Social Issues

learning the words: rights

we the people

Today’s guest post is from Sheldon, an agnostic who writes to expose some of the problems in the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement and fundamentalism in general at Ramblings of Sheldon. “Learning the Words” is a series on the words many of us didn’t have in fundamentalism or overly conservative evangelicalism– and how we got them back. If you would like to be a part of this series, you can find my contact information at the top.


Rights are something that you are not supposed to have as a child, teen, or even young adult in fundamentalism. You’re taught from a young age that you don’t have rights, only your parents do. You see this in the way HSLDA wants a parental rights amendment to the US Constitution, but does everything it possibly can to dismantle legal protections for children.

You see it in the way fundamentalist circles often read Ephesians six, stressing the “honor your father and mother”, but skimming over or ignoring verse four, “do not provoke your children.” I saw it in an argument a few years ago, when at 21 years old, my own mother told me that if she were to beat me, I would deserve it, failing to see the hypocrisy of how she always talked about the way her father beat her as a child as though it was the horrible crime that it is. She was shocked into silence and walked away when I pointed that out to her.

Almost anything is acceptable so long as a parent does it. Why?

Because you have no rights.

You have no rights to your own opinion: you must agree with us at all times; after all, we’re the sole determiners of what is is isn’t acceptable when it comes to anything, at anytime.

You have no rights to your own emotions: it’s not just enough to agree with us, and follow our commands, but you should follow our commands without any expression of frustration, no matter how extreme or ridiculous the commands are. You should be a mindless, happy robot all the time, never acting angry, depressed or anxious– because after all, true happiness come from serving your parents and God the way we say you should. If you do become depressed, we’ll blame you for it. We’ll say that your depression and resulting nervous breakdown was nothing more than “guilt” and “not having a right relationship with God.”

You have no rights to your own body. If we want to hit you, or get up in your face shouting, and threaten violence against you, we can. If we want to hug and you don’t want it, tough luck. Personal space means nothing to us. To this day, I still can’t stand it when people crowd in too closely near me when there’s no good reason for it (plenty of space around), or decide to stand in front of all the exits to a room.

If I sound angry, it’s because I am. Not so much for myself, for what I was put through. There’s hope for me, I have bought a house, and will be rebuilding it, and moving into it soon [editor’s note: Sheldon, due to circumstances, is required to live at home. The situation is less than ideal]. I’ll finally be able to put some distance between myself and my family and my past, but many others aren’t so fortunate.

I’m angry for the children, teens, and even young adults who are still trapped with parents like this, there are still many out there. No one should have to live in a family like this, and I want to see the abusive culture within fundamentalism end.

Everyone should have rights, everyone should be free to be themselves, and not live in fear.

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