Preparing for the Apocalypse – Escape Chapter 2: Child’s Play

Reading books like Escape makes me realize how sheltered I was.

I wasn’t taught to fear strangers. I wasn’t in an environment where abuse was rife and women forced into loveless marriages, all stamped with God’s approval. And I was taught games like Kick-the-Can and Hide-and-Go-Seek. No one ever taught me to play Apocalypse. [Read more…]

Josh Duggar Molested Children, Then Made a Career Claiming Gays Dangerous to Children

It’s not shocking that the Duggar family’s bright, smiling Good Christian™ Image hid some terrible things. It was obvious to anyone who knows anything about the Christian patriarchy movement that all those shiny happy faces concealed some pretty harsh truths. I figured the wheels would come off eventually, but I didn’t anticipate Josh Duggar being outed as a child molester. Needless to say: content note for child sexual abuse. [Read more…]

How a Cult Programs You to Stay in the Trap: Escape Chapter 1 (Part Two)

In our last installment of Escape by Carolyn Jessop, we got a taste of the depression, despair, and abuse Carolyn lived with in her FLDS community. Today, we’ll see how her childhood conditioned her to fear the outside world, and accept her lot as an abused wife pumping out endless babies in a loveless plural marriage.

Colorado City, AZ and Hildale, UT are communities where children literally run screaming away from strangers. It isn’t because of stranger-danger or regular, if exaggerated, fears. Carolyn tells us she and the other kids [Read more…]

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XI: Wherein We’re Told Salty Fish Stories

Oh, hey, now that we’re out of that horrible imaginary undersea contraption, Earth Science Fourth Edition is talking about seawater composition! Aren’t you excited? Surely, they can’t muck that up too badly, right?

Wrongo. Folks, it sez right in our Section Objectives that we’re so very, very screwed. We are to “evaluate different Flood theories that could account for the saltiness of the oceans.” And the creationist crap spews thick, chunky, and stinky from the beginning. There is so, so very much wrong that we are neck-deep and sinking from the start. We may need that robot thingy to escape this crap.

Image is a painting of a red-orange machine that looks sort of like an old diving helmet on robot legs. It has fat rings sticking out horizontally from its top, like ears. Its legs bend backwards at the knees. It looks like it's drunkenly dancing in the surf on a deserted tropical island. It is frightening.

Figure 13-5 from BJU’s ES4. Run away!!!!

[Read more…]

Escape Chapter 1: Early Childhood (Part One)

In the preface of Escape, Carolyn Jessop gave a brief, body-clenching account of the night she and her eight children fled her polygamous arranged marriage and the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints cult. Now she takes us back in time to her childhood. For the next several chapters, she’ll immerse us in her early life and the FLDS, showing us how a harsh fundamentalist doctrine enmeshes the mind, and leads to the awful abuses many people, especially women and children, suffer in such sects.

Carolyn very nearly wasn’t born into it at all:

Aunt Lydia couldn’t believe I’d survived. She was the midwife who had delivered babies for two generations, including my mother. When she saw the placenta, she realized that my mother had chronic placental abruption. Mom had hemorrhaged throughout her pregnancy and thought she was miscarrying. But when the bleeding stopped, she shrugged it off, assuming she was still pregnant. Aunt Lydia, the midwife, said that by the time I was born, the placenta was almost completely detached from the uterus. My mother could have bled to death and I could have been born prematurely or, worse, stillborn.

It appalls me that a woman could hemorrhage during pregnancy and just disregard it. But this is what can come of fundamentalist philosophy. Many of these very controlling sects prefer using midwives to OBs. The gynecological care for women is poor or non-existent. You frequently end up with pregnant women choosing – or being forced – to take enormous risks with their health. You get women “shrugging off” dire emergencies like maternal hemorrhage. You too often end up with injured or dead mothers and babies. Carolyn and her mom Nurylon were extremely fortunate. (Oh, and if you’re tempted to paint this gamble as the beautiful result of trusting “natural birth,” please go read the Skeptical OB. There’s a reason poor women in other countries go so far as to swim raging rivers so they can give birth in a hospital. It’s because “natural” childbirth is wildly dangerous.

