Blanche Taylor Moore was a preacher’s daughter, preacher’s wife, and a mother. Her life was encircled by the church, the Bible, and prayer. From the outside looking in, it was most likely speculated that Blanche lived a good Christian life. Yet in 1986, she was convicted of murdering her long-time boyfriend, Raymond Reid, by arsenic poisoning. Blanche is also the prime suspect in many other arsenic poisonings that resulted in the death of her father, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and first husband. Not to mention the attempted murder of her five day newlywed second husband; the Reverend Dwight Moore. By all depictions; Blanche is a serial killer, but many years later it was reported by Blanche’s daughter that her letters and cards from jail still teemed with Bible scripture.
I don’t endeavor to understand all the goings on inside the thoughts of someone like Blanche, but I would be willing to wager that somehow in her mind, she justifies it. I imagine that she believes herself to be at peace with God; whether by denying her guilt (even to God!), or in some way believing what happened was God’s will. I also entertain the notion that I am way off base, and the religious façade is simply her way of feigning innocence to the very end. But I doubt it.
I gain my soured outlook from years of watching my own mother’s behavior through the years. My mother has never killed anyone (at least I hope not!), but many of the aspects of her life are in direct contradiction to the Bible. And yet, she will still maintain that she lives a life modeled by Christ.
My mother suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The narcissist is akin to the sociopath, in that they both lack empathy (among other similarities). The difference is that the narcissist is completely unable to see anything from another’s perspective, while the sociopath may be able to see how their actions affect others; they just don’t care. Many serial killers are sociopaths. A narcissist wouldn’t likely kill anyone, though not due to feelings of guilt or remorse, but more accurately because of the negative implications that the act would have on themselves.
From one extreme to the other
In a wholesome, genuine Christian home, faith will thrive and a legacy of service to God will flourish. Sure, there may be resistance along the way but, as Proverbs 22:6 says; “Bring up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (KJV) One need only to consider the family heritage that Billy Graham left behind to see what I mean (I realize that I am setting the bar pretty high here!).
In a dysfunctional Christian home, however, concepts of God and faith are skewed. The worst part is, we don’t figure this out until we are grown, if at all, and by then the damage is done. We grow up believing our upbringing is normal, and then internal conflict arises when we delve into the faith on our own, or simply go out into the world on our own. Once we see what normal really is, it sets our world upside down. Often this internal conflict can result in substance abuse and addiction, mental health issues, or a complete turning away from the faith; at times all of the above.
In my case, my mother used the idea of God in order to manipulate my actions. If I did something that my mother viewed as unacceptable; then my behavior was displeasing to God. The danger of any narcissistic parent is their need to dominate their children at any cost. The danger of a narcissistic Christian parent is that the line between the parent’s will and God’s will becomes blurred, and God is reduced to a meager instrument of control.
If this was Christian living, I wanted no part of it!
A narcissistic Christian parent will study the Bible relentlessly. This way they can pick out the parts they want to use, and minimize the portions that don’t fit into their spiritual geo-dome. “Honor thy father and thy mother” was my mother’s favorite commandment to throw at her children if ever we disagreed with her. However, I cannot ever remember an instance when she quoted Colossians 3:21; “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” (KJV) Yet even if this scripture would have been brought to her attention, I am sure her response would have been; “I’m not your father.” She could be very literal when it was to her benefit. Vague as well, whatever the situation called for. Manipulation can be very diverse.
Another scripture that was often hijacked by my mother was (the first part of) Psalm 111:10; “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (KJV) Her rendering was apparent: If you are smart, you had better be afraid of God. This makes perfect sense if your intent is dominance. The most effective method of control is through the use of fear. Still another quote she frequently used was “Spare the rod, and spoil the child”. I wonder at times if she really believed that this was a Bible passage. It is actually a quote from a poem entitled Hudibras, by Samuel Butler. Nonetheless, the result was that I grew up viewing God as an omnipresent overseer whose foremost intention was catch me in offense, and punish me. Who wouldn’t rebel against that? And rebel I did.
My life became a tumultuous abandonment of the faith; riddled with alcohol, drugs, and irresponsibility. The good news is that God was intent upon showing me his candidness. He was not about to leave me to my own devices without first allowing me to see Him for who He really is. He unabashedly pursued me with His love. Not fear, but love. I grew to know a God much different than the one that my mother had taught me. And I came to realize that the god she had shoved down my throat for so many years was not God at all, but a twisted version created in order to gain compliance and feed narcissistic supply.
Are we lighting the path or extinguishing the flame?
The disturbing reality is that inside our churches lurk many parents the likes of my mother, or even Blanche Taylor Moore; with varying degrees of dysfunction. Is there any question as to why seventy to seventy-five percent of young people are leaving the church after high school? God isn’t driving them away! Our own legalism and false teaching is! God should never be diminished to a mere bridle placed in the mouths of our children in order to steer them the way we want them to go. God knows the way, God will show the way, and Jesus Christ will lead the way. Bringing up a child in the way he should go ought to translate into living a life devoted to God and our families, nothing more and nothing less. The rest is up to Him.