The Beautiful Girlhood Doll, part 10: I’m a Person, Not a Doll!

It has now been some years since I left my parents’ house and shifted for myself. I think my parents were somewhat surprised that I was able to make it on my own and that I did not come home asking for help, or maybe it was just me who was surprised. I found inner sources of strength I had not known I had. At the same time, my college friends, both the original evangelical ones and new ones I had met, were a wonderful source of support, and always accepted me regardless of what I did or didn’t believe. I finished college on my own, and was extremely proud of my accomplishment at graduation.

During this time I also found someone special, and I married him not long after finishing college. Because I was marrying someone who did not share their beliefs, my parents did not approve, but by then I did not expect them to. My siblings were not allowed to be in my wedding, and I walked myself down the aisle with my head held high.My friends and in-laws made my wedding a time of great joy, but my heart still broke years later when one of my little brothers was exulting at being a ring bearer in one of my siblings’ weddings, and all I could think was, I did want you for my ring bearer, little brother, please don’t think I didn’t. But I couldn’t tell him that, I couldn’t explain what had happened. Remembering that moment still brings tears to my eyes, even now.

Early on, there was some question about whether my new husband and I would be allowed to visit my parents and siblings. After all, what kind of example were we setting? This question was resolved, though, when we chose to become pregnant and have a child. The presence of a grandchild has improved my relationship with my parents, though it has also created new problems as they do not always agree with the way I am raising my little one.

Another factor that has improved my relationship with my parents is their belief that my husband is my authority, and that they should therefore seek to change his views rather than mine. At the same time, though, my husband is a man and not their physical child, so there is a level of emotional distance and respect present there that there is not with me. Thus my parents simultaneously leave my beliefs alone and at the same time work to respectfully persuade my husband that he should change his beliefs. Of course, this makes me want to laugh, because my husband and I have an egalitarian relationship, and we frequently disagree with each other without seeing it as a problem.

Regardless of the reasons for the softening of my relationship with my parents, I am grateful that I can still be a part of my siblings’ lives. However, my relationship with my parents will never be the same, and the pain of what happened will never go away.

My parents’ mistake, if that is how you want to see it, was teaching me how to think. The simple reality is that teaching women to think will be subversive in any system that demands male authority and female submission. My parents gave me the tools to form my own opinions and choose my own beliefs while at the same time demanding that I hold their opinions and beliefs, and once I left home and learned that the world was a much bigger place than I had been taught, I was crushed in the inconsistency of this.

There is a deeper problem as well. My parents saw me as an empty slate and believed that they could paint on it as they wished and choose what the outcome would be. They saw me as something to be shaped and moulded rather than as an individual with my own thoughts and feelings. For them, I was one more daughter to fit into the perfect mold. In some ways, it was like they were playing dollhouse with me, forming me just how they wanted and setting me up just how they liked – but I’m not a doll!

Christian Patriarchy forces girls into an impossible situation, where they are expected to act and believe just so and if they differ in any respect they are seen as broken and ruined. Nothing that I can do or achieve in life – not my stable and happy marriage, not my child, not school or work – will ever please my parents. The only thing that would please them is if I did exactly as they wanted, and believed exactly as they did. Is this a healthy model for a family to follow? Absolutely not! Children are people, not simply robots waiting to be programed, and parents need to recognize that.

Furthermore, fathers are fallible. How can a father say that his daughters should do just as he says when he himself is not perfect? And what of my parents’ parents? Neither set believes anything like my parents, and neither set approved of their decision to homeschool. How, then, can my parents claim that God says that I as their daughter am to do and believe as they do when they do not do or believe as their parents do? There is a major double standard here, but that is not what bothers me. What bothers me is the putting of man in the place of God and demanding daughters to obey. This is nothing short of blasphemy and abuse.

I chose long ago between my family and my intellectual freedom, and I would make that same choice again. I love my parents and my siblings, but I’m a person and I deserve to be able to have my own thoughts and feelings, my own life. And now I do. I have a wonderful husband, a sweet child, and a beautiful life. I also take pleasure in the fact that I now have excellent relationships with several adult siblings who are okay with my differences in belief. And of course, I take joy in the wonder and beauty of life unrestrained by the bonds of Christian Patriarchy.

