Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism


Fundamentalist weddings 1 – Courtship, Betrothal

I received a comment in which I was asked what fundamentalist weddings look like. I thought that was a great idea for a post! Also, since the commenter didn’t seem sure about the different concepts of courtship, I decided to first post a small collection of different courtship forms and then move on to the type of wedding I know from my group. So here’s about courtship! Even though the term “courtship” is constantly used in Christian circles, there are a TON of different concepts how it works. I don’t know all of them, but I’ll describe the ones I know, aka the most popular ones.

There are a few general rules about courtship: The parents are strongly involved, the father is approached by the men, not the girl, and the goal of a courtship should always be marriage.

First, there is a very worldly form of courtship. This is usually done by conservative, not fundamentalist christians. The girl and the boy meet and already have some sort of interest in each other before they even enter a courtship. The boy might even tell the girl he will talk to her dad before he talks to her dad. The father will evaluate the boy, but the daughter will be strongly involved in the questions he’s asking and has a big say in the decision he’s making. If the girl isn’t interested in the guy, she might even tell her dad to deny him right away in order to not hurt him personally. If the boy gets permission to court, he might be allowed to ask her himself (not dad telling her). Once the courtship starts, the girl and the boy sit together to make rules for their courtship. How far can they go? In most cases, holding hands is ok for the couple. They may also decide if they need chaperoning, and when they need it. They may go on dates alone if they wish to do so. Kissing is usually a no-no during courtship, but might be ok for the engagement. Same goes for saying “I love you”. The boy will need permission to propose, but if they have been courting for a year plus it’s very likely he’ll get it. Engagement times are longer, comparable to secular engagement times. The whole engagement and wedding process is comparable to worldly weddings.

In a more fundamentalist version, the girl will most likely not know that a boy is interested in her. The boy has to go to the dad first and be evaluated. If the boy gets permission to court, the girl will be told that there’s someone interested in her. In some cases, the girl might not even know her suitor, e.g. because the boy had seen and watched the girl at a conference, but the girl didn’t take notice of the boy. There will be a lot of contact between the boy and the girl’s dad and the dad can give his veto to the relationship at any point during courtship. They will always be chaperoned. Going into very date-like situations like movies or a restaurant usually doesn’t happen. It’s typical that boy and girl visit each other’s families in order to see their partner in “natural” environment. Kissing is off-limits until the wedding, holding hands may be allowed once engaged. “I love you” may be allowed, but not in every family.

Even more strict is a form used in some fundamentalist groups: The girl will not be allowed to have any emotions towards a guy. If she does feel something, breaking off contact entirely is encouraged. The guy pretty much has to walk around in the dark and take chances when he asks for a courtship. The father will evaluate (family might be involved). The dad often has long talks with the guy over a long period of time, several weeks even, before he gets permission and the dad tells the girl he has a suitor. Then she will receive counsel and opinions from her family, which she will use to either agree or disagree with a courtship. Usually the girl agrees as she fully trusts her dad’s evaluation. Evaluations are typically much harder to pass in this version. Once the courtship starts, the boy and girl are not allowed to be alone together. Chaperoning might not be enough to fulfill this in the first months, so they’ll always have to stay around many family members. Sometimes, girl and boy visit each other’s families. Emotions aren’t supposed to be evolving at that point – that’s for engagement or better yet marriage. Courtships may be very long, up to several years, depending on the boy’s financial situation, missioning work etc. Sometimes, the girl may be a minor (16 is eligible for courtship in some groups – in all other forms, that’s at least 17 or 18.) so naturally the courtship will be longer. Physical contact of any form is off-limits until the wedding, as well as verbal expressions of affection. If you see a couple where each the boy and the girl hold a stick or a band of some sort which the other holds as well, a “connection” of some sort, that’s the replacement for holding hands in this version. The family can veto the relationship at any point during courtship and engagement. The boy asks for permission to propose to the girl and will be evaluated again. He will have to work through the courtship with the girl’s dad and talk about different issues to get permission. This permission can be delayed or fully denied if for example the boy is struggling with some sort of problem the dad doesn’t like, or isn’t “financially ready” for a wife and baby within the next 9 months. This happens quite a lot and the permission to propose might be a long process. Engagement happens with somebody close (a chaperone). In some cases, the boy might not even be allowed to put the ring on the girl’s finger himself. The dad may be taking care of that and will put the ring on the finger. Touching is still off-limits and the first time they touch would usually be when the guy put the wedding ring on the girls finger during the ceremony. The engagement periods are rather short as the wedding is supposed to be frugal and cheap as well as all the “getting to know each other” was done during courtship. It’s really just the small time frame they need to plan the wedding. Breaking up in the state of engagement usually happens only in cases of adultery.

So much about courtship, but I feel the need to talk about another form of getting together. I have seen a slight rise of this in the last 2 years so I’m a bit worried. It’s betrothal and if you don’t know what that means, keep reading.

