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.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00499236427446909328 Ron Amundson

    If your analysis is correct, it would seen they put their faith in a formula rather than Christ. It may be that they started out projecting a desire for certainty, and this formula provided a convenient vehicle for it… then add in the proof texts, and could it be that all of a sudden the warning signs seemingly evaporated?If indeed the formula has become the bedrock for their faith rather than Christ, egads, the backlash is going to be huge. Any shaking of the formula will shake their entire belief system… and being formulas are like sand, the shaking is likely to lead to their peers will abandoning them in time of need. Their road ahead will not be an easy one.

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

    Ron – See, this is where it gets tricky. My parents believe the formula they follow comes from God and they trust him to fulfill the promises he has given if they follow it. My parents and many others like them (and I have said this before) try hard to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit and to be receptive in their relationships with Christ. It's just that they really do believe God has told them to be faithful and follow a formula and they will be rewarded. And they trust that promise. Ultimately it's God they trust, because they believe he is behind the formula. You can say they are wrong, but you can't say they don't love and try to listen to God. They do. Christ IS the bedrock of their faith. They just believe he's telling them to follow a formula.And when I say formula, I don't mean they had a list written down. It was more like, if you spank properly, you shelter properly, you teach properly, if you nurture correctly, if you parent correctly, etc, it will work. In the end it seemed foolproof – you raise a child correctly on the Truth and he will never leave. How could he when he has the Truth? And yes, shaking the formula shakes EVERYTHING. It's no wonder they reacted the way they did when I started asking questions.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15654013636892916062 Erika Martin – Stampin’ Mama

    It was always puzzling to me, when my parents insisted on their formulas and that everything would turn out right if they followed them, why they couldn't trust us and God enough to be able to make decisions on our own. Especially my sister and me. If you've done the training according to the formula, then let us prove it works by letting us make our own decisions. If you've done the training right, trust God to hold us if we fall. But…they couldn't do that. I think part of it comes to a lack of trust, but another part of it comes to control. Many of these parents (fathers in particular) are such a control freaks. Lack of trust and the need for control feed each other.

  • Wendy

    Fear, fear, fear. I'm an atheist living in the bible belt, and I'm always flabbergasted by the fear. Fear of the government, liberals, atheists, Obama, muslims, science, other races…really, it must be exhausting. And of course, for the ladies, there is paralyzing fear of one's own body.And you can ALWAYS tell when an someone is living their life in joyful faith; the absolutely exude happiness and peace.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    It is frustrating, and it raises an eyebrow, as well, that it is so dad-burned easy for a believer to come waltzing along and say, "Oh, [so 'n' so] was following religion, not Christ!"(or something similar)

  • Final Anonymous

    "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."I just don't get where VF and followers are finding God's examples for the perfect family in the bible.I mean, that first family disobeyed God almost from the get-go, raised their children in so much sibling rivalry it ended in murder, and unless I missed God's holy creation of the another perfect family in Eden or shortly after, brothers married their sisters.Don't even get me started on Christ's family — unwed teenage mother who hits the road on some cross-country journey away from her family, with some guy who is not her baby daddy, and winds up giving birth in a barn. Sounds like ancient "Jersey Shore."And yet, if Vision Forum is correct (and they HAVE to be, right), this non-formulaic, extremely imperfect version of the family managed to communicate covenant promises all the way down to US.Doesn't that illustrate that God is bigger than rules, and that if He wants to get a message across, these perfect-family formulas don't matter one single bit?

  • DJ Pomegranate

    Wendy – Yes, yes, yes.One thing that I've read on blogs similar to this one is the recollection of fear as a child: fear of the Democrat president (Clinton at the time), fear of the rapture/tribulation, fear of divine retribution for any/all sins, from hitting your brother to legalized abortion. It is comforting to hear from other people who had the same experiences as I did as a child, which was learning from the Christian culture to be afraid. But it’s mostly disturbing — do leaders/parents /educators realize how insidious and damaging this culture of fear is?! (Thankfully, my parents were adamantly fear-less, so that did a lot to help me grow up well-adjusted!)One of the major turning points in my own faith was when I realized that the constant fear (government, liberals, atheists, Obama, Muslims, science, other races, one’s own body…) was a bunch of hogwash. These are not scary things. Even if they were, how many times does Jesus say, “Fear not,”? SO MANY TIMES. For a culture that often proudly quotes Bible verses claiming that we are “more than conquerors,” who “put on the armor of God,”(etc.) it’s a real disconnect between words and action.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10353346026765317698 College At Thirty

