The previous blog post outlined how many fundamentalist churches follow the same rules as shame based families. But the hardline Churches of Christ (about 10% of Churches of Christ in general) go one better: they are competitive, they are the only ones saved. Sermon after sermon, Bible class after Bible class is devoted to demonstrating by the scriptures how the Churches of Christ are the One True Church, and the other churches are wrong (and not saved, not going to heaven, etc.).
Competitive churches are inherently shame based. The most famous example of shame based churches within the general circle of Churches of Christ groups is the International Churches of Christ. Until the last ten years every interaction with the ICC was one of shaming and competitiveness. If you told someone at the ICC you attended a Church of Christ, they would immediately ask: How big is your church? Second question: How many people have you baptized in the last year? If you are not bearing fruit then Christ has cut you off from the tree, was their thinking.
But they were only the regular Churches of Christ with the volume turned up. All of the hardline Churches of Christ have a competitive attitude, similar to a hierarchical attitude. Shame based hierarchies are more obvious in caste societies like in India in the past: You were not permitted to marry someone of lower caste or your family would disown you. Shaming was used to enforce the caste rules. Watching BBC series about the class system in England a century ago illustrate how pride and shame are intrinsic to a hierarchical system. Here in the United States during the slave era and after, shaming was used to enforce the racial rules. I lived in South Africa during apartheid in the 1970s and I remember clearly how important social rules were, and how ashamed people would be if they violated those social rules. Our pompous headmaster repeatedly talked about school pride, and insisted the heads of the departments wear diploma robes at assemblies. My teachers disciplined me with shame–a factor that ruled all South Africans during those hierarchical years. Their humor revolved around violating social rules.
The corporate world of cubicles is intensely competitive and equally shaming. The principles of looking good on the outside and hiding what’s on the inside are paramount in the business world. The military operates exactly like an alcoholic shame based family, until the mid-1980s promoted alcohol on base by allowing 18-year-olds to drink and giving them half price beer. When a scandal erupts, everyone denies everything, and a scapegoat is offered up: 11 soldiers went to jail for all of the abuses in Abu Ghraib.
And speaking of scapegoats, very few insider trading is punished, a scapegoat being found (again a female) in Martha Stewart. Scapegoating rather than justice is one of the marks of a shame based community.
Interestingly, the nativity story turns hierarchy on its head: a homeless teen bears a baby. It is announced by God to the lowest levels of society: shepherds, and to foreigners with a foreign religion (the Magi).
On a side note: one of the biggest complaints against the Occupy Wall Street movement is that they don’t take showers and smell bad, being shamed not for the quality of their politics, but for their personal habits. This is how we Americans hold people in line–with shame.
And so the Churches of Christ rising up out of the lower echelons of American society: uneducated frontier farmers, journeying west in the hopes of climbing the hierarchy ladder, the United States government rewarding anyone for killing unwanted Native
Americans (who somehow thought they owned the land). As the Restoration Movement grew, the upper classes wanted to be accepted by the other churches, and the lower class members of the Restoration Movement split off and insisted on remaining sectarian and competitive.
The Churches of Christ have the highest per capita number of journals, publications and magazines defending the faith of any religious group.
The apostle Paul taught that Jesus took our shame upon himself, exchanging it for glory–a gift, relieving us of the motivation to be hierarchical or competitive.