Betrothal is supposed to be even more biblical than courtship, and prevent heartbreak even better. Neither the girl nor the boy have any say in choice of partner. The parents of both parties will talk to each other, usually without the knowledge of the couple, to see if they fit together. The girl may already know the boy as a friend of the family, but it could also be a complete stranger. Either way, they will not know that their parents have picked them a spouse until they feel the deal should be sealed. Both girl and boy will be told that a match has been found. There is a chance of veto from both at this point, but they’d need really good reasoning and I personally can’t think of anything they could say to get out of it without making the parents look ungodly (“I’m not ready for marriage!” – “Yes you are, I talked to God, he says so.”). Then the girl and the boy will be betrothed in a small ceremony. I have heard of cases where they weren’t even in the same room together, meaning that they still don’t know each other at this point. The betrothal vows are like marriage vows – they are unbreakable. A betrothal is a serious commitment and can only be broken in cases of adultery, just like marriage. During betrothal, the couple gets to know each other. They may fall in love at this point but don’t have to. Not that it matters anyway, they are in a seriously committed relationship. Physical contact of ANY sort is completely off-limits and may be considered adultery in some groups, which would lead to an immediate breaking off of the relationships. Either way, physical contact would mean a harsh punishment for both parties. The girl will start planning the wedding, the boy will work to get a house and some money saved up. They wait on God to tell them the date when they will be married. Betrothal durations can vary from several weeks to several years.

Personally, I think betrothal is nothing but arranged marriage and should be under close watch. I’m sensing that in times where the fundamentalists grow crazier and crazier, this form of relationship will become more popular.

So much on the different types of courtship, the next post will be concerned with the question what fundamentalist weddings look like in groups with very short engagement times!



Training up this child – Part 19 – Meet me at high noon

I spent a few days thinking about the little hint my mother gave me. Close to an engagement? My mom didn’t say that just out of a mood. No parent in the movement says that out of a mood. They don’t give us any idea of what’s going on until the last second. When a guy is interested in you, but they don’t like him, you’re not being told. If a guy has interest in you, and they tell you, you can be sure that they have been in contact with him for weeks and sometimes even months, examining him, and actually giving him permission to enter a relationship with you. As a daughter, you are usually the last to know about your own love life.

Now, the fact that my mother said something about a close engagement meant that Harry must have asked for permission from dad already, and that dad agreed and gave him permission to ask me. My mother would be involved in this process of evaluation at a very late time, about when dad had already decided to give Harry the permission to ask me, then he would ask for my mother’s opinion before telling Harry what his decision was. I now knew that Harry had permission to ask me, and he’s probably had it for a while. He might have even already bought a ring.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. Within the next few days or weeks, I would be asked to marry him. Engagements were typically kept very short, and Harry’s and my courtship has been pretty long due to the big distance. Just to give you a short reminder: Harry and I’s courtship started when I was 18, almost 19 (I’m born in March and the courtship started December before I turned 19) so we were courting for over 3 years. That’s a crazy long time in the movement. I know it might have felt just like six months or something when you read my posts about my courtship, but they were condensed, not bothering with the time between the visits and big events were effectively nothing happened except for my daily routine of being a stay-at-home-daughter while Harry was on different mission trips and preparing to make a living and save up some money in order to be fully prepared to support a wife and a baby within 9 months of marriage. I didn’t even describe all of Harry’s visits because they were simply uneventful. So let’s get this back on track: My mother made the remark about the engagement some time at the end of March.

I knew I didn’t have much time left. Engagements are typically short. A three-month engagement would be a long time in our group. The average engagement time is around 4-6 weeks, and all of that time is used for marriage preparations as the majority of the “falling in love” and “making the decision” was supposed to be made prior to engagement. My insides were in a constant state of burning, my mind rattling. I saw the beginning of the rest of my life right in front of me. Once I was married, there was no way out anymore. I’d have to be obedient to my husband. I’d have to have kids, if I wanted or not. I realized that within the time of just one year at that moment, I might be sitting at home with a 2 month old. The thought alone made me dizzy. I was NOT prepared for any of that.

On the other side, I also started seeing things that were wrong in the movement. The engagement remark which left me so helpless, and feeling strongly in a position where every decision of my life was already made and agreed on didn’t suit me at all. I started dreaming of what I would do if I had the choice.

I wouldn’t get married for now. I’d started to regret hating school, so I also wished I could somehow go back to school and learn something useful. I always loved art, history and geography. I loved the universe and watching all the stars, wondering what they would look close up. I always loved big masses of ice and cold climate. I started to think that if I didn’t get married and wasn’t in the movement, I’d become a Nasa person, observing and calculating stars, thinking about big events in the universe. Or maybe I could become a geologist somewhere cold, like Antarctica, and research the processes in the ice and what happened a long time ago. I even considered becoming something like a paleontologist and study dinosaurs and climate way back. That was a thought unheard of in our family. All of these three professions were ungodly and against the bible, utterly humanist and naturalist. I was so curious to know things that are veiled to humanity, like times way before our time. But I was bad at math, I thought I might not be the right person for each of those three. If I couldn’t do it, I might just settle for some ancient culture studies. Egypt maybe, or south american ancient history.

During this process of thought I realized that I’d never make it anywhere close to that. I’d never be allowed to consider whether there’s life on other planets, or if the big bang is true. I’d never be allowed to think that humans and dinosaurs didn’t meet. I’d never be allowed to think that an old culture was anything but ungodly behaviour which died for a God reason – because God hated their unspeakable blasphemous acts.

