Things About Justice


Injustice begins with the belief that not all men are created equal. That some, by designation of race, social status, belief, or physical ability, are relegated to different treatment than the rest of us. Whether this belief is subconscious (as it is for many of us) or overt and intentional, it is the driving force of injustice. 

I have been asked repeatedly about my motivations for telling the story of my time at Marble. I have said that my goal is not to destroy the lifestyle or even to change the minds of people who live at Marble. I believe in their right to practice any belief, lifestyle and philosophy they choose. I have had several discussions lately with friends and family members about freedom of thought and belief and how far it can go before it encroaches upon even more fundamental rights of others. As with any extremism, the belief in one absolute pathway to righteousness results in the oppression, injustice and abuse of anyone who does not follow the same pathway, calling or belief system. 

Throughout centuries of human civilization, long before the bible, before Jesus' lifetime, before Islam was established, human beings have annihilated other cultures for the sake of righteousness. The only guard against this is equality: the deep rooted belief that none of us has a more direct pathway to righteousness than any other. Freedom of religion for one person or sect ends where the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of another human being is threatened. 

I have been asked what action I believe needs to be taken against Marble, or toward the leaders of that place. My answer is none, unless it can be proved that they are still infringing on the basic human rights of other people as they did when I lived at Marble. This trespass can only be proved if someone who is experiencing that oppression, injustice and abuse speaks out. 

The experiences I had at Marble took place more than 16 years ago. The people who remain will tell you that Marble's leadership style has changed. That Marble has changed. I want with all of my heart to believe that, but I have yet to see evidence of this. In March of 1997, Jim Buck preached a sermon at Marble about repentance. "True repentance means understanding in our heart the injury we have caused by our wrong,"  he said. I wrote this quote in my notes, along with scriptures that Buck offered to back up his description of what real repentance looks like. 

I have never seen this spirit in the leadership for anything that has happened over the years at Marble. I have spoken to many former and current members who have voiced their deep remorse and sadness for their part in harmful processes that exacerbated or even triggered deep brokenness in individuals and families, but I have never heard or seen a Core Group leader take responsibility for any wrong doing. I believe this is because they still believe that they were not wrong. 

After leaving Marble in 2004, I returned often with my kids for God and Country Days. Keeping silent about my experiences at Marble had allowed me to remain in fellowship with the community in spite of our differences and since most of my adult life and my friends and family were there, I visited many times. In 2014, I worked for the weekend at one of the food vendor booths where I had the opportunity to meet Matt Shea, Michelle Fiori and many other who's-whos of the patriot movement. (If you don't know these names by now, I encourage you to Google them.) In 2015, Marble hosted Pastor John Weaver as a key-note speaker for their 21st Annual God and Country Days on  Independence Day weekend.

John Weaver is a pastor who hails from Georgia. He uses the story in Genesis of Noah condemning descendants of his son Ham to servitude in order to to claim that God ordained slavery. In a sermon contrasting "biblical" and "pagan" slavery, Weaver says: "Slavery cannot be inherently evil in and of itself," arguing that Jesus would not have used slavery as an analogy of his ministry if it was inherently evil. Weaver goes on to preach that anything that the infallible bible says must be correct, including referring to human beings such as slaves and wives as the property of another. I would encourage everyone to listen to some of Weaver's sermons if you have any questions about how damaging a literal interpretation of the bible can be and to understand the elitist ideals that dominionist religion creates. I recommend his piece "The Sins of the Jews" for a good starting point. This is where inequality is born. This is where injustice begins. 

I have been asked repeatedly about whether I saw or heard racism, white supremacy or Christian Identity concepts and principles at play during my time at Marble. When I joined Marble I was completely naive to this doctrine. I had no idea, as an 18-year-old, that one of the main reasons that my parents had given Marble a wide berth for so long was because they were very well acquainted with Anne and Barry Byrd's involvement in the Christian Identity movement, stemming from their time at the Ark out in Cedar Creek and a belief in the theology of British Israel. These concepts are displayed shamelessly on the sleeve of their bluegrass band's first album, Judah's Advance. 

The record sleeve describes in no uncertain terms their belief in the westward migration of the "true children of Israel" who eventually settled in Scotland, Ireland, Britain and "every other Christian, Anglo-Saxon nation in the world today." (side note: the Byrd's grandson is named Saxon.)

This album was produced in 1984, only three years before my family moved to Colville. When my parents took us back to Washington DC in 1985, this was the soundtrack to our road trip. We listened to it so much that I can still sing every word to every song to this day. For years the sound of a banjo made me carsick. (Update: I am now a huge bluegrass fan.)

While My parents liked the overall patriotic theme, they were unable to reconcile the extreme religious insinuations that they heard preached by the Byrds and their cohorts and could not support Anne and Barry's new community when it launched not long after we moved to Stevens County.

