Most of us are aware by now that the LORD’s not too fond of women. He’s fine with them being used as sex slaves, or sold to their rapists, or stoned to death for getting pregnant out of wedlock. But this is the chapter where we’re going to see just how much of a misogynistic asshole he actually is.
See, we know from our Biblical readings so far that a woman’s only worth is in her ability to squirt out babies (or convince her husband to fuck her handmaid pregnant if she herself is sterile). There’s pretty much no other value assigned to womenfolk. And we know that ritual purity is a Big Fucking Deal.
Do you think it’s impossible to despise Merril Jessop more? After all he’s done, you’re pretty sure your opinion of him can’t sink any lower? Well, my darlings, as we continue this ill-conceived Hawaiian vacation with Merril and three of his wives, I do believe you’ll find your opinion grabbing a drilling rig and heading for the Earth’s core. (By the end of the book, you’ll be wishing you could drop him down the hole, trust me.)
On the flight, Tammy and Carolyn shag the seats beside Merril, leaving Cathleen the odd woman out. She sits on Tammy’s other side, upset and not hiding it. Merril could have done the decent thing and assured her he loved her and promised her a seat beside him on the flight home. Alas, Merril doesn’t have a decent bone in his body. So instead, he says something shitty that causes Cathleen to head for the back of the plane, where she sobs loudly enough for them to all hear.
Tammy, wanting Merril to herself for reasons probably having much more to do with power plays than affection, starts berating Carolyn for not going to take care of Cathleen. She keeps it up until Carolyn, pregnant and ill, loses her temper and snaps at her. Pretty hard to keep sweet in these conditions.
This chapter really highlights how dysfunctional Carolyn’s family is, and how fucked up FLDS doctrine is – and keep in mind, this is before Warren Jeffs took over and it got extreme.
Imagine getting the opportunity to vacation in Hawaii. Awesome! Only… you have to go with the husband you hate. Not as awesome. And he’s taking two of his other wives… so not awesome. And your husband doesn’t even bother to tell you and your sister wives that you’re going: he just kind of lets you find out on your own… even less awesome. And you’re pregnant and have horrible morning sickness. Now we’re pretty fucking far from awesome.
Merril usually isn’t interested in his wives other than Barbara, but in the FLDS, you have to at least keep up an appearance of treating all wives equally, and his tendency to only take Barbara on long trips is getting noticed. Because a woman can only get messages from God through her husband, it can damage his standing in the community if he appears to be failing at the task of keeping his family under control. Merril has tried to keep the illusion of equality going by keeping most of his younger wives pregnant. But that only gets him so far. So he figures he’ll knock down three long trips in one and haul three of his wives to Hawaii. Continue reading ““An Unmitigated Disaster” – Escape Chapter 15: Hawaii”→
Put on your wetsuits and grab your scuba gear, my darlings, cuz the creationists are about to shower us with ocean babble that just doesn’t hold water. Yep. We’ve reached ACE’s idea of oceanography. It’s sooo bad.
It starts with Ace not knowing why Earth is called The Blue Planet. The former bookseller in me can’t help but heave an exasperated sigh and say, “Cuz it’s this big and it’s blue.” (Industry in-joke, my darlings.)
You’ll be astonished to hear that the ACE writers are not, in fact, moon landing denialists, as Mr. Virtueson is happy to tell us that astronauts landed on the moon in 1969, looked at Earth, and saw lotsa blue. Because water. And that brings to mind some Bible verses, which he renders thusly:
“Psalm 104:1-6 states, ‘…O LORD my God, thou art very great… who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters…. Who laid the foundations of the earth…. Thou coveredest it with the deep as with a garment…”
When creationists use lots of ellipses, I tend to wonder what they’re hiding. In this case, it’s quite a bit of redundant crap that shows these verses should be taken metaphorically. It’s poetry, not a science lesson. But of course these dogma-dazzled drips can’t understand that.
All the priests of the LORD have now been consecrated, and God’s business (of burning up sacrificial animals on an industrial scale) can now begin. Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu are pretty keen, and so they get right to work. Problem is, they’re new on the job, and maybe they dozed off a bit while Moses was relaying God’s interminable instructions, because they fuck up and put the wrong incense in the censer. Oops! (Lev. 10:1)
It’s the kind of mistake any new employees could make. And it’s not like there was any training program or anything, just a really long, boring lecture with a lot of persnickety detail (and the occasional death threat). God should know how fallible human memory is – he’s the one who supposedly designed it, after all. If the servants of a kinder, more sensible deity with good anger management skills had screwed up, there would’ve been a deep cosmic sigh, and then a gentle booming voice saying, “Nope. No. Guys. You put the second best incense in. No, I know, it smells really nice, and honestly, A+ for effort, but you were supposed to use only the best. You know, my exclusive blend? Let’s put that stuff out and try again. And, y’know, maybe you should store them in different parts of the tabernacle so this doesn’t happen again, okay? Great.” And the unholy smoke would have cleared, and the holy fire burned, and everything would have gone perfectly smoothly after that.
