I Wrote a Letter

Yesterday, I sent the following email to my former pastor, the pastor of Liberty Fundamental Baptist Church in Lynden, Washington.

 I wrote this letter, because, for 20 years of my life, I felt like I did not have a voice. I am reclaiming that now. I also wrote this letter because I am a survivor, and as a survivor, I want to share my story.

 I sent this email 24 hours ago, and have yet to receive a response. I decided to put this on my blog, because I want the rest of the world to know my story, and I also want to share what fundamentalism did to me in the rawest way I could think of.

 This was very hard for me to write, as it shares my deepest pain and struggles. I hope you will respect that as I share this with you.


 Hello Gary,

 I have been wanting to write you this email for a while, and, to be honest, I have been composing sections in my mind. I have held off in writing this, because I wanted to make sure I said everything I want to say, and I finally feel as if I am at that point.

Please know that this email is mine alone, and that my family neither knows about it nor agrees with everything I am about to say. However, I am an adult now, and I hope that you can take this email in that manner.

 I am writing you this letter to tell you how fundamentalist Christianity damaged my life. I want you to know these things, because I believe that I have the responsibility to share with you how LFBC and LFBA affected my life in a negative way. I also believe that you have the moral obligation to listen to me, even if you disagree.

 Growing up at LFBA led me to have a very sheltered life. I did not know very much about the "world" nor the "sin" that it contained. I was shielded to things considered to be wrong (homosexuality being one example), but exposed to things far more frightening (hellfire and brimstone). Because this was all I knew, I did not question it or consider anything different. I accepted my role as a woman whose role was primarily to submit to the men in my life. Throughout my childhood, I found pockets of happiness. However, even my childhood was clouded with painful memories. I remember times at school in which we were all brought into the "Bible room" when something was found to be missing or damaged. I clearly remember a day in which Mrs. X said that she would start spanking everyone until someone confessed. I remember receiving numerous paddlings at school, an abusive activity that did nothing but drain me of any self-worth and confirm to me that it is acceptable to use violence as a form of punishment. I have multiple memories of being shamed for wearing a skirt that was a bit too short or not sitting like a "lady." In church, I cannot begin to count the times in which I was made to feel like a wretched sinner. Having my head bowed and eyes closed until I felt fear crawling up my back and making me raise my hand to confess one thing or another-these are the things that stay with me. I remember you talking multiple times about how sin is like dirty menstrual rags. I never understood why you obsessed over that. It seemed very degrading to women, as if the natural product of our bodies was something filthy.

As you know, I had many "rebellions" in my teen years. I see now that I was trying to assert my independence as an individual. The endless rules tried to keep me from independence, but somehow, a flame of enlightenment stayed in me. I remember when I went to see Narnia in the theaters. The hot shame that followed me for months afterwards finally made me repent of my sins, but I still always loved the childlike story of faith. The death of Miss X and the Christian ideal of rejoicing with death was also harmful for me. The fact that Miss X died so tragically was something I needed to mourn, but I never got that chance. I remember after her death when I was going through my thirteen year old "rebellion" that you and my parents had an intervention with me at school. Staying in that room for hours listening to all the reasons why I was horrible...I could do nothing but give in and repent. Still, when I talk to my counselor about that day, tears roll down my face. That is a completely inappropriate way to treat a young teenager. I recently watched a tape of my baptism. I was so saddened to hear the way that I talked about my "testimony." It was not my true testimony, but rather a story that I was made to believe about myself. I sounded empty of my own personhood. I was merely stringing together phrases that I had learned, things that sounded good and "holy."

When I went to Faith Baptist Bible College, I was completely beaten down by fundamentalism. I went to FBBC to try to escape, but when I found out that it was nearly the same thing, I fell into a deep depression. I did not value myself, I thought of myself as a wretched sinner, and I believed I had no worth as a woman. It was because of all of these things that I went into a situation in which I was raped. Yes, I was raped when I was at Faith. I believe that this would not have happened had I learned to value myself earlier. But because fundamentalism strips away any sense of self-esteem, I put myself in a very negative situation. Obviously, I have no fault for being raped, but I believe that fundamentalism contributed to that. It still pains me when I hear fundamentalist pastors (speakers at BJU included) telling survivors that they should not be angry at their rapists. This is just another example of how women are oppressed within the system of fundamentalism.