I was getting frustrated with the life ahead of me. I knew I would die stupid and unhappy if I followed that road. The narrow path got really narrow, like walls coming closer and closer to each other, crushing your chest, leaving you unable to breathe. I decided that I had only one chance to escape this life. And that chance, funny enough, seemed to be Harry.

I went to Tiffany’s house with a plan in my mind. I needed to call Beth and ask for her help. After all, she was Harry’s sister, so she knew him much better than I did. Tiffany gladly agreed to let me call her. Beth was happy to hear from me after a rather long time of silence between us. She asked me a bunch of small talk questions but finally got to the point where she asked how things were between Harry and me. I explained her what my mother said, and she agreed with me that Harry proposing to me was very near, just within a few days range. I told her about my thoughts, that I wasn’t ready to be a wife and mother, that I wanted to be something else, that I wanted to decide some things on my own. Beth immediately suggested running away. I didn’t think of running away as the only chance for me yet, so I disagreed.

I told her about the plan I had come up with: I would ask Harry to leave the movement with me. We would keep the act up for our families, as I didn’t want to be cut off, but we’d live like the other people did. Normal. I’d tell him that he would get so many benefits from that lifestyle. That I’d make money, that we wouldn’t have to have that many kids, that we could have so much fun together as a worldly couple.

Beth didn’t sound convinced at all. “You know, Harry is deeply rooted in his beliefs. Some things he believes are outright stupid, but he believes that he loves Jesus more than anyone, that the movement is the only way to be saved. I don’t think he’ll give that up, no matter how much he loves you.”

“I can try. Maybe he secretly feels the same way.”

“Yes, Lisa, maybe, but then what? You’d still marry a man you don’t love. Do you know what that means? You’ll have to put up with his little faults every day. You’ll have to care for him in sickness, in poverty, and all that without love? Is that fair to you, or him? Can you really sleep with somebody you don’t love – every night? And act like you love him? That’s just a horrible thing to do.”

I hated how right Beth was. I was deeply ashamed that I had already acted like I was in love. My cheeks burnt at the realisation that the damage was done and I’d have to keep up this terrible act for the rest of my life. Out of sheer frustration, I told Beth:

“Well, then I’ll tell him the truth. And that he can have a girlfriend on the side who really loves him, so he gets the love he deserves and we’re both out of the movement!”

“Lisa, that is possibly the dumbest idea you’ve had since… ever. You know that won’t work. He could never do something like that. Not even worldly people do something terrible like that. That’s absurd and so crazy, I can’t even tell you just how stupid it is.”

She was right, of course, and I saw that I could never ask for such a thing from Harry. Too far was too far. But I still couldn’t give up.

“Yeah, you’re right.. I just don’t know what else to do. I’ll have to try to ask him though, that’s the least I can do.”

“Sure, go ahead and try, but you won’t get what you want. Just don’t break his heart more than you already have to. And if he says no, just run away and come to me, please. I’ll help you out.”

Beth gave me her address just in case, but I was sure I wouldn’t need it. I didn’t feel like I could sacrifice my family on the altar of my own desires just yet.

The next few days flew by, weekend came around. But something was different. Something was going on. My mother bought some expensive groceries and things we usually eat only for important events. She baked a lot of stuff and let me eat it. She kept hugging me constantly. My dad was nagging a lot about how I looked, how I acted. That it didn’t suit a grown woman. He’d never call me a grown woman. I knew the weekend would bring a change. Mom spent all friday cooking, preparing, baking, decorating, cleaning. She asked me to wear something pretty for dinner. Yeah, my parents were always terrible at surprising us kids. I knew that Harry and his family were coming over for dinner, even if they tried to keep it a secret from me.

Around 6 PM, the doorbell rang. In my mind, it sounded much shriller than it usually did. My mom asked me to open the door. I walked to the door in nervous, short-breathed steps. I slowly opened it, my face frozen in a helpless grimace, as if I had just watched an elephant eat sushi, and then fly away with his umbrella. In front of the door was Harry, flocked by his entire family. All of them had huge smiles on their faces and, almost simultaneously, they yelled “Surprise!”. I looked at Harry. He was wearing a rather fancy outfit. Dress pants, sparkling shoes, a white shirt and a tie. I stepped to the side in order for them to come in, still with my shocked expression on my face, murmuring something like “I didn’t expect you at all…”. Harry came in, looked into my eyes and gave me a little bouquet of flowers. Lillies. The ultimate engagement flower. I stood frozen until everyone found their way in. I pushed the door closed and the clicking sound of the lock reminded me that today was the day my sentence might be sealed.


Training up this child – Part 18 – A new day dawning

I’m sorry for such a big delay. The last few days have been so incredibly busy for me! I had a lot of work to do and well, things that happen in a normal life just happen 😉 I’ll be keeping you updated!

