We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
It's Not A Cult, It's A Party
America: Whose “Moral Enterprise?”
I’m part of a growing movement of men and women who’ve left Christian fundamentalism. Yes, it’s possible to leave Crazy Town and we are absolutely enjoying all that life has to offer outside of a movement that controlled our lives, but most importantly controlled our minds.
Lately I’ve been writing about the abuse that I experienced in my fundamentalist group, which is a group my therapist labeled a“cult”(The politically correct and academic term is ‘new religious group‘ although I feel that term does more to protect the abusive and destructive groups from the government than it does to protect victims. More on that later.). Along with leaving a cult, or destructive group, comes many challenges: immersion into “normal” society, behaviors and media; ostracism from old friends and the loneliness that comes from that process; and a struggle to maintain faith in God that often comes from duty, obligation and fear. For those who depart from their faith in God, like me and many of us (perhaps because our spiritual abusers convinced us that they were God; perhaps because we’ve seen the inside of a dark temple), the road to labeling yourself atheist or agnostic is riddled with fear of judgement, secrecy and finally gaining your own footing with your new set of beliefs.
To me, it’s less important whether I’m labeled an atheist or agnostic or spiritual because none of those labels accurately describe me. What is important to me is that I’m not labeled a Christian, and there’s a clear distinction between my ethics and beliefs and those of modern day fundamentalism. Because I don’t endorse gay bashing, homophobia, removing women’s rights/voices or controlling women’s bodies, I’ve become sort of staunchly liberal. I’m that annoying political friend on Facebook who’s always sharing her liberal news articles with you. The one I’d be tempted to delete, if she were Conservative. There you have it–I’m a hypocrite but a happy one.
All joking aside, upon recent examination of the rhetoric and ideologies of the GOP candidates, I realized that they have been spouting some of the same ideology as my old abusive spiritual leaders. The other day, as I was watching Newt Gingrich accept his win in South Carolina he began bashing a judge for making a secular decision, calling him an “anti-religious bigot.” Many of the candidates beliefs stem from a faith in God that’s more similar to fundamentalism than to anything else. For example, Rick Santorum, who’s been known to say some off-the-wall things lately,recently said:
America is a moral enterprise, not an economic enterprise… The United States is successful not because of its powerful military, its economic system or its form of government, it is successful because of the American people’s faith in God.
What is scary about Santorum–and let’s face it, what’s nots cary about Santorum?–is that he assumes that everyone holds the same fundamentalist faith in God that he does. There is no freedom for diversity of thinking, nor individual freedom, which the Right often embraces. The fundamentalism we see today in candidates like Santorum is based on largely modern-day teachings and adaptations of puritanical beliefs. Take that combination, the lack of historical and cultural study that many fundamentalist preachers neglect and mix it with a book that still contains stories that endorse murder, incest, slavery, war and oppression of women and gays and you have a violent, toxic combination.
Such a dichotomy has occurred within our society, however, when liberal Christians like Anne Rice (whose Facebook page I highly recommend) and others, have embraced a more liberal philosophy toward gays, science, and women’s rights and maintained their belief in God. This group remains devoted to their religious beliefs but often times critical of their churches, spiritual leaders and even the violent teachings in the Bible, offering a rigorous, deep examination of traditions they feel are outdated and unethical. This side of Christianity is not only refreshing; it’s incredibly important to recognize that it exists.
For many former fundamentalists, like myself, having candidates like Santorum in the Presidential race is terrifying. As I recently wrote, these are the politicians who are most likely to partner up with the United States Conference of Catholic bishops in order to take way women’s reproductive rights. Why are these men trying to control women’s bodies, and challenge our ability to make decisions on our own? Because they believe that if God is male, then male is God (see Mary Daly’s book Beyond God the Father for more on this philosophy). The men who lobby against women’s rights, partnered with candidates like Santorum who literally believe that “America is a moral enterprise” (in effect, America is a fundamentalist Christian moral enterprise) will do anything within their power to ensure that their personal religious beliefs make their way into the legislation that effects everyone, regardless of their beliefs. Why would I, or anyone else, want a candidate in office that reflects and embodies the abusive, patriarchal beliefs that my former spiritual leader used to control my mind and body? I assure you, America doesn’t.
- Editor's note: The story originally published on January 26, 2012 at RHRealityCheck.org. Rick Santorum photo: by Gage Skidmore's Flickr photostream and posted with Creative Commons license.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
The 31st Chinese Export Commodities Fair (Spring) was held from 15 April to 15 May 1972, and most of the foreign traders attended for the whole month. While the main purpose of the Fair was for China to exhibit and sell its products to the western world, buyers from the Beijing Government’s import agencies attended to negotiate the purchase of raw materials, metals, minerals and other commodities from the west, hopefully paying with Chinese goods. China saw itself as a potential exporter of machinery and equipment, automobiles and other manufactured goods. In reality most of what was on display at the F Read on →
My friend Tom says most, if not all, great writers are fractured individuals. I hope he’s wrong about that; I’ve always been a happy, well-adjusted guy. I plan to achieve Great Writer status one day and would hate to think lack of a tortured soul, along with precious little talent, will prevent such dreams. The only thing even remotely dark about me is my middle name. If I had been a girl, none of this would have happened. I would have been Betty Louise. At least that’s what my mother said. The Mike part of my name originated with an old Army Read on →
In her autobiography A Backward Glance (1934), Edith Wharton wrote: “In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.” I like that concept which I stumbled upon this morning in a delightful newsletter called Dr. Mardy’s Quotes of the Week — Jan 18-24, 2015. Wharton was a great stylist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century whose books on the conflicts between societal mores and the pursuit of happiness are sti Read on →
“Please hold my hand now. I am dying.” As this soul pulled me close to her, she looked up but just smiled. I had just finished reading “Walking Home From Oak Head” by Mary Oliver to her and she seemed to be pleased to hear some of the refrains again, There is something about the snow-laden sky in winter in the late afternoon that brings to the heart elation and the lovely meaninglessness of time. We had shared many secrets over the years we had known one another, the years of being lovers, of becoming friends. She was “spiritual” in some ways by her reckoning and made me promise to Read on →