 In the last two and a half years since leaving Faith, I have found great peace and joy in my life. I have gone to counseling to work through all the negative ways in which fundamentalism has affected me. I have completely left Christianity. I no longer claim Jesus Christ as my Savior, and for the first time in my life, I feel free. I now attend Unitarian Universalist services and love embracing a variety of religious traditions. I am one year away from receiving a Bachelor's in Human Services from WWU. Social work is a great opportunity for me to express my love and compassion for other people. I am planning to apply to the University of Washington for a Master of Social Work program. I would like to be a hospital social worker.

 Still, despite these amazing strides I have made, I feel darkness associated with fundamentalism. I admit to being angry. Sometimes, I am extremely angry. I am angry that you and thousands of other fundamentalists believe in a way that is so manipulative of people. I am angry that I have to unlearn thoughts about how I am worth nothing apart from Jesus. I am angry that I missed out on a childhood free from religious and physical abuse. I am angry that you think you are being righteous when I believe that your religious practices are nothing short of oppression.

 I am angry because I still have nightmares about hell. I am angry because in December, I had multiple dreams about doing something violent against fundamentalists, something that I learned by being surrounded by violence as a child. I am angry because I still have to fight guilt and a lack of self-worth. I am angry because I held up signs at pro-life rallies that shamed and humiliated women. I am angry because I was taught that was righteous. I am angry because I still have a difficult time catching up to a normal standard of education, and that I have had to relearn many things about science and history, because I was taught these things in a false manner at LFBA. I am angry because religion should not control the lives of people. I am angry that, when I was raped, the first thing I did was blame myself, even though rape victims are NEVER at fault.

But now, I am turning this anger into productive anger. I am working to inform others about the dangers of fundamentalism. I am speaking out as a survivor. I am turning my anger into a passion for justice. I have joined such movements as feminism and reproductive rights. My involvement in these things makes it easier for me to rectify the days in which I was denied basic human rights.

 Hence, this email. I want you to know how I feel. I don't want you to go on for one more day without knowing what I feel every day. I don't want you to walk away from this email without considering how your beliefs so negatively affect others. I still suffer every day from fundamentalism, and it is not fair that you do not know about it.

 My hope is that one day you will find the peace that I have-a peace that only comes with accepting the beauty of life in the present and relinquishing religious control. I also hope that this email will sting some place in yourself, so that you may realize the suffering of others.


 Melissa Peacock

6 Ways to Encourage a Foster Care Family


Many of you know that my family is licensed for foster care. Although I do not live at home anymore, I try to have an active role in the lives of the kiddos. Currently, my parents are on placement number 5, a sweet little girl. My parents tend to have longer term placements, although they never know how long the kiddos will be with them. Although we have only been a foster family, we have learned a number of things about how quickly life changes when a kiddo arrives in our home. My time in Human Services classes has also given me insight into what support foster families need, not just from their agencies, but from their communities. Admittedly, my perspective comes from being in a foster family with small kiddos, but some things may translate to other ages!

1. Donate clothes/shoes/blankets/stuffed animals.

My parents are licensed for girls birth-age 5. Many kiddos come into our home with just a small bag of belongings. It is very helpful to have a variety of clothes in each size, so we are always prepared. If a child comes without a special blanket or stuffed animal, we try to let them pick one if they wish. Many families are overrun with clothing in good condition that your children have outgrown, and this is a very easy way to help out!

2. Bring a meal over.

Friends often make meals for each other when a new baby enters the world. Although the arrival of a foster child is not quite as tumultuous, the first few days can be a bit hectic for all involved. Many times, a child needs to attend a number of appointments and visits in the first few days. A warm meal can make the difference between a stressful evening and calm family time.