But we’re talking about the LORD here, so you know he completely loses his shit.
He doesn’t give Aaron’s sons a chance to realize their mistake. He doesn’t give them a chance to correct it. He smells that “strange fire,” and he flies into an instant rage, and he burns those two boys to death right then and there. (Lev. 10:2)
Moses, the snide little shit, tells Aaron, who just watched God burn two of his sons to a crisp, “Oh, hey, that’s what the LORD meant when he said ‘I’ll be sanctified by the folks who come near me, and I’ll be glorified by all the people.’” Yep. Cuz it sure is glorious to strike two poor noobs dead for bungling the incense one time. (Lev. 10:3)
And Aaron, the poor bereaved bastard, can’t say a word.
Moses has a couple of Aaron’s cousins carry the charred remains of his sons out of the camp. They haul them out by their miraculously unburnt tunics, like a couple of sacks of potatoes. Then he has the gall to tell Aaron and his two surviving sons that they’re not allowed to grieve. (Lev. 10:4-6)
Seriously. Imagine watching your children or your brothers die an agonizing, gruesome death, and then being told you are not to mourn them under any circumstances, because if you do, then your god’s going to kill you and then fuck up everybody else. Imagine being ordered to stay in the tabernacle – the exact place your loved ones were just brutally murdered, where you can still smell the smoke and see the char from God burning them alive – because if you step foot outside it, your loving God will strike you stone dead. I mean, there’s being a sadist, and then there’s being an unforgivable, appalling, torturing, sadistic asshole. I think we can all see which is the LORD. (Lev. 10:6-7)
The LORD has plenty of coarse, pure salt to rub in their wounds. He won’t even let them get drunk to help cope with the trauma. And if their grief gets to be too much, and having to bow down and worship and serve the murderer of their kinfolkbecomes a weight too heavy to be borne, and they sneak a sip of the ol’ 100 proof before entering the tabernacle? Well, then, God will kill them dead, too. So they’re ordered to stay stone sober, and teach this homicidal tyrant’s rules to everybody, forever. (Lev. 10:8-11)
Moses takes over lecturing for the LORD, telling them how they can and can’t eat the various offerings and sacrifices they’re to make, and then he goes looking for the goat of the sin offering. Only, it’s already been burnt. He loses his shit, and yells at Aaron’s surviving sons: “I can’t believe you fucked this up! You were supposed to eat it in here! That was for you to atone for everybody with! You didn’t even bring the blood in here! I mean, seriously, you fools, you should have eaten it in the holy place like I told you to.” (Lev. 10:12-18)
And poor Aaron blames himself. “If I’d done it right, and eaten the sin offering today, would the LORD have been happy with it?” And Moses, the snide little shit, is really pleased with himself for gaslighting Aaron into taking the blame for God’s murderous temper tantrum. (Lev. 10:19-20)
So you see, children, it’s very important to do everything exactly the way God wants you to, even if it’s the first time you’ve tried doing it. Because if you fuck up even the smallest detail, God is either gonna smite you personally, or he’ll burn your own flesh and blood to death right before your eyes – and then forbid you to mourn them.
That’s his idea of glory.
Are you really sure this abominable deity deserves our devotion?
This is a super-short chapter. It basically centers around one religious event in Carolyn’s life: her patriarchal blessing. The blessing is the most important part of a woman’s life outside of her marriage and childbearing. It’s delivered by one of the church’s patriarchs (the dudes just below the Prophet and his apostles), and generally consists of them telling a young woman that she’s going to “become a faithful wife and a mother in Zion, raising faithful children up to the Lord.”
Carolyn hadn’t gotten her blessing prior to getting married and having kids, so her patriarch, Joseph Barlow, has to get creative. He pulls out all the stops. He puts his hands on Carolyn’s head, and informs her that she’s “a direct descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus Christ.” In fact, “The pure blood of Jesus Christ runs through” her veins.
Waal okay then.
Then he tells her she’s a totes special spirit that God was saving up for the last days. She’s been born on this earth “to be part of ushering in a thousand years of peace.” And she’ll even get to see Jesus hisownself in this lifetime! Why so special? Because she’d “been an enormous influence in casting the devil out of heaven.” She’d been super-smart in that whole kerfluffle. And because she was so smart, God had decided to use her on Earth. She could tell if someone was good or evil just by looking at ’em. (Well, she’d pretty much proved that with Merril, right?)
