You Will Be Hated: The Catch 22

I was taught that I would be hated. Why? Because I was a follower of Jesus.

John 15:18-19 – “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

Matthew 10:22 – You will be hated by everyone because of me.”

If people called us bigots because we believed homosexuality was a sin, well, that’s what we should expect if we were truly following Jesus. And the same for every other issue. In fact, we believed that if we didn’t see opposition and hatred, that was a sure sign that we weren’t actually following Jesus. 

About a month ago, Doug Phillips Vision Forum put up a poll on whether or not gay marriage should be made legal, and when this poll was publicized among atheists via twitter and reddit with the result that the poll results went heavily in favor of gay marriage, Doug Phillips called foul and blogger Blooming Hearts for Home responded as follows:

Vision Forum Attacked by Pro-Homosexual group ~ This seems like something from a movie but it’s real friends and we will only see more war like tactics against Christians.  Be ready…… Prepare our children to stand, for the time of peace and security to worship God is about to end.

For fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, negative response or (perceived) attacks by “the world” results in a confirmation of beliefs. In some sense, it plays into their hands, only serving to make their beliefs more firm and is interpreted as “proof” that they are on the right track.

When Lydia Schatz died at the hands of her Pearl-following parents, there was a good deal of negative press against the Pearls and their methods. I tried to share some of this with my mother in hopes of leading her to question these methods. Instead, she responded by telling me that these attacks only confirm that the Pearls are preaching truth, and that she would pray for them to stand firm against opposition.

I’d never thought about just what a catch 22 this was until I read a recent post by Joe of Incongruous Circumspection called How to Spiritually Abuse Your Children in Three Steps. Here are the steps:

Step One – Repeatedly teach them something that the rest of society would find weird, “out there”, or flat-out offensive.

Step Two – Tell them that the negative reaction of the “rest of the world” proves that the above “something” is true and must be adhered to even more rabidly.

Step Three - When people undoubtedly are offended or weirded out by your child’s professed beliefs, use this as proof the outside world is full of hateful people who can never be trusted.

Step Four (Optional) – Find others that agree with the “something” in Step One and spend as much time as possible with them, cutting off all meaningful contact with the rest of society.

I think one reason religion is so successful is that it sets up protection mechanisms like this. In many ways, religion is a product of thousands of years of evolution – religious evolution. After all, the religions that lose adherents fade away while those that gain adherents grow. When society changes religions must find a way to survive, and those that do not, well, they disappear. Many religious denominations today have changed with society to accept things like gay marriage, but others find other ways to survive by setting up catch 22s like the “you will be hated” doctrine.

The hard thing is, once you buy into the “you will be hated” doctrine, any challenge to your beliefs can easily be interpreted as an attack and thus a confirmation of those same beliefs. Similarly, any opposition to a bigoted belief you may hold is interpreted as confirmation of that bigoted belief. In some sense, there is no way out.

I’d really like to talk my mother out of her belief in the Pearl’s severely authoritarian parenting methods. But I can’t. Anything I say, anything I show her, is interpreted as a confirmation of the rightness of the Pearls’ teachings. Can you say frustrating?

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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.

  • Minnie

    Your mother did not care that the Pearls got that little girl tortered and killed?

  • machintelligence

    This sounds like a variant on the “Don’t argue with the Devil” wild card. If someone is making a reasonable argument with which you disagree, she must be speaking for the Devil! Plug your ears and run away. This is a clever adaptation of religion to defeat rational discussion.

  • Nathaniel

    Maybe if you focus on the pointless death of a child rather than the negative reaction of others to this event. If you’re mother is so “Pro-life,” why is she dismissing this child?

    • AztecQueen2000

      Because “pro-life” ends at birth. After that, no one cares what happens to the kid. (BTW, this is why I’m “pro-choice.”)

      • Ken

        Amen to that. Once the umbilical is cut, those precious little gifts from god become leeching welfare vermin. But even contraception isn’t acceptable — just say no. And we see how well that works.

