CTBHHM: Disappointed Old Failures

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 58-59

The title of this section is “Disappointed Old Failures,” and it follows last week’s section in threatening women with disaster and shipwreck if they fail to follow Debi’s advice. Or, God’s advice. Debi clearly thinks they’re they same thing.

Debi has three themes here. First, if a woman fails to be a proper help meet to your husband (or – God forbid! – fail to have a husband), she is failing in her purpose for existence, and she can never be fulfilled or happy. Second, there are truly disastrous consequences in store for women who neglect their callings as help meets. Third and finally, Debi says that women must listen to the words written in the Bible, not to the moving of the Holy Spirit (this one’s a bit odd, yes, but we’ll get to it).

When a woman gets old and realizes that there is no man to love and cherish her, it is sad indeed, for she has failed in the very purpose for which she was created—to be a suitable helper to a man.

Remember that in Debi’s world, a woman’s one and only purpose is to serve as helpers to a man – her husband. According to Debi, when God created Eve, he was creating a personal servant for Adam. This is why Debi says that a woman who does not marry is a woman who will never fulfill her purpose for existence.

No woman has ever been happy and fulfilled who neglected to obey God in regard to her role as a help meet.

I want to point out that in making this argument Debi is simply continuing along a track that has been well greased by evangelicals’ claim that people cannot be happy and fulfilled apart from belief in Jesus. In order to believe this, evangelicals insist that everyone who is “unsaved” is really truly unhappy, even if they look happy. Thus Debi can insist to her readers that any woman who isn’t serving as her husband’s proper help meet is fundamentally unhappy and unfulfilled without worrying about her readers pointing to exceptions to this rule.

Next Debi goes on to say that she has long been wanting to write a book addressing all of the issues these letters bring up, but that she has found that it’s really too late to help older women. She once again quotes from Titus 2—”the aged women…teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands”—and says that she’s concluded that her advice must be “directed to those young wives who are still trying to find their way.”

While still young, these women need to be warned, and they need an instruction manual to prevent them from growing into bitter, crazy old women.

If you don’t want to become a “bitter, crazy old woman” you better listen closely to what Debi says and heed her advice. And if you don’t? Well…

I fear God for these women still in the process [of failure], for I know that God is dreadfully faithful to his Word, and when you dishonor his marriage plan, clearly recorded in his Word, he will stand against you while sin eats away your soul and destroys your health. The consequences of sin are always cruel and costly, whether it is the sin of fornication or the sin of neglecting your calling as a help meet. And the collateral damage to children and family members is horrific.

Yep. There’s a whole lot of fear mongering going on here. I mean my goodness! Debi literally says that if you don’t follow God’s marriage plan, a la Debi, your health will be destroyed and your children will suffer collateral damage. This really goes right along with last week, when Debi insisted that her readers should live in fear and trembling of God. If you don’t follow God’s plan for your marriage, Debi says, he will “stand against you.”

There’s one final thing going on in this passage. Let me introduce it with this sentence of Debi’s:

We receive thousands of letters every year, mostly from bitter, middle-aged, “spirit-filled” women, disappointed with their “unspiritual” husbands, wanting someone to take sides with them against their “abusers.”

Note the scare quotes around the word “abusers.” This feeds into Debi’s insistence that you are only a victim when you stop following God’s command for you to submit, and her minimization of wife abuse.

Note also the scare quotes around the term “spirit-filled.” Debi has a specific target here, as we see in this next passage:

A woman who really knows God will know that true spirituality is obeying God’s recorded Word, not cultivating her “spiritual” sensibilities.

Evangelicalism has always endorsed the twin pillars of the Bible and the Holy Spirit. Some evangelicals place more emphasis on the first, and others on the latter. The fact that hearing the leading of the Holy Spirit is an individual matter without mediator means that the role the Holy Spirit plays in evangelicalism has often proved subversive to the evangelical establishment. Female evangelical preachers, for example, have often claimed that they feel “the leading of the spirit” and that they know God has called them to the ministry. Perhaps in part because the doors of official leadership in evangelical churches and organizations have usually been closed to them, it is “spirit-filled” women who have most often been the ones to challenge the establishment in this way.

Remember, too, that Debi has been setting herself up as the proper interpreter of the Bible here. Thus when Debi urges women against cultivating their “‘spiritual’ sensibilities” and states that it is obeying the Bible that is what really matters, she is ensuring that they listen to her and not to their hearts or their consciences or their inner questions or “the prompting of the Holy Spirit.” She is, in other words, working to short-circuit any yellow flags her words may throw up for women.

But more than that, Debi is also trying to undermine women’s confidence in themselves. “If you think you hear the Holy Spirit speaking to you,” she is saying, “you probably can’t trust that.” It’s like earlier when she told women they can’t trust their own feelings or emotions. It’s a process of breaking down any resistance or “buts” a person might have, a process of cultivating trust in one individual, a process of casting doubt on any attempt a person might make to think for oneself. It’s also a process I would bet is carried out in way too many fundamentalist and evangelical churches as pastors work to undermine any questions or challenge from the congregation, creating an obedient and docile flock.

