Over on Quivering Daughters, someone made the following comment in response to an excerpt from "The Syndicate of Control":
"We are in the middle of this exact same picture right, now with our son seeking to be in a relationship with a girl in this type father-daughter scenario. The father creates a negative atmosphere of confusion for the daughter, who wants to obey and fears disobeying, but also has the conflicting desire for the relationship. Then the father points out how confused she is, how indecisive she is, how immature she is, how depressed she is, how she is not stable enough emotionally, etc....all are true descriptions of the daughter; he connects this to her being in a relationship outside of the father's authority, but the truth is that he has created this constant state of devastation, to further control her actions. He withholds love and is joined by the wife in a painful process of rejection until the daughter comes "back under." The question for us has been, how does the guy and his family, who see the big picture, handle this situation? It has been a painful process - do we all walk away and leave her to this way of life that snuffs out who she really is? Do we encourage her to defy her parents and do what she believes God is leading her to do? The rejections spills over to the guy, his family, and all who encourage the daughter in her walk with the Lord. We all become the enemies to her parents."
My heart aches for this young man and his family, and for the young lady and her family. This person's comment was like a long, hard look at the past few years of my life. I know the pain I felt, and I saw my family and those who care for me hurting deeply for me, overcome by a situation so jaded and bizarre, powerless to help beyond prayer and unwavering love.
I'd like to address the specific points made in each statement, and then offer a few other thoughts at the conclusion. I don't pretend to be an expert, as my situation didn't have a happy ending. What I am is a seasoned and scarred veteran of the battle, and I hope that the experience I have to offer can help others to cope with the issue, even if unable to resolve it.
We are in the middle of this exact same picture right, now with our son seeking to be in a relationship with a girl in this type father-daughter scenario.
Your son will have some tough choices to make, as will those who care for him. I'll get into the scope of those choices a little more in-depth as we go. Let me start by saying the best choice he can make in the situation, the best choice anyone can make in any situation, is to be resolute in his determination to follow Jesus regardless of the cost - even if it costs him any hope of a future with this young lady.
The father creates a negative atmosphere of confusion for the daughter, who wants to obey and fears disobeying, but also has the conflicting desire for the relationship.
This is a textbook scenario for the coercive use of cognitive dissonance, an issue covered very well here at Under Much Grace.
While I can't speak with absolute certainty for the young lady in question, my own observations of the dynamics of authoritarianism as practiced within patriocentric circles would lead me to believe that she's been taught little, but indoctrinated much. When you teach someone, you introduce freedom and liberty through the knowledge and information imparted to them, and the freedom and liberty to either act upon it or choose a different path, fully aware of the potential consequences, but without fear of personal retribution. Indoctrination is the effort to socially engineer, either overtly or covertly manipulating the desired outcome and all necessary to achieve it. It must be enforced rigidly. Teaching benefits all. Indoctrination benefits only those at the top of the authority food chain.
This young lady has likely never made a meaningful, genuinely free choice about anything of critical mass in her life. She's probably never been allowed to. She's caught in the throes of bounded choice, something covered well here at Quivering Daughters and here at Under Much Grace.
Then the father points out how confused she is, how indecisive she is, how immature she is, how depressed she is, how she is not stable enough emotionally, etc....all are true descriptions of the daughter; he connects this to her being in a relationship outside of the father's authority, but the truth is that he has created this constant state of devastation, to further control her actions.
This is the dynamic I covered in "The Syndicate of Control", with the comparison to the way the mafia operates. Let's say that the mafia wanted a hospital built in a community that really didn't need one. They'd go around and break the arms and legs of the inhabitants of the community to prove to them the need for a hospital. Then, once the strong-arming and coercion had paid off, and the community relents, the mob would "request" the contracts for the hospital's construction. In essence, creating a demand where one doesn't exist, then demanding to meet the demand. The mob wins all around, but the community is left with broken limbs, and a hospital being funded by their own means (not the mafia's) which they'd have never even needed if left alone. They also get to live under the constant threat of retribution if they speak out about the whole thing.
My former future father-in-law sent me an email early in our relationship that was mind-boggling. It detailed all of the hazards, obstacles, and difficulties that my relationship with his daughter faced if we were to go about things as we desired. Frankly, it infuriated me, and had he been standing in the room when I read it, he may have quickly met his insurance deductible. All who read it on my end of things were infuriated by it. All of these potential "roadblocks" were contrived. Figments of his imagination. HE was the one and only roadbloack, as he, in short order, set about to make all of these "potential" issues become real ones. A few months after he'd successfully undermined our relationship and turned her completely against me, he pointed back to this initial email, almost touting himself as a prophet. It was sickening. To become prophetic, he had engaged in behavior that is disgusting even for heathens. She and I, and others, have caught the man in numerous blatant lies, she had been ostracized, he used other like-minded people in her life to coerce and manipulate her liberally, he used implied threats of suicide to manipulate her, he made vows of "I'm gonna fight you...and I'm not gonna play fair", two days before she was to fly here permanently, he told her that her mom had almost died the night before (with the implication being that it was her fault) when in reality she'd had an anxiety attack, and then he had like-minded friends (who knew nothing about me other than the poison he'd filled them with) from other states bombard her with 26 incoming calls in the final 40 hours before she disappeared, and all of this on top of the fires he was trying to create all around me in my own world (something else he had warned her he was gonna do).
Quite the prophet.
He withholds love and is joined by the wife in a painful process of rejection until the daughter comes "back under."
Sadly, the moral low ground is confused for the moral high ground, and an authoritarian father, when challenged, focuses entirely on winning, regardless of what it costs...others. It becomes, as we say in the south, a peeing contest.
My ex was ostracized by her father, as he openly told others, "If she marries him, she's not mine." Her mother supported her father because "that's what a godly wife does."
