Book Review and Divine Intervention

The other day I was picking up a book I’d requested at the library and absent mindedly browsing the books nearby, which happened to be about religion. I picked up about 8 books in all, including one called “Leaving the Saints: How I  Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith” by Martha Beck.

Here’s the divine intervention part. I really think the Goddess sent me this book.

Martha is the daughter of a Mormon scholar and apologist, and an incest survivor. She describes what began as a spiritual search for union with God and progresses toward experiencing repressed memories and leaving the church. At the time of writing she was a straight mother of three (actually according to her site about the book she’s now in a relationship with a woman) with a doctorate in sociology from Harvard, and she was raised within a patriarchal religious community  but other than that her experience reflected mine so much that it took my breath away. It also made me laugh or snort out loud several times, as she’s got a wicked and irreverent sense of humour.

She was raised with the regular Mormonism, not the trafficking-children-in-‘marriage’ -for statutory-rape-by-old-geezers polygamist type  that spring to mind when discussing Mormon child sexual abuse, so her cultural references are relatively familiar. She had a supportive husband who didn’t care that she doesn’t cook, similarly to my spouse.

She was also first raped by her father at the age of five. Her father was also a highly intelligent, high status guy who was highly dissociative, liked to speak in codes (my father once  inserted himself into a college phone conversation with my mother and told me quite seriously not to let any man make me his teddy bear, a comment I still don’t understand), and believed he’d been cured of serious illnesses (in my father’s case, complete blindness) by God. However, given my fathers near miraculous survival from multiple health hazards and accidents, he may have something there.

Unlike me, her extended family were mostly unsupportive, because her dad is so famous in the Mormon world and also because the Mormon’s are all about propping up male authority no matter what. Some of the press in particular has made the usual accusations of false memories, something Beck refutes in a particularly clear statement online .

At this point I’d like to pause for a nice clarifying rant.  Here’s the backup references for what I’m about to say: [click here] So called ‘false memory syndrome’ is NOT recognized as a syndrome by any reputable scientific source, like the DSM or the American Psychological Association. The folks who made this completely false syndrome up and promote it are themselves accused child molesters or their spouses. One of their ‘expert witnesses’ was quoted endorsing sex with children in a paedophilia magazine.  People don’t want to believe bad stuff happens to children because it freaks them out. I get it. But lying and hurting people who’ve already been through so much is unethical, and supporting the propaganda interests of pedophiles and their apologists is heinous. Journalists, stop being manipulated by child abusers!  End of  rant.

Beck says some very useful things about abusers and their behaviour and what causes them, and has also learned the same passionate devotion to truth and hatred of lies, silence and complicity that I have.  She also has had mystical experiences of the divine (although hers seem more striking to me, somehow) and has found them an important part of her healing.  Her mother also initially said she believed her, in a conversation chillingly similar to the one I had with my mother where she said “yes, that’s something he’d do” but also wanted her to forgive and support her father anyway, like it didn’t matter what he’d done at all.

She also has something I’m a bit embarassed to envy – scar tissue inside her vagina  that proves she was raped as a child. I don’t know if I have scar tissue, and I’m kind of scared to find out. I told a doctor I was a child sexual abuse survivor (just in case I had a flashback with my legs in the stirrups, not (gasp!) to get all emotional or needy on her. She was horrified. She told me everything looked normal, like in those words she could erase ten years of experience. What would I gain in making that up? gees!  I’d really like to know if there is scar tissue,  but doctors are generally robots – how could I find one that would seriously investigate for physical evidence rather than trying to invalidate me from their own discomfort? I have some ‘female issues’  that could be related like vaginal infections so constant that a doctor once tested me for both AIDS and diabetes (I have neither) to try and figure out what might be causing it, but honestly, although I enjoy the TV program House MD, and like my Gray’s Anatomy, I don’t have any faith in medical doctors’ ability to figure out more subtle stuff like mine and have simply managed symptoms on my own and do all the recommended things to avoid infections.

Martha (Dr. Beck, actually, but really she feels more Martha to me) has a definition  of forgiveness,  taken from another source, that I can endorse. “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a different past”. If that’s the case, I’ve definitely forgiven my father, years ago,  and probably also my mother. I’ve always just called it ‘Acceptance’ the last stage of grieving, where things actually begin to feel better, even though the tragedy hasn’t changed at all.  I’ve long embraced grief, knowing that when it’s time to cry, it is a profound gift. Grief is my friend, as it it the only thing that actually heals tragedy.

In short, I may need to buy a copy of this book to have around for validation, since the library will only let me have it for two weeks.

