About Christian Fundamentalism
The fundamentalist mindset includes dominion, unattainable idealism, and shame. But it offers simple answers to life’s complicated questions and America is enchanted with the aesthetic and eternal hope the formulas promise.
When I lived in fundamentalism, no one called it that. We didn’t call ourselves Radical Evangelicals, either. We called ourselves Christians.
We were the faithful. A remnant. There were rules for living and serving God––rules that were supposed to result in our happiness on earth and in heaven. Where there was suffering, it was due to sin––ours and others’––and our calling was to suffer well. To suffer was to be like Christ.
I was a 20-year-old new mom then, in shock but smiling on the outside. I felt like I was dying on the inside. My marriage hurt. Despite what I’d been taught about staying sexually pure for marriage and choosing God’s best, my new husband was erratic, often violent, and frequently depressed. No matter how closely I followed the formula, nothing worked. I was miserable, failing, and desperate for someone to save me.
A woman at church said she could help.
She’d mentor me the way the Bible said––Let the older women teach the younger ones to love their husbands. She could help me learn to submit, “die to self,” and earn God’s favor. She and other older women at church introduced me to materials produced by Bill Gothard, Gary Ezzo, John McArthur, and Michael Pearl. Growing up groomed to be a submissive wife wasn’t enough. Now it was time to put those teachings into practice.
I learned there’s no endpoint to submission. Christian women submit themselves to nonexistence. And as long as dinner is served, the children are cared for, and sex happens, the patriarchs are happy. When none of that happens but she’s silent, they’re still pretty happy. If she “acts out”, there’s discipline. If she fails, they’ll replace her with a new one.
This wasn’t a fringe cult. This was life in the Christian mainstream. I grew up in the Southern Baptist Convention. I attended churches pastored and mentored by names you’d recognize in the news.
I reveal what’s under the hood.
Christian Fundamentalism has so thoroughly infiltrated the mainstream that to many, it just looks like godly living. It takes an insider to recognize subtle signs, affiliations, and tangled code. Outside researchers and reporters don’t pick up on the coded language and clues.
Take, for example, Doug Wilson and spanking. Vice recently published an expose of Wilson––a highly influential author, pastor, and publisher in Moscow, Idaho, popular with IBLP devotees, but loosely affiliated with Gothard in public. Only an insider would know that if you’re buying a Gothard Advanced Training Institute (ATI) red textbook, you’ll also want Wilson’s books on Federal marriage (the belief that the husband is responsible to discipline the wife.)
The Vice reporter worked with 12 survivors and their stories to bring readers into the “Church That Preaches Wives Need To Be Led With a Firm Hand.” But the Vice piece contains the story within a fringe cult. What most readers don’t realize is that Wilson and his Federal marriage practices have bled into the mainstream. And they don’t know how to connect the dots from Gothard’s stadium events in the early 80s to wife-spanking congregations by 2005 and to mainline denominations by 2016.
The Duggars themselves tried to show us how fundamentalism works because their show and books were meant for evangelism. The horrors of blanket training (switching infants with a rod of correction), malnourishment, deliberate under-education, sibling molestation (like what Josh Duggar was caught doing before Jim Bob Duggar signed his first TLC contract), and home-church isolation were shined up as cooperation, frugality, character-based training, debt-free homes, and sheltered community. They didn’t tell America what it was really like––and people like you want to know.
Early readers have called my book:
“powerful rip-the-bandaid-off truth-telling”
“brave, bold work, crisply written, innovative and compelling”
“a story I couldn’t put down”
“a look into the meta-world of fundamentalism in America.”
“What surprised me most was the sort of fundamentalism you describe in a mainstream church. That short of shit was going on right under my nose and I never saw it.”
My memoir will be published soon. I’m represented by Trinity McFadden of The Bindery Agency.