Monday, March 12, 2012

The NEW New Reader's Guide to Commandments of Men

Not that a great deal has changed since the first one (it hasn't), but an update is in order, if for no other reason than to be concise and bring some newer writings into the equation.

If you've read something here that's found its way under your skin and got you all lathered up, and now you're ready to leave a (usually anonymous) comment or send me a "come to Jesus" email of some sort...just don't. I promise you your argument isn't original. I've heard it before - many, many, many times. I've heard them all by now.

My personal faith is rooted solely in this. If you think it requires more than that, you've moved entirely out of the realm of Christianity into, well, something else. Beyond that, I believe in loving God, loving my neighbor as I love myself, telling the truth in all things, and doing the right thing regardless of the cost. If those qualities are a part of who I am, and manifest in my life as I live my life, there are NO commands or instructions in any religious text relevant to me that I'll be at odds with. Being a person of faith shouldn't be rocket surgery.

Courtship is ridiculous, juvenile, and frankly, STOOPID. To practice it, as an adult, is an admission that you have no self-control, or are a horndog, or have no understanding of human emotion, or are content to be a perpetual child, or have meddlesome religious addicts as parents, or some combination of those. I've written about it, at length, hereherehere, and here. It's an external solution to internal issues - only practiced and officiated by VERY spiritually and emotionally immature people.

The Purity Movement, and the strange and skewed relationship of father to daughter within it, is creepy in ways that make me feel like I need a mental shower. I've written about it directly and indirectly here, here, and here.

To make things clear (because this seems to be THE problem area where people take offense and either read past my words, read into my words, or simply misunderstand me) - I have no problems with homeschooling, or with Christians who choose to homeschool. I loathe the Christian homeschooling movement. It's a toxic culture of indoctrination rather than education. I've written about it herehere, and here. It's nothing more than a culture war which children are haplessly conscripted into simply by being born to fear-driven cultural warriors and religious addicts.

To resource an army, you need soldiers. So, viola! Quiverfull. I've written about it hereherehere, and here.

If you're a Christian homeschooler who practices Quiverfull, you've been scared, conned, and then mined.

Why do I consider all of this important? Read this.

I loathe the Religious Right and the fundamentalist cultural warrior mentality which spearheads it. It hurts people, it hurts the Christian faith, and ultimately, I believe it hurts our nation (for those of you in the USA). I've written about it directly and indirectly quite a few times - herehereherehere, here, and here. Why do I consider it an important issue? Read this.

I've written about Religious Addiction (an IMPORTANT issue) herehereherehere, and here, and Cindy Kunsman allowed me to post her great article here.

I don't consider the biblical canon to be the "Word of God". Jesus Christ is the Word of God. You might say, "Well, Jesus is the living word, but the Bible is the written word!" "Written" word? Where did you get that??? Seriously. Where does that belief come from??? That belief, in and of itself, is a symptom of religious addiction, and all it is is something you've been indoctrinated to believe - the belief of someone else adopted as your own without any real examination. I love the books of the bible (and some which aren't in the canon), but to consider the biblical canon as something more than a supplement to your faith is unhealthy. "The Bible" isn't a single organism. It's a collection of 66 books by about 40 different authors (perhaps many more) with diverse backgrounds ranging from shepherds and farmers to kings and scholars. It contains SOME of God's words, SOME of Jesus' words, some words about God, some words about Jesus, some words of men and women, some words about men and women, and a few thousand years of history (some of which may be fairly accurate and some of which may be polluted by oral traditions passed down through quite a few generations). I've written about the biblical canon, much of which you can find fairly easily in the archives on the sidebar. If you try to throw 2nd Timothy 3:16 in my face, you'll only be about the 100th person in the last year to do so (remember what I said earlier about assuming your argument is an original one?), and my answer to you will be the same as it's been to the other 100, coming in the form of a question - When Paul wrote 2nd Timothy 3:16, was he talking about 2nd Timothy 3:16? Not quite so black and white now, is it? In the early days of this blog, I still referred to the bible as "God's Word" fairly regularly. I prefer to leave it that way so that people can see the evidence of my personal journey through, and hopefully out of, my own religious addictions right here on the blog.

Remember - Jesus never promised you "a bible". He promised you the Spirit of God.

I'm not a fan of religious tradition, ritual, and formality.

Regarding my series which covers my personal experience, The Joke Was On Me, I'm often asked "When will you be writing more?" or "Will there be a book?" or "Are you going to finish it?" Although I won't say no definitively, I'll say no nonetheless. I probably won't be writing any more installments. I fear that many are reading it somewhat voyeuristically, or reading it only for entertainment value, and while I understand that, I'm not particularly comfortable with it. I began writing it with the desire to educate and warn, not to entertain, and certainly not to profit or create a cottage industry. I don't want to make a penny off of anything here.

