Home » About Samantha

About Samantha

I grew up in the deep American South– so “deep” in the South, in fact, that to describe it as quaint or redneck or backwoodsy would be hilarious, and most rednecks think of my hometown as backward. Let’s just say, that until the mid-’90s, whoever got elected as mayor also happened to be the grand dragon of the KKK. This is the 90s– when we were listening to the Backstreet Boys and not the Beatles.

That, on its own, would give a girl an interesting perspective on life. But, compound growing up in one of the poorest, most racist communities I’ve ever known with being raised in an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church, and, well… to this day I’m still encountering ideas and perspectives that continuously upend everything I’ve ever thought was true.

I didn’t start out in the deep end of fundamentalism, however. I was a military brat, and my family didn’t get sucked into the cult-like IFB church until I was ten, when my family moved to what was, culturally, lower Alabama. My family’s story is not much different from the countless others that have experienced spiritual abuse.

We were recruited, and then my father was manipulated into staying in the cult for the next twelve years. The cult leader recognized that my father was a good, honorable man who deeply desired to do the “right thing,” and he took advantage of that. He used my father’s generosity and his loyalty against him. He convinced my mother she was crazy. He targeted nearly every member of his congregation from the pulpit, but my mother the most viciously. When my parents weren’t there, he attacked me in his sermons.

Eventually, most of the people we had known were gone– and the only ones left were more fundamentalist than the leader, or were still in the recruitment process themselves. Me and my mother became suicidal, and my younger sister began acting out. At that point, no amount of abuse, shame, or manipulation could convince my father to stay there any longer.

So we left.

We ended up at another IFB church that didn’t have the same facets of extreme cult-like behavior, and it was a step in the right direction, but in many ways it was just as bad. We were only there a short time before we moved out of the South and relocated to the Mid-West,  and my parents found a normal, healthy church.

For my parents, leaving extreme fundamentalism was easier. They had thirty years of life experience before the cult, and transitioning back to a healthy frame of mind, while still a difficult process, went more smoothly for them.

It’s been a bumpier road for me. I had some basic things from my early childhood to fall back on, and I’ve always had a strong relationship with my parents. But, as an adult looking back, it is difficult for me to separate the fundamentalist indoctrination– its presence helps mold and create my thought processes, even now. The indoctrination happened because of the cult, because of the shame, abuse, and pressure that forced everyone to adopt more and more extreme, hardline, fundamentalist positions. It was present in the homeschooling curriculum we used, although neither I nor my mother had any idea. It was in the books I was encouraged to read. It was where I eventually went to college, and became inundated with fundamentalist teaching 24/7. It was in the friends I made, who all came from similar backgrounds. It was in how I was taught to not really think, but to form arguments that defended my “faith” at all costs.

Now, I’m dismantling my life, deconstructing it. It’s hard, and messy, and terrifying at times, but the lessons I’ve learned (and am still learning) I will share here. Voicing these ideas, for me, is like plunging a sword into the heart of a dragon.

127 thoughts on “About Samantha

  1. “to this day I’m still encountering ideas and perspectives that continuously upend everything I’ve ever thought was true.”-me too

        • And what town was the mayor the Grand Dragon of the KKK? Are these things what you have to say to have a voice? Does evidence not matter? Is it the gravity of the claims you make mean that we should not question the veracity of your claims? I just wonder why no major news outlet would touch this story? If you don’t provide evidence, then I could see why

          • Has it occurred to you that I might have incredibly good reasons for not sharing specifics? Like maybe the fact that my abuser is a lunatic that has threatened to kill me and my family? Or that I might be trying to protect my family from people like you bothering them?

            I am under no obligation to “prove” anything to you whatsoever. If you don’t believe me, go away.

            • I want to reply to this specific comment, which I didn’t see the other day.

              I understand what you are saying about protecting your family. Family is important and I agree with you.

              I thought about this scenario and I just wanted to tell you that if I were in a similar situation where something wrong had been done to me, but I had no proof (for whatever reason), then despite the naysayers, I’d plunge forward into the unknown.

              Despite what others might say, I’d have to try and do the right thing. If I had to suffer the consequences of being judged, I’d probably still do it because if I were the only one who knew the truth, then I’d fight for it, even if I fought alone.

              With that being said, I can only judge from the outside and that means taking into account both the accuser and the accused.

              I believe in the adage, innocent until proven guilty. It doesn’t mean that all guilty people are always discovered. It doesn’t mean that if they are they are made to pay for their crime(s).

              But if I label someone or some institution as a criminal without proof, then isn’t that unethical? Is it right for us, as a society to cast guilt on those without proof?

              Are these not valid questions?

              I never said I don’t believe you. All I asked was if there was any proof that these things occurred. Without proof it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It means that in order for me to believe it happens that I must be acting from a faith I have in you, that you are a good person and motivated by telling the truth or by justice.

              Conversely, if through my faith towards your word, then I am required to believe that the accused is bad or guilty or unethical.

              It is my belief that people are good, so I assume the best in people. But the problem with this assumption is that if you are good and honest, then he must be bad. But if he is good and honest, then you must be bad. There is a conflict.

              In order to resolve the conflict, there must be proof. That is all I am saying. I am trying to do so with the belief that you must be a good person but I am also trying to do so out a belief that the accused is potentially a good person.

              But one of these two assumptions must be false and that’s why in cases like this, a person must never assume that people are good or people are bad.

              There can only be evidence or lack of evidence. It is no disrespect to you or to any victims. It is simply the physical world we live in.

              I appreciate the fact you took the time to answer these questions, because they are very heavy. They are tough questions to ask.

              • Trey, you say: “They are tough questions to ask.”

                You’ve been told: “They are inappropriate questions to ask.”

                You going on and on about it smacks of complete “disrespect” to me, Trey.

