A post in the Raised Quiverfull series.
Part 1: Introductory Questions
Question 1: Please introduce yourself before we get started. Are you married or unmarried? Are you in school, holding down a job, or staying home? Do you have children? What religious beliefs or lack thereof do you ascribe to today? Provide whatever additional information you like.
I’m in my thirties and have a young child that I now stay home with. My husband and I consider ourselves extremely liberal Christians, but as ex-fundamentalists we haven’t found a group that we want to associate with. We are currently living in California.
Question 2: 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?
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. They also borrowed some ideas from Bill Gothard’s Basic Life Principles.
Question 3: In what ways was your family a “typical” Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull family? In what ways was it “atypical”?
In some ways we were very typical: homeschooled, not allowed to date or spend time with the opposite sex, and not allowed to attend church youth group. However, I never felt like we were really strongly connected to the CP/Q community because my dad had issues with his faith and with accepting his leadership role in our family. We also stood out because my sister and I didn’t wear dresses all the time, and my parents thought it was irresponsible to have more children than you could financially provide for.
Part 2: Living the Life
Question 1: What sort of a church did your family go to while you were growing up? Were the other families who attended the church also involved in the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement?
It’s hard to identify a pattern except that we changed churches a lot. During my childhood, we attended various Baptist churches. In my early teens when my dad wasn’t attending church, we formed a home church with several CP/Q families that we knew from the homeschooling community. For some reason that fell apart, but at that point my dad was ready to attend church again. We attended two more Baptist churches before we all ended up at Reb Bradley’s church, Hope Chapel. We attended Hope Chapel with many other homeschooling CP/Q families from my mid-teens through early twenties.
Question 2: In many ways, every Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull couple has a different dynamic. What sort of a dynamic did your parents have? Was one more sold on the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology than the other? Or, if you grew up in a broken family, how did this affect your experience?
In the interests of presenting a united front, my parents never discussed their marriage or decisions with us. However, from my observations, I believe that my mom really wanted to have the ideal CP family, including more children. She tried to play that submissive wife role as much as she could and hoped that my dad would become a more consistent and willing leader. However, it seems like her submission was more like a way of manipulating him into becoming the leader she wanted. In a way, they seemed to have a reverse power struggle dynamic as she pushed a lot of responsibility onto him that he didn’t want.
Question 3: How often did you, your siblings, and your parents read the Bible? Were you guided by your parents or pastors in how to interpret the Bible, especially certain passages, or were you generally free to form your own ideas about what the Bible said?
We kids had to read the Bible by ourselves daily as part of our homeschooling curriculum. It counted as our Bible class for school. Ironically, despite our extremely conservative lifestyle, my dad never discussed religion with us. My mom rarely did, and when she did, it was a very simplistic Sunday school-type conversation. However, the many Christian books in our house, plus the sermons at church, provided guidance to us in our understanding of the Bible. I also learned a lot by listening in to my mom’s conversations with other homeschooling moms.
Question 4: What role did race play in the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull community in which you grew up? Were there any black or Hispanic families? Were they treated differently?
The homeschooling community was extremely white, but we did know several black and Hispanic homeschooling families, with varying levels of involvement in CP/Q. I don’t remember noticing any racism at the time. The cold-shoulder treatment seemed to be saved for families that were not fully committed to homeschooling, regardless of race.
Part 3: A Gendered Childhood
Question 1: How many siblings did you grow up with? Did responsibilities in your family differ by gender, with the girls having certain chores and the boys having others? Explain.
I have a younger brother and sister. Looking back, the most obvious gender difference was that I was supposed to cook and sew, but my brother wasn’t. However, he had to do the “dirtier” jobs of emptying the trash and taking care of the pets. All three of us were all expected to contribute to daily kitchen cleanup and other household chores.
Question 2: If you were an older daughter, do you feel that you were expected to play “mother” for your younger siblings? Explain.
As the oldest of three, and I definitely spent a lot of time watching my young sister for my mom. I also occasionally helped her with her school work. However, I never felt responsible for training or disciplining her. As for my brother, he and I were too close in age, so my parents never allowed me to boss him around.