Needless to say, it’s toxic.

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.

  • Anonymouse

    IMO, Debi comes across as a “bitter, crazy old woman”. Women who are secure in their faith and their lives don’t spend their time trying to sabotage other women or convince them that spousal abuse is great.

    • Kodie

      As a non-bitter* single woman becoming older, the more and more I hear some married women talk, the more I’m sure I dodged a bullet. I also spent a lot of time between boyfriends being single, while I know so many women keep looking, keep on looking, have to find someone else right away. If that’s supposed to be the best thing that can happen to me is I have someone in my space to complain to other women so I can be a valid woman, then no thank you. These prince charming’s some of the other women talk about – some of them are half full of it too, and the rest are really lucky.

      *I’m a little bitter about some of the dudes I had wasted my time with over the years and at myself for letting them hurt me but that’s over now, so I shouldn’t think about it anymore.

      But in this case, what Debi believes is also wide over the culture. It’s sort of like I’m at an age where people are not giving up hope on me or they wonder what’s wrong with me that I can’t keep a man. I try to tell them about those men and how I’d rather be single the rest of my life than curse myself over again with any one of them. It’s really ok for a woman to be selective even if society says she’s too old and should settle for anyone. Make my life worse for no good reason? EFF that.

    • http://pushthepulldoor.blogspot.com Don Gwinn

      That was my immediate reaction, too.

  • Nea

    I’m hearing Michael’s voice again, denigrating any idea Debi might have that her feelings are her own and her thoughts are valid.

    • Kate

      I have to agree with you, Nea. This all sounds so much to me like she is letting out all the abusive things her husband has said, done, and implied throughout their marriage. You know how some people are miserable and have been for a long time, so they become bitter and angry and do everything they can to bring everyone around them down into their misery? She sounds exactly like that. Like Michael the abuser and her own desire for company in suffering.
      I’m actually a little sad for her, in the midst of all my disgust and shock and frustration with what she says.

  • Red

    It’s interesting that Debi finds older women to be less malleable and more resistant to Debi’s brand of beliefs. Could it be that older women have been around the block a few times and already realize these teachings don’t work? And that this infuriates Debi?

    Hmmmmm.

    By the way, I second all of you…Debi is the one who comes across as crazy and bitter. The amount of cognitive dissonance she engages in, for every single chapter by itself, is something any good counselor would have a field day with.

  • chervil

    Gotta catch ‘em while they’re young, according to Debi. The tobacco industry works the same way.

    I know it’s been said a million times about Debi, but what a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome. She will never have a even taste of freedom from Michael’s abuse and manipulation, and it seems she’s putting an awful lot of effort into convincing herself that she is not a victim, but a shining example of pure womanhood. Threats, intimidation, having your soul eaten away, your children destroyed, this woman is mentally ill. Keep hunting down those bible quotes to try to justify your life if that’s what you want, but it’s just sick to try to convince others to do the same.

  • Saturn500

    “While still young, these women need to be warned, and they need an instruction manual to prevent them from growing into bitter, crazy old women.”

    Debi’s got a REAL shiny mirror there.

  • phantomreader42

    Debi is basically setting herself up as god. Or, setting her husband up as god, and claiming to be her god’s vessel for spreading his will to the heathens.

    Why anyone with a conscience would dream of worshiping the vile and abusive god she presents is not a question she or her followers are permitted to ask.

  • vasaroti

    What does she propose we do with the vast number of senior women who outlive their husbands? While I personally think that Mother Teresa should have been a wife instead of a cheerleader for poverty, any list of famous women will name plenty of women whose marriages were merely tangential to their success or the good they created in the world.

    Perhaps instead of dissecting Debi’s threadbare arguments, we should just point out that she’s just another Christian author churning out nonsense for profit. I sell used books, and when I flip through junk from the Christian publishing houses, it jumps out at me that anyone can interpret anything in any manner, call it inspired, and sell it.

  • Stacey B.

    Debi is the crazy, bitter, old woman here! She is probably so abused by Michael that she has to write a book to make everyone else as miserable as her. And the mocking, condescending, tone that she uses in everything she writes…….that’s not something a good follower of Christ would do, just saying. She probably looks at unmarried women with their whole lives ahead of them, ready to build themselves a career and maybe later a family, and feels bitter at HER own descisions. Then she has to quote Bible passages to justify her own choices and make her feel holier and better than anyone else. I sort of feel bad for her. Someone who has to advocate abuse to justify the abuse they’re going through has to be a pretty messed up person. It makes me wonder where she came from, how her childhood was, and if she was always involved with the Quiverfull movement.

  • http://thechurchproject.me Tracey

    Wow. Even with all you’ve written about this so-called manual I’m still shocked at how far Debi goes to stop women from.. well, thinking. Now they can’t even trust the Holy Spirit talking to them? I feel like the box she’s pouring a woman into is getting smaller and smaller. I wanted to give her interpretations the benefit of the doubt, but really that’s impossible. She’s either intentionally subjugating other women OR so twisted up herself that her only way of making sense of it was to write this book.