              • “I thought about this scenario and I just wanted to tell you that if I were in a similar situation”– JUST STOP THERE. DO NOT CONTINUE. NO MORE WORDS.

                You were not in a similar situation, so you have no idea what you would actually do. Sounds like those people who see a kid throwing a fit in the supermarket and say “When I have kids, they’ll NEVER behave like that in public!” Until you yourself are put in this situation, you have no right to say what someone else should be thinking/feeling/doing.

              • You’re a guy. If some woman abused you the way this woman’s ex abused her, you have a reasonable chance of overcoming that woman in a fight. And ex-girlfriends and ex-wives are far less likely to stalk in genuinely dangerous ways. You have a privileged point of view from which you have assaulted a complete stranger with a completely different life experience because she didn’t do what you would do.

                I know this was from a year and a half ago but really, I hope you stop acting like this no matter where you are or when it is.

          • *** Please shut the fuck up and stop harassing victims of sexual violence.

            This comment has been edited by the moderator.

            • Hello Caitlin– I wanted to let you know that I very much appreciate you engaging here, and I very much hope that you will continue to do so; however, personal attacks are against my comment policy. Thanks!

        • Also, isn’t it a disservice to other potential victims if you didn’t file a report? I mean, this person might do it again right? That’s why it matters.

            • Well aside from your unsubstantiated allegations – which you made public by the way – you’ve claimed that the mayor of some town (though which town it is, is unclear) was the Grand Dragon of the KKK?

              How would you even know that? Were you at the meeting? What evidence do you have that someone was a Grand Dragon?

              If you make a public allegation against someone or a group you should expect to back it up with proof. Do you understand why proof is important?

              Words without proof, are pretty empty. That’s all I’m saying. But I wish you the best of luck in your journey on coming to understand why proof and evidence matter.

              • I’ve found that “proof and evidence” are actually quite irrelevant to commenters like you. In my experience, it doesn’t matter how much “evidence” I provide, how much “proof” I offer. When I see comments like these, I know that there’s nothing I could offer that would matter.

              • You have no reason not to believe her as much as you have no reason to believe her, and yet you don’t. You’ve clearly made up your mind ahead of time.

                • Chris, what you say is partly true. However, your claim that I’ve “clearly made up” my “mind ahead of time” is not completely accurate.

                  In a case like this, there are two people; the accuser and the accused. If I believe the accuser then that means I accept the guilt of the accused.

                  In America there is a concept of “innocent until proven guilty”. Although my opinion is not the final verdict in a court of law, I am cautious about declaring someone “guilty” when there is no evidence validating that claim.

                  Not all crimes are reported. Not all criminals are convicted. Furthermore, not everyone that has been convicted has been done so justly.

                  While I understand Samantha’s argument about protecting the privacy and security of her family against the accused (and various others in the public), the logic of that argument is tenuous at best.

                  If privacy and security is an issue, then why post a blog and try to get major news outlets to cover it?

                  If a person is going to make a claim that a crime has been committed, and to do so very publicly, then that claim can do great damage to the accused.

                  I am not saying that Samantha’s claims are not true. But without proof, it means I a must reverse the “innocent until proven guilty” and replace it with “guilty until proven innocent”.

                  Lastly, the wording in the school’s statement is pretty strong. “We categorically deny that any student has ever been expelled from PCC for being a victim of rape or any other crime.”

                  That is very strong wording. Generally when a company or institution wants to obfuscate they don’t use direct refutation of a specific claim.

                  Because to do so would be legally disastrous in court if someone had actually claimed a crime and then had been expelled for that.

                  Should I say, “These claims are so horrific that we MUST believe them”? What if one day someone claims a high crime against you or your family? In that case do you choose to believe innocence if evidence is lacking?

                  On one hand if we believe Samantha then we must believe that the accused is guilty. That would destroy the reputation of the accused (if it has not already been).

                  It would also damage the reputation of PCC (if it has not already been).

                  And without proof, what good does it do to Samantha?

                  So have I made up my mind? No, I have not. Yet, other than one person’s word, what evidence is there?

                  • Somehow replied to JD, meant for you:

                    You don’t have to believe her, but you don’t have to not believe her, either. You can simply say, I don’t know. But that’s not what you’re saying. Instead, you harangue her for evidence ABOUT A RAPE CASE. Not only do you come off as condescending and patronizing, but you way overstep your bounds. Talking about a case in public does not magically make you an investigator, compelling you to grill someone on sensitive information that, as she’s stated and should be obvious from the start, is none of your business.

              • The specific details of my life -details that if revealed could cause me and my family a great deal of harm-are not relevant to the larger conversation concerning the realities of abuse and rape.

              • You don’t have to believe her, but you don’t have to not believe her, either. You can simply say, I don’t know. But that’s not what you’re saying. Instead, you harangue her for evidence ABOUT A RAPE CASE. Not only do you come off as condescending and patronizing, but you way overstep your bounds. Talking about a case in public does not magically make you an investigator, compelling you to grill someone on sensitive information that, as she’s stated and should be obvious from the start, is none of your business.

    • Thank you so much. I was raised mennonite until I was put in foster care and moved to what was Culturally speaking lower alabama. There I married a young ifb man. We have been separated three years now and im still trying to get a divorce. This is the first time I have ever read anything from a fellow escapee and I have only met one and she has only been out a few months. If only I could help her somehow she is going down the same path as mine engaged to a boy she just met. Thank you so much for your blog I never even thought about some of this much less really looking for other refugees of faith. Thankypu

  2. In my travels from fundamentalism to progressive Christianity and onward, I have found countless tacit assumptions that rear their heads at the strangest moments. I’m looking forward to following your journey. You write beautifully.

