Reading Time: 6 minutes (Sneaky Elbow.) They look confused.
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Last time we met up, we were talking about the Christian Cult of Family. Really authoritarian flavors of Christianity have been pushing a new marketing tactic of late. In this new-but-not-really push, they position themselves as the ultimate sources of wisdom about how to create and grow a happy, harmonious family. Yep! They’ve got the lockdown stranglehold on how to do that. Didn’t you know? But like with all the other marketing hype they create, this new campaign is purest nonsense. Not only do authoritarian Christians not know how to create and grow happy families, but they actively despise and fight against the values that go into that rewarding task.

(Sneaky Elbow.) I suspect that pugs look confused just all the time, just out of habit.

A Sales Pitch in the Wild.

Remember that Cru site I showed you recently about how to build a happy family? Remember how they phrased their marketing pitch?

Do you want to know the secret for building the type of marriage and family relationships you desire?

To Cru, creating a happy family is something that requires initiation into a secret. Luckily for us poor saps, they’re happy to share that secret. 

See, people just need to Jesus really hard!

Through their obedience to Jesus those speaking for Jesus, they’ll cultivate qualities that might, possibly, maybe, perhaps, somehow improve their relationships. Or not. It really depends. (Cru hedges on this point to a downright hilarious extreme.)

Imagine non-Christians hearing that sales pitch. The first thing they’d reply would likely be a question about why so many Christians have such dysfunctional and miserable family lives. They’d know better than to bite at Cru’s bait! I’ve never met anybody–except Christians themselves, of course–who think Christians as a group handle relationships amazingly well.

But now imagine Christians hearing that. They grew up in that culture. They’re used to hearing “bad Christians” explained away with accusations of not Jesus-ing hard enough. Cru’s advice would make total sense to them. They’d suspect that there’s some ANGLE to finding family happiness. And Cru offers them that.

Following this advice would not help anybody, however. Nothing Cru suggests actually improves family relationships. 

The Real Work (Gets Left Undone).

Building a truly happy family involves many traits that Christian authoritarians not only lack, but deeply distrust and despise. They know quite well that those traits would severely undercut the personal power of the leaders in their groups.

So on those rare occasions when authoritarians pretend to tackle the serious problems in their culture, they will always seek to maintain their status quo. Real change would dismantle what they’ve worked their whole lives to build. Change frightens authoritarians–when it doesn’t enrage them out of hand.

Even if some of them want a happy family, the values that produce happy families are all things that run totally counter to the values they currently practice. Learning these other values would strip away from them the things they love most about the current system.

So they twist themselves forwards and backwards to avoid engaging with that simple truth.

Authoritarians Despise Mutual Respect.

The value of mutual respect, for example, flies in the face of authoritarians’ desire to abuse others however they like. Abuse becomes much easier to inflict if the victims can be dehumanized or objectified.

Authoritarian Christians’ entire world consists of a lifelong race to the highest rungs they can reach on the ladder of power. Such Christians seek to gain as much power as their individual situations will allow. By maximizing their base of power, they protect themselves from abuse from above by shrinking the available pool of would-be abusers. In turn, they gain access to more victims with every step up that ladder.

Their culture not only allows this abuse to occur, it writes permission slips for committing it, protects abusers against any repercussions boiling up from their behavior, and ensures that the abuse continues into future generations.

Children victimized by abuse fear the repercussions of telling anybody about it. Many of them know, or at least fear, that nobody will believe them, much less take their side to protect them. And they know it’s because those above them always get more respect than they do. They learn very quickly exactly where they stand on the ladder of power, and exactly why those stuck there fight like blazes to rise up and away from that level.

The very last thing their abusers want to hear is that families should practice mutual respect by considering all members as having equal rights and dignity.

Authoritarians Despise Consent.

In similar fashion, the last thing authoritarian Christians want to hear is that happy families cherish the value of consent.

Children who understand that their bodies belong to them alone are children who are bloody unlikely to keep silent about abuse. They are children who learn to trust their feelings about inappropriate touching–and who know what good and bad relationships look like. They feel free to refuse interactions they don’t want.

Authoritarian styles of Christianity absolutely depend upon the idea of everybody being owned by someone else. Many of the parents in this culture don’t even teach their kids what consent is–because this idea of not owning one’s body permeates authoritarianism.

Authoritarian leaders need to be able to inflict anything they want on those beneath them on the ladder of power. They cannot bear to be told “no,” ever, about anything.

If their power is not absolute, then it means absolutely nothing to them.

Authoritarians Despise Resilience.

Happy families operate with a high level of resilience. They change, shift, cope, and grow together. As the family’s needs shift, members step in, delegate, learn from each other, resolve conflicts, and ask for help when needed.

Unfortunately, authoritarians fear change. Change means loss. They also fear being seen as weak, and they love to pounce on those who appear to be weak.

Worse than that, even, when someone’s as far up the ladder of power as they can get for now, change means getting knocked down that ladder. It also means having to learn new skills, or it means modifying or discarding skills that various changes have rendered obsolete. Authoritarians don’t take to either process all too well.

Resilience means flexibility, but authoritarians’ group picture can be located in the dictionary under puckered rigidity.

The very last thing they will ever do is allow change to wreck the all-too-tenuous grasp they have on whatever power they’ve cobbled together.

Authoritarians Despise Compassion.

Everything I’ve named here today stands as important to the running of a happy family (or really, of a group of just about any kind short of perhaps the armed forces, and even them to an extent). Perhaps most of all, however, the value of compassion determines all the rest of them.

Compassion drives us to adapt to others’ needs and help as necessary. It makes us recoil from the idea of abusing anybody, for any reason. It leads us to believe victims’ stories and to side with them against abusers–no matter how powerful those abusers might be. With compassion, we keep other people’s dignity firmly in mind and respect their boundaries. We act with generosity and gentleness toward those who need help.

We might not all be geniuses about relationships, but we can all be compassionate–and thereby work out by trial and error what produces love and harmony and what seems to produce nothing but hurt feelings, arguments, and contempt on one side or another. So in a very real way, compassion drives positive change and makes us open to doing better.

Authoritarians might well hate compassion more than any other value. Their entire disgusting system only works if they scorch their members’ compassion right out of them.

The Chain of Pain Shatters On These Rocks.

My family growing up was extremely authoritarian. Most of what I write about here, I experienced only in brief bursts if at all as a child. I escaped that mindset with great effort later, after deconversion.

And the worst part is that a child who grows up in that atmosphere could easily learn the lessons authoritarian parents teach, simply as self-protection. Even deconversion doesn’t mean automatic escape from authoritarian thinking. The chain of pain does not care what religious labels someone wears.

Escape may mean physically leaving the group involved. It may mean obtaining competent therapy. It almost certainly will mean learning a lot of new styles of thinking and acting–and unlearning others.

The effort is worth the costs–many times over. And I see so many families making that effort now. It gives me so much hope for our future!

Slowly, very slowly, humanity struggles free of those shackles. We break the chains. We reach out our hands to each other.

And there ain’t nothin’ these Christians can do about it except lie for Jesus and hope they fool someone.

NEXT UP: It downright amazes me to see all the ways that Christians accidentally admit that their rules simply do not work to produce good families. We’ll look at some of those ways, next. See you soon!

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...