Over two decades ago on May 4th, I was in labor for the first time. At that time, I still held to the programs indoctrinating me from the age of 4. Such indoctrination included what was then, and is today, known as “pro-life” or anti-abortion. With Roe v. Wade awaiting what appears to be its demise, I feel the significance of May 4th deeply.
It would be an understatement to say that I have changed on many levels. Having left the moral incoherence that was my evangelical childhood, I look back on the woman in labor. She did not realize it, but the birth of her first child would usher in a revolution, a Psalm 23 manifestation via the divine feminine, a restoration of her soul. As she pushed, and waited, pushed, and waited, the birth of her own true self became inevitable. A truth and beauty bundle, looking at the world through one eye while squinting the other in the harsh hospital light, my firstborn would begin the process of innocently and easily shattering everything I had constructed as “me”.
I look at what fundamentalism requires of a person and the toll it exacts and I can sum it up in one word: madness. But it’s a madness that creeps. Its insidious effects multiply silently over the years until the capacity to discern disintegrates. It begins with a sense of being right and of seemingly knowing what is right and righteous, but is warped as it passes through the lens of human dysfunction, misogyny and bias. You’re so right about how important life is that you have no qualms with jailing life, or condemning a pregnant woman to die for her fetus. The likelihood you’ll ever see this sick distortion is slim since challenging it would result in a domino effect of many other challenges to a whole system of identity you’ve erected a life around. And you’ve probably been accused of having a demon, directly or indirectly, if you’re habitually assertive as a woman or vocal about situations you think need to change.
My good fortune, the work of dismantling toxic programs created by fundamentalism, was made possible by the presence of my daughter, and then the relentlessness of that work continued with each of my children’s emergence. Humanity unfolded itself in front of me in ways I had never been allowed to fathom before. I couldn’t understand the attitude of suspicion and mistrust towards children for simply being children. From there, I could see myself as a child in the past, made to feel literally demonic for being human. Alongside these revelations ran the personal story of abuse one of my sisters was living in her marriage. So, I became the wicked witch advocating with/for her in our tribe. The collision of these factors broke me open. The friction with leadership in my life, the hypocrisy revealed how a woman was seen as controlling for asserting herself or not being agreeable and how this might translate to her guilt instead of the actual guilt of her abusive spouse. These layers simultaneously transported me to the epicenter of my own humanity, my early childhood and the question of authentic choice.
And eventually, though early on in my daughter’s life, I realized everything that had been communicated about God (by actions of parents presuming to embody divine right and by the group of Christians with whom they shared community), about the love of God, revealed a God who loved less than I did. But even in that, I recognized the possibility that the God I “knew” was not the God that is. So, instead of demolishing my idea of my creator, the revelation revolutionized my relationship with the divine. The only way out was through.
Fundamentalism at its core divorces the human from her humanity. And with that divorce, all types of devastation and loss become possible. She can wish to jail everyone who has an abortion, everyone who performs and assists in abortions. She can do this because she has no idea how precious her own life is and it is only when that preciousness gestates and is born within her that she can recognize the lie in the pro-life movement. Ironically, that recognition stands more in agreement with seemingly divine patterns and the value of life itself than any notion of pro-life could do.
One of the aspects of fundamentalism that keeps it perpetuating is the annihilation of choice. Choice and agency are often sacrificed when a believer gradually and consistently immerses herself in fundamentalism. Or even just in the sort of blind faith so many fundamentalists require of each other. And yet choice is what God has presumably given us. New believers are confronted with the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve were presented with a choice. It is that story that, obviously or otherwise, ushers in the work of Christ, the one who repairs the damage wrought by…Eve. It is that moment pivotal when God says “do not”, but Eve goes ahead and does. Her “disobedience” is the main focus. And yet, what was it with this God who knows all and is in control and yet still presents a risk and a choice? We could call such a God sadistic or we could call such a God cautiously optimistic. Except he presumably knew everything. But I digress. The very act of commanding away from one thing is the presentation of choice. And ideally, choice, among other factors, is what leads us to seek a walk with the divine. Agency enables our faith that it might have muscle and movement. Acts, not merely words.
But in fundamentalism one of the strongest forces at work asks that we not think too much, that we offer up our will to God, that we trust blindly. As mentioned earlier, blind trust is so prevalent it is often the definition given of faith in God. You do not question. So, God commanded thou shall not kill. And all of this is Eve’s fault. Her guilt is the background drumbeat of everything that happened that required Jesus die for all of us. That drumbeat defines a Christian however much she may or may not realize. That drumbeat becomes the rhythm of war, war against women, war against being human. Misogyny reigns supreme in fundamentalism. It eats away at the heart of every woman inhabiting such a program. And every woman ensnared thus seeks desperately to find her value.