  3. Hmm….I think I’m going to like this blog. I grew up IFB (MK) and am now a card-carrying Roman Catholic to my everlasting gratitude and delight. So of much of what you write reverberates with my experiences. And you do it very well.

    • I grew up the same way and did not leave it until I was 40. Sad the years I wasted trying to fit in to a sick system.

  4. It is like plunging a sword into the heart of a dragon… a dragon, who you thought was your motherly friend, your protector, your guide and guardian. It is incredibly painful.

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  6. Thanks for this blog. One of my best friends was recently murdered b/c she was in a cult and tried to get out (we had no idea it was becoming a cult–we thought it was a Christian community). It is so crazy how subtly and secretly these things can manifest themselves until it’s too late. It comforts me to see people speaking out against legalism and twisted interpretations of Scripture and spiritual abuse. These things need to be talked about!

    • Oh my goodness, I am so sorry. I know “I’ll be praying” can feel so empty at times like this, but know that I mean it. Hearing stories like this keeps me going, keeps me writing. I hope, someday, that something I’ve written might prevent something like that from happening.

  7. Thank you so much for this blog. When I married a man from the same theological background as me, I assumed we would agree on most things. Then I discovered that he questions everything! For awhile, it confused and scared me, because I wanted to be “safe.” Now, 30 years later, I’m thankful. When I struggled with my own questions, my husband stood by me. Our children (sons and daughter) are deep thinkers and also compassionate towards other people. That’s a great combination. I’m truly grateful.

  8. One of the things I learned on my journey to a healthy faith perspective is that I came to see and claim that not only is Christ’s redemption for my sins against others; it also redeems me from the abuse of others, whether spiritually, emotionally, or sexually related.

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  10. I just wanted to say that I love your blog. I love the way you tell stories, I love your insight, and I love your geek references (I don’t think I’ve ever randomly seen a Wheel of Time reference on a blog before). I am so sorry for all that you’ve been through, truly. Thank you for your bravery in sharing your stories and for making the world a better place. You are a true woman of valor (and yes, I blatantly stole that from Rachel Held Evans).

  11. As a self-identified Fundamentalist (but not Baptist) pastor living in the south, I appreciate your sharing your perspective and experience. I am sorry for the abuse your family encountered, and we can all learn from what you have to share with us. Living in the south as I do, I am well aware of the kind of churches of which you speak.
    Can I ask, however, that you be careful not to paint with such a broad brush when you speak of Fundamentalists? You almost seem to equate Fundamentalism with abuse, as if being a Fundamentalist automatically makes a person abusive. Would you say the same thing about Roman Catholics? Because there has been a lot of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, would you paint all priests – or for that matter – all Catholics as pedophiles and sexual deviants? Wouldn’t that be unfair to our Catholic friends? I constantly encourage my church members to maintain “balance” in their lives. Whenever we encounter a teaching or experience we don’t like or that is wrong, we often tend to swing the pendulum the entire opposite direction, when actually the truth and/or right approach lies somewhere in the middle. To equate Fundamentalism with abuse is to swing the pendulum too far in a reactionary rather than a thoughtful, reflective manner.
    Even some IFB’s that might seem “extreme” in their convictions are not necessarily “abusive.” My wife can testify to that. She grew up in Boston, Massachusetts in an unsaved, extremely dysfunctional family, experienced abuse, etc. Naturally, she was a typical Mass. liberal in her thinking. My wife’s family moved to south Mississippi when she was 14 years old, and she experienced culture shock! But there she was also invited to a Baptist church and got saved. Not knowing any better, or where else to turn, she started attending one of those typical small “KJV-only” IFB’s where the pastor had no college or seminary training. (Now, granted he was not abusive like the pastor you knew. He preached high standards from the pulpit, but he didn’t meddle in people’s personal lives.) He didn’t really know how to preach, so his sermons often devolved into rants about the KJV, long hair on men, pants on women, etc. But he did cite and read a lot of Scripture. To a Mass.-educated person like my wife, these people were really “ignorant” – but they loved the Lord and lived godly lives. They practiced what they preached. They were extreme in their pursuit of godly lives, but no more so than her family & friends in Mass. had been extreme in their pursuit of ungodliness and sexual abuse! Personally, she preferred the IFB extremism to the other. Of course, she eventually went off to college, met and married me, and is glad to be in a more “tempered” kind of Fundamentalism. She has found a place of “balance”: she doesn’t have to accept one extreme or the other. So now would she ever want to attend that kind of church again? No! But, she harbors no bitterness toward those people. They were her first spiritual mentors, and they loved her. (Her home environment was so bad that she left home at the age of 14, and a family in that church took her in.) Furthermore, because the pastor often merely read & cited a lot of Scripture, she quickly became Biblically literate. She actually learned a lot of Bible content there. Thus, she appreciates the ministry of those people, even if they were ignorant and extreme in their views. And again, she never experienced anything like “abuse” from them; the only abuse she had ever experienced (and she had a lot of it) had come from the world – not the IFB church.
    I understand your complaint about the cult-like atmosphere of that one church, but you’ve left me confused by your complaint about the Fundamentalist teaching in your homeschooling and college: what is a Fundamentalist supposed to teach? Do Catholic churches teach Protestant doctrine? Do Jewish synagogues teach Christian doctrine? Of course not. Naturally the Fundamentalists were teaching Fundamentalist doctrine! What else would they teach? When Catholics teach Catholic doctrine, are they “indoctrinating” people? When Jews teach Judaism, are they “indoctrinating” people? Or, is it only Fundamentalists who can even be guilty of “indoctrinating” people?

    • Fundamentalist Pastor, you miss the point, and you do a great disservice to someone sharing their story of pain and abuse. You would have done better to cut yourself off after your first paragraph. Here’s a clue: It’s not about you! It’s not about other, “good” Fundamentalists! When someone has shared a journey like Samantha’s, the point is the pain and the growing from it. Believe it or not, but it is not your duty to change her opinion on the IFB church. That you have chosen to do so speaks volumes about your priorities and places dogma above compassion.

