Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Hard Look

This post may be a doozy. No matter how I type it up, it's gonna step on some toes and probably make someone mad. Even if I choose "Sunday Best" for the font and put a big bow on the title. Still, I think it's one I need to post, and I'm hopeful it'll generate some serious thinking, introspection, and self-examination in all generally, and in a smaller audience specifically.

Many who visit this blog are from patriocentric families. Of this group, a large slice are no longer involved in or promoting patrio beliefs. Some who read here are still in patriocentric homes, both children (some as adults) and parents. This particular post is aimed primarily at the latter group.

A few weeks back, over on Quivering Daughters, Hillary addressed some Anonymous comments from a proponent of patriocentricity that conveyed concern that sites and messages like hers were making non-abusive people and situations in patriarchal families appear abusive, or, manipulating young women to believe they've been abused. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Hillary and many others speak from convictions rooted in their own experience and their own ever-expanding understanding of the nature of Christ. The same is true of me, even though my experience is a little different as someone outside the movement yet still deeply injured by it. I'm sure that many who read my blog believe I'm damaging good, godly people and hurting the unity of godly families. Many others may feel I'm making much ado about nothing.

I'm going to present a few questions here. Through these questions I'll be attempting to establish some thresholds and parameters. If these questions pose a threat to families "getting it right", they should be very easily and quickly answered, with no need to qualify the answers or add disclaimers.

To parents in patriocentric homes...

If your child, particularly adult children living at home, were to choose a path other than patriarchy and refuse to be submissive to it, would it cause you the same distress as if they were to leave the Christian faith altogether? 

Do you consider the two (patriarchy and Christianity) intertwined and inseparable?

Would you consider this child rebellious and a prodigal?

Would this child be subject to double-standards that your submissive children aren't?

Would it bring your happiness crumbling down, cause you to feel like a failure as a parent, or cause your world to come grinding to a halt with emotional turbulence and tension?

Would this child be punished emotionally? Ostracized?

Would the loss of the human authority structure totally disrupt your faith, and totally knock the family's spiritual focus off course?

To children in patriocentric homes...

If you were to reject the patriarchal teachings of your family, would you be treated as if you were rejecting Christ? Labeled rebellious? Labeled as the "black sheep"? Would you be punished emotionally?

Do you fear expressing your own spiritual convictions to your parents? Do you fear holding a different view of scripture than that of your father?

Is your family more concerned about your submission to your father than your growth in Christ?

Does your family connect the two?

Does your situation dictate that you pay more attention to your family's external, cosmetic message (keeping up appearances) than to it's personal spiritual integrity and character behind closed doors?

To both groups, if you answered yes to even one of these questions, you're in a spiritually/emotionally abusive family or a red alert potential spiritually/emotionally abusive family. This isn't an indictment of any particular parents as "bad" people, and it in no way suggests that parents who answered yes don't love their children. Even the best intentioned of people can be deceived and caught up in something that takes on a life of it's own, eventually hurting even those we love most. I think it's important to remember that we never hear about good intentions until we've witnessed some really bad results.

To parents who answered yes and wonder what you can do to change things...A good start would be to determine the things that are at the absolute core of your family beliefs and vigorously double-check them against scripture, all while seeking God diligently and relentlessly in prayer for guidance and wisdom. Be resolute in pursuit of truth. Be willing to look right in the face of ugliness that you'd have never before acknowledged as part of the family spiritual and emotional portrait. Better to put your faith in an unchanging God, and His words and ways, than in any man-made formula. It's never too late to begin working toward amends. Talk about it with your family, but ONLY when you can do so while maintaining emotional safety for your children. If they fear any kind of retribution, they'll never talk honestly, and nothing good will come from it.

To the children who answered yes, be resolute and persist in your search for Christ and His truth, be resolute in dealing with the realities you're in as exactly what they are, and to read some wonderful insight and advice from someone who has been right where you are, please read this excellent post at Quivering Daughters.

If you aren't in an abusive or extreme potentially abusive family, none of my questions above should cause, or should have caused, you any kind of distress, and should be answerable with a "no" that doesn't require second thoughts.

I wish I had a magic wand I could wave across the patriarchal landscape and make it all better. To those who are hurting beyond my own ability to help...I'm sorry. I pray for you.