This is also a kind gesture when a foster chid (especially long term placements) leave the home. That can also be a rough adjustment for the foster family, and reaching out with a meal is a wonderful way to show support.

3. Offer to babysit.

We love the time we spend with our kiddos. They become a part of our family. Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to take a foster child with us (going to Canada or a doctor's appointment, for instance). Also, there are times in which a foster family could greatly benefit from having a night off. Having a friend or family member who is willing to spend a few hours with a kiddo is a gift to foster families.

4. Be informed.

People who have misinformed or inaccurate ideas about foster care can be a discouragement to foster families. It's perfectly fine to disagree with "the system," but remember that a great deal of foster families do what they do (which is far from easy) because they want to make a difference in the life of a child.

5. Respect confidentiality, but offer a listening ear. 

Foster families are unable to share many details about the kiddo in care (for the best reasons, of course!). However, this does not prevent a foster parents from needing to vent and share her frustrations and victories. The best people for this are those who are able to offer support without asking a dozen questions about the case.

6. Become a foster parent!

I am incredibly encouraged whenever I hear someone is interested in becoming a foster parent. It's not meant for everyone, but taking a big step out of your comfort zone can mean the world to a child in need.

Gall Bladders and Obamacare

Health care has been in the news so much lately, thanks to the upholding of the individual mandate in "Obamacare." Health care has also been on my mind.

Three weeks ago, I had to have surgery to remove my gall bladder. This happened totally unexpectedly. I woke up on a Wednesday morning at two in the worst pain of my life. I kept hoping the pain would go away. In the dark of night, I could not sleep. I could not find a position to relieve my pain. I stayed in a fetal position until 6 AM, when I deemed it a fair enough time to call my mom. During those four hours, I thought about going to the emergency room. I was in excruciating pain, so much so that I was vomiting up bile. In my mind, though, I was afraid to go in, because I know that even with my insurance, emergency room visits are expensive. Because of this, I waited until 9 in the morning to see a doctor at my family practice.

Immediately, the doctor recognized that my gall bladder needed to come out. She sent me for blood work and set up a time for me to have an ultrasound. Unfortunately, the soonest appointment was at 5 o'clock in the evening. She said that because of my pain level (which was a 10 out of 10 at this point), I should go to the emergency room. So, with the cost of an emergency room visit in mind, my mom and I  checked me in.

I waited for a bed for three and a half hours. Those hours were the longest and hardest of my young life. I spent most of that time laying down on a bench in the emergency room lobby. I paced around a bit, vomited some more, and tried with too little patience to show my mom how to use my cell phone so she could call people for me. At the beginning of the wait I was able to text people and talk with my mom, but at the end, I was in too much pain. I closed my eyes and prayed to the universe that I would have relief soon. I even asked the triage nurses how much longer I would have to wait, and tried to show them how much pain I was in. But, because I am young and was still able to walk, and because at least five traumas were admitted via ambulance during my wait, the hours dragged on. I mostly cried during the last hour. Perhaps my pain level for a tiny little gall bladder sounds pathetic, but most people who have experienced attacks will tell you that the pain level is mind-blowing.

Finally, they called my name. It was the sweetest sound I have ever heard. Because the emergency room seems to be about the luck of the draw, I had some of that luck at this point. I got the only private room in the ER. As soon as I had a gown on and I laid in that bed, I looked at my mom and said, "How am I going to pay for this?" They took me in for an ultrasound, put some sweet pain medication in my veins, and within an hour of arriving in my room, the doctor told me that I needed surgery, yes, but not that day. So, they gave me a bottle of heavy narcotics and sent me home with the number of a surgeon to call. I was frustrated and confused. If I was in enough pain to be on narcotics that left me in bed and my gall bladder was so full of gall stones that I was only allowed to be on a liquid diet, why did I have to wait to get surgery?