  12. I grew up believing in Evolution, to the point where I had fights with my 6th grade science teacher about it. I had a very balanced, liberal upbringing allowing for both authority of scripture and critical thinking in all aspects of life.

    Yet I still find things buried in my heart that shock me. I can only think of the pain your dragons cause you. I have gone through so much doubt and painful introspection in the liberation of my life and faith from chains fastened to mist. Your stories (of which I have read very few) have touched me deeply.

    Because in the end, it’s not that we know all or understand everything (though we should try). Love wins. And it is by the crackling of that fire that I warm my hands. And the thing about fires is, there are always people willing to share it with you.

  13. i read what you had to say with great interest.

    im just now getting aquinted with the south as my daughter her husband and my grandchildren live there now. were all wisconsin lutheran synod members . and the south is now the place where our wels church’s are being built and new congregations are being started. About the only thing i know from the internet searches is that independent baptist pastors sem to not like Lutherans one bit and their websites make that clear . but now that our churchs and pastors may be coming to a town near them .Perhaps it will become harder for them not to like us at least a little bit . Our pastors take the bible very seriously.

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  15. Hey…So I am new to this blog and new to thinking about/working through the church context I was raised in. I was raised in an Independent Baptist Church (not sure if it was technically fundamental or not). I also attended a Christian school affiliated with my church with only about 30 students (the same kids I went to church with). I am now a young adult and feel that I was lied to about God for many years of my life. How do I begin to sift through all that I soaked in as a child? How do I identify what is truth and what is legalistic and damaging? My parents of course bought into everything my church taught and perpetuated spiritual, emotional and verbal abuse in our home. I feel in over my head! Where do I begin?

    • Jessica, start by questioning everything, and I mean everything. Make a note of your question and Google each and every one. Read Richard Carrier and the early works by Bart Ehrman, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Brian Cox, Jerry Coyne, Neil Shubin.

      three weeks ago I paid a visit to the Grand Canyon and I spoke to our driver who knew a hellofalot about the science and history of this amazing place and I asked him if he had ever had any problems with the attitude of Creationists who challenged his description of the age of the GC? His reply was that he hadn’t in fact it was studying the proven age and structure of the GC, geology etc. that enabled him to leave religion behind.

      That’s also a path that I followed much earlier in life.

      Good luck


  16. I just noticed that you added my blog to your blog roll. Thank you! I’ve been enjoying reading your posts – although enjoy may be the wrong word when some of your experiences are so disturbing or painful. The writing is excellent – keep it up!

  17. Very interesting point of view. I am an IFB. Happily so, by my own choice. I thank God for the way I was raised, the husband I have, and the family that He gave me. I’m going to continue to serve the Lord, after all, He died for me.

    • Yup, pain and abuse and manipulation sure are “interesting” and a “point of view” when it’s inflicted upon someone else. Glad you made Samantha’s story all about you.

  18. Help me. I am also a raised independent fundamental baptist church schooler and baptist college person. I am 55 and still stuck. My first husband and I were abused by the church we were active in —- my second husband ( who i left in December) is a preditor or young boys but still involved in the church and youth group. 3 people have gone to the police during this ongoing investagation but their rapes are more than 5 years old so not admissible.

    I’m trying to think normal but I don’t know what that is. My default is just what you are saying. Thanks you

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  20. Here is a piece of good advice from years of experience Samantha. Whenever a Christian fundamentalist pastor shows up to offer advice and claim that he and his church are “not like those other fundamentalist churches,” you are in the presence of a bold-faced liar who wishes to cajole you back into spiritual slavery and abuse. True Christian fundamentalists all believe in approximately the same thing. Any so called choice that may exist is a choice between 5 pennies and one nickel. In other words, it is no choice at all. Ever since conservative politics became allied with Christian fundamentalism about 40 years ago, lying has become a way of life in the Christian fundamentalist realm. They have come to believe that a lie told to support their view of the bible or their church system is no lie at all because it is done for the noblest of causes—NOT. Whenever you see a Christian fundamentalist pastor or one of their minions, flee from them as you would flee from the Wicked Witch of the West. I would even go so far as to recommend that you automatically delete any posts they make to this blog.

    Jesus recommended that we not cast our pearls before swine lest they turn and trample on us. It is equally good advice to ignore It is equally good advice to ignore the the so-called jewels that the swine cast at us.

  21. Your story makes me sad. And I understand how difficult and misunderstood turning from your upbringing must be. All I can say is what so many have already: you’re not alone. Continue to be bold and speak your mind knowing that your courage–amid what must undoubtedly be endless criticism–does not go unnoticed. Way to not bury your talent.

  22. There was nothing you experienced that remotely represents the Bible. I’m sorry you went through that. I became a Christian in a reform school. Been through more than few scrapes and issues in my life and as I progressed in life I found out the relationship God wanted to have with me was nothing like the religious crap I was taught. I started “recovery” by pitching out much of what I had learned and been taught when I was 48. In my early 50’s when some serious crises hit I ended up throwing out the rest. I’m in a growth process and learning new things about God everyday. He’s simply not at all like I was taught and he sure as hell isn’t like the God those bozo’s at IFB taught you. I’m excited about reading more of your blog. Honest questions and a bit of personal “reconstructing” of your beliefs is a good thing and the Bible encourages you to do so. Keep up the good search!


