Julie Anne's Personal Stories, Legalism, Meetings with the Pastor, Shunning, Spiritual Abuse, Stories of Hope

In Honor of Hannah

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Today, I’d like to honor someone very special to me – my eldest daughter, Hannah.

When Hannah told me she was leaving home so abruptly that very sad day, she told me that she couldn’t set one more foot in that church.  It was killing her.  She knew that if she remained at home, we would have made her go to church with us because that is what we do as a family and that’s what was expected in this type of environment.  She knew that.  She didn’t want to cause an uproar in the home, she just wanted to be free from having to go to that particular church.

We wrongly assumed it was because of a bad influence in her life and all of the focus shifted to her bad behavior, who she was associating with, her disobedience to her parents, to her God.

Her mind was made up.  She knew we wouldn’t change our minds.  She had her plans already set.  She would move out with someone she met on Craigslist – a stranger – a single LDS woman.  She would be living 45 minutes away from home.  She had no job in that area.  She had no driver’s license, no vehicle.  There was much to sacrifice, many unknowns and uncertainties.

Because we were convinced this was an act of disobedience (keep in mind that Hannah was 21 yrs old – not 17 yrs), she had every right to move out, but once again, we didn’t see it that way while we were at the church.   My husband told me to not help her move out in any way.  We did not contribute boxes, help her pack, move her boxes to the truck that she had arranged to come help her move.  Her new roommate’s boyfriend and roommate helped her load the truck – pure strangers.  We had a truck.  We could have helped her.  We had boxes.  This is painful to type.  There’s more mama guilt going on with each letter I type – and of course the trickle of tears have started again – ugh.

She was not to take her bed, her bedding, and if I remember correctly, even her pillow.  We told her that if she left anything in the house, it would be thrown out.  Ouch!

This was our precious daughter.  She was leaving because she could not take the emotional and spiritual abuse she was experiencing at the church.  By telling us she couldn’t take it anymore, she was crying out for help saying, “THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG THERE” and we missed the clues.  She left about 4-1/2 years ago and the pain of seeing what happened in hindsight is so deep.

My daughter willingly gave up many things to protect her sanity and leave the place that was emotionally killing her.  She gave up her precious relationship with her only sister, her sweet brothers.  She gave up wonderful home-cooked meals that she loved, the security, the warmth from family.

What we all lost was beautiful music at the piano, playing the recorder, fun in the kitchen doing dishes with her brother while jamming and playing my “kitchen dance music” playlist.    My daughter and I were robbed of precious time from each other.  I no longer had the ability to touch her, hug her, be a part of her daily life, be influential to her, say the special things moms say to their children.  I was robbed of our special knitting times at coffee shops.   I was robbed of relationship with my daughter.

Her little brother, just a toddler, would never know what it is like to grow up with his older sister.  He probably has no memory of life with her in his home.

When she left her family, she also left most of the friends she grew up with.  Only a select few remained in contact with her over these past 5 yrs.  That’s quite a sacrifice.

The first months were very hard.  I determined to remain in contact.  We had rules – she was not allowed to be alone with siblings.  She could come to the house, but none of her siblings could go to her house because we had no way of knowing what she was involved with at that time.  My husband was very distraught.  We were convinced that she was in deep rebellion and sin.  He didn’t call her for 6 months.   That was nearly unbearable to me.

I cried every single day.  E.v.e.r.y  s.i.n.g.l.e. day.  It was like a death to me.  I never knew a mom could have so many tears.  My precious daughter was gone from my home, my life as I knew it.  All the dreams I had for her were shattered.

Her life changed.  She no longer had any desire for church and relationship with  God.  She got into other relationships.  She didn’t go to church.  And I can’t say that I blame her.

But this young lady remained focused.  She had dreams and goals.  Her roommate situation changed over time.  She got her driver’s license and bought a car.  The car was paid off as quickly as possible.  She worked full-time and took college classes at night.

Today marks a special day – her graduation from college.  She did it completely on her own.

Now, looking back, I understand see why she left.  She was the first person I know to clearly articulate:  there is something wrong at that church.   She needed to move on.  She needed to be free from that control.  Having that freedom enabled her to reach her personal goals.

Hannah is brave.  She is sensitive.  She has great insight.  She is driven, independent, and extremely focused.  At work, she see’s the full picture and finds ways of improving procedures so many are benefited.  She is a team player and selective with those she calls friends.  In doing so, her relationships are deep and meaningful.  She is very talented, a great cook, musician, and can do pretty much anything that she sets her mind to doing.  She is also very forgiving of what we as parents put her through.  She adores her family, respects her parents.   She treasures close relationships with her family.  I am so proud to call her my daughter.

Hannah, on this graduation day, your mama will be a big mess of tears sitting amongst the spectators.  What you accomplished speaks volumes of your character.  Your grace and forgiving spirit to us as parents has been remarkable.  Many would have written their parents off, but you loved us through the process and allowed us to finally “get it”.  You showed us unconditional love.

I always have taught my children to “trust their gut” and even though your whole family was not getting that message, you followed through with that very powerful advice.  When you left, it caused me to re-question everything.  Your bravery was the first domino to fall amongst the winding path of dominoes.    It set the path in motion for many questions, lots of dialogue, and encouraged me to trust my gut.

You have handled this lawsuit especially well.  From one simple review of sharing your experience on Google, you have been placed beside me and three others to defend something we never dreamed of doing  – defend our First Amendment rights and to stand for the truth.

This sequence of events may have far reaching effects.  It shows the value of standing for what is true.  For speaking out when we know people are in harms way.   Many will say to just leave it be and move along, but you have chosen the narrow path of standing up for truth despite the risks involved.  I have always taught my children to defend the weak and help those in need.  You are doing that right now!

I cannot wait to see what lies ahead for you.  You rock my world, daughter.  I love you and am so proud of you.    When you walk on that stage accepting your diploma, look out into the stands and find your mama.  You’ll see me standing, waving my white hanky.

140 thoughts on “In Honor of Hannah”

  1. I don't know about IFB, but any individual church (whether affiliated with a larger group of churches or by itself) can have a leader who abuses his authority. Does a spiritually abusive church equal a cult? Not sure of that answer – I'm no expert. All I know is that spiritual abuse is certainly damaging and can leave many scars.

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  2. Oh well, Curious – so much for being kind. It doesn't matter if BGBC is IFB or not – the issue is that they are attempting to squash her first amendment freedoms – just like you have your rights to yours. Pardon my attempt to help you not be so "Curious" in regard to your question about IFB churches being "lumped in with cults". Have a great day…

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  3. I'm not terribley curious about what IFB churches believe because I'm in one, and personally I think that link you gave me was bunk. Not one thing on that page lined up with what my church believes. NOT ONE. So perhaps before you engage in blanketing one demonination as cult, you ought to do a little research yourself.

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  4. WOW. I can't believe what I am reading. Picketing? Really? I don't go to that church, but think of the way even this blog is affecting christian. It is making GOD look bad. Do you even care? People are commenting about how this is an example of why God is terrible.You both should be trying to contact other member and trying to save them. I believe picketing is a form of shunning and that is what you were fighting against.

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  5. Hey all, I'm not going to let this be a debate ground on specific groups. I'm sure there are other blogs for that. Can we keep this topic in general nature? Each person needs to discern for themselves whether their pastor is a true shepherd or abusive. Thanks!

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  6. JulieAre you interested in appearing with a group of concerned people to picket/protest your former church next Sunday? We would like to help put Spiritual Bullies like your former pastor that they cannot make threats to people and not have any ramifications. It is our silence on these matters that outsiders/non christians see as more of an indictment of our faith than speaking up. Silence IS slander to Jesus. Let me know. info@churchrater.com

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  7. I'm sorry, but I will be at church service during that time – especially since it's the day before the court case. Thank you for the invite. I appreciate your efforts so much. Someone take pics, please and send them to me!

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  8. Yes, it was religion. Admittedly, your pastor was an ass and his interpretation of christianity contributed to your behaviour; however, the bottom line is that you ignored your empathy and reason (and love for your daughter) because you believed god wanted you to treat her like you did. The same thing will happen again if you continue to base your morality on the arbitrary standard contained in a myth rather than actually thinking about what harm your choices may do. Religion poisons everything.

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  9. JulieAnne,First, huge hugs. I'm so sorry about all the pan and hassles you're going through.This is the first I heard of any of this so I'm still trying to piece together the whole story. I do know that it involves very UN-Christian behavior on the part of your pastor. And I know that Hannah was abused and couldn't take it anymore, so moved out of her home.But there are still so many questions! Why did Hannah move from her HOME when she was being abused within her CHURCH?Did she tell you specifically what was going on? (You did say that she told you that she couldn't step foot in the church again.) If so, did you believe her? If she didn't tell you, why didn't she?Why was she essentially punished for moving out, at the age of 21? (Not allowed to be alone with siblings, no help moving, not allowed to bring even a pillow or bedding, no involvement or contact from parents?) She had obviously been very close to her family, she had stated that the church was killing her and she couldn't step foot in there again, and she said (or implied) she had to save her sanity. You are a close family and intuitive, compassionate parents, so I'm reaching a disconnect because I know that you have always been deeply in touch with your children's emotions. What was it about her decision to move out that caused you and the rest of the family to remove yourselves in every way (emotionally, financially, spiritually) from the daughter you loved so deeply when she was doing something completely normal for a 21-year-old, but in such a pained, cry-for-help manner? I'm curious, now that the family and Hannah have mended the rift (I assume) what you would have done differently if you had it to do over again. I know that's a painful question, and I hope you don't mind me asking it. I'm curious how things could have been different, had some circumstances changed. What if a 21-year-old wasn't required to go to church with the family as a condition (??) of living at home? ("She knew that if she remained at home, we would have made her go to church with us because that is what we do as a family and that's what was expected…") It seems to me that shame, guilt, and fear are at the root of all this — both for Hannah at church and for the whole family at home. That's what turns people inward (or outward in anger) when they're confronted with a crisis — and if they haven't been encouraged throughout their lives to think for themselves and do what's right — across religious, generational, and even authoritarian lines — then they spiral into… well, into what seems to be real hell.I do not mean to be critical. But I do hope to save another young woman, another mom, and another family from going through what Hannah, you, and your whole family has gone through. And with all the press this situation is getting, maybe that's one way to help so no one goes through this like you all have. I think we need to teach our children to ask LOTS of questions (yes, even at church, even about spiritual teachings) and teach them to trust their guts and their instincts. If we raise them right — whether in a religious home, an atheist home, or somewhere in between — they will know what's right and wrong.I don't really understand the lawsuit yet (must read more), but the story about Hannah moving out was like a kick in the gut — to READ it. I can only imagine what it must have been like to experience it.

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  10. Carol ::::waving:::: I'm going to post Hannah's story soon and I think it will answer a lot of your questions. I hope that someone will learn from our painful experience. I've already had many, many people tell me their eyes have been opened and they are ready to make changes. I am so thankful for that. That is the purpose of this blog. I am so far from perfect. I regret that I didn't listen to that voice inside that told me something was wrong. If Hannah's post doesn't answer all of your questions, you know where to find me.

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  11. In fact I have never been hurt or shunned by anyone in the church the way you shunned your daughter. I just can't see through all the hypocrisy in ALL religions, except christians are the worst. I've seen the christian church shun my friend for divorcing his wife who cheated on him and left him. He didn't even do anything wrong except try to salvage his marriage by seeking the support of his pastor as well as going to marriage counseling, but since he was "divorced" that's all his church needed to know. Instead of supporting him in his time of need they shunned him. What's up with that?My uncle is a lazer catholic and a used car salesmen. I've seen him on his knees crying and praying to the virgin mary and 30 minutes later he's fleecing an old lady selling her a piece of junk car, what's up with that? I guess as long as he confesses his sins on Sunday or his death bed he's cool right? There is just too much hypocrisy in religion for me (and many others) to take religion with a grain of salt. Why are christians pro-life but they support the death penalty. What's up with that? Life is life right?Don't feel sad for me and don't pray for me either, feel sad for yourself and all the problems the church is causing you RIGHT NOW! If you didn't go to church you wouldn't be having these problems right? Do you really need the church to tell you not to steal, kill, or respect your neighbor, or to not cheat on your partner? Life is common sense and religion is a myth. Religion was created by smart people to control dumb people. The bible you read is in English. How can that be the word of god if English didn't exist then? That means it's been translated over, and over, and over, and over with the biases of those translators and interpreters. It is no longer the word of god but the word of biased men. Do yourself a favor and stop worshipping god, your life will be much better, guaranteed. Don't knock it until you try it. Good luck!

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  12. Hannah, you are truly a wonderful person. Your parents are so blessed to have you in their lives. I've never been in such an abusive church, but I have been in an abusive marriage. The abuse creeps up on you until you are not sure what is right or wrong. Good for you that you were willing to do the work to repair your ties with your family. They raised an amazing young woman.

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  13. AEEENCION TO ALL:::::TO THE PASTOR OF THIS CHURCH FIRST OF ALL U NEED TO REPENT AS A HEAD SHEPARD.SECOND U NEED TO APPOLOGIZE TOTHE PEOPLE,AND PUBLICKLY TO THE CHURCH BODY. WHY ?AS A LEADER ESPECIALLY YOU ARE NOT TO TAKE YOUR BROTHER TO COURT,AS A LEADER YOU ARE TO COME TO AN AGREMENT WITH YOUR BROTHER. NOT TAKE THEM BEFORE THE LAW,WHO IS CONSIDERED TO BE THE ((((UN SAVED)))).THE WORD OF GOD LETS U KNOW THIS,THEY CALLED JESUS A WINE BIBLER,BEASELBUB, AND HE SAID NOTHING. DOSEN'T THAT TELL YOU SOMETHING PASTOR. IT DOS ME !!!AND WHO AM I ? I AM AN APOSTLE HERE IN D.C.MD.AREA.REPENT REPENT REPENT OR GOD WILL SURLY JUDGE YOU FOR THIS!FROM THE APOSTLES DESK

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  14. I am glad to have a title to go with what I am. I am a Red Letter Person! All the rest of it is, indeed, minor authority. Thank you for this!

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  15. To Hannah – I hope you realize that your leaving, as hard as it was, was probably the beginning of your parents' awakening. Sometimes it takes doing something hard, thrusting someone out of our life, for them to see abusive relationships they are in. Praise the Lord for your leadership!Julie Anne – you are an awesome mom and a wonderful example to the world of how honesty helps other parents. We all screw up, many much worse than you. It helps when other parents admit their mistakes and their pain. God is working through you both.

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  16. You're very welcome.from, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-Letter_Christian"Red-Letter Christians is a non-denominational movement within Christianity. They believe that Evangelicalism has been exploited by both right-wing and left-wing political movements, and they endeavor to create an Evangelical movement that focuses on the teachings of Jesus Christ, particularly in regard to social issues. "Red-Letter" refers to New Testament verses printed in red letters to emphasize the actual words that Jesus spoke without the use of quotations (see Red letter edition). While many Christians have defined themselves as such over the years, a mass-market movement was initiated by authors Tony Campolo and Jim Wallis who felt the religious right spend too much time on two issues: abortion and homosexuality. They believe Christians should be promoting biblical values such as peace, building strong families, the elimination of poverty, and other important social justice issues.[1]The social issues valued by Red-Letter Christians include taking care of the poor, spreading the Gospel (see also the Great Commission), and loving one's enemies. They believe that these are the issues that Jesus spoke of directly, and therefore these issues should be political priorities. Other issues such as homosexual rights, abortion, and war are viewed as important but over-emphasized by both liberals and conservatives.On the reason for creating Red-Letter Christians, Tony Campolo said, "The purpose of this gathering was not to create a religious left movement to challenge the religious right, but to jump-start a religious movement that will transcend partisan politics."[2] Campolo has released a book to help explain this, called Red Letter Christians, A Citizen's Guide to Faith and Politics (Regal Books, February 2008)."

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  17. Of course I do not know of this particular church or the pastor. However, so many of these so called "Bible" churches have clergy that do not have seminary degrees, or even college in many instances. Often they are "start up" churches often in large part due to the ego of someone who feels called, but rejects formal professional training. Yeah, I heard it before, Paul and Peter didn't go to seminary, but they also already knew Hebrew, Greek, and perhaps some Latin. They didn't need to study ancient worldviews and philosophy. Since they were likely doing much formal on on one counseling, they didn't need to study and learn about family systems dynamics, child and spouse, substance, or alcohol abuse. Many of these "Bible" churches exist as their own entity with no accountability to anybody. Of course there are many goodly men and women who do ministry without professional training, and yes, there are some bad apples who have gone to seminary; however, all in all some professional training only helps one be a better equipped minister. When I go to a physician, I want somebody not just "called" but trained, aka, St. Luke likely didn't go to medical school either but no doubt would have found med school very helpful.As one who has taught philosophy, religion, and even the New Testament in college, I can tell you that many of these independent church pastors are really uneducated and really don't understand the Bible, all the time while they teach it with great authority, (aka the Dunning-Kroger effect). It reminds me of somebody who knows all about a 55 Chevy, they can quote all the specs of the car but they don't understand how the car was designed and built.When you go to a church, ask how the pastor was trained and educated. Who is he or she accountable to? Is their church part of a larger fellowship, perhaps one that understands that other churches are valid? Or does the church teach that somehow they are the only ones with the truth? Or that somehow they have more truth than others?

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  18. I see a lot of this, good people who think they get their goodness from religion or some "god". Why do you think they cannot take ownership of their own morality, why do they have to get it from an external source ? People who say (like clergy) they know more about this than the everyday folk are just lying. Moral philosophy has come a long way. I hope she escapes religion.

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  19. Thanks for sharing the link. I believe my mom has a lot in common with you. I found out later that she told a friend of mine that her heart broken when I left. She has found a lot of strength through my speaking out about living at home to stand up to my dad and she doesn't let him manipulate her anymore. I'm very proud of her. your daughter is blessed to have a mom who has seen her faults and seeks sincere forgiveness from her. Thank you, as a daughter who's been in the same shoes Hannah has been in, for doing that.

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  20. Chryssie Rose: I hope that others can learn through our pain and our experiences. People can connect with personal stories much more easily than if they were told: Patriarchy is wrong, courtship doesn't work, etc. There is a lot of unhealthy teaching going around in the homeschool movement.

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