CTBHHM: Else God Will Drive You Mad (Literally)

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 59-63

Having threatened her readers with all manner of “cruel” consequences for not following God’s marriage plan with its emphasis on wifely submission, and having urged her readers against thinking they can be “spiritual” or hear from God on their own, Debi follows up with a cautionary tale called “The Crazy Lady.” Here is how it begins:

I’ll never forget something that happened several years ago. A middle-aged couple with several children moved into our area so they could get counseling. The woman didn’t like the counseling they had received in the church where they had met and married  She thought that by moving into our community where there were so many “spiritual men,” her husband would “get some help.” She wanted my husband to “disciple him,” to be “his mentor”—something Mike considers effeminate on the level she expected.

Debi goes on to explain that the husband had been a “highly successful and prosperous businessman” before the couple married, but that the wife disapproved of participation in the business world.

She thought he should “live by faith,” which meant not working, but staying home with the ever-expanding family.

Debi goes on to say that the wife was convinced that she was especially spiritual, and that her lovable “teddy bear” of a husband was convinced of that as well. The husband therefore followed his wife’s lead, and he “relocated and modified his business as ‘God directed her.’” However, his new business ventures did not succeed and his flock of homeschooled children multiplied, leaving him financially discouraged. He grew unsure of himself, and his wife saw this as evidence that he lacked faith. As a result, “their marriage bed suffered.” They began getting marriage counseling at their church and reading the Pearls’ literature. This was their situation immediately prior to moving into the Pearls’ area and hoping the move and a new community would solve their problems.

Let me pause to offer some analysis. I’ve actually seen this before, where a person will become convinced that they have a direct line to God and manage to bring all of those around them under their spell. In the case I experienced, which happened while I was in college, it was a young woman who claimed this connection. In fact, she actually said God spoke to her. She was so genuine and devout that we all believed her, and were eager to alter our lives according to her messages from God. At some point the whole thing imploded and it turned out that the young woman in question had mental problems and needed medication. But I don’t think her sense of certainty, and our willingness to mistake certainty for trustworthiness, are all that abnormal. And honestly, it sounds like something similar happened with the couple in this story.

One thing I want to point out before we get into Debi’s analysis is that I don’t think Debi would have a problem with this scenario if the genders were reversed. In other words, the problem is not that one spouse claims to have a special connection to God and the other believes this and follows what the first says. The problem is which spouse is claiming to be especially close to God and which is acquiescing.

It didn’t take my husband and me long to see the source of their problems.

Of course it didn’t! /snark

She was not her husband’s helper; she was his conscience.

Can I say how not surprised I am by this diagnosis?

We shared God’s Word with her, telling her that her disobedience and lack of reverence to her husband were sin. She was shocked that we would think she was disobedient to her husband. She was very committed to reading and studying God’s word and loved to “share” with other women.

As I read this, I had two thoughts.

First, Debi is highly distrustful of women studying the Bible on their own and having their own independent relationships with God and independent prayer lives. It almost sounds here like Debi saw this woman, with her desire to “share” what she had learned from God’s word with the other women in their community, as a threat. And indeed, women developing their own spirituality and own connections with God is a threat to Debi’s patriarchal religious beliefs. Debi, remember, has made it very clear that she both learned what she is sharing here from her husband and that her husband read the book and approved of it before she published it. This woman, in contrast, does not properly contextualize her ability to ascertain God’s will within this patriarchal framework.

At the same time, the situation Debi is describing is clearly not healthy. Once again, I want to point out that I’ve been there. It is absolutely not healthy when one person claims to have a clear and direct line to God, to be especially “spiritual,” and to know what God wants for the individuals around her. But what Debi is missing is that this is not healthy not because of the genders of those involved but rather because any relationship that functions like this, with one party claiming access to the voice of God and the other nodding and following, is not healthy.

I’m going to go beyond this and say that any absolute certainty about God’s will isn’t healthy. What I mean is that it seems to me that it’s one thing to believe that God calls everyone to be kind to those around them, or to be ethical in their business practices, and quite another to believe that God has told you to give up your job and start a home business, or to move to Phoenix, Arizona. I remember convincing myself that God wanted me to do some very specific thing, and looking back I am amazed by how contrived it all looks.