    • Well, there was nothing that I experienced that remotely represents your interpretation of the Bible. There are entire colleges, seminaries, Bible colleges, and thousands of churches all over the country that teach theology either similar or exactly like the biblical interpretation I was raised in. Just because you don’t agree with their interpretation– and just because I find their interpretation poisonous and dangerous– doesn’t completely de-legitimize over a century’s worth of theological study and biblical interpretation by thousands of intelligent men who love God and who earnestly desire to follow God. You can’t just shout “NO TRUE SCOTSMAN WOULD REPRESENT THE BIBLE THIS WAY” and have it stick.

  23. I am going to enjoy reading your blog. I looking forward to hearing more about your experiences. I’m sure I will have more than a few questions for you!


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  25. Dear Samantha,

    It’s amazing to read an account that is so similar to mine. Sometimes we ex-fundies can feel so isolated. Though there are a lot of us numerically, I almost never run across one in real life. That’s why an online community is so important, I guess.

    The name of your blog really struck me, because I just wrote a post on my blog with a very similar name! Which to me just reinforces the aptness of our metaphors. Not sure if adding a link with get my comment marked as Spam, so I’ll just type the name of my post and let you google it yourself: “Vanquishing Religiousaurus Rex,” and my blog’s title is “365 Days of Hijab.”

    I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    Wishing you happiness in the journey,

  26. I have a background not like yours at all, but yet it shares some similarities so strong that it is almost eerie. I am not even in high school and I understand. Your outcome from life is inspirational, and know that everyone from a difficult past has your back – now and forever.

  27. Your story is amazing. As someone from the deep South (really deep) I’m so curious about where you’re from but understand that you wouldn’t say (I don’t either). Your writing is very healing and inspiring for those of us on similar journeys. Pay no heed to those who say “well, the Bible really says this, and your story was traumatic because your group wasn’t really Christian.” If I have a nickle….

  28. Couldn’t help but notice you first called you IFB church “cult-like,” but later referred to it simply as a cult. Now all IFB churches are different- the independent part kinda insures that- but i find it hard to believe that any great number of IFB groups are cults. A cult must both deny Christ’s deity, and prescribe a works based method for salvation. Any IFB church that does so isn’t fundamental nor Baptistic in doctrine. But it seems that you’re content to redefine the term. Most, like you, would label any non-aligned, church movement cult-like. To do so is to buy into modern grammar devaluation principles that benefit a progressive agenda. An agenda you seem to own.

    • That’s an interesting definition of “cult”– interestingly enough, it was the one I was taught in my IFB church, who absolutely affirmed the deity of Christ and eschewed a works-based salvation, so I guess by this definition, no, not a cult. However, most people who aren’t fundamentalists use “cult” to describe a harmful religious group that isolates people from opposing perspectives– which my particular church absolutely was and absolutely did.

      And no, not every single last IFB church is a cult. I’ve even written posts dedicated to IFB churches I’ve attended that were good.

      Also, you say “progressive agenda” like it’s a bad thing. I definitely have a progressive agenda, and I’m proud of it.

    • Cults are not, as we were taught in fundamentalist Christianity, about heretical theology. That’s simply heresy and can happen in cults or not. Cults are defined by everyone else outside of fundamentalism by the behaviors of and within the group. A cult can form with any ideology, religious or secular. Do some homework outside of your Sunday School lessons if you want to understand words the way most people use them. Phrases like “modern grammar devaluation principles” sound like indoctrination babble and cue me that you don’t really understand language the same way as people outside your group (which is itself an identifier of cult behavior).

      • I happened to be looking back through this section, and noticed that you addressed my comment. First of all, I do belong to an IFB church, but did not grow up in that movement. So your assumption that I only draw from my IFB experience and teachings is incorrect. Please excuse my poor phrasing above, I am bilingual and was using a term that Spanish speakers use (it is also used often in English when speaking of economics), to describe the misuse of a word like cult. I even gave some etymological background in my comment. I was not taught what I know about the words culto, or cultus in Sunday school. As for not knowing anything about language, I studied English in College (an unfinished minor), and also have studied French, Latin, and Spanish grammar. IN addition I have taken courses that deal extensively with etymology. I provided a definition written by someone outside of Fundamentalism and used a term that speaks of decreasing currency value. Perhaps, modern principles of grammar devaluation would be better? Either way you assume way too much about my background and the source of my knowledge. That seems ignorant to me.

        • You’re attempting to demand people outside your church use common English words the way your church dictates they should be used. Why you are is between you and your conscience. Call not granting your church that right “grammar devaluation” or other pejoratives if it pleases you, but don’t expect that to get anything but eyerolls from people outside that church.

  29. I grew up in the Deep South, too. Appalachia, actually. Although I didn’t grow up in a fundamentalist church, the culture here is infused with fundamental beliefs. I’m an Episcopalian, and I can’t tell you how many times as a kid I was told by my friends’ parents that I’m going to hell because I go to the Episcopal Church. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  30. Dr. Gomes gives us this definition. It is based on the etymology of the word cult. It comes from Latin. As a spanish speaker, for example, I use the word culto, for church meeting.

    But in the English speaking world, the word has become much more specific.
    Gomes writes,

    A cult of Christianity is a group of people, which claiming to be Christian, embraces a particular doctrinal system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which (system) denies (either explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible.

    It has nothing to do with the way the church operates, instead it is all about doctrine. I will note that this author does not come from a fundamentalist background. He is a teacher at Talbot seminary which has no denominational affiliation, and is certainly aligned with the modern protestant evangelical movement. No friend of IFB churches.

  31. Hi Samantha! I completely understand how you feel.

    Can I recommend two books of tremendous help in coming out of the cult-ish IFB experience? One is called “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” by Johnson & Vanvonderen. It is OUTSTANDING! Another one that helped me is called “Boundaries” by Cloud & Townsend. These two books will infuse you with a lot of Godly wisdom, encouragement, hope & healing! You will have a lot of “ah ha” type moments when reading these two books.