On the hiding front, I’ve come down with a sore throat, a few days after my music jamming with my friend and future performing partner. My body has come to the defense of my psychic camoflage, and is trying to shut this scary passion business down. This is good, it’s like learning not to dissociate: I’ve begun to recognize when I”m doing it. I still want to sing, and I’m going to sing sore throat or no sore throat. My fingertips are tender from practicing my guitar and I’m not stopping.

I’m so grateful for this blog and the support I’ve gotten from survivors posting comments. For the first time in a long while, I have a place to be, to tell the truth to the Goddess and people who understand.

The last few weeks, I’ve been gradually eating a small supply of chocolate Eostre/Easter eggs. In my faith tradition, spring equinox eggs are sacred to the Goddess Eostre and represent rebirth, as do the red balls on the evergreen tree at Yule. I’ve decided that every time I eat an egg I’m going to dedicate it using a prayer for rebirth. Rebirth of hope. Rebirth of presence in my body and today, with this book, rebirth of Validation.

5 thoughts on “Book Review and Divine Intervention”

  1. S.D.W.
    I saw this link in your tags and had to check it out. I am a Mormon. I truly liked reading this post. Your RANT is of course spot on. I think you are very kind and fair here and I just wanted you to know that. Frankly, not that I think it would have mattered to me other than I would have been sad if I thought you had a misconception of Mormons, but of course that would have been my problem.
    One of the things I know for sure is that in the Mormon scriptures it says that in the last days the evil doings of the wicked will be shouted from the house tops. That’s what we’re all doing, and WE ARE GETTING LOUDER!
    Respect and healing thoughts to you.

    1. Hi Vicki,
      Nice to meet you and thanks for commenting on my post. I actually know a number of Mormons and almost all of them are very nice people, although we disagree on some issues for sure. I think many of the world’s religions are good and helpful, and only really oppose the parts that hurt other people.

      I completely agree with you about the value of shouting from the housetops the evil doings of the wicked. I’m glad your faith supports you in doing that, as does mine. Now as a society, all we have to do is get agreement with the others on who the wicked truly are and stop condoning child abuse!

      Respect and healing thoughts back to you,

  2. Hi,

    Yes I agree with you completely. This “Just World” theory is wrong and after all is just a theory. Too bad so many people need to believe in it, even though it is untrue. This is not a just world, good people are not safe, evil people are not necessarily victimized.

    Anyone can be abused. It has nothing to do with our worthiness to be safe and free from abuse. Those are the cold hard facts. Hiding from that seems to be a world-wide past-time.

    Denial does not make it so. Inflicting these beliefs on others increases their pain, rather than alleviates anything for those who have been abused and harmed. Secondary wounding continues without abatement. I’m sure that it makes those who practice it feel better.

    Thanks for your reply. Good and healing thoughts to you.


  3. Hi,

    Great blog post. So much to think about and process. Thank you.

    “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a different past”. If that’s the case, I’ve definitely forgiven my father, years ago, and probably also my mother. I’ve always just called it ‘Acceptance’ the last stage of grieving.”

    I have never heard of this definition. Thanks so much for posting it. It really helps me to see that I am making progress in this area and it is okay to accept this definition of forgiveness as the one that I embrace. I have had so many thrown onto me ina guilt trip kind of way. I think I am at this stage, or at least circling around it. I call it the “it is what it is” acceptance stage.

    “I’ve long embraced grief, knowing that when it’s time to cry, it is a profound gift.”

    Me too on the embracing grief. Though most people have told me that I am wrong, but they are all non-survivors and I think they are not the best people to advise me in healing.

    “Grief is my friend, as it it the only thing that actually heals tragedy.”

    Wow, what an interesting concept. Thanks, this gives me lots to ponder.


    1. Hi Kate,
      Thanks for commenting. I added you to my blogroll.

      People get uncomfortable when we start telling the truth about being a survivor. They want to believe that the world is a safe place for good people, and that whether tragedy and injustice happens is within their control. To me, when people tell me to forgive, first of all it’s none of their damn business, and secondly it’s their way of saying “shut up about this, I don’t want to think about bad things happening to children”. Ditto with strong feelings. I mean really, who are THEY to know what kinds of feelings are appropriate for something of this magnitude? It messes with their world view to really understand that horrible things can happen to good people, children. They want to believe they are safe as long as they do things the right way. It’s not true. It’s a lie, unfortunately, a pretty lie, that God protects the innocent and good. She/He/It can help us protect ourselves, but unfortunately, that’s it. We have to learn to protect and heal ourselves.

      This theory about forgiveness being essential comes from a particular mind view and religious background, which were mostly written by patriarchs in the first place, who haven’t historically shared my perspective/experience (how could they) on rape and incest. It’s just other people’s theory. Our mileage may vary.

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