Question 3: In what ways were boys and girls in your family expected to dress or act differently from each other? Were there certain things it was appropriate for girls to do but not boys, and vice versa?
I was a huge tomboy when I was younger. I loved sports and physical challenges. I had a really short haircut, my favorite color was blue, and I thought girls’ interests (such as dolls and clothes) were boring. I think that frightened my mom a lot, because as I approached my teens, she suddenly started telling me I looked like a boy and tried to shame me for playing rough with the boys. She was always trying to get me to be more ladylike; apparently there are a lot of things that ladies don’t do.
My sister didn’t need any coaching; she took naturally to wearing cute dresses, having tea parties, and making crafts. I tried really hard, but I just never was able to enjoy sewing and cooking, and my mom eventually moved on to teaching these skills to the eager daughters of other homeschooling families, which really made me feel like the odd one out. And as I watched my brother leave for his many outdoor adventures with other boys, I felt cheated and limited, having been born a girl.
Question 4: In what ways were boys and girls in your family raised differently vocationally (i.e., the boys pushed toward careers and the girls pushed toward homemaking)? How did this play out as you came of age (apprenticeship, college, staying home, etc.)?
For many conservative Christians, higher education is seen as suspect because of the supposed liberal bias of universities and professors. That was the case for my family as well. However, my parents were unusual in our CP/Q community because they believed that even a daughter should be educated enough to support herself if necessary. So they encouraged me to attend a very conservative Christian college such as Bob Jones University, Pensacola Christian College, or Moody Bible Institute. They advised me to choose an area of study that would allow me to supplement my future husband’s income by working from home after I had children.
Unfortunately, due to isolation, I had debilitating social anxiety at the time at graduated from high school; the thought of going to college terrified me. Even though I was extremely unhappy at home, I chose to continue living with my parents for a few years before enrolling at a local community college with my brother. After community college, my brother and I both left home for out-of-town universities. By the time my sister had grown, my family was no longer involved in the CP/Q movement.
Part 4: Homeschooling
Question 1: Why and when did your parents originally decide to homeschool? Did their reasons for homeschooling change over time?
I heard the stories so many times as I was growing up, the reasons for my parents’ decision to pull me out of public school halfway through first grade and start to homeschool me. I heard how I cried every day when my mom dropped me off at school. I heard how I was bored in class because I had learned to read at age three, long before going to kindergarten. I heard how my teacher was wasting classroom time on political issues by having the class write a letter about saving some whales. I heard how the teacher hurt my feelings badly by insulting my quiet speaking voice during a presentation. I heard how I had the problem boy as my seatmate because I was the best behaved student. I never thought to question my mom’s narrative; school was certainly a terrible place for me, based on her stories.
As a former elementary school teacher, my mom knew that she could give me a more personalized education than I would get in a classroom of 30 other students. While helping me get ahead academically, she would also be able to protect me from worldly and liberal influences.
Unfortunately, after many years of countering criticism and being surrounded by other like-minded Christian homeschoolers, my mom lost the ability to objectively evaluate whether homeschooling was still working for our family. By then, our identity as homeschoolers was inseparable from our spiritual, political, and family identity; failure was not an option.
Question 2: Briefly describe your experience being homeschooled, including the amount of interaction you had with other homeschoolers or non-homeschoolers (socialization) and what sorts of textbooks or homeschool program your family used (academics).
Regarding academics, my mom was very careful in planning our curriculum for each year; she never became overly reliant on one source or publisher. Almost all the materials that she chose were promoting a conservative Christian worldview, such as our history, literature, and science materials from A Beka and Bob Jones. For math, we used Saxon. From my observation, she prepared a much more academic and structured education for us than many other homeschooling families seemed capable of.
In terms of socialization, when I was young, we had regular activities with other local homeschoolers such a weekly park days, monthly roller-skating days, and occasional field trips. We also participated in some community-based activities such as gymnastics. But as I got older, there were fewer homeschooled kids my age, and our participation in outside activities started to decrease.
