It is as important for those of us who are learning about the world of this huge coercive religious movement known as Christian Dominionism, as it is for those who have walked away from it to realize that they are not alone. That many suffered the ill effects of indoctrination just like they have, and that many of these former bible-based cult members are struggling to understand their past and find their place in their present and future. Walk Away awakenings have caused some to abandon ALL religion and become Atheist. Some have drifted into a fog causing them to question organized religion but still hold onto a belief in God. And many that I have heard from and spoken with are just now learning that…
~ All Christians are NOT Dominionists…but all Dominionists claim Christianity ~
With that said, here is the second post by a brave young woman who walked away and shares her reflections with us so that we can all learn more about this hugely unrecognized sect of Christianity.
Hope’s Journal – Post #2
In my last post, I mentioned that as a high school student, I had begun to sense some flaws in the strict evangelical/dominionist worldview we were taught. I’ll discuss the first of these in this post, but first I want to talk a bit more about political science class.
We learned about several dominionist schools of thought, including Christian Reconstructionism, theonomy, and Kingdom Now theology. (For more information, see http://www.religioustolerance.org/reconstr.htm.) Some of these systems disagree about whether the United States originated as a Christian nation, but all have a vision of it becoming that, in a narrowly defined way. We learned about the idea of God’s “covenant relationship” with Israel and a similar “covenant relationship” with the United States, making it the “new Israel.”
We also learned that in the Old Testament, God judged whole nations for their sins, and these dominionist ideologies embrace the idea of collective judgment in the present, too. This is why, if I’m a dominionist, your right to have an abortion IS my business—because I believe God will judge the country, including me, for its collective sins, including abortion. So my task is to oppose abortion at the political level in order to stave off or prevent God’s judgment.
Sound kind of selfish? Yeah, I thought so too, even when I was in the midst of this teaching. It’s like the difference between doing the right thing because you love God and want to please him/her, and doing the right thing because you don’t want to go to hell—which are pretty profoundly dissimilar motivations.
It’s also important to note that because America is the “new Israel,” God might judge us for things He (always the male pronoun, always capitalized) lets slide in other countries. So it’s a moot point to a dominionist that the Netherlands, for example, has allowed gay marriage for a decade with no apparent consequences. The Netherlands is not the New Israel of the United States, a uniquely blessed country that has been consecrated to God arguably from its inception.
Dominionists have an extremely consistent internal logic—consistent according to their own ideas and frames of reference. This makes it difficult to argue, and it means that people who don’t understand the way dominionists think and believe waste their breath on points that a dominionist will simply shrug off.
This is a point that I repeat often to not only myself but others. Hence the tag line on my email that, “It is easier to write on water than argue with a religious zealot”. It is why I am appealing to the 70% of us in America who have not guzzled this kool-aid to push back against this extremism in America. When I am asked, “How do I convince them?” Don’t. Don’t waste your time, energy or breath. It is a distraction from getting the attention of the majority who need to learn about these zealots. We need to put our efforts where we can have the greatest impact. Now…back to Hope…
Anyway, on to one of those “chinks” that ultimately led to me leaving the church:
The Presbyterian Church in America can be extremely misogynistic, although of course they justify it as observing “biblical gender roles.” In our church, the verse that forbids women from speaking in church (which liberal denominations often interpret as a rebuke to one specific church, in which women were talking during the service and being disruptive, not as a universal, binding command for all time) was interpreted to mean that women could not teach boys over eighth grade in Sunday school, Bible study, or any other context. My parents attended a Bible study that included evangelism training. Even as practice, the women in the study could not “present the Gospel” to the men, lest they appear to be preaching to the men.
Our pastor—who made a healthy salary and whose wife therefore didn’t need a job—liked to preach about how women’s primary role was as wives and mothers. A woman could work “outside the home” if it was necessary for financial security, but she should never forget that her most important job was within the home. She should always cook a nice dinner for her husband, and get dressed up and put on makeup to greet him when he came home from work. (Yes, he really did say this in sermons.)
One book that was extremely popular in defining a woman’s role was Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliott (http://www.elisabethelliot.org/). In the 1950s, she and her husband, Jim, moved to Ecuador to be missionaries to the native Quichua tribe. He and four other missionaries then traveled to meet the Auca, a tribe known to be hostile, and were killed. Elisabeth stayed with the Quichua and ultimately spent two years with the Auca, teaching them about Christianity. Her story is popular and inspirational for many evangelical Christians, but when I read Let Me Be a Woman at age 18, the contradictions jumped out at me. If I recall correctly, she talks about the importance of women being subservient and says women should never presume to teach men about the Bible. Yet if she truly believed this, she wouldn’t have been able to tell Auca men about Christianity, would she? I know some churches allow women to preach on the mission field but not in the United States, but why? How do they justify that biblically when women have to remain silent in other cases? It didn’t make sense to me.
