The Beautiful Girlhood Doll ~ Part 8: Out of the Doll House & Into the Real World

NOTE: “For personal reasons, “Liberty” has changed her pseudonym to “Libby Anne.”
by Libby Anne

And then I left for college. College had always been one of my parents’ expectation for me, and I’ve never seen them as proud as they were at my homeschool graduation. With my parents’ approval, I chose a secular college because I wanted to witness to others and make a difference in the world. I had been taught that I was to be a culture changer, shouldn’t I start now? My parents approved of this choice because they believed I was ready.

Of course, I believed my role was to be a wife and mother, but no one had appeared to seek my hand and my parents, both college educated themselves, had never shaken the idea that a college degree is important. I would graduate from college, they said, and then work until someone came to my father asking for my hand, and then marry and settle down as a homemaker, wife, and mother. My plan was to find an upstanding Christian man in college and graduate with a ring on my finger. After all, I didn’t want to delay having children any more than I had to, because I knew I wanted a very large family. Until then, though, I would use my college years to witness to others and further God’s kingdom.

I found out almost immediately upon arriving at college that I did not fit in very well. I thought this was just because I had been homeschooled, but it was more than that. I wore only homemade clothing, had hair all down my back, and didn’t use makeup. I definitely stuck out! In addition to looking out of place, I had no idea how to relate to anyone I met, because none of them shared my exact beliefs or had an upbringing anything similar to mine. I was the very definition of a fish out of water.

Gradually, I began to make friends with evangelical girls I met in my dorm. The god-talk was familiar to me, but their upbringings were still largely foreign. None of my new friends had more than a couple siblings, and none of them believed in female submission the way I did. They were in college so that they could have careers; they didn’t plan to be homemakers. They were astonished when they learned that I believed I would be under my younger brother’s authority if my father died, and they found my clothing and mannerisms strange and funny. Yet they accepted me as I was, and for that I will always be grateful. Without them, my transition to college would have been a great deal more painful than it was.

College quickly taught me first that those who did not believe like I did were neither automatically miserable inside nor bad people. In fact, I found that even Catholics, gays, and agnostics could be lovely people. This confused me but it also opened my world and showed me that dividing humanity into “good” and “evil” was too simplistic.

I realized, though, that I could not witness to others very well when I stuck out like a sore thumb. I therefore bought myself a new wardrobe, cut my hair, and learned to wear makeup. My new clothes were still conservative, but at least they were not floor length homemade dresses. My new look worked, and I began to have theological and political conversations with a number of non-Christians. I worked hard to show them the perfection of the Bible, the evidence of young earth creationism, the evils of abortion, and the love of God.

Strangely, I found a surprising number of my arguments rebutted by arguments I had never heard before. I was told that there were serious problems with creationism, ethical issues with the Bible, and more effective ways to decrease abortion than banning it. I turned to my resources, my books and websites on creationism, theology, and conservative politics, and I tried again. And again. And again. But some things just didn’t add up. I paused my arguments to do some serious research, and I was astounded by what I found.

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Family Driven Faith ~ Part 1: God's Highest Calling

A Former Independent Fundamental Baptist Pastor’s Perspective on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood

by Bruce Gerencser

For seven months in 2004 our family attended a vibrant, growing church in Central Ohio. We thought we had finally found a church to call home. One Sunday, after the morning service, Polly (my wife) was talking with a group of women who were trying to get to know her a bit better. One of the women asked Polly what she did during the day and she, without a moment’s hesitation, said “I work.”

In a split second everything changed. You see, in this church, none of the women worked outside the home. The pastor taught that it was a violation of God’s divine order for women to work outside the home. They could have home-based money-making enterprises but they were not to work outside the home.

From that day forward the women of the church were stand-offish towards Polly. Never mind that Polly had to work due to her husband’s disability. Never mind her job was the only thing that stood between us and living on the street. All that mattered was that our family was not ordered according to God’s divine plan. We stopped attending this church a short while later.

