It’s so hard to leave.

It’s so hard to leave a violent marriage when the church says what’s happening is okay.

As a girl raised in evangelical fundamentalism, I was groomed to become a deferring, submissive wife and mother. I was taught this was my highest (and only) ambition.

For my efforts to “die to self,” I’d receive God’s favor. My husband would find me a helpful, supportive blessing. My servitude would honor Christ. This evidence of my salvation would result in heaven someday. Suffering here meant eternal glory.

And oh, we suffered.

I learned there’s no endpoint to submission. Christian women submit themselves to nonexistence. And as long as dinner is served, the children are cared for, and sex happens, the patriarchs are happy. When none of that happens but she’s silent, they’re still pretty happy. If she “acts out”, there’s discipline. If she fails, get a new one.

Lectures, scripture, reprimands, church elders, beatings, spanking, rape, ex-communication…women aren’t allowed to say no to what a man wants. Love hurts, money is tight, choose between gas for his car or milk for my kids. Live like it’s 1885. Wives aren’t allowed to vote. She’s valued for what she does, not who she is.

This wasn’t a fringe cult. This was life in the Christian mainstream. I grew up in the Southern Baptist Convention. I attended churches pastored and mentored by names you’d recognize in the news.

But, there came a point when I couldn’t take it anymore. I feared for my life and my children’s lives. I wanted to leave. I didn’t know how.

As a submissive Christian wife, I had no idea how to think on my own or who to trust. I didn’t trust myself. And my husband suffered from untreated mental illness the church called us to pray away, and addiction they blamed on me.

Leaving was dangerous and life-threatening. Staying was too.

My story is about life in church-sanctioned domestic violence. It brings readers into the restrictive religious world of Calvinism, Federalism, and Dominionism––systems of belief influencing our news headlines today.

High-control religion is reshaping our politics, our laws, and our elections. Readers will recognize cultural clues, like the lifestyle depicted in shows like the Duggar’s Counting On, in 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.

Their culture war is intentional and strategic.

I was a player in their game. It’s a game that eats women alive.

Submissive women are the key to the patriarchy’s success. A disruptive woman is an ultimate threat. Actualized women with agency bring equality but I learned the hard way there’s a gap between saying “fuck the patriarchy” and doing it.

I had to get up off the floor first.

The American Burka is about how hard it is to leave violence when the church says what’s happening is okay. It’s the story of how I turned a light on the secrets and sorrows that had become my Christian life, and how I discovered the courage to escape 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:

Religious Trauma Resources

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.