NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – Disgraced NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal, who pretended to be black until her parents publicly outed her as white, was raised in a strict, "cult-like" Christian home, liberal news sources are claiming.
The Huffington Post and New York Daily News both claim in recent stories that Dolezal grew up in an abusive environment where her parents limited her access to TV, read the Bible before dinner, spoke in tongues and thought the adoption of children was a means of evangelism.
According to the Daily News, a memoir written by Dolezal's older brother, Joshua, depicts their parents as "ex-hippies who turned to religion for life's answers."
The book, Down from the Mountaintop: From Believing to Belonging, describes the family's life as "Pentecostal homesteaders" in Northwest Montana, where they experimented with subsistence farming for two decades.
Rachel has done really good work fighting against racism and police brutality ... but she went about it the wrong way. She said, 'I was born black. I grew up black and I know what it's like growing up as an African-American in this world.' She does not.
Joshua wrote in the book of his rejection of his parents' religion, his experimentation with drugs and alcohol, and his desire to be at peace with nature. He also wrote of his relationship with his sister, describing her as having "blond hair so fine it mimicked sunlight," the Daily News reported.
The newspaper also reported the book describes how Dolezal's father, Larry, delivered both of his children at home "and put on the birth certificates that Jesus Christ was the witness."
"Their mom Ruthanne believed Christians could heal each other and were shielded from evil doings by God's love," the Daily News reported.
"She allowed her children to read Christian books like The Chronicles of Narnia. But their dad chastised their laziness for lazing indoors with books rather than working the soil alongside him. He flew into a rage when he discovered Joshua Dolezal reading White Fang, the memoir said."
On June 13, the Daily News reported Joshua Dolezal was recently charged with four counts of sexual abuse. He remains free on bond, but the paper alleges Rachel Dolezal was supporting her brother's victim, causing her parents to retaliate by disclosing she is actually white.
If that is the case, it still does not answer why Rachel began portraying herself as black in the first place. What role the newspaper believes her parents' Christian faith Rachel Dolezal's effort to conceal her true ethnicity is also uncertain and never cited by the newspaper, in spite of its sensational headlines about the controversy.
However, the Huffington Post drew a connection between her Christian upbringing and the recent controversy when it wrote that Rachel "quickly fell in love" with four black siblings the family adopted when she was a teenager.
According to that paper, Larry Dolezal claimed the family adopted four black children because they discovered "that minorities are often hard to place."
"We adopted African-American children because they were available and we were willing," Larry told the Huffington Post.
"Rachel also felt the same compassion to embrace any ethnicity," Larry told the newspaper. "When we ended up adopting African-American children because they were the ones available at the time, Rachel gravitated to that community and to that people group."
Larry said he did not object to his daughter's advocacy for the black community, but said he needed to be truthful and honest when she was "trying to reinvent reality."
It is then the paper the paper seems to suggest Dolezal's parents, who served as missionaries to South Africa with Creation Ministries International, have themselves "reinvented reality" because they are young earth creationists.
Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal, the newspaper said, "practice Young Earth Creationism, a fundamentalist branch of Christianity that takes the Bible's stories about the beginning of the world quite literally. Young Earth Creationists believe that God created the world in six consecutive 24-hour days, that humans and dinosaurs once walked together and that the Earth is only about 6,000 years old. To Young Earth Creationists, the great flood described in the Bible isn't just poetry -- it's historical fact."
Rachel Dolezal was president of the NAACP's Spokane, Wash., branch, prior to her resignation. Following her resignation, NAACP President and CEO Cornell Brooks issued a statement claiming the organization was not concerned with the "racial identity of our leadership but the institutional integrity of our advocacy."
Rachel Dolezal's adopted brother, Ezra, told CNN she asked him when he visited her from Montana to avoid disclosing to her friends and co-workers that her family was white. Ezra then said her portrayal of herself as black is the equivalent of someone using "blackface" in a public.
"I believe that the first most important thing regardless of what a person does is that they have integrity," Ezra told CNN. "Rachel has done really good work fighting against racism and police brutality ... but she went about it the wrong way. She said, 'I was born black. I grew up black and I know what it's like growing up as an African-American in this world.' She does not."
Another of the Dolezal's adopted black children, Izaiah, has claimed his adoptive parents were abusive. Ezra Dolezal said the claims were false and meant only to divide the family.