So God has spirits watching over her, and will be using her “to protect his people in the last days.” She’ll “work in the temple and be responsible for many people receiving their priesthood training.”
But that’s not all!
She’ll be “working with the ten tribes when they returned to earth.” Not only that: she’ll be training lots of them! And she’ll also be giving birth to “some of the most precious spirits from the other side.”
To top it off, educational opportunities will abound for her, and she’ll “end up as a valiant member of God’s chosen.”
And all she has to do to get all this awesome stuff is remain faithful for all her life.
And Carolyn’s all, umm…. wasn’t really seeking all that, but okay…
This is how highly intelligent people with a strong will, people like Carolyn, are kept in the fold. Yeah, it all sounds ridiculous to us outsiders, but on the inside? Rather heady stuff. Who wouldn’t want to believe they’re extra-important to their god? Who wouldn’t love to believe their kids are extra-super-special? How else do you accept the sacrifices you have to make than by believing you’re destined for something great? Even if it’s not what you were looking for, it’s still pretty amazing.
And maybe Joseph sensed they were at risk of losing her, so he laid it on extra-thick. Or maybe he was just fantasy prone. But he surely gave Carolyn an earful.
She walks away quite bemused. Her husband, of course, never asks how her blessing went, because he couldn’t care less about her.
You may wonder if this extraordinary blessing makes Carolyn’s life any better. But I think you already know the answer.
(Content note for spiritual and child abuse, rape.)
Even raised in a mostly-secular and decidedly non-church-going household, I absorbed it. I didn’t even have uber-religious friends until high school, but I still got the message.
From babyhood they said “You are a dirty sinner, there is nothing good in you, you are destined for hell because of your nature.”
So we, small humans, awoke to a world where toddlers need the sin and foolishness beaten out of them with switches and wooden spoons and belts.
They said “Only with Jesus are you worth anything.”
So as small children we begged Jesus to come into our hearts and make the dirty clean.
They said “Because of your sin, God cannot look at you, Jesus had to die. You killed him.”
So we mourned that we were so sinful that God couldn’t look at us without someone else standing in our place.
They said “You are human, a sinner, you cannot help it, only Jesus can make you worth anything.”
So we felt that we were worthless, that no matter how hard we try, we will never be good enough, while some kept trying anyway and some completely gave up.
They said “If you fall in love with a boy, you are committing emotional fornication.”
So we guarded our hearts lest sin defile us with merely a thought, and when our hearts betrayed us and we fell in love with a boy, we hated ourselves and knew we were worth less than before, we had lost a piece of our hearts we would never get back.
They said “Your body needs to be hidden because it is dangerous and if a man lusts after you because of your clothing or movements, it is your fault”.
So we covered our bodies from head to toe, swathed our femininity in fabric hoping no one would notice the curves, and spent years of our life worrying that we may cause a man to stumble and thus defile our own hearts and his.
They said “Boys only want one thing, so be sure you don’t do anything that makes them think they can take it from you. They can’t help it, this is how God made them, we must help them.”
So we lived in fear of men who God made pigs then placed the responsibility for their pig-ness on us.
They said “If you kiss a boy, you’re like a lolly-pop that’s been licked, a paper heart that’s been torn, you are worth less than before, and you’ve given away a part of you that you can never get back.”
So we spent our days afraid, terrified we would lose our worth and have nothing to give a future spouse.
They said “Virginity and purity give you value, don’t give that away.”
So whether virginity was taken forcefully or given lovingly, we were left worthless, used goods, and told no godly man would want us now.
Earth Science 4th Edition butchers geology in agonizing detail rather than bludgeoning it quickly and leaving it for the vultures. So, while we plod through that interminable mess until it’s caught up to Science of the Physical Creation’s next geology unit, we’ll go ahead and do up one of the things SPC has got that ES4 does not: a section on chemistry.
Carolyn’s back home after graduating college, but that home is anything but sweet. She and Tammy are the only two wives trying to make the family chaos more orderly. Merril’s business has been fined for violations of some sort, and they have less money than ever to manage on. He gives them only $100 per week to meet all the needs of almost 40 people. Merril’s older daughters, the nusses who had lorded it over all the other girls in school, are now stuck at home doing housework and childcare, and they show their displeasure by doing a piss-poor job of it.
Content note for financial and verbal abuse, food insecurity, starving children, and forced marriage.
Merril, of course, doesn’t let himself or his favorite wife suffer. He and Barbara enjoy expensive dinners out in Page. When he comes home, he takes all of his wives out to eat – which only increases his daughters’ resentment.