That should cover the basics.

With all that said...welcome.


  1. I'm not a big fan of referring to Scripture as the "Word of God" (usually as Scripture or words of God). I don't like a lot of the near Bible worship some do (treating it like a spellbook!) or reading it woodenly. It takes a mind, it is laziness when I hear something of the lines of, "The Bible says it, I believe it". It seems alright on it's face, but behind it lies the fact that the person is trying to close the argument. Wait a minute, are you sure that's what this portion of Scripture is saying? What about in context and when seen in regards to other parts of the same document?

    Anyway, I know you've probably been through the ringer over your opinion but one of the greatest comforts is the fact that Scripture is authoritative. It is all an arrow to the Christ, every word of it. Though men may try and distort it (even Satan quoted it!), it's message of grace and truth remains.

    The Holy Spirit is our Comforter and He will lead us into all Truth.

    Blessings for the road,

  2. Hi...I come here often...hope you don't mind. First it was just the sheer fascination with your story, which had elements of familiarity (some folks I have known). Now it's to see your blogroll, which I enjoy. Sorry to be so lazy (I just keep your page on favorites and use it as a springboard!), but just wanted you to know that this site has been a real confirmation for some of my own thoughts. Thanks.

  3. I am often startled by things you say, but when I read the whole post (and sometimes related posts) I can see where you're coming from, and they make more sense. I keep reading because, while I don't always end up agreeing with you on everything, you always make me think.

  4. As someone who was deeply hurt in a couple of abusive fundamentalist churches (just mark me down as someone too stupid to fully "get it" or figure it out the first time)... I assure I don't read your "Joke Was on Me" stories voyeuristically.

    I hope you will finish the series, as a warning to people who think that "just a little" (of "courtship", of over-the-top fundamentalism, or of "quiverfull") can be "okay". To show them how really damaging it all is. I think the recount of the final knock-down drag-out with patriarchal papa will be very telling, about the state of his "christianity" and about the poisonous fruit that those churches/movements/organizations produce.

    But I understand, that is something you may need to wait on, until you're "healed" from the experience.

    Meanwhile, I would LOVE to hear about steps you've taken towards healing... what has helped, what has not... if that's not asking for too much personal information. I recently started professional counseling for my "church hurt" issues, because after 4 years of struggling with it on my own, I can't break free of it. -Pamela

  5. You believe what about courtship? Oh, Lewis. Come back to Jesus.

    1. I can't tell if you are an example of Poe's law or not. What purpose does courtship serve outside of the needs of parents or religious authorities?

    2. Tongue in cheek - unless Andrea's gone over to the dark side;)

    3. Hah! I thought her 'countenance' in her profile pic was a bit non-fundy.

    4. That being said, I think you could do a great post on Poe's Law and how imbiblers beliefs can't be deciphered from satire.

  6. Hello
    I read at your site a lot too, like Anon. I hope you don't mind and hope you don't mind that I comment.

    Your story is fascinating to me because I've known people like the ones you describe for years and I have wondered if any of those people have ever questioned and doubted where they were.

    I'm a homeschooling mom, this is our 21st year. I have three grown children and two still in school. The older three are in various stages of college, marriage and work.

    We've never been like the home educators you describe but they surrounded us for years until I finally pulled completely away from them. It wasn't until after I tried to fit in though. I was unsuccessful and in great part due to the wisdom of my husband who was on to the 'patriarchal thing' from the get-go. My children now distinguish themselves as Home Educated as opposed to Homeschoolers. :)

    You seem very angry, and I think I would be angry too if I'd been through what you've been through. I think if you are angry, its helping what you write to be from your heart, straightforward. I like it, it has really opened my eyes to several new ideas. I can't imagine life if we'd gone down that path 21 years ago.

  7. Yes, Lewis does seem very angry.

  8. I believe that I read once or twice about this guy named Saul Paulus. There were these people in a town called Galatia, and they mixed the Bible and the main and plain teachings of the Christian faith with legalistic requirements and practices. Hmm. Sounds awfully similar to what the QF/P movement and many fundamentalists have done....

    And all of that made that Saul Paulus -- that guy now called the Apostle Paul -- pretty angry. In fact, he got so angry at the people who taught the legalism at the Church at Galatia that they would be better served to castrate themselves. I think that qualifies Paul as pretty angry, not only over the fact that they mixed extra rubbish in with good doctrine but also because they used these ideas to manipulate people with them, whether it was intentional or not.

    And I distinctly recall that Paul guy saying that we could be angry, so long as we did not sin.

