[quote] Authoritarian religion, much like a family, desires to sustain a sense of equilibrium (or homeostasis) within its system. Frequently, however, balancing the system involves silencing the voices of members. As we have seen, the parental church demands loyalty, uniformity of belief, and submissiveness from its members. This pressure often clashes with the needs of the children to develop an adult identity and mature personally and spiritually. Ironically, the church’s effort to stabilize the system often succeeds in destabilizing it, creating the very disorder it strives to avoid.
In the story that will follow, another form of tension reduction, that of displacing conflict onto a third party, will be described. Sometimes referred to as an “identified patient,” this person (or persons) is the symptom bearer who externalizes and gives form to the dysfunction of the system so that other family members can appear healthy. This process is often called “scapegoating.”
The person who is triangulated or elected to carry the symptoms is predictable and often related to the dynamics of unresolved conflicts within the family relationship system. In enmeshed families, differences and dissension are seen as threats to the stability and continuity of the system with outspoken or oppositional children singled out for “prejudicial scapegoating.” “The family member who is different—whose difference betokens the family disunity—becomes the victim and is punished for that difference.” Scapegoated people who attempt to address unresolved family conflicts are often held responsible for the very problems that they are trying to rectify. This “detouring,” then, takes the spotlight off the family and refocuses it on the dissenting troublemaker. Dr. Sylvia Daniels, in the following illustration, is assigned by the parental church the role of acting-out child needing discipline and therapy when she used her teaching position to tell the truth.
Sylvia’s research unearthed secrets and addressed unresolved conflicts, both of which the parental church wished to keep under wraps. Furthermore, she publicly voiced dissent with the church family and thereby threatened the stability of the system. These actions produced considerable tension on the part of church and university leaders and led them to reactions of denial. Instead of addressing the problems she raised, they displaced the conflict onto the dissenter. In effect, the family scapegoated the acting-out child, making an issue of Sylvia rather than the problems she surfaced. They chose to target their own child rather than facing the truths kept secret in the family.
Like other conditional parents, the church appears dedicated to keeping its members bonded to it so as to give the appearance of one, unified, like-minded family.The pursuit of this ideal leads to focusing “a great deal of energy and resources on keeping secrets” and filtering out information that might damage its image. A core concern on the part of righteous authoritarian religion is to control what is open for discussion and how it is discussed in the relational system. Whenever a family member threatens to usurp this authority by surfacing secrets and bringing unresolved conflicts to the open forum, powerful forces and conspiracies arise to contain and repress the information. In Sylvia’s case, power and control prevailed, and the illusion of unanimity was restored by scapegoating and moving to dispossess her.
[quote] Why are so many individuals discouraged, at spiritual dead ends, even when they are active participants in their churches? Righteous Religion exposes the authoritarian misuse of Christian teaching that often leaves its members ignored, chastised, or belittled. This new book offers hope for anyone who has struggled with disillusionment in the face of an unbending religious system. After unmasking a bewildering network of illusions that operate beneath the surface of Fundamentalism and dogmatic Catholicism, the authors help readers find their own voices of truth. This is a candid book that analyzes the grip of Fundamentalism and Catholicism on their respective followers, despite financial and sexual scandals, misuse of power and influence, apparent hypocrisy, and selective self-righteousness of these two religious systems.