SMM: Chapter 5—Daughters with less-than-perfect Fathers

A Guest Post by Kate

Originally posted Time To Live, Friend

Finally, now that we’re on chapter 5, the Botkins admit that there will be exceptions to their way of life.  What’s a girl to do if she has a bad father or if her father is not onboard with the whole stay-at-home daughter thing? What if she doesn’t have a father? Unfortunately, the Botkins have answers for you.

“All fathers are less than perfect. So are all daughters. We can’t wait for our fathers to be perfect before we become the perfect daughters. We must begin finding ways to honor and value our fathers where they are, as God’s law commands us. Even the worst father is worthy of respect from his daughter, simply because he is her father.” (53).

It doesn’t matter how bad your father is—he’s just less than perfect and you shouldn’t hold him to perfect standards. But you should hold yourself to those standards and reach for perfection.

“Even the worst father is worth of respect…”

Hm, what if your father is abusive?  

“…we believe that most fathers, if not criminally wicked, do have at least some admirable qualities somewhere. Be quick to see these qualities. When you think of your father, you shouldn’t think of his weaknesses that spring to your mind, but of how much you love and appreciate his good qualities” (54).

The Botkins are pulling a Debi Pearl by telling daughters to always focus on the positive qualities of their horrible father, which isn’t very good advice to give girls if their father is bad and they need to get help. Instead they might find themselves thinking they just need to endure their suffering for the sake of not disrespecting their father. I’m not sure if the Botkins just really had no understanding of how abuse and manipulation works when they wrote this book or if their own upbringing is just so twisted that it seems perfectly normal to them.

So what do they mean by “criminally wicked”? Abusive fathers are not really discussed, but they are mentioned in a footnote (which shows you just how seriously the Botkins take this):

“We understand there are some fathers who are abusive, exploitive, and engaged in ongoing criminal activity, as defined by Scripture. In such cases, girls can only help their fathers long-distance by praying for them after being geographically separated from them. If church officers are unwilling to intervene in such circumstances on behalf of the victim, direct state intervention may be necessary” (54).

I admit I was surprised that the Botkins actually had this footnote and acknowledge that some girls need to LEAVE HOME in the case of abuse, but then I did a double take. First just pray for your abusive father? Then go to the church about it?

Wait, what?

If your father is being criminally “wicked”, why on earth would you go to the church first? The word “criminal” implies that it’s in the state’s jurisdiction to take care of it. Furthermore, the church has not exactly been setting a very good track record for dealing with abuse. After all, people in the church are saying things like this: *warning, discussion and rationalization of abuse*

YouTube Preview Image

. . . 

I have no words except: WTF.

Furthermore, if you’re telling a daughter to only say good things about her father and only focus on the good things about her father, is she really going to go the state, let alone the church for help?

Especially when she’s told that she can’t make decisions for herself— who is going to believe her if she accuses her father of abuse? [Especially if her father can just annul her own words].

Despite the fact that they say:

“True women have a kind of power that our society knows nothing about…When husbands are struggling with obedience to God, it is in a wife’s ability to “win” her husband over by her respectful behavior. In many cases, even the most stubborn men, when they observe their wives submitting humbly to them, will feel ashamed and repentant, and their conscience s will compel them to submit again to God.”

Once again, they’re talking about husbands and wives. But what they mean (doing some exegetical gymnastics here) is that as a daughter you can “win” your father to Christ by being submissive and respectful. He’ll be so blown away by your attitude that of course he’s going to turn around. Unless, he’s abusive and your submission just makes it easier for him.

So remember, fathers are NOT perfect. But they are still worthy of your respect. However, are you worthy of protection?

“Before you can accuse your father of being unprotective, ask yourself: do you make it clear to him that you are a woman of virtue, worthy of his special protection? If your behavior was more gentle, feminie, respectful, and lovely, would he be more inclined to feel protective of you?” (57).

Ouch.

Whatever your father is not doing, it’s obviously your fault. Excuse me, but what?

