A review of “Me? Obey Him?” by Elizabeth Rice Handford. Trigger warning for former Quiverfull believers who actually read this book and tried to live according to the principles … this post is a disturbing trip down memory lane.
Those fortunate enough to have never actually read “Me? Obey Him?” may be shocked and appalled by the teachings in support of “biblical patriarchy.” This review is simply quotations of Handford’s own words (in italics), followed by comments from my personal experience as a former Quiverfull Believer.
God’s Perfect Creation Required Order
Jesus, the Creator of Heaven and earth, submitted Himself to God the Father. He took His place in the chain of command. … It is no shame, no dishonor, for a woman to be under authority, if the Lord Jesus — very God Himself — submitted to the authority of the Father. (p. 14)
The submission of the Lord Jesus is our example. He submitted not just to the tender ministrations of the Father. He submitted to revilings and curses, persecution and suffering. He was our example, not just to obey a gentle and kind husband but a harsh and mean husband as well.
You may find that your obedience to your husband and your obedience to God are all tied together. You may not want to obey your husband because you are in rebellion against God. (p. 51)
By intimately linking Christ’s willing subjection to God the Father with a woman’s submission to her husband in “the chain of command,” the teachings of patriarchy create such an intricate tangle of enmeshment that it’s nearly impossible for an abused woman to extricate herself from the bondage of her husband’s tyranny without also throwing off her spiritual bond with Christ.
Kristen Rosser, who writes the FAQs for No Longer Quivering, is currently working on an article which will address the popular Christian teachings on the absolute necessity of hierarchy – coming soon …
Woman’s Nature Requires Obedience
We’ve had the impression that women as a class are more spiritually minded than men, with sensibilities more refined, and purer thoughts. Scriptures say the opposite is true! Women are more often led into spiritual error than men. Perhaps it is caused by her intuitive, emotional thinking. (Intuitive thinking is God’s gift, not to be despised, but it needs the balance of a man’s reason.) I should add too, that a woman does not have to be led into error. That is the reason God commanded her not to usurp authority over the man, so she can be protected from false doctrine. (p. 17)
Sexist generalizations are never useful in understanding human relationships.
In reality, I am no less rational than my (ex)husband. He also is gifted with a strong intuition and emotional intelligence. Convinced as we were that I was more susceptible to Satanic deception, our family was deprived of my reasonable input in decision making. My intelligence was squelched, my intuition was distrusted and my feelings were denied. My husband developed an artificially inflated sense of his own powers of logic. I can’t count how many times he said to me, “What you are saying sounds reasonable, but how do I know that Satan is not using you to deceive me?” I had no good defense. According to the Scriptures, we had every reason to believe that I was indeed being used to lead my husband astray.
His authority and my obedience did not protect us from tragic deception which ripped apart our family.
What Do the Scriptures Say About a Wife’s Obedience?
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the Scriptures say a woman ought to obey her husband! … [Note, these ellipses represent page after page of scriptural support given by Handford to bolster her argument that God commands wives to obey their husbands.] If you are intellectually honest, you will have to admit that it is impossible to find a single loophole, a single exception, an “if” or “unless.” The Scriptures say, without qualification, to the openminded reader, that a woman ought to obey her husband. (pp. 24, 25)
1) She Is to Obey Regardless of His Spiritual Condition
The wife who obeys her husband may win him by her meek and quiet spirit, her loving behavior. (p. 25)
2) She Need Not Fear Conflicting Authority
There is no hint that a woman may have to choose between conflicting authority. … If it is needed in order to fulfill both obligations, God will do a miracle to make it possible. … It is safe to conclude that when God told a woman to obey her husband, He intended for her to be able to do it without risk of offending other authorities. (pp. 25, 28)
3) She Obeys Without Reference to Her Feelings About the Will of God
The Scriptures say a woman must ignore her “feelings” about the will of God, and do what her husband says. She is to obey her husband as if he were God Himself. She can be as certain of God’s will, when her husband speaks, as if God had spoken audibly from Heaven! (p. 28 – emphasis added)
When a concerned friend reported our family to Child Protective Services, my ex-husband lost custody of the children due to his abuse. The social worker told me that I was guilty of “failure to protect.” The only thing that prevented me from having my parental rights terminated and my children placed in foster care was my willingness to submit to a full psychological evaluation, undergo individual and family counseling, and cooperate with random unannounced home visits by Social Services.
My older children rightfully blame me for not protecting them against their father’s abuse. Even though they know that I was influenced by books such as “Me? Obey Him?” to believe that it was God’s will to submit to the abuse, my children cannot be fooled into thinking that I was not really responsible for their suffering. I have apologized for my neglect. Most of my children have forgiven me — still, the damage is done and some things can’t (and shouldn’t) be forgotten.