“I’m so thankful God allows us the freedom to leave places that scare us and find safe places where we can rest. God is big enough to meet us anywhere.” -Elizabeth Esther
I was raised Roman Catholic, it was the faith of my family, but it was not something that was central to my life. Once I was out of High School I stopped going to church or considering myself affiliated to any type of faith system. In 2002 I had an encounter with Jesus that I believe transformed my life, and I started to attend a reformed protestant church. In all of this though, the idea of “cults” and fundamentalism seemed like the things you watch on documentaries, you know, “people that drink the kool aid” type groups.
Those ideas started to change when I started to follow Elizabeth Esther on Twitter. Her voice into the dangers of cults that may not look from the outside like the cults you see on “20/20” really started to get me to think about my definition and the dangers of fundamentalism in my life and thought. (She was also the reason Lauren and I started to watch American Idol, so thanks for that EE!)
Elizabeth is a great storyteller, she is able to grip you and pull you into her world and experiences. In her book “Girl At The End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future” she gives her autobiography of growing up in “The Assembly”. In her story we are brought into a legalistic group that controls and manipulates its’ members while using good Christian language. Elizabeth’s story is one of growing up in fear and confusion.
Elizabeth takes the reader on a journey of what it was like to grow up, to become a woman in this type of group. She tells of the control her grandparents held over this Assembly even down to who they date, how they date and what they grow up to do, all in the name of “God’s Glory”. And that may be what was most unsettling for me. What do we do for “God’s Glory” that has blinded us from the actual people in front of us? It can be tempting to read Elizabeth’s story and dismiss it as just a “fundy group” that was interesting but has no bearing on our life. However what I started to wonder was in our Christian culture of “modesty”, “courting” and even submission to authority can we at times fall into the same sin and danger that characterized The Assembly she was part of?
Modesty for example is something Lauren and I have discussed in raising 2 girls, one being a 9-year-old with her own fashion sense already. How do we encourage our daughters to see their bodies, as something to not be ashamed of but also something not flaunt for attention. We honestly do not have the answer to this, but Elizabeth’s book really challenged us to think deeply and to not just assume modesty language is the answer for our daughters and sons for that matter.
I think in the end, the beauty of Elizabeth’s story is the power of God’s grace and love to give her strength to break free from such a place. The grace of God, as well, to speak through her to help others in similar circumstances. And also conviction from God to challenge us in how we can use our faith, at times, as tools of power and control, not of love and grace.
I would strongly recommend this book on multiple levels. Just as a story it is well written and captivating, it was hard for me to put it down. On another level though it is convicting as well as inspiring in how we are live as Christians this side of Heaven and the dangers of legalism and authority.
This book left me with more questions, like “now what?” or “where do we go from here?”. I wish Elizabeth would’ve given a helpful guide to avoiding fundamentalism in our own lives, but maybe her book was to simply be about her story that also gives a mirror into our own.
“The more I choose to believe God loves me, the more loving I believe God is. I am no longer a victim being acted upon. I am now actively participating in loving God, loving myself, and loving others.” –Elizabeth Esther
You can purchase her book here on Amazon.
You can also follow Elizabeth’s blog here.