  1. THANK YOU for posting these questions. I really appreciate how you write: "If these questions pose a threat to families getting it right, they should be very quickly and easily answered, with no need to qualify the answers or add disclaimers." SO TRUE.

  2. Thank you for this! I remember a time in childhood where I think I would've answered yes to some of these questions. Thankfully my family is no longer in that place, not even close. It is a much healthier environment. :) I hope that all patriocentric families find the freedom and healing that mine has!

  3. Most patriocentric families I have known did/do consider their beliefs to be the "pure" form of Christianity. When I was still at home my parent stated that if us kids put our future children in Sunday School, then my parents would consider themselves failures. That's how central the idea of family integrated church was. Let's not even think about the response if any of us reject homeschooling! All of us who have children so far have done Sunday school, btw. :)


  4. "Would it bring your happiness crumbling down, cause you to feel like a failure as a parent, or cause your world to come grinding to a halt with emotional turbulence and tension?"

    This is what I wish was not happening. All of us children still love and serve God. So why are they beating themselves up emotionally?

  5. wow, great questions, and yes, hard ones. When your secondary beliefs become the core beliefs (connected to the gospel, salvation, righteousness, etc) then you know you now have a false gospel. I don't think Jesus was warning about crazy religions when he spoke of false gospels, I think he was warning against some good aspects of truth that were warped, twisted, and then used to exploit others...like patriarchy. It has now become a false gospel.

  6. Oh how the perceptions change when you can be honest enough with yourself as a parent to ask yourself these questions, sincerely desiring to evaluate whether you are stuck in this paradigm!

    How revealing it is when you love your children enough to allow them the safety to express their true feelings and even their own beliefs!

    How utterly sad as a parent once the children are grown to be surprised to discover what their true feelings really are when you thought you knew all along!

    We have eight children. We spent the first 20 years raising the first 4 as so clearly described above.

    We have spent the remainder of our parenting experience endeavoring to undo most of those practices, still trying to repair the damage from our former ways.

    Now that they are all grown, I can joyfully say, it was worth it! It is never to late to change!

  7. Very well thought out questions. You should get a radio talk show or something. Maybe you could forward these questions to a few blogs we've discovered. Another question..?

    Why is leaving home to go to college...an evil thing? True most colleges are "liberal" or not Christ centered. But why is this a bad thing?? Why can't people just take Christ with them...and learn what they want? I know college is not for everyone and there are plenty of jobs that don't require a degree.

    If a person chooses to stay home until marriage, and is happy, I'm alright with that. But, if they are home because "Gothard" says it's an honorable thing...I'm gonna have to question it.

  8. Wow. These questions outline so much of the problem. I'm deeply thankful to find people like you talking about this subject online. I've been almost completely isolated with this type of pain (no one talks about it) for over three decades. I have wondered if I was crazy for not fitting in with things better, and my family has been more than happy to reinforce the idea that I was crazy (in fact they planted the idea in my head and I was sent to therapy in my mid teens), rather than upset their preferred way of thinking.

    These are the points that resonated with me the most:
    -Subjected to a double standard (the twist in my family is that the second standard is for my alcoholic/abusive/pathological liar brother who long ago rejected Christ and the church--they coddle him and put up with whatever he does, while he constantly uses them, because of guilt that they didn't successfully raise him 'christian'--the impossible-to-meet standard was for me, the christian, & also because I'm female).
    -Ostracized/punished emotionally (I would add continually being either shamed, patronized or mocked, or some combination--these are the main features of my parents relationship to me).
    -Labeled as the "black sheep" (this one is ironic to me...I don't understand how they calculate it when I was the one who went to Bible college, got married first and had a kid second, who worked hard and didn't lie about my credentials to get ahead like my brother did, didn't total all my cars, didn't abuse my kids, no DUIs or jail time, etc.--sadly the tragedy in my parents' minds seems to have been the unforgivable sin that I think for myself, which isn't always the same as them). :(
    -Yes, my parents have always been more concerned whether I submit to my father than anything else about how I'm doing as a person (I confess I have had the audacity to question why I'm supposed to still submit to my father now that I'm an adult, married at age 23, etc., and I have paid a huge price for it, but at least I am free)
    -And finally, yes, keeping up appearances has been the main essential for my mother, who lives in denial and is blind to any levels of integrity that are beneath skin deep.
    Ask them their side of the story, and I'm sure they could write volumes about what's wrong with me. I can only follow the light the Lord gives me, and trust that He will ultimately deal with them and me both with perfect justice and grace.