  • Mark

    Oh man. It is indeed frustrating. Some days I think about the things people close to me believe, and they strike me as so completely ludicrous that I feel it should only take me 10 or 15 minutes to show them this. But the very second I begin to disagree with them about their cherished beliefs, they begin to take my disagreement as confirmation that their beliefs are true…

  • The Beagle

    >> I think one reason religion is so successful is that it sets up protection mechanisms like this. In many ways, religion is a product of thousands of years of evolution – religious evolution.

    Absolutely. This type of religion is a meme that has evolved many defenses. But I am optimistic for the long run. See my post at :)

  • Adele

    Regarding the Pearls and in light of the Catch-22 you so clearly explain in this post, I would say your best bet would be not to attack the Pearls or say anything negative about them as that will just reinforce your parents’ adherence to their methods. Instead, offer an alternative. I would suggest Dr. William Sears’ Christian Parenting. Sears is a major advocate for attachment parenting, but he is also devoutly and overtly Christian. You could present this as a method that is more effective at raising good Christians and not even mention that it is more gentle and results in happier healthier children if you don’t want to. If your parents still hold to the Pearls with an “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” attitude, maybe you could use the fact that you became an atheist to your advantage? Another possibly is to see if one of your siblings could offer the alternative parenting style instead of you – maybe it would be more acceptable coming from someone else.

    Interesting post. Reminds me that bludgeoning my adversaries with logic and reason is often not a good idea if my goal is to gain support and change people’s hearts.


  • jwall915

    You very clearly illustrated one of the more twisted aspects of fundamentalist religion. I got into a discussion with a Quiverfull FB “friend” (now ex-friend) awhile back because she made the following post: “If enough people don’t hate you, then you aren’t really following God.” I first commented on how ridiculous that was, but then talked about how she had put herself in a nice little rationalizing cocoon. She can now be as rude or mean-spirited as she wants, and if anyone calls her on it, she can just accuse them of persecuting her because of her beliefs. How nice and convenient! She never has to examine her own actions or account for ever hurting anyone, because she has an easy out! Even remembering the exchange makes my blood boil.

    I think one of the major problems I have with fundie religion is that this mentality is not only applied to offensive viewpoints on gay marriage, unwed mothers, etc., but so many use it in their personal life as well. They can never be held accountable because they’re just being persecuted. My dad was incredibly abusive to us, but if anyone called him on it, he was being attacked. I wish I could count how many times I’ve heard someone say that people don’t like them simply because they’re a Christian. Or how many people think they can shirk everyday responsibilities because they are a Christian.

  • Tragedy101

    As an Atheist can you be involved in spiritual abuse? Can you be spiritually abusive as an atheist?

    Just so you are aware: I do not accept the term abuse in reffernce to peoplel, because it infers a proper use of people. I think that using a person is wrong.

    Since you have already accepted that there are proper and improper uses for people, do you think Atheists can spiritually misuse others?

    • Paula G V aka Yukimi

      I’m not sure exactly what you mean but I think that an atheist person can be abused using religion (either as a motive, justification or in other ways) but I don’t know if that would exactly count as spiritual abuse although I think it may. I think atheists can and do commit abuse, even spiritual abuse (even you don’t believe in gods you may believe in other spiritual stuff like buddhism, fairies, … and use it to abuse) now if you are an atheist and an sceptic you can abuse but you couldn’t use religious ideas to cause abuse because if you are an sceptic you don’t believe in anything supernatural. Now, criticising religion can be sone in abusive ways but it isn’t spiritual abuse as far as I can tell.

      I think you are being disingenuous with this question and you don’t actually want an answer but just something to start a mini-war or get your own little soap box so this is just my opinion and I’m not expert on the topic so I just leave it here and I don’t plan on discussing any further in a topic in which I have not enough knowledge.

      • Tragedy101

        I am not an expert in anything, however, I decide what I think is true. I do that by testing ideas, questioning them, turning them around in my mind. I have my first-hand experiences and other people’s revelations.

        When I encounter other people, I ask them questions to gain more revelations from them. I present them with ideas I have come up with and ask them if they see any flaws in them. I don’t reject my idea just because it has flaws. I consider the flaws and try to determine if the flaw is a flaw or an intrinsic part of the idea that I have not properly identified.