And so the story continues. It seems that the couple had to use all of their money on the relocation, and that the wife insisted on tithing every little bit they got as time went on, “believing God would return it manyfold.”

We warned her over and over against usurping authority and dishonoring her husband.

Notice that the problem isn’t tithing every last little bit of their money and thus leaving them in dire financial straights. The problem isn’t treating God like a genie where you put dollars in and hundred dollar bills shoot out. The problem is that tithing the last bit of their money is her idea rather than her husband’s idea.

She just couldn’t believe that God would have her, a spiritual woman, stand up for and follow a “carnal” man.

Lets ignore, for a moment, the problems I have with this woman’s belief that she has a direct line to God and her spouse’s choice to assume that God is indeed speaking through her, especially about such specific things as what business he should be in and where they should live. Let’s turn it around a little. Let’s talk about competency. Recall for a moment how John Piper said that if a man and a woman are in danger, threatened by a knife-wielding stranger, for instance, “he should step in front of her and be ready to lay down his life to protect her, irrespective of competency. It is written on his soul. That is what manhood does.” I sense that same line of thinking here. The wife in the story is saying that she is especially spiritual and her husband is not, so they should follow her spirituality. It’s much like saying that one spouse is really good at mechanical things while the other isn’t, so that spouse should be the one who fixes things when they break. It’s about competency. But for Debi, it’s not about competency, it’s about gender, irrespective of competency.

This next section is very evocative of Debi’s views about both women’s spirituality and egalitarian Christians’ views of the Bible:

The foremost drive of her life was her own “deep” spirituality. She felt that the “Spirit” was her guide and that what God said about and to women concerning their position in the chain of command was not relevant to her; she was the exception. Furthermore, she had read books and pamphlets and heard sermons that explained away the passages that seem to limit a woman’s role in the family and the church. They stated something like, “The original Greek word says . . . . What that really means is . . . . You see, Paul was speaking to cultural issues peculiar to that time . . . . Surely God wouldn’t command a woman to . . . . In Christ there is no male or female . . . . Weren’t there women prophets?”

She was totally deceived into thinking that her female intuition, sensitivity  and passions were spirituality. She had no idea that she was a woman in total rebellion against God.

Stop the train! I figured it out! I know what Debi is doing here!

Debi is eliding equality with female domination. In other words, Debi is telling women that if they think they can hear from God like men, the result is going to be marriages where the woman leads and the man is completely cowed. The idea that a man and a woman could actually be equal in a relationship, that you could actually have a cooperative partnership without one partner dominating the other, is completely foreign to Debi, and she’s working on making sure that it’s foreign to her readers as well. You think you can be equal? Well then, is what your husband will look like if you continue down that path. A cowed woman.

And then there’s this:  

When a woman attempts to live for God contrary to his Word, her “spirituality” is equal to witchcraft, because she is attempting to “divine” the will of God in total disregard of his clear written words.

Witchraft is about the worst thing you can be accused of in fundamentalist or conservative evangelical circles, and Debi is telling women that if they try to think for themselves about religious matters, well, that’s witchcraft. Because the Bible is obvious and clear, and if you think too long about it, witchcraft. If you ask questions? Witchcraft. Biblical criticism, looking at the Greek, learning more about the cultural context in which the Bible was written? Witchcraft.


It certainly was clear to my husband and I; her sin would be her destruction.

Once again, her sin, according to Debi, is being her husband’s conscience instead of his help meet. And beyond that, her sin is thinking she can be spiritual. Because she’s a woman.

It had already reduced her once strong, resourceful husband into a fearful, pitiful man.

You got that? It’s either be your husband’s submissive help meet or cow him into being a shell of a man. Equality? Cooperation? A union of two equals? Impossible, at least in Debi’s world. It’s be a submissive wife, or a have cowed, womanly husband.

But it’s what’s coming that makes this story so strange.