  • Rosie

    I wish I could just dismiss Debi’s writing as nonsense, but having lived it I just can’t. What she’s doing here isn’t just toxic, it is abusive. Undermining women’s trust in their own experiences and feelings and thoughts and abilities…that is what abuse is. I guess she can get away with it because she’s writing a book and not targeting an individual, but that doesn’t change what she’s doing.

    • Hilary

      I’ve noticed that too. As this series has progressed the last few posts, she’s done more and more to isolate her reader. I called it on the post “Debi poisens the well” that in as much as a writer and reader are in a relationship via the book being read, Debi has created and activly participates in an abusive relationship with her readers. One of the bigest signs of abuse even before physical violence is isolating the victom and insisting the abusers understanding of reality is right and the victoms is wrong. That’s what she’s doing at every level here. An older, more confident or experienced woman is more likely to see through this.

      This is evil. Full stop.

  • Emma

    Clearly, physically/mentally disabled women who can’t fill Debi’s narrow definition of female gender roles don’t exist in her world.

    • Sophie

      I know! She would be outraged by my relationship as due to my disabilities my partner takes care of me. He also does all the housework. And we don’t have and won’t be having children because of my health problems. What a failure of a women I would be in her eyes.

  • ako

    In order to believe this, evangelicals insist that everyone who is “unsaved” is really truly unhappy, even if they look happy.

    I hate it when they do that. They concoct lies about me, and repeat them over and over again, until they have huge swaths of people believing them, and then try to convince me to go along with their ideas, using these lies as the basis of their argument for how I should live. No matter how many times I tell people that’s just not true, they believe the lies more than they believe me.

    And, of course, if I express the slightest bit of frustration about all the ways they lie about my life, then it’s time for the pitying nods and holding that up as ‘proof’ of the deep inner unhappiness I’m supposed to have.

    (It’s kind of ridiculous. I’m an atheist, so I’m supposed to truly believe God exists, but be denying him out of spite, all because of being Wounded by Christians, and have this deep God-shaped hole making me constantly unhappy, and also have no real morals because of a lack of divine commands. Also, as a lesbian, I’m supposed to have a bad childhood, a troubled relationship with my parents, a string of abusive co-dependent relationships, a history of sexual abuse, and a fear of men. And now, being a single woman in my thirties, I’m supposed to be unhappy and unfulfilled because I’m not in my proper role as a helpmeet. None of that’s true, but a surprisingly large people seem to have their entire faith staked on me being unhappy for not being exactly like them.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

      Ask them to tell you how they know that they are saved. By grace or by works? If they answer by grace then ask them how they can prove that to you? Then flip it on them and say that your happiness is kinda like how they know they are saved by grace.

  • Rae

    The problem is, in the QF worldview, it’s men who initiate 100% of the relationships.

    That means that a QF woman has no control over whether she “obeys God” or “disobeys God” by becoming or not becoming a wife. And this isn’t to mention that since the importance of marriage as necessary to fulfilling one’s purpose in life doesn’t seem as impressed on QF men as it is on QF women, that means that if QF men stay single, then a corresponding number of QF women are going to stay single and be unable to “obey God”.

    In other words, Debi’s worldview means that there will be some number of women “neglecting to obey God”, at random, with absolutely no means to “obey God” even if they want to with all of their hearts. Her logic, taken to its conclusion, literally removes women’s free will, because it dooms some of them to not obey God (which in fundie terms is *sin*), and puts that choice in the hands of men instead.

  • Ember

    I wonder if Debi has ever considered the difference in gender ratios when ranting about God’s Plan for Women(TM)? Even if, hypothetically, world-wide, the LGBT and asexual communities ceased to exist and everyone converted to her brand of crazy there would not be enough men for all the women to marry. So… God says some of us are just screwed? Seems like exceedingly poor planning on His part, if this is what he had in mind.

    • Shannon

      No, of course the spares are for when some of these women get killed by their masters and the poor husband needs a new one.

  • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

    Holy cow. Just when I think Debi’s advice can’t get any more horrifying, boom! It does. OMG.

    And +1 to everyone above who said if anyone’s a bitter, crazy old woman, it’s Debi :( She smiles a lot in the photos on their website, and talks a lot about how happy she is, but it’s hard to believe a mostly happy person could write like this :(

    I fell bad for her. But then I think about the unsuspecting women who may be taking her advice seriously and I just feel sick.

  • Monica

    Here’s a hypothetical situation that I’d like to hear Debi’s viewpoint on:

    Dear Debi,
    When my husband and I married, I thought he was devoted to God. However, he recently told me that he does not even believe God exists–and he said he wants me to stop attending church and reading the Bible. He threatened to leave me unless I leave the church. Does God want me to give up my faith to be a better help meet to my husband?

    • Lori

      Perfect! But you know what? She’d just put your letter out of her mind if she really believed it was real. If she suspected you made it up to trick her, she’d say, “Satan, get thee behind me.”

      I’m sad that she thinks thousands of ladies asking her for help just want her to take sides with the them against their husbands (whom aparently she thinks they’ve described as abusers but she considers “abusers.”) Help? No. Thousands of letters. Just sad.


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