Two years ago, I asked readers to submit questions they would like Polly to answer. What follows are her answers. If you would like to ask new questions or follow-up questions, please leave them in the comment section.
Becky asked, What was the biggest influence on you leaving the church?
The biggest influence for me personally was the church people themselves. After Bruce left the ministry, we started looking for a church to attend. Always so happy to see someone new come in the doors, but that is where it ended. At one church, Thornhill Baptist Church in Hudson, Michigan, we were once referred to as “fresh meat”! Seriously! We were rarely visited after we attended a new church and no one seemed to care if we showed back up. Eventually, all the churches seemed the same, different names, but not really different. We reached a point where we said, why bother?
Annie asked, What do you feel has been the BIGGEST change in your life since you two left the prison?
I think sleeping in on Sundays would be number one. Then, maybe, my wardrobe! Bruce forgets how many times on our 35th wedding anniversary trip I wore a dress…everyday. So, I do have a few dresses. You never know when someone dies and you have to attend their funeral. Definitely no shorts though, I inherited my grandmother’s varicose veins…ugh!
April asked, Did you ever have questions or doubts of your own as to the veracity of the religion you were being raised in and living BEFORE your husband Bruce did?
I always was told that doubting was of the devil so I never was much of a doubting person. I was raised in church and believed everything that was taught. I was a sincere follower of Jesus. In college, someone once brought up Calvinism. I wanted to know more about that because it made sense to me, and this challenged my beliefs a bit, but I quickly dispensed with the question and never thought about it again. Much later, when Bruce started down his path and loss of faith, I desperately held on to my preacher’s wife identity. I couldn’t be anything else, could I? But, when the picture is clear in front of you, you can’t deny it any longer! I am now all those lovely things Bruce has told you all before!
NeverAgainV asked, Do you have a specific moment of event that happened (an epiphany) that was defining for you with realizing that maybe your religion could be wrong? If so, how did you deal with it?
I had no “aha” moment. It just was. It was truly a journey of discovery over time. I am a little slow and deliberate, unlike Bruce who is decisive and spur of the moment, so when I finally decided I was done, I was done. It was like being lied to all your life and deciding (finally) that I was DONE!
Paula asked, did you harbor secret ambitions as a young girl/woman that you felt the adults around you would not support?
There were no secret ambitions, I wanted to be a mommy when I grew up. I was the ultimate good girl. Doing as I was told and believing what I was told to believe.
Paula asked, Did you wish you could dress and groom yourself differently than what was allowed?
I remember wearing pants until I was about 12. We were allowed to wear them to play out in the snow, but nowhere else. In the 12th grade (1975) , I had to buy a pair so I could go horseback riding with some classmates (all girls). Then, there were no more pants until we were back in Ohio and I was working at Sauder Woodworking once again (2005). I remember Bruce buying me some capri’s when we were in Arizona in 2004. I felt so sinful putting them on. The rest is history!
Paula asked, Did you secretly believe in birth control?
Birth control? What was that? I had the obligatory sex-education in school (I attended a Christian school) , but it was no big deal. It wasn’t until Bruce and I were engaged that we read “The Act of Marriage” by Tim LaHaye. That was truly scary and embarrassing!
My mother, a fundamentalist Baptist pastor’s wife, on the night before Bruce and I got married, took me to her room and told me about what her aunts told her on the night before she got married. It wasn’t enjoyable, it could be painful, and to just endure it. We could make the most of it if we wanted. My sister, who was 3 years younger than me, had it all figured out by then. (I was 19 and she was 16)
Lydia asked, What has Bruce written that you disagree with?
Hmm, I don’t know if there has ever been anything that he has written that I have disagreed with him. We usually disagree (fight?) about stupid stuff that doesn’t matter. When it comes to cultural issues and social issues like abortion and homosexuality, I am liberal/progressive.
IFBfree asked, Since you have left the IFB church…How has that affected your relationships with family members that are still involved in the IFB? Are you an atheist also?
Since we have left the church and Bruce sent a letter to the family about us longer believing, my relationship with believing family members has been stiff, to say the least. It is like the elephant in the room, a very large elephant in a very small room. My relationship with my believing parents is good, but we never talk about “it”. Since my sister died in a motorcycle accident in 2005, I am the “only” daughter now. They don’t want to “lose” me, therefore we don’t even come close to discussing “it”. To the rest of the family, I am just a sad by-product of Bruce’s influence. They have felt from the beginning of our marriage that I have been brainwashed by Bruce and only do what he tells me to do.
No, I am not an atheist. I consider myself a humanist. It fits my personality!
Tammy asked, What do you love to do when its all and only about you?
After reading your paragraph, before the question, I would say we are kindred spirits! I am a pleaser. I am always waiting on other people. My three daughters-in-law think their husbands are spoiled. Maybe they are! When Bruce writes about trying to get me to make my own decision, that is totally true! I am either indecisive or double think myself. What is best for everyone, not just myself! Anyways, when I am rarely alone, I have a book in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. And other times, you can find me in the kitchen. I love to cook and bake (for others). I would also like to make a living doing what I love the best, but I wouldn’t make enough money to support us.
Monica asked, Hi Polly, I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences of no longer having to live in the shadows of a preacher husband in the way of having your own identity and your freedom to think for yourself.
