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.
In an effort to be anonymous, I’ll go by Chryssie, and I am 21. I am the oldest of 9; 5 boys and 4 girls. I recently got married as of May, 2011 to an amazingly caring and loving man who is nothing like my dad. I am currently staying home, and enjoying not having to deal with hellish jobs. We are enjoying married life before we take the plunge and have a kid. I’m not honestly sure how to describe where I am beliefs wise right now. I 100% believe in God, the Father, Jesus Christ, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I know God gave his son to die for my sin, forgiven me, sees me as righteous, and has given me freedom through his son. Everything else is a bit sticky for me.
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?
I don’t remember when my parents first came in contact with Bill Gothard, Michael/Debi Pearl and company. I think they were introduced to it when we started to go to a small housechurch that was pretty strong in their opinions. I do remember going to several Pearl child training seminars with my parents and my siblings, and I remember my mom being pretty attached to Created to be His Help Meet, No Greater Joy magazines, and some magazine the Pearls did too, I think, and my dad getting Quit You Like Men magazines.
Question 3: In what ways was your family a “typical” Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull family? In what ways was it “atypical”?
My dad was definitely the head of the home, and he was the “mediator” between God and all of us, my mom included. My parents believed very strongly in the Pearls child training books, and my dad definitely had to have complete control no matter what. We weren’t given specific guidelines for what we were supposed to wear or not wear. Nor who we were supposed to hang out with or not. Besides minding our P’s & Q’s in public, I can’t remember anything else that was definitely CP/Q minded.
With my dad in the military, we were definitely atypical in that we moved around a lot, ended up in a lot of different Reformed Baptist churches, and even in a few home churches. Like I said, dress codes, friends, families we got together with were pretty “normal” in the way that not every family we got together with believed the same things we did.
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?
We were in and out of many churches throughout my life at home. Usually, we ended up at a Reformed Baptist church in one way or another. One of the home churches we were a part of had a few other large families and they seemed to also be caught up in the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement. Ironically, most of those large families have fallen apart over the past 10 years.
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?
My parents definitely had the dynamic that my dad ruled and my mom quietly submitted and didn’t question or challenge her husband. I would say my dad was completely, and I believe still is, sold on the CP/Q ideology. My mom has been passive and enabling of him up till this past year, and is now learning the courage to stand up to him and challenge him in how he treats her and my siblings.
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?
I got into the habit, around the age 14, of reading my bible every day and memorized a lot of scriptures. That was because I wanted to, not because I was told to, though. My siblings and I really resented family devotions, and for a good number of years, when we were all still pretty young, managed tolerate them. As we all got older though, we saw how hypocritical my dad was, and very few of us had any patience with sitting down and hearing him tell us what to believe. we were told what the bible said and why, and that was that. My dad is truly a gifted speaker, and there is no arguing with him unless you want to go in continual circles. He had the ultimate say when it came to how a verse was interpreted or how it implied to certain situations.
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?
I’m not aware of any black or Hispanic families that were treated differently in any of the circles my family went through. We really didn’t have many diverse friends growing up, and I think that more had to do with where we lived. Where my family lives now, they, and my husband and I, have a lot of friends who are black, Hispanic, Asian, etc.
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 8 wild and crazy siblings. For the most part, chores around the house were done by both my brothers and sisters. Cooking and cleaning the kitchen after meals was pretty much a girl’s job and my brothers only cleaned the table off and swept the floor, but weren’t made to do the dishes. The outside around the yard jobs were definitely given to the boys more often than us girls.
Question 2: If you were an older daughter, do you feel that you were expected to play “mother” for your younger siblings? Explain.
Oh heck yes. Being the oldest, and a girl, I was in charge of at least one child at any given time, sometimes more when my other siblings didn’t do their jobs. Which was usually the case. My two youngest brothers, and now my youngest sibling/sister, still look at me at mommy figure, because of how much time I spent with them, caring for them, working on school with them, and keeping them out of mom’s hair. When I tried to move out on my own about three years ago, my dad’s, and mom’s, biggest “concern” was that I was going to hurt my siblings because I wouldn’t be around anymore. I felt a huge responsibility for my siblings’ wellbeing and their care, and my parents knew that, so it got used to manipulate me frequently. My siblings were all pretty annoying, but I do love them all very much. Ironically, after I got kicked out of the house, two years ago, my siblings started falling apart.
