Raised Quiverfull: Struggling with Questions

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?

Joe:

Hell.  I struggled with that for all of five minutes.  Then, it didn’t matter anymore.  There was no proof of anything.  So, if a god required me to believe in what was not firmly believable, I couldn’t be required to get it right.  The other thing I struggled with was my guilt for having sex before marriage.  Sure, it was with my future wife, but that mattered not to those who ran me out of my “ministry” and smeared my name.

Latebloomer:

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.

Libby Anne:

The hardest part was realizing that questioning my parents’ beliefs meant potentially losing my entire family. Somehow I didn’t realize this at first. I naively thought that I could disagree with my parents and form my own beliefs without repercussions. But when I watched how they responded to my very first questioning, I realized that this was not the case. I realized that questioning their beliefs meant being willing to lose everything. Choosing between my family and my freedom was horrible. No one should have to make that choice. And leaving everything I had ever known for a world that was foreign and new was also scary. It meant everything – everything – would change.

Lisa:

Well, I struggled most with the fact that I wasn’t accepted as a full human being. Kids weren’t either, and I hated that too. The fact that it seemed as if only an adult man could be a full human being, with all rights in the world, that I didn’t understand. Always thought God was very unfair and mean to put me into a position of submission without any fault of my own. I remember many nights of asking God what in the world I did wrong that he made me be a woman.

And the hardest part of it was disappointing and leaving all these people who loved me, and needed me, behind. Just the mere fact of considering leaving just to get my way pained me more than I can explain. I felt like those women I was supposed to hate, the ones who sacrifice family and their loved ones on the altar of being “free”. I despised myself for a long time simply because I craved just that.

Mattie:

When I was questioning and shifting away from CP/QF, the hardest part was the effect it had on my relationship with my parents. I love them dearly and enjoy their friendship, and as most firstborns do, I strongly crave their approval and affirmation.  As my new ideas and “controversial” lifestyle choices began to rub them the wrong way, they would confront me, concerned about my spiritual state. I’d defend my choices reasonably, and my dad would often end up taking my choices as a personal rejection of him (as his beliefs are intrinsically tied in with his identity). Our relationship became seriously strained over these issues, and I began to dread visits home, as he’d often take that opportunity to grill me about why I was thinking and saying (and especially blogging) critical things about their parenting choices and Christian Patriarchy as a whole.

Around that same time, my sister was “coming out” and processing these things too, but because she was my younger sister, there was often an assumption that I was influencing her actions and thoughts. Nothing could be farther from the truth—she started this process very independently from me, and while we sometimes compared our observations and conclusions, she was really seriously working out her issues with CP/QF on her own.

Once my parents realized that I was more critical of the trends and the system of beliefs than I was of them personally, they relaxed a bit. It took about a full year for our relationship to go from anger and resentment all around to civility, and later kindness and friendship. That process was almost more emotionally grueling than sorting through the damage done by CP/QF itself.

Melissa:

I think the absolute hardest was trying to find my value apart from being a baby producer. I had only ever seen my worth in my fertility, so contemplating that I was capable of valuable thought or activity other than having children for God’s kingdom was the hardest to move past.

Sarah:

I think the hardest part of walking away was all the fear. I was afraid that if I didn’t follow “the rules” I would ruin my marriage. I would destroy my future children’s lives. I would displease God. I would alienate my parents. It was scary. Especially when I started to walk away from God altogether. The fear of hell is a powerful motivator.

Sierra:

The hardest part of leaving was the fear of divine retribution. I was taught that anyone who “blasphemed the Holy Spirit” (by rejecting the Truth) was damned in this world and the next. My church told stories of kids walking away and ending up alcoholic, riddled with STDs and dying young. I was convinced that if I said anything bad about my church I would physically die.

Tricia:

The hardest part was feeling like I was a disloyal, terrible, rebellious, self-centered, and ungrateful daughter for criticizing my parents or acknowledging, even to myself, that they had hurt me. I still struggle with this sense of misplaced, extreme loyalty. It helps a little to remind myself that there should be nothing dishonoring about facing truth. It’s also been hard not to feel that focusing on my own growth and recovery is wasting time that could better be spent serving others or doing something productive. But I know if I don’t do this work, I’ll never become the person I could be.

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Raised Quiverfull Introduction — Questioning Summary

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.

