Recently, you may have heard about or seen the clip of Trump complimenting Brigette Macron, First Lady of France about her body. See it here if you can stomach it. There is some familiarity in his behavior towards her that again – reminds me of my dad.
While decent human beings see the exchange and are rightfully creeped out, notice the mannerisms of Trump are like a feigned innocence. In fact, if you confronted him about it, he’d likely play it off as if it was an innocent compliment and not as a sexual advance or an objectification of Brigette.
This technique is a form of manipulation. Its a technique my dad uses. As explained in the link, this technique makes the victim question their reality of what just took place. It makes the victim look at intent instead of impact. In my blog post about the two incidents of sexual abuse by my father, this manipulation tactic of feigned ignorance/innocence is what allowed me to not acknowledge his actions as abuse for over 20 years. All that time, I thought my dad didn’t mean it as sexual, controlling, or abusive. Even during the moment, he made it seem like there was nothing meant by it and so I hid my discomfort about his actions and felt guilty for feeling bad about it. After all, he’s my father and he loves me and wouldn’t hurt me, right?
Even as recently as the last time I talked to my parents on the phone, my dad said “I don’t know why you’d ever think I hated you. I love you very much. I just don’t understand where you’d get that from.” This is designed to make the victim feel awful for ever taking the person’s actions as harmful or abuse. As if the victim causes their own reality and our perception of the abuser’s actions is wrong. The abuser wants to “smooth things over” without ever actually dealing with the problem so they can gain your confidence back and abuse you again. At the same time, they treat any action of yours in self-preservation as being the real abuse or harm in the relationship.
Talk to Trump, narcissist abusers like him, and his defenders, and see if they don’t have these same exact feigned ignorance/innocence responses in their defense of him. “He didn’t mean anything about it,” “its not sexual, he’s just complimenting her,” “what’s wrong with telling a woman she’s beautiful?”. Trump’s non verbal language supports this feigned innocence. In reality, the Hollywood Reporter tape reveals he’s a predator when he’s around people he thinks he can be honest around.
This may seem obvious to some, but I just felt I needed to point out and identify what this is beyond the creep factor. Its this exact type of shit that makes me not able to handle seeing or hearing Trump for longer than 30 seconds at a time. I purposely severely limit my exposure to him, just like with my dad. It serves several purposes: first, it cuts down on stress and anxiety. It doesn’t eliminate anxiety, but it would be much worse without low exposure. I still get bouts of anxiety fueled intense fight or flight mode that lasts for days, though less frequently than right after the election. It also helps me stand my ground about my own reality. The longer I keep myself away from those manipulation tactics, the less I question myself and my truth and reality. Also, I get more courage to speak my truth the more confident I am about my reality.
Don’t let this shitgibbon dumpsterfuck and his followers take away your truth and reality.
So my sister Jeannette called me the day after I got home from my mini spontaneous vacation with my husband. She hasn’t spoken to me in over two years. To this day, I have no idea why. We tried for a short period of time to have some type of relationship, but for some reason for her it just wasn’t working. Which is fine by me, really. She has to do what’s best for her, whatever that looks like. Before that short period of time, it was years since we had spoken to each other. Also for years, I wondered what offense of mine was so great that this was the path she chose for us. She doesn’t know it, but when she called me, she answered that question. I don’t recall ever really being mad at her. I’ve only been really sad about it. But two years ago when she cut me off, I decided I was done trying to figure out what I did. I figured, if she won’t tell me, its her problem and not mine and I wasn’t going to spend any more mental energy trying to figure it out and torment myself over it.
In the summer of 2015, my mom had spinal surgery. She had two of them, actually – neither one of which I knew about as I was still in the middle of my first period of cutting off contact with my parents and nobody else told me about them. After the second surgery, her incision became infected and she was in the hospital again. A kind relative let me know about it because that relative didn’t think my mom was doing well and thought I should know. Not my dad, nor any of my siblings attempted to contact me in any way to inform me of the events. My mom eventually recovered and I was glad. I initiated contact with her, which lasted a little over a year as I recently decided to cut them off again – this time possibly for good. It really depends on them, honestly. If my parents have their awakening moment and decide to walk the path of self-healing, then great and I will be here for it. But if that doesn’t happen, then they are dead to me as I simply cannot allow them to abuse me or enable abuse in my life anymore.
