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?