Mental Health Issues and Christian Fundamentalism
There’s been some great discussion on fundamentalism in the previous post about “Bethany,” who over time was able to see the relationship she was in as destructive and abandoned the relationship. I thought it might be good to give the topic a post of its own, so I have copied some of the comments that represent the gist of the conversation and have added a bit more to the mix.
The underlying question I’m reading between the lines is does fundamentalism lead to mental health problems? Or were the problems already there, and the fundamentalism ideologies accentuate existing mental health issues?
When I think of the term fundamentalist, I think of not just the original “fundamentals”, but of a certain subculture within Protestantism. Think support of Prohibition due to teetotalism, denial of anything but young earth creationism, a complete eschewing of dancing, going to the movies, use of tobacco in any form, listening to the “devil’s music”, as well as a tendency toward insularity and negativism.
It may be that certain types of faith expressions or churches that hold to particular doctrines are more appealing to men already prone to be controlling or abusive (such as neo Calvinism, gender complementarianism, fundamentalism), so certainly single women may want to be on extra special guard if dating men from those backgrounds, but one thing I learned in all my reading about all these topics is that abusive men come in many shapes and sizes, and from many types of religious backgrounds.
Regarding whether fundamentalism leads necessarily to Gothard patriarchy, girl doesn’t leave the house until she’s married, must homeschool, must try to do a family business, woman shouldn’t work for someone besides her husband, pastor/father is unaccountable authority figure, and the like, my take is that if we look closely at the Scriptures, all of this is either not stated in Scripture or flatly contradicted by Scripture. You will not find a requirement to homeschool in the Scripture (though my family does), nor will you see a command to have babies until the wife dies “be fruitful and multiply” does not mean “get your wife maimed or killed in the process”), and the like.
So my contention is that if one really values the first fundamental, the authority of Scripture, one will come up with some very different conclusions than most “fundamentalists” arrive at. I would guess that Keith (of our “shared peeve”) would agree and note that you will tend to find many of the most truly “fundamental” people outside of churches that identify as fundamental.
Make sense? I’ve personally been working through the issues of why many so-called “fundamental” churches deny their theology through their practice, and am convinced there are a number of reasons, historical and sometimes theological, but mostly historical.
Song of a River commented:
Hi everybody, sorry for my slow response. Long day here.
@Bike Bubba–you said earlier that you “treasure fundamentalism”. Here already you and I are different, but I respect the fact that you frequent and support a site such as this one. So far as causative factors of mental diseases and disorders are concerned, it is complex. Having experienced true fundamentalism interwoven with patriarchy, quiverfull and SAHD theologies, interwoven with Southern Baptist and Presbyterian theologies, along with emotional manipulation/abuse and neglect, it is difficult to remove one from the others in my mind. So I may be calling out the wrong villain, but in my experience, I have always seen fundamentalism as the root of other ideologies, and the full picture has been one full of destructive forces. In my mind, if a context brings out abusive or sick natures in people, then that context is a causative one. If someone could have lived outside the given context, in “normal” circumstances, and not become abusive, mentally ill, mental disorder, etc., then, wasn’t the context (church, cult, school, whatever) the causative factor? Of course, it is sometimes doubtful whether the person could have lived alone on the moon and not been an abuser.
Wheaton College has an article on fundamentalism and its roots in America:
Fundamentalism was a movement that arose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries within American Protestantism reacting against “modernist” theology and biblical criticism as well as changes in the nation’s cultural and social scene.
Since the 1940s, the term fundamentalist has come to denote a particularly aggressive style related to the conviction that the separation from cultural decadence and apostate (read liberal) churches are telling marks of faithfulness to Christ. (Source)
I like the way David Pakman tears things apart and this video is an interesting find on the subject:
What are your thoughts? This seems like a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” question, doesn’t it?