Monthly Archives: May 2015

Breaking the Chains of a Fundamentalist Cult

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.

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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 sexism

…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. 

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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.

It’s foundational.

It’s fundamental.

“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.

With more and more frequency, radical, irrational Fundies are using the law as a weapon to set up their sacred pillars in society and silence the rest of the voices.

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.

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If Josh Duggar Were Your Little Boy…

One of the things Liberals love to ask–when they learn that you think homosexuality is harmful to individuals and sinful in the eyes of God–is, “WHAT IF YOUR CHILD GROWS UP AND TELLS YOU THEY ARE GAY?!”   (My answer to that is here.)

Right on cue, many are using the same angle when speaking about the Duggar case…

Kind of…

They’re speaking a lot about the Duggar daughters and what their father should have done when he discovered the first time that one of his children touched the younger ones inappropriately.

The Liberal Lynch Mob keeps asking: “WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOUR DAUGHTERS HAD THEIR INNOCENCE VIOLATED?!”  So I’ve thought about that.  And it’s a horrifying, nightmare-inducing thought.

After the initial shock and denial, I imagine I’d march straight into anger, which seems to be the emotion the critics are spending extra time processing now.

But what about the obvious second half of that question?  What if the person causing all of this confusion and anger and pain was another one of your children?

How could that NOT complicate things?

—-

I have a little boy.

Right now, he’s a silly and sweet ball of toddler perfection. We can’t go anywhere without hearing people squeal over his red hair and the dimple on each side of his mouth.  He also makes some of the greatest facial expressions I’ve ever seen.

And, you guys, his cheeks…  They’re soooo kissable, and they jiggle when he runs.

I’m so in love with this kid.

But I’m intimidated by the future, too. Because I’m a Christian parent who tries to teach her children about sexual purity, and I have a husband who describes the misery of being a hormone-charged boy in the throes of morphing from childhood to manhood.

And I have maybe 10-12 years before this small little boy of mine is expected to wrestle with his body and make decisions that could brand him negatively for the rest of his life.

It’s overwhelming!

We know everybody makes mistakes. But what if my baby makes a REALLY BIG one?

What would you do if your son is getting good grades and is basically respectful and talks to you about everything and has a clean record…and suddenly, he gets accused of something REALLY BAD?

What if that boy looks you in the eye, probably with tears, and admits, “Yes, Mom, I did it.”  ?

What would YOU do if your baby hurts another of your babies very deeply? 

The way people are talking, they act like they’d immediately pick up the phone and call for the cops to take their boy away.  They call it a “cover up” to find a good lawyer and research all their options and try to cushion the blow as much as possible.

We also seem to think that–if somebody doesn’t get arrested and/or the case isn’t heard in court–then “justice” wasn’t served.   (Of course, we know from experience that even cases that do get heard in court aren’t considered “just” by the Mob, unless there’s an actual CONVICTION.)

But we’re trying to imagine if it were OUR OWN SONS being processed through the system, remember?

—-

I happen to have personal experience with a teenage relative who made a very bad, illegal choice, just a few days before his 18th birthday.  And I was going to give a few specifics here–but then I realized it’s not my place to share the details of my brother’s records, especially when they’ve since been destroyed for his protection.

And that’s my main point.

Suffice it to say, if my brother had been one week older when he committed his crime, it would have been a felony. The judge could have thrown the book at him, if he’d wanted. Jail time/community service/heavy fines… the whole nine yards.

But, as it was, the sentence didn’t have to be very specific.  My brother’s judge had the freedom to show a little leniency. And, as most judge’s do, he took into account my brother’s past record, whether he appeared sorry, and whether he belonged to a family that would help make sure he didn’t do it again.

And, on his birthday one short week later, it was as if the crime didn’t happen at all.

Did “justice” fail? Did my brother get the message that he was “above the law”?

No. It scared him straight just knowing what could have happened, and he realized how close he came.

THAT’S what I’d hope for, if the Duggars were my kids.

I’d pray like crazy that my boy didn’t ruin his whole life.

