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Fundie Lifestyle as Rebellion/Counter-Culture


Soldier of the One

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When I commented on the Stephen Hammer thread, something (not entirely original) came to me. There's often some speculation why SADH's don't rebel and run off and how they can seem content (if that is an accurate reflection, judging by the blogs).

I think the power of the fundie movement is to make their life-style seem counter-cultural. Even though the kids may not be rebelling against their parents, they might still be getting their 'rebellion' fix by rebelling against (what they perceive) as the general (secular) culture. I think there can be many subtle power dynamics and identities within an individual family culture. What might be perceived as oppressive by some might be perceived as liberating by others. Now, I am not saying *all* fundie families are one thing or another. I think it can be complex: patriarchal yet warm, conservative yet counter-cultural. Perhaps a lot of SADH's think (real or perceived) that their lives offer more immediate freedoms.

Of course, there's also a class difference. I definitely think it's easier for the 'royalty' families where families are small and/or well-to-do. Where the girls have avenues of self-expression (photography, art, a home business, music etc). I think there's a reason why so many SADH's blog so vigorously. It's not only their 'ministry' and I don't think it's all self-affirmation either. I think they see themselves as a counter-cultural, perhaps even revolutionary force. Even reactionaries can cast themselves as revolutionary!

And why not? It's an attractive dichotomy with plenty of psychological and theological ramifications and rewards. It's very eschatological/Latter Days: they remain pure, they are the vanguard of truth, they are the bearers of a new society, etc, etc. Some part of this is natural to any counter-cultural movement. (And in many cases, counter-cultural movements are much needed in society because they challenge the status quo and shake things up). I think that by believing and imbibing the language of being counter-cultural, the SADH's (and their mothers) make the patriarchy more palatable for themselves. It casts them into a special and privileged role. In that sense, it's very gnostic.

And by that token, I think they feel an ambivalence about their missionary activity. Part of them want social and political power because Dominionism is about striving after theocratic aims. But part of them, I think, wants to be 'set apart'. They are not the jeans-and-t-shirt wearing Evangelists who embrace Arminianism and want everyone to be saved. I think being part of an 'elite corps' of spiritual warriors has an appeal.

So, in conclusion, when we wonder why these young women don't challenge the authority in their own homes, I think it's because their families are aligned in collectively challenging what they see as the status-quo. Ultimately, that might seem like a far loftier and more rewarding goal. If fundie-ism would become truly mainstream, a lot of that allure might disappear.

Thoughts?

Edited for typos.

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I agree.

Clothing is often more than just a way to avoid tempting anyone - it's a uniform, signalling that someone is part of a select group, and also a way of standing out from the rest of society.

Teens and young adults have a certain amount of energy and moral certainty. These movements harness that. It gives a sense of mission/purpose while allowing them to rebel against the societal status quo.

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Yup, that's what I think too. You see it across the board too. You see it in the ba'alei teshuvah (non-religious Jews becoming Orthodox) as well. And it's not just in the clothing - it's the entire rhetoric.

Ironically, this is the technique that fundamentalist religion picked up from the left-wing 1960's Counter Culture. The Victoriana that is often referred to was not counter-cultural at all, not even it its own context. By appropriating Victorian discourse in a counter-cultural way, they are being hugely anachronistic :)

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I certainly saw this in the 2 years or so prior to me leaving the Catholic Church. The number of Catholic students I was teaching in college who "committed" to having large families with women being SAHM's, wearing ever-longer skirts rather than pants, choosing headcoverings and such, choosing a Latin Mass, copious Marian devotion, preference for referring to Rome as "conciliar," etc. was certainly growing.

It did seem like very much mostly trying to rebel against their parents' Catholicism, but not by becoming atheists or (heaven forbid!) Protestants. And the opulence of the Latin Mass seemed to be quite interesting to them also. Of course, as with the whole false aping of Victorian culture, the youth interested in the Latin Mass didn't necessarily want the whole enchilada of pre-Vatican II culture, just the parts that were visibly opposed to what they were getting in their "mainstream" church, and mostly superficial things. Which is also ironic because they felt that it was more "authentically Catholic" to take the conservative, pre-Vatican II turn.

We're talking a minority here, but not just one or two people, and not just one semester or two, which is what struck me. I imagine it's still going on.

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This makes a lot of sense, and explains why so much of the rhetoric is "us vs. them." It's almost never just, "WE like this," it's always in contrast to the "others"--kids in public schools carry guns and curse, women with careers spend all their money on designer clothes and neglect their children, teens who date are promiscuous, people who take public assistance are lazy--they always contrast their virtuous selves with the evil others, who are everybody else.

