When A Stay-At-Home Daughter Rebels: Reumah’s Story, Part Three

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Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Reumah” is a pseudonym.

< Part Two

Part Three: Escape

This roller coaster I was one wouldn’t stop. Me, hesitatingly trying to make a step forward, my parents instantly pushing me back. I bought a little pallet of eye shadow one day – my parents told me I looked like a whore. I bought a skirt with a hemline just at the knee. My parents said I was pushing their standards. I desperately wanted a job. My father sat me down and told me how I was actually losing money by taking a job outside the home….and that my skills were better utilized under his roof.

I finally got the job I so coveted, at the age of almost 21.

I must have looked completely lost, walking into the store that first day in a long skirt, unsure of how to behave or what to say in this unfamiliar environment. Over the next six months, I would meet so many new people that would open my eyes to the oppression that I was living in. I made so much progress in that six months, but my parents could only see the negative influences that the “world” was having on me. I had to lie, sneak around, and pretend to be someone I wasn’t to keep the peace in my household.

One morning when I came down for breakfast wearing my favorite pair of jeans, my father told me that he was ashamed of my immodest clothing, and that I wasn’t allowed to wear those jeans ever again in his house. As a 21 year old woman who’d tasted just enough independence to understand what she was missing, I was livid. I started keeping the jeans at work, and changing into them as soon as I left my parent’s house. My days of quietly obeying my parent’s directives were quickly coming to an end.

I applied for, and miraculously received, a full ride scholarship to a distinguished university completely across the country from my parents. I remember my Dad, sitting on the couch in our living room, telling me he would never approve of one of his daughter’s leaving his home to attend college. That he would never allow it. Would never give his blessing.

I remember crying in the living room, desperate for an escape from my prison.

My friends at work told me I had to go. Those women at my first little retail job were instrumental in helping me ease into the real world, and open my eyes to the fact that I NEEDED to move on with my life. Yes, it would be hard. Yes it was scary, especially without any support from my family. But I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to spend 4 years across the country from my family, becoming my own person. Because after so many years living my parent’s beliefs and being told what was right and wrong, I didn’t know who I really was.

After an agonizing summer, I went.

My parents, insistent that they would move the family across the country so I could stay under their roof, drove me out to my new college with the promise that they would be there within a semester. I secretly hoped their plans to move would fall through. Thankfully, they did.

I fell in love with dorm life instantly, and loved the absolute freedom I had over my life. My future opened up before me. Endless opportunities and freedom met me at every turn. I met so many wonderful people who were kind, helpful, selfless, and genuine. I marveled when I met folks who weren’t devout fundamentalists and had never heard of patriarchy, and yet were still amazing people. These students – most of them had been to public school, had been raised in normal American culture; and yet they weren’t raging pagans, criminals, and devils in disguise. How could this be? Maybe my parents had been wrong.

Fast forward almost three years to the present day. It’s been a long road.

The first year of college life was incredibly difficult. I couldn’t keep up with any of the conversations my peers were having. Pop culture references went straight over my head. I hadn’t seen any of the movies people talked about; I didn’t get the jokes my friends made. People were shocked when they learned I’d never had a boyfriend and never been kissed; horrified when they learned I’d never gone to high school, played a sport or gone on a sleepover. I didn’t know who the Backstreet Boys were, had never listened to a Michael Jackson song, and didn’t know the Disney Channel even existed. Eventually, I started leaving those details of my life out of conversations. I created a completely new “me”, and many of my friends never even knew of my life before college.

My relationship with my family is rocky these days. I now stand for everything they’ve ever been opposed to….done everything they always wanted to protect me from. They’re convinced that college has corrupted me in a thousand ways. They don’t approve, support, or accept the person that I’ve become over the past 3 years since I left the movement. On the surface, they’re friendly. They feign interest in my activities, and we talk on a regular basis. But deep down, they can’t stand what I’ve become.

My siblings are still at home, lost in the life from which I’ve escaped. Fortunately, one of my brothers decided to leave too, and he’s now traveling around Europe making up for lost time.

I’m incredibly proud of how far I’ve come. But I have a lot left to go.

While I don’t dwell on my past, it does shape the person that I am today. I still find traces of my upbringing from time to time. My boyfriend is constantly dispelling my twisted views of life, family, relationships, and myself that are still left over from my dysfunctional upbringing.

And it’s overwhelmingly difficult to know that I don’t have the support of my family.

And yet,

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow.”  ~ Thomas Paine

End of series.

When A Stay-At-Home Daughter Rebels: Reumah’s Story, Part Two

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Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Reumah” is a pseudonym.

< Part One

Part Two: Trapped

I was trapped.

