Soon after this rethinking of my parents’ beliefs, I returned home from college for a semester break more worried than I have ever been in my life. What were my parents going to think about my new beliefs on evolution, the Bible, the pro-life movement, and female equality? For a few weeks I said nothing, afraid of what would happen when I did. But the longer I listened to my parents praising me for my steadfast beliefs and condemning evolution and liberal college professors the more I realized I couldn’t hide my changes in belief. And so I told them. I was used to being only praised and affirmed, so telling my parents about my changing beliefs was probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. And sure enough, it was like I had dropped a bomb.
I have never seen my parents as angry or disappointed as they were that day. I had gone from being their golden daughter to being broken, completely broken, in their eyes. With that one revelation, they learned that all of their work had been for nothing. Since their whole reason for raising me was to create a soldier for Christ, spreading their specific views around the world, my changes in belief meant that everything they had done to bring me up was wasted.
My parents’ utter horror was soon replaced with attempts to retrain me and bring me back to the strait and narrow. My mother gave me a pile of Vision Forum materials on daughterly submission and fatherly authority and demanded that I read them. I think that backfired, actually, because having learned to think for myself and having seen a bit of the world, the books by the Botkins and others made no sense. The Botkins seem to think every college girl is a whore, and yet I had spent two years at college and knew this was not true. The Botkins also seem to worship their father in a way that I found extremely dangerous, for I had just realized that fathers are as fallible as anyone else. None of the literature made any sense to me any more.
Slightly more effective than the literature was the emotional pressure. My father, with whom I had been so close, ignored me. My mother told me over and over how much I had hurt my father, and that if I really wanted to follow God and know what was true I should just ask my dad my questions and believe whatever he told me. But this didn’t make sense to me because I had learned that my father could be, and was, wrong. My childhood friends’ admonitions that God spoke to me through my father and so I should listen to him fell on deaf ears, for they no longer made sense. After all, the Bible never said any such thing, and if God wanted to speak to me I felt sure he could speak directly to me.
I was learning what it meant to be under authority. I was learning what it meant for my heart and mind to tell me to go one way, and my male authority to tell me to go another. And I couldn’t do it. I believed too much in myself and my abilities to turn off my brain and submit to a man I no longer felt I knew. Was his love conditional? Was I only his daughter when I did exactly as he said? What kind of love was that, anyway? It was almost like he had shaped me and molded me, and as soon as I had a single independent thought, he saw me as broken, ruined. “I’m not your creation!” I wanted to yell, “I’m a person and I have the right to think for myself and make my own choices!” I felt suffocated, constrained. I couldn’t take it. Everything was ruined and I felt that I was being asked to choose between my family and my intellectual freedom.
When I returned to college after that break, I determined to leave everything behind me. I had rejected my parents’ authority, and was unsure if I would even be allowed to return home for visits. I paid for the rest of college myself, even though that meant working and going to school at the same time. My intellectual freedom was too important to sacrifice, and I felt like my entire childhood had fallen apart. What had been so beautiful had suddenly been destroyed, and why? Because I had deemed to use the brain God had given me and my father had taught me to use? Did they want me to be a robot, or a doll, created as they pleased and positioned however they liked? Was that all it was about?
Libby Anne lives with her husband and toddler somewhere in the U.S. She has left patriarchy for feminism and has found freedom. She is a graduate student with big plans for her life. You can read her blog at Love, Joy, Feminism.