Religion at its most disturbing

Could Christian fundamentalism get any more creepy? (Without whispering?)
Exhibit A: “Purity Balls”. Kind of like proms, except your date is your dad, and you pledge to be sexually abstinent until your dad gives you away in marriage. There’s no equivalent for boys, of course. You can watch a squicky promo video, but you might wish you hadn’t. Subtexts: misogyny, incest.
Exhibit B: “Quiverfull”. As detailed here, the Quiverfull movement is based on the idea that women should reject all forms of birth control and become baby factories building an army for Jesus. Quiverfull devotees often have upwards of ten children, and the number of kids even becomes a status symbol. What’s really sad about this is that many of these families can’t afford to raise so many children, and get stuck in crushing poverty. Much of this movement is driven by paranoia about higher birth rates among Muslims or minorities in general. Subtexts: misogyny, racism.
Exhibit C: Ted Haggard’s “Spiritual Restoration”. This article quotes a Focus on the Family spokesman explaining what this might involve. One gets a certain mental picture from quotes like this:

“I see success approximately 50 percent of the time,” said H.B. London, vice president for church and clergy at Focus on the Family, the conservative Christian ministry in Colorado Springs. “Guys just wear out and they can no longer subject themselves to the process.”

“It will have to become almost a confrontational relationship,” he said. “You’ve got to confess your sins and you’ve got to have a group of people around you who will not let you whitewash the issue.”

And this:

“From the Christian perspective, we think in terms of prayer, we think in terms of what we call godly counsel, where godly men who are clean themselves insert themselves in the life of the one who is struggling,” London said.
The symbolic laying on of hands may also be a part of the recovery, London said.

…which suggests something other than a “spiritual restoration”. Subtexts: Spanish Inquisition, BDSM.
I recommend reading these articles while listening to The Thermals’ album The Body, The Blood, The Machine, a pop-punk indictment of the religious right in America. (I happened to be listening to it when I found the Quiverfull article.)

11 thoughts on “Religion at its most disturbing

  1. Mason

    The purity ball video seemed to be down, although I have heard of something like this before.
    “That was my virgin-alarm. It’s programmed to go off before you do!”

  2. Justin

    Adding to the race angle, Steve Gilliard had a good point that when a poor black woman has ten kids, she’s scorned as a “welfare queen”, while so far these Quiverfull loonies don’t seem to face such stigma (beyond being seen as religious nutcases, which sadly is not as much of a negative in many places as one would wish).
    Exhibit C is impressive. I could have sworn that last bit was from Jesus’s General, not an actual quote.
    Note also that the voodoo guy killed three animals for purely superstitious reasons – I found that to be “religion at its most disturbing” as well.

  3. Lemming

    Mason: You could also switch it up with, “Locksmith!”
    The creepiness wasn’t nearly so extreme, but I’ve been to father-daughter nights where they seemed to be be going for some sort of wholesome fun with not-boys-male-figures, or something. They’re fairly common, actually, and the Purity Balls add just a bit more overt indoctrination into the mix.
    (where do I fit in? as part of the entertainment — don’t ask.)