Judah's Advance was followed in 1988 by the Remnant Resolves, a treatise on god and government authored and signed by a committee that included Barry Byrd, Brad Bulla, and several others who traveled in the Christian Identity movement of the late '80s.

This riveting piece of literature states: "It is blasphemous to regard antichrists as 'God's chosen people' and allow them to rule over or hold public office in a Christian nation," it goes on to declare that "interracial marriage pollutes the integrity of the family," and lumps homosexuality into the same pool of egregious sin as abortion and pornography.

After Marble faced an onslaught from local media about their background and involvement in white supremacy circles, the Byrds and other leaders faced a political decision point. They authored a position paper on Christian Identity that they released sometime in the late '90s, distancing themselves from their former beliefs and stating that Marble would neither teach nor support this theology. This position paper gave my parents enough comfort to give Marble a chance but it was around this time that a sizable exodus happened from the church when people who had come to Marble to live in an intentional community with this shared belief system realized that the Byrds were making the political decision to refrain from teaching identity doctrine and they left.




I came to Marble not long before this shift happened and was blissfully unaware of everything except for complaints from the pulpit about attacks from the media, as Anne addressed in November of 1996: "The system's reproach is not disgrace." Throughout my time in cell groups and the occasional interactions I was allowed with the prep school, Anne made veiled references to British Israel ideology, always followed with a "but we aren't going there" statement and throwing her hands in the air.

I do believe the Byrds and other leaders tried to downplay the role that British Israel theology played into their overall dominionist perspective. I believe if you asked most of the congregation at Marble during the late '90s and early 2000s, there would be very few instances of exposure to Christian Identity philosophies except in the closest inner circles. The ties weren't severed completely, however, as I reference patriot leader Bo Gritz on my list of prayer request in October of 1996 (I had no idea who he was at the time), indicating that the Byrds were still in close contact with Gritz and the far-right political spectrum.



This intentional move away from shouting their questionable ideologies from the rooftops only fed into the top-secret, elitism that came to be one of the most intriguing and compelling parts of Marble. Only the most trustworthy were allowed into the inner sanctum, developing strategies and planning for the eventual deployment of the kingdom of god in Stevens County.

When John Weaver was announced as Marble's "Patriot Pastor" for God and Country Days in 2015, his prevailing themes were brought to my attention by another former member of Marble. They had voiced their concern to leaders about what the introduction of someone like Weaver would do to the reputation of Marble that the Byrds had worked so hard to rebuild. I also told event planners that I felt like hosting Weaver would be a decisively destructive move to their PR, even if he didn't preach on his more inflammatory topics and even if the community "didn't support" everything he taught. Our cries fell on deaf ears. The response I received was that the decision was made by Anne and Barry and would not be questioned. They would not back down. From my perspective, the Byrds delivered their own death blow to Marble with this decision.

Both the choice of Weaver as a keynote speaker and the inability to sway the Byrd's destructive decision making tell me that little has changed at Marble. As in the late 1990s, they have learned to strategically mask and carefully hide their practices and true beliefs for more a politically and socially acceptable appearance, but with Weaver, they overplayed their hand.

In response to whether or not Marble and the people who reside there are racist, my answer continues to be that every last one of us is racist to some extent. We cannot know the experiences we haven't had. The question is about motive and execution. My racism manifests unintentionally in insensitivity that I don't even realize I am displaying, but my worldview could never include the presupposition that god loves me more or has a bigger, better plan for me than for any other human. The Byrd's racism stems from a belief that god has chosen them for a specific purpose over and above other human beings of different races and theologies.

The more important question is whether or not Marble and the people who reside there are dangerous. My answer to that is no - conditionally. For perspective, many of the people who live at Marble now do not even go to church there. A few are peripherally involved in political things (such as the Liberty State movement). Only a handful of families remain at Marble that are still deeply involved in the church. Most of these people are good, kind citizens who have every intention of living peacefully in a lifestyle that seems strange to any of us who haven't been there. It's just another form of prejudice to think that the different way they have chosen to live is sub-par or wrong... It's not a lifestyle I want any more, but I once did and I understand why they do. They educate their children (boys and girls), they socialize, they enjoy life just like the rest of us, with very few variations. As long as they do so peacefully without bringing harm to the life or liberty of other human beings, I support their right to do so.

It's when the radicalized beliefs of people like Anne Byrd are fed into innocent minds, minds that lack the critical thinking skills that exposure to diverse lifestyles and philosophies provides, this is when they become dangerous. Marble has always attracted the broken and lost, the ones seeking direction and purpose. The Byrds provide that, and using the tactics that are taught in Dedication and Leadership, and the Self Confrontation Guide, they create loyalty and leverage to stir up passion in young followers. This passion is only dangerous if it is engaged by an outside force.