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?
The only difference I can think of, or remember, is that the girls were supposed to wear dresses or skirts to church, and the boys polo shirts, or dress shirts, with nice pants. Otherwise, we didn’t have many clothing guidelines other than modesty standards on something being too short or too low for the girls. I wore pants, shorts, skirts, dresses…basically anything I felt like wearing that was within the modesty standards, I wore it.
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.)?
None of us, except for maybe the brother after me, were really pushed in any direction college or not. By the time I was 16, I was highly encouraged to find a job of some sort. my 13 year old sister at the time was already doing a lot of babysitting jobs. I never was encouraged towards college, so I never really thought about it. I always thought I’d be like my mom with having tons of kids and being a wife at home. I now am completely against doing that.
Part 4: Homeschooling
Question 1: Why and when did your parents originally decide to homeschool? Did their reasons for homeschooling change over time?
I don’t know when my parents decided to homeschool. I do know that it was several years before I came into the picture, and the homeschooling movement was starting to get really big then. I honestly am not sure of my parents’ reasons for homeschooling. I never really talked with my mom about why they decided to homeschool us, I just knew that’s what we did. I do know they have changed their views somewhat, because several of my siblings are in public school, and a church school now this year. My mom’s view changed about homeschooling because she simply couldn’t control those kids anymore, and they needed to be in school.
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).
I was homeschooled from the very start, never went to public or preschool, or kindergarten or anything like that. We used to school year around, and would actually do school during vacations as well. Then my mom got cancer, and she couldn’t keep up anymore with year round school, and we had a more traditional school schedule. We were a part of several different co-ops throughout the years, but besides the once a week, or once every other week, we really didn’t have much interaction with other homeschoolers or kids for that matter. Because of being a big family, not all that many people were comfortable inviting us over to get together.
My mom had us on several different “curriculums”, but mostly she picked various subjects from things she felt like would work best for each of us. I did some saxon math when I first started doing real school, but soon failed and gave up on it. My mom then put all of us on Singapore math, and I loved that, but that only went to 8th grade. We did the Robinson Curriculum, which involved a LOT of reading and writing a lot of vocabulary words. Basically, our schooling could be described as very independent and I didn’t have a whole lot of direction with my schooling because my mom was always busy with the youngest in school at that point. I do regret that now, and know that my husband and I will most definitely be more on top of our children’s schooling, whether we would put them in school, or try homeschooling them.
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?
The biggest pro a homeschooled kid will probably say is the ability to take a break in the middle of the school year, and not miss anything in school. I was pretty shy and am still quite an introvert, so it didn’t bother me that I had school at home, and could comfortably set up my “desk” on my bed, and bask in warm sunlight as I read through my history book. another big pro for me was if I was particularly interested in a subject, say, History, I had a lot of freedom to pursue that in depth however much I wanted.
The cons were that we didn’t have many friends growing up, and the friends we did have were just as weird as us, and everyone else thought we were freaks for being homeschooled. Homeschooling totally did not help me be prepared for social interaction with those my own age. I can have a very good conversation with someone 20 years, or more, older than me, but to interact with someone my own age, well that was beneath me. It has taken me at least the past 5 years to finally feel like I’m fitting in with my peers and I can keep up in conversations. Academically….no, homeschooling, or at least the way my mom homeschooled me, did not prepare me well for continuing on my education. It was kind of a little unsaid thing in my family’s house that us girls would have to pay for college on our own, if we wanted to do it, because my parents couldn’t pay for both the boys and the girls.
Question 4: Do you perceive of your academic or social abilities differently today than you did when you were being homeschooled?
