CTBHH: Debi Knows “God’s Plan”

Created to Be His Help Meet, pp. 15-16

In this section, Debi explains what she’s going to do in this book and she doesn’t mince words.

This book reveals God’s plan for obtaining a heavenly marriage.

Debi believes she has the answer. She knows God’s plan. This isn’t simply her attempt to pass on some wisdom she has gained, or to give you some tips to try in your marriage. Oh no. “This book reveals God’s plan.” Ans where did Debi gain this knowledge?

I am not an accomplished, professional* writer who has collected and collated material from other writers and speakers. I am a happy, creative wife, homeschool mom, and grandmother who, many years ago by the grace of God, found God’s will through his written Word, my husband’s instruction, and a mother’s example.

So, where did Debi learn of God’s plan? Through “his written word, my husband’s instruction, and a mother’s example.” The first makes sense, given that Debi and other evangelicals and fundamentalists hold the Bible up as the center of their faith. The Bible would of course be the first place they would look to learn about what God tells his people about how to have a good marriage. The second two are rather odd. Why does she state that she found God’s will through her husband’s instruction if, presumably, her husband is simply pointing her to the Bible? The answer is probably to be found in the idea that each woman has a God-given male authority, and that God can and does communicate with that woman, teaching her things and instructing her, through her husband. Finally, while Debi says she learned of God’s will for marriage from her mother as well, notice that she references not her mother’s “instruction” but rather simply her mother’s “example.” Either way, it’s interesting to note that she mentions finding God’s will not simply through the Bible, but also through her husband and her mother.

The following pages are filled with simple instructions, examples, and many letters from women, some doing the wrong thing and reaping the bitter fruit, and others doing it God’s way and drinking from a fountain of life.

Debi is explaining just how she is structuring this book. Much of it is centered around letters she has received, which she reprints and then responds to. This is a common expository style, but it’s worth mentioning because Debi uses it a lot. It’s not just one tool in her writing toolbox, it’s the tool in her writing toolbox.

We also see here clearly laid out the idea that there are only two ways to do things: God’s way, or the wrong way. And of course, if you do things God’s way you get the fountain of life, and if you do things the wrong way you get “bitter fruit.” And of course, Debi knows God’s way and is setting out to lay it out in her book. In other words, if you don’t practice the things in her book – which is of course God’s way – then you’re doing things the wrong way, and the result will be bitter fruit. So you better follow her book.

You do have a choice in how your life plays out. Some of you are fighting your present situation and making no more progress than someone fighting quicksand. You fight your husband, and every verbal punch you land leaves a bruise on you as well. It is time to stop struggling in strife, bitterness, frustration, and disappointment. You are about to read God’s plan for a joyful marriage. It has worked for me, for my daughters, for my mother, my grandmother, and my grandmother’s mother. It has worked for many other young and older ladies alike. We didn’t just happen to marry perfect, or even saved men, but we all learned to be help meets to our men, resulting in heavenly marriages.

Marie Griffith suggested in her book God’s Daughters that for some evangelical women, particularly those in already troubled marriages, the teachings about submission can actually be a positive thing. Her argument is that women who are in troubled marriages to begin with can feel some sense of power and agency in implementing the submission teachings they learn about at prayer meetings and conferences, and that that alone can be enough to improve their satisfaction in their marriages. Now clearly, this is all assuming that women these women are going to stay in these abusive relationships in the first place, rather than get out. Griffith is operating from the understanding that women make bounded decisions, and that some women in troubled marriages, because of family pressure or children or religious beliefs or monetary challenges, will see staying put as a better option than getting a divorce. In this situation, Griffith argues, implementing submission teachings can be empowering. (Obviously, I have some issues with this.) Anyway, Debi’s promise of agency to the women she is about to instruct in the practice of submitting naturally brought my mind to Griffith’s book.

