Because blogs like “Debunking Christianity” are thick with male participants, some might wonder what women have written about the topic, especially women who once were conservative Christians. Below is an assortment of books, memoirs and autobiographies by women who have debunked Christianity, particularly conservative Christianity (both Protestant and Catholic). (I would also like to express my gratitude toward one female debunker in particular, Sharon Mooney—former member of the fundamentalistic inerrantist “Worldwide Church of God” sect, who left it for deism, and produced this website that features a variety of freethought articles.)
Below is a table of contents listing 21 former conservative Christian women along with their works that debunk conservative Christianity and/or their conservative Christian experience. After the initial list a longer section follows that features weblinks and additional data on each individual, as well as some Miscellaneous information related to women and Christianity.
Table Of Contents
Barbara Brown Taylor—Author of Leaving Church: A Memoir Of Faith (2006). Female minister, widely revered Christian speaker, and beloved author of bestselling books on Christian spirituality, “leaves church.”
Valerie Tarico—Psychologist and author of The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love And Truth (2006). “I am an ex-fundamentalist Christian, a graduate of Wheaton College (the alma mater of Billy Graham and a bastion of Evangelical education). My favorite Christian writer was C. S. Lewis.”
Carlene Cross—Author of Fleeing Fundamentalism: A Ministerʼs Wife Examines Faith (2006). Publisherʼs Weekly writes: “After indoctrination at a Bible college, Cross finds herself in a marriage from hell. Her husband, a popular young pastor [and rising star of the Religious Right], uses religion to mask the alternate reality he has created, a netherworld that will potentially destroy not only his career but the entire familyʼs safety and sanity… Her heartfelt condemnation of public hypocrisy couldnʼt be more timely. In her ex-husbandʼs own self-indicting words: ‘Isnʼt it ironic, a guy condemning sinful society and completely without a conscience himself?’” (Ms. Cross is also a former student of Christian apologist, Gary Habermas, who now teaches at Liberty University.)
Julia Scheeres—Author of Jesus Land: A Memoir (2005), published in both the U.S. and Britain. In the name of religion, Scheeres and her adopted black brother, David, suffered cruel abuse, first in their Calvinist home in Indiana in the 1970s, and then, when their surgeon father and missionary-minded mother sent the teens to a fundamentalist Dominican Republic reform school that is run like boot camp.
Christine Rosen—Author of My Fundamentalist Education: A Memoir Of A Divine Girlhood (2005). In many respects the Protestant fundamentalist Keswick Christian School in the 1980s was like Catholic schools of the 1950s: misbehaving students were paddled, girls forced to kneel on the floor to check skirt lengths, boys and girls required to keep a respectful six-inch distance from one another. But to Keswick students, Catholics and even some Protestants werenʼt true Christians, and it was incumbent upon the children to learn “strict morals and Bible belief” and then to “witness” to playmates and families… While young Christine was absorbing an ascetic worldview, her erratic mother was discovering—and unsuccessfully trying to interest her daughter in—Pentecostal fervor. Although today Rosen lives “an entirely secular life,” her tone is affectionate, and her subtle humor and ironically accurate descriptions will appeal to others with stringent religious backgrounds.
Lanakila—Wife of a minister and “former moderator at Christian Forums where I debated atheists in the General Apologetics section. But I deconverted [from Christianity in 2003] while still taking an external degree program hosted by Liberty University (Jerry Falwellʼs fundamentalist institution). I stopped believing while taking a class called ‘Fundamental Theological Issues’ taught by Christian apologist and author, Dr. Gary Habermas.”
Marlene Winell—Author of Leaving The Fold: A Guide For Former Fundamentalists And Others Leaving Their Religion (1994).
Ellen Kamentsky—Author of Hawking God: A Young Jewish Womanʼs Ordeal In Jews For Jesus (1993). Former poster child for “Jews for Jesus” (whose face adorned one of their glossy ads in a major news magazine), explains why she left.
Jo Ann Schneider Farris—Author of Sentenced For Life—A Story Of An Entry And An Exit Into The World Of Fundamentalist Christianity And Jews For Jesus (2002).
Ruth Irene Garrett—Author (with Rick Farrant) of Crossing Over: One Womanʼs Escape From Amish Life (HarperSanFrancisco, 2003); and also, Born Amish (2004).
Pauline A. Blankenship—Author of The Hellfire Preachers (ISBN: 187772906X Aardvark Publishers, 1990), a novel based on the real-life experiences of a woman who grew up in a fundamentalist church in east Texas.
Marlene Oaks—Author of Old Time Religion Is A Cult (1985), whose testimony also appeared in Leaving The Fold: Testimonies Of Former Fundamentalists (1995).
Sue Monk Kidd—Author of The Dance Of The Dissident Daughter: A Womanʼs Journey From Christian Tradition To The Sacred Feminine (HarperSanFrancisco, 1996). Former bestselling author of Christian spirituality leaves the fold of Christianity for a wider spiritual perspective. Her post-Christian novels are now being made into movies.
Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott—Author of Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach (2001); former professor at Bob Jones University.