Which brings me to my sister. She called me starting with “I am appalled (pause) at your accusations.”
First of all, they aren’t accusations. For those of you reading, especially family members, what happened to me can be read here. By the way, these two events described in my previous blog post are just two events out of MANY events. These two are the ones that touch on sexual misconduct. The rest of what my dad did to me was emotional abuse. I could write a novel about the emotional abuse I received from my dad. These things really happened to me. I’m not making them up. So for Jeannette and the rest of the family, please know that if you don’t believe me, you can go fuck yourself. Its really that simple. For YEARS I know you all talked about me behind my back at various times and probably wondered what was wrong with me. Behavior doesn’t come out of a vacuum. A child doesn’t rebel against the set standard for a particular family’s “normal” dynamic for no valid reason. I’m not a bad seed. I’m an abused human being who has gone through counseling, a fuckload of self healing, and finally put down boundaries I don’t feel guilty about. I have years upon years of shame to shatter. My counselor is surprised I didn’t become a drug addict. That’s how fucking serious this shit is. So, I really have no fucks to give for anyone who doesn’t believe me.
Secondly, you shouldn’t be appalled at what I said. You should be appalled that David James Hennig did those things to his own daughter. Jeannette asked me whether I cared if the rest of the family found out and the answer is no. I don’t give two fucks who finds out. That’s why I wrote a public blog. I have no time for people who only care about how they look to others. If you want to be seen as a decent human being, then BE a decent human being and don’t abuse people. Otherwise, fuck you and fuck your image. Again, if you only care about how you look to others and you’re more upset at me going public than about what happened to me, please feel free to go and fuck yourself.
I’ll tell you something else as well. David Hennig threw his first wife’s birth control pills away so he could have kids with her and that’s how my older half sister came to be here. I have a hard time believing that any woman would have consensual sex with a man, husband or not, if she couldn’t find her birth control pills and he ejaculated inside of her anyway. I didn’t get this from his first wife. I remember him telling me about this growing up. As a naive kid, I was believing in my dad’s story because I thought it was right for him to want to have kids. At the time, I was a kid and I didn’t view it through the grown up lens I untangled the misogyny from today. I don’t give a shit that this occurred in the 1970’s and laws back then didn’t consider it rape. IT WAS RAPE. So, he actually DOES have a history of sexual misconduct and I have no idea where he got the idea from that this behavior was ok in his upbringing, but its NOT ok.
Finally, nobody wants to talk to me about David Hennig’s biological father. There’s this huge family secret behind this person that nobody wants to talk to me about. NOT talking about these things is what guarantees that at least some people in the family will continue these “sins”. Not healing from this shit causes those who refuse to deal and heal will abuse in some way. My dad didn’t become an abusive father out of a vacuum – he was taught to be that way because he was likely emotionally abused himself. I only cut my parents off because neither one of them respect boundaries – my dad is much worse than my mom, but she has her own way of perpetuating bullshit. Like standing by her husband no matter what and deciding that my behavior is some kind of equally hurtful wrong to the both of them instead of seeing it as always a self-preservation reaction to being abused in the first place. My father knows no boundaries whatsoever and continually violated mine and made me feel like I was wrong for having boundaries ever. So cutting him off was the only solution. He has demonstrated repeatedly that boundaries mean nothing to him.
Finally, my sister called me a psychopath. Dear Jeannette: you shouldn’t use big words that you don’t understand. Impaired empathy is a trait YOU suffer from, which you demonstrated when you decided you didn’t believe me or didn’t care these things happened to me and helped shape who I am today. Having no remorse describes you and quite frankly both our brothers and our dad quite well. There is no other explanation for a total lack of taking responsibility for one’s own actions and somehow making sure I believed for years that I deserved the treatment I got.
I didn’t deserve this.
So, if anyone from the family is considering calling me, writing me, emailing me or whatever in an effort to silence me, chastise me, or anything other than offering the simple phrase “I believe you”, then please let me absolve you from doing so.
My husband and I have made several trips to West Virginia now. It’s probably our favorite getaway spot when we do get to get away for a while. This trip was completely spontaneous. He came home from his last day of work for his week and went on our weekly Sunday morning date together and decided while we were taking a walk that we would just do it. We went home – he changed the oil in his van, I made enough food for dinner for our two teenage kids, instructed them to care for the cats (you really do have to tell teenagers everything), and we’d check in when we could. So a few hours later we were off driving the three and a half hour trip to his dad’s camper on the land his dad owns where he grew up in Barbour County.
