The Light is Shining Through–Finding Faith Again After the Fall of a Spiritual Mentor: Fighting the Darkness

Many months have passed since my “Fighting the Darkness” post.  I believe I wrote it right after discovering that a friend of mine, who was also friends with Richard, had dropped me on Facebook, so I became paranoid and depressed, wondering why he dropped me, and what Richard had told him.

Things have come to light which I had no way of knowing when I wrote it.

In short, the ex-friend I spoke of, whom I’ll call “Richard,” whom I thought of as my best and dearest friend from 2006 to 2010, of whom I thought the world, has been charged with choking his own 9-year-old step-daughter until she passed out on September 21, 2010.

She told the police on September 22, 2010.

He admitted to the police that he did it because she was “not listening and cleaning up,” that he had “asphyxiated” her, and that he apologized to her when she woke up on a couch.

They summoned him to court and charged him on March 1, 2011.

The choking incident happened many months before my post, but for some reason he wasn’t officially charged until a few weeks after my post.

This devastated me as I began to realize the true character of this person I once put on a pedestal as an awesome man of God, the one who showed me the way to Orthodoxy, the one who answered my questions about Orthodoxy and helped me over the hurdles, the one I went to with questions and confessions about morality and spiritual struggles.

He was charged with intentional child abuse causing injury with high probability of great harm, and second degree recklessly endangering safety, both serious felonies that could have led to significant jail time.

But on October 3, 2011, he plea bargained it down to the child abuse charge being dismissed, but read into the record, and the reckless endangerment charge being amended to a class A misdemeanor of battery, with a year’s probation.  Though if he screws up on probation, he could get 10 days in jail.

This showed me two things which I could no longer deny, even though on occasion I’d remember the old times and think maybe he wasn’t so bad, just a dupe of Stockholm Syndrome:

1) Richard’s own violent tendencies were not tamped down as I thought, but still there and capable of coming out, even to his own little 9-year-old girl.

2) He lied to me about the nature of the abuse in his household.  I soon learned from mutual friend Todd that Richard had also beaten this same girl mercilessly when she was little.

Richard gave me the impression that his wife “Tracy” was the chief aggressor, that his own abusive episodes with the children happened a long time before and he had stopped them, that now he had to protect his children from his wife’s bullying moods.

But these charges showed that he himself was still an aggressor, that he was not reformed after all, that not only did the children need protection from his wife, but they also needed it from him.

He’s very tall and huge, so a slip of a girl would probably see it as being attacked by an ogre or a mountain she can’t escape from.  Imagine the terror she must have felt!

He also told me once that Tracy didn’t like to get him angry because it scared her.  It had happened before.  He said he didn’t mean to scare her, but did anyway.  That’s the trouble when someone as big as he is, doesn’t realize how physically intimidating he is.

I also began to realize that I was truly in the clutches of a narcissist.  I had suspected it for a while, but thought he couldn’t really be that bad.  But there were so many elements of narcissism that sounded very familiar…..  (See here for details.)

Even though Richard was the one who brought me to Orthodoxy as an answer to my faith questions, and helped me all the way through, so that I looked to him as my mentor–Richard wasn’t the only reason I chose Orthodoxy.

That was also because of the influence of various Orthodox forums, such as The Ancient Way and (I was Nyssa).  It was from reading Orthodox books and websites and the River of Fire, and speaking to the priest at the local Greek Orthodox Church, then attending there for more than two years before converting.

My former mentor Richard told me that I knew far more about Orthodoxy than he did when he joined.

While my faith has indeed taken a beating for the reasons I stated previously in Fighting the Darkness, I didn’t choose Orthodoxy to please him, but because I came to believe it.

Pulling it back again has been hard, but it’s slowly and steadily returning.

Ironically, it was his child abuse charges which helped me believe in God again.

Before, I was baffled why, if there truly was a God, He would go to so much trouble to get this person into my life, have him help me find my way to Orthodoxy, then yank him back out again in such horrible circumstances, leaving me a shell of myself, beaten down and battered emotionally.

In my limited sight, it made no sense at all, so I could only pray that this former mentor would repent of his many wrongs to my husband and me, get his wife to see the light as well, and the friendship would be restored.

I wondered how he could go so long without making any move whatsoever to restore a friendship which had provided him with so much help and love and moral support while his family was going through hard times, a friendship which he said was so dear to him.

But when I discovered these charges, that he could likely go to jail for many years for choking his own daughter, I realized that God had been there all along:

First, He put this person into my life for a time to help me find my way spiritually, but eventually I would have to “kill the Buddha” when I realized how screwed-up my mentor actually was, when I thought he was pious and righteous.

I was there to help him as well with various things, and influence him, try to pull him back from the brink of abuse and domestic violence.  God wants him and his wife saved just as much as He wants me saved.

But ultimately the choice was his and his wife’s to choose abuse or salvation.  They chose abuse.

And God pulled me out just in time, as the choking incident occurred just a little more than two and a half months after the blowup of the friendship proved to my husband and me just how selfish, self-centered and violent these two people are even to friends.

Now, I have killed the Buddha and gone on without him, but with my own church congregation still there.  (No, Richard’s family normally does not go there, but to a different church, though they have visited on occasion even after the breakup.)

One day during Liturgy, while gazing at the icon of the Theotokos painted on the ceiling, I wondered again about reconciliation.  I got the insight that No, not now, because they have their own problems which need to be resolved before I can even think about reconciling with them.

I can only hope that one day, Richard will repent and make amends.  He needs to make them not just to me, but to my husband, and to his own children.

As for Tracy, she also needs to make amends, to Richard, to her children and to me, but it seems unlikely that she ever will, thanks to what seems to be a  personality disorder (borderline, which her mother has, and/or narcissism).

I’ve now basically written her off as a lost cause, and taken everything she ever said about me and relegated it to the refuse pile as being cruel and ridiculous, not based in any sort of reality.  Whenever my mind starts going there again, wondering if any of her words were true, I yank it back out again.

I think back over my college days and realize that, again and again, I was the dupe of narcissists.  In those days, it was the search for romance that led me into their clutches; now, it was the search for friendship.

I read somewhere that narcissists are like a drug: You crave them, get high, feel drained afterwards, then when the drug is taken away from you, you have to go through detox.  And that detox can be very long and painful.

I also realize that this is the second time I’ve been through this.

The first time was during my first Orthodox Lent, February 2007.  My first spiritual mentor, from childhood and through college, was my dad.  Then in 2007, my mom called me and began telling me some shocking things.

I won’t go into it, but a crisis nearly split the family, and things had been hidden from me (though not from my brothers) for my entire life.

I remember thinking then that if I didn’t have Orthodoxy (and, ironically, Richard, who was my spiritual mentor starting in 2006 and helped me through this crisis along with my priest), that my faith would have shattered.  I was Nazarene for most of my life because of my dad.

On my favorite Orthodox forum is a common belief that when you convert to Orthodoxy, the Devil begins attacking you, trying to pull you out of it.  Posters there talk about their own experiences with such things, such as car accidents and spiritual tests.

Maybe I am exactly where I belong, then, because if there is no God, or if there’s nothing of value in Orthodoxy, then why would the Devil so aggressively attack my faith?

It’s never gone through anything like this battering before.  Before, any emotional or other crises only made my faith stronger.  But now the core of that very faith is being attacked.

But now there is one thing I know: That I must stop mourning the loss of Richard’s friendship.  That it wasn’t worth my grief.  For a long time it seemed to be worth the work it took to keep it going, but that was an illusion.

I thought Richard was pious and righteous, but that, too, was an illusion.  The time I grieved over the loss of his friendship, I was in denial over his own violence.  I kept seeing the good in him, where others would have written him off long before.

But then I heard about the charges against him, and verified through his mug shot and address posted on the local newspaper’s website that it was, indeed, him.  Through the newspaper website I also discovered what he had done.

