Thursday, May 08, 2008

 

SECRET RADIO scheduled for re-release

Secret Radio, the book that started it all (at least for me), is scheduled to be re-released later this summer through Jupiter Rising Books. The novel, which chronicles the senior year of Grace Jovian and her friends at Greater Independent Baptist College, should be available in a less expensive, more conventional book size. Its estimated retail price is $15.

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SCHIZOPHRENIC CHRISTIANITY now available on AMAZON

Schizophrenic Christianity: How Christian Fundamentalism Attracts and Protects Sociopaths, Abusive Pastors, and Child Molesters
Using case study after case study of Independent Fundamental Baptist pastors accused, indicted, or convicted of child molesting, the author shows that these men continue to serve in the ministry unhindered. With surprising quotes from public leaders of Christian Fundamentalism such as the late Jerry Falwell, the author shows that many ultra-conservative Baptist churches grant their pastors total immunity and blame and isolate their victims instead. In easy to understand language, Massi explains the theology of American Christian Fundamentalism and shows how it has departed radically from historic Christian belief into a gender-based, externalized pietism that evaluates spiritual success in terms of numbers and political power. She paints a frightening picture of a religion gone horribly wrong, in which child molesters can easily pick up the lingo, amass a following, and hold themselves above accountability by merging into a system that refuses to police itself or institute rules of behavior for its clergy.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

 

The Lambs Workbook - for Victims of Clergy Abuse or Church Abuse

The Lambs Workbook: Recovering from Church Abuse, Clergy Abuse, Spiritual Abuse, and the Legalism of Christian FundamentalismAn interactive study book designed for victims of clergy abuse, this book is based upon Bible study to help Christians overcome abuse from churches or clergy. Appropriate for either group study or private study, this book supplies six weekly lessons and a seventh, closing review lesson. It also supplies six weeks (42 days) of short, daily devotional studies to help the reader understand that God Himself, as Jesus Christ, has shared in suffering unjustly at the hands of false religious leaders. This book is a good starting point for abused Christians who ask, "Why did God let this happen?" The Lambs Workbook is excellent for individual use, group study, or even book clubs.

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Monday, April 10, 2006

 

EOS

And that's all you can see right now of GRACE TRIUMPHANT. Thank you for reading.

For the present time, this blog is on hiatus, and GRACE TRIUMPHANT will be removed shortly.

The latest news is that THE CONFERENCE OF THE LAMBS is scheduled for June 15-16, 2007 in Charlotte, NC. This is a conference designed to minister to victims of church abuse. You can sign up to receive the free newsletter by Clicking here

Also, please consider tuning in to the Recovering Fundamentalist podcast. Each broadcast is 15-17 minutes long, about 13-15 MB per podcast. The podcasts feature music, devotionals, comedy, and commentary.

You can visit the podcast web page by clicking here. Or you can click the podcast chicklet and be subscribed automatically.

Podcast feed: Subscribe

And if you are really hooked on Grace, visit the bookstore, which carries the two prequels to GRACE TRIUMPHANT: SECRET RADIO, and A STANDARD CHRISTIAN. Click here to vist the book store. Bookmark it! Lord willing, GRACE TRIUMPHANT will go into hard copy by late September 2006.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

 

Grace Triumphant 024

March 22, 2005

Hillary lived through the first surgery. But the doctors confirmed pseudo mesothelioma, one of the most devastating forms of cancer known. Her children were still on their way to North Carolina during her surgery, so David acted on her behalf.

I waited at the hospital with him while she was in the operating room. At first we talked about her chances, the prognosis, the symptoms she had shown for the last several months, her uncanny strength that had kept her going when most people would have been down from weakness and pain after only a couple weeks.

But there were intervals when we talked about ourselves. Now that I'm several years older, I think Dave Fringe had one chief concern, and that was to help Hillary. If that meant finding a way to get along with her rabidly right wing friend, then he would find a way. Maybe it surprised Dave to find out that, as a Christian Fundamentalist, I wasn't a fire breathing klans woman. I know it surprised me to realize that he treasured his friendship with Hillary with a commitment I'd seldom seen in anybody, including myself.

I was also surprised, partway through that unbearably long morning of her first surgery, to see John OHara come walking into the waiting area, his eyes casting around in search of me.

"John!" I stood up. "What are you doing here?"