As I reached my teens, my parents bought into Reb Bradley’s idea that teenage rebellion was a recent American trend due to indulgent parenting and peer pressure. So, for most of my teen years, my main opportunity for social interaction came once a week at church. However, it wasn’t much of an opportunity because I wasn’t allowed to join a youth group at our churches (and later, our homeschooling church Hope Chapel didn’t even allow a youth group to exist). At my high school graduation ceremony, which was attended by hundreds of local homeschooling families, I had only briefly met one of the other 12 graduates before.
Question 3: What do you see as the pros and cons of having been homeschooled? Do you feel that your homeschool experience prepared you well socially? Academically?
For my family, the strength of homeschooling was in having our education tailored to our needs, giving my siblings and me the ability to do some subjects more quickly or slowly as necessary. One weakness, however, was that we didn’t have much internal motivation to perform for a parent rather than a teacher, so we did the minimum required and didn’t get challenged. For my brother and me, our enjoyment of reading gave us very high reading comprehension, so we ended up very well prepared for college classes despite doing most of our schoolwork independently. My sister has a much different personality and learning style, and she struggled much more with the experience of being homeschooled. She began to thrive academically when she was put in Christian school for high school.
Socially, all three of us were at a disadvantage from homeschooling, although my brother had the easiest time because he regularly hung out with other guys in his Christian homeschooling Boy Scout troop. In my case, I had only one friend from age 10-12, and then no friends again until I was 17. In my teens, I was terrified of social interaction to the point of trembling and feeling sick to my stomach, and I often wrote in my journal that I wanted to run away from society and become a hermit. I used to cry myself to sleep at night quite often, occasionally trying to get my mom to notice my tears by sniffing juuuust loud enough for her to hear as she walked by my door. When she came in to ask why I was crying, I would say something like, “I don’t have any friends” or “I don’t know how to talk to people.” In the morning, life would proceed as usual, quiet and empty.
The social effects of homeschooling are with me even today. First, I can still feel significant social anxiety in even the most non-threatening situations. I am particularly at a loss in group settings full of new people. What do I say? When do I say it? Whom do I say it to? How/when do I end a conversation? Even in a circle setting, when it’s my turn to say my name, my blood pressure skyrockets. Second, in the whole world, there is no place and no group of people where I feel like I belong. It’s like I was raised in a different culture, with the distinct difference that I can never go “home” to it. I’m permanently a foreigner; interacting in this foreign culture takes a lot of attention and effort. I’ve tried to catch up on the culture I missed…to watch the movies, to listen to the music, to see pictures of the clothing styles…but it will never mean to me what it means to you. People always use cultural references and nostalgia as a way to build community and connections between people; for me, they create distance and remind me how different I am inside.
Question 4: Do you perceive of your academic or social abilities differently today than you did when you were being homeschooled?
Definitely! As a teen, I put the blame on myself for my lack of social skills, and I felt happy to be safe at home. I believed that kids would probably just pick on me for my Christian faith and my awkwardness if I were at public school. Now, in hindsight, I believe that more continuous socialization starting in my younger years would have prevented my social anxiety and awkwardness from getting so out of hand. Although I likely would have been shy even in public school, at least I would have had a couple friends and learned coping mechanisms for relating to others.
Academically, I realize now that I missed the opportunity to learn critical thinking and respect for different opinions during my youth. All our homeschooling materials presented a consistent Christian worldview, and my family’s opinions were never challenged. As a result, even into my early twenties, I believed that people who didn’t share my worldview were either deceived or in rebellion against God.
Question 5: Do you plan to homeschool/are you homeschooling your children? Why or why not? If you do plan to homeschool, in what ways will you/do you do it differently from your parents?
I believe that there are good reasons to homeschool, as long as parents try to compensate for the inherent weaknesses of homeschooling (lack of socialization, too much monitoring and control by parents, difficulty teaching more advanced subjects, etc.). Personally, I will not consider homeschooling unless I feel we have exhausted every other option; if I homeschool, it will be temporary and my children will participate in non-homeschooling activities as much as possible.
