly Christian. I used to love Christian music while I was a Christian, and I’ve known a lot of bands that are formerly Christian, including He Is Legend. (If you’d like to see a video about why so many metal bands left Christian metal, Finn McKenty covered it well here.) Some Christian music is fine for me, but some of it is nothing short of emotionally devastating, and it brings me to tears of rage and grief. I told him that we could listen together when I was ready, and today, at last, I was. And I cried a few times throughout the album, as expected, but it was good.

I’ll tell you what it’s called, but it’s not for everyone. Define the Great Line by Underøath. For those who would prefer to avoid the screaming vocals, this song is a transition in the middle of the album that’s soft, emotionally soaring, and contains Psalm 50:1-6 performed in Icelandic, a truly gutting and harrowing recording. Below is the passage in English:

The Mighty One, God the Lord,
Has spoken and called the earth
From the rising of the sun to its going down.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God will shine forth.
Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent;
A fire shall devour before Him,
And it shall be very tempestuous all around Him.
He shall call to the heavens from above,
And to the earth, that He may judge His people:
“Gather My saints together to Me,
Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.”
Let the heavens declare His righteousness,
For God Himself is Judge.

Most of my readers weren’t here back in my Christian days, but I used to pour my heart out over the deity I once believed in. I haven’t salvaged all of the archives from when I was blogging daily starting back in 2012, but I’ve always incorporated musical lyrics that resonate with me in my writing. In this post I talked more about what it’s like to lose your religion, where I actually quoted the one Underøath song I’ve always really liked.

I don’t know if I can begin to describe how intoxicating it is to genuinely believe in the supremacy of the divine. I noted while I was listening that the music soars with emotion, and it was the Psalm I linked to earlier that brought me to tears. At last, there has been enough distance from the trauma for me to appreciate the beauty in the art created through religion. I’ve always found the recitations of religious literature incredibly beautiful, inspired and fueled by the magic of consciousness in wonder. I don’t care if it’s an Arabic passage from the Quran or a Hebrew selection from the Torah, or any non-Abrahamic religion. My point is that I can see the appeal.

I can more than see it. I am familiar like a former addict. I used to ride the emotional waves, conjuring a whole god in my imagination, to shrink under its infinite shadow. Allow me to paint a picture of why this particular passage from the religious book I used to believe was the written word of the god of the universe and all creation. The scene that comes to mind is the view I saw from the height of climbing a 14,000-foot mountain and looking down at the surrounding mountaintops of the Rockies, spreading to the horizon like slow waves in a haze of clouds. It was on this trip that one of the kids in my wilderness camp expedition group brought along a copy of A Wrinkle in Time and asked me to read it aloud. They were at the part where the children ride Mrs. Whatsit’s Pegasus-like angelic form, and are brought up high above mountains on another planet, overcome as well with a breathtaking view. In the book, they use magical flowers to help them breathe. Below them, beautiful creatures perform a musical dance in a garden, which has a profound effect on them emotionally. They don’t understand the words until it is translated into another biblical passage, Isaiah 42:10-12.

Sing to the Lord a new song,
And His praise from the ends of the earth,
You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,
You coastlands and you inhabitants of them!
Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice,
The villages that Kedar inhabits.
Let the inhabitants of Sela sing,
Let them shout from the top of the mountains.
Let them give glory to the Lord,
And declare His praise in the coastlands.

There’s a lot there to analyze, and I’m already past the “short post” line, so I’ll do my best to be brief. The idea of a deity is so massive that it takes up a lot of space in the consciousness. It may have no impact on reality whatsoever, but it impacts the psyche deeply. You don’t need to have proof of miracles to believe in them. In fact, the religion I once identified with encourages belief without proof. There’s a story in the bible that after the resurrection of Jesus, his disciple Thomas has his doubts until he sees his crucifixion wounds for himself. The resurrected Jesus is reported to have made the statement, “blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.”

This literature goes big, it goes to epic proportions. This deity is imminent in the rotation of the planet we inhabit and its star. Not only that, he’s beautiful and perfect. Not only that, he is powerful enough to rain fire from the sky with a thought. Not only that, the future of all time is up to him to determine and resolve. He is so majestic, so immense, so powerful, that anyone who encounters him will be brought to a state of groveling in worship. Not only that, at the end of all things, anyone who hadn’t clearly seen before that this deity is supreme will fall to their knees and admit they were wrong about it. The wonder of the universe itself pays tribute to the deity, because he is its presumed creator. These ideas distort reality so that everything is scrutinized in the light of a literally sky-sized imaginary friend.

It got to me when I read the line, “Gather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” This is because for many years, I was a self-proclaimed Jesus Freak who thought martyrdom was a worthy end I would be lucky to endure. One of the great tragedies in the myth of Christian martyrdom is that it has glorified pain and torture and death, turning horror to honor. The promise is that if you’ve suffered well enough, and not recanted your faith in the saving grace of god, someday you’ll have earned the reward of a better existence than this one.

To me, that false hope with a refusal to acknowledge the finality of death is tragic. So as I find it haunting and I appreciate the poetry of those who are under its influence, my experience of this kind of art is fresh once again, and I am processing the emotions at last that were too painful to approach for so long.

I’ll close with describing a music video from a very secular metal band, I Exalt. The name of the band satirizes this concept of worship, and the songs criticize the hypocrisy of many religious people. The video itself contains the vocalist hanging from a cross, secured with chains, at one point with black liquid spilling from his mouth. The music itself is called deathcore metal, so again, it’s not for everyone. Here’s that video, for anyone who cares to see that while listening to deathcore metal music and vocals.

I opened this post with the conclusion of that song. That is how I feel now about denial in the face of climate change and near-term human extinction, something many people use religion for. I’m not saying all religion is bad, or that people who practice and believe it are bad people. What I am saying is that for me, to go back would be to embrace denial.

Anyway, I don’t feel that I really grasped why it was good for me to go on this emotional journey. It just was. It helped me process the way I used to think and feel. Sometimes that’s enough.

The Devastation of Lost Faith

“I lay in a bed of resistance
Chained to either side
I really wish I could, reset, rewind
Someone has clawed out my eyes

I don’t know what they told you
But this place is not what you think

Living inside a hole, they put me underground
Where they could never find me unless they dig me out
I search for the answers
‘Cause this is the end

God, it’s caving in on me
I feel them watching
But no one seems to care anymore.” -Underoath, In Division

They say to just sit down and write, but sometimes I go through dry spells in my emotions and writing. Sometimes the words pour out, each story in its vivid detail being told with fierce determination to practice the journalism I always dreamed to – telling the untold stories. Insights on Epic Living was a tagline I based on a Christian sermon series by a pastor named Chuck Swindoll. I’ve always wanted to keep the focus of my blog open, a place for people to get lost in interesting ideas and to feel welcomed in the darkness of my mind. This desire birthed many essays that resonated with my Christian friends, my justifications for the beliefs I’d known since early childhood.

I wrote in one essay, titled “Goth culture and why Christians are attracted to the dark,” published December 2012:

The Bible has a bunch of metaphors about the dark being connected to evil, so I was confused: I thought I’d gotten rid of my darkness. I had; the negativity was gone, but I still wanted to listen to heavy music, turn off all the lights, and pry into the hidden world of my mind with the Spirit’s help. It’s scary to discover the dark corners of my own mind, but prayer directs me toward this practice because a relationship with God who is love will always mean total vulnerability. It’s even rewarding: the things I hide from myself aren’t always bad things, and could be hidden talents or aspects I covered in unwarranted shame.

Dark and light is a good metaphor, but I think the Bible only uses it as a metaphor for evil, not that the dark itself is evil. Why else would God separate the light from the darkness, call the light day and the darkness night, and say that it was altogether good?

The dark is not evil, but contains evil because like vulnerability, it has been tainted. I define evil and hell as antimatter, the thing that attacks what exists. Black holes are what within the universe provide a metaphor for what hell is. It twists and tears away, but it cannot create. So when Christians, as they get more interested in God, get an urge to seek out the quiet of the night and to explore in the dark, destroying the evil they find there and treasuring the insights the darkness offers, they are confused because they’ve been taught the dark is evil.

Goth people quickly become outcasts, because they’ve fought battles those who avoid the dark can’t understand. Going to dark places of fear, to fight battles there and seek revelation, is far from a sin. It’s a necessity for the Christian life. David, Jesus, and the Prophets all participated in going to dark places, not the least of which was the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Christians are attracted to the dark because it is good. There is solace, beauty, and revelation there. Do not ignore the darkness. Enter it with courage, and you will gain experience and fight battles.

Many of the observations I made then were organized with a very us-vs-them, black-or-white, extreme-swinging way, while I still believe in what I was getting at. I still think the darkness of the mind is a valuable place to be, and I sit with my mind every day, catching it when I dissociate or get triggered and caught up in trauma. I observe my thought processes, and try to listen to myself when my emotions surface beneath the fog of depression and the whirlwind of anxiety.

Darkness is not something to be rid of. I once scrubbed all negativity from myself, leaving an empty vessel with room for positive thoughts and a cheery disposition. I called myself the happy fairy, because I believed that God wanted me to be pure and good, to encounter the darkness for the purpose of spiritual warfare, to battle with my demons. “With the Spirit’s help” meant I firmly believed that there was a being out there who was intimately acquainted with my thoughts – after all, the Book of Ultimate Truths that I’d been memorizing promises and facts from since I could barely read said so.

I still sit with my darkness, though. Prayer doesn’t direct me there, psychology does. I want to understand my own thoughts, and I know now that nobody is responsible for them but myself. Being vulnerable with myself is even more challenging than being vulnerable with a deity, because I can project whatever I like onto that deity. This is not an exclusively Christian experience, not by a long shot – we fear the darkness and the recesses of our minds simply because we are animals, having briefly woken up in a tiny window of time on a vast planet in a vaster universe.

The process of losing my faith was like being swept under by more and more evidence, a landslide of the mind. I was overcome with depression like nothing before, and I felt more like Jesus than ever, annoyingly – abandoned by a nonexistent God. It fucking hurt to learn that there isn’t someone out there who feels what I feel, who knows what I know, who knows what I think, and who can hear my prayers when I am concerned with anything, anything at all.