Beautiful Girlhood Doll Table of Contents

One last thing. With the experiences I’ve had, this music video really spoke to me. I leave it here for you to watch and appreciate as well:

YouTube Preview Image

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08353667980806676067 Ami

    You have an amazing story.Our family was not QF, but my dad latched onto the whole 'man is God in the home' and we had some interesting times while I was growing up.He bellowed, "I HAVE SPOKEN" whenever there was any disagreement with his ideas.

    • steven

      libby i read your entire story, but wonder where and why you are so hard on your parents? you will realize one day that it may possibly be that the reason you did in fact “come to your senses” or saw the real truth, was because the manner you were raised. Would it of been better if you were raised by parents that just let you find out everything for yourself, and on your own? How would you of eaten? How would you of learned to go to bathroom? Would you of kept warm, by finding a blanket yourself in the middle of the night when you were only a newborn-3 or 4yo old? You weren’t an abused child, you were raised by strict parents etc, but far from abusive. So kids shouldn’t be guided and or directed at all? The reason you were and still are able to think for yourself is because of your parents, and their intellect, regardless of their many imperfections. Now put this in your blog. Thanx.

      • guest

        but that’s exactly what she is saying. that her parents taught her how to think. I don’t think she is very hard on her parents. (I would be harder). But her parents are hard on her by basically rejecting her. and “you weren’t abused” is emotional blackmail and as such unfair.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03234821657523195681 Elizabeth

    Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  • Anonymous

    I just want to thank you beyond words for sharing this with us. I grew up this EXACT same way. I read all the same books as a kid, was homeschooled, and didn't know any boys or anything outside of my "world" until I went to college. I'd like to say that I too had a huge colossal shake of my world when I realized none of the apologetics arguments actually made sense. There is nothing to describe the feeling where you first recognize that you have been lied to your entire life. Now, that I'm married with a son–we talk with my family again. But every time I visit my mom's church and see the girls looking at my pants and short hair, my husband with his tattoo and I know what they think about me and that breaks my heart. I try to help them. Thanks again for posting this. I could almost crying knowing that a stranger on the web knows exactly what that experience was like. THANK YOU.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Anonymous – You're welcome! It's weird, isn't it? I love hearing from other people who have had similar experiences, because it reminds me that it's not just me and I'm not alone. If you'd like to talk further, you can contact me – see the "contact tab."

  • http://www.faheyyounger.com prinny

    what a story! congratulations on your life.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10671605528758099945 Flimsyman

    Thank you so much for sharing this.When my wife and I married, for several reasons, I took her last name. My family is a relatively traditional, fundamentalist Baptist, and it was very much a betrayal to them. Even now, about a year later, there are some members of my family that won't speak to me.Hearing your story, and seeing your strength, … There are no words. Thank you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Flimsyman – I'm glad my words were encouraging! I'm not going to lie, it's not always easy, but my freedom to be who I am and the new family I have formed since leaving home are worth it.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing this. I grew up in a Christian home and went to Christian school and a Christian college, but somewhere in there I too learned to think for myself. As you say, once you learn to think the whole house of cards collapses on you.I'm always glad to hear I'm not the only one.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00839186073018487540 Not Guilty

    My boyfriend found this post and forwarded it to me. It always amazes me when people escape from the bonds of hard right Christianity to humanism. I was raised very much blank slate so coming to feminism and atheism was easy. I'm glad you are enjoying life with your eyes wide open.