So a girl has to show unconditional respect to her father, but she’s not worthy of unconditional protection? She has to “prove” herself?

“If a father continues to be indifferent, you could appeal to him with Scripture, showing him that God has ordained him to be the authority in your life.” (57).

Isn’t that taking a little too much leadership by telling someone else (your father no less!) what they’re supposed to do?

If your father still doesn’t take charge:

“Until you’re married, alternative authority figures would include your mother, a responsible brother, and/or a group of godly older men like the elders of a church, preferably those who fit the qualifications for a bishop…” (61).

(WOW, they acknowledge the mother! I’m shocked that she’s on the list.)

Finally, I’ll leave you with this: “Our first duty is always to God and not man. Because all earthly authority is limited, there are biblical grounds for disobedience to an authority who’s trying to play God.” (59).

Wait, didn’t they just say in a previous chapter that to disobey your father is to disobey God? And that they are supposed to represent God to us? 

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.

  • Palindrome

    While the Botkins seem to acknowledge that some girls have dads who are “criminally wicked,” they still say that “even the worst father is worthy of respect.” If a girl was conceived by rape, would the Botkins think that her rapist biological father would be worthy of respect? Would the girl be sinning by not loving and respecting her (gag!) “father”? I really, really hope that the Botkins, being quite young and ostensibly naive when they wrote this book, just didn’t think this through too thoroughly and that they really don’t believe that girls who were conceived by rape should respect their rapist “fathers.”

    Speaking of sexual abuse, a few years ago, I heard that a convicted child molester married an innocent homeschooled girl — all with well-known and respected pastor Doug Wilson’s approval. In some fundamentalist circles where psychology is looked upon with suspicion and where benign sexual orientations like bisexuality and homosexuality and horrible ones like pedophilia are seen as changeable “choices,” it’s not really a stretch to worry that some girls in circles like that may end up with child molester dads. If the dad convinces his church’s elders that he’s a changed man and that he’s godly, how exactly would they know if he’s up to anything abusive at home, especially if it’s just his word against, say, his daughter’s? He could claim that his daughter’s lying and being rebellious, and who do you think the elders would be inclined to believe? How about if the girl was a bit “rebellious” by their fundamentalist standards? It’d be pretty easy for them to blow her off and disregard her truthful claims.

    • Boo

      Well, considering Sovereign Grace Ministries and Covenant Life Church has been accused of having a pedophile ring operate in the church, I think it could get a lot worse than that. These types of churches are going to do whatever it can to cover up the abuse of what it thinks are its ‘lesser members,’ and that includes ‘criminally wicked’ daddies.

      • ako

        Yeah, this kind of environment can leave a sexually abused girl trapped in every possible direction. She’s expected to obey adults in every capacity, and not know anything more about sex than the adult authorities feel comfortable telling her, but she’s also supposed to preserve her sexual purity, or else she’s chewed-up gum/a cup of spit/some other form of metaphorical garbage. And the only tools she’s given for this are prayer, a “No” that may not be listened to, the completely ineffective strategy of dressing modestly until people no longer want to abuse her, and the belief she can nice her way to safety. It’d be hard to build a more perfectly evil trap if you tried.

      • Boo

        These people are delusional. They couldn’t create a better environment for abusers, especially pedophiles, if they tried.

      • Katherine Hompes

        This may sound incredibly cynical of me, but I’m sure some of these people DID try- and for exactly that purpose

    • Rilian Sharp

      A great many children are conceived by rape, and if your family is like this, it seems almost certain, because your mother would have believed she had no choice and your father would have believed he was entitled to her body. So I think these women would definitely support honoring and respecting a rapist father.