Part 5: Purity
Question 1: What were you taught about physical purity, emotional purity, and courtship and dating? How was sex education handled?
Sex was a dirty word at our house, one that was never spoken. Luckily, I looked up the pertinent data in the encyclopedia when I was 11, since my mom didn’t get around to sex education until I was 17. At that point, she just handed me the biology textbook and said, “Read chapter 13,” and that was the end of it.
I suppose that my parents felt that sex education was unnecessary because they were teaching me about abstinence. As a teen I was exposed to a lot of anti-dating materials—books and tapes from Reb Bradley, Josh Harris, Elizabeth Elliot, and Eric and Leslie Ludy—about purity and guarding my heart. When I was 16, we started attending Hope Chapel, Reb Bradley’s church. Hope Chapel teens were supposed to court rather than date, but the most damaging aspect of the culture was that even friendship with the other gender was forbidden because of temptation.
Based on the church culture and teachings, I really believed that it was wrong to have a crush on a boy, but I seemed to develop an instant crush on any halfway decent boy I saw from across the room. I never let myself mention anything about it even in my private journal though; the most I would say was something like, “I saw a godly boy a church today. It gave me hope that God could bring me a husband suddenly, from anywhere.”
Question 2: Did you participate in a parent-guided courtship? If so, what was your experience? If not, why not?
My dad was skeptical about following Biblical courtship, but I still believed that it was God’s way of protecting my heart and my purity. I also secretly felt that I didn’t have the confidence, social skills, or experience to find a husband myself without the support of the courtship system. I hoped that if I played my role correctly, God would let everything work out for me even though my dad wasn’t excited about his role. However, I did not have the opportunity to be courted because no one was interested in me, and I don’t blame them!
I did have the unfortunate opportunity to see an arranged marriage unfold at church between two adult children. Their parents held a meeting and decided that their son and daughter would be good for each other, so they allowed them begin communicating through monitored emails. I remember hearing the mothers talking at church about how cute the first set of emails was, since they only said, “How are you?” and “Fine, thanks.” It was disturbing to me, even back then.
I also witnessed a failed courtship attempt between a young man and one of Reb Bradley’s daughters. The courtship was broken off with a lot of drama, heartbreak, and severed friendships, and it made me realize that courtship was not very effective at protecting the girl’s heart like Reb Bradley had taught. It seemed like it was even more damaging than dating because there was so much pressure and attention on the couple.
Question 3: How do you feel about purity and courtship teachings today? Have you rejected some parts of it and kept other parts of it? How do you plan to handle these issues with your own children?
There are so many things wrong with the purity and courtship culture that I don’t even know where to start! Those beliefs really are a self-fulfilling prophecy. They say that women are weak and easily deceived by their emotions, and then make them that way by sheltering them from experience and higher education. They say that teens must be gender-segregated because platonic friendship between genders is not possible; however, the act of segregating causes teens to see a sexual charge in every encounter.
Additionally, courtship teaching foolishly downplays the role of compatibility in choosing a spouse. Reb Bradley was fond of saying that the goal of marriage is sanctification, not happiness, so it’s actually better for you to marry someone really different from yourself. It’s not surprising that he would teach this, since his goal is to segregate the genders and keep the parents in charge. Of course he downplays compatibility, since it is something that a person can only determine for himself/herself through getting to know a lot of different kinds of people and through spending a lot of time alone with a potential spouse. I believe life and marriage will present you with plenty of growth opportunities even when you are highly compatible with your spouse, so you shouldn’t invite more trouble into your life by ignoring compatibility!
Personally, I feel that sex shouldn’t be taken lightly, but it has an important role in relationships even before marriage. The process of getting to know each other mentally and emotionally is gradual, so why should getting to know each other physically be so abrupt?
I want my kids to have a very thorough and age-appropriate sex education, including how to prevent the spread of STDs and how to use birth control/condoms. Ultimately, they are going to make their own choices, and I don’t want them to be unprepared. I believe my role should be to encourage them to save sex for a committed mature relationship. No matter what choices they make, I want to keep an open and non-judgemental environment in our home so they can come to me with questions or problems.