I clung to my faith through losing my family, through embracing my sexuality, and through many lost friends. I fear that people who still have these things to lose, who share their religion with their communities and professional connections, are even less likely to walk away from their faith than myself. In the end, I had to do my own dark work, and grieve the religion that had promised me everything if only I would love Jesus more than my father and mother, brothers and sisters, and myself. I was terrified, not of what the world beyond mine might hold, because I was already in it, but of the void inside my mind.

Realizing that God does not exist is not a moment of belief. It is a moment of realization, of a million puzzle pieces falling into place, with such brutal imagery in the mind that it is difficult to reconstruct the existence of God again. Yet many do just that, returning to religious roots after briefly playing the skeptic. I am baffled by this fact, but faith is enticing, so easy to fall back on, that I understand why some of my friends have returned to the faith. After all, it is easier to deal with family when you can have common ground about God.

I could go on for pages and pages with the details of how exactly my faith broke down – but that will have to be saved for the book, Music in the Dream House. In it, I’m talking about how when I competed in homeschool speech Apologetics (pretty much my only education throughout high school), I began researching both original sin and a doctrine called “inerrancy “(it basically means that the Bible can’t have any errors in it because God has made sure that would never happen). I quickly found that my own holy book had little integrity behind it at all. Six years later, when I had finally faced myself and could wrestle with the concept of God without the distractions of familial ties and reputation, I read “The Demon-Haunted World” by Carl Sagan, which made a highly memorable observation that God is not unlike an invisible dragon, whose existence cannot be proved. I also read my first Barbara Ehrenreich book, “Living With a Wild God,” where she pointed out that God might be a cop-out answer to, well, everything we can’t explain. Then in an astronomy class, for the first time in my life, someone pointed to the table of elements and said, “these elements that make up everything we need to exist – they are made by stars. We are star stuff.”

That was it for my faith – at last, I no longer needed a creator. But nobody hands you a salve for the devastation of lost faith. I’m still angry with how many assumptions I lived under, with how much of my life I feel like I lost. Can you be angry at God for not existing? Totally, if I’m any example, though I’ll admit I feel silly about it a lot.

The thing is, the past few years have shown me far more about religion than I ever cared to see while I was still clinging to it. I now recognize religion as a method for controlling the masses, and it breaks my heart that I know so many people who are still being swept under the current. Christianity took the hero’s journey and sold it as a salvation story. But what is so good about the so-called “good news” anyway? The essence of the gospel is this: “You were bought with blood. God owns your life now.”

And that’s a hell of a lot to recover from, to unravel from the depths of an already confusing childhood. The foundation for it all was something hidden away in thick books of theology, ones I wouldn’t explore until my late teens. Then it would take several years for my faith to finally break down. I know this, yet I am impatient and angry, seeing how desperately the world needs to see the damaging impacts of religion. I want for others to join me on this side of life, where the universe is massive and mysterious, and we are but tiny, lucky observers in it. Yet I know that the loss of faith is deeply personal, a process that demands profound patience.

Looking back, I realize that it was acknowledging the darkness in the first place that helped me to escape. Music was a huge part of this process, as well – a friend recommended that I listen to Eyedea, and I sank into a new low as The Dive resonated so strongly with me. It asked, “Have you ever felt yourself slipping away, where all you think about is your sanity and how it decayed?” I remember taking a long walk on a cold December night, letting that whole album play through, letting the tears freeze on my face. My fears were realized in the haunting, repeated words at the end of the song: “And with each foot you fall, the voice in your head starts to sound more and more like yours.”

Then came part 2 of the song, and I urge anyone who is struggling with their faith to listen carefully and consider that the world beyond the dive into the darkness – even in the face of a massive question like the existence of God – is worth going to.

Take a deep breath. There’s nothing to be afraid of.
What you just did was fall to the depths of existence.
The place the mind keeps you away from by its own process of building models for understanding.
This is not insanity, this is in fact the ultimate reality
The union you’ve achieved is only possible in thoughts no more
You never fall if you never fight
You found yourself fall into madness so you dove
The best thing you ever did was let go.

When God Spoke to Me

“Descartes invoked God – in this case, a literal deus ex machina – to save himself…When people run up against something inexplicable, transcendent, and, most of all, ineffable, they often call it ‘God,’ as if that were some sort of explanation.” –Barbara Ehrenreich

“If you withhold information from your children because you would rather them not know what reality is really like, for fear that it is going to affect their beliefs, then you are doing them harm.” -Lawrence Krauss

I was the youngest person in the group to be baptized. We didn’t have a baptismal in our church, so my two older sisters and me were going to the 1st Baptist Church near Fargo, North Dakota for our baptisms. I had watched The Jesus Film dozens of times, begging to watch it more often. I was often disappointed with myself for falling asleep before the end, my favorite part, where Jesus died for my sins. I felt like a bad person for it being my favorite part. The important thing was that he rose from the dead, conquering death, but I was curious about the pain, the torture – the rites to being a righteous martyr were in suffering. At age five, I had read Joan of Arc, and related deeply with the young girl who begged to serve God, and succumbed to the flames licking around her crying, “Jesus! Jesus!”

My entire history was of people who had suffered and died for the faith. I knew nothing else about world and American history, because my entire K-12 schooling depended upon two people: my parents. I incessantly drew disturbing pictures in bright markers of people being martyred for being Christians, and even more of people being baptized. I understood that it meant I was drowning/dying to my old self, and making myself new, cleansed by the blood of Jesus and dead to sin. I remember waiting, holding my breath in that massive tub with the curtains pulled away, my godparents and grandparents and parents watching.

Our pastor was Dale Clifton, a balding man who always called the children up for a simple and fun sermon before his longer, duller sermon for the adults. Jeub kids were trained to sit still and be quiet, and when all of the other children were sent away to Sunday School, we sat in our pews quietly, knowing spankings awaited us if we were unruly in church. Many a parent would stop us and say, “Your children are so well behaved! How do you do it?” And dad would reach up to the pile of books in the windshield, several copies of the book “To Train Up a Child” by Michael and Debi Pearl. Dad bought them by the case, and the only chapter we didn’t follow from it was on training newborns to pee in the toilet instead of using diapers.

When I came up out of the tub, I swear I could feel angels singing, and the holy spirit descending upon me like a dove, Jesus’ white-faced smile welcoming me into his arms proudly. After I’d changed out of my wet clothes (with a modest swimsuit underneath them – even a child can’t be too modest during a baptism), my grandmother Judy gave me a book from her and Grandpa Bernie. It was a book called “Wise Words for Little People.” Simple rhymes describing Biblical virtues were depicted alongside charming illustrations of children and anthropomorphized animals behaving badly, with little bible verses to back up the truth in the rhymes. One read:

The Bible is a special book.
It helps us to obey.
So read the Bible if you can,
A little every day.

Another went:

If you’re acting naughty,
Your parents may spank you.
But when you get older;
You’ll want to say “Thank you!”

Because I accepted these poems as totally true, my young and words-hungry mind memorized these words and the Psalms and Proverbs they were based on, from the Bible.

The thing is, the average Christian in America would have zero problem with such a book. At face value, it’s so mainstream that my liberal grandmother didn’t think twice about the abuse she was reinforcing with the message. Everyone I knew, all of my authority figures, and everyone in my world knew that god was real. And why shouldn’t I have believed? My survival was dependent on going along with the people who controlled it.

In my recent writings, I’ve been trying to effectively communicate why I’m so angry with Christianity right now. No, it’s not because I’m mad at god – she and I parted ways on good terms. In fact, now that I understand that I simply had an imaginary friend, I’m getting to know the person beyond the “she” I always dissociated away from and projected onto the scared, pain-wracked little body that couldn’t possibly be myself as a child. These things weren’t happening to me, they were happening to Her. For twenty years, I planned to write my autobiography in the third person. I’m still sorting through those notes to tell stories in my memoir, and I see now what I was doing as I wrote then: dissociation, projection, escaping. I don’t blame myself. It’s all I could do.

After being baptized, I hoped that my sins would go away, but they didn’t. I felt like a worse and worse person, and began punishing myself for it, which I knew was sinful, so I would hide in the closet, pinching myself with clothespins and feeling like God was near to me, holding me, telling me that he understood why I had to torture myself. I had to be strong. I had to be strong for the torture someday. I had to be strong for Jesus.

When I was a teenager, I learned more about how to talk to God and listen to God. My family had been through multiple church splits, and had formed a small congregation that gathered in the living rooms of its members, switching between families each Sunday, when dad started preaching from a book called “Walking With God” by John Eldredge. I wanted desperately to feel close to God, the inspiration for everything that the people around me lived for. I prayed on my knees, I studied my Bible and read literally hundreds of books each year about how to be a pure-thinking virgin, a thankless servant to her parents and siblings, and tried to do what was being demanded of me – soft words, a cheerful temperament, and tireless energy.

Recently in my survivor groups, the conversation has come up that when people hear our stories, they think we’re exceptions. Oh, well, spanking isn’t the problem – your parents just did it wrong. But something we want to shout from the rooftops is that our parents are symptomatic. Our stories differ in detail, but the common theme is conservative politics among Christian homeschool families who staunchly oppose birth control. Chris and Wendy Jeub may have sixteen kids, and have gotten their sixteen minutes of fame, but the point is not to tarnish their reputation and sink their facade. That is Dobby’s collateral damage, thank you. The point is that at its base, teaching children that your reality is the way things are, and silencing alternatives, is child abuse. Spanking and using negative reinforcement that traumatizes children is the same in the hands of well-meaning parents as it is in the hands of cruel narcissists. And to break a child’s will, ultimately, means to colonize that child and exploit them of their childhood and full development as a human being.

How could I have made such an about-face, after writing so passionately, only a few years ago, about my worship of the divine? Popular posts from back in the day included reflections on how Christians are attracted to the dark, Christianity is a call to a unique and epic life, my theories about the reason an all-powerful deity would have a sadomasochistic crucifixion fetish, and how to talk to god. I haven’t re-uploaded these for the simple reason that I am done with spreading false information that encourages believers in their belief. Not just because I no longer agree with it – such a frivolous reason that would be – but because I was actively participating in self-deception.

I wrote more about this back when I wrote the series “How a Logical Girl Talked Herself Into Fundamentalism.” But since that time, I’ve also lost my faith in God. And what a devastating process it was, to grieve the biggest thing in the whole universe as far as I knew. It was terrifying at first, to imagine a universe where I am alone in my thoughts, with no ultimate being, no ultimate creator.