    Keep writing!

  9. Hmm, I typed out a response and my normally good computer crashed with blue screen of death. Anyway, here goes again.

    "If they fear any kind of retribution, they'll never talk honestly, and nothing good will come from it."

    This is the part that stuck out the most to me - yet if I had been asked I would have said my parents would not punish me for speaking my mind. However, knowing that you can make them super concerned for your spiritual health or even just hurt their feelings is a powerful motivator. It can be a good motivator to keep careless grumpiness in check, but in some ways it was not good.

    For example, for years I really hated the daily half hour plus devotions. When my work schedule started conflicting with those I milked it for every bit of "skipping" that I could without looking like a total heathen. I did not enjoy devotions at all because 1. My dad and I were like two capped volcanos for years (maybe even more scary BECAUSE my family is so kind and gentle overall - we don't know how to handle that sort of underground emotion). 2. It felt hollow and hypocritical to be doing devotions when things were so wrong. But, none of us had figured out how to fix things, so we 3. Expected everyone to continue praying as if close to God and sincerely following Him, expected each person to participate in the discussion on, say, Chronicles, and not mind that we were taking 45 minutes or even an hour out of the day to do this, and expected everyone to act basically pious and happy about it. Thinking about it now I can see even more clearly how dysfunctional the whole thing was.

    I no longer mind the idea nearly as much (though we no longer live in the same house) because now our discussions are more likely to be about real things and I feel free to argue with something without everyone immediately and "kindly" jumping on me to restore me to "the right way" of thinking. I'm probably not making much sense, but basically I guess my point is that us "kids" finally do feel what our parents said they wanted us to all those years - the freedom to speak up. And it was not until we got to that place that things started getting better.


  10. I kind of hope none of my family ever reads this post! And yes, family dearest, I was telling the truth when I said I needed to work, go to bed, etc. I might have participated more if we had been able to keep those times under 10 or 15 minutes, consistently. As it was, all I could think about was all that I needed (or gasp! wanted) to do and how long it was taking to finish, yet how ungodly it seemed to want to be done with devotions. Hope you don't mind too much that I'm talking about it!


  11. Interesting thoughts one and all...Thanks for your comments!

  12. Wow, Lewis!
    It is a truth that you don't realize how badly you are abused until you leave the abuse behind. I wrote about my experience of trying to help my friend out of the abuse in the post:
    Its a hard cold fact that people in the middle of abuse will protect the abuser...

  13. The fear involved breaks my heart, Julie. I'm soooo glad you got out.

    It's a screwed up dynamic that allows the abuser to be the source of life for the abused.

  14. @Cindy
    Yes! This is crucial to know - the family relationships can thrive in adulthood if everyone is willing to learn. I am a former prodigal-oldest-daughter (I hear this is pretty common) who is now in a fully restored and happy relationship with my entire family. There was a LOT of "sturm und drang," but my parents have really grown a lot through the growing up process of their now-adult children.

  15. it is scary to recognize to be mindful of what has actually happened or is happening in an abuse type of situation. it took me almost a year to realize that my husband has joined a david koresheque type of online cult. i spent hours reading, talking, learning, etc. he joined in jan 07 and just last summer our cult interventionist informs me that yeah your husband has never exited from his cult family. wow. talk about having to face some fears & reality but i was ready although the unfolding of it didn't happen over nite and i'm still discovering etc. one of the neatest discoveries that i've found is my own heart and what has come out of it. wow! have i been humbled in a good way!

  16. Is there any point to suggesting reading this, to a set of parents that could answer "yes" to every question? Is there ever a way to get this message to a set of parents so in distress about their adult daughter seeking to make her way, as a true believer? Or is it useless until they are open and ready? Perhaps never?

