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I have been studying, reading, and contemplating this series for a few weeks now, and despite my nervousness at publishing it, I think it’s an important topic.  I include it on my blog because this group is infiltrating homeschooling communities across the country and not representing themselves accurately Biblically.  Please feel free to comment; if you disagree with me, that’s fine – but keep your comments clean, polite, and respectful.  Those who don’t will find their comments deleted at my discretion.  –Sue

If you’re new here and want to start at the beginning of this series, start reading here.

So Is VF a Christian Group?

The jury is still out on this one.  There are tenets of Christian faith (it is a Calvinist-based Dominionist offshoot), but the majority of Biblical scholars consider the group to be heretical.  The preponderance of emphasis placed on Old Testament living, laws, and ideas that are specific to the group (in some ways, almost secretive) not supported/refuted by New Testament scripture places it squarely in the “gnostic-type” heretical category.  Gnostics, just as a refresher, were an offshoot in the early first century who said (among other things) that they had a “special knowledge” that set them apart and made them “more Christian” than other Christ-followers.

What is appealing about joining a group like this?  I’ve pondered this one for some time now and can come up with one of three scenarios:

  1. The husband in the relationship is a control-freak who, based on his past and the baggage he brings to the relationship, needs absolute control over all circumstances in his life in order to feel secure.  The wife he marries will either marry him unknowingly (i.e., he keeps the control-side hidden during courtship) or comes from a chatoic background and sees his ability to be controlling as a “calming influence” in her life, one that’s a welcomed-change.
  2. The husband in the situation has an inferiority-complex and is drawn to the Patriarchal idea that the husband is always right, is never wrong, and can have absolute control over his family.  He might have abuse in his background that led him to feel this way, or have grown up with authoritarian parents who stripped him of all ability to make wise choices in his life, leaving him feeling as though he will never measure up.  His wife might play in to his inferiority complex by being particularly strong (or even abusive), and he sees this as an opportunity to “take control of his life.”
  3. The couple is drawn in, incrementally, to the structure and comfort of “old world values” that VF/IBLP seems to provide.  The catalogs and seminars are rife with imagery of pre-Industrial-Revolution America; a time when rebellion in teenagers and families falling apart was less-common (and/or less-publicized).  The husband might not have any baggage and this might be a joint-decision for he and his wife.  They may not have a huge amount of Biblical knowledge and put themselves at the mercy of the Bill Gothards and Doug Phillips of the movement, not understanding how things are being twisted out of context and warped beyond what God intended.  Like many groups that seek to promote a “counter-culture existence,” there’s a strong sense of camaraderie and belonging, and if in the group long enough, evidence of “shunning” for those who choose to leave.  This is oftentimes powerful motivation to “stay within the folds” and continue in this lifestyle, even if it’s not working for the family unit.

There are probably other extenuating circumstances and ways people get involved in VF/IBLP, but I think these are the major reasons.  Is abuse at the heart of every man who chooses to lead his family in patriarchial theology?  I don’t think it’s quite that dastardly.  But sometimes pride is a big stumbling block to admitting that one has gone down a wrong path, and someone without a desire to be abusive will continue on the path simply because it’s embarrassing or too humbling to make a U-turn.

So why did I spend all of this time writing about this?  Why did I focus so much on this heretical sect?  Partially because their words about debt, children, and values is so enticing.  Partially because their influence is hitting the homeschooling community hard right now.  And partially because my heart absolutely aches for women in this type of group.  They have little hope, little joy, and many burdens.  Their men are “faultless,” and they bear the brunt for everything wrong in their marriages and families.  I want them to know, even if it’s through words of a friend who might read this:  this isn’t all there is to life with God.  He has SO much more for you than this. If even one woman glimpses hope and finds strength to leave this sect, it’s worth it to me.  If even one person reads this and is dissuaded from getting further involved in VF and their political agenda, it’s worth it.

The things of God are not as burdensome as the things of man.  Ever.  If you doubt me, that’s fine – but give benefit of doubt to the Man Who said it (oh yeah, and He rose from the dead, so go with Him anyhow):

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

I have been studying, reading, and contemplating this series for a few weeks now, and despite my nervousness at publishing it, I think it’s an important topic.  I include it on my blog because this group is infiltrating homeschooling communities across the country and not representing themselves accurately Biblically.  Please feel free to comment; if you disagree with me, that’s fine – but keep your comments clean, polite, and respectful.  Those who don’t will find their comments deleted at my discretion.  –Sue

If you’re new here and want to start at the beginning of this series, start reading here.