Over the years, the poisonous bile of her soul had been affecting her mind. One night, immediately after an especially powerful church service, while everyone was fellowshipping, I saw her approach my husband rather overly excited, so I began to make my way to him in case he needed me. Just as I got close, I saw her begin to swing her arms in wide jerky movements and heard her yell out loudly that her husband was in an adulterus affair with Marilyn Monroe (dead then for 50 years or so). She said she had a vision from God, which explained all their troubles. About the time I got to her side, she began to name several of the young mothers with new babies in the church as her husband’s sex partners, claiming the babies were his.

Debi’s explanation of this?

God had visited her with madness. He does “fearful” things like that. He didn’t just allow it to happen, he was there to push her over the edge. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. She had no fear of God. She should have.

I don’t think I like Debi’s God.

And then Debi confirms something I was saying earlier:

This lady believed she could force her husband to submit because she was “spiritually anointed.”

Like I said before, Debi is using this story to demonstrate to her readers that there are two options: Either submit, or force your husband to submit. If you try to lead and your husband submits to your leadership, God will drive you mad. If, in contrast, you submit and let your husband lead, God will give you props. And once again, the idea that a married couple could actually form a partnership of equals is foreign to her.

How does this story finish? Like this:

God was not mocked. The whole family still reaps what she sowed to this day. A wife without genuine fear of God can drift so far from reality that she needs sedatives to maintain an appearance of sanity.

And here I think I’m getting an idea of Debi’s conception of mental illness.

Debi goes on to make this specific example more general.

By the time many women are entering their fortieth year, they are teetering on the edge of mental instability.

Why? Because they have spent their lives “practicing bitterness,” especially against their husbands, rather than “practicing being thankful and merry.” And, as Debi insists, practice makes perfect.

In the course of time, her edginess and moodiness grow, she realizes that she can no longer control her nervousness. One day her “nerves” snap and she loses control, screaming like a crazy woman and calling loved ones terrible names. She will say it was “just a bad hormone day,” but the family will wonder. The family learns to tolerate her occasional blow-ups, and she keeps practicing. After a visit to the doctor, she is calmer . . . “more her old self.” The doctor changed her medication.

Be thankful and merry, Debi says, or God will drive you mad.

Here is a photo of what comes next, the last page in this section:

So yes, Debi is literally threatening women with madness if they refuse to follow her marriage advice, telling them that if they refuse to submit to their husbands, they will go mad. And she’s also telling them that if they think they can approach their spirituality independently, or interpret and study the Bible for themselves, they are practicing witchcraft and God will punish them by rendering them insane. Don’t think, Debi is telling these women. Don’t read or pray or reason on your own. Just obey your husband and God will be happy with you. Oh, and smile! 

CTBHHM: Why Was Marian's Husband So Loving?
CTBHHM: What "Companionship" Means in Pearl World
CTBHHM: A Young Wife Should Be "Bored and Lonely"
CTBHHM: Playing Telephone with God
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.

  • KarenH.

    If Debi weren’t so busy leading women straight into bondage, she’d be damned funny.

  • Anonymouse

    >>It almost sounds here like Debi saw this woman, with her desire to “share” what she had learned from God’s word with the other women in their community, as a threat. >>

    Of course it’s a threat…to DEBI, because that is Debi’s turf. SHE is the one who determines what women believe and don’t. If the women start thinking for themselves, Debi loses her power.

    God’s capriciousness was a huge topic when I was in college among my born-again fundagelical roommates. One night they had a very serious debate about psychic powers–see, sometimes it’s God giving you a gift, and other times it’s God punishing you by allowing the Devil to control you. You just don’t know which it is. Yes, they were that crazy.