Dr. Daphne Hampson—Author of After Christianity (2nd Rev edition, 2003); and, Christian Contradictions: The Structures Of Lutheran And Catholic Thought (Cambridge University Press; New Ed edition (2004); former Anglican theologian.
Dr. Uta Ranke-Heinemann (Uta Johanna Ingrid Heinemann)—Author of Eunuchs For The Kingdom Of Heaven: Women, Sexuality, And The Catholic Church; And, Putting Away Childish Things. She was the first ever female Catholic theologian for the world, but was stripped of her departmental chair and license to preach because she questioned doctrinal beliefs.
Karen Armstrong—Author of The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out Of Darkness; former nun; and author of the bestseller, A History Of God.
Joanne H. Meehl—Author of The Recovering Catholic: Personal Journeys Of Women Who Left The Church (Prometheus Books, 1995)
Julia Sweeney—Producer and star of “Letting Go of God.” Nationwide speaker for freethought; former Catholic; former cast-member of Saturday Night Live.
Dr. Mary Daly—Author of Amazon Grace: Re-Calling The Courage To Sin Big (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). Former Catholic theologian.
Barbara Allen—Author of Still Christian After All These Years, about her long and painful progress from being raised in a rigid fundamentalist home to her adult embrace of a generous, loving Anglican Christianity, including her Bob Jones experience, accompanying her pastor husband to a dizzying number of small churches, etc.
Additional Links And Information On The Above Women And Their Work
Barbara Brown Taylor—Author of Leaving Church: A Memoir Of Faith.
Ten years ago Baylor University published a list of the worldʼs “most effective” English-speaking preachers and only one of the top twelve was a woman: Barbara Brown Taylor. After having had volumes of her sermons published and spoken round the country and overseas, she surprised her growing number of admirers by resigning from her church and accepting a teaching “chair of religion” at a local liberal arts college. Taylor isnʼt the first to leave parish work in search of a second career as a professor. Religion departments are full of clerics and/or former clerics, but few compose memoirs as honestly and masterfully as she, that walk the reader through the conscious and subconscious hopes and fears of all the years of “church life.” Not that Taylor betrays parishionerʼs confidences; her writing, rather, covers interior ground.—Evelyn Bence]
Taylorʼs new revealing book is titled, Leaving Church: A Memoir Of Faith (Harper, May 2006).
Hereʼs an excerpt:
“By now I expected to be a seasoned parish minister, wearing black clergy shirts grown gray from frequent washing. I expected to love the children who hung on my legs after Sunday morning services until they grew up and had children of their own. I even expected to be buried wearing the same red vestments in which I was ordained.”
“Today those vestments are hanging in the sacristy of an Anglican church in Kenya, my church pension is frozen, and I am as likely to spend Sunday mornings with friendly Quakers, Presbyterians, or Congregationalists as I am with the Episcopalians who remain my closest kin. Sometimes I even keep the Sabbath with a cup of steaming Assam tea on my front porch, watching towhees vie for the highest perch in the poplar tree while God watches me. These days I earn my living teaching school, not leading worship, and while I still dream of opening a small restaurant in Clarkesville or volunteering at an eye clinic in Nepal, there is no guarantee that I will not run off with the circus before I am through. This is not the life I planned, or the life I recommend to others. But it is the life that has turned out to be mine, and the central revelation in it for me—that the call to serve God is first and last the call to be fully human—seems important enough to witness to on paper. This book is my attempt to do that.”
Taylorʼs website also features an address she gave at the Washington National Cathedral in June, 2006, a few paragraphs of which appear below:
“If my other books have been whole milk books, this is my single malt scotch book, which is the main thing I want to speak with you about tonight. After twenty years of telling the public truth—the truth I believed was both true for all and good for all, or at least all within the sound of my voice—my first attempt at telling the private truth—the truth that may only be true or good for me—well, that was quite a stretch. Clergy spend a lot of time talking about what is right, in case you hadnʼt noticed. For once, I thought I would concentrate on what was true—just for me, from my limited point of view on planet Earth—in hopes that might be helpful to someone else trying to do the same thing.”
“Making the move from sermon to memoir has been one of the more strenuous passages in my life, and it also makes the reviews a whole lot scarier to read. A couple of weeks ago I received one via e-mail with “Review of You” in the subject line. Just for the record, my mother confirms that everything in the book is true… ”
“A preacher who wants to keep his or her job would do well to avoid trying to say anything true about sex, money, politics, war, or existential despair in church. It is also not a good idea to question established readings of scripture or tradition…”
“While I knew plenty of clergy willing to complain about the high expectations and long hours, few of us spoke openly about the toxic effects of being identified as the holiest person in a congregation. Whether this honor was conferred by those who recognized our gifts for ministry or was simply extended by them as a professional courtesy, it was equally hard on the honorees. Those of us who believed our own press developed larger-than-life swaggers and embarrassing patterns of speech, while those who did not suffered lower back pain and frequent bouts of sleeplessness. Either way, we were deformed.”
“We were not God, but we spent so much tending the God-place in peopleʼs lives that it was easy to understand why someone might get us confused…”
“In 1997, after fifteen years of full time parish ministry, I left my little church in the north Georgia foothills of the Appalachians to become a college teacher. My soul was sunburned, for one thing. I thought there was a chance I had lost my vocation, for another, although I continued to preach and to teach preaching in between my undergraduate classes on everything from the religions of the world to the life and letters of Paul.”
