Question 1: Please introduce yourself before we get started. Are you married or unmarried? Are you in school, holding down a job, or staying home? Do you have children? What religious beliefs or lack thereof do you ascribe to today? Provide whatever additional information you like.
On May, 1, 2012, I turn 32 years old. I have more gray hairs than there are polar bears in either arctic zone and I am following in the tradition of my dad and both my grandfathers in keeping every hair all the way to the grave. None of them went, or are going, bald. Although I wouldn’t mind the Friar Tuck look.
I am married to the most awesome woman I know, this side of the sun. If there happens to be a better one, I’ll never know or care. I am fully devoted to her and proudly codependent. She is everything to me. Then my six children. From oldest to youngest, they are, Renaya (10), Laura (8), Frederic (7), Felicity (4), Jack (3), and Analisse (2). If I do go bald, it will be entirely due to them. They have already contributed to my gray hair.
When Kristine and I were married, we were ultra-conservative Christians, she less than I, but I would not allow any discussion on potential compromise. Since then, we have liberalized our views and recently, have become full-blown non-believers. Personally, I have no religious beliefs and have completely rejected the god of the Bible. I consider myself an agnostic because I cannot empirically determine that there is nothing supernatural and yet, in practice, I am very much an atheist.
I love the Minnesota Twins, writing, and anything to do with Kristine.
I’m in my thirties and have a young child that I now stay home with. My husband and I consider ourselves extremely liberal Christians, but as ex-fundamentalists we haven’t found a group that we want to associate with. We are currently living in California.
I’m Libby Anne, a married graduate student in my mid-twenties with one child and a baby on the way. I’m still not completely sure what I want to do “when I grow up,” but I do know I want to have a career of some sort in the field I am studying. I’m only planning to have a few children and I plan to put them in public school. As for religious beliefs, I’m an atheist. It took me a while to arrive there, but after I started asking questions the questions just didn’t seem to stop.
I’m Lisa, I’m 24 and I now live in Germany. I was born and raised in the U.S. but left the U.S. when I left my parents and siblings about two years ago. I have an American father and a German mother, and found shelter with my mother’s family here. I’m not married and I don’t have any kids. Right now I’m working on getting a high school degree. Since I was home schooled and didn’t do well, I never got one when I lived with my family. Besides school I work at as a waitress. I’m not quite sure what I believe at the moment. I do believe there is God, but I can’t make sense of anything else.
I’m “Mattie Chatham,” of The Nest Egg (the pseudonym and blog title are shamelessly stolen from Wendell Berry’s novel, Jayber Crow). I’m the oldest of nine kids. The youngest is five. I’m 23, married, with no kids yet. My husband grew up in a similar sort of family (even participating in ATI for a time), but his family was less prone to extremes than mine was/is. At present, I work at a non-profit in the D.C. area doing funding research. My husband is pursuing his certification in music therapy. We attend a fairly conservative Episcopal church and would consider ourselves Anglican. We both participated in Sovereign Grace Ministries churches for the large part of our childhoods.
I am Melissa, mid-twenties, married, working in the evenings and staying at home with my 4 pre-school aged children during the day. I am hoping to go to school for the first time this year, and I have no idea what to focus on, it is all so interesting to me. Currently, I am agnostic, we attend a Unitarian church here and there when we feel up to it. I grew up the oldest of 11 children in a Quiverfull/Patriarchal homeschooling family.
My name is Sarah. I have been married for almost 2 years now. We have no children, and don’t plan on having any for at least 5 more years. I work full time as a receptionist and pay all the bills for my household. I am also in school part time taking about 10 credits per semester. I go during the summer too so it comes out at around a full course load per year. My husband is still stoically Christian; I on the other hand have come to an uncertain agnosticism. This difference is religion has been the major cause of conflict in my marriage.
You can call me Sierra. It isn’t my real name, but I use it to protect the identity of my family and former friends. I am 25 and have been out of fundamentalism since 2006. I am currently in a History Ph.D. program in a Midwestern university, and hold a master’s in history from one of England’s big two. I am engaged to my partner of five years, and recently adopted a puppy. I can say without reservations that 25 has been the best year of my life.
Hello! My name is Tricia. I’m 26 years old. I had a fairly typical American childhood until age ten or so, when my parents began to homeschool me and gradually became immersed into the world of CP/QF. You might say they/we were fully “in” by the time I was fourteen. So I went on to live the stay at home daughter life– foregoing college to be a keeper at home, courtship in my early twenties and eventual marriage to another child of the movement, etc. Over the past two years I have come to consider CP/QF as an aberrant offshoot of fundamentalist Christianity that can, and often does, foster situations that create emotional, psychological, and spiritual damage in the name of “Godly living.” This was a painful realization to come to, and the process of healing, sorting, and re-evaluating my beliefs and experiences has likewise been intense, but at the same time very freeing. I’m still on the journey and don’t have all the answers or know for sure where I’ll end up, but am trying to be honest and enjoy life as much as possible along the way. True to my training, I am now a stay at home mom to two small children, but at this point it’s more due to pragmatics than conviction. When my kids are a little older I intend on pursuing college and career training of some kind.