  • Anonymous

    To prelude the rest of my comment, I want to start off by saying I am a male evangelical Christian. I am posting because your story has struck a cord with me. I've struggled with how I want to respond here, so please bear with me. (this will be a long comment)I don't think you can educate a child, live with a child, raise a child – without indoctrinating them to your world-views. While I don't agree with humanism (I'm on the fence about feminism). I respect that it's your right to teach your children your views, just as I think your parents shouldn't have been prevented from raising you as they did. I think your parents were not incorrect, or acted unnaturally to react they way they did. In the Christian world-view rejecting Christ is the same as death. Keeping your siblings away from you was not a way to hurt you, but a way to keep your siblings "safe". (please forgive me if I misconstrued humanism for the rejection of God if it is not the case). The fact that you had the right to reject them, the fact that you still have a relationship with them (even though it has changed due to your rejection of them). means they have not rejected you. The fact that they are trying to change your husband (despite how misguided you perceive it to be). They are still trying to save you. I think it's important to note that they still obviously care. Lastly, I wanted to say I don't view my wife as a subordinate. I don't view men as superior to woman. I view the spiritual headship of men the same way that the Levites were selected as the bearers of the ark of the covenant. It was role selected by God. The Levites were better than the rest of the 12 tribes, but were selected for the Role. I don't have any delusions that woman are less than men. (in fact, as a married man, I know I'm wrong 99% of the time). So I guess what I'm trying to say is Homeschooling is no more indoctrinating than public school would be. Christianity is a differing worldview, and and it's not any less wrong than other world views. People who believe differently are Not monsters or crazy, or ignorant.

    • guest

      Anonymous, humanism is not the same as rejecting god. There is religious humanism and secular humanism.
      What I would like to point out though (I really like you comment btw) is that you can’t say “In the christian world” if you look at christianity, there are hundreds of sects, evangelical, catholic, mainstream protestant, greek orthodox… american vs. european (very different from each other) and they at best agree on some basic fundamentals (god, heaven, hell, jesus as gods son)..and everyone thinks they are right..So there is no one unified Christian World. (I grew up roman catholic and I realized that I was never taught that non-catholics would go to hell. I was always taught that a persons action matter more than what they believe in)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Anonymous: Thank you for your comment! I appreciate it when people who disagree with what I say nevertheless leave polite and thought out comments. I'm all for an exchange of ideas. As for your comment, I am aware that people who believe differently from me are not monsters, crazy, or ignorant. I used to believe differently myself. My parents were in many ways wonderful parents, and that's why I speak against the specific beliefs that resulted in all the hurt. You say my parents did not act wrongly. The thing is, my parents weren't just evangelicals. They reacted the way they did not simply because I was leaving some of their beliefs, but rather because they thought they were supposed to control me, their adult daughter, and that I was supposed to submit. If they had believed that daughters grow up and become independent, and had focused on praying that God would guide me back to the correct path rather than thinking they were supposed to be the ones to do that, my relationship with them would not be as broken as it is today. On indoctrination, I'm going to have to disagree with you. My parents saw passing on their exact views to their kids as incredibly important, but I honestly don't feel that way at all. I'm going to let my daughter choose her own beliefs – I don't care if she has my exact religious or political views as me. She's her own independent person. So, not everyone "indoctrinates" their kids. Also, homeschooling IS more indoctrinating than public school, because homeschooling allows parents to control completely what information their children should be exposed to while public schooling exposes children to a greater variety of ideas, information, and people. You can't shelter (aka isolate) a kid sent to public school the way you can a kid who is homeschooled. As for Christianity being simply another worldview, I understand that. I have spent a lot of time studying the history of religion in college. However, I have become fairly convinced that Christianity is wrong, and that any worldview that includes the supernatural is wrong. Lastly, I understand that you may not see your wife as subordinate, but any time evoke spiritual headship or male leadership, that's not equality. I was never taught that women were "subordinate" either, simply that women have different roles than men: men are to lead, and women to submit to that leadership. One last point to make: I used to share my parents' beliefs, so I understand how they see things and why they do what they do. I'm not judging them, I just happen to think that the beliefs that they hold and the way they see the world is highly problematic and even harmful.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Anonymous – One more thing. I never "rejected" my parents. I rejected their beliefs. They then turned heaven and earth to get me to agree with them again, and in the end I left home to live my own life. I never rejected them. I simply disagreed with them. And my disagreement made them consider rejecting me wholesale, although in the end they chose not to. I think any belief system that merits putting beliefs above people is highly problematic, and I see this as a problem with the way my parents see the world – it's almost as if my beliefs matter more than I do as their daughter.