I believe it took about a year for me to finally come to terms with losing my preacher’s wife status and identity. I truly didn’t know anything else. Now that I am “just” Bruce’s wife, there occasionally is still a small shadow of my former identity. The freedom to think for myself is the hardest part. I can do it at work because I have employees under me, and the decisions are all company based. But at home I am still taking baby steps, sometimes two steps forward and one step back. For instance, if I know, in advance, what restaurant we are going to, I try to make my menu choice before I get there. That way, the waiter/waitress doesn’t have to return half a dozen times. Or if we are in line at McDonald’s, the cars aren’t lined up ten deep.
Carmen asked, What was going on in your head and your heart when Bruce started voicing his misgivings? Were you shocked? relieved? worried about your relationship?
I remember the first time that Bruce actually said out loud that he didn’t think there was a God. I was shocked! Surely, he didn’t mean it! What will become of us? We talked about it a lot back in those days. At first, I thought he would come back around. Then, I came to see that what he was saying made a lot of sense and I thought “where IS god”? If there was a god, wouldn’t he send us a sign that he was real? Helloooooo? Our relationship is so much better because we now have a lot in common and are both free to be different from the other.
Sgl asked, in a post on Halloween…were there other areas that you thought Bruce was crazy? in particular, things that directly affected your life or the kid’s life? Were there any issues that you would have put your foot down on? Did I think Bruce was a crazy?
No, back then I thought everyone else was crazy for not believing the same as we did. Did I ever question his decisions? Sure, I mentally questioned , but never verbally! Bruce was the head of the home and he was also my pastor. I was a good passive and submissive wife who didn’t question his decisions! That passivity never helped my “bad habit” of rolling my eyes! I tried not to roll them, it was a sign of disrespect, seriously! So, no, I would never have put down my foot on decisions that Bruce made. Even now, I tend to defer to him. Old habits die-hard!
Sgl asked, did you ever try to influence Bruce’s opinions subtly? (eg: drop hints, cook his favorite meals when he did what you suggested, not tell him something, etc.)
I suppose that not speaking up would be one way to tell him I disapproved of something. As to the rest? NEVER! Now he says I use sex and food to influence him!
Kerry asked, what do you regret most about how you raised your children? And do you have any advice for those of us that have deconverted who still have adult children in the church?
I think what I regret the most would have to be dragging my children through all of the muck of Christianity and fundamentalism. They never had a choice while growing up. I never had a choice while growing up. We were told how to act and what to believe. The children are all grown adults now. We get the occasional comment from one of their supervisors that they have a great work ethic, so there is one plus! Whatever they want to believe is okay, as long as they know why they believe what they do. I am totally a live and let live. We love them no matter what decisions they make!
Silver asked, I was wondering what the best and worst things are for you in particular in leaving the faith. I can think of many good aspects of it, but what has been the best of them? What do you miss (if anything)?
The best thing about leaving the faith is finally being able to see that everyone is human and that Christianity does not make a person any better than anyone else. The worst thing would have to be the judgementalism and harsh criticism from family and friends (now former friends). If I miss anything, it would have to be the fellowship we had with the church members. Bruce liked to plan potlucks, of which he ate very little of unless it was mine, and outings for the adults, usually at some nice restaurant,
Lynn asked, Did you have any rules for Bruce, as far as how he could use you or the children in his sermons? And did you ever have any “words” about such things?
I would never have given Bruce rules to preach by. Bruce and I discussed this question before I answered it. I don’t think Bruce ever used us as “bad” illustrations. Sure, he would mention us, but I don’t remember anything negatively. Sometimes his personal illustrations embarrassed me because I don’t like being pointed out, for good or bad. We never had “words” about his sermons. They were given to him by “God”, so who was I to say otherwise? It is certainly strange-looking back and wondering how we ever came away from all of our religious training, and not be totally insane.
Zoe asked, What is your favorite color? (Something easy…)
Thank you, thank you! My favorite color is blue! Ask anybody. When it comes time to paint a room, Bruce will say, “as long as it’s not blue”! We have one blue room, our bedroom; a dark blue, not quite navy. It will be navy the next time I paint. The trim is a very pale blue. I love waking up in that room! Bruce’s favorite color is blue too.
Texas Born & Bred asked, Why do women convert to super-conservative faiths that are obviously degrading to women?
Hmmm! I know Bruce has written about this not too long ago, but my excuse is, I was born and raised this way. (did that sound a little Lady Gaga-ish?) I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know I had a choice. I was never exposed to any other way or religion! I knew ours was the right religion and the others were wrong because my parents, pastors, college professors, and husband said they were. I was taught that the woman’s place was in the home, barefoot and pregnant, constantly cooking. (that was mostly tongue in cheek) I honestly don’t know why any women would willingly choose such degradation.
Guest asked, Are you a closet Christian?
How to put this nicely…??? Hell No! Although, my parents probably wish it were so!
Guest asked, What specifically drove you from Christianity?
I know I have answered something like this before, but one reason was the insincerity of people in the church. Another reason was that churches, no matter the name above the door, were the same. I have met a few people (I can count on one hand, maybe two if I think hard about it) that I would consider true Christians. Then, there was the things I read and the discussions that Bruce and I had. It wasn’t one specific thing but an accumulation of things or reasons that eventually led me out of Christianity.