Carolyn’s father Arthur gave her mom a choice of two names. That’s the extent of egalitarian parenting in their world. Carolyn’s mom was sixth generation FLDS. She knew her place was to submit, the man’s to decide.

When Carolyn was born, her father had only one wife. The family moved from Colorado City, Arizona to Salt Lake City, Utah when Carolyn was five. Her mother thrived there, where her husband could come home from work nightly and they had enough money to feed their growing family. They could even afford toys for the kids. Nurylon loved taking her kids to the zoo and the park. And she was “thrilled,” after three daughters, “to finally have a son, because in our culture, boys have more value than girls.”

The fact that her father favored Carolyn over the other kids caused tension, but despite that, the year they spent in Salt Lake City was good. But then her father decided to move the family back to Colorado City, because his eldest child, Lydia, was about to start school, and he wanted her taught in the FLDS-soaked (nominally) public schools. Couldn’t have her learning real stuff, of course!

Image shows an empty desert lot. Beyond it is a jumbled collection of modest houses of various sizes. In the distance, the cliffs of El Capitan rise over the town.

Colorado City, Arizona. Photo courtesy Ken Lund via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The move back to their cramped little home and the dusty, claustophobic little FLDS town caused Nurylon to sink into a deep depression, one so severe she couldn’t even try to hide it from the kids. She would talk constantly about wanting to die, “having nothing to live for,” and sometimes would inform her children over their late-morning breakfast that she planned to kill herself that day. She assured her terrified kids that the Church would assign their dad a new wife, so they’d have a new mom to take care of them. She beat her children almost daily, sometimes bruising them so severely the marks would linger for over a week. The kids had to become experts in her behavior to survive, going so far as to provoke her into spanking them every morning once Carolyn had figured out she only spanked once per day, and the morning spankings weren’t as severe. She then wondered why her children were so bad in the mornings…

Many fundamentalists advocate spanking, relying on the Bible for justification. They have entire rituals dedicated to it, including spanking from love and hugging the child afterward. Carolyn’s experience shows why this doesn’t work:

When my mother beat me, she would always say she was doing it because she loved me. So I used to wish she didn’t love me. I was afraid of her, but I would also get angry at her when she hit me. After she beat me she insisted on giving me a hug. I hated that. The hug didn’t make the spanking stop hurting. It didn’t fix anything.

This was considered good discipline in the FLDS community. But it’s not discipline. Spanking is abuse.

Abuse was rife in the FLDS community. Carolyn remembers seeing women in dark glasses, hiding black eyes and other bruises, quite often as a child. Her mother wouldn’t explain that those bruises came from battering husbands.

On the outside, Carolyn’s family looked perfect. Her mother kept them dressed in beautiful handmade clothes, and they were exquisitely well-behaved. Everyone thought their family was perfect. Keep that in mind when you see the Duggars playing happy huge family on teevee.

In Salt Lake City, Carolyn’s mother had been happy, engaged with the world around her. “In Colorado City, she was locked into a world of constant pregnancies, a loveless marriage, and a rural community strung together with dirt roads.” She and her husband fought constantly when he was home. She had to put on a facade of perfection with him, but it was never perfect enough. He complained about dust atop the refrigerator when the rest of the house gleamed. He complained about the children’s behavior, no matter how well they behaved. He wanted his already-thin wife to be thinner, despite keeping her almost continually pregnant.

There were flashes of the person she could have been, had she not been crushed by the FLDS lifestyle and her husband’s abuse. She loved playing games with her kids, and read them fairytales. She delighted in Christmas, even going so far as to smuggle in an FLDS-forbidden Christmas tree one year. She and her kids had a wonderful night decorating it, and a joyous Christmas morning opening their presents and eating candy.

My father let us have candy once a year – no more. My mother was clearly disobeying our father in giving us sugary treats…. Linda and I were old enough to realize that Mama was going to have to pay for her disobedience, but we loved feeling so spoiled.

Carolyn’s father came home the following night, and blew up. He and his wife fought at top volume long into the night. When Carolyn woke the next morning, the tree was gone, and her mother wept as she cooked breakfast. Their first Christmas was their last. Her mother’s depression grew so severe she couldn’t get out of bed or take care of the house. Her spirit was crushed.

