by Libby Anne cross-posted from her blog Love, Joy, Feminism
Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 65-67
Debi starts with a letter from a reader.
My heart is heavy. I desire with my whole heart to bring our children up in the ways of God (they are ages 2 and 5). My deep concern in this—my husband has been deceived into thinking that various TV programs and commercials are not harmful to him or the children. He lets the fact that they are humorous dismiss the fact that they are crude and subtly being used to chip away at the spirit of our family. I have to work part-time in the evening, and I worry what is being shown on the idol of TV in our home. I have shared my concern with him (and, sorry to say, have nagged him too), but he is just not as convinced as I am about this issue. This has led to my being resentful and angry at him to the point where I feel no respect or love toward him. I am committed to my vows, though. Can you offer any advice or help me in any way? I even feel I must have married the wrong man! He has many positive qualities, but I worry that these influences are causing him to stray.
Thank you for any help you can give.
Any guesses how Debi’s going to respond?
Just imagine what it would be like if your husband just disappeared one day—no more bad commercials, no questionable TV, no warm beds, just lots of long, lonely nights and days of toil at a job away from the children.
This seems to be Debi’s fallback position. You’re annoyed at something your husband is doing? Well just imagine how shitty your life would be if your husband left you, and be happy you have him! What do you think would happen to an actual therapist if she tried using this argument? Your husband’s drinking habit is wearing on your relationship? Just imagine how your life would be if he left you, and be happy you have him! Yeah, I’m not seeing that lasting long.
The children will not be with their father watching TV; they will be with a baby-sitter who is taking care of them for money. You will wonder if the baby-sitter is having her boyfriend over for a little sex in the bedroom while the kids watch TV alone.
Dude, if you’re worried you have a bad babysitter, get a new one. There are lots of responsible teenage girls quite ready to babysit your children. Yes, you have to pay them. But no, they’re not all out having sex on the job. Also, if having a babysitter who might (off clock) be sexually active bothers you that much, I’m pretty sure there are lots of little old church ladies quite ready to babysit. Also, and maybe I’m weird like this, but when I leave my kids with a babysitter I don’t generally spend my time away from them wondering whether the babysitter is having someone over for sex. But again, maybe that’s just me.
The young children will cry when you leave for work, and the older children will be glad to see you go so they can exercise their new found liberties.
Actually, my kids rarely cry when I drop them off at daycare. They get used to it, and actually, they quite enjoy the socialization and all of the learning activities they experience there. As for the older children part of Debi’s statement, if you don’t view your relationship with your kids in the adversarial police state way that Debi clearly does, you really don’t have to worry about them sneaking off to “exercise their new found liberties.”
The car has something wrong with it, but you can’t take a day off to get it fixed. Money is in short supply.
Look, I know that lots of single moms live in poverty, but single mom =/= poor the way Debi clearly thinks it does. It is actually more than possible to be a single mom and not be destitute. But then I think we’re getting to the root of something here, because Debi doesn’t believe in either women going to college or women having jobs, meaning that in Debi’s world, women have neither career training or work experience. And in that world, a divorce is going to be financially devastating for a woman. If you spend all your life depending on your husband’s income and have no job skills that transfer anywhere besides Walmart, single motherhood is going to suck (at least initially).
I would argue that women should have career training and job experience, even if they choose to stay at home while their children are small, for exactly this reason: if women don’t have those things they’re rather stuck, and very susceptible to Debi’s line of argument here. They may be in unhappy or even abusive marriages, but they will likely literally not have any way out that doesn’t lead them through financial destitution (though, once again, there are ways for the most uneducated of single moms to find a way out of financial destitution, they’re just not simple or easy).
I understand why Debi is making this argument and why it scares the pants off a lot of women (or skirts, I suppose). But I think it’s important to note that these threats likely don’t apply to women who have college degrees and work experience. My own mother, for instance, would have had no problem picking up the pieces after a divorce. She had training in a useful career and some work experience (before I was born). And the career she was trained in was one that made decent money, and didn’t require long hours. The dour life Debi is laying out here wouldn’t have been her experience. But then, like I said,t hat’s because she had a good college degree and work experience before she started staying home with her children.
You will discover that the social circle for a divorced woman with kids is rather small.
I’m actually not convinced this is true. The evangelical megachurch I attended growing up had support groups for single moms, and there were lots of them, and they met regularly and had, from what I could see, quite the social life. But then, the evangelical megachurch I grew up attending, even with its young earth creationism and all the rest, is probably rather liberal compared to what Debi’s used to.
Then the kids get the flu, and the babysitter refuses to work because she is not going to take the chance of catching the flue for a few measly dollars.
So . . . you take time off until they’re better. Sure, I get that that’s not always simple, especially if you work an hourly job, but lots of families with two working parents have to deal with that too. Including mine. It can be tough, but you make it. You really do.
For a year or two, your ex gets the children for the weekend. You have no control over what they do, but you are too tired to care anymore.
Oh good grief.
In time, the child support you thought was required by law stops coming, because your husband has left the state with another woman.
Look Debi, I realize you’re not a legal scholar or anything, but I’m pretty sure you still have to pay child support even if you move out of town.
Now, Susan, let’s come back to the present. If you continue to dishonor your husband, the above scenario will likely become your own personal nightmare—soon!
I will say this for Debi—she doesn’t try to mask her threats as anything but what they are!
People will ask you why he left you, and you will righteously tell them that he got involved with another woman. The truth is, you ran him off because he watched commercials you declared unrighteous. You left his heart. And, he has left you emotionally—all because of your “playing the Holy Spirit.”