As I’d gotten older, my parents had gotten stricter, more isolated, and more focused on minute details of our lives.  We spent our mornings listening to my father read the Bible to us and decry the evils of the world, the culture, and anything he associated with it.  We weren’t allowed to watch films in the movie theater.  My brothers weren’t allowed to participate in organized sports, or watch football games; it took them away from family time and smacked of worldliness.  The only music in our home was hymns or peaceful praise songs. Even Christian radio was out of the question.    Dating was completely off the table…my parents were firmly entrenched in the values of courtship, and any potential relationship would be controlled completely by my father.

As time passed, I became less and less content with my life as a home maker in training. I’m not sure what changed. Perhaps it was just the passage of time, or perhaps it was the endless monotony of my days as they ran into each other. Getting up, weeding the garden, fixing breakfast. Washing the endless amounts of dishes, watching my little brothers, putting in laundry. Fixing lunch, lying around most of the afternoon on the internet or reading a book, then sluggishly helping put together dinner and going back to my computer to entertain myself until it was time for lights out. I didn’t have any friends, and nothing with which to break up my days.  I didn’t have anything to look forward to, and the glorious prospects of winning the culture war and raising a family of warriors for Christ began to seem a little bleak.  I began to envision the reality of the future I had willingly committed to, and it wasn’t a prospect I liked at all.

Yet, in spite of my growing restlessness, I was trapped.  No, I wasn’t being forcibly held at home.  My family loved me, and I loved them. But I slowly began to see the bars of the invisible prison into which I had unknowingly walked.

I was stuck. 

I had no discernible skills.  As a home school student, I hadn’t participated in any extra curricular activities, teams, or competitions for fear of being corrupted by worldly influences. I’d never held a job outside of my family, and didn’t have any means of getting one without a vehicle.  I’d briefly brought up the prospect of perhaps a part time job at our local library or a little boutique, but my father had quickly shot that down with a reminder about the Biblical role for women, and had placated me by piling on lots of mundane tasks he needed done for his own business. To him, I already had a job.

Without my father’s approval and permission, I wouldn’t be allowed use of the family vehicles to get to a potential job. So that was out of the question.  Without a job, I had no income.  And without income, I was powerless.  The money I did have came from my parents; wages I ‘earned’ for helping out around the house or for balancing my father’s checkbooks each month. I searched for ways to fill the void that wouldn’t clash with my parent’s ideals. I looked for ways to volunteer (online, of course), and tried to start a web based business. I explored the idea of beginning online classes in business; starting my college education was grudgingly allowed as long as I did it from the comfort and safety of my bedroom.  And, it was made clear, any post high school education would only be for the purpose of preparing me to be a better home schooling mother and a more helpful and supportive wife. Somehow, this didn’t sound very appealing.

I started blaming my situation on our location.  If only we would move to a different place, it would all be better. I would find friends. More importantly, I would find a husband.  Prince Charming, my future husband, would be the key to freeing me from my prison.  But after years of staunchly backing the patriarchal movement and spewing my legalistic views on Biblical womanhood to everyone who would listen, I felt embarrassed when I started questioning my long held ideals.

This inner turmoil haunted me for over a year and a half.  A constant battle between what I knew I “should” believe, and what another part of me was starting to explore.  I was curious about the world beyond the four walls of my home.  I caught snatches of secular music at the grocery store, and didn’t hate what I heard.  I saw commercials for TV shows that were well below my age level, yet I was still captivated with what I saw.  I noticed happy college students, books in tow, walking freely along the streets close to the campus of a nearby university, and harbored a quiet jealousy for the opportunities they had.

I started to resent my parents and their rules, and I started to resent myself for having trapped myself into a prison from which I saw no escape. I became angry for the time I had lost, the things I had never experienced, and the life that I saw slipping away from me.  I secretly resented my church, religion, and eventually the God I had believed in for so long.

The God who would send me to hell if I didn’t do what he wanted. 

Part Three >

When A Stay-At-Home Daughter Rebels: Reumah’s Story, Part One

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Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Reumah” is a pseudonym.

Part One: Return of the Daughters

My parents represented typical suburbia during my early child hood; my Dad with his upper middle class corporate job, and my Mom puttering around the house taking care of us and making our lives happy and healthy.   We had the brick three bedroom ranch-style home you see in the magazines; two or three cars in the garage, money in the bank, a good circle of friends, and a cute little church with a steeple we attended religiously on Sunday mornings.  Church services were always followed by lazy afternoons where my Dad grilled out on the back porch while we children played in the fading sunlight.

My parents had always been good Christian people. They raised us in the church, took us to Sunday school, taught us about Jesus and the Bible at home.  Christianity was a fundamental pillar of my early childhood. It fit comfortably into our lives, right along with everything else we held dear.  But sometime around my eleventh birthday, my parents transitioned from mainstream Christianity towards something more radical, conservative, and polarizing.