  • http://complicatedfeelingsabout.wordpress.com Katherine

    1. The fairly obvious comment about how unfair this is to people actually suffering from mental illness. In Debi’s world (thank goodness I don’t live THERE) are all people who suffer from mental illness horrible sinners who are paying for their horrible sin? It’s certainly not a terribly compassionate attitude, is it?
    2. There’s that loving god again! You know, the one who will smite you if you make a mistake in trying to follow his impossible orders.
    3. How do they explain the vast number of egalitarian relationships in which no one is insane? Is it just more of that “oh but they only LOOK happy they’re really miserable” nonsense?
    4. This woman and her husband, regardless of their motives, came to the Pearls for help and guidance, and yet she says nothing but “we warned her!” and uses her as an example in her book. Where is the compassion? How could anyone ever come to Debi for help when they see that this is the result?
    5. As I was reading this, I almost screamed at my computer screen “it’s a problem of causality!” This poor woman was mentally ill. She was hearing voices and allowing the voices to make the major decisions of her life (and her partner’s life). It went untreated and unchecked, with the only counsel she received being “it’s all your fault! you’re a BAD woman!” and then it got worse and worse and worse. That is what it sounds like to me. She was mentally unstable, and she lived in a culture in which people kind of expect to hear the voice of god. Just look at Libby’s own example:
    “She was so genuine and devout that we all believed her, and were eager to alter our lives according to her messages from God. At some point the whole thing imploded and it turned out that the young woman in question had mental problems and needed medication.”
    But Debi is flipping the causality. In her world, it’s not the mental illness that is the cause of the voices, oh no, it’s the other way around! And not even that exactly, it’s not hearing the “voice of god” which drove this woman “mad”, it was having the gall to think that she was important enough to listen. Because of her gender.

    • ako

      How do they explain the vast number of egalitarian relationships in which no one is insane?
      I’m guessing they probably lean heavily on a combination of “But it’s impending!” and “But they’re really unhappy!”, while pulling one of the classic unfair tricks. Odds are, eventually a woman in an egalitarian marriage will have that one day where she overreacts to things, loses her temper unfairly, or otherwise acts irrationally. This happens not because of divine punishment, or because of being egalitarian, or because of being female, but because the vast majority of humans have moments of irrationality and bad temper. Any time that happens, it can be held up as ‘proof’ that God is sending her insane as punishment for not conforming to Debi Pearl’s idea of gender roles.

      As I was reading this, I almost screamed at my computer screen “it’s a problem of causality!” This poor woman was mentally ill. She was hearing voices and allowing the voices to make the major decisions of her life (and her partner’s life).

      I was thinking that exact thing. She sounds like she’d been mentally ill for a while, and Debi and Michael wasted a lot of time (and possibly did more harm than good) going after her about being insufficiently obedient, rather than help her seek treatment for her delusional beliefs.

    • Kodie

      I want to say here that the husband didn’t really step in, did he? He believed in god and thought what she said had made enough sense to follow along with it. He did not see any illness about what she had claimed was a spiritual connection and if god told her what he should do with his business, and where he should move, and how many children they had to have, he did not take her to get checked out.

      Because that’s what deeply religious people sound like. That’s what Debi sounds like.

      I think when you flip it around to the man being in charge, the abuse stems from the same kind of insecurity described here. I mean as it’s been described in relationships, the submissive one is accused of leaving the house when she’s not supposed to or looking at the mailman a certain way – it’s all in his head. It sounded a lot to me like the same thing, except for the Marilyn Monroe part. The dominant one can never feel quite secure that everyone is actually doing what he says they’re supposed to and becomes paranoid that they are plotting against him and defying him – that’s what I notice about many abusive relationships.

      When Debi accuses the woman of turning her husband into a shell of a man, well that’s also what happens when the man is dominating the relationship – his wife is a shell of a woman, Debi is. I guess that’s the way it’s supposed to be. If Mike were selling books on how men should be submissive to their wives and IF that were the way it was supposed to be, it wouldn’t be any healthier.

      Also, they were “fellowshipping”? I kind of thought it was a little funny how the woman approached Mike, and Debi panicked and had to get over there right away. Mike can’t handle it?

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

        What does “fellowshipping” mean, anyway? Like, is it something different from “talking” or “having a conversation”? And if so, what?

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

        I want to say here that the husband didn’t really step in, did he? He believed in god and thought what she said had made enough sense to follow along with it.
        Which makes me wonder how much her mental illness was further sparked when she started being told to rein it in? Whether perhaps it was the counselling that actually caused the final breakdown? Or even if that breakdown even happened, or whether Debi was exaggerating…

    • http://eschaton2012.ca Eamon Knight

      3. How do they explain the vast number of egalitarian relationships in which no one is insane?

      Indeed. Given that most *evangelicals* — let alone the non-evangelicals and non-Christians — don’t follow (in fact: mostly never heard of) Debi’s extreme programme, the world should be full of shrieking madwomen abandoned in crappy duplexes by their husbands. In fact, society as a whole should be a dysfunctional chaos, incapable of providing basic infrastructure. Does it never impinge on her consciousness that it’s not like that out here?

