Navigating Risks and Bounded Choice

Navigating Risks and Bounded Choice May 7, 2016
Drinking fresh coconut water with a new friend in Manuel Antonio Costa Rica
Drinking fresh coconut water with a new friend in Manuel Antonio Costa Rica

by Suzanne Titkemeyer cross posted from her blog Every Breaking Wave

During my last trip to Costa Rica we stopped for lunch that first day at a Frutas by the side of the road. These little open air fruit stands are everywhere in Central America when you venture beyond the larger cities.

Neither Jim nor I knew what to expect. We were lured into stopping by the gorgeous display of tropical fruits. We hadn’t eaten a thing since the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida very early that morning and were pretty hungry. Tropical fruits suddenly sounded like a splendid idea in that moment.

Turns out that the Frutas had more than just fruit. They had all sorts of foods and snacks including a small grill. I tried to use my bastard pigeon Spanish to ask the man behind the grill what type of meat was in the hamburgers, but he failed to understand my question, answering back in English that yes, yes, this was a hamburger sandwich.

I decided ultimately to take a chance on the unknown. Sitting at a table outside in the bright sunshine with a gentle breeze ruffling the napkins and oilcloth tablecloth I had one of the best meals I’d have in ages. A mystery burger, fruit and a coconut tart. I was happy with my decision to try this, a burger that was beef after all, dressed with local cheese, lettuce, tomato and a slice or two of cucumbers dressed in a yogurt like sauce.

It could have ended badly. But I knew I had backup. I had in my possession medicines from my doctor to treat travelers stomach problems.

I cannot help but think of that story, of trying new things and foods on my trips when I’m thinking about all those one hour courtships ending in quick marriage in the Reformed version of extreme Christianity that people like those trying to attend Vaughn Ohlman’s Get Them Married retreat practice.

It worries me. It’s not deciding something so simple as if you should eat some burger possibly made of mystery meat, it’s determinate for the rest of these poor kids lives.

And make no mistake, even the ones that are of legal age are still kids. Most are completely sheltered by their parents and have no life experiences beyond mom and dad’s mini-cult existence. Those same mothers and fathers love to claim that their children are ready for marriage, but if you question those choices at all they cry out to stop picking on their children – calling them ‘children’

This is what happened when I published the photos of Joshua Ohlman and his new bride Laura Camp. I got a number of nasty threatening messages from her father Andrew Camp claiming she was a child and I’d violated a child’s right to privacy. He seemed not to understand that Laura herself is the one that plastered those images across the internet, making his claims of violating her privacy seem moot.

This is someone that was supposed to be of legal age, yet her father claimed she was a child. There’s something very hinky going on with that. I doubt now that she was 18 or older at the time of the marriage.

Back to my point and away from the Andrew Camp rabbit hole. Let’s use Laura Camp as an example. She claims she was given a choice on accepting Joshua as a husband or not in the few hours they were allowed to spend together before signing the betrothal documents to commit to their civil union unofficial version of marriage.

Laura Camp’s betrothal and subsequent common law marriage is the perfect example of what bounded choice looks like in the Christian Patriarch Movement. When your only option is to face the profound disappointment and disapproval of your parents and likely constant reminders that you failed to do that one thing they think is your destiny or to marry a stranger there’s not much of a choice. You do what you’ve been brainwashed to do since infancy, what your parents have continually said is your sole purpose on earth. You do it because there are no other options, particularly if you want to keep enjoying the approbation of those you love. You marry the stranger. You pretend to like it.

Now take that particular one bounded choice, Laura’s choice, and multiply it by the hundreds, or perhaps the thousands of possible quicky common law marriages this retreat had the potential to produce. See where the problem comes in beyond the fact that the children involved have no actual choice in any of this? Even the odds are that many of these bounded choices are going to happen with people not ready for serious relationships, much less marital ones and you’re looking at a sea of misery, of people that will piously blog about how ‘WON-DER-FULLLL’ their marriages are with a desperation that many readers will see right through.

Sheer misery combined with feelings of guilt for not being insanely happy and satisfied, like they were promised they would be by obeying their parents. I pity anyone that feels they must put on a facade to convince others how great their broken toxic theology is. It’s no way to live.

When you don’t know what, or who, you’re getting all sorts of disastrous things can happen. Most lasting marriages are built on more than satisfied sexual desires. You better be married to your best friend to at least have something to talk about when you’re not in the bed or it’s going to be uncomfortable at best.

If that burger I ate had turned out to be no good I would have had the option of spitting it out and eating something else. At worse I would have had to take the antibiotic for travelers tummy.