My parents became exposed to the teachings of organizations and individuals such as Doug Phillips (Vision Forum), Bill Gothard (IBLP), Geoff Botkin (Western Conservatory), and Mike & Debi Pearl (No Greater Joy). On the surface, these people seemed like admirable champions for morality, truth, and wholesome family values.  What could be better? My parents wholeheartedly subscribed to their teachings, and eventually steered the direction of our family away from mainstream Christianity and into the ditch of these extreme right wing fundamentalists.

These organizations promised the world if you followed their “Biblical” teachings; perfect families, obedient children, protected daughters, reprieve from all heartbreak, answers to every problem you could imagine. These God-like men fiercely taught the tenets of patriarchy; they eschewed all forms of feminism; paraded the perfection of male authority and total female submission; warned of the great dangers of the world, and lauded those who welcome as many children as humanly possible into their families.  After all, we were at war with the culture, and we needed to out-number them.

We left our mainstream church with the friendly steeple and started a “home church” with two or three families who felt the same way as my parents did. Home church consisted of singing hymns at home on our couch, while one of the fathers “preached” on the dangers of the world and how we needed to be protected from it lest we be corrupted.  Gender roles were strongly emphasized and the liberal agenda was held up as the devil of our age; something we needed to defeat lest the homosexuals, abortionists, feminists, and the government take over the world.

But my 11 year old mind couldn’t wrap around these concepts.  All I knew was that my parents were happy; they’d found the answer to their problems and the solution to all future familial woes. They taught us the principles they believed in, and as children we knew no different.

 We took to this new patriarchal fundamentalist culture like bees to honey; it was easy, we knew what the rules were, and it made us feel better than the rest of the lazy Christians our friends talked about.

But little did I know where these teachings and philosophies would lead our family, my parents, and myself.  How could I have known? I was just a kid, doing what I was told and learning what I was taught by my well-meaning parents.  How could I have foreseen the heartache, the lost time, the lost opportunities, the emotional bondage, and the dreams I would have taken from me before they even had a chance to develop?

Fast forward to 2008 – my excitement was palpable as I unwrapped the most recent birthday gift from my well-meaning parents; Vision Forum’s newest DVD release “Return of the Daughters” promoting Biblical womanhood and a return to the supposed woman’s role in the home.  I turned over the shiny DVD and read the beautifully crafted summary on the back;

“This highly-controversial documentary will take viewers into the homes of several young women who have dared to defy today’s anti-family culture in pursuit of a biblical approach to daughter hood, using their in-between years to pioneer a new culture of strength and dignity, and to rebuild Western Civilization, starting with the culture of the home.”

Christian patriarchy taught that the woman’s role was in the home.  Her purpose in life was to further the vision of her husband by supporting and obeying him.  Women were to be under the protection and authority of their father until they married, and the time after high school graduation didn’t include college or jobs outside the home. These were deadly distractions that would only corrupt our innocent minds and hearts with feminism and the liberal agenda.

To my innocent and sheltered sixteen year old mind, this sounded like the ultimate ideal. Controversial? Check. Counter cultural? Check. Revolutionary? Check. These ideas all sounded so exciting to me, post high school and bored as I was.

After graduating from high school at the age of seventeen, I hadn’t given college a second thought. According to the teachings of Christian patriarchy, college was no place for the Godly woman. Modern day institutions of higher learning, I was taught, were bastions of liberal thought and hatred for God, and no good could ever come of me leaving my father’s protection for such a place. If higher education was to even be considered, online classes in herbalism, nursing, teaching, or other such womanly arts were the only options I had available to me. But I was far from being deprived by my parents – I’d been taught these ideals for so long that I was the one vehemently asserting that I would never attend college.

My place was at home, waiting for Prince Charming to come along and sweep me off my feet.

So, there I was; post home school high school, insanely bored, and more sure of what NOT to do with my life than what TO do with it. The Botkins’ revolutionary documentary Return of the Daughters was just the fanatical fodder I needed to fuel my ever increasing disdain for modern ideals of the woman.

By this time, we’d joined an actual church that sadly subscribed to all the same beliefs as my parents. One Sunday, in lieu of a sermon, this stomach churning documentary was shown in church. Looking back, the thought of all the little girls (and boys) sitting in those pews watching a film teaching them that girls weren’t mean for education, experience, or college life makes me sick to my stomach. But back then, it was the norm. I watched in awe as my female ideals, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, looked into the camera with their poised grown up demeanor and proclaimed their truth; that feminism was all a lie. An evil ploy by secular humanists to destroy the family and take women away from their God given sphere. A Communist plot to chip away at the fabric of Christian society. That by going to college, holding down jobs, and leaving our father’s protection, we were unwittingly playing right into their hands and helping them destroy God’s design for families. And what’s worse, is it all sounded so plausible. So righteous. So moral. And I ate up every word.