Harry and I just kept standing there, looking at the pretty surroundings, not letting go of each other’s hands. After a few minutes, he pulled me towards the house. “Come on, I think I need to get going!” He made a funny sad face and we walked back to the house. My parents were outside waiting for us. I could see my dad’s eyes, how he squeezed them together more and more, how he made a sour face from which I was able to tell that he didn’t approve of the hand-holding. My mother just looked at us, surprised but not angry. “Since when is it ok to hold hands?” my dad barked. “Well…” Harry stuttered, “since Lisa and I decided to go a step further in our relationship…”. My dad’s face turned from a slight angry red to another shade, one between tomatoes and red beet. “I don’t approve of that type of physical relationship.” I got very annoyed and I simply felt sorry for Harry being in trouble for something I initiated earlier. “Dad, you don’t have to approve because there’s nothing to approve. You didn’t mind Harry playing Tag with the girls, he touched all of them and there were no concerns about their purity. This is nothing. Just quit that double standard.” I pulled Harry by his hand towards the house, leaving my dad standing, like he wasn’t sure what to say, or simply decided to delay the trouble until Harry was gone. “Come on Harry, you still need to pack some stuff. I’ll make you a snack for the drive home.”

We went inside where we finished up packing and getting Harry ready for the drive. When we said our goodbyes at his car, he grabbed my hand with both of his for a second and squeezed it.

Back inside, my dad pulled an act that was typical for him: Let’s call it “Let them suffer in silence”. It’s one of his favourite bits that he liked to pull with everyone on occasion. He usually just sits some place, like the sofa, quiet, staring, shushing people around, staring at his victim and, perfectly timed, shaking his head only very slightly when the victim looked in his direction. When I was smaller, I would try to please him as hard as I could. The silence was terrifying for me and my siblings, the feeling of really having disappointed him and God. We actually prefered being beaten over the silence, because after a beating, it would be over and normal again, while the silence could last for days with no clue what the outcome of it would be.

And after about two hours of the silence, I lost my temper. My entire body was burning with shame, regret and the feeling that I had treated Harry wrong. Not because we were holding hands, but because I felt like he loved me on a very different level. All of it was too much for me and I was close to tears. I just couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“Dad, you can stare at me all you want, I’m not going to apologize. You have pushed this relationship all along, now you deal with the fact that it’s actually turned into a relationship. It doesn’t say ‘You shall not hold hands’ in the bible.”


“I obeyed you the entire weekend. Actually, all I did was obeying you. You want me to marry Harry, now I’ll tell you what, he told me that he thought I was the wrong one because I showed so little affection. Now he’s sure I’m the right one and you get your wedding and me out of the house, so I’m obeying all you ever said about my relationship and this is all I’m going to say.”

With that, I left the room to hide somewhere safe to cry at. My mom, who was running around the house, cleaning and tidying, only caught pieces of all this. After a while, she found me crying in my room. She sat down next to me, hugged me and just let me cry.

“Are you crying because of Dad?” she asked.

“No, not really.”

“Then what’s wrong?”

“All I was supposed to do was love Harry. Before I wasn’t good enough, and now that I’m doing what everybody wants, it’s not good enough either. What am I supposed to do with everything?”

“Sweety, I don’t think it’s that bad you held hands. You’re close to an engagement anyway. I’ll talk to dad and try to make him understand. Now get some rest, then clean yourself up and join us for dinner.”

She hugged me again, smiled and left the room. Her words were still burning in my mind. Close to an engagement… I always knew this was the goal, but now that the time came closer with huge steps, I felt like a hamster in a cage, trying to run, but really, you’re not going anywhere. Life is going to happen, whether you like it or not. And nothing I could do would stop that.


Training up this child- Part 17 – I want to hold your hand

This chapter has been particularly hard for me to write. Up to this day, I’m ashamed of what I did to a good person, out of a fanatic belief that only my “biblical” way was the right way. I realize that none of this was actually biblical. I have apologized many times to the person and I apologize again here to him as well as to everybody who feels like me, that a terrible thing has been done and the pain probably can’t be fixed.

While I was sitting on the couch with Tiffany, I slowly formed a plan. I was convinced Beth was wrong, and even more, I was convinced that she tried to pull me into her world of sin. She might just be so sinful that she herself wanted company in her sorry state. I felt like I needed to prove her wrong, no matter the cost. I was so hurt and confused, feeling betrayed by the only person I ever felt I could trust in. I gathered my emotions from Tiffany’s living room carpet, stuffed them into my little box and locked it up tightly. The only thing I decided to keep out was betrayal.

After I went home, I quickly excused myself from family life in order to pray and study. I sat down with my bible, rereading the passages which usually put me back into place over and over. Praying frenetically. I simply needed to prove Beth wrong. I needed to love Harry. And the way I figured out was the only way I ever learned about love: Love is actions, not emotions.

I started pacing things up with Harry. I wanted to prove, by actions, that I did in fact, love him. My first step was to call him more often. I chewed on my parents until they would allow me half an hour each day. They were a bit sceptic at first, but seeing that things were moving closer to engagement and marriage, they finally gave in. The first few days, Harry didn’t comment it at all but seemed very pleased. After a week or so he finally asked me why I called him that often. I had waited for that question like a predator for its’ prey. “Well, because, you know, I like talking to you. A lot. I just want to hear your voice more often.” He went quiet but somehow, through the silence, I could hear his excitement. He was very cheery after that, laughing a lot, telling a lot of funny stories. I laughed like I had never heard anything funnier. Manipulative? Yes, a lot. That’s what you get from raising your kids to be emotional nutjobs.