I want to write more about how I came to understand that science makes more sense than the bible, and about many of the various topics I’ve brought up in this word-vomit of a post. For now, I want to talk about the time that god spoke to me, to finally answer the question I left open when I wrote Taking the Atheist Prayer Challenge on Neil Carter’s blog – what was God? What exactly was speaking to me?

And at last, I can say with confidence that it was nothing like a divine thing. Instead, it was the natural projection of an evolved animal mind that associated god with wonder, emotion, splendor, authority, shame, and everything I felt, because my feelings were supposed to be in harmony with it. But I never found that harmony. I dreamed of the future. I heard a voice that told me to say to people, “God said this to me.” I felt convicted to wash my family’s feet one Christmas Eve, before I would be kicked out, making the mistake of doing exactly as I was told – listening to god with all my heart.

And everything about that, every detail, can be explained with science. I am no expert, because I have almost no formal education, but I’ve been devouring wonders beyond any I knew while reality wore the guise of god. Neurology tells me that my complex trauma can be observed, predicted, and medicated. Psychology explains to me how I could Otherize myself and recognize the feeling of thinking as the whisperings of a being who was intimate with all of my thoughts. Astrophysics shows me that I am made of the dust of stars.

I wouldn’t rather it be this way. I sometimes wish there was some giant out there, holding us all together, caring when we feel pain. Yet, without question, it beats the cognitive dissonance of trying to explain why such a being wouldn’t intervene a little more.

Dissociative Martyr

Wrapped in chains

Locked to a stake

You only share a God

Because of their power

Your body

The only symbol

Wrists torn through

Nail wounds to hang from

You only share a God

Because of their power

Your body

The only symbol

Children stolen

Children murdered

Children tortured

This is your God

A god of any other name would have the stench

No prayers of saints

No meditation of monks

Will be as unheard as your screams

They are at peace

Because of your suffering

They have release

Through your suffering

It’s not salvation

It’s dissociation

Dissociate

Dear martyr

And die

Alone

Lies are your end

Cultivating Intelligent Disobedience

“Loyal dogs, unfailing tool
They do what they have been trained to
With the eidolons, the minds are full
The evil ghosts of old
The evil ghosts of old
Insanity turns back at last
As soon as their food is done
And dog will raven dog
The claws crush bones, the claws crush bones
Claws crush bones, claws crush bones
Claws crush bones, claws crush bones
The one who disobeys
He learns a cruel lesson of bones and stones
Your dissidence objected
And it’s a basic skill to earn.” –Jinjer, Sit Stay Roll Over

I was trained like a dog to be perfectly obedient. My parents had rules for every type of behavior. We had to practice sitting still and being quiet before church, someone with a spoon hovering and watching for signs of boredom or kicking toddler legs, quick to train with a swat. When our parents were talking to other adults, we were to place a hand on their shoulder and wait, even if it took several minutes, until we were acknowledged. At the call of “Jeub kids!” or “Little Jeubers!” we would line up by birth order. Once in ordered attention, we were ready to go through the first rule. Mom cupped a hand around her right ear, and said, “What does this mean?”

We were to sing out, “Listen the first time!”

I don’t remember any of the rules after that one. I would watch the procession from the ceiling, something I wouldn’t learn to recognize as dissociation for years to come. Often, when mom was training us, one child would be spanked in front of the rest of us for not obeying quickly enough. Even more frequent was mom’s habit of lining us up to medicate us with endless homeopathic remedies. Refrigerated coconut oil – a tablespoon, chewed up raw. 32,000 International Units of Vitamin A per day. A dropper of bitter oregano oil under the tongue. A spoonful of colloidal silver. Even if it was a fight to swallow, disobedience was the key crime against the family unit. I hardened my stomach to fight any reaction, and to this day have a mild aversion to the taste of coconut. I’m still investigating the long-term health effects of the anti-vaxx alternative medical treatment I received, but what evidence I have indicates that confusion and control was a goal for my mother as she chose these treatments.

Being trained in this way, regardless of what I may never fully know about my mother’s medical endeavors, has had lasting effects on my mind.

Because I was expected to suppress emotion and idealize my family, with my parents as the eidolons, I survived in a sort of shell. What happened to me was not happening to ME, but to SHE who was going through whatever this life threw at HER every day. My survival instinct made me dissociate, while my parents’ agenda gaslit me into minimizing traumatic events. Those two put together means a lot of confusing memories, and putting together a puzzle of the past.

All of that to say, I have a lot of problems with authority.

My parents were my only authorities. They were my teachers, my pastors and biblical scholars, my boss and manager, my owners in many ways for many years. Because they brought such a warped view of childrearing into parenting, and they had the power to keep my world small, I didn’t question what I thought was true. That is, I stopped questioning after it became necessary to survive in the dream house.

But there are some dogs who are taught better than I was about how to question an authority.

One of the most important books I’ve ever read is Intelligent Disobedience by Ira Chaleff. In it, the author describes how guide dogs are taught to notice what their masters may not be able to see. That is, after all, the purpose of a seeing-eye dog. If a person with blindness cannot see an oncoming danger, the dog has to know how to recognize a threat and disobey.

If the dog can see an oncoming electric car, but their owner can’t hear it, the dog will be given two conflicting signals: to obey the order to cross the street, or to fight back, saving the life of their human. Chaleff goes into depth on how the training for these dogs take place, and he notes that negative reinforcement is never used. A dog that is punished, even verbally, for making the most logical decision in a situation, may have their ability to serve compromised.

With analysis including an exhaustive chapter on the Milgram experiments, the book addresses situational ethics and power structures with insightful perspectives. For me, reading it gave me a better relationship with the age-old question of free will. I’d been a free will defendant as a Christian, but post Christianity, when I read the work of Sam Harris on the subject, I was still not convinced that the dichotomy is fair. Jumping from one extreme to the next is an old habit of mine, likely learned. The extremes were always cooperation OR competition, free will OR total predestination, choice OR life. It had never occurred to me that sometimes the authority figure is in the wrong, and sometimes they are in the right. Or perhaps “right” and “wrong” are subjective, too.

Today, I still respond to my training. I still struggle to eat enough, my mouth fighting the flavors, the toxic doses. I still wander off in my head, so my friends can hardly get my attention without calling my name loudly. I still have that Kimmy Schmidt I-was-raised-in-a-cult persona, and I hate being defined by my past, when the only thing I knew about myself for a long time was what I was told about myself.

So of course I rebelled in the smallest of ways, jittering from shock as each day passed. Forgetting what I’d been told to do, leaving things out of place, sneaking off to read, avoiding housework and office work, procrastinating on important projects, and all the while being legitimately frustrated with myself for not having a better memory. The spots missing were just my own dissociation, jumping away from the chaos, the screaming children, the sounds of the Disney movies I’d memorized, my only education most days.

Should you only read one book before the end of the year, please read this one. This concept is what tamed my anarchist heart. The author writes about how to question bosses in ways that don’t make them feel undermined, how to technically follow orders while siding with justice, and how to disagree with an authority figure that has made a life-threatening oversight. I am finally learning to let go of what I thought was my own responsibility, because I know I can control so little – and paying attention to the details of what I can control is very helpful.

Cultivating intelligent disobedience means a lot of hard work and recovery from the trauma. I may not be able to end poverty and curable illnesses the world over. But I can stand up for myself. Even if it’s hard, and I’m fighting tears and trying to suppress the bitterness that rolls beneath the surface, I can stand up for myself.

Surrendering to Science

My faith in God was not lost in a day.

It took many years of questioning, and it all started with competitive Apologetics speaking when I was a teenager. Later my journey included many friends made and lost who helped me learn about science, or who gave me the same redundant reasons to remain a Christian that I was quietly debunking. It lasted as I lost friends over being a Christian ally to gay, lesbian, and bi people (I knew about the other letters but hadn’t Bibled my way through them). Even through the loss of my family and most of my community, I clung to Jesus. I trusted that he would be faithful if I proved myself worthy of him by loving him more than even my father, mother, brothers, sisters, and friends.

I need to give my friends space to get away, too. They have much to lose.

Many people cannot even fathom a world where God does not exist, because in that world, they are alone to navigate this muck of human life. No purpose, no heaven or hell, no divine justice or intervention, no hope after death – these are extremely heavy ideas, quite too much for the average cishet white Christian to stop and re-examine. Why should they? It would only mean risking your cut of the family wealth.

And that’s why I am urging my Christian friends to, for the sake of your love for God, think about what Christianity does for you. Not the answers to prayer, not “where you’re at in your walk” or if you’re “going through a dry spell.”

And beyond them, I ask the non-Christians, the white people with wealth to spare for trinkets that exploit, to consider: do you believe in Karma because it is convenient? How convenient is your world, and how much confirmation bias is reaffirmed with privilege? I have realized that I was not lucky, I was white. And I would rather endure oppression than benefit from it.

You, white America, religious and non-religious, you have made the choice to turn a blind eye to how your money got in your pocket, brushing it away with endless justifications that make you sound like the victims. We have got to stop buying our own bullshit that we earned this empire, our inheritance, the jobs we’ve had and the stuff we’ve owned. We didn’t earn it. We stole it. It must be returned, and soon.

And beyond them, I ask the people of color who are still committed to the Christian faith, what on earth has Christianity ever done for you? Why are you still worshiping and praying to the god of your oppressors?

Yet I know that in a world run by my ancestors and cousins and parents and siblings, who speak of colorblindness while ignoring mass injustice and exploitation, you have much to lose, too. If mass deconversion happened across the country in minority groups, how much easier it would be to continue dehumanizing you.

I write this with such urgency because, well, the end of the world is coming. And it’s not your dad’s apocalypse.

Jesus isn’t coming back. The Mayan calendar isn’t finally coming to a close. Whatever your idea of the “end times” are, they’re as mythical as any other myth. Yet our need is still urgent.

Humans – we are going to destroy ourselves. In twelve years, we’ll reach the point of no return. The planet as a habitat for our species will be done for, far sooner than our planet’s orbit will lose its life-supporting position in relation to our sun. This is not a hoax, it is not a prophecy from a subjective source, it is really happening, and we’re too gridlocked to stop it collectively. To argue with this fact is like trying to have an argument with an inanimate object, such as a thermometer.

In the end, I surrendered to science because I could no longer argue with it. I was defeated – nay, enamored – by its logic, the thoroughness of the laws we’ve observed. We don’t know everything, but the beauty of science is we may someday know, and if we know more later than we knew now, we will adjust our understanding according to what we know later on.

