Girl At the End of the Word: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future. I knew the very second that my eyes previewed the title of this book, I had to read it. But I was almost scared to read it. How close to home would it hit? Is fundamentalism something to be ‘escaped’ from?
My family had a hard time finding a church when moved outside the Bible belt. We ended up joining a fundamentalist church because of the people’s love for each other and their sense of community, something I desperately longed for having left behind precious friendships in Texas. They embraced me even though my beliefs in the peripheral doctrines were different.
After joining, it felt like the pastor placed extra emphasis on these doctrines in his sermons and initiated special Bible study series’ on doctrines where my beliefs differed, seemingly on purpose, as if to show me the error of my ways. It wasn’t a cult, but my husband and I still joke about having to learn the secret handshake and chant to enter into their assembly. When we left, I felt a sense of freedom, but I still miss many of the people I had grown to love, and I value the impact some of them had in the lives of my children for the three years we were there.
But Elizabeth Esther’s experience was fundamentalism to the extreme. Fundamentalism in itself isn't a cult. A cult is about methods and behavior more than it is about beliefs. It is "the emotional seizing of people's trust, thoughts, and choices that identifies a cult." She shows how any group can cross the line into cultish-ness and how difficult it may be to recognize while right in the middle of it. She tells her story of growing up in the spiritual zeal of the Assembly, living in fear of the calculated spanking, surviving public high school under her parents' rigid rules of conduct, and eventually leaving the Assembly and healing from the emotional trauma it caused in her life. But most beautiful of all was how she found her way to the freedom and grace we have in Christ Jesus.
Her memoir reads like a novel, and from the moment I read the first words, I was hooked all the way to the end. The ending was a little surprising, but this book completely touched my soul and opened my eyes to pinpoint just exactly how much I hate it when Christians misrepresent the Bible and use it for power.
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I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.