“The teaching was and is wonderful. I get to work with nineteen and twenty year olds—an age group I saw very little of in church. I get to ask the questions instead of providing the answers, which is a great freedom and relief. I also get to give grades, which clergy only do in their secret fantasies. (I am sorry, Mr. Smith, but your efforts have been so minimal that I am afraid you have flunked Lent.) I am still a Master of Divinity—isnʼt that an interesting name for a theological degree?—but more importantly to me now, I am a member of the Department of Humanities, whose truth-telling has taken a decidedly private turn.”
“My last book came out six years ago—a long time, for a wordy person. When people asked me what the hold up was, I told them I had lost my long time editor at Cowley Publications, which was true, but I had also lost my voice—or my voice was changing, anyway, and I did not yet trust it enough to put anything in print. I was no longer a parish priest. Many of my old certainties about life and faith had slipped from my hands.”
And here are a few more quotations from Taylorʼs book, Leaving Church:
“I learned to prize holy ignorance more highly than religious certainty.”
“I empty the bag of my old convictions on the kitchen table to decide what I will keep.” [Ultimately what Taylor keeps will not satisfy orthodox Christians, as it has more to do with faith (as a verb) than with beliefs.”—Evelyn Bence
Valerie Tarico—Psychologist and author of The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love And Truth.
Her book is available here
For musings of the author on life, society, and Christianity visit her blog here.
Chapters of her book will also be published one weekly on ex-Christian.net through 2006.
“I am an ex-fundamentalist Christian, a graduate of Wheaton College (the alma mater of Billy Graham and a bastion of Evangelical education). My favorite Christian writer was C. S. Lewis. Resting in the confidence that all truth is Godʼs truth, I kept asking questions:
- “If God is good, and he made nature, why does nature so often reward strength rather than goodness?”
- “Why do so many people, including children, suffer excruciating pain, even pain unto death?”
- “Does it really make sense to say that Adam and Eve brought death into the world?”
- “Why do so many scientists think the world wasnʼt made six to ten thousand years ago like my biblical genealogies suggest?”
- “Why does the violence in the Bible still bother me, after Iʼve had it explained so many times?”
- “How does blood atonement (salvation through the death of Jesus) work?”
- “All of those Buddhists and Hindus on the other side of the world who are going to suffer eternally: if God decided they would be born there, how is their damnation fair?”
- “How can heaven be perfectly joyous if it co-exists with hell?”
- “If each Christian has the spirit of God dwelling in him or her, how come Christians are wrong so often?”
- “Are Christians really better than other people?”
- “Would the world truly fall into violent anarchy if the Christians werenʼt here as ‘a light shining in the darkness?’”
- “How did we come to believe all that we do, anyway? Where did the Bible come from?”
- “Who decided what got included, and why?”
- “Why do I feel like Iʼm lying to myself when I try to make all the pieces fit together?”
“I spent years contorting myself as an advocate for my beliefs, finding complex arguments to explain away the fossil record, the suffering of innocents, the capricious favoritism of my God, the logical inconsistencies of scripture, and the aberrant behavior of my fellow believers. And, rather like your average conspiracy theorist, when I went into my mental exercises with an a priori conclusion, I could make the pieces fit.”
“Finally exhausted from the strain, I untangled myself, and looked at the pieces all together. There werenʼt many conclusions that made much sense. I no longer had clean answers about what was true, but my old ones clearly contradicted both morality and reason. The only hope I had of pursuing goodness and truth was to let those answers go.”
“At times, when you look at an entire body of evidence, when you look at it all together, some possibilities are pretty easy to rule out. You may not know exactly what is real, but you can be confident that some things are not. So it is with Evangelical teachings. When one examines the evidence related to Evangelical beliefs—the content and history of the Bible, the structure of natureʼs design, the character of the Evangelical God, the implications of prayer and miracles, the concepts original and universal sin, the mechanism of salvation by blood atonement, the idea of eternal reward and punishment, the behavior of believers—when one examines all of these together through a lens of empiricism and logic, the composite suggests some kind of reality that is very different from the ideas that dominated my thinking for so long.”
“Many books depict the Evangelical experience as a spiritual journey, a journey from darkness to the light of salvation. But few describe a path that leads people out of traditional faith to another place and another source of light. When ex-believers write, they usually write about the things that do make sense to them, not about the contradictions they have left behind. Rare exceptions include: Losing Faith In Faith by Daniel Barker and Annie L. Gaylor, Farewell To God by Charles Templeton, and The Event Horizon Rider by Brian Elroy McKinley. Edward Babinskiʼs book, Leaving The Fold, contains testimonials by ex-fundamentalists who have found their way to other forms of thinking.”
“Equally rare are Christian scholars like Don Cupitt and John Shelby Spong, who, from within the faith, unflinchingly examine every dogma as a possible source of idolatry, expose each to the light of reason and compassion, and then ask what core of transcendence remains. To these voices in the wilderness, I add my own, not as an ex-minister or scholar, but as an ordinary ex-Evangelical who thought too much about questions that would not simply vanish if I applied more faith.”
Carlene Cross—Author of Fleeing Fundamentalism: A Ministerʼs Wife Examines Faith, Algonquin (304 pp.) 2006
“A memoir of my years as a Fundamentalist ministerʼs wife, my loss of faith and my escape from religion. I went to a Bible College and married one of the Religious Rightʼs rising stars. However, after years in the movement I began to question the legitimacy of organized religion. And I watched my husband spiral secretly deeper into depression, alcoholism and sexual addiction. I finally broke free and left him and the church. After my divorce in 1990, I went back to school and completed a BA and an MA in History at the University of Washington, eventually becoming a Public Television Producer and writer.”
Ms. Cross also sent me the following email:
“Dear Ed [Edward T. Babinski], I was reading your website today and enjoyed reading your letter to Dr. Gary Habermas (who now teaches at Liberty University). He was an old professor of mine in the 1970ʼs at Big Sky Bible College. Even though Habermas remains a conservative Biblical inerrantist, he was a ‘liberal’ compared to the views espoused by the other professors at Big Sky!… You have written a superb critique of the resurrection. Bravo!”
KIRKUS REVIEW, August 1, 2006
Midwest farmerʼs daughter marries fundamentalist minister and confronts disillusionment in this brave memoir. As a girl in the late 1960s on her familyʼs Montana farm, Cross (The Undying West) wanted desperately to live a more glamorous, urban life, “where people didnʼt have to wage war against the elements of nature and spoke with proper English.” A preacherʼs visit to the farm lured her and her mother into a Protestant sect that taught that the Bible represented the exact words of God and Jesus was going to return to “rapture” faithful Christians to heaven. Instead of dreaming of travel to faraway places, young Carlene immersed herself in the Book of Revelation, and attended Big Sky Bible College; while there, she briefly served as a Bible teacher to an extremely isolated Hutterite colony and volunteered to hand out Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. Soon, she fell for college dreamboat David Brant, but she preserved her virginity until marriage. (In their case, sex turned out to not be worth waiting for.) Eventually, David was ordained and settled on a ministry at the Calvary Baptist Church in Seattle. He was a flamboyant and popular preacher, but his congregation had no idea that this father of three had a troubling obsession with pornography. He was also frequently away from home, which gave Carlene time to commiserate about her unsatisfying marriage with another unhappy wife. Susan proved to be a lifelong friend, supporting the author through the shame of scandal and divorce. Gradually, Cross got her life on track, found a job and went back to school. Now, she writes, she can recognize how the Bible has been grossly misinterpreted throughout history to gird murderous missions. She tells her story in surprisingly jaunty prose, eloquent without self-pity. Describing life as a depressed single mother on welfare, for example, she notes, “I simply needed to muster the guts to embrace lifeʼs emptiness.” A long, fraught journey into the light, chronicled with compassion and spirit. (Agent: Bonnie Solow/Solow Literary Enterprises)
PUBLISHERʼS WEEKLY REVIEW
The religion depicted in this absorbing memoir of falsehood and betrayal is fundamentalism gone berserk: it has turned into an inhuman, apocalyptic, darkly controlling force that reshuffles common sense. After indoctrination at a Bible college, Cross finds herself in a marriage from hell replete with abuse, addictions and mental illness. Her husband, a popular young pastor, uses religion to mask the alternate reality he has created, a netherworld that will potentially destroy not only his career but the entire familyʼs safety and sanity. With the courage of a trapped animal, Cross reinvents her life, waiting tables and going on welfare in order to earn a degree and support her three children. For a time discarding God, the Bible and organized religion along with her malevolent husband, she eventually redefines spirituality as “a road of discovery—not of submission to a rule book.”… Some readers will contend that the fundamentalism she portrays is an aberration, not the norm. Still, her heartfelt condemnation of public hypocrisy couldnʼt be more timely. In her ex-husbandʼs own self-indicting words: “Isnʼt it ironic, a guy condemning sinful society and completely without a conscience himself?”
JOHN DE GRAAFʼS REVIEW
(Author of Affluenza, Take Back Your Time, and award winning Television Producer of Affluenza and Escape from Affluenza, among many others.)—Wow! Thatʼs my response to Fleeing Fundamentalism. If this powerful, poignant first-person tale isnʼt a best seller, thereʼs no justice in publishing. It should be required reading for those who believe politics should be based on a literal reading of the Bible, and the rest of us must read it as a warning about where religious fanaticism might take us. Carlene Cross has seen it all from the inside, and she pulls no punches in revealing the seamy side of intolerance. But in the end, this book is inspiring, not pessimistic as the author escapes the rigid confines of fundamentalism and finds a new faith in life, love, learning, humanity and the spirit of creation.
Julia Scheeres, author of Jesus Land: A Memoir, published in both the U.S. and Britain. Praised by book reviewers of major newspapers in the U.S. See the video trailer at her website!
