Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why Good People Make Dangerous Choices (Pondering Pearl and Lydia Schatz) Part I: Virtue In Place of Unquestioned Obedience

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to hear John Bradshaw speak, and he is much different than the PBS guru that I remember. (The last time I heard him a few years ago, he said that when he did the PBS specials in the 1980s, he was dealing with repressed anger and that conveyed in his presentation.) In person and in recent years, I've found him to be engaging, deep, and loving, and I thoroughly loved his presentation. I'm also grateful for his new book, particularly the chapter entitled, “Were You There When Jesus Spanked the Children,” the subject of a upcoming post. In Reclaiming Virtue which discusses how we can foster moral intelligence and virtuous ethics, he notes that the religious beliefs of his past have recently become of greater significance to him and has found himself revisiting and reclaiming them. (Bradshaw was a well educated Catholic priest and had expert training in philosophy.) Read more about and from Reclaiming Virtue HERE.

Blind obedience which flattens the decision making ability of individuals by demanding an authoritarian submission to the stringent rules, legalism, and pressures of a group or leader create the conditions that are the same as those who produced the Nazi Holocaust. Rather than fostering the growing discernment of the individual and by teaching moral codes such as Christian principle to inform that discernment, cultures of blind obedience punish and crush liberty and independent choice which God even offered individuals under the Old Covenant (Joshua 24:15). On a personal level, Bradshaw who speaks from experience notes that if we do not do our own personal moral work as we grow into adulthood, we run the risk of falling into rigid black-and -white thinking, an immature understanding that polarizes the perception of right and wrong. Vyckie Garrison notes aspects of this through the patterns of extremes followed in the Quiverfull Movement, and in terms of development, psychological splitting describes this primitive way of perceiving the world.

The Quiverfull/Patriarchy Movement (QF/P) offers all sorts of formulas which drive its culture of obedience and requires followers to develop an external locus of control by thriving on comparison and merging one's identity with the group. (Please read more about the Locus of Control at Overcoming Botkin Syndrome.) The Holy Spirit guides a Believer in liberty (Romans 8:1-7, Hebrews 10:16-18), and with ethics informed by the Word, and the Chrsitian does the daily, hard work of discernment when faced with life's dilemmas. In contrast, the culture of obedience creates some idealistic promise that offers some benefit to people for selling out to the “greater good,” promising to alleviate followers of the stress of decision-making with ready-made, foolproof formulas for success. Just like Adolf Hitler offered a convenient solution to the “Jewish problem” and the struggles of a shamed German people following WWI, child training experts like Pearl, Ezzo (Babywise), and even Bill Gothard promise fool-proof formulas that solve the problems and pitfalls of parenting. Bradshaw states that “blind obedience requires no real intelligence” (pg 228).

Bradshaw's book explains that a culture of obedience (based on power and subjugation before love and care) “fears equality and ultimately fosters violence, war, and death,” and is “intrinsically incapable of fostering moral intelligence and virtue.” Morality that depends upon unquestioned obedience can be harder to confront honestly.   Quite often, it's promises (or it's “big lie”) were well meant and unintentional, perhaps even developing unconsciously.  They are seen as normal. Bradshaw offers corporal punishment as an excellent example of the confusing and subtle problems presented by a culture of obedience and states that traditional patriarchy has created many of the problems that we now face concerning the dangers of blind obedience. The New Testament warns against putting new wine in old wineskins, stating unequivocally that it will not work.” (pg 228).

Before exploring the mechanics and the reasons why otherwise reasonable and rational people choose to follow blind obedience, I wanted to offer Bradshaw's explanation of the soil of thought in which blind obedience grows. QF/P represents one such culture of unquestioned obedience which promises safety and well being for families and children through the prescription of formulas which promise to solve all of the messy problems in life. (There are no solutions! Life is messy!) People buy these promises and believe they will catch the carrot that is dangled before them like they are ignorant horses, but the promises are largely empty.

The first step toward understanding the errors of the Schatz Family involves understanding that some acceptance of the principles and elements of the QF/P culture of obedience precedes that error.  Please review this chart adapted from Bradshaw's writing, noting the differences between the legalism and the contrasting liberty in the columns and how these descriptions parallel QF/P legalism and true Christian liberty as we see them today.

Click here to read the entire series on the archive.