Questions for adult children of Christian Patriarchy?

I am working to set up a sort of Q&A in which half a dozen or so adults who grew up in families influenced by Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology will offer their responses to a list of questions. I will then divide the questions and responses up, and post them in a series of blog posts.

The young adults I am bringing together for this project – myself included – come from an array of backgrounds (no two families influenced by Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull are identical) and have today arrived at a variety of perspectives (while all have in some form questioned, rethought, and rejected the ideas behind the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, their current positions on religion and family are not identical).

The point of this post is to ask for question suggestions. I will ultimately choose the questions and put together the list, but I’d like my readers to make suggestions and offer input on what sort of things the questions should include.

So. Suggestions?

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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.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    When did you start having doubts about the P/QF system/how your parents were raising you/the ideology/the purity ideal/…, what was the motivator (if there was any) and why?
    What would you say to people trying to leave P/QF ideology?
    Was there somebody to help you get through it that you would like to give a shout out thank you (A partner, a psycotherapist, an organisation or blog)
    How is your relationship with your parents and siblings nowadays?

    I really suck at doing questions…. but well my 0,02 cents.

  • lane

    This may not be applicable to anyone, but I’m curious if any of the panelists have broken families. What influence did this have on things? (I come from a broken Quiverfull family myself–I am curious if there are more out there and if their experiences are at all similar to mine.)

    Other questions…
    - For those who are no longer Christian, are you “out” to your parents/siblings/both? How did you do it? What is the most challenging thing about those relationships, now that you are different? Do you wish you had done anything differently with all that?
    - Have any of your siblings (or perhaps even parents) gotten out from under fundamentalist/CP ideology? How do you approach the relationships with siblings who have not? Do you pity them? Try to lure them out?
    - Do you still feel as though you are “different” or that your past experiences emotionally isolate you from society?
    - Similar to the last q… Since most of the world doesn’t understand Q/CP culture, do you feel this creates barriers in friendships/romantic relationships? Do people have a hard time understanding you/your past?
    - What question do you wish someone would ask? ;)

  • freya

    How many people do you know who were raised in the Quiverful/patriarchy movement stay in it? Do most people get out and have smaller families, or do they continue to have families with 7+ children in them?

  • Sophie

    I would be really interested to know what percentage of the children of these families go on to leave their faith and how many are left to pass it on to their children. Obviously this could only ever be an estimate but it’s one I’d be interested in hearing from your responders! Are we doomed for this type of thinking to take over or is there hope for us yet?!

    Also, I’d be interested to know how free women and children in this movement are to actually read their bibles? Are they guided away from “dangerous” passages or downright forbidden from reading any particular parts without authorisation, or is this one aspect of life that isn’t strictly controlled? I come from a liberal Christian background but was made an atheist largely thanks to reading the bible. I understand that a lot of other people have had the same experience and that many Christians simply don’t bother to open it. What I’d like to know, is the percentage of people who can read the bible, in all its most gruesome detail, and not question their beliefs.

    • lane

      While I was still a Christian, I did a “read the whole bible in a year” (roughly 2 chapters a day) thing–I must’ve been in my early teens. This, actually, had nothing to do with questioning my beliefs.

      Why? Because the bible is ridiculously long and HELLA BORING. ;) Most of the time I was reading the Old Testament, I was at least partially mentally checked out and was just reading passively. When you’re in the middle of reading a laundry list of laws in Deuteronomy, it’s pretty easy to glaze over the whole “marry your rapist” thing without batting an eye.

      We were also taught that the OT doesn’t really count anymore. So that basically meant that the OT law and the creepy-ass stuff people did because of it (like Lot offering up his daughters) were just quaint and anachronistic–they didn’t count anymore because somethingsomethingJesus. There was always a ready-made excuse for you to just sort of dismiss those sorts of passages.

      Just my $0.02.

  • Besomyka

    One of the best ways to get a good critique of oneself, is to get feedback from someone with a fresh perspective. To wit, how were you first exposed to ‘mainstream’ american culture? What were your first impressions, and how has that changed over time?