"The prayer chain contacted everybody this morning," he said. "They said your friend's surgery was first thing this morning. I thought I would stop by and get an update." Then he offered a cautious nod to David.

I made introductions. After a minute or two as all three of us exchanged small talk, I could see the confused, slightly panicked look in John's eyes as he began to wonder if Dave was gay. Dave didn't talk with a lisp or behave in an overtly feminine way. He wore a tiny gold stud in his left ear lobe, sported a tuft on the very tip of his chin, and had such an even complexion with no stubble showing that I suspected some type of cosmetic, but if he used any it wasn't caked on. His hair was more meticulously groomed, and oiled, than you'd see on most men. It was short, slicked straight back; one thick curl, like a forelock, spilled onto his forehead.

I knew he was gay because, in the past, Hillary had mentioned running into him and his male partner at different events. It took John a few minutes to work it all out.

John asked me if I would go down to the hospital cafeteria for a cup of coffee with him, and Dave said to go ahead and take a break. We would trade off when I returned.

So John and I walked down the long corridor, its floor pale green and the walls dull white. Why do sick people have to stay in such bleak places? I thought. If we could just get Hillary back into her cheerful mountain cottage, she might improve.

I often thought that way early in her illness.

"Actually," John said, interrupting my thoughts. "I brought coffee for you, Grace. Mr. Beauchamp said once that you like Barnie's coffee, so I brought you a cup from there."

It was astonishingly thoughtful of him. He walked me out to his truck and gave me the cup. Then he passed over some powdered creamer and a plastic stirrer, so I could fix it the way I liked. He'd brought a cup for himself. We leaned against the truck in the brilliantly sunny and cold morning and had our coffee, surrounded by the incredible vista of those mountains. They looked gray, smoke-blue, and pale green that morning, with strips of black where the trees were not yet blanketed in new green leaves.

How could anybody be dying on a morning like this? I thought. And I realized that John really did want to go out with me. Hillary would be so pleased, if she lived through this week.

"I know it's a bad time to ask, Grace," John said, thrusting his free hand into his pocket. "But it's never a good time to ask you out. Somebody always wants your time, or there's some other calamity brewing."

"We've had our share," I said.

"The farewell for Steve and Julie at church is this Saturday. If things are okay here," and he nodded at the hospital. "I'd like you to go with me."

"Sure, John," I said. "Really, I'm honored that you would ask me."

He shot me a quizzical half smile, and then we had our coffee.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

 

Grace Triumphant 023

March 21 2005

Beauchamp warned me, years ago, that time is a river without banks. There's no holding on. You can only move forward.

He'd been gone only two weeks, and things were getting more dismal at Simpsons Department store as the winter gave way to spring. And one afternoon I got a call on my office phone from David, the openly queer theater manager who was one of Hillary's best friends.

"This is David Fringe. Is this Grace Jovian?" he asked in his precise voice.

"Yes it is," I said in my cordial office voice.

"Ms. Jovian, Hilary has asked me to call you. I'm at the hospital on Forest Street. Do you know where that is?"

I straightened up. "Yes. What's wrong?"

"Hillary is being admitted. You should come at once. Is that possible?"

"Yes," I said.

"I'll meet you on the oncology floor," he said.

"All right." I forgot to thank him, hung up, grabbed my hat and coat, and ran for my car.

The hospital lobby was quiet in the middle of a weekday. But once past the lobby, I entered the time and world of the hospital itself, a world unto itself.

The nurse's station on the Oncology floor was just opposite the elevator doors, and as the doors opened, I saw a tall, very thin man with a soul patch on his chin. He had short, neat, slicked back hair, artificially darkened to black with chestnut highlights. But his grasp when he shook my hand was as firm as I could have asked.

"Miss Jovian, I'm a dear friend of Hillary's," he said. "She's waiting to see you, but perhaps we should talk first."

"What's happened?" I asked. "What's the Oncology floor for?"

He quieted his voice. "Oncology is the cancer ward." He still had hold of my hand.

"What's happened to her?"

"The doctors believe she has cancer---"

"Where?"

"In her lungs. She's scheduled for surgery first thing in the morning-"

"So quickly?"

Like Hillary, he was far older than I, but he lived in that world where youth mattered more than anything, so I couldn't determine if he was in his mid thirties or mid fifties. But he had a firm grip of my hand, and for all his cosmetic good looks and overly groomed manner, there was something fatherly in him. Or at least calming, like a man who has been through something like this before and knows exactly what must be done.