Then I began to stop grieving over him, stop wishing he would repent and return to my husband and me.

I have been vindicated; my concerns over abuse have been confirmed.  It has been proven to me and to the world that we were right to end the friendship, that the opinions of Richard and Tracy about me are not worth taking to heart, that my accusers were themselves the criminals.

It has been proven that Tracy has no business lecturing me about my behavior, because her own has been so egregiously bad and evil.  I must consider the source every time my mind starts to ponder her words yet again, and reject them utterly as ridiculous.

Especially since the various things that she grabbed ahold of as being such foul behavior, are actually perfectly normal and acceptable behavior among my groups of friends.

I hoped that Richard would have a lot of time to think in jail, but now he won’t be going to jail.  However, even if Richard does some day come to us, wanting to restore a friendship, he will have to not only be extremely contrite, but he will also have to prove that he has learned from his mistakes and has turned away from his violent, abusive ways.

He manipulated me into believing he already did this, but then proved that he had not, by doing something so horrible that his own daughter turned him in to the police to protect herself.

She was a very brave girl, and her actions have almost certainly drawn the attention of CPS (who knows about all these other things) as well as the police, so hopefully they will lead to positive changes.

[Update 8/11/13:]

Two years after I wrote this post, I still struggle with faith, but a few things came to mind today when I was supposed to be listening to Father’s sermon:

I don’t want to go into detail, but my husband and I have had some money disagreements in the past.  I’m the “accountant” of the household, and he gave me authority to make financial decisions for reasons I also don’t want to go into.   But there were disagreements about those decisions.  Those disagreements were brought to a resolution.

Yesterday, he made some comments that made me think he was scolding me all over again, bringing up again what I thought had been settled.  I let it pass without much comment, but poured out my frustrations to God last night, not knowing what to make of this.

Then today, out of the blue, my husband realized I took him seriously, and explained he was only teasing.  I explained that the past disagreements caused me to take him seriously.

In short, it was a misunderstanding on my part, and now it was all resolved.  This was a huge relief.

During the sermon, I realized that God had directly and swiftly answered my prayer.  Then more things came to mind, times when God seemed to have abandoned me, but was right there all along:

1) My first breakup of a love relationship (not just a short puppy-love) was from Peter.  He had used his own narcissistic webs to make me think we were meant for each other, so much so that we formed a mental Link with each other.

When he broke things off, he turned so cruel and changed so much from the person I fell in love with, that I actually wondered if demons had taken control of him.  (I was very much influenced by Pat Robertson and Charismatic thinking about the spirit world, which is dramatized in This Present Darkness.)

I fell into a deep, dark depression that lasted for months.  But as time proved, he and I would have been a terrible match: I wanted a clean-cut husband; he abandoned his clean-cut ways, and turned to drinking, smoking and weed.  My beliefs demanded that I marry a fellow Christian; he also abandoned Christianity, and turned to Paganism.

2) My second major breakup was Phil, with whom I had exchanged marriage vows.  Because we had gone so far, and because I had never been the outgoing kind of person who can easily find dates, I fell into another funk, believing that Phil and I were supposed to be together, that divorce would violate Christ’s command that the married stay married.

But he was emotionally, verbally and sexually abusive, manipulating my mind and heart.  He could have destroyed me if I had legally married him.

Our beliefs demanded that we not have sex before marriage, so we exchanged vows.  If we had not done this, if we had either stayed virgins (technically, though not really) or eloped to make our vows legal, his dark side may never have manifested until we got legally married, maybe even had a child together.

Often, abusers don’t show their true colors until after marriage.  So I do not regret the path I chose with Phil, because it led to his true colors showing before I became legally bound to him.  His wife was not so fortunate: He knocked her up, so they “had” to get married.  Now they have been divorced for several years.

Now, I believe that Richard and Tracy were put into my life so I could play an important role: the one to confront them with their abuses, and to report them to Social Services.

It was important, but also extremely difficult.  It took a year of reflection and research before I even reported them, only to find that their daughter had already reported Richard for choking her.

But my report means that Social Services has another perspective on their abuses, a separate voice confirming whatever they came up with as they investigated the choking incident.  I don’t know if I told them anything they didn’t already know, but I am another witness.

However, my role has put me into a challenging and emotionally taxing position.  I have been threatened by Richard and Tracy, and stalked for more than a year.  I have had to face the fact that the one I once revered as a beloved and righteous spiritual mentor, has turned against me for speaking out and telling the truth.

I don’t know why it had to be me.  (Why me?  Why not somebody else?)  Maybe they behaved themselves around their other friends.  Maybe I was the only one, outside of Richard’s family, to whom he told Tracy’s abuses.

Todd stayed with them but didn’t see Tracy’s abuses, so maybe they behaved themselves around him, or maybe the children were too young to start receiving her abuses.  (I noted that the babies would be babied, but children 3+ would start being abused verbally and physically.)

I don’t think Richard told Todd the things he told me about Tracy, even though they were close at the time.  I don’t know why he did not tell Todd these things.

Maybe their other friends had similar parenting views and didn’t see a whack on the head as abuse.  Maybe their friends who broke off relations with them (we were not the first), either did not witness the abuse, or chose not to report it.

All I know is that I was the one who had to do it.  Well, I and the child who was choked.  That is why this person was put in my life when I prayed for a friend.

If it were easy to do the right thing, anyone could have done it.  I guess God decided I was the one capable of doing it.

My husband and I believe Richard and Tracy realized this as well.  We believe this is why they began abusing me again in the spring of 2010, after they had been nice to me for a while.

That this is why they lied, screamed, and abused me in various ways over a misunderstanding, then refused to apologize or admit wrongdoing or my innocence.

That it’s because they knew I was capable of reporting them, and wanted me out, where I could no longer witness their abuses.

There is no way to conclusively prove that God exists.  But if He does, then I see his work here, his hand, leading and guiding me even in the darkness.  And the light is shining through.

[Update 8/12/13:]

This blog post freaked me out just now, because it sounded so much like what Richard put me through, that I wondered if it was about him–a man who befriends fragile women, makes them trust him, then begins to devalue and discard them.

I came across it while reading through a blog by a suicidal BPD woman, who does want treatment for her BPD but is finding it hard to come by:

We have to live today by what truth we can get today and be ready tomorrow to call it falsehood

If someone with BPD admits to having this disorder and tries to get it treated, I am more inclined to compassion.  It’s the person who destroys others but tells them it’s their fault, like I witnessed in Tracy, that I can’t abide.


Reblog: What happens when you send your N “the letter”

Quote from the Narcissist’s Child:

I have read many reports of the aftermath of sending that heartfelt NC letter that contained a long list of the narcissist’s hurtful behaviours and words. I have never heard of a favourable reaction. Not once have I heard of a narcissistic mother suddenly finding her heart and feeling it squeezed with pain for her suffering child.

What I have heard of…and experienced myself…it receiving a scathing letter in return, full of denial, gaslighting, twisting of the victim’s words, projection, accusations, and outright lies. I have heard of letters full of fauxpologies (“I am sorry you feel that way…”) and verbal attacks, accusations of wrongdoing on the part of the victim, and threats.

I have heard of letters accusing the victim of being mentally incompetent, expressing sorrow and concern for the victim’s children (thinly-veiled threats about the victim’s competence to have custody of those children) and outright threats of ruining the victim’s name in the family and community, even in her workplace.

I have heard of letters in which the NM pretends a breakdown because of the letter, in which she claims to have become emotionally overwrought and her health negatively affected by the cruelty of the victim’s letter.

I have heard of letters in which the NM vows that she will never be shut out and letters in which the NM shuts the victim out. I have heard of virtually anything you can imagine short of promising murder…or making a sincere apology and heartfelt promise to do better.