The worst fate imaginable for megolamaniacs like Anne Byrd would be to die out slowly without meaning anything. To go quietly into the night without leaving a mark. She's looking for a fight and always has been. To stir up any reaction to her and the movement she has been fanning the flames of for years is to play right into her hand and offer her the fantasy of martyrdom that she has long cried for. The Byrds would love to die for their beliefs. This would be fine if it weren't for the innocent lives they'd sacrifice in the crossfire to make it happen. Marble is only dangerous if they have an enemy. As the community surrounding them, the best hope and safety we can provide for them and for ourselves is to let them live in peace. Do not vote them into office. Do not instigate war with them. Do not allow them the political relevance they've been seeking for decades.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

To cut off or shun members of Marble because of how they believe would make us no better than them. They can be members of the larger community (and many are) without subverting local government with religious dominionism (which some are trying to do). My admonishment to the citizens of Stevens County is to become educated about the people who are running for office.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Religious liberty isn't omni-directional. Religious liberty ends where it infringes on the life or liberty of another human being. Anne and Barry Byrd, much like radicalized Muslims with their sharia law, do not hold this belief. For the Byrds, there is one religion and one way to practice, and one people chosen by god. It is not just, it is not equal and it is not what this nation was founded on. It is not what men and women, heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr. have fought and died to defend.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Martin Luther King, Jr. 




Things That Shatter: Family Ties


My Family

My parents, who had moved to Marble after my wedding and become fully involved in the community, decided to leave Marble in February of 1998. My mom asked in a community meeting if there was any sort of budget for the tithes, restitution and other income for the church that could be shared with the congregation. She was immediately condemned for daring to question the word of the lord (through Anne Byrd), and called out for a spirit of Jezebel that would sow seeds of mistrust in the community. 

The final straw for them came when another family at Marble (which happened to be Anne Byrd's brother and his wife) dared to question Anne and Barry and were formally excommunicated. We were told we could have no communication with this family or hear their side of the story. Their confessed sins were recited by Anne and Barry for the entire congregation to cast judgement and vote for excommunication, guided carefully by leadership. We were told that Anne's brother carried a spirit of Absolom, a character from the bible who was King David's third son, a rebel who set himself against his father and was killed.

The vote was almost unanimous, with a few abstentions from families who would leave Marble shortly thereafter. Community involvement in processes like this were a way for leadership to disperse responsibility for actions taken across the congregation so that no fingers could point directly at them. The guilt of our involvement in these events is the overwhelming reason that most of us who have left Marble have not told our stories. We all live with the burden of shame for our participation. After the excommunication, my parents had had enough, and they made plans to leave. 

When it became clear that my parents were making an exodus, Anne Byrd cautioned them that if they chose to “slander” Marble to the outside world that they, as leaders, would be forced to share with the community the sins that my parents had confessed to leadership. This was a reference to my father’s “confessed” lack of strong leadership and my mother’s insubordination to spiritual authority.

Shortly after this meeting, my dad was called into a meeting with some of the male leaders (my mother was not invited) and was told that he needed to get his household in order and bring his wife under submission. When leadership found little traction in this approach, my mom was counseled to “Matthew 18” my dad for his lack of leadership and apostasy of his spiritual authority over her.

My sister, who was turning18 in April of 1998, was desperate to stay in the community where she (as I) had found a network of peers were she felt that she belonged. The chronic church-hopping of our childhood and being homeschooled made us hungry to connect and belong in one place with people our own age.   

Even though she was only weeks away from legal adulthood, the strength of belief in spiritual authority that both my family and the church carried meant that she could not stay on her own independent of a male covering. This was one thing that my parents and leadership agreed on. Until she was married there was no question in my parents' minds that our father would be the only appropriate covering for her. They would not give their blessing for my sister to stay.


My sister wrote a letter of appeal to Anne and Barry, requesting to be allowed to stay at Marble. In her letter she wrote that she felt called to Marble and that she couldn't follow my father away from the church because she lacked faith in his spiritual leadership. She wrote that she feared spiritual death if she would be required to stay with my family. 

The men then called a meeting and were required to vote either for or against taking ownership of my sister’s spiritual covering. My sister was planning to go into the Prep School and would be living in Steve Parker’s house and under his authority. Steve Melzer also took personal responsibility for her spiritual covering and after Prep School she would live with the Melzers until she was married.

At the meeting, her letter of appeal was shared but my parents were not given an opportunity to give their side of the story, nor even allowed to attend. Later, long after my dad requested a meeting with Barry about the issue, Barry responded with a scathing letter to my dad telling him how rebellious and insubordinate his spirit was in the request and how he couldn't think of indulging such a spirit. Having read both my father's letters to Barry and Barry's response recently, my stomach turns at the outright and oppressive bullying tactics that Barry employs in his response.  

It was made clear to the men that were gathered in that meeting that my father refused to hear the Holy Spirit regarding his daughter, basing the accusations once again on my dad's confessed weakness in spiritual leadership, and every man in the meeting (except for one) voted in support of the church assuming the role of her spiritual covering against my parent’s wishes. This was another example of the Byrds systematically use of the congregation to pass down decisions which they impressed upon members as revelation from god. 