  • Jayn

    I feel like the Botkins are taking the idea of everyone having good qualities and running off into the bushes with it. If you look hard enough, you can probably find good qualities in anyone. That doesn’t mean that

    A–Those good qualities outweigh the bad ones
    B–Those good qualities aren’t tainted by the bad ones (for example, a man might be good at keeping the bills paid…but then use that as a weapon against his family)

    And this does strike me as another example of locking the fire escape. Yes, they acknowledge abusive fathers exist, but everything else is about always looking for the good in him, and always being the perfect daughter to be deserving of his protection and love–basically the girl’s version of Debi’s “be perfectly submissive and he’ll change for you”. And since there’s always room for doubt that you’re being as good a wife/daughter as you can be, you can never really get past the “be as good as possible” step to be sure that he’s really a bad husband/father.

    • ZeldasCrown

      That’s what’s always bothered me about Debi’s book, and now the Botkin’s book. They say that one can only seek help if they’re sure they’ve been the perfect wife/daughter, but the definition of perfect is strongly hinted to be that they are treated well by their husband/father. Which leaves me to question how bad a specific (non-hypothetical) situation would have to be for Debi/Botkins to actually put these caveats into effect (and sometimes I wonder if there even is a possible scenario). The thing is, it always seems to me like these caveats were thrown in to appease critics, who rightly point out that the advice offered in these books is dangerous in abusive situations, in contrast to the authors actually thinking that abusive situations where the best option is to leave truly exist.

      I agree with your other points as well. I think it’s rare to find a person who is all good or all bad. Generally, a person will have a few key qualities that outweigh their others, which others might use to broadly define them as “good” or “bad”. But, some minor good quality doesn’t make up for or excuse or erase some major bad quality.

  • Christine

    My take on their statement about praying for one’s father after being geographically separated was less cheerful than Libby’s. I don’t think the sisters were saying that sometimes it’s a good response to leave home. Given that this is in relation to fathers who are criminally “wicked”, I read it as being how to serve him if he was arrested.

    Also, I love how in their world, every single father is obviously a Bible literalist.

    • ako

      Yeah, what about a perfectly good father who doesn’t believe it’s a good idea for his twenty-six-year-old daughter to stay at home with no involvement in any kind of work, education, or job skills training. What if he’s an atheist, or a Buddhist, or the ‘wrong’ kind of Christian, and encourages independent thinking and being able to function in the modern world?

      • gimpi1

        Yes, Ako. My idea of a good father, one who works to prepare both sons and daughters to be fully-independent adults who can hold a job, cook a meal, change a diaper, change a tire, balance a budget, write a resumé and comfort a child is most likely their idea of a bad father. You know, an evil secular-humanist socialist atheist, communist, democrat, unionist …. sorry, I ran out of right-wing nonsense insults.

    • Alice

      And I think they probably meant the daughters should pray the father will be “saved” and reunited with them.

  • Limeade

    Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up in this subculture, but I can’t understand why these people are so obsessed with ‘female submission’, even when it’s to men who are abusive. What’s so frightening about women’s lives not revolving around men and only men?

    • Alice

      Power over women and children is the only power they have left.

    • Kate Monster

      See, women, with their breasts and their sin-holes and their dirty, slutty second X chromosomes, are the enemy of men, who are shining, erect pillars of reflected Godliness. Women have ALWAYS been the enemy of men, all the way back to Eve, who purposefully tricked Adam (whom God created first and who was a MAN–got you now, feminazis!) into destroying the Garden of Eden and becoming a fallen waste of sin. Basically, all bad things are the fault of women, who make bad things happen with their sex power. Also, women are the weaker vessel–the poor things can hardly be expected to do anything more involved than birthin’ and homemakin’. We have to cherish them and keep them on a fancy lady-pedestal because they are fragile and they don’t have the genetic capacity (see? SCIENCE) to do number things or sports like real humans (real humans are men). We have to protect and worship women, who are the cause of all sin and wickedness, so that they will have many babies, thereby filling the world with more people who are just like us and therefore Right and Good.

      You can’t let the little lady get any silly ideas about voting or getting a job or wearing pants, because that’s against God’s plan.