    For some humor, check out a parody website called “Stuff Fundies Like” by Darrell Dow, a PCC grad. Laughter is a good medicine when deprogramming from IFB experiences.

    Remember also Psalm 147:3 — “He heals the broken in heart & binds up their wounds.” He knows the emotional wounds that come from spiritually abusive people, spiritually abusive churches & spiritually abusive colleges — places like PCC.

    Recently I have been reflecting on Romans 8:38-39. It is phenomenally comforting to me to know that no matter how much I have struggled in my walk with Jesus, in my often incrementally slow, stumbling efforts to become a better, more faithful & fruitful disciple of Jesus that I am loved with an everlasting love that will never end.

    All of us who have been dented & damaged by cult-ish IFB experiences can rest peacefully in the patient & everlasting love that God has for us through Jesus Christ. In the midst of my own struggles, failures, frustrations and dark questions — the knowledge of His permanent love helps me sleep at night.

    Keep up the great work!

  32. I grew up in an independent fundamentalist Baptist church too (in the South). It took me a process of at least 3-5 years to really leave all of that behind. But it’s been the best thing I ever did. I am now so much happier & so much more “free” than I ever was when I was a part of that culture. It sounds like your experience was quite a bit more extreme than mine, but the whole culture really is quite damaging. I’m still learning how to speak out against it since my family is still very much involved with it. I’m excited to start following your blog.

  33. Wow, I’m sorry to hear about your upbringing :(. Sounds rough! I didn’t have a Christian upbringing, but I am in one now :). Out of curiosity, if you don’t mind me asking, where in the midwest did you move to? I live in the midwest and also go to a great church.

  34. I’m so sorry for what happened to you, Samantha. I’m also selfishly grateful that you exist and write this blog. In the few short weeks I’ve been reading it (and other blogs I found my way to from here), it’s been a tremendous help and brought me a lot of comfort, and helped me find a path to journey down towards healing.

  35. Well done, Samantha. Keep it up. Sifting through years of ingrained lies and deep-rooted assumptions is not an easy process, but one that, I’m convinced, will allow you to encounter even greater levels of knowing God for who He really is. May He continue to shine His light in the dark corners, to protect you through the process, and to lead you out into the glorious freedom of being one of His kids.

  36. I too have seen many of the things you describe and know of the destructive nature of some of these types of churches. My mind works trying to figure out the root causes and I have developed my own ideas as to what they are ultimately it is sin and human depravity. Loyalty to sin as opposed to righteousness. I also know my own fallen heart and my propensity to sin.

  37. “For my parents, leaving extreme fundamentalism was easier. They had thirty years of life experience before the cult, and transitioning back to a healthy frame of mind, while still a difficult process, went more smoothly for them.”

    For my family internalizing fundamentalism meant “submitting to abuse” (at least for my mom in regards to my dad), so I think for my mom there are some wounds way deeper than any I carry. But when it comes to getting the fundamentalism out of our heads in some ways I think it’s trickier for because she sometimes talks about remembering what she was like and who she was back before all of that. But I was raised in it — completely surrounded in it until I was about 22 (which was only five years ago). Sometimes I wish I had a pre-church crap person I could remember, but there isn’t so it’s more about discovering who I am now. Thankfully I went to a state college and that was a good start but it’s still a process.

  38. Honestly, I wouldn’t have believed a single word you have written on this site 10 years ago.

    But, I’ve been involved with the IFB, and have since denounced them for the unbelievable things I witnessed first hand.

    Good job with this blog, and keep unveiling the truth.

  39. I just recently started reading your blog, and I must thank you for sharing your experiences. A lot resonates, though I ‘lucky’ and while my parents were fundamentalists in religion, they were a bit more worldly in other areas. Weird as it may sound, its also heartening to find another geek who might not think some of my experiences are crazy or made up. Keep on blogging!

  40. I’ve hit follow. I’ve read a couple of your contributions at Rachel Held Evans’ blog, and I really enjoy your writing style and am heartwrenchingly touched by what you have to say. I have not been anywhere near the level of fundamentalist church as you have, but I can understand where you’re coming from and am looking forward to reading more of what you have to say.

        • I value the ecumenical statement of that particular creed, as I believe it represents the “bare bones” of Christianity. Not everyone agrees with me– some think it includes too much, others too little.

          I’ve learned a lot over the last six years, and my views have changed drastically several times in that period. I don’t know what I’ll believe six years from now, or if I’ll believe that identifying as a Christian is valuable, even if I still affirm the creed.

          • What is the governing standard by which you are navigating this journey? In the service of what end are these past and possibly future changes in view being made?

            My previous affirmation of the honesty of my questions should be seen as continuing indefinitely btw.

              • What drives your decision making when changing a doctrinal or moral position? Where do you hope to be taken by the path you are on?

                For myself, the driving, consuming, all governing standard for every thought, word and deed in my life, though certainly never executed to perfection, is the glory and pleasure of the God of the ancient Christian scriptures.

                What is yours?

                • Reasonably substantiated evidence, consistent argumentation and logic, consent-based ethics, conscience, and love most of all.

                  I don’t have any “hopes” for where this journey will take me. If I’m not honestly open to pursuing the truth, then it means less to me. I would like to feel confident that my beliefs make sense and are guided princapally by love.

                  • Surely you have gathered that you and I are at opposite ends of the theological and moral universe Samantha. But I like you. I like you because you’re not a coward. That’s more than I can say for many who claim to be in my own “camp”

                    I am compelled to ask. Define in order please:
                    “truth” and

                    From whence arises your definition and standard for each? Take your time. You don’t owe me a thing. I’m asking. You should feel free to ask me absolutely anything in return as well.

                    If you’re wondering if I’m tying to trap you? Clearly I believe you are very wrong, but that’s not the way I would characterize this dialog. I appreciate your time.

