Saturday, September 21, 2013

Life with the Marz

These are the sort of books Marz, who grew up in a fundamentalist Christian church, leaves lying around.

The book she most highly recommends for "former fundies" and those who seek to understand them (or to further understand the process of indoctrination, found in lots of families and other groups, and how one might recover from it) is
Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion [click to read a couple chapters]

She says she really likes that the author Marlene Winell grew up in a fundamentalist faith herself and ––unlike outsiders who simply condemn fundamentalism––Winell gets what's attractive about being held firmly and how well, in fact, the system does work, for people who can tolerate it.

But if it doesn't work for you, there's no room.

From Leaving the Fold

Chapter 1:
The Recovery Process
In general, leaving a cherished faith is much like the end of a marriage. The symptoms of separation are quite similar-grief, anger, guilt, depression, lowered self-esteem, and social isolation. But whereas help for divorced people is readily available, little if any assistance is available to help you to leave your religion. The familiar sources of church support are no longer there, and family members still in the fold may actually shun you. Secular friends and even therapists may not understand what you have been through. Part of the difficulty is the anxiety, the terror you may feel about having to go it alone. After having been born again, leaving your faith can feel like being lost again.


Zhoen said...

I remember the grief, the fear, of a world without God, belief, religion. Catholicism in my case, after many years of doubts that grew into outright contempt. Never compared it to the divorce before, that sense of having been fooled and guilty, before, though.

I can only think a fundamentalist, literal religion, would be even harder. Never have told my mother, though.

Fresca said...

My parents didn't raise us kids in any religion at all, but I do remember the shock I felt when I realized I disagreed with some of the things they'd taught us. Or more than "disagreed"--realized some of it was outright wrong.

Silly but earthshaking example: when I caught my father making up a "fact" rather than saying he didn't know: he told me New Zealand was settled by British convicts.

I knew this wasn't true (he was "borrowing" the history of neighboring Australia), but I felt such shock and even some shame on his behalf that I didn't even say anything. (Like you not telling your mother?)
It's hard to pull the rug out from under those comforting teachings (comforting if only in that they're familiar.)

But at least my parents had also taught us that it's actually *good* to develop your own opinions, which is pretty much the opposite of any fundamentalist indoctrination.

deanna said...

Do you (or Marz) have a working definition of "fundamentalist"? I am curious, as I continually seek to sort out the religious "places" in which I've dwelt.

My journey has wound through several versions of Christianity, all of which gave me good things. I hadn't ever grieved leaving one the way I have the group or church I was part of just before Orthodoxy. I've definitely felt that this must be similar, anyway, to the way a divorce feels. A "friendly" divorce, where there's joint custody (of certain spaces in town and some ideas). But still difficult; still as though part of me has been removed, because I no longer agree with the group's central doctrines.

Fresca said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fresca said...

Hey, Deanna! [above deleted comments are from me--due to technical glitches]

Good! Huge! Complex! question.

I asked Marz what she means when she says she grew up in a "fundamentalist" church, and she answered with a simple example:

In her "nondenominational" Christian church, when a person is baptized, they are asked,
"Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? And are you absolutely confident that if you died tonight, you would go to see him?"

It's that "*absolute* confidence" that is a hallmark of Fundamentalism, along with the very important aspect of implied danger: if they weren't 100% sure, they weren't saved.

And if you aren't saved, well... the consequences are pretty frightening.
(Actual torture. Forever.)

[Kind of a Catch-22 there:
if you don't believe, the consequences shouldn't matter to you, right?
But the human mind seems to be wired to grip onto the negative stuff, so we're prone to keep fearing the possibility of punishment even if you don't believe in the salvation. Oy!]

I'd say that Fundamentalism is a system (political or religious, or even just personal) that requires absolute allegiance to unchanging, core (fundamental) beliefs
* * * and in which there are consequences, very unpleasant ones, for not believing.

Of course, that's so broad, it could apply to a lot of systems. And it does, in varying degrees.

The degree makes a huge difference! How free does a person feel, for instance, even to question the fundamental belief?
Is the consequence social disapproval? Or Eternal Torture?

For me, I'd say the term "fundamentalism" only applies when the requirement of Certainty and the consequences for Uncertainty are intense.

P.S. Having just blogged about "indoctrination" I would add that reliance on emotion, rather than (and even in opposition to) reason, is a big part of fundamentalism.

Fresca said...

P.P.S. These are my rough thoughts---it's not something I thought a lot about before knowing someone who grew up in such a religion.

Fresca said...

P.P.S. These are my rough thoughts---it's not something I thought a lot about before knowing someone who grew up in such a religion.

Fresca said...

AAArgh--Comment Glitches today!!!

deanna said...

This is very helpful -- thanks!

I've belonged to a couple different nondenominational churches in the past, but, using your thoughts as a launching point for definitions, I don't think I've ever been in a fundamentalist group.

In fact, I'm thinking (not with certainty, of course) that one of the main reasons for some of my friends' distress when I began attending an Orthodox Christian church is these friends' woundedness (if that's a word) by fundamentalist groups in their pasts. Someone said to me, as I was describing things I was learning and thinking regarding the Nicean creed, "Watch out; they [referring to church leaders] will kick you out the minute you share your thoughts about these credal statements." This said to me there had been a lot of pain in that person's history with church leaders.

Now, I'm *certain* there are people who've had bad experience with Orthodox Christian leaders, as well, because every group is made up of human beings. But my experience to date has been one of freedom, and it has actually made me recognize the lock and key I had put my mind under in the last group, out of fear of being attacked by fundamentalists!

It can all get pretty crazy, yes?

Rereading your comment above regarding the time you realized your father wasn't correct about everything, I recognize that as more the situation I've currently been in. I admired my intellectual, academic Protestant friends so much (they didn't use emotional appeals; in fact, emotions got rather locked away). I admired their wisdom and integrity, and I still do. But I never counted on their fear and backpedalling away from me the day I began exploring something that sounded emotional or fundamentalist to them. I can't make them believe I feel very free in my beliefs now, but that's reality. I can continue to appreciate them and hope for true dialogue with them someday.

So thanks for being a sounding-board for me today! And if this has left you noting any "cognitive dissonance" (as my friends from the last group describe things a fundamentalist might say), please let me know.

Fresca said...

DEANNA: "It can all get pretty crazy, yes?"
And you got right to the problem of fundamentalism: out of fear, people put their minds under "lock and key".

I too got a lot of flack when I joined the Catholic Church, but in fact they were no worse than any political group I've ever been associated with.
And while people may not take full advantage of it, the Catholic catechism does encourage intellectual questioning AND teaches the "primacy of conscience"--it is YOUR job to be informed.

I always secretly liked a (admittedly snotty) comment from Augustine: he wonders how stupid people could ever be happy. By stupid, I think he means "unquestioning".

I don't really see it as a matter of happiness, but it tickles me that he put it that way. (Hm.. not sure how he put it in Latin though.)

Anyway, I must get back to work, so all on this for now. (I am holding myself back from looking up the exact quotes I've mentioned here!)