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“If it costs me everything, I’ll obey”

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.”

Link

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.

Heart

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Discussion

10 thoughts on ““If it costs me everything, I’ll obey”

  1. If what that young woman said does not demonstrate complete brainwashing, I don’t know what ever could.
    I am so-o-o glad that you have broken free.

    Posted by MaryOGrady | April 8, 2009, 10:24 pm
  2. I read a few pages, then find it takes me days, even weeks to recover sufficiently

    I hear that! It has been a long time since I left my “group.” (I don’t know what to call them, since I’m trying to avoid “cult” because it has connotations for some, and “abusive totalist patriarchal so-called religious community” is too long. ; ) ) And yet still sometimes I have flashbacks and get plunged right back into the misery. As I wrote elsewhere, I think that’s because it wasn’t the only totalist authoritarian mindset I was subjected to. So I’m still trying to break free of the less obvious abusive structures, even at my late age.

    Reading about this young woman made me want to bang my head against the wall and scream. I felt as if I were choking. We had a lot of those songs we used to sing, too. One of them went:
    “I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Though none go with me, still I will follow . . . . The cross before me, the world behind me . . . no turning back, no turning back.”

    It was sung in a very slow, kind of emotional, moan-y way, often with everyone swaying back and forth in unison. I get a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach just thinking about it. It was made very clear to us that what this meant was that we should turn our backs on family, career, education, and plans for the future, and commit to obeying the vision of our leaders, no matter what. If that caused death or extreme misery, so what! We had no right to examine the situation using reason and common sense, and say “Hey, this is not a good idea. I’m not going to do it!” We were now the property of God and HE (through HIS male leaders, of course) would dispose of us as HE saw fit.

    This was supposed to be the most wonderful thing ever–being the slaves of God! But it made me feel sick. I didn’t know how to fight it, though, because it seemed the logical conclusion from scripture and tradition. It still does . . . which is why I’ve had to dispense with both of them. ; ) Yeah, I can type that and add a smiley face, but there’s a little corner of my mind that still says “Oh you bad woman to say such things–God will punish you!”

    I had a bad day after reading this. I had gone out to get some Easter gifts for my older son–yeah, I still send my grown children chocolate bunnies and such even though I’m totally conflicted about everything to do with this season–and as I was packing up his little box, I just started crying to think of all that I had denied my older children and myself because of this stupid group I was in.

    And then I got MAD and thought again of all the times I wished I’d fought back and didn’t.

    I’m so upset that people like the young woman in your post are STILL being abused this way. I just know that deep down inside her, there’s a voice telling her that this is sickening and wrong, but she pushes it away because that’s “lies of Satan” speaking. Yes, only the devil would tell her she has a right to a mind of her own! I went to her website and read that she had her first child–a daughter–and giving thanks that they had a natural, unmedicated birth as they wanted–but yet, it says she had to have surgery and be hospitalized because she lost so much blood! What’s up with that?? I can only imagine what she went through. Who will care for her? My heart is grieved for this young sister–so brave and full of energy and goodwill, all to be turned against her. I’m so angry. How long will this be tolerated? How can we stop them?

    Posted by anuna | April 9, 2009, 1:22 pm
  3. Anuna: “I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Though none go with me, still I will follow . . . . The cross before me, the world behind me . . . no turning back, no turning back.”

    If none go with me
    still I will follow
    If none go with me
    still I will follow
    If none go with me
    still I will follow
    No turning back
    No turning back.

    Many tears.

    Heart

    Posted by Heart | April 9, 2009, 4:03 pm
  4. Thanks so much, anuna, for what you’ve written. Reading it, I’m reminded I am not alone, there are many of us, thousands of us, all of us going through just what you describe– the grief, the mourning, the loss, the PTSD, the fear, hearing the voices, all of it.

    I know what you mean so well when you said you had a bad day after you read this. That’s just what happens to me when I go back. I’m not okay, in a certain way, for days and days.

    A woman who is an editor for a mainstream women’s publication has contacted me twice over the past couple of years hoping to be put in contact with young women under 35 who have exited the Quiverfull movement. The first time she e-mailed me I contacted some young women I knew who had exited. Nobody wanted to be interviewed.

    Of course they don’t. To be interviewed is to go back, back to the sadness and confusion, back to, in some cases, the brutality, back to the rape. To go back is to relive the fear, is to be reminded of the loss. And for what? So millions of voyeurs and the hopelessly unevolved across the country — spanning all ideologies; sometimes “progressives” are the worst — can do what people do to women like us? Treat us like specimens under a microscope? Feel sorry for us, as though given time and circumstances, it would not have been THEM (because it would have, we’re no different from other women, but for time and circumstance). Attack us or mock us for being “godbags”, another evidence of stupidity and a really mean-spirited arrogance, as though something is wrong with girls and women born into these systems, as though something is wrong with women who have dared to love, dared to believe, dared to trust, it’s all our fault that we were hopeful, idealistic, that we believed men who turned out to be liars and believed in a god who, if you believe the men who wrote about him, hates us as women and girls for being women and girls.