In the 1990’s I pastored a growing Sovereign Grace Baptist church in Texas. A young woman in the church professed faith in Christ and desired to be baptized. Customarily candidates for baptism were asked to give a public testimony before being baptized. This posed a problem for this particular woman. Her husband not only believed that the Bible taught a divine order for the sexes and the home, he also believed women should be silent in church. (His wife also wore a head covering.)

The woman wanted to give a public testimony but she didn’t want to disobey her husband. The standoff went on for weeks until, one day, the woman came to my office in tears, lamenting that her husband was keeping her from following Christ. I agreed with her and told her that her husband was standing between her and Christ. I counseled her to disobey her husband. Needless to say my counsel to her set off a bomb in the church.

This church also believed that church business was the domain of men. When the church held business meetings women were not allowed to speak. If they had a question they had to whisper their question to a man and then the man could ask the question on their behalf. Women were allowed to verbally ask for prayer and sing but everything else was the domain of men. Very few of the women worked outside the home.

While I found both of these positions to be somewhat excessive and quite demeaning to women, I also believed that such positions could be proved from the Bible. While I didn’t take things as far as the above mentioned churches I certainly believed that God had a divine order for the family and the church. I believed that God had ordained men to rule and women were to submit to the male authorities in their lives. The highest calling for a woman was to marry, bear children, and be a keeper of the home. Children were to submit to authority and obey every command given to them.

I believed that the Bible taught a hierarchical system that must be kept in order to enjoy the favor and blessing of God. God, through his son Jesus, was the head over all things. Of course what this really meant was that the Bible was the head over all things. Christianity is, above all else, a text-based religion. Without the Bible there is no Christianity. (in any meaningful way) As an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor I believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant words of God. The Bible was the final rule for everything.

IFB pastors say that the Bible is the rule for everything but what they really mean is that their interpretation of the Bible is the rule for everything. I cannot emphasize this point enough. At the heart of the IFB church movement, the Patriarchal movement, and the Quiverfull movement is a literalist interpretation of the Bible by pastors. Pastors, the under shepherds of the church, under direct authority from God, have the singular responsibility of teaching the church what the Bible says. (or better put, what his interpretations are) The pastor, called by God, empowered by the Holy Spirit is the mouthpiece of God.
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The Beautiful Girlhood Doll ~ Part 7: Submission & Obedience

by Libby Anne

The Godly Woman recognizes that “the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man…” She willingly and joyfully submits to him in everything as she would unto Christ. What other women view as a burden and degradation, she views as an honor and a blessing.

My parents believed in male headship and the umbrella of authority. They believed that the husband is the head of the wife and that the wife must submit to the husband even as the husband must love the wife. And submission meant obedience.

My mother was constantly reading books like Me? Obey Him? as she strove to be a better, more submissive wife. This was difficult for my mother, for she was a very strong woman. I watched her war with herself as she tried to reconcile her strong spirit with the submission she believed in so steadfastly. I watched her cry over it, watched it eat away at her. Occasionally, my father became upset with my mother, feeling that she was infringing on his authority. His most common response was to give her the silent treatment, and that was enough. In response, my mother generally first felt indignation and then blamed herself for not submitting enough and resolved again and again to do better. While my parents loved each other dearly, this tension added strain to their relationship, and I could see it.

Yet interestingly, even as I watched my mother struggle with female submission, I nevertheless believed in it strongly. At the same time, I usually inwardly sided with my mom in her disputes with my dad, largely because he could appear so unreasonable and become upset over seemingly small matters. I justified this contradiction between my beliefs and my feelings with regard to my parents’ quarrels by telling myself that I would have no trouble submitting to my future husband since I would marry a reasonable man who would not give me such trouble.

Of course, my parents believed in more than just a wife’s submission to her husband. They also believed that children are under their father’s authority and are to submit to him. For boys, this lasted until age eighteen, when they would leave the home and start a career; for girls, this lasted until marriage to a man approved by the father. This meant that while my brothers would be out from under my father’s authority when they turned eighteen, I would not. My parents also believed that if my father died, I would be under the authority of my nearest male relative, which in practice meant my oldest younger brother.

