Review of Jocelyn Zichterman’s Provocative Memoir: “I Fired God:My Life Inside—and Escape from—the Secret World of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Cult”

 

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********DISCLAIMER*******

Please, Please. If you are a survivor of child or sexual abuse of any kind and you find a book review dealing with such tough, ethical issues, I please ask that you do not read this review, especially if it triggers memories of these things.

    As a staunch advocate of bringing justice to victims, I feel it is important to openly review titles that I feel will have justice be brought to victims. This cause means so much to me, not because I was personally abused in any way, but I am naturally a very empathetic person, and I think the abuse wrought onto any human that destroys their individuality, their dignity, their precious ability to live is beyond the realm of conventional evil.

Also, I apologize, if any Christians of all different stripes (42,000 denominations, to be exact) construe this review to be anti-Christian. It is not anti-Christian, and I understand there are many, many fellow advocates for abuse victims within the church that wish to bring justice to victims of those people that do misuse religion for evil.

You understand that the entire Bible is not inerrant, and that there are verses that are quite antiquated and even immoral in their extreme, literal connotation. This is how some fundamentalists read these verses, and that is why I feel it is very, very important to enlighten people about why no one should read text in such a negligent, morally-dangerous way.

“Perhaps this tendency toward self-will is the essence of ‘original sin’ which has infiltrated the human family. It certainly explains why I place such stress on the proper response to willful defiance during childhood, for that rebellion can plant the seeds of personal disaster.”  (Dr. Dobson)
– 
a profoundly frightening and revealing quote of the endemic use of “corporal punishment” in the world of Christian fundamentalism

Definition of the word, subservient (from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary): an extreme form of submission, unquestionably, to a certain authority figure. The webster dictionary defines subservience, as an obsequious form of submission. This is not thoughtful, conscientious obedience; this is teaching someone to erode all sense and ownership of themselves, in the name of blind, unwavering devotion to someone who is normally infallibly or unquestionably right in anything.

*very willing or too willing to obey someone else

* less important than something or someone else

Bible Verses used most often, by certain branches of extreme Christianity, to promote abusive behavior patterns towards not just children, but also women:

Focus on woman:
“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” 1 Timothy 2:11-12

*The most troubling aspect of the verse below is the curious conflation of the word “husband” and “Christ.” Just think of the terms “infallible,” and the term submissive in its most extreme form, subservient, and we are left with a very slippery moral slope, in how easy it is to use these verses as a way of promoting abusive behavioral patterns in certain types of religious households:

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”Ephesians 5:22-24


Focus on Bible verses that are used to condone child abuse, by some fundamentalists, particularly in the seemingly, less inoffensive term “corporal punishment” But, is the term “corporal” really that less severe?

Here is what the word corporal is defined as, in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Corporal:

 

obsolete :  corporealphysical
2
:  of, relating to, or affecting the body <corporal punishment>

animalbodilycarnalphysicalcorporealfleshlymaterial,somatic

The synonyms are the most revealing aspect, especially with the term “animal” suggesting (as Victorian Society in England suggested in their laws) women and children are no better than animals.  Once you have defined a human being as an “animal,” you are connoting that they have no worth, value, or the privilege of having an unique identity. There are no moral repercussions or remorse, when it comes to inflicting physical punishment onto them.

 

Morally-Troubling Bible Verses: These verses, unlike the above ones, are in the Old Testament. I still find it profoundly troubling that in all areas of the bible, there are implications of the inferiority of women. But, I forgive the constraints of the text, given the time period. This is sadly something some Fundamentalists are too obdurate to do, as they blindly obey the notion of “inerrant scripture,” in a very, very dangerous way. This doctrine of scriptural infallibility is at the heart of religiously motivated child or domestic abuse.

“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him takes care to chastise him”   (Proverbs 13:24 NAB)

The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.(Proverbs 20:30)

Review:

Since this review is dealing with a memoir about abuse within a religious context, I wanted to methodically outline the various terms that often cropped up in Jocelyn Zichterman’s book. When reading her profoundly frightening memoir I Fired God,  a graphic story about child abuse within a religious context, I needed to define the verses and terminology that is often very pervasive in the rhetoric of the leaders within the church that she grew up in. This church happens to be named the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church, for which the university Bob Jones University, is loosely and unofficially affiliated with. The term “Independent” that precedes the Fundamentalist Baptist section of their name seems to have the pretense of these churches being autonomous, yet Jocelyn’s book offers very compelling evidence that refutes this falsification of identity. They are in many ways a far more egregious cult than the typical cult, as they often disassociate with certain other churches that  may be being investigated by the FBI. Of course, Jocelyn’s memoir again lends evidence to the contrary that they often help other churches try to deflect the attention of the FBI, if they were to be investigated for covering up sex abuse crimes. If you search Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church Phelps on Google, you will hear of a certain story, where the church literally moved a rape victim to an entirely different state, as part of a grand conspiracy to hide incriminating evidence that they were very well trying to cover up a rape case within one of their churches.