After a few days, the friend who had been her Christmas co-conspirator came over and told her to stop feeling bad about herself. If her husband didn’t want her to have fun with her kids, that was his problem. Mother rallied, but she never again did something with us in defiance of our religion. I did notice that she became more demanding of us and insisted on more perfection after the Christmas episode. I’m sure she would have preferred to play games with us instead of spanking us, but her own mental slavery prevented her from being who she was.

It’s unbearably tragic when religion and/or ideology confines people in strait jackets so tight they’re strangled. I wish Carolyn’s mother could have broken those bonds, but it’s nearly impossible for women with no power and resources to do. And next week, we’ll see how the FLDS church kept its members in chains. We’ll also see what happened when they were almost set free.

For now, all I can say is, fuck religion. Yes, I’m aware that families can have abusive and controlling dynamics without it. But at least those abusers don’t have a mandate from God for their abuse. At least they can’t so easily claim that what they do is holy. And good people aren’t turned bad against their will, believing they must do what God wants, even if it means harming themselves and their kids. At least they don’t believe their salvation depends upon it.

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.

I’m reviewing Escape chapter-by-chapter. Pick yourself up a copy if you’d like to follow along.

Really Terrible Bible Inspirations: (Un)Happy Biblical Mother’s Day!

It’s Mother’s Day today in many countries around the world. Many more countries have already or will soon be honoring mothers everywhere. Moms are important! Whether the moms you’re celebrating today are your biological, adopted, step, honorary, grand, great-grand, friends, cousins, or otherwise admired mothers, they’ve played a critical role in ensuring that a) there will be children and b) those children are (usually) at least somewhat civilized. I’ve watched my own moms and all the moms in my circles parent kids, and I’m incredibly grateful to them for doing that tough job. Some of them even do it mostly alone, which is even tougher! Massive respect, Moms!

In honor of Mother’s Day, let’s see what sort of inspiration we can get from the Book of Genesis. Sorry-not-sorry to say it’s mostly really terrible. [Read more…]

Carolyn Jessops’s Escape: Preface

I wish I’d had this book as a teenager.

I went to high school in Page, Arizona, a complete nowhere town with virtually nothing for kids to do. One of the ways we’d amuse ourselves on boring nights was by driving up to the Utah/Arizona border and gawking at the polygamists’ houses in Big Water. We’d make fun of their extreme size and shoddiness. There weren’t many there. They were weird and isolated, and we rarely caught a glimpse of any people around them. We had no idea what went on behind those blank walls, aside from knowing it involved one man, lots of women, herds of children, and extreme Mormon religion. If we ever encountered actual polygamists visiting or working in Page, we didn’t realize it. We’d probably have done something stupid if we had. We were almost completely ignorant about polygamy and the lives people in the more fundamentalist sects lived. [Read more…]

Today’s Really Terrible Bible Inspirations

You’ve all seen those inspirational posters with the pretty scenes and the carefully-selected Bible quotations. Some of your coworkers probably have one hanging in their cubicle, or framed on their desks. You probably have a grandparent or other relation whose walls are adorned with such tripe. And you, being an atheist, or agnostic, or other sort of person who groans upon beholding saccharine nonsense, might wish you could replace that nice quote with something a little more representative of the Bible’s content.

My darlings, I am here to help. Behold: Really Terrible Bible Inspirations. [Read more…]

Really Terrible Bible Stories Now Available!

It’s here, my darlings, it’s finally here! At long last, Really Terrible Bible Stories vol. I: Genesis is now available at Amazon! Worldwide, even! It’s allliiiiivvvveeee!!!

Image is a painting of Abraham, holding a knife to a screaming Isaac's throat, looking incomprehendingly at the cherub that's trying to get his attention. Above is the title Really Terrible Bible Stories. Below is vol. I Genesis, Dana Hunter.

I may be a touch hyper-excited. It’s my first book-baby and all.

Those of you who’ve been regulars at the cantina know what it’s all about, of course. You’ve gotten to read all the excerpts! For those just tuning in, here’s the book description: [Read more…]