It’s not easy realizing, suddenly, that people who claim to have your best interest at heart turn out to be the primary ones stripping away your freedoms and silencing your voice.
But, it happens far too often…when raw, illogical, unsupported dogma begins to take over a group of people.
Like most victims of Fundamentalism, I thought my childhood was normal. And I thought I was headed for a bright future.
But, when I started rubbing shoulders with outsiders, it became clear it wasn’t going to be that simple.
If you’ve ever been forced to cling to the Truth in the midst of total chaos, you ought to recognize yourself in my story.
Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money. But my parents always said that family and faith were the most important things.
If we had our God, we were rich.
If we got to be together, we were blessed beyond measure.
My Mom and Dad always said we kids were lucky to have the same parents, and we should be glad we never experienced divorce like so many of our friends.
We didn’t always feel lucky, of course… Like when every boring trip to a bank or grocery store was turned into a “lesson” by our homeschooling mother. Like when our demands for explanations were met with “because I’m in charge!”
…or when we were paddled for stepping out of line.
But, for the most part, we didn’t think anything of the rigid authority structure placed on us from the beginning.
It was just “normal” to be dragged to church on Sunday–and threatened with consequences if we tried to refuse. It was normal to be expected both to help around the house and have a respectful attitude about it. It was normal to be referred to as “strong-willed children” and to have parents who made no qualms about trying to “break” those wills, if necessary…
How would we have known any differently?
On top of all the rules and expectations, another perfectly normal thing in our household was discussion and question-asking.
(That is, while chatting over dinner or driving in the car…not when a child was stomping a foot and screaming “no fair” during an argument. That’s when “I’m the Mom” or “because I said” would be used to end the discussion.)
Provided we were relatively cooperative and not just trying to stall bedtime–and provided our questions were asked in a respectful manner–we could expect our parents to explain things to us the best they could.
Questions about God/Heaven. Questions about the way the world works. Questions about why the car makers give cars the ability to reach speeds of 120 mph, if we’re never allowed to drive them that fast…?
And on this foundation of Faith, Curiosity, and Respect-for-Authority, I was sent into the world, looking forward to marriage in my (presumably) near-future. I figured there was no reason to put off having my own family and getting busy raising God-fearing, gun-toting, independence-valuing Conservatives of my own.
…that is, until I started talking with people outside my subculture.
When I started blogging and participating in social media, it quickly became clear that not everyone shared my parents’ views on religion and politics. It didn’t take long for others to express the opinion that I had been blindly following “Fundamentalism.”
This, naturally, made me guilty also of racism…
…and homophobia, as well.
For most Conservative Fundamentalists, this would have been enough to swear off Internet usage forever. (“It’s too worldly!”) But, thanks to regular theological discussions with my parents over the years, this wasn’t the first time I was forced to defend my own beliefs.
I turned the tables on my critics and began asking, “Well why do YOU believe what YOU were taught about racism…and sexism…and homophobia? How do you know YOUR college professor’s views about right-and-wrong are superior to my Mom and Dad’s?”
And that’s when I discovered an interesting truth.
The term “Fundamentalism” doesn’t only apply to Conservatives…
The Liberal Fundamentalists are every bit as narrow and rigid as that dress-and-braid wearing woman waiting for the Rapture in a bunker with her “sister wives.”
While the Duggars cling to the Bible and Bill Gothard, a Liberal Fundamentalist would be just as dogmatic about the values spoon-fed to them by their favorite scientist or spiritualist. (And they may put a lot of faith in a certain psychiatrist, as well.)
Fundamentalists are unable to see the massive problems with their own worldview.
Thus, Liberal Fundamentalists have no idea what they really believe…even as they work to remove that same plank from Kirk Cameron’s eye.
And, most annoyingly of all, the “Academic Fundies” often accuse me of being the brainwashed one.
The truth is, I never felt as chained and controlled by my parents as I do by today’s Liberal Fundamentalists.
Oh sure, no child likes someone having Authority over them, in the middle of an argument, when it’s time to back down and obey.
But my parents believed humans were created to submit, and they taught their children that everybody has to deal with authority figures. The only question is: will you put your trust in God/Family, or will you ultimately rely only on yourself?
Of course, the Conservative and Liberal Fundamentalists have opposing answers for this moral question. But it’s the Liberals who are pushing to have the law changed in their favor…
Just look at this article, questioning the legality of parent/child authority:
“[the Homeschool Defense League] believes that children are divine rental property who at no point belong to themselves. God owns every soul. But when parents create or adopt a child, God essentially rents that soul out to the parents who have the responsibility to maintain that child to the satisfaction of God. When the child becomes a legal adult, the child takes the rental lease over from the parents — but still belongs to God, not itself.”
Somebody like me says, “Yeah? So?”
But the author doesn’t even try to explain why that belief is incorrect. (He/She is a Fundamentalist, remember?)
The statement “children should belong to themselves” just IS correct, in the eyes of the Liberal Church.
And that ends up pitting my traditional, fundamental beliefs against the author’s secular, fundamental ones. It’s a zero-sum game.
This is bad for me. Because the culture is already well-practiced in “liberating” people from my supposedly-oppressive views, and wrapping them up with supposedly-not-oppressive ones.
Liberal Fundamentalist: “Women shouldn’t have to submit to their husbands!”
Conservative: “Oh, yeah? Why?”
Liberal Fundamentalist: “Because women can make their own decisions!”
Conservative: “Well, ‘can’ and ‘should’ aren’t always the same. Giving women ‘their own’ authority only leads to a different set of problems.”
Aaaaand, 50 years later, women were filing for 70% of the divorces and having their unborn children scraped into trashcans at a rate of 3,000+ times per day.
It honestly looks to me like women aren’t any better at caring for themselves than their husbands were.
But that doesn’t matter. Because Liberal Fundamentalism says “ALL individuals should make their own decisions. Period.” And you can’t reason with them any further than that.
“All Humans Must Have the Same Rights” (except the unborn). That’s JUST RIGHT–and anyone who believes differently is JUST WRONG…
…including people like me who want to continue making all legal decisions for my minor children, even if one of those children disagrees.
Can you just imagine what’s going to happen when Liberal Fundies start fighting for a child’s rights to their bodies, without restraint, as women now unequivocally have?
If we thought the family situation couldn’t be worse, just wrap your mind around what kind of chaos will ensue, now that the stage is set for liberals to champion “Childism” as the next tenet of Good-Person Doctrine…?
All the Conservatives who are already used to hearing how racist and misogynistic they are can just get used to the label “child-hater,” too.
Nothing good can happen when Liberal Fundamentalists begin preaching “Children Are EXACTLY like Adults!” and the faithful adherents agree blindly, with no explanation for WHY…
Anyway, as you can see, I’m still trying to shake off the chains of Liberal Fundamentalism.
These same people would love if I complained about my upbringing.
They want me to hold as much bitterness for Conservative values as they do. (And they want me to dish all the juicy details of the brainwashing that must have occurred when I was a kid…)
All I would need to do is mention that I was “abused,” and I’d have thousands of Bible-hating Liberals surround me with their “love” and support.
However, my parents never scared me like the Liberal Fundies do.
I’m faaaar more afraid of the Bleeding-Hearts marching further and further toward so-called Progress, in the name of a God I don’t recognize.
They’re the Extremists with an incredibly narrow view of “compassion.”
They’re the ones automatically skeptical of anything “old,” and indiscriminately excited about “new” ideas.
Most importantly, they have the means AND the will to fundamentally change my world, as they build their own Progressive utopia.
Yeah, I’m much more afraid of cults like that–diverting attention away from themselves by pointing fingers and accusing others of Fundamentalism.
I’m most terrified of the Holy Science-and-Feelings Cult whose faithful members are ready to burn all other Fundamentalist systems to the ground.