Cycles of Dysfunction
One of the biggest stories in Texas for the past couple of weeks has been the story about the “Fundamentalist” branch of Mormons who lived on a 700 acre compound in south Texas while practicing their beliefs of polygamy as a valid, spiritual practice allowing all members to experience closeness to God through their patience. This practice has as a centerpiece of its practices the pre-arrangement of marriages of older men (40-50 years old) to girls when they turn 13. The girls are then supposed to become one of their husbands many wives and bear children from which other men will choose their future 13-year-old wife.
The members of this sect are loyal Christians believing in the Book of Mormon from some “fundamental” perspective that ordains their behaviors as sacred. All of the children are brought up in this system, and as a part of this system are indoctrinated into believing that they are doing what is right and spiritual, including the males. It’s easy to think of this sect as a group of perverted individuals who prey on young girls and subjugate the women into sexual slavery, because, by our standards and beliefs, that is exactly what is occurring in fact.
Of course, this is how the legal system addresses this issue as well, treating the men as wicked perpetrators preying on innocent young girls. We love to look at things in black and white terms in our world, and our legal system is organized to support a clear-cut right and wrong view of the world.
Is legal perpetration any better?
But what if we could step back from the Victim-Perpetrator-Rescuer mentality long enough to consider the wholeness of what has occurred. The practice of polygamy in the name of religion is at least as old as our country. Generations of children have been brought up believing in this practice as a part of their spirituality and taught, through this twisted view of Christianity, that it is the right and proper actions for all involved. Members of the religion believe it is their right to have the most basic of our US Constitutional rights, to practice their faith as they see fit.
In fact, other religions have been honored in their spiritual practices and given rights to do things that would otherwise be considered illegal. Native Americans are allowed to gather and possess Peyote (a psychosis-inducing plant that is classified as an illegal drug). Other religions have allowed the mutilation of children for thousands of years and it is practiced as an accepted part of our culture without question from authorities: circumcisions of male infants.
What is so different about what this sect is doing? Forcing sexual intercourse on anyone, married or not, 13 or not, is rape. But I also think its atrocious to cut on the genitals of infants…
Where is our line?
We must look at the rights of children and certainly forcing them in to marriage and sex at 13 is wrong, but the entire sect believed this to be an honorable spiritual practice, even the men. Their cult, along with all others, is base on a the Cycle of Egocentrism and can only be positively addressed by using the Cycle of Compassion.
We become the perpetrator
Law enforcement swoops down and grabs up over 400 children, many of who are already mothers themselves, and sent them off to overcrowded facilities with caregivers from an entirely different world. This traumatized the children even further and certainly did nothing to help them perceive this new world in which they found themselves seem safe or inviting. So in trying to rescue these children our community becomes the perpetrator, harming them even further. The people they love are now being seen as criminals and the children, then put in a place to want to protect the only family they know, and in spite of what may have happened to them, they want to “rescue” the people we perceive of as their perpetrators.
What is right?
In the “cycle of egocentrism”, which involves viewing the cult members as “evildoers” and criminals, from whom their victims need rescuing we remain caught up in a system of pain and misery. What if we could see these people as wounded individuals who need our help in discovering more productive ways to live with each other and in the world? What if we had some empathy for their worldview and, while taking ownership of protecting the children, and gave them respect for the fact that each of them was doing what they believed to be correct (no matter how ill conceived)? Wouldn’t that change everything?
What do you think?
Whether you understand the bizarre practices of this South Texas cult, you certainly have some opinions about both the cult and our response to it. Let me know what you think.
Comment below. Use the security key – I’ve been being spammed lately…
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