Category Archives: Christianity

Submission, Obedience, and Abuse

My grandmother always told me that we aren’t to air our dirty linens in public. Obviously, her philosophies on life were gelled before the social media revolution. Now that she’s on Facebook, I wonder if she’s rethinking that. This is the Age of Oversharing. While I agree that sometimes too much sharing can be a bad thing (like when teen sexting incidents gone awry become life-changing internet scandals), I think if you mean what you say – really, truly mean it, and aren’t going to change your mind about meaning it later – spilling sordid stories can be cathartic for you, and quite possibly helpful for others. So, here goes.

This book is seriously detrimental to the women that read it.

This book is seriously detrimental to the women that read it.

I was abused as a child. I also watched people close to me tolerate abuse, and somewhere around the age of 13, I started to say, Never me; when I’m grown, I will never, never put up with this crap, and I will certainly never allow this to happen to my children. 

While I don’t espouse the whole life-time victim mentality, what I do know is that it becomes very easy to repeat patterns that you see in life, because they’re the only sequences that you know. If no one ever taught you long division, odds are good that you’d be stuck using your fingers to calculate your checkbook balance for the rest of your life (I’m not good at balancing my checkbook, either). Despite my best intentions to avoid an adult life of dealing with abuse, and my active choice of a partner who was as ostensibly opposite of the abuser I knew before, I somehow ended up in an abusive relationship – mostly verbally, though we had a few domestic violence incidents, too – and I ended up leaving him, moving halfway across the country, and then realizing I was having a child with the guy.  I moved back.

For those of you that don’t know, I was raised an Independent, Fundamental Baptist. I don’t blame Christianity for the abuse that I experienced, but I do blame many Christians for perpetuating the belief that women are to submit to their husbands even in dangerous or outright wrong situations, because their husbands are accountable to God, and all we are accountable for is submitting.

This book is an embodiment of the problems I have with fundamentalism. Basically, it trains people into tolerating abuse (which is easily learned, otherwise), and that is a mighty hard habit to unlearn. I have a hard time with God being used as a means of guilting people into doing things that they sense aren’t right. I know that the author would say that was never her intent, just like the Pearls say that their child-rearing methods were never meant to cause abuse of children. I also know that I’ve personally seen this book have that effect. Just look at the Table of Contents:

Source: Sword of the Lord publishing

Source: Sword of the Lord publishing

The kind of black-and-white mentality that goes into a book like this runs rampant in fundamentalist churches. It’s the cause of people being told that divorce is never okay, that children need a strong nuclear family no matter the circumstances, that turning the other cheek and quietly submitting is the way to turn your husband’s heart toward God. Have enough of that drilled into your head for long enough, and you’ll have years of guilt over running contrary to the diatribe, even if you have good sense on your side.

In my experience, the guilt is the hardest part of divorce, and it’s the hardest part of single parenting. Even if the situation is abysmal, you’ll always wish it had been better. Sometimes it just isn’t.

In my case, no amount of wishes and prayers have been able to change the people in my life. “People change organically,” a friend told me last week. I’ve seen my ex make a few changes over the past year or so; none of them have been for my sake, or for my son’s. All of the nagging, begging, coaxing, cajoling, and tears in the world weren’t enough to get through to him in any meaningful way. The only person’s actions that I’ve been able to change have been my own, and somehow the idea of going along with someone else’s bad ideas just seems like a… bad idea. And I have enough of those on my own. Amen?

NOTE: I didn’t purchase a copy of this book; I read a copy my father bought for my mother (already a soft-spoken, submissive woman) during one of his many “salvation” journeys.  I am absolutely not endorsing the book in any way, and expect to receive no money for not plugging it.


Interview with Stuff Fundies Like Creator Darrell Dow

Darrell Dow, creator of the renowned Christian website Stuff Fundies Like, just released his new book Fundamental Flaws. I got a chance to talk to Darrell before he completed his book publishing project, and to read the book before it came out. The book is insightful and succinct, useful to a wide variety of folks of a Fundamentalist background (and possibly to those without it, in understanding what it all means). Below are a few of Darrell’s thoughts.

1) What books have influenced you most over the course of your life?

It’s hard to pick just a few. Growing up we didn’t have a lot of television so I used to read several books a week. I think reading Orwell’s 1984 during college was the first time I really came face-to-face with the concept the authoritarian power structures that tried to re-invent reality. That was seminal. C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity (and later The Reason For
God by Tim Keller) also were key in showing me that orthodox Christianity was a far larger family than what I had been led to be believe. I also just finished all the Harry Potter books so I’m sure that’s somehow important too.

2) How would you say that your educational background influenced you?