  • JM

    I think the opposite is true – I think its because you are their daughter, and they love you, that your beliefs matter so much. Without tiptoeing around it. In the Christian world-view, rejecting Christ rejects eternal Life. Which is a nice way of saying by rejecting Christ you would be going to hell. With that in mind. If I were your parents, I would see you making a choice that would imperil your eternal being, and would rail desperately against that. I can see why your parents acted the way they did, I don't think it is right, but I can see the thoughts behind it. By restricting your siblings access to you, they were restricting your influence over your siblings, furthering the peril of their other children.I think it that reason that they pushed so hard to bring you back, why they are talking to your husband (I'm sure some of it may be wounded pride as well). As a parent, I'm sure you would feel the same way if your child got into something that would bring pain to them. Say, if they got into Meth, or hooked up with a drug dealer. I would assume you would do everything you can to help out. As far as homeschooling goes, you are correct. Homeschooling does allow a more focused way to teach your kids the ideas you want, without the ideas you don't. Christians are not a long with Homeschooling, other faiths, and non-faiths also home-school. I do want to point out specifically many people home school right now because public education in America is a joke. There are good and bad homeschoolers, just as there are bad/good teachers today. Lastly, I wanted to clarify my reject comment. You didn't reject them as parents, or as people, or as persons you love. You did, however, reject who they were, who they are, what they believe, all the time and effort they spent teaching you, and from what it sounds like their hopes and dreams as well. Essentially, you did reject them. Just not in a way I think you see it as rejection.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    JM – I am aware of how they see the world, and I think seeing the world in that way is highly problematic, as I have said. Yes, by rejecting belief in God they believe I've slated myself for eternal torture. But what kind of God would do such a thing? Don't try to justify it, I've heard all the justifications before, it's just that they don't make any sense to me. I get that they love me, but their beliefs have caused them to tear our family apart, and I naturally see these beliefs as a problem. I understand that they've done what they did because they love me. That only makes the entire belief system worse in my eyes – that it would cause you to hurt someone you love in the name of love to try to save their soul, something I don't believe exists. I'm not saying my parents are bad people. They're not. I'm simply saying that I see their beliefs as destructive and harmful. Also, nice, you comparing me becoming an atheist to someone being on meth. The first is someone choosing a different set of beliefs, and the second is someone choosing to destroy their life through substance abuse. I know your point is that my parents see the two as the same, but the fact is, they're not. That said, even if my daughter went on meth, sure, it would hurt, but no, I wouldn't treat her as my parents have treated me. Instead, I would love her and be there for her. It's her life, and I intend to let her make her own choices – even if I see them as destructive. Finally, you say that I rejected my parents "hopes and dreams." Parents shouldn't pick their kids hopes and dreams, kids should be allowed to pick their own hopes and dreams. Any time a parent becomes invested in a specific hope or dream for a child, and then becomes heartbroken when the child chooses a different life, it's the parent's problem, not the child's problem. You sound like you're saying I broke my parents hearts. Well yes, yes I did. But the problem is that not breaking their hearts would have required not being who I am, not following my own hopes and dreams, not forming my own views and opinions. To not break their hearts would have required living in a prison. And I couldn't do that. No parent should require a child to do that. One more note – I am aware that there are lots of homeschoolers who aren't Christians or who homeschool for non-religious reasons. If you'd read other articles on my site, you'd see that.