      • Tracey

        Ahem. That should be “shrieking madwomen abandoned in DUMPY duplexes”. :-)

  • Molly

    “The problem isn’t treating God like a genie where you put dollars in and hundred dollar bills shoot out.”

    The Gospel according to Regina Spektor has a good corollary: “But God can be funny when told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way/ and when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini / or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket or Santa Claus/ God can be so hilarious, haha.”

  • AnotherOne

    You know, I can’t take a single one of Debi’s stories seriously enough to talk about what was actually going on in the lives of the people she’s talking about (if in fact they existed to begin with; I suspect she makes a lot of this crap up). I grew up in an environment where people’s life stories were treated as fodder for sermonizing (and sadly, I engaged in this behavior some myself). But honestly, the people who tell these stories are full of crap. They have these narratives in their mind about what “sin” and “worldliness” and “godliness” are and about how the world works and how God acts, and they shove people’s life stories into conformity with those narratives not caring how much dishonest mental gymnastics they have to do in the process. The resulting cautionary tales usually have no relation whatsoever to the realities of the original situation.

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

      My thoughts too – as you say, perhaps there is a smidgen of truth in there, that there was a couple she knew who were unhappy because they had given up their old lives and moved, in trying to be faithful to what they felt was “gods word” for their lives.
      Doesn’t mean it was the woman leading and the man following – they could have come to that decision together, but this makes for a far better fitting story, amiright?

  • ako

    One insidious form of damage this kind of crap does is that it makes life harder for pretty much everyone with a mental illness who’s exposed to it, regardless of whether they believe it or not. The people who do buy into this sort of thing will end up pursuing wasteful and damaging courses of action in a misguided attempt to cope with their loved one’s mental health problems (and dropping a whole extra pile of “You brought this on yourself! You are being punished” guilt on someone with a mental illness can be extremely damaging). And people who don’t believe it have to live with the extra stress of knowing that the Debi Pearls of the world are looking to use their problems to score ideological points.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ Jarred H

    What I mean is that it seems to me that it’s one thing to believe that God calls everyone to be kind to those around them, or to be ethical in their business practices, and quite another to believe that God has told you to give up your job and start a home business, or to move to Phoenix, Arizona. I remember convincing myself that God wanted me to do some very specific thing, and looking back I am amazed by how contrived it all looks.

    One of the more memorable flashback scenes(*) in Frank Peretti’s book, “The Visitation,” delves into this. The point-of-view character, Travis Jordan, recalls an incident in his teen years when he was convinced of God’s very specific calling and seeing all kinds of “confirming signs,” only to have his actual effort to follow God’s will turn into a disaster that costs him time and money. Travis talks about how when things failed, he began to consider how all the “signs” were contrived in his own head and was a real faith-shaker.

    Debi is eliding equality with female domination.

    This seems to be a common conflation made by those who are invested in maintaining patriarchy. At least that’s been my experience.

    (*) I highly recommend the book for the numerous such flashbacks peppered throughout it, as they give an incredible insight into “church stuff.” The main plot of the book, however, is pretty meh.

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

    I really, really hope Debi made this one up. Because if this is a real woman, a real family, that she and Mike abused in this way …
    Not that I should be surprised in any way, because the Pearls are all about exerting their power over other people. But sweet Jeebus on a cracker, this is such a blatant abuse of power, such an overt confession of wrongdoing, I actually am surprised that she wasn’t afraid to commit it to print.
    I wonder what the counsellor at this couple’s old church told them that was so unsatisfactory? “Consider seeing a therapist”, maybe. (And a financial planner.) I’m pretty sure that’s what my rabbi would advise in a situation like this, anyway.
    As a person married to someone who suffers from clinical depression, I would just like to point out that what people suffering from mental illness (their own or a spouse’s or a parent’s or a child’s or whatever) need? Is NOT more guilt, or more people telling them how it’s totally their own fault. And you know what else? If you need medication, THAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU A FAILED HUMAN BEING. It doesn’t mean G-d is punishing you for not being subservient enough. Grrarrgghhhh.
    The zero-sum game Debi seems to be playing here — either you’re a slave to your husband, or he’s a slave to you, there’s no possibility of negotiating any kind of equal arrangement based on factors other than which set of genitalia you have — feels strangely familiar. It feels like when people ranting against marriage equality insist that same-sex marriage cannot possibly exist alongside opposite-sex marriage but must necessarily destroy it. It feels like when young-Earth creationists insist that if you don’t believe that G-d literally created the entire universe in six literal days, then you can’t possibly be telling the truth when you claim to take any other part of your chosen faith seriously. Just saying.