    Paul named names and was tough with religious abusers and legalists. He was often angry about it. He also talked about bearing the burdens of others to fulfill the Law of Christ and he talked about comforting others with the comfort received. Part of the healing process is a safe place to express anger and injustice and to seek justice.

    The anger can be a very healthy component of healing. You cannot heal from wounds that you are too afraid to cleanse.

  9. Lewis, I completely respect your decision if you decide not to continue with the Joke Was On Me series. However, I do want to let you know that I think it is helping. There will always be people who are just reading for the shock value, but I think it does a LOT to open people's eyes about this sort of thing.

    I am the anonymous who has often written that my husband had an eerily similar experience to yours. I want you to know that reading your blog has helped us to more clearly define the unhealthy dynamics that go on in the family of his former friends. It has helped us be alert to the unhealthy ideas that are hiding behind mainstream concepts like courtship and the Duggars. Thank you for bringing unhealthy, ugly things into the light. It helps me as a Christian to back up what I say when I caution other Christians against these things. I don't necessarily go around broadcasting what I think, but when the moment arises, it's great to have some deeper understanding of these patterns.

  10. You should write a novel based on your courtship......

  11. I have had the accusation "you sound angry" leveled at me many times in this life, but only by church people. Lewis, first of all, anger is an emotion, not a sin. Second of all, you don't sound perpetually angry to me in any of your writing. You sound appropriately angry at things that should provoke anger in compassionate people of sound mind.

    In fact, my most recent pastor thinks everyone who disagrees with him fits that bill. I will quote him directly, "She hates me and always argues with me" spoken about a calm, sweet woman who never raises her voice but does openly disagree with him. When he spoke of this person, she remained anonymous (not to protect her, but so that I wouldn't figure out immediately what an immature baby he is) but when I spoke of this conversation to that fellow congregant, this quiet woman said, "He probably means me." I can assure you this women doesn't hate anyone, and that when he says "arguing" he means "disagreeing" and when he says "all the time" he means she refused to back down on this particular issue.

    So calling you "angry" is just a condescending way of conning themselves to believe that you are not an honest person speaking truly about real problems. It allows them to stick their head back in the sand again, at least until the day that their fantasy of the perfect Christian life is no longer sustainable, or they die.

    On another note, I was very happy to read on the WW that the fastest growing group of Christian is "the nones". People who are looking for authentic relationship with God and others are realizing that it is almost impossible to find it in the modern American church. The Christian politico-business industry has almost completely destroyed authenticity in the Christian church. People are realizing this and getting out. Maybe there is hope for humanity after all.

  12. Though sometimes the things you write are not easy to read (and sometimes, I don't agree), I have always respected (and I still do) what you have had to say on this blog. I hope this doesn't make you angry, but I thought you would think about making a book of your courtship story - not for entertainment value, but to help show people (those that are serious of course) the dangers of using and practicing courtship. Just for the record, I never thought those stories were written "just for fun." I say, continue what you are doing. There will always be naysayers. Don't let them get to you too much.

  13. I share many of your views, but your writing oozes arrogance, whether you intend that or not. Do you have a broken, teachable heart? I cannot discern that from your sarcastic comments.

  14. I just want to say thank you for writing what you have. I'm a lurker, really, but not out of any sense of vouyerism. For me, I'm a relatively new christian. I grew up thinking of myself as a scientist, and now that I'm starting to dip my toes into faith, blogs like this are coming in very handy in recognising what to avoid. More like... studying the behaviors and habits of a particularly venomous spider that you know lives in the area near your house.

    So, thank you for telling as much of your story as you're comfortable with. And putting up with my rambling.

  15. Hi Lewis,

    I was directed here from another blog re: what the inside of a courting relationship looks like.

    I myself was home educated (not "homeschooled" in the sense that you have described elsewhere on the blog) via an online system. I had a lot of interactions with the fundamentalist, evangelical types that you have described. It was through them that I encountered the "courting" movement, and while I agree with some of the superficial premises (who wouldn't want a very Christian approach to dating, void of the "three dates and you sleep together" mentality that is pervasive among many?), I argued a lot of the specifics in our online debate club. Even with that, however, I had NO IDEA the depths of what it entailed. While I'm not sure that any of my friends were part of the Quiverfull movement (though I would not be surprised), I certainly see a lot of the patriarchal mentality that you described.

    I am really quite shocked. I can see this being any of my homeschooled friends and acquaintances.

    It was in this way that I got involved in your "The Joke Was On Me" series of posts. And from where you left off in the narrative, I had such hope for your fiancee. There seemed to be such promise. Is there any way we could persuade you to finish the series? It seems as though you were moving towards an important, overall message about the dangers of P/QF/courting. Of course, one can read and acknowledge your conclusions, but your narrative is HIGHLY illustrative and absolutely drives the point home. Continuing would be of great benefit to your readers (like me!).