I didn’t have to deal with N parents, rather N “friends.”  But this is much the same as what happened to me.  In my case, I didn’t actually send a letter, though I did write one intended to be sent to Richard on my death (when his wife Tracy could no longer do anything in retaliation).

See, I thought Richard at least had a heart, that Tracy was the narcissist making him do her bidding.

But I did blog–using changed names–about what happened.  This blog was meant to vent my feelings, work out what happened, and provide a resource for others going through the same thing.

Yeah, well, they found it.  And sent a scathing e-mail which matches everything the above blogger warns of.  You can read it here.

For three years, my Ns have continued to read my blog regularly, yet have never once expressed remorse or admitted to wrongdoing.  And that includes Richard, not just Tracy, telling me that my worst suspicions are true:

That Richard also is a narcissist, not just Tracy.

Now, it has done me some good anyway, because I was able to defend myself to them at last.  I felt stifled from this before.  However, it never got the intended result: their repentance.  (And they claim to be Christians.  You can tell true Christians by their actions.)

Maybe results from such a letter to the N are not as horrific if it’s not your family, or you don’t have a lot of the same friends.  Mine threatened to start coming to my church, but stopped soon after.  I have no idea where they go now, if anywhere.  But if your N has all sorts of connections to your life, I can imagine this being a huge threat:

The fall out was horrific. Family members were lied to. My work place was contacted. I received threats that the letter I wrote would be sent to my friends. I received threats that my children would be contacted and told “what their mother is really like”. Siblings who rely on her financially cut ties. Legal action was threatened. —Anonymous, in a comment

I can’t help wonder if my own Ns threatened me with legal action, accusing me of threatening them with some kind of widespread defamation campaign, NOT because I ever made such a threat, but because that’s what THEY would do.

The blog post is here: What happens when you send your N “the letter” by The Narcissist’s Child


Why we should not be forced to befriend a BFF’s abusive spouse

Here is a blog comment describing an article by Richard Skerritt (an article which I could not find on the Net) showing the difference between a disordered adult’s tantrum and that of an angry child.  It basically says that comparing the two is unfair to children, because the adult’s tantrum lasts longer and is far worse:

Usually, despite the anger etc. the reaction was the result of some easily understood stimuli, like taking a toy away or something. Whereas, the triggering of the disordered can come about as the result of something that, to a normal person, is completely innocuous.

He also pointed out that a tantruming child can be comforted, eventually and , once the tantrum is done, the child is soothed and reverts to normal.

But, the raging disordered person can not be soothed and continues to go ballistic even if the offender tries to remove the offending stimuli.

Anna Valerious writes:

But today’s thought is simply this: the narcissist/abuser has tender feelings that they coddle and caress and expect you to do the same for their poor little feelings. Conversely, they will trample, disregard and spit on your feelings.

This is a sign of their basely selfish and corrupt natures and isn’t your cue to capitulate. Expect them to be ‘hurt’ when you state reality. Expect them to look wounded to the core when you don’t perform properly your “duty” by them.

Remember ’til your dying day that the narcissist and the abuser are filled with the tenderest sympathy for themselves, but can spare none or little for you.

This is a grotesque reality you mustn’t pretend away. Stop the crazy bus and get off!

There is something seriously wrong with a person who has feelings only for their own pain. Period. Every psychopath has feelings for himself.

The same psychopath gets a total thrill from hurting your feelings. Even if we’re only talking about someone who emotionally abuses you on occasion so they can feel better it is the same principle.

Someone who ignores your pain but has all kinds of compassion for their own pain is a sick sonafabitch. Steer clear. —Do They Have Feelings?

And this is from an article about communicating with people with disorders which make it hard to understand others.  The article is about people on the autism spectrum, but some of the NVLD social issues overlap with Asperger’s and autism:

Presume honesty. We may fail to make eye contact because it makes us feel anxious. We may be nervous in social situations with new acquaintances.

Some may construe our symptoms of anxiety as related to lying, and may not believe or trust us. If anything, however, most of us are honest to a fault. ….

Tell us if we are making you uncomfortable. For example, if we invade your personal space, and you just move away, we may not understand why.

If you say something like, “I am not comfortable with someone standing that close, but six inches farther apart feels good to me,” we will generally be very willing to do that, and not feel hurt. —Learning Each Other’s Language: Strategies to Improve Communication Between Neurotypicals and Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

It’s ludicrous the way Tracy lectured me in the 7/1 and 8/1/10 e-mails about “proper” behavior, saying that I was “wrong” and how “everybody knows, learning disability or not” that you’re supposed to befriend the wife if you want to do anything with the husband (playful banter with, going for coffee with, etc. etc.). 

No, I was NOT “wrong.”

1. It’s ludicrous because she knows absolutely nothing about what it’s like for people with NVLD or Asperger’s to struggle with social rules.  For example, until my mother explained it to me when I was maybe 11, I had absolutely no clue that you’re supposed to say “hi” back when somebody greets you in the hallway.  I had no idea I was offending people this way.

Social rules had to be explained to me or I would not know they existed.

2. It’s ludicrous because it’s not true: There is no such rule as the one Tracy stated.  This is a do-as-you-want society, where fixed social rules have long since been set aside.

I’ve had other friends whose spouses do NOT require this, such as my old college friend Mike.  I don’t know his wife, who won’t even friend me on Facebook because she doesn’t want to friend his friends.  Ever since they got married, they’ve lived too far away for me to get to know her.

Yet she has absolutely no objection to me chatting with him on Facebook, occasionally (innocently) flirting with him in those chats, exchanging e-mails, or, several months ago, having lunch with him when he happened to be in town.  No, she was NOT there, and neither of us had a “wing man” which some people think is “proper.”

I’ve also seen post threads on a local social network which showed that many people find “wing men” to be unnecessary, that all you need to do is let your hubby know you’re meeting this friend, and it’s totally proper.  Assuming your intentions are honorable, of course.  Your husband does not have to know the guy, you don’t have to know the woman he’s meeting.

Other people I’ve known and all sorts of comment threads I’ve found on the Net, tell me that Tracy’s rules are far from fixed, that it’s incredibly common to have the more trusting, do-as-you-want attitude I have lived and encountered.

Here’s one right here, Is She “His” Friend or “Our” Friend on Chocolate Vent:

I have a girlfriend who swears that married men should no longer have female friends once he’s married. Instead of just being his friend that woman should then become “our” friend.

I think that’s ridiculous, but I wonder how many women & men actually enforce that.

I mean why should I have to be friends with some woman just because my husband was friends with her first?

And same with my male friends – why should my husband be forced to make a new friend just because I was friends with him first?

….I don’t think that anyone should be forced to be friends with someone that they don’t know.

If my husband has female friends before we marry then those should be his friends & his friends alone. Of course, I’m sure I’ll end up meeting all of my husband’s female friends, I just wouldn’t want to be forced to befriend them just because we’re married.

After all, if I couldn’t trust him I should’ve never married him.

A commenter wrote,

I have friends my husband has no interest in socializing with, in fact he would rather cut his own throat than be forced to attend any event with. He has friends I feel the same about.

This includes both single and married friends, those we knew prior to our marriage and those we have met since our marriage, those of the same gender and of the opposite gender.

Also, throughout our marriage, my husband has had many female friends whom I did not know, but I had no objection to him going to SCA events alone, chatting with them, wandering off to chat with them when we visited, e-mailing them, meeting them for coffee, that sort of thing.

TRUST IS NECESSARY in a marriage, or it will degenerate into suspicion and controlling behavior, which ultimately will drive you apart, the opposite of what you intended. 

Also, I want to be friends with people because we get along and have things in common, NOT because I am or she is forced into it because of whom we’re married to.

