Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Culture that Created a Need for Rachel Held Evans

Rachel Held Evans( RHE) captured the attention of many – some who praised her, and others who are still bubbling over with miserable things to say about her. She was like a fresh breath of honesty, wrapping words around the frustrations of a whole generation of American Evangelicals. I find myself thinking of the analogy of breathing as quite fitting in light of her untimely death, reminding us all of the fragile and temporary nature of life itself. We are but a vapor. We know the exhalation of her creative expression which endures in her absence, but do we understand the culture which she drew into herself which prompted her message?

Consider that 70% of American adults identify as Christian with the Great Awakening revivals as factors that solidified the predominantly Protestant demographic. The First (1730-40) gave us many Puritans, Presbyterians, and pietists, and the Second Great Awakening (1790-1820) produced Methodists and Baptists.

Many view the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) as a microcosm of the larger Evangelical culture in America. It is the second largest single denomination (15 million members from among the 15.4% of all Baptists in the US), second only to Roman Catholics, and followed by the next largest denomination of Methodists (just 5%) [data self-reported by adults]. Because of its role in American history and its size, the SBC sets the tone and drives the direction of the Evangelical church at large. Baptists of all denominations strongly influenced the Christian school and the homeschooling movements and played an integral role in the development of the Quiverfull culture. 

Understanding Christian Fundamentalism

Today, most people use the term 'fundamentalist' to describe inflexible, authoritative religions of all varieties without realizing that early 20
thCentury Americans first coined the term as a descriptor. First launched by Presbyterians to be later claimed by Baptists, the original religious effort sought to direct Americans back to a devotion to the core doctrines of Protestantism.

When Evangelicals returned to a the fundamentalist campaign again in the 1960s, they employed it as both a political and religious strategy to make both church and nation great again. Now decades into fundamentalism's revival, I believe that the heavy-handed tactics employed in both church and civil government fall short of achieving the original spiritual intent.

The following outline aims at helping the reader trace the development of Christian Fundamentalism which contributes significantly to the modern political and religious landscape. Maybe some graduate student can find it years from now to help them track down info for their disseration. ;)

(Scroll over terms to find imbedded references.)

Primary Christian Fundamentalist Influences 
within 20thCentury America

Higher Life/Keswick Movement and Protestant Revivals
  • War Between the States ends (1865)
  • Baptist and Dispensational movements grow
    • Sunday School Movement
  • Lays foundation for the advent of Pentecostalism (1908-1915)
  • Protestants become the stewards of “the family pew” and other Victorian ideals by maintaining the meld between family and faith

Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy (1920s-30s)
  • Growing liberalism, modernism, and textual criticism of the Bible
  • Fundamentalism term coined to redirect Christians back to essential ('fundamental'), core beliefs
    • Presbyterians at Princeton (PCUSA denomination)
    • Presbyterianleaders separate from Princeton over liberalism to found Westminster Seminary
    • Orthodox Presbyterian Church founded after separation from PCUSA
      • Attended by the Chabad of Poway gunman April 2019
    • Wm J Bryandefends creationism in court for the State of TN
      • The matter leaves Christianity with 'egg on its face,' in the aftermath
    • Bryan College (RHE's alma mater)founded in 1930
      • Mission to educate students with a Christian worldview
    • The Lutheran Hour radio (1930 – present)
      • Lutheran Missouri Synod (evangelical denomination)
      • Encouraged Protestants to maintain a private faith which was welcomed after public embarrassment following the Scopes Trial 
  • Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) becomes more progressive, granting some liberties to women over time; develops some ecumenism 
    • Some adopt the Fundamentalism Movement from the Presbyterians
    • Leaders separate from the SBC to form the Independent Fundamental Baptists (IFB) network (1927)
      • John R RiceBill Piper (father of the Baptist minister)
      • Bob Jones University founded in 1927
      • IFB becomes the largest Christian education publisher in the US and spearheads the Christian school movement and homeschooling 

Social Changes in the 1960s and Religious Responses
  • Removal of Biblefrom government schools (1963)
  • Death of Victorian values
  • Charismatic Renewal and expanding revivals result in significant increase in new Evangelical converts 
    • Parachurch organizations (and cultic sects) expand rapidly with the aid of self-publishing and affordable cassette tape materials 
      • Cross-pollination of ideas across many denominational barriers
      • Aided the non-denominational movement 
      • Elder and church rule as intermediary priests/overseers between members and God
      • Enforcement of doctrine and rules of conduct
      • Developed to guard against too much experientialism
      • Obsession w/ reestablishing 1stCentury Christian church elements 
      • Consistent with top-down elder rule in Presbyterianism allowing for collaborative efforts (cross-pollination of ideas)

Christian Reconstruction (Established 1960s-80s)

The 21st Century deserves it's own post, but until then, you can find many other commentaries about Rachel Held Evans at No Longer Quivering.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Self-Justification's Role in Cognitive Dissonance

Whether we consider memory, our personal history, or a decision we made today, without our notice, our trait of consistency likely rules us. If anything was truly an innate trait that we humans suffer because of the Fall of Man, surely it is the illusion that we are independent, self-sufficient creatures. Self-justification rests the heart of our struggle to comfort our egos and acts as comfort's right hand. We strive to be enough on our own, free from a Creator, and our very own brains write the narrative to convince us that it is so.