As a home schooled sheltered child, I’d never been exposed to anything different. Anything resembling a feminist idea had been quickly removed from our home, and we’d been consistently taught that women were to be in submission to men. That by submitting to our father, we were practicing for the day when we would be submitting to our future husband. According to the Bible, our job was to support and obey our husband. Our sphere was the home; cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and raising the children while our male authority figure went out to do battle with the real world. Anything not directly supporting this God given mission, we were told, was only the world’s attempt to draw our attention away from our purpose in life.

With this background, I had no trouble swallowing what Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin were all too eager to dish out. In their documentary, they portrayed graceful young women in their early twenties busily staying at home helping their mothers, teaching their young siblings, cooking delicious dinners for daddy, and sewing modest clothing just like the Proverbs 31 woman.

They made it all look so important. So purposeful. Godly women were submissive. Godly women were graceful and modest. Godly women respected and revered their fathers. Godly women spent their days being a servant to their family, without thought to their own wants or desires. And one day, if we were Godly enough and obedient enough, we would be rewarded with a husband of our own – the ultimate goal for a stay-at-home daughter.

I embraced my mission in life vehemently. I cooked, cleaned, and ironed with a passion. I crocheted blankets, sewed skirts, baked bread, copied recipes for my own collection, and washed dishes. After all, I didn’t have to worry about where to go to college, or how to survive on my own as an independent woman. I didn’t have to worry about finding a job, or picking a career. Money wasn’t my problem…..I would be provided for by my future husband.

But my personal version of paradise wouldn’t last.

I was trapped.

Part Two >

Christian Patriarchy on Educating Daughters

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on May 12, 2014.

Okay, let’s take a few minutes to hash out Christian Patriarchy’s view towards women and education. I think this is necessary because I hear one side saying “you don’t believe in educating girls” and the other side saying “no no no, we do educate our daughters, your accusations are ridiculous.” So what is really going on here? I can’t necessarily get at what the ordinary family on the ground is doing, but what I can get at is what the leaders of the movement say. So let’s take a look, shall we?

In a nutshell, the leaders of the Christian Patriarchy movement teach that daughters should be educated for their role as wives, mothers, teachers-at-home, and Proverbs 31 women, but not educated for careers outside of the home. This is summed up in a quote by Michael Farris from his book, The Home Schooling Father:

I want my daughters to have business savvy like the woman honored in Proverbs 31. But I don’t want them chasing the feminist dream of the two-career marriage (or shall we say “living arrangement”). They can’t have it all, as many feminists are beginning to find out. I want to avoid the twin evils of neglecting the proper career training of my daughters, on the one hand, and pushing them to the feminist career mold, on the other. Proverbs 31 teaches a godly balance: A woman who possesses work skills and financial resources, but who uses those skills in a way that keeps her home with her children and husband. The woman in Proverbs 31 does not stay home barefoot and pregnant watching soap operas. She is busy with more than garden clubs and poetry societies. Yet, she is first and foremost at home with her children and husband.

In fact, home schooling offers women the best of both worlds. Home schooling is a job that society values–teaching academics to children. It provides serious intellectual stimulation. It provides many opportunities to be held in esteem by people outside your family. . . . The pay is low. But the ability to be home with your children while working is second to none.

My wife was a very good student in high school and college. Before we began home schooling she would sometimes complain about the lack of intellectual activity in her life of wiping spills, changing diapers, and doing laundry. A couple of times she even wondered out loud about the idea of going to work.

Since we have been home schooling, her need for intellectual challenged has been abundantly satisfied. She has always believed that a mother’s place is in the home. But home schooling turned this belief into an intellectually satisfying lifestyle which provides many tangible rewards. The career I will ‘push’ at my daughters is the same one practiced by their mother.

The leaders of this movement, in other words, want daughters to be taught skills beyond diaper changing and laundry, but they don’t want daughters’ education to orient them towards a career outside the home. Interestingly enough, I can see how these ideas played out in my own life. My sister Heidi and I both attended college but sought degrees that would allow us to bring in extra income by working on the side, out of the home, while filling our proper roles as homeschooling mothers. When we both decided that was not what we wanted, we faced the challenge of turning an education intended to bring in pocket money into one we could forge careers out of.

Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin, daughters of Geoff Botkin and authors of So Much More, similarly endorsed educating women in a blog post last year:

We all want to equip ourselves to be godly women, but do we really know what that equipping should look like? A diet of books on modesty, courtship, and cake decorating will definitely fill the bill if the role we aspire to is simply one of wearing modest clothes, going through a courtship, and decorating cakes. But if we truly believe the biblical role of women is bigger and more significant than this, we need put our money where our mouths are and pursue education and training to match.

They went on to emphasize the importance of women studying law, economics, business, history, and the sciences, among other things. They argued that daughters at home should put their time and energies into becoming educated in a variety of fields, not simply into cooking or cleaning or childcare.

