Avoiding the Cultic Trap

At the Monstrous Regiment, Toni writes about a depressingly common problem in conservative Christian circles, the authoritarian church with its focus on power, not service.

True: the article is on the book Escape, which relates to Carolyn Jessop’s flight from the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or FLDS).

True: they are Mormons, not Christians. But I have always found Mormons to be very much in tune with the thinking of Conservative America: and as sinners, we are not so very different from them.

Christian churches have fallen into the same ditch as FLDS, and the fact that Christians have a true view on the nature of Jesus Christ only serves to increase our condemnation, if we do not take heed and repent of a conservative abiding sin on exalting Traditional Authority. Once again, we need to redirect out focus on power. We should be focusing on serving others – and, thereby, serve God.

By repenting of our sin, we avoid/lessen God’s coming wrath and punishment on our heads. By listening to the weak, God grows more willing to listen to us. By serving and blessing others — especially the weak and the poor among us — God is pleased to pour blessings on our heads!

But if keep on exalting POWER over all in our churches, we tolerate cramped and brittle tyrannies: and then wonder why no one outside the church walls follows and respects what we think or say or do.

But what I want to share has to do with the disturbing similarities of the FLDS’ foundational principles to some of conventional, conservative Christianity’s practices.
While the FLDS may take these similarities to radical extremes, I believe it is imperative to point out the undeniable comparable principles. If we believe in these principles we inevitably participate, condone or capitulate with the evil practices these principles lead to. The similarities I’d like to point out are the idolatry of submission, the hierarchy, the patriarchy and the attack on individuality.

Toni, What We Can Learn from Carolyn Jessop’s Escape from FLDS, The Monstrous Regiment

“You, woman! Submit-submit-submit!” cries the pastor, the priest, the preacher.

But he will not humble himself to serve his wife, as Christ – who is the Sinless God-Man — humbled Himself to serve and save a sinful woman, to give up His life to redeem her and make her His Queen.

Men are to love their wives sacrificially, following Christ’s example. When a woman who fears God sees this, she will have no problem submitting to his lead, for she knows that her husband puts her material welfare before his own. She knows that he can trust him.

But when men just grasp for power over women (especially their wives), without accepting any price for that power, without accepting a shred of accountability, he is asking for a curse. For he is supposed to be reflecting the love of Christ, but is instead twisting and scarring and poisoning Christ’s Image, Christ’s Name, for the sake of his own power and position.

Taking Christ’s Name and Image in vain invites a curse, not a blessing.

Within the IFB there isa definite hierarchy. At the top of the pyramid is the Pastor. Like in most conventional church structures, it’s assumed his spiritual gift deserves a title, a pulpit and a salary. He is the head. Of course he is under God, but his authority is ultimate in the church. The only person I ever saw my pastors submit to were their own pastors.

Toni, What We Can Learn from Carolyn Jessop’s Escape from FLDS, The Monstrous Regiment

Far too many pastors aren’t interested in serving anyone but themselves, and building up their little tyranny-kingdoms. This must end, and it will end.

And if it requires the destruction of churches and entire denominations., so be it.

No doubt, many many Jews felt that they were vastly morally superior to the pagan Romans. But they were not: the Jews loved power, and hated the way of Christ.

And so God sent the Romans – the pagan, worldly, fornicating, violent Romans – to burn Jerusalem down to the ground. The Jews knew better, and did worse: and so were crushed by the pagan unbelieving Roman fist, who acted as God’s representative here.

If today’s Christians think that by merely mouthing the name of Jesus Christ — while refusing to follow His example of leadership-through-service, leadership via putting others first — is going to protect them (that, and always crawling before the secular authorities – “Yes, even MORE Power-worship!”)… they should think again.

I grew up where women were never allowed to teach in the church. I’ve known men who believed women shouldn’t even give a testimony “inside” the church. I know of a missionary’s wife who would never give her salvation testimony to males. Women in the FLDS have similar limited “spiritual rights”. A pastor I knew once told a story of this woman in the church who was a gossip, eavesdropper and meddler. She continually nagged him over some inconsequential detail, often calling the church non-stop to confront him. Once she showed up to the church and started berating him. Pastor Farley then went on to laugh and explain how he held the woman over the banister and threatened to drop her down the flight of stairs if she continued to be such a sinful nagging woman. Everyone in the congregation laughed at this story. She shouldn’t have dared to be so ugly to such a man of God. I remembered this when Carolyn shared about how a powerful man in the FLDS community (soon-to-be prophet, Warren Jeffs) demonstrated to a classroom of boys of what an obedient wife looked like. He took a woman with long braids and wound her by her hair until she was on the ground in sheer pain.

