How the Fundamentalist and Patriarchal Teachings Can Create Abusive Atmospheres: Part 1

It’s taken me a couple of weeks, or more, since the scandal about the Duggars came to light to write my thoughts about it. You might be thinking, why bother, they don’t have anything to do with you, that’s their private business. I agree, up to a point. 1:They are public figures and as such are held to a high standard.  2: The homeschool “curriculum” they use is at the core of why Josh Duggar abused his sisters and babysitter – I too was put through the same teachings growing up.

You’re probably tired of reading about the Duggars by now. I am too. However, for me there is an intensely personal reason that I’m writing about the crap that’s hit the fan. I want to shed a little light on the teachings and atmosphere that the Duggars and thousands of other kids have been raised in since around 1970 (and before) through a particular theology, which creates a perfect atmosphere for abuse, especially sexual abuse.

I have always thought that the whole Duggar program is a fake “reality” put on for show so that they could be a witness to us poor, misguided souls who just don’t know any better. Personally, I wish the tv producers would take the word “reality” off of anything related to tv. It can’t ever be reality since no human in existence wants everyone up in their personal business, every day, week in and out. Seriously! You can’t tell me that if you had a tv show about your life, when the cameras were on you didn’t act any different than when they were off. Life is messy, beautiful, sad, blissful, humorous, depressing, achieving, accomplishing, exhilarating, perfect in its imperfection!

So. Josh Duggar. Found to be guilty of “sexual experimentation” on 4 of his sisters (ages 12, 11, 10, 5) and the family babysitter (aged 14), which he admitted to after being caught in a compromising situation, when he was aged 14 to 15. (Notice it’s after being caught.) The Duggar parents have said in an interview that it was all done when the girls were asleep and over their clothes. And because “they were too young to know what was going on, they aren’t really victims.” First of all, no matter the age, they were innocents and lack of knowledge does not absolve their brother from molesting them. Second, the illegally opened police report states that for some of the molesting incidents the girls were awake – sitting in his lap, isolated in the washing room, and an innocent request to scratch a back – and some of it was done under their clothes. Thirdly, most girls, even in the stilted, non-sex educated environment of most families in this theology, know that their brother, or any male for that matter, should not be touching them any where on their bodies, except for maybe a hug or to help in a dangerous situation. How many times before the whistle was blown?  Did Josh threaten them to keep them quiet? At least for the times when they were all awake? I don’t know about you, but I find it even creepier that he explored them when they were asleep. My husband, who did his fair share of babysitting growing up, said he never once, ever, thought of touching girls younger than him. But my husband didn’t grow up in the patriarchal, fundamentalist teachings where sex is dirty outside of marriage and mere thoughts of girls can cause you to be outside of your parents’ “umbrella of protection” and open to Satan. Lustful thoughts and masturbation are considered as having sex and sinful.

The parents have said that they hope everyone sees how they aren’t a perfect family, that they have troubles like everyone else. I agree with them. However, most people put those who are on tv, or the silver screen, on pedestals, expecting them to live better than the rest of us. Impossible! The hypocrisy going both ways is silly. In the case of the Duggars, the hypocrisy is glaring now that the homosexual activists have brought the past abusive behavior of Josh to light. Also, most of us know we’re all not perfect, but most of us don’t perpetrate crimes on innocents either.

The image and ideals that Jim Bob and Michelle have been portraying to us all these past several years is false. I knew this before all this ugliness was revealed because I too was raised in the patriarchal, fundamentalist system that the Duggars use ~ the Advanced Training Institute (ATI), a Bible based home education curriculum which teaches a way of life. According to them their way is the only way to live life. This system is a cult formed by perverted fundamentalist Bill Gothard. To explain some of it I will use parts of articles written by others who have explained it way better than I could. They also remember parts of the teachings that I’ve deliberately chosen to forget. Probably why I kept seeing through Gothard’s teachings when my parents were shoving it down my throat, and so quickly shed the teachings after getting married and going through counseling.

Here is an excerpt from Brooke Arnold’s article that neatly sums up ATI: “ATI is a Christian homeschool organization that hosts seminars worldwide, provides homeschooling curriculum, and even runs its own paramilitary training center. At one point, it was strongly affiliated with a Christian correspondence course law school. Its members are not concentrated in one area, and yet they maintain insular groups and often form churches in which all members are affiliated with ATI and/or follow its basic principles. Referred to as “Gothardism” within fundamentalist Christian circles, the teachings of ATI form an ideological system of practices based on the extremely strict, fundamentalist, and idiosyncratic Biblical interpretations of the organization’s founder, Bill Gothard – a man who, in 2014, stepped down as head of ATI following allegations of sexual misconduct with young girls.

And then there are the beliefs that are more central to the portrayal of ATI on TV through the Duggar family, which are also shared throughout the church’s teachings: the antiquated dress codes (especially for girls and women), the required homeschooling, the prohibition on birth control, the strictly gendered division of labor and the absolute and unquestioned authority of the father within the home.”

What is the fundamental, patriarch stuff anyway? Let’s look at the dictionary definitions.