"I want you to understand that it's serious," he told me. "That's why surgery has to be so quick. Her lungs have filled with fluid, and the doctors are draining it out. And as soon as they're clear enough for surgery, the surgeon is going to remove at least part of one lung. He's hoping she'll be ready by tomorrow morning."

I stared up at him. He still had me by the hand. "Hillary is afraid," he said to me. "And she's in pain. She tells me that you have a lot of faith. If you can help raise her spirits for tomorrow, please try."

"Is she awake?" I asked him.

"In and out, from the morphine they gave her to help ease the distress from the respiratory trouble. You know she was a drug addict?"

"Yes, pills," I said.

"She's worried that the morphine will make her go back to that. She's been asking the nurses about that---" He caught himself and looked me in the eye. "Can you help her?"

I calmed down as he looked at me. We both had to be calm. "I can try to help her," I said. "I want to."

He nodded and let me go. "It's this way. We'll enter quietly. She's been sleeping the last few minutes."

My Hillary, the one I knew so well, who was young and lively and filled with sudden outbursts of poetry, corny jokes, puns, ironic commentary, and enthusiastic hugs, disappeared that day. The new version of her, gray roots showing under the colored hair, haggard eyes, and fearful expression, came in her place. Every now and then in the months to come, I would see the old Hillary appear at her eyes like an elvish shadow at a window, looking out again for a brief moment before fading away.

But both versions, as Beauchamp would have said, were mere parts of the whole: faces that the outside world saw, part illusion, part concession, part outright deception. Only God Himself first of all, and then Hillary, knew the real Hillary. According to Beauchamp, you spent your life going through version after version, either trying to get closer to the real person or trying to get away from it. And sometimes, in situations like these, the divine hand pushed you in the proper direction. And that divine hand could be pretty ruthless. Truth is ruthless. Cutting cancer out of a person is ruthless. But it has to be done.

When Hillary slowly roused from the drug-induced stupor, she tried to grasp my hand, and I helped her.

"I've taken drugs today," she whispered. "I said I never would again."

"You had no choice," I told her. "You probably didn't even know they were doing it."

"No, God. I never knew. They just did it. Will you forgive me if I didn't know?"

"Hillary dear," Dave said gently from the other side of the bed. "It's not God talking to you. It's your friend, Grace."

"Grace is here," she said. Her fingers tightened on mine. "They made me high on drugs. I'm still high, and I'm sorry, I apologize. Ask God to forgive me."

"God forgives you," David said.

"All right Hillary," I told her. "I'm going to ask God right now. But God sent me to you. You know that, don't you? God sent me."

She paused. "No," I didn't know that," she said.

"Well He did. Hold onto my hand, and I'll ask Him." I didn't know if David would be embarrassed or if he would walk out of the room, but he stayed there and looked down as I prayed for her with quiet clear words. Her eyes would start to close, so I would wait until she came back, and then I would pick up the prayer. When I had finished, I said to her, "God has commanded that everybody who puts their faith in Jesus Christ will have all their sins forgiven. Do you believe that, Hillary?"

"Yes," she said. "I did ask Jesus to save me. Years ago. After an AA meeting."

"Yes, but then you became a Buddhist," I told her.

"They make the best doughnuts," she replied sleepily, not knowing what we were talking about.

"Oh Hillary," I rested my hand on her head.

"Jesus, would you forgive me if I didn't understand?" she asked. "Don't go away."

"Hillary, I'm not Jesus. I'm just Grace," I said gently.

"Help me breathe, so I don't need so much morphine," she asked. "Just do that, please. I don't want to be a drug addict. I'm sorry about all of that. Please don't let it get me again."

"Jesus sent me to help you. I'm Grace," I told her. "Your friend Grace."

"Grace hold on." She tightened her hold on my hand again as her eyes closed. "I'll get us through this one, and then you get the next."

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

 

Grace Triumphant 022

March 20

Dear Madam,

I have been reading your journal with a great
deal of interest. I am happy to tell you that
your husband has not really committed adultery
in the bibilical sense because the girl he took
is not married. If you think through the story
of David and Bathsheba, you will remember that
God, through Nathan the prophet, told David
that God Himself had provided David with many
wives. And if David had wanted more women, God
was willing to provide him with more.