And as Anaconda and Raptured said, this happens across the board. My friends and acquaintances who became born-again Jews made huge spectacles of themselves, not just by dress but by, for example, loudly proclaiming why they wouldn't touch certain foods or eat from my china, whereas the really religious people would just say "no thanks" if you offered them a cup of coffee and the rabbis (met a lot from all persuasions because of my work) would go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. And the Uber-Catholics in my family (raised Catholic) make a huge point of going on and on about judging other people, and Father says...but my elderly aunt, who was the mother superior of an order of nuns for more than 50 years, was the first one to send a gift to this unmarried mother's baby and made sure we were invited to all the family gatherings.

It's the outward expressions of PIETY--whether through clothes or blogs or other things that call attention to themselves--rather than living out their spirituality--that seem to be important. I agree, they get their validation not from their internal lives (I mean, if you have a special in with Jesus, wouldn't that be enough?) but by pointing out how, in contrast to the other 7 billion of us, they are special.

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Raptured_Pope and patsymae - You so summed up this trend. I see it at my Catholic church where the headcovered, kneels on the floor, won't hold hands at the Our Father, and receives on tongue lady is an euchatistic minister. It's all about the outward appearance.

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I certainly saw this in the 2 years or so prior to me leaving the Catholic Church. The number of Catholic students I was teaching in college who "committed" to having large families with women being SAHM's, wearing ever-longer skirts rather than pants, choosing headcoverings and such, choosing a Latin Mass, copious Marian devotion, preference for referring to Rome as "conciliar," etc. was certainly growing.

It did seem like very much mostly trying to rebel against their parents' Catholicism, but not by becoming atheists or (heaven forbid!) Protestants. And the opulence of the Latin Mass seemed to be quite interesting to them also. Of course, as with the whole false aping of Victorian culture, the youth interested in the Latin Mass didn't necessarily want the whole enchilada of pre-Vatican II culture, just the parts that were visibly opposed to what they were getting in their "mainstream" church, and mostly superficial things. Which is also ironic because they felt that it was more "authentically Catholic" to take the conservative, pre-Vatican II turn.

We're talking a minority here, but not just one or two people, and not just one semester or two, which is what struck me. I imagine it's still going on.

That reminds me of a friend who converted to Catholocism in recent years. He is in love with the ritual, the pageantry. He hates folk masses and sermons that aren't an expression of Catholic teaching. He loves Latin masses and masses where the prices has his back to the congregation. He believes "true" Catholocism is of the pre Vatican 2 variety.

What's so funny about traditional Catholics like my friend is that their political beliefs are rarely inline with the social justice beliefs of the Catholic Church. Think of Rick Santorum. My friend's constant blathering about being libertarian are more suited to conservative Protestantism. He doesn't believe in legally santioned discrimination of gays and says his use of birth control is a constant moral struggle for him.

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Raptured_Pope and patsymae - You so summed up this trend. I see it at my Catholic church where the headcovered, kneels on the floor, won't hold hands at the Our Father, and receives on tongue lady is an euchatistic minister. It's all about the outward appearance.

Okay, so I can't be the only one that read this post and tittered like a schoolboy, right? :dance:

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I totally agree with this. And while all teenagers might not go through a "rebellion" stage, they certainly need to find their niche, or their "purpose-in-life". And in doing so, what teenager doesn't want to feel *special* along the way?

So my in-laws are fundy-lite (used to be full on fundy). They belonged to a church-like-cult in Mexico. This church believed that the doctrine given to them was only for hispanics-- Mexico and southwards. So when I met my sister and brother-in-law, they loved to talk and talk about how they were chosen and how they have recieved such a blessing to be part of this doctrine that isn't available to the world. They were proud that they were set apart. It was like a secret God club.

This (although seeming absolutely absurd) allowed them to convert all their energy in this purpose. No teen wanted to rebel because this awesome club was so exclusive that the world seemed so boring otherwise.

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this reminds me a bit of the "straight edge" culture as it has been adopted by mormons/conservative christians. not that fundies have mohawks or listen to "punk" rock or anything, but just the bold, "yea! self-righteousness! rebelling against secular culture!!!elventy!!" spirit of the "counter"culture that is mirrored in fundamentalism.

ETA for straight-edge specificity

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Yes. You see it a lot in remarks about "statism" and "Marxism" in the VF crowd. They perceive the world as deluded, the people in public schools as mindless peons marching in lock-step with whatever is handed down from on high. It's much easier to believe this when they haven't actually experienced public school themselves, just relied on the testimony of their elders. The only thing that is going to "save the culture" is "godly men and women" "taking dominion" by "returning to traditional family roles." They absolutely see this as rebellion against "statism" and "Marxism." Hilariously, they honestly believe that the US is this socialist cesspool of left-wing extremism.

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If only the US was a socialist cesspool of left-wing extremism... that would make some of us happy :)

On another note: I definitely think there's also a psychology to the 'newly converted' phenomenon. Usually people mellow out within a couple of years or a lifetime. But fundamentalism makes back-tracking (or even just relaxing the standards or interpretations) nigh impossible. That's the scariest part I think.