  • Anonymous

    Libby, I'm so taken with your story. Thank you for sharing it. It mirrors parts of my own. I too rejected Christianity when its rigidity was more than I could bear. I lived and breathed atheism (I became a biologist in career and philosophy) for about ten years. That was not the end of my story, however, as I am again, and for 25 years now, a Christian. Yet I wish there was a different word to describe what I believe now, because it has little in common with my first go-round. And I am still learning, growing. Always. I wish we could sit down over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. It makes me sad that your parents have been so hurtful to you out of their fear. Love conquers fear. Hang in there~ my very best wishes to you.-ns

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03512787305285160884 Chris

    Hi! This has been a fascinating post. I've been a fairly conservative Christian for years but had never heard of the Patriarch movement until recently. Our household has some things in common with the methods your parents used, though we're admittedly less extreme. We home-school to avoid a slumping public school system, and we pass on our belief in Christ as the only path to salvation—BUT, and this is a big but—I'd never criticize my children for expressing doubts and wanting answers. It's a chance to research, examine my own conclusions, and decide if what I've believed is the honest truth. Intellectual freedom is a gift, and I'd hate myself if I squelched it.On that note, the mention of creationism and flood geography, the notion of Hell, etc, got my juices flowing. I'm no mental giant or scholar, but I'd be happy to have a friendly discussion about those subjects via email, if you're interested. I'm not much for pointed debates and aggressive point-making, but sharing information and comparing notes helps us both to refine our beliefs. If you'd care to, my email is williamc.germany@gmail.com …drop me a line sometime and we'll put our heads together.

  • http://www.calacirian.org Sonja

    What a wild crazy journey you have been on. Thank you so much for sharing it. As the mom of a 17 year old girl (and having been one myself back in the dark ages ;) ) I am grieving with you for those years you spent being a little mother that might have been spent being a wonderful curious and amazing young lady. The teenage years are meant for young people to explore and separate from their parents all while having the parents there to guide them along that path, letting the young person know where the pitfalls are. You were in no way prepared for what hit you in college and the idea that your parents thought you should come home unchanged by that experience was/is foolish on their part. I'd say naive … except that they'd been there and knew what you'd be facing. They were foolish and set you to a task that was unreasonable. There is a psychological term for parents who are so wrapped up in their children's hopes and dreams that they cannot separate the rejection of the hopes and dreams from a rejection of them. It's called enmeshment and it's a fairly serious problem (psychologically speaking). Usually parents and children caught up in this cannot finish the process of growing up and maturing. You were able to do this at a great cost to your relationship with your parents … but as you said, that's their problem. And it is. However, it's only partially because of their beliefs. It is also because they are psychologically undone and will need to seek assistance to break free.Last, I am very curious about this. During your childhood, what was your relationship like with your grandparents? What is that relationship like now? Okay … really last … Your blog is absolutely delightful. I have enjoyed reading many of your posts over the last day or so. Your writing and thinking are very clear and I enjoy your style.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Sonja – As the mother of a little girl now myself, I am so excited about the prospect of watching her grow up and mature into the person SHE chooses to be. I've heard the term enmeshment, and I think you are right on with that. I need to read more about it! As for my grandparents, neither side approved of everything my parents did, though both sets were Christian, but they never made a big deal of it and let my parents do their own thing. They definitely weren't "enmeshed"! I had a fine relationship with them, but I think that either (a) they didn't call out crazy when they saw it or (b) they didn't realize just how crazy things were. My grandpas actually encouraged me to go on to higher education, and both supported my claim to independence. I have aunts and uncles who have since told me that they knew some odd things were up with my family, and have been thrilled that I've stepped out and learned to think for myself.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks so much for writing these. Although I don't come from a religious background nearly as conservative as yours, I'm still struggling to reconcile my religion and my personal/political views.I've been searching for a long time for writings that would help me sort things out, and had almost given up on finding them. It seemed like everything was so skewed to one political viewpoint or another– I couldn't find anything that was honest and moderate like this.Thanks for taking the time to write about your experiences. Reading this, even if the circumstances aren't all that similar to my own, has finally given me a little relief. It's wonderful.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your story. It was very powerful. I like the song choice at the end. I didn't come to your site the "regular" way. I came through a link. I came through a link on TV Tropes- it's a site that talks about tropes (tools that an author uses in a story). The page I was on was talking about Tangled. I really love that movie. I love Rapunzel. I followed the link on the tv tropes page and ended up on the page where you talk about the movie and how it relates to your life. Then I read your story. As I was reading your story- I heard some of the songs from the movie in my head. Like you having to do chores and prepare for events (When Will My life Begin) You going to college and finding out that people who are different aren't evil (I Have a Dream and the Kingdom Dance score). I remember how in Tangled- Rapunzel was fairly educated. She had lot of hobbies from cooking, knitting, reading, astromony and of course painting. She was taught to think. It was like you, with all the stuff you were taught to do and that you were also taught to think. Gothel underestimated Rapunzel's strength and intelligence. Like your parents underestimated your ability to think critically. You are NOT their doll. You are NOT an extention of them. I don't know but I think some parents seem forget that. I'm not from the same background as you but I still relate to Rapunzel story. I have Bipolar disorder and some Obsessive compulsive-ness. My mother treats me like I need to be protected all time and like I can't think and I'm 23. Because of this I'm live a very sheltered life in her house. Whenever I disagree with her when it come to what I want in my life she thinks I'm being brainwashed by outside influnces. It's really hard wanting for her to be happy with me, not wanting to hurt her but always wanting more. I guess parents of all walks of life can lock their daughters in towers. A tower's still a prison no matter how different the situations. Here is a link analizing the original story and it's roots (Rapunzel, Rapunzel Let Down Your Hair by Terri Windling) http://www.endicott-studio.com/rdrm/rrRapunzel.htmlMy name is Katherine but I'm posting as anonymous because I don't have an account.I'm very glad you found happiness and that you left your tower. I hope your story can give others hope and strength that they can leave theirs'.