With religion, uncertainty is painted in quite a different light. It is something to fear, something to resist and avoid, or, if you manage past those, it is something to trust. Odd as that sounds, there’s a whole school of theology that demands the trust of uncertainty – simply put, it sounds like many trite phrases including “let go and let God” and “he helps me when my faith is weak” and “If I don’t understand it, God does.”

Angry atheists accuse angry Christians of the same hypocrisy, and vice versa:

“How do you know the cell formed on its own?” The Christian asks.

“I don’t know,” says the atheist, “But science is getting closer every day to finding out.”

“Ha! You are no better than me!” says the Christian, “I don’t know, but God does, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

The religious person, or ironically non-religious person who benefits from the system, looks backward for answers. Science looks forward. And those who are looking forward, trying to learn everything they can about the universe, see a pretty fucking bleak future ahead. Because the fact is, it doesn’t matter how we got here. We’re going to poof into nothingness in the blink of an eye compared to the universe. It doesn’t matter if God put us here or not. We are on a planet with an ecosystem, and acting like business as usual won’t come to a grinding halt soon – with our own blood, the carnage – is not only laughably ridiculous, it’s cruel.

It’s cruel because we were warned. By the people whose blood stain every inch of this nightmarish grid we’ve constructed. The indigenous peoples we’ve largely murdered in genocide are to this day unable to meaningfully change the way humans live. That is what oppression and exploitation means.

I cannot be silent any longer about how crucial it is that people leave religion behind, and soon. We have so much more to lose than the small worlds we were raised in.

I’m going to close with this quote, instead of opening with the song lyrics. The song is called “Arguing with Thermometers,” and there’s a little screaming, but most people find Enter Shikari’s sound accessible, despite its metal flavor. You can listen to the song here.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re all addicted the the most abusive, destructive drug of all time, and I ain’t talking about class A’s – that business is miniscule when compared – and just like any addict desperate to get his next fix, we resort to petty crimes to secure our next hit…So let me get this straight; as we witness the ice-caps melt, instead of being inspired into changing our ways, we’re going to invest into military hardware to fight for the remaining oil that’s left beneath the ice? But what happens when it’s all gone? You haven’t thought this through, have you, boys?”

I really wish I had something more to conclude with than an angry song. Sign a petition, donate, do something that helps – I wish it was that easy. But the more I research solutions, the less likely it seems that we’ll solve humanity’s flaws (another post for another time – why is humanity wicked?), and all we can do is scream about it until we are no more.

That said, I am still far less depressed, far more engaged and enthused, and am becoming a better writer as a non-Christian than I was as a Christian. A lot of people liked me better when I was a Christian. But I was behaving how I thought I had to. Now my only chains are those of the system I’m trapped in.

This conversation is about our dependence on fossil fuels as much as it is about how we grieve our loved ones who have passed. It has a lot to do with my justice and advocacy series about wealth disparity. I don’t have all the answers, of course.

But I am burdened, and so I write.

What Happened

Content warnings: gaslighting, child abuse, mental illness, suicide, eating disorders, poverty

Now is as good a time as any to explain why exactly my blog was so choppy over the past four years.

I don’t trust people like I used to. I don’t believe the world is full of sunshine and roses, like my parents do. How wonderful it is to blissfully believe that God controls everything, and your personal fortune is something you deserve to have. I was shook by learning to find my footing in a universe without God, a world without family, a community without friends, and a fall from grace without allies.

But I had a mishmash of homes and people who welcomed me. There was the family who drove up with their old minivan in 2013, the day my sister and I were kicked out, and let us have their spare bedroom because most of their children were grown. They charged very little for rent, and what they saw as Christian charity was expected to be received with Christian-approved behavior, but the kindness was much appreciated as an alternative to, well, my other options. It was a short walk to my work as a web content writer. We shared a broken-down 7-passenger van that had been given to us, useless and on our parents’ insurance, because our savings had been gutted and we both had jobs, and I was in school.

My depression was awful in early 2014, and my concerned friends tried to get me drunk and drag me to events, or to sit in their classes. Even though I was a dropout and couldn’t afford to study what I loved, nor would I get to do what I love. I started seeing a “shrink,” a new word that Josh and Ducky of all people taught me at the age of 22.

My parents always saw me as “troubled” and “different,” but preferred essential oils and homeopathic remedies with bizarre diets that stunted my siblings’ and my growth, and never trusted “psychology” as the outside secular world would define or understand it. The psychiatric industry was all drug-seeking and welfare queens to my family, and I had shared that belief with them for many years: who needs to talk about self-esteem when you matter to Jesus?

Nevertheless they believed that counseling might help, and let me borrow their car to go to my sessions, but it did just the opposite in their eyes. My counselor, an old man who was amazed with my knowledge of philosophy, theology, and the inner self, got me from square 1 – I want to suffer and die so nobody else has to, and I want to hurt myself every day, to…other options besides just another square. He helped elicit some of the first tears I’d shed in years, and professionally held back from saying how he really felt about my family, and it didn’t give me complete answers, but I was learning to feel. And learning to feel, and beginning to express doubts that maybe my family wasn’t perfect, opened up more doors to the reality beyond the one they’d constructed.

All through the summer of 2014, I fought for my siblings. I’d work a shift, then visit my parents, trying to visit with all the kids because I could sense that the doors would be closed any day, but not wanting to let them get lost in a crowd. I took the twins and Priscilla out for milkshakes and fries at the local 50’s diner, and promised Josiah – my baby, who’d cried for me in the night, who was the most soothed by my favorite album of nursery songs, and always lit up when I let him talk with energetic fascination about Legos – that I would take him out, just him, someday soon.

I would not be allowed to keep that promise.

My last attempt to give individual, undivided attention to my kids was while I was out with the 4-year-old, buying him a McDonald’s happy meal and letting him play, by himself, for the first time in his life. We’d been gone an hour before my parents noticed (over the years it’s happened now and then that a neighbor brings a child home). My dad angrily texted and called, telling me to come home immediately, and that I was never to be around my siblings without being supervised by one of my parents. On those terms, I couldn’t develop a deep relationship with any of my siblings – not one that my parents would approve of, anyway.

By the fall, I’d been given an ultimatum: if I wanted to see my siblings again, I would have to seek reconciliation on my parents’ terms: with a Christian pastor, who wanted to talk to them first before inviting my sister and me into the room, and who wanted a letter from me detailing our “grievances” before even meeting us.

I requested a mediator who was not so biased in their favor. They refused. With nothing left to lose and my head spinning with rage and grief, I wrote long posts about my parents’ abuse and how it was possible to be so blind to it for so long. After my parents said I couldn’t see my siblings anymore, I publicly called them out for lying to the world about who they really are, and declared that I wouldn’t let them get away with it.

I’d also realized that I was an empath, and that I was bisexual and polyamorous. I’ve always been one to jump off the deep end, and my first experience was a drunken threesome shortly after deciding that virginity was a just another myth I’d believed all my life anyway. My worth was never in whether I’d abstained from a natural human experience like sexual pleasure, I finally knew. But as many concerned friends expressed to me, perhaps I was jumping from one extreme to the next, and my boyfriend and girlfriend broke up with me two weeks later. I then turned to a couple of friends who I didn’t have feelings for, and we became friends with benefits, but within months I’d lost both of them as friends as well – plus a whole legion of bridges that someone decide to set aflame with the embers of hers.

To this day, my dad blogs and pretends as if I do not exist, continuing to claim that I am nothing more than a misled prodigal child, a freeloading bleeding-heart liberal who doesn’t love Jesus and wants to blame hardworking taxpayers for my well-deserved and prayed-for misfortune, who’s addicted to hard drugs and is constantly getting into her head that it’s appropriate to blast her parents’ reputation online, when all they ever did was protect their good Christian family from my Satanic and negative influence.

At the birthday bash in September 2014, I’m sure several people asked about my whereabouts. The truth was, I was in the hospital for a self-inflicted injury, and later had my friends keeping an eye on me. I got a new therapist, a military vet and also a no-nonsense lesbian who believed a little too much in pyramid scheme sales commissions and The Secret, but knew how to keep me from dissociating, and to guide me toward processing and managing my feelings.

My landlord, the same man who’d allowed my sister and me to live in his family’s basement for little rent, raised the rent so as “not to do me a disservice in having false expectations about the cost of living.” The low rent was my only reason to deal with that gloomy basement and the awkward conversations in a kitchen where I had to bite my tongue every time a racist remark was made by the upper-middle class couple from the dining room. I lived there quietly and wrote a book I’ll never publish, and became a minimalist to mask my depression and loss of control in my newfound place in the world. I couldn’t go back there after one terrible night when I went into a suicidal spiral, triggered and panicked, and left the house behind – it brought back that first night, when my sister and I had our foundation uprooted. A friend offered for me to take a bedroom in her house, but I loved the reclusive sense of the room under the stairs, so I took it instead of a normal four-walled white room. My recovery cat, Serafina, would knead my back gently whenever she sensed how troubled I was, and I would hang a reading lamp up in my little loft to read science fiction books that made me cry, because every sibling and family relationship in the stories felt like they were mine.

I was not able to keep Serafina when I moved to become a nanny. This has made me feel extremely guilty for many years – many people will passionately say, “If you can’t keep a pet, don’t adopt one!” But they do not know what it is to desperately need a support animal but to never know whether you’ll always have the good fortune to keep it. Service animals are awesome, but that’s another thing I’ve learned that I didn’t know four years ago: sometimes you’re just so broke you don’t get to have anything, even food and shelter. Nobody gives a shit about you once you’re an adult, but all I’d ever known how to do was write, cook, and take care of children.

I moved to Durango, where I made some new friends, but though being nonreligious and progressive, they were a bunch of (mostly) white, privileged people who still have functioning parents, and have no idea how to deal with my apostasy and anarchy, much less my poverty and passion. When the campers in my cabin asked where I lived, I would reply, “I live here right now. This is where I live. This bed is the only bed I have, here in this cabin. I don’t know where I will live after, and I lived somewhere else before.” Because I was working with privileged children – and some children from completely different worlds who’d been given scholarships to the camps – I wanted to be honest with them about adulthood. No adult had been honest with me about it when I was in their shoes.

