Recovery From Religion Podcast interview drops!

New podcast interview on Recovery From Religion! Big thanks to the hosts, Tim and Bill, for being so thoughtful and welcoming. We had a wonderful conversation about my memoir, The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid! I deeply appreciate the opportunity to talk about the journey out and love questions that urge me to think deeper about the subject. Please join us at the link below for a listen.

Listen here: Recovery From Religion Podcast

Recovery From Religion is an invaluable resource for those who are extricating themselves from any religion. They have EXCELLENT PODCAST interviews:), books and videos, as well as connections to mental health services and a hotline number when you need help right now:

Need To Talk To Someone On The Phone? Call

Purchase The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid here.

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: it’s complicated

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS HUGE SPOILERS AND INCIDENTS OF ALL CAPS.

Seriously, this is a review for people who have already read this book. And you should definitely read this book.

Several friends suggested I read City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert-one went so far as to come to my house and hand me their copy. I found City of Girls, a refreshing story of female autonomy, engrossing from page one. It’s amazing, fantastic even, and I couldn’t put it down, but I do have some bones to pick.

The main character’s voice jumped off the page into my ear and I rooted for her every step of the way, even when she was being awful. Vivian is helped by being tall, skinny, and beautiful and for having the foresight to get really good at sewing in her youth. Looking like a supermodel and having superior skills in fashion design isn’t a bad set-up for life in the big city. The vibrant setting-New York City showbiz in the 1940s-makes you want to visit that time and place, in fact, I almost felt as though I had. Gilbert seamlessly weaves real-life events and people into the story, which enriches the historical context.

City of Girls explores nontraditional ways to live a woman’s life by showing how other women did it when alternatives were not readily available, and it is glorious. We see the benefits of hard work, natural talent, good looks, and learned courage. We see what a woman’s life looks like when she chooses self-determination and abandons norms: fulfillment of sexual desire on her own terms, loss of family connections, missteps that cause real pain to other people, freedom.

My issues with the story are as follows:

Young Vivian is the third party in a sexual threesome comprised of her best friend and the husband of a famous theater star. She is kinda coerced and kinda dumb and also really drunk when the tryst occurs. Unfortunately, the make-out session that led up to the encounter happened on the street and was photographed. Long story short, Vivian learns not to have sex with married men, but still spends the rest of her life sleeping around at will. That, of course, is not my problem. My problem is that even though she vows to never sleep with another married man, she picks up men in bars and beds them whenever she feels like it. I have bad news for Vivian and Elizabeth Gilbert-those men were probably ALL MARRIED. Men in bars who jump into bed with you ARE MARRIED, even in the 1940s. This seems like a significant oversight to me, especially since sisterhood is a main theme.

The star whose husband cheated dumps Vivian, but keeps the husband and the whole thing unfolds like Bill and Hillary. This dynamic goes unexplored, but it shouldn’t. IT SHOULDN’T, damn it. I don’t believe that unfaithfulness must automatically lead to divorce. How great would it be to spend some time mulling over how and why some couples stay together? And why the star forgave her husband, but not her friend?

And another thing, Vivian develops a long-term, secret friendship with a married man that can only be described as an emotional affair. How is that any better than having sex with him? Hell, its worse. This also goes unaddressed. The man and his wife lead separate lives and he is incapable of sex, so that makes it ok. Then why is it secret? Its secret because that goes to the main plot structure of the entire book. There, I have just about completely wrecked it for you.

All of my gripes aside, I loved this book because it’s about female desire, resilience, and how we can be when we decide to live the way want to. It shows the power of sisterhood while, perhaps inadvertently, admitting it’s shortcomings. Gilbert is a trailblazing voice for autonomy, not only in her writing, but by her willingness to share the details of her own life and loves. And I love her for it.

In Depth Review of Uncomfortable Confessions

You know when a review starts with a quote by Freud it’s gonna get into the details…

“Freud observed, “How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved.” Ronna Russell in her book The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid, embodies the kind of selflove that enables one to share the most intimate and challenging details of life without fear.”

Scot Loyd’s review of The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid:

Uncomfortable Confessions
— Read on scotloyd.blog/2019/09/06/uncomfortable-confessions/

I am so honored and frankly stoked to share this review. It is a rare gift for a reader to connect and understand my story on various levels and with such pertinent insight.

Thank you, Scot.

*art by Rob Snow, available on poster lounge

 

Lovely New Review

I so appreciate everyone who has taken the time to post a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Good reviews are the lifeblood of book sales-literally nothing else matters more.

This one made my day:

5 out of 5 stars

Harrowing, heartbreaking, and hopeful

Ronna Russell takes us behind the curtain of fundamentalist Christianity and reveals a world little of us know about. Her insular upbringing causes her to make choices about her partner and then her marriage that lead to heartache and more. Yet, her grit and resilience allows her to overcome her past and forge a positive future. This book is for any woman who has ever wondered whether it was too late to change her life. Russell’s answer is a definitive no.

More reviews on Goodreads

The Uncomfortable Confessions Of a Preacher’s Kid for purchase on Amazon

Rape Culture: What the pedophilia cover-up at Calvary Gospel Church has in common with the Jeffrey Epstein case

We see it over and over in the news-priests in the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist scandal, Michigan State University, countless youth ministers in Christian churches… the list is endless. Adults rape children while other adults actively cover-up the abuse to protect their institution.