Question 4: Do you feel that the purity and courtship teachings you were raised with still have lasting impact on your life today? If so, how?
The effects of those teachings were predominantly unhealthy. They made me feel responsible for helping men avoid all sexual thoughts about me. I could never relax and just be myself because I had to guard against flirting or looking attractive. Although I’ve escaped most of the damage from this mindset, I still occasionally feel guilty about too much eye contact with a man or about dressing too attractively.
Part 6: Questioning
Question 1: How were you first exposed to “mainstream” American culture? What were your first impressions?
My year at a local community college at age 22 was my first opportunity to interact with non-Christians and non-homeschoolers. I spent most of that year trying to manage my social anxiety and proving my academic abilities to myself, so I wasn’t really changed by the experience. I was surprised, however, that the teachers and students didn’t seem to be actively trying to destroy my faith.
The following year, I got my first real job, working in retail. During the hours of downtime at work, I couldn’t keep to myself like I did at school. In interacting with my coworkers, I was pleasantly surprised by the kindness that people showed to me despite my awkwardness. It probably helped that I kept quiet most of the time around them because I couldn’t keep up with the pace of conversation, which was full of cultural references and assumptions that I didn’t understand.
Question 2: What first made you question the beliefs you were raised with? Was this initial questioning a frightening or liberating experience?
I began to realize that issues of right and wrong were not so simple when I was talking with a sweet classmate who mentioned that she was living with her boyfriend. My first instinct was to lovingly warn her about the dangers of cohabitation. Then I suddenly realized that I couldn’t think of anything wrong with cohabitation except, “God says premarital sex is wrong.” And wait, why exactly was premarital sex wrong? All the problems were just “maybes”. So I kept quiet and became a slightly less judgemental person that day.
Another breakthrough came at work, through a shocking discovery about my favorite manager. While off-duty, he called the on-duty manager for some reason, and when she hung up, she remarked, “Why did he call me from a gay bar? He’s so funny!” I was extremely confused, and wondered aloud, “Hmm, yeah. That’s weird. Why would he be at a gay bar?” She stared at me in shock, and said, “Um…because he’s gay. Didn’t you know that?” It was a momentous occasion for me, realizing that I had met my first gay person and that *gasp* he was a really great person. For a while afterwards, I was extremely conflicted about whether I should lovingly talk to him about changing his lifestyle, or whether I should just invite him to church and let the sermon challenge him. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had no idea what was inherently wrong about gay sex or gay love. It started to seem like a very arbitrary rule. Later, I realized something even more shocking. My gay boss, when he hired me, knew that I had been homeschooled and that I was very conservative. He probably knew that I had anti-gay opinions, yet he hired me anyway! It seemed to me that he was a kinder person than most of the Christians I knew. I found this thought very uncomfortable for a long time.
Question 3: What did you struggle with most when you were in the midst of questioning and/or leaving Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology? What was the hardest part?
I was shielded from a lot of troubles because I was away at college for much of my transformation, and because my family left the movement at about the same time that I started college. However, it was still hurtful to know that people wrote off my transformation as “liberal college brainwashing.”
Internally, that hardest thing was when I started to question whether the Bible really was the inerrant word of God. It really was the lens through which I saw the world, and all my beliefs were connected to it. I felt that if I questioned any part of it, then the whole structure of my worldview would come crashing down. I finally realized that if the Bible was really perfect and meant to hold such a place of authority in my life, it should be able to hold up under questioning without being threatened. So I allowed myself to acknowledge and process my concerns and doubts. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, the Bible came up short. It has taken me some time to learn how to think and function spiritually without overly depending on it.
Question 4: Among those you grew up around who were also raised with Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology, what proportion has remained in the movement and what proportion has left?
I am not really in contact with any of the parents of the movement; however, of the teens, I don’t know of anyone who remained in the movement in adulthood. Today, they cover a wide range of beliefs from conservative Christian through liberal atheist. But a common theme among all of them is that they believe they were damaged by the CP/Q culture and teachings at Reb Bradley’s church Hope Chapel.
