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A Time To Speak

We are bound by the secrets we share.

Zoƫ Heller


Chapter Sixteen

Win

I wasn't thinking about a moderator. I was thinking about victims. So were Katrina, Regina, and a whole bunch of other people I was getting to know, because things had begun to snowball kind of fast. It wasn't just Foothills any more, or the FML. Abuse stories, and stories of abuse victims being victimized yet again, seemed to be all around us. We wanted to help them all.

It was Katrina who found a link to a page called FML Survivors, which had stories of abuse perpetrated by the pastor/founder of FML on young women who worked in his office. They had been recruited to work in the FML headquarters after attending one of the FML week-long seminars, and then a number of them had discovered that their work duties had nothing to do with the office. I clicked on links that I found on that page and found still more groups—missionary boards, Christian singing groups, reform houses for young women, prison ministries, church bus ministries—all of them with heart-breaking tales of abuse, and all of them looking for recognition of the wrongs that had been carried out against them.

On the Victor's page, Katrina posted links to all of the other groups as well, on a special thread called the Wall of Shame. Heavenly Manna Ministries, Alliance Christian Group, Servant's Christian College, Amazing Faith Missionaries, and FaithFullFamilies all had their own groups of survivors talking about them. She and Regina had compiled lists of the patterns of behaviors shown by all the groups, along with information about how they tied in to Foothills in some way. As Regina discovered more, she sometimes wrote in our small, secret group about what she had found.

Regina

Alliance Christian Group is interesting because its founder and president was good friends with Seth Thomas' grandfather, back when Pastor Thomas first thought of starting Foothills. The ACG churches were already in existence in the south, but Pastor Thomas convinced them that ACG and Foothills could make a good team. The plan was for ACG to send its college kids to Foothills, and then Foothills would direct the best pastoral students and lay leaders back into service at those churches. For awhile, it was a win-win for both organizations.


I was fascinated by Regina's research into the history of the school. Even with my family's long association with the university, there were so many facts I hadn't known about it.

Win

What happened to their partnership? ACG churches are off limits to students today.


Regina

Times changed. Foothills decided that the ACG was going "liberal." ACG churches made efforts to integrate the races before Foothills even thought about it, and they started to change some of their other practices, too, like not having employee's tithe money automatically withdrawn from their paychecks any more. So Foothills eventually cut all ties.


Katrina

They're still more alike than they are different, though. I went to an ACG church for a couple of years growing up, and they did just as much victim shaming as Foothills ever did. There's no difference. One of the girls in my youth group had to stand up and confess in front of the whole church when she got pregnant, and then they still kicked her out of youth group anyway.


Win

It's not just FCU churches that do things like that. I wish I could tell you how badly my brother's church treated him when he was dealing with some personal things in his life.


I hadn't meant to tell Reg and Katrina about Sam. Really, I hadn't. But we were in a sharing mode by that time.

Win

His church wasn't an FCU church, but a lot of the members had gone to FCU in the past. And they made my brother get up in front of the church and confess to something he had already made right with somebody else. They shamed not just him but his whole family, and when he was really struggling and hurting and feeling like his marriage was on the rocks, they kicked him to the curb. There was no support for him or his wife, none at all.


Regina

Is that Sam Larramore, the one I see on your profile info?


Katrina

What did he do that was so bad that they wouldn't let him repent on his own?


I hesitated before answering them. Sam was my brother, and we never talked about this incident in our family. It was just too painful. But I had gone too far into this not to tell them. And anyway, it would be a relief to vent my frustration and anger about an uncaring, hurtful church to people who could definitely understand, and even relate. So I poured it all out—the humiliation my parents had gone through, the way my brother's whole personality had changed that awful year, the uncertainty of wondering if his relationship with Lisa would survive. The fear we all had of being exposed. The desire to simply forget that it ever happened, and the tension that it occasionally still inspired at family gatherings.