  • Catcat

    She wanted my husband to “disciple him,” to be “his mentor”—something Mike considers effeminate on the level she expected.

    I’m a little confused as to why Mike discipling another man would be effeminate…? Or did I misread that?

    • ako

      I’m wondering if he was using “effeminate” as an all-purpose substitute for “I don’t want to”?

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

      I think the idea is that if a man gets too much into a following role, he’s being feminine, and a man being feminine is effeminate.

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        My guess was that being a mentor is a sort of nurturing role, and being nurturing is wimmin’s work.

      • Ember

        That’s what I got out of it, and I took it one step further:
        If men are ordained by God to be rulers of their families and so forth, and women are created to follow, a man should not need mentoring ever. Which is just as scary a thought as Debi’s position on mental illness in women. It seems to boil down to, “If a woman is having difficulty with life, it’s because God is punishing her for not submitting enough; If a man is having difficulty with life, he should just come up to task on his own.”

    • Nea

      I’m surprised Mike didn’t jump on the chance to take over this guy’s life for him; it’s just the sort of control he likes. Maybe because he couldn’t bed the wife to his will? He certainly hasn’t found it a problem for Debi to air the whole story and heap blame upon them both, with an added “I hate you and God hates you too.”

      • Nea

        Er, “bend the wife to his will.”

      • Catcat

        Yeah, that’s kind of what I was wondering too–seems like a perfect opportunity for brainwashing, I mean discipleship!

        I come from an evangelical background that did not use Debi’s books (thank goodness) but many of her teachings sound like things I was taught, just followed to their extreme conclusions (i.e. I was taught that women should submit to their husbands, etc, but never that failure to submit would lead to madness or material loss. Good grief.) So it surprised me that “mentoring” would be viewed by her in such a negative light–we were alllll about discipleship and mentoring, sex-segregated of course–and I’ve never heard an argument against it, even in more extreme Christian teachings.

    • Pauline

      Clearly, Debi just didn’t want to come right out and say “gay”.

  • DoctorD

    This is just FUBAR.

  • Angela

    Is anyone else a bit alarmed at how Debi seems to feel that middle aged women “teetering on the brink of madness” is fairly commonplace? I don’t have any actual statistics but in my (secular) world it’s actually pretty rare. It couldn’t be that their “Christian”/quiverfull/patriarchy lifestyle is pushing women to the point of mental breakdown could it?

    • Rachel

      I looked at that sentence and thought it was a classic case of psychological projection: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection

      How old was Debi when she wrote this?

      Also, fun fact: when you google “Debi Pearl”, Libby’s blog is the fourth result (specifically this entry: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2012/07/debi-pearl-is-not-very-nice.html).

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi

        That’s awesome but it might not be the same for the people that would need to read this the most since google shows different results based on the preferences it thinks you have.

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

      Well, heaven forfend women might possibly be unhappy for some reason that isn’t totally 100% their own damn fault

    • AnotherOne

      Actually, in the regrettably un-secular world that my background doesn’t allow me to escape, teetering on the brink of insanity at the age of 40 is pretty damn common. I know plenty of women in my generation and my mother’s before me who got into their late thirties and were/are completely fed up with the whole thing. After a couple of decades spent producing scads of children you can barely support while living with a husband you married when you were too young to have a clue, whatever psychological vulnerabilities you have turn into full-blown pathologies. I don’t think Debi’s perception about the women around her is all that far off–there are plenty of bitter, angry, and yes, mentally ill women in their thirties and forties in the CP world. Of course, unlike Debi, I don’t think the answer is to turn yourself into a brainwashed zombie. It’s to get out. But that’s easier said than done when you have so little power.