Then I moved to Seattle, and quickly stopped having any spare money, and could afford less and less. I worked as a dishwasher and prep cook, then as a deli clerk, then as a lead hot side line cook. After breaking up with my boyfriend and girlfriend, I got a room, but soon afterward met the love of my life, and the people I lived with didn’t appreciate him being around. I couldn’t save enough to put down another deposit to get another room, so I lived in with my boyfriend in his car. We both worked while homeless – nursing that little car slowly over the back roads that connected Burien to West Seattle, switching shifts, showering at a local gym, and changing into our work uniforms in grocery store bathrooms, where we slept in the parking lots. That was a miserable month, and we were constantly exhausted, depressed as hell, anxious to the point of vomiting up our attempts to feed ourselves with food stamps but no way to heat up anything or buy hot food, wanting to go get fucked up instead of saving for a possible deposit and first month’s rent so we could sleep on a floor instead of a cramped little car – a mattress would have to come later on.

But we made a charming little home out of that hobbit-hole of a basement apartment. It was a tiny room in Burien, and the landlord and his wife came downstairs only to do laundry and collect rent. I got a better job that paid well, and because I was motivated to work hard so as to avoid being homeless again, I took a position that taxed me psychologically, emotionally, and physically. I woke up at 4:30 every day, and took a two-hour bus ride in the freezing cold, smoking cheap swisher sweet cigars, half at a time. My boss was cruel, heaping more work on me than is possible for one person to do, and when I complained to management about it, my every move was criticized and written up for, until they fired me. I hope I never have to work in a kitchen again, as it still gives me horrible flashbacks to work in the kitchen I pay rent to share.

It was then that I became very ill, and began losing weight, the stress of work draining my last bit of both energy and hope. I was still at that job in December 2016, when I wrote a Facebook post that I felt guilty to write: I was at such a low point, I couldn’t find the hope to make it another day. I said if my laptop hadn’t been stolen six months prior, at least I could write. If I could afford new glasses, perhaps I could work better, without squinting and headaches. If I could sleep on a mattress instead of a hard floor, I might have an easier time finding the motivation to get up in the morning.

Much to my surprise, three gifts were extended to me: one friend sent money for me to replace my glasses. I wasn’t squinting at the recipes in the kitchen anymore, and my managers noticed the improvement, but too much damage had been done in standing up for myself – I still lost the job, and it was a relief. Another friend bought me a laptop, and had it delivered – and several others offered to send me their old laptops. Someone else ordered a mattress for us, and my partner filmed me sinking into the mattress and bursting into tears, and sent it to her as a thank-you.

This kindness told me some truths I hadn’t integrated into my truth before, even though I’d read Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking. I realized that people are kind, the hard part is asking…and knowing that asking doesn’t mean I deserve or can expect that someone is obligated to help me. And that the people closest to me, because we’d shared trauma together, my sisters, were still locked in the mentality that wealth reflects contribution, and my poverty was my own fault.

After the job, I worked with a therapist, doctors, and a professional nutritionist to learn about how to take control of my diet again, and the nice thing about getting fired is that it means an unemployment check, and for a short time I had a bit extra to get by on. I still wasn’t ready to return to the blog in full force, as there was so much to recover from – both in childhood and adulthood – and I am still far from recovered. My weight got back up to a healthy level, and my partner and I practiced several tricks to keep life bearable. A beach opening to a bay along the Pacific was close enough for us to get a ride to from friends. Our landlords didn’t approve of smoking, so we walked a few blocks for every break, ensuring they didn’t know, and our anxiety relief was provided. I grew eighteen beautiful pea plants in jars, and the sun that peaked around the garage into our basement window helped their vines grab onto the screen and blinds with little fists.

I would end up giving those peas to my landlady, and I hope she had a good harvest of them, as she also had a green thumb. We had to move yet again, because the rent had increased, and there was no way, after my job loss, relying uncomfortably heavily on the only reliable source of income: my Patreon supporters. For his part, my partner still works whatever he can, as he was then – but his retail job was quickly proving to be too taxing for his body, which is also wracked with chronic pain and the impact of a traumatic childhood, quite different from mine.

We moved to Texas. Someone said they’d take us in and help us get on our feet, so we left everything we knew and everyone we loved for the chance to start over, save a little, and return to the place of our community. Unfortunately, El Paso Texas turned out to be as hot and miserable as the temper of the woman who I’d trusted as a friend to take us in. She attacked me for sleeping too much, for not working hard enough, for not saving enough, and above all, for making her livid. I was crushed, but had to recognize that I was not responsible for the anger my existence brought to the surface for her. Ever since, I have strongly encouraged people to only help if they are willing, able, and have the self-awareness to take on such a responsibility. An old friend in Waco is doing just that, as are some of my friends in California. Ten months of misery began: four month of passive-aggressive treatment at “home” with a couple our age who treated us as their inferiors, followed by six months living in a tiny apartment in a gridlocked, overpopulated town in the middle of nowhere, and we knew nobody.

The cabin fever was awful. The depression was awful. We’d been denied both food stamps and medical care, and my partner was tormented with horrible allergies from the dusty, polluted air. In the last months, this winter, someone sent me an email saying I could ask for help. I asked for Greyhound tickets. We took a long trip back, and the whole thing felt like one long, miserable bus trip. It was one that taught us people are kind, but some people think they are kinder than they really are.

And that brings me up to date. For what happened next, start with this story: “Working from Home” While Homeless

Podcast Transcript: The Deleted Confession

Updated 5/6/2019: Below is a commentary I wrote in August 2018 about the events leading up to my family’s first response to my blog posts in 2014, a podcast. My parents claim that they never gave any kind of response until March of 2019. The podcast was re-uploaded to YouTube, which my dad had taken down on a copyright claim, which can be seen here.

COMMENTARY

The day I chose to reveal that my parents weren’t as magnificent as they wanted the world to think they were was October third, 2014. It was exactly a year after I’d been kicked out while being denied my independence – my phone, bank account, and the children I’d raised were still being controlled, and I was expected to continue keeping up with housework even after I’d moved out. While in college full time and working two jobs.

There is a rumor that I “wanted to live at home longer,” but they had undermined my entire ability to survive as an adult in the real world. I had no K-12 education, except that I’d memorized a lot of the Bible and School House Rock songs, and I was given textbooks I was supposed to find time to study on my own, around my busy schedule. Once I started taking classes at a local university, I struggled and ultimately failed to keep a passing GPA. I simply had no idea what I was doing, and I couldn’t seem to find time to study enough, which I blamed myself for – though my friends could easily observe that the reason I couldn’t learn was that I was still running my family’s household whenever I was home from class. I was in the habit of bouncing a baby on my lap while trying to just read my assignment, much less comprehend it enough to test.

In an effort to avoid being shamed by my family, I gave up talking about my poor grades. I had no idea how to ask for help, and didn’t know that when I struggled to approach an instructor for signing permission papers, I was having severe anxiety. My voice and body would freeze before dealing with conflict, asking for help, or even speaking up to get a passing person’s attention in the hallway. In the end, though I very much wanted to learn, I dropped out because losing my parents meant losing my grant applications, and I could barely afford food and shelter, much less the time and expense of being in school. My part-time job became a full-time job, and I tried earnestly to recover. My parents were concerned about my signs of mental illness, and agreed to let me see a therapist, even offering rides when needed. I was 21 and no longer living with them, but somehow I always found myself back in my dad’s luxurious office, the most well-made room in the whole house, crying my heart out to my parents about how I was trying to be a good Christian still, and which boys I was interested in marrying someday, and I was a good virgin – I hadn’t so much as googled “masturbation.”

My first therapist in early 2014 was patient, and over several weeks in which I felt numb and often watched the art on the wall from the top of the room, totally dissociated. I finally started crying sometimes. A friend who worried about me in my depressive spiral dragged me to his astronomy class. Even though I was no longer an enrolled student, the professor was so passionate during his lectures, he didn’t mind who joined in the audience. For the first time in my life, at the age of 21, somebody told me that the stuff my body and the air I breathe and the planet I call home is made of what’s in space. It had never clicked for me before that our table of elements is consistent across the universe. I was questioning what Christianity really had to say about loving people even if they’re gay.

Questions are rebellion to fundamentalists. Their egos are incredibly fragile. It is not enough for white, conservative, cishet gen-X people like my parents to live an unremarkable life. And if all you can do to gain your fifteen minutes of fame is to have sixteen mini-me’s, that’s what you do, if you’re that desperate. Besides, you get Jesus’ justification for your lifestyle and reproductive decisions. When a child in this kind of family asks questions, the parents feel incredibly threatened, and hastily protest any perceived flaw in themselves. They will turn to attacking the child, or victimizing themselves and threatening to commit suicide, or flying into a rage at the child.

At the time that I published my first post, I was wracked with emotional pain. It was my response to my dad telling me that I was no longer welcome in their home. It was apparent to them that I was seeing through the cracks, and in a too-little-too-late effort at the end, I was trying to help my siblings see what I could see, so they could be better prepared to survive. This was of course interpreted as manipulation on my part. Lydia saw it too, but to be ostracized was far worse for her than it was for me. My short five semesters of local university had taught me quite a lot that she didn’t know – foregoing college and remaining a completely dedicated stay-at-home daughter until the day we were kicked out.

I was at work when I posted the blog post. My boss, who knew my parents, called me to say that my workplace would be a safe place for me. Within hours, my dad had prepared his response to my post, “Melting Memory Masks.” Because my dad believes he is innocent, he thought there would be nothing to fear from proving it by leaving the room while my younger siblings recorded a podcast responding to me.

His sites are in complete denial that the podcast ever existed. The podcast was originally on YouTube as episode 7 of his ministry’s new podcast. Apparently he had not even heard the podcast before uploading it. But to his surprise, people who heard the podcast were somehow convinced by it of his and my mother’s guilt. As Susan Gabriella said over on her site, The Little Fighter that Could:

“The reason the podcast was hastily removed was because it comprised of too much evidence in Cynthia’s favor… In fact, if you read her blogpost and then listen to the additional information explained in the podcast, the abuse becomes even more evident. Cynthia’s first post claimed three main things. Physical abuse—abuse her siblings did not deny happened, and instead trivialized by normalizing it or saying it was forgiven; psychological abuse—which her siblings responded to by doubting; and emotional abuse—which her siblings made fun of.”

