“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.

My Kindergartener Knows What It Means to Be Transgender (and the Sky Hasn't Fallen)
A Letter from Hell, and Self-Reinforcing Beliefs
A Letter from Jesus and Living in Fear
On Orgies, Bisexuality, James Dobson, and Evangelicals
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.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12018731012247569416 MrRoivas

    Reading these sorts of lists makes me appreciate my parents more.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11944182376387560776 Andrea

    It's true that "honor" and "obey" were lumped all together. Even to the point that as an adult woman, my parents still believed they had every right to boss me around because the Bible said so. And the option to ever disobey one's parent because the parent was evil never came into the conversation. We were never taught that obedience was optional if the parent was abusive.

  • http://twitter.com/loreleihi LoreleiHI

    Heh. My parent's church would get 10/10.I was sexually abused. When I finally didn't care if I lived or died and told my mother, she went to the pastor. I was taken out of the house for 2 weeks, lived with the pastor's family, and was counseled that I must forgive and forget, that god had wiped the slate clean, and that anyway, while maybe it wasn't the *best* choice he could have made, it was a valid choice, because he was my father.I was also told that I should be grateful, because now I knew my ministry. I could guide all the other girls it happened to so that they would respond in a godly manner.Oh, but I was damaged goods, and no decent man or woman would have anything to do with me if they knew what had happened, so keep my mouth shut. And do NOT tell anyone outside of the church!I was eventually diagnosed as having the spirit of bitterness, since I wasn't sufficiently happy about having to be around my father. That led to exorcisms. Fun. I now can't enter a church (any church) without having major panic attacks.Oh, and spanking continued into the late teens, even after the sexual abuse was brought to light. Because *he* had 'repented'. I was now the sinner. /sighOh well.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15508887711850480059 M.E. Anders

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15508887711850480059 M.E. Anders

    I have read Heimlich's book, and I would highly recommend it to you. I felt validated when I read her book, as I re-evaluated the childhood abuse I suffered. If you do read the book, I would love to read your review of it.

  • http://religiouschildmaltreatment.com/ Janet Heimlich

    Libby Anne,This is a great site which I've added to my resource page: http://religiouschildmaltreatment.com/resources/Best to you,Janet Heimlichhttp://religiouschildmaltreatment.com/