The Shunning

After my parents left, momentum was building among families who had also cut ties with Marble, including my father-in-law, Paul Glanville, Anne’s brother and his family and several other people who departed from the community after the excommunication. From these families, letters were written to leadership, and up the accountability line to Dennis Peacocke and the Fellowship of Christian Leaders, the authority council that Anne and Barry claimed to be submitted to, as well as several letters sent to community members, pointing out damaging leadership style if not calling Marble out as a cult. 

My parents wrote a letter to Barry in defense of Jay Grimstead, a philosopher and pastor of some repute in the theological circles that we belonged to. Jay had made a public statement decrying Anne and Barry’s lack of accountability, controlling leadership style and the warning signs he saw during several months at Marble when he and his wife lived there during a sabbatical. Grimstead, along with other former members who dared to speak out, or "slander" leaders at Marble, was heralded as heretics and false prophets, according to one of Barry’s sermons. Slander became one of the hottest buzz words at Marble during this time, used liberally to refer to anything said about Marble that leadership didn't agree with. 

We were warned to keep our distance from the dissenters and the spirit of rebellion that was seeking to destroy the work of the lord. At the end of 1998, it was determined that all relationships with slandering former members should be cut off. They should be “shunned” from fellowship, with the intention of using “tough love” to bring them back into covenantal relationship. For me and my sister, this meant that we needed to tell our parents that we could not longer have relationship with them until they repented for the slander and rebellious attack against Marble.

We wrote letters to them, delineating the trespasses that they had committed against us and our covenant family and casting judgement on them for their spiritual rebellion. 

Until my sister married some time later. My dad could not bring himself to recognize the newly, self-appointed spiritual authority in her  life and the rift was painful. When she married her husband (who had come to the prep school from a sister church in Zillah), she was walked down the aisle by Steve Melzer. My parents were invited at the last minute through a special dispensation of grace from leadership, but they decided against coming to bear witness to the rejection of their role in her life. 

The repercussions of this process on our family would last for years. My journal is filled with entries crying out about the deeply conflicting thoughts, beliefs and feelings about cutting off relationship with my parents. In one journal entry I list off several repentances I needed to make, including one to Anne Byrd for "Unholy loyalty based on uncovenantal relationships and damaged trust." I remember having several conversations with Anne and Cheryl about how wrong it felt, how dishonoring I thought I was being. The response was sympathetic but staunch. Anne had, after all, excommunicated her own brother and his family. 

Excerpt from a letter to my parents, dated May 4th, 2002: 
    “Today is Emily’s wedding, and the place that only you can fill is painfully empty, but I believe God has a plan for all of us in this. Emily has so much to learn, and many of life’s lessons require the pain of many people. I am thankful for your willingness to endure the pain for the sake of growth. 
  "I confidently speak for Emily when I say that you are the best and only parents that we could have asked for, to raise us into our destiny and make us who we need to be to maximize God’s plan for our lives. We love you, and we thank God for you.”






Things About Being Chosen: Hierarchy, Elitism and Playing Favorites


Disqualified

Throughout my time at Marble I had frequent head-butting sessions with Anne and Barry Byrd’s daughter, who was a few years older than I was.  As time went on at Marble, she would single me out to "hold me accountable" for an ongoing barrage of character flaws and trespasses against the community.  Being the presumptive leader of every prep-school or youth related activity, Dannie would send me home if she didn’t like what I was wearing, or tell me I was disqualified from performing because my home and/or my marriage wasn't in order. The hypocrisy of her treatment of me was absurd and profound. 

The Prep School spent several months one year, planning a trip to Washington DC (American Constitutional history and government was a big part of the academic focus of the Prep School curriculum), and I offered my services to help prepare a script and choreograph a performance that the students would share at churches and other organizations while they were back east. We spent weeks rehearsing. Dannie and I served as ad-hoc directors of the program. I was happy to be involved, even knowing I was not qualified to be invited on the trip. 

During one rehearsal, Dannie sent me home to change my shirt when I came wearing an over sized white t shirt (chosen because it was not form fitting), with big black letters “FBI” printed on the front. My dad bought me the FBI shirt when I visited them in DC the year before. She was insistent that the letters stood for “Female Body Inspector,” calling in one of the male Prep School student leaders to validate her claim. Whether or not he agreed with what she was claiming was irrelevant. Nobody argued with Dannie about anything during this time period. It was far too likely that she would call Anne in to "mediate" the conflict and the reprimand for dishonoring her daughter would be relentless. Dannie demanded I go home and change. The situation was so absurd that I didn’t return to rehearsal that day. 

