I love to review books. Occasionally a book will arrive that hits me right in the core of my heart. When I first received an invitation to read this book I JUMPED at the chance! Just reading the 1st Chapter told me that Elizabeth was a kindred sister. You see, I too grew up in a fundamentalist, Pentecostal church. I suffered emotional scars from my childhood that I’ve been working through. Church. The one place that should be safe was not safe for me.
How we differ is that her story makes mine look like a trip to Disneyland. I wasn’t a PK kid. I didn’t preach on the streets. In fact, we judged that very thing as too “religious”. As her story unfolded I found myself feeling emotions that have long been dormant. My Kindle highlights made the pages seem like a rainbow game.
Her story is a serious one. Filled with abuse, cultish personality and a touch of sarcasm and wit. Which I love. A lot.
I was raised in a homegrown, fundamentalist Christian group-which is just a shorthand way of saying I’m classically trained in apocalypse stockpiling, street preaching, and the King James Version of the Bible. I know hundreds of obscure nineteenth-century hymns by heart and have such razor-sharp “modesty vision” that I can spot a miniskirt a mile away. Verily, verily I say unto thee, none of these highly specialized skills ever got me a job, but at least I’m all set for the End of the World. Selah.
Like all religious organizations, “The Assembly” started off with grand ideas. Even heaven-worthy ones. But as her grandfather gained more power and more following, things changed. Elizabeth describes it SO well. So much like I had experienced.
As with most revolutions, the idealistic dream that had initially ignited our little band of born-again Christians gradually hardened into a rigid lifestyle. Ironically, by the mideighties, we had morphed to become nearly indistinguishable from the legalistic, organized religion we’d rejected in the first place.
The chapter about modesty…seriously. I was laughing. Crying. Raging. It’s SO true. I have lived that very scene too many times to tell. It’s very eye-opening.
The only thing that PERSONALLY bugged ME…I understand she found peace and solace in Catholicism. However, praying to Mary…I just cannot go there. It’s NOT in the Bible. I’m glad it works for her and she found a kindred soul…spirit…in the “Mother of God”…but it’s not for me. That’s the only part of the book that I just couldn’t get into.
Overall. A fantastic read by an incredibly honest and brave momma! READ IT!
Written for: The adult wounded as a child by a religious upbringing with a cultish personality.
Why I like this Book: Let me count the ways! Honest. Raw. Witty. Eye-opening. Easy-to-read.
Do I Recommend: ABSOLUTELY. I have already told several friends about it.
A dazzling memoir of a girl growing up in a fundamentalist sect, what it cost her to escape, and why Evangelical megachurches feel so disconcertingly familiar to her.
Elizabeth Esther grew up as the eldest and clearly favored granddaughter of the founder of a wacky, family-run sect of Jesus People. Enfolded in its xenophobic subculture, constantly prepped for the apocalypse, she was cut off from most contact with the larger world. At the hands of the faithful, she suffered physical abuse and nearly the loss of her faith. But perhaps the greatest loss was of her own sense of self: she was trained as a toddler to “disappear” for hours; as a teen, to confess sins real and imagined to her prying, autocratic grandmother; as a young wife, to serve and blindly obey her husband. She arrived in adulthood convinced that no one-God included-could know or love a woman who “wasn’t even there.” Realizing she had nothing to lose, Elizabeth did the unthinkable: she left church…and began the arduous journey toward authentic faith. Her story is by turns frightening, hilarious, heart-breaking, and inspiring. Ultimately, her message will be received as a cautionary tale for believers in Evangelical churches-especially those that depend on a cult of personality to pull in crowds and dollars.
About the Author
ELIZABETH ESTHER is a blogger who was raised in Southern California inside a strict fundamentalist church from which she fled with her husband and children. In 2006, Elizabeth began writing a blog to document her family life. Soon, she was writing about her faith journey. She and her husband, Matthew, live with their five children in Santa Anna, California.
I received a copy of this book for review purposes through the Blogging for Books program. This fair and honest review contains my own opinions and do not reflect the views of the author, publisher or any other third-party. I have received no other compensation for this review. This is disclosed in accordance with FTC guidelines.