Christian Fundamentalism Needs to Die: Ashley Madison and the Duggars

Last month I wrote about infidelity and the Ashley Madison leak, and this week, the hackers followed through on the threat of exposing confidential files in a massive dump on the dark web.

In my piece, I discussed how social media has been somewhat dismissive of the hack and have an air of “well, they deserve to be exposed” attitude. I expressed my belief that although the cheater may be getting their comeuppance, the family and children of those people certainly do not deserve to be so exposed.

Imagine my surprise when I opened my news feed this week and saw that one of the first high profile names exposed was Josh Duggar. He and his young wife, Anna, have 4 children together, the youngest just one month old yesterday. They do not deserve this, and now have to find a way past this for the rest of their lives. On top of the child molestation controversy, I don’t know how much more the poor woman should have to take. It would likely be very challenging for her to leave him if she wanted to, since she has no higher education or job experience, and is part of a very strict religious belief system that strongly discourages divorce.

Fundamentalist Church

The Duggar’s are devout Independent Baptists who emphasize purity, modesty and unquestioning faith in God, right down to their famous lack of belief in birth control. The way they practice their faith is quite close to what is called “Quiverfull” teachings, which, among other teachings mentioned above, also promote a male-centric, hierarchal social system. Women’s subservient roles are emphasized. Although the Duggars have not officially commented on being adherents to the teachings of the Quiverfull way, their practices certainly mirror them. They are Fundamentalist Christians, and adherents to the idea of the divinity of the bible, that it is perfect in its present form, divinely inspired and as such, they interpret it literally without historical, social, or economic nuance.

I happen to know what that is like, since I was part of a Christian Fundamentalist cult in my early 20’s here in Alberta, Canada that believed almost the exact same things.

I wrote the above sentence and had to walk away from this piece for three days. This is really hard to write.

I was in my early 20’s and had started attending College. All my previous friends had faded away once I started school, so I was spending a lot of time alone in that twilight between the teen years and young adult as I searched for a new space and new pals. One of the girls I worked with at the Gap went to the same college, and I was drawn to her immediately: a natural redhead, calm, sweet, earth mother type, and “old soul” if you will. I started going to her church, and came to be baptized in a pool at one of the member’s apartment buildings. So began the longest period of my life denying who I am.

I moved into a house with 3 other girls going to school, one of them the redhead I mentioned. Let’s call her Sarah.

The structure of the church was very rigid. Women were not alone with men. All members were in social circles that pertained to where they were in their life: College and University, young marrieds, singles, and older marrieds. All members had what was called a “Discipler” (which I just had to add to Word’s dictionary), someone who was farther along in their faith than you. You were expected to pray with your household at least once a day: some mornings we were up at 5 am to accommodate everyone, and your prayers would be critiqued by other members frequently. Sometimes the only way to approval was to cry or confess something aggregious. You would have prayer and study sessions with your Discipler, and they would instruct you on the faith. Bible study was heavily encouraged, and being very literal about the bible, I would some months spend the whole month looking through the bible and studying one word as it was used through the whole book.

Dating was strictly policed. You could only ask someone out if you had the approval of the Pastor and his wife. Those dates were termed “friendship dates”, and were always in groups of 4. Only side hugs were allowed. Quite often I would hear of people getting “discipled” if they were reluctant to accept someone’s invitation, especially if the Pastor approved the match. I know of three couples that end up married and divorced later because of being coerced to marry people that were not suited for them. All left the church to divorce them.

You got told who you felt a lot. “You’re being prideful”, “You’re being ungrateful”, “You’re being resistant and angry”, “You need to surrender”. The remaining friends I had started fading away, I was encouraged not to associate with people outside of the church except to recruit others. “You are of the world, Carrie,” they would tell me, “but since you are saved you are not part of it. Don’t open yourself to temptation!” I started bringing my bible to work to study. I became more isolated from life outside the church. In addition to Sundays spent at church, we would have church on Thursdays, a discipling session another night, and “dates” once a week. It was total immersion. I was going to school full time, holding down three jobs, teaching Sunday school…the ends started to fray. I got discipled frequently for not submitting to the men of the church, for questioning and not accepting their lead, and for not submitting to my discipler.

One day, as my discipler was dropping me off, I was explaining a situation where I had been blamed for something I had not said or done. I will never forget what my discipler told me. (She was my third one).

“Carrie, I was once discipled for something I did not do. But my discipler told me, and I believe this too, that God must have known I needed to be discipled, and so we just need to submit and trust, even if it’s something we did not do.”