Carolyn and Tammy take over the shopping, organize meals and cleaning, and plant a garden. People who haven’t gardened in the northern Arizona desert won’t understand what an undertaking is, but it’s not simple to nurture plants in that environment. “Personal items” like soap are a luxury they can’t afford, so the household does without. The two women are virtual superheroes. They keep everyone fed and the house somewhat in order – as much as is possible under the circumstances – but Merril isn’t grateful. He’s upset to the point of tantrums that they didn’t consult Barbara on their activities first. He expects them to follow the orders of a woman who is never there and doesn’t have to live in dire poverty. He’s beyond ridiculous. Carolyn can’t even think of him as her husband: he’s “that man, an egocentric bully,” forced on her, and not a “gift from God” as her religion teaches. But she still clings to her faith. At this point, it’s very nearly the only thing she has, aside from her kids.
Winter arrives. There’s no more produce from the garden, just a dwindling supply of tomatoes picked green and left to ripen in buckets. The family is subsisting on cracked wheat for breakfast, and tomato sandwiches for lunch and dinner, while Merril and Barbara live it up in Page. Children, including Carolyn’s son Arthur, are losing weight, and she’s afraid she won’t get enough nutrition herself to keep producing breast milk for baby Betty. Continue reading ““We Were Nearly Starving” – Escape Chapter 13: Move Home”→
God’s Exhaustive Instructions for Sacrificial Barbecues
God has a disturbing fixation on burning animals.
I mean, if you took all the animal sacrifice stuff out of Leviticus, you’d have just a couple chapters left. Most of it’s hyper-focused on killing animals for God, especially in these opening chapters. One rather begins to get the impression that he created humans and tempted them into sinning just so he’d have everyone bringing him barbecue all the time. That’s so very… uplifting?
The first thirteen verses of Leviticus 1 deal with the proper sacrificing of bulls, sheep, and goats. There’s lots of splashing blood about. The LORD does love him his bloodbaths. But it’s mostly stuff we heard one thousand times in Exodus, when God went on and on about it. We’ll just skim past that bit. (Lev. 1:1-13)
Things get really graphic when God gets to the birds.
Whereas bulls and sheep and goats get the knife, birds are to be slaughtered with your bare hands. You don’t just wring their necks, either: you’re supposed to twist their little heads right off. Imagine how much livelier church would be if your pastor decided to start obeying more of Leviticus than just a few random verses about gays and witches, threw off his poly/cotton blend shirt, and grabbed a few pigeons off the front lawn. I’ll bet the children would find it ever so morally uplifting to watch Pastor Bob tearing the heads off live birds on a Sunday morning. (Lev. 1:14)
Then, following the strict instructions God has laid down, he’s supposed to wring all their blood out against the altar. We haven’t got altars in many modern churches, but I’m sure the pulpit will do. (Lev. 1:15)
So there’s Pastor Bob, holding a freshly-killed headless birdie with its blood dripping down the pulpit. As per the LORD’s instructions, he next tears out its crop and feathers, and throws those against the east side of the pulpit. Once he’s done that, he grips both of its wings and, with a mighty tug, rips the bird wide open (being careful not to tear it completely apart – no need to get barbaric!). Then he sets the whole thing on fire, and the LORD is pleased. (Lev. 1:16-17)
That’ll certainly bring new energy into the church service.
Now, God is pretty much a meat man, but he’ll also accept really premium flour. But if you bake the LORD a cake out of it, just remember that he hates leaven. If you feel you must include leaven and honey, leave those on the side. Don’t forget, now. He won’t merely send his improperly-prepared meal back to the kitchen: he’ll smite you for botching his order. (Lev. 2:1-12)
Don’t forget the salt. God isn’t in to those low-sodium diets. He wants salt on everything. (Lev. 2:13)
After all this talk of flour, God’s ready to go back to animals again. He’d just like to make it perfectly clear he wants sacrifices with no blemishes whatsoever. If God were at the grocery store, he’d be that obnoxious dude who handles every single vegetable in the produce department, trying to find the perfect ones. He’d be that bloke at the butcher’s block who insists on having the butcher hand-cut about two dozen steaks before finally, reluctantly, accepting one. (Lev. 3:1)
For most sacrifices, only males will do, but for the peace offering, you can sacrifice a female if that’s what you’ve got on hand. Just so long as she hasn’t got any icky blemishes. No matter what you’re sacrificing, just remember to splash its blood liberally around the altar. And make sure you don’t keep any of its fat or blood for yourself. All the fat belongs to God. Every single bit. You’re not supposed to eat any fat or blood, ever. So sorry if you’re a fan of blood puddings. God doesn’t think you should have them. (Lev. 3:6-17)
If you sin, the only way to make up for it is by killing an animal and splashing its blood round the altar. God can’t forgive you unless you kill and burn an innocent critter for your fuck-ups. (Lev. 4:1-35)
There you go, then. Four chapters of killing animals and hating on leaven
in a nutshell. Now, don’t you feel ever so much more holy?