Patriarchy

Patriarchy is a model which says the man (husband) is the head of the household to the exclusion of all other family members.  It takes the Biblical concept of “headship” and expands on it to Old Testament levels, saying that the husband is worthy of being called “lord” and that his wife and children exist to serve him.  Not that the family unit is designed to work together for love and commitment and to serve God, but that they are to serve him.  It’s Selfishness 101, justified with an Old Testament framework that refuses to consider Philippians 2 as the model of serving each other in love.

Additionally, VF theology demands that women not have any spiritual authority – they are permitted to teach each other and young children, but even as their boys “age out” and become young men, the mothers aren’t considered “worthy” to teach spiritual principles or correct their growing sons.  I cannot imagine being so constrained that I didn’t have authority to teach my son as he grew – and yet, this is common.

Within this framework, women are definitely second-class citizens, and the lack of interest in educating girls/women takes on a whole new significance.

Marriage

No one gets married with the idea that it’s going to be a limited-time engagement.  No one actively lobbies for divorce or harbours the idea that divorce is easy, fun, or emotionally-edifying.  I firmly believe that the divorce rate is what it is today because the majority of us are woefully under-educated in how to keep a marriage together through the tough times.  In the good times, it’s hard to maintain real-life relationships that can steady us through rough waters; without those relationships in place, it’s particularly tough to find strength or anchor in the choppy seas of marital conflict.  Life isn’t meant to be lived alone – in a community, we can support each other and learn from each other on how to make our marriages work.

However, as a future marriage-therapist, I will say that no one worth his or her salt in marriage & family therapy would EVER suggest that marital problems are entirely the fault of one party.

And yet, VF/IBLP (like the FLDS) say that it’s always the fault of the wife.  Always.

This rankles me more than I can rightly express.  Pieces of my life have come back in to focus as I’ve studied and talked about this group.  There was a point in my past when I did an online study with a woman who purported to be my “mentor,” and we worked through The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace.  The book had many of these principles in it – every problem in my marriage was my fault, despite the fact that most of the things we were dealing with were issues LONG before I even met my husband.  One friend asked me why I was continuing the study if it bothered me so much, and my only answer was, “I’m not a quitter.  Maybe the book gets better…?”  It didn’t and I should’ve had the guts to quit the program and move on long before it was over.

Was I completely faultless in our marriage?  No, but my reactions were to things that were far beyond the scope of “just be a submissive wife and let your husband do what he wants.”  I don’t really believe than any marriage is ever fixed with those words – it just sweeps the issues under the rug and the couple then gets to dance on the edge of rug as the nameless lump in the middle gets larger through the years.

According to this theology, it doesn’t matter if the husband in the patriarchal marriage comes with tons of baggage, a history of abuse (sexual, emotional, verbal, or physical), it’s ALWAYS the wife’s fault for tension in the relationship.  It doesn’t matter if the husband demands that his wife be pregnant and raise 12 children and then doesn’t lift a finger to help with the family’s needs or chores around the house – it’s her fault for not being able to maintain the household, absorb the stress, and then be a willing and coy sexual partner.

the last installment in this series is here

I have been studying, reading, and contemplating this series for a few weeks now, and despite my nervousness at publishing it, I think it’s an important topic.  I include it on my blog because this group is infiltrating homeschooling communities across the country and not representing themselves accurately Biblically.  Please feel free to comment; if you disagree with me, that’s fine – but keep your comments clean, polite, and respectful.  Those who don’t will find their comments deleted at my discretion.  –Sue

If you’re new here and want to start at the beginning of this series, start reading here.

Politics

There is much more to VF beliefs than just their strange use of Bible verses to mandate things that God never mandated; much of it is rooted in political belief that they are creating an “army for God.”  As a conservative (Libertarian), this makes my skin crawl.  I don’t want an army of people fighting culture “for God” and muddying the waters.  For if they consider any woman who disagrees with their twisted theology “white washed feminists,” what will they call political opponents who disagree with them?

Additionally, I genuinely don’t believe that God NEEDS them to make an army for Him.  Jesus Himself said in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Don’t you know that I could ask My Father and He would send thousands of angels to protect us, instantly?” (Matthew 26:53)  God is fully capable of raising His own army – I sincerely doubt that He needs our “help” in this arena, seeing as we humans tend to misunderstand, misinterpret, and misapply so many of His actual commands to us.  Some things are better left in His hands than taken in to ours.

