Growing up in fundamentalism was like living with a moral GPS navigator installed in my head. Every decision was mapped out already; all I needed to do was listen to the voice telling me where to go. Sometimes I could stop and look at the map. Most of the time I was looking ahead, trying to live, listening and following directions as best I could.
The GPS gave me directions for living: Read the Bible and pray every day. Obey your parents. Be respectful of elders.
Those directions made sense. They were there to help me get where I wanted to go: straight ahead. There were no twists and turns yet.
Then the directions got a little stranger: Listen to one of Branham’s sermons every day. Wear long skirts. Be modest. Grow out your hair. Throw away worldly music. Throw away makeup. Look down on public-schooled kids. Don’t watch TV.
The GPS gave me directions for my relationship with my parents: Ignore your father’s rage and violence. Win him to Christ by silence. Submit to him as your earthly head until you are married. Follow the chain of command.
It gave me directions for relationships with boys: Don’t touch. Don’t laugh too much. Don’t be alone with them. Don’t give away pieces of your heart. Wait for God to bring you your husband.
It gave me directions for lifetime ambition: Your greatest calling is to be a wife and mother. Choose a vocation you can pursue at home, while raising children. Learn to cook and sew. Don’t venture out into the world.
The cacophony of advice was deafening. More troubling still, I felt a tug, a conflict in my soul. There was something wrong with the directions.
“Turn right.” They said. “Turn right. Turn right. Turn right.”