This passage really could be summed up as “Debi has God’s plan, and if you follow it your marriage will be stupendously amazing, and if you don’t follow it your marriage will be a horrible disaster.” This is a very appealing message to evangelical women who are in unhappy marriages. They know that what they’re doing isn’t working, and Debi explains why (because they’re doing it wrong) and promises these women that if they only follow her instructions, they can have that perfect happy marriage they want so badly. But this message isn’t so appealing to those who already have happy marriages. Why would I want to do it Debi’s – I mean God’s – way? I already have a great marriage! And besides that, I have a great marriage even though I’m breaking basically every rule in her book, so I know that her claim that you’ll have a troubled marriage if you don’t do it her – I mean God’s – way is false! In other words, I think one thing that’s particularly dangerous about Debi’s book is that it has great potential to attract specifically those women who are already in abusive or troubled marriages, and the instruction it contains is basically How to Be A Victim 101.

Finally, at the end of this passage, Debi gives us one more glimpse into the early years of her marriage:

As I described above, my marriage began rather spontaneously, but it didn’t begin perfectly. In our early years, I experienced a considerable amount of defeat. On one occasion, I even threw rocks at my husband.

Don’t worry, there’s more on this as the book goes on!

———

* Remember that many conservatives see too much university learning as a bad thing. So the fact that she specifically declares herself just a wife, homeschool mom, and grandmother, not a “professional,” generally counts in her favor.

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.

  • Cathy W

    Given that she cites her husband’s instruction as part of how she learned to have a happy marriage – could it be said that the book is the secret of how to be happily married to Michael Pearl, your mileage may vary if you’re married to someone else? It makes the same one-size-fits-all assumptions about men as it does about women.

  • smrnda

    There seems to be a really high level of reliance on unsystematically collected anecdotal evidence in evangelical and fundamentalist circles. Debi is using letters she received from women as evidence that doing things any other than god’s way (as revealed to Debi) is going to end in disaster, but there’s a huge bias at work. No woman who is doing thing some other way and having a wonderful marriage is going to write to Debi Pearl asking for advice. That’s going to bias what types of accounts she’s getting – when professionals study marriage, they have to be very careful to avoid doing exactly that by getting a (at least somewhat) representative sample of the population.

    Plus, you can’t advance a hypothesis without providing a means of falsification (though I’m sure words like this and this way of thinking are anathema to fundamentalists.) If someone says “marriages where the husband makes less money than the wife are unstable” they have to find some metrics for measuring that and means of comparing different groups. They also have to find ways of quantifying the claims – does ‘less’ mean any amount less or is there some disparity that needs to be there before negative effects are seen?

    Something that I see in fundamentalists, and conservatives in general, is a belief that you can’t use anything resembling the scientific method on anything related to family or social issues. Perhaps this is because the belief is that tradition is the better source of knowledge?

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

      “No woman who is doing thing some other way and having a wonderful marriage is going to write to Debi Pearl asking for advice.”

      For all we know Debi has a box of letters from happy women doing things differently that she keeps under the bed and pulls out when she wants to feel pity for the poor deluded souls who think they’re happy but really aren’t. Not that I think she does, but even if she did get such letters they’d be useless to forward her points. There’s going to be selection bias in both the letters she receives and the ones she chooses to publish.

      • smrnda

        I guess you could look at that as confirmation that Debi Pearl’s beliefs are unfalsifiable. If I say I did the opposite and I’m happy, then I’m not really happy.

    • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com/ Christine

      The scientific method is Evil. At least, I think, according to the Pearls. Anecdotes are based on REAL PEOPLE, so of course they are the best source of info. Sorry if I’m not scintillating here, I haven’t had any coffee yet and it’s morning in Australia.

  • http://amandajustice.blogspot.com Amanda

    I wasn’t brought up evangelical (we were Methodist) but Dobson played a big part in our upbringing and when I hit college many of my friends were evangelicals. I never actually read Debi Pearl’s books, but we discussed them plenty and ultimately when my marriage was floundering I figured I’d try the whole submission thing.

    Lemme tell ya, it didn’t work. Turns out my ex was abusive, which took me awhile to see because I was very busy trying to make him happy which was flatly impossible. He didn’t want to be happy, he wanted a target, and boy was I ever one. Wifely submission does NOT help abusive marriages. It just turns into another tool the abuser can use to manipulate his spouse.

  • Squire Bramble

    Didn’t have a chance to comment on the first description of the Pearls’ whirlwind romance – just like Romeo and Juliet! If Shakespeare had written them as sociopaths. Chucking rocks at your husband? Sounds like a winner, there, right from the get-go.

    My question is about her socio- economic/ cultural background. Was Debi raised in a very poor home? Would she have completed formal secondary schooling?

    I ask because she appears to be exactly the same age as my parents, and I can’t imagine many communities or segments of Australian society at the time that would look on the shenanigans she’s described so far without extreme disapproval. The stalking, the inappropriate sexual references (‘I could give you a son like that!’), the insult of a religious figure’s refusal to shake hands with his congregants, an eight day engagement and now rock-tossing: where would these behaviors be considered acceptable? What did her mother say to all this? Did her family try to persuade her to rethink before she married the obvious creep? What about the town she lived in? Forty years ago, hell, today I can’t see their behavior cutting it a rural community – she’d be talk of the town and he’d be lucky if he didn’t get a swift kick up the backside.

    • Karen

      My family is from rural east Texas, which is culturally identical to Debi Pearl’s Tennessee. The people who go to “Bible College” are definitely at the bottom or next to the bottom of the white social hierarchy. My grandmother called those people “holy rollers,” because they made such a loud fuss at their church services. I see a lot of class resentment in her writing, where she’s clearly striking at the people who excluded her and her family growing up. It’s an important lesson against snobbery; sneer at the girl in Jesus hair and the ugly dress, and she’ll grow up to make a fortune advocating in favor of wife beaters.

      • smrnda

        A friend of mine from Tennessee takes the opinion that the holy rollers are just making bad choices in investing all their time and effort into their religion and fighting modernity rather than getting educated – she seemed to think that many of them would have done better if they’d simply made better choices, but the problem I think (being from the east coast and from an educated family) is that it’s easy for ME to call a bad choice. It’s tough when you go to a church and are told that you have to start popping out some “godly seed” once you get old enough to be married (and forget that ‘worldly’ education.)

        I just don’t think I can appreciate what it’s like to be so isolated and indoctrinated. It’s hard for that to happen in a large city since you can’t avoid coming into contact with people who are different from you.

      • Squire Bramble

        Thanks – it’s interesting how apparently insignificant variations in culture make such a difference in the way events play out in real life. The most conservative people of my grandparents’ generation would have been appalled by the Pearls’ antics, and had she lived in a small community in Australia or Britain the local higher-ups would have thought it their duty to express their disapproval.

    • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com/ Christine

      I think you’re right about how she’d be taken in mainstream Australia, Squire Bramble. Near where I live, we have a community of Exclusive Brethren and I think there’s a couple of hamlets in the Upper Hunter where extreme evangelicals live, but everyone around them looks on them with derision. But I do worry about evangelicals in Australia – I wonder what the Hillsongers make of the Pearls. They claim to be all about equality, but you listen to the sermons and read their literature, and behind the “buy your way into Heaven!” there does seem to be an undercurrent of patriarchal dominance.

  • wanderer

    Interesting that she says she learned how to be a perfect example of a human wife from her husband’s instruction. It makes it sound like her husband is a professor or something. Which is very odd to me…because it sounds like this was his first marriage too….so how does someone brand new to marriage know so much more than the other brand-new to marriage person he just married?
    (your posts about this make me want to read the book because I can’t wait until you post more appalling weirdness in a week).

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Because he’s a man. Duh!

    • Don Gwinn

      He didn’t need to know anything about marriage itself from experience. The purpose of the marriage was to keep him happy so he’d be able to be at his best to go out and succeed, which would in turn bring glory to God. He only had to know whether he was completely happy with everything his wife did or not. If he was completely satisfied, it was a good marriage. If he wasn’t, it was a bad marriage.

      And the really fun part was pointed out above: he represents all men, she represents all women. There is no theory of mind here. If this squirrel-bait hellfire-preacher who can’t figure out how to talk to a girl he likes feels or thinks a certain way, then my wife should assume I think the same, because we’re both men and God made us both basically the same.

  • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

    How is Debi Pearl not a professional writer? She writes things, they get published, and she gets paid. While that’s not necessarily the definition of a good writer, an educated writer, or an accurate writer, it is the definition of a professional writer.

    • Liberated Liberal

      Exactly :). But since being a professional flies directly in the face of everything she teaches women HAVE to be, she is doing what she can to claim she isn’t a professional anything – other than wife and mother. I mean, women can not be happy unless they do anything besides mothering and submitting to their husbands, so say the books that I wrote professionally and had published.

      The contradiction is awesome.

      • Liberated Liberal

        Ummm…. women can not be happy unless they do NOTHING besides mothering and submitting…

        Hehe

    • Jennifer

      This is just like the Concerned Women of America. A woman sitting in her huge office with her executive position and paycheck telling other women to stay home and never work professionally… How can her followers not pick up on this hypocrisy? I don’t understand.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        That’s the innate contradiction of all women who make careers out of publicly advocating for regressive, anti-feminist values. None of them really live the life they are telling other women to live. All these female submission gurus like Debi Pearl may be submissive towards their husbands but they all have a certain power and authority bestowed upon them by their followers and by the fact that they have set themselves up as people others should listen to (and succeeded in doing so). They don’t actually live the day-to-day experience of having no voice, no power, and no choices as many women who seek to emulate them surely do.

      • http://AztecQueen2000.blogspot.com AztecQueen2000

        And then, when their fantasy does come true, they turn into Serena Joy from The Handmaid’s Tale (I think Atwood based Serena Joy off Phyllis Schafley).

    • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com/ Christine

      But… but… it’s Divinely Inspired! It’s not Debi writing, it’s God through Debi! /sarcasm

      I think I just threw up a little in my mouth there.

  • JJ

    I get the bible being listed, because it is meant to be universal, but why Debi’s husband? If a woman was truly meant to be a helpmeet and a mirror to her (OWN) husband’s values and life goals, then following Debi’s husbands ideals on how to be a good wife is defeating the point.

    Isn’t a big deal how a woman is supposed to support her father implicitly, but then when she marries she follows her husband implicitly (even if his wants are contradictory or different to her father’s).

    I guess this book seems problematic even within the system, because it elevates what Debi’s husband wants (or what God wants for Debi and her husband) over what a woman’s actual husband wants (or what God wants for that couple).

    I think I’m missing something.

    • http://theotherweirdo.wordpress.com The Other Weirdo

      I think that culture implies that what the husband wants, God naturally wants. Since God can’t speak for itself, it falls to the husband. I make it a rule not to analyze stuff like this too deeply because that way lies madness and discombobulation. And damned spiders.

    • Leigha7

      The church I went to taught that men were supposed to lead their family in bible study and to help their wives and children interpret the bible properly. I don’t recall them saying it outright, but it was certainly implied that women can’t be trusted to understand the bible correctly on their own–they need a man’s guidance for that.

      So she learned from her mother’s example (which makes sense), and the bible (which also makes sense), as well as from her husband, who helped her properly interpret the bible.

      Also, the idea that women are supposed to submit to their husband’s because it’s God’s will, and that men are supposed to instruct women on what God’s will is, is more than a little unnerving.

  • JJ

    I guess my point being, this book seems to contradict itself.

    • Jennifer

      Just like the Bible. Huh.

  • Judy L.

    Stockholm Syndrome Sensibility: How to Become a Happy, Helpful Hostage in 10 Easy Steps, by Debi Pearl, Published by No Greater Joy than Being a Doormat Ministries.

  • Fina

    You know, submission can actually work in a happy, loving relationship – but it can not CREATE a happy, loving relationship!

    If the husband is abusive, does not respect his wifes boundaries and needs and cares mostly for himself – in other words, he is not loving – then submission isn’t going to change that. It’s only going to make it worse.
    If the husband does respect his wifes boundaries and needs and cares deeply for her – in other words, if he is loving – then submission can work. It won’t work for everyone though, and is far from universal! Nor is it by any means easier or better than a equal relationship – it needs just as much work, just as much (if not more) communication and love and you can not apply any metric that qualifies one as objectively better than the other.

