Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Convicted by a Lifestyle

Since beginning this blog, several critics of what I write here have suggested that my (and other P/QF critics') real problem is that I'm "convicted by the lifestyle". Oh my. I could get some really good sarcastic mileage out of that notion, but I'd rather examine it, because I believe it helps demonstrate just how important it is that people speak out strongly against the P/QF movement.

I've made no bones about my belief that the P/QF, Christian homeschooling movement is a cult - and a dangerous one - which breaks down into family-size cult units. Cults aren't defined by doctrine or by size. Cults are defined by behavior and practice. Madeleine Tobias and Janja Lalich describe "family cults" this way: "...where the head of the family uses deceptive and excessive persuasion and control techniques"

My ex's family embodied that definition - and then some. By typical P/QF standards, they would probably appear comparatively liberal. She and her sisters had taken some college courses via an online program, they'd worked at jobs outside the home, wore pants, et cetera. What sent them over the edge into the cultic sphere was the sociopathic iron grip of authority and control their father exercised over them, and the learned helplessness/bounded choice response to it by the rest of the family - all done under the guise of religion - replete with scores of dysfunctional behaviors, ideas, and beliefs related to it, and bathed generously in the language of an authoritarian religious cult (all the key buzzwords - honor, submit, rebellion, godly, spiritual head/headship, et cetera).

Everything about them was about the external. They wore the outward cloak of Christianity, and could fool most people rather easily into believing that they were all thriving Christians growing in their faith. The problem  was (and is) that superficiality doesn't equip one to handle the critical mass of life, or the critical situations within that critical mass. So much time had been spent "staying sweet", applying and maintaining the outward make-up of Christianity, living and nurturing this way of life, that the way of life itself replaced God in the dynamic. When critical situations arose, superficiality was replaced by sociopathy, and they (even my ex) became dishonest and deceitful, extremely selfish, relied on misdirection, cut every corner possible, built every possible detour around healthy resolution, became consumed with paranoia, and this is aside from their abysmal dealings with each other, which included some of the most cruel and vile emotional leveraging and invasion of personal boundaries you can imagine. 

In their rush to perfect the "lifestyle" (which, as I've said, was entirely external), they'd failed to learn some vital traits of human decency - honesty, integrity, personal character, genuine selflessness, genuine expression of love - core deficiencies which became clear when the "lifestyle" (which had long since replaced God in their true paradigm) came under fire or was challenged in any way, with the traits described in the previous paragraph filling the void where honesty, integrity, et al, should have manifest.

P/QF is reliant on a twisted and deceptive use of biblical passages and proof-texting to establish its control, then, reliant on emotionally and psychologically unhealthy practices and conditions like thought reform, coercive persuasion, loaded language, learned helplessness, bounded choice, and more, to maintain its control. It's a cult.

When you tell me I'm just "convicted by the lifestyle", you've told me that, like my ex's family, the lifestyle itself has become an idol for you, your "god", and you've rendered God a mere spectator. You're just borrowing his name to slap on the lifestyle and get your religious fix and high. If YOU were "convicted by a lifestyle", and adhere to P/QF concepts for that reason...there's no question that you're a religious addict, you're in a cultic movement, and your family most likely IS a cult. I'd encourage you to read about the Symptoms of Religious Addiction, and pay special attention to this...

The ultimate temptation of the believer is to assume that his or her way to God is the best or only way for others. The particular Way to God becomes what is adored, not the ineffable and incomprehensible Mystery to which we give the name of God.
In essence we have become addicted to the certainty, sureness or sense of security that our faith provides. It is no longer a living by faith, with hope and growing in unconditional love.

I'm not "convicted" by your lifestyle. I'm offended by it. Bruised and heart-broken over it. I've seen what's behind the mask.

To borrow a quote my friend Elizabeth Cook made elsewhere...

"Seems to me that if the first thing people see when they look at us is our "standards," then we have missed the whole point. Don't we want them to see Jesus? Didn't Jesus say that people would know we are His disciples by our love for one another?"

Well said.

Your energy spent worrying whether or not I'm "convicted" by a lifestyle would be better spent making sure you aren't worshiping one.


  1. I drink more beer than you do. How's THAT make you feel?

  2. I'm only convicted by the Holy Spirit, never by anyone else's choices. That "convicted by a lifestyle" has got to be one of the weirdest ideas I've ever run across. It's the spiritualized version of "you're just jealous cause you don't have _______ and I do". How petty, and grandiose at the same time.

    But then fundamentalism is full of insane contradictions that people just swallow, for...well, I'm not sure why. Emperor's New Clothes syndrome?

    Here's one: "when that which is perfect has come, that which is in part shall be done away" in I Corinthians 13. FIRST CORINTHIANS THIRTEEN!! You know, the LOVE chapter, where Paul says without love everything else is worthless?

    Fundamentalists have decided that when a committee of men got together and voted on the cannon of scripture, that the presence and supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit, a member of The Trinity (!) was the imperfect which should pass away.

    Seriously. A committe of humans voting was the perfect thing that replaced the imperfect ministry of the Holy Spirit.

    So, no big surprise that they could call narcissism (you're just jealous that you're not like me) on their part "conviction" on your part.

    Ugh. I need a palette cleanser now. Going to look at lolcats.

  3. "Your energy spent worrying whether or not I'm "convicted" by a lifestyle would be better spent making sure you aren't worshiping one."

    Well said, sir.

  4. Excellent post.
    Though I would say that a cult is also defined by doctrine, in addition to behavior in practice. False, erroneous doctrine played a big part in the struggles in my family and resulted in elements of a cultic lifestyle.

  5. When we belonged to a local (and conservative Christian) homeschool association, it was interesting to see how the other mothers looked at me. My marriage was, and is, a partnership. I worked outside the home. My style was a little "punk" looking. I smoked. We attended a "hippie" church. I laughed too loud.

    My kids were oblivious, and enjoyed the field trips. I counted myself lucky I had been raised with a good sense of who I was and was comfortable with myself.

  6. Lewis, thank you so much for your blog. My mother has been falling deeper and deeper into the fundie-o-sphere for the past few years, and it has been troubling me for quite some time. Thanks to your blog, and other sites on the Internet, I've been able to find enough information that I can help prevent her from falling too far. I've given her a few of the links from here to read and it has really opened her eyes.

    Thank you. I really appreciate everything you do here, even though I haven't exactly been directly affected by this lifestyle.

  7. No promotions of personal products, please.

  8. I wish, Joe;)

    Someone was promoting their own writings and book, or attempting to.