        I assume everyone else does the same thing. While I may be mistaken, I have no idea how else a person would determine the truth of an idea.

        How is my method disingenuos?

    • Rosie

      I think it’s possible for an atheist to spiritually abuse. It seems to me that just about anyone CAN do this; all you have to do is be utterly convinced that your way of seeing the world is the only right way, and then convince somebody else of that. But of course it’s easier when you have the weight of your whole community behind your convictions.

      I’m not sure how the word “abuse” implies acceptance of a “proper” use of people, except maybe in the most literal archaic derivation of the word. I’m pretty sure most native English speakers today would consider ANY use of a person (with the possible exception of consensual use, if such a thing can occur) to be “abusive”. But I could be wrong; I’m no expert either.

  • http:.// EEB

    In a strange way, though, I think that, sometimes, maybe rarely, this can be a positive thing.

    I went to a conservative evangelical university. I was studying to be a pastor, wanting to be a missionary. I hated the church associated with the school–I was used to attending churches with mixed ethnicities and backgrounds, and attending a church of 400 that was all white in a town with large African American and Latino population just freaked me out. So I found out somehow that a group of students carpooled to the “black” church across town, and I started going with them. The guy who drove us was in the MDiv program and taught a Sunday School class for us at a coffee shop before church.

    Anyway, we were going through the book of Revelation, and it was the first time I studied it for what it was, not as a divination tool. One of the big discussions we had, lasting several weeks, was, “Why don’t people hate us?” We were all aware that the idea of an American persecuted church was bullshit. We knew that in America, Christians occupied a privilaged position. We understood that Christians held the power, and that to succeed in politics, you had to at least pretend to be a Christian. And we had long, agonizing conversations about why that was. Jesus said that the world would hate Christians. If it didn’t, did that mean that we were no longer following Christ?

    We decided that if we actually followed Jesus, en masse, we would quickly upset a lot of people. And this led us to some serious lifestyle changes and activism. Yes, yes, it was typical college-kid stuff, but we were absolutely committed, because of our faith. We started protesting the war (this was 2004). We decided to only buy fair trade/union made/no sweatshop stuff. We protested at campus to get ethical food. We protested for better environmental standards. And one of the rules of the school was “NO PROTESTING” so we got in some seriously hot water, but we all decided, “We must obey God rather than men, etc.” and the school couldn’t really argue with that so much.

    Towards the end of my time there, I started to realize that there was more wrong with Christianity than right. I couldn’t salvage my faith, no matter how liberal I got…by the end, I had pretty much stopped believing in everything, and had to admit that I was an atheist, no matter how much I liked (some) of the community and (some) of the ethical teachings. And I realize that humanism provides a much better ethical foundation, and fights more effectively for progressive causes.

    But I still think that if Christians took this question seriously, as we did, it would have a good impact on the church, maybe even another reformation. Unfortuantely, like you said, many conservative Christians already think that they are being persecuted, and don’t realize that they’ve become the peresecutors.

  • smrnda

    I think there is a logical fallacy at work. Any opposition is a sign that you are being persecuted for being in the right; the possibility that you are getting negative reactions because you might actually be in the wrong is ruled out completely as an impossibility from the beginning. As a point of comparison, I can imagine say, a film director who thinks that negative reviews just mean that people didn’t *get* his work of genius – he’s simply unwilling to consider the possibility that maybe the movie was actually bad.

    As far as Doug Phillips and the ‘freedom’ to worship -I don’t see any way that his freedom to worship is under attack, just that our legal system should not be based on his particular religious beliefs and that the rest of us shouldn’t be obliged to be forced to live according to them if they don’t want to. Allowing same-sex marriage does not take away rights from anyone who doesn’t agree with it any more than building a temple to Wotan would take rights away from Christians.

    The problem is many of these fundamentalists interpret anything except being allowed to dominate society to be oppression for them, but if any other group tried the same thing they’d be complaining. It’s the whole blatant double standard that they apply to anything.

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