From the Patriarchal/Authoritarian Dictionary...
godly: adhering to a list of self-punishing, arbitrary, and superficial religious rules designed to cosmetically defeat the sin-nature and produce a SuperChristian
godliness: the manner of a SuperChristian - the result of adhering to a list of self-punishing, arbitrary, and superficial religious rules designed to cosmetically defeat the sin-nature
A lot of the less supportive emails and comments received here come from people defending the "godly" choices of legalistic and religion addicted people. After all, they have a "heart for God", and who am I to question it? They're trying to "honor the Lord", and who am I to criticize the means by which they choose to do so?
I'm not of the opinion that the leaders of the Christian homeschooling movement/mafia all genuinely have a "heart for God", or a desire to "honor the Lord". I think they have plans to make a lot of money, and in the cases of those with religious addictions, plans for social engineering and domineering. I think most of them are sociopaths (read Raymond Moore's White Paper) or are religious addicts who've lost touch with reality (as this would attest).
Patriarchy and Courtship certainly didn't originate in a "heart for God" or from desires to "honor the Lord". Those things originated in hearts desiring to engineer and control. Those concepts were sold to make small fortunes as well as to give the movement a means to preemptively control the future of the movement. Those things are among several external, yet somehow "godly", solutions to what are internal issues - and are promoted in an environment where the Holy Spirit is an ancillary player (generally a nuisance) and discernment is scarce.
Those things create perpetual personal immaturity. Those things create externally-driven fakes and phonies.
I've written before of how my ex's family, and the people in their world, were sweet like poison. Total frauds. I once wrote this...
My ex's family was like a group of really bad actors playing the role of "Christians", and doing so in the over-the-top way that egotistical bad actors often do, in a jack-legged local theater production of "Christianity" written by an ignorant legalist. They're all wrapped up in the show, and the show must go on, regardless of people getting hurt...whether on stage or in the audience. The irony is, at its origin, "hypocrite" meant "stage actor", from where the idea of "pretending to be someone you aren't" arose.
And that's an accurate depiction.
"Character" replaced education as a priority within the movement decades ago. The problem is, the "character" promoted by the movement is a facade. It has no integrity, and a person can't genuinely exhibit character without exhibiting integrity - and vice versa. The two go hand-in-hand.
Once again, from the P/A Dictionary...
character: forcing yourself to meet a certain quota of bible reading, praying, witnessing, adherence to religious rules, and Christianese speaking, even if it's merely ritualistic and not heartfelt
Genuine character isn't a matter of reading what amounts to a religious recipe - use x, y, and z ingredients, smile, "keep sweet", and presto. Character requires a genuine moral compass, and real ability to discern between right and wrong, a commitment to truth, and the integrity to act upon those things consistently, even to your own personal loss. Character takes more than indoctrination to accomplish. It takes real world application and experience.
"But Lew! The bible says..."
The bible says lots of things. It also says that scripture and religious text should be "rightly divided", or, handled responsibly and with discernment. A recent comment pointed out a passage in 1st Timothy 6 in defense of those who choose courtship out of a desire to live a "godly life" and "honor the Lord with that area of their lives." The passage from 1st Timothy 6 is as follows...
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
To use that passage to defend choices to practice courtship out of a desire to live a "godly life" is an irresponsible handling of the text. For starters, that letter was written to Timothy - not to us. Timothy was a very young man in an unusual position, serving as a pastor to a group of believers which obviously contained some seasoned citizens. Apparently Paul was worried about some of them using Timothy's youth against him, and advised him from that context.
Personally, I prefer the two Greatest Commandments - Love God, love my neighbor, and the two things my parents instilled in me as a child (and lived in front of me) - tell the truth in ALL things, and do the right thing by other people, even when it costs you (both of which are supported by biblical text). A person who focuses on those things until those things become a part of them, well, that person doesn't leave a heck of a lot of room for deviance. I think genuine character and integrity is found in those things.
One person in my ex's camp, the adult son of the people where she was sent to be reindoctrinated, when I confronted him about some of the weird beliefs he practiced and promoted, and told him that probably 99% of the Christian community disagreed with him, well, he openly mocked the rest of the Christian community. It was pretty clear that he considered himself a "better" Christian than others who didn't share or practice his fringe, cultic beliefs. Spirituality becomes extremely inbred in the closed environments the movement fosters, and when it does, the P/A Dictionary definition of "character" fits it perfectly.
What's worse is when young people escape the movement and have to learn, often the hard way, what constitutes genuine character and integrity. Sadly for them, there are so many gaping holes in their information field, many traps of needless guilt they have to shed and navigate around, and they have to spend significant time gathering general life information and connecting the dots. Most of them are committed to truth and ultimately thrive in matters of character and personal growth. I want them to know how proud I am of and for them. Incredible people.
You can know and endlessly spout bible verse after bible verse, you can pray religiously for hours a day, you can always sport a "happy" countenance, you can know, and follow, every religious formula the movement taught you forward, backward, and sideways, you can always obey your "authorities", you can be in church or devotions without fail, you can do every "godly" thing promoted by the movement or by your family - and you can still lack character and integrity. What if you aren't committed to truth, but rather only to a paradigm? What if you aren't committed to doing right by others, but only that which is deemed "right" by the movement?
A lot of atheists love their neighbor, tell the truth, and try to do right by others. Frankly, I prefer their version of "godliness" to that of the movement.
Don't play a character. Live with character.