As a young evangelical, although I grew up surrounded by fundamentalism, I didn’t know much about it. Until the first week at Wheaton College, when most of my dorm-mates used their evenings to attend a Bill Gothard seminar, known then as Institute of Basic Youth Conflicts. I didn’t partake in that extra-curricular exercise, but I glanced through the hefty notebooks issued to each student.
Here was the cult-like teaching of neo-fundamentalism, spelling out in no uncertain terms who’s in charge. Contained therein was an overdose of hierarchic control. Trust and Obey, For There’s No Other Way. Being under authority is one of (since disgraced) Gothard’s most central teachings. Through copious diagrams, he stresses that a woman is subject to her husband; if single, her father remains in charge of her life. The husband is like a High Priest in charge under Christ and the wife totally subservient to the husband; her access to God is through her husband. The mother in turn exercises authority over the children. Presumably, likewise the children over the pets as being the least significant members of God’s family system. Bad, sinful things happen when that divinely ordained chain-of-command is violated.
I think back to Genesis 2, where God made a woman from a rib he had taken out of Adam. It’s a fascinating story. One which makes me have faith not so much because of what the Bible says, but often in spite of it. But for neo-fundamentalist literalists, they not only believe the Bible, they know its true in every respect. Things happened exactly that way because the Bible and Ken Ham say so.
In essence, Eve was a mutant. God made a new being from somebody’s body parts. Most people familiar with Frankenstein would consider that as creating a monster. And that is how neo-fundamentalists (i.e. – evangelicals) view women. A monster which must be controlled; caged by her master. Bad things happen when the monster is let off the leash.
H.L. Mencken once observed, “morality is doing what is right regardless of what you are told. Obedience is doing what is told regardless of what is right.” As religion, evangelicalism tends towards being a cult of (often blind) obedience. An old Gospel song recites, “Fix Your Eye Upon Jesus”. That’s great, except we need our peripheral vision to not bump into things. Or obstacles, like other people and their annoying problems and demands, disturbing our blissful, solo walk with the Lord. The boss takes no crap from underlings in a scheme where all the shit flows downhill anyway.
Take the family, for instance. Jesus said, “I have come to divide people against each other! From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against—or two in favor and three against.” Most people interpret this as you suffering because of your faith. I see as well as other family members suffering because of your faith. Especially today, when religious organizations use the euphemism “Family” to disguise the fact they are really Extreme Right Wing lobby groups. And Christian families cheering on Trump’s border separation of minors from their undocumented parents. Or like the six-year old looking forward to kindergarten until being expelled from the Christian school because her parents are gay.
I’ve covered a lot of ground here. Let’s just summarize by saying evangelicals put the “nuclear” into family, where rigid conformity to a fundamentalist Diktat is more important than spiritual damage being done to the family. Trust and Obey: use carefully. Among other regrets, I obeyed James Dobson’s advice as a Godly father in spanking the kids. As Mencken implied, a person can be utterly spotlessly religious and still be an asshole. I was that asshole. And I repent.