  17. without knowing your total situation, i can only answer with limited knowledge. i tried getting this message to my husband time and time again and he wasn't open. so eventually i let him know my feelings and what i think in a lovingly, nonjudgy, noncondemning way and gave up any control over his decision. i have made sure that he knows that i don't support the cult but support his ability to freely choose. letting these ppl make choices and letting them know you are giving them freedom to choose is so important. if you need anymore help pls feel free to email me. hope this helps!

  18. Anonymous 5:23...That's a difficult question to answer. I don't think there's ever a perfect time, from the perspective of those being challenged, to be challenged. I think much of it would have to be a judgment call by whomever would like them to read it. I'd hate to create turbulence for quivering daughters that aren't ready for it, so I think QDs would need to determine if they're at a place where they can handle the short-term turmoil that will probably be necessary to reach the lasting peace.

    My hope is that the patriarchal parents who are reading this blog of their own accord (even those it makes angry) are demonstrating a level of openness to the message presented simply by visiting, and my hope is that seeds are being planted that will produce a harvest.

    If you're a QD, my prayers are with you.

  19. I answered yes to only the first question in your list. If I was to believe your assumption that answering yes to ANY of these questions would result in an abusive relationship, I would also have to assume that I am either currently in an abusive relationshp right now, or that I will be in one in the near future. I would like to inform you that neither of these possiblities are occuring within my home.

    Yes, my husband and I believe in biblical patriarchy, but we don't believe in abuse or holding daughters against their will. When will people realize that not all individuals who practice biblical patriarchy in their homes are automatically abusive to members within the family unit?

    You must know that not everyone practices certain beliefs in the same way. I honestly don't believe that biblical patriarchy is the problem. The problem lies with individuals who take biblical commands to extremes and use them in abusive manners to suit their own personal agenda or life-style.

    I could never convience you that I don't take biblical patriarchy to its extreme end. However, by the same token, I don't like being "grouped-up" with individuals who might be "tipping the scales" with their belief system.

    You are the author of this blog, and obviously, you have the right to post whatever you wish. However, please realize that there are individuals like my husband and myself who faithfully practice biblical patriarchy WITHOUT abuse and excessive authority.


    Mrs. P

  20. Mrs. P...Thank you for your comments. Is this the question that you answered yes to?...

    "If your child, particularly adult children living at home, were to choose a path other than patriarchy and refuse to be submissive to it, would it cause you the same distress as if they were to leave the Christian faith altogether?"

  21. Lewis . . . No, that is not the question I answered yes to. I answered yes to this question:

    "Do you consider the two (patriarchy and Christianity)intertwinded and inseperable?"

    I see your confusion and my error. I didn't realize that there was a question typed above the one I was referring to. Therefore, I thought the question I was referring to was the first question, when in reality, it was the second question. I appologize about that.


    Mrs. P

  22. Mrs. P...If you believe they're intertwined and inseparable, that would suggest that those of us who don't believe that don't believe in or follow the patriarchal teachings aren't of faith in Christ.

    In elevating a teaching (that isn't genuinely biblical) to the same level as faith in Christ, it's been taken to the extreme and it pollutes the gospel. The teaching in and of itself is the extremity.

  23. Mrs. P, glad to have you here!

    I was not raised in a very patrio family, but for many years sermons and articles that I read had me mostly convinced that patriarchy as we are talking about it was and is commanded by God and the only right way to live, whether or not we liked it. I very much distrusted feminist thinking and hated the idea of being a "liberal." I still strongly want to hold to what the Bible teaches.

    That said, the Bible itself has been convincing me that patriarchy is NOT what God wants or intends.

    If you research the following original language terms you can see some of the same things that changed my world and made my head spin for a while :-) I continue to find more of these types of verses and it's pretty cool.

    ezer kenegdo - translated as helpmeet in the KJV in Genesis. What does God mean by the term? The other 20 (I believe) places in the OT ezer is used all refer to God... what do those verses mean?

    chayil - translated as virtuous in Prov. 31 and valorous elsewhere. A lot more to the word than I EVER thought!

    oikouros - translated in Titus 2 as keepers at home.

    oikedespoteo - translated in 1 Timothy 5:14 as guide the home. The meaning of this one continues to blow me away every time I think about it.

    Thanks for reading and I hope you're having a good day!