I read every issue of World Magazine growing up, and one common advertisement in that publication was for Worldview Academy. I recently took a look at what they teach, and was struck by this:
God is the creator and we are part of his creation. As a result, we are in no position to judge His actions. He reveals Himself to us, and we have an obligation to love and obey Him.
I never attended Worldview Academy, but there was a time when this made sense to me. It’s the message I received at my family’s evangelical church, through the Christian homeschooling literature I was exposed to, and from my parents. I believed it—but no longer.
Today, when I read things like this I experience an almost physical sense of revulsion. Perhaps it’s questioning authoritarian parenting and patriarchal marriage arrangements that has led to the absolute horror arguments like this generate in me. I no longer expect Sally or Bobby to obey me without question, and I certainly don’t obey Sean without question. That God would be above question? Nothing is above question. Period. If I have nothing else, I have my mind and my ability to think for myself, form my own views, and ask questions.
Of course, the fact that I don’t actually believe there is a God makes this whole thing even weirder, because from that perspective it’s people creating a God whose will is not to be questioned—how does that even work? This is probably so obvious I don’t need to say it, but in the hands of a conniving or controlling leader (or even just a human one, really), that’s a recipe for religious authoritarianism and abuse. This doctrine hands any leader who claims he (or she—I’m looking at you, Debi!) knows the will of God and is able to convince others so a tremendous amount of power.
This idea that God’s word is law and must be obeyed without question is also dangerous on an individual level. I remember talking with my friends about what a person should do if God told her to kill her mother. Our conclusion was that if we were sure it was God telling us to do so, we would have to do it. And there are cases where our thought experiment hits reality. In 2003, Deanna Laney, a homeschooling mother in Texas, believed God had told her to stone her sons. And, given that God’s commands are mandates and not to be questioned, she did just that. Joshua and Luke were only 8 and 6 when their mother murdered them. Their brother Aaron, a toddler, barely survived. Deanna was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
But divine command theory doesn’t just create danger on a collective or individual level. It is also harmful on an internal level. When I think of being required to obey an entity, any entity, without question I feel smothered inside. I need freedom to breathe, freedom to question, freedom to explore. In the patriarchal Christian homeschool world of my youth, I believed I was required to obey my father. Period. (Okay, so there were a few exceptions, like if he were to command me to sin, but even then some manuals disagreed and said obedience was still required.) The day I claimed the ability to question my dad and have different views from him I felt frightened, but also like I could fly. The whole world had opened up and it was beautiful and technicolor and full of possibilities. I knew I could never go back.
And yet, Worldview Academy goes on teaching the evangelical youth whose parents send them there that what God says goes, period and no questions allowed.