The video was deleted from YouTube in a matter of hours after it was posted. Then my dad filed copyright claims against anyone else who tried to re-upload it. All that remains is the transcript, which Susan was also kind enough to transcribe. I now present the full transcript in full, as transcribed there: Transcript of Chris Jeub’s Podcast

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

Chris: Welcome to the Training Minds podcast, training minds for action in speech and debate, Episode 7.

[music]

Chris: Welcome, my friends, to the Training Minds podcast. I’m Chris Jeub, president of Training Minds Ministry and author of a, bunch of speech and debate publications, all meant to train the mind for action for academic speech and debate. Uh, this is a break from our planned schedule, uh, we, uh, just last week, uh, ran Luis Garcia’s first part of his presentation on apologetics. Um, you heard him explain the ten commandments of apologetics, and you’ll hear the second part next week when we return to the regular programming.

Instead I’ve decided to use the Training Minds podcast to put out an audio—an audio record of defense concerning an online attack that has penetrated and greatly wounded our family—the Jeub family. Um, it has to do with my daughter, Cynthia, who came out last week with a blog post that was extremely indicting on us, and probably, uh, couldn’t have been more damaging. And—and—and many, many people are believing it. I think everybody’s shocked, and we are shocked, too. Uh—but the—because the blog post has some imagery in it that’s just horrific, uh, it couldn’t be worse. Probably the most horrific of them all, in my opinion, is the vision of my wife, Wendy, and I shutting the curtains and—and—and—beating our children with a belt. Every night, she actually claims this is every night. And later she explains that there’s actually cuts and blood in these events, and that we have never stopped.

My goodness, these—uh—three things here. First, if it’s true, what—what she explained is illegal behavior, and our twelve children should be taken away from us immediately. There’s no excuse for what she is explaining on her blog. But secondly, you’re—you’re about to hear from my children. Uh, this is not true. Belts are not used in our family. Beatings do not take place in our home. And you’re about to hear from the older Jeub children about how out and far out and—and extreme out of reality this really is.

Uh, thirdly, and this is—this is very—this is a very odd story in many ways. Uh, a lot of people are going to be listening to this, you don’t really care about speech and debate, but this is our way of putting together, um, a response because this is—this is extremely harmful to us. Uh, I, Chris Jeub, author, debate coach, I’ve supported questionable websites and other bloggers, who, though they differ from me, and my personal faith or politics, I—I still supported them because they welcomed the discussion and action about abuse victims. Uh, oh, uh, one more thing, and I guess, uh, I didn’t have this in my notes but I’m going to say it anyway. Uh, we, the Jeub family, love Cynthia. We want so desperately for resolution in this problem. We do not—uh, we don’t appreciate—um, actually, we hate these accusations. And we have to come out and say, “These are not true”—we have no choice because they aren’t the truth.

But I don’t want to discredit Cynthia. This is, uh, such a tough position to be in, because we love Cynthia, and—and there is pain in her accusations. I don’t know what that—the pain is. We—before her blog post, we had been really wrestling with her for several months, and one of the, the—really—one of the pleas with her we had was, “Please, come with us to counseling.” You know, not a—not a fluffed-up fake counselor or relative or something—I mean, our relatives have been great, they’ve been very supportive of us. But—but it’s been, uh, an appeal to her to come to counseling and get help for what—I—I believe is—is mental illness. Now that—that’s for a professional to diagnose, but, uh, but I can’t think of anything—any other reason why these accusations would come out, that are so far from reality that, uh, that it’s really, really, really hurting us.

So I hope you can help us, the Jeub family, to pray for Cynthia, to pray for our family, the Jeub family. We’ve been on—I don’t know if you know us very well, but we’ve been on TV, we’ve been very transparent about—about, uh, uh, family issues that we’ve had in the past, estranged children, even. Our oldest daughter has been estranged for years, and there was a short time of reconciliation and love that we articulated in our book, Love in the House, and—and it was, uh, but, but, but—to tell you the truth, uh, we still, uh, we still struggle with our problems. But we are in the camera eye and we are transparent and we are honest and we do not beat our children. That’s [unintelligible], that is—this is bizarre, and, uh, and uh, and—so this is what we’re going to do today.

In the podcast today, uh, what—what I had my kids do—in fact, they volunteered with this way of handling it, because they’re very disturbed by this. So I’ve got, I’ve got older kids in my family, one adult, uh, Isaiah is 18, Micah is 17, Noah is 16, and Tabitha is 14, and we’ve kept everyone else below that out of it, because they really—they really are—a couple of other ones could have been involved in this, but you know, they’re young, they’re young, their heads are spinning, and they love their sister, uh and they—they—this is busting them up big time. But the older ones are more mature, and they’re handling it well. They wanted to get together and walk through Cynthia’s article, piece by piece, there’s—there’s about five or six images that she puts out there, and events that they actually remember, and, uh, and they can—they want to, uh, kinda form a defense, and say, “You know what, we have, we have, um, uh, an answer that’s different than Cynthia’s. And actually much different than Cynthia’s.”

And then that’s what’s going to be the podcast today. That—that’s what it is. And I, and I’d like to just double up, we love Cynthia, we want this to be handled as fast as possible. This is so painful to us, and uh, and, and we really need you—if you—you know what, and before I press play, you probably want me to already shut up and listen to the kids, but hey, I gotta say this. Uh, if you—if you do desire the truth to set us free and the—the—the truth to surface and for good things to come of this, please encourage Cynthia to get the help that she’s denied from us. She has refused to go to counseling with us. I mean that’s, that’s, uh, that’s the only solution I see here. Uh, I believe she believes what she believes, but, uh, she—she needs to sit down on the comfortable couch and explain her pain. And going public with a damaging story that’s not true will only—will only hurt her more. So, uh, please help me encourage her, um, uh, her blog is cynthiajeub.com. Um, as I’m recording this right now, it’s still the first article, or, uh, top article, um, but uh, I’ll have a leak in the show notes.

So, uh, so with that, this is my Jeub family, or, uh, a chunk of ‘em, four of my kids, uh, the oldest ones that are living at home, Isaiah, Micah, Noah, and Tabitha. And, uh, and at the end of the podcast I have, uh, information on how to get Love in the House for free—I’m actually giving it away for free this week, because, uh, because we’re, we want you to see who we are, and be totally open and honest about this situation that we’re in. Uh, more about that at the end here. Uh, but, with that, enjoy my kids.

[8:28]

Male voice 1: OK, careful.

[creaking noise, like a door closing]

Male voice 1: Why did I say careful? Hello! We are the four Jeub older kids that are still living at home, so, uh, yeah, we’re just gonna go oldest to youngest and introduce ourselves.

Male voice 2 (Isaiah): Uh, I’m Isaiah, hi. I’m eighteen, um, do you want me to—

Male voice 1 (Micah): That’s good, um, I’m Micah—

[girl laughs]

Micah: —and I’m seventeen.

Male voice 3 (Noah): I’m Noah, and I’m sixteen.

Female voice (Tabitha): And I’m Tabitha, and I’m fourteen.

Micah: And our sister wrote a blog post about our family, it’s, uh, telling, uh, the world how abusive our parents are to us, and we would like to go through and read the blog post and give the world our take on Cynthia’s blog post. So we’re gonna go through her blog post right now and give you our take.

Male voice: OK. So the first little section basically said—uh, I’ll just read it. “Eight years ago, Mom, Dad, I’ve been hurting myself since I was four, I’ve kept it a secret for ten years, and I don’t think anybody else in the world does it. I want to tell you because we’re going to film on TV and I might lose control in front of the cameras. I don’t want to make our family look bad. Are you still doing it? No, I quit a few years ago. Then your sin is forgiven, we’ll go ahead with the filming, just don’t tell anyone.”

Tabitha: So, our older sister Cynthia was hurting herself, and she’s acting as if we were trying to cover it up, as if we have some deep, dark secret. What’s actually happening here is just a normal conversation. She said, “Hey, Mom, Dad, I’ve kept this a secret, um, I’m hurting myself.” And they’re just like, “Are you still doing it? I don’t think you need to tell the cameras.” It—it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. We’re not hiding anything. If you get to know us, we’re a pretty transparent family, we’re the same at parties that we are at home.

Micah: Yeah it’s true, I mean, you guys know us, or if you don’t know us, we’re very, like, we just are the same at home as we are at parties. Like Isaiah’s shy at home and he’s shy at parties.

[Tabitha laughs]

Micah: I’m outgoing at home, and I’m outgoing at parties.

[Tabitha laughs]

Micah: Noah’s a dork at home, and he’s a dork at parties.

[Tabitha laughs, Noah makes sound of weak protest]

Micah: OK, so we are the same throughout. And this conversation that Cynthia was having with Dad is just a normal conversation, it’s not like, “Oh we have something to hide, you can’t tell the cameras anything.” Cynthia spoke her mind on TV, it was no big deal. So, yeah. Next, uh, section.

Male voice: Second section! “Seven years ago, Mommy, stop hitting him, he’s only eleven. Do something, Cynthia, I’m scared she’s not stopping. A few days later. What happened to him? Did he get in a fight with his brother? No, Mom got made and slapped him, she wouldn’t stop so I pulled her off of him. He’s wearing makeup so you can’t see the whole bruise and where he was bleeding. Everybody thinks that we’re perfect, please don’t let them look through the curtains.”

Micah: This story was, um, about Isaiah, and Cynthia paints this ugly picture of our mother like she beat Isaiah till Isaiah was black and blue, which is not exactly what happened. Um—yes, actually, me—um—him and his brother did get in a fight, I got in a fight with Isaiah, and I hit him in the face, and then Mom was on my side, so Mom hit him in the face. And this happened eight years ago, and it was not—Mom was not beating him.

Male voice: Yeah, that was—

Micah: That was a very ugly night in our house, and it’s super painful that Cynthia had to post—post this on the public for the world to see. So yes, this did happen, yeah, it was about eight years ago, and, uh, yes, this did happen, I hit him in the face, then Mom hit him in the face, and he did have a bruise.

Male voice: And that was the end of the fight.

Micah: And that was the end of the fight, and Mom has apologized for it several times, and we have forgiven her. So, I don’t see why it needs to be brought up, but that was our take on the matter. So, our mom does not do that—she’s never done it again, so it, uh, is kind of irrelevant at this point. We don’t get slapped in the face.