This incident became a splinter in my brain. My common sense and sense of self were both screaming and ripping their fingernails apart on the door that I had shut them behind deep in my psyche. I stopped sleeping well. I started losing weight. I developed IBS, and could only really stomach soups. I dropped to 105 pounds from 140. I was exhausted all the time, would often leave classes to sleep wherever I could curl up and find a spot. I was told I needed to pray harder, submit more, trust more, volunteer more, pray for more strength, Carrie, this is happening because you are resisting, Carrie….

Then one Saturday night, at the hotel that I worked at (one of three jobs I had at the time), a really cute and really nice server that I knew in one of the restaurants invited me out for a drink with friends. I accepted his invitation, knowing it was “wrong”. We all had a great time, got amazingly drunk, and I woke up in bed with this man. He was a perfect gentlemen, and nothing untoward happened, but I was immediately struck with guilt and a hangover the size of the Gutenberg Bible. I crawled to the phone and realized that not only had a missed church, I had missed a “date” I was supposed to be on with Sarah. I called my discipler and she told me to come to her house immediately. I was told to pray with her, confess all my sins and tell all that had happened, in detail. I was near hysterical with the grief of my wrongdoing. I was told by the Pastors wife and my discipler that I obviously had a problem with alcohol, and that I should abstain from having any ever again. They also felt that I should leave my job. At this point, there was not a day that went by where I didn’t cry over the conflict I felt between my faith and my sense of right and wrong.

There were many other small incidents and attempts at suppression, but my rebellion culminated in the acquiring of a tattoo of a dragon on my hip. The Pastor’s wife referred to the Old Testament where it says that one should not permanently mark the body God gave us. My immediate response was, “Wow, cool, so are those earrings clip ons?” I walked away. Tears were cried over me, prayers circles held as word spread that I was “falling away”. An emergency intervention happened at the College where the Pastor’s wife met me to try and change my path. “Don’t you know that you will go to hell”, she pleaded. “You are angry” she told me, “you are prideful.”

“STOP TELLING ME HOW I FEEL!” I screamed in the coffee shop. “YOU DON”T LIVE IN SKIN! I’M DONE!”

After 2 and a half years of pain, doubt, and poor health, I was done. I never saw that woman again.

When you spend so much time trying to be what a fundamentalist religion believes you should be, you deny who you truly are. Sure, who you truly are is awesome…but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes that faith hides things that need to be brought to light and need to be dealt with in a secular way. I firmly believe that in today’s day and age, where there is so much information available at our fingertips on how to be a good human being, with morals and integrity, drawn from all walks of life all over the world, that Fundamentalism needs to die. There is no place for it in our world anymore.  It does more harm than good. It places blinders on our society, another impermeable layer we have to try and penetrate to try and see the truth of who we are, not what fundamentalism wants us to be. SOME THINGS CANNOT BE PRAYED AWAY.

One might think that I am completely and rabidly against religion based on my experience, but that’s not the case. I think faith can be a wonderful thing, and can create beautiful things. I wept when I saw Notre Dame. The Sistine Chapel left me humble and grateful for my life and the opportunity to behold its splendor. I wept then too. Faith can create things of indescribable beauty and inspiration, of wonder and glory.

But where I draw the line is where we give all our control over who we are up to a higher power, to usurping our intelligence and own adherence to who and what we are to placate a stringent interpretation of a book. It’s an abrogation of responsibility in its lowest and highest form, and it’s a relic of a less informed society.

I moved out of the house I was sharing with three other girls from the church and back in with my mother temporarily. She took me to the Doctor, and interesting thing: I had carbon monoxide poisoning. The furnace in the rental house was leaking noxious carbon monoxide. Within 6 months, my weight came back up. My grades improved. I made new friends. And I met the love of my life, my husband.

My church helped me deny the existence of a carbon monoxide leak that could’ve killed me and two other girls. Josh Duggar’s helped him deny that he is a sick individual that molests kids, and is a serial cheater.

Christian Fundamentalism needs to be banished from our society.

Carrie King

Carrie King is a forty year old wife and mother of two. She lives in Airdrie, Alberta, where she volunteers with her children's school, paints, writes, and reads books like they will soon be illegal. She holds a BA in Liberal Arts from the University of Calgary, and now that her two children are in school full time, she has turned her mind back to writing.

Carrie is an avid outdoor woman. She camps year round, skis downhill and cross-country, and can often be seen riding around on her midlife crisis, a floral covered Elektra cruiser bike named "Fancy". She started collecting tattoos at 36 years old and plans on continuing until she's out of space. Carrie strongly believes that being outdoors, travelling, expressing yourself honestly and creativity are the keys to a happy life.