“A Religious, Authoritarian Culture”

I just came upon an article called “Are you raising your children in a religious, authoritarian culture?” and I thought you all might find it interesting. The author, Janet Heimlich, has written a book called Breaking Their Willon religious child abuse. She has also written an article on Michael Pearl. What I found most interesting about this particular article, though, was that Heimlich gives a list of ten beliefs held by “religious, authoritarian cultures.” I thought I’d use this article to go through those ten and compare them to my own experiences.

#1: Children must honor you unconditionally.

Yes, absolutely. “Honor” and “obey” were very closely related growing up, and were essentially used to mean the same exact thing. Honoring your parents meant obeying them, and yes, it must be unconditional, whether the parent has acted in such a way as to deserve honor and obedience or not, whether the request is reasonable or not, etc.

#2: The Bible requires that you spank your kids.

100% Yes. Following the Pearls, my parents believed that if you don’t spank your kids, your kids will be ruined. The Bible says to spank your kids, and it is therefore mandatory.

#3: Females must always be “pure”.

Yes, female sexual, emotional, and mental purity was considered extremely, extremely important. I will say, though, that in my family of origin my parents held males to the same standard as well, expecting them to also remain pure.

#4: Children are sinful.

Yes. Absolutely and completely yes. My mother used to talk about how babies may look adorable but they are actually “full of sin.”

#5: Abuse victims should forgive their perpetrators.

Yes, I believe, though I can’t be fully sure because I never saw my parents or the religious culture that surrounded them deal with “abuse victims.” I do know, though, that forgiveness was held paramount (whether the offender had repented or not) and that the Pearls urge wives whose husband has molested their children to urge those children to forgive their father (but also, so as not to give the wrong impression of the Pearls here, to report the husband so that he serves jail time).

#6: Religious leaders can do no wrong.

No. My parents were burned by the televangelist scandals of the 1980s and they never trusted religious leaders. For this reason, they used to talk about having us start a house church, but they ultimately never did. We attended a large church that was by virtue of its numbers relatively impersonal, so we never really had any direct contact at all with the pastor, and the pastor certainly didn’t exercise any oversight or control over our family. Although I have to say, when Lydia Schatz died my mom’s response was that Michael Pearl was a godly man and that he was being attacked because his message was truth.

#7: The faithful must avoid scandal at all costs.

Hm. I’m not sure how to judge this. I’m thinking the answer is a yes/maybe, because my parents did emphasize the importance of being a good witness and having a godly reputation. However, I’m not sure if that would lead them to cover up something really bad. Hence the “maybe.”

#8: Marriage/sex between a man and a virgin/underage girl is a form of piety.

This question sounds like it’s oriented towards fundamentalist Mormons, but if you take the first part and say “marriage between a man and a virgin is a form of piety,” then I would probably say yes. Though again, to point out, virginity was emphasized for both females and males.

#9: God wants you to have many children.

YES. That’s sort of the definition of “Quiverfull.”

#10: Faith healing is superior to medical care.

Yes and no. My parents believed in faith healing, but they also took us for medical treatment if it was something serious. They sort of combined modern medical treatment with intense prayer for healing.

So that’s 7 yeses, 2 maybes, and 1 no. Now I feel like I should check out Heimlich’s book…after all, the title, “Breaking Their Will” is the buzzword of both the Pearls and my parents.

And…I guess there wasn’t really a main point to this post. Except, I suppose, that the beliefs of Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull, and especially the teachings of Michael Pearl, tend to create a religious, authoritarian culture. But then, I think we already knew that.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.