I'm Baaaaaack...with More Questions than Ever!
To all who have supported and encouraged me with launching this site and writing, my apologies for the long absence. It’s been hard to write, for many reasons which I know you would understand…a new marriage, going from 2-4 kids, then the 18-year-old step son arriving and applying for asylum, the new job that I thought was the most “normal” thing I’ve ever done that turned out to be a toxic disaster with an Evangelical boss in f&*%^$UTAH!...beginning my career as an independent consultant, being triggered in my religious trauma and fighting to hold it together, and a gazillion things in between.
The highlight was that my former employer conducted an investigation into the situation, and I was able to have the cushion needed to start an independent consulting role. To my delight, I was paired with an NGO preparing for a research project on leaders of those who help individuals who are questioning or have left controlling and insular religious faiths. WOAH! This is exactly my jam…what I think about ALL the time. I had the opportunity not only to do the project, but to help create the design and will report on the findings at a conference.
Without improperly divulging information regarding the project, I was given the chance of a lifetime!! It was the opportunity to interview, learn, and soak up the experience and knowledge of individuals from a wide variety of former faith groups like people who fled Amish communities, Hutterite colonies, Hasidic Jewish communities in NYC, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Southern Baptists, Mormons, Moonies, and so much more. Some individuals are still members of faith groups in a less controlling environment, and others have left completely and are now agnostic and atheist. I found myself relating to countless stories and individuals. But hearing the experiences of abuse, cruelty, rejection, and loss began to build.
And then the anger and sadness hit me like a an 18-wheeler on the freeway. I have “known” that my experience of being raised on a missionary compound in Central America is not unique, and that many others have endured the spectrum of religious abuse. But hearing these stories from people who suffered so greatly from a variety of backgrounds, and then share how they have tried to recover and help others was simultaneously inspiring and triggering. I started to feel overwhelmed with sadness, anger, frustration, and helplessness. I felt FRAGILE, like I could cry over the smallest issue. I felt like a bad wife and Mom because Moms are not supposed to be fragile when you are coordinating life for 4 little people with 2 shared custody schedules, work, and everything else. I am supposed to have my shit together and be a good example to our kids. I want to be healthy, supportive wife to my husband who is the first who has ever made me feel so safe and loved. And I was failing on every front…feeling like I was starting to fall apart, and I did not know how to make it stop or put myself back together again.
I did not want to say anything to the employer, because they would want to protect and help me. But the project meant SO much to me personally and I was reveling in meeting this rainbow of individuals who were freely sharing their experience and wisdom that I could not give it up. Ok, note to self… -start therapy when you can swing it and deal with whatever is triggering you about this project.
Maybe I need to move on and not care so much about religious abuse, especially that of mission agencies like NTM/Ethnos 360 that left me, and countless others scared with religious trauma. It’s not my job to fix it, nor can I, and why the hell did I think I could make a difference in the first place??! Such were my thoughts.
At my lowest point, I nearly gave up on continuing this Exposing Religious Abuse site and considered not renewing the domain name and hosting service. I was thinking it did not have enough of value to share, that it will not make a difference, and maybe I should just be embarrassed that I’ve shared this much about my personal life and trauma and try to walk it back.
But I still felt this inspiration from those I spoke with and wanted to explore the resources they had written and shared with me. SO…I started with a book; written by an individual I had the opportunity to interview. The resources and concepts he was sharing, that had obviously been documented and available for a long time, were unknown to me. Uh oh…I am SUPER behind, AGAIN…but really want to know more. So, I dove in to Combating Cult Mind Control: Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults by Dr. Steve Hassan.
Many of my convoluted ideas and questions started to untangle as I listened to his book, and I wanted to tackle THE question that so many of us former New Tribes Mission/Ethnos 360 missionary kids have asked, danced around, and maybe not known how to answer. Was I raised in a cult? Dr. Hassan created a tool to help individuals like us answer just that question, so please join me on the journey in my next post, trying to apply the BITE model to NTM/Ethnos360 and to answer this question. I do not expect all of us to arrive at the same conclusion, but deeply value the consideration and insight of those willing to tackle the topic with me. And together we may gain greater insight and healing.