As radical as the PCA seems, I had classmates whose churches were far more restrictive of women. I knew one family, Bill Gothard followers (http://www.pfo.org/evol-fad.htm), in which the father refused to allow the mother to wear pants or even to drive, until their kids started school and it became impossible for him to transport them. Women had to wear head coverings in their church.
Most of the people in the PCA church we attended didn’t seem to hate women, just gently seemed to consider women a little inferior. However, the high school principal did, I believe, harbor rage and bitterness toward the female gender, and he used his authority and his twisted reading of the Bible to make sure we knew.
The first really alarming remark I remember from him came when I was in eighth grade. The school (aka him) had just instituted a rule that skirts could be no shorter than two inches above the knee, and most of us were upset about this. His justification?
“You girls don’t know what it’s like, as a man, to look out and see you in miniskirts that you don’t know how to sit modestly in.”
This comment strikes me now as completely wrong and twisted. A 40-year-old man is basically punishing 14-year-old girls because he’s having inappropriate thoughts about them? Then maybe he shouldn’t be working with adolescents. This approach colluded, however, with what we were always taught about sex, which was that boys and men can’t help the fact that they are “sexual creatures” who think about sex every three seconds (I always wondered who measured that and how).
So it’s up to girls to behave and dress modestly, in order not to tempt the boys and men beyond what they can bear. (Female sexuality was never addressed and was generally treated as a myth—if a girl liked or wanted sex, it was because she really wanted love and thought sex was the means to that end.) And yes, it’s a setup for a blame-the-victim mentality, and it’s the reason I never did anything when the son of a church leader pinched my derriere in Bible class several years later. Nothing in that environment led me to believe that his action would be treated as anything other than a light-hearted prank, or that I wouldn’t come under equal censure for dressing too provocatively or in some other way inadvertently teasing him.
I mentioned the miniskirt comment years later in conversation with a male classmate. “I’m sure you don’t remember the sexism,” I said, “but there was this one time…” He shocked me by not only remembering, but by telling me all the boys in the class had been appalled. “We had gym right after that,” he said, “and all us guys went into the locker room and just looked at each other and were like, ‘It was so creepy for him to say that.’” I was kind of relieved to know the guys reacted this way but also alarmed that, at the time, I didn’t. I guess that’s how indoctrinated I was.
Further comments the principal made, however, pushed past the point I could accept. For example, knowing I planned to go to college and become a writer, he once said to me, “It’s too bad that you’re so smart, because as a girl, you won’t ever really be able to do anything with it.”
In American history class (post Civil War revisionism), he once asked, “When did women get the vote?” Someone answered, “1920.” “Right,” he said, “and when did things begin to go downhill in the United States?” He then asked leading questions until someone finally gave the answer he wanted, which was 1920. “Pretty interesting coincidence, right?”
My hand shot up. He called on me and I started to protest that even if you accepted the idea that 1920 marked the beginning of decline in the United States, you couldn’t posit a cause-effect relationship between that and women voting. He didn’t even let me finish. “I’m not saying it did happen that way,” he interrupted. “I’m just saying it’s an interesting coincidence. Just think about it, that’s all.”
I was livid. He had all but suggested that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote in politics, and he wouldn’t even let me question his underlying assumptions?
That wasn’t the only time he tossed out some controversial idea and then dodged away from discussion or argument. Several of us realized that if he thought he could actually defend what he was saying, then he wouldn’t be so afraid of our questions and disagreements. And his tactic backfired. Fine, I couldn’t force him to draw a connection between the decline of American civilization and women voting. But the fact that he would toss out such an inflammatory statement, without a willingness to defend it or even the nerve to say he believed it, eroded a big chunk of my respect for him.
In my next post, I’ll talk about the fear of emotion, how it was closely related to misogyny, and how it was another chink in the wall of dominionism.
“Hope’s” story is an all too common one. The thoughts that come to my mind are many, but I will share just a couple.
1) the argument that her “teacher” used about men having no control and that women are responsible for keeping that in check by how they appear has been used many times when a woman has been raped and the attitude has been that “she was asking for it”. Disgusting as that is, even Dominionist women buy into as was evidenced by the emotionally battering rule Sarah Palin put into place as Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska when she made rape victims pay for their own “rape
Fast Tube by Casper kits”.
2) then you have these fine Christian Dominionists are so up in arms about how women are treated. I just don’t buy the feigned emotion behind the outrage and patriarchal concern about a Muslim take-over of America and their secret agenda to instill Sharia Law on our soil. Meanwhile…they treat women as subjects who are to be given as little latitude as necessary to function in a free society – in the name of Christianity. Some of you have probably seen the fabricated scare-mails being sent around by these extremists warning of Sharia Law. There is even a politician in Oklahoma that is so convinced of this that he has introduced legislation to ban Sharia Law.
In closing, I just cannot imagine how frustrating it must be for walk aways, both men and women, who look back at this hypocrisy and cringe…and then see what is happening in today’s world.