Marrying a stranger your family picked out for you? You could lose your life at their hands, both literally and figuratively. Women in that world have no options, only bounded choice. That’s no choice.


Suzanne Titkemeyer is the admin at No Longer Quivering. She’s been out of the Quiverfull Evangelical world for nine years now and lives in the beautiful Piedmont section of Virginia with her retired husband and assorted creatures. She blogs at Every Breaking Wave and True Love Doesn’t Rape

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  • Abigail Smith

    I find it hilarious that Camp took you to task for violating his daughter’s privacy by posting the pictures, but did not consider it a violation to force her to marry who he picked for her.

    Marriage is hard enough even when you make the choice yourself…this arranged marriage cr*p is archaic and frightening

  • Finding Home

    I found and read Laura’s account of their betrothal and marriage. In it, she says that initially they believed in courtship, but “…after several failed courtship-type “pre-relationships” that didn’t go at all like I had expected or desired, I started to question how we were going about the marriage process and wondering what had happened to my childhood expectations.” Keep in mind that she “married” Joshua at age 16, so her daddy had evidently been trying to get her married off for quite a while–maybe not long after that magical, sexually mature age of 12.

    Also, notice that at age 16 she’s referring with nostalgia to her childhood expectations.

    She says in her story that she’s the one who found Vaughn Ohlman’s book, and she’s the one who approached her father and asked him to find someone for betrothal. This is supposed to make it OK, because it was all her idea. Looking back on my own upbringing though, I can totally imagine myself getting caught up in some fantasy of marrying a stranger picked out by my dad. This is not because it sounds super-romantic or a good idea, it’s just because I knew I had to get married sometime and it would be mysterious and exciting! In other words, in spite of what she seems to believe, this does NOT make her sound mature and spiritual. Instead, to me, it simply highlights her youth and immaturity. The “choice” she made was informed by her sheltered upbringing and the fact that she was still a child.

  • pinkie

    Yup. Sells the daughter to be somebody’s sex slave (wife?) and then gets mad at us for posting pictures.

  • Karen the rock whisperer

    This whole thing just nauseates me. These kids can’t choose a spouse. They’re not being asked to do so, they’re being asked to trust in God and their Godly parents. If you’ve been raised all your life to trust in God, and the choice is presented that way, how is it possible to refuse?

    Another commenter said something about happiness not being an issue of concern for any of these people, and that seems true to me. Happiness, in the twisted theology of QF, comes from your relationship with God and Jesus and behaving in a Godly manner. It has nothing to do with being compatible with a person that you’ve signed up to share the rest of your life with. Do all the right things, believe all the right things hard enough, and happiness is just going to fall from the sky and hit you upside the head. And if it doesn’t, then you’re not believing hard enough or following God’s instructions (as given by your authority figures) well enough, or not giving your heart totally to Jesus, or not doing some other vaguely-defined thing that is obviously the source of your unhappiness.

    It is a life of never measuring up. All the bad things in life are your fault, and all the good things in life are God’s fault. And the keystone relationship of a good life — marriage — is something you’re locked into without enough wisdom or even knowledge to really agree to.

    I think my breakfast is coming back up.

  • SAO

    Is anyone surprised that a 16 year old’s first dates didn’t yield a relationship worthy of marriage? Plenty of High School relationships last no more than a few weeks.

    And that’s pretty normal for a 16 year old. So, rather than point out she’s obviously not readt for marriage, the solution is to marry her off to a stranger without letting her get to know him for a few weeks and discover she’s ot the one for him.

  • guest

    I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis of “betrothal”. Yes, it’s a bounded choice, and I strongly disagree with the way these men go about marrying their offspring.

    With that said, I would like to air my disagreement with some of the content of this post.

    1. How about we leave Laura Camp and that picture she posted on HER blog alone? So many people post pictures on their blogs, never thinking those posts will be chosen to be ripped apart by a whole bunch of strangers on the internet.

    Of course her papa had to step in and defend her dignity! She was still under her patriarch.

    2. A father calls his adult daughter his “child”. That is completely normal. I’ve heard my brother’s mum-in-law call him and her daughter (his wife) “the kids”. I think it’s making a mountain out of a molehill. On the other hand, I do agree with you on the incongruity of the whole situation, but that’s the way protective fathers try to protect their daughters. My father is like that. He would have liked to fight a lot more battles for me!