It nearly goes without saying that I spent a lot of time crying over the next few days. I was able to meet with my very helpful and gracious surgeon who recognized the emergency in my situation. I met with him on a Friday, and the soonest available operating room was on Monday. So, I went home and waited. And worried. I kept looking at my insurance plan to try to calculate how much money I would be spending on my surgery. My anxiety level was astronomical that weekend. I don't know how I will pay for this. I don't know how I will pay for this. I barely slept the night before my surgery.

When I was admitted to the hospital, they handed me a brochure about how to pay for surgeries you can't afford. Even right before I headed into the operating room, as I was hooked up to machines, and my hair was in a cap, I told my mom that I was stressed about the bills.

I came out of anesthesia and had a similar thought within the hour.

Know what I also thought about?

I am one of the lucky ones, because I have insurance.

Technically, I am far below the US poverty line. Because of this, I am able to be on state-subsidized health insurance. I have a rather small payment each month, and I have a small out of pocket maximum. The medical bills, which are just now starting to come in, are relatively small compared to what others have to pay. I will only have to pay a fraction of what my health care services cost. To me, they are a hardship since I am a fully self-supporting college student, but I can make it.

But still, I can't help thinking that when one is going through a medical crisis, however large or small, the last thing on their minds should be whether or not they can pay for the services. I am beginning to see the importance of holistic health care, mind and body. People should not face crippling anxiety on top of other health issues. That should not happen.

Access to health care is a basic human right. I understand now why people in the United States do not live as long as they do in other nations. I know now why we are stressed out and live in constant fear of health care problems. I know why we can't seem to get better quickly because anxiety is gripping our bodies as well.

I know I do not speak for all Americans by any means. This is just my experience. This surgery, and my tonsil surgery last year, have made me understand the sheer necessity of universal health care.

"Obamacare" is by no means perfect. We have many steps to go. But, for me, it is a start. It's something. But really, I would like to see much, much more. I would like to live in a country where  people like me (who does indeed work, study, and intern with all my energy and by no means "work the system") do not have to decide between paying rent and having surgery.

My Nana, who lives right across the border in Canada, recently spent two months in the hospital. Her bill was nothing. Her concern was with getting better.

To me, that does not seem like too much of a tragedy.

(Note: I do not wish to start a fiery debate. I just wanted to share my recent experiences. Polite discussion is welcome.)

Free Peacock

I was inspired to blog again by my twelve year old sister and a group of Unitarian Universalists.

When I shut down my blog at the end of last year, I did not think I would start back up again. My life felt too exposed, too open. So, I hid my blog and all of my writing, made my Twitter private, and deleted 350 Facebook friends (sorry about that).

The six months since have been full of change. I feel like I have evolved into someone new. Since school finished last month, I have been considering blogging again. I have free time and things I want to share. I feel like I have a different voice now, and perhaps one that is even more important than before. I even Tweeted that I wanted to blog again, but that it seemed a bit exhausting.

I changed my mind this weekend.

First, I found my twelve year old sister writing a "guest post" for someone else's blog. Her dedication to blogging is pretty hysterical at times. I mentioned to her that I was thinking about blogging again, and she got more excited than I have seen her in months.

She told me we needed to set up my blog RIGHTNOW, and we spent the rest of the night deciding on a name and a blogging platform.

The next morning, I was not sure if I still wanted to blog. Sometimes sharing is yucky and vulnerable, and I was scared.

That same morning I went to my first Unitarian Universalist service. I am sure you will read much more about this in the future, but there is one important take-away for this blog post.

I learned the importance of community. As we held hands at the end of the service and sang a song about peace and justice, I felt something move in me that has not moved in a long time.

I knew then that I need other people in my life. I can have my own sacred space, but I can also let people in-here in the present and also online.

So, indeed, I am blogging again.I am pretty excited. I have a lot of goodness I want to share, starting with this beautiful video of the song we sang on Sunday (and the song that ends each UU service here in Bellingham).

Be moved.

Oh, and the name of my blog? It's because finally  I feel free to be myself, a free melissa lea peacock. With this freedom, I want to work to give others the same. I feel like this blog, in some small way, is a good place to start.