    Right. We’re going to talk to outsiders about all of that in the pages of national magazines to satisfy the curiosities of gawkers and clueless multitudes everywhere, making ourselves poster children for spiritual abuse, as though that’s all we are and we can be shut up to that. Interviews? No thanks.

    Thanks for being in my world, anuna. Just knowing you’re there is a comfort to me.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | April 9, 2009, 4:22 pm
  5. I’m sure some of the readers here have found this blog but in case you haven’t:

    http://2spb.blogspot.com/

    Two women who exited the quiverfull lifestyle. Wonderful reading, fascinating, heartbreaking, real. And the comments have been wonderful too! I know what you mean about those awful, how-could-you-be-so-stupid comments and commentary Heart, I have seen that in the comments section of magazines reviewing the Quiverfull book. But this blog has been an interesting dialog between ex-quiverful, assorted atheists and others.

    Regarding your post, you can see why they are now teaching that young girls should “give their hearts to their fathers” and be groomed into submission from an early age. Can’t have the adolescent female forming ideas and dreams of their own, might mess with the future husband’s headship. It’s just incredible how ALL of this crap revolves around control of women.

    I think I’ve finally figured out why looking at websites about QF families still makes me a little wistful: it was a wonderfully cohesive vision for my life. I think I’m a person who really loves having a vision, a grand dream and plan and aspiration, something to be enchanted with. I have not replaced that vision with anything, we are just (happily) muddling along. I’m trying to unpack what that need is all about for me.

    Posted by Arietty | April 10, 2009, 12:11 am
  6. Thanks for the link, Arietty! I had not seen this blog until tonight.

    Yeah, if you’re an earth mother, crunchy granola type like me, the quiverfull vision — for me it was more the Anabaptist vision, “quiverfull” became a movement when I was expecting my sixth! — is a beautiful vision, very comprehensive: farming, gardening, babies, home birth, breastfeeding, attachment parenting, homeschooling, community, hospitality, art and the life of the mind, too, zillions and zillions of writings to read about the Bible and church life, church history, heady stuff, everybody trying to be the “remnant,” the one true church, wanting so much to be faithful and all for this grand purpose. It’s hard to let that go. I still feel wistful sometimes, too. A lot of that is, I miss the women in my old world. There are some wonderful, wonderful women there and I loved them.

    Posted by womensspace | April 10, 2009, 3:37 am
  7. I, too, wanted to cry reading the sweet, earnest words of this young woman.

    I didn’t grow up in a “quiverfull” home, but our family structure was very much informed by a patriarchal vision of christianity, led by an entitled, abusive man. We also belonged to a church that adhered to the submissive woman/male headship doctrine – women had to be silent in church (and the home).

    To have this woman’s new adjustment to her husband’s rules described as romantic bothers me. I know it’s supposed to elicit imagery of the loving husband, nobly and gently sharing his godly wisdom with his pure, innocent, lovely young wife as she stares up at him with pride and admiration… This is what we were shown, growing up. What they hoped we’d accept as wonderful and fulfilling. (This always seemed sad and hollow to me, but I was a “bad,” independent-minded child… which I was often taken aside and told to fear as the evil spirit of witchcraft – a story for another day.)

    But the only thing I see when I think of this is vision is my mother’s face. I remember the look she used to wear when her own “loving” husband would chastise her in front of us, belittling and demeaning her with his godly wisdom. I remember how her head would hang, and the shame and powerlessness in her expression – the embarrassment – as he addressed her, my mother, as though she were one of the children instead of the keeper of our household and our family. And how frightened and powerless, and angry it made me feel.

    He was always calm, always quick to remind us that he “instructed” out of love. He likened his behavior to Christ’s own gentle admonishment of the church, gone astray. How it really hurt him to do it. I didn’t buy it. By the very biblical definition of love, it should never make anybody feel that way. Love should never beget feelings like fear, anger, or mistrust. Romance should never be associated with the relationship between parent and child.

    We got out. I’m 24 now, and I haven’t seen that expression on my mother for more than 10 years, but I still remember it with such clarity it stops me in my tracks sometimes. It makes me sick to my stomach, and I’ll never, ever forget.

    Posted by Jezebel | April 11, 2009, 2:08 am
  8. Yes, I know what both of you mean, Arietty and Heart, about sometimes feeling wistful. For me, it’s especially so at this time. I thought I’d share this song with you–kind of different from the one above. It’s Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla singing Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem.” I just thought these ladies were so great.

    “Ring the bells that still can ring.”

    Posted by anuna | April 11, 2009, 4:52 am
  9. I’m not a part (nor have ever been) of the QF movement, but when I read about it and what you all have gone through, it makes me cringe. Men subjugating women in whatever name …be it religion, a movement, or just their own superiority complex… is just awful. 😦

    And the thing is, that people seem to blame the women, when it is the MEN who have the most culpability of all. Lording over someone is not LOVE.

    Posted by Melissa | July 29, 2009, 6:54 pm

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