How can this be?

The short answer is that we live in a world wherein rape culture thrives. Rape culture is defined as follows, just so we are all on the same page:

Rape culture is a sociological concept for a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. Behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, slut-shaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by sexual violence, or some combination of these.

Pedophilia is a subset of rape culture, when the descriptions above are targeted at children. Because, honestly, if the bodily autonomy of anyone, man or woman, is not respected, it’s a short downhill slide to minors. What’s a year or two or three when you’re already depraved?

Children are generally more easily manipulated than adults. Kids who are poor, hungry, and lonely are most often the victims of sexual abuse. We see this in every story that comes to light. It’s the kids no one is keeping track of, the kids whose parents aren’t paying attention, and don’t have the resources to sue anyway. These kids have needs and when they are offered comfort, often don’t see the erect penis coming at them from behind the ice cream cone.

If they object or tell, they are shamed, blamed, and threatened. When Debbie McNulty told her pastor at Calvary Gospel about her molestation by a man in the church she was sent away with an “I’ll get back to you.” He didn’t, but somehow everyone in the church found out and blamed Debbie, who was branded a slut at eleven. Even the molester’s wife blamed her. Debbie’s molester was moved around, forgiven, and still pastors a church.

When Jeffrey Epstein ran an international sex trafficking ring for billionaires, a whole community of people knew: recruiters, pilots, housemaids, neighbors, etc. His victims, poor kids who needed money for food and clothes, were threatened to prevent them from speaking about their abuse. His joke of a prosecution chalked it up to soliciting prostitution, as if the little girls he raped were engaged in an equal exchange of power.

Men in power allowed him to get away with it.  They protected the system in which they control the power dynamic on a global scale. It isn’t one church or university or even government; it’s a world wide web of men. Yes, sometimes women are involved, but let’s be honest, it’s mostly men. Calvary Gospel’s cover-up of pedophilia in their church is a microcosm.

Their response to accusations of abuse is predictable. Accuse the victim of being a slut or a whore, no matter her age, and instantly no one cares about her. Easy-peasy.

She had it coming.

She was asking for it.

She wanted it.

You can’t rape a whore.

What was she wearing?

And there you have it, the men involved were seduced. They couldn’t help themselves. Even women will join in to hurl blame at the victims, so immersed are we in this culture of rape.

A shift is happening now, though. Not quickly enough, but change is coming, after millennia of voicelessness. For all of social media’s flaws, the ability to tell our stories to a wide audience is a pretty big plus. All it takes is one brave soul to go first and then other victims come forward. There are always other victims.

And then accountability begins, because everyone has to pick a side on this subject.

*Eve was framed.

A Brief Timeline of Sex Abuse at Calvary Gospel Church

This story is circulating on social media right now. There are a lot of moving parts, so I have put them all in one place. Links are below.

Circa 1980 – Debbie McNulty was eleven when a married man at church began grooming her. He quickly escalated from ice cream cones and hand-holding to sexual molestation and rape. Debbie told her pastor, asking for help and protection. She received none. The senior pastor did not go to the authorities, but he did blame Debbie. She was branded a slut and left the church as a teenager.

In 2017, during the #MeToo/#ChurchToo movement, Debbie began writing about her experiences at Calvary Gospel Church. Other victims came forward with similar stories, some publicly, some anonymously. Pedophiles never abuse just one child, especially not when they are getting away with it.

In 2019, Debbie wrote an open letter on her blog to the current leadership of her former church asking for acknowledgment, an apology, and reasonable policy changes. Soon after, the Facebook threats began.

This summer – Debbie and the other victims filed reports with their local police department and worked with the Wisconsin state legislature to present bills to close the clergy loophole and to get rid the statute of limitations for sexual abuse. They also told their story to a reporter at the local newspaper.

Yesterday – Now that the story is public, Calvary Gospel Church has circled the wagons to protect their own. The senior pastor received a standing ovation from the congregation in light of these recent attacks on his reputation.

He covered up the rape of little girls.

This is the very definition of rape culture.

Link list:

Debbie McNulty’s original blog post

Debbie’s open letter to Calvary Gospel

The Cap Times newspaper report

The press conference about the bills

Calvary Gospel applauds pedophile protector

Write It Yourself…

Memoirists often write for understanding, as I did. There is something about seeing your own words on the page that offers tangibility and perspective to experiences. When Dr. Thomas Fudge wrote Heretics and Politics, a book about the history of the United Pentecostal Church and a story that heavily involved my father, I was thrilled to be interviewed. Being asked questions about how I experienced life as his daughter was a first. No one had ever asked before. Why would they? I was long gone from the scene. A footnote.

I read Heretics and Politics avidly when it was released only to discover I was still little more than a footnote and felt unreasonably crushed. What was I expecting? To have my life explained to me or perhaps to have my father explained to me? How could anyone, even the estimable Dr. Fudge, do such a thing?

And then I remembered Toni Morrison’s words:

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

And so I did. Thank you, Ms. Morrison, for your words of truth and beauty, and the sharp nudge. Rest in peace.

Do you have a story to tell?

The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid