Saturday, February 4, 2012

Review from Provender

A suspenseful, moving narrative on the Church and its most secret sin: spiritual abuse
The Crooked Cross, by anonymous author Willow, is a compelling account of one woman’s dealings with a series of heart-rending situations involving spiritually abusive people and groups.
The book details the cruel treatment of an ultra-perfectionist and increasingly fervid father, who seems to be heading off the deep end; church members who use scripture and personal revelation to enslave, torment and crush her; a sadistic fiancé who would have destroyed her; and later, a paranoid, survivalist husband who blames her, starves her and stalks her.
The book is divided into twenty-eight short chapters, and almost all of them are gripping. The narration is smooth, and the writing intelligent and clear. Even after the first chapter or two, the reader might ask, “How could it get any worse?” and then it does.
Willow details her early submissive nature and the extreme behavior codes and practices of the fundamentalist church in which she grew up. She began attending a church that was “less strict” when she hit third grade, and you think, “Good!” But a pattern repeats in the book, and it is this: Whenever you think things are getting better, something worse happens.
Her father’s perfectionism gives her an eating disorder, and he encourages it! The less strict church suggests exorcism! She’s lonely, a man shows up. You think, “Great! Someone to save her!” and he turns out to be a terrible, sadistic creep. She reconnects with an old friend and he turns out to be an alcoholic. Every time there is a moment of relief, it is quickly overshadowed with yet another danger.
This building tension makes for a great narrative -- but a horrible, young life. You wonder how she managed to survive at all by the end.
The reader may be tempted to think that it is just too much, that these experiences are exaggerated or fiction because so much seems improbable. But if you’ve taken even a shallow survey of spiritual abuse victims and their stories, you know that this account, horrific as it seems, is entirely within the realm of possibility, and it is a sad commentary on the state of religious life in America that these stories are so common and so severe.
Some may not like the conclusion. Willow does not find the perfect spiritual epiphany and a new, nurturing, compassionate fellowship to join; she does not magically cause her father to become a sane, reasonable person by the end and effect some kind of reconciliation; she does not even find spiritual assurance. She does, however, find real love in the person of “Sweetheart” and just as important, she finds real freedom – and that’s a huge enough change, considering all that her short lifetime affords her, to make for as much of a happy-ever-after as possible.
Others may not like the anonymity of the author. Who is she? Why does she not put her whole, real name to her work? But victims of spiritual abuse are fearful of retaliatory rage. They’ve been threatened with harm and hell by people who like their prophecies to come true. If you’ve seen what powerful churches and spiritual abusers have done to victims like FBCJAX Watchdog and James Duncan, among others, you know that Willow is prudent by remaining anonymous.
The book should serve as a wake-up call to the church. Willow came across spiritual abuse in many venues, not just one. Churches encouraged the abuse or closed their eyes to it. Churches will point to selfish sins as the root cause of people leaving the church, when really the spiritual abuse that their methods and doctrines promote, or their neglect permits, could easily be more to blame for driving people away from a life with Christ.
If you pick up this book, you will see the seamier side of the church. You will confront ugly truths. But it will also open your eyes to attitudes and practices that desperately need to be addressed. The 3.99 price is a bargain, and I give The Crooked Cross my hearty recommendation.
- Provender: Clearinghouse of sources on spiritual abuse

Three Reader Reviews of Crooked Cross

"This book may not be an easy read for many. It contains material that not all people may understand. It does, however, address the issues facing our society in the perspective of religion. This book is about an incredibly strong young woman who has had to face many major obstacles in her life. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, religious or not." - Reader

"Willow is an young woman who has quite a story to tell. It's a story that many people will be shocked by many will be angered by her story. She tells her story with respect to the Christian church at which she has suffered so much abuse. I highly recommend this book for anyone. For those people who are struggling with the kinds of things Willow herself struggled with, or if you are involved in ministry, her words will shed light on a subject very few people are willing to talk about. She offers a great amount of hope for those who have been injured by seemingly well meaning churchgoers."  - Reader

"Crooked Cross is the tale of the dark side of Christianity, where devout churchgoers strive so hard to please God that they destroy His children in the process. A story of abuse in epic proportions, this book will be hard for some people to read, especially those who can relate from personal experience in fundamentalist churches. Willow is frank and candid, baring her life and even her soul in the hope that someone else will be spared her agony. This book is must reading not only for victims of religious abuse, but also for counselors, therapists, and pastors who are left to help pick up the pieces of shattered lives. Definitely one of the most profoundly moving books in print."  - Reader  

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


            I was stuck - alone and scared half to death. I was in a strange city where I knew no one and had nowhere to live but my car.  I was still married to, and running from, a man who was threatening me with the wrath of God Almighty, hellfire and brimstone, if I did not come back to an abusive home.  Despite his threats to harm both of us if I did not return to my submissive role as wife, I crossed the state line to get away from him and his cult. 

            As time progressed, I found myself working a couple of jobs and living in my own apartment.  Money was tight, and I was barely making it.  It was rumored among old friends that my husband was still looking for me, but he was having no luck.  A nasty, demanding letter would find its way from his hand to mine every so often but, as far as he knew, I'd vanished.  It appeared I had broken away, leaped headfirst into the chance to start a new life, but I was haunted.

            I constantly looked over my shoulder - trembling.  When my head touched my pillow at night, I was plagued with terrors.  As soon as I drifted off to sleep, I was running from a vengeful God and losing ground.  I was being chased by terrifying angels and howling demons, all with one goal in mind:  to throw me into the pit of hell where I belonged.  I was being hunted, taunted, pummeled and raped.  I was falling... falling... falling...  I'd wake up panicked, sweating and short of breath.  These dreams seemed so real, and it would always take me a minute to realize that I was in my own bed, safe. 

There were no spiritual entities chasing me down.

My body was not being beaten and ripped to shreds.

There were no flames on my skin.

I would cry myself back to sleep, every single night.

            Why did things have to get to this point? When did a loving God become the predator and I the prey?  How did the Cross become so crooked?  I felt completely lost.  I knew where I'd come from, but I did not know where to go for help.  Church counselors were equally as lost.  My life was a mess and my situation was clearly over their heads, so all I could do was keep running. 

•     •     •     •     •

            Over the years, it has saddened me to see the lack of awareness in our world about religious abuse.  What does the term even mean?  Do people actually use scripture and a concept of God to abuse others?  Absolutely! 

            Whether someone is being harassed and manipulated by a religious leader into accepting one particular brand of theology, or trapped and beaten into submission by a power-hungry husband who uses scripture to justify his behavior, it is all abuse.  It exists all over the world, in extremist branches of every religion known to human-kind.  It started back at the dawn of time, and still plagues the earth to this day.  It affects more than just the minds and bodies of the victims on this earth.  Religious abuse reaches to the far corners of eternity and alters perspectives of an otherwise loving Divinity until there is no safe place left. 

            This is a kind of abuse where the abuser has the ability to dangle the abused by a thread over an eternal lake of flames, with threats of "You'll do what I say or else."  Scripture is used to demand submission and obedience even to the vilest of things.  This is abuse that warps the reality of today and breeds a paralyzing terror of eternity, causing the present to become the hell that is feared so much.  Yet, if the abuse is even acknowledged, many are terrified to speak up against it. 

            Through the telling of my story, I hope to shine a light into the painfully dark places that people are afraid to go.  My goal is not to bash Divinity or destroy anyone's faith, but to simply give validity to the reality of religious abuse that so many people survive every single day - in plain view of us all.  Some of the quotes and Bible verses that are used may be difficult for some to read in the context of this story, but each one has been chosen for a reason:  to prove how twisted and damaging religious abuse and mind control can be.    

            My story is not a pleasant one. Far from the average experience of the American Faithful, this story is not for the weak or faint of heart.  It is a story that I will tell with everything I have, however, with the hope that it will help someone break out of their captivity and find the courage to live. 



Story Preview

"When did a loving God become the predator and I the prey? 
How did the Cross become so crooked?" 

Willow was born into a strict, fundamentalist Christian environment, and she knew of nothing else.  She knew who God wanted her to be, according to everyone around her, but she didn't quite fit the mold.  She was far too busy, striving to be found worthy, to see the long dark road that she was headed down.  Trying desperately to earn the acceptance of her Father, and to appease the demanding God that he portrayed, she found herself trapped in an abusive, terrifying and cultic world that she didn't know how to escape.  "Crooked Cross: A Journey Out of Religious Abuse" is the true story of Willow's struggle to break away from a lifetime of harmful, religious control, and her amazing journey toward freedom.