    • wanderer

      Yes! I was extremely alarmed when I read that part. As if … you know….every doctor knows that when women turn 40, they’re probably gonna lose their minds next, so better be prepared with the medication. What in the world????
      Also, that last page of the chapter…. she talks about “madness” as if she really thinks being “mad” at a waitress is the same as being insane. Does she understand “anger/madness” and “insanity/madness” are not the same thing????

      • Pauline

        I think that’s just weasel wording. Or literary technique, much as I hate to ascribe that to her. She’s blurring the lines in her mean little poem there, equating anger with madness on purpose. A good woman must SMILE… it’s NOT OK for her to be MAD at anybody… it leads to MADNESS!!!

  • Christine

    I think that, given the amount of manipulation that women who insist on having their husband be “in charge” do, it makes some sense that strong complimentarians would believe that equality = women in charge. If complimentarian women manage to get their way about half the time, by convincing their husband that it was his idea, etc, then imagine how often egalitarian women would get their way!

    • Rosie

      Because, of course, “her way” and “his way” are always mutually exclusive.

      What complimentarians can’t imagine is a situation in which two people have a conversation, and co-create a third way that works for both of them at the same time.

  • Azura

    I love thinking about what Debi would say to me about my depression. I mean, I was abused as a child, but that’s par for the course to them. I’m an actual witch and a humanist, but I submit to my boyfriend sometimes. I think I’d confuse her, but it’d be interesting to see the mental gymnastics.

    • Catcat

      I want to set up interviews with Debi and an assortment of women from the real world and then sit back and watch the mental gymnastics. My mom, for instance, had a breakdown mid-life due, and antidepressants + Christian therapy has not only improved her quality of life and deepened her faith (since it cleared away a lot of baggage re: her father), but also made her traditional, conservative, Christian relationship with my Dad much more egalitarian…since now she’s *literally* more capable of handling life. What I would pay to hear Debi’s take on that.

  • Kit

    I have to wonder what Debi and Michael Pearl think of the many, many men who would find this sort of relationship horrifying? I mean, the men I meet, date and hang around with uniformly want *partners*, not pets, and they want people who are their intellectual equivalents and inspire them to work harder and all that. A very very large number of successful relationships are egalitarian – how are they able to just *ignore* that?

    • http://republic-of-gilead.blogspot.com Ahab

      Well, if they live in a bubble and only have meaningful contact with other fundamentalists, the Pearls may rarely see egalitarian relationships. It’s a shame, because the Pearls might actually learn a thing or two about healthy, happy relationships by seeing egalitarian couples.

      • Kit

        Hmm, that’s very true. Wouldn’t that kind of bubble take some serious work? Egalitarian couples are so widespread I thought it would be difficult to ignore!

    • ako

      I’m curious about that, too. I mean women are supposed to obey their parents to a childish degree, but if their parents are all “No, I think you should grow up and live your life as an independent person, and I’m not going to play along with this ‘submissive stay-at-home daughter’ thing”, then it’s apparently okay to go looking for “spiritual parents” to run your life the way you want them to. Does the same thing apply to husbands? Or is a woman just supposed to do the “Be good until he acts the way you want, and if he doesn’t, it’s your fault for not being good hard enough” thing?

  • http:///krwordgazer.blogspot.com Kristen Rosser

    This idea of madness reminds me of what I was reading in history– that it used to be thought that if women used their brains too much on the kind of thinking that only men were thought capable of, they’d go mad– because women were only fit for “hearth and home.” It sounds like Debi Pearl is, consciously or not, buying into this past way of thinking.

    • http://republic-of-gilead.blogspot.com Ahab

      It reminds me of tribal taboos against women crossing gender boundaries in some primitive cultures. In an anthropology class back in college, I remember reading about taboos in some cultures against women witnessing all-male rituals or seeing ceremonial objects, with the warning that they would die or go insane if they did so. Debi’s sexist rhetoric is older than we think.

