trickle-down cults

[art by Elvin Aliyev]
[for new followers: I swear sometimes.]


I grew up in a cult.


That’s what I say when I have to start explaining my life to someone. As a phrase it carries a lot of baggage, but even so, it’s the easiest and most straightforward way I have to start my story. Generally I have to walk the person back from visions of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but as loaded as the word “cult” is, it still applies to my life. According to the research of people like Michael Langone, the Independent Fundamental Baptist church I attended for a dozen years fit 13 out of 15 qualifiers. So while I didn’t live in a bunker or on a compound, there’s really no other way to explain what seems like insanity to people with “normal” lives.

For a long time, even after I started blogging, I went out of my way to make clear that it was just my church that was fucked up. Not all IFB churches are unhealthy or cultist, not every fundamentalist church is abusive.

I have since changed my mind.

That change started when I was able to connect the dots between the teachings I absorbed in the tiny little church I was brought up in and the larger movement. The cult leader isolated us from the rest of the fundamentalism, making us all extremely wary of theologians and their “false doctrines,” so I grew up with him being my only example of a fundamentalist pastor. Other churches in our area, no matter how conservative, were suspect; even when we attended revivals or camp meetings everything was filtered through a lens of what my pastor wanted me to absorb.

So I grew up reading C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, was surrounded by ICR and AiG materials, but I had never heard of people like Bill Gothard. I never went to a homeschooling convention, a NCFCA debate, or an ATI/IBLP conference. I had no idea that the words coming out of my pastor’s mouth were stolen from Rushdoony or Doug Philips or Geoffrey Botkin. I didn’t know that the “umbrella of protection”–referring to how the father is supposedly a daughter’s only protection from the evils of The World– came right out of one of Bill Gothard’s Basic Seminar textbooks.

Christian fundamentalism is absolutely and inherently abusive. It is and has always been. As a theological and ideological system it is irredeemable. As Micah Murray put it so eloquently yesterday, “it’s time to burn this motherfucker down.”

In order to argue this, I’m going to rely on the checklist compiled by Drs. Janja Lilich and Michael Langone.

  • The movement has an unquestioning, uncritical commitment to the ideological system. It is upheld as “Truth,” and is treated as absolute.

This is a core element of Christian fundamentalism. Become familiar with any of the materials, the curriculum, the sermons, and one thing that instantly jumps out at you is how utterly convinced they are that they have a unique access to The Truth. This belief is supported by the argument that only true Christians are capable of actually understanding the Bible. Someone who isn’t a true Christian will be incapable of interpreting the Bible correctly and will merely see it as “foolish.” The proof text verse for this is I Corinthians 2:14.

  • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

Please see this post, which covers that point extensively. The proof text verse for this is John 20:29.

  • The movement dictates in excruciating minutiae exactly how Christians are to live their lives.

There are prescriptions for how your marriage is to function (see the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood). Some fundamentalists adhere to a strange form of kosher, and almost all fundamentalists tell you what you can’t drink. Depending on the environment, people are told exactly how to groom themselves. For people who follow Bill Gothard, the women are to have long curly hair through whatever means necessary. At most fundamentalist colleges or seminaries, men have to be clean-shaven. Strictures on “modesty” vary, but each church has their specific rules that are usually laced with a heavy dose of racism and fatphobia. How you are to raise your children is dictated– whether you follow James Dobson, the Ezzos, the Pearls, or whoever. Proof text verse for this is I Peter 2:9.

  • The movement has an “it’s us against the world” mentality.

See: the culture wars. The “War on Christmas.” Cries of “persecution” for ridiculous things. Fundamentalist leaders teach a concept called Dominionism, which should absolutely horrify every red-blooded American. Michael Farris called fundamentalist Millennials “Generation Joshua” because we are supposed to go to war with the Canaan of modern, “secular humanist” America. Proof text verse is Ephesians 6:12.

  • The leaders of the movement have no accountability.