Isaiah: Yeah, and the reason Micah responded to that and I didn’t was because I don’t remember this happening, specifically. Um, from what I hear, it sounds a lot like—it sounds a lot like abuse when I hear about it, and—and I think—this, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard about this. I mean, I remember me sitting around and all the kids were like, “Oh, you remember that one time?” And I’m like, “No, I don’t remember that one time.” But—but when I hear this, it sounds a lot like abuse, but I’ve never seen my mom actually do something like this to any of the other—any of my siblings. So—so to believe this—

Micah?: Or to do it again or anything. She says later on that it did happen again, but it didn’t happen again, it was something else that Mom was doing.

Isaiah: Well yeah, it wasn’t—she wasn’t slapping me over and over again, and we’ll cover it later. And we’ll get to that, but I’ve never seen it happen again in this household. Or beforehand. So.

Micah?: And—have you forgiven Mom for what she did?

Isaiah: I—uh—maybe, I don’t remember forgiving Mom.

Micah: So you don’t remember the conversation that night when she came to apologize like a hundred times.

Isaiah: No.

Micah: OK. Well, I remember the conversation pretty well, and she was very, very upset at herself.

Noah: And—at the end of this section, she says, “You can’t see the whole place where he was bleeding.” That’s so exaggerated, there was a small bruise where—

Micah: It was right under his eye.

Tabitha: I thought it was right under his eye.

Micah: Right under his eye, and he was not bleeding.

Noah: He wasn’t bleeding at all.

Tabitha: No. It’s exaggerated.

Micah: I punch pretty hard. Just kidding. OK, moving on to the third thing.

Tabitha: Third section.

Not Micah: “Six years ago. I’m gonna sit here while the producer interviews you. I’m here to help you remember to say what’s true. OK daddy, I trust you. Don’t let them see what goes down in the kitchen.”

Micah: What in the heck goes down in the kitchen, like, we cook in the kitchen, if you guys wanted to know that—

Tabitha: We dance in the kitchen.

Micah: We dance in the kitchen.

Noah: We wrote cookbooks on that, too. [laughter]

Isaiah: We do [unintelligible] in the kitchen, and do flips off the counters in the kitchen.

Micah: It’s pretty funny. Um, yeah, so this sounds like a manipulating father talking to a daughter, but really, this kind of conversation is like, what’s wrong with this conversation. Cynthia, you could’ve said whatever you wanted on camera, and Dad wasn’t forcing you to say anything on camera. He never forced me to say anything on camera, he never—

Male: Yeah.

Micah: He just said hi, I’m here to be with you, I thought you were nervous in talking to ten million people.

Male: Yeah.

Micah: So he wasn’t forcing you to say anything, so the fact that you think he, uh, was like oh, I’m gonna make sure you say all the right things, you know, I’m gonna let you make your own decisions but I’m gonna make ‘em for you so they’re right—he wasn’t saying anything like that.

Noah: Yeah. And he was just out there helping with the light fixture.

Isaiah: Yeah, he was out there helping with the lights.

Noah: He was helping when I was interviewed, I remember that.

Isaiah: He was helping hold up that light.

Tabitha: Yeah, he wasn’t like he was sitting there, holding her hand, being like, don’t say that, don’t say that, here, let me just answer for you.

Noah or Isaiah: Because, like, it wasn’t like an episode where he was making the puppets say what he wanted them to say—yeah, it’s not like that at all.

[noises of agreement from others in the background]

Micah: Alright, next question, or next, uh, statement.

Tabitha: Here, I’ll read it. Five years ago. Mom, look, I watched the kids—ten kids, and cooked the food and cleaned the house while you were gone. You didn’t do the dishes? You don’t appreciate what I—that I was gone all day shopping. I do so much work around here, I can’t be gone for a few hours without coming home to a mess. I need to work in a clean kitchen and it’s your fault I can’t. I don’t ask for much. Places, places, get in your places.

Micah and Tabitha, in a sing-song tone: Places, places, get in your places.

Micah, in a falsetto: Places, places, get in your places. [laughter]

Noah or Isaiah: That was better.

Micah: Thanks, man.

Tabitha: Uh—

Micah: OK! Go ahead, Tabitha.

Tabitha: I was just going to say that this is a normal conversation, it’s not yelling at you, being like omigosh, you’re a horrible child. It’s just saying, thank you for watching the kids, but look, you didn’t do the dishes, like—

Micah: Like, uh—

Micah and Tabitha: —why didn’t you do the dishes? [laughter]

Tabitha: Well, I need to make supper, I’ve been shopping all day—have you ever been shopping? It’s not that fun.

Noah: Well, some girls think so. They’re weird.

Tabitha: Threatening to call the authorities on this is just kinda funny.

Micah: It’s just like, Mom didn’t thank me for doing the rest of the house when I was supposed to do the dishes. Abuse, it’s abuse. We’re being abused, omigosh. Anyway, uh, just do the dishes next time, Cynthia, you’re an adult. [Tabitha laughs] Alright, next question.

Tabitha: “Three years ago. Is it that cutting thing again? I thought you were over that. I’m scared because I wanna kill myself, Daddy. Are you sure it’s not just trying to fit in with your college friends, pretending you have problems like theirs? No one ever listens, this wallpaper glistens.”

Micah (in a sing-song tone): No one ever listens, this wallpaper glistens. [spontaneous vocalizing] Alright, go ahead, people.

Tabitha: I would just say that this is a huge conversation—I remember you and Dad talking for hours at a time, you guys talked through this, um, and you’re forging the conversation to make it sound—he probably did ask this, um, is it your college friends. Someone comes to you and says I wanna kill myself, you’re probably gonna ask every possible question, well, where is this even coming from. He probably asked this, but it’s not totally disregarding you.

Noah: Yeah, it was a totally honest question.

Tabitha: It was a totally honest question.

Noah: It was probably one of many, many questions he had, so, you know, what’s driving you to think this—

Micah: Yeah, totally.

Noah: —what’s driving you to—

Micah: I’m here with Noah, he’s just asking a question, one of several questions that he asked, and to turn around and say that Dad’s abusive because he asked you a question like, uh, is this what’s the reason, is this what’s the reason, and then he asks one question—you just told him you wanted to kill yourself, ok? Right then at that moment, they did everything they possibly could, they put you into—they put you into counseling, they were talking to you, they tried to get closer to you, like, everything, like, they did not turn around and be like oh, it’s ok. They did everything, they paid for your counseling, like, they did all these things. For you to disregard them is a) just super mean and they were being super supportive and he was just asking you a, a question, like—are you just trying to blend in with your friends? Like, you know what I mean? So, um, that’s not abuse. How dare him say something like that—he’s not abusing you because he asked you a question. He was pretty shocked that you wanted to kill yourself. Alright, next one.

Tabitha: Two years ago. You’re not telling your therapist you’re having problems with self-harm and depression, are you? No, Mom, I’m there because I’m angry with my two older sisters for turning their backs on God and being rebellious and hurting my parents. Good, I don’t think that’s really something you need to tell your counselor about. [unintelligible] dresses on, doll faces. [sigh] Again, this is a huge conversation that you and Mom had, and you just cut it down to one thing that bothered you.

Noah: I doubt whether this even happened, honestly.

Micah: Yeah, so Cynthia’s cutting it down to one thing that we doubt even happened, but since she said it did, we’re gonna respond to it as [if] it did happen, which we’re not even that sure of. So one thing I noticed about this that is, like, uh, Mom is not using orders, she’s using suggestions. So she’s not saying, you cannot tell your therapist about this, she’s just suggesting, no. Which is like, completely not abusive, she’s just giving her advice. Mom gives me advice all the time. Don’t do a backflip off that car. I do a backflip off that car. I mean, it’s advice, it’s not abusive when you’re giving advice.

Tabitha: Yeah.

Micah: If it’s a direct order, and she’s, like, forcing you to not say it, that’s sort of, I mean, you know what I mean? But I mean—she never did that, she’s just giving you her piece of—opinion.

Tabitha: Mhm. And you’re in counseling because of this. Like, why would she tell you not to say—

Noah: Yeah, yeah.

Tabitha: —don’t, don’t do that. I mean, that’s the whole reason you’re in counseling.

Micah: Yeah, she put you in counseling because you wanted to kill yourself, because you were cutting, so, why would she say that? So basically your blog post—er, Cynthia’s blog post—just kinda, like, contradicted itself. So anyway. Was that number six? Let’s go to number seven statement.

Tabitha: One year ago. I remember when you were spanked with a belt every day even though you didn’t do anything wrong most days. So you remember that too? Weird. I asked Mom why they did that, and she said it never happened. I thought there must be something wrong with me. D-O-L-L-H-O-U-S-E.

[spontaneous singing]

Noah: No, you skipped on to the next section.

Tabitha: It’s so exaggerated. It’s not even true!

Micah: You can talk to my parents, they’re pretty open about the fact that they thought discipline—er, spanking—was a good thing back—what was it, that would’ve been like ten years ago? About ten years ago, they thought it was ok, and that’s just a fabricated—

Tabitha: Yeah, saying that we shut the curtains at night and our parents beat us is so—

Micah: —stupid, I mean we shut the curtains at night and we goof off—

Tabitha —and we party—

Micah: —and we play music.

Noah: Yeah, we were playing horse in the house last night.

Micah: Yeah, we were playing horse, because we set up this box as a basketball hoop, we were shooting a football.

Tabitha: Is that what you guys were doing?

Micah: Yeah, [unintelligible]

Tabitha: I thought you guys were trying to run—

Micah: You’re like, what is that noise upstairs.

Noah: That’s what happens when you shut the curtains.

Tabitha: We don’t even have curtains.

Micah: Yeah, we have a huge window in the front of our house with no curtains on it. Anyway, um, so this conversation, uh—

Tabitha: —is trying to create the image, uh, that every night, we beat—well, er, not us—but our parents beat us. And I would just like to say, I have never been spanked.

Micah: Yeah!

Tabitha: Guys, this is just not what happens.

Micah: This is not what happens.

Tabitha: That is so far from the truth.

Micah: It’s actually kinda funny.

Tabitha: We’re laughing. It’s just stupid.

Micah: We’re laughing right now. And the little kids—oh my gosh, I just kicked the desk, that’s going to come up bad on the audio. Anyway, uh, so that’s not what happened. We’re going to go on to number eight, which is probably going to be the longest one and the most confusing one, but here we go.

