Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cognitive Dissonance Part 2

Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn't fit in with the core belief.
~ Frantz Fanon

What if we took the dry litany of facts as outlined in the last post and replaced each institution with other similar or more neutral ones - say, making it BYU hiring and then firing an ombudsman just before their report, or Penn State firing Louis Freeh weeks before he released his findings - would fundamentalists be able to accept the troubling facts? Would they then be able to see that the inconsistencies and motives for deception are all falling down on one side? Because after what has happened to this point, one would think that anyone paying any attention inside BJU circles would be able to see that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

But if one took that for granted, one would be wrong.

I have watched BJU supporters in multiple online conversations about the situation and find the conversations to be very disheartening. The same old spiritually abusive lines keep coming up over and over again. I feel that for the responses to be so very consistent, there has to be some unifying factor - and I believe that factor is a strongly held core belief that BJU simply cannot be the one at fault. Here are several illustrations:

  • The first group seems to be the "wait for the real story to come out" group - despite the fact that nearly every troubling fact I chronicled previously happened by the end of the first day or two and was all very very public:

(Many of these sorts of comments came from people who didn't seem to realize that the individuals first outraged and commenting on this issue were largely those who had either reported to GRACE or who were well informed as to what many abuse victims had suffered. You know, people who probably knew something pretty concrete about the issue at hand and had actual experience with both institutions. But never mind them, they're just haters.)

  • Then there's what I call the "Scripture silencers". You know, those people who drop a verse to shame everyone into silence. I even saw one person state plainly "not one person should be speaking up against BJU" with a verse attached. It's so consistent that they have to be thinking they're doing the right thing:

  • Don't forget the impressively vague "reasons" - not that anyone can back up their "reasons" with anything concrete. Abuse victims are crying out for justice for what they suffered to anyone who will listen, but don't blame BJU, because "reasons". 

(Just what clear or consistent reasons has Stephen given to this point? Anything?)


(Ah, so "reasons" wasn't good enough for you. So now, "legal reasons". Will you shut up if I say "legal"?)

  • And if it isn't the blissfully ignorant group with a drive-by dismissal of anything approaching criticism of the University:

(Because only unthankful people would say something against the school.
Though, apparently, it's really easy to find things to criticize for some odd reason...)

  • It also didn't take long before people started to dig up what they thought was dirt on GRACE as a justification for BJU's actions. Because that's one of the only conclusions one can come to if one is convinced BJU had a good reason for doing what they did. This came from a discussion about GRACE's report on New Tribes Mission (don't go reading that link unless you have time and stomach enough to read 68 pages of horrific and painfully well-documented abuse). When you don't believe there's really a problem, then someone thoroughly investigating and making strong recommendations for repentence and restitution can't be anything but vindictive, right?

(Seriously, why on earth would an investigation responsible for adequately documenting and making recommendations regarding a well-known abusive situation - already admitted to by some of the perpetrators as well as NTM who previously "investigated" it - would attempt to find out every detail possible? I mean really, what were they thinking?)

  • Finally, there's the people who say one thing and then completely contradict themselves...
(Same person commenting on the thread s/he started; said person continued to 
demonstrate that s/he has no idea about the issue and went on to 
make foolish assumptions/treat people badly/make ridiculous conclusions.)

Yes, indeed - how someone responds to this situation does give you a hint as to the kind of person they are. But in a wildly different way than this person seem to realize.

Which leads me to my final thoughts: why did I ultimately leave Fundamentalism?

There are now 70 published blog posts here describing different facets of the answer to that question. But really, why? Why should these individual occurrences, numerous though they are, drive me so utterly away?

Because nearly everybody I quoted up there is not "one of those" fundamentalists. They're largely normalish, reasonably rational people who try to love God and love their neighbor insofar as the rules let them, and who genuinely don't get what all the outrage is about. They don't want to be mean to anybody, and they're often willing to dialogue, but they keep operating on their core belief and say appallingly callous and hurtful things because of it.

When so many of the "normal" people in Fundamentalism come down on the side of the abuser rather than the abused, when the knee-jerk responses are so predictably spiritually abusive it would be comical if they weren't dead earnest - well, something evil lurks there. These otherwise relatively decent people perpetuate spiritual abuse not out of a mean spirit or on purpose, but because they honestly think that's the right thing to do. It's the pattern their core beliefs dictate.

My dear fundamentalist, when your festering wounds make even the world stagger away and retch while you fail to see a problem, there is little of God there. There is little of the Holy Spirit there. When even the best of fundamentalism acts in such an appalling manner, the best of Fundamentalism doesn't know who Jesus is.

I wanted Jesus.  So I left. 

1 comment:

  1. This is good rhetorical work. Very, very good work.

    Camille K. Lewis