In the late nineties, Dave and I went on one of those Holy Land tours with a group from our church. In addition to Israel, we went to Jordan and Egypt.
While we were at Masada, we were waiting for the tour bus and hanging about in the gift shop at the base of the mountain.
There was a book on display written by a rabbi. I don’t recall the title, but it was about the historicity of Jesus (did Jesus exist at all). I was so intrigued by the idea. I wanted, really wanted to read that book.
But when I put out my hand to pick it up, I realized it was shaking. My heart was pounding. I didn’t want anyone to see me looking at that book.
I didn’t buy it. I didn’t even touch it.
Back then, there was no Amazon. I was a frequent visitor to the public library. I also haunted a used bookstore in Fayetteville, NC.
I used to go in there, sell them my old books, get a credit slip and then collect a big bag of books and take them home.
One day, I found this book and bought it. I slipped it in the stack, hidden in the middle and brought it home. I hid it in my dresser and read it in secret. I didn’t even want Dave to see it, much less anyone else.
In all the years we’ve been married, Dave has never given me a single reason to think he would criticize me for anything I read, or wanted to read, or anything I did for that matter. But I didn’t want him to see that book.
You know why? You know what was so bad about that stupid book (apart from the completely silly premise contained therein)?
Susan Powter’s lack of hair.
I am not kidding. She cropped her hair really short. And mind you, this was long after we’d left the Fundy Church From Hell that taught that women should have long hair. This was while we were at the much more liberal fundigelical Christian and Missionary Alliance church.
So I was afraid to even touch a book about the historicity of Jesus, and hid a book because the woman on the cover cut her hair really short. So, I must be a shy, frightened, scaredy-cat of a woman. Right?
Well, no. That’s not exactly how people see me, putting it mildly. I am the sort of woman who got hounded with “you need to work on having a meek and quiet spirit, dear.” But I was afraid.
And then we moved to Alaska, and I had a combination of lots of time during the cold dark winters to read, the internet, and a tiny little library (in photo – isn’t it beautiful?) complete with interlibrary loan.
And I could read anything I wanted and nobody knew.
So I did.
And in doing so, I overcame fear. It wasn’t instantaneous by any means. It took me several years, but I found out that freedom of expression is better than any relationship with anyone, ever, anytime.
In the last couple of years, since May 2014, I have come in contact with the most fearful people I have ever known since those days I was part of Fundyland. I have gotten messages on my [defunct but archived here under the Category “Romancing Archive”] Romancing Victims web site using fake names and bogus email addresses because the senders were so frightened that Camille Lewis and her Court would somehow think poorly of them if they were discovered conversing with me.
I got one message from a scared little somebody that just said, “Thank you” written over and over again. That’s all.
I have gotten phone calls from women who were nearly hysterical with fear, sobbing almost uncontrollably. I have gotten phone calls from people who were simply trying to ascertain if I was a real person and not one of Camille’s sock puppets – they wanted to determine if they could trust me.
And I can produce screen shots galore of Camille and Company threatening people with lawsuits and prison sentences and turning and rending those who were previously their supposed friends, but all that has been documented elsewhere (as you can see) and that’s not my point.
The fundigelical culture is one that fosters fear. Everyone is taught to fear “God”- The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10a). We were exhorted to fear not them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him that is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).
But of course, nobody can actually fear “God.” You can’t even see “God.” So instead, we feared what other people might think about us. If anyone saw me buying or even showing interest in a book about whether or not Jesus ever really existed at all, well, that might mean that I didn’t really have faith. And I’m not quite sure what buying a book with Susan Powter’s shaven head on the cover might mean, but I knew it was bad somehow.
This is another book I read during the same period, by a man, as you can see, named David R. Miller. Dr. Miller, at the time of the publication of this book (1992) was a psychology professor at Liberty University (which is a bit like jumping from the frying pan into the fire, but still. . . )
What is less obvious until/unless you read the book is that Dr. Miller seems to have done a brief stint at everyone’s favorite fundamentalist college: Bob Jones University.
He doesn’t actually say so in the book, but he describes so much stuff that goes on at BJU that it’s pretty apparent to anyone who ever put their toe on the campus that he was there.
He tells a story in the book about how his wife was ill one weekend, and he had to call the doctor on a Sunday afternoon. The doctor, who had apparently seen her before, said he’d phone in a prescription for Dr. Miller to pick up at a nearby pharmacy. This pharmacy, of course, was near the campus.
Dr. Miller talks about the choice he had to make about getting that prescription filled. You see, he opted to stay home from church on a Sunday night to be with his sick wife, and if he went and got the prescription filled, that she very much needed for her health, somebody might see him out and about on a Sunday evening during church time. [He never mentions what he thought the person who would have seen him would use as their excuse for not being in church on a Sunday night.]
But if he waited until church got out, the pharmacy might be closed.
I cannot remember the decision he finally made about all this – I just remember the dilemma he describes. I suspect his ultimate decision was to pack his stuff and get the hell out of there, but he very adequately describes the fear that drives every aspect of life in that culture.
That’s what it’s all about.
And even after somebody leaves, nine years later, that person is still attempting, successfully at times, to control people using fear. She learned how really well. She actually learned more about doing that than about rhetoric.
The fact that Camille and her ilk do not have any control over anything at all doesn’t seem to stop people from being terrified of her. Her threats, and those of her accomplices, including Cathy Harris, are meaningless. They are yapping little lap dogs with no teeth. Yes, the barking is shrill and irritating. But, no, they can’t really bite. They have no teeth.
I find it a little odd and somewhat astonishing that the people who call/write me in terror are Christian and I am the resident atheist.
The other day I found myself quoting the Bible to one of them, something that I do from time to time. Mythology can contain truth, or at least allude to truth.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
Of course, “God” doesn’t give us anything at all, but you get the idea. Freedom is power. Freedom is a form of love – not only of the self, but of others. And freedom leads to a sound mind. Yes, there can be consequences, but hiding has consequences too. I’ve been both places and free is far preferable.
There is nothing in the world better than using your real name on social media, on blogs, and saying what you really think (within reason – we all know there are times when you’re better off not expressing your deepest thoughts). There is no bondage worse than worrying yourself into hysteria over what somebody will think if they find out that you have a book with a picture on the cover of a woman with a shaved head.
Or that you very much want to read a book about whether or not Jesus ever existed.