I often say that I could not be a Roman Catholic, Mormon, Muslim, Orthodox Jew or most forms of Baptist because of their woeful assignment of women to a lower status.  It’s unconscionable that they can rationalize ways to keep women from roles limited now to their men.

These simpletons ignore a whole planet where the gifts, talents and minds of women advance civilization each day.  Shame on these and other faiths that argue God has put males in charge. This is the same kind of rationalization that once used race to keep minorities out of all forms of American life from political leadership to sports.  Bigotry, prejudice and power hide behind religious freedom.

So I relish each time someone takes on patriarchy and thrashes those who perpetuate it.  Jocelyn Zichterman is author of the newly published expose of one of America’s most toxic religious groups — Independent Fundamental Baptists.  You know, folks like that despicable Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kans., whose sicko followers protest at military servicemen’s funerals because they hate homosexuals and think God does, too.   Zichterman has penned, “I Fired God: My Life Inside — and Escape from — the Secret World of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Cult.” (St. Martin’s Press, 293 pages, $25.99). The book uncovers the perverse culture, supported by the theology of Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C.   Several hundred thousand people belong to the fundamental Baptist sect with its tyranny of mind control and indoctrination.  The closed societies, whether in their church communities or college communities, maintain total control by snitching, browbeating and a relentless command to males to keep wives in check and children away from worldly forces, even Christian contemporary music.

These churches attract those who are Bible literalists, put great emphasis on male dominance of the family, stress authoritarian-run homes where home schooling ensures the perpetuation of “biblical truth” and where procreating big families is a virtue. The intellectual in-breeding produces children matriculating out of home schools with worthless credits — credits not recognized by legitimate colleges, thus forcing the children to start anew.  Children are abused horrifically by flogging intended to break their spirits, which they say is commanded by God.  Zichterman and her sisters and her own children were molested by her father, who moved up the church ranks to pastor his own church.  In time, Jocelyn Zichterman learned from her own children that her father had been sexually abusive to the grandchildren, and legal actions were started. 

That action brought out the big guns in the Independent Fundamental Baptists to try to discredit her and her husband,  but Zichterman’s savvy actions to spread her stories across the Internet and Facebook, plus full reports on ABC 20/20, CNN and other media, triggered hundreds of other survivors and victims to come forward with similar stories of repression, intimidation, abuse and suffering.  Today her husband teaches in Oregon, and Zichterman assists survivors of many religious abuse situations find new beginnings and hope.

The book underscores the dangers of closed, anti-intellectual religious communities where members are trapped by blood relationships, kept in the dark and brainwashed to believe they are the only holders of the truth.

Late in her book, Zichterman writes, “There have been days when the stress, fear and hurt from the IFB’s endless campaign to silence me have overwhelmed me.  Why not just let go?  Why not move on and spare my children, my husband and myself more grief?  Because I’ve concluded this is a cause worth fighting for, a battle worth winning. This is the good fight.  If my story can bring lasting change to the laws in our country and improve fellow victims’ lives, then sharing it will have been worth all the anguish, all the tears ….my life has been picked apart, ridiculed, disparaged and even threatened. That’s okay. I have done what I know I needed to do to shed light on this abusive culture — all for the children’s sake.

“…I know for sure that God is not a fat, white, angry, Republican, Baptist, male pastor in the sky — with a wooden dowel in one hand and a Bible in the other.  I know for sure that She/He/Energy/Source/The Divine is good, loving, kind and compassionate and there is order and purpose in everything.”

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