Jeyoani (my oldest daughter, who is 33) read the following paragraphs to me from a website she’d come across after we’d been talking about Kathryn Joyce’s new book, Quiverfull. I’d visited the site before and recognized it as a Doug Phillips/Vision Forum kind of a place and therefore, I’d had no interest in lingering. The paragraphs were written by a young woman in the Quiverfull community who had recently married.
Before I was married, much of who I was, what I believed and understood was wrapped up in my father’s vision. Since marrying I’ve undergone a surgery of sorts to replace Dad’s vision with Pete’s.
My loyalties had to undergo a change. I was used to thinking that Dad knew best. Now I needed to learn to think that Pete knows best. I used to do things and invest my time in projects according to what I knew Dad would want me to do. Now I needed to be guided by what Pete wanted me to do. When faced with a problem or an option I couldn’t think, “What would Dad have done in this situation?” Now I had to think, “What would Pete do in this situation?” These were exciting times and difficult as during this state of flux—learning to replace one man’s vision with another—the devil would come around and say, “But what about what you want? What about what you think?
…Taking on Pete’s vision is a very exciting thing. Studying him, learning more and more about his vision, his convictions, his desires for our family, our time, our money, our spiritual walk has been, well, romantic! Like RC Sproul Jr says, “the most romantic thing in the world is when a man shares his vision with his wife.”
It is my experience that indeed, guys like RC Sproul, Jr. and girls and women groomed from childhood to serve them find dominance and submission in intimate relationships “romantic.” But I’m not going to go there right now.
The above paragraphs and similar writings remind me of a chorus we used to sing regularly during our house church days. It was one of our favorites and one we especially taught to the children:
I’ll obey to serve you
I’ll obey to show I trust you
I’ll obey, my life is in your hands
“Cause that’s the way to prove my love
When feelings go away
If it costs me everything, I’ll obey
My experience is that only rarely are outsiders to this world able to comprehend what it does to girls and women to be immersed in beliefs and teachings like this, particularly from their earliest moments of life. A while back I was involved in a discussion about the way state authorities removed children of the FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints) from their Texas community and placed them in foster homes, taking them from their mothers. I said I believed it was the fathers — those directly responsible for harming women and children and teaching young men and boys to continue to do so –who should have been removed from the community, not the children, not the mothers, grandmothers, women. I said that given time away from these men with men denied access to them or their children (as they should have been, given that they were perpetrators and rapists or complicit in rape and sexual assault), the mothers would begin to recognize the severity of their experiences, how wrong it was that they and their children had been abused, and they could be expected to begin to care for their children, themselves and one another appropriately and nonabusively. This idea was met with all sorts of resistance, the mothers’ failure to protect their children from these men cited as evidence they were not trustworthy as mothers. I didn’t bother to engage beyond that point, no sense throwing good energy after bad.
Living all of one’s life inside a context and community, and in intimate relationships, in which you are required to regularly, consciously, in a committed way and under threat of punishment, reject your own wants, needs, desires, even thoughts, replacing them with those of your male authorities, takes its toll on girls, on women — mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. This is indisputably true. Once abusers are out of our lives, though, bit by bit, little by little, with help and support, girls and women in situations like this will begin to see more clearly, will begin to recognize and acknowledge not only all the ways they have been affected, harmed, abused, mistreated, but all the ways they have also participated — however unwittingly — in harming their own children and one another. Safe space, time away from men who are abusive, is necessary if this journey is to begin for victimized women. Who women and girls are in the context of intentional, conscientiously practiced patriarchal religion, and what they do and seem to believe in those communities, are not who they will be, what they are, or what they will do once they have safety and the time and space to begin to talk about what has happened to them.
I want to write about these matters, write my responses to Kathryn’s book. But, its hard. Just reading her book is heartbreaking to me on so many levels. I read a few pages, then find it takes me days, even weeks to recover sufficiently to be able to pick the book up again and read some more.
But the past couple of days I’ve been thinking about this song and the young woman’s words above, so I thought I would write about it.