I’d pray that he’d only have to experience the smallest consequence necessary to change his behavior. Different kids require different levels of punishment to learn their lesson…but who wants their child to suffer past that point, if he’s the type to only need a close-encounter?

And once my boy showed actual remorse and faithful repentance, all of us would begin the process of healing…

That’s when my prayer would change to begging God for protection from outsiders who would try to open our old wounds and discredit the forgiveness our family practices, by saying we’re not healing the “right way.”

Too many people claim the Duggar’s couldn’t REALLY heal from something like this. And, if the girls think they’ve gotten over it, the only explanation must be they belong to a freaky cult. “They have Stockholm Syndrome” or “their parents made all of them reconcile!”

Many of the loudest voices are survivors of sexual abuse themselves, who insist, “Sexual abuse destroys your WHOLE LIFE!”   I suspect they feel uncomfortable when they look at the Duggar family and wonder if maybe that’s not the way it has to be?

So, basically, if Josh’s victims haven’t held a grudge and grown as bitter as the Internet Critics, then there must be something….wrong with their family!

I’d beg God not to allow busybodies like that to get too close to my loved ones while we put our lives back together. Busybodies who don’t understand radical love or the power of God to turn your worst moments into opportunities for strength.

Those people have no business trying to decide whether we’ve healed “correctly” or not…

—-

Anyway, my point is, it’s easy to hold onto your anger for Josh Duggar and criticize the entire family for not casting him away or keeping him at arm’s length for the rest of his life.

It’s easy to do that if you ONLY humanize his sisters and don’t remember that he’s a human, too.

But I try to imagine what his parents must have gone through, when they had to adjudicate between their innocent little girls and the son who, until then, had brought them so much pride.

Their first born.

The one who whose cheeks might have jiggled when he ran.

I think most parents would have done the same thing the Duggar’s did…

…and then they would have prayed for reconciliation/wholeness that was half as good as what the Duggars apparently achieved, before the busybody news media reopened the wound, pitted the children against each other once again, and portrayed their baby as a monster.

Museums Are Too White–but We LOVE Black People Here!

Last month, the First Lady gave a speech at the opening of the Whitney Museum in New York City, in which she said:

“…there are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers and they think to themselves, well, that’s not a place for me, for someone who looks like me, for someone who comes from my neighborhood… there are kids living less than a mile from here who would never in a million years dream that they would be welcome in this museum.

And growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I was one of those kids myself.  So I know that feeling of not belonging in a place like this…”

I think she’s correct that many inner-city kids wouldn’t dream of stepping foot in a museum…or concert hall or art gallery…

But I always figured that had less to do with how welcoming those places are–and more to do with the fear of being labeled “Sell Outs” or “Uncle Toms” by black friends/neighbors who think they’re acting too “White.”

I also tend to agree with this young, black Conservative, that giving privileges to blacks (or using “positive discrimination”) is just as racist and wrong as segregated bathrooms. So, we’re kidding ourselves to talk about “equality,” while focusing special attention on baiting and praising the black kids when they come to our theaters.

That smells more like “condescension” to me.

But, I’ll go ahead and accept Mrs. Obama’s challenge anyway.  Here’s my effort to rethink what museums can do to welcome those poor, uncultured minorities…

——

Setting:  Generic Museum, Somewhere, U.S.A.

Tour Guide:   (*Big smile*)  WELCOME BLACK PEOPLE!!!!   And, of course, welcome to the rest of you, too.  We’re glad everyone is here.  But we are especially glad to see the kids we wouldn’t normally see in a cultured place like this!  I assume, young sir, that you’re here for Free Black Admission Day?

Black Male:  Actually, I’ve been buying my own student pass every season for three years now…

Tour Guide:  Really?!  Well, that’s okay! You can still pick up your complimentary “I’m Welcome at the Museum” T-shirt before you leave…  (*turning to walk up the stairs*)  If everyone will follow me, our first stop will be–wait! Hey! Hey, YOU!

(*TOUR GUIDE rushes toward HISPANIC GIRL and hands her a flier*)

You should come back next week for “Tutoring and Tacos.”  We’ll concentrate on our exhibits in the Immigrant History wing, so you’re basically guaranteed to like it better than the standard, white stuff you’ll probably see today!