Toni, What We Can Learn from Carolyn Jessop’s Escape from FLDS, The Monstrous Regiment

Does Christ so abuse His bride, the Church?

No, He does not!

Now, there are nagging, gossiping, eavesdropping and meddling woman: and this is sinful behaviour. And the right way to deal with it is by a private, closed-door reproof first.

If there is repentance, all well and good. If not, then there can be a reproof with two or three fellow brothers (or sisters, as the case may be).

And if there is still no repentance, then the woman can be excommunicated.

(See Matthew 18 for details.)

Note that there are NO violent threats or treatments administered by the church “for the sake of discipline”, nor by her leaders.

Church Discipline is not about power. It’s not about control.

It’s about peace and holiness and love within the church.

I’ve known Christian families who wouldn’t go on vacation unless their Pastor blessed their decision. One Pastor would monitor every conversation his wife had. This same man also thought it was okay to come into our house and check our internet history, uninvited. Just to keep tabs on us. Make sure our lives were clean.

Toni, What We Can Learn from Carolyn Jessop’s Escape from FLDS, The Monstrous Regiment

These men are not servants.

They are masters.

(And the grinning State-Adoring Secularists watches and learns…)

In the FLDS, woman and children cannot call an ambulance or the police without their husband’s approval. They cannot marry without the prophet’s permission. The prophet assigns women to husbands, often giving the young, good looking women to the prestigious leaders, even if these men are in their eighties or older. Women in the FLDS community rarely can report abuse. The government is seen as evil, and the leaders within the movement side with the husband the majority of the time. If the spiritual authorities do intervene, it’s a small penalty to the man, and then the wife is treated even worse in her home. Men refuse to get involved with other men’s homes. Even if sexual or physical abuse is going on. Carolyn details this in her book.

Toni, What We Can Learn from Carolyn Jessop’s Escape from FLDS, The Monstrous Regiment

And then, the Church wonders why their claim to spiritual authority — even their suspicion and hostility to an openly pagan, anti-Christian government — is dismissed out of hand.

(“The Romans say hello.”)

Abuse: To use ill, to mistreat, to misuse, to violate, to defile, to deceive, to impose on, to pervert. Improper treatment. People who mistreat you, violate you, deceive you, impose themselves upon you, are ABUSERS.

It doesn’t matter if the abuser has a title. He is still guilty.
It doesn’t matter if others trust him. He is still guilty.
It doesn’t matter if he’s a nice guy. He is still guilty.
It doesn’t matter if he suffers. He is still guilty.
It doesn’t matter if you remain silent. He is still guilty.

Victim: Something destroyed; something sacrificed in the pursuit of an object. If your trust has been violated, if your freedom has been imposed upon, if you have been objectified – you are a victim.

To live like it never happened is wicked.
To remain silent enables the furtherance of evil behavior.
To be the abuser’s friend steals their opportunity of repentance.
To support the abuser condones sin.
To be hurt is not the same as being bitter.

Toni, What We Can Learn from Carolyn Jessop’s Escape from FLDS, The Monstrous Regiment

And this is how it is.

Secondly, I’d like to talk about: Patriarchy and the attack on individuality

Many leaders in the Christian arena claim that patriarchy is continually under attack. Womanhood, on the other hand, is only targeted by their own kind. Their own stupidity. They are tearing down womanhood when they try to be like men. (Ie: feminism). Now I do believe that every individual (men, women and children) are under attack because the image of God is an offense to the enemy. I also believe that a new image for manhood is encouraged. A hairless, manicured and tamed servant. The world certainly blurs the lines of gender differences.

But this does not prove that women are less of a target. I believe because women are more vulnerable, it is actually women who are more preyed upon. Look at history –Oppression of women has been going on for centuries. This only makes Christians look ignorant when they deny the oppression of women.