Farris and the Botkin sisters are not the only ones arguing that daughters should be educated, though not for careers outside of the home. Voddie Baucham had his daughter Jasmine, who lives in his home as an obedient “stay-at-home daughter,” obtain a bachelor’s degree and now a master’s degree. Doug Wilson emphasizes the importance of a strong classical education for both sons and daughters and takes a pride in his daughters being well educated and well spoken.

Even Doug Phillips has weighed in:

An encouragement for fathers with older daughters might be for them to be involved in directing “higher education” at home. Having daughters that have graduated from high school still at home is usually something parents have not prepared for. For some families the encouragement needed is for the young ladies to learn all the homemaking and mothering skills required to create an inviting, Christ—honoring home. But, many girls have worked on these skills for years and seem to lack inspiration and vision to study God’s Word in depth and become firmly grounded in theology, church history, world—view, child training, philosophy of education, etc. for themselves. We feel that these are crucial issues for fathers to take responsibility for and direct their daughters in.

In other words, the leaders of the Christian Patriarchy movement are not against educating daughters. What they are against is educating daughters for careers outside of the home. They also have concerns about how their daughters go about being educated—namely, they do not want their daughters educated at secular universities. There is a lot of fear of secular education in these circles, and daughters are often seen as even more in need of protection than sons. Sons are to grow up and enter the world and be accountable straight to God. Daughters, in contrast, are fathers’ responsibility until they hand them off in marriage. Secular education, these leaders believe, provides only a truncated and twisted education that is not a real education at all. In fact, they argue that secular education as currently manifested is explicitly designed to corrupt young believers and lead them to atheism or, at the very least, to a liberal faith that “denies the gospel.”

This is why Michael Farris sent his daughters to Christian colleges. This is why Voddie Baucham enrolled his daughter in College Plus. Christian colleges, and, increasingly, online Christian colleges, are considered a safe alternative—although, again, daughters enrolled in these programs should have being a properly prepared wife, mother, and teacher-at-home as their goal, not a career outside the home. Some, such as Geoff Botkin and Doug Phillips, have continued their adult daughters’ education at home themselves, often focusing on a classical education approach and emphasizing law, economics, and history. Daughters are to be educated, but they should receive an education that teaches “truth,” not a perverted corrupted secular education.

I should note that all of this focuses on the leaders and not on the followers. What do the ordinary families following this ideology do? I suspect that class plays a large role here. The ordinary family may be overwhelmed both financially and emotionally by an ever-growing flock of children, and unable to properly educate even their sons. In this context, daughters’ academic education may seem less important, especially given that the daughters may be kept busy helping with the children and keeping the house running. Most families cannot afford a live-in nanny/helper like the Phillips could, after all.

And the leaders of the Christian Patriarchy movement say things that play into the devaluing of daughters’ academic education in families that are overwhelmed already. For example, R. C. Sproul [Jr.] wrote the following of his exchange with a homeschooling mother:

The mother made a confession to me. She told me, “You know, my nine-year-old daughter doesn’t know how to read.” Now here is a good test to see how much baggage you are carrying around. Does that make you uncomfortable? Are you thinking, “Mercy, what would the school superintendent say if he knew?” My response was a cautious, “Really?” But my friend went on to explain, “She doesn’t know how to read, but every morning she gets up and gets ready for the day. Then takes care of her three youngest siblings. She takes them to the potty, she cleans and dresses them, makes their breakfasts, brushes their teeth, clears their dishes, and makes their beds.” Now I saw her rightly, as an overachiever. If she didn’t know how to read, but did know all the Looney Tunes characters, that would be a problem. But here is a young girl being trained to be a keeper at home. Do I want her to read? Of course I do, as does her mother. I want her to read to equip her to learn the Three Gs. [From earlier in the book, he notes the “Three Gs”: Who is God? What has God done? What does God require?] But this little girl was learning what God requires, to be a help in the family business, with a focus on tending the garden.

I’m not suggesting that the goal is to have ignorant daughters. I am, however, arguing that we are to train them to be keepers at home. These two are not equivalent. Though we aren’t given many details we know that both Priscilla and Aquila had a part in the education of Apollos. I’m impressed with Priscilla, as I am with my own wife. She is rather theologically astute… My point is that that brilliance isn’t what validates her as a person. It’s a good thing, a glorious thing, and an appropriate thing. But it’s like the general principle we’ve already covered. Would I rather be married to a godly woman who was comparatively ignorant, or a wicked person who was terribly bright? Who would make a better wife and mother, someone who doesn’t know infra- from supralapsarianism, but does know which side is up on a diaper, or a woman about to defend her dissertation on the eschatology of John Gill at Cambridge but one who thinks children are unpleasant? It’s no contest, is it? Naturally we want everything. We want all the virtues to the highest degree. But virtues come in different shades and colors in different circumstances.