I remain a traditional Christian, in the sense that I affirm the Nicene Creed with only a few minor redefinitions and accept the Bible as a collection of inspired writings that has had, and will continue to have, a shaping influence on my spiritual life. Beyond that, I gravitate towards Christian faith traditions that emphasize the mystical and experiential. I shy away from superfluous rules and rigid theological formulations, more because I find them triggering at this stage in my life than from reasoned objections to theology per say. After some exploring and shopping around, I’m currently attending an inter-denominational charismatic-lite sort of church. It is lively, diverse, and casual. I don’t kid myself that it’s perfect, but for now it’s a place where I can relax, breathe, and enjoy some undemanding faith based community.
Question 2: How did your parents first come under the influence of Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull teachings? What leaders did they follow and what publications did they receive?
When I was seven, my parents divorced. This was 1987, the sort of peak to the “ministry” of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), run by the Christian guru, Bill Gothard (Billy Boy G.). At the time, Mama attended a weekly marriage counseling seminar called Rebuilders, a program put out by IBLP. The pastor who ran this seminar, John Hartzell, in cahoots with Alice and Drew Tillman (big shots in IBLP), recommended all attendees attend IBLP’s Basic Seminar. Mama did and was hooked. We joined John Hartzell’s church, Normandale Baptist Church, Bloomington, Minnesota, USA.
Over the years, I attended many Basic seminars and later, the Advanced Seminar. We had all of Billy Boy G’s textbooks and manuals in our house. All the red books, the Character Sketches, Men’s Manuals, used Wisdom booklets from his Advanced Training Institute joke of a homeschool program, and many other publications that were offshoots of the patriarchy/Quiverfull movement, such as To Train Up a Child and Created to be His Helpmeet, by Michael and Debbie Pearl. We also received God’s World Today, World Magazine, No Greater Joy, and many other publications that put forth a worldview that Christians were persecuted and needed to rise up and take back the world.
My parents were originally fairly ordinary evangelicals, but after they started homeschooling me (for practical, not religious, reasons) they came in contact with the literature of the Christian homeschool movement, made new friends, and attending Christian homeschool conventions. Little by little they adopted the essential beliefs of the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements. I sometimes think they didn’t even realize it was happening, it was all so gradual. Growing up, I remember recieving Michael Pearl’s No Greater Joy, Douglas Wilson’s Credenda/Agenda, Michael Farris’ Court Report, and Nancy Campbell’s Above Rubies. We also followed Vision Forum fairly closely.
Both my parents grew up in moderate Christian families. They first got involved with the P/QF teachings shortly after they married. Back in the 1980s my Mom found out about Mary Pride’s teachings (The Way Home) and both my mom and dad were quickly fascinated by her teachings and approaches to family structure. Among their favorite “leaders,” if you can call them that, are Mary Pride and the Pearls, and especially the Gothard teachings. My parents took several trips to meetings and seminars hosted by Gothard’s IBLP.
My parents consider themselves to be first-generation Christians. They were heavily influenced by Mary Pride during their engagement, and always planned to homeschool and have their children court, rather than date. They were involved in both Vineyard and Sovereign Grace Ministries churches, and subscribed to WORLD Magazine and Above Rubies (and later I would be subscribed to The King’s Daughter Magazine). For school, we used Sonlight Curriculum, Rod & Staff, Beautiful Feet, Gileskirk, Apologia Science, and Alpha Omega LifePacs. We were involved in AWANA, “liturgical dance” troupes, and various sports.
I am not 100% sure. My Dad always leaned that way I think, but before I was around 8 years old or so, we went to church and the girls were allowed to wear pants if they wanted. When I was 5 my parents decided to homeschool me, and I think some of the homeschool curriculums available in 1990 may have influenced them as well. At around age 8 some things started to change, my dad told us that all the girls would have to dress modestly from now on, because it wouldn’t be fair for him to “spring that on us when we hit our teens” and we might as well get used to it now. When I was 10 we quit going to church and began “homechurching”. I remember my dad subscribed to “Patriarch Magazine” and “Quit You Like Men” magazines. My mother started to get “Gentle Spirit” and eventually “Above Rubies.” I remember books like “Into the Garden” and “Me? Obey? Him?” on our bookshelves, along with Reb Bradley’s child training tips, “Shepherding a child’s heart,” and eventually “To Train Up a Child.”