Part 7: Relating to Family
Question 1: How did your parents and siblings respond to you questioning/rejecting their beliefs? How did those you grew up with respond?
My last few years at home were truly terrible for everyone. In my late teens and early 20s, I was chaffing more and more under my parents’ church-sanctioned authoritarian approach to parenting. They were getting more and more desperate to retain control, while I was rapidly becoming less able to fake love and respect. At one point, I was grounded indefinitely (it ended up being over 2 months) until I could achieve the correct facial expression and tone in talking to my dad. In all this, the crazy thing was that I honestly never purposefully disobeyed my parents, but I was still classified as rebellious.
The constant conflict at home contributed to our deep depression; my mom and I internalized our depression into mysterious illnesses while my dad channelled his into open hatred of us. When we were at the end of our rope, each of us asked our pastor Reb Bradley for advice. The advice we got was damaging and worthless. According to Reb, my mom and I needed to be more submissive, and my dad needed to not resist his leadership role in the family. That was it; God didn’t allow any other options for us.
It didn’t take much longer for my parents to become disillusioned with the movement; against Reb’s advice, they began to get professional counseling that completely changed our family dynamic. It was a welcome relief for my siblings and me. At that same time, I finally left for college and had a lot more privacy and space to discover my own opinions. Those changes helped us to begin to slowly heal the damage to our family relationships.
Question 2: What is your relationship with your parents and siblings like today? What is your relationship with those you grew up with who remained in the movement like?
Things are the best they’ve ever been between me and my dad and my siblings. We enjoy spending time together and can talk about our opinions and experiences without offending each other. However, there is some tension in my relationship with my mom, who is the only fundamentalist left in our family. On several occasions, she has let me know that she believes me to be a selfish and bitter person who doesn’t have a relationship with God; as a result, it’s hard for me to have a relationship with her because she doesn’t like who I am.
Question 3: For those who are no longer Christian, are you “out” to your parents or siblings? If so, how did you do it and how did they respond?
I still consider myself a Christian, although I’m so liberal in my opinions that many Christians would not want to share the label with me.
Question 4: Have any of your siblings (or perhaps even parents) left Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy ideology? How do you approach the relationships with siblings who have not?
None of my family members are still involved the movement, although my mom is the closest one. She is the only fundamentalist left in the family, but she generally avoids bringing up religion in person because hearing different opinions makes her very uncomfortable and sad. However, she still wants to have a spiritual influence on my life, so she often sprinkles her emails with unnecessary and vague references to Bible studies, trust, and prayer. I just ignore it.
Part 8: Adjusting
Question 1: Do you still feel as though you are “different” or that your past experiences emotionally isolate you from society?
I definitely feel the effects of my past even today. Because I was isolated from my peers in my formative years, social interaction takes a lot more concentration for me than for others. In a way, it’s kind of like I’m operating in a foreign culture with different rules about what is acceptable and offensive. Additionally, conversations in this “foreign culture” are full of cultural references and assumptions that confuse me and remind me how different I am inside. And in some ways the situation is worse than the foreign culture analogy suggests: I don’t have a “home culture” to return to. That means I’m stuck with this feeling of being slightly disconnected from society. I hope that this feeling will continue to fade with time and practice.
Question 2: Since most of the world doesn’t understand Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy culture, do you feel this creates barriers in friendships or in romantic relationships? Do people have a hard time understanding you and your past?
It seems like people are much more interested in who I am now than in who I used to be. Personally, I try not to bring up my past until a relationship or friendship feels more established. It is often hard to avoid though because there are also a lot of common conversational topics that I can’t really contribute to without shocking people, things like childhood family relationships, school experiences, dating, and pre-2005 pop culture. When I do “come out” as an ex-fundamentalist homeschooler, it is always a very stressful experience for me despite my efforts to be casual about it. Luckily, these days I feel encouraged because people more often respond with something like, “Wow, I had no idea….you seem normal.”