While I was pregnant with MacKenzie, a closed-door Core Group meeting took place which we found out later was a shotgun wedding for Dannie and a local redneck. Not even into the beginning stages of  what Marble called the “courtship” process (a holy substitute for dating), Dannie had gotten pregnant and they were quietly married. The hush-hush meeting was followed by a community celebration which included a baby shower for the couple. 

Halle's first Christmas, 1996. I was pregnant with MacKenzie.
I remember sitting in the party feeling guilty that I noticed the disparity in public retribution for their fornication when I had suffered so greatly for mine. I kept reminding myself of the parable of the workers, who were all paid equally for an inequitable amount of work, and how the ungrateful ones complained that they were not paid more even though it was the agreed upon amount. And like Jesus said, the last will be first… etc. 

All of this took place not long after Dannie was caught embezzling from the ambulance service where she worked in Colville, using the ambulance fuel cards to fill her own gas tanks. She spent three days in jail (these records should be available on request from Stevens County) and told our cell group that she was away at an EMS training. The disparity in treatment among community members was remarkable. In recent conversations with other former Marbleites, this preferential treatment has come up often. Anne and Barry had specific favorites (including of course, their daughter) singled out for a different level of privilege and an entirely revised gradient of consequence for sin.

When I finally began to challenge Dannie on her abuse of power and arbitrary judgement, I was met with surprise and fear. She knew that I was a threat to her role in the community and I brought at least as much experience, intelligence and talent to all of our team undertakings as she did, if not more. Her personal vendetta toward me kept me constantly in a humiliating checkmate, and many of our peers at the time can attest to her bizarre contempt for me. 

Anne Byrd focused much of her energy on the young adults in the community. She created the Banquet & Ball - which was a sort of prom substitute that allowed all of the young people (high school - marriage) to dress up and dance according to historic rituals and carefully choreographed performances. Dance lessons were required leading up to the ball, as well as etiquette classes for  both the young men and ladies. 

David and I at a "community ball"
that followed the prep school banquet but 
was open to everyone in the church.
In addition to teaching the young ladies the horrors of sex, the young men were instructed on the vulgarity of peeing while standing up and were required to use the toilet sitting down (another of Anne Byrd’s ideas). This new culture of etiquette was enforced up the age ranks throughout the community for several years before the men got sick of it. For all of the patriarchal rumors that circulate about Marble, the place was run without question by Anne Byrd. A male member of the congregation speaking up against Anne was rare, if it ever happened at all. Anne publicly and contemptuously rebuked Barry in front of the congregation on many occasions when he misspoke or she took exception with what he said.

Anne invited me to sit in on the training and the banquet and ball the first year as a sort of scribe/journalist, to take notes and pictures and write about the event. Being married and pregnant and my life all out of order, I wasn’t “qualified” to participate fully, so I sat in a corner of the Byrd’s house where the training took place and the elegant dinner was served and took notes quietly. 

Eventually I was cut off from all involvement with the Prep School and I began teaching Literature and theater classes to elementary aged students at Marble, as well as taking Irish Dance lessons in Kettle Falls and teaching students at Marble Irish dance along with a couple of other girls from the community. Going through my binders of material from the teaching and investment that I put into Marble it boggles my mind. Even so, I was never regarded as a key player in Marble's destiny for dominion, something that was made very clear to me over and over again by leaders in the church.

That's me on the far right.

A Visit to the Outside World

A group from Marble went down for a conference in Spokane at Harvest Christian Fellowship, a sister church that was hosting a worship event. I was enthralled with the big city church and the young couples and families who all seemed to be Godly, upright followers of Christ but also fashionable and pretty chill. I remember coming home from the conference, sitting in a vehicle next to Cheryl Melzer and talking excitedly about how nice all the people were and how fun it would be to do more things with them. Cheryl’s response was a resigned pity for their watered down version of Christianity that precluded them from the grandiose Kingdom plans that Marble was called to. This was typical of Marble’s elitist dominion mandate. 

Inquest

During the Prep School years, Anne held “inquests” for most of the student. It was an intensive rooting out of issues and speaking life and destiny into each individual. It was a spiritual prophesying of future kingdom roles, responsibilities and giftings. 

I desperately wanted an inquest of my own. I wanted to be spoken into and envisioned by leaders and my peers. My journals capture the excitement I felt when I was finally going to be allowed an inquest of my own. It's clear that I wasn't qualified to go through that process with Anne herself, but Steve and Cheryl Melzer were willing to stand in and humor my request. It was cancelled at the last minute thanks to some errand the Melzers had to run. I am grateful now that it never happened. 

Speaking with former Prep School students who did receive them, they might have been one of the more severe forms of spiritual abuse that happened during that time at Marble. I narrowly escaped. 