Julia writes, “I was born in Lafayette, Indiana. My grade school was Lafayette Christian and my church Lafayette Christian Reformed. The memoir I wrote is about my close relationship with my adopted brother David. It covers our Calvinist upbringing in Indiana and our stint at a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic as teens. “The Program” practiced at that Christian reform school made me lose my faith. The abuse I witnessed in the name of God made me resent organized religion and especially Christian fundamentalists. Of course I pretended to believe in God to get out of there quicker—you must conform to their religious ideology to graduate. The Christian reform school to which I was sent, Escuela Caribe, is a miserable place founded on the concept that all students who are sent down there are “bad kids” who need to be punished. It doesnʼt take into consideration that many children come from homes where they were physically, sexually or emotionally abused, or that some students have documented mental health problems. NHYMʼs one-size-fits-all program is a simplistic approach to complicated issues. But itʼs also convenient dumping ground for wealthy evangelicals who donʼt want to deal with their troublesome teens. The image of the teacher punching my little brother in the stomach, and my helplessness at not being able to defend or comfort him, will haunt me forever. It reminds me why itʼs important to expose the truth about NHYM, and possibly spare other children from similar abuse”.
- Stories Of Other Alumni From The Above Christian Institution
- Yahoo group for alumni of New Horizons Youth Ministries, including Escuela Caribe:
From : Robert Wilbur
Sent : Monday, June 5, 2006 1:18 PM
Dear Mr. Babinski,
“Thank you for your recent attention in one of your blog posts to Ms. Julia Scheeresʼ book, “Jesus Land.” This subject needs as much publicity as possible, as Escuela Caribé is but one of hundreds of such camps operating both in the U.S. and abroad under the auspices of American organizations. My fiancé is another survivor of Escuela Caribé, and I can tell you that the abuse described by Ms. Scheeres, who was a “high-leveller,” is even worse for those like my fiancé, who was a “zero-leveller.” Any publicity of the abuse perpetrated by Mr. Redwine and New Horizons Youth Ministries is welcome as another chip away at the edifice of abuse built by these horrendous people, and a step closer to outlawing these type of horrific institutions. Again, thank you for your attention to this issue.
Robert Allen Wilbur”
Stop institutionalized child abuse!
Christine Rosen—Author of My Fundamentalist Education: A Memoir Of A Divine Girlhood.
Link to her book.
“Itʼs a touching, funny memoir of growing up in St. Petersburg, Florida, in a household, school, and town of flourishing Biblical literalism.” A recent audio presentation on All Things Considered, Dec 28th, 2005, features the author.
Memoir Recalls “My Fundamentalist Education”
Lanakila—Wife of a minister, wrote,
“I was a moderator at Christian Forums where I debated atheists in the General Apologetics section. But I deconverted while still taking an external degree program hosted by Liberty University (Jerry Falwellʼs fundamentalist institution). I stopped believing while taking a class called ‘Fundamental Theological Issues’ taught by Christian apologist and author, Dr. Gary Habermas. Back when I was a moderator for Christian Forums I started a thread on Jesus being God, using Dr. Habermasʼs book as the basis for my arguments. Habermas is an excellent debater but the facts arenʼt on his side. His ‘proof-texting’ as well as his other arguments, consisted of circular reasoning, but it took a while for me to figure that out. Lately I have been posting at some of the atheist chatrooms after letting my Christian friends at Christian Forums know about my change of mind. I just donʼt believe in the God I followed for 18 years, even after trying hard to continue to believe.”
Marlene Winell—Author of Leaving The Fold: A Guide For Former Fundamentalists And Others Leaving Their Religion.
“Marlene is the daughter of a missionary and now a psychologist. She had a genuine ‘born again’ Christian experience and then much later went through another rebirth and found herself apart from that tradition. Today she holds counseling sessions and workshops for ‘recovering fundamentalists’ or anyone who has left an authoritarian belief system and would like to accelerate their personal growth. “I believe these belief systems foster separation—from the self, from others, and from the world. After leaving, a major task is to heal and strengthen these connections.”
Ellen Kamentsky—Author of Hawking God: A Young Jewish Womanʼs Ordeal In Jews For Jesus.
“Her smiling face appeared in a ‘Jews for Jesus’ advertisement in Newsweek magazine (Dec. 7, 1987). But later she wrote a book explaining why she entered and exited that ‘Messianic Jewish’ organization: ‘I handed out thousands of pamphlets and gathered hundreds of phone numbers praying that God would send open victims across my path. I was a religious fanatic. I believed all people who did not accept my truth were going to Hell. Mine was no nine to five calling. I was always on call, praying, preaching, looking for converts… Members of Jews for Jesus are masters of disguise. They hide their true nature (sometimes even from themselves) and present a carefully contrived image to the world. Groups like them work by preying on our religious doubts and exploiting our insecurities. They seek simple answers to complex questions. They use dogmatism to produce certainty. Today, I revere reasoning and celebrate my Jewishness. I hope this book encourages people to find and celebrate their own truth. Know yourself, discover your own truth, so when someone approaches you hawking God, you can say, ‘Thank you very much, but Iʼm finding my own way’.” Excerpt from Hawking God: A Young Jewish Womanʼs Ordeal In Jews For Jesus.
Additional books and websites that contain information about ExJewsForJesus: “ExJewsForJesus: True Stories By Those Who Worked for Jews for Jesus”
Jo Ann Schneider Farris—Author of Sentenced For Life—A Story Of An Entry And An Exit Into The World Of Fundamentalist Christianity And Jews For Jesus.