In other words, educating daughters academically is good and important . . . but it’s more important that daughters learn to willingly and cheerfully change a diaper and make a bed. Doug Phillips has made similar statements:

The Bible actually has a great deal to say about what distinguishes a girl from a woman. For one thing, a mature Christian woman is one who has demonstrated that she has been trained and is ready for marriage. Historically, parents understood that it was their mission to raise their daughters to marriageable maturity so they could enjoy the husband “of their youth.”

To raise a daughter without thought to marriage, to instill in them a spirit of independence from the family, or to focus their training on a career outside the home, is actually to disqualify them for graduation and the next step in life. In contrast, a woman who meets the biblical requirements for graduation is one who is comfortable being under the jurisdiction of her father and seeks to make him successful in every way. She recognizes that God calls women to be under the authority of God-appointed men, first in the form of fathers, and later as husbands.

Note the similarity here to the Michael Farris quote I began with—”To raise a daughter without thought to marriage, to instill in them a spirit of independence from the family, or to focus their training on a career outside the home, is actually to disqualify them for graduation and the next step in life.” Daughters are to be educated, yes—but not for a career outside of the home.

The leaders of the Christian Patriarchy movement believe that preparation for being a wife, mother, and teacher-at-home involves more than simply learning to change diapers and do laundry. They believe that being a proper Proverbs 31 woman should involve learning business, economics, history, law, and education. But all of this is seen as preparation for life as a homemaker and homeschool mother—not for a career outside the home. Indeed, these leaders—from Michael Farris to Doug Phillips—argue that daughters should be actively discouraged from even considering a career outside the home, and should instead be “pushed” towards homemaking and homeschooling as their lifelong destiny.

I don’t have a problem with a woman choosing to be a homemaker and homeschool mother, but that should be a choice, not the only option available to them. And given how unstable the world can sometimes be, even women who choose to stay at home should make sure they have career options available in case of death, divorce, or economic downturn. Heidi and I were lucky. We attended college and received degrees. Even so, our choice of majors was so limited by our assumption that we were not preparing for careers outside the home that we had to make some tough choices when we decided careers outside the home were what we really wanted. How much worse it must be for those who do not receive a college degree, or even more, for those whose parents are so overwhelmed that their education goes on the back burner entirely.

If you tell someone involved in the Christian Patriarchy movement that they do not believe in educating their daughters, they will object to your portrayal and cease to listen to what you are saying. If you, in contrast, tell them that they do not believe in educating their daughters for careers outside the home, they will likely agree. Then, perhaps, you may be able to begin a conversation.

Ready for Real Life: Part Three, Are Your Children Ready?

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Ready for Real Life: Part Three, Are Your Children Ready?

HA note: This series is reprinted with permission from Ahab’s blog, Republic of Gilead. Part Three of this series was originally published on October 6, 2013.

*****

Also in this series: Part One, Botkins Launch Webinar | Part Two, Ready for What? | Part Three, Are Your Children Ready? | Part Four, Ready to Lead Culture | Part Five, Science and Medicine | Part Six, History and Law | Part Seven, Vocations | Part Eight, Q&A Session | Part Nine, Concluding Thoughts

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I am reviewing the “Ready for Real Life” talks, a webinar series on Christian homeschooling hosted by Geoffrey Botkins of the Western Conservatory of the Arts and Sciences. In the previous part, the Botkin family celebrated religious homeschooling as a means of exercising Christian dominion and resisting a supposedly sinful culture. In this part, “Are Your Children Ready for Real Life?”, Geoffrey Botkin and family laid out how Christian homeschoolers should approach the surrounding culture and establish Christianity as their foundation.

Botkins began the webinar with a prayer, thanking God for children and for the way God has designed their lives. He prayed for wisdom and joy in raising children, reminding listeners that they were raising offspring in a supposedly perilous time. “They’re being launched into a very difficult, trying, uncertain century, and we’re living in a country that’s no longer as steady and solid and righteous as it once was,” he said at the 1:17 mark.

Botkins stressed that the best way parents can teach their children to think is to begin with the science of the mind. All science is theological, he insisted, because all things are theological.

“True” scientists in past eras knew that they had to look to theology for a true understanding of reality, he claimed.

God created the mind and personally develops the minds of children, Botkin said. However, the same God can also inhibit the minds of people with poor attitudes and render them mentally slow. “God sharpens the ability to think … or he deliberately deranges the ability to think depending on the attitude of the child or the adult,” he told listeners at the 2:50 mark. At the 4:28 mark, he admonished parents to teach their children well, lest their children behave unrighteously and bring down the wrath of God on themselves.

“Parents, you need to realize that your children and all those children who suppress the truth in unrighteousness personally receive the wrath of God … You cannot let your children suppress the truth that you’re teaching them. You can’t suppress any part of it.”

God’s inflicts his wrath on unrighteous people by instilling them with “moral stupidity”, he claimed. In other words, God causes “moral rebels” to lose their minds, resulting in people who are both intellectually and morally stunted. “All sin makes people intellectually as well as morally stupid,” Botkin asserted, correlating moral clarity with mental clarity.