Because we’re talking about child-rearing, I’ll include the idea that children (and wives) need to be perfectly obedient according to Gothard and VF.  If children are “out of control” or “rebellious,” it is seen as a reflection on the husband that he doesn’t have his home “in control.”  And because in patriarchy (which I’ll talk about more tomorrow) there is an extreme amount of pressure put on all members of the family, a patriarchal man cannot risk being seen by his community as “out of control.”  Although not part of the patriarchy movement per se, there is much written about Michael & Debi Pearl, who have written books about how to bring your children in to “perfect submission” with plumbing line (for beatings that don’t leave a mark), and more.  Fear is the main tool used in child-rearing in this particular group – children are taught to fear their fathers (lest they receive a beating) and they’re taught to fear God, Who comes across ogre-ish through the eyes of a child (or under-educated woman) and simply wants perfect obedience.  There is no space for grace in this belief system.

But between the mandate to have many (perfectly obedient) children and the discouragement to educate them, this begins to make more sense to me:  if you’re raising an “army,” you don’t want an army that will question leadership.  You want an army that will take commands and do them without thinking.  You don’t want to foster independent-thinking or critical thinking skills; you want foot-soldiers who are easy to control.  Plus, it becomes unmanageable to consider educating (properly) all of those children when you’re encouraged/told/forced to have a dozen or so, unless one is incredibly independently wealthy.  So by removing the education-aspect of raising children, you’ve just removed one of the major objections many have to having 10 or more children.  And you’ve just insured that your lifestyle and theology will likely be passed along, because the children will grow in to adults with little-to-no critical-thinking ability.  They won’t need it – they’ll simply form “God’s army” and mow down their opponents with force and sheer numbers, right?  No reason to spread the Gospel – heathen are heathen; white-washed feminists are lost and going to Hell if they disagree with you.

Convenient, eh?

the next installment is here

I have been studying, reading, and contemplating this series for a few weeks now, and despite my nervousness at publishing it, I think it’s an important topic.  I include it on my blog because this group is infiltrating homeschooling communities across the country and not representing themselves accurately Biblically.  Please feel free to comment; if you disagree with me, that’s fine – but keep your comments clean, polite, and respectful.  Those who don’t will find their comments deleted at my discretion.  –Sue

If you’re new here and want to start at the beginning of this series, start reading here.

Reproduction / Quiverful

Another principle that is mandated by VF/IBLP is that women must have as many children as humanly possible.  It’s called the principle of being “quiverful,” which is based on Psalm 127:3-5.  These verses are a statement of fact – saying that children are a blessing.  I have no qualms with this.  I also have no problems with people having as many children as they wish and as they can support.  To each couple:  blessings, happy sex, and joyous returns in the form of little ones.

But is this verse a mandate to have as many children as possible?  Biblical scholars say no.  If it was a command, it wouldn’t appear in Psalms, which is a book of poetry; it would have appeared in one of the books of the law (i.e., Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy), as God would have instructed the Israelites to fulfill it as part of the Mosaic Law.  Hmmm.  This seems to be glossed over by the VF/IBLP people.

What happens when you make something law that isn’t really God’s law?  Innocent people get caught in the cross-fire.  What does this do to women (like me) who have multiple miscarriages and for whom conceiving is not only a major miracle, but also life-threatening?  Mark nearly lost me and Brendan when I was 25 weeks pregnant – this is not something we wanted to do again, not because I think I’m so valuable, but because our son is that valuable and to leave him without a mother is an unacceptable risk.

To complicate matters, many people in this particular camp don’t believe in/practice adoption.  They have fear-based beliefs about “spiritual baggage that comes with adoption” and so they won’t consider giving a home to a child who has none.  To me, it’s not only the height of arrogance to attempt to put people under this yoke of bondage, but also to refuse to help those who need it most – orphans.  James 1:27a has some really strong things to say about this, but this verse seems to be overlooked by the VF/IBLP people.  They’ll focus on one set of verses out of Psalms and make it law, but they won’t consider these words:  Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress…

What happens when you mix the mandate for as many children as possible with women who may not feel equipped to have a gaggle of kids (oh, and homeschool all of them, too!)?  Situations where women might struggle with postpartum depression, exhaustion, overwhelm, and more.  But within this system, there is virtually no assistance for a mother who might find herself “failing” at the standards set before her.  The FLDS justify polygamy by saying that “sister wives” can help raise each other’s children and help each other with house chores (which escapees from this lifestyle roundly deny as reality).  Women who are subjected to this particular lifestyle and religious system are simply told to maintain their quiet and gentle spirits (1 Peter 3:4).  To me, that’s awfully close-sounding to the phrase “keep sweet!” that the FLDS use to indicate that they shouldn’t complain about mistreatment, abuse, or anything else.  Hmmm.

the next installment is here

I have been studying, reading, and contemplating this series for a few weeks now, and despite my nervousness at publishing it, I think it’s an important topic.  I include it on my blog because this group is infiltrating homeschooling communities across the country and not representing themselves accurately Biblically.  Please feel free to comment; if you disagree with me, that’s fine – but keep your comments clean, polite, and respectful.  Those who don’t will find their comments deleted at my discretion.  –Sue

If you’re new here and want to start at the beginning of this series, start reading here.