This is the one that makes me, personally, the most uncomfortable. Unlike ministers in the mainline Protestant denominations who are at leas theoretically held in check by a system meant to encourage, edify, instruct, and reprimand, fundamentalist pastors have nothing like that. There’s a reason why Independent Fundamental Baptists call themselves that: they are unbelievably proud of how they can’t be “controlled” by anyone or anything– my church lifted our noses at the Southern Baptist Convention, as loose an organization as that is. The leaders of fundamentalism are forces unto themselves, and they answer to no one. II Corinthians 6:14 is the proof text for this.

  • The movement relies on shame to control.

A good introduction to the “lethality of shame” is Brene Brown’s TedTalk “Listening to Shame.” Fundamentalists rely almost exclusively on shame as their motivation for ethics and morality. In Christian fundamentalist theology, humans are incapable of truly responding to positive motivators like trust or love. According to them, each of us is a lowly worm that must be brutalized into compliance. This springs from the belief that we’re basically all a hair’s breadth away from being a child molester. Proof text verse: Psalm 22:6.

  • Joining fundamentalism means that you must sever ties with “ungodly” family and close friends.

A huge part of what it means to be a fundamentalist is a commitment to radical “holiness.” The promise of fundamentalism is that you will be happy, that you will be fulfilled, that your family will be protected from The World and The Devil; in exchange, all you have to do is obey everything they say and believe everything they tell you to believe without question. In order to accomplish this, however, you must remove any ungodly influence from your life that could “corrupt your good manners.” Being “separated” means you have to fill your life with the fundamentalist community and nothing else. The proof text verse is Luke 14:26.

  • Once you are a part of the movement, leaving becomes extraordinarily difficult.

There are multiple reasons for this– if you were brought up in it like me, fundamentalism is the only thing you’ve ever known and anything “outside” it seems terrifying. They are the only people you’ve ever associated with; not only that, but you’ve been taught that everyone who isn’t a fundamentalist is hell-bent on destroying you. It can be extremely overwhelming, trying to process all the lies and half-truths. Wrestling these things out is the reason why this blog exists, and why I spent an entire year writing out my story of coming to terms with all the ways fundamentalism had warped me (first post starts is here).


To me, all of that is conclusive. Christian fundamentalism is intended to be a high-control totalitarian religious environment. If that doesn’t make it a cult, I don’t know what would.

American Christianity is broken

shattered glass
[content note: discussions of child sexual abuse, rape apologia]

Growing up as a Christian fundamentalist meant that I was supremely good at judging people. I could tell, usually with the briefest glance, exactly who was in and who was out. I could winnow out the chaff of liberal and “lukewarm” Christians in an instant, but I could also spot a legalistic Christian– untrimmed hair, no makeup, no jewelry– five miles off.

That skill hasn’t gone away simply because I’m a liberal now. I have to fight off the urge to circle a completely different set of wagons and refuse admittance to the people who don’t agree with me. My theology has changed, but the desire to keep a mental checklist of doctrines to compare everyone to is still there. I’m on the opposite side of the question, but the problem is that I’m still asking it, and it’s difficult to stop. I’ve been reading through Searching for Sunday again with my small group, and one of Rachel’s challenges is to have room for all Christians in your faith– even the Christians you really don’t want anything to do with.

I was getting more comfortable with the idea, slowly, but this last weekend threw a whole monkey wrench into that process.

For the first time in a long time, I am truly astounded by the depths of depravity that American Evangelical Christianity is capable of sinking to.

For years I’ve heard preachers make jokes about beating infants and breaking the arms of toddlers. I’ve heard calls for genocide. I’ve seen Christians blame natural disasters on innocent children. I’ve watched as our leaders remain silent and complicit amidst horrible abuse. I thought I’d seen it all. I believed there was a line– surely there was a line. Surely we couldn’t be capable of defending a confessed child sexual abuser. We couldn’t.

I was wrong. Turns out, yes, we can. Easily.

I didn’t go to church on Sunday because of how exhausted I was and because I knew that if I heard a whisper of someone defending Josh Duggar I’d start screaming. I still can’t quite process the idea that I could encounter someone who thinks that child sexual abuse isn’t that bad, that people like me are merely “bloodthirsty,” that we’ll do anything to make conservative Christianity “look bad.”