Botkin’s comment about God “deranging” people’s minds stunned me. Was his statement meant to instill fear in listeners? Believe and have a good attitude or God will scramble your brain! Or was he blaming learning impediments on impiety? If the latter, Botkin’s words essentially blame people for any learning challenges they might face. The idea that learning impediments or problems focusing could have emotional roots (depression, anxiety, trauma) or physiological roots (ADHD, dyslexia, nutritional deficiencies) seems to have escaped Botkin, who prefers to blame the sufferer.

In addition to being fanatical and brazen, Botkin’s comments were incorrect.

If Christian fundamentalism brings moral clarity, which in turn yields mental clarity, one would expect fundamentalist Christians to be brilliant and everyone else to be malfunctioning. However, intelligent people and slow people are to be found among Christians and non-Christians alike. How could Botkin ignore this simple, self-evident fact?

Botkin redefined the word “superstition” to refer to critical approaches to fundamentalism. He reminded parents that they need to correctly interpret the world for their children while in the midst of a “superstitious” culture. One of the most destructive “superstitions” in modern society is the belief that smart people have abandoned God’s covenantal ethics, Botkin claimed.

Parents must teach their children how to decipher our “broken, immoral culture” by using scripture as the standard for all thinking, Botkin insisted. A child’s moral foundation must rest on the ethical system of the Bible, he stressed. Botkin spent several minutes speaking warmly of raising children with God’s law.

At this point, Geoffrey Botkin’s son David chimed in. David Botkin emphasized to listeners that parents must teach children the word of God with great sincerity, and that the word of God must dominate children’s lives.

David spoke approvingly of his father’s influence in his life, such as his father’s emphasis on scripture as a tool for interpreting the world and his love of R.J. Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law. 

David stressed that the law of God applies to everyone, including the President, and to all matters. He claimed that while in Washington D.C., his father was included in a conference call regarding military action after Saddam Hussein’s forces invaded Kuwait. According to David’s account, Geoffrey Botkin advised the conference call participants to give a warning to Saddam Hussein before initiating military action, in keeping with Biblical teachings, and later felt ashamed when he could not recall the exact Biblical verses supporting this approach.

Geoffrey Botkin’s daughters, Anna Sophia and Elizabeth, chimed into the discussion as well. Anna Sophia Botkin discussed daily scripture reading in the Botkin family, sharing a quote from Cotton Mather on drawing lessons out of Bible verses. Elizabeth Botkin explored the question of whether it is beneficial to make children read the Bible if they don’t want to. She admitted that as a child, she did not always enjoy reading the Bible, but she was eventually saved over time by reading scripture. Only scripture can reform an “unregenerate heart”, she said, quoting a passage in Romans 10 that associated faith with hearing the word of God.

Geoffrey Botkin emphasized that parents must teach their children critical thinking, given the importance of discernment in navigating a world steeped in “superstition and falsehood”. Christians cannot be carried away by every “wind of doctrine”, and thus Christian parents must teach their children to have strong convictions in their faith. Otherwise, a child’s faith can be “stolen” by another child who dares them to change their mind. When teaching his children discernment, Geoffrey Botkin instructed them to ask two questions about any issue: what is lawful, and under whose jurisdiction does the matter fall?

The Botkins talked at length about how parents must be gatekeepers over what information their children absorb.

Geoffrey’s son Isaac Botkin noted that his father taught him to look for “useful work by the ungodly”, that is, positive cultural contributions by non-Christians. Geoffrey Botkin expanded on this point at the 44:03 mark, arguing that Christians can learn from non-Christian writers while rejecting their supposedly fallacious conclusions. 

“We go to the ungodly sometimes to learn from them in matters of detail, while we differ wholly on matters of principle, and that’s what we teach. We teach our children principle. We say, ‘Look at this poor writer. He’s seeing everything that’s going on. He makes phenomenal observations, but conclusions are mixed up.’ Why? Because he does not understand Biblical principle.”

I found Botkin’s comments to be contradictory. Earlier in the webinar, Geoffrey Botkin argued that people with impious attitudes can be afflicted with both moral and intellectual stupidity. Later, however, Botkin admitted that non-Christians can make intelligent observations and offer cultural contributions of substance.

I remain puzzled on how Geoffrey Botkin reconciles these two assertions.

Geoffrey Botkin addressed a listener’s question on how soon to expose children to the internet and to writers that one disagrees with. In response, he argued that a child’s spiritual character, rather than their chronological age, determines when they are ready for such influences. At the 45:55 mark, he argued against giving internet access to a child who is “pining away” for “fellowship or companionship with the bad guys”, framing the outside world as a potentially corrupting enemy.