  • Jeremy

    I’m curious as to their current thoughts about homeschooling’s impact on their lives, and whether they see it as part of the problem of their upbringing or as something distinct from the CP/Q movement.

  • Leni

    I don’t know about specific questions, but I would really like to hear more from men who left the movement and how their lives and relationships changed. I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of the benefits women have from leaving, but am much less informed about men’s experiences.

  • MrPopularSentiment

    What initially attracted your parents/family to the movement?

    What was the biggest influence in convincing you to leave the movement?

    How were you (or other people that you know of) treated by people in the movement when you decided to leave? Are you still in contact with your family?

    How are you coping in the “real world”? How do you feel that your experiences in the movement prepared you for your current life, or made your adjustment more difficult? What particular challenges have you had to face as a result of your upbringing?

  • Maude

    I second the questions everyone else has suggested, but I’m also curious about racism in the movement. For example, it looks like most CP and QF families are white. This could be my own misconception, but there also seems to be a love for the Confederacy by some families (e.g. the Bates, and most recently the Duggars, with John David’s suggestion that #20 be named Jefferson Davis, were it a boy). It definitely raises my curiosity as to how families like Voddie Baucham’s can survive in this movement, if this is more wide-spread.

    Another thing, and I apologize if this is too personal, but I’d be interested to know how sex education is handled. Such as, what families tell young women when they get their period, and what and when they’re told about sex.

  • Meggie

    1) How did you perceive your childhood at the time and compared to how do you see it know? Most bloggers write about how destructive their childhood was but I am interested about how people perceived it at the time. For example, my mother never let us do chores. She thought that it was more important for us to spend our time playing and studying. As a child I thought I was the luckiest kid alive but now I realise that I missed an opportunity to learn how to do things or even that certain jobs existed. I am particularly curious about how people perceived the level of education they received. Many adult-survivers write about their lack of education but we still hear fundamentalist-evangelical-home-school kids talk about being doctors, lawyers and other jobs they don’t have a hope of reaching. Did you all really believe you were getting the best possible education? (Sorry, that is very wordy but it is one question.)

    2) What did you most need / most struggle with when you left? I read this and other blogs to learn everything I can so that I can support my nieces, nephews, cousins-once-removed, etc if they should decide to leave. Please tell me what would have been most helpful.

  • Tuna

    While I don’t come from a quiverfull or physically abusive background, I grew up under Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP, Bill Gothard’s brainchild), Focus on the Family, and “Christian” homeschooling teachings. Most of our curriculum was either Catholic-bashing (A-Becka history), racist (Bob Jones University Press), or just whitewashed happy-happy Christianity (PACE). Thanks to 6 years of multicultural, inclusive public school teaching I found most of it quite offensive.

    The first 2 years spent in isolation after we started homeschooling in my 6th grade were the worst. We only saw people outside of family at church. I became suicidal and told a best friend, who told her mom. Mom forced me to say I was lying about it. She got frustrated enough she said she hated me, often criticized us and derided me for my acne in particular – even in college. She decided she suffered from depression and quit teaching us after the first year, but still homeschooled. She told us we were old enough to teach ourselves. Thankfully, after those 2 years we became involved in a support group so I had a social life again. I also got saved and started on self-help books.

    To Meggie’s question: Academically, I felt like I had a great homeschool education when I graduated high school. As an almost-30 year old adult, I’m still not sure if that is due to the power of psychological manipulation (Mom liked to brag on me because it “proved” she did well by homeschooling us) or because of the unlikely educational opportunities it offered me. Despite not having degrees themselves, both my parents were pro-education. The skills I learned cooking and cleaning for my family while attending community college in lieu of having a childhood or fun teenage years (because Mom was depressed, brother liked to play computer games, and Dad liked to maintain the status quo) ended up making me very driven and successful at college.