My social abilities are definitely a lot more developed and I actually have social skills! I have a good number of diverse friends who I don’t all agree with, but I love being friends with because of that. Being an introvert makes interacting with society a bit of a challenge for me at times, but I actually have a lot of fun in social settings once I get settle into a groove.
Academically, I actually was thinking about taking some college classes for fun. which, is a huge step for me, considering how my first words upon finishing highschool was never again would I do school.
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?
My husband and I have had several conversations about this topic. We have finally reached a conclusion that each child will determine what we do with them in regards to school. I really, really want to be able to work one on one with my children, should we decide to homeschool any of them. and if we do do that, I am definitely not going to just let them slide under the radar because I have too many other things to do. We have no problem with sticking any of our kids into public school, or private school, either.
Part 5: PurityQuestion 1: What were you taught about physical purity, emotional purity, and courtship and dating? How was sex education handled?
I was taught that simply having a one on one conversation with a guy was damaging to my emotional purity. I never had “purity” training from my parents. bits and pieces of what they believed that i should do would come out if they saw me doing something they thought would damage my purity….such as, having friendships with guys, hanging out, staying up late at events having deep conversations with said guys. There was always this assumption that my dad would give me a purity ring, which he did on my 13th birthday, and that was supposed to symbolize that he had my heart until I got married. That was a fantasy though. He never had my heart, and I sincerely doubt he had MY best interests in mind. I always assumed though that a guy would come ask my dad for me, and my dad would say yes, and we would have a courtship like Josh Harris described in his books, or like in that book, Her Hand In Marriage by Douglas Wilson. In other words, my dad had ultimate control over whatever relationship I was supposed to have, and that was that.
Sex education was non-existent. I don’t remember ever being taught about sex. I figured it out on my own through peeking at books in the library, or doing a ton of research online when I met my now husband and we went through our pre-marriage relationship.
Question 2: Did you participate in a parent-guided courtship? If so, what was your experience? If not, why not?
Nope, that didn’t end up happening. I met my husband in October of 2008, and about 6 months later knew i really liked him, and he liked me. His parents decided they didn’t like how close our friendship was getting, so they decided to cut all communication back. (just a side note: my husband grew up in Joshua Harris’ church so he was very familiar with those infamous no-dating but courtship instead books) We, not knowing what else to do, agreed with his parents and tried to endure 6 grueling months of no communication while we both knew we wanted to pursue a relationship and get married. my dad’s response to my heartache of not being able to talk with my best friend was that if my heart was hurting, then I did something wrong. He did not support me at all through my relationship with my husband. Instead he kept accusing me of being lustful, idolatrous, disrespectful of his authority, and would twist whatever I said I felt like God was telling me or what I believed I felt. Over the course of two years since meeting this amazing guy, all of the deep-seated issues in my relationship with my dad were brought to light, and my trust in my dad completely deteriorated and even to this day I don’t trust him at all. My husband and I kept asking for help and guidance in our relationship, but the parents, especially my dad, were more determined to gain complete control over the relationship and crush it instead of helping us. We were not being heard and even after bringing in pastors to help mediate, things still didn’t get worked out. My dad finally kicked me out of the house because I wouldn’t help mom out around the house, and help cook more meals, or help clean. Gosh, I was working 9.5 hour days at my job, and was barely home. Although, the good thing about getting kicked out was the pastors and my husband’s parents were suddenly in complete support of us. Three months after that, we got married with my husband’s parents’ support and all of the pastors involved and my mom cheering us on.
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?
I think the purity and courtship teachings today are full of crap and completely for the parents’ benefit and not for the young adults trying to work their way towards marriage. Sure, there are some good principles in some of the courtship teachings, but unless the kids have a good relationship with their parents, and the parents are willing to get down to their children’s level and listen to them, it’s a recipe for disaster. Because of how we were treated through our relationship, my husband and I are very cynical towards courtship, especially since those darn books Josh wrote have been taken as the gospel truth. Our goal with our children is to take each situation individually and to remind ourselves of how we were treated in our relationship and not repeat any of that. We want to listen to our children and not put boundaries that don’t fit on them.
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?
Yes, I feel like I was brainwashed into thinking that the parents have total control, that that was completely biblical, and that I had no say, but should quietly and humbling allow them to rule me. Oh, and that I had to be emotionally pure. What the heck does that even mean? You can’t give away pieces of your heart! I am very thankful I did not stick to the “guidelines” when it came to having friendships with guys. Those friendships really helped me know how to relate to a guy, and how to be good friends, nothing more, with a guy. That has been greatly beneficial to my relationship with my husband. I don’t regret those friendships, and I wish I could help some of my single friends understand that it’s not going to damage their purity to be kind to and be friends with guys. I think requiring a level of “purity” that doesn’t even allow a couple to hold hands is very damaging to building a relationship, especially one heading for marriage. The term “emotional purity” is a very empty phrase and one that is used to give the parents ultimate control and spook their kids into listening to them. I am still find myself falling back into a I have to guard my heart phase, especially when my husband and I hang out with another couple. I have to constantly remind myself, even today, that it’s okay to be friends with other guys. Seriously.
Part 6: Questioning
Question 1: How were you first exposed to “mainstream” American culture? What were your first impressions?
My family was never really completely removed from “mainstream” American culture. Because of how many siblings I have, we didn’t really get to do a lot of things because of how expensive it was. I do remember, however, when I first started listening to the radio. Up till then, we weren’t allowed to do so, and were barely allowed to listen to contemporary Christian artists, such as Steven Curtis Chapman. We only listened when my dad wasn’t around. My first impressions were that I really enjoyed listening to something different, I felt slightly rebellious, and wow, I really liked it! from there, it all sped up really fast, especially when my husband first introduced me to some pretty, at the time, wild bands. Music and movies were the first steps to being exposed to mainstream American culture. and I liked it.
Question 2: What first made you question the beliefs you were raised with? Was this initial questioning a frightening or liberating experience?
I think I always had a bit of a check in the back of my mind when my dad would preach at us kids, or when a certain verse was applied a certain way. I didn’t really pay attention to it until my dad started accusing me of being lustful and idolatrous throughout my relationship with my husband before we got married. I really dove into scriptures in an effort to understand how he was coming to that conclusion. What I found really made me start seriously questioning my dad’s intent and everything he had ever taught us or said was the way to believe things. What started causing me to drastically question my upbringing was when I became aware that something was terribly wrong with my family, and we weren’t normal.
The first initial questioning was extremely scary to me. especially when I kept getting kickback that made me feel like I was going insane to even doubt one little thing. My dad can twist words like you wouldn’t believe, and would take anything I said and twist it back to me in such a way that I’d walk away believing what he had just told me, only later to feel even more confused when my own thoughts and questions would come back. As I became stronger in standing up to my dad and standing firm in what I believed in and why, it started becoming very liberating. and I am still working through that process.
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?
As I am still in the process of figure things out, I have found that I struggled with trying to separate my dad’s actions from what is really true the most. I am trying to figure out why i believe what I believe, and that’s not easy at all. I think the hardest thing have been as I have started really questioning and digging, I have gotten a lot of pushback from people who are very comfortable in their life, and don’t want to have to think about what I’m thinking about and pondering. The more willing I am to shake the foundations I stand upon, the more people make it difficult to be open with my thoughts.
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’d say almost everyone I can think of that I knew were part of the CP/Q line of thinking have left the movement. I know a few people who are still very staunch patriarchs, but I do not see those people very often at all.
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 mom and I are actually kind of neck and neck with the questioning/figuring things out. I’ve noticed that once I blog or post about something, she will usually follow up with me the next time we talk, agreeing with me, and saying she’s been working through that as well. I have been very cautious about things. My siblings don’t understand for the most part, simply because they aren’t old enough and haven’t had big things shake their perspective up. I have had a lot of “sharing concerns” from various people who don’t understand what I’m trying to figure out either. It’s been pretty discouraging, but I am grateful for those strong few that I have around me who are very willing to be my sounding boards and show compassion and grace towards me, instead of assuming and judging me.
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?
My relationship with my mom is constantly improving, I think, and my relationship with most of my siblings is pretty chill. I have separated myself from most of my family, and especially my dad, because I can’t handle the stress of being about him. I do keep up with my oldest siblings, especially with me being the oldest, I still do feel a certain sense of responsibility for them.
The ones who have left the movement already are in totally agreement with me, and it’s cool to catch up and talk with them about what I’m learning and figuring out. The ones who are still in the movement aren’t really around anymore. They have either all gotten married, and are crazy busy with kids, or have just fallen off the face of the earth. I think if I were to have a conversation with the few I can think of, i don’t think the conversation would go very well.
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?
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?
My mom is definitely in major disagreement with a lot of CP/Q ideology. I’m not sure where my dad is, since I don’t talk with him at all. My siblings are still too young to really know and understand what I’m working through, and I think my two oldest siblings are slowly getting some things figured out, or are realizing there are things they have to work through. I really don’t talk about where I’m at with things among my siblings.
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 do feel a bit of a difference, but not so much anymore. I have definitely been through a lot of emotionally difficult situations, and I do find it difficult to be around people who don’t know that when I having a hard time with something.
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?
Oh yes, most definitely. My husband and I are still working through barriers that I have inadvertently raised because of my dad and my past. And yes, people totally have a hard time understanding me, my past, and why I would struggle with things. I’ve run into so many people more concerned about me honoring my parents in how I write instead of the broken heart that’s behind the words. It’s irritating, frustrating, and downright uncaring when folks try to tell me what I’m doing wrong instead of caring for me.
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?
It has definitely given me compassion for those who are still in it, or have grown up in that environment. It has caused me to become very careful about voicing what I believe until I know I can firmly back up what I believe. I am tired of being manipulated, and no more will I give into someone trying to make me believe something just because they claim it’s the right way.
Question 4: How did you perceive your childhood at the time compared to how do you see it now?
I thought a lot of things that were wrong in my family was my fault, and that I made things worse. I thought that I was an ugly girl, who was worth absolutely nothing. I did not feel all that loved, and struggled with feeling accepted. I always felt like there was something really wrong in my family, but I didn’t find out till much later in my mid teenager years. I can now see I was a beautiful young girl, and was worth more than I knew. The problems in my family had nothing to do with me, no matter whether I felt like it was my fault or not.
Question 5: Do you sometimes wish to go “back”?
I do something wish I could go back…but that’s before I remember how utterly miserable I was, and lost I felt. Over the past year of my deconstruction process, I have felt happier, and so much more at peace than I ever remember feeling. Breaking free and claiming my faith as my own has been a complete breath of fresh air.
Part 9: Helping Others
Question 1: What advice do you have for other young adults currently questioning or leaving Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology?
Have patience with yourself and with others who don’t understand you. Stay strong and do not expect to have everything figured out any time soon. It will definitely take time, and don’t try to rush decisions. Surround yourself with people who have already made the big leap out, and stay away from people who are going to grasp at your doubts and twist them for their advantage.
Know it is truly okay to ask questions.
Question 2: What was most helpful to you when you were questioning and/or leaving the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement?
Having friends who were willing to sit down and listen to me without questioning my sanity or judging me. I have a few friends who are a few steps ahead of me and it’s greatly helped me being able to ask them how they dealt with something.
Question 3: What helps you the most today?
Remembering that it’s okay to not have everything figured out, and that I probably won’t get everything figured out by the time I die.
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?
Be patient and quiet when a family member or friend is trying to get out of the CP/Q movement. Be willing to ask questions without assuming and carefully listen to the answers. It’s hard to shake off the reigns that “authority” has in CP/Q families. It is also really confusing to have a lot of different people giving their thoughts and advice on what you should do. Give advice when asked and do not try to sway that friend or family member to agree with you. That will only push them away.
Chryssie blogs at Beautiful Disarray.