Can I blame my shoddy research skills on church?

The church I grew up in had an anti-intellectual bias.  Studying the Bible was presumed to be the ultimate exercise for heart and mind, yet actually studying the bible on one’s own was frowned on. 

When us younger folks would bring to the elders questions about the Bible, we were told to “leave it on the shelf”. 

Translation: stop thinking, you are stupid, and don’t dare question why we don’t have an answer.

From listening to older folks, they got the same treatment.  Along with a little more shaming for questioning “God’s Anointed.”

My Alliance friends were encouraged to go to Bible school and thought it dangerous that I would leave for University without at least a year of Bridal College to protect me from evolution and non-Evangelical boys.  I knew that going to such a college would earn me a frown from the self-declared “God’s Anointed”. 

One of the Travelling Ministries son’s, the royalty of the group, asked them for permission to study theology.  He was given an absolute No.  Academic study of the Bible was dangerous.  Now I know why.  Part of that was fear that this man (in his 30s at the time) would defect and become part of whatever church was supporting whichever college he chose.  The superiority of our church had to be fiercely defended and policed.  I guess it wasn’t self-evident.

Secular study was allowed.  Especially if one were to become a teacher, a nurse, or a business person.  Money was welcomed.  I always suspected the women’s lack of voice led so many of them into teaching where they were allowed authority to teach and instruct.  There are a lot of women teachers in my old church.

Us women were encouraged to go to school in my generation.  Apparently previous generations were not.  We were told our student loans were our bride price.  I kid you not.  Since I didn’t finish school, I guess I’m still being paid for. 

There are also a lot of people in trades.  One side of my family argues vehemently that only stupid people go to university.  Certain types of study are still discouraged.

Another way this anti-intellectualism was shown was in the types of speaking we would listen to in the church services.  While the elders were encouraged to spend time preparing and studying the bible to give long messages, the rest of us were not.  The elders often came up with strange end-times stuff, or hours long messages on female modesty and head-coverings.  However, I think most of the messages had to do with the Holy Spirit.  Good thing I learned about asking Jesus into my heart from the Alliance VBS.

The rest of us, the women in particular, were encouraged to prepare our hearts only so that we could “enter in” to the “moving of the Spirit.”  When women spoke, they mostly shared daily incidents, poems, or a verse or two.  Women were allowed to encourage and exhort.  The latter being defined as “give emotional outbursts on why young people should be more respectful.”

Once I got up to share something and made the mistake of referring to the original Greek or Hebrew words in order to get a different interpretation on something.  I was told that women shouldn’t teach and that using the dictionary was a sign of teaching. 

The Holy Spirit, not as Logos or Sophia, but as emotional inspiration was to be our ideal resource.  Anything spoken with “unction” or spontaneous inspiration was taken to be a sign from God.  Anything spoken with research backing it was suspect of being man’s own ideas.  Oh yeah, and don’t forget to throw in some thees and thou shalts to make sure people know God is speaking through you.  Nothing says godlike authority than butchering Middle English.

It was more important to allow the Spirit to move through you in the moment than to take time and verify what you said.

I find I still have that bias.  Partly because it is less work.  When I write, I rarely edit.  I wait to write until I am “inspired” and don’t value the work it takes to make something better.

Part of it is a way of finding rapport with a certain type of audience.  I learned in elementary school that kids don’t like to hear what you learned, but what you feel is more interesting.  When speaking in church, I would lose a great number of listeners if I spoke as if giving a practised speech.  A few mistakes, a little exaggeration, carelessness with facts and I sounded like I was speaking with people instead of to them.

Part of it is my perfectionistic side not having boundaries.  There is no end of work you can do to make something perfect.  I don’t have a good sense of what is satisfactory.  It feels like I must be perfect or not even bother trying.  So, I don’t bother.  The task is too daunting. 

I would like to change.  I would like to get to the place where I have integrity in research and editing without going overboard and spending too much time that could be better used, say,  feeding my baby instead of putting a cookie on the floor for her. 

Why do kids prefer to eat what they find on the floor instead of at the table?

10 thoughts on “Can I blame my shoddy research skills on church?

  1. Ahab says:

    My God, what an intellectually stifling environment! How could any intelligent, curious person survive such an upbringing?

    If you’re concerned about integrity in your research and writing, may I suggest courses in logic, rhetoric, and inductive reasoning? (If courses aren’t available, plenty of good books are.) These would undoubtedly sharpen your skills in argument, resulting in stronger papers and greater ease in evaluating research.