    Bottom line:
    Even if a submissive marriage works for the Pearls, it is by no mean given that it will work for everyone else.

    • http://AztecQueen2000.blogspot.com AztecQueen2000

      Given that the Pearls advocating beating children, I would not take the Pearls’ marriage functionality as a given.

    • smrnda

      I think a man looking for wifely submission is a sick and twisted person, incapable of being ‘loving’ no matter what. Decent men aren’t looking for doormats and and ego boost, IMO.

    • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

      Do you believe a healthy relationship in which the husband voluntarily submits to the wife could work? How about a healthy same-sex relationship in which one partner/spouse submits to the other? Not a rhetorical question – I’m not sure whether you’re referring to a religious complementarian ideal or to secular dom/sub relationships.

      • Fina

        Oh i am very much referring to Dom/sub-relationships.
        There is a difference between voluntarily handing over decision-making to someone else, or having those decisions taken away from you by default, after all. The latter isn’t the case in Dom/sub-relationships, but very much so in fundamentalist relationships – after all they advocate that the wife submits in all things – and an all-or-nothing choice isn’t much of a choice.

        A good Dom/sub-relationship doesn’t involve a doormat either. A good sub very much participates actively in the relationship and clearly states his or her needs and limits – and the Dom will respect those. Which is another major difference – Dom/sub relationships have safewords and blacklists, both of which allow the sub to halt the Dom/sub-aspect of the relationship if his or her limits are violated. They are basically an elaborate way to say NO, with that no (ideally) being accepted 100%. Fundamentalist relationships don’t have that, since the wife is never allowed to say no and if she did the husband would most likely overrule her anyway.

        As long as these and other aspects (such as good communication and loving each other) of a Dom/sub relationship are followed, you can call it what you want and even do it for religious reasons. It’s not abuse if you can say No and your partner will respect it if you do.

    • Sarah

      “It’s not abuse if you can say No and your partner will respect it if you do.”
      I think it’s worth elaborating on this; I’d say it’s not abuse if you have enthusiastic consent (in the case of D/s relationships, this is often given ahead of time), and this is only true if by “respect” you mean genuine respect and not just “stop.” There are plenty of abusive D/s situations where a sub will have a safeword, and the dominant will stop if it’s used, but the submissive partner (due to previous conditioning and/or ‘punishing’ behavior from the dom that expresses disappointment or rejection) will feel so guilty for using the safeword, or feel like a “bad sub,” and as a result the safeword ends up being as good as non-existent.
      I definitely get what you’re saying… it’s a little funny to me even, because I grew up in a sort-of-fundamentalist church and am loosely christian, and my husband was raised catholic, and we’re total kinksters. Our families and their churches (until I formally ended my membership, of course) thought we were living the most spectacular ‘godly’ marriage of love+submission they’d see in over a decade… I wonder how they would have felt if they’d had any idea what was going on in our home… haha.
      I feel like the “biblical model” does work very well for us, but only because my husband KICKS ASS and is SO understanding of how I was sort of handicapped by my upbringing and am still recovering (being conditioned to fall into that model and all, among plenty of other things)… or, from a ‘christian’ perspective, because we didn’t throw out the other half of the equation (the husband loving his wife more than himself bit, and that being just as important as the wife “submitting”) the way many fundies do. I don’t recall the bible saying you weren’t supposed to hold your husband accountable if he’s being selfish, rude, and otherwise unloving…

  • Rebecca Newman

    If I were married to Michael Pearl, I’d throw rocks at him too!

  • Chris Algoo

    Could you put all of your reviews into one category? This way we can find all of them easily if we want to binge.

    • http://Patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Done!

      • Richter_DL

        Just done binging. Thanks.

  • Pingback: CTBHH: Women’s Created Purpose

  • Sarah

    Her thought patterns are completely what you would expect from someone who’s been brainwashed, and a common tactic in thought reform is reassigning meaning to words so that the outside world won’t see the abuse you’re talking about for what is; I’m guessing this is the case with the term “husband’s instruction.”


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