3. It’s ludicrous because Tracy focused so much on what she demanded of other people, but gave them nothing, gave me nothing, gave no apologies for nasty behavior, no acknowledgement of how her husband is charming and easy to be friends with, but she turns people off from friendship with her.

4. It’s ludicrous because it violates my own rights to choose my friends, choose my confidantes, put up boundaries against people like her, and be able to tell for myself when someone is not good to be around.  

5. It’s ludicrous because–from Richard’s own words–she did not live by the same rules which she imposed on Richard and everyone else.  She did NOT befriend me before chatting with, playfully flirting with, or going to a concert with my husband.

Richard did NOT require that all her friends be friends with him as well, nor did she impose such a rule on herself.  Only Richard’s friends had to follow this rule.

6. It’s ludicrous because it takes the focus off the true offender–her, the one who abuses her husband, children, and anyone else she chooses–and puts it on a scapegoat.  

I knew just a few weeks into her rooming with us that she was a bad and emotionally dangerous person.  She was also bigger than I am and violent.

Forcing me into friendship with her was bullying and controlling behavior from both her and Richard, from the very beginning.

So when I think back, it’s not at all surprising that I dug in my heels and refused to go beyond polite hellos and responses to her comments or questions.

Jeff thinks one reason for her jealousy was that she knew I could easily steal away Richard, just by being nice and sweet to him, hanging on his every word and laughing at his jokes, a huge contrast to Tracy’s treatment of him.

But Jeff feels the real reason for her seeing me as a threat to her marriage, was not as a potential affair-partner, but as a confidante, someone who could open Richard’s eyes to just how badly Tracy was treating him and the kids, especially since I didn’t keep my mouth shut about it.

But of course, Tracy wouldn’t want to admit to this, so she conveniently fell back on the “moving in on my husband!” angle.

After all, Richard flirted with lots of people, who also flirted with him, but she didn’t seem to mind that.

And also, after she spouted on Facebook that she finally got to say what she wanted to me and no longer sit back and be “quiet and nice” (she doesn’t even know the meaning of “quiet and nice”)–

Which is far more socially acceptable, far more likely to get the approval of her friends and family: saying I was the person most likely to convince Richard that she’s abusing him and the kids, and that for his own safety and his kids’ safety, he needs to get out NOW–

or saying that I was “violating boundaries” and “moving in on” him?

I found this in Dear Abby on April 11, 2012:

DEAR ABBY: My sister, Beth, and I are very close, but a constant source of contention is her boyfriend, Brody. Beth and Brody have broken up several times, and each time it happens, she fills me in on every horrible thing he has ever done.

They always seem to get back together, and then Beth expects me to like him despite everything I know. Does the fact that she forgives and forgets mean that I have to do the same? –TOO MUCH INFO IN OHIO

DEAR TOO MUCH INFO: No, it doesn’t. But you should be civil, even if you’re not warm and friendly. Then cross your fingers and hope your sister recognizes less drama is healthier and the relationship ends soon.

See?  Even Dear Abby says you don’t have to be more than civil with your friend’s abusive significant other!

And I was always civil with Tracy, always polite and kind, saying hello and good-bye, responding to her questions, occasionally asking her things or paying her a compliment, occasionally chatting with her, giving her things, smiling at her, even biting my tongue when I had to, not mentioning the state of the house, not complaining when she snarked at me.


Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 



Why I refused to “confer” with Tracy–and how Richard betrayed me

I knew from the way Tracy had already laid into me, and from the way I heard/read her deal with other people (such as Todd), that respectfully presenting her concerns and then listening to my own point of view, explanations and needs, was not how she was going to approach me in her “conference.”

And getting yelled, screamed and cussed at by her was not going to have the effect she wanted.

Since my husband tried to calm her down with a kind e-mail with apologies, but ended up receiving an e-mail full of the worst verbal abuse of me yet, I could tell very well that Tracy had no interest in hearing what she herself was doing wrong.  So I had no interest in hearing what I had supposedly done wrong.  

I knew from how she treated Todd, just how interested she was in hearing any side but her own.  Their arguments had mostly been carried out in posts all over an Internet game forum, so I could see what happened.

I knew very well from all the bullying she’d been giving me, Richard and the children the past few months, that she had no interest in fairness or kindness or listening to anybody else but herself.

I also knew that if anyone treated her this way, she would not accept it as her due and just shut up and take it passively, as she expected me to do.

I knew because Todd, when she verbally abused him over a misunderstanding, eventually gave it right back to her, and it turned into a lot of back-and-forth screaming, cussing, ripping to shreds.

Yet she expected me to just take it all passively like a child who knows she deserves punishment?

She forbade me from even speaking to Richard to sort things out–the truth, what was not true, find out what the **** was he thinking letting her go off on me when he knew **** well that I was innocent–until I had this “conference” with her.

I knew I deserved NONE of it.  (Richard knew I deserved none of it, the rat.)

Jeff knew I deserved none of it, because he witnessed how I behaved with her, and he knew I was never mean or rude to her.  

Jeff knew that I gave her a flower recently, paid her a compliment recently, watched her kids, helped her out of a bind time and time again….

I was sick and tired of her bullying me, either herself or by proxy (Richard).  I would not have some fake friendship with her after all this crap, not even for the sake of staying friends with Richard.

Why was she so afraid of people that no one (men or women) could be friends with her husband without also thinking Tracy was this wonderful sweet person?

Was she afraid that if somebody saw her for what she was, she’d lose Richard?

I don’t know where she gets the idea that this is the way to solve problems with friends, that threats, intimidation, manipulation and control tactics–essentially, emotional blackmail–are somehow the “proper” way for her to behave.  

I don’t know where Richard got the idea that it was somehow okay for her to do that.

I don’t know how either of them could think we were going to take this and still be friends with them, how they could act afterwards as if we were the ones acting insulting or like children by leaving.

I’m not a fan of Dr. Phil’s mantra that “You teach people how to treat you.”  That sounds like victim-blaming.  However, if we had stayed friends with Richard and Tracy, we would have taught them it was okay to use tactics like this with us.

Tracy obviously wanted to have the upper hand and complete control over her husband and me.  She treated marriage like a prison, with her the jailer, deciding when to turn the key.

But I wasn’t going to play that game.  If she was going to put conditions on friendship, then our friendship was over.

Even my priest said, there should be NO conditions on friendship, but mutual respect.

As my husband said, “No, Tracy does NOT get her way!”  Just like you do when any child throws a tantrum: You go away and refuse to give in.

The most ludicrous part about it all was that I had seen far too much of Richard’s filthy habits, and his change from a sweet and pious guy to somebody I half-expected to join a militia organization and hole up in the woods with a gun arsenal, to think of him now as anything but a brother.  But I was being treated as if I wanted to jump his bones and was deviously trying to find a way to do so.

The biggest mistake I made, the most wrong thing I did, was not disentangling myself from this violent and deceitful couple much sooner.

But I loved Richard as a brother and loved the children, and wanted to be there for Richard as support in whatever way he needed.

I wanted to be a safe place for the children, show them that not every child lives the way they do, that they didn’t have to accept screaming abuse as their due.

But no matter what I did, Tracy colored it with her green-tinted glasses so that it was some sort of move on her husband.

I do believe that Tracy’s hostility and jealousy toward me wasn’t just that she felt uncomfortable with the close friendship Richard and I developed, but that I saw and recognized her abuse for what it was.

While I was sweet and laughed at his jokes and looked up to him.

If I’d kept my mouth shut about the abuse and jealousy, she probably would’ve liked me just fine.  But I felt I should tell him exactly what I thought about her behavior, that it was my duty as a friend.


Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing


NVLD: I just don’t understand people

Sometimes I have to cut out advice columnists for a while, just as in the 90s I had to cut out talk shows (such as Montel), because they can be triggering.  (I had bad experiences in college which these talk shows occasionally reminded me of.)