    3. Where did you all find evidence that, indeed, Laura Camp was engaged to her husband when she was only 16? If I recall correctly, half of the debate was about how she’s of age and should be able to stand up for herself if she doesn’t like the conversation her picture provoked on here.

    I disagree very, very strongly with parents making their children follow any given path. There comes a day when parents have to tell their children that they will gladly assist them, but it’s time that they make their own decisions. One of the most important choices one makes in life is what person to marry. The decision is so important that every person should be allowed to make it for themselves. A young married couple that chose to marry after getting to know each other and falling in love, choosing each other and marrying out of their own volition, will be a lot happier, and I think, a lot more committed to make their marriage work. You need freedom to choose.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    The 16 came from a post on her blog, a recent post where she said she was currently 19 with 3 children. I wish I had made a screen cap of it because it’s been scrubbed down.

    The photo I used I did tell Von I was using, letting him know before I did it, taking it from his website, not hers. It was to illustrate a post asking what people here thought of the idea of that type of betrothal, sharing the already publicized story of their marriage. None of that is reason for her father to viciously attack me in different emails/comments etc like he did.

    Sorry you disagree but I stand by what I said.

  • guest

    I’ll have to find that post. If she was that young, the whole story takes on a completely different spin.
    I agree with most of what you wrong, Suzanne, I just have a problem with discussing the children of people like Von. We have enough with Von’s own material. The man is happy to come on here and argue against us. Why go for his daughter-in-law?

    If she was older than 18 when she was betrothed, and things went as she says, then however much I disagree with the arrangement, there’s no breaking of the law going on.

    What is the law concerning marriage licenses in the US? I believe in Germany a couple must appear before a justice of peace to be married if they want to be considered married. You have to register in the town/city where you live, kids have to be registered and school is mandatory… all this doing whatever you want doesn’t fly around here. I doubt that marrying an underage child would go down well either.

  • Emersonian

    In a limited # of US states, “common law” marriage is legally recognized as being equivelant to a licensed marriage. An oppposite-sex couple must live together for a minimum amount of time (usually at least a year) and present themselves publically as being husband and wife. This gives their partnership a legal status in those states that recognize it. I’m not clear on how legal age restrictions on marriage bear on this–I wouldn’t think a 16 year old could enter into a common law partnership in a state with a minimum marriage age of 18, either.

  • persephone

    I watched the show “Married by Mom and Dad” (don’t judge me) and got totally squicked by one bride. She wanted to meet the groom at the altar and be swept away and have a magical honeymoon and life.

    Seriously?! Even the Disney princesses met the grooms first. Her parents wanted her to meet the men first.

    She ended up being stood up at the altar by the first chosen groom, who was smart enough to cut and run (not saying she wasn’t a catch, but who can live up to those insanely unreasonable expectations?). The second one went through with it.

    I really hope they have a reunion show.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    Yeah, I agree mostly with not discussing his children. THere are photos of the others online that we will not be sharing and the other night I sat down and worked out the likely age of the others. If you base it on a new baby every 18 months then it’s likely at least two, maybe three he’s married off are not of legal age at the time of marriage.

    The thing that has just boiled my blood out of this entire episode is the possibility that he’s married off kids under the age of 18. That’s just so wrong on so many levels.

  • Allison the Great

    I think that comment was to me. It was a couple of months ago and I said something about Quiverful being a miserable life. No education, no life skills, no money, no safe and heated place to live and too many kids. I made a comment about no choices, and he said that his kids and grandkids must be great actors or something, because they “seemed” happy to him. They’re not happy, they just don’t know any better.

  • Allison the Great

    Do you have a link to that post? I’d like to read it and its comments. I’m curious now.

  • PinkBubblegum

    We are to pretend to be happy to make selfish sick Christian daddy feel good. How we feel, well we better damn well keep out mouths closed about that.

  • guest

    Oh, I agree! It’s disgusting even if they are over 18!
    And talking age, their 18-year-olds will have no experience making their own decisions, calculating risks and being responsible for the outcome. Can you even consider them adults if they are never allowed to make decisions of their own? Their life is laid out for them and they are expected to obey. Even married, adult sons are expected to obey their fathers. The whole system is sick.

  • guest

    Thanks for the info. You’d think that those states would make sure their laws are tough so that no minors are married away.

  • guest

    “following God’s instructions (as given by your authority figures)”

    This is probably the most heart-breaking piece of the puzzle for me. They deny their children the right to seek God for themselves and learn to trust Him to guide them without their parents’, or more specifically, fathers’, mediation. That isn’t setting children up to have their own personal and freely chosen relationship with God.