  4. Susan

    These are some examples of some of the nuttiness that arises from a loss of balance, straying from theological roots and traditions, and ill-advised (to put it mildly) misinterpretations of Biblical and other sources. The Christian churches in America today, along with other faiths all over the world, are dealing with critical problems of leadership and formation, and it comes out in these weird ways you mention and in other more obviously dangerous ways. A really interesting and intelligent resource for exploring some of the issues that are behind all this is the NPR program and website “Speaking of Faith”. I became aware of this a couple of months ago, and finally went to the website this morning after listening to a program on Hinduism and Science that was very well done — I think some of the readers of this blog would be interested in this program in particular, so the link above leads to it.
    One of the reasons I am interested in the Arcane Gazebo blog is because I like knowing the point of view of your generation (on a lot of things, not just religion.) It is so apparent that because of items like the ones in this post the Christian fundamentalists are coming across as crazy and creepy people, and even sometimes as dangerous people. This is unfortunate, as for a lot of people this colors how they view Christianity and religion in general. (Not that the same thing doesn’t happen in Catholicism (I’m Catholic) — it does, and this is quite painful for those of us Catholics who feel that our religion is being misrepresented by other Catholics.) I understand, too, AG, that scientists like yourself often find themselves under attack from Christian fundamentalists who somehow have come to believe that science and religion can’t co-exist peacefully… That is, obviously, so wrong. With all this craziness it is no wonder that so many people are being turned off to religion.
    I don’t have any broad answers for these problems, but this one thought keeps coming back to me: There is something in faith and spirituality that has drawn people together and helped them to live good lives for thousands of years…and my own very mixed experience of faith has enriched my life in ways I wouldn’t trade for anything. Religion, in and of itself, cannot be the problem, but rather the misuse of religion, and the wrongs people do in the name of religion. Rest assured that there are many of us out here trying to correct this problem in large and small ways, but it’s an uphill battle. I’m open to suggestions… I don’t think there is any one overarching solution, but I am convinced that, at least for me, turning my back on religion & faith & spirituality doesn’t solve anything.

  5. Mason

    I would say there is something about spending quality time with quality people that draws groups together, regardless of whether that is through science, gaming, religion, human sacrifice, some combination of several of the above, or whatever. It’s the value of the interaction and the people, which has nothing whatsoever to do with any process choice of mechanism for the interaction. That’s what’s been going on for thousands of years.

  6. Arcane Gazebo

    Susan: Although religion and science do seem to coexist peacefully for many people, I think there is an epistemological tension between the two. All religions make metaphysical and historical claims, and back up these claims with traditional authority or revelation, but generally not with the open and accessible evidence that science maintains is the only trustworthy way to knowledge. Many people try to separate science and religion into different spheres, but I think it’s a philosophical inconsistency to evaluate a claim like “a god exists” differently from one like “a magnetic monopole exists”–essentially these statements are of the same kind.
    Fundamentalists do have a bigger problem with science than mainstream Christians, because fundamentalist claims about the universe are more bizarre and patently false to the modern mind. But I think this is just a difference of degree.
    All of this is not to say that I would prefer a world where everyone picks a side for the sake of logical consistency. Some epistemological tension is a price worth paying for widespread acceptance of science.

  7. Susan

    AG: I see what you are saying, and being a mathematician I know something about the link between proof and knowledge. (A student complained to me about the need for proof just yesterday, and I strongly defended it.) I am no philosopher, and not even a particularly eloquent writer, so I apologize if my writing does not get across my meaning very clearly. I believe that the existence of a god is not provable in any scientific sense; this, I suppose, is the reason some scientists have no interest in God. The whole reason for faith is that there is something there which is not provable. Somehow a person with faith comes to this faith in spite of the lack of concrete proof, sometimes in spite of his or her own unwillingness to want to believe this thing-without-proof, because it is the only thing that makes this person’s life make sense. I have had this experience. My understanding of God is experiential and incomplete, and I can’t prove to you in a mathematical or scientific way that God exists. And I can certainly see how you might see this as antithetical to science. I wish I could resolve that, but I can’t at the moment. I totally agree with your last statement — “picking a side” is exactly what is happening in a lot of fundamentalist circles now, and it is wreaking havoc in so many areas of society.
    Mason: I agree that “spending quality time with quality people” does draw people together. What draws people together in a faith community is a shared belief (perhaps a shared understanding of what quality time is?) and this glue of our common belief holds us together despite tensions within the community and a wide diversity in our daily lives and our other interests.
    As far as the precise mechanism not being important, in one sense I agree with you, and I am delighted about that insight anytime I hear it. (And it totally throws water on the Asperger’s insinuation you’ve mentioned from time to time.) But in another sense, it is this particular mechanism of faith and spirituality that I wonder about and am interested in exploring, because of its longevity in human history. (Not that gaming doesn’t have its own longevity as a theme… and I’m curious about that, too.)

  8. Mason

    As far as I know (anybody have any good references here?), gaming or, more generally, having fun in groups has been around as long as any sort of “society” (very loose definition) has been.

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