Tabitha: This year. Do you remember that one time when Mom slapped you until you had cuts and bruises and I had to pull her off you? I know it happened because you and our other siblings were there, but I don’t remember it. You blocked it out? I guess so. Anyways, she said sorry, and it would never happen again. Did it happen again? Yeah, but I was asking for it then. I was a disagreeable boy when I was going through puberty. Don’t you think maybe moms shouldn’t hit their kids over and over until they bruise? Our parents aren’t that bad, Cynthia, you need to stop saying they’re abusive. I see things that nobody else sees.

Micah: This conversation was going on between Cynthia and Isaiah, it was a private conversation and Isaiah’s gonna cover the story.

Isaiah: OK well basically, this was a private conversation that me and Cynthia had, um, and, and I really would’ve liked it to stay a private conversation, but since she put it out in the open—I don’t like how she put it out in the open. But since she did put it out in the open, um, the first time it happened, I don’t remember. The second time it happened, it really, um—

Tabitha: It didn’t happen the same way.

Isaiah: It didn’t happen the same way. I mean, Mom—Mom got pretty ticked because Noah didn’t do the dishes—

Noah: You didn’t do the dishes.

Isaiah: No, you didn’t do the dishes. You didn’t do the dishes.

Noah: They were your dishes to do.

Isaiah: No they weren’t.

Tabitha: Oh my gosh, you guys.

Isaiah: They were your dishes.

Noah: Oh my gosh, this happened like ten years ago! Go, just, keep talking.

Isaiah: Anyway, so, what happened was, Noah didn’t do the dishes, and I—I don’t know, I, I was doing something with another sibling and somehow I made him cry. It wasn’t that big of a deal in my mind, but when he started crying, I don’t know, I felt really sorry as soon as it happened. And then Mom came in, and was like, “OK, Isaiah, you’re going to do all the dishes.” So I was really mad that I had to do all of Noah’s dishes. And—after—and then—so I dragged out the dishes the whole day. And when I dragged them out the entire day, in the late afternoon, Mom got—Mom finally blew it and she—she threw silverware at me and—and then—

Micah: Have a fork! Have a spoon! [laughter] Take this butter knife!

Noah: And then she climbed on top of you and started beating you with her hand and slapping you and kicking you, right?

Micah: No.

Noah: And she started punching you in the face.

Isaiah: No, stop, stop. No, what happened was, after that, um, well, after that, I kinda just, we kinda sat in our room, and Mom talked to me, and we just kinda talked through it, and—it wasn’t like immediately after, but it was a little bit after, like I was sitting in my bed and was just there, and I cooled down after a little while, and then Mom came in, she apologized. And so basically—basically, that’s not abuse, that’s just—

Tabitha: What every Mom does, when their kids don’t do the dishes.

Isaiah: Losing her temper.

Micah: She—our Mom, came back—and it’s so funny, that something, like, this small, was like the biggest thing, like she’ll come back, and like, apologize for it.

Tabitha: Mhm.

Noah: Yeah.

Micah: Like, I snapped. She even said—do you guys remember this?—pray for me, because I snapped.

Tabitha: Yeah, she’s like, pray for me.

Micah: Pray for me. And at night we were praying, and Dad was like, why are you talking about Mom getting—and we’re like, oh, Mom told us to pray for her!

Noah: What’s funny here is that a lot of moms would probably have popped way before Mom did. A lot of what’s happening right here was, I dragged out the dishes for—

Isaiah: Two days?

Noah: A day, ok?

Micah: It was probably more like a week.

Noah: Ok, shut up, I was dragging out the dishes for, let’s say, two days, ok? So there were dishes from two full days all over the counters, right? And then Isaiah gets really mad, and you know, Mom’s probably fed up with me at this point, and then, she’s so fed up with me that I’m not doing it that at Isaiah’s one little thing, she’s like, ok, here’s my chance to make it actually get done, because Noah’s not getting done, so Isaiah, you do it. And then Isaiah got really mad and dragged it out for a whole ‘nother day. Now one thing that was going down in the background of all this that I’m telling you so far, is that Mom was actually having a miscarriage at the time.

Tabitha, Micah, and Isaiah: That’s right.

Noah: So, she was really under a lot of stress, and she went for three and a half days of pure, like, having to wash every single dish she was using before she used it. And then she finally got actually upset and actually showed that she was mad.

Micah: Right. And you can imagine how many dishes stack up after three days in our house, because, I mean—

Tabitha: There was fourteen kids at the time.

Micah: Yeah, fourteen kids at home, and two parents, um, the dishes really stack up quick. You leave it for three days—

Tabitha: And when your mom can, like, barely do anything because she’s miscarrying.

Micah: Right, when she was miscarrying.

Noah: It’s incredible that she blew then.

Tabitha: I know.

Noah: I would have—anyone else would have blown halfway through the first day.

Micah: But you know, the important thing that you have to understand about our mother is that she would never let something go like that. So even something like that, she took Isaiah aside and apologized to him, and apologized to me, and I wasn’t, like, even, and apologized to Noah and apologized to our whole family. She was so sorry, because I mean, like, she threw silverware. She was so sorry about that. So to wrap this up, to respond to Cynthia’s blog post, that’s what the kids who still live at home and aren’t super mad at our parents think.

Tabitha: We are not being abused in any way.

Micah: We are not being abused, we have an amazing life, we are, like, super [unintelligible], if I do say so myself. I mean, look at my hair, I got a haircut. Um, so anyway, we’re really cool, and we’re at home, and we aren’t letting Dad listen to this before we post it, so, like, there you go.

Tabitha: Yeah, we’re not being made to say this.

Micah: Yeah, we’re not being made to say any of this. So yeah, this is kind of—we’re doing this for our parents—well, not for our parents—we’re doing this because the world should know.

Tabitha: We want you guys to know the truth. This is so wrong. It’s so exaggerated and so forged.

Micah: So anyway, any parents that are out there, and are now, like, super scared to have kids, or are like, well, I’m never going to have kids, because look at this blog post, it always turns out bad—just remember that, as long as you keep love in the house, and as long as you keep all these things, you know, and just put God first before your family, but your family should definitely come up, you should love them as much. Just remember there’s no way to be a perfect parent, but there are a million ways to be a good one.

[clapping]

[27:43]

Chris: Alright, guys, that’s where we’re at. Uh, I remind you, this was my kids’ idea, actually, they wanted to do a Youtube thingy, and it just took too long, and we felt the need to really get this up online as soon as possible. But I’d like to say, I’d like to say this: I am truly sorry for all this. I mean, I hope that, in your minds, that we are exonerated for what we’ve been accused of. But I’m going to go into information about how you can get our book, but, but let me first make it crystal clear why my kids wanted to do this…or maybe why they didn’t wanna do this. They, they don’t want to say, neither do I, want to say, that Cynthia is fabricating. OK, we’re into speech and debate, so we get into uh, debate, uh, debate—debate’s a big deal, especially team policy, in fact, maybe I’ll do an episode soon about evidence integrity and stuff. We don’t fabricate evidence, we don’t make the evidence say something that it’s not, and, and you get in big trouble, you get kicked out of tournaments for things like that, and your reputations on the line when you, when you say things that aren’t true to the evidence, so, and it…what we’re trying to say is that our impression of our family is much, much different from what she posted on her blog, and if she has those, and obviously she does have those impression of our family, we need to pull that into the family, we are not unreasonable people, we, we love her, we will pay for the counseling.

And this is a very important understanding of counseling in family dynamics. Uh, if you’re estranged from a loved one, a sibling, a child, uh, maybe, maybe your parents or a best friend; whatever it is, there’s—there’s separation all around us, none of us are exempt of this. Please attempt to hear what they are saying without strong accusation or hatred. Keep love in the middle of all you do, in handling unloving situations; that is how we ought to respond. And I was gonna say as Christians, but you know what, as human beings, we need to respond this way to one-another. And that’s what we’re trying to do here. We, we love Cynthia, and we wanna connect with her, in counseling…she needs professional help and we, we do, actually; we need professional help. To work through the struggles that were aired on her blog and obviously you can hear from the kids uh, that, that, that you just heard. Uh, airing her frustrations online…is not helping her at all, and my kids would never have done this, unless she posted the blog post that offended them so much. It’s, everybody’s hurting here, and, and, and really, uh, how counseling works, really, you have a professional, in the room, who’s a mediator, really, to hear everybody’s frustrations and hurts, and that’s how it goes. No one’s really wrong in a counseling session—everyone’s in pain, though.

So, um, with that, you know okay, we’re gonna wrap up this blog post, but you know, I mentioned when I started this, um, I hadn’t heard the kids’ episode yet, and uh I, so what I was doing was figuring out, uh, Amazon Kindle Direct and all that…I don’t really know as much about it as you might think I would. Um, unfortunately I can’t give the book for free (laughing), I did that a whole long time ago when I started the program, and um, I can’t do that. Uh, I did though…the book, the book, our book Love in the House, it was written in response to our television show, uh, you can see the television show from 2007, uh, I, I’ll have a leak in the show notes for you, uh, but the book is really very good. And, and it talks about our big family, and how we fold laundry and how we travel, and stuff like that; kind of the fun stuff of a big, uh, of a big family. But uh, but towards the end of the book, we talk specifically about our oldest child, who, who was estranged with the family, during the episode on TV. And uh, and, and how we worked a, a reconciliation that lasted for a few years, and it was really, it was really beautiful. And there, it’s a good book, and I hope you, and I hope it touches on who we are. That is an accurate representation of who we are. My wife and I wrote it, uh, I, I’ve read it aloud to some of my kids; I should probably read it again. Uh, but it’s uh, it’s a good book, and it’s touched a lot of people’s lives about how to put love into their home. Uh, but, it’s $9.95 online, but for five days I have knocked the price down to the bare minimum that I can, that is two dollars and ninty-nine cents. I uh, like I said, I apologize that I, I said zero at the intro, and I was going to get, I wanted to, but, but I’m just gonna have to do $2.99 because I’m not allowed to. Uh, Amazon doesn’t let me. So um, so anyway, $2.99 is a slam-dunk deal; read it on your Kindle or your iPhone or, or whatever you, uh, use the Kindle App, and you can um, you can read our book.

Well, with that, that is the end of this daunting and exhausting, uhhh, uh, web-extra, or something, whatever, of the Training Minds Podcast, Uh, I’m Chris Jeub, and uh, and you know what—train you mind for action, but much, much more importantly, put love in the center of your home.

[Music]