My parents were already slipping into PF/QF teachings by the time I was born. They both came from chaotic backgrounds and were looking for a way to ensure that their children would never experience the things they had to go through. My older sisters had to watch things go from normal to terrible, but I have no memories from before. My earliest memories involve skirts and braids and spanking spoons. We had every book and magazine ever published by Vision Forum, Michael Pearl, Debbi Pearl, David Wilkerson, Above Rubies, Answers in Genesis, The Harris’s, The Farris’s, and the Botkins. I’m sure there were more.
I was not born into fundamentalism. My mother was an ordinary evangelical and my extended family was made up of lapsed Catholics. We went to various non-denominational Bible churches as my mother searched for her spiritual home. I was enrolled in kindergarten but taken out after three months. I was a sensitive, gifted child and was absolutely terrified of school. It didn’t help that the local public school was a hotbed for bullies and my teacher was so hardened from the battle that she offered no sympathy or advice. I was frequently sent to the principal for antisocial behavior, where I would sit and quietly lick a lollipop while he asked me questions. At home, I began having night terrors and insomnia, and physically fought my mother when she brought me to school. She decided that I just wasn’t ready and began to investigate homeschooling as a way to postpone my entry to school for about a year.
We happily floated along in the homeschool bubble for about a year, and my mother discovered that her own childhood dream of being a teacher could be satisfied by teaching me. She decided to keep me out for a few more years, always determined to send me back for high school. Then the world came crashing down.
When I was 7, my mother had a miscarriage. She had been trying for a second baby for as long as I’d been weaned, and this one was a son. She fell deep into mourning and leaned on one of her homeschool friends for support. That friend was a fundamentalist.
We were rapidly sucked down the rabbit hole of Christian patriarchy and quiverfull as my mother began attending a church that followed the charismatic fundamentalist preacher William Branham. Branham is a virtual unknown now, but was one of several healing ministries in the mid-20th century who attracted millions (50,000 at a time) to enormous tent meetings. He preached extreme patriarchy, arguing that the world would end because women voted in the wrong president and that a woman who works is a disgrace to her family. He also preached the end of days, divine healing and a mystical union of the believer with Christ. Although he was deeply plugged in to postwar evangelical culture, influencing men like Billy Graham, he was ultimately abandoned by the evangelical community when he began preaching things they deemed heretical, such as the return of the spirit of Elijah and John the Baptist in the form of a modern Prophet – guess who? Evangelicals no longer speak his name, and most now have no idea who he was. But his ideas diffused throughout Christian culture (the idea, for example, that women will bring down the apocalypse by voting for the antichrist or that a shepherd breaks a lamb’s legs to keep it from wandering astray). People who follow him explicitly have over 1100 of his sermons recorded and transcribed and read them frequently. They call themselves believers in the “Message of the Hour,” or “in the Message” for short.
My church subscribed to the usual evangelical-fundamentalist literature: Above Rubies, Beautiful Girlhood, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Mary Pride, Michael and Debi Pearl, Creationist magazines and Apologia textbooks. We were not involved with Bill Gothard, but we would have fit in perfectly at one of his seminars.
At the first homeschool convention my parents attended, they heard one of the “big names” in the movement speak and were dazzled. They actively pursued more of the same kind, and Doug Philips, Jonathan Lindvall, Bill Gothard, and Michael Pearl all soon became household words in our family. There were several other less well-known teachers in the same general stream that we followed as well. We subscribed to the magazines/newsletters, bought the books and tapes, went to the seminars, etc. Our home was literally littered with patriarchal propaganda.
Question 3: In what ways was your family a “typical” Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull family? In what ways was it “atypical”?
We were “typical” insomuch as we attended a conservative church, made decisions only from the Bible, appeared completely normal on the outside, and claimed that our lives would be lived out as was set forth in all patriarchal/Quiverfull beliefs. We believed doctors were beyond evil and everything could be cured with a clove of garlic or drinking apple cider vinegar.
Our lives were “atypical” insomuch as we lived with our single mother, Mama. We had no father figure. Sure, we saw him on the weekends every so often but we were brainwashed by my mother to think that he was as evil as the second cousin of Lucifer himself. We also did not homeschool. According to my mother, the only “blessed by God” homeschool program was Billy Boy G’s ATI. ATI refused to allow us to homeschool because my dad would not sign on the dotted line. Thus, from start to finish, we attended public school.
In some ways we were very typical: homeschooled, not allowed to date or spend time with the opposite sex, and not allowed to attend church youth group. However, I never felt like we were really strongly connected to the CP/Q community because my dad had issues with his faith and with accepting his leadership role in our family. We also stood out because my sister and I didn’t wear dresses all the time, and my parents thought it was irresponsible to have more children than you could financially provide for.
My family was typical in that my parents had an extremely large number of children and in that my father worked, my mother homeschooled us, and both believed that women must always be under male authority, first that of their father and then that of their husband, and that that included submission and obedience. We were also typical in that we ascribed to the movement’s purity and courtship teachings. My family was atypical, though, in that there was always a tremendous emphasis put on education, for the girls as well as for the boys. Because of this, I was sent away to college after high school, as were my siblings as they came of age. Oh, and we were required to wear long jean skirts or grow our hair out.
My parents believed that contraception was a sin, that the man is the head of the house and the woman must be in absolute submission, that he is the authority for his daughters until they get married or he dies. We were home schooled, believed in modesty and only wearing skirts.
We were atypical in a sense that my mother never quite let go of her Catholic roots. We did some things Catholic such as Catholic Easter traditions. My mother spoke German with us kids and my Dad couldn’t understand much at all. This kind of enabled my mother to say things to us that my Dad wouldn’t understand, and if he did, he’d tell us how wrong they were. For example, whenever us kids made a mess or someone got hurt, she would exclaim “Holy Virgin Mary help us.” It’s a very Catholic thing to say and my mother always spoke about Mary with great admiration. I think she could never quite let go of her belief in Mary as a living saint.
Due to our language, a lot of P/QF people considered us Amish. This didn’t really mean that they didn’t accept us – they did, they just thought we did things differently. We never had any connections with the Amish though and us kids had to do a lot of explaining. I remember being asked if my family would support the tradition of “rumspringa” (“running around” as in living in the real world to decide if you want to stay with the Amish). We had a lot of explaining to do!
We were “typical” in that we homeschooled and there are nine of us kids. We did a lot of crafts and unit studies on gardening and wilderness survival and various homemaking activities. My dad was suspicious of ATI, so we avoided that quagmire, thankfully.
We were atypical in that we listened to popular (Christian) music, my dad played electric guitar, and the girls were allowed to wear pants. Another atypical element of our family culture was the unstated assumption that all of us would attend college. Education and culture were values in my dad’s family, and they got passed on. We were frequently broke or living frugally out of necessity, but we were raised to appreciate other cultures and the arts. My parents also believed in cultivating a good work ethic from an early age, and we were encouraged to get summer jobs and work in high school. This is rare for most CP/QF families, as girls are usually very sheltered and protected from having to go into the world for employment. As soon as we could prove we could manage our time well and get schoolwork done well and on time, we were encouraged to use our free time to earn a little money to save up for travel or college.
We were typical in the religious views of the movement, the clothes we wore, the gender roles, the discipline procedures, the beliefs in gender roles and spiritual hierarchy in the family, etc. We were atypical in that we were never wholehearted followers of any one group or leader. I remember my Dad criticizing ATI as an organization that was too focused on outward appearances instead of the heart. He usually had something he did not like about each of the big preachers/leaders popular in the homeschool patriarchy movement, but despite this we did purchase products and books from many of them, including Vision Forum. I read almost everything we had around, and I feel that most of what my dad taught was very similar to these leaders, so I am still somewhat confused as to why we never fully subscribed to any of them.
My dad has always been fiercely independent, so we didn’t follow any one specific leader or teaching completely. To this day he claims that he was never really “quiverfull” or “patriarchal,” he was just following what he thought was God’s leading. I think that was a part of the problem. My father did not recognize any authority except the Holy Spirit; which basically meant that he did whatever he wanted, and subscribed to the teachings of people who said exactly what he wanted to hear. My dad always scoffed at ATI people because he said they were “respecters of men.” He could never find a church that was godly enough for him, so we just never went to church. We tried a few Sunday services now and then, but they were never good enough. We had no community. Other than the neighbor kids and my mom’s nearby friend, we did not interact with other people for the first 12-13 years of life.
My family was solidly atypical for Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull. I was an only child. My father was an unbeliever. My mother was the tie that bound me to fundamentalism. It proved to be quite a strong one, as my father’s unbelief unfortunately coincided with a controlling, abusive personality who lived up to all the stereotypes of what “worldly” men were like. I clung to my mother and fell down the hole with her.
In terms of family dynamics, beliefs about what said Scripture taught about gender and family, and overall lifestyles and goals, we were a fairly typical example of the CP/QF trend.
On the atypical side, however, my mother had a huge appreciation for liberal arts of all kinds, so my reading was not restricted in anywhere near the same way as is typical in many CP/QF homes. This proved to be a tremendous benefit to me personally, as I read widely and it helped to keep my mind open and gave me the tools I needed to eventually think through and discard much of what I learned from the world of quiverfull and patriarchy. My siblings and I also had friends and relatives that were secular or existed in the mainstream Christian world that we were permitted to interact with freely, and although that was sometimes awkward because I was so different, I think those influences and relationships helped to provide some grounding and balance to my growing up experience, because the outside world didn’t seem as strange or alien as it otherwise may have.