A lot of this progress toward normalcy was made possible through the unceasing support of my husband. Sorting through my childhood baggage has actually brought us closer together and made us both better people. When we first got together, neither of us had any idea how much childhood baggage I had though. Despite my husband’s conservative Christian upbringing, I shocked and horrified him many times with stories and memories from my childhood. Our countless hours of conversation have helped me process my experiences and helped me realize that these things are not typical of wider Christian and secular culture.
Question 3: What do you think is the biggest way being raised in a family influenced by Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideas has influenced who you are today?
I feel grateful that I have seen the world through two completely different worldviews. I feel like it makes me able to relate to more people, which is useful in my profession because I have to facilitate interaction between people from very different cultures. It also helps me understand both sides of the political divide in the US and reminds me not to demonize people that I disagree with.
Question 4: How did you perceive your childhood at the time compared to how do you see it now?
At the time, I felt like a lot of things about myself were sinful—my sexuality, my negative feelings of frustration/anger, my opinions, and even my poor social skills. I genuinely wanted to have a deep relationship with God that would let me be satisfied no matter what my circumstances were. I believed that my challenges were God’s way of making me a better person, and I believed that God wasn’t giving me friends because he wanted me to depend completely on him. My journals from the time reveal the emotional rollercoaster I was on as I tried to be what God and my parents wanted me to be. In hindsight, it’s very clear that I was incredibly depressed and psychologically damaged, and it has taken me a long time to discover and accept who I really am.
About the community I was in: I thought that any failings of church families would be much worse and much more common among “worldly families”. I thought it was ok that Christians tried to hide their failings and crimes so that they wouldn’t dishonor God, and also because they believed that secular/liberal counselors and government workers shouldn’t interfere in the lives of God’s people. However, now I see that the movement promotes a culture that allows abuse with no recourse for the abused. Women and children are required to have a demeanor that invites abuse and then not allowed to do anything about it when it happens. I am horrified that movement leaders routinely give a one-size-fits-all answer to women and children with family troubles: “Submit more!” I feel terrible for the families who desperately needed professional help–kids who were physically abused by an alcoholic mother, a wife whose husband was sleeping with multiple partners, a family dealing with brother-sister molestation—and instead they got cookie cutter advice and were not encouraged to seek professional therapy and support.
When I was younger, I respected Reb Bradley as a godly church leader; now, I am incredibly frustrated that he continues to promote himself as an expert in family relationships without stopping to notice that his approach hasn’t worked out for the old Hope Chapel families or even for his own family.
Question 5: Do you sometimes wish to go “back”?
The further from the movement I am, the happier I become. I have never had a desire to return or any feelings of nostalgia about it.
Part 9: Helping Others
Question 1: What advice do you have for other young adults currently questioning or leaving Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology?
Your questions are there, deep down: be honest with God and yourself and acknowledge them. God is big enough to handle your questions. Then try to find answers for those questions with the mind that God gave you. It can be a scary journey but life is much richer and more interesting when you venture out of the box that you were raised in.
If you are not sure where to start, I’d recommend choosing a college and/or just getting out on your own. Give yourself some time and space to figure out who you are apart from your family.
Question 2: What was most helpful to you when you were questioning and/or leaving the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement?
It was extremely beneficial to meet a lot of different kinds of people and just listen to them and their stories as much as possible. I learned that there is so much variety in the world, and so many good and caring people! Later, it was also helpful to spend some time away from church and religious culture. It helped me see it with a fresh eye and understand how it looks to outsiders.
Question 3: What helps you the most today?
I sometimes get discouraged about my residual childhood baggage, but it helps to remember how far I’ve come. I also like to think of all the good things that are in my life now, and remember that I wouldn’t have them if I had stayed in the movement.
Question 4: What suggestions do you have for those who might to help friends or relatives who grew up/are growing up in families influenced by the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement?
Remember that it takes a long time for people to change their opinions and even longer to change a whole worldview. Try to focus on any similarities in values that you share with them, and choose your battles extremely carefully. If the parents trust you, they may allow their children to spend time with you unchaperoned, which will give the children a chance to confide in and be affirmed by a non-parental adult. You could make a big difference in their lives!
Latebloomer blogs at Past Tense, Present Progressive.