The Ironic Dynamic

Children are born with such an immense love and trust of their parents that they believe whatever their parents do to and for them is what they deserve. Thus, whatever parents do to their children will shape their self awareness. Children who are called names become self-fulfilling prophecies. They believe that what their parents call them must actually be who they are.

Ultimately, in a punitive home, children are put in the position of making atonement for their *sins*. In a punitive Christian home this is taught as an essential truth. As these children grow they typically attend churches with doctrine similar to what they were raised with, especially if questioning doctrine was not allowed. In fact, the more strict the punitive mindset, the less likely that a child raised in that environment will explore the validity of their doctrine. The commandment to honor your father and your mother is extrapolated out to mean never questioning them or what they say or do. If they spanked, of course the child will spank. If a child considers not spanking, even as an adult with their own children, the child is considered to be dishonoring their father and mother.

In their church teachings, there is typically a heavy emphasis on sin and the flesh for these believers. While it is adamantly acknowledged that salvation is a free gift of God through grace, there coexists a need to atone for any future sins. Salvation means God makes you clean up to that moment, then, if you really got the Holy Spirit, you will be able to stay clean. Instead of faith unto works meaning that simple trust in the Lord is what saves you and once you are saved you are changed and that change is reflected in your changed actions, faith unto works comes to mean that if you trust God then you will get to work doing what he expects of you. Works aren’t about feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, or visiting those who are sick or in prison. Rather, they are about striving to control in your own strength the lusts of the flesh. Some even go so far as to embrace the idea that if you are a real Christian that will be evident in how well you resist the lusts of the flesh. Walking in the Spirit becomes hiding inside the Spirit because if you are touched by the realities of this world you will become unclean again.

Sermons are full of insults and beratings clothed in Scripture — all chosen to remind you what a sinful person you are and how you’re nothing without Jesus and just barely something with Him. Attending sermons becomes a ritual of Protestant Penance as you get that spiritual spanking for everything you’ve done wrong that week. Many churches of this leaning hold services not only on Sunday morning, but Sunday evening and Wednesday evening as well and you are expected to be at each and every one. If you don’t attend every time the doors are open, then you are going too long without your reminders of how wretched you are.

At the same time, heavy emphasis is placed on appearance — hair length, dresses over pants, length of dresses, whether or not makeup is allowed and if so then how much, etc. Through the grapevine of gossip everyone finds out if so and so wore her dress too short or didn’t do exactly what her husband told her. The gossip isn’t questioned because, of course, you are passing along the information so everyone can pray for her. And what you pray for is her heart — to be happy of course. Because a happy heart and a long skirt are what God expects of you. This is the least you can do considering how filthy you are everywhere in between your dress and your heart. Jesus did talk about this, but He called these people Pharisees and Whited Sepulchres — tombs painted white because a dignitary would see them, but inside the corpse was rotting away just the same. Death in a pretty dress.

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