Knowledge of how our minds work and why they work the way that they do can mature us. We can learn to slow down the knee-jerk self-justification process to give us more time to respond to life instead of just reacting to it. Whether we seek to minimize our own culpability for an error or craft a history that softens our regret, if we are aware of this very human quality, we stand a better chance of circumventing its pitfalls. We will never break free of bias, but we can learn to be better stewards of our own thoughts, feelings, and behavior. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

External and Internal Expressions of Cognitive Dissonance

The last post left us wondering about the results of Leon Festinger's study of forced behavioral compliance. Participants were placed into two separate groups, one of which was well paid, and the other which received a nominal amount to compensate them for their time in the tediously boring hour and the request to lie to the new test subjects on their way out. 

(Note the adjustment in the value of the reward in this blog post to approximate a contemporary value.) Only one group described the test as unpleasant, and the other claimed that they enjoyed performing the study, expressing positive feelings about it. But which group enjoyed themselves?

Monday, April 1, 2019

Studying the Stress of Forced Compliance

Read Part I here.

What evidence exists to support the claim that a person will change their thoughts and even their record of events to assuage the distress of cognitive dissonance? For that, we must travel back to Stanford in the 1950s to examine Festinger's study.

Students at Stanford were recruited with the understanding that they were helping the school to streamline their study design concerning “Measures of Performance.” The students did not realize that they were being observed to determine how they would handle the stress of cognitive dissonance, believing the study to be a measure to improve the research method that the school employed. Each student was paid for their time.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Revisiting Cognitive Dissonance

In our last discussion of bias, we took note of the human preference for consistency. Not only do we build upon previous learning and decisions with new choices when they are consistent with past behavior, we also strive for personal consistency in our thoughts, emotions, and actions. A lack of consistency and continuity among these three aspects of self causes an intensely uncomfortable mental distress. Information that challenges current thought, required behavioral compliance that contradicts thought and emotion, or the induction of intense, unpleasant feeling can create this disruption in the consistency of self. The experience of that painful stress is called cognitive dissonance. 

Elizabeth Loftus on the Memory Illusion

Saturday, March 30, 2019

When Swimming in Biases, Try Not to Drown

Heuristics or those 'rules of thumb' that we use to cut through dense amounts of information to help us make timely decisions often involve availability biases. We remember ideas and select rationales based on how available they are to us – how close to the surface of our conscious thoughts those rationales lie. (We humans will grab the ideas that are most "available" to us – and sometimes, they are the most absurd.) When we lack enough information about a chain of events, we also draw on heuristics to 'fill in the gaps' between them so that we can better comprehend them. But they are shortcuts, and when we use these methods, we run at least some risk of falling into error. 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Freeing Memory from Bias by Bringing it Captive

More About How Cognitive Bias Can Influence Memory

The process of memory awareness and noticing discrepancies and errors was named metamemory some forty years ago. We may recall something and have our memory of a place or an event in time, only to discover years later that we've misremembered elements of the narrative. Metamemory helps us understand the way that our self-justifying cognitive biases code and influence what we store as memory (which always differs somewhat from objective reality).

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Disparagements of Perspective or Lies of Malice? Be Free Indeed!

Totalist religion affords us a very tidy view of the world where little if any ambiguity exists. Some enlightened other came before and figured out all that people would need to know to guide themselves with great ease through the rough edges of life. That's how things were sold to me in my group of record as an adult. Critical thinking gets handed over to a religious overseer of souls, creating the illusion of moral blamelessness for members – a process dubbed 'moral disengagement'. 

But there are no pat answers to life's complex problems, and we complex and conflicted human beings make things all the murkier. If you live under a totalist religion, you can skip over the murkiness into a view of black and white, and life becomes a zero-sum game. If someone 'wins' an argument, it means that 100% of the spoils of merit go to one sole survivor, and there can be no merit spared for the other contenders. That all-or-nothingness bleeds over into other areas, too, like power and love and care. If a contender gets some of those valuable commodities, it means that there is less comfort and accomplishment left for everyone else. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

Thinking the Unthinkable: A Challenge for the Botkins

I thought about the Botkin daughters today – and it's approximately six weeks since I received their letter. As cognitive dissonance teaches us, all people find it uncomfortable when others believe unpleasant things about them, and it occurred to me that dissonance itself is something that I definitely share in common with these young women. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

In Remembrance and Honor of John and Halcyon Botkin

John and Halcyon Botkin are no longer with us on this side of the veil. They raised three sons and a daughter to carry on in their absence. They were proud members of Tulsa Christian Fellowship for many decades, and they raised their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. They were dearly loved by many.

I am grateful to those who have written to me, heartbroken and offended about Geoffrey Botkin's claims that he was raised in a Marxist home as he publicly repudiates his Christian upbringing. I am also grateful to those who worked to shield Halcyon Botkin from distress, as she was quite advanced in age during the time that her son claimed that his family of origin was something other than a God-believing, God-fearing home.  I am moved by those who contacted me to attest to the Christian witness of John and Halcyon Botkin, for it speaks powerfully to their good character and their love for God and family.

