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


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