I am repulsed. I am absolutely stunned by the amount of stomach-churning evil pouring out of keyboards and mouths. These people– supposedly good people, supposedly faithful Christians– are defending a young man who crept into bedrooms in the middle of the night and groped and fondled little girls. If they’re not saying it was a “mistake” or a “childish indiscretion,” they’re calling it normal.

Normal. To thousands and thousands of Christians, child sexual abuse is normal. We should be ignoring this and moving on because it isn’t that big of a deal. They shrug their shoulders at something that should be making every single one of us pull back in horror. They’re saying things that should make good people vomit. Anyone making the argument that child sexual abuse is dismissible should make us grieve, but we’re not. Instead I see thousands of Christians nodding their head in agreement.

That is sick.

All weekend, I couldn’t help but think of I Corinthians 5:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

Only now it’s worse. Now it’s a teenager attacking a five-year-old little girl, and we are just so proud of the Duggars. Look at how wholesome they are, look at how they espouse family values, look at how radiant and spiritual they are!

I read an article on Saturday that argued how it would be “wrong” for someone to criticize conservative Christianity because of this, but oh, I am. If the reaction from all these self-proclaimed “true Christians” is so utterly despicable, how am I supposed to rectify this with the notion that being “saved” means we have a relationship with Jesus, that we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, calling us to a more holy life? How is this possible?

There is something defective in American evangelical Christianity, something rotten in the core of it. We’ve created a culture conducive to almost nothing else besides defending predators and abusers. Right now, that seems like all we are: a way for predators and abusers to shout “do over!” and escape justice.

how Josh Duggar is getting away with it

josh duggar
[content note for discussions of child sexual assault]

Before we get started with today’s post, I’d like y’all to read these two pieces, especially if you’re not aware of what came out yesterday:

What you Need to Know about the Josh Duggar Police Report” by Libby Anne “Josh Duggar says he’s sorry. So what?” by Kathryn Elizabeth Brightbil

Libby Anne and Kathryn address many of the things I would have said, which I’m thankful for because now I can focus on making a broader point that I think applies to conservative evangelicalism as a culture and not just the Duggars as a family.


A close friend of mine has spent most of her adulthood in Spanish-speaking countries. During a recent visit, she told me a story about what it’s like to make the adjustments between languages. She was working with a bus ministry at her church and had to deal with a rambunctious boy who was invading the personal space of other children, including touching them without their consent. In order to try to reign him in, she wanted to tell him to “stop bothering her,” but what came out was “stop molesting her.”

In Spanish, the word for bother is molestar.

It was an amusing anecdote, but then she made the point that English tends to soften concepts that Spanish doesn’t. As a culture, we call what Josh Duggar did to his victims child molestation; even though we understand the connotation of the phrase, it doesn’t have the clarity that child sexual assault does.

Our culture is set up in almost every conceivable way to harbor abusers.

For example: racism, sexism, and any other form of systemic bigotry is, essentially the abuse of one people group by another. Individual white people benefit from a system that abuses people of color. Certain men receive benefits from rape culture, which allows the worst among us to take advantage of everything we collectively believe about women and sex.

Another way that our culture allows abuse to flourish is that we refuse to really deal with what is actually happening. Rape is referred to as “non-consensual sex,” and Josh sexually assaulted five little girls by groping their breasts and genitalia but that’s not what the media is calling it, and it certainly isn’t what anyone connected to the Duggars is calling it. It’s not being described as child sexual assault, not as the felony it is, but as molestation. Over and over again I’ve seen Christians calling it a “mistake.” In the different announcements we’ve gotten from the Duggars, it’s been coated over with a thick layer of Christian Speak. Anna, his wife, called it an “offense,” as if the sexual assault of a five-year-old were the same thing as calling her carrots.

It’s not just the Duggars that do this. We see this every single time one of these “scandals” comes to light. Whoever was responsible “apologizes,” but they never admit to anything. Josh said he “behaved inexcusably,” which doesn’t mean anything. If Josh had gotten up in front of everyone and said the words “I committed a felony, I sexually assaulted five little girls, and I’m sorry,” it would make it obvious to every single last person on the planet that oh, I’m sorry isn’t going to cut it.