In retrospect, I am almost baffled that I believed this so wholeheartedly and sincerely, but I think I understand why. First, I was also able to endorse female submission because I myself had never been in a position where what I wanted contradicted what my male authority wanted, and second, when I endorsed female submission I found myself praised and affirmed.

I loved and respected my father, and we agreed on petty much everything (except, I suppose, his disagreements with my mother). I was my father’s golden girl, his pride and joy. It was like he had shaped me to be the perfect daughter, to be everything he had always wanted. I was smart, and my parents educated me well so that I could carry on intelligent conversations with him on a variety of issues. I felt his pride in me and I basked in it. I lived for my father’s approval, and this was a driving force behind my diligence in education and in homemaking. I strove to be everything my father wanted me to be, and received nothing but praise in return. I thus had never had any reason to resent the presence of male authority over me and every reason to endorse it and claim it.

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My Courtship Story ~ Part 8: Courtship Is Not The Answer

by Young Mom @ Permission to Live

Looking back, I like many things about our story. I love that we were very honest about our needs and desires as we understood them at the time. I can imagine it would be more difficult to fall in love with someone and then find out afterwards they don’t want children and you do. I can see the benefits of being straightforward and asking the tough questions right away.

On the other hand, there were things that we could not talk about as well. Religious questions weren’t really that relevant, because we were so enmeshed in our families, we hardly had any beliefs that were truly ours, they were all dictated by our families. There are other tough issues that cannot come up when you have intense levels of parental control. Whatever is not safe to talk about in your family of origin, does not feel safe to bring up in the new relationship either.

I think that seeing our relationship as marriage focused was healthy. We weren’t dating just to date, we were discovering each other and searching each other to see if we could see ourselves together. (However I do feel that the marriage focus was taken to an extreme.) I also think that waiting to get involved in relationships until being old enough to start considering marriage makes sense.

I think that spending time together as families is a great idea. You have the opportunity to observe the persons interactions with their own family members and as well as yours. It helps you to learn how to interact with other people as a couple.

Respect for our bodies and sexuality was a good thing. I think it is healthy to have good boundaries in a relationship. Good communication about expectations and mutual respect for each other is pivotal.

The problem is, all of those things could have been implemented by my husband and I as adults in our own relationship. We could have (probably would have) been serious about marriage, boundaries and family relationships and involvement, without the parental control that the idea of Courtship is founded on.

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Actually I can’t think of a single benefit from the parental control and pressure we had throughout our relationship. Even after we were married, it took several years for us to truly “leave and cleave”. We had never been allowed to be our own persons, and old habits died very hard. We would consult our parents and make decisions (trivial or important) based on what they told us. Eventually we progressed to where we would make our own decisions and fret about how to tell our parents what we had decided. It took four years to get to the point that we made decisions and didn’t bother to tell them at all! We were both nearly twenty years old when we started our Courtship, and every decision was taken out of our hands as though we were fourteen year olds. I can only be grateful that my parents were not as extreme as some in the same mindset, such as this girl who was betrothed against her will and ran away from home to escape. Read her story in this order. ONE, TWO, THREE, and FOUR.)

My parents had a long set of rules we were expected to keep during our courtship. Looking back, it strikes me as pretty creepy. My parents were obsessed with controlling a fully grown child’s sex life. I was expected to ask them permission to do anything, and abide by their decision. It was none of their business what my boyfriend/fiancé and I were doing or not doing. The job of a parent entails teaching their children to respect their bodies and even passing on their religious beliefs if they wish too, NOT being the sexual purity police in another adult’s relationship.

In the end, every boundary I had wanted, stayed in place.

My fiancé and I respected the boundaries that each of us had set in place through evaluating our own values and convictions at the time. My parents rules simply did not stick. I was on my way out of their house and their control, and I had no incentive to follow their dictations any longer. (Other than attempting to keep them happy until the wedding day so that we could get married without having to elope.) I had broken out of the mind control enough to realize I would rather get married to my fiancé than live at home, and we did everything in our power to get that to happen smoothly. Other couples were not so lucky.
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My Courtship Story ~ Part 7: I Do

by Young Mom @ Permission to Live

We spent most of our time together at our family homes, so we also spent a lot of our time together trying to evade family. Since we were engaged we were allowed to go on short excursions alone to public places. So we ran errands for the wedding, like picking up my wedding dress after the alterations were finished, or running to the mall to pick out “Hunk”’s wedding band. When we were around my house, we went for lots of walks together, and I even took him up to my secret spot on the garage roof where we could be alone.

At the end of June (about 3 weeks out from the wedding) I went on another trip with “Hunk” and his family. We all flew out to spend a week with his extended family and introduce me to his grandma. Again, time together was wonderful! Like the weekend early that same month, we ended up getting a lot closer on this trip. His family mostly left us alone when there were no planned events, so we had days of uninterrupted time to wander around the parks in the area.

Up until this point, we had been able to keep my parents rules for the most part. My Dad still hadn’t approved hugging, and we did hug when we were out of his eyesight. But other than that we were being very careful. The emphasis on no physical touch just seemed to heighten the desire for it all the more. I was torn between really wanting to get closer to My Love, but still feeling an incredible burden to obey my parents and give a good example for my siblings. My parents always explained the reasons for their rules being that “kissing would inevitably lead to other stuff”. On this trip, it became apparent to “Hunk” and I that you could get around to “other stuff” even if you never technically kissed. The whole thing started to feel ridiculous, and “Hunk” was getting frustrated. We both knew that the no kissing rule was silly, and we both wanted to kiss, but I was still saying no each time he asked me, and he respected that no.

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After we returned from the trip, I was getting fed up. We had all this pressure to be a wonderful example of what finding your spouse “the Christian way” meant, and I didn’t want to pretend that meant we hadn’t gone beyond holding hands. Maybe it was possible to go through courtship and engagement without any physical connection, but it didn’t feel like as big a deal as I was supposed to think it was and our relationship wasn’t turning out that way.

At church everyone was so impressed with our Courtship (aside from the pregnancy rumours that continued to circulate), many parents in the church saw us as a wonderful example of a “pure” relationship, and used it to bolster their own opinions of their authoritative role as parents in their own children’s lives. I even heard from one Quiverfull mom who was planning on bringing her 6 children (all under the age of ten) to the wedding because she wanted them to see how we had “saved our first kiss”. It felt hypocritical to stand up at our wedding and kiss for the first time, thereby implying that we had zero physical connection throughout our engagement. So 8 days before the wedding I decided that the charade was over and on a walk to the park near my house, I kissed him (or should I say attacked him!).

It was such a relief to have it over with and not have to think about it anymore! Later that day, I informed my Mom that the kissing ban was officially over since I had kissed “Hunk”. She was disappointed, but fairly understanding. She said it was good that we had held out against temptation as long as we did, and that one day I would be grateful we hadn’t kissed. When my Dad heard, his just made the tight-lipped look that he gets when he isn’t happy, but I guess since the wedding was so close, he decided to let it slide.

At some point in that week before the wedding, my Mom decided to talk with me about sex, for the first time since I got the bare bones basics “where babies come from” talk at 11 years old. She basically asked if I had any questions about the wedding night. I asked her if losing your virginity was painful, and she replied that she didn’t really remember, but that she didn’t think so. And that was it. A few months after the wedding, she pulled me aside and asked if I knew that women could have orgasms. I have to admit I laughed when I told her that thankfully I had figured out a few things on my own thanks to books and the internet.

“Hunk” and I never had any pre-marital counselling. I guess the idea was that since we were both Christians and had extensive involvement of our parents who had determined that we were compatible, it was unnecessary. Plus “Hunk”’s Dad was a Pastor, so we had some chats with him that I guess were supposed to be a substitute for counselling. We never talked about Family systems or background or boundaries, or conflict resolution, or finances, or anything much really. He gave us a book on sex and told us what we’d been hearing since we were young, “sex is great, but only when you are married”.
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