However, this is almost impossible because my newspaper runs an advice column, and you can’t help but read it with the comics.  Because the advice column often has bad advice, I feel forced to go elsewhere–usually Carolyn Hax–for some sanity again.

So until newspapers stop running these things, or I stop reading newspapers, I guess I’ll keep getting triggered now and then.  Just as bullies and abusers in my life tried to tell me I deserved their abuse, I’ll read what seems to say, “You deserved to be abused!”

This is why I had to drop a forum back in 2008, because people who knew nothing about the situation made it sound like I deserved to be bullied and abused.

I’ll read somebody else’s letter in an advice column and the responses, and it feels like over again, somebody is telling me, “You deserved to be abused!”  Even though it’s somebody else, and usually the situation is very different, I get shaky and distressed, like it’s all happening to me all over again.

With NVLD (nonverbal learning disorder), which is sort of like Asperger’s (though not the same thing), I just don’t understand people.

I was reminded of this again last night while reading a recent Carolyn Hax column and the responses from readers:

I read the letter writer’s complaint at face value.  When she said it was “perfectly natural” to discuss work with a co-worker, I thought, yes, of course it is.

I could agree with her that the girlfriend seems possessive and insecure to get all upset over work conversations between her boyfriend and the letter writer.

So when Carolyn and even the many commenters, on Facebook and on the Washington Post page, started ripping into the letter writer, I was shocked.

I just plain don’t get it.  I get excluded from conversations ALL THE TIME.

Nobody does it on purpose; it’s just that I’m an introvert with NVLD, and most people are extroverts without NVLD.  So they’ll be going on and on about something I don’t know a thing about, or that bores me, or somebody else makes my comment before I have a chance to.

I don’t whine about it; I only notice because often somebody turns to me and says, “You’re so quiet!”  That annoys me.  If you want to include me in the conversation, ask me a question; don’t criticize me and make me feel like a freak.

It happens in cars, just like with the letter writer and her two friends.  The other two will be in the front seats and I’ll be in the back, which automatically excludes you from conversation.

They’ll chatter on and on and I can barely hear them; if I can hear them, either I have nothing to contribute, or nobody hears me when I do.

Richard and Tracy used to do this all the time, too, when they’d drive me someplace, and they’d be up front talking on and on about their right-wing politics or some other thing, and I’d be quiet in the back seat.

Or we’d be in my house or their house, and they’d start going on about things I wasn’t interested in, or politics I did not agree with, or people I didn’t know, or make comments I found appalling, so I’d just sit quietly and wait for the conversation to change.

(Which is why her complaints of feeling “snubbed” have always baffled me.  Nobody was snubbing anybody, and if it’s “snubbing” to talk about things she doesn’t know about, then she “snubbed” me all the time. 

(It was just the normal, natural progression of conversation, and if, when other people were around, I got a chance to talk to Richard about something I actually knew about and was interested in, it was so rare and wonderful that I was darn well going to take it.  Everybody else did it to me all the time in their house; it was my turn, dang it. 

(This is also why I preferred one-on-one conversations with him, because we had a rapport and interests that could keep us talking for hours, which is highly unusual for me except with a few people. 

(Because it is so unusual for me, I see it as a rare treat, a delicacy, the caviar of friendships and social interaction.  While extroverts apparently see it as Tuesday. 

(But unfortunately, Tracy had such strict control that it was hard to see him without her, except on occasion, so when we got together, I wanted some of that rapport again for 10 or 20 minutes.  The rest of the time, we usually all socialized together, playing a game or something.)

But back to the main point.  It happens when more than two people are sitting at a table and the others inevitably steer the conversation toward subjects I cannot contribute to, or maybe I could but I can’t get a word in edgewise before the topic changes.

Or they talk about something I have no interest in, or about people they know but I don’t.

That’s why I prefer one-to-one conversations, because I can finally get a word in edgewise and talk about things I can contribute to, by helping to steer the conversation, instead of other people doing it.

Or sometimes I prefer the larger conversations because I don’t know what to say, and this takes the pressure off me to contribute.

Especially if I make a friend who I can actually talk to easily, I like the chance to just sit and chat with this person.

Introverts are like this: We don’t do well in group conversations, and just end up watching and listening.  But one-to-one, we can do a lot better.  Well, can.  I don’t always.  Often with one person, I still just sit there not knowing what to say.

But sometimes “magic” happens that I can’t explain, and I can chat easily with this person, probably because of similar interests and temperaments.

As for getting excluded–I get excluded when sitting at a meal with a group of people.  Happened all through school.  My college friends would go on and on every day about choir or their sorority, neither of which I was in.

Happened in the SCA, especially if they went on and on about something like sewing or SCA stuff (I was a newbie) or some bit of medieval knowledge that I know nothing about.

Happens every time I go to a social event and people chatter about things I don’t know about.

Happens at church every week, especially since I go to a Greek church and the people my age often talk in Greek with their relatives and older friends.  If I go to the English-speaking table, they’re mostly 30 or 40 years older than me and I can’t relate to the conversation.

And you know what?  That’s just frickin’ LIFE. 

I know people don’t do it on purpose.  You just frickin’ deal with it and don’t tell people what they can or can’t talk about, unless it’s something harmful, like making fun of someone or bringing up topics that are painful to you.  That’s being controlling and self-centered. 

(Heck, the one time I asked Richard not to talk around me about some guys who sexually harassed me, he said no.)

I think that people generally expect you to fend for yourself in conversations.  If you don’t, you just sort of disappear.

The only thing that annoys me is when people turn to me and complain that I’m so QUIET.

So I’m baffled by the Carolyn Hax column, why people have so jumped on the letter writer and accused her of all sorts of horrible things for doing the SAME THING THAT ALL THOSE PEOPLE WOULD DO TO ME WITHOUT THOUGHT IF WE WERE ALL SITTING AROUND A TABLE TOGETHER.

I just don’t understand people.  This is why I “hermit” so easily.  Why I “hermited” so much as a kid, but actually enjoyed going up into my bedroom when the house was full of relatives, or being alone all day at home during summer break.

Because people don’t make sense to me.  Oftentimes I had/have to deal with bullies, too.

Just when I think I have people figured out, they confuse me again.  Cats are easy: Pet them and give them a warm lap, and they’ll be devoted to you for life.

The researchers found that the brains of children with nonverbal learning disability responded differently to the social interactions than the brains of children with high functioning autism, or HFA, suggesting the neural pathways that underlie those behaviors may be different. —New light shed on learning disorders


Going through the comments some more, I am greatly relieved to see at least two people who DO get it and don’t understand why the letter writer is being vilified.  They are introverts and social misfits to whom exclusion in conversation is perfectly normal and just something you tolerate.

One extrovert scolded that they may not want to participate in the conversation, but extroverts do, so it hurts them.

Er…Excuse me, introverts WANT to participate, same as extroverts.  We just get naturally shut out, which is frustrating. 

But we do not rage about this or treat them as if they did it deliberately, because everybody does this to us.  Our circles are small enough without chasing away all the extroverts we know.

One introvert, justaguy22, even sees the girlfriend as possibly abusive, possibly trying to control her boyfriend’s friendships and conversations, especially if she won’t let her BF see the LW without her, where they could talk shop!  That’s how I might see it, too–especially if the boyfriend uses the “we must pacify her” tone.

In my case, I got a lot of “Tracy’s jealous,” “She screams at the kids,” “She has to approve my friends,” “She’s emotionally abusive to me,” so seeing her reaction as controlling and possessive came from that.

I saw it myself when we were roommates for six weeks, and saw her become very hostile toward me as well, just out of nowhere.  I had no clue why.

And I was given a whole litany of things I did “wrong” around her that I could not even remember.

I said I needed help, such as her using words so I’d know when she wanted to converse with me, because I could not recognize it.

But no changes or help came from their side to help me change on my side, so I was continuously in the dark.  She continued to be displeased with my behavior, but without telling me at the time what I had done, so I had no clue.

I did not monopolize the conversation when she was in the room, mostly letting them carry it; if he and I sat next to each other, I might chat with him for a while, but usually my husband was there for her to talk to, or she was on the computer or doing some other thing.

She did not start conversations with me.  She did not even try with me, but instead expected me to come up with conversation when I have trouble with this in the best of social situations.

Most of the time there was something else going on in the room, or she was talking to everyone or to somebody else or screaming at a kid, so I didn’t see it as a time for starting conversation with her.

She criticized everything I did.  She refused to accept that I was a shy, quiet introvert with probable NVLD, who had always been that way and always would be, that making conversation with her–especially with someone who bullied me and whom I had maybe just witnessed verbally abusing her husband, kids or somebody else–was practically impossible for me until she stopped the abuse and accepted me for who I was.

Feeling pressured actually closes my throat and cuts off my thoughts.

Even then, I needed to be accepted as a quiet person who will not say much most of the time, even among my best friends.

I tried to explain all of this to Richard, hoping that he would explain it to her and they would help make it easier for me to relax around her.  But nothing ever changed, while I got blamed for everything and continuously punished for not being extroverted.

Also, after we broke things off with her, I had symptoms similar to PTSD.  As I wrote in one of my webpages on the situation, I was afraid to make new friends, constantly felt on-edge, like people were judging me harshly for being quiet.

It was always a huge relief to be among people who did not even mention my quietness, did not call me horrible for it, did not keep their husbands from being friends with me for it.

Reading this column was like, after all that, people were saying to me, “You deserved the abuse!  You deserved PTSD!  You deserve to be lonely and sad!”

I don’t know, maybe it’s just that the Carolyn Hax column is an entirely different situation from mine, and far simpler than what I dealt with, so the letter writer’s actions get a different response from the public.

I know that my husband–who is allowed to disagree with me and give the other person’s side–saw Tracy as controlling, too.

Maybe this letter writer is monopolizing the conversation, while I generally sit quiet in a corner.

I’m not sure it’s so hard to talk about something other than work, but maybe it’s the only thing she can think of at the time.  We don’t really know from one letter what all’s going on, and every letter that gets written to an advice column can get completely misinterpreted.

It happens, as we discover when somebody writes in with the “rest of the story,” whether from the original writer or from somebody else.

I believe I will now edit the full story of Richard/Tracy some more.  Apparently readers need to be more educated on introversion and NVLD, and told up front that I did try to do what I could to not “snub” her but I’m a timid person who was very intimidated by her aggressive manner.

Otherwise, people will just assume you are well-versed in social rules, an extrovert, can read subtle cues, etc. etc., and judge you unfairly.

One of the commenters on the advice column, who is used to being around geeks, complained about this, because of how people remarked on the letter writer.

Someone may have suggested Asperger’s; if she honestly cannot think of anything else to talk about, that is a possibility.  Aspies can easily fall into talking about their obsession even when you’ve already told them not to, but it’s not meant to hurt you.

Maybe I should incorporate this post into the introduction.  This is what people all over are dealing with in social situations, not just me.  All we ask for is understanding instead of vilification and writing us off.

Was Cassie Bernall a martyr?

[Please note: This post was written and scheduled to post on October 4, many weeks before the date.  It is pure coincidence that this posted around the same time as rumors have proliferated about Christian martyrs in the Oregon shooting last Thursday.  When I read about the rumors, I thought, “Oh, no, not again.” 

Because of the persistence of the Bernall myth, I decided to wait for verification of the new rumors.  For a response to those rumors, see “Did the Oregon Shooter Target Christians? That Doesn’t Appear to be the Case” by Bo Gardiner, who reviewed the victims’ social media to find out if they were even Christians.  One was Pagan! 

Also see Before you claim the UCC shooting was about Christian Persecution, consider all the evidence.  This blogger goes into the available evidence to show that it was actually a guy obsessed with violence, and another member of the bitter “beta uprising” group which blames women for not sleeping with them.

One of the survivors also refutes the rumors, saying, “Obviously he was asking what religion, but he wasn’t really just targeting. He was kind of just saying, ‘Oh, since you have a God, you’ll be joining him in a little bit.’  It wasn’t really like, ‘I’m targeting you and I’m going to kill you.’” —Source]

In 2001 and possibly 2000 or 2002, I sent letters to the editor to two prominent Christian magazines (CCM and Today’s Christian Woman), complaining about stories which spoke of Bernall’s supposed martyrdom as fact rather than myth.

Neither magazine published my letters, even though they published all sorts of different letters, even (in CCM) some rather vicious attacks on Amy Grant in the aftermath of her divorce.

I feared that the world would see Christians as a laughingstock for propagating the story of a martyrdom which everyone now knew never happened, that we would be derided for gullibility.

While God’s opinion is, of course, more important than man’s, we shouldn’t give the world new reasons to say we just believe in myths and create them ourselves when we need one.

After all, this was shortly after beliefs in a Year 2000 Rapture were proven wrong.

When I wrote the e-mails, I assumed that I had to educate them, that they hadn’t yet heard of the article by Dave Cullen which exposed the myth as probably false in the results of a full investigation.

But now I discover that Christianity Today, at the end of 1999, ridiculed Cullen’s article and turned his exposé, as well as the responses by the “secular” media, into an example of some sort of persecution of Christians.

(For more of the article, go to Clinton’s Rogues Gallery and search for “Christianity Today 11/99 Wendy Zoba.”  For Cullen’s response, see Columbine Summary, The Columbine Book and: “My disclosure that police believed Cassie Bernall never told the killers she believed in God provoked a bitter controversy in Evangelical Christian circles, and many of them insist to this day that Cassie did speak” (Dave Cullen, All-in-1 Stories).)

I now find that all these years later, the myth continues, and has even been put in the song Cassie by Flyleaf–as late as 2006:

–Wikipedia article–which some have disparaged just for being on Wikipedia, but it gives the same information as Salon and other news sources

Thread discussing the meaning of Flyleaf’s “Cassie”–and arguing back and forth over whether or not she really said “yes,” starting in 2006 and still continuing in May of 2008, almost 9 years after the myth was debunked

Thread from April 2008 in which nearly everyone says the story is true

Now, so all can finally read it, this is my letter to Today’s Christian Woman, “Re: March/April Issue, ‘Our Picks,” e-mailed on 2/28/01:

Regarding the video included in the ‘Our Picks’ column for March/April, “Whatever It Takes” [Michael W. Smith]:

It’s great to celebrate Cassie Bernall’s life.  She had a marvelous testimony.

However, the front of the package says, “The ‘She Said Yes’ Video Tribute,” leading me to believe that the video perpetuates the myth in Christian circles that she was martyred for her faith.

In late September of 1999, it was revealed that several stories about the Columbine shooting were inaccurate, and that it was Valeen Schnurr, not Cassie, who said “yes.”

In fact, after she said it, the gunman reloaded but did not shoot her.  She has since graduated and gone on to college.

A witness who was right next to Cassie remembered no words being exchanged between her and her killer.

I feel this myth should be recognized as myth, because the facts are verifiable, having been published in such places as Salon News, The Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post, and the March [2000] issue of Redbook magazine (which gives Valeen’s story).  [Redbook Magazine incorrectly labeled the article as “March 1999” on one of its pages.]

If I ever find the other e-mail, I’ll post it here.  It’s hard to find when I don’t remember when it was sent.

My fears have proven to be on good grounds.  This myth has given people new reasons to ridicule Christians:

The “martyrdom” story is a falsehood being spread to further the agenda of the Christian religion and to stereotype and stigmatize Christianity’s critics. –Cliff Walker, Cassie Bernall Martyrdom Hoax: A Christian Haunted House Theme!?