The following weekend Harry visited again, for the first time without his family. Due to lasting stress with Beth, they wanted to stay at home, settling things. Harry had gone through a fight to be allowed to stay at my house for a night.

We had quite some fun on that weekend and I had prepared a number of things (actions) that I could do to show him my “love”. I made a very special snack for him. You need to know that my mother actually isn’t American but an immigrant and I know how to cook a lot of stuff from her home. He was ecstatic, a huge smile on his face while eating, not getting enough of telling me just how good of a chef I am.

After that, we spent some time doing garden work which he helped me with, lots of talking and just sitting around with my siblings, playing games. In retrospective I have to admit, these times were bliss for me too. The fact that he was alone there and everything went great made me feel… right. I felt so superior to Beth with her boyfriend, living in some what I imagined could only be a rat hole, probably doing things I couldn’t even imagine.

One of my sisters, a very wild, energetic personality, came up with the idea that we should play Tag outside. We all agreed and went outside to play. It was a beautiful evening with warm, orange light shining. Harry was just great with kids, giving everybody the chance to tag him and acting extra slow to make the slower runners feel good about themselves. It was a lot of screaming and laughing going on. There was somewhat of a silent agreement that Harry and I wouldn’t tag each other as we weren’t allowed to touch at all. Whenever either of us was tagged, the other didn’t run but stand somewhat in the middle watching. I ended up being tagged (the smaller ones always tagged either Harry or me) at some point, kind of out of breath, standing in the middle holding my sides and watching over the field of giggling siblings running close and off again. Harry stood a step or two from me, obviously not in the least out of breath. I decided to do something wild, knowing that both of my parents were neglecting to watch us. I took a step to the side and just slightly brushed Harry’s arm with my palm. He looked at me somewhat shocked. Not sure what to do. “Well Harry, I’m guessing I just tagged you…” and ran off with the smaller ones. It took him a moment to realize the situation and he started laughing again, chasing the smaller ones down, making funny noises for them.

As dinner was ready, we ate together and spent some time with a short bible study. As it was getting dark outside and my mom brought the kids into bed, my dad got busy doing some more (unnecessary) garden work in order to be able to watch me and Harry while we sat outside in the garden on a bench. We just watched the sun set and the stars rise, not talking at all. I thought about the day we spent together. We had a great time and Harry was everything a woman could ask for and more. And he seemed to love me. For the first time ever I realized that I actually did care about Harry. It was what I today can only consider a form of love like you love somebody you admire their qualities. A person who’s your friend with qualities you wish your lover had, but that person isn’t quite your lover, if that makes sense. After what must have been an hour we went to bed.

The next morning was quiet and calm. We went to church, something we did only on occasion when my dad thought the sermon was good for us. We ate lunch and Harry still had some more hours left before he had to drive back home.

Sunday was relaxing day and I managed to convince my parents to let Harry and me take a walk on the field at the back of our house. They could still see us from the garden and after some objections agreed.

We walked around talking about this and that, plans for future visits, his schedule at work, when the best time for our phone calls were. At some point he looked around as if he was trying to make sure nobody was watching us too closely. He lifted his hand to stroke a bit of my shoulder. “You’re tagged. It’s your turn to say something now.” he said. I didn’t get what he wanted from me at all but I tried to come up with something. “I really enjoyed the weekend. It was great getting to spend so much time talking. Doesn’t work with all the siblings around like usually.” We both went quiet and the silence felt uncomfortable to me. I touched his arm and said “Tag, your turn now.” He smiled and went on talking about the snack I had made and how much he was hoping that he’d always get good food like that. We stopped walking was the way before us would have been our of sight for my parents. Looking around again, he took my hand and I felt for the first time how hard his skin was, worked down hands, now sweaty from what I can only guess what his nervousness. He looked at my fingers in his hand, fiddling around on them with his thumb. “You know, you have pretty hands. I like pretty hands on women. I was really doubting if this courtship was a great idea. I liked you before but you always seemed distant, like you had a hard time dealing with me. And now it’s so different.” “Yes” I said because it was really the only thing I could say. “Was it because of my family?” he asked me. “It’s always because of the family. Everything is because of the family.” I figured that was a smart way to avoid a real, honest answer. “Do you love me?” he wanted to know. I thought about it for a moment and came up with the only answer possible for a woman in the movement. “It’s not my job to go hunting for you, confessing and asking things a man should confess and ask.” He nodded and said “Well, I do.” I nodded and smiled but didn’t know what to say. After what felt like minutes, I blurted out the only definition I could come up with. “I call you a lot. I like talking to you. I made you a snack and I will do that and a lot more if we get married. So what do you think?” And poor Harry, who grew up believing just the same crap about love, smiled, thinking that I just told him that I really did.


Training up this child – Part 16 – Call me when you’re sober

Note: All of this is written with Beth’s permission.

The moment I heard Beth’s voice, my head completely blacked out and was flooded with millions of questions at the same time. I blurted out the first question that came to my mind: “What in God’s name are you doing, Beth?”. A big sigh came from the other side as she went to explain the whole story.

