He Does Not Represent God to Me: The Resignation of Doug Phillips, by Kristi-Joy Matovich

hope

HA note: Kristi-Joy Matovich is a writer by trade, a theologian by training, a philosopher by interest, and a musician by family inheritance. She will graduate from Moody Bible Institute in 2014 with a B.A. in Philosophic Theology. She blogs at Constellation Hope. The following was originally published on her blog on October 31, 2013.

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I struggled with whether to comment on this event. However, it brings me hope, and it will to certain others, so I’m posting about a horrible situation for Doug Phillips’ wife and children. I apologize to them in advance, and pray that God will heal them somehow.

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Vision Forum is responsible for quite a few things in my life.

One is a fantastic three-man slingshot which my siblings and I have put to very good use over the years. Others include a revolutionary war-styled play rifle, a circular cipher, a book called “Endurance” about Sir Ernest Shackleton, and a “wrist rocket.”

My first in-person encounter with the founder and president of this organization, Doug Phillips, was around age 12 or 13 at a homeschool convention where he was one of the main speakers. I don’t remember the topics I heard him speak on, but he doesn’t have that many — modesty, male leadership, femininity, family structure, boys being men, and men being MEN.

With the purchases and the speeches came one very large item that they didn’t ask payment for: GUILT. And lots of it. You see, I was supposed to be buying the pink frilly dressed dolls and doing nothing but learning to cook and sew and being a lovely little lady. As it happened, I was learning to cook and sew, but I preferred watching my dad fix our cars and talking politics and arguing theology with my guy friends IRL and on forums. And playing with the play rifle and slingshot and reading about adventures at the South Pole.

But that pink, wilting femininity?

That was what God made women to be. And I wasn’t it.

Two years ago I attended a homeschool convention with my family. I went on the condition that I did not have to go to any sessions by Doug Phillips. He somehow came to represent all that had told me I was being sinful for not being that kind of girl, for being ambitious toward other things: college, music, and later theology, philosophy, and writing. A guilt I have yet to eradicate as I wrestle with post-college options.

I could not stand being in the room as he spoke.

All that to say, when I found out that Doug Phillips resigned from Vision Forum, and from the speaking circuit, I can only say that I let out a sigh of relief. He is resigning for a very nebulously defined “affair,” which I can only imagine has done great harm to many people directly. For them I am very sorry. Many others have commented about Phillips’ actual announcement and its continuance of a pattern which has been traced by some for a long time. That has many, likely negative, implications.

But for me personally, this is a hopeful moment. It is the removal of someone from my extended sphere of influence. It gives me an opportunity to express my difficulty with someone who has long been held up as a god in the homeschooling community. It gives me hope that perhaps things can change for the better.

It especially reminds me that this particular man does not represent God to me — and I never have to think that he does.

I hope that this event provides a catalyst for some serious rethinking of the ultra-conservative homeschool culture.

May it rock the homeschool world for the better.

5 thoughts on “He Does Not Represent God to Me: The Resignation of Doug Phillips, by Kristi-Joy Matovich

  1. Kim Nisbett November 1, 2013 / 6:30 pm

    Dear Kristi,
    I have long struggled with Vision Forum’s gender definitions. I have a son, an artist, an engineer, and a wonderful young man, who once asked why everything for boys in VF catalog pretty much was a weapon. The subtle message to him was that if you didn’t enjoy killing something (or pretending to kill something), you weren’t masculine. At the same time I enjoyed running the tractor on our farm, and being outside more than cleaning the kitchen. After a long time struggling with this, I realized that roles and personality are very different things. God gives each of us very different personalities. I enjoy talking politics, computer programming, baseball, and other “male” things, but that is my personality, and nowhere in Scripture does it define “male” and “female” personalities. It does however define roles, and I can relish my role as a woman as different from my husband’s role, even though we actually share pretty much the same interests and gifts. Don’t let someone else define your personality, your gifts, or your passions. God has done that already. However, be filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit as you use those gifts, and you will bring joy and glory to God.

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    • KJM November 2, 2013 / 1:21 pm

      Kim,
      That must have been difficult for him. I appreciate your distinction between personality and role. Personally, I am still exploring the issue, but that certainly strikes me as a workable middle ground at the very least. I hope you and your family members continue to grow spiritually. Blessings.

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  2. R Jean November 1, 2013 / 9:17 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I was homeschooled for high school and my family was always on the fringe of major movements because both of my parents are very pragmatic and black and white and aren’t interested in “theory” about family, but learning what works from gray-haired elders who have actually lived life. But I still struggled with depression for 3yrs in my early 20s because it looked like God made a mistake when he made me a woman. I could never be quiet, content at home, or appropriately girly when I was 5’8″, athletic, loud, and highly intellectual. After some serious counseling and realizing that I was the victim of spiritual abuse by leaders in the homeschool movement, I am in an amazing place! God is so gracious! I am 35 and single, pursuing a PhD at a state university in American Literature, live with another godly woman who keeps me accountable like a sister and loves me with the love of Jesus, and am active in a Gospel-loving church community. I am sorry to see Doug Phillips and his family so publicly having to deal with the consequences of sin, but I am grateful that he is not speaking publicly for at least a long while. There are many young women growing up hating the way that God made them because it doesn’t look like some narrow ideal of femininity that is historical, not Biblical, and there are parents who are depriving the world of the fruit of the lives of women who love Jesus because they live as if their daughters cannot be trusted (because God cannot be trusted to care for and protect them?). May God grant freedom to his beautiful daughters who are chained by the expectations of men and learn to see themselves with the eyes of Christ. And may God lead Doug Phillips into deep repentance and humility as he faces the consequences of his sin.

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  3. Caroline November 4, 2013 / 11:17 pm

    Why do we as Christians read the Bible and ignore so much of it? Then we go to a conference hear a homeschool speaker and take it as law and them as a type of Moses? Even Moses was a sinner, he didn’t get to go into the promised land because of sin. I am a sinner, everyone is a sinner and those speakers are sinners. Hopefully we are all saved by God’s grace. It is our own sin that makes a God out of a homeschool speaker. If we are broken hearted and turn away from God because some “leader” has sinned, then so have we also sinned, again. If we are glad they have fallen, then we have fallen, also. We should compare all of the teachings that we hear to what the scripture actually says. Choose that good part and it will not be taken away from you. (Luke 10:42)
    A little history here: So many homeschool parents began homeschooling because the culture around them seemed to fall away from God’s teachings. We were looking for a better culture. One closer to God’s ideal. If we followed men instead of letting them point us to Christ we failed. But no man sets himself up as a god with out willing followers. Let’s not be followers of men but followers of Christ. He loved and gave grace to all: Those tomboy types like Mary who sat at Jesus feet with the men, the pink ribboned feminine types like Martha, the adulterers like David, the murderers like Moses. He gave grace to all. What would we do with Moses when his murder of the Egyptian was exposed. Would we have been glad and hoped he would fall from grace and leadership? I hope not. (Many did and fell into a hole and were never seen again.) Let us follow Christ’s example and give grace to all. Not meaning total acquittal or excusing the sin, but being careful not to think too highly of any man and cause him to think too highly of himself. Because that is when we all fall into sin and give God’s enemies great occasion to blaspheme God.

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