Bernall, a troubled and rebellious youth who became a born-again Christian after being sent by her parents to a disciplinary religious camp, was quickly transformed into a ‘Martyr” for her beliefs.

Despite compelling evidence that such an event [never] even occurred as claimed, religious publications, spokespersons, web sites and media programs were quickly reporting on the “martyrdom of Cassie Bernall.”

The Bernall “martyrdom” was even mentioned on the floor of the U.S. Congress, as representatives passed a flurry of religion-friendly bills relating to school prayer, display of the Ten Commandments, and involving faith-based groups in the welfare system.  —Leak on Columbine Report: Killers Didn’t Target Christians

Surprise, xians lie to exploit a tragedy….But the reality will never be accepted. 100 years from now she will still be being praised as a true Christian hero…

The lie is more comfortable than the truth. Easy rationalization really, that is the basis of religion. –, site no longer extant

And the following, which is exactly what I feared back in 2000 or 2001:

It must be said, however, that Cassie’s mother did not hide the fact that there were different accounts of what happened, and her book’s focus was almost entirely on her daughter’s transformation, not her murder.

Nevertheless, several still refuse to believe it isn’t true. One of those who reported the exchange originally, Joshua Lapp, although also not an eye-witness, still insists upon his account: “She said it, plain and simple.”

It clearly does not take much to make someone into a confirmed believer in an inspiring story, even one that isn’t true.

The irony should not be lost on us that this kind of distortion and denial of the evidence could very well have been instrumental in the rise of the Christian faith, as inspiring, and perhaps not entirely true accounts of the death of Jesus were circulated. –Richard C. Carrier, Belief, Truth, and the Columbine Tragedy

More articles:

The Official FBI Report on Columbine

Internet Monk: Columbine: A Word for Evangelicals Ten Years Later

USA Today article, 10 years later, the real story behind Columbine (Greg Toppo)

CNN article, Debunking the myths of Columbine, 10 years later (Stephanie Chen)

The Truth About Columbine (Robert VerBruggen)

The loss of Cassie’s life is no less tragic because she was not a martyr.  Same for all the other kids who lost their lives that day.

And covering up the true story takes attention away from the courage of the girl who really did say yes to these sociopathic killers–yet survived.

Written in 2008

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Here are many of the wonderful things that first attracted me to Orthodoxy.  I had to wonder how many people reading their service books with such rapt attention as I did on the evening of Good Friday, 2008.  My comments are between the quotes:

…for through Your Burial You opened for me the portals of life; and by death You have put Death and Hades to Death.

ie., This is why Christ had to die. It’s not just about punishment for our sins: It’s far more than that, and far more glorious and powerful.

You stretched out Your arms and united those who were divided of old. Restrained by the shroud and tomb, You loosed those held captive, who cry out: ‘There is none Holy, save You, O Lord.’

There is that good ol’ Orthodox theology, using contrasts, showing how Christ died so that we could have life.

O uncontainable One, You were sealed in a tomb of Your own will; and You made known Your Power through Your Divine actions to those who sing.

It was of Christ’s own will, not something the Father forced on Him.

You descended to the depths of the earth to fill all things with Your glory; for my person that is in Adam was not hidden from You; and being buried, You renewed me from corruption, oh Lover of mankind.

You have revealed the symbols of Your Burial by many visions. But now, You have manifested Your secrets as God and Man, even to those in Hades, O Master.

Foreseeing Your Divine self-emptying on the Cross, Habakkuk cried out in amazement: ‘You cut off the power of the mighty, O Good One, speaking to those in Hades, as the Almighty.’

When Your soul was separated from the body, the bonds of both Hades and Death were shattered with greater strength by Your might, O Word of God.

Hades in encountering You, O Word, was embittered, beholding a mortal deified; covered with bruises, yet all powerful. Wherefore, it shrank back at the awesome sight.

You transform the mortal by death, and the corrupt by burial; for as befits God, You have made incorruptible and immortal the nature you assumed; for Your body, O Master, did not see corruption, nor was Your soul abandoned as a stranger in Hades.

Verily, Hades rules the race of mortals, but not forever; for You, O Mighty One, when placed in the tomb, demolished the bars of death with Your Life-giving Hand, and preached to those who slept there from the ages of old the true redemption, becoming, O Saviour, the First-Born of the dead.

This is the Harrowing of Hades, when Christ preached to the dead in Hades, then brought out the righteous into Paradise.

There are many in the various denominations today who say this is not really what happened, that it’s one of man’s traditions distorting a vague passage of the Bible, even though “He descended into Hell” is in the Apostle’s Creed.

I’ve even seen the Apostle’s Creed altered.

In the Evangelical Free Church, someone once asked, “What about the people who died before Christ’s death?”

The pastor said, “We don’t know.  We think they were able to go to Heaven if they believed in the promise of the Messiah.”

Which is entirely different from what my Nazarene dad taught me.  He taught me about the Harrowing of Hades, though he didn’t use that term.  What he taught me was very close to the Orthodox teaching, though there are differences.

Also, the ancient Israelites were not big on evangelization, so only small pockets of people would have believed in a Messiah.  I also wonder how early and how prevalent a belief in a Messiah was, anyway.

I’ve held onto the hope for all my life that the pagan dead of the Old Testament were saved when Christ preached to them in Hades, so it was devastating to hear this teaching may be wrong.

When I discovered the Orthodox teaching of the Harrowing of Hades, it was a great relief.

Verily, Jonah the Prophet was caught, but not held in the belly of the whale.

For being an impression of You, Who suffered and was given over to burial, he sprang forth from the whale as from a chamber, and said to the watchmen: ‘Falsely, and in vain do you guard, O watchmen; for you have neglected your own mercy.’

Showing how the Old Testament prefigures the story of Christ even in its own stories.

The fall of Adam resulted in the death to Man, but not to God; for though the substance of Your earthly body suffered, Your Divinity remained passionless, transforming the corruptible into incorruption, and showed it to be the fountain of Resurrection for immortal Life.

The Godhead of Christ was one with the Father and the Spirit, without separation in the tomb and in Eden, for the salvation of us who sing.

Answering the question many have: Did God die on the Cross? Did God suffer?

Written in 2008

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge

Should Christians join the Freemasons?  The trouble with a secretive society is that it’s hard to make definite judgments about what it does or teaches.  The Wikipedia article is here.  Still, from what I’ve researched, the charges against the Freemasons are highly exaggerated.

However, various Christian denominations forbid membership in the Freemasons.

What about fraternities and sororities?  Do they come under the common ban on secretive societies?  Should they?

It can be argued that hazing and excessive (often underage) drinking are unChristian, best left alone by the Christian college student.

During my short-lived time pledging a sorority, I was hazed in occasionally humiliating ways, all in the name of “unity.”  (This in a Christian college which forbade hazing.)

How is it unifying for one sister to haze another?  It unified us pledges, but against the actives.

Once, while visiting friends in a sorority living suite, I overheard Sigma frat pledges getting paddled in the Sigma meeting room up above.

And pledges in many such organizations are forced to drink far too much in far too short a time, sometimes resulting in death from alcohol poisoning.

I recommend that Christian students avoid fraternities and sororities which use hazing of any kind, discriminate against non-members, and/or give alcohol to minors.

Here’s one take on the issue from a nondenominational site.

