Monday, January 14, 2013

Resentment, or How The Church Opened the Door to Getting Sucked into a Cult.

I'm feeling resentful today. (Oh noes! Not a negative emotion, especially not resentment! Run away!!!)


Why am I feeling resentful? I'm feeling resentful because so much of the church, including the church environments in which I grew up, does not talk about gender issues, marriage issues, and inequality issues beyond their comfortable little complementarian box. So much of the church is so busy pushing the man as leader/woman as follower message that so many churchgoers have no idea there's an alternative(and when the alternative is mentioned, it's in such a ridiculed, straw-manned, misrepresented way that no one could be expected to give it a second thought anyway). Why is this an issue? Because it removes choice. Because I was well into my twenties(and many years married) before I even heard the word egalitarian, or even had a concept of what an egalitarian marriage looks like. Because so many women are miserable within that system, not even knowing that there's another option.


I'm feeling resentful because when I first started to question the status quo, I wasted a couple of years of my life, and had my marriage nearly destroyed in the process, because I didn't know that there was an alternative to complementarianism. Let me explain.


I always had this nagging feeling that something wasn't quite right. More concerning, I always had a feeling that I wasn't completely living my life, that I was somehow an outsider to my own existence. I hardly allowed myself to acknowledge these feelings. After all, what could be wrong? I grew up in a loving Christian home, I married the first and only boyfriend I'd ever had, we did the whole "courtship" thing, didn't have sex until we were married, and I was trying as hard as I could to be a Good Christian Submissive Wife.


So when I caught my first EVER glimpse of something that said that I didn't have to be subordinate to my husband, that I was an equal to him and should be treated as such, and that I could and should think for myself, I was ALL OVER IT. It felt like a light had been switched on, like the moment in The Wizard of Oz when it switches from black and white to color. It felt like I had been living in a cage that I didn't even know existed, and then the door had been swung open to a wide, amazing world.


Colour mosaics

Photo credit

There was one small problem. That glimpse I caught? It was from a book that was written by some people whose "ministry" is just one step shy(or maybe not, I'm trying to be generous) of being a cult. Without going into all the details, it was bat-poo crazy. You know all the red flags for a cultish mindset- the intense pressure to study their books, visit their web forums, sign up for the crazy emails, the phone calls, and ultimately pay and attend the week long intensive in Florida where you could get one on one help from the authors of the book(how awesome!). Oh, and I can't forget to mention the warnings not to read any other books written by anyone else(except for these two or three other ones that they've hand selected and approved), because those authors just don't know what they're talking about, and could mess up your progress in their system. Yep, the red flags were all there.


Their theology wasn't right either, far from it. They weren't even teaching healthy, mutually submissive egalitarianism. They had rejected the typical hierarchical model that most of the church teaches, sure. But what they were teaching was their own special brand of crazy that was different enough from what everyone else teaches that they could conveniently isolate themselves, their followers, and make a lot of money preying on women and families that had been hurt by the church's damaging teachings about marriage.


I'm going to let your imagination fill in the blanks as to how well that went over in my marriage. Like I said, nearly destroyed.


So why would I feel resentment for the church because of that? Because the fact that I literally had NO IDEA that there was an alternative to hierarchal marriage, which made it incredibly easy for me to fall prey to this "ministry"- the first thing that had ever opened my eyes and offered me a little bit of freedom. OF COURSE I clung to it for dear life. Of course I did! The concept that I could think for myself and that it wasn't Biblical for me to be subordinate to my husband was like a wellspring of life to my parched soul! That feeling that I wasn't really living my own life was starting to go away, and it was one of the most wonderful things in the world. It's amazing what a little taste of the truth can do for you. It's just so, so unfortunate that in my case, that nugget of truth came tied to so many lies.


I'm not excusing my actions, or refusing to take responsibility for my choices. One one hand, I deeply regret many of the things I did and said in that season of my life. On the other hand, I know that I was only doing the best I could with the information that I had, and that I never intended to get caught up in a cult or purposefully damage my marriage(who would?!). The truth is, I never got to make an informed choice about the type of marriage I wanted to have.


Like we say in the birth world, in order for a mother to make an informed choice about her birth options, two things have to be true- she must be both informed, and she must actually have a choice. That applies to marriage as well, and I was neither informed nor aware of a choice. I grew up in a hierarchal home, went to churches that promoted hierarchy, read books and magazines that promoted it, got married when I was still just a kid with next to no life experience(19, FTR), and was never introduced to the concept that there was another Biblically based concept of marriage(in fact, even the slightest hint of that concept was strongly ridiculed)- I was neither informed, nor presented with a choice.


Again, I'm not blame shifting or excusing my actions- if I was into that I'd still be stuck in that cult and almost certainly divorced by now. I'm simply pointing out a dynamic that removes choice from so many women, and makes it easy for them to fall prey to those that are waiting to take advantage of their weaknesses.


I thank God that I was able to get out. I thank God that we got some counseling and it actually helped. I thank God that he made me resilient and determined- that once I caught a glimpse of truth and freedom, I knew I could never live without it. I never stopped digging, and found that there's an entire world of egalitarians out there- ones that aren't culty, actually have healthy, balanced, God-honoring relationships, and aren't looking to take advantage of people. I thank God that my husband was patient enough to stick it out, to go to counseling with me, and ultimately to give egalitarianism a second look even after being SO badly burned by our experiences with that cult.



It's a miracle that we are where we are today.


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