For those who have questions as to why their son Geoffrey has made so many claims to have been raised as a Marxist and in a family that did not attend church, I would suggest that you contact him directly. He teaches a doctrine that was once called multigenerational faithfulness, and it is heartbreaking to think that he would have any desire to deprive his own parents of the honor that they are due, in both life and death. 

Geoff Botkin talked much about his 200 Year Plan for his own descendants, but he didn't seem to show much honor to his own family of origin and their own fine heritage.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Cognitive Biases and Cranio Rectal Inversion Index

Just a reminder that the purpose of this discussion aims at stimulating thought and self awareness as tools to help those in recovery from trauma learn how to make safer choices. To make the discussion a bit lighter, we've defined Cognitive Biases as “CranioRectal Inversions” (CRI).

There are more posts to come which will first be featured at No Longer Quivering where you might want to watch for them, and they'll eventually find their way back here. For now, here are the posts on the subject through 2018. This list is not comprehensive, nor is it organized in a particular manner, save that they are loosely organized by general type (social, attributional, etc.). There are at least this many more to come.

Zelophehad's Daughters

Originally appeared in 2010 at Quivering

An acquaintance of mine asked me what I knew of some of the ideas that neo-patriarchy had about unmarried women living alone. I explained that some sectors within patriarchy maintain that Numbers 30 requires unmarried adult women to have an assigned male overseer who is accountable for her and her affairs. Others in these circles maintain that all woman require a male as her a protector at all times to remain both spiritually and physically safe. Some actually extend this concept to support their idea that a woman who works outside the home (for a man other than father or husband) commits a form of adultery by serving the vision and efforts of another man.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Extremes in Postmodern Religious Addiction and the Childhood Roots of Victimization

Revisiting Imbalance.

Originally posted  27Feb12;  Reposted 25Aug12.
Updated with restored graphics 04Mar19

Lewis at Commandments of Men has written a post that's inspired me to write a bit more about imbalance found within spiritually abusive evangelical Christianity.

In January, I wrote a synopsis of the core emotional issues of childhood in a series of posts that lead to dysfunctional living.  (The series didn't, but the core emotional issues did!)  If we come through childhood and our very nature as children is not honored by our our parents (likely because of their own interrupted emotional growth), or if we suffer a great deal of trauma which may have nothing to do with our families, we tend to have problems in adulthood which surround these core emotional dilemmas. Children are valuable, vulnerable, imperfect, needy, and immature., and we carry all of these traits with of into adulthood to some extent, revisiting them from time to time. This is a normal occurrence in a healthy adult, but healthy adults don't remain in these states of recalling the sense of being childlike for very long.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Always Follow the Money

While I am loathe to give them any additional free advertising, given recent events, I believe what I saw there deserves some attention. (While revising old blog posts to remove a term to which the Botkin's objected, I happened to notice something interesting.) The link took me to their revamped website which features a slider – a ribbon of material at the top of the screen which automatically scrolls snippets of new content across it to catch the reader's attention. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Honest Questions for the Botkins

I still find myself shaking my head when I look at this letter that I received from the Botkins.

It elucidated several facts for me: people still remain ignorant of the manner in which spiritual abusers today manipulate Matthew 18, people still refer to this blog for all kinds of information, and if the daughters of Geoffrey Botkin actually wrote to me without prompting or coaching, I affirmed for myself that I didn't target them. I called out their father on his fringe behavior, his spin doctor habits, and 'new' aberrant teachings that he pieced together from things that he cherry picked from very old news.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Control and Misinformation that Toxic People Exert

My friend from across the pond put this on social media yesterday.  Too good to miss.

It reminds me of that quote that is attributed to Winston Churchill:
The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Pinocchio, Al Mohler, and Geoff Botkin

I don't know how this stuff happens. I'm deeply honored that my Jiminy Cricket meme has been featured right beside Christa Brown's comment about the new public relations move of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). It reminds me of that Judge Judy saying, “Pee on my shoe, then tell me it's raining.”   [I also don't know why the formatting is so crazy in this post.  I give up on it.  Please don't write to tell me.  I already know.]

The Right Side of History

An excerpt from Marshall's The Peril of Selective Inerrancy:

Today is a time of reckoning for Southern Baptists, as even Albert Mohler has observed. It seems like he is hastening to get toward the right side of history on sexual abuse — distancing himself from his colleague — even though he was a pawn in the larger conservative movement. His ambition blunted his theological perspicuity, and he changed his course for the sake of being acceptable to his sponsors. As a professor when he was a graduate student, I remember a different persona.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Spiritual Advice from Jiminy Cricket?

Yes, I drew this.
While trying to update the links on an old post concerning CJ Mahaney, I stumbled across an article published that same morning that declared that Al Mohler has apologized for standing by CJ Mahaney so staunchly when members of Sovereign Grace Ministries filed a class action suit against him for sexual abuse and coverups. The Gospel Coalition was quite vociferous in their support, and I'm told that they started deleting social media posts because their readers were so appalled.