Her B&N Space
Itʼs the story of how Ms. Farris became involved with (and controlled by) organized religion. The author went from being a competitive figure skater to a cog in the wheel of born-again Christianity. You will see the inside of the Jews for Jesus ministry and learn about the abuse and control she experienced in that organization, but also laugh at the fun she experienced as a member of a group that instilled a deep sense of belonging of being “insiders,” and “saved.” Also available by digital download.
Ruth Irene Garrett—Author (with Rick Farrant) of Crossing Over: One Womanʼs Escape From Amish Life; And Also, Born Amish.
One reviewer stated: Born Amish is a nicely balanced book. It doesnʼt hesitate to point out problems, conflicts, and contradictions in Amish society. At the same time, she doesnʼt downplay the sense of satisfaction which so many Amish experience because of the lifestyle. Small, close-knit communites can be incredibly supportive, but also incredibly repressive. For every ideal people have about mythical small towns, there is something equally awful about them.
Pauline A. Blankenship—Author of The Hellfire Preachers (ISBN: 187772906X Aardvark Publishers, 1990), a novel based on the real-life experiences of a woman who grew up in a fundamentalist church in east Texas.
Marlene Younger, Oaks—Author of Old Time Religion Is A Cult (1985), whose testimony also appeared in Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists (1995).
Sue Monk Kidd—Author of The Dance Of The Dissident Daughter: A Womanʼs Journey From Christian Tradition To The Sacred Feminine.
Her web site.
Well known in traditional Christian circles for her inspirational essays and nonfiction spiritual memoirs such as, When The Heart Waits (HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), Sue was raised in the conservative South; attended charm school; had ministers in her family,including the man she married. In fact she spent nearly her first forty years in the Baptist church where women are exhorted to “submit” to their husbands and where she heard the phrase, “second in creation, first to sin,” countless times. Disgruntled with her churchʼs stance on women, she never felt moved to rock the boat much, until one day she walked into her daughterʼs work and found two customers sexually harassing the girl. Something snapped inside Sue, and she began to question her religionʼs assumptions about gender and to seek a more feminist spirituality. She discovered an alternative religious tradition that spoke more strongly to her spiritual longings, a nontraditional feminine religious journey, encountering along the way some of the most powerful feminist religious voices of her times, from Phyllis Trible to Carol Christ. The nonfiction memoir of that journey she titled, The Dance Of The Dissident Daughter: A Womanʼs Journey From Christian Tradition To The Sacred Feminine (1996).
In 1997 she began writing her first novel, The Secret Life Of Bees, and worked on it for the next three and a half years. Published by Viking in 2002, it became a genuine literary phenomenon. A powerful story of coming-of- age, race-relations, the ability of love to transform our lives and the often unacknowledged longing for the universal feminine divine, the novel tells the story of a fourteen year old Lily, who runs away with her black housekeeper in 1964 in South Carolina and the sanctuary they both find in the home of three eccentric beekeeping sisters. The Secret Life of Bees has sold more than 4.5 million copies, spent over two years on the New York Times bestseller list and been published in more than 23 languages.
Sueʼs second novel, The Mermaid Chair, has sold more than 1.5 million copies since its publication in the Spring of 2005. It explores a womanʼs pilgrimage to self-belonging, the inner life of mid life marriage, and the little known region in the female soul where the sacred and the erotic intersect. Set on a South Carolina barrier island, it tells the beautiful and haunting story of 42 year old Jessie Sullivan, a married woman who falls in love with a Benedictine monk and the crisis and self-awakening this ignites. The Mermaid Chair reached the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list soon after publication and remained on the list for six months. Winner of the 2005 Quill Award for General Fiction, the novel is being translated into 23 languages.
Sue also signed a contract with Riverhead Books for a new spiritual memoir to be co-written with her thirty year old daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor. They describe the book, which is yet to be titled, as a “mother-daughter, spiritual, travel memoir.” It will tell the story of a series of pilgrimages that Sue and Ann made together through Greece, France, Turkey, and Switzerland, which began when Ann graduated from college and Sue turned fifty. The journeys turned out to be powerful initiations. Ann was looking for a way to cross into young womanhood and Sue was seeking a way into older womanhood. The book will chronicle these passages and also capture the metamorphosis of their own mother-daughter relationship.
Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott—Author of Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach
Ms. Mollenkott attended and taught at Bob Jones University and also at Shelton (Carl MacIntireʼs fundamentalist Christian school) in New Jersey. Dr. Mollenkott was a professor at BJU in the 1950s when Barbara Allen (see above) was a student there. Dr. Mollenkott reviewed Barbara Allenʼs book, Still Christian After All These Years, for The Other Side magazine. Dr. Mollenkott chose not to mention the years she taught at BJU in her curriculum vitae, though her vitae does mention the following major achievements: Professor Emeritus at the William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. With Letha Dawson Scanzoni, she co-authored Is The Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Christian Response (1978)—available in a vastly expanded and updated edition(1994); The Divine Feminine: Biblical Imagery Of God As Female; Godding: Human Responsibility And The Bible; and, Sensuous Spirituality: Out From Fundamentalism.
