by Samantha Fields cross posted from her blog Defeating The Dragons
I grew up in a cult.
That’s what I say when I have to start explaining my life to someone. As a phrase it carries a lot of baggage, but even so, it’s the easiest and most straightforward way I have to start my story. Generally I have to walk the person back from visions of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but as loaded as the word “cult” is, it still applies to my life. According to the research of people like Michael Langone, the Independent Fundamental Baptist church I attended for a dozen years fit 13 out of 15 qualifiers. So while I didn’t live in a bunker or on a compound, there’s really no other way to explain what seems like insanity to people with “normal” lives.
For a long time, even after I started blogging, I went out of my way to make clear that it was just my church that was fucked up. Not all IFB churches are unhealthy or cultist, not every fundamentalist church is abusive.
That change started when I was able to connect the dots between the teachings I absorbed in the tiny little church I was brought up in and the larger movement. The cult leader isolated us from the rest of the fundamentalism, making us all extremely wary of theologians and their “false doctrines,” so I grew up with him being my only example of a fundamentalist pastor. Other churches in our area, no matter how conservative, were suspect; even when we attended revivals or camp meetings everything was filtered through a lens of what my pastor wanted me to absorb.
So I grew up reading C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, was surrounded by ICR and AiG materials, but I had never heard of people like Bill Gothard. I never went to a homeschooling convention, a NCFCA debate, or an ATI/IBLP conference. I had no idea that the words coming out of my pastor’s mouth were stolen from Rushdoony or Doug Philips or Geoffrey Botkin. I didn’t know that the “umbrella of protection”–referring to how the father is supposedly a daughter’s only protection from the evils of The World– came right out of one of Bill Gothard’s Basic Seminar textbooks.