A Sordid Tale of Fanaticism and Murder: “Under the Banner of Heaven”

I’ve been on a fundamentalist Mormon exposé reading kick lately. This happens when you read a book like Escape. You want to keep prodding at the open wound with fascinated horror. I already had Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven on my reading list, so I ordered it and got to reading.

Word of advice: don’t read this right after Escape. It can’t measure up. It’s a book written by an outsider. It’s a great work of journalism, but it is journalism, and the style of the detached, objective reporter giving it to you straight loses its power in the face of a harrowing personal account.

That said, it’s a very juicy true-crime story about murderous polygamists, so it’s absolutely not boring. If you’re in the market for gore, this is your book.

Cover of Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

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Escape: A Harrowing Tale of Fundamentalism and Freedom

I’ve been in an easily-distractable mood lately. I keep fussing around with books, picking them up for a few pages or paragraphs before tossing them aside and moving on to something else. I was afraid I’d never finish another book again in my life until I picked up Carolyn Jessop’s Escape. I didn’t even mean to buy it – I was there for Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven, actually, and decided I’d better look around for similar books written by women, because my reading list has unfortunately been skewing too heavily dude. Up popped Escape, and I said “Brilliant,” and placed my order.

Image is the cover of Escape, which is photo of Carolyn Jessop on a black background. She cradles a framed picture of herself as an FLDS teenager in her hands. She is a woman in her thirties with chestnut hair and blue eyes.

This seriously screwed up my already-precarious sleep schedule, and almost ruined my April Fools’ Day plans. [Read more…]

Really Terrible Bible Stories Excerpt: Biblical Family Values Parte the Thirde: Erecting Phallic Symbols

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Biblical Family Values Parte the Thirde: Erecting Phallic Symbols

(Genesis 35)

I would ask all of you who’ve ever giggled uncomfortably and twittered about “quaint heathen customs” while watching Hindu priests oil up Shiva’s penis on the National Geographic Channel to pay close attention to the following section.

After Jacob’s sons piss off the entire region by murdering a whole town full of dudes, then stealing all their stuff (including their women and children), the Jacob clan has to go. God tells Jacob to head back to Bethel and make an altar to him. So Jake makes everybody get rid of their strange gods, clean up, change clothes, and go. Traveling through the territories of all the cities who’ve heard of their mass-murdering ways might ordinarily be a little fraught, but God jams his divine finger into the terror centers of the residents’ brains, so they’re too shit-scared to attack. How thoughtful (Gen. 35:1-5).

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Moar Voting for Really Terrible Bible Story Illustrations!

You good people did me a solid and helped me select the most fucked-up painting suitable for my forthcoming book, Really Terrible Bible Studies. Thankees! Franchescini won, but it was a close-run thing, and some of you almost tempted me with your alternate selections. What, have you been talking to snakes in gardens or something?!

I need your help once again. I have found three excellent candidates for the really terrible Jacob family values. Which should I go with? [Read more…]

Really Terrible Bible Stories Excerpt: The Jacob Family Sexploits

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The Jacob Family Sexploits

(Genesis 29 & 30)

These chapters are absolutely X-rated.

Jacob, having been sent away to his Uncle Laban in order to find a wife and avoid being justifiably homicided by his brother, arrives at his destination, where he immediately begins to make a know-it-all nuisance of himself. While he’s busy telling professional shepherds how to herd sheep, his cousin Rachel arrives with another flock. It’s lust-at-first-sight for him. He proves his manly-manliness by rolling away the stone covering the well, waters the sheep, and then grabs Rachel and kisses her without so much as an “if you please!” He then bursts into tears and tells her they’re cousins, as one does after manhandling a nubile young stranger (Gen. 29:1-12).

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Really Terrible Bible Stories Excerpt: Biblical Family Values Parte the Firste: Sibling Rivalry

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Biblical Family Values Parte the Firste: Sibling Rivalry

(Genesis 25)

Abraham’s sister/wife Sarah has died. He’s only in his mid-hundreds, so he gets himself another wife, Keturah, who’s apparently considered a concubine. He certainly treats her like one. He has six more sons with her. Old Abe isn’t one for keeping the sons he sires with mere sex slaves around where they can compete with his darling Isaac, so he gives the boys gifts and tells them to GTFO, just like he did with Ishmael. Like many men who hate paying child support, he apparently doesn’t really consider them his sons (Gen. 25:1-6).

After all that effort making babies he doesn’t even want, Abraham dies at a ripe old age. Ishmael, despite being cut out of Abe’s will, helps his half-brother Isaac bury their Pop, but after all he’s been through, and the loyalty he shows at the end, who do you think God blesses? Isaac. Of course. Asshole (Gen. 25:7-11).

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Cast Your Vote! Which Awful Painting Should I Use to Illustrate?

I’m torn, my darlings. I’ve got one really terrible Bible story: Lot’s daughters seducing raping him. I’ve got two paintings illustrating said seduction rape. I’m not sure which one will say it best. So tell me which I should use in my forthcoming book, Really Terrible Bible Stories.

Should it be Joachim Antonisz Wtewael‘s Lot and His Daughters: [Read more…]

Really Terrible Bible Stories Excerpt: Burn Your Boy for God

Burn Your Boy for God

(Genesis 22)

Any day of the week, you’ll hear Good ChristianTM people condemn the very idea of child sacrifice. Only savages and heathens and very terrible people would do that. Their God, these fine Christians say, is an awesome god who would neverever require such a thing. And these awful people who murder their children, then claim God told them to – why! They are definitely wicked or insane or satanic, because God would never tell them to kill their kids.

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So Wrong… So Not Funny… But Entirely Hilarious!

I don’t often break into great gales of laughter. I’m usually not reduced to helplessness. There are few things that get me laughing so hard my stomach hurts, I can barely breathe, and I start sob-laughing. Usually, I can get through funny stuff with just a grin or a guffaw. I’m pretty restrained like that, especially when I’m alone and don’t have someone else’s mirth jamming its foot on my funny bone.

I can’t really remember the last time I lost it. It might come to me someday. I can tell you this is the hardest I’ve laughed this year, and I really feel like I shouldn’t. I mean… it’s not a funny subject. Not a bit. I’ve got to give you trigger warnings right now: if you’re at all squeamish about graphic medical stuff, if you’ve ever had a prolapse or been traumatized by someone else’s prolapse, this piece may not be for you. You may be permanently scarred. [Read more…]

An Informative Tour of Victorian English Women’s Struggles for Equality

Have you encountered an MRA spouting nonsense about how women lorded it over men in Victorian England, and need a rebuttal? Perhaps you’ve encountered Christian patriarchy advocates who are waxing lyrical about how good the ladies had it when they were under male authority, and wish to disabuse them of some ridiculous notions? Then you need to procure yourself a copy of Mary Lyndon Shanley’s Feminism, Marriage, and the Law in Victorian England at once.

Cover of the book Feminism, Marriage, and the Law in Victorian England.

This is a slender tome packed full of eye-popping information on how married women were treated by law in that romantic era, and their decades-long struggle to be treated as people, not property. She tells the story through a series of Acts of Parliament. If, like me, you’re a sucker for law drama, you’ll savor this method thoroughly. Even if that’s not your thing, you’ll encounter too many fascinating feminists in infuriating situations to care. [Read more…]