Served as stylistic consultant for the New International Version of the Bible and was a member of the National Council of Churchesʼ Inclusive Language Lectionary Committee. Her Milton Scholarship is discussed in “A Milton Encyclopedia;” her earlier writings are described in “American Women Writers.” In 1992 she received an Achievement Award from New Jerseyʼs Lesbian and Gay Coalition, and in 1999 a Lifetime Achievement Award from SAGE (Senior Action in a Gay Environment). Mollenkottʼs twelfth book, “Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach,” has been warmly welcomed by pastoral counselors, theologians, psychologists, and GLBT people of various religious backgrounds as well as by people working for sexual and gender justice.
Dr. Daphne Hampson—Author of After Christianity (a new edition appeared in 2002, check amazon.comʼs website in the U.K., not the U.S.); and, Christian Contradictions: The Structures Of Lutheran And Catholic Thought
Former Anglican theologian (today a university professor of theology and a feminist, but no longer a Christian). She now believes that Christianity is both immoral and untrue: “Once people form the ethical judgment that Christianity is a masculinist religion… they have clear eyes to see that Christianity cannot possibly be true.” See her book, After Christianity (a new edition appeared in 2002 from SCM Press, check amazon.comʼs website in the U.K., not the U.S.). And in 2004 Cambridge Univ. Press published Dr. Hampsonʼs, Christian Contradictions: The Structures Of Lutheran And Catholic Thought that argues Catholicism and Protestantism are not one but two highly distinctive religions (there are excerpts on the web), just google her by name.
Dr. Uta Ranke-Heinemann (Uta Johanna Ingrid Heinemann)—Author of Eunuchs For The Kingdom Of Heaven: Women, Sexuality, And The Catholic Church; And, Putting Away Childish Things.
The first female Catholic theologian for the world, she was stripped of her departmental chair and license to preach by the Cardinal of Essen after she publicly doubted Maryʼs virginity (1987). She had doubts concerning other orthodox interpretations of religious dogmas as well, and raised them in Eunuchs For The Kingdom Of Heaven: Women, Sexuality, And The Catholic Church; and in an even more intensely questioning work, Putting Away Childish Things.
Karen Armstrong—Author of The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out Of Darkness.
Former Catholic nun in a teaching order who later pursued a doctorate at Oxford in English, then still later became the bestselling author of such works as A History Of God; The Battle For God; A Short History Of Myth; The Great Transformations: The Beginning Of Our Religious Traditions; (not to forget one of her earliest and most searing works) The Gospel According To Woman, and her memoir of life as a Catholic nun and leaving the Catholic fold, The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out Of Darkness; Today she calls herself, “flippantly, a freelance monotheist.”
Joanne H. Meehl—Editor of The Recovering Catholic: Personal Journeys Of Women Who Left The Church (Prometheus Books, 1995)—Addresses a wide variety of topics including the reasons why women begin to question their faith, the heavy burden of religious guilt, the attitudes of the Catholic hierarchy toward women, and the escalating amount of sexual abuse cases involving priests. Meehl also discusses the Churchʼs obsession with sex and the discrimination women feel because they are not included as full members of the faith. She includes some practical advice on breaking away from the Church including how to confront your family with the news that you are no longer a Catholic as well as information on choosing new spiritual outlets. Unlike other books on the Catholic Church, The Recovering Catholic is the first to focus on the individual journeys of women, who faced not only what they thought to be discriminatory practices and oppressive dogma, but the ire of family and society in their search for a spiritual happy ending. The Recovering Catholic illustrates how these women successfully left the Church and found new avenues for their faith.
As often as not, the women quoted have already moved on, most of them into Universalist Unitarian congregations or into one of 13 other alternatives profiled briefly by Meehl, alternatives that vary from Judaism to Jehovahʼs Witnesses.
Julia Sweeney—Star of her one-woman show, “Letting Go of God.” Former Catholic; former cast-member of Saturday Night Live.
Her web site.
Former Catholic theologian. She obtained her B.A. in English from The College of Saint Rose, her M.A. in English from The Catholic University of America, and a doctorate in religion from St. Maryʼs College. She later obtained three doctorates in sacred theology and philosophy from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. She also taught at Boston College for 33 years but was forcibly retired from that Jesuit-run institution in 1999 for her pro-feminist views. Mary is a prolific author (and imaginative wordsmith) who has published eight radical elemental feminist books, many of them having been bestsellers: The Church And The Second Sex; Beyond God The Father: Toward A Philosophy Of Womenʼs Liberation; Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics Of Radical Feminism; Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy; Websterʼs First New Intergalactic Wickedary Of The English Language (conjured in cahoots with Jane Caputi—“mercilessly exposes the patriarchal house of cards that has become common language usage”); Outercourse: The Be-Dazzling Voyage; Quintessence… Realizing The Archaic Future (And In 2006) Amazon Grace: Re-Calling The Courage To Sin Big.
