Blog Archives

Revelations from a former ACE insider

This is a guest post. The author has chosen to remain nameless. The title (mine) does the post no justice; this is one of the most powerful ACE survivor stories we’ve had and I want everyone to read it.

I was a student at Maranatha Christian School in the UK from 2003 – 2005. I worked at an ACE school in Moscow, Russia in 2007 and at Christian Education Europe from 2007-2009. I also attended for many years a church overseen by then-director of Christian Education Europe, Arthur Roderick.

I started ACE “late” at age thirteen after spending the first parts of my schooling as an atheist in mainstream schools. I have little idea what drew my parents to Maranatha, but I suspect the low teacher-pupil ratio was one of the main reasons.

Having always been a “teacher’s pet” Maranatha was a whole new experience for me. Because I was not yet a Christian at that point and had little spiritual knowledge I was branded a “troublemaker.” In my first year at Maranatha I was given detentions and parents’ meetings for blaspheming, dying my hair, refusing to sing hymns during “opening exercise,” my lack of the “submissive nature” we were taught was expected of women, and even once for wearing trousers instead of a skirt to an earned “non-uniform” day.

I was harassed by teachers and students daily – eventually attempting suicide shortly before my fourteenth birthday. This further branded me as an ungodly troublemaker, particularly as I was referred to a child psychologist. Although the head teacher was not pleased and offered both prayer and a referral to a “Christian psychologist” as alternatives, my mother thankfully refused. I was, however, forbidden from returning to the (or any) doctor after his practical suggestions included removing me from Maranatha completely.

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ACE survivor becomes cultural anthropologist, dismantles curriculum

I am on holiday, so this is a scheduled post. So behave yourself in the comments, because I’m not around to moderate.

I recently had this great comment from an ex-ACE student who has since done a PhD in cultural anthropology. Their insights on ACE are lengthy but well worth reading. Unlike many of my guest posters (and me), Kachoukyori picks out positive parts from the ACE experience. This is something I’ll probably return to later. In order to understand why people turn to ACE, you need to understand what problems it is trying to solve.

If you search Google Images for “cultural anthropology” and choose only images that are free to reuse, this is the first result. No, I don’t know either.

This is a much-needed post, one I’ve circulated to friends over the years in trying to explain how global and curiously pervasive A.C.E. has become as a curriculum, adapting to shifts in contemporary fundamentalist culture, the growth of charismatic churches and aggressive right-wing politics linked to US hardline Christianity, and the anti-secular/social/government rise of homeschooling.

My father was a US military officer; we moved constantly. From the pre-K on I was enrolled in Baptist schools, by the 3rd grade I was placed in a school that used the ACE curriculum. I never experienced US public schools and was immersed in two peculiarly isolationist cultures: fundamentalist Christians and US military bases. What a combination, indeed! The Bible and the Sword.

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Being made to feel like you don’t exist

You may remember David Waldock’s excellent guest post, Jobs a Creationist Can Do. I mentioned that David was an ACE survivor, but for personal reasons preferred not to write about his own experience. Today he left a comment in which he described how attending an ACE school and fundamentalist church felt when he was a gay teenager. I defy you not to be moved. With permission, I’m reposting it here because I want everyone to see it. This comment was left in reply to today’s earlier post, in which Caroline, an ACE student, defended Accelerated Christian Education and the view that homosexuality is a perversion.

Caroline, let me tell you what I hear you saying:

“YOU DON’T EXIST. YOU DON’T EXIST. YOU DON’T EXIST. YOU DON’T EXIST. If I acknowledge you exist, it will fundamentally challenge my identity. THEREFORE YOU DON’T EXIST.”

Let me tell you about myself.

I was raised as an evangelical, fundamentalist, literal word of god believing good Christian, in an ACE school. I believed that I believed all the right things. Young earth creationism? Check! Infallibility of Biblical wisdom? Check! Christ born of a virgin? Check! Fundamental sinfulness of man? Check! Man led astray by woman? Check! Women inferior to man in every way? Check! Death and resurrection of my saviour? Check! Personal relationship with god? Check! Importance of strict discipline for children? Check! Satan hiding behind every street corner waiting to tempt me into sin? Check! Importance of being pious and judging the sinners (especially those believers who believe the wrong thing!) so they know they need to receive Jesus into their hearts? Check!