I was home schooled for most of my childhood. That afforded me the time to read what interested me and study things that perhaps children in a more rigid learning environment may not have had the chance to do. Of course, attending a fundamentalist college was really what began my journey out of fundamentalism. When you see the inconsistencies and the rhetoric writ large it’s kind of hard to miss exactly how wrongheaded so much of it is. Without Pensacola Christian College there would be no SFL — not that I think that information will ever make it into their advertising.

3) What is a fundy?

Trying to get a detailed answer to that is like trying to nail the proverbial jello to the wall. Most of my writing is about those who self-identify as Independent Fundamental Baptists. But even in that world there are huge debates about who really deserves the title and who doesn’t. In a more general sense anyone from a Christian organization with a highly controlled, low trust environment will likely find something they can identify with on SFL. We have “fundy” readers from a variety of backgrounds.

You can buy Darrell’s new eBook Fundamental Flaws on Amazon. Read more of my interview with Darrell here.


Growing Up Amish

The Amish are a fascinating subject for religious and secular folks alike, especially lately, as they’ve been in the news with a beard cutting and sex scandal (yes, both of those things happened under the umbrella of one scandal). Amish culture, in its resistance to modern influence and the march of progress, has much in common with other forms of Christian Fundamentalism.  At my fundy college, I had a Mennonite roommate, and she told me that folks in her denomination were frequently confused with the Amish thanks to the headcoverings they wore; apparently, Amish are Mennonites, but Mennonites are not usually Amish.  In many ways, the simplicity of the Amish lifestyle is appealing from the outside; from the inside, the oppression must seem stifling. Ira Wagler, born and raised in the Old Order Amish community in Alymer, Ontario, has written a fascinating inside peek into the Amish culture, as well as a riveting account of his exodus .

Here, he tells an abbreviated version of the first part of his story:

(For the rest of his story, I suppose you have to read his book.) The book is very descriptive of the culture and several different Amish communities. I found it a quick and fascinating read. Pick up a copy of Growing Up Amish.

NOTE: I was not paid to review this book, nor was I provided gratuity or promotional copies; I purchased this book with my own funds.


The Collapse of American Fundamentalism

So a very sad and very good thing happened recently, and if you’re in any close communication with American Fundamentalist Christianity, you are most likely aware of it: Jack Schaap finally got nailed for sexual misconduct. I’m saying “finally” because the man has exhibited a history of alarming unhealthy sexual tendencies in his preaching (like this) and his doctrinal statements.

(Warning- this man is an abuser, and this particular clip has him saying some pretty ghastly things. I’ve personally never listened to more than a few seconds.)

I’m saying sad because in my heart, I feel truly sorry for the family and friends and, well, everyone who has been personally touched by this atrocity. But mostly I’m saying this is a good thing. The event itself is deplorable, but it’s really just a symptom of a much greater problem that has all but eclipsed American Christianity and has been slowly been imploding in recent years. It is the poison of a controlling church (or in this case, an entire movement). It has taken people who wish to seek out and know their maker and replaces healthy spirituality with a dictatorial human and a complicated set of accompanying rules. As the author of this post, I should mention that I personally enjoy being a Christian, and I like discussing my spirituality with people.

I know that people like Jack Schaap and the Westborough Baptist crazies (and generations of other crazies before them) have been using the label “Christian” so much that the two seem to be interchangeable in our society, and now the word ‘Christian’ = narrow-minded, mean-spirited pig. I cringe when I hear about a so-called “Christian” in the news saying or doing something awful and throwing around Christian-y words as if they speak for all of us. American fundamentalists have been doing this for a long time though, and shouting loud and long that not only do they have a monopoly on God, but that they are not in any way being authoritarian about pushing their beliefs. They are unquestionable, unassailable in their own minds, and have a birth-right mentality about their beliefs. I could theorize about the origin of this thinking, but I’m not gonna go down that road. Now these guys are getting called on the carpet, and I’m glad it’s happening. American fundamentalism is being turned inside out, and it may well be purified by fire.


The Case Against Religious Tolerance

Yes, that’s a deliberately contrarian title, and I’m not advocating religious persecution.  Neither is Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith; however, he does put forth the argument that religious tolerance need not, and indeed should not, extend to unreasonable lengths of political correctness.  

He argues, not against religious tolerance in the sense of the Constitutional protection in this country, but against religious indulgence in our daily discourse.  This is only one of many topics he covers in this illuminating and wide-ranging book, but it serves as the dominant theme and clarion call to action.

There is a modern taboo against saying anything that might be offensive to the religious.  On the one hand, nobody today believes that Dionysus – if he even existed – was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman, so we can speak of it as a primitive myth which obviously never happened, and not be accused of intolerance.  But apply such a patronizing tone toward the claim of the virgin birth of Jesus and you’ve trodden on the religious sensibilities of the majority of Americans.

