Saturday, July 12, 2014

Catholics, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Fundies

I've noticed an unnerving trend. It seems that many of the cultural and theological positions from fundamentalist and evangelical Protestant cultures are seeping into the more conservative Catholic circles. Many of the "hot topics" on Catholic blogs (such as veiling, skirts vs. pants, homeschooling, wifely submission, purity rings, etc) are just borrowed from fundies. For as long as I can remember, certain Protestant women have been homeschooling their large families while wearing ankle-length denim skirts, never cutting their hair, frequenting health food stores, and having babies at home. (One movie says that "health food stores are where the lives of fundamentalists and liberal hippies intersect.") The extreme end of the spectrum are the folks who do "home church" (because they can't find a church that's pure enough for them) and who keep their daughters at home instead of letting them go to college.

Obviously, Catholics won't be having church at home; there's that pesky Mass obligation, and the entire idea of Catholicism centers around the altar, not the home. And yet, I see more and more Catholic bloggers talking like fundy Protestants. Ironically, the more "traditional" Catholics are more likely to look like Protestants.

I'm honestly baffled by this. For someone who breathes a sigh of relief every morning because I'm not in that subculture anymore, I can't imagine why someone would willingly put themselves there - especially a Catholic. When you've got the intellectual backdrop of Augustine, Aquinas, Francis de Sales, Theresa de Avila, John Henry Newman, et all, why would you need the advice of folks like the Pearls, Voddie Baucham, Eric and Leslie Ludy, and Joshua Harris?

Because let's be clear. That whole "emotional purity," parent-lead courtship, "you are your virginity," cups filled with spit image of sexuality? Not Catholic. Eschewing vaccines? Not Catholic. "Full time head-covering" and measuring one's virtue by the length of one's skirt? Not Catholic. Proudly proclaiming that you've never worked outside the home and wanting the same for your daughters? Not Catholic.

But nothing scares me more than the adoption of "wifely submission." Even the old-time Catholics don't come close to the paralysis that defines fundamentalist womanhood. The conservative Protestant image of a woman is much closer to Victorianism than Christianity, and it leads to toxic places. If you've never seen the video of John Piper's talk on women with abusive husbands, this should be eye-opening. Catholics, this is where "submission" leads: to silent acquiescence of abuse. Men, be on guard: this thought process leads to a weak version of "manhood" that can't tolerate a strong, healthy wife. In Piper's mind, the central issue of domestic violence is the woman's "crisis of submission," not her safety, and she might even need to endure being smacked around for a night as long as it's "not causing her to sin."

(Note: this man is well-regarded in certain circles. Growing up as a Calvinist, he was one of our hallowed authors along with R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Elizabeth Elliot, Francis Schaeffer and JI Packer. My respect for him evaporated after watching this video, but sadly he is still highly influential).


  1. Ok, so I have to read your post, but I copied my response to your comment over on my blog (maybe I need to switch to the reply feature so you'll get them, hopefully): I grew up in the COE (where bishops assigned, at least in the tiny church I grew up in) and now I'm in TEC, so we have a whole calling process in front of us.

    Ok, off to read your post.

  2. Back. I thought John Piper was decent until I started hearing his opinions on a woman's place. That made me question (probably unfairly, possibly rightly) everything else I'd read or anyone who quoted him. Yikes.

    But head coverings are traditionally Catholic. I rather suspect the fundamentalists borrowed that from the Catholics. I've heard older ladies in my church (TEC) talk about wearing hats and gloves to church when they were young, so it's not far gone from my church, although I do wonder how much of that was just fashion. On some level those Catholics who follow the Pope on contraception (calling it, among other things, abortion, which is why Catholic bishops and certain Evangelists are teamed up against the ACA right now) *are* harking back to another age.

    So glad you're posting again and I do hope the move is going well (or if not well, better.)

    1. Hello there, I just stumbled on this blog. I won't try and surprise you, I'm not a Catholic, although I was born into Catholicism. I became a Christian, born again by the grace of God, a year or so ago. I would love to interact with you both, if you're willing.

      My thoughts on what was discussed here are, What we should be doing is weighing everything against the Word of God. What we'll find then is that Piper, Baucham and Ludy are all saying the right thing when it comes to women. We have to submit to God and what God desires from women, but most importantly, we need to examine if we are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). It can be hard submitting to God's will, but we must neglect our own will and follow Christ's will. Can I ask you both questions? Do you believe that the Bible is the infalliable Word of God? Also, what is the Gospel?


    2. Leanne, of course some people are misinformed, but generally "Catholics" only call "contraception" abortion, or abortifacient, when one of a method's known or suspected mechanisms of preventing live birth is to inhibit the successful implantation in the uterus of a newly conceived human life.

    3. Yes, thanks Theresa, I was going to say that myself, for clarity sake :)

      Leanne, as far as the hats thing goes, I think most ladies in the early 20th century wore hats for fashion; I know my grandmama used to wear dresses and hats and gloves to go out. I actually would love to wear hats but my ears stick out, so it's a bit awkward.

  3. If I may post again, I think something is very interesting. We come from backgrounds that are some what similar, not in content specifically, but in concepts. I grew up in Catholicism, and became a Christian a few years ago. You grew up in Protestantism and converted to Catholicism. What were your reasons for this?

    1. Hi New in Christ,

      I'm actually not Roman Catholic, but Episcopalian (which my sister-in-law describes as Catholic-lite). Much of my theology meshes nicely with Catholicism, and I like to read some Catholic blogs, so most of my readers are Catholic. (Obviously I don't agree with everything the Catholic church teaches or I would convert! However, I have found wisdom and beauty in certain Catholic teachings, and I especially appreciate the Catholic commitment to social justice.)

      Anyway, thanks for commenting!

  4. So I just wrote a long comment and it disappeared. Anyway, at first I confused John Piper with Josef Pieper. So many teachers of mine and other writers whom I trust have quoted Pieper that I was really worried. But . . . totally different people. Great post!