“If you’re a friend of the world, you’re at war with God, and because we’re training our children to be on the right side of the battle, the great antithesis of time, the battlefield that I spoke of earlier, they must stay on the right side … If I have a child who’s really pining away for the grass greener on the other side of the fence, on the other part of the battlefield where all the enemies are because he wants to have fellowship or companionship with the bad guys, I would not let him be on the internet or to be reading somebody’s book. He’s not ready, he’s not willing, he’s not able to absorb the truth and process it and then apply it to the battle in the right way. We could train some of our children to be skilled in many different things and turn them loose to fight for the wrong side if we’re not careful about what we give them and when we give them.”

Geoffrey Botkin’s words on the outside world were revealing. In Botkin’s worldview, the larger world is an ominous enemy “battlefield”, where Christians must fight for dominion. Non-fundamentalist ideas from “bad guys” serve as potentially corrupting influences that can contaminate unsuspecting minds.

Such an attitude is not conducive to critical thinking, open-mindedness, or a robust learning experience.

Victoria Botkin and several of the Botkin children spoke at length about effective writing and the importance of writing in a homeschool curriculum. The Botkin children spent the rest of the webinar discussing various topics around communication, such as effective speaking, the flaws of excessive reliance on “humanistic” rational argument, and struggles with social awkwardness.

Even this seemingly mundane subject drew revealing commentary from the Botkins. For instance, David Botkin argued that good writing must reflect unwavering dedication to some absolute truth. At the 1:06:10 mark, David claimed that “ideological heavyweights” among Christianity’s “enemies” were effective communicators because they tenaciously clung to their standpoints. 

“The word of God needs to be your standard for absolute truth in everything that you write … When we think about the ideological heavyweights of the last couple centuries, our enemies, people like Marx and Mao Zedong, these have all been people that resolutely clung to something as a source of absolute truth, and that’s what made them effective. If you don’t resolutely cling to something as a source of absolute truth, and I say it needs to be scripture, then what you write, your output, will be weak and affective.”

First, when I think of intellectual “heavyweights” from the past two centuries, ideologues such as Mao Zedong do not come to mind.

David Botkin could have chosen from hundreds of groundbreaking men and women whose ideas changed the world, but he chose Marx (a boogeyman of fundamentalists) and Mao Zedong (a communist dictator) instead. Second, effective writing rests on sound reasoning and solid evidence for one’s claims, not necessarily stubbornness. Many good thinkers are willing to evolve, adjusting their ideas as new evidence or new arguments become available. Confidence and sound arguments, not inflexibility, are the marks of a mature thinker.

At the end of the webinar, Geoffrey Botkin encouraged listeners to take in the next part of the webinar series, “Ready to Lead Culture”. At the 1:20:03 mark, he emphasized the importance of teaching children to carry out Christian dominion in the arts and media, which will be discussed in depth in the next webinar. 

“You must be getting your children ready not just to follow along and conform themselves to the culture that they’re in, but literally to analyze it and then lead it and realize what needs to be done, realize their place in the world. They have the authority to lead it. How to take dominion of the arts without the arts taking dominion of you. So, your children are exposed to all kinds of media and the arts every day. Is it taking control of them and taking dominion over them, or do they have wisdom to know how to take dominion over that, to either get rid of it, to change it, to jump in there and lead the way in music and in the visual arts, in media, in filmaking?”

In conclusion, this part of the “Ready for Real Life” webinar series featured the following themes:

  • Fundamentalist Christianity as the foundation of children’s lives. The Botkins argued for the centrality of the Bible — or rather, an inerrant interpretation of the Bible — in the moral and intellectual lives of children.
  • The outside world as an enemy and a corrupting influence. The Botkins repeatedly spoke of the outside world as “bad guys” and an “enemy”, describing Christian interaction with the larger world in terms of battle. The webinar repeatedly framed Christian interaction with society as a zero sum game; Christians could either exert dominion over the surrounding culture, or succumb to its contaminating influence. The idea that Christians could be part of an open marketplace of ideas, rather than exercise dominion or be dominated, was not considered.
  • Parental control over what children absorb. The Botkins stressed the importance of keeping children away from non-Christian cultural influences until their adherence to Christianity was solid. Non-Christian materials could be introduced to children’s curricula later, but the Botkins encouraged parents to point out ideas that did not reflect fundamentalism. (“Look at this poor writer. He’s seeing everything that’s going on. He makes phenomenal observations, but conclusions are mixed up. Why? Because he does not understand Biblical principle.”)
  • Christian faith equated with intelligence. Geoffrey Botkin made the profoundly flawed argument that Christian faith produces both moral and intellectual sharpness, and likewise, that impiety produces moral and intellectual “stupidity”.  However, in a seeming contradiction of this claim, the Botkins later assert that non-Christians could make sophisticated cultural contributions. While the Botkins acknowledged that non-Christian thinkers could offer useful information, they still viewed such thinkers as imperfect at best.

Stay tuned for commentary on the next part of the Botkin’s “Ready for Real Life” webinar!

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To be continued.