                    • When I talk about “truth,” I’m referencing something bigger than just “facts,” but other than that … My definition and standard for each is just, well, the dictionary.

  41. Thank you for being honest and open and baring your heart and sharing your story Samantha, and for opening up a forum for people like yourself as well as others to share and hopefully to heal together. I’ve been in the “If you leave us your turning your back on God” type of “church” and it was very scary and when I eventually had the courage to leave I wandered in confusion for quite a few years. I still believe that Jesus loves me, but not in the way I saw it acted out in the organization I was in. God bless you.

  42. I have only read a couple of your entries, came here via RHE’s blog, but I am already intrigued and interested in following your story. Disturbingly, there is a family in our church that I believe is practicing that “stay at home daughters” philosophy. I thought they were doing was odd, but now I am wondering about how destructive it is to their child…

    I myself am going through a time of examining my faith, the church and who the real Jesus is versus what Christians have turned him into in America. I just want you to know I admire how you identified and moved on from an abusive situation. While I have never found myself in a similar situation I have observed churches that oppress their attendees in the name of doctrine and have friends that are recovering from the spiritual abuse. So thankful to see people naming it and speaking out against the sort of hypocrisy Jesus could not stand. Blessings to you…

  43. Tiribulus, I’m not sure how to view you questions to Samantha. Maybe you are asking because you are looking for guidance yourself. Or maybe your questions are to challenge her views and process. The latter is how it comes across to me. If I’m mistaken, I’m very sorry.

    In my case, By age 40, I honestly was more sure of what Christianity wasn’t than I was sure of what it was. In the process of deconstructing and then, however slowly, reconstructing my Chlristian faith one of the most liberating changes came when I was able to stop judging people or concerning myself with “where they are” spiritually.

    RE the Nicene Creed: A better question might be to ask why non-liturgical churches no longer recite/use the Nicene creed. Considering that it was written 1,700 years ago, it is an amazing composition even though not perfect.

  44. Nelson H Keener says:”Tiribulus, I’m not sure how to view your questions to Samantha.”
    There’s no way to state this honestly in any less offensive sounding a manner Nelson. I really don’t care how you view them. When I address one to you I will. She strikes me as a rather capable young lady who does not require your elder male supervision. (she can certainly correct me if I’m wrong)

    I’m asking HER. SHE is answering. I truly appreciate and respect that.

  45. I don’t know, a simple respectful reply usually does the trick. Something like, “Just wanting to dialog and learn more about her.” Easy, isn’t it?

    And OF COURSE she needs male eldership supervision. How else to explain your need to say how wrong you believe her to be? Thank you for making this a true dalogue instead of an excuse to solidify your preconceptions.

  46. Oh, but Samantha lets people interact! and debate! and dialog! A cursory read-through of the site proves this. Why, she even permits piss-poor assumptions and attempts at baiting others, something you should appreciate.

    • I am not going round and round with you Chris. This is Samantha’s house. Not mine. I have not told anybody what they can and cannot say. She can do that. I’ve only said what I am going to do.

      Her and I have been and are having a perfectly levelheaded grown up conversation. I have been polite, honest and even sincerely complimentary. If you decide to have a problem with this, go ahead. But you will be doing it without me.

      In hope that she might find the time and be so gracious as to continue, I am going back to my conversation with Samantha now. Do feel free to stomp, snarl and spit vitriol at me. Trust me. I can take it.

      In Jesus name with a smile 😀

      • “I have not told anybody what they can and cannot say.” You’re right! Saying, “I really don’t care how you view them. When I address one to you I will,” typifies how one encourages, rather than discourages, conversation.

        For someone who couldn’t respond to Nelson’s rather polite and respectful comment in any less offensive terms (seriously, how difficult is that?), and who labeled his contribution as exerting “elder male supervision,” your retort about “stomp(ing), snarl(ing) and spit(ting) vitriol” leaves irony weeping in the corner.

        If my replies to you are akin to said stomping, snarling, and spitting vitriol, then you, my friend, appear to be 1) carelessly hyperbolic with your words, and/or 2) unable or unwilling to take criticism. Both of which are OBVIOUSLY Christ-like traits.

        Said back to you in Jesus’ name with a wink, a smile, and a lingering side-hug. ;-D

  47. Samantha says: “When I talk about “truth,” I’m referencing something bigger than just “facts,”
    Tell me more please. You’ve told me what truth isn’t.

    Samantha says: “but other than that … My definition and standard for [“logic”, “conscience” and
    “love”] is just, well, the dictionary.”

    Why? What makes the dictionary (which one and from what era?) authoritative?
    You have my word before my Lord that I am not being obtuse or frivolous. I am genuinely interested in your answers. I must confess that I anticipated you had explored these foundational areas of thought a bit more than it seems to be appearing. I hasten to add that this is absolutely no denigration of your intelligence which is clearly impressive. I couldn’t mean that more. Since these two are so closely related, lets put “truth” and “logic” together. We’ll leave “love” and “conscience” for now. Unless you want to talk about them. I’m not trying to tell you what to talk about.

    How do you know if something is “true”?

    • @Tiribulus.

      Well, I am here on your recommendation, Tribulus, and having perused your dialogue with Samantha (who strikes me as an erudite intelligent woman) and others here – notably Chris – I can honestly conclude based on this and the blog from where I first encountered you there is really only one label I can hang on you.
      It is the one I reserve for the ”special” people; those that go a little bit beyond normal levels of theological idiocy and indoctrination and are not quite capable of carrying on a rational conversation.
      Those that enter any such debate with their own presuppositional doctrines hanging out for all to see like a disgusting ‘flasher”.
      These ”special” ones are known as ”Dickheads”.
      You made the ranks at your first attempt, Tiribulus! Well done!

