When I was writing my previous post about the Exclusive Brethren, I found this article. It discusses a number of issues to do with fundamentalism. It is focused on the Exclusive Brethren, but it is interesting from a general perspective as well, and many of the observations translate over well.
It compares religious abuse with sexual abuse: something which naturally, I found very interesting.
She thinks that there are many similarities between religious abuse and sexual abuse, because both are an abuse of trust, denying the child the right to feel free and open and able to relate to the world in a normal way. Both elicit fear and guilt. Religious abuse also prevents a child from reaching its full potential.
Hmmm: it is, most definitely, an interesting point, particularly as a survivor of both. I know I have, and still do struggle to 'relate to the world in a normal way', particularly when I finally went to school in grade 7 and for a number of years afterwards. I tried preaching to my classmates, instead of relating to them: all because I was so certain of the rightness of my position and the fact that I was the one that was 'saved'. Of course, it doesn't help that I was being abused at the same time. But regardless, kids can be cruel about things they don't understand, so parts of my public school experience weren't happy.
I was, and continue to be, surprisingly secretive about the actual details of my day to day life with friends, family and outsiders. I have an innate ability to cover up any problems in my life: I present extremely well, to the point where people have accused me of lying when I finally do come clean with the facts. My self made guilt trips are legendary. Many times I either over react, or under react in social situations, because I have never fully learnt how to deal with them. I have been diagnosed with complex PTSD and Panic Disorder, as well as OCD, all linked back to my childhood sexual abuse.
One of the main reasons (beyond my issues with biblical inaccuracy etc) I don't attend church is because of my childhood experiences with it, and the fact that all the churches in my childhood, chose to support the abuser (my father) over the victims. I am well aware that it is not case with all churches, but for me, the experience was traumatic, and I would rather avoid triggering it again. I can deal with attending church for other people (ie weddings, christenings, sunday school for Miss D), but I most likely won't ever again attend for myself.
Do I find the effects/impact of the religious/sexual abuse similar? For me, I think both are too closely interlinked. I was taught since I can remember that first time obedience to parents and god was more important than all else. This concept of course, worked well in my father's favour, and I believe that he relied on it to keep my and his other victim during this time quiet. And when I did finally report, my faith and dedication to the family unit was questioned: silence was definitely the preferred route. As I referenced in a recent blog:
Often times the power and control that is given to men in the movement is abused, and in turn the women and children bear the brunt. Elders, deacons and pastors often overlook warning signs, or let off with a light warning. More often than not, however, the warning signs are missed because they are well hidden by all involved. Family image and presentation is very important to many fundamentalists: children are trained from a young age to be quiet and still in church, and "first time obedience" is an essential, and a highly praised trait. Thus any issues within a family lie silent and buried, and woe betide anyone who speaks up and presents another, less stellar reality, or seeks to question the illusion.
I questioned the illusion, and I did pay for it: I lost my voice. It wasn't until I finally left home and my father's circle of influence (about three years after I reported, and yes, he was there for each and every day of those 3 years), that I was able to bloom and speak up, without fear of being accused of being a terrible person, of failing my faith and family.
Fundamentalism does terrible things to families.