(Something to consider is what modern conventional Christianity encourages men to be like… I think if we were honest with ourselves, we’d realize that the gentle, manicured servant isn’t just society’s idea, but also the Church’s.)

Toni, What We Can Learn from Carolyn Jessop’s Escape from FLDS, The Monstrous Regiment

The Church needs to be purified.

Purge the pulpits.

Feminists recognize the history of oppression against women, yet fail to recognize the most liberating force in all the world – Christianity. They recognize religious tyranny, traditions and regulations as an aid to oppressing women, yet fail to see how God is actually against these very same evils. They recognize marriages that are used to manipulate women, yet illogically condemn marriage in general. The Declaration of Feminism states “Marriage has existed for the benefit of men; and has been legally sanctioned method of control over women… We must work to destroy it….” These feminists have come to the wrong conclusion. Feminists are not the first defenders of women. The Bible strongly stands against the exploitation of women. Perhaps feminists fail to recognize Christianity as the worlds most liberating force because we aren’t doing our job. Instead Christians encourage patriarchy simply because Christians believe it is the antithesis of feminism. Christians are condoning religious regulations even at the cost of hurting people. Christians are practicing a false concept of marriage. It’s no wonder the world shakes it head at Christianity. It’s no wonder that advocates of women condemn Christianity and marriage and religion. We’ve given them reason to believe that they are hazardous at best.

Unfortunately, Feminists are recognizing and addressing the problem while Christians refuse to do either. Instead, so many Christians are focused on remaining “unspotted from the world” and living like hermits, ignoring the atrocities instead of being leaders and culture changers. Not only are we ignoring the problems, but we have become part of the problem. Christians are not only offering irrelevant religion but dangerous messages. How can Christians rescue oppressed people when they are part of the oppression?

Toni, What We Can Learn from Carolyn Jessop’s Escape from FLDS, The Monstrous Regiment

When Christians dump patriarchal notions of marriage and womanhood, then we will be closer to the idea Christ laid down in His life.

And we all will have spines, and bones, and muscle to stop crawling, and to stand.

…and fight…

…and win…

Godly men and women, alike under the High King.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28

In conclusion, how do we fix the epidemic of world wide spiritual abuse? Firstly, I think we ought to ask, who is to blame for these atrocities? Are pastors the one to blame? It is certain that many “Pastors” promote and administrate abuse. But conventional pastors are simply instruments of false Christianity. So who is to blame for the continuation of widespread spiritual abuse? Well… Who agrees to conform? Who has pressed themselves to meet expectations? Who agrees to the check-list Christianity? Who unquestioningly grovels? Who fears men? Who gives homage to traditions? Who is obsessed with meeting the five-star Christian criteria? Who idolizes authority? Who remains silent? Who fails to draw boundaries? Who subjugates themselves in total dependence?

WE do.

We are at fault for the continuation of false authority and the oppression of the weak. If Christians would wake up and acknowledge their own apathy they could hold tyrants accountable and stop the epidemic of abusive authority. We need to bravely unchain our minds, even at the risk of rocking the boat. We need to stand up and protect ourselves, and others. Not to is selfish. If we simply escape but say nothing we are allowing abuse to continue. Now is the time to recognize, expose and eradicate abuse. The only way we can achieve that is by one heart at a time. We need to start with our own hearts. This may look like standing up for the child who is belittled in the grocery story. Or saying something when someone dehumanizes the pre-born. It may mean accepting the legitimacy of abuse that happened in our own lives. For if we refuse to see abuse in our life, we cannot help point it out in other’s. Maybe it means standing up to an authority in your life that has taken advantage of those around him. Maybe it means learning how to value your person-hood. Or the value of your children. Maybe it means it’s time to apologize for past behavior and start afresh. Perhaps it looks like helping out at shelters for abused women. Once we open our eyes to the abuse around us we can start to become the righteous advocates we were created to be.

Toni, What We Can Learn from Carolyn Jessop’s Escape from FLDS, The Monstrous Regiment

Let’s go, and — armed with Christ’s Example, the Holy Laws of God, and the Holy Spirit — let’s change the world for the better!

God, make us instruments for the redemption of the world, the salvation of the weak, the purification & discipline of the strong, and the glory of Christ!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.