A Trust Problem

My parents have a trust problem. I’ve said elsewhere that the parents of the Christian Patriarchy movement seem to be unable to trust their adult daughters. In fact, as I’ve already pointed out, they frequently don’t even trust their adult daughters to be able to think for themselves. Depending on the family, sons may face the same lack of trust as well. But I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not just their children that the parents of the Christian Patriarchy movement can’t trust, they also can’t trust God. The belief that there is an all powerful, all knowing, all loving God gives some Christians an enormous sense of peace. No matter what happens to their children or loved ones or in the world around them, they find peace and contentment in their belief that God is in charge and will work all things together for good. They exude love and peace to everyone around them. You see, they trust God. They believe that he, not they, is in charge, and that he, not they, knows what is best for his children. For some reason, my parents, like other parents of the Christian Patriarchy movement, seem unable to trust God in this way. When their children make decisions they disagree with, they for some reason cannot just put their children in the hands of the God they so deeply believe in. Rather than exuding peace they exude anxiety, anger, and anguish. Rather than focusing on loving their children and praying for God to guide them, they seek to manipulate and control them. I’ve been puzzling over the reason for this. The best I can figure is that my parents and other parents of the Christian Patriarchy movement believe that God has given them a formula for raising perfect “godly” children. If they follow the rules, they can’t go wrong. It’s easy to accuse parents like these of following “man made rules” instead of God, but I would point out that they truly believe that it is God who gave them these rules. Furthermore, they believe that it is God who has promised that if they follow these rules the result will be perfect “godly” children. And they have a verse to prove it:

Proverbs 22: 6 – Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

At face value, then, the Bible appears to promise parents that if they train up their children correctly, their children will not fail them. There are more verses too.

Proverbs 22:15 – Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.

Proverbs 23:13-14 – Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell. Proverbs 29:15 – The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

Now clearly, a straightforward reading does not use any form of textual or Biblical analysis. I’m not necessarily trying to say that the Bible does promise that children who are trained properly will turn into perfectly “godly” adults. I’m simply explaining that you can understand why some people might come to such a conclusion and that they have plenty of proof texts.

But of course, my parents and others like them didn’t come to these conclusions on their own. Rather, they were seduced by the promises of godly children made by Vision Forum, No Greater Joy, Institute for Biblical Life Principles, and others like them. These leaders explain to devout Christian families across the country that if they will only follow a specific child rearing formula, they will end up with perfect godly children. Yet I would point out that my parents and others like them don’t just believe these teachings because are told them by organizations like these, but also because they believe that these teachigns line up with what they read in the Bible and with the urgings of the Holy Spirit. Of all the literature my parents read, I think that No Greater Joy and Vision Forum probably had the most influence. Both of these organizations promise parents godly children if they will only follow the guidelines they say are laid out in the Bible. Here is an excerpt from No Greater Joy’s webpage:

As goes the child so goes the future adult— and the future parent. At every moment, parents holding little children are holding the future. Parenting, the most important and demanding job in the world comes on us by default. Ready or not, prepared or ill equipped, all parents produce fruit that lasts throughout eternity. It is like stopping everyone that walks down the street and seating them at a piano to play for five minutes. The melody or the dissonance goes on and on from one generation to the next unless someone takes the time to break the cycle and learn the skill of parenting.

Through materials they write and record, the Pearls are training parents to break the bad habits passed down from former generations and to recognize and emulate the wisdom of those who have gone before. The Bible and common sense are the foundations for effective parenting.

Did you catch that? If you parent correctly, you will produce “fruit that lasts throughout eternity.” You can have perfect children. Vision Forum promises the same on their webpage:

The defining crisis of our age is the systematic annihilation of the Biblical family. The family was the first institution created by God and blessed by Christ during His earthly ministry. It is God’s primary vehicle for communicating covenant promises to the next generation. It is the basic agency of dominion on earth. Within the context of the family, the father is the God-ordained vision communicator. Minimize the father and the family will perish. Minimize the family and you have neutralized the church. The sad truth is that broken and weak families are the norm even within the most conservative and doctrinally orthodox church assemblies. This is in large part due to the death of Biblical patriarchy with its emphasis on father-directed vision, leadership, and self-sacrifice. The tragedy gets worse. Though many of us would firmly stand for the proposition that good doctrine leads to sound living, the fact is that rebellious children, broken homes, and vision-less fathers are every bit as present in the Reformed community as the Dispensational. … The mission of The Vision Forum is to address this problem. … At the heart of the message we share is a commitment to see the wedding of orthodoxy and orthopraxy among the people of God. Sound doctrine and sound living must come together. We can preach the covenant and the sovereignty of God until we are blue in the face, but if we allow our children to be educated by Canaanites, if we encourage our daughters to pursue a careerist philosophy, if we fail to make our homes economically vital, hospitable centers for love and learning, we are hypocrites.

Got that? If you live what you preach, you can avoid the broken homes and rebellious children. If you follow the right formula, you will “communicate covenant promises to the next generation.” It’s really no wonder my parents freaked out when I questioned their beliefs. That wasn’t supposed to happen. That wasn’t part of the game plan. That wasn’t what they had been promised, both by No Greater Joy and Vision Forum and ultimately, they believed, by God. They had been promised a perfect godly family if you only did just so, and they had done just so. I cracked their world wide open and shattered the illusion of the perfect godly family. So did my parents question the formulas? No. Instead, they blamed the world and they blamed me. I had been lead astray by the world and its empty promises, they said, and had stopped listening to God in order to follow my own pleasures. They believe they did everything right, that I know that their beliefs are true and know what God requires of me, but that I have run off after the world with my fingers in my ears. And now we get to the trust problem. My parents trusted that God would fulfill his promise of a perfect godly family if they only followed his guidelines as taught by No Greater Joy and Vision Forum. Somehow, though, they can’t seem to trust him with their children when their formulas go wrong. Instead, they have to fight tooth and nail to bring their erring children back to “the truth.” I think this may be born out of confusion as much as anything else. Their system didn’t work. Everything they built their lives around failed. That wasn’t supposed to happen.

In some sense, though, the actions of my parents and others like them make sense. After all, my parents aren’t used to trusting their children to God. Rather, they’re used to trusting that God has promised that if they raise their children just so their children will turn out to be just right. This idea puts my parents at the center, not God. They are responsible for how their children turn out, not God. And now that we’re grown, that habit may be difficult to kick. That, I think, is the heart of the problem. And that is why I say that my parents have a trust problem. These formulas are like crack – they’re extremely addictive and can destroy your life.

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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.