The other day I tweeted about the laughing I do over some of the titles of articles and publications that have quoted me over the years concerning the Quiverfull/Patriarchy Movement (QF/P). Journalist Grace Wyler sought me out to answer questions for her article for Vice Magazine, a media company in which Rupert Murdock’s $70 Million has given him a 5% interest. Wyler recently wrote a very good article about the sexual abuse problem that is ignored on many Christian Fundamentalist college campuses, and she sought me out for additional information while investigating the lawsuit filed against Doug Phillips and Vision Forum.
I must admit that the title to her new piece about what she calls the “Masturbation Lawsuit” caused me to shudder at first, but the comparison is a fair description of the allegations made against Doug Phillips. Contrary to popular commentary from those who defend QF/P, I find absolutely no glee in what has transpired, though I anticipated that something like this trouble with Phillips was inevitable. One could say that I’ve been “venting my spleen” about the fertility cult for years, long before the scandals erupted. I don’t see it as spleen venting. For me, it has been a Christian duty to expose the harmful teachings of this legalistic culture of fear and piety.
From outside of this high demand subculture, Wyler’s terminology describing the “Duggar vagina militia” is not that much of an exaggeration either. (That phrase is not a quote from me, BTW.) The image deviates only a little from the NPR audio clip of Nancy Campbell in a feature about Kathryn Joyce’s book where Campbell says in a very odd verbal inflection of her waning Kiwi accent, “The womb — the womb — is a weapon.” Is it any wonder that we see clown car references about this subculture, too?
More Honor Among those Scary Secularlists?
Many Christians experience fear and manifest reticence concerning communication with the secular media, though I think that the trend has begun to change. Some Christians still consider my willingness to talk with anyone who expresses a genuine interest in the nature of spiritual abuse as proof that I’m carnal, or perhaps not even a Christian at all. Not that the opinion of the spiritual bench markers bothers me. The truth is that I believe that non-Christians respect those of us within Christendom who are very honest about the problems, take responsibility for them, and then do what we can to correct or at least counter them.
Gina McGalliard has been notable among the journalists with whom I’ve interviewed, and interacting with her was a pleasure. She’s been so understanding and truly grasped that people who get lost in these movements are really the best kind of people who get hooked because of their virtue. These spiritually abusive systems subtly, systematically, and surreptitiously cause a profound loss of perspective for members over time.
People who get caught up in high demand religion (or politics, sales programs, cure all health programs, etc.) aren’t flawed or dim-witted. Generally, the opposite is true, and their desire to make a positive change in the world to make it a better place becomes the means by which manipulators or systems out of control take advantage of them. I connected with this feeling of sadness and duty again myself recently when I watched the sci-fi film, Ender’s Game.
When the venue with which McGalliard first intended to publish an article about the Stay At Home Daughter (“SAHD”) phenomenon changed, she contacted me right away to give me the option to refuse what I’d already shared with her. She was concerned that I might be put off by the title of the new publication who expressed greater interest in her article: Bitch Magazine.
Considering that she gave me the opportunity to bow out, I was quite honored. So long as she didn’t set out to make good people out as anything other than the conscientious and virtuous people that they are, I was fine with the change. I felt like the secular world would have less cause to ridicule some of this extreme fundamentalism if someone could articulate the issue of thought reform to them. My hopes proved to be quite true.
The Problem of Head Burying within Evangelicalism
While working on a draft of this very blog piece, I made a similar comment, as some of these matters have caught the eye of academics who have become interested in the appeal of QF/P from a sociological perspective. I’m just going to cut and paste, for the astute comments from people participating in the thread were telling and true, I believe.
A theme in an upcoming series that I've written that Spiritual Sounding Board will soon host discusses some of these same issues. Evangelical Christianity does not yet deal well with these types of problems. Everyone seems quite willing to jump on the bandwagon after something terrible happens when people wish to sever themselves from a fallen leader, however. Before a tragedy, speaking ill of people’s bad behavior seems off limits, and few will only talk about doctrinal problems.
I'll let these comments speak for themselves.
Comment from Hester of the Scarlett Letters blog in response to my comment at the Spiritual Sounding Board:
[My comment] It breaks my heart when I hear more compassion from a sociology professor or a journalist who specializes in extremist religious movements than I do from those within the counter cult apologetics movement in the Evangelical world.
Not just secularists – I also routinely find more sympathetic listeners in the “apostate liberal” churches that folks like VF decry. I recently got a chance to tell a lay Episcopalian about my blog and its contents and she was horrified, not by the blog but by the stuff I was writing against. The end of the conversation went something like this:
E: “Are you safe?”
E: “I mean, these people aren’t going to come after you, are they?”
H: “No. They sold me their CDs and I paid for them so I can critique them as much as I want. Why?”
E: “Well, they sound like they’re…not all there.”
Comment from another equally savvy participant there named “Patrice”:
Cindy K, I want to repeat this:
[My Comment] “Secularists often grasp what is happening much better if not profoundly so than do most Evangelical Christians who allegedly specialize in aberrant religious movements. And I have yet to communicate with anyone who has come away from our discussion with disdain for Christians or some objectification of them. Everyone I’ve talked with has seen it as a cause for sadness and express empathy/pity for the fact that truly good people get led astray in extremism. While I’m encouraged to see this and believe that it is because I’ve effectively explained what happens in these movements….
Well, lets just say that it just deepens my grief over the fact that Christian academics have failed miserably to not only pay attention to these types of movements, they are largely ignorant when it comes to responding to the casualties. There is more help for survivors of spiritual abuse through secular groups like ICSA than can be found among Christian resources.”…..
I have found this to be true, too, precisely so. It is very important that we understand that there is something very wrong inside US evangelicalism; it even eats at our defenders.
I’ve even found it impossible to get Richard Beck to respond to me about spiritual and sexual abuse in the church, and he’s over on the liberal end, stuffed full of his own “great” theology for psychology, yet skirting these issues like a dancer en pointe.
The more they are written about, the more they are dismissed or sidelined or simply partly belittled, the more I’m convinced that these stories point to the center of the disease that afflicts us.
I'm proudly adding the Vice quotes right up there with the Bitch ones. ...though they should have appeared in something more like Christianity Today and other such Christian sources, long before the scandal. But I guess we're getting there.