      • Lucreza Borgia

        I CAN SEE YOUR DIRTY PILLOWS!!!!! /sarcasm

  • TLC

    These people really need to leave their “compounds” in the woods and acquaint themselves with real life. In my experience, not a single one of the physical/emotional/spiritual abusers I have dealt with have been impressed with ANY woman’s “gentle, feminine, respectful and lovely” behavior. Nor have they been swayed by it. They were far more interested in exerting their power, domination, cruelty and control over the ones they were abusing. And in some cases, the pleasure of doing so far outweighed any other “Christian” influences.

    There seems to be very little interest here in keeping these women and their children safe and alive. The Botkins give it a vague footnote. John Piper says nothing about getting out safely — rather, he says you might have to “endure it for a season.” They are woefully ignorant of the dangers women face when they leave. Many times the police and other law enforcement officials can’t keep a woman and her children safe. What makes John Piper thinks his church elders can do better?

    The Botkins probably don’t address this since they’re talking about father/daughter relationships. But FYI, these fundagelical churches also say that domestic abuse is NOT a Biblically sanctioned reason for divorce. You’re supposed to get a legal separation (so you’re technically still married) and pray for your husband to change.

  • Gillianren

    This still kind of sweeps girls without fathers under the rug (men qualified to be bishops in the faith in which I was raised basically translates to “priests,” too), but given how awful they’re being to girls whose fathers are abusive or otherwise bad for them, maybe that’s just as well.

    • Alice

      They briefly mentioned in one of the chapters that girls without fathers should find an older man in the church who is willing to fill the role of godly dictator. That really made me creeped out and angry. It’s bad enough that they’re encouraging girls to form pseudo-incestuous bonds with their fathers, but this is unbelievably irresponsible advice.

      • Gillianren

        Oh, yeah, there’s no way that one could possibly go wrong!

  • Machintelligence

    “Even the worst father is worth of respect…”

    As with so many others here, I beg to differ. Respect is an emotion, it cannot be commanded or purchased, it must be earned. The term “grudging respect” even acknowledges that less than honorable people can be respected for some of their actions. It is not automatic.
    Show of respect is something else: One can easily smile and say “yessir” while thinking “you idiot.”

  • Mel

    I’m still not getting how this is supposed to work if your father is not on-board with the SAHD movement. I’m thinking of what my Dad’s response would be if I had told him I was going to stay at home until I married. Dad would have laughed, had me get a job and move out on my own. The point of parents is to raise functioning adults not dependent children.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Yeah, they seem to miss the point that your father doesn’t need to be “criminally wicked” or even *gasp* liberal to balk at the idea of his daughters spending possibly their entire twenties and beyond puttering around the house doing needlepoint. I think most fathers, even most on the conservative Christian side expect that their adult children should be “launched” (or working getting launched) at some point–even if it means they have to fetch their own damn slippers.

      • Kate Monster

        I imagine that the Botkins see “liberal” as much, much worse than “criminally wicked”.

  • Lunch Meat

    All fathers are less than perfect. So are all daughters. We can’t wait for our fathers to be perfect before we become the perfect daughters.

    So they admit that daughters/women are less than perfect too, but we’re still expected to be perfect and there’s something wrong with us if we aren’t? This makes no sense.

  • Cassiopeia

    ‘Until you’re married, alternative authority figures would include your mother’

    Funny thing that, I’ve followed a path that my mother heartily approves of. She’s proud of me and the choices I’ve made.

    I’m unmarried, living independently from her, I have a job, I have a degree and I’m working on getting a better degree in my spare time. I haven’t lived at home full time since I was 18, when I started going to university.

    My mum was raised Catholic in the 1950′s/60′s. By the time I was born she’d moved halfway across the world by herself, still wasn’t married and was somewhere between agnostic and atheist. I wasn’t baptised, we didn’t go to church at all, I didn’t really know who the hell this ‘Jesus’ dude was from anything other than cultural osmosis until much later (then again, I grew up in England, where somebody asking what religion you are is quite strange).