  48. “How do you know if something is “true”?”
    You’ve never really thought about this have you Samantha? I contend that until we determine HOW and WHY we can and do know anything at all, any questions of WHAT we know are entirely meaningless. Unless we know where and what truth even CAN be, then how will we know when and if we are seeing it? Don’t you think that’s a pretty important question? This is called “epistemology”. How do we know? At all.

    99% of the human race has never thought about this. So I’m certainly am not picking on YOU. I am however still asking. What makes something “true” to you?

    • I have thought about it– a great deal, actually. And yes, I know what “epistomology” is. I’m young, but it was the focus of almost all of my work in graduate school. Whether or not I want to debate it with you is another matter entirely.

      • Samantha says :”“epistemology”… was the focus of almost all of my work in graduate school.”
        OUTSTANDING!! I am a tenth grade dropout who it appears is really in for a treat.

        How bout that?
        I’m not picking a fight. I want to know your views. Is there an article you’ve written somewhere where I can read the results of your graduate work? That would save you some typing.

        This is as polite and sincere as I know how to be Samantha. Is there something decidedly offensive in my being interested in your thought?

  49. Hi,
    Just wanted to let you know that I was really excited on discovering this blog. I read your latest post on The Mary Sue and the author bio mentioning ‘feminism, religion, pop culture, social justice, and all things geek-related’ and thought ‘yes!’. It’s really helpful to listen to someone viewing these with a critical approach (and a sense of humour). And for me personally it’s really helpful to hear a woman mentioning both thoughts on theology and an enjoyment of RPGs! I’ve just gone back and read a lot of the archives and thank you for your writing, and for sharing what you’re learning with everyone.
    All the best

  50. I also found your blog through The Mary Sue, which I have regularly read for some time now, and am really getting a lot out of your posts.

    Some (though not all) of your story is familiar to me. I too grew up in Alabama, although it sounds like the area you grew up in was a bit more backwards than the one I grew up in (although I have no desire to ever live there again), and now live in the Midwest.

  51. My best wishes, SamanthaField! I am a 62 year old son of a Fellowship Baptist preacher, a flavor of Baptist perhaps not so tainted as your own with the poisons of race hatred and overall fear but nevertheless a toxic stew of emotional destruction for children exposed to it. I appreciate the journey you are on and your sharing.
    I began by leaving the Baptists and trying other styles, my favorite of that bunch being Anglican but over time as I listened to my own heart (basic honesty), I began to realize that I did not fit in any church comfortably. I began then the faithful journey to building my own version of Christianity, one that would never have a church and would not partake of much of the fire and brimstone at all. It did not take me long to bump into some Dawkins and Hitchens and quite soon I was saying, inside my own head, I really don’t believe and never have… I was saved several times and baptized as a teen. But it never took like a good hook should; oh, I flipped and flapped from time to time and thought of being a mission worker and so forth but in actual fact the act of faith was for me, in my heart of hearts, an act finally. I had to be honest to say it, first in my head and finally out loud. (I must say that I carry considerable anger with me that has not yet been sufficiently expressed regarding my upbringing and our experience as children in fundy faiths.) When I read above, the texts from Teribulus, I felt the anger rise. I felt disgusted by his statements going after your friends and trying to undermine you. I told him out loud to Fuck Off, as I read his words. Why on earth would one ever engage with such a manipulative person. He quite frankly reminded me of several preachers I have endured over the years… gentle shamer-blamer soldier of Christ. (I realize this is somewhat rude but, well, I am sometimes.)
    Anyway, I wanted to encourage and thank-you for your words and to share with you that my life without belief if full of joy and sorrow, poetry and dross, ups and downs, and some anger about religion as it is that I cherish as human and needing expression….Regarding your deconstructions, the book that needs most deconstruction is the Bible itself. The books you have looked at come from the ideas of the Bible. Bruce Gerencser’s blog has an interesting poster for Easter. I have spent some time meditating on it and feel thankful that I am able to say no to a literal Bible and finally, several years ago, no to God. Life is wonder and when you get to your sixties, the wonders have some aches and pains thrown in for the ride!

  52. I’m sensing that since you went to PCC and referred to “Lower Alabama” that you did actually attend church here in Pensacola. I’m just wondering if one of them was called Crossroad. I went there in the 1980’s.

    I will understand if you consider that too much personal info.

      • I live in Milton, FL. The moment you said “lower Alabama” and “fundamentalist college”, I guessed PCC. Was your homeschool material by Abeka? I’m purely curious, if you want to answer that. I’m not IFB by any means (just a regular Christian).

        I’m glad your parents got themselves and their children out of that church once they realized what was truly happening. I wish you well on your healing journey, and hope that the true love of God has brought—or is bringing—you into truth and peace with him.

  53. It was in how I was taught to not really think, but to form arguments that defended my “faith” at all costs. This one line will bring me back to read other things you write. That line explains all you write and I don’t need to know names of school, church or even town. This kind of teaching wears many names. We were exposed to it for several years then went into missions where we learned how to think. When we tried to share the light we had received from the grace teaching a thick wall went up between us and our former pastor and wife and some friends. I must say I am careful at throwing out the baby with the water because I got glorious saved in that kind of environment. They preached and taught salvation through Christ but growing in Him through the rules of the church. So spiritual growth was judge by what you wore, who you listened to, how much you did or gave, etc. Totally a works, not to keep you salvation but to judge whether you were even saved or not. As a teacher of a Bible study I am aware of how easily I can turn others thoughts where I would want them instead of where God wants them. Because there is always someone out there, like you and me who have been hurt, spiritually, emotionally, physically by those wearing the Christian title. So not to harden my heart I have left the judging up to the Lord. I keep myself busy sharing Jesus, helpings other, teaching, and praying for God’s help to make my life line up with His. I stand amazed that He continues to use me.

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