    I had a pretty odd childhood–my dad was and is a "lipservice" Christian who if asked will say he believes in God, but not much else. My mom, for most of my youth, was a very devout-not-quite-fundamentalist woman, and there were just a lot of things she wouldn't let us do (like, I could have a Cabbage Patch Doll and Barbies, but no Trolls [not that I wanted Trolls, those things are creepy]). So, there was weird stuff. Why am I saying this? Well, because she put a lot "in God's hands" when it came to me and my brother. Bro stopped wanting to go to church pretty young. He saw the church for what it was, and how they treated my mom after my dad divorced her…so he stopped going. I stopped going at some point. I can't remember when. Sometime during high school. I would get upset because the youth pastor would get upset with me for going to the main sanctuary instead of to the youth group where all the kids I went to school with hung out and pretended their beliefs…Yes, I'm getting to my point. My mom knew my brother and I had issues. And she recognized that they were valid, pointed issues. So she backed off. And she prayed. I have been going to church steadily now for about seven years, and my faith is probably slightly stronger than hers, though I am cynical and I distrust most church organizations. My brother just started going back to church again two years ago, and he's like me, mistrusting the church, and unwilling to get involved in it politically (though he's more politically conservative than me). So, the point of course, is that I see what you're saying. I agree. You can't force someone into a religion or belief, just like you can't make people have the same opinion as you. And sometimes when you argue really hard, it just makes the person you're arguing with dig in their heels even harder.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00499236427446909328 Ron Amundson

    Libby Anne, It is indeed tricky, but I wonder if a human desire for certainty is at the heart of the matter. Ie, many have a need for certainty, they project their need for certainty and absolutes into any number of religious beliefs. Christianity appearing the case with your parents, but the same happens with any number of belief systems. Granted during the early stages of spiritual development, certainty to some extent is nearly always present. Some may begin to base their entire faith structure around certainty and then should it crash, things fall apart. I think you've mentioned Ehrman before, and such a process seems to mirror his experiences.

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

    Yes, I agree about the human desire for certainty. As soon as someone becomes so sure that what they believe that they are closed to really listening to other viewpoints, there is a problem. My parents have sort of painted themselves into a corner where they can't walk away from any of their beliefs without all of it shattering. They see and interpret the world through their beliefs, and cannot really understand how people outside of those beliefs see things. At the moment they've interpreted the failure of their God-given formulas the only way they can – I know the truth but am ignoring it, I am seduced by the pleasures of the world, etc. As to the future, only time will tell.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09648168191469472011 beka

    this is …..spot on.trust. wowza.

  • http://www.nepalilad.blogspot.com Ravi Dhungel

    Sounds interesting Post,Well born and raised as a Hindu, and always being critics and empiric s, turned myself into "secular-humanist" or " weak Atheist"- still figuring out where i belongs, – I thought Hinduism was only the problem although it looks favorably liberal belief system. I am quite surprised that most of belief system has identical fallacies.

  • Anonymous

    @"I am quite surprised that most of belief system has identical fallacies." See, this very thing is what bugs me the most. People assume that it's christian stuff, this god and patriarchy and so forth, and it's not, it's in *every* religion and their fundamentalists. That makes me really really wonder why that is. The way that I see it, the christian fundamentalists that think this way are no different than the taliban or the all-kayders everybody says are unholy godless terrists. Then we're all surprised when people kill.Ya'll should see what the catholic fundies like opus dei do and think and say; it's really really scary.

  • Anonymous

    (another Anonymous, not the same one)@Anonymous: it's in *every* religion and their fundamentalists.Absolutely. And where it isn't in the religion, it's in the culture. It's about power, paternity and propagation. That's it. Everything else is story, and it's story developed in a world without medicine, birth control, modern hygiene (ergo, high mortality rates), or modern warfare (ergo, more soldiers = better chance of victory).Liberal thinking is a story for a world in which birth control is possible, kids aren't farmhands, household help, or soldiers, and the vast majority of children survive to be adults.