How did your parents first come under the influence of Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull teachings? What leaders did they follow and what publications did they receive?
When I was seven, my parents divorced. This was 1987, the sort of peak to the “ministry” of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), run by the Christian guru, Bill Gothard (Billy Boy G.). At the time, Mama attended a weekly marriage counseling seminar called Rebuilders, a program put out by IBLP. The pastor who ran this seminar, John Hartzell, in cahoots with Alice and Drew Tillman (big shots in IBLP), recommended all attendees attend IBLP’s Basic Seminar. Mama did and was hooked. We joined John Hartzell’s church, Normandale Baptist Church, Bloomington, Minnesota, USA.
Over the years, I attended many Basic seminars and later, the Advanced Seminar. We had all of Billy Boy G’s textbooks and manuals in our house. All the red books, the Character Sketches, Men’s Manuals, used Wisdom booklets from his Advanced Training Institute joke of a homeschool program, and many other publications that were offshoots of the patriarchy/Quiverfull movement, such as To Train Up a Child and Created to be His Helpmeet, by Michael and Debbie Pearl. We also received God’s World Today, World Magazine, No Greater Joy, and many other publications that put forth a worldview that Christians were persecuted and needed to rise up and take back the world.
My parents have always been fairly traditional and conservative, but their participation in the local homeschooling community helped them develop more extreme beliefs. Through homeschooling conferences and other Christian homeschooling families, they were exposed to materials from Vision Forum, Reb Bradley, and Focus on the Family, and Bill Gothard’s Basic Life Principles. At various times, we also got publications such as God’s World News, Voice of the Martyrs, Institute for Creation Research, and psudeo-historian David Barton’s Wall Builders.
My parents were originally fairly ordinary evangelicals, but after they started homeschooling me (for practical, not religious, reasons) they came in contact with the literature of the Christian homeschool movement, made new friends, and attending Christian homeschool conventions. Little by little they adopted the essential beliefs of the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements. I sometimes think they didn’t even realize it was happening, it was all so gradual. Growing up, I remember recieving Michael Pearl’s No Greater Joy, Douglas Wilson’s Credenda/Agenda, Michael Farris’ Court Report, and Nancy Campbell’s Above Rubies. We also followed Vision Forum fairly closely.
Both my parents grew up in moderate Christian families. They first got involved with the P/QF teachings shortly after they married. Back in the 1980s my Mom found out about Mary Pride’s teachings (The Way Home) and both my mom and dad were quickly fascinated by her teachings and approaches to family structure. Among their favorite “leaders,” if you can call them that, are Mary Pride and the Pearls, and especially the Gothard teachings. My parents took several trips to meetings and seminars hosted by Gothard’s IBLP.
My parents consider themselves to be first-generation Christians. They were heavily influenced by Mary Pride during their engagement, and always planned to homeschool and have their children court, rather than date. They were involved in both Vineyard and Sovereign Grace Ministries churches, and subscribed to WORLD Magazine and Above Rubies (and later I would be subscribed to The King’s Daughter Magazine). For school, we used Sonlight Curriculum, Rod & Staff, Beautiful Feet, Gileskirk, Apologia Science, and Alpha Omega LifePacs. We were involved in AWANA, “liturgical dance” troupes, and various sports.
I am not 100% sure. My Dad always leaned that way I think, but before I was around 8 years old or so, we went to church and the girls were allowed to wear pants if they wanted. When I was 5 my parents decided to homeschool me, and I think some of the homeschool curriculums available in 1990 may have influenced them as well. At around age 8 some things started to change, my dad told us that all the girls would have to dress modestly from now on, because it wouldn’t be fair for him to “spring that on us when we hit our teens” and we might as well get used to it now. When I was 10 we quit going to church and began “homechurching”. I remember my dad subscribed to “Patriarch Magazine” and “Quit You Like Men” magazines. My mother started to get “Gentle Spirit” and eventually “Above Rubies.” I remember books like “Into the Garden” and “Me? Obey? Him?” on our bookshelves, along with Reb Bradley’s child training tips, “Shepherding a child’s heart,” and eventually “To Train Up a Child.”
My parents were already slipping into PF/QF teachings by the time I was born. They both came from chaotic backgrounds and were looking for a way to ensure that their children would never experience the things they had to go through. My older sisters had to watch things go from normal to terrible, but I have no memories from before. My earliest memories involve skirts and braids and spanking spoons. We had every book and magazine ever published by Vision Forum, Michael Pearl, Debbi Pearl, David Wilkerson, Above Rubies, Answers in Genesis, The Harris’s, The Farris’s, and the Botkins. I’m sure there were more.
I was not born into fundamentalism. My mother was an ordinary evangelical and my extended family was made up of lapsed Catholics. We went to various non-denominational Bible churches as my mother searched for her spiritual home. I was enrolled in kindergarten but taken out after three months. I was a sensitive, gifted child and was absolutely terrified of school. It didn’t help that the local public school was a hotbed for bullies and my teacher was so hardened from the battle that she offered no sympathy or advice. I was frequently sent to the principal for antisocial behavior, where I would sit and quietly lick a lollipop while he asked me questions. At home, I began having night terrors and insomnia, and physically fought my mother when she brought me to school. She decided that I just wasn’t ready and began to investigate homeschooling as a way to postpone my entry to school for about a year.
We happily floated along in the homeschool bubble for about a year, and my mother discovered that her own childhood dream of being a teacher could be satisfied by teaching me. She decided to keep me out for a few more years, always determined to send me back for high school. Then the world came crashing down.
When I was 7, my mother had a miscarriage. She had been trying for a second baby for as long as I’d been weaned, and this one was a son. She fell deep into mourning and leaned on one of her homeschool friends for support. That friend was a fundamentalist.
We were rapidly sucked down the rabbit hole of Christian patriarchy and quiverfull as my mother began attending a church that followed the charismatic fundamentalist preacher William Branham. Branham is a virtual unknown now, but was one of several healing ministries in the mid-20th century who attracted millions (50,000 at a time) to enormous tent meetings. He preached extreme patriarchy, arguing that the world would end because women voted in the wrong president and that a woman who works is a disgrace to her family. He also preached the end of days, divine healing and a mystical union of the believer with Christ. Although he was deeply plugged in to postwar evangelical culture, influencing men like Billy Graham, he was ultimately abandoned by the evangelical community when he began preaching things they deemed heretical, such as the return of the spirit of Elijah and John the Baptist in the form of a modern Prophet – guess who? Evangelicals no longer speak his name, and most now have no idea who he was. But his ideas diffused throughout Christian culture (the idea, for example, that women will bring down the apocalypse by voting for the antichrist or that a shepherd breaks a lamb’s legs to keep it from wandering astray). People who follow him explicitly have over 1100 of his sermons recorded and transcribed and read them frequently. They call themselves believers in the “Message of the Hour,” or “in the Message” for short.
My church subscribed to the usual evangelical-fundamentalist literature: Above Rubies, Beautiful Girlhood, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Mary Pride, Michael and Debi Pearl, Creationist magazines and Apologia textbooks. We were not involved with Bill Gothard, but we would have fit in perfectly at one of his seminars.
At the first homeschool convention my parents attended, they heard one of the “big names” in the movement speak and were dazzled. They actively pursued more of the same kind, and Doug Philips, Jonathan Lindvall, Bill Gothard, and Michael Pearl all soon became household words in our family. There were several other less well-known teachers in the same general stream that we followed as well. We subscribed to the magazines/newsletters, bought the books and tapes, went to the seminars, etc. Our home was literally littered with patriarchal propaganda.