Meet Ashlee, a young woman who is an ex-fundie, happily married, and a Christian. Thank you for sharing your story, Ashlee!
What do you consider your current worldview/religious beliefs to be?
Christian – Having a relationship with God and not the church. Politically, I would consider myself moderate.
How did you become involved with Christian Fundamentalism?
I was born into it. Until I moved out of my parent’s house I had no choice with what I wanted to do. My parent’s controlled everything.
What sort of church(es) did you attend while in fundamentalism?
IFB – very conservative
How did Christian Fundamentalism affect your home life (relationship between parents, relationship between parents and children, relationship between siblings, discipline methods, lifestyle choices, etc.)?
I think it caused tension between my parents and me because I was always afraid of getting in trouble. Being a PK I always had to play the part of being the good Christian girl. I didn’t have the same thinking as my parents. I felt like I couldn’t be true to myself. I felt more like a fraud. Moving out of their house I feel like now I can be authentic. With the control they had over me I couldn’t think for myself. It was either the Bible way or the highway with them.
Was patriarchy (male headship) present in your home, church, or relationships with other people? If so, how did it make you feel at the time? How do you feel about patriarchy now?
My dad was head of the home and also the church, so I got strictness in both the home and church. I do not agree with males feeling like they can dominate the female. Being brought up in the IFB the men teach you that they have control over you.
What were you taught about sex before marriage or sex in general? How has that affected your relationships (dating, marriage, or otherwise)? How have the teachings affected your opinion of your own body?
Growing up in a strict conservative Christian home the topic of sex was not brought up. I know in some Christian homes it was an open topic, and in others it was a very closed never talked about topic. I grew up with the subject never being brought into conversation. Why my parents chose that option is beyond me. Maybe they hoped if they kept their children “innocent” and naïve they would never have to worry about one of their daughters becoming pregnant. Being much younger than my oldest sisters I don’t know if my parents at some point had the intimate “sex talk” with them. Perhaps my mother was the one who gave that talk, and maybe waited until their wedding day, assuming they were both virgins. I learned from looking at porn and reading about sex and talking to certain friends. I think you should be allowed to do whatever you are comfortable with doing with your body.
My mother was a funny individual who didn’t even give me the talk about girls getting their period. The first time not having a clue what was going on with my body I felt as if something seriously wrong was happening to my body.
Do you have any memories that stand out in regards to your experience with fundamentalism (you can share as many as you’d like)?
I remember always being scared talking to friends. Even about dumb stuff just being afraid of getting in trouble with my parents. The control my parents had over me was just wrong. A parent and child relationship should be based on love and not using an intimidation tactic.
When did you start to question Christian Fundamentalism? What led up to this?
When my parents told me I was going to a strict Baptist college without me having a say in the process because they didn’t approve of a guy. Although before that I always knew my parents were strict and the way they disciplined wasn’t right.
Do you notice areas of your life where fundamentalism is still impacting you?
Not really. I’ve kind of changed.
Did you ever feel abused* by any aspect of or adherent to Christian Fundamentalism?
I believe there was a lot of emotional and psychological abuse. My dad always told us to keep stuff to ourselves and not tell anybody stuff that was said. Which kind of screws with your head. Like why so much secrecy? Also, there were a couple of times he took physical discipline too far, and caused severe bruising.
What do you think Christian Fundamentalism gets wrong? What do you think it gets right?
It gets a lot wrong. Music, dress, rules, and much more. I really don’t think they get anything right. They lack in teaching God’s agape love, and focus too much on rules. The Baptist church seems too similar to the catholic church… both are focused on works.
How do you think fundamentalism has impacted the world’s view of Christianity? Should Christians be trying to change that view? If so, how do you think they can?
I believe the Baptist church has caused people to turn away from church because of their corrupt teaching. I believe God shows His love to His children. Baptists should turn away from looking the part of the good Christian.
What would you say to someone who is considering joining Christian fundamentalism?
I would advise them not to join. It’s more of a cult/religion.
What would you say to someone who is considering leaving Christian fundamentalism?
I would try to help them as much as I can. Especially if they were having issues with the pastor giving them problems and pressuring them to stay.
* “Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone” (source: The National Domestic Violence Hotline ). Abuse may have taken place in the home, church, religious school, etc. or could have stemmed from specific teachings and self-imposed adherence to such teachings.