    I was encouraged to be independent, to stand up for myself, to pursue things I enjoyed, to work hard at what I wanted to do, to value myself as a person and that relationships weren’t the be all and end all of everything. I was also encouraged to get a job, go to university and move out because she couldn’t afford to have me sitting at home doing nothing.

    I think I did pretty well at obeying my mother.

    I’m sure the Botkins would have some huge backtracky nonsense since I turned out a liberal feminist atheist rather than whatever they wanted.

    • TLC

      I would be much more afraid of you if you had ended this with, “And I turned out just like the Botkins girls anyway!” instead of “liberal feminist atheist.” It sounds like you’re doing very well for yourself. :-)

  • Alice

    “fathers who are abusive, exploitive, and engaged in ongoing criminal activity, as defined by Scripture.”

    WTF!!??!! The Bible says Christians must follow the law of the land, so stop right there and go look up your state’s laws. The Bible is the LAST place you should look for legal advice. It was written by stone-age patriarchs for crying out loud!! #%#%@#@%

  • That Other Jean

    So John Piper thinks that wives may have to endure an abusive husband “for a season,” does he? I do wonder how long that opinion would last if he were in the position of many abused wives– subs in a DOM/sub relationship with no safewords. If he truly thinks the church–or at any rate, his kind of church–would force an abuser stop, he’s delusional.

    • Kate Monster

      It’s sort of a forced syllogism (is that the word I’m looking for?): If there were abuse, the Church would stop it. Therefore, since the Church hasn’t stopped it, it must not really be abuse.

  • Scott_In_OH

    As others have alluded to, this is exactly the advice Debi Pearl gives to married women: submit more, and (God willing) he’ll change.

    I think it gives insight into a mindset. These are the people who think you can “snap out of it” when you’re clinically depressed. That sexual orientation is a choice (and that only one choice is the right one). That the only other thing you are allowed to do to help yourself is become even more immersed in your religion, especially praying to (the Christian) God.

    Following this advice will inevitably lead to victim-blaming, even by the victims. And it permeates our society, even the parts that are not overtly religious. Makes me exhausted a lot.

  • Trollface McGee

    “Before you can accuse your father of being unprotective, ask yourself: do you make it clear to him that you are a woman of virtue, worthy of his special protection? If your behavior was more gentle, feminie, respectful, and lovely, would he be more inclined to feel protective of you?”
    In fundie world/rape culture, there’s no victims because the victim isn’t victimy enough to qualify because she wasn’t submissive/too slutty by some impossible/contrived standard. If an abuser is inclined to abuse, no amount of submission is going to be enough, in fact some will set the bar up so that the victim purposely fails, so that the failure can be the wrong and not the abuse.

    “If a father continues to be indifferent, you could appeal to him with Scripture, showing him that God has ordained him to be the authority in your life.”

    Um yeah… if someone’s being abusive.. showing them stuff in a book is so totally going to change their mind.

    I get these girls are sheltered, have no knowledge of human psychology or abuse and domestic violence but they are putting this stuff out there, and that only serves to reinforce some very dangerous viewpoints and that type of action is reprehensible and irresponsible.

  • Lyric

    “Before you can accuse your father of being unprotective, ask yourself:
    do you make it clear to him that you are a woman of virtue, worthy of
    his special protection? If your behavior was more gentle, feminie,
    respectful, and lovely, would he be more inclined to feel protective of
    you?”

    This game is rigged.

    I’m afraid that my comments have been a bit shouty lately, for which I’m sorry, but—THIS GAME IS RIGGED.

    That is the nature of abusers; the game is always rigged. If you dress frumpily, then you’re an ugly little sow trying to make him look like he can’t support his family and shame him before his peers and colleagues. If you dress prettily, you’re a whore. If you ask for his approval on anything you wear, you’re bothering him with trivia; if you don’t, then you’re a selfish little slattern who doesn’t care about anyone but yourself. You can burn away your life trying to find the sweet spot between all the bad choices, but the plain fact is that it doesn’t exist.

