She fell like rain. Like a star. Graceful Up until the crash. A lifetime of being there Until one day she wasn’t. Gone in an instant. Erased from time. Leaving behind Only the smudge lines of her smile.
One time, I had a real moment of honesty with my psychiatrist. I told him about the manic episodes, the physical exhaustion, the pain that comes with every crash. I said, “I just want to give up.”
He asked me what I meant, and I assured him I didn’t mean suicide. Simply, I feel done sometimes. I want to quit. Just not do anything.
When he still didn’t seem to understand I explained to him that at some point long, long, ago my sperm donor had given up. He quit. He just one day parked himself in front of his computer and played Microsoft Flight Simulator for decades. His family, his responsibilities, his obligations didn’t mean dick to him. He took on the role of “absence-interrupted-by-moments-of-violence.” He played it well.
My psychiatrist asked me what it was that kept me going. I told him, “I don’t want to be that man. I have a family that depends on me. So, I just take on everyday as best I can—no matter how much it hurts.”
And that is how I’ve felt for so long. Overwhelmed. Suffering chronic pain most days. My head is chock full of ghosts. I feel alone sometimes. I want to quit, but I force myself to keep going. If I fail, I let everyone down and I become just like my sperm donor.
My psychiatrist has since referred me to a team of specialists. He thinks I need to unravel the rat’s nest of trauma still tangled up on my insides. Maybe he’s right. Still, there are days I want to quit.
Recently, in a local forum, there have been a number of posts relating to human trafficking and abduction. This has been a bustling topic of conversation, so a post describing the encounter between a woman with children and a man trying to lure the children away felt a little suspicious. The uncanny valley of story was too unsettling to be real, but many in the community were lapping it up.
I said the quiet part out loud. I challenged the tricky thing and used very informal literary criticism to deconstruct the story and unmask the thing for what it was: a fabrication. In hindsight, I probably should have taken my meds today. And I probably shouldn’t do things during a manic episode, but c’est la vie and all that.
Here’s what that wild ride looked like:
I’m the storyteller around here, and something smells wrong.
The details and orientation of the narrator in this “David versus Goliath” motif is constructed. This is not a story about an attempted kidnapping, but rather a metaphor of God’s power over evil and the power of God wielded by Christians against the Devil by extension.
The narrative begins with the assumption that the speaker is a woman. The inclusion of children and the phrase “potentially scary incident” project a feminine voice.
She is a mother. Her hands are filled with rowdy babies—a vulnerable figure in a world filled with sudden striking evils sent by Satan. She is comparable to the Virgin and Child.
The mother wears a number of mask in this parable. She is the “meek who shall inherit the earth.” She is both a child of God—frail and innocent—and the wielder of God’s wrath.
The male assailant allows for internal biases to construct a caricature villain who embodies the fears of the reader. He is also the Devil. The deceiver of humanity and humanity’s scapegoat.
Like the Devil who roams about as a terrible lion seeking those it can devour, the man seeks to corrupt and destroy (1 Peter 5:8). The candy he wields is a parallel of the forbidden fruit which plunged humanity into sin and death.
The contrast between these figures places the power with the male assailant. He is a representation of the wicked who wield all earthly power in order persecute God’s faithful. The cards appear stacked in his favor.
But for the woman, who is like little David facing insurmountable odds, the divine power of God manifests “on” her person.
The use of “on” is interesting. It allows the woman to fight back against a demonically influenced force. It is not God who steps in and sends the devil fleeing, but the woman who wields God as a supernatural weapon. She puts the devil to flight.
This is an important element because it shifts the power away from God to the woman. The power starts with the man, it is then usurped by God, and then given to the woman (or Christian).
With this power, instead of nodding to St Michael the Archangel’s “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9), the story gives over the wielding of God’s wrath and vengeance to the faithful who are always alert for the devil amidst a “sleeping society.”
The retreat of the man furthers this idea in its function as an illustration of James 4:7–“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
When the devil flees, God is put away and the angels (Kingsburg PD) are called in to secure the area from further threat.
The story’s conclusion is barbed. It is meant to stay with the reader. It professes that while today, this woman was saved, it doesn’t mean the threat is gone. It lingers, and so the reader is encouraged to be on guard because the devil is around every corner and only they can stop him.
Verse by verse. Chapter by chapter. Book by book. –Calvary Chapel
I grew up in a church in rural California. What this means is every Sunday we went to church. We participated in a variety of “ministries” to support the church. I attended youth group Bible study and, later, college Bible study. I helped with worship team set up. My parents made copies of the services on audio tapes and sold shirts on behalf of the church (tape ministry and shirt ministry). For a number of years, we hosted home prayer meetings and Bible studies. We rubbed elbows with various church leaders and influencers. The church was an extension of my family to whom I was to go with every issue and question I had.
I grew up in the church.
It was very important to our community that we all live in a Christ-centered manner with our ears ever pressed upon the murmurs of the Holy Spirit. We asserted, if not so blatantly, that we were one of few truly Bible centered, Christ focused, and biblically sound churches left in the world. We were the Acts church! The church of the New Testament! Christ was our centerpiece, but Moses was our model.
Who we were in reality–in practice–was (and remains) far from any resemblance of a biblically centered or Christ centered church. It was our boast to proclaim that we studied the Bible “verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and book by book” (Calvary Chapel), and we did go through the Bible verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, but to call it studying is only marginally true. For all our high mindedness of Scripture, we never really gave the bible an opportunity to speak. We were eisegetical in our approach. We read into scripture the things we wanted out of it. We threw out the entire literary approach to the Bible and approached it in the vein of Charles Finney–we approached the text as lawyers reading a law book. As a result, we became legalistic and insistent that our understanding of religious law be made the law of the land in order to save the world for Jesus. We walked with some of the earliest evangelicals to initiate the raging culture wars being fought today.
Our leadership, our pastor and his inner circle, asserted that we held the real and true, Holy Spirit inspired, understanding of the Bible, and as a child, I believed them. Right knowledge of the scriptures along with a prerequisite magical prayer inviting Jesus into one’s heart, assured our place in heaven and our superiority as God’s children on the earth.
Over the next few months, I am going to share my story. I am going to name names. I am going to share how divine intervention rescued me from a cult of personality and led me on a path to deconstruct the lies of my pastor and his church, spend over a decade in deep theological study that was both spiritual and scholarly, and how I came to save myself from becoming what they meant for me to be.
This project will not just be a work of essays but will incorporate various forms of art and media to convey my story. This work will be linked together using the “Valley of Shadows” category and tag.
I don’t expect this project to go smoothly, but after nearly twenty years, it is time to tell my story.
It’s made to look right, and at first glance it does, but on closer inspection something seems off. One can’t quite put their finger on what exactly is wrong, but the sense of wrongness only increases and never fades. It’s like the uncanny valley or the verisimilitude of the thing comes too close to replication, but its otherness invites primal fear and revulsion to the surface. Something in the heart and soul plead with the mind not to believe the eyes, and, yet, neither can one look away. To blink is to give opening for the sinister heart of the unsound thing to strike.
This space was originally meant to work on horror writing. When I set up Illiterate Broadcasts, I imagined I would occasionally write on current events in the news or touch lightly every now and then on issues of theology, but the state of my collapsing nation is too much to ignore.
Few know I spent twelve years studying Christian theology in depth. I studied historical contexts, languages, literary contexts, hermeneutical lenses, theory, Church history, and many other related areas. I thought I wanted to go into ministry, become a pastor, but what ended up happening was an intensive deconstruction of the toxic indoctrination I received at the hands of nationalists, white supremacists, and a cult that used the Bible to instill nationalist’s values into me as a child. I thought the deconstruction of these systems was the end of my journey with theology, but like so many other things in my life, I was wrong.
I intend to continue with my creative writing, but there will be more theological and social criticism to come as well. It feels necessary to address these issues than to let them simply eat me alive from the inside.