For the pro-life fundamentalist Christian woman, there is no cause like pro-life since it immediately condemns the other woman, ignores the ambivalent if not malignant apathy of the man, and worships conception above the actual value of one human being. How else can we explain the ease with which these same fervent believers ignore child welfare? The pro-life movement makes for the perfect vehicle by which a woman can arrive at her own perceived superiority, her own seeming redemption, her own heroic grandiose notion of herself. People who need grandiose notions of self feel deeply inadequate. I would know, unfortunately. So, in one fell swoop, a woman can decide another woman or a group of women is to blame and simultaneously become an “agent” of needful salvation through condemning any who might thwart the prolonged gestation and resulting birth of a child. She can see herself as superior to “those women”. And even better if she, too, births her own. Women, within fundamentalist Christianity, are at once the damnation and salvation of the world by sheer “virtue” of the presence of a womb. On the one hand, the womb-bearing Eve damned us all, and on the other, the womb-bearing Mary saved us. That fundamentalists mostly take the Bible literally, the moral confusion required to live within such a construct is breathtaking in its devastation.
Eating away at the heart of the fundamentalist Christian woman is this determination not to think or even question the inner tyrant/God. And when you’re encouraged not to think, you’re catapulted on a path of insanity, particularly moral insanity. Intellectualism is scorned, and by that fact, critical thinking is also lost. Besides, it is the thinking that got Eve in trouble. She entertained questions about God’s command. Hath God said? There’s no blind faith (hence no “authentic” faith) in asking questions of the great commander.
The program underpinning fundamentalism is the ancient equivalent of what any domestic violence shelter would identify on the power and control wheel. You will submit. You won’t question. You dare not even think there might be a question and you only do what the masculine deity deems doable. Also, have babies. Also, you owe God who delivered you from hell and damnation. But hey, freely you have received, freely give. Gaslighting 101.
While it’s not the cure for all fundies, having a daughter wrested me from the power and control wheel that had run me over all of my life. She was, and is, sheer delight dancing, asking, insisting, disrupting, being human. Certainly, for a season, she reinforced my pro-life vigor. But not for long. There is nothing like motherhood to strip you of any fantasy that you are superior, or immune to failing and there’s nothing like feeling compassion for your children to awaken you to your own need to show compassion to yourself, and from there, to the world. I became obsessed with choice in general, with what makes a choice and resulting life paths and circumstances authentic versus choices made under a situation of duress. It struck me that inhabiting a situation free of a measure of duress was nearly impossible, but it also struck me that authentic choice might be the holy grail for healing my wounds. Having watched my daughter dance around freely in the love of her parents, I recognized I’d never known such freedom and so my choices had rarely been authentic. From there, it became obvious I had work to do to birth myself.
Where philosophies of choice and freedom are concerned, I’m a work in progress. But I’m clear on one thing: the right to choose is what births authentic living and makes love possible. If my daughter wanted or needed, and I make the distinction intentionally, an abortion, I would volunteer to drive her, be there, whatever is needed. I am changed. There’s no part of me torn on that. Do I have preferences? Do I wish we lived in a world where abortion wasn’t even necessary? Hell, yes. But we don’t live in such a world. Abortion is an honorable, legitimate human need. But Roe v. Wade stands today threatened by forces political and religious, forces feeding off the inadequacy and erosive moral insanity spreading like poison in the hearts of confused, lost people. People who call themselves found by Christ and saved. The irony reeks. That I rage within myself at once condemns me, since I know the enemy well, and reminds me of how complicated we all are.
What makes a pro-lifer tick? The ones that vote for the political contortionists pretending faith who would sooner keep women in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant and people of color in chains, what makes them tick? A million little pivotal happenings and woundings and poisonous winnings make them. I can look back on many such goings on in my upbringing.
I’m reminded of moments when I mentioned psychology to my parents. They would invariably dismiss me in disgust, using some retort that included the smear “it’s so humanistic.” As far as I could tell, to be humanistic equated to evil, to all that is not Godly. It baffled me every time. The only conclusion I could draw was the only one provided me and that was that just being human was wicked and that is what we were perpetually being saved from every single second of every day we believed in Christ. If within that atmosphere you are parented by even just one parent who feels it their duty to smash you in the name of Godly parenting, you are going to end up a hot mess raging at the one issue that somehow dovetails with your desperate need to be seen and known as legitimate.