Trump signs in the Arden – Philippi area: 2
Clinton signs in the same area: 3
The peaceful roar of the Tygart River rushing over the rocks near the camper.
The acorns dropping on the metal roof of the buildings at the empty Audra State Park. They are loud and it takes a moment to realize what it is.
Camping was over for the season at Audra State Park, but you can still walk down there. So we parked in the public area that wasn’t closed off and took a walk down to the bathhouses. The water was not yet shut off, so we took our showers.
Autumn in full swing. I absolutely love the smell of autumn when the leaves are turning and they fall to the ground, become wet, and the mushrooms take over.
He slows down on our way back from our trip into town to look at an orange 50’s Chevy in somebody’s yard.
A mobile home has only the roof and metal frame standing as we pass by. It looks like somebody blew in the walls with all the debris laying inside.
The stars before the nearly full October moon rises…. my god…. the stars!
The labrador retriever that came to visit us every day.
When the sun creeps up slowly from the mountain behind you in the morning.
Peaceful night time fires and local West Virginia Mountain Spice Red Wine. The only noises besides our laughter are the night time insects and the river.
I could live here.
I’m fairly sure my dad is a narcissist. He has so many of the traits and behaves as if the world should revolve around him. I never asked my mother before I stopped speaking to her (again), but I would not doubt my parents (or at least my dad) are voting for Donald Trump. I’m sure they’re still watching John Hagee and Pat Robertson. I’m sure my mother is praying for my stone cold heart every night and crying in her alcohol asking herself how she went wrong as a mother without actually listening to my feelings. I have to email her for her to listen because on the phone or in person, she’ll cut you off and yell over top of you so she doesn’t have to hear what you have to say. The strange mix of alcoholic married to a narcissist blends a special type of dysfunctional family fuckery. This last time I decided I was done with her for a while wraps around her defense of my father’s behavior and a start to a lecture of how marriage is a special relationship as if I was 5 years old and not married for 15 1/2 years myself. And besides… “he’s your father.” No, he’s a sperm donor and she was literally standing by him no matter what. Choosing blind devotion over acknowledgement of abusive behavior.
I have flashbacks of my sperm donor using physical intimidating and yelling to force me into conformity and obedience. So imagine my anxiety as I watched Donald Trump on the stage of the 2nd debate using physical intimidation on Hillary Clinton and calmly, but firmly asserting she will be in jail if he’s elected. I was watching my father get into my face as a teenager all over again. The rebel oldest girl who wanted to mow lawns, listen to music that wasn’t country, learn about cars, and go to college.
And since women everywhere opened up about sexual assault, I have been reminded of two particular incidents with my sperm donor that I haven’t forgotten, nor ever spoken about except with my husband. Please know that saying this in public is hard. But its so necessary.
I consider myself lucky as I’ve been reading about sexual assault stories for now years, particularly in Christian churches. I haven’t been raped, nor have I been groped. The more stories I read, the more I feel like I’m in a small minority. I have been exposed to other violations and trauma though and I want to speak about those.
I want to clarify that I’m not joining my voice with others here to get people to say “that’s enough!” about Donald Trump. I was done with him when he first started his campaign. I rebuked an in law family member the summer of 2015 when she said he was right about Mexicans and decided I never wanted to go to their family get together ever again. I have been adamantly trying to bring attention to his racism and sexism for a while now and his fascist rhetoric that white people who support him or intend on voting for one of the 3rd party candidates want to downplay to justify their positions. No, none of what he said about “grabbing pussy” and “just start kissing them” shocks or surprises me in the least. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t ripped open wounds, however. Especially with people who defend him and try to normalize sexual violence.
My dad knows no boundaries.
When I was in 5th grade, I got the basic birds and the bees talk from him. It was the only sex talk I would have with either one of my parents. After he was done drawing a uterus and ovaries and having the lecture part of the basic sex talk, he sat on the couch – half laying, half sitting up. And he exposed his penis to me to show me what one looked like. It became hard and he asked me if I was curious and wanted to touch it. I felt weird and dirty. I politely declined. He was ok with this and slipped his underwear and pants back up and then told me if I ever was curious to just let him know. At the time, I didn’t think he was trying to be sexual with me. It didn’t feel that way. I’m still not sure, but I know it was wrong. But god damn was that inappropriate as fuck and demonstrated he knows nothing about boundaries whatsoever.