For a man to have more than one woman is not a
sin. Polygamy is not a sin, because God wouldn't
have given and offered David more wives to have
relations with.

Why do we fundamentalists draw our lines away from
the biblical model?

You should understand that your husband's only sin
was slight dishonesty with you and failing to provide
for the woman he has taken. You women should understand
that your role is to accept what men have to do to be
satisfied and be thankful for a good provider. I urge
you to reconcile with your husband as quickly as
possible.

Brother Dave
All for One and One for All Baptist Church
Burning Sands, Utah

The children have gone to Sunday School and church with Greg. I can't face church. People know. Greg called Friday night, and I got my ultimatum into words: He has to leave that job. Now, at last, I can be angry with him more than sad. He certainly does love that job more than he loves me.

He hasn't closed down the credit card account, and I can see by the online bill that there have been no more motel visits. From the credit card, our checking account, and a small savings account we've kept for emergencies, I've extracted $35,000 and put it into my own account. Greg has a 401K, and we've created several small investment funds over the years. He'll have to cash out some of them to pay off the credit card debt I created. I don't want to ruin us financially, but I know I need some type of protection, some means of my own if we legally separate, until I can begin to work.

And tomorrow, I must visit a lawyer. I don't feel ready for divorce, but I also understand Greg's mind. It's better for me to astonish him at the very beginning with a show of strength and preparation. And I have to learn, like it or not, how to go about the process of securing a life for myself and the children.

The house is still dark because I haven't drawn back the curtains. We gave Tahlia back to Terri yesterday. She is house sitting an English Setter, a good sized dog (though smaller than Tahlia), who was more outright playful with the children yesterday than Tahlia has been. The Setter is a neutered male, white with black spots, a descendent of the line that is still used for hunting, rather than show.

Yesterday, Ben kept throwing a ball for him when we all went to the park together, and Jack (the dog's informal name), only stared after it and then looked expectantly back at Ben. English Setters point, but they don't retrieve. Terri had Jack on a flexi-leash. She passed it over to Ben and told him to just run, and Jack would run with him.

That was an understatement. Jack easily kept up with Ben and then Ben let him out to the full extent of the flexi-leash. He really is a beautiful dog, with a beautiful gait.

"How long are you keeping him?" I asked Terri.

"Probably a few weeks. He's retired from the field competitions. We just need a family to take him in." She said this with such elaborate off-handedness that I suspected her right away.

I was about to say something to remind her that this is no time to get a dog when Rachel blurted, "Mom, couldn't we have him?"

"Honey, Jack is a hunting dog. We can't keep him."

"Well, we're looking to settle him in with a family," Terri said with that annoying blandness. "He won't pine for hunting or field trials if he's exercised for about thirty minutes a day."

"Terri!" I said sharply. And she stopped. But I had another horrible night last night. I wake up all the time, and I feel frightened. I was thinking of having more locks and a new alarm system installed. But the children love Jack. And he seems very good with them, more genuinely interested in making friends with them than the gentle but business-like Tahlia.

There's no use in moping around here while Greg has the children. I'm going to call Terri and ask if I can take Jack out for a walk.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

 

Grace Triumphant 021

March 18

Grace,
Where are you? I've been calling your cell phone for days. I finally decided to run down to the library and use a computer that doesn't have all those doggone security filters that we have to use now, just to make sure you get this. So I'm sending you an e-mail, but if you reply to it, I may nor see the reply until I get access to another less secure computer. Please call me if you get this.

Cinn


I realize that I simply cannot go back to our church. First of all, Greg may be there, and I don't want to see him for anything longer than five or ten minutes, and certainly not in public. And second, I just can't face everybody we know. It's too humiliating.

I'll look up another church in the phone book. I'm supposed to meet Greg at 1:00 for coffee in town. What do I say to him? I need to take Tahlia out for another walk before I go, to make sure she gets her exercise in for the day.

Apart from four walks a day, two of them fairly long, Tahlia is an excellent companion. The house feels less empty when she's here. For the first time I am looking at this blog and remembering that it's supposed to be a continuation of my story of getting out of Fundamentalism. And now it's turned into this chronicle of surviving adultery and trying to make sense of it. I'm not sure I'll do either, successfully.

I want to get back to what I started to write almost three weeks ago. That story needs to be told.

March 18, Addendum

The children will be home soon. I'm a mess, all over again. When I got to the coffee shop, Greg was already inside. It's some consolation to see that he looks horrible. He's actually wild-eyed.

