Shame in Religious Fundamentalism
This Sunday I am teaching on Adam and Eve’s fall recorded in Genesis 3 for our high school youth group. Sin is a tough topic to talk about in the church. It is easy to jump from guilt to shame in regards to sin. Guilt is the awareness that a person violated a personal value but shame is a deeper sense that a person is worthless because of their sin. Too often in fundamentalist Christian churches, a culture of shame is built which destroys people. Rowland Croucher writes, “Guilt is not their issue. It is shame. These people need deliverance from self-loathing, not forgiveness for sins. The very institution that was founded on the grace of God in Christ, the church, can enhance and empower this inner critic of shame.”
Croucher goes on to give eight rules of shame based fundamentalist churches in this post. It is definitely worth a read for those who have spent time in a fundamentalist church. The first rule is the most important, “Always give the impression of being in control of one’s life at all times.” Interestingly, the first step in Alcoholics Anonymous is, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” One of the fundamental ideas of Christianity is that we can’t manage our lives on our own and that when we turn our lives over to Christ, we can experience true freedom. Unfortunately, in some fundamentalist churches, true freedom cannot be attained because we are always working toward attaining our salvation through doing the right things.