The view of WELS, a very conservative branch of Lutheranism: Membership in Sororities/Fraternities, Organizations: Sororities, Other Lodges

The view of LCMS, which is conservative but less so than WELS: Lodges, Fraternal Organizations and Fraternities, Campus Crusade for Christ, Boy Scouts, Masons

The Orthodox view, which is against Freemasonry but apparently not fraternities/sororities: Masonic Fraternity

The Nazarene view:

We hold specifically that the following practices should be avoided…Membership in oath-bound secret orders or societies.  The quasi-religious nature of such organizations dilutes the Christian’s commitment, and their secrecy contravenes the Christian’s open witness. –p. 46, Manual/1997-2001


Written probably in 2006/2007

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

Great news: Walker is out of the race

He’s been at this since long before he officially announced his presidency.  The local papers have been full of accolades from various Republican politicians (even–sniff–Tommy Thompson–et tu?).  I didn’t think he’d drop out so quickly–thought he’d fight (unintimidated) till the bitter end:

Scott Walker drops out of race

Maybe his Koch overlords pulled their support….

Now I no longer fear that he’ll tear apart this country the same way he ripped apart Wisconsin.

Now I just hope we don’t end up with President Clown (ie, Trump).

I mean, seriously?  Donald Trump?  for President?

Every day, I update old posts and pages.  Maybe now I can remove old posts about Walker which were meant to warn the country about him.  :)

At least half the time, the people I vote for, don’t get elected.  So I have to consider the possibility that a Republican candidate will end up President.

So rather than like SOME people do–crossing party lines during primaries to vote for the worst candidate of the other party so their own party will win–

I hope that the best, not-crazy Republican candidate will be nominated.

It actually brings me joy to discover that I like both candidates in an election.  Especially since our country’s welfare is in the hands of these people we elect.

One down, one crazy to go.



Epilogue and Apology from My Abuser Phil–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–May 1995, Part 4

Sometime during the next few weeks, I went to Laura’s house with Cugan, and sat down next to a black cat with white patches on her chest and paws.  This cat looked up from her nap and let me pet her while she purred.

Laura saw this cat, Gizu (GEET-soo), took a liking to me, and said, “Want a cat?”

This poor thing was the low cat on the totem pole in this house, and all the other cats beat up on her.  (When I took her away, a different cat took this position.)

She came away from Laura’s with a liking for “beatings” (all the Laura cats had a strange, masochistic streak), but with hatred for other cats and distrust of small children.

When I brought her to Indiana, she was quiet in the car, and took to her new home immediately.  She seemed blissfully happy, with no cats or small children to contend with.

By the beginning of July, I got my insurance clerk job in S–, and new adventures began.  For examples:

Cindy and other Roanoke students worked there with me.  Catherine used to work there, before I did.

I married Cugan (no secret weddings this time).

As I mentioned previously, Phil showed up on my doorstep right before Christmas as Cugan and I packed the car for a visit to Cugan’s family.  My mom and others wondered what he would have done if Cugan weren’t there.  They thought he’d hurt me somehow.  But with Cugan there, he just greeted me and gave me my old D&D character sheets.

Oh, and don’t forget my thoughts as Cugan and I first drove into our new city: Here was a new place with no Peter, Phil, Persephone or Avenger (though I found her again when going on TCB long-distance).

I moved in with Cugan in July 1995, and never moved out again.  So even though we didn’t get married until April 19, 1997, more than two years after we started dating, it feels like we married on July 4, 1995, just four months after we started dating.

On December 9, 1995, I went to a party in my old apartment with my old roommies and other Roanoke friends:

Persephone told me she didn’t realize just how dysfunctional their on-again, off-again relationship was, until her friends started “throwing” new guys at her to get her away from Phil.  They saw how dysfunctional it was before she did, while she was still with him.

She also said that now the girls were staying away from him.

She was surprised I didn’t know that Phil’s brother Dave and his Pearl broke up a long time before.  I recalled Phil saying they’d been fighting just like his parents.

One of the girls at the party, who knew his Pearl, said her friends wondered what Pearl saw in Dave, anyway.  His Pearl wanted nothing to do with Phil, who kept chasing her now that she was free.

There was also another girl at the party, a transfer student, who Pearl declared to be my “replacement” in the group, since I graduated and several of my friends–even in my own class–stayed another year or so.

Ironically, she ended up being my “replacement” for Phil as well, who later dated her, got her pregnant, and married her–but divorced her about 10 or 11 years later, after two kids.

I don’t know the circumstances, just that he claimed on his account that she wasn’t “supportive” of his job in a new city.

In any case, my friends told me various things about Phil and this new girl:

In 1996, they all went to a restaurant one day, she asked to bring a friend, and to their shock, she brought Phil.  She and Phil ended up all alone at their table because nobody else wanted to sit with Phil.

Watching them together was like him and me all over again, but worse, because she’d skip out on sorority meetings and not admit it was for Phil.

It scared them all when I was engaged to him.  Phil had not changed: He yelled at her like they heard him yelling at me.  He wanted his way, only, and that’s it.  He was mean to her.

Cindy considered him a jerk for getting her pregnant, because, since he didn’t believe in birth control, he shouldn’t have been having sex.

Pearl and others tried to talk her out of marriage.  Pearl even sent her a letter about it.

Since this girl was in an abusive relationship before, apparently she thought this one was nice as long as Phil wasn’t hitting her.

I also see through the state’s public access court website that Phil did have some sort of disorderly conduct conviction in the early 2000’s.  There are no details, but there was a victim, and it shows that he was capable of violence.

I met this girl again at another party, given at Mike’s house in February 1996.  She sat beside me on a couch, and talked to me and nearby people about her life story and the places she’d been.

She even said she went to a store with her “friend.  I saw a stuffed rabbit I liked, and he got it for me.”  She thought he was so sweet.

I feared she meant Phil, and really hoped she didn’t.  I felt weird around her, thinking that she had actually gone out with Phil.  Ugh!

I showed off my engagement ring.  Sharon said, “He didn’t give you a bird, did he?” and laughed.

Cindy later told me this girl was so excited to have talked to me, that Phil told her all about me, and talked me up as this wonderful person.  

Cindy felt he did this to control her, by presenting me as so perfect that she felt she had to live up to it.  Cindy said she was also very submissive to him.

I got in touch with Peter and Shawn again.

Shawn used to call on occasion when I first moved in with Cugan; I even invited him to my wedding, though he wasn’t able to come.

He lives just a couple of hours away, but we haven’t seen each other in nearly 20 years.  Once in a great while, we exchange a few e-mails to catch up, though I haven’t heard from him since 2005.

As for Peter, we had both arguments and apologies about new things (religion, mostly).  Peter and I both discovered Goth around the same time.  Now we’re on each other’s Facebook, and once in a while exchange a comment or have a little chat.

As for Phil, on Eastern Orthodoxy’s Forgiveness Sunday in 2007 (February 18), I sent him a message through  I apologized for giving him a hard time about Catholicism, and also for some things I said in the past which were too harsh.

At the beginning of Lent the next day, he messaged back that he should be the one to apologize: Religion was not really a problem for him, and he said harsher things to me than I said to him.  He said that I and my family were very good to him, but we moved too fast.

He even expressed regret at how things turned out between us, especially now that he was getting divorced.  He said he still wished things went differently and worked out between us.  His mother still told him I was the only girl he should’ve stayed with.

So never give up hoping for an end to bad feelings between people.

How do I think of these things now?  When I’m revising some little bit of my memoirs, I obviously have to channel the old hurt, frustration, etc.  If I don’t, the writing will not resonate as “real.”

But once that’s done–all this again becomes a part of the past.  The hurt, the pain, the embarrassing moments, the desire for revenge–it all belongs in the long-past.

I did not marry Peter, Phil or Shawn; I have had no contact with their families or friends for years; what they did to me once, has nothing to do with my life now.

I might e-mail Peter, Phil or Shawn occasionally, but they’re not a part of my present.

The old angst makes for good stories, and occasionally I can use it when advising somebody who’s going through similar issues.

It’s taken a long time, but I think I may have finally forgiven Peter, Phil and Shawn.

That’s it for my college memoirs.

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995: