Your idea of love is fucked up.

There’s a lot of swearing in this post. That means the people who need to hear this most will ignore me. That’s fine. There will be other posts on other days to engage sympathetically. And at this point, the bridges between me and those I criticise are mostly in flames anyway.

When Reverend Oliver Harrison spoke out against ACE in January, he wrote “I was in my twenties before anyone told me the first and most foundational truth of Christianity: namely, that God is love”. To which AislingNB replied:

‘God is love’ is an underlying basic principle which is often stated in the PACES. Perhaps your experience of ACE was negative because of the people that administered it. Don’t blame the actual curriculum for this.

Then Kara Deacon piled in:

I am an ex-pupil of the school you are criticizing… I don’t quite understand how you can say that you were not taught about the love of God because it was taught in every assembly and it was a huge part of school life.

So who’s telling the truth?

I believe all of them. I’m sure the King’s School, like all ACE schools, talked about love all the time. I’m equally sure that Oliver didn’t learn anything about real love while he was there.

It’s because when ACE talk about love, they mean something different from the rest of us. The trouble is that fundamentalism poisons the meaning of love. Yes, they talk about love all the time, but love is a stick to beat you with.

It comes from their theology. Timothy Swanson wrote about this at Defeating the Dragons, a blog which, irritatingly, is much better than mine. I’m not going to attempt to cover the same ground here. Instead, I’ll just say this:

If you think it's loving to spank a child, your idea of love is fucked up.

If you think love includes spanking a child with a rod or paddle, your idea of love is fucked up.

If you think love involves a husband demanding obedience and submissiveness from his wife, your idea of love is fucked up.

If you think it’s loving to put people through gay ‘cure’ therapy, your idea of love is fucked up.

If you think it’s loving to censor your child’s science education, your idea of love is fucked up.

If you think love means telling someone their mental illness is the result of sin, your idea of love is fucked up.

If you think love means shunning people who reject your faith, your idea of love is fucked up.

If you think it’s love to tell a stranger they will burn in hell, your idea of love is fucked up.

If you think it’s love to deprive children of sex education, your idea of love is fucked up.

If you think it’s love to make a rape victim ask for forgivenessyour idea of love is fucked up.

If you think love means depriving people of rights based on their sexual orientation, fuck your idea of love.

If your idea of love puts more emphasis on preaching to the poor than meeting their needs, your idea of love is fucked up.

If you think it’s love to teach girls to be ashamed of their bodies, your idea of love is, wait for it… fucked up.

If you think it’s love to to deprive women of access to contraception and abortion, your idea of love is fucked up.

If you think love would keep children ignorant of the world outside fundamentalism, your idea of love is fucked up.

And, most importantly:

If you think a loving God would let a person burn in hell, your idea of love is fucked up

Background image: Tacitrequiem, flickr (creative commons).

If you think that an all-loving God would allow a human to be tortured in hell for eternity, your idea of love is fucked up.

And that’s how ACE was able to tell us all about love while simultaneously teaching us nothing about it. They don’t know what love is. Ironically, they would say the same about me.

Do read that Defeating the Dragons post. It’s a good one.

I’m sure you can think of more ways fundamentalism fucks up love. Add your own in the comments.

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About Jonny Scaramanga

I grew up as a Christian fundamentalist in the UK. Now I am writing a book and blog about what that's like, and what fundamentalists believe.

Posted on March 3, 2014, in Accelerated Christian Education, Atheism, Christianity, Education, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism, School of Tomorrow and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 39 Comments.

  1. As you say this whole idea is better expressed in Timothy Swanson’s post. I think you mention elsewhere on the blog that your readers don’t seem to click on links much though, which is is shame in this case. My main issues with this particular post are as follows: 1 This post’s a bit sweary for me. It’s not that I think there is anything inherently evil about the word fuck. It’s not that I don’t acknowledge your need for cathartic ranting. It’s not that I don’t see that you would like to highlight that love has been hideously distorted. It’s just, well, a bit sweary. For me. That is secondary though to my biggest prob with this particular post which is 2 While I can see what you’re driving at, there were individuals who were genuinely loving at the King’s School Witney. I was there. Obviously I can’t comment on other places, it’s just that you mention that school (because of what Olly said). If you think I only say that because I don’t know what genuine love is, then I would refer you to the words of The Dude: “That’s, just, like, your opinion, man”. To say that Kara Deacon (whoever she is) doesn’t know what genuine love is, is rather employing the fundamentalist kind of black and white dogma you so hate, isn’t it? You’re slightly implying that no-one at that school could possibly be genuinely loving, and that everyone who left there having felt love has felt a counterfeit. I think you might have rather wandered from the path of wisdom there. That said, I broadly agree with the ideas expressed.