Fundamentalism – a movement in American Protestantism that arose in the early part of the 20th century in reaction to modernism and that stresses the infallibility of the Bible not only in matters of faith and morals but also as a literal historical record, holding as essential to Christian faith belief in such doctrines as the creation of the world, the virgin birth, physical resurrection,atonement by the sacrificial death of Christ, and the Second Coming; strict adherence to the basic principles of any subject or discipline. Wikipedia – The term was originally coined by its supporters to describe what they claimed were five specific classic theological beliefs of Christianity, and that developed into a Christian fundamentalist movement within the Protestant community of the United States in the early part of the 20th century.  Here are 2 quotes about fundamentalism:

A criticism by Elliot N. Dorff:

“In order to carry out the fundamentalist program in practice, one would need a perfect understanding of the ancient language of the original text, if indeed the true text can be discerned from among variants. Furthermore, human beings are the ones who transmit this understanding between generations. Even if one wanted to follow the literal word of God, the need for people first to understand that word necessitates human interpretation. Through that process human fallibility is inextricably mixed into the very meaning of the divine word. As a result, it is impossible to follow the indisputable word of God; one can only achieve a human understanding of God’s will.”

Howard Thurman was interviewed in the late 1970s for a BBC feature on religion. He told the interviewer:

“I say that creeds, dogmas, and theologies are inventions of the mind. It is the nature of the mind to make sense out of experience, to reduce the conglomerates of experience to units of comprehension which we call principles, or ideologies, or concepts. Religious experience is dynamic, fluid, effervescent, yeasty. But the mind can’t handle these so it has to imprison religious experience in some way, get it bottled up. Then, when the experience quiets down, the mind draws a bead on it and extracts concepts, notions, dogmas, so that religious experience can make sense to the mind. Meanwhile religious experience goes on experiencing, so that by the time I get my dogma stated so that I can think about it, the religious experience becomes an object of thought.” 

In a nut shell, people who adhere to Christian fundamentalist ideology believe and follow five foundational tenants that a few men decided are what the Christian faith should be founded on. This was started around 1889 and in the early 1900’s the books, The Fundamentals, were published to teach the churches and folks what they believed the truth is. However, you can be fundamental about anything – politics, cooking, studying, basically any subject. Foundations in and of themselves are not bad. But when people who follow fundamentalist ideologies ostracize, abuse, maim, or kill others for not following their tenants, well, then they’ve just taken someone’s freedom away, which is what Jesus came to give us all. Life isn’t about being right. It’s about love, and I’m not talking about sex.

Here on, Diary of an Autodidact, he has said it best: “This one is pretty much a sure-fire sign of fundamentalism. If there is a teaching that the fundamental truth of the world is hierarchy, and the most important question that of who must submit to whom, then you are dealing with fundamentalism. And probably a cult.

In fact, Gothard’s teachings hinge on his principle of “authority,” which is that God only works and speaks through a hierarchy. (The first principle he teaches is the relatively uncontroversial one of “design,” which is basically pop-psych self acceptance repackaged, but it is the second, that of Authority, that is really the most important to his system.)”

Patriarch – the male head of a family or tribal line; a person regarded as the father or founder of an order, class, etc.; any of the very early Biblical personages regarded as the fathers of the human race, comprising those from Adam to Noah (antediluvian patriarchs) and those between the Deluge and the birth of Abraham; any of the three great progenitors of the Israelites: Abraham, Isaac,or Jacob; any of the sons of Jacob ((the twelve patriarchs),) from whom the tribes of Israel were descended; (in the early Christian church) any of the bishops of any of the ancient sees of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Jerusalem, or Rome having authority over other bishops; Greek Orthodox Church. the head of any of the ancient sees of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, or Jerusalem, and sometimes including other sees of chief cities.- Dictionary.com

I find that the definition of patriarch in Wikipedia more clearly defines how patriarchy is used by some religions today. “Originally, a patriarch was a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family. The system of such rule of families by senior males is termed patriarchy.” Notice the word “autocratic”. Another definition called the patriarch the ruler of the family.

The word patriarch originally acquired its religious meaning in the Septuagint version of the Bible. Nowadays this title is usually given out of love or respect; however, sometimes it’s demanded. Some fundamentalists ,who also follow the old Mosaic patriarchal teachings, see it as their God-given right, abuse it, and create an atmosphere where abuse can flourish. Again, this is taking someone’s freedom away. Since man went and procreated in the world there have been matriarchal and patriarchal societies. They are two sides of the same coin. Let’s face it: man can, and will, abuse others until they see those around them as God sees them – one with Him.

The first, fundamentalism, teaches that everything in the Bible, Old and New Testaments, are to be followed exactly to the letter. Which would logically lead into the second of patriarchalism. Except that most of us aren’t Jews and if we are to have a literal interpretation of the Bible, didn’t Jesus say that He was the Word (Law/Scriptures), the Word became flesh (Jesus), the Word died for us, redeemed us all, and now lives/dwells in us making us One with Him? Did Jesus lie? Did He fulfill the Law or not? When we treat each other without love, then Jesus’ great accomplishment, done out of Love for us, becomes buried beneath people’s self-righteousness, which is what happens when they try to follow the Law. The patriarchal system that God set up for the Jews was put there to tell the story of His great love for mankind, through one clean blood line. Since Jesus fulfilled it all (the Law, Psalms & Prophets; his words, in John), “it is finished” and all we need to be is Love. I think we should move forward in our lives, not backwards using an archaic lifestyle, since we live under a new covenant – grace & peace – that Jesus gave us. No man is over another, we are all one.

Stick with me because there is more to follow! (too much for one post)

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