  • http://ripeningreason.com/ Rachel Marcy (Bix)

    That’s horrifying. I’d like to hope this example is made up, but I’m afraid there are too many cases that are all too real. How many people wrapped up in this ideology are denied treatment for mental illness?

  • http://smashed-rat-on-press.com/ The Rodent

    Oooh, I am *so* glad you read and report on this BS, so I can relish it filtered and know to avoid it. Thanks. It’s so scary and weird.

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

    You know what I keep noticing, as you go through this book? Debi is really, really mean. She has (according to her, and assuming she’s not making every one of these letters up) all these opportunities to help people, and instead she’s horrible to them. And sets them up to fail. And then uses their failures to threaten other people.


    • Nea

      That’s how they handle children too. They set the kids up in a situation where the kid is *bound* to do wrong and be beaten, and then tell everyone, including the confused child, that the kid had it coming to them and to learn from that.

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

        Yes, that’s true — they are all about setting little kids up to fail and then punishing them for it. And they call it “training”. There’s a whole article/chapter/something about how to “train” your baby/toddler not to touch interesting breakable shiny things: you put something tempting on the coffee table where she can reach it, then let her touch it, but whap her with the “switch” every time she does, until she stops.

        Oh, but remember to always be calm, collected, and cheerful when you’re whacking your small child. You should never “spank” in anger. ::hurl::

  • Katherine A.

    Debi sounds like a cult leader. She threatens women with the worst if they don’t follow her advice. Her advice is the only way WITHOUT question. She has no tolerance for questioning. Every other way is evil or wrong. This is the one true way, “God’s way”. Absolute authoritarianism = be submissive to your husband at all times. This woman is dangerous. It’s not just condoning abusive behavior. Debi is a cult leader.

  • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

    ok, I know the answer is probably “no”, but has Debi Pearl been reading the Daemonology of King James by any chance? Equating female spirituality with witchcraft? Reminds me far too much of things I have read about those times…
    That said, I wouldn’t be too surprised if Mike has been reading it, and spouting off the parts he thinks are relevant to her for her edification.
    I remember at my church on one occassion, spending most of a worship session praying against witches who had apparently been coming in to the office area of our building during services and praying against us. Even at the time, I was pretty embarrassed to be hearing those things, and I suspect its one of the key reasons I started to fall away – that and the shaming of people who had mental health conditions.

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    “One thing I want to point out before we get into Debi’s analysis is that I don’t think Debi would have a problem with this scenario if the genders were reversed.” I was thinking the exact same thing. Hmm, someone claims to have a direct connection with God, and therefore entitled to order everyone around… umm how is this different than everything in this book?

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

    Holy shit, Debi Pearl can still shock me.

  • http://beholdconfusion.wordpress.com/ Sara

    When I was reading the description of this woman, charismatic, spiritual, lots of kids, homeschooling, moving her family around, having a cowed husband – all I could think of was a close friend of mine who was in exactly the same situation. I love her dearly, but she is scary to be around when she doesn’t take her medicine properly. This madness isn’t visited by God as a punishment for her actions, her actions are a result of unstable brain chemistry. What this woman needs is appropriate anti-depressents and therapy not threatening fonts of increasing size and boldness.

  • Olivier

    Dear Debi
    I’m no bible specialist like you, but when I was young I heard about this guy (beardy, looks a bit like Kurt Cobain,can’t remember his name but he was the son of someone important…) who was famous for talking directly to women (and this made quite a fuss in his time)
    And more weird, the women he chose to talk to were not very respectable :
    - a woman accused of cheating on her husband (john 8-1-11)
    - a widower heretic, living with a boyfriend (john IV 1-30)
    - a reknown sinner (Luke VII 36-50)
    And lo, he’s not into good housewives but preferred the sister who chose to talk to him rather than vacauum-cleaning the house !(Luke X 38-42)
    Maybe you missed theses books; they’re rather small and are squeezed between the big scary part you love (you know, with endless massacres of women and children, weird laws about food …) and the lengthy correspondance of some right wing preacher named Paul (I searched in vain for mail for John, George or Ringo, wich let me quite desappointed)
    I know you’re too busy being mean and manipulative and trying to scare women into slavery to look into the stories of such a rambling liberal hippy, but maybe you can try it someday.
    you know, just for fun.