    • Thanks for commenting, Ruth. I knew this post wouldn’t be for all my readers, but I’m confident it will resonate strongly with quite a few of them. For those who don’t like it, I promise next week’s post will contain a wider selection of words.

      I have no doubt there were genuinely loving individuals at The King’s School. There were genuinely loving individuals at my school – quite phenomenally loving, in fact, who made huge sacrifices to give the children what they thought was the best start in life.

      There were also hugely abusive individuals. And the loving and abusive individuals were the same people. If you spoke to them about the stuff I call abuse, they would all tell you they were doing it because they loved us.

      I don’t doubt them. It’s just that their perception of love is warped.

      I’m not saying fundamentalists never do anything loving or that everything they think is love is not love. I am saying that their definition of loving acts frequently contains a number of actions which are in fact abusive – some of them listed above.

      • Sure, ok. Well I hope that those of us who have ever been on the receiving end of this weird love/abuse flip side of the coin thing will find out what it means to love and be loved perfectly one day. Perhaps some of us have?

        In the mean time I need to go and fold the fucking washing. Luckily its a fucking lovely day out there. Also I’m fucking hungry and I’ve fucking forgotten to fucking well have lunch… fuck. Anyway, you get the fucking point. Now I’ll fuck off. See you next post Jonny.

  2. I think you may have slightly missed the point Ruth Haslam. Love is about acceptance and helping rather than harming, any actions which encourage rejection of someone for a basic thing like their sexuality, ethnic background etc are not loving. Any actions that do harm to promote dogma over the rights of that person (think denying contraception, spanking and scientific illiteracy) are not loving. Most people can recognise a lack of love when they see it. Only certain human behaviours such as theism seem to actively encourage then yet call them the opposite.

    I do not think he is talking about the people who work at the school, he is talking about the faith behind it and the curriculum which enforces this behaviour. I am sure many of the adults are as much victims as the children, they really believe they are doing good because they have had their idea of love warped into a mess of dogma, fear and ignorance.

  3. “This will hurt me a lot more than it hurts you.”

    NO, it really won’t, Spanker. You’re teaching kids that love requires pain, that absolution requires pain, that they deserve to suffer. You’re setting the stage for, not just harmless spanking or BDSM fetishes, but for abusive romantic relationships, self-harm, and possibly an anxiety disorder.

    It’s taken months of therapy for me to realize that this was going on in my head. Before that, I honestly believed I was an absolutely horrible human being, that I deserved love from no one, and that I needed to feel frequent pain for my own good.

    • Thanks, The-L. Superbly put – as your comments always are.

      • *blushes* Like I said, it took a while for the lightbulb to go off.

        I never progressed so far as cutting, but I would engage in minor self-harm as a teenager: digging my nails into the palms of my hands, going a few days between flossing my teeth so that flossing would ache and bleed, speaking disrespectfully to my mother just so she’d yell at me. Because I believed that I deserved to suffer, but I also believed that if I made any marks on my own body that I’d be locked in an asylum for the rest of my life.

      • By the way, I’ve been doing pedagogical research for a university grant, and I’ve uncovered a jewel of an article from 1973 that proves the entire ACE method of teaching is an utter failure. Permission to send you a guest post?

      • Please! That would be excellent. I’d also like to see the original article, if you wouldn’t mind.

  4. Hello Patricia, I don’t think I have missed Jonny’s point. I guess my intention in commenting was to suggest something that may help Jonny to make his (good and valid) point in a better way. I may be wrong. I suppose it’s a matter of opinion as to what helps to make a point well and what doesn’t. And it’s his blog not mine. And your more than welcome to disagree.

    • “your” in last sentence = “you’re”!

    • Hey Ruth, as you say, opinion is always a personal thing and we cannot all agree on every little thing. The language thing does not worry me and I think it helps to make the point well, but I am one of those people who do not understand the obsession with ‘swear’ words anyway. They are just words, half of them are only called ‘swear’ or ‘curse’ words because for a time the English language was seen as inferior to the ruling elite (Normans) of the past. Many words we often see as bad now were once just normal English words with no negative connotation, I suppose I just take this view myself, that words are useful generally and that unless you choose to let them, they cannot hurt you (in this context of course, I realise that certain rhetorical devices and speeches have and do cause great harm in their influence over others). Maybe I mis-understood what you were saying, if so I apologise, I not not wish you to think I am attacking you. We are it seems on the same side here!

  5. The same skewing of the meaning of words used to justify actions is present in ‘discipline’. The root means ‘to teach’ and applies very much to how to teach children to become responsible autonomous adults. The skewing occurs when it is confused with ‘punishment’… as if justification for hitting/spanking/slapping/paddling/beating is to teach the child and thus alter unwanted behaviour. When parents and teachers can achieve the desired results – a self-imposed change in behaviour by the child – so much easier with different methods that do not involve punishment, they usually embrace these effective methods whole-heartedly. But when people are dedicated to enforcing their will on the vulnerable, then the disingenuous and duplicitous wordplay becomes obvious; some people like to hurt others and enjoy feeling powerful. The motivation for punishment becomes centered on the feelings of the punisher and not on teaching anything valuable or meaningful or loving to the punished.

    I have always maintained that the hitting of a child is always an admission of failure by the person doing the hitting to effectively teach.

  6. Susan Latimer

    Though i also am not a fan of overuse of swear words because they loose their effect, when overused, Agree. They forget that God defined what Love is in Corinthians and they chose to not live or preach that. Reason, control of the masses!

  7. Much of this makes me think of a chronic abuser. Many of them will tell you that they did what they did out of “love” for the child. It’s a skewed idea but it’s because THEY were taught that was “love”.
    My grandmother, born in 1907, was raised in a Baptist orphanage in Texas from the age of 6 to adulthood. Because she had never really received love in that institution she didn’t know HOW to love and it screwed up my mother something fierce. She was physically abusive with my mother, who, in turn, was physically abusive with me. In my entire life, my mother didn’t initiate POSITIVE physical contact with me; a hug or a kiss, or tell me that she loved me at all I had to initiate it first, then she would hug me back or say “I love you, too.”.
    As an adult with children of my own, I learned to differentiate between discipline and punishment and recognize the cycle in my own fucked up family. I was determined to break that cycle and I had to LEARN to tell my children “I love you.” and to hug them and kiss them. There are times I think I may have over compensated but I would rather do that than keep the same cycle going.

  8. God is not so all powerful that it can do anything, it cannot be the opposite of itself. If God is love, then God can’t be the opposite of Itself. Love doesn’t judge, love doesn’t condemn, love always forgives, etc. However religion is guilty of all these things. I’m lucky to have been raised without religious dogma. I conclude that religion doesn’t represent or portray God in the least fucking bit. It’s a con game business and an old Roman cult.

    • hipmonkey, you hit it on the nail. Religion attempts to define God, but is falls short. Love does not judge, but it gives unconditionally.

  9. I love this post so much. I have thought these exact things so many times & they are the major reasons why I left fundamentalism & indeed religion altogether. Some day I hope to have the courage to post such things.

    • Thanks rlcarterrn. If you want to post something anonymously here, I will accept that.

      • Thanks, I’ll think about it. Ideally I need to have the courage to post these kinds of things on my own blog or even better to discuss them w/ people in real life. Actually I do discuss these things in real life but only w/ people who I know won’t throw me under the bus because of it. But I need to be brave enough to be honest even w/ family members or friends who might not be comfortable knowing that I don’t go along with all of their beliefs.

      • Sure. Well, I understand how difficult it can be when you don’t know how your family and friends might react.

      • Certainly. Blogs like yours give me courage in knowing that I am not alone. So thanks!

  10. Keven J-Glassel

    Well, pointed out, Johnny. I agree with you totally. I think the need to vent and let the other side know how utterly frustrated people are is a very necessary thing but I think a step further is necessary. After all in a court case we can’t expect progress for our side if our lawyer’s entire closing argument is, “The other side is F***** in the head,” no matter how true it is. What we need to be showing is that ACE and fundamentalism is not Christian but a poorly hidden attempt to preserve White Conservative values with a light Veneer of Christianity at the cost of our children. This can only be pointed out to the other side by showing how far removed from the Historical Church and even from Protestantism that fundamentalism really is. Indeed, Fundamentalism has much more in common with what the early church decried as heresy. By simply crying outrage we have not dismantled the other sides understanding of things, that namely their expression of Christianity has real issues that if they would take the time to look they would most certainly see. Again, it is important to wake the other side up and showing how frustrated we are is a very important part of that equation, but passion without the focus of reason and evidence rarely pierces. I can see ACE practitioners just looking at your blog post and responding “but the Bible says” and then going no further. Another question we need to ask if this constant countering one Bible verse without any context with other Bible verses without any context is really getting us anywhere.

  11. I seriously don’t see how anyone can say that it is love to beat their kid or to tell them they are going to hell. Love was never shown in our family. We were too familiar with getting beat and told that we were never going to be good enough. Excellent post.

  12. Elements of this doctrine can be found in most l religion, not just fundamentalism and it really grates when those that claim “Oh, we’re not like those Christians/Muslims ” etc refuse to take a closer look at their supposed benign faith.

    Excellent post.
    About time some of the ”ordinary” religious folk read stuff like this.

  13. I had no idea what real love was until around 32 years old. It’s pretty damn amazing, turns out.
    And whattya know, it has nothing to do with all this shit I also remember well from my own childhood.

  14. “I’m sure the King’s School, like all ACE schools, talked about love all the time. I’m equally sure that Oliver didn’t learn anything about real love while he was there.” Yup, Jonny’s representing my position perfectly. That’s it in a nutshell. Sorry, a fucking nutshell.

  15. Exactly, and thanks for writing this!

  16. hi, im a former student of ACE (the distance edu part)in Australia. I can hardly believe I am not the only person to see the insanity of it – fucked up sums it up nicely. here I have spent years asking myself why I never fit in, why im the only one who did not enjoy it, when all I had to do was jump on a computer. I am transgendered- I married a man in an attempt to “fit in” which I had to elope in order to do because unfortunately I married a man who is not white and was told I could not love him, “fuck him and dump him” were my mothers words because as she said “all you need is a man to give you a good fuck” her belief was that this would make me sexually attracted to men. ACE in my honest opinion speaking from experience is a cult. my mother who had issues to begin with clung to the “perfect life” portrayed in the ACE work, my mothers constant and extremely repetitive swing of emotions from ‘godly servant” to “rebellion in every form” along with her ever present paranoia (she must be seen as perfect) meant the whole family feared her. she was very domineering and would consistently tell my father how he was beneath her, then jump on to scream about how she is not a servant chained to the kitchen (seeing as I prepared most of the family’s food I still find that puzzling) my mother told my father (in a lot more words) that the only good thing he could do is take out life insurance and kill himself which he did do a year ago (my father was the only family member to accept me for me ). that was the last contact I had with my family, a phone call to tell me he was dead, although it has been 4 years since I was considered family for various reasons all revolving around racism and religion. going thru ACE as a teenage transsexual was …. like holding ur breath underwater- telling yourself ur a fish so repeatedly that you breath in water, trying to keep breathing like a fish despite your body rejecting the water in your lungs- with no way to come up and breath air as a hand is holding you down- you either turn into a fish or you drown. I don’t even know what “normal” life is. I try to learn how to fit into society but its like I have two identities one who is social and outgoing and one who is 100% fundamentalist, I may be fine and loving life then suddenly turn into the fundamentalist. iv tried drugs and alcohol in an attempt to black out that part of my life, to little avail however :( they really do a good job of ingraining there messed up message. iv been in and out of mental health for a long time now and my personality disorder is so sever I am on permanent disability, my doctors agree that my environment and schooling had a lot to do with my illness.

  17. I was in fundamentalism for almost 20 years. I raised four children in it. No family was as committed a set of servants to God and the ministry as our family. Not one single fundamentalist preacher or friend can deny this fact. While I was a genuine, loving and caring person to everyone around me, that love was “conditional” and I didn’t realize it. The love of my church family and church leaders was “conditional” and I didn’t realize it. My love toward others was based on whether or not they adhered to, and followed, all the same rules and, believed all the same “religious doctrines, theologies and dogmas” as me and the church leaders. The love of my church family toward me, was based on me doing the same. Sadly, I had no idea I was this way and my church family was this way until “the REAL God of the Universe” showed me the lies I had believed (through personal study) and prepared me to expel myself from the grips of the Independent Fundamental Baptist cult. Yes, I was in a cult. It fits EVERY single criteria of the cult definition.

