No one expects to meet their abuser at church.
So opens my story.
Growing up in one of the largest megachurches in America, I desperately wanted to become a godly wife and mother, pleasing to God and to the people around me. I wanted to be saved so that I wouldn’t burn in hell for eternity…and I’d do anything they said I had to in order to secure that salvation.
In pursuit of finding favor and being faithful, I was a “good girl.” I stayed pure, dressed modestly, conformed to every rule, married who “God” sent, prayed the prayers, read my Bible, evangelized, and proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ. I, like so many other women I knew, was a model Christian and an obedient, submissive wife. For my effort, I should have known acceptance, love, favor, blessing, identity, growth, and grace. This is why people decide to become Christians.
Life did not go as they promised. My deeply dysfunctional marriage was full of violence, pain, cult-level legalism, and violence. I’d used every tool at my disposal to persevere, make the best, and press on– for fifteen years and with five children. But when I had to run for my life because my godly husband was going to kill me one Halloween at midnight, I knew my life in the church was largely to blame. The church said this was okay. The church said women are to submit. A litany of pastors, Christian counselors, and mentors taught us to pray away mental illness, fix and forgive abuses, and above all: keep the secrets inside the family.
My story is about the cracks in the pavement on the road to salvation. It’s about how the church grooms and nurtures domestic violence and trauma. It’s the story of how I learned no savior was coming to save me. I had to save myself.
My memoir, The American Burka, serves as a real-life prequel to The Handmaid’s Tale: it takes readers inside the world of evangelical fundamentalism in the United States, revealing what’s happening inside churches right now, and how high-control religion is reshaping our politics, our laws, and our elections. It’s the truth behind cultural clues you’ll recognize, like the lifestyle depicted in shows like the Duggar’s Counting On and the news headlines about Jerry Falwell Jr and Donald Trump, and the Supreme Court Justice’s belonging to a headship cult. When elections are close, and voter suppression is in the news, who suspects the impact head of household voting has on the final counts?
The celebrity Christian pastors and leaders of the protestant patriarchy have woven an intricate web as they share one mutual goal: white male supremacy and dominance while they wage war against the modern culture of the west. This is intentional and strategic and I was a player in their game. They can’t achieve dominion without the women at their side––but they’re master manipulators in how they get the girls to comply.
The American Burka is the story of how I turned a light on the secrets and sorrows that had become my Christian life, and what it took to break away and find freedom.
It’s currently with an editor and I’m seeking representation now.
Early readers have called it:
“powerful rip-the-bandaid-off truth-telling”
“brave, bold work, crisply written, innovative and compelling”
“a story that kept me up all night, crying for you, trying to get to a stopping place.”
“a look into the meta-world of fundamentalism in America.”
“What surprised me most was the sort of fundamentalism you describe in a mainstream church. That short of shit was going on right under my nose and I never saw it.”
Are you longing for freedom and healing from religious trauma and church-sanctioned gender and domestic violence? I’ve created a list of amazing people who have played a part in my journey. You can access it here:
Healing on Purpose
I recently returned to my 100 Happy Days project, the 2021 version. After a lifetime of “suffering for Jesus” and waiting for heaven in order to be happy, I now embrace my life for what it is and I live in the present. No bypassing, no wishful denial, no toxic positivity.
It turns out, dear fellow exevangelical, that life on the outside is full of ups and downs without any magic formula for happiness. Healing requires bulldog devotion and a multi-faceted strategy for trauma healing. This happy days project is just one light-hearted attempt to nurture joy within me.
There’s a highlight under my profile on Instagram of the first time I did this—a photo project to document a happy moment in each day for a hundred. My rules:
🌞use my big camera on a timer. Catch myself in the act of being happy
🌞no selfie poses or looking straight at the camera
🌞I must be in it
The last time I did this, I blew the top off my definition of happiness and what it looks like, what conditions it requires to exist, and how I’m impacted by actively waiting for “the happy moment of the day.” I discovered a new depth of gratitude. And I created a stack of some of my favorite photographs that I put in a book and regularly return to with love. This was absolutely the best time to do it again.
I completed my 100 and simply kept going. Others have joined in and it’s been a ton of fun. This idea originated with the 100 Happy Days Project. Check them out! It’s a project that will change your mind and your life.