  • Peggy

    I hope some day you'll be able to tell your little brother how much you wanted him for your ringbearer. He deserves to know that he was loved, valued, and thought of.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09262986633672247969 cerbaz

    I have throughly enjoyed reading your story thank you for telling it so clearly.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02141990919804517216 Natalie’s Life: A Work in Progress

    It's like you are talking for me. Point by point. Wow.

  • Anonymous

    As Christians, we should take it seriously when it says for wives to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord. Men should be sensible. Disagreeing with an idea or offering an alternative viewpoint in a respectful manner are things a good helpmeet should do and men should appreciate that.

  • LaurenF

    Steven, she DID put that in her blog. Several times. With emphasis. I don’t really understand how you missed it.

  • Debbie

    A very interesting and well written account; we came to faith in our thirties and have home schooled /Christian schooled our daughter, it has been amazing to see God’s provision at every turn and at 17 our daughter is a real testimony to the Lord, not difficult, rebellious and selfish, like I was at that age. She has had a year at college, has integrated well but has no inclinations to follow worldly ways. I was surprised at your comments on the Creation Science, we have attended debates and conferences by eminent creation scientists and evolutionists and we have always found the evidence for biblical creation to be by far the more credible – (see John Mackay, Creation Science, online).
    My husband came to faith as a cynic and sceptic, he now studies God’s Word for many hours every day and I do believe God’s blessing rests upon us because of his diligence.
    Many very learned men and world renowned scientists have come to faith after exhaustive study of God’s Word, not through indoctrination or ‘feel good’ evangelism and many have died for their Christian faith; without being fasicious, I cannot believe that you have found errors and inconsistencies that they have missed. Your parents sound wonderful but you are on a journey and only God knows which seed will bear fruit. I had ungodly, manipulative parents, I looked for love and security in all the wrong places, I had a top job, money, a rich first husband, now I have the peace of the Lord Jesus.

  • NowAnElderMyself

    I had a mother who had a very difficult time when her children did not agree with her fundamental religious beliefs. After I became an adult and had children of my own, during a discussion about religious beliefs, I respectfully told her that I didn’t believe in a literal hell. She became very angry and almost screamed, “Well you’d better believe it because you’re going to find yourself there some day!” While reflecting upon that conversation, I decided that either she didn’t REALLY believe in hell, or else she didn’t REALLY love me, because a mother who loved her child and truly believed that they were condemned to an eternity in hell, would be sobbing in grief as they made that statement.