Barbara Allen—“I was a student at Bob Jones University [a fundamentalist Christian institution of higher learning] in 1956, married a staff member and had my first child at the Bob Jones University hospital. Divorced after 18 years, I married a Catholic dropout and found a spiritual home in the Episcopal church. I wrote a book titled, Still Christian After All These Years, about my long and painful progress from being raised in a rigid fundamentalist home to my adult embrace of a generous, loving Anglican Christianity, including my Bob Jones experience, accompanying my pastor husband to a dizzying number of small churches, having a nervous breakdown, going back to school, and taking my first halting steps toward a joyful independence. The book arose out of a series of essays I wrote as a Lenten discipline a couple of years ago, on what I believe and why. It was originally intended to be just between my priest and I, but the weekly essays morphed into a book. It has been reviewed in The Other Side magazine by feminist author Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott (who taught at Bob Jones many years ago, but chooses not to advertise that fact on her curriculum vitae). Another irony, my ex-father-in-law died and, because he was dear to my heart, I wrote a short eulogy and shared it with my sons. One of them read it at the funeral at Bob Jones University. My words from that male bastion pulpit! And they wonʼt even let me past the gate because I wrote a cover story for Atlanta Magazine back when Bob Jones University had a case before the Supreme Court and, although I thought the story fair and balanced, they never forgave me. (They keep lists of nair do wells at their gates and make cars pause before they lift the gates and ask visitors their names. On the other hand, their black list reads like a Whoʼs Who of Christianity, so Iʼm sort of honored). Iʼve been wondering if there is a BJU alumnae Recovery group on the web.”
LorentzHA, Electric Kool-Aid Girl, Nov. 3, 2003 at Christian Forums, writes:
“Hi All, I am a 33 year old female. I live in Texas. I am an ex-Christian, Thank God. I really do not mind Christianity—the premise is a good one, but it rarely works that way. I really did not care for the self righteous, hypocritical people that preach love and tolerance but are anything BUT! I think Creationists who believe in a 6,000 year old Earth are absurd. I do believe in a higher power—I just am not sure whom or what that is. One saying I have encountered here in Texas that I find odd is, ‘I know you must be a Christian because you are so nice.’ So… non-Christians cannot be nice people?”
In Who Shall Lead Them? The Future Of Ministry In America
Larry A. Witham writes:
Some male preachers have assured women that motherhood is more influential, for “training in the salvation of her children is mighty and decisive; the influence of the minister over his hundreds is slight.” Yet M. Madeline Southard, who organized the American Association of Women Ministers, was not mollified by such praise for the fairer sex.
“Men were not disturbed when women washed the worldʼs dirty clothes and scrubbed dirty office floors,” she said in 1921. Only when women sought careers did “they became fearful of what would happen to their children and their femininity.”
Since the early 1980s, secular feminists have written widely about an organized “backlash” as women compete with men for professional positions or college admissions. Church feminists have argued likewise. They point to cycles of “backlash” every time women clergy entered clerical turf, usually when economic forces and womenʼs rights movements coincided (such as the 1880s, 1920ʼs, and 1950ʼs).
As feminist church writer Paula D. Nesbitt argues, “For women clergy, the good news that backlash movements offer is that women have made sufficient cultural and organizational strides in challenging the prevailing norms that they are perceived as a significant force to fend off.”
Women And The Vatican
Laywomen, who might have exerted a civilizing influence, were present in the Vatican in pitifully small numbers. The contemptuous way in which they were treated revealed the misogynist culture that prevailed. A former secretary, now living in Switzerland, reported that she was treated more like a slave than a human being and that she was literally locked in her office each day by her boss, a distinguished Dominican priest-theologian, and had to knock to be allowed to go to the bathroom.
Another told me that after she was appointed personal assistant to an archbishop, officials were in the habit of opening the door to her office and staring at her in sullen silence. When she went to the Vatican cafeteria, male bureaucrats would move away if she sat close to them.
- John Cornwell, The Pontiff in Winter: Triumph and Conflict in the Reign of John Paul II
Excerpt from The People Of Opus Dei, here.
April 15, 2006
Opus Dei requires a deep commitment - especially for members called numeraries. They live and work in Opus Dei centers like their headquarters in New York. “I would say the 20 years I was in Opus Dei was up and down. Very up and very down,” says a woman who goes by “Jane.” Jane asked CBS News to hide her identity. She joined Opus Dei right out of High School, working as a live-in cook and housekeeper at Opus Dei centers across the country. She says she handed almost every cent she earned back to the group. “The striving for perfection it becomes very all consuming to the point where common sense just doesnʼt come into play. And I donʼt think that was a good thing,” says Jane. Jane claims to have become so occupied with her work and prayer schedule that she went three years without speaking to her parents. A year ago they hired a cult-deprogrammer to convince her to quit. Now sheʼs pulling herself together in the Ozark Mountains. “When you are in Opus Dei, you are afraid to leave because you think that you are going to hell for not doing godʼs will,” she says.
For Contrast See The Book, Still Believing: Jewish, Christian, And Muslim Women Affirm Their Faith (Faith Meets Faith Series) by Victoria Lee Erickson (Editor), Susan A. Farrell (Editor) (Orbis Books, May 15, 2005), 154 pgs.
Also see, Women Who Leave The Fold by Edward T. Babinski
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