Beth had been struggling with the movement for about 3 years at that point. At first, she started doubting things in the bible. Some things just didn’t make sense to her anymore. How everything set up women to be unable to deal with the real world. That women are sinful, much more than men. That they can’t really have a relationship with God but need a man for that. She started wondering why God would allow a soul to be born into such a miserable state.

She tried sharing with her family, but was immediately put down. It wasn’t her place to ask, after all, she was just a woman. Beth was disappointed that her family treated her like that. In her frustration, she turned more and more “rebellious”. She picked up friendships with people outside of the movement. They were still christians, but not radical ones. A lot of her questions seemed strange to them, even dangerous. Their thinking was much more after Beth’s taste and she slowly changed her views on many things the fundamentalist QF movement had taught her otherwise.

She didn’t want to leave her family or make them sad. When they approached her with a courtship, she submitted, hoping that it would turn out well. That it would be a man who was on her side. The opposite was true. Knowing that his daughter changed her mind on many things, that she was rebellious, her father picked a man after his taste. All other men who expressed interest in Beth were sent away, not even telling Beth that there were other guys. The man her father had picked was a maniac to say the least. Note here that I don’t want to make anybody look like a monster, I’m just telling you Beth’s version of the story. According to Beth, he had views that even the fundies considered extravagant. One of the views was that sex is never fun for a woman and if it is, you’re doing it wrong. Pleasure in sex was inherently wrong. It was to make babies, period. The wife was also to fully submit to him. That meant no arguments whatsoever. Beth said that whenever she disagreed with him, even if it was only over dinner, he told her that would have to stop once they were married. Beth came to fear the man, and rightfully so. Their engagement wasn’t romantic at all. He casually told her that he thought it was time to get married. She asked him if he was asking her to marry him, his answer was “No, I’m telling you I’ve decided to marry you.” He grew more and more possessive of her, telling her what to wear, how to wear her hair, what she could or couldn’t do. He gave her a list of skills he thought needed improvement.

During all this time, Beth was still hanging out with her outside friends as often as she could. She ended up falling in love with one of the guys from that group of friends and so did he. While she didn’t admit this at first, a few days after her engagement they ended up kissing. From that point on, she decided to leave somehow. She and her boyfriend worked out a plan where she could stay, what she could do, how they’d save her.

Once they had everything set up, Beth decided to try one last time with her family. She talked to her parents how she didn’t want to marry this guy, how she disagreed with some of their views and what she wanted to do with her life. Her dad freaked out and got all crazy-bible-verse-thrower on her. She however took the phone, dialed her fiance’s number and told the first person who picked up (his mother) that she was breaking off the engagement. Her dad was in a wild rage, screaming the worst things at her, and she screamed back. Beth had set up a time with her friend where she ould come to pick her up, so she held out through the fight until that time came. She ran out of the house and into her friend’s car, who brought her to an apartment where they could live together as roommates. She still lives there.

I was listening silently until I regained some thought. I had thought about what to tell her before I called her, and now was the time to tell her all of my thoughts. I told her how I thought she made a mistake, that there certainly was a solution, that she needed to come back and work it all out. I said she was throwing away her savior for a boyfriend who didn’t really love her – after all, he kissed her, robbed her and her future husband of her purity.

Beth got really angry at that. “You’re telling me about love? You don’t know anything about it. You’re courting my brother, and why? Because he was the first man your dad presented to you. Because my brother is a good enough guy for you. You don’t love him and we both know that. You don’t know what love is because you don’t love anybody. You’re marrying my brother because he’s good enough and that’s as far as you’ll ever get, good enough.”

That on the other hand deeply hurt me. “I DO love your brother. Harry is THE BEST man I can image as a husband. He’s NOT good enough, he is the BEST. I love him and I’m honored that he considers me a potential wife. YOU don’t know what love is because you fell for the first horny bastard who told you that you have pretty eyes.”

You’re free to join me in being surprised that Beth didn’t hang up at this point. I’m telling you, she didn’t.

“Lisa, do me a favour. Take some time and REALLY think about it. Think about love and the feelings you have for my brother. If you can make me believe that you love him, I’ll be quiet for the rest of my life. Just make sure you really test it.”

“How am I supposed to test it?” I said, in a very annoyed and hurt voice.

“I don’t know. Just do something so you can feel if he’s right for you. And then tell me about it.”

I told her that I would have the answer she wanted of me soon enough, made up an excuse to hang up and was saying goodbyes as Beth asked me “Promise you’ll call again. You know I don’t mean to hurt you.”. I agreed and hung up, sitting on Tiffany’s couch, staring once again at the wall, tangled up in my thoughts. After a few minutes of this, Tiffany came in.

“Are you finished?”

“Yeah, pretty much” I said.

Tiffany came to sit next to me, hugged me quietly and stared at the wall with me.

“Tiff, how did you know Steve was the one?”

Tiff thought about it for what must have been ten minutes, just to tell me “I don’t know. I guess you just know for sure and that’s how you know. If you know that stones are hard and the sun is yellow and that this guy is right for you, and all of those three things are equally true to you, then you know it’s the one.”

(For the curious readers: Beth and her boyfriend are still together up to this point, and very happy together. They don’t have marriage plans yet. Thanks to Beth for allowing me to post this part of the story.)