    And what this means, in practical terms, is that no abused girl can possibly look at this advice and make a decent judgment about whether or not her father is “criminal.” Because it isn’t as if an abuser just belts you one out of nowhere and says, “‘Cause I felt like it.” He always has a reason. The soup was cold. You were dressed like a tramp. You sounded resentful when you said, “Yes, please,” and just the fact that you didn’t mean to be resentful—well, with your history of manipulative behavior, why would you even know when you’re being resentful? After all, you’re the girl who hasn’t cried a single sincere tear since you were one year old; it’s always a selfish and disgusting ploy to wring sympathy out of the nearest—see, there you go again. Sniveling like a spoiled brat when we were just starting to have an honest, productive conversation on self-improvement.

    When all your feedback is intentionally distorted, there would be no way to judge whether you were being “appropriately” feminine, gracious, and lovely, even if those criteria were objective. And they aren’t. In fact, the Botkins’s criteria are just the sort an abuser prefers: ones that can be redefined to mean, “Whatever you’re not doing right now.”

    Their advice might as well be designed to keep girls in abusive relationships. Because it boils down to, “Before complaining, make sure you’re perfect,” and abuse is a system which is deliberately designed to make bare adequacy unattainable whenever the abuser feels like it.

    • Sally

      Wow, really well said.

      • Lyric

        Thank you. I wish there were a good delivery system for getting the message to the people who need to hear it.

    • Scott_In_OH

      That is the nature of abusers; the game is always rigged.

      In fact, the Botkins’s criteria are just the sort an abuser prefers: ones that can be redefined to mean, “Whatever you’re not doing right now.”

      QFT

    • Katherine Hompes

      I cried reading this.

      I don’t say that to make you feel bad, but you totally hit the nail on the head, here- this game is rigged is exactly right, and so incredibly sad.

    • Lucreza Borgia

      That is the kind of manipulative shit my husband’s mother pulls except she totally broke his emotional responses and he’s just now learning how to express them again.

    • Alix

      see, there you go again. Sniveling like a spoiled brat when we were just starting to have an honest, productive conversation on self-improvement.

      Holy shit, I just damn near put my fist through the screen in a blind rage. You nailed that whole sick, twisted way of thinking.

      …There’s a reason that, to this day, I am terrified of crying where people can see.

  • Suburbint

    My father was mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and sexually abusive. My mother’s insistence that we treat him with the respect and submission advocated by the Botkin girls gave him more power and opportunities to fuck us up in various ways (I should make it clear that she didn’t know about the sexual abuse until about a year ago, at which time he had been dead for a decade.)

    Sociopaths can’t be won to Christ or anything else by treating them with honor and submission. The degree of naïveté and flat out refusal to accept that some men are just horrible human beings is what is turning the conservative Christian church into a male dominated society where men have carte blanche to get away with whatever atrocities they like, with the full support of both their peers and their wives. It makes me sick.

    • Alix

      A tiny quibble: I’m not sure it actually takes clinical sociopathy to make people into abusers. Otherwise normal people can be taught not to listen to their empathy, or that submission is their due, or whatever, and they’re not necessarily any easier to “win back” than an honest-to-god card-carrying sociopath.

      I want to be clear: I agree with the vast majority of what you’re saying. I just think we have a slight tendency to pathologize this kind of abuser mentality, as if all abusers are automatically sociopaths (and all sociopaths are automatically abusive or evil, which they aren’t) – and that sort of thing scares me ’cause it lets everyone who’s not a complete sociopath off the hook.

      The scary thing about an abusive mindset is that it can be scarily easy to fall into. It doesn’t take sociopathy, it just takes entitlement.

  • Kate Monster

    “Unfortunately, the Botkins have answers for you.”

    That should be on the cover.

    • Lucreza Borgia

      +eleventybillion


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