Hispanic Girl:  Uh…I’m here to research Alfred Nobel, for a project. I’m actually getting a degree in Engineering.

Tour Guide:  (*yelps excitedly*)  That’s GREAT!!!  I have so much respect for you!  I mean, I admire white guys like Nobel, too.  But it’s even more impressive when someone tackles that field in your skin-color!  Not to mention the fact that you’re female. Amazing!

(*TOUR GUIDE starts to turn around, then pauses and looks intently into HISPANIC GIRL’s eyes. She reaches for a long, awkward pat on HISPANIC GIRL’s shoulder.  Then TOUR GUIDE returns to the tour group*)

Alright, follow me.

Old White Man:  (*raising his hand*)  Excuse me?  Are we going to visit the Wright Brothers Exhibit on this tour?

Tour Guide: No! No, not today. (*smiling broadly) This is a special day.  We have special visitors to consider.  I mean, you could learn about White Aviation whenever you want!  (*whispering, but still smiling*) Isn’t it time you give the spotlight to others for a change?

Old White Man:  But…I….I’ve never been here before…?

Tour Guide:  Oh, I didn’t mean “you” personally.  I meant the sum-total of you plus the other old, white men who have been dominating history for thousands of years.  I meant, you know…your kind.

Now, here we have a 7 -foot mural dedicated to Mr. Booker T. Washington. As much as I love black people, I confess he’s one of my favorites–

Black Female:  (*clears her throat*) You know, pretty much everything you’ve said since we started has been somewhat or VERY racist. Is there a reason you’re talking to all of us like children?

Tour Guide:  Oh, definitely!  I want everyone in the museum to feel welcome…  but especially the minorities who visit.

Black Female:  See, that?  That–right there–is what I’m talking about. It doesn’t make me feel very welcome. It kind of makes me feel like a pet project.  Can’t you just treat minority students the same way you treat white ones?

Tour Guide:  Well, I would. Really, I would! Except minority students are falling through the cracks. So it’s my job to give them a “boost,” and show them that learning can be fun for their kind, just like it’s already fun for rich, white folks.

Black Female:  Ugh. Seriously?  Do you not hear yourself?  It’s pretty arrogant to pick out the people who need a “boost” and take it upon yourself to rescue them.  In fact, it’s racist and condescending. Just treat minorities the same way–the exact same way–you treat any other patron of the museum.

Tour Guide:  (*frowning for the first time*)  So no billboard over the entrance saying, “WELCOME DISADVANTAGED FOLKS?”

Black Female:  Uh, no.

Tour Guide:  No more Free Black Admission Day?

Black Female:   Do you have “Free White Admission Day?”

Tour Guide:  I see your point…   (*thinking*)  Hey, what if we did a promotional deal where–if you qualify for food stamps AND you visit us twice in the same year–you get your own bucket of fried chicken?

Black Female:  Good lord, NO!

(Most of the patrons begin walking away, murmuring angrily.) 

Tour Guide:  Wait, no! Don’t leave, black students! I can throw in a grape soda! (*yelling as they walk out the door*) We just want you to like smartness as much as we do!

(BLACK FEMALE is the last to shake her head and walk away. MUSEUM MANAGER approaches.)

Manager:  Well, how’s it going?

Tour Guide:  Honestly, not like I’d hoped.  It seems we really need to double our efforts, if we’re going to save those minorities from themselves.  Hey! (*pointing*)  Does that boy look underprivileged to you?

Manager:  Uh, that’s Greg. He worked here as a nightwatchman for awhile.

Tour Guide:  Well, how much money does a nightwatchman make? …Never mind. I better go make him feel welcome just in case.   Greg!

(end scene)

—-

“…[So] if you run a theater or a concert hall, make sure you’re setting aside some free tickets for our young people.  If you run a museum, make sure that you’re reaching out to kids in struggling communities.  Invite them in to see those exhibits…

…One visit, one performance, one touch, and who knows how you could spark a child’s imagination.”     –Michelle Obama