One of the most vivid dreams of my entire life was about the inquest I never had. It took place on a dark night at the Melzer’s house (as they often did), and the power was out from a violent thunderstorm outside. The oil lamps and candles around the room gave the whole thing a seance-like aura. I was sitting across from Anne with all of the prep school students around me, as well as Steven and Cheryl Melzer. Everyone was laying hands on me and praying for clear word from God on my behalf. Suddenly, Anne opened her ice-blue eyes and her face went pale. “I’m sorry,” were the first words she said. “I am sorry, but you are not one of the chosen. You don’t make it and there is nothing you can do.” 

“The chosen” refers to the few that are selected by God for the kingdom on earth, based on the scripture about the wedding guests who are thrown out for wearing the wrong garments. The most terrifying thing about this dream is that it is eerily close to what many young people experienced in an inquest. At one meeting, Anne Byrd actually did tell me that I was not wearing the proper garments for the feast of the bridegroom. It was a reprimand to get my life in order at a time when I was striving with everything in me to meet all of the  unreasonable demands placed on me by Anne and Dannie, and still dealing with hell in my own marriage. 

One of my very last conversations with Anne happened years later over lunch at the Mustang Grill. Lunch with Anne was a privilege reserved for either the very anointed or the very messed up, and it’s a safe bet that I was the latter. I am sure it was a last ditch effort to give me a chance to save myself on the way out. 

Somehow we began talking about a girl my age who had recently defected to the real world from Marble. She had moved to the coast and was going to church (at a church loosely connected with Marble, no less), and Anne was grieving over the loss of Melissa (who was one of the select favorites) for the kingdom, and how she was throwing away her destiny. 

I challenged Anne with the idea that Melissa’s destiny might lie outside of Marble, where God still lives and works. I suggested that maybe it looked totally different than Anne imagined and that perhaps Melissa would find her own way with God. Anne looked at me like I had three heads, and that was the moment that I saw her insanity for what it really is. The Byrds have always held, and as far as I know, still hold, the ideal that they have been called - or drafted - according to a sermon by Barry Byrd - to an elite ruling class that most other Christians will never attain, let alone non-believers.







Things to Process

It's the holidays.

The last several chapters of my blog have carried a heavy weight for me and many other people that I still love and care about.

I have many more stories to share, and they're drafted and coming to life one page at a time, but for this season, right now, I need to take a break. My family needs some room to breathe and connect and find the joy of where we are now, which is a good place. I need to focus on the good and beautiful for a few moments before I dive back into the memory-filled trenches.

I am so, so grateful for my family. For my parents, as they walk in humility and grace with me through this process. For my children and the patience and trust they have for me through all of this. I am grateful for the friends who have held me up the quiet ones and the who have voiced their support. I am immensely grateful for the strangers who have reached out to tell me what my stories mean to them, for the ones who share similar stories to mine and walk through the grief once again with me.

But it's the holidays, and for a little while, it's time to bask in the beautiful mess of family. Imperfect, unglamorous family, full of disagreements and disputes and also full of love.

In case my voice has been lost in the drama of the stories, I want to send a message of gratitude out for the life I have had to this point and the future that I look forward to, for myself and my girls, and for all of the others that I love. Everything happens for a reason. It's tattooed on my back, and on my arm. Amor Fati. Love of Fate. Even the people who have done me the greatest wrongs... as I acknowledge the ones whom I have wronged and own my own violations, I thank the ones who have hurt me for the process it has brought in my life. I would not change a thing because it brought me to this place and time, right here, with you, and made me who I am (which is pretty rad, in case you couldn't tell).

Love your people.

Find gratitude in this season for even the hardest things you have endured because they made you you, and you are rad too.

Hold hope loosely.

Trust the winding pathway to bring you to whatever wild and wonderful destination you never imagined.

Enjoy the trip, because really, it does no good not to (I say this to myself, the WORST of complainers).

I will be back after the holiday with the next chapter of my story. I thank you for listening, for hearing me, for believing with me that good can triumph over evil someplace in history. Thank you for your love. Merry, merry Christmas.


Things About Dominion: Control and Intimidation

"God isn't concerned with your present happiness." - Anne Byrd

Stealing Their Joy 

My second pregnancy was overshadowed by a deep depression that I could not shake. Reaching out to my sister and friends for support resulted in a meeting at Anne Byrd’s house. There all of my peers, my sister, best friend, sister-in-law and more all took a turn telling me how my self focus and sloth (the biblical term for depression) had been disillusioning them about marriage and the futures that they were looking forward to. That I was destroying the hope of many young women at Marble. None of these girls were married yet or had any children. We were all around the same age. I had gotten an early start on this “ideal” lifestyle and I think some of them were even jealous of my new family and felt like I was being ungrateful.

Keep in mind, these young women did not know the details of what was going on in my marriage. All they knew was that I was feeling sorry for myself because my life wasn’t the fairy tale I had dreamed of. In that meeting I was asked to repent to all of them for stealing their joy and robbing them of hope for the future. I choked out the words of repentance through blinding tears and went home even more devastated than when I had arrived.

