Sunday, May 4, 2008

Brainwashing or Teaching?

I have complained many times on my blog regarding the my inability to make time for writing. I will not complain more, I only want to say that I wish someone would invent a mechanism for capturing thoughts and instantly transcribing them to a blog. It would be such a time savings, though quite possibly unintelligible.

In my thoughts over the last several weeks are on the events surrounding the raid on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It is a tragedy on so many levels. The obvious tragedy is that young girls have been forced into marriages. Anyone watching the interviews with the mothers whose children have been taken from them can sympathize with their grief. It may be easier for us to justify taking custody of the kids if we imagine these people to be monsters. I think perhaps some of them are the perverted monsters we want to imagine but many of them are good people trying to live their religion.

How is it that a "good" person could allow their underage daughter to be married to a much older man? What if you were taught from the time you were young that this is natural and the way to godliness? If you didn't know any other life but this, it would not seem strange at all. At that suggestion, the response seems to be that the members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have been brainwashed and they are brainwashing their kids? If you ask them, they will say they are just teaching their kids the right way to live. The fact is there are many different cultures through out the world that are different from ours and just being different doesn't make them wrong. However, there are certain morals which need to be upheld and one of those is the right of each person to make his or her own choices.

The difference between brainwashing and teaching is the ability for the recipient to truly make their own choices. The trouble is that there is a fine line between brainwashing and teaching. I'm not a parent so I can only rely on my experiences from when I was young. I think that at times my parents crossed into the brainwashing realm. They aren't evil people by any means. They were doing their best to teach their children right from wrong. To this day, I can hear my mother telling me "people who smoke are bad, smoking is evil". It wasn't until I had graduated from college that I learned that my mother's father got addicted to smoking and it caused problems with his lungs. He died when my mother was a young girl. She was brainwashing us to keep us from even trying a cigarette. She was afraid that genetically we too would be predisposed to the same lung problems and if we picked up smoking we too would die young.

The question from my example is: Did I avoid smoking because I consciously chose to do so or did I avoid it because I was afraid of what my mother would say? The bottom-line is that most kids want their parent's approval and that desire is so strong that sometimes it can be difficult to tell why you made certain choices.

Assuming that the adult members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints were only trying to teach their culture to their children and didn't intentionally do any brainwashing, does that make the underage marriages OK? I don't think it does. If I struggle to separate my parents' desires for me from my own choice and I'm thirty-something, how much more difficult would it be for a teenager? I don't think teenagers should be forced into marriage ... period! Marriage is difficult enough with out the added burden of immaturity and going through puberty at the same time. Add to that the complexities of a polygamous marriage and to an older man. This is abuse, whether intended or not.

This truly is a very complicated situation where it can be difficult to determine right or wrong. Was it right to take custody of kids who might be abused? Is it wrong to separate parents from their children and take away those parents' right to raise their children in their own beliefs? What is the correct solution to this situation?

Many years ago, a sociology teacher explained our personal rights in the following fashion: "My right to throw a punch ends when I impede upon your right to be safe from violence." The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints claims the right to practice their religion as they chose, but that right ends when they take away the rights of others and the children have the right to a childhood free of fear and abuse.

From my own experience as an sexually abused teenager, I am in favor of taking the children into custody. Why? Because underage marriage is abuse not a religion. Because the beliefs and isolation of the church made it difficult for any abused child to seek or receive help. I know what it feels like to be trapped in an abusive situation and not know how to get out. Being too young and too afraid to speak up. How I wished that someone would notice my plight and step in to protect me.

As I mentioned the right way to address this situation is not clear cut. There are probably kids who were never abused and this separation is creating problems for them. I do sympathize with them. This is why it is a tragedy on so many levels and it was so unnecessary. The why it was unnecessary will have to be the topic of another post because I'll have to explain polygamy from a Mormon's perspective.


Zhu said...

I'm sorry to hear you had to deal with an history of abuse...

Yes, you're right, this is not an issue of religion anymore, this is about brainwashing kids who have no free-will left.

I don't care about what grow-ups do -- as long as kids aren't involved.

Angel of Delusion said...

Zhu - Thanks for your comment. As you can imagine, I cringe when the adults say they have a right to practice their religion. Too many people use religion as an excuse for committing atrocities. It makes for a good argument against all religions. However, I think the same people would just find another excuse for their atrocities … I feel that I’m losing faith in humanity. Just look at Burma and what is going on there. But that is a rant for another post.