Katrina

So it wasn't an FCU church on paper, but the members had ties to FCU. That makes it a FIC church even if its leaders don't support the school.


Regina

It was definitely a FIC church. I'm so sorry you went through that, Win. Treating a church member like that means there's something seriously wrong with the people at that church, and like I've said before, it all comes back to FCU. Every. Single. Time. These kinds of actions need to stop. They need to stop NOW. Eventually FCU, FML, Servant's, the ACG, Amazing Faith—they're all going to go down. I'm looking forward to the day when they all go out of business.


With all our conversations about abuse, other Christian groups, and my brother, plus working on the petition, my time on the Victor's page itself was pretty limited, and I hadn't had much time for contact with John or Alecia either.


John

I was beginning to wonder if the Victor's page was going to go out of business. Things there had gotten really ugly, really fast. It wasn't that I cared for the school at all, but the page had turned into nothing but a huge bitching session. You couldn't talk about ANYTHING without somebody hijacking the thread.

Victors

Did you play any sports at FCU?


Craig

I did soccer and basketball. I sucked, but it was still fun.


Mitch

Soccer. My team took the championship my freshman year. That was one of the few times I actually had fun on campus.


Peter

Sports were pointless, since FCU refuses to allow its students to play against other schools. There was no real competition, just a bunch of wanna-be players getting out there and making fools of themselves. If the school had allowed meaningful competition, I might have tried to get on the basketball team.


Craig

I kind of liked the fact that there wasn't a lot of pressure to play sports all the time. Those who wanted to play could, but since we didn't play other schools there really weren't any sports jocks on campus. It was a lot more fun that way.


faith

I loved the sports on campus because there were so many teams, and everyone had a chance to be on a team if they really wanted to. Craig is right, there were no "jocks" on campus. Sports were not idolized like they are at secular colleges.


I almost fell off my chair, I was laughing so hard at Faith's new profile picture.

John

Faith, what's up with the new profile pic?


faith

Since the FML has come under attack from a group of disgruntled alumni, those of us who appreciated what we learned at those seminars all those years ago have formed our own page to show our support. "We Love FML" is our slogan and our logo. Do you like it? We're going to have it printed on mugs, too.


I was laughing too hard to type.

Peter

What a bunch of idiots.


Craig

Be nice, Peter.


Katrina

The school didn't have any sports jocks, but its ministerial students were just as bad. They felt like they could get away with anything at all on campus, since they were holier than the rest of us. Dealing with sports jocks would have been easier than dealing with them.


Starr

I've heard rumors that the sports policy on campus may change soon. The school may start allowing a limited number of intercollegiate sports in the next couple of years, as a way to boost attendance.


Alecia

I can confirm that the idea is under serious consideration.


Regina

It's a band-aid, a stop-gap measure to put an end to the constant drain on student enrollment. It won't work. Foothills is going to go under financially sooner or later. Nothing cosmetic can change such an evil system.


Craig

An evil system? Guys, we were talking about playing sports. SPORTS. Lighten up already.


Katrina

Don't you care about victims, Craig?


Craig

Oh, so you've unblocked me now? Hi, Katrina. You already have a dozen other threads to talk about abuse. Can we please just talk about the sports we enjoyed on campus?


Katrina

Thanks for shutting me down and making me feel like my story doesn't matter.


Craig

What story?


Katrina

One of those precious ministerial students that the school loved so much, the ones they treated better than any sports jock on a secular campus, tried to molest me on campus. The school did nothing about it.


Craig

Then go talk about it on the abuse thread. This thread is for memories of playing sports on campus.


Starr

I wish there had been more sports for girls on campus. Basically we could be cheerleaders and not much more.


faith

I was a cheerleader! I'll have to find a picture of myself in uniform and post it.


John

I can't believe where this thread has gone. Thanks for the laughs, guys. I think I'll just sign off and go find my own FML shirt to wear.


faith

We appreciate your support, John!