On Amazon, there are countless reviews, accusing Jocelyn of defamation. Her own father, Bart Janzaa morally repugnant man, according to Jocelyn, reportedly abused all of his children and even Jocelyn’s own kids later on. Due to the expertise of hiding from criminal agencies, Bart Janz remains prison-free, and he continues to remain within a church out in Colorado.   These reviews are a tell-tale sign that members of the church found Jocelyn’s account to be not just truthful, but very compelling. It adds much credence to my own emerging theory that this church-the Independent Fundamental Baptist church- is a dangerous cult that needs to be investigated by the FBI. Other Christians have a moral responsibility to repudiate the things this church believes in, and not see criticism of this group as an attempt to debunk religion.

I find it disheartening to see victims of abuse within the world of religious institutions being deprived of their voices, all because of some religious authorities seeing their tragic accounts as some attempt to destroy religion. Even though I do not identity as a Christian no longer, I find it really hurtful to see abuse victims have their voices metaphorically stolen away by these types of Christians that see their accounts as a threat against the supposed reputation of their own denomination. Callously and egregiously, the microphone of abuse victims, telling their stories with such bravery, are stolen away by these block-headed pious individuals that don’t see that they are inadvertently preventing justice.  When some Catholics take umbrage at abuse advocacy groups like SNAP for accusing the Catholic Church of not doing enough and somehow making the Catholic Church look bad, they are again cruelly depriving abuse victims of their voice, their dignity, their very agency to finally find some semblance of justice in their lives, when justice has been deprived so long to them.

Someone like Jocelyn keeps fighting. She is fighting IFB members that have made it their mission on Amazon to discredit her. They are metaphorically duplicating what her abusive past almost stole away from her entirely: her voice, her agency, and her sense  individuality. This brings me back to the verses and definitions above, which all relate to verses that are often misused by these nefarious fundamentalist groups to do just that through either corporal punishment (in their schools) or instructing women in church to be “submissive/subservient to their husbands,which are two very malevolent things to do to individuals, and it will undoubtedly crush that child’s or woman’s opportunity to fully use their intrinsic gifts to make this cruel world a better place for all women and children to inhabit.

Jocelyn Zichterman’s book reminded me that there is one cause that I can help with, and I aspire to one day find a way to help victims of abuse within a religious context. I think abuse within a religious context is one of the most psychologically damaging kind. Even though fundamentalism has somewhat damaged me, it is extremely minor (very minor), in comparison with individuals like Jocelyn and the thousands  of children abused by some priests within the Catholic Church (never all, as there are many more good priests than the stereotypical abusive one), over the course of many years. This is probably just as extensive in other religions as well, especially those with a predilection towards fundamentalist ideas (but they can happen in any type of institution or organization in this day and age). As I Fired God reminded me, the doctrine of seeing scripture as inerrant is a very lethal idea, and it is one of the chief motivators behind religiously-motivated abuse. One of the other things is teaching children and women to be subservient to a moral figure.Being subservient, again, is an extreme form of submission (submission is not very benign, either), but the very connotation of subservience is obeying without question to a point that entirely obliterates that individual’s sense of identity.

Books, like To train up a Child,  has even been implicated in the death of kids (I morally refuse to share a link to the book, as I feel it is an abominable book). This book is very popular with some Christian fundamentalists, and they might know take the abuse in the book to its logical extreme. But, parents like Jocelyn Zichterman’s father, Bart Janz, obviously found that the IFB church’s promotion of coporal punishment, as a great way of exempting him from being culpable of child abuse. His own little pastor compatriots defended him, when Jocelyn went to court.  Again, the laws that protect the “freedom of religion” protects these perverts from going to prison that hide within these fundamentalist churches, and rely on their extreme, literal interpretation of scripture to serve as an impetus for abusing kids. All churches need to carefully question, whether teaching taking the Bible “literally” might not be so innocuous. Future generations borne within these branches of Christianity should not have to be subjected, in any way, to any kind of Biblical verse that demeans any human being to the level of being “subservient.”

As an advocate for victims of abuse and proper justice being brought to these victims, I will continue to read as many of their memoirs, and share them on my blog. Their memoirs are an important form of divulging the hair-raising evil that exists in some parts of our country. It is time we took a stronger stand against child abuse, domestic abuse, and sexual abuse of any kind, especially if it occurs in churches, synagogues, or mosques, that may very well have tax exemption of some kind.

    Please consider buying this phenomenal book, and watching Anderson Cooper’s fantastic series, called “Ungodly Discipline.” I’ll leave a link to that series, a 20/20 special about IFB abuse, and also some advocacy groups to think about donating to!!

Video Links to various news documentaries about the issue:
Anderson Cooper’s fantastic series, called “Ungodly Discipline.”

20/20 special about corporal punishment and Child abuse within the IFB church

Groups to consider donating to (I’ll add more)
GRACE-Abuse within Protestant churches

(This is a Christian group, but it is a group I feel could do the most to help abuse victims, as they are Christian. Sometimes, Christians see atheistic groups, as a threat, rather than a helpful guide)

SNAP-Related to abuse within Catholic church
(They are often discredited by some Catholic Groups)

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