But, in our culture, abusers can “apologize,” and that becomes the headline. And, as Kathryn pointed out, it makes the victims look bad in Christian culture if they don’t immediately “forgive.” We saw this with Sovereign Grace, and we’re seeing it now.

This is why I never use softening, minimizing language. I say assault and rape and abuse. And, if it comes to light that Josh digitally penetrated his victims, I’m going to start saying Joshua Duggar is a rapist.

The words we use matter.


The biggest reason why Josh will get away with sexually assaulting five girls is purity culture. If you’re a regular reader that connection should be apparent right now, as I’ve frequently talked about how my belief in “purity” kept me from talking about my rape for years.

Everything about this situation was not just mishandled, it was covered up. On purpose. That makes any mandatory reporter that knew about this a criminal (at the minimum, the church leadership and the original police officer, who did not file a report), and it makes Jim Bob and Michelle, in the words of Jesus, hypocrites and vipers. White-washed tombs, full of dead men’s bones and rotting corpses.

However, Jim Bob and Michelle and the church leadership and the police were able to cover this up because of the culture his victims belong to. They have been taught since they extremely young that women are capable of tempting the most holy man to sin, that women can provoke men into raping them, that if something bad happened they must always look for their part in the blame. The Duggars belong to an even more nightmarish subculture than I was exposed to, since they follow Bill Gothard. If you’re not familiar with ATI/IBLP, this is what Gothard teaches about sexual abuse.


That is the only framework that Josh’s victims had to process their assaults. Like me, they were forced by the only things they knew to evaluate how they could be responsible for what Josh did to them. It was their responsibility to repent of “immodesty” or any “sensuousness” they may have displayed, however innocently. Then, because they contributed to their own assault, they don’t have the ability to pursue justice. They were duty-bound to “forgive” their abuser because, after all, it was their fault, too.

If his victims were to come forward, to make police reports within the limited three-year window they had to get justice, they would have been dragged through a nightmare the likes of which we can’t even begin to imagine. It is extremely likely that every single last person they knew– their family, their church– would have turned their backs and rejected them. They would hear sermons preached about them about the “spirit of bitterness” and how it can destroy a young woman. They would have been sternly reminded that Christians handle problems among themselves and don’t involve the courts.

In ATI/IBLP, if they received any “counseling” at all (which seems unlikely, considering Michelle Duggar said that Josh’s “counseling” involved helping a family friend remodel his house), it would have been laser-focused on figuring out what the victims did “wrong” so they could be shamed for it.

This is what purity culture does. More than anything else, it silences victims.


Further reading:

When my abuser is welcome at the table, I am not” by Sarah Moon
Josh Duggar and the Purity Lie” by Sarah Posner
Josh Duggar and the Problem of Easy Forgiving” by Mary DeMuth

Christian Republicans and forced altruism

capital building cross
[artwork by Rob Green]

When I was younger, election years thrilled me. The entire process of campaigning and rallies and speeches and debates was one of my favorite things ever, and I reveled in it all. I remember the 2008 election clearly– on campus, the only two people anyone seemed to care about were Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul, and when McCain won the nomination we were all bummed.

I don’t know about you, but I’m already starting to see election news burst into my newsfeeds, with everyone shouting about Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz and Ben Carson and Hilary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and I’m exhausted. None of the options really appeal to me at the moment, and I can see myself voting Green or Communist or something. I’m 27 and already cynical about politics.

One of the biggest reasons why I’ve changed from a conservative to a liberal over the last few years is that I came to see the role of government differently. As a conservative my deep distrust of the government (which hasn’t gone away, just changed focus; now it’s things like police brutality and corruption that bother me) meant that I wanted a small government. Tiny. Miniscule. Invisible, preferably. Leave me alone to run my own business and I’ll be happy.

That point of view affected how I saw welfare, especially. Before, I saw programs like SNAP and WIC and TANF and unemployment and disability insurance as infringing on what rightfully belonged to the Church. It should be primarily the Church’s responsibility to care for the widow, the orphan, the poor; the federal government shouldn’t be interfering in that.