I had it all. And yet, I was never able to achieve the behavioural standards demanded of me. I got caned five times one week for leaving my flag up. I got demerits and detentions for looking insolent. I got told off publicly for arguing with monitors and supervisors. I was bullied by fellow students then punished for responding to it. We had staff who were bitter, twisted, abusive and poorly trained who took it out on me and other students. Then, when I got home, I would be criticised again, hit with a tennis shoe for showing my parents up. But at least nobody spoiled me by sparing the rod, eh! I left that school with three GCSEs. Read the rest of this entry

Wide Open Ground: My fundamentalist escape story

Lana’s Wide Open Ground is one of my favourite blogs. Lana is a Christian and advocate of home schooling, so in some ways her critiques of fundamentalism and home schools carry more weight than mine. Where some Christians dismiss me as an angry atheist, it’s not easy to say the same about Lana, whose thoughts are informed by a wealth of travel and experience. Lana’s insights on the potential damage caused by homeschooling and patriarchal Christianity are well worth reading.

Anyway, enough of my fanboy moment. Lana was kind enough to interview me on her blog. Here’s a bit more of my story for you.

I can’t remember ever not believing in God. I know that I prayed the sinner’s prayer when I was very young. I think I started praying in tongues at six or seven. It was something I’d heard my mum do a few times. It had been strange and scary to hear these alien noises coming out of her mouth with such intensity. After I heard her do it a few times I asked her what it was. She explained that it was the Holy Spirit inside her praying the perfect prayer..

I said, “I think I’ll try.”

“You can’t try. You have to pray and God will give you the ability.”

We prayed together for me to be filled with the Spirit, and nothing happened immediately. My mum said goodnight and put out my light. I lay in bed alone in the dark, wondering if it had worked.

Eventually, I plucked up the courage to try speaking. “Sandaracki sanderay,” I said.

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Lana’s guest post for me will be up later this week.

Survivor Story: ACE and Bible Verse Bookmarks

“I was shunned, but survived”. I’m thrilled to present today’s guest post, from Rebecca Arman of Tasmania. Rebecca mentioned to me in emails how difficult her experience of fundamentalism was to get over, and she was unsure about writing her story, so I hope you’ll all leave comments to thank her for her honesty and courage.

Of all my stories of my past life challenges,  I find this one a very difficult one to tell. Perhaps I’m embarrassed knowing what I know now, to remember those days. And perhaps I still feel loyal to my partner and a reluctance to dishonour him. But I make this bit clear. I do not dishonour him. I loved him dearly and fought hard with him to beat the tumour that took his life. I did not want him to die, nor my children to grow up without a father. But sometimes men make bad decisions. And he sure did make one bad one…..

I am writing this in a lovely bakery near Salamanca market on a balmy Hobart Saturday afternoon. I’m feeling at peace, in my new independent travel mode, enjoying the buzz and beauty of Battery Point. With old buildings containing galleries and shops on one side, a sea port on another, a mountain backdrop, and green parks to laze in, it is a stunning part of Tasmania I rarely knew when I lived here years ago. Nearly 30 years has passed since my first baby was born on the opposite part of Tasmania in very different circumstances. ACE is Accelerated Christian Education, and it is still taught in church run schools in Western Countries today.

When my first baby was born, my husband had started a job as a teacher in a Baptist Church School that used ACE curriculum. During the years leading up to this I was the only daughter of a strict, verbally and emotionally abusive father and an unhappy, resentful mother. When  I met my children’s father, he was a ‘normal’, fun loving, attractive, fit, kind hearted person, a graduate from teachers college seeking employment. A few years later I had involuntarily become a fundamentalist Christian  teacher/pastors wife, and  the indoctrination of those years had a huge tole on me. Many years of counselling, thinking, reading and reprogramming was needed before I became a real person. I drifted into early marriage after my loneliness of teenage bully years, which together with my parents nightly fighting and totally dysfunctional relationship, had created an insecurity and void in my life. I had no confidence, and my friends were few. Nothing I did could please my parents and I felt I didn’t fit in or belong anywhere.  I was unloved, so I married, for love, had babies to be loved, and accepted, and before I knew it my life spun out of control and I was in a community where I knew little of life outside this church school. It killed my soul and broke my heart, but I recovered.  Read the rest of this entry