In the interest of making it easier to read, I’m breaking down the categories with which I have issues with VF:

Clothing / Modesty

Some things of the VF seem rather harmless on the surface.  Who doesn’t want to dress their daughters modestly and be modest themselves?  Who wants to put their little girls in “prosti-tot” clothes and hyper-sexualize them?  Most of us wish to let our children be children for as long as possible without unduly sexualizing them or letting society do it for us.

But does modesty have to equal one particular style of dress?  The FLDS says it does – and their women wear baggy, formless dresses in the prairie-style of the late 1800s.  The Taliban says it does – and they insist that their women wear burquas – a black covering from head-to-toe that disguises the shape and features of a woman.  VF also proscribes its own form of “modest clothing,” although somewhat less severe than the other two groups.  Their style is more in line with the FLDS for young girls (jumpers, pinafores, dresses) and for older girls and women, very long (floor-length) skirts and jumpers.  The idea appears to be “hide every ounce of skin so as not to cause your brother to stumble and look at you with lust.”  I can appreciate that – partly.  Do I have an obligation to not cause my fellow believer to stumble?  Yes I do – according to Romans 14:13, I’m not to be a “stumbling block” to a fellow believer.  Cool.

But if the issue is lust, is the obligation ALL mine, or does the person struggling with lust have some obligation as well?  I believe it’s the latter.  I can dress like Queen Victoria (who insisted that the legs of a piano be covered, lest a man see a piano leg and begin lusting over a woman’s leg – no, that is not a joke) and if someone I attend church with has problems with lust, it won’t matter HOW I’m dressed.  A perfect example of this for me is found in Turkey.  Muslim women there wear hijab, the traditional head-coverings.  They are appropriately covered as a woman is expected to be there, but there is pornography in the daily newspaper.  The prevailing attitude seems to be:  Don’t look at MY woman, but feel free to ogle OTHER women in a degrading way.  This blows my mind – and says that lustful thoughts have very little to do with how women dress and far more to do with what’s in the heart and mind of the person with the lustful thoughts.

More confession:  I prefer skirts to pants and wear skirts and/or dresses daily.  My husband doesn’t ask me to, I just do it on my own.  I have no religious compunction about it, I just like being a girl and dressing this way.  Yet my clothes are “too flashy” for most at VF – the skirts are either too short (knee-length), too patterned (floral prints), or something else would be deemed immodest.

So where is the problem with dressing modestly?  There really isn’t one – unless it’s taken to an extreme.  Modest clothing is not seen as wearing pants and a top that doesn’t expose too much skin, it’s about wearing the right skirt – long, typically denim, and fitting a particular style or expectation.  It’s another load added on to the already-heavy yoke of perfect-submission for girls and women.  It fails to account for the Spirit of God directing and guiding individuals – and says instead that man will direct and guide individuals.  The trouble is, when God does it, it’s not burdensome.  When man does it, it is – and it lacks joy, peace, and other hallmarks of the Spirit.

the next installment is here

I have been studying, reading, and contemplating this series for a few weeks now, and despite my nervousness at publishing it, I think it’s an important topic.  I include it on my blog because this group is infiltrating homeschooling communities across the country and not representing themselves accurately Biblically.  Please feel free to comment; if you disagree with me, that’s fine – but keep your comments clean, polite, and respectful.  Those who don’t will find their comments deleted at my discretion.  –Sue

If you’re new here and want to start at the beginning of this series, start reading here.

So fast forward several months to November, 2010.  The VF catalog shows up in my mailbox and I realize that getting the “free book” from them means that I’m on their mailing list.  I have no desire to be on their list, and throw the catalog away, summarily.

Then, as life is wont to do, I end up having a random discussion with a friend in Kentucky about VF.  As I start putting two-and-two together (inevitably arriving at four), I realize why it is that VF rubs me the wrong way.  It’s not just because it’s patriarchal and sets up situations that are ripe for (and with) abuse, it’s not even that they twist Scripture passages to suit their needs.  It’s that they are oddly reminiscent of Bill Gothard (of Basic Life Principles fame).

Gothard enjoyed something of a “fad status” in the 60s and 70s (I was too young to know this at the time), and had some really strange ideas about music (stating that the beat of the music can be “good” or “evil” – huh?), about why the flood took place when Noah was on earth (it was because people were dating.  Yeah, not because “the wickedness of man was great on the earth” (Genesis 6:5, NASB), but because they went on dates. <insert raised eyebrow here>), and more.