I also believed that it was beyond ridiculous for the government to turn altruism and charity into taxes– doesn’t that defeat the entire point? I should be able the one to control my money and where it goes and I’m the one who gets to decide who is deserving. Bureaucracies and red tape and forms and waiting lines can’t eliminate welfare queens and people who just want to be “one the dole.” But me– an individual person, perhaps part of a local church– I can. I’m a part of my community. I know best how it needs to be helped.

In a way, I haven’t changed my mind about those things. Handsome and I still believe in giving as much as we can to help people, and that it is our responsibility as Christians to meet needs whenever possible. As I’ve become more liberal, my opinion on the Church’s role in loving the least of these has become even more firm: now, I believe that the bulk of the Church’s attention should be on benevolence and charity. Soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters– whatever the needs of the community are, the gifts of your congregation should be used to fill them.

But one thing has definitely changed– I believe that the Church has failed spectacularly in doing any of that, and that the needs of our communities are beyond the reach of the even a united, committed effort from all our local churches. The problem is just too big, just too systemic. Anything the Church could do would be a bandaid on a bullet wound.

Now, when I hear a Christian arguing that welfare is “forced altruism,” I ruefully laugh– and not just because I had my eyes opened to things like how “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” is a fondly held conservative myth. I laugh because, supposedly, many conservative Christians believe this country should be run according to biblical principles, and “forced altruism” is definitively one of them.

During the seventh year, let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove. ~ Exodus 23:11

Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. ~ Leviticus 19:10

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. ~ Leviticus 23:22

At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied. ~ Deuteronomy 14:28-29

The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near, so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. ~ Deuteronomy 15:9

Those are just the very tip of the iceberg, as I listed only a few of the specific laws. There are dozens of other commandments that tell the ancient Hebrews to be “openhanded” with the poor. And then there’s the whole concept of Jubilee, which is, at its heart, what a modern conservative would label redistribution of wealth. Those principles were clearly and unequivocally endorsed by Jesus, just in case you want to wiggle out of it with “we’re not under the Law anymore!”

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Matthew 25:35-40

Not only is taking care of the poor one of the principle roles of the local church, I believe that a Christian doesn’t have a biblical leg to stand on if they want to argue against public government assistance.

teaching virginity is anti-Christian

easy a 2
[picture is Emma Stone from Easy A, a favorite film of mine]

I’ve been mulling this idea over for a while now, ever since I read Virgin: The Untouched History by Hanne Blank when I was preparing for my “What is Virginity?” video (and yes: I plan to get back to the YouTube channel soon. Editing video of yourself while depressed is …. heh). When I emerged from under the mountains of research with the realization that virginity is a myth, I startled wrestling with the theological position it’s inhabited in Christianity for centuries.

While Christianity certainly did not invent the concept, we in Western culture think of virginity in very Christian terms. It has religious, moral, and mystic significance for us. The Holy Mother is enshrined in our tradition as a virgin– and not just of the “young girl” variety. Her sexual purity was encoded as catholic doctrine  in the Nicene Creed of 381. We even have fables and legends about unicorns and how only the purest women could capture them.

Today there’s a whole culture in evangelicalism– purity culture— built around the concept. Not only is virginity considered physically real in conservative Christianity, it’s “the most precious gift a woman can give her husband.” We wear rings, we sign contracts and pledge cards, and we dive into the endless wave of books like Lady in Waiting and Why True Love Waits. All the sermons, the books, the podcasts, the blogs, the Sunday school lessons tell us all one very important thing: we must save our virginity for marriage, or unspeakable horrors will descend on us. Divorce. Betrayal. Adultery. Addiction. Disease. Death.

Aside from the fact that virginity doesn’t actually exist and all the different ways that insisting on it harms women, there’s also a theological problem with teaching our young men and women that they need to remain virgins.

As far as I’m aware, most (if not all) Christian traditions, from Protestant to Catholic to Orthodox, have some articulation of sanctification. I’m not sure if we all call it the same thing, so here’s a basic definition that hopefully works across traditions:

Sanctification is God’s work in us.

I’m a universalist, so I think of Martin Luther King Jr. saying “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” I believe that God is working through each of us to bring about a more loving planet where “all oppressions shall cease.” If you’re a more traditional Protestant, sanctification begins at the moment you become a Christian and ends when we receive our glorified bodies in heaven.