Harris says, “there is sanity in numbers.”  Whereas the tolerant feel obliged to respect the belief in the virgin birth of Jesus, the virgin birth of Dionysus may safely be dismissed as delusional.  Both stories are substantially identical and equally at odds with what we ordinarily believe about the reproductive process.  The difference, argues Harris, is only that Dionysus has no remaining believers in the modern world, but Jesus has many.  He argues that we should be free to debate and evaluate beliefs based on how well they conform to what we otherwise understand about how the world works, not based the number of believers.

In science, this attitude is expected; in fact, it is required: much of the scientific consensus today began as maverick hypotheses that flew in the face of what the vast majority of scientists of the time believed.  However, unlike scientists, most people are not accustomed to reversing deeply-held beliefs as a matter of routine.  This is especially true when the belief itself includes penalties such as execution for apostasy or eternal torment if the belief is ever questioned or rejected.  Whereas challenging one’s scientific beliefs is invited, challenging one’s religious dogma is considered insensitive.

The basic problem of religious tolerance, argues Harris,  is that most of the major religions of the world are intrinsically intolerant of other beliefs, and often savagely so.  Harris walks us through the atrocities of the Spanish Inquisition and other infamous moments of persecution by the religious.  He throws a harsh spotlight on Islam; but he attacks the common sentiment that Christianity is a milder, more compassionate religion by pointing out that modern Christianity is tempered by contemporary secular laws and sensibilities.  It is not Christianity which has progressed morally, he argues, but Western society; the Bible itself has not changed since the Inquisition.

Religion, he argues, is intrinsically beyond rehabilitation.  The continued indulgence of it empowers radical fundamentalists to continue terrorizing others by diverting the focus from religious zeal to political, ethnic, or economic explanations.

The quote from the book which may best sum up Harris’ admonition to the moderates and apologists who constitute the majority of Christians today is this:

“All we can say, as religious moderates, is that we don’t like the personal and social costs that a full embrace of scripture places on us.  This is not a new form of faith, or even a new species of scriptural exegesis; it is simply a capitulation to a variety of all-too-human interests that have nothing, in principle, to do with God….The texts themselves are unequivocal: they are perfect in all their parts.  By their light, religious moderation appears to be nothing more than an unwillingness to fully submit to God’s law.  By failing to live by the letter of the texts, while tolerating the irrationality of those who do, religious moderates betray faith and reason equally.”

You can get The End of Faith here.


Where is the Fun in Fundamentalism?

Perhaps some of you are familiar with fundamentalism’s take on homosexuality.

You may have seen Anderson Cooper’s report on Charles Worley’s insistence that our nation ought to put homosexuals in concentration camps:

Or heard  Sean Harris’ sermon on punching gay kids:

Or know about Steve Anderson’s “hate” for homosexuals.

The thing is, these wackos aren’t alone in their beliefs. There’s a whole subculture of people in our nation that don’t believe in equal rights for those that have alternative lifestyles. The good news is, the numbers are shifting- slightly. According to The Pew Forum, in the past 11 years Gay Marriage Opposition has diminished from 57% of the country to 44%. The bad news is, those numbers are still appalling. There also seems to be a correlation between denomination (or lack thereof) and opposition to legalizing gay marriage.

I’m not gay, but this issue still matters to me because the issue is human rights. Either marriage is a religious institution, in which case the government has no business recognizing it in the first place, or it’s a legal contract- in which case, discriminating against someone else that wants one is treading on dangerous territory.
Our government, perhaps contrary to popular opinion, is not Christian, even if the majority of the population of the nation claims to be. So, here’s the thing: how is this

any different than this


?

The only difference I can see is who is in the majority.

So when a privately owned business, such as Chic-Fil-A, makes contributions to groups that perpetuate the kind of hate portrayed in the images above  (see the Snopes story here), I have the right to spread that news around and refuse to eat there anymore. You have the right to tell me that you don’t give a crap, and go on supporting that if you wish.  Personally, I’ve been deleted by a cousin and friends that I have known for over 20 years  for posting about Chic-Fil-A’s contributions on my Facebook wall. Seriously, Christianity: shame on you. This stuff makes you look like you haven’t changed since the days of Inquisitions and witch hunts.

Paul is the one that was anti-Gay. Other than Paul’s writings, you’re stuck searching Old Testament law for anti-Gay stuff- and those condemn blended fabrics and many other things you’re probably in violation on.


The Old Testament According to Lego

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For more lego lessons, you can read The Brick Testamant for free on Brendan Powell Smith’s site, or grab the Old Testmant here. The New Testament comes out on October 16th. And right now, The Brick Bible for Kids Noah’s Ark is less than $3.00.