We recently published here a piece called Getting Over “Get Over It,” in which Sylvie King Parris asked the question:
How does one “get over” discovering that everything they’d been taught about God and religion since childhood was a lie?
Since then we have received comments challenging the idea that so much of what Christian fundamentalism teaches is, in fact, a lie. We’ve also been asked why some people can’t simply stop believing what they were taught as children. As one commenter to Ms. Parris’s piece put it on our Facebook page:
Everything they’ve been taught is a lie? Who has the authority to say this? … We CHOOSE what we believe – all of us.”
I was raised a fundamentalist Christian. Here is some of what we were taught, both explicitly and in a million different little ways, every single day of our lives:
- You are worthless.
- God hates you, unless you love him.
- Obedience is love.
- Punishment is love.
- The Bible is infallible and not to be questioned.
- The pastor is infallible and not to be questioned.
- Our interpretation of all Scripture is without error and not to be questioned.
- Outside the church bubble waits evil.
- Everyone who is different should be feared.
- Bad things happen to you because God is trying to teach you a lesson.
- Bad things happen to you because God let Satan tempt you.
- Bad things happen to you as a punishment for disobedience.
- Depression is a sign of sin in your life.
- To resist what you are taught is to rebel against God.
- Women have to cover themselves so as not to tempt men.
- If a man lusts after a woman it’s her fault.
- Women need to submit to male authority over them.
- There are many things girls can’t do.
- Men are more important than women.
- A woman who is raped must forgive her rapist and not report it to the authorities, in order that the rapist, his family, and the church remain protected from outsiders.
- Children are to be seen and not heard.
- Children need to have their will broken through painful “child-training” and punishment.
- A child who is not hit until he or she screams will not learn.
- Our church is the only true church; all others churches are filled with Christians who are untrue and destined for hell.
- Catholics aren’t Christians. They are idol worshippers.
- You are so full of sin God can’t even look at you.
- When the Communists take over America and force us to burn all of our Bibles, you’ll need to have memorized it so they can’t take away what is written on your heart.
Those are lies. And they are deeply damaging.
And if you are unfortunate enough to be raised a Christian fundamentalist, you have no choice but to believe those lies until, because you are very lucky and/or very strong, you break free from the controlling, brainwashing environment in which you and your family exist. Yours is a world in which not only all outsiders, but all television, music, movies and books are shunned. So what you are taught is literally the only truth you know.
And that is why, as toxic and harmful as they can certainly be, whenever I deal with Christian fundamentalists I bear in mind Jesus’ “Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do.” Because I know how true that is.
Christy Caine, head admin and primary commenter/responder on the Unfundamentalist Christians Facebook page, is a writer, advocate, and mom of boys. She is interested in justice, compassion, and where the worlds of faith and politics collide. She blogs at Leap of Fate, and is currently writing a spiritual memoir.