The other night I watched the first episodes of a documentary about the Duggar family, made famous on TV thanks to TLC and their own (as the documentary makes clear) greed, venality, and ambition. I couldn’t sleep afterwards, because although it was unsurprising that grotesque acts of abuse toward women and children occurred in a patriarchal evangelical church that minimizes, dehumanizes, degrades and hyper-sexualizes women and children, to witness the testimony of former members including one of the Duggar children, now an adult, was deeply disturbing. Disturbing as well to see the materials these individuals were taught from, ‘God-based’ home-school instruction that essentially rendered them both un-educated and un-hirable in the real world, trapping them in ‘the life’. This ‘from on high’ instruction included a book parents could and did use to learn how to discipline their children, and do it in such a way as to evade criminal charges of child abuse; many of these church members did this in the pursuit of compliant, frightened, perfectly honed children, who were ideal victims for more abuse.

When men who believe they have been given instruction from above on how to be ‘Godlier’, watch out. When these same men determine that controlling women and children regarding what they wear, how they style their hair, what they can read, watch, etc., etc. is the holier, more Biblical, ‘Godlier’ way to go, creating strict rules for all kinds of behaviors by children and adults, but especially women and girls, watch out. Under those conditions, abuse is right around the corner, if it isn’t already in your home, your church, and your place of business. 

Worship and believe if you must, but do not worship individual men, or groups of men, as interpreters of belief, whatever belief or system of religion you choose, because men are flawed, power corrupts, and absolute power – such as an entire congregation imagining their pastor has a direct line to the Almighty – corrupts absolutely. I never watched the Duggar (shit)show on TLC; I thought the entire premise was gross, that the mom in question was being utilized as a heifer in a barn, only with less respect, that the kids’ ‘fake happy’ lives and souls were being pimped, essentially, for TV ratings, and I did not want them – the Duggars or their church – to benefit, as evangelical Christians, from me or my actions by even one thin dime. 

I was raised Catholic, but left the church (even if my mother kept dragging me there) once I realized around the age of ten that women were second class citizens in that organization. Why would I, why would anyone, belong to any institution or club, any organization or supposed fountain of spirituality or learning wherein they are relegated to permanent lesser status, and not because women are or ever were incapable of ministering or spreading the word, which women do every day, but because they were born with the wrong genitalia? Aren’t we in America, where anyone can do and be anything, if they work hard enough, and long enough, and smart enough? Not in most churches, synagogues, or houses of worship we ain’t. Thanks, but no thanks. My mother’s – and her Catholic friends’ – many hypocrisies probably didn’t help, either, nor did that Priest who came to the Catskills from who knows where, a man who clearly hated every minute of it, poor thing. He pronounced sin as ‘seen’. Hey, when you’ve already rejected the church, and it’s just because your mom forces you to go there, still, while you live under her roof, hearing about the ‘wages of seen’ might just put you out for good. Except I’d already left the building mentally, and any belief I had as a child. Cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am, and for crying out loud, no, no, no. Levels of heaven? Levels of sin? Women can’t be priests, but – another priest a few years on – the guy with the shady past, toupee, and mirrored ceiling can be? No thank you.     

Worship and believe if you must but practice a small ‘c’ catholic approach to life, to reason, to all subjects worth studying including spirituality, by opening your mind and heart broadly; read and see and experience it all, dip your toes in waters not native to your original soul and soil, unless, that is, you’re too frightened by what you don’t know, and cannot possibly understand, from a position you may have convinced yourself to think of as being ‘a higher place’. I would assert that in not having a broad-minded approach to life, living in fear and under the control of ‘higher ups’, secure in your untested and supposed moral superiority, means that rather than living on high, you’ve decided to live small, crouched and cowering, and if you’re a woman or a child very probably suffering as well, in a corner.