Tuesday 21 January 2014

Anger of the Betrayed

One of the enduring themes in the comments sent to this blog is anger. Anger at a failed faith tradition. Anger at sectarian roots. Anger at the Bible. Anger at Christianity as a whole. Anger at religion in all its forms.

I sympathise. I too was duped by a manipulative Christian group run by - as I see it now - charlatans. But to be fair, in my naivete (I was a teenager when I was drawn in) it was my own, dumb choice. And the long period of disillusionment and then abandonment of that identity was (and still is) a massive learning experience that has helped shape me into the person I now am - hopefully for the better rather than worse. No, I'm definitely not grateful for the ride; I wonder what life would have been like if I hadn't "bought the ticket." These days though I prefer humour, reflection and a dash of reasoning, minus the polemic humbug... at least most of time, but I definitely know where people are coming from when they vent.

Where does that anger come from?

Elizabeth Drescher
Enter Dr Elizabeth Drescher from Santa Clara University. She's been researching that interesting group of people who, when asked what their religious affiliation is, reply "none".

Interestingly, about 70% of the 'Nones' come from a Christian background.

Drescher looked at the attitudes of Nones who came from various places in the Christian spectrum: Catholics, Evangelicals and Mainliners.

Former Catholics felt hurt and wounded by their church. Dr Drescher comments, "What they often told me was that they left the Catholic Church not so much due to a theological shift, but because 'something happened to me. My identity was not affirmed and that was painful.'"

'For Mainline Protestants, the theme is neither hurt nor anger, but a sense of ennui. They got it. They get that they’re supposed to be good to people, share what they have, do good in the world... One young woman told me, “I learned everything I needed to know there, I get it. I don’t need this in order to be a good person or in order to make sense of everyday life.” I hear this when I interview parents as well: “Our children will learn good values. Check. They've learned this, we can move on.”'

And then there are the Evangelicals, a term that more closely approaches the experiences of many readers of this blog.

"For Evangelicals, the theme that emerges consistently is anger. Many have felt that conservative evangelical teaching in regards to science, Darwinism, and the environment set them up to look foolish. They feel they were tricked. Some reason brings them to a place where they get more information and understanding about the world, and they feel like they were duped by the teachings in their traditions. They didn't need to be, but they feel they were set up to look like idiots and it makes them really angry."

Can you identify?

Of course, if you were involved in the lunatic fringe of evangelicalism, the full-on world-denying fundamentalist version which some of us know only too well, your reaction could well be even stronger.

Which brings us back to the anger expressed here. What do you think?

(In case you missed the link above to an interview with Elizabeth Drescher, here it is again.)


  1. It is a very old extensible formula:

    1) someone lies to you;
    2) you don't realize it for awhile;
    3) you find out that someone has been lying to you;
    4) you have to live as if the lie were the truth because of the "authority" of the liar;
    5) apathy sets in (listen for: "Nothing ever changes around here");
    6) a glimmer of hope that you can be freed from the lies;
    7) rebellion sets in.

    Of course anger sets in -- who wouldn't be angry when they learn British Israelism is a crock of baloney and that they have spent a lot of their hard earned cash on the rubbish just to make a con man rich?

    On the other hand, if you're too stupid to see the obvious....

  2. Yep, I definitely identify with the ex-evangelical experience and the anger that accompanies it.

  3. When I think of my church experience, and all that I've learned afterwards, I think of the song by The Who "We Don't Get Fooled Again". I am determined to understand all I can and to not get fooled again.

    Like you, I'm definitely not grateful for the ride; and, I wonder what life would have been like if I hadn't "bought the ticket." Still, it is possible, even likely, that on balance my church experience was beneficial to me. I entered as a confused young man without much direction in my life; I exited as a happily married man with two kids, a house and a career. Perhaps I would have gotten my act together even without the church; but, perhaps the church was a nurturing home for me. Yes, I sure sent in a bunch of tithe money that I'd love to have in my bank account right now. Yet perhaps in my case the benefits were worth the price.