Interestingly enough, not long after this meeting in one of the “training sessions” ahead of Marble’s annual Banquet & Ball event, Anne Byrd herself would warn all of the young ladies that sex was a drudgery that they would be required to perform at some point for their spouse and the greatest gift a husband could give his wife was abstinence. She repeatedly shared her disgust with sex and mocked Barry and other men for their buffoon-like need for it.

My journals during this time include a daily repentance for “self focus” and a constant travail about the self absorption that was holding me back from my place in the Kingdom. This spirit of sloth, self focus, as well as a handful of other random sins, were touted as the disqualifiers for me to be involved in various activities and projects in the community. As time went on I would be accepted into and then removed from Anne Byrd’s newly beginning Prep School. First a “drama instructor” and then as an auditing student.

I wanted so badly to immerse myself in the learning and the social life that I saw my peers enjoying, but I was repeatedly “disqualified” when my house was not kept well (another frequent repentance in my journals), my t-shirt was deemed too tight or I had had an episode of self-pity, crying with a friend, who would promptly report it to Anne. When the sins of my husband and my subsequent self-focus came to light, Anne decided I was no longer qualified to help instruct since my “home wasn’t in order.” She considered letting me audit some classes but after meetings (like the one with all of the girls) she decided I might bring the class down and I wouldn’t be allowed to sit in.

Still intent on staying in the loop, I got some of the teaching materials that Anne was using and did some of the bookwork on my own, including one of her favorite texts to teach from, Dedication and Leadership by Douglas Hyde. Written by a former Marxist, the book outlines the strategy of the party in recruitment and how to strategically maneuver people, applying principles of psychology to manipulate a population into compliance with a specific agenda.

The Secondborn

I wasn’t ready for another baby. I barely knew what to do with the one I had. Halle was such a good, happy girl. Without the support of David’s mom, who lived next door, and Halle’s own resilient personality, I am not sure how I would have taken care of her.

I was confronted again by some members of my Cell Group of  young married couples for my rebellion against God and rejecting the baby he had given me. They held a “prayer counseling” session over me and the baby,  casting out the “spirit of rejection” and my self focus and prophesying an embrace of the new life growing inside of me in spite of my unworthiness. I wept and repented to God for my rebellion against his will.

MacKenzie was born in July. My journals paint a happier picture than I remember, but I was intent on capturing in words the gratitude that would kill my spirit of self focus. The same midwife that delivered Halle was on hand for MacKenzie’s birth. Throughout both pregnancies I had never consulted with a doctor.

MacKenzie came into the world on a blazing hot day. She brought with her a fiery personality to compliment her strawberry blonde hair. She and Halle couldn’t have been more opposite in their demeanors, but both were very good babies, which I count as a mercy being barely 19 years old with a newborn and a one year old.

James Buck and Sons

After a year or two bouncing around between part time and minimum wage jobs, David was hired by Jim Buck, who was a licensed contractor. David had no building experience so to be expected he started at the bottom of the food chain, slightly above minimum wage. After some time on the crew the Bucks pulled all of the families who worked for them together and pitched a proposal to change their corporation into an LLC, with each crew member owning 1% of the business.

They preached an opportunity for us all to become “sons of the vision” and invested in the business, telling us we’d get our percentage of the profits at the end of every year. The only downside, they said, was that we’d be on our own for any L&I, unemployment, and other insurance etc, since the guys would now basically be working for themselves. Being young and naive and wanting to buy in as “sons of the vision” we all agreed, and the business was re-branded James Buck and Sons.

Never once (as far as I know) in the following years did any crew member see a percentage of the profits. Ronnie Buck artfully “reinvested” the profits into “gifts” she could write off and presented us at the end of the year with a selection of crappy items from Walmart. Meanwhile, the young and inexperienced crew had no worker’s compensation coverage, and when work dried up in the winter time, no unemployment benefits. It was brilliant on the part of the Bucks, and the cost to us was on our own heads for foolishly buying in.

As far as ownership or any autonomous perks in the business go, the one time that I tried to appeal a decision that Jim and Ronnie made denying a day off that David and I had requested, I was met with a wrath unlike anything I have ever seen. We caught the Bucks after church and I asked why we were not allowed the day off, and if there was a way around it. I don’t remember why it was important to me now, but I believe there was a family event happening with my parents and siblings.

Ronnie burst into tears and told me that she had never felt so dishonored by someone under her leadership and spiritual authority in her life. She went on a tirade about how much she had laid down her life for us while Jim went and pulled Anne and Barry in to reprimand me for “biting the hand that feeds” us. I was shut down. Hard. It would not be the last time that I would face that kind of fury from a “dishonored” leader.

Core Group members would frequently meet any question of their authority or decision making with an outrage at being “dishonored.” Toni Parker (Steve’s wife) once railed on me for dishonoring her when I asked her son to leave church early to make it on-time to a practice in Kettle Falls (which he had committed to) where a handful of us were studying Irish Dance with Deirdre Abeid. Her reaction was so off the wall outrageous that another leader (again Jeanne Ochs) stepped in and stood her down. I believe we had a “meeting” about it later at which I was required to repent to Toni for dishonoring her.