Virginity doesn’t fit into that anywhere. Teaching about virginity amounts to teaching against sanctification. This is because virginity is a state of existence. One is, or is not, a virgin. End of story. There is no becoming a virgin. There’s no progression from sinfulness to righteousness in virginity. You start out “clean,” and either you make it to marriage or you’re sullied. Lose your virginity, and you’re a ripped-open present, a half-eaten chocolate bar. Virginity is consumable. Disposable. A one-off.

That idea shouldn’t have a place in Christianity. Living as a Christian is a journey toward becoming more Christ-like. We struggle, like Paul, to “die daily.” There will be no moment on earth when we’ve attained moral perfection. We will fail. We will succeed. We will strive. We go to bed and tell ourselves tomorrow by the grace of God I will do better. We do our best to love more, to love generously. We try to be kind, to forgive, to be gracious.

Telling teenagers to “hold on” to their virginity flies in the face of everything else we try to teach them about honoring ourselves and honoring Christ. Nothing else about being a Christian works this way. There is no room in the fruits of the spirit for this notion that one either is or isn’t. We do. We try. We act.

Because virginity– at least, our cultural notion of it– isn’t an action but a state of existence, it shouldn’t hold a moral value for Christians.

a #meninist sums up my childhood in the Biblical Patriarchy movement

trash can

[content note for descriptions of physical abuse, extreme misogyny]

If you haven’t heard of the blog We Hunted the Mammoth, you should definitely check it out. Most of the time I don’t have the stomach to pick through the misogynistic underbelly of the internet, but they do all of that for me, putting it in one somewhat-more-manageable post, broken up with entertaining commentary.

I read their “Furious about Furiosa” post, which gathered together the collective outrage of MRAs who are upset about Mad Max: Fury Road. I grew up adoring the post-apocolyptic campiness that were films like Waterworld and Mad Max, so I’ve been keeping track of Fury Road, although I’ll probably just rent it when it comes out. Something that intrigued me was that the producers asked Eve Ensler (who created the Vagina Monlogues) to consult, and she worked with them to make sure the themes and characterization were handled appropriately.

I was laughing, shaking my head at all the vitriolic nonsense, until I got to this:

The only way back is to begin punishing ambition in our daughters and in all female children. They need to be physicall­­y and psychologically disciplined to be servile and deferential and they unfortunately need to have it beaten into them that they should NEVER trust their own judgement and always seek guidance and permission of their male headships.

My daughter would be turned out with nothing but a shirt on her back if she so much as looked at a college website or played with her brother’s educational toys.

She would be belted to the point of being unable to sit if she exhibited confidence in decision making.

I don’t want my wife to step foot out of the house unless her every dime and minute spent can be accounted for and executed in conjuncture with my approval. My daughter will exude obedience and timidity for whoever her future husband is and it’s imperative that all Christian Men demand nothing less within their own homes. Playtime for feminazis and the left is over. This is our world and our heritage to protect. Let the cultural war begin!

I do in fact implement this in my own home and practice what I preach vehemently. I have a daughter and sons and they are being raised to know that they are unequivocally different and 100% not equal. My wife is from a highly devout family and she was cowed long ago into obedience by her powerful, alpha father. I kinda won the life lottery.

That was posted by user “TS77RP1″ on the Return of the Kings forum, one of the MRA/red pill hubs, and something you should only google if you are feeling extremely mentally and emotionally prepared.

I couldn’t laugh at that because … that was what I was taught. Oh, TS77RP1 is being for more bluntly and explicitly honest about what the people in the biblical patriarchy/Quiverful/Stay-at-Home-Daughters movements want to accomplish, but that’s all. He’s just being honest. He’s not trying to cloak what people like Michael Farris (of HSLDA and Parental Rights) and Doug Phillips (of now-defunct Vision Forum) teach under a fog of “but the husband is supposed to love his wife as Christ loved the church.” The velvet glove came off at this particular forum, but this is the end game.

You hand this over to John Piper and Wayne Grudem and Douglas Wilson and they’d be appalled, horrified, and repulsed; there would be much arm-waving over how they’re nothing like TS77RP1. Except… they teach the subordination of women and the headship of men based on nothing except sex. They might not resort to “belting” their daughters, but they do tell wives to stay in abusive marriages. They do tell women to submit to husbands who aren’t loving them “biblically.” They do say that men “conquer” their wives.

