No matter what indignity, embarrassment, or outrage may be afflicted upon the fundamentalist youngster the rejoinder from his elders and betters is always the same: “it builds character.”
What exactly is this character that we build by learning subservience to a vast and ever-growing body of arcane rules? Which virtue springs from self-inflicted penury due to poor educational choices compounded by the greed of a ministry who will not pay an honest wage? What goodness comes with the constant lessons of self-doubt and self-loathing?
The Lord requires that a man do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly but never that he prostitute his own soul liberty and good sense for the sake of putting another man’s foot upon his neck and calling it “character building.” To be sure, of all of the lessons that fundamentalism teaches perhaps none is greater than this: there is no inherent virtue in being ill-used of others.
Is a capacity for denying grace to one’s self and others truly a measure of Christian character? Perhaps “Christian caricature” would be a term more fitting.