Restitution

The principle of restitution was visited upon community members in many arbitrary ways. The most bitter memory for me was after my husband and I had moved into our house on Marble Flats proper, we had enough money from our tax return to buy a brand new washer and dryer from Sears. I was so divinely happy. That set was the nicest, newest thing I had ever owned. My first real appliance. Shortly after we bought and installed the pair a member of our cell group, called a meeting with David and I and Steve and Cheryl Melzer. She told us that while MacKenzie had been hospitalized (more on this later), and she had been “serving us” by doing our laundry, my husband had neglected to clean everything out of his pockets and some nails had made her washer begin to spit rust into loads of clothes, ruining several items.

For restitution, she felt that the only thing that would remedy the distress she experienced would be a brand new washer. The machine I had was identical to hers, only newer. Steve and Cheryl asked if a lesser form of restitution would work, such as us paying for repairs, but the other woman didn’t want to have to deal with fixing the washer and it potentially having problems again. So in order to “restore relationship” I was required to trade appliances with this person.

When we took apart her older washer to fix it, we found no nails - only gobs of rusty bobbi pins (I had never used a bobbi pin in my life and the other woman was an ad-hoc hairdresser at the time). After we cleaned it out it ran like a charm for the rest of my time at Marble. While her brand new washer turned out to be a lemon that she had to pay hundreds of dollars to repair repeatedly. She called a meeting and tried to force me to trade back but the Melzers shut her down.

David’s $9.00/hour salary was also garnished (I don’t remember the amount) when he had to pay “restitution” to the community for sins he confessed to. This restitution went straight into the non-accountable church fund managed by the Byrds, and came straight out of the mouths of my children. This “restitution” went on for months, if not years. Many other individuals and families had to meet similar requirements.

There are endless stories from survivors of Marble about arbitrary restitution, including one family who “donated” thousands of dollars to pay the cost of drilling an unsuccessful well after the head of the household confessed to some sort of transgression and they were accused of bringing "sin into the camp." This violation was thought to have dried up the well site that had been selected based on a word from the Lord. In another instance the theft of a candy bar from the small mercantile was repaid to the tune of $500. Another community member was required to give her electronic keyboard to the church because she had no money to pay restitution for whatever sin she had confessed.

Headmaster Parker

Another involuntary offering that we were required to pay came when Steve Parker and other leaders at Marble decided he had been called to start a high school for the home schooled students of that age. With some teaching background (I have no idea where or what he taught), leadership ordained him as “Headmaster” and required each family at Marble to pay a portion of the amount that Parker deemed necessary to maintain the lifestyle he desired. The total amount was divided equally between every family at Marble, regardless of the age or number of children, or if they had any. I had two small children and the time and our monthly income was already being tapped for “restitution.”

It was during this season that Steve Parker oversaw the high school boys’ fundraiser to build a basketball court at Marble. The young men worked all summer to raise enough to pour a concrete slab, rounding up somewhere in the area of $6000 with car washes and various efforts. A member of the community donated materials to build concrete forms. When all the work was done and the boys needed money to pay for the concrete pour,  Parker sidestepped their request, making them instead rewrite their “mission statement” for the project and rejecting several drafts. After weeks of this type of avoidance, two of the young men leading the charge requested to address the issue in a community meeting.
 At the meeting, Parker opened it with the announcement that two boys were being expelled from the high school after they had been caught looking at porn online. Using this as some sort of verification that the collective of the young men had “disqualified” themselves from the privilege of a basketball court, he went on to claim he expended the money they raised on textbooks. Students who were attending Parker’s high school at the time contend that the handful of books purchased were far from equal to the amount of money raised. When one of the young men stood up and questioned this, he was immediately met with outrage from another leader for “dishonoring” Parker’s decision. The meeting escalated to a shouting match which Barry Byrd shut down with an admonition to the youth to respect and honor their elders. Not another word was to be said about the basketball court.

The details of this incident can be elaborated more eloquently by several of the men that were students at the time. There was some speculation about where the money went, but most of the students in the high school were keenly aware of a new shop being constructed on Steve Parker’s property since they were conscripted to “volunteer” their services to help build it out of respect to their headmaster. This was only one of many free labor projects that the young people were required to perform for leaders.

Looking back through my journals where I kept monthly budgets and expenses, there are hundreds of dollars every month paid to various entities set up to manage “utilities” on Marble. In addition to Marble Utility District, we were paying a decent sized chunk to Marble Flats (which I think was some version of an HOA) and some other bills for which I cannot pinpoint a purpose. None of the budgets for these various funds were available to community members for many years and they were, to my knowledge, managed exclusively by the Byrds and Rick Johnson.








Search This Blog