When I was about 17, I had a job and bought my own bras and underwear. I had a set that I loved. It was dark green with flowers on it. I put them on after my shower and wrapped a towel around myself before heading upstairs to my room to choose what outfit I wanted to wear that day. Before heading upstairs, though, my dad stopped me when I got out of the bathroom and wanted to see me in my bra and underwear. I protested and he got angry with me. He believed that since he changed my diaper as a baby, there was nothing for him to see he hasn’t already seen and totally violated my right to privacy as if he, as my sperm donor had automatic rights to my body. He didn’t comment on my body, but I’ll never forget feeling violated as he looked me over and I’ll never forget him being angry with me and his clear message that my body was not mine, but his.
Those are my earliest experiences of being sexually harassed and they came from my dad. Even those of us who aren’t groped or raped are told our bodies don’t belong to us. That we don’t have rights of body autonomy. That men can and will violate us whenever they want.
I believe electing a woman president is a huge “fuck you” to all the men who are angry we are rebelling against the places they want to keep us, where they can violate us whenever they please, however they want too, without consequences.
I don’t remember how old I was, but I remember I was earning my own money. I’m pretty sure I was still doing the newspaper route on our street and had not yet started earning better money working retail at Kmart yet, because $28.00 for a concert ticket was a lot of money to me. I was doing the paper route from around the age of 14 to 16ish. My younger sister wanted to go to a concert and its not that I was against her going to the concert, but my parents did not seem to have the extra money to spare to buy her a ticket, so they asked me to let her borrow it. By this time in my life, I knew quite well that “borrowing” really meant “taking”, so I knew I was never going to see that money again. So I stood up for myself and I told them “no”. Telling them “no” meant my dad’s reaction turned into a red-faced rage, getting in my face, and telling me I was the most selfish person he had ever known in his entire life.
The reality is, it was never my responsibility as their child to pay for another child’s anything. My dad could have sacrificed a week’s worth of cigarettes (unrealistic, I know, but not the point) to send his daughter to a concert. But it was easier to burden someone in the house who had a little money. This was the man who would spend a couple hours at a time every so often watering his lawn so he’d have nice green grass in our sometimes dry summers and then yell at me about wanting to take a shower every day.
I can talk about these incidents now without the emotional weight they used to carry. I can’t say whether my father is a narcissist or not, but I do know he’s at least an emotionally manipulative person whom I feared for many years and who is vicious when he feels you’ve wronged him.
A few days ago, my youngest brother (there are 4 of us and I’m the oldest) unblocked me from Facebook and contacted me, wondering if it was ok for him to call me. I said it was and that I welcomed it. I pretty much had written off all of my siblings at this point, who all cling to our parents still and defend their behavior. I believe partially because I received the harshest discipline of the 4 of us for whatever reason. I no longer care to know what the reason is. It’s not my fault or my problem.
After just three conversations with my brother, I started having mixed feelings about him. Some are good feelings because we both love scenery pics, pics of the clouds and the sky, and animals. He also seemed to actually care and listen to what I had to say about things without getting upset. Finally! Someone with whom I could have some type of relationship in our dysfunctional family!
But then he is also gaslighting me. After telling him I was emotionally abused (both of us acknowledging we both carry different perspectives growing up), he said he believed me, but then followed up with “but I don’t think you were abused.” For a moment, I started to question myself again. But, only for a moment.
Then he took it upon himself after telling him about a more recent incident that occurred with my Dad before I started No Contact with him, to talk to Dad and get HIS side of the story and find out why he was upset with me, if at all. My brother got back to me and told me about this and then said “whoa, there’s a lot of things between you guys.” I think I handled it well for the moment, telling him that whatever it was, its between Dad and I. But then the more I thought about it, the more upset I was that my Dad thinks he actually has legitimate problems with me. The incidents in which I asserted myself is pretty much my life story with my parents as far as MY behavior. Sure, there was yelling and telling them off with choice curse words, but normally in response to emotional abuse. It took me a year of No Contact with either one of them to realize this about myself and to determine I was going to change how I respond to either one of them moving forward. I wanted less stress in my life and in my head. I hated how easily I got riled up and angry at them.