    Still, one does feel foolish about many of the things we believed - or should I say "fell for". And how could we have followed those domineering, wrongheaded men who were appointed as leaders over us? Honestly, that should have been our first clue.

    Actually, the one area where I feel anger is with regard to Joe Tkach - senior and junior. They stole our church and our assets from us. What they did was morally repugnant. And it should have been a crime. But shame on HWA - and us - for vesting all power and control over all assets in one man. That set us up for what happened. That's what enabled the Tkach crime.

    Still, in one sense Tkach did us a favor. Without his crime, most of us would still be "dumb sheep" members of WCG. His so-called "changes" forced most of us to open our eyes and see the truth.

    As you can see, I have mixed emotions regarding WCG. Anger is not the main emotion; it's one among many.

  4. I had no control over my entry into the hot religious mess known as Armstrongism. My parents dragged us into it as children. There is no shortage of reasons for anger, but there are three primary reasons, the first of which began shortly after our entry. That would be the church's child rearing principles, vigorously applied in our family. The second was the lying prophecies. It is horrible to grow up believing that the world as you know it will come to an end when you reach the grand old age of 27, and that beloved family members and friends will be tortured to death leading up to that. The third was the undue control the church authority structure exerted over all aspects of life. There was very little left to one's personal discretion.

    This basic framework of three gets figuratively filled in with additional rebar and lattice work. The experiences are thus solidified and intensified as is the resultant anger in the aftermath.

    When my studies and experiences led me back into faith after years of non-belief, I preplanned that I would not allow what was taught in church to usurp and replace truth. I don't understand, as an example, how anyone who has even attended grade school could be forced to believe in a 6,000 year old universe. Artificial subjugation and repression of women is wasteful ignorance and does not benefit civilized society in any way. Conspiracy theories are not a plausible "all purpose" way of explaining the world surrounding us, and hold no value. Character cannot be legislated, and is of no value if caused by duress. In other words, this time around, my experiences in Armstrongism have pretty much isolated me from and prevented the sorts of negative phenomena about which Dr. Drescher has written. My spiritual experience has been stripped down to a basic core which has two elements: 1) I am saved, and 2) I have a daily relationship with God. It's a direct connection, personal relationship type thing. Church is just one possible discretionary resource, not a repository of 100% truth, not the sum-total of my identity, and not a control unit regulating my life.

    This "stuff" we all experienced, like poison, cries out for an antidote. Most of us from the Armstrong movement have done much thinking, sought out solutions, and are actively helping one another. I hope these other people we're learning about through Dr. Drescher are finding healing, but I would have to believe that in most cases, their experiences were analogous to a bad cold, while ours was more like malaria.


  5. You know, it wouldn't be so bad if they weren't so darned untrustworthy.

  6. Anger - until it became hysterically funny to me that grown men and women think they have to be taught what to believe about a spirit realm by some parasite preacher who doesn't know any more about a spirit realm than the next person. All they can do is make assertions they can't prove or demonstrate.

  7. In linked interview, Liz Drescher sounds like Krista Tippett and her guests on "On Being" [NPR], that is, 'spiritual Mumbo-Jumbo'! I.O.W., it is the logical religious evolution from bankrupt/discredited Pauline theology for white people.

    Not that there still isn't good money to be made from traditional Christianity: Consider Dr Drescher's ~$150k salary from her Silicon Valley Jesuit university - or Joe Tkach's ~$150k salary at the other end Cuckoo California.

    In California alone their customer-base is secure: ~ 30m superstitious Mexicans who don't read. Of course there's a gulf of separation between what the lay-members believe and what Dr Drescher and the Jesuit scholars know!

  8. From her website:
    " ... fast-growing religious demographic, the religiously unaffiliated."

    Why are informed people abandoning Drescher & Tkach's god?
    Well, their god tolerates Slavery & commands Genital mutilation!
    Stupid Christians!