  2. Lorena says:

    I must say that I never went to a church quite like that one. I always went to Baptist-like churches, were only ordained pastors preached or spoke from the pulpit. The rest of us either taught Sunday school or led small groups.

    Sorry you had to grow up in such an environment, abusive and toxic. I’m so glad you left.

  3. Quester says:

    What bounds might balance your perfectionist side? Time limits work best for me.

  4. What Ahab said. Also, I think there is value to merely going with the flow of your stream of consciousness at times and verification is not always important. It depends on the context. Some topics require research and logical analyses. With others it works best when you are in a creative flow — and I see that a lot in your posts. I like that too. It’s just you and very honest and thus powerful.

    Also I have to say that your excellent Bible study surprise post revealed that you are a very logical person and you know how to think critically. You know your facts. Thus you can engage in a respectful debate with devastating and accurate simplicity.

    Just my 2 cents.

  5. You have put in words the things I felt and wrestled with for years. Having a mate that supports you is a real benefit. At least you don’t have to go it alone. Best post ever!
    And no one knows why a cookie off the floor tastes better. Maybe it is hardwired into us? Why does the cat think something off the table tastes better? Feed the cat people food and the kid cat kibbles. Both will be happier.
    And thanks for sticking up for me on my blog, the other day. It was all I could do not to take the rant and beat him to death with it. On the other hand shooting fish in a barrel is not very sporting like either.

    • prairienymph says:

      Blog Fodder: I assumed that your post about not arguing with fools was your response to the rant…
      Did church attitudes affect your academic career?
      Your mom highly valued education, if your dad did not.

      Quester: Time management is another skill I need to work on.

      Lorena: Me too! I think it is common in Pentecostal type churches.

      Ahab: I wonder how curious people do survive other than cognitive dissonance and church approved outlets.

      CD: Thank-you. I like to think I’m logical, but I don’t want to go to the other extreme of devaluing inspiration and raw uncensored stream of consciousness either.

  6. St.ain't says:

    You have beautifully expressed what is at the crux of the dumbing down of America. Don’t question religious authority in matters of science, logic, bias against women, politics, business… wasn’t that, in essence, the Dark Ages?
    The Age of Reasoning came after people started questioning what was considered a non-debate ‘cuz the church told ’em so.
    Now we are sliding back into the dangerous era of don’t think for yourself; follow the (religious) leader wherever he may go.
    As to your writing- give the internal editor only a limited amount of time. Then tell him loudly to sh’up.

  7. Trip X says:

    I was a part of that church culture, but not until I joined the US Navy. Then, for many years afterwards, I found that I was not to question some of the basic truths, and just accept them. I’m a strange one in that as a child I tired to imagine infinity. I just had to accept it. Now I’m asked to accept God, the Trinity, etc, with the same acceptance. I can do that, but everything else bothers me. How can there be a “rapture” if it is never mentioned in the Bible? among other discrepancies. I’ve fallen by the wayside, but I’ve not forgotten. I know right from wrong, I live right, and write wrong. Please don’t link back to my blog, for it will cause one to fall well out of the good graces of God (this is your only warning.).
    You must think for yourself. You must take all that is given to you as information and then analyze it and determine your own course in life. It is YOUR life, not someone else’s. Sorry for “preaching”; it was unintended.

  8. prairienymph says:

    The rapture is an evangelical anomaly. Most Christians don’t believe it will happen and put it on the same level as calling Obama the anti-Christ and throwing spilled salt over your shoulder.
    btw- you could always keep your writing private if you are afraid of hurting people.

    • Trip X says:

      I know I could keep it private, but where’s the fun in that? That’s why I at least try to put a warning in my remarks especially on a site that is not related to my style/content of writing.
      Apart from that, I recently heard a line of preaching that seemed (from my study) to be more in line with the Bible; one in which those going to heaven is like what is currently being taught, but the ones who don’t go (the unsaved), are actually obliterated, remembered no more. If we were in hell, God could still see/visit/whatever with us, but the book says he will remember us no more. How can we be existent if he can’t remember us? It was an interesting study. The crux of not being saved, wasn’t going to hell, but rather not getting to go to heaven and missing out on what is there; having been a wasted life. It was an interesting lesson and one that makes more sense to me now than any other explanation or the “rapture”.
      See, I am more than just a writer of smut. I do keep up with current church events and teachings. I am interested in God, but not the God that the close-minded, controlling clergy want us to believe.

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