Shortly after my brother revealed he talked to Dad, I posted something about my father on Facebook. Immediately my brother confronted me in an instant message about “posting private family matters”. And in that conversation was this:
Once again, familiar feelings creeping up of being made to feel I’m the bad guy. I’m the reason why my relationships with my dysfunctional family are garbage.
His statement is what is actual garbage. I’ve had a problem with family members wanting to talk to me since LONG before Facebook was even invented. Facebook changed nothing about my relationships with my family. The only thing that changed was that at times, some family members knew I talked to my friends. At the same time, I’ve learned about how the family talks ABOUT me amongst themselves. So, THAT’S ok while not coming to me about anything to ask me why I do what I do or how I feel about anything, but its NOT ok to talk to my friends about why I do what I do and how I feel about things. OK, FAMILY. GOT IT.
So, Joe if you chose to click on this link and read it, great. I HOPE you do what I think you’re about to do and run to Mom and Dad and tell them how horrible of a person I am for airing dirty laundry permanently on the internet where anyone and everyone can read how shitty of a person Dad was to me. And really, the fact you would even help Dad paint me as the bad person just like he did to me as a teenager, makes you just as shitty. Just because you do it with a neutral voice without the hint of rage, doesn’t mean you’re not sending the same message. It took me a few days to figure it out, because sometimes manipulation takes some time to see through. But I see it. And I’m using MY best weapon doing what the family hates me doing the most:
TALKING ABOUT IT ON THE INTERNET.
If you don’t want your abusive behavior to be known, then perhaps you shouldn’t be an abuser. Silence is the abuser’s favorite power and fuck that shit.
I’m going to share something very personal and private because it exposes how harmful religion is to people and their marriages.
When I met my husband, I was still a virgin at the age of 21. The farthest I had gone with anyone before him was my first boyfriend touching my chest outside of my clothing (and at the time was deemed a fuck up and it never happened again). So, I really hadn’t been on any bases outside of making out kissing prior to my husband. HE on the other hand, was 29 when we met, had been engaged twice before, and has had, as is normal, several different sex partners. He was way more experienced than I was. This has been both a blessing and a curse in our marriage. There are ways in which the inexperience has made me inadequate. That does not mean my husband makes me feel inadequate. He has told me I satisfy and love him in ways nobody else had ever showed him before. He also cares about ME feeling good too and I feel satisfied and happy. We wouldn’t both be married happily after 15 years if that weren’t the case. Some older people I’ve spoken too were surprised to hear we still cuddle on the couch and still have sex. I won’t get into the details of our private conversation that made the inadequacy hit me like a brick, but it left me feeling very upset and pissed off…but not at my husband. I know this isn’t a reflection on me as a person by any means. And when he and I started having sex before we were married, I had Christians concern troll me and my life…AT THE AGE OF 21. I mean, I wasn’t looking to be a nun, for fucks sake.
But I still can’t help but cry and grieve at how naïve I am in some ways and I blame my parents and Christianity. My parents failed to have any sex talks with me beyond the birds and the bees basics. I was never told that it was ok for me to masturbate as a girl or encouraged to discover myself sexually. Not once. When I was in the Independent Fundamental Baptist church as a teenager, physical contact beyond hand shaking during church with members of the opposite sex was a huge no-no and was strictly enforced. And my first boyfriend’s conservative Christian family had pretty strict limits too though not quite as harsh as the IBF church. Kissing and making out was ok along with hugging and holding hands. But that was pretty much everything that was allowed. Even talking about sex was dangerous, because then you might start having sex and that was definitely wrong before marriage.
I did a little bit of trying to discover myself sexually in secret as a teenager, but I felt horrible about it like I was committing sin and doing Satan’s work, so I didn’t do enough to actually learn much about myself at all. In fact, I know my boyfriend didn’t masturbate either, because there were times we would make out and he would have an “accident” in his pants. He was so ignorant sexually, he wouldn’t let me put my hand on his thigh after this one incident because he was afraid (besides being embarrassed), that sperm would somehow find its way into my vagina by me touching his leg outside of his clothes in comfort with my hand. I was already 18 years old when this shit happened.
Some of this shit may sound funny, but its not. Evangelicals and Fundamentalists do catastrophic sexual harm to its followers by preaching this purity before marriage bullshit. I’m speaking on a different level than controlling women. It harms both young men and women with the type of sexual ignorance that people who are old enough to vote should not have about themselves or each other.