But when I saw him through the glass walls of the shop as I pulled up, I felt real grief, a piercing vulnerability, as though I had to face an ordeal of hearing every reason that he had chosen another woman over me. That now-familiar wringing sadness of not knowing how I lost my own husband got hold of me again. In fact, as I got out of the car, my legs were quivering.

He hadn't seen me pull in. He was looking through the glass on the opposite wall, staring hard. And then, with a transformation that was abrupt and seems almost impossible, the closer I got to the door, the angrier I became. Not the anger that threw dishes and glasses at him, but something more like Jim expressed. I am almost 40 and have had two children. I've done my best to please my husband, but no woman my age can compete with a 24 year old girl. There has to be more to marriage than sex, and there has to be more to a man's love for his wife than her youthfulness.

I still felt a gnawing fear that I had done something to alienate him, that it was my fault and I could never repair what I had done wrong. But something else, some insight born of Jim and seeing how much he loved his own wife, made me more forceful than I ever thought I could be. A sudden wind caught me as I opened the door to the shop, and Greg looked up and saw me. Above all else, I could not be the woman Greg expected me to be. I could not be out of control of myself. I could never let him see how sad I was.

I entered, and he stood up. He was pale, his face worried. But his clothing was ironed, and he was wearing a collared shirt and business casual khakis. He'd been to work that day. Where she worked, too.

"Sit down," I said to him. He sat. Then I sat.

"Don't you want anything?" he asked me. He had a coffee cup in front of him.

"You've been wanting to talk to me, so talk," I said.

"Grace," he began, but he paused, thinking I would volley out my own words, but I only looked at him, my purse in my lap, my hands knotted together the way my little Rachel's hands were when she was so afraid. I spread out my hands over my purse.

"Talk, Greg," I said. "This is what you wanted, and it's not going to last long, so you better say what you have to say."

Now he was uncertain. A hint of caution came into those panicked eyes. He had expected blame, grief, words. My demand that he speak, and my ability to wait until he did caught him off guard. "I want you to know I'm sorry," he said. "It was a one-time thing---"

"For just about 30 days," I added. "Stop lying to me."

"I mean a one-time fling. It was crazy. It was an insanity. And she threw herself at me Grace---" He was still talking, but my mind went back to my own parents, my adulterous father. For so long, I thought the affair when my mother had caught him had been his first. It took years for me to realize that my father had been cheating on my mother all their married life. I looked at my husband. He was still talking.

"So you're going back there, after I say goodbye to you today?" I asked him. "Back to where she is?"

"I broke it off with her, Grace," he said. "It's over. Try to understand, she doesn't mean anything to me."

I stood up. "Nobody means anything to you, Greg. I'm starting to realize that."

He jumped up. "Where are you going?"

"Home." I turned and walked away. The coffee shop was nearly empty, but the young man behind the counter kept one eye on us as he wiped up.

"Grace I have to go to work," Greg called after me. "Don't you understand that?"

"Sure. Have a nice day." I pulled open the door without looking at him.

"What about the children?" he called. His distress was real, and I felt that call like an arrow through me. They were suffering.

"You can take them to church on Sunday, and to your mother's if you want," I said. "But you better bring them back."

He looked from me to the open door. The wind outside had died down. It was like everything around me was just waiting. "This isn't a way to solve anything," he said. "We have to talk about what's happened."

"Not while you're working there, with her." Now the young man at the counter was openly staring at us.

"She won't leave, Grace. I asked her."

I gave him one look of open disgust and walked out. He came after me then, but my car was right at the door. I got into it and pulled out while he stood on the sidewalk, staring at me.

He is the most selfish man I've ever met. Did he really think he would do what he did and then just keep his life as tidy and neat as it's been?

I knew that in a sense I did the right thing, met him the right way, gotten him off balance. I have his attention. And the confrontation pushed me to a new understanding. We won't talk until he's out of that office. I played the fool once, but not twice. He has to leave her behind.

But none of my new insight, nor even the small victory I'd gotten, stopped me from crying and sobbing all over again when I got home. I sat on the floor in my bedroom, my back against the bed, my knees to my face, and cried. Tahlia, not understanding, came and sat next to me, then lay down and dozed. The children will be home soon, and I have to get myself together to meet them and give them some type of calm and orderly world.

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