    Fast forward many, many years – and at my mother’s deathbed, even though she said she wanted me to tell the family how much she loved them, it still broke my heart that she was never able to overcome her sense of rejection because none of her children adhered to her religious beliefs. Her disapproval hung like a dark cloud over her relationship with each of us, and she was never able to joyfully celebrate our accomplishments. And so I find myself grieving for that which never was but could have been so wonderful and wondering why people drink the poison of fanatical religion and then blame their children when they do not conform to their expectations.

    • Brian

      Just came across your blog. Been wondering when some of my formerly homeschooled peers would start sounding off about the realities of growing up in patriarchal, homeschooled families. I know so many parents now that, if they had to do it all over again, would probably have sent their kids off to school and went back to work, or furthered their own educations.

      My own mom chose staying home to teach her kids over going to medical school. What a sacrifice!

      And for what? There were four of us and at this point I’m the only one who is even marginally interested in church. Two of my sisters are atheists and the other doesn’t really identify as anything.

      Not much of a payoff there from my perspective.

  • Christine

    This is actually one of the big tragedies of the CP/Q movements. If you teach a child to think critically, or send them to higher education, they are much more likely to reject the movement. Therefore, it must be wrong to teach children to think, or to educate them.

  • John

    I was very moved by your post. I grew up in a fairly fundamentalist Mennonite atmosphere and some of the same topics you mention (wives obeying their husbands, strict gender roles, etc.) were instructed to me throughout my childhood and young adult life. The main difference I see was my parents beliefs were much less strict than the school’s and teachers, which gave me a bit more free rein at home to do/read what I wanted.

    One of the huge similarities I noticed though was education. For whatever reason, the Christian school I went to was very academically oriented (and demanding!). I am grateful that they were, and, just as in your experience, I developed critical thinking skills that were fairly strong. I think in the school’s view, this would lead it’s students to fight for it’s strict Christian teachings in the greater public/ convert others. I was a “solid” Christian all the way through school there and even through high school (which was your run of the mill public high school). The teachings evidently stuck with me and I guess I give my educators credit for that.

    Anyway, in high school and college, I learned about evolution, which was really my first introduction to “secularism” as it would have been called in my school environment. At first I rejected it, then investigated it, then accepted it as I became more of a “liberal” Christian. At the same time, I began to read all sorts of apologetics works to get the facts behind my faith so I could defend it against non-believers. To make an already long story less long, the more I looked for factual confirmation for my belief the more the books told, “Although we can’t prove our beliefs, we can take these beliefs on faith” and things of that nature. I eventually realized my faith was just one belief among many belief options (Islam, Hinduism, etc.) and so I let it go. I digressed a bit, but the point I was trying to make was that the same skills my teachers gave me, critical investigation, actually turned me against the faith, just as in your experience.

    Your posts about your life were excellent (they caused me to reflect on my own story). I wish you all the best!

  • Paul

    Libby-Anne. I enjoyed reading your post. I, too, am a recovering american evangelical. I’m on step 10 of a 12 step process. Without getting too much into details, I’ve heard all the weird-o young earth stories, etc… and so we have a lot in common.

    But something strange happened to me, and this is where we differ. I went looking for answers and I found way, way better answers. They weren’t the pithy answers of a backward sunday school or an american biblical worldview crammed down my throat, but answers for the mature thinker. Answers that ultimately made the scriptures stand up. The lights went off for awhile, but then, when they came back on, they came back on way brighter. In short, I rebeled against American Evangelical-Fundamentalism and I finally came to Christ. I left Christianism, and God met me there.

  • Anonymous

    Your story is very moving…..in so many ways. You obviously loved your growing up years, your life then, your parents and siblings. I so appreciate the way you describe it all in a non-snarky way without “attitude” showing through. Refreshing.

    We have a large family who we have mostly raised the way you describe (with a few variations). A couple of outcomes have not been what we expected and we have been pondering for 2-3 years now what the contributing factors are. One, you have is very correct, and that is we taught our kids to think for themselves, too. We know that this led to some of the directions they have gone. Two, God has given everyone “Free Will”….to think for themselves, to make their own decisions, to decide what they think is “right” and “wrong”, etc. Your parents have that Free Will as did Adam and Eve. We know what happened in that story.