Training up this child – Part 15 – Bad Connection

“Beth left the family.” Those words caused time to stand still for a moment. I my entire body started to burn with a feeling that I still can’t describe. I have heard of daughters leaving many times, but I never actually knew one until that moment. I didn’t want to know them anyway, they were ungodly sluts for me, rejecting the Lord and salvation, rejecting everything I so strongly believed in. The information Harry had just given me wouldn’t sink in for a while.

“Oh, when is she coming back?” I said. “No, Lisa, she left. She packed her stuff and moved out. We don’t know where. A girl picked her up, but she said she won’t come back.” I still didn’t get it. “Where did she go?” – “I don’t know Lisa. I really don’t. She broke off her engagement without asking anybody. Dad was unspeakably upset and they got into a huge fight, yelling terrible things at each other. She stormed off, still screaming, packed up a bag with a few things and called somebody. They kept screaming and fighting. Dad wanted to lock her in a room but I thought that was a bad idea, so I tried to settle things between them. At some point, she just stormed out of the door and ran down the street. I tried to follow her but a car with a girl showed up, she got in and they drove off.” It felt surreal. I was convinced that Harry knew where she was, or that she would come back, but decided not to hurt him by asking again. I later found out that my thoughts were completely wrong and Harry really didn’t know anything.

I forced myself to keep the conversation up for a few more minutes until I told Harry I needed to help my mother out. As soon as I hung up, I went upstairs to the girls room, sitting on my bed, staring at the wall.

I just didn’t understand. Why did she leave? Where was she? Why didn’t she tell me? Wasn’t I her friend? I felt so betrayed, left back, angry at Beth for throwing away everything the Lord had blessed her with. The entire evening was a fight to get through. Fighting tears, fighting anger, fighting fear. I spent a lot of time reading my bible, marking verses that clearly proved to me that Beth was wrong, in rebellion and that I needed to bring her back on track.

The following days were a drag. I felt like my brain cells cut off all their connections to the outside world and were doing their own thing.

After two days of this, I had a moment of enlightenment. I was in the kitchen, cleaning and scrubbing pans and pots. I could almost hear my thoughts click. The piece of paper she had given me, I finally had an idea what that was all about. It must be a phone number. Most likely the phone number of the girl who had picked Beth up. My hands started to shake, incredibly nervous about the thought that I might be able to fix everything up. I left everything standing, dried my hands and jumped upstairs. I had the piece of paper well hidden in my bible, acting like it was merely a marker for a page I found important, one piece of paper among many in my bible. My shaky, sweaty hands unfolded it to take a look at the number. I was right, it must be a phone number. The amount of digits made sense. I stuffed it into a pocket of my dress and headed downstairs into dad’s office, where our phone was. I picked up the speaker, started dialing, one number after the other. As I was about half way through, horror caught me.

This phone wasn’t safe. It saved numbers. All phone calls were on the bill. Full number, length, everything. The area code was a strange one, probably an area we never called. My dad always checked our phone bills thoroughly. He would see it, wonder who it was and call the number. My promise would be worthless. When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said. Numbers 30,2. How could I call her now, from this phone? It just wasn’t possible. I folded up my precious piece of paper, stuffed it back into my pocket and hung up on the half dialed number. I sat there for a minute, trying very hard to think. I couldn’t use a public phone. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere without my parents. All cellphones we had were checked through my dad. I couldn’t ask anyone from outside because everyone would tell my parents. I had no way of contacting Beth. A phone number was worthless to me.

Another few days passed. I desperately tried to figure out a way to make this phone call. I couldn’t trust anybody.

Sewing day came around and my mother dropped me off at Tiffany’s house. I tried to seem as normal as I could but I just couldn’t concentrate on anything. Tiffany quickly recognized that something was wrong. She asked me what was on my mind and after short hesitation, I figured she’d hear anyway, so I told her about Beth leaving her family. Tiffany listened without a word, and as I was finished, she said something that I didn’t expect from a member of our church: “You know, Beth is an adult. She should be able to follow her own calling, not be forced into what her parents think is good for her. You girls, I feel sorry for you. You never get to do anything remotely normal. How are you going to grow up into reasonable adults?” I was shocked. That was a very worldly thing to say, but my hopes went up. Maybe I could trust Tiffany after all. “Tiffany, if I told you that I needed your phone for a call, but I can’t tell you what for, would you let me use it? And not tell anyone you know?” Tiffany looked surprised, but smiled. “Yeah sure, go ahead. It’s in the living room.” – “Not right now. I don’t know the number. But next time I will. If that’s ok.” Tiffany agreed and told me I could use her phone whenever I wanted to. “I wanted you to be a bit more normal all along anyway. Call your friends whenever, I’ll be quiet. I know that your family wouldn’t be happy about it.”

The next few days again were a blurry mix of anxiety, fear, hope and excitement. I couldn’t wait to get back to Tiffany’s house. The day came around and I checked many times if I had really put the number in my pocket, if it really was the correct piece of paper, if the number really was still on there. Tiffany welcomed me as always. I didn’t want to be impolite, but my emotions got the better of me. “Can I make that call right now?” I asked as soon as I heard my mother drive away. “Sure. Do you want anything, coffee, cookies, cake?” I asked her for a coffee and some cookies, hoping they would come in handy and call me down. I sat down next to the phone, waiting for I don’t know what. The courage I guess. Tiffany came into the living room. “Are you done already?” she looked at me puzzled. “No, I didn’t call yet.” Tiffany looked surprised. “You DO know how a phone works…?” she asked. She was serious. I cracked up laughing. “Yes I do! Of course! I’m not living on the moon!” “Ok, just making sure”, she giggled. She told me she wanted to do some laundry quick and left the living room.

Silence all around me. I pulled out my piece of paper, straightened it out, making sure I could read every digit correctly. I picked up the phone and started dialing. Very slowly. Held the speaker to my ear. I hear a click. Another one. It was ringing. Ringing. Ringing. Again. Then somebody picked up. A girl. I didn’t know that voice. “Hello?” she said. “Yes. Hello. This is Lisa. I’m calling because I’m looking for someone.” I didn’t dare say Beth’s name, fearing I might be doing something wrong and breaking my promise. “You looking for Beth?” She said. “Yes.” “Just a minute, I’ll get her for you.” “Thanks” I said. Silence. The girl calling Beth’s name in the background. Beth asking what’s up. “It’s that girl you’ve been talking about.” Steps getting closer. Beth picked up the phone. “Hey Lisa, wow, I didn’t expect you to call that soon!”


What HE must be.. if he wants to be a tyrant.

Fundamentalists love stereotypes and patterns. They have a whole bunch of them, and if you don’t fit in, it’s certainly because you’re not a very godly person. Many blogs talk about how women are forced into them but the last two days I’ve been thinking about men. I watched the men I saw around me and I came to a conclusion: Men are just as much forced into a role as women are.

So what do these “godly” men look like?

They are/have…

A leader-personality, a strong personality, physical strength, mental strength, emotional strength, spiritual strength, courage, a “maker”, a good job, problem solving skills, skills to fix up pretty much everything around the house, has the guts to lead his family, doesn’t get fooled by anyone especially not wife and kids, can voice a strong opinion, is a sexual person, faithful, loving, gentle, knowing (and controlling) his emotions, generous, can talk about his feelings with wife and kids, a great father, a great worker, a great preacher, a great husband, a great lover, a good friend, helpful, ….

I could go on and on and on but you get the point. Now where’s the bakery cause if I want a man like that, I’m sure I’ll have to bake him myself.

Fundamentalists blame feminists that they’re making pussies out of men. Yet, fundamentalists demand men to be both a manly man and an emotional genius with their wives.To be a hard worker and a great dad. To fix up the whole house and give the wife the time of her life in bed afterwards. To be courageous, yet vulnerable.

They want men to be leading a family, but not be bossy. That’s a very thin line. That infamous, so-called “servant-leader”. I’m not saying it’s impossible to be both a good friend and a good leader. But men are constantly asked to walk to line between two extremes in every aspect of life. They aren’t permitted to have a hard day emotionally. They aren’t allowed to just trust their wives and relax from all the decision-making. They must be the bread-winner for 10+ kids and still be the fun, awesome dad and amazing lover and friend for their wives.

I suffered what the fundies expected of me in the movement. And now that I’m looking back, I’m not really surprised that men suffer too. Fundie-girls ask for the perfect man. And the guys, they struggle to be the best they can, and if they dare to have a single worry in their lives, they don’t trust god, are emotionally unstable and not marriage material.

I’m not surprised that men turn into tyrants anymore. Even though both the manly and the emotional skills are expected of them, no person can fulfill both. So they chose the skills the others can see – leadership, strength, “courage”. They rule their house with a hard hand and heart in order to prove their manliness to the world. Nobody can see if he’s a gentle man, a good friend to his wife, a vulnerable servant at home. And it doesn’t even matter, because which godly person believes the blabbering of a rebellious wife trying to talk her man down?

Though men are expected to have amazing emotional skills with wife and kids, the fundies “admit” that still sex is the most important thing for a husband. Men are reduced to their sex drive. Actually, a man is nothing but a leader with a sex drive in some places. This goes as far as reducing men to beings that can hardly be called animals, unable to practice self-control. They would jump anything immodestly dressed if it wasn’t illegal – which it shouldn’t be cause hey, the slut in a short skirt had it coming her way! And yet again, practicing self-control is a female task. Control of emotions (her own), sex drive (of any men), of opinions (cause you can’t have one), of dress, of knowledge, of the ability to live on your own, the list continues.

I heard that men have two ways they should use to control their women: The rod and the phallus. Both are used to make clear to the woman that she isn’t in control of her body, but her head, the husband, is.

How would I act if I grew up learning that? That my sex drive and my bossy attitude are the two central skills that make me a man? That I should be ready to die for the woman I love, but most importantly, need to control that bitch cause I’m being held responsible by God for everything she screws up? Would I be better? Would I not be a tyrant? Would I not enjoy my private slave? Would I not be angry to be pressured into feeding her and the brood? Would I not go crazier and crazier by ignoring even the last bit of emotional life that I have left?

I think I’d be a tyrant, too.