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"What's so funny about traditional Catholics like my friend is that their political beliefs are rarely inline with the social justice beliefs of the Catholic Church. Think of Rick Santorum."

Or Mel Gibson.

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If only the US was a socialist cesspool of left-wing extremism... that would make some of us happy :)

On another note: I definitely think there's also a psychology to the 'newly converted' phenomenon. Usually people mellow out within a couple of years or a lifetime. But fundamentalism makes back-tracking (or even just relaxing the standards or interpretations) nigh impossible. That's the scariest part I think.

I agree. When I was funds light, my friends and I observed an interesting phenomenon. We found that the people who would "know" the most and be the most outspoken were people who had converted about 2 years previously. They were around long enough to really buy into and learn doctrine, but not so long as to realize that sometimes life doesn't fit the neat boxes.

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In the few clips I saw of Return of the Daughters, many of the girls, including the Botkinettes were going on about how "counter-cultural" and "radical" being a sahd was.

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If only the US was a socialist cesspool of left-wing extremism... that would make some of us happy :)

On another note: I definitely think there's also a psychology to the 'newly converted' phenomenon. Usually people mellow out within a couple of years or a lifetime. But fundamentalism makes back-tracking (or even just relaxing the standards or interpretations) nigh impossible. That's the scariest part I think.

With some BTs ("born-again Jews"), I've noticed a sort of prolonged adolescence. Some increased their observance dramatically in their teen or early 20s, and had some major clashes with family. They don't always recognize that much of the problem was simple teen rebellion, so some of them don't outgrow it the way that other people simply outgrow that stage. [Now sometimes, long-term estrangement results from family dynamics that really were dysfunctional long before the person turned religious.] Part of the reason that I stopped identifying myself as a BT is that there's this image of someone going from 0 to 60 and actively rejecting everyone in their old life, and that just isn't me at all. I found that I had the most difficulty with BTs like that, precisely because I didn't do an overnight change, and because my husband and I have very strong relationships with our less-observant families. Sometimes, those who are born religious are a bit more laid back, and also more respectful of the importance of family relationships.

Some BTs do mellow out over time. I also find that sense of humor is really important - if it's still functioning, there's a better chance that the person is a functioning human instead of a robot. I'll never forgot attending the wedding of my husband's friend, who had become a BT. It was a bit surreal - a sea of rabbis, tons of religious speeches - and it all seemed very different from the guy that we knew. Suddenly, when he came to our table, he saw my husband and make a joke about the hockey playoffs. They cracked up and it was sort of a signal that the old friend was still there. He's now my daughter's teacher, he still cracks jokes all the time, and he's determined to be a teacher who allows all questions.

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as a fundie kid i LOVED dressing in frumpers and matchy matchy outfits because people stared at us and we looked so Godly!! so different! it felt so liberal to be conservative in a wild wicked world (if you know what i mean).

Whether fundies want to admit it or not, a majority of them live in the pride of knowing just how radical they seem to the world.

I think this thread is a new catch-on for FJ into the mindset and idealogy of fundieism and that is thrilling.

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Hilariously, they honestly believe that the US is this socialist cesspool of left-wing extremism.

You say it like that's a bad thing. ;)

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Agree with everyone here: it's attention-whoring at its most godly!

It also makes me think of the old saws "It isn't a party unless someone isn't invited," and "It isn't a club unless someone can't join."

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This makes a lot of sense, and explains why so much of the rhetoric is "us vs. them." It's almost never just, "WE like this," it's always in contrast to the "others"--kids in public schools carry guns and curse, women with careers spend all their money on designer clothes and neglect their children, teens who date are promiscuous, people who take public assistance are lazy--they always contrast their virtuous selves with the evil others, who are everybody else.

I think that's so true, but I don't think fundiness is just a response to the ~secular debauchery.~ A lot of it seems to be responding to a perceived shallowness in mainstream church culture. It's Us vs. Them and Them too while we're at it.

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It totally is Us vesus Them. It's eschatology on speed and a culture war revved up to the max. They get away with it because it's 'non-violent.' Really?

Dominionism really scares me.

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this reminds me a bit of the "straight edge" culture as it has been adopted by mormons/conservative christians. not that fundies have mohawks or listen to "punk" rock or anything, but just the bold, "yea! self-righteousness! rebelling against secular culture!!!elventy!!" spirit of the "counter"culture that is mirrored in fundamentalism.

ETA for straight-edge specificity

I was just thinking this! This was a lot of my friends when I was a teen (and my brother :whistle: ) ,and i was all about being better than everyone else.... even being better than their straight-edge, Christian friends....it was like a contest, who could be purer, pray more, read more of their Bible, teach the most awesome Bible studies, ( I knew a guy who wouldn't even side hug. Seriously.) It was nuts, and you know what? People being so into all of the "show" of Christianity made it easier for us kids who didn't believe....just follow XYZ rules around your friends, and you will *seem* ok!

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