What I object to the most is that Gothard (along with his followers) tends to take one or two passages out of the Bible and apply them hard-and-fast across life.  Sometimes this is ok – there’s no Christ-follower who would deny the validity of Romans 3:23 (“for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”) across the board.  But on other issues such as infant circumcision, medical care, homeschooling, even having a plethora of children… caution must be exercised.  What Gothard and others end up doing is creating an enormously large, legalistic burden for those who take the message seriously.  There is only ONE way, and if you don’t do it THIS way, you are doomed.  Contrast that to the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:29-30:  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Such a difference!

Additionally, I dislike the lack of accountability Gothard has built in to his organization, but that’s neither here nor there.  It’s simply a personal dislike because I really do believe that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

So how does this link back to VF and patriarchy?  Gothard has morphed his material over the years and is now teaching things about “perfect obedience” for children and their mothers (both have to obey both God and the father/husband in the family perfectly) that dovetails with VF.  Doug Phillips has been speaking at Gothard events (a seminar called Advanced Training Institute or ATI) and is closely linked to Bill Gothard himself.

find the next installment here

I have been studying, reading, and contemplating this series for a few weeks now, and despite my nervousness at publishing it, I think it’s an important topic.  I include it on my blog because this group is infiltrating homeschooling communities across the country and not representing themselves accurately Biblically.  Please feel free to comment; if you disagree with me, that’s fine – but keep your comments clean, polite, and respectful.  Those who don’t will find their comments deleted at my discretion.  –Sue

If you’re new here and want to start at the beginning of this series, start reading here.

Might it be that girls also learn of their personal worth in college and graduate school?  HOLY COW this one made me mad.  What sets them apart from the Taliban, which says that educating girls is a “waste”?  Do we or do we not value each and every soul God has put on this earth and believe that education is the way to learn of Him, of His love, who we are, and how we fit in to His plan?

Additionally, not educating girls is a hallmark of the FLDS.  Yes, the polygamous group in Colorado City, AZ, in Bountiful, Canada, and at the YFZ Ranch in Texas believe that educating girls is a waste – girls are born to be ‘breeders’ and have no means to enter eternity without a husband and a bevy of children.

What does education do?  It allows people to think – or rather, to learn critical thinking skills.  What is at risk in situations where girls are educated?  Control.  Power.  Dominance.  Someone who is interested in promulgating his own belief system and controlling others eschews education because the more his “subjects” learn, the less he can control them.  True with the Taliban.  True with the FLDS.  True with VF?  We’ll see.

The authors go on to say that if you reject their Westernized theology in any way, you are a “white washed feminist.”  Huh.  That’s really funny, because I’m not.  But I am a critical thinker and a non-Calvinist, non-Dominionist Christ-follower who, like the group of believers Paul encouraged in Acts (the Bereans) has the ability to “examine the Scriptures every day to see if … [it] was true.” (Acts 17:11)  But somehow, doing this puts me staunchly in the camp of “white washed feminist” in the eyes of the authors.  It seems to me that if your belief system can’t stand up to scrutiny without lobbing insults, it’s not really much of a belief system.

Additionally, westernizing Bible verses that are universal isn’t really a sound anthropological practice, either.  The authors profess that a woman should NEVER work outside the home (or inside the home, other than housework, homeschooling, and caring for her family) – ever.  So for the widow in Guatemala…?  Yeah, nope.  She can’t provide for her family, according to these authors; at least, not without blaspheming the Word of God and being a “white-washed feminist.”  What about the woman whose husband is severely disabled and unable to work?  Unh-unh.  No grace here, ladies.  What about the woman who feels called to missions – serving people in another part of the country or world?  Another >BUZZ!< sound comes from the judges’ booth.  Nope, not permissible, either.  What about the woman who chooses instead to remain unmarried?  Surely there’s an exemption for her!  Ummm, no.  There’s not.  Their model of belief only works for two-parent families (sorry, widows and never-marrieds!) where the husband is able-bodied and willing to provide for his family in a way that permits the wife to stay at home.  This sounds more like FLDS practice and/or the Taliban than anything we find here in “Christian America.”

One might argue that one book sold by the VF might not be completely within the vision of the VF; it might just be a book sold on their site, much like Amazon.com.  Except that the book in question was published by VF’s own publishing house and one of the authors (Jennie Chancey) is married to a man who some consider to be Doug Phillips’ “right hand man.”  The book seems to be a pretty accurate portrayal of the beliefs of VF and made me certain that I wouldn’t be partaking in VF-anything.

read the next installment here

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