  • shadowspring

    Latebloomer:

    It’s hard to deny the charge that college changes people and in way that make them question their parents’ religious beliefs, but the brainwashing is what happens BEFORE college. I was not a staunch pro-lifer but leaned in that direction until I studied Anatomy and Phsyiology, Medical Ethics and Legal and lived out my faith by befriending a family immersed in so much dysfuntion/poverty that I finally understood that abortion can actually be the MOST MERCIFUL option for child as well as mother. Suddenly I understood pro-choice as the compassionate response to unplanned pregnancies and fetal birth defects.

    Did college brainwash me? No, just the opposite. College handed out information dispassionately and without agenda. Abortion was never mentioned. Fetal development, genetic disorders, and the many things that can go wrong in cell division were just part understanding anatomy and physiology.

    The brain-washing came from the pro-life side, with their propoganda that every women seeking abortion is a callous, hard-hearted and selfish slut who was murdering innocent sweet soft cuddly babies. The brain-washing is in handing out tiny little plastic dolls to small children in Sunday school, telling them that this is what the baby looks like at ten weeks. Uh, no, that is what the outside of a baby might look like at eight weeks (I’m not sure, its been awhile since I’ve seen one) but the outward form is not an indication of the physiology and internal organ development necessary for thought, sensation and certainly not for life outside of the placental environment.

    Mattie, my husband and I decided to love our kids more than our religion. It was the start of our own journey into (to quote Jim Palmer) wide, open spaces.

    It’s definitely a choice that the church pushes one to make. The many disowned and estranged children in fundagelical families was probably the biggest indicator to me that “something ain’t right here” in modern Christianity. Wasn’t Christ the one who said to love one another as he loved us, and that he welcomes all? Yet “Christian” families are rejecting each other and being very selective about who is allowed? Wtf? That brand of religion makes no sense at all.

    But yes, college changes a person. Sort of like how in the movie The Village, the girl who left the village would be forever changed once she crossed the fence into the modern world. But it was not the modern world doing the brainwashing, it was the ones who built the fence and hired security to keep her inside.

    Lisa, while I was still buying into the fundagelical doctrines about men and women, I felt the same way. I would complain to God, ‘why did you make me a woman?’ and ‘did I have to be so smart?” I felt like I would make an awesome man, as I had so much vision and intelligence and drive. Turns out those actually do come in handy in my post-fundagelical worldview, even in a woman. :)

    • AnotherOne

      “Mattie, my husband and I decided to love our kids more than our religion. . . . It’s definitely a choice that the church pushes one to make. The many disowned and estranged children in fundagelical families was probably the biggest indicator to me that “something ain’t right here” in modern Christianity. Wasn’t Christ the one who said to love one another as he loved us, and that he welcomes all? Yet “Christian” families are rejecting each other and being very selective about who is allowed? Wtf? That brand of religion makes no sense at all.”

      Yes, Shadowspring. A thousand times yes. I look at my extended family and see estrangement between parents and children, and in *every* case fundamentalist Christianity has played a role. In some ways I feel sorrier for the parents than the children. After going through the estrangement we kids are more or less ok. We find ourselves, and find other sources of community, support and comfort. Meanwhile our aging parents cling to their religion, confident that loving their warped “gospel” over and above their children is the right decision to make. And they’re sad, so very sad, because they *want* to love their children. I’m glad–for your sake and your children’s–that you made the decision you did.

      • Steve

        He also allegedly said this:
        “For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

        Sounds about right for American Christianity

  • shadowspring

    Hmm, my paragraphs got moved around somehow. That’s not right. The two paragraphs to Mattie should be at the end. I hope that makes more sense.

  • smrnda

    @Melissa

    Wow, I can hardly imagine what it must be like to be raised to think that your biggest purpose in life would be reproducing. My parents never even talked to me about relationships, marriage or me having kids later in life so it was almost the exact opposite; growing up I always thought of the kind of life I’d want and would think about what I would study in school or what I might want to do for a living. I never even thought of marriage or having kids even coming up.

    It’s also got to be tough if you end up wanting kids but also wanting a life outside of being a Mom when you’ve been taught that you’re only doing it right if you have a lot of kids and don’t work outside the home and follow some huge ton of rules.

    In a lot of posts it seems kind of like everybody was told that if they left the QF/CP lifestyle they would end up facing some sort of disaster – do people in that lifestyle really believe that or is it just a scare tactic? It just seems that the parents in this movement often grew up with relatively normal lives and then converted later so they can’t really think that anybody and everybody else is a drug addict or homeless or gets infected with AIDS.

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