To Leave is to Forgo…

Today I received an email from my blogger friend, Tom, who writes the blog The Backroads Traveller. He kindly shared with me a link to an article on Yahoo News about women who leave “extreme faiths.” As I read through the article with interest, I was amazed how much the issues were parallel to the ones of leaving the Amish.

The article is titled Analysis: Women Leaving Extreme Faiths. Here are several phrases that anyone leaving the Amish can relate to, I’m sure:

“…there is only us vs. them, chosen vs. unenlightened, saved vs. sinners. To leave is to forgo community, structure, kin and perhaps one’s eternal soul.”

This story is centered around Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper who left the infamous Westboro Baptist Church founded by their grandfather. Here is something a current member of the church said about the two girls:

Those two girls were kind of straddling the idea that they wanted to be of the world but that they would also miss their family, the only thing they ever knew. If they continue with the position that they have, those two girls, yeah, they’re going to hell. (Feb. 7, Kansas City Star)

This sounds like a pronouncement from an Amish person who knows someone who has just left. 

Here is another poignant statement:

Women raised in restricted sects can be “pounded down,” says Moore-Emmett. “It’s beyond even what we see in a domestic violence shelter.”

[…] “They just have some resiliency that is just beyond what you would imagine—what they could ever imagine—that they have in themselves,” Moore-Emmett says. “They find it in themselves to start questioning, to start finding that there might be another way to live.”

[…] Defections are also rare because such closed faiths provide a sense of community for women and fulfill women’s relational goals, says Patricia Millar, who studied cultic groups. “They felt a strong sense of belonging and mattering, more important than themselves…”

[…] Whether you were born into it or came to it later in life, breaking faith and dismantling community ties can be traumatic. “The fallout and repercussions are very scary and very overwhelming,” says “Beyond Belief” co-author Susan Tive.

[…] Moore-Emmett says someone on the outside has to be there to help, especially for those who have been shut away from society, raised in an us-versus-them paradigm. “It’s very difficult to make a new life when you don’t have any job skills, when your education is very limited, you don’t have any family,” she says. Besides experiencing culture shock, apostates can live in fear that the leaders will reach out and strike them dead and, for years, they constantly question their own thinking.

It reminds me of the day that I pulled up the song, “She’s Got her Ticket” by Tracy Chapman for Anna to hear on YouTube. She followed along with the lyrics and then she asked in disbelief, “You mean someone wrote that song who wasn’t even Amish?”

There is a new book coming out about women leaving extreme faiths called Beyond Belief. I will be reading it, that is for sure. 

_________         ________     _________     _________    ________     _________     _________

On a different note: I am going to be speaking at the Milanof-Schock Library in Mt. Joy, Pennsylvania this Wednesday at 6:00. There is still space, so if you and someone you know would like to come to the talk, I would love to see you there. The library is charging a $5 fee. If you are interested in buying an autographed copy of my book, I will be giving you $5 off to offset the fee (my book normally costs $20 — I will be charging $15 at this venue.) I hope to see you there!

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5 thoughts on “To Leave is to Forgo…”

  1. I agree that women have a much harder time breaking away. But it’s not only women who struggle, men have the same issues. No education, no other rational point of view has ever been allowed. My question is this; does the government enable other sects to keep their young people away from higher education as they do in Wisconsin v. Yoder?

  2. This is very interesting Saloma, and ties into something I’ve been thinking about but have kept to myself for a while. In the past couple years I have noticed an Exodus of young people leaving conservative Mennonite churches, but how they leave is very clever. Almost all of them have gotten married (in the church) and then, soon after, the couple leave together. This allows the women financial security, as her husband will likely have a job lined up and some marketable skills when they leave. It would be interesting to hear whether this technique will catch on with the Amish.

  3. I’ve read a couple of biographies written by women that left the fundamentalist mormom cult, FLDS. Just sad all around, and frankly, sick. I think the greatest weapon this cult has is demonizing the world outside of its control and telling its members they will go to hell if they leave. This is brainwashing pure and simple. And I see it as a slap in the face to God. Using the majestic and holy name of God to religiously abuse people to control them is despicable and cruel. Tradition has its place, but when it takes precedence over God’s ways, as written in the Bible, it becomes a very dangerous idol. Jesus says many will come to Him and claim to be His followers and He will say he never knew them.

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