In other words, this whole thing is Susan’s fault. Susan has been concerned about the bad influence the television her husband is letting the children watch will have on both the children and on her husband, and Debi’s response is to blame Susan. Of course it is. In Debi’s world, everything, and I mean everything, can and should be blamed on the woman. Your husband is exposing the children to harmful influences on the television, and you’ve told him how you feel about this? How dare you contradict him in front of the children!
Now I want to be clear: I think Susan’s concerns about her children watching television are probably rather silly. From what I read here and from what I know of fundamentalist and evangelical culture, I suspect the things she’s talking about are pretty innocuous. But when it comes to evaluating Debi’s advice, this doesn’t really matter, because as Debi makes clear later, she (Debi) agrees that the television Susan’s husband is showing her children will almost certainly do them long term damage.
Let’s step back and look at what is going on here for a moment. Susan has concerns about the media exposure her children are receiving, and her husband doesn’t share those concerns. It sounds like either the husband is blowing Susan off and not listening to her, or Susan is not willing to actually listen to her husband’s view of things. Either way,what it looks to me like Susan and her husband really need is to sit down and work this out, being willing to listen to each other, try to understand each other, and find a compromise they can all be happy with. In an egalitarian marriage, that is what would happen; the solution here is communication, cooperation, and a compromise both parties can agree to. And if this is not possible, well, perhaps the couple is not compatible and the two would be happier separating and finding partners who share their hopes, dreams, concerns, and passions.
But what Debi is doing here is acknowledging that Susan is right in her concerns and yet still managing to put all of the blame for the situation on her. Why? Because Susan is” dishonoring” her husband.
Remember, you told me you didn’t feel love or respect for him, and even wondered if he was the right man for you after all. You have telegraphed your thoughts to him and, be assured, he is wondering the same thing about you now.
Telegraphed . . . telegraphed . . . where have I seen that word before? Oh right. Here:
When you tune in to electronic pornography you have established a two-way link with the spiritual underworld. When you lie in bed at night and conjure up wicked images, the devils won’t stop with your mind; they will gleefully rush into the bedrooms of your children and assault their little souls and bodies. Evil thoughts will come to their minds – thoughts you have been thinking that are telegraphed to them by the devils. Your defenseless children will be taken captive, and you are the one that threw the gate open to the enemy.
Knowing how the Pearls have used this word in the past makes me suspicious that Debi’s use of it here is not meant simply to be taen as a metaphor of sorts, but rather literally.
The Devil would love to steal your children’s souls. He will not do it through your husband’s TV; he will do it through your dishonor.
See? It’s Susan’s fault. SUSAN’S FAULT!
The boys may have a difficult time with their sexual drives as a result of the commercials but many young men have survived this in spite of the increased temptation. Few survive an unstable marriage where Mother resents Daddy. … Just think, if you had lower expectations, you would permit yourself to love and honor your husband, and the children would be better for it.
It’s interesting that Debi is so nonchalant here about Susan’s sons being exposed to sexual messaging and partial nudity in commercials given that later in the book she tells a story about a teenage boy who . . . actually, I’ll stop there. Spoilers. The point is, Debi is about as far from soft on anything that could possibly resemble porn or sexual messaging as you can get, so her carelessness about it here surprises me.
I also wonder how far Debi takes this suggestion that Mother resenting Daddy is worse for the children than whatever Daddy’s doing that Mother is resenting him for. What if Daddy is spending the family into poverty, so that the children wear ill-fitting rags and go hungry? What if Daddy has bursts of anger that sometimes turn physical? What if Daddy is a workaholic who never interacts with his children? Is Mother resenting Daddy still worse than any of that?
So back to Susan’s story. To put it simply, the trouble is that Daddy is doing something Mother isn’t okay with and because of that Mother resents Daddy. How does Debi suggest we fix that?
I am not suggesting that you should have lower standards. In fact, your husband obviously should have higher standards, but your nagging and criticism have the opposite effect of producing righteousness. Ideally, if you could hold your standards, hold your tongue, and hold your man, in time you might be able to put forth an appeal to him that does not offend. As things are today, you will continue toward divorce, or you will get on the road toward a heavenly marriage by honoring your man. It’s a no-brainer.
“Hold your tongue and hold your man”? Really? That doesn’t sound like a very enjoyable marriage. Also, what is “an appeal to him that does not offend”? Debi doesn’t say. But don’t worry, we’ll get to that later when a writer advises her husband against buying the more expensive washing machine and Debi says . . . oh wait. Spoilers. Point is that simply making an outright suggestion to your husband or offering your advise is not okay with Debi. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that “an appeal to him that does not offend” is some sort of passive aggressive hinting or simpering. As opposed to, you know, just sitting down and talking about it.
Once again, Debi ignores the suggestion that if a woman is feeling resentment for her husband she maybe just possibly should look for the root of that resentment. Debi would much rather deal with the symptom—the resentment—than with the cause—the reason for the resentment. I mean, it would be totally possible to say “your resentment is disproportionate to the problems you describe” or “your resentment sounds like it’s making you into an unhappy person” or “you’re not handling your resentment in a healthy fashion” and suggest that Susan might benefit from introspection, or from talking to a therapist, or from reading some books about self care. But that’s not what Debi is doing. Instead, she’s saying that Susan’s resentment and nagging is “dishonoring” to her husband and that the solution is for Susan to simply “hold her tongue.” Not, you know, actually deal with the problem.
And finally, for someone who thinks she knows how to have a heavenly marriage, Debi sure seems to want to put a wall between husband and wife. Communication? Ha. Ha ha. Debi doesn’t believe in communication. That would be too egalitarian.
Comments open below
Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Libby Anne blogs at Love, Joy, Feminism
Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the religious right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving fundamentalist and evangelical religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the problems with the “purity culture,” the intricacies of conservative and religious right politics, and the importance of feminism. Her blog is Love, Joy, Feminism
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce