CTBHHM: Disappointed Old Failures

by Libby Anne

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 58-59

The title of this section is “Disappointed Old Failures,” and it follows last week’s section in threatening women with disaster and shipwreck if they fail to follow Debi’s advice. Or, God’s advice. Debi clearly thinks they’re they same thing.

Debi has three themes here. First, if a woman fails to be a proper help meet to your husband (or – God forbid! – fail to have a husband), she is failing in her purpose for existence, and she can never be fulfilled or happy. Second, there are truly disastrous consequences in store for women who neglect their callings as help meets. Third and finally, Debi says that women must listen to the words written in the Bible, not to the moving of the Holy Spirit (this one’s a bit odd, yes, but we’ll get to it).

When a woman gets old and realizes that there is no man to love and cherish her, it is sad indeed, for she has failed in the very purpose for which she was created—to be a suitable helper to a man.

Remember that in Debi’s world, a woman’s one and only purpose is to serve as helpers to a man – her husband. According to Debi, when God created Eve, he was creating a personal servant for Adam. This is why Debi says that a woman who does not marry is a woman who will never fulfill her purpose for existence.

No woman has ever been happy and fulfilled who neglected to obey God in regard to her role as a help meet.

I want to point out that in making this argument Debi is simply continuing along a track that has been well greased by evangelicals’ claim that people cannot be happy and fulfilled apart from belief in Jesus. In order to believe this, evangelicals insist that everyone who is “unsaved” is really truly unhappy, even if they look happy. Thus Debi can insist to her readers that any woman who isn’t serving as her husband’s proper help meet is fundamentally unhappy and unfulfilled without worrying about her readers pointing to exceptions to this rule.

Next Debi goes on to say that she has long been wanting to write a book addressing all of the issues these letters bring up, but that she has found that it’s really too late to help older women. She once again quotes from Titus 2—”the aged women…teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands”—and says that she’s concluded that her advice must be “directed to those young wives who are still trying to find their way.”

While still young, these women need to be warned, and they need an instruction manual to prevent them from growing into bitter, crazy old women.

If you don’t want to become a “bitter, crazy old woman” you better listen closely to what Debi says and heed her advice. And if you don’t? Well…

I fear God for these women still in the process [of failure], for I know that God is dreadfully faithful to his Word, and when you dishonor his marriage plan, clearly recorded in his Word, he will stand against you while sin eats away your soul and destroys your health. The consequences of sin are always cruel and costly, whether it is the sin of fornication or the sin of neglecting your calling as a help meet. And the collateral damage to children and family members is horrific.

Yep. There’s a whole lot of fear mongering going on here. I mean my goodness! Debi literally says that if you don’t follow God’s marriage plan, a la Debi, your health will be destroyed and your children will suffer collateral damage. This really goes right along with last week, when Debi insisted that her readers should live in fear and trembling of God. If you don’t follow God’s plan for your marriage, Debi says, he will “stand against you.”

There’s one final thing going on in this passage. Let me introduce it with this sentence of Debi’s:

We receive thousands of letters every year, mostly from bitter, middle-aged, “spirit-filled” women, disappointed with their “unspiritual” husbands, wanting someone to take sides with them against their “abusers.”

Note the scare quotes around the word “abusers.” This feeds into Debi’s insistence that you are only a victim when you stop following God’s command for you to submit, and her minimization of wife abuse.

Note also the scare quotes around the term “spirit-filled.” Debi has a specific target here, as we see in this next passage:

A woman who really knows God will know that true spirituality is obeying God’s recorded Word, not cultivating her “spiritual” sensibilities.

Evangelicalism has always endorsed the twin pillars of the Bible and the Holy Spirit. Some evangelicals place more emphasis on the first, and others on the latter. The fact that hearing the leading of the Holy Spirit is an individual matter without mediator means that the role the Holy Spirit plays in evangelicalism has often proved subversive to the evangelical establishment. Female evangelical preachers, for example, have often claimed that they feel “the leading of the spirit” and that they know God has called them to the ministry. Perhaps in part because the doors of official leadership in evangelical churches and organizations have usually been closed to them, it is “spirit-filled” women who have most often been the ones to challenge the establishment in this way.

Remember, too, that Debi has been setting herself up as the proper interpreter of the Bible here. Thus when Debi urges women against cultivating their “‘spiritual’ sensibilities” and states that it is obeying the Bible that is what really matters, she is ensuring that they listen to her and not to their hearts or their consciences or their inner questions or “the prompting of the Holy Spirit.” She is, in other words, working to short-circuit any yellow flags her words may throw up for women.

But more than that, Debi is also trying to undermine women’s confidence in themselves. “If you think you hear the Holy Spirit speaking to you,” she is saying, “you probably can’t trust that.” It’s like earlier when she told women they can’t trust their own feelings or emotions. It’s a process of breaking down any resistance or “buts” a person might have, a process of cultivating trust in one individual, a process of casting doubt on any attempt a person might make to think for oneself. It’s also a process I would bet is carried out in way too many fundamentalist and evangelical churches as pastors work to undermine any questions or challenge from the congregation, creating an obedient and docile flock.

Needless to say, it’s toxic.

Comments open below

Read everything by Libby Anne!

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


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  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    Poor, poor Florence Nightingale and Dorothea Lynde Dix and Helen Keller. Such sad, disappointing lives they led.

  • RachelB

    My great-aunt, who never married and went off to the Southwest to practice nursing on a reservation, was one of the most interesting old people I ever met, at peace with her life and decisions. She was sharp as a tack, too, until she died at 104. I aspire to be as happy an old lady as she was.

    But clearly, she must have been a figment of my imagination.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1410786214 Karen Hammond

    It’s worse than toxic if you believe the Bible. The only unforgivable sin is to deny the Holy Spirit; by Debi’s claim that women cannot believe they are being called by the Holy Spirit, she is, in fact, denying it.

  • Kristen Rosser

    When Debi says, “A woman who really knows God will know that true spirituality is obeying God’s recorded Word,” what does she say to the woman who says “I read 1 Corinthians 7 about how a woman who is single like Paul can devote her life to God like he did, and Paul said he thought she would be happier, so I decided to do that” ?

  • Kristen Rosser

    And in Debi’s own tradition, Lottie Moon and Amy Carmichael.

  • persephone

    Odds are Debi is going to outlive Michael by several years. What is she going to do then?

  • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

    And poor Corrie ten Boom.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/BE-Miller/746752387 B.E. Miller

    Or Admiral Grace Hopper. (Though technically she was divorced.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/BE-Miller/746752387 B.E. Miller

    I thought that according to some fundies, the Holy Spirit only talks to men, not to women. So in Debi’s beliefs, it might not be possible for women to hear the Holy Spirit.

  • Sonya

    Nothing made me as fulfilled as making my own money. Absolutely nothing.