Fundamentalists, those in the trenches living their lives in delusion and hate all while believing quite the opposite, are also capable of love, even of critical thinking. However, at any point where their thinking might collide with their faith, all cognitive capacity is subsumed in the perceived superiority of *the truth*. And *the truth* is the sum total of a hatred of being human, a hatred so insidious it would convince a woman to wish imprisonment on women who’ve had abortions. The men in these issues are so easily understood, it’s not worth dedicating a whole post to their motives. Thus far we have not managed to market or sell birth control pills for men though they have been created and ditched due to the side effects they would cause. All the while, women pop birth control pills whose side effects are the equivalent and even worse. All the while, many men, I realize not all, loathe condoms. All the while, many men distinguish themselves in their obviousness.
One phrase in particular became one of the many crowbars wresting me from the confines of my oppressed upbringing and all the programs that upbringing asked that I carry into adulthood. That phrase: “God saw that it was good.” Saw that it was good and the evening and the morning were the 6th day. Over and over, the creator saw that it was good, that what was created was good. My brain then said, oh, so, my brain is good. My having critical thoughts, seeking to discern when choice is authentic is good. My questioning who translated and chose the texts that would comprise the New Testament is good. My weighing what motives influenced the compilation of scripture was good. And not only that, but if love bears all things, then God can bear my questions. And if God knows all and I hide my questions in fear of being seen, then I have less integrity than if I presented them with a bellowing, angry cry.
I nearly lost myself in the years and years of bellowing angry cries, parenting three complicated humans. And while this post might be construed as propaganda for women having children so they, too, might be born and wrested from their fundamentalist confusion, it is not. I am one person, former fundie. By no means do I make the argument for anything except this: fundamentalists are a terribly wounded, confused slice of the population who should not influence the outcome of Roe v. Wade, and if we’re to avoid this in the future, we may need to consider our attitudes towards them as human beings. Demonizing them will only feed their delusions of grandeur.
The problem with fighting for Roe v. Wade and choice is wrapped up in the fact that those who most oppose it do not even value choice in their own lives and most especially in their faith. Certainly, any state or federally declared mandate is something that will get their hackles up about their freedoms and choices because they can see it as an attack, ultimately, on their faith as it is an attack on their person and the two are one and the same. An example … mask mandates. That they can say, “my body, my choice” in that instance is proof of their insanity while simultaneously proof that they have been taught that their only allowed use of the right to choose is in protest of anything that might threaten their religion. For diehard fundamentalist Christians, agency and choice are only valid so long as they are utilized in defense of or perpetuation of their faith. The basic human need for autonomy is consigned to any possible crusade in defense of their beliefs. The amassed frustration crouches, awaiting any opportunity for expression.
So, when we scream in contempt, when we mock, when we hate their hatred, we feed their sense of righteous persecution. We throw fuel on the fire. There’s not one single word of contempt that drew me out of fundamentalism. Kindness birthed my true self and continues to this day. Critical thinking, as a gift from my creator, liberated my mind.
I’m not proposing that we not scream and fight against the lies bombarding our liberties in this time. We just need to look on our work to protect basic freedom as a work that includes a slice of humanity enchained in lies. It’s important to recognize that generational fundamentalist nonsense requires epic soul-level disruptions and awakenings to be ousted. Most of these disruptions ideally come through love’s work. I find myself at a loss as to how I might voice my valid rage over the onslaught against women’s rights without fueling the enemy who is my fellow human.
I don’t know the answer for how to avoid fueling the insanity fire except that I might avoid contemptuous, hateful, insulting expression hurled in their direction. I confess there are times it is impossible to be anything but those three destructive things. In fact, today I retweeted something about this very issue and referred to the lawmakers in Louisiana as demonic, life-hating, murderous jackals. There are times when the truth, when hurled in the direction of those who are fundie who have wounded you, will be brutal. That truth is made brutal by the fact of the offenses against you, not by your calling it out for the brutality it is. The line between truth that is brutal by default and truth that is contemptuously destructive is a fine one. I would know. I have crossed it repeatedly in my rage and in my experimenting with what advocacy does and does not look like. The good news? Love has found me on either side of that line and I’ve been able to grow.
The challenge is to not confuse contempt and hate for advocacy, the real sort of advocacy that facilitates liberty and hopefully captures eternal truth, truth like the fact that we are all of us, each one, immeasurably precious, complicated humans. No one, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, atheist, Wiccan, or otherwise is immune from fundamentalism’s poison. And my hope is that we will become more and more creative in our efforts to further champion a truly humanistic work. As far as I can tell, humanistic work best defines itself when that work encompasses a love whose natural by-product is the gradual dissolution of the ever-encroaching threat that is fundamentalism.