    Nonetheless, I would suggest that if one doesn’t think they are in a cult, that you go to your religious leaders within your church and tell them you disagree with some of their doctrines and rules and are going to take charge of your family and allow GOD to direct you from now on. This will include some changes in your family and how you operate and you just wanted to give them the heads up. If you are in a cult-like religion or church, I promise you that you will suddenly become their sole project to stop you and help you “reconsider” your decision. If you don’t reconsider, the repercussions will be huge and hurtful from everyone within the church that called you “friend.” You may even experience some gossip, shaming and shunning as a result. I did. You see, religion and its leaders do not want you in control of your life with God as the director. THEY want to be in control of your life and tell you what THEY think God wants for you…RELIGIOUS BONDAGE is when religious leaders tell you who the ENEMY is. They will tell you it’s people like me and others that have left the church. They will tell you it’s lost people. They will tell you it’s other abusive religious sects, the government, public schools, etc. THEY will be glad to identify your enemies for you and those you should not trust. RELIGIOUS FREEDOM is when you figure out who the ENEMY is for yourself. It is not who you think it is. There are multitudes content in their bondage and they TRULY have no idea of what “UNCONDITIONAL” love is or means. It’s not that they aren’t wonderful and loving people. It’s just that they have been taught to love based on criteria. Basing your love on criteria is not loving like God loves. God’s love is unconditional.

    Today, I try to love unconditionally. No strings attached. I love people just as they are and do not try to impose my beliefs or rules on them. Because of this type of love, I try my best not to attack with my words those that believe differently than I do, or, that expose such lies and abuses within the church. I try to be gracious because my God is gracious. But, I do speak out about truth as kindly as I can. This article, while filled with profanity, articulates truth whether anyone chooses to see it or not. I beg for each of you to not allow conditioning toward profanity, to stop the truth this blogger states from affecting your heart toward this unconditional love. Sadly, those of us who now enjoy Religious Freedom can tell the blind followers by their responses to posts such as this and comments such as mine. They will be on the defensive and laced with anger, sarcasm, twisted use of scripture, parroted responses learned from leadership, etc. But, now that this person has warned us of this “conditional” love, we are all now held accountable by the God we serve. But, “seeing,” many shall not “see” and continue to believe the lies fed to them by “religion and its leaders.” It’s sad.

  18. Great post. Except you know, as a former fundamentalist, that Christians have heard all this before. And they can point to many scriptures about an ”angry God” a ”God of judgement” ect. You can’t quote one verse and then say that’s all the bible has to say about that. Try to teach, because there are many that want to learn.

  19. When you look at it as a metaphor… you see it is love. Man is flawed. Man needs a God. Sin is not good for the human soul. Man needs something to model themselves after to attain “perfection.” It is a narrow way–it is not easy. It all just involves faith that it is real. The wise decision is to believe.

    • No. It is not wise. It is the height of folly to believe thus.

      Read Genesis without any religious baggage imposed on the supernatural elements and you get it’s real meaning which is the opposite of its Christian anti-life perversion. It teaches us that in order to live a full and meaningful life means to accept the world on its terms. This is the process of growing up, the process of leaving home where all our needs except living a meaningful life are taken of (that’s the cost of staying in Eden), and face the real world hardships that define responsible and autonomous adulthood necessary to be good parents.

      By substituting religious meaning to the human themes represented in the myth by supernatural critters and magical objects, the Christian interpretation (an ass backwards ‘explanation’ if there every was one of why we supposedly need ‘personal’ redemption paid for by the blood sacrifice of a later historical event!) eliminates the teaching value of this creation myth and perverts it to present divine themes that keep us from knowing ourselves, from learning how to grow up, that keeps us from accepting life on its terms, and convinces otherwise sane and reasonable people to turn their backs on real life and the real world problems each of us must face on our own and, instead, willingly embrace a subservient role to this supposed everlasting dictatorial fatherly ‘god’ and pine for a return to this pastoral non-living.

      Man is not divine because man is real. Striving for divine perfection is folly; striving to meet and successfully adapt to the real world problems all of us must face is a way to produce personal meaning enhanced and celebrated when done with unselfish compassion, caring advocacy, unconditional love, and generational hope.Twisting these practices to serve some god undermines the common meaning and common purpose all of us share and fractures the world into sectarian camps of divisive other-worldly allegiances adherents called ‘faith’ and critics call delusion.

  20. Religion Cell, you have summarized it beautifully. I also identify with your experience. Having been part of Catholicism and Fundamentalism in the past, I also experienced blind faith to the point of justifying the absurdity of “churchianity.” It is all about controlling people’s minds. The pastors would condemn and call us “rebels” for even questioning their views and authority. This is a great post and comments.

  1. Pingback: Rape, Sexual Abuse, & Fundamentalist Christianity: An Unlikely Trinity . . . Or Is It? | athicketofmusings

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