    One thing I might say, although I suspect that I really don’t need to point it out…..your parents did exactly what they thought was right. They took seriously their job as your caretakers and did their utmost to do it the best they knew how. What else could they have done? Now that you are a mother, you will understand that better and better as the years pass. If they neglected you, you would have a very different story but seems like you “had it all” as a kid.

    Also, I might add that parents are given a lot of hogwash at home school conventions by the speakers there (and in their books and materials). They are told to model their lives for their children, to train them up “in the way the should go”, train them diligently, why would they want to make the mistakes you did?, you are wise, they will realize it and will follow in your footsteps all the way, and the like. They are built up and cheered on in these concepts…..for years. It’s a real severe blow when it doesn’t pan out.

    Your parents spent a lot of time, money and energy giving you all that they did. It’s hard when the rejection comes. From the parents’ perspective it seems like you wasted all of those years. But reading all that you wrote, I don’t believe that with you. Parents have to get over the shock. Their 20+year plans, hard work, sacrifices and building just got whacked and it’s very hard to wrap your head around as a parent. After the dust settles and after some time goes by you might be surprised at the outcome……they will learn to adapt…..and that if they want a relationship with you and your family they will have to swallow a lot, ignore a lot, and try to look past it. Understand that you don’t have a lot in common anymore, either, so the conversations that you will have will be strained trying to find a topic you can all talk about together besides the weather. You don’t have the same goals at all. That’s hard when you used to be so close and shared hearts so tightly and used to be such great friends. There isn’t much common ground now. Not only do you not have common ground, you disagree in so many areas. But don’t give up. You need your parents, believe me. And they need you.

    Thanks for your perspective. Gave me plenty to ponder. If you ever need a non-judgmental parents’ perspective, email me. I’d love to chat with you.

  • ss-sunset

    Very interesting story. While I can’t identify much myself with this style of upbringing, it was an eye opener for how to relate to my mother in law. My husband and I are both strong Christians and go to what many would consider a very non traditional church. Xenos.org if you’d like to check it out.

    My kids are being raised in the faith and are going to be taught the submissive passage but I find many people misconstrue the meaning of this passage. In a nutshell; The wife is to submit to her husband and the husband is the head of household. He is to treat his wife just like Christ treats his church. The wife, while submisive in no way a “door mat” and has a say in everything in that household. The husband has final say but this is after much discussion with his wife, not some totalitarian thing. My husband and I marriage is a mix between traditional, no where near findamentalist, and what works for us. Most of the time he does the cooking and always has because its what he enjoys, he does a lot of the cleaning and knows I do what I can due to severe Rheumatoid Arthritis. My kids see us working together in a strong marriage where communication is expected and love is shown openly.

    That being said, this really spoke to me as I’ve been married for 10 years now, together for 13 and have never understood or gotten along with my mother in law. My husband chose to keep us living together from his family until we were engaged and bought a house together saying it would be better for everyone. I found out why when they found out and wrote an e-mail to him demanding he following 4 things then they would love him. A lot of what has been said by her over the years follows what you went through growing up. While my husband didn’t grow up as strict, I believe my mother in law went that direction more and more, especially when his youngest brother was born. There is a 10 year difference so their upbringing was totally different. She lost “control” over him and his middle sibling which is why she may have gone toward the more fundamentalist way of thinking. I’m not sure really and neither is my husband who doesn’t adhere to a lot of her attitudes. She has gone as far as doing everything she can to split us up yet spouting biblical passages every chance she gets. Yeah, that’s really going to work for her credibility. When she was assisting with my kids when I was on bedrest for 6 months, she took that as an opportunity to get to my kids on stuff. It took us nearly a year to retrain my kids on her conditional love of do what I say, believe what I do or I won’t love you vs we’ll love you no matter what you do or believe. Our love will never change.

    While we don’t agree on everything, especially the atheist concept, I do respect your views. Understanding better where my mother in law might be coming from, hopefully help me not take offense to some her pithy comments and better ignore her like my husband does most of the time.


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