    I just hope and pray that no one I have ever known has had to go through what you did. I'm so sorry.

    Thanks and God bless,


  16. I agree with GinnyM. I read your blog, not as a voyeur, but with the attitude, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." I was raised in a GARBC church, not as extreme as some, but we proudly called ourselves Independent Fundamental Baptists. While we did get some good teaching, we were taught not to question the man of God. When neither the people nor fellow clergy are allowed to question a pastor or other leader, he is accountable to no one, and I have seen some of the harm that can result.

    I attended Bill Gothard's Basic seminar 3 times as a teen in the 1980s. Even then, I saw some problems with legalism, "encouraging" people to follow Old Testament dietary law, for example, and using verses to support his opinions when sometimes the verse said nothing of the kind.

    I wasn't home schooled, but my younger siblings were, and my parents considered using ATI. I was in college at the time, but I tried to persuade them not to. They started trying to tell my sister, who was also in college, living in her own apartment, and paying her own bills, who she could and couldn't date. It was pretty easy to see that their real objection was that her boyfriend was African-American. I was also starting to see more and more of the BS in Gothard's teachings. They ended up not going that route because they couldn't afford to attend the Advanced Seminar. Thank God!

    Still, because I didn't realize how deep these problems ran (you couldn't just hop on the web and google "Bill Gothard" or "quiverfull" in those days) I got sucked into some similar weird belief systems and churches with a lack of accountability of teachers and clergy, and a deep suspicion of medical science, public schools, the government, etc., etc.

    Over the past eight years, I have been slowly and carefully digging my way out from under a mountain of religious nonsense. I have seen time and again how easy it is to be lured in by this or that idea that sounds good, and may, by itself, be relatively harmless, but is quickly woven into a web of deception. I accepted a lot of bad teaching without thinking it through. What I want to avoid is automatically believing the opposite of everything I was told without thinking it through. And that takes time. Thought-provoking blogs like yours help me examine each idea independently, rather than accepting or rejecting an entire bill of goods without examining it.

  17. I was just reading "The Joke Was On Me (Part One)," on here, and somehow I had managed to go through a fairly conservative christian upbringing and middleschool and had never heard about Christian Patriarchy until this past day.

    I'm appalled and astonished that something like that is going on, and frankly, mad as hell, both because I don't see any way that I can combat this stuff and that I was raised to believe that christians were above and beyond such things when that shit is tolerated enough that it actually influences the mainstream.

  18. Lewis

    I have been reading your blog for a little while now and I really feel the need to tell you that you are spot on. I come from an AG background that had quite a few legalistic tendencies and more than a couple of homeschool/QF (although we didn't know what it was called) members and am now an atheist. I can honestly say that my disbelief is, at least in part, a direct result of the attitudes and actions of those around me. I have never experienced such hypocrisy and judgmental behavior as when I was in that environment.

    Keep up the good work. If more Christians were like you are, people like me would actually have to think quite a bit harder about our non-belief.


  19. Lewis,
    I found your blog site by trying to learn more about the television family that I find incredible. That led me to several different blogs by people who have been affected by this religious sect. I think I did start reading your story in a voyueristic way, however your writing and your passion then pulled me in.
    Now I am reading your blog on a regular basis. I sometimes don't agree with you, I sometimes laugh out loud because of your honest and insightful perspective. I always learn something new. You are helping me in my quest for faith and my personal relationship with God.
    So I am sorry that you hate voyuers, but even some of the voyuers can be touched in a positive way. I am proof of that. I just wanted you to know.

  20. Hey, man...

    I tried to leave a comment on your most recent post, but I don't think it's showing up? Maybe you have the comments moderated? Can't blame you at all if you do.

    Anyway, I just wanted to tell you how impressed I am with what you're doing here and how refreshing it is to see these points made by a Christian. Thanks for fighting the good fight. The work you're doing here is outstanding.

  21. Wow... just wow. So many emotions all meshed together. I'm sorry for the hell you've been thru and that the brainwashing and guilt overrode any sense of 'we and us' and right vs wrong. I've passed your blog onto some of the home schooled girls I knew growing up, so they could see a christian mans love, as opposed to the 'godly' men their father is trying to force on them.
    I hope you can forgive her weakness into succumbing to her indoctrination and I hope you are healing

  22. Finding your blog all of five or so years after you wrote 'The Joke was on me' has changed my life. I do not live in the United States, but have experienced everything you wrote about from my legalistic parents and church. I just want to say that what you address so openly is helping many victimized people to begin limping towards recovery. God bless you for the work you are doing.