Everything I know about sex I learned from my husband. Thank the gods he isn’t a conservative Christian, otherwise that sentence would be worse than it is. But its still bad. Although I would change nothing about my marriage and I would change nothing about how my husband and I feel about each other, I should have had more knowledge and experience before we met. And I know I can’t change the past at all. And I know I can use my experience to do better with my kids. But I’m not alone. There are probably millions of Christians who are so afraid… I don’t even know why really …they do this permanent harm called sexual repression to their kids. It passes down from generation to generation except for those of us who break the cycle. By all rights, my first boyfriend and I should have been educated about safe sex. We should have been encouraged to masturbate as teenagers and discover ourselves. And we should have been allowed, within the confines of a normal and healthy relationship, to discover each other and learn regardless of whether the relationship would eventually end. In fact, it is my belief (although now I know breaking up was best for us both), that a major part of the relationship ending was sexual repression. I know his parents pressured him to either end it or get married because they were afraid after a year and a half we would soon no longer resist and start having sex and since we were young and in college, they knew were weren’t ready to get married. There was no room for safe sex and birth control for a 19 year old college student and her 21 year old boyfriend in his parents eyes without pressuring marriage as a solution.
So now, I sit and grieve that my ignorance has followed me even to this day. That I was robbed of developing normally. That part of me won’t know how to help my children when I allow them to do what I wasn’t allowed to do because I won’t be able to relate to them.
I don’t know what the Christian purpose of this ignorance is, but I hate Christianity for it. And I’m angry at my parents for doing nothing but teach me what I learned in 5th grade sex-ed about periods, eggs and sperm. I hate people and I hate religion for forcing me to suffer. I hate people and I hate religion for restricting me from learning about myself. I hate people and I hate religion for restricting me from expressing myself.
Fuck Christianity and fuck its Gospel of Sexual Repression.
Where to start? There is SO MUCH in my life that happened to bring me to this moment of flouncing from a Mennonite Church I had been attending for the better part of the past 16 years. When my husband and I renewed our vows, we had our church wedding here. We dedicated our kids to God shortly after our son was born. The former pastor’s wife I still consider one of my good friends. She’s truly a good soul and knows what living love looks like. There are several other good Christian people with wonderful souls who are good friends and I know they try to live out a form of self love and love for others that Jesus tried to get others to see for themselves when he was alive all those years ago.
But institutionally, Christianity is an abusive father. Institutionally, church is not emotionally, mentally, sexually safe. Yes, institutionally. I’ve experienced for myself and listened to far too many stories to believe there are just a bunch of isolated incidents and Christianity as a whole embodies goodness. Back in 2009, some one posted a timeline of events in Europe that summarizes how Christianity took over in Europe. My pagan ancestors literally converted for fear of death. http://churchandstate.org.uk/2016/03/how-europe-was-overrun-by-christians/
I have a couple of books I’m reading about Germanic and Celtic history before the monstrosity known as Christianity took over Europe.
This isn’t a good start. Taking over by the sword and not by Love. It doesn’t get any better once Europeans spread to the Americas, but that’s not the point of this particular blog post, so I’m not going there. But there are plenty of resources to learn about that if you wish.
Eventually, I came to realize the damage in my own life wasn’t isolated incidents, but part of the institutionalized evil of Christianity.
A few years ago, I wrote a letter to the pastor of the cult church I spent my teenage years in. His wife treated me like I was the spawn of Satan come to corrupt her children. I confronted him for that after learning that Jack Schaap of First Baptist Church of Hammond, IN coerced a 16 year old girl and transported her across state lines TWICE to have sex with her. He is currently serving a 12 year sentence for his crimes. I was angry that I was treated like the spawn of Satan in his church while Jack Schaap was abusing his power and doing actual harm beyond the Patriarchy this cult religion preached. Jack Schaap and the previous womanizer and father in law pastor, Jack Hyles were the leaders of this particular faction of cult Baptist churches.
Last night, I stuck the following letter into the church mailboxes of the members of the Mennonite Church I had been attending. A slight background: they went through a “discernment” process to determine if and at what capacity, LGBTQ people would be allowed to be members and/or serve in the church. The church was pretty split on what we felt. Some people wanted total inclusion while others dug in their regressive heels, using the Bible as their weapon of hate against this “lifestyle choice” despite the real life testimonies of current and former attendees who proved it wasn’t a “lifestyle choice” at all. The discernment process was exhausting and rage inducing. In the end, they decided nothing, but have chosen to stay in limbo. I guess some people are just hoping the whole “issue” would just go away. Since that discernment process, my daughter discovered during puberty that she’s gay. Suddenly, I had much more to fight for than just being a strong advocate for my LGBTQ friends.
Then recently, I read how Vice President of Eastern Mennonite University, Luke Hartman, abused his power, coerced a young woman into a relationship and then mentally abused her, stalked her and even threatened her life when she tried to leave. It wasn’t just this alone that got to me, but how their local Mennonite Church and even the leadership of MCUSA (the broader denomination organization) tried to cover, lie, hide and victim blame. That was it for me, guys. How could ANY church argue against LGBTQ people being invited to Jesus’ table, serving God, and being church members when trusted men in power are sexually and mentally harming people and the church once again, caring more about their reputation than about bringing a criminal to justice?!
So here is the letter I wrote. No more silence, First Mennonite Church of Canton, OH. No more hoping this shit will just “go away”. Deal with yourselves, or become irrelevant.
Dear First Mennonite Church, April 22nd, 2016
Yes, our family hasn’t been there for a while and we probably won’t be. Maybe we’ll show up to eat some of your food at potlucks, but that’s it. It’ll be nice to check in with friends we don’t see often. But, I’m done with church and I’m done with Christianity.
I was emotionally abused as a teenager by my dad and by a church (not Mennonite) I was in. My daughter is gay. And during the entire “discernment” process, I was disgusted at many points during the process. At some point in my life also, I joined an Independent Baptist Survivors group on Facebook and learned about many sexual abuses committed by church leaders in the Baptist church and how the sexual abuse was covered up and the victims blamed for what was done with them.
And now Lauren Shifflett of Lindale Mennonite Church told her account of how she was sexually abused by Mennonite teenage boys as a teenager, raped at some point, and then sexually coerced, emotionally abused and stalked by Luke Hartman, Vice President of EMU who was recently busted in a prostitution sting. To this day, EMU and some church leadership of Lindale is trying to protect Luke, discredit Lauren and retraumatize her. If you’re interested, here is Lauren’s sister’s account of how the church and EMU has responded to the situation and to Lauren. http://www.ourstoriesuntold.com/good-intentions-arent-enough/
Here is where my anger has just exploded about First Mennonite, the Ohio Conference and MCUSA in general. First Mennonite, the conference and MCUSA has had this decades long debate about LGBTQs. I heard church members utter ridiculous fears about gay people. I mean, gay people might teach young Sunday School kids that its ok to be gay, right? Ridiculous times where Bible verses were used as weapons to justify LGBTQ exclusion from church membership and participation. At the same time, sexual predators and abusers are protected and word salad performed by Mennonite leadership that brings no real justice to sexual abuse victims.
I just can’t deal with a church half full of complete hypocrites when it comes to sex. My daughter can’t feel safe being around people who might possibly confront her about her “sin” while those same people probably judge Lauren for being a victim of a sick abusive man. Patriarchy is a hell of a drug, isn’t it? And how dare any women or LGBTQ people who don’t live by its rules disturb men’s power, right? So you weaponize religion and the Bible. No different than other Christians I’ve experienced. Your doctrine of pacifism is a lie as the violence of emotional and sexual abuse in the Mennonite Church is allowed and covered up while people whine and cry about gay people forcing the Church to accept their “lifestyle”.
Well, I’m done. Some of you may feel sad or even angry I feel this way.
Well perhaps you should have thought of that before emotionally abusing people in your own congregation. You won’t get the chance to do to my beautiful daughter what you’ve done to others.
So ends my 36 year relationship with Christianity. I’m completely done trying to make a relationship with an abusive Patriarchy religion work.
Once, I was a huge fan of both Bill and Hillary Clinton. And in some ways, I still am. I have both autobiographies (Living History and My Life). I even took my copy of My Life to a house rep re-election rally in my state where Bill Clinton spoke and he signed my book. I will treasure it forever. Not everyone has a book signed by a President of the United States. I think its pretty awesome. I even enjoyed reading it. He writes similarly to how I talk in conversations. Talk about something, touch on something he and I could easily go off on a little trail and then bring it back to the original point or how that side thing related to the main idea (but sometimes, maybe not). It was amusing as I read it.
And Hillary …what an inspiration as a woman! To not just be a lawyer and not to settle for just being First Lady, but to actually be a Senator and a Secretary of State and now run a second time for President herself! How many women have that type of resume? Hillary has made history with her list of personal accomplishments, even if being President is something she doesn’t get to attain.
But something has happened along the way. I don’t know what it is. No, Bernie supporters, its not that she was a young Republican. I grew up Republican too, and I’m nowhere near where I was. To not allow someone to grow and change throughout their life as if they’re less of a person to have not always held your perfect purest progressive ideology is just you being an asshole.
No, I think its that she’s currently trying to play the game within the realm of Patriarchy…a game she can’t win. A game she shouldn’t want to win. A game that leaves someone looking disingenuous. For example, her tough foreign policy talk. She’s obviously catering to the center. After all, she has to seem tough and willing to make strong calls as Commander in Chief, right? Because women are weak and aren’t willing to go to war. But isn’t that what we want? Someone who is less willing to go to war and take a hard look at our current foreign policy and see how it perpetuates violence in the world as is and needs to change? I thought maybe a woman with our natural strengths would be more willing to do that. But she wants to play the man’s game instead and sound and be tough on foreign policy.
Like she wanted to be tough on crime. To not seem like a pansy.
And then there’s the answer she gave to some Black Lives Matters protesters when she met with them. When they confronted her husband’s mass incarceration problem (which she lobbied for), she didn’t apologize. She didn’t say “We didn’t realize at the time what the effects would be, and it was wrong and I want to fix it and make it right.” No, she placed the burden on those whom the policy hurts the most to come up with a solution. That didn’t sit well with me. She’s trying to play the Patriarchy game and I just don’t like it. I had a corporate boss who played the Patriarchy game in her corporate politics. SHE was probably the worst boss I EVER had. She was fucking ruthless. I just don’t like to see fellow women try to get ahead using that game and claiming they’re going to bat for the rest of us. I don’t think so. Does she plan on dismantling that system when she gets to the top? Or is she going to leave it intact because it gave her the power she has?
Now, we do have to realize how politicians have this game they need to play. How they need to use words and I suppose using logical fallacies are par for the course (like her straw man attacks on Bernie’s health care plan). And we have to give politicians a certain amount of grace because otherwise they end up not getting attention and their chances are lost. I mean, that’s how the political game is played and most of us fall for it hook line and sinker.
Which brings me to Bernie. I like him as a candidate better than Hillary. Though my own life story mirrors Hillary’s in changing my own worldview as I’ve grown, I do appreciate Bernie’s long standing voice. I know some critics may believe he’s just pandering because they’re just now hearing his particular rhetoric recently. But, recently his camp posted C-Span clips from the 90’s in which he was already mentioning in Congress how several policies were disproportionately affecting black people negatively in our society. He really was talking the talk before it was popular to do so among white people who think its trendy to be an “ally” right now. So yes, I do plan on voting for Bernie in my state’s primary. There are many other reasons and examples, but to me they all do seem to point to a man who wants to make some serious positive changes and I think we are long overdue for those changes.
But then his supporters. God, I avoid a lot of social media right now because the nasty Bernie supporters with their racist bullshit towards black people as if Bernie is the “obvious” choice and they’re “stupid” for voting for Hillary. Oh, those racist microaggressions. Progressive liberals…. You have a lot of fucking soul searching to do. Remember how I called you an asshole earlier for thinking you’re all high and mighty with your Purest Progressive Ideology? Yeah. That shit makes you look ugly. And the sexism? Christ man. “I’m going to be a sexist asshole to prove to you I’m more of a feminist than anyone!”
That’s literally how fucking dumb you sound.
The point is, neither Hillary nor Bernie are going to be perfect. In fact, neither one can be our savior. We don’t need a SAVIOR. We need to save ourselves. In fact, there is no other way to create a better country for everyone who lives here. And while voting for the right President is definitely a step in the right direction, this fighting and mud slinging in the Democratic party and the games we see politicians willing to play only reveals that every single one of us have a fuckload of looking in the mirror and savings of ourselves we really need to be doing.