Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Razing Ruth: Escape From Hierarchalism

The past few days, I’ve been glued to the archives of Razing Ruth. Ruth is a survivor of an abusive upbringing in a Christian cult; on her therapist’s advice, she has been blogging about it for the past eighteen months or so.

You might know about the Quiverfull movement through the Duggars. If you are less obsessed with American pop culture than I am (which, trust me, you are), you might not have even heard of the Duggars, in which case you are in for a voyeuristic, Schadenfreude-filled treat. These fundies believe that God decides how many children they have; apparently God’s decision is “lots” – at the moment, 19 and Counting. The name Quiverfull (QF) derives from Psalm 127:

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!

Ruth has ten siblings. Her parents are members of the personality cult of Bill Gothard, whom you can read about in this AlterNet article. They brought up Ruth and her siblings to believe that girls and women should obey the family patriarch in everything. They must never wear pants or cut their hair. They must never question the father’s/husband’s authority. If a man had inappropriate or lustful thoughts about them, it was their fault for being immodest and provocative. Ruth ran away when her father betrothed her to a young man she barely knew and didn’t like, who considered her his “property”.

This rape culture within a rape culture (rape culture squared, if you like) is a prime example of the evils of religious authoritarianism. In the name of ever-loving God, the tyrannical patriarch rules over his wife and children with an iron fist by brainwashing them with lies that take the hallowed name in vain. This is called hierarchalism. The chain of command is God --> man --> wife --> children. Abuse is handed down from a false conception of God through a totalitarian construction of family life. It is poisonous, despotic, unchristian, and wrong wrong wrong.

Sadly, Ruth’s is not a isolated case. This is how the Westboro Baptist Church (absit omen) operates. It’s how all cults operate; and, on a lesser scale, it’s how conservative religious communities operate. Ruth is an astoundingly courageous (and, judging from her writing, a truly good) person, whose escape from terrible oppression is both heartbreaking and affirming.

All people of faith who recognize the toxic evil of this false notion of God need to speak out. We need to openly deplore the appalling abuses committed in the name of Love. We need to join communities like ThruWay Christians and Christians for Biblical Equality. We need to make it known that these tyrants and cult leaders do not speak or act for God or for God’s people. For the sake of all the Ruths in the world, in every country and in every faith, we need to stand up for the truth. It will set us free.

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