The rejections spills over to the guy, his family, and all who encourage the daughter in her walk with the Lord. We all become the enemies to her parents.
Trust me, I couldn't be more hated by those in my ex's circle if my name were Lucifer. This was all about an agenda, not a conviction. Conviction is fluid to new truths as they're revealed, defined by those truths. Agenda operates with no regard for truth or for right and wrong. When you think conviction, think of the early church. When you think of agenda, think politics.
Right after my ex declared her independence, her mother hit her out of left field one day, almost in hysterics, with "Why is he trying to destroy us?!!!" They never could grasp that our relationship wasn't about them, wasn't a reflection upon them, and wasn't dependent upon them to be "blessed". Our relationship, from my vantage point, and at one time hers, was about me, her, and the Lord. That doesn't satisfy patriocentric families, though. It has to be about the father.
The question for us has been, how does the guy and his family, who see the big picture, handle this situation? It has been a painful process - do we all walk away and leave her to this way of life that snuffs out who she really is? Do we encourage her to defy her parents and do what she believes God is leading her to do?
I wish I had a clear, absolute answer for you. I don't. I can, however, speak from my experience.
I spent countless hours praying, crying, and pleading with God to intervene in this situation for me. He did - with every little morsel of truth she heard from me and others, with every opportunity presented to her to walk away from her world. God doesn't deal in manipulation, but rather in opportunity. Even though my ex now fervently hates me for my "attacks" on her family and has recently married another man, I still believe that God placed my rib in her. I'm a firm believer that God's will in our personal lives doesn't just happen on it's own. If it did, we'd be in the Garden of Eden. God's answers to our prayers usually present themselves in the form of opportunity, never imposing His will upon ours, never forcing us to choose His ways, never acting as the great puppet-master in the sky.
My ex had ample opportunity to come to me, and while I know the overwhelming coercion and manipulation that took place, she still ultimately chose to walk past that opportunity, viewing the manipulation and coercion as the "intervention of God" in her life. There's no denying that she loved me passionately. There's also no denying that her view of what love is and means has been distorted mightily.
I'd made a commitment to her, and her to me. A lifelong commitment. Because of that, and because of my love for her, I fought to free her of her situation, knowing that there would be no sanitary, squeaky-clean means of escaping it. Either way, she was going to experience some pain. For that reason alone I struggle with resentment toward her parents. I knew that she'd never, ever be the woman God intends her to be with these patriarchal toxins as the dominant nutrient in her bloodstream. I believed, and still believe, that her growth toward her Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ was worth defying anyone and anything over, and her father desired to replace Christ in her life as her High Priest and Mediator, telling her what was "of God" and what wasn't. I knew that her understanding of scripture was limited, with it having to flow through the family filter, and as long as she was under their influence that would continue. I also knew that her healing wouldn't take place in a matter of weeks or months, but likely over a period of years, perhaps even being a lifelong process. There would be a ton of damage to be reversed.
I had a team of specific people at the ready to help her. I wasn't gonna force them on her or vice versa, but rather, just let her know that they were available to help her with the struggles she'd be facing if and when she wanted to speak with them. A former Mormon who is now a pastor and a cult-exit counselor, a pastor's wife who specialized in family/marriage/relationship counseling (what with her view of all of those having been stunted by her upbringing), and a pastor and university president who has long served as a source of wise counsel for me on many issues, among others. All wonderful people who cared deeply about the situation and were genuinely concerned for her. Unfortunately, they never got the chance to be of assistance.
Your son will have to decide if his love for this young lady is worth the potential for his heart to be devastated in trying to free her from her situation. She's gonna be hurt either way, and all that can be done there is to try to minimize it and prepare for it. He'll have to invest all of his love into her, realizing the risk of that investment. She'll have to turn away from everything she's ever been told was "right" to freely love him in return, and there's no guarantee, despite the depth of whatever emotion she feels toward him, that she'll be able to do that. If she does ultimately reject him, he needs to be prepared for her to possibly exhibit hatred of him, adopting representations of him that are grossly illogical and false. She may need to rationalize what she's done to survive it, disassociating from the ugliness or from any of her own failings.
Above all else, pray, pray, pray, and measure every step possible with the scriptures. Trust God for the opportunities, but (from personal experience) be very careful not to blame Him for the results of her exercise of free will (even if her choices are bounded - which they most likely are). That's been a tough one for me at times.
It's like trying to sail across the ocean in a car. Your heart is faced with a situation that makes no sense. Your mind is processing the most bizarre information and observations it's likely ever encountered. It seems impossible.
What I saw was pure evil, and I drew a line in the sand. I wish I could tell you that it had all worked out like I wanted it to. It didn't. I've lost a lot. I'd do it all again, though.
All you can do is what God reveals to you as the right thing to do, and trust Him regardless of the outcome.
Edited to add: I want to address this particular statement a little more directly...
Do we encourage her to defy her parents and do what she believes God is leading her to do?
I think it's imperative that we always encourage anyone to do what they feel God leading them to do as long as it meets the benchmark of His word. One thing to remember with women coming from authoritarian environments, though, is that God has, in many ways, been defined for her by her parents. She's likely still coming to learn just who God is, that He isn't this meticulous taskmaster sitting above her, waiting to strike her with His belt if she messes up. It's possible that her search for God and His truth hasn't broken out of it's formulaic jar at this point in her life. She may still be learning to come to a personal understanding of the scriptures, having been indoctrinated with wrested versions, distorted interpretations, and spiritual platitudes. I would do all within my power to encourage and support her in the search for truth. Perhaps some others who have grown up in an authoritarian environment can offer some more insight on this. Hillary McFarland covers some of these issues very well in her article "When You Love a Daughter of Patriarchy".