    I was a naturally self-motivated perfectionist, so only math was problematic. I flunked it 3 years in a row after Mom skipped pre-algebra and started me out on my older brother’s curriculum, but then got lucky. My parents let me apply to community college at 14 to take a foreign language the next year, since I couldn’t do that homeschooling. After a successful year, I mapped out a plan from the college course catalog to finish an associate’s degree. At this point, Mom offered me the opportunity to go back to public school shortly after the Columbine shootings happened, saying homeschooling was really our choice all along (bullshit), but now I’m old and responsible enough to make my own choices. I stayed in college, took the ACT at a friend’s suggestion during the spring of my senior year, and landed a full ride to college.

    The flip side of that success is that, like many children who grew up in strict religious environments, I developed problems with self-injury that I still deal with and had cancer when I was 25 (a pediatric type of cancer that was diagnosed late). I did leave the fold, converting to mainstream Christianity when I was 12 but waiting until 22 to burn my Book of Mormon, D&C, the IBLP young adult workbook, formally leave the RLDS church (which I still don’t think is a cult) and get baptized into a laissez faire evangelical Christian church my last semester of college. As I’ve moved around the country several times and had to find new churches, I do notice that I’m easily drawn to cults…I miss early warning signs and don’t realize how manipulative a certain group is until after I’ve formed personal connections and it’s hard to leave. Mom did come from a “broken” family, with a schizophrenic mother and overworked father. Dad was a workaholic in my childhood. I really didn’t develop a relationship with him until my later high school years.

    None of the questions above really asked what life is like with parents now, and I’d like to address it. The unique thing about my family is that my parents because more liberal over time. Neither of them hold any longer to the strict IBLP beliefs that once turned our family life into living hell, and Mom refuses to admit she ever did. Though Mom wouldn’t let me wear shorts in 5th grade, my parents let me travel out of the country (they chaperoned) my last year of high school. Mom goes to a doctor regularly now (albeit a natural one), and Dad has a great relationship with me as long as I don’t offend Mom. After reading many self-help books (I’ve sort of become a junkie), I’ve decided that my childhood family environment (and many IBLP/homeschooling families) resembles a family-based cult. While the religious beliefs in ours has changed drastically over time, the one underlying thread is that Mom always has her way. Disagreement is never an option. It’s silent treatment and guilt manipulation until I agree with her.

    Though some will disagree with me on this, I believe forgiving my parents was necessary and helped remove a burden from my shoulders. I still maintain contact and good (relatively speaking) relationships with my parents. I have to set boundaries, on things mundane like not remaining silent when my parents get on a soapbox about the Republican religion (else I have to listen to many more lectures about it); to serious boundary issues like Mom manipulating me to agree in the rental house on their property forever after I’m married, or continually whishing out loud that I would spend my vacation with them or move back home with them. For others in similar situations who wish to continue a difficult relationship with their parents more independently and healthfully, I cannot recommend _The Mom Factor_ by Townsend and _Telling each Other the Truth_ by Backus highly enough.

    • MadGastronomer

      If forgiving your parents was necessary for you, then it was. What people tend to disagree with, and get upset about, is the generalization that because it’s necessary for some people to forgive, it’s necessary for everyone to forgive.

  • Tuna

    Typo – That last paragraph should say
    “to serious boundary issues like Mom manipulating me to agree to live in the rental house on their property forever after I’m married

  • minnie

    Do you think women and girls in patriarchy are treated like breeding slaves.
    Do you care if these teachings cause little girls to hate themselves, wish they had never been born, and dread getting married.
    Do you know many people think christian patriarchy is just as sick to women and little girls as the taliban.

  • Louise

    Hi and thanks for answering.
    Would you say that it is easier for members of “happy” families to maintain the beliefs?
    What have you kept from your upbringing?
    Do you sometimes wish to go “back”?
    What has/helps you the most today?

  • Lisa

    If you grew up in an environment of patriarchy, at what age did it occur to you that there was a better way of doing things? What event or events caused you to realize that patriarchy was unhealthy–particularly if you were very sheltered from the outside world? The reason I ask is that I hear people using the excuse, “That’s how I was raised. It’s all I know.” (This reason is often used for all types of dysfunction, not just patriarchy.) However, for some of you patriarchy was “all you knew” and somehow realized and saw the craziness. What enlightened you?