How I Escaped the "Biblical Family Values" Nightmare That Drives Perry, Bachmann, and Tea Party Politics
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Fundamentalist Christians are convinced that contemporary American society is the World's Most Spectacular Display of hideously mutated, diseased and anomalous freaks. "Step right up folks!" the preacher yells, "and witness a grotesque parade of ho-mo-sex-uals, lesbians, Wiccans, radical feminists, godless liberals, secular humanists, and ..." (congregation gasps!) "Muslim extremists!!"
Simultaneously fascinated and horrified, respectable religious parents scramble to shield their innocent children's eyes and ears from the depravity and corruption of "The World." They homeschool and form special Chastity and Creation Science clubs designed to insulate and isolate their vulnerable young from the miscreants and most depraved elements of popular culture.
It's completely understandable and normal for preteens to create imaginary worlds — their own private, safe hideout where they can dream of nobility, of rising above and doing so much better than the clowns running the Big Top's Museum of Mutantstrosities. The grown-ups watch in silent, knowing amusement as kids disavow their relatives as "psychos" and "bozos."
But when otherwise responsible, Christian adults in recent years set out on a mission to create a radically distinct way of life based on "biblical family values," the resultant countercultural movement known as "Quiverfull" has become an all-too-real Hall of Mirrors horror show.
In my own life, perpetual pregnancies destroyed my health, and my indiscriminate acquiescence to my husband's every whim transformed him from a loving father into a tantrum-throwing tyrant. Burnout and disillusionment led to abuse, neglect, family disintegration and a particularly nasty divorce.
When the dust settled, I took a good look at myself in the mirror. I could no longer deny the strong family resemblance — I saw my mother in my own face staring back at me. After all those years of fighting and denial, I had to finally accept the fact that I really am one of them — I belong to these crazy people. I, too, am a conspicuous oddity — a bizarre spectacle and an embarrassment to my own noble children.
Funny thing is ... these days, I don't mind so much being associated with my misfit clan of circus freaks. Life experience has given me perspective and a deep appreciation for the inevitable realities and desperate circumstances which deformed and mutated Mom and the rest of us into shocking and extraordinary creatures worthy of society's disquietude and awe.
Black market adoption fantasies and youthful idealism are important wayposts on the journey to adulthood. Rebellion against blatant injustice, hypocrisy, moral compromise and the myriad of other common grown-up failure is a healthy manifestation of a kid's personal power and strong moral agency. Arrogant and annoying, yes — but in moments of truth we have to admit, the kid's got a point.
Society sucks. Bigotry, racism, inequity, corruption, greed, depravity, malevolence, and all manner of evil abound. Let's just face the fact that in many ways, the contemporary American social and political scene has devolved to become the World's Greatest Freak Show.
No wonder Tea Party Patriot families like the Bates and the Duggars escape into their own personal fantasyland.
Ironically, with maturity comes humility — along with a profound sense of connection and belonging to that wacky bunch of buffoons who share our DNA. We see our people with new eyes. Sure, Grandma's got a beard and Uncle Stan is a charlatan — Aunt Betty's such a lunatic, she may as well have two heads. But in the end, they're all we've got. That perfect, royal family whom we imagined searched frantically for us for years and never gave up hope that one day we would return to our true home? They're not real. Cousin Roger is real — never mind that he doesn't have a lick of sense and the only thing he's good for is shoveling elephant shit — he's the one who truly understands you, knows all about you, and loves you anyway.