Currently I’m researching a project that compares the beliefs and justifications of abusers to the beliefs and justifications of complementarians … and the more I dig, the more horrified I become. There’s more than just the occasional overlap– the justifications for complementarianism and the rationalizations of abusers are the same.

TS77RP1 just said it out loud.

on being silenced


I have a lot of experience with being told to shut up. I’m used to being ignored, dismissed, thrown out. Being an outspoken, opinionated girl and then young woman in Christian fundamentalism leaves one feeling stifled, and it’s a sensation I hate. The one thing that will guarantee that I get so pissed at you that I never speak to you again is to dismiss me when I’m talking about something that I believe matters.

That reaction comes from a lifetime of experience in a cult, watching the people I cared about being told to shut up and color any time they had a problem with something. One of the lessons that I’ve learned extremely well is that if your leaders seem to be immune to criticism, then you probably need to run away screaming.

All of the above is the primary reason Handsome and I left the church we’d been attending for a few years– anytime we had a concern we felt was significant enough to raise, the response was consistently either a) dismissal or b) redirection. Either they would “listen” and then tell us all the reasons why they weren’t worried about it, or they would ignore the criticism and then tell us that we were the ones with the problem. Because, y’know, jokes about spanking infants and conflating abusers and their victims is definitely just our problem. If I reacted poorly to that joke, it’s because I need counseling. Obviously.

So you can imagine my reaction when I read “What Not to Do When a Fellow Christian Embarrasses the Rest of Us” by Samuel James. The tl;dr of that is “shut up shut up SHUT UP SHUT UP!” I don’t exactly run one of the “watchdog blogs” he references, but if this blog is anything, it’s 400+ posts of criticizing Christian culture and damaging theology. I have many problems with his points, not the least of which is that Jesus spent the bulk of his time on earth criticizing the culturally dominant form of Judaism at the time. Criticizing religion is one of the most Christ-like things one can do.

One the reactions to his post was from Julie Anne, a blogger I respect immensely for the “watchdogging” she does. However, something she said struck me:

And then I discovered that Samuel James had preemptively blocked me on Twitter … Mr. James then went on to block several others who were either bloggers or others who questioned him about his article.

So, what we have here is, “I get to say what I want to say and you don’t get to respond back.”

That’s just rude. It’s also the pattern we see in abusive authority figures:  the no-talk rule. The no-talk rule prevents others from raising the alarm of abuse because any kind of negative talk is shoved under the carpet.

That has me thinking, because my mantra for twitter and other social media platforms is block early, block often. I even installed The Block Bot and I use it at the most restrictive setting. When I first started blogging I was a lot more patient, but as my platform grows so does the harassment. I’m not saying that blocking a misogynistic asshole that reverts to threats and slurs is the same thing as Samuel blocking people who criticized his argument– it’s definitely not, and my door is always open to honest criticism that is given in good faith.

However, I can imagine reaching the point in my blogging when even constructive criticism becomes overwhelming. If I ever get to the point when (heaven help me) big-name bloggers like John Piper or Douglass Wilson or a dozen others spend a serious amount of their time taking me to task and loudly disagreeing with me, I know I’m going to be sorely tempted to shut them out of my social media just so I don’t have to see it.

Is that too terribly different from Samuel deciding to block the people criticizing him on Twitter?

I know there are some differences. He’s a cishet white man who works for the ERLC. People like him have a long and glorious history of stuffing their fingers in their ears when the Stephens of our world speak the truth. The fact that he’s advocating for Christians everywhere to be silent when faced with something “embarrassing” (read: scandalous, corrupt, and abusive) is a huge problem. Him blatantly shutting down any means people have of communicating to him their disagreement is indicative of a disturbing attitude shockingly common in evangelicalism.

So where exactly do I draw the line? I don’t know. I believe that criticism can lead to productive, healthy growth– and that no one should be shielded from it. But I think that possibly we should be able to choose when and where we want to listen to it.

What do you think?