Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism


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Gay marriage and pedophilia?!

Among other things, I am pro gay marriage. This is mainly because I honestly and genuinely do not care the least bit whom my friends and, more importantly, people I do not know nor will ever meet, are married to. I simply do not feel affected by the fact that two men in Maine are married and live together in a nice picket fence house. I don’t care if they live across the street from me either, or in the same apartment building. I do not care if one of my friends is married to a man or a woman, because it isn’t any of my business. I make my own choices in this matter and I don’t think it’s anybody else’s business who I’m dating, or marrying, or whatever. Live and let live, to be accurate. Why would I get upset that two men want to get married by law?

Sure you might throw in some economical and social issues here: That gay men can’t have children together and therefore shouldn’t have the advantage of paying less tax because they’re married, or have cheaper health care rates, or whatever. But on a more realistic note: How many couples are there who do not want any kids, ever, or simply cannot have kids. It would only be fair to families with children that these couples pay as much tax as if they were unmarried, right? Once you step on the area of social and economic issues, the ground gets shaky. Let’s not even go there.

I understand that churches don’t want to perform gay marriages and that’s perfectly fine. Hey, it’s your religion, do as you please. But the state, the law should give every single citizen the chance to make his or her own choices and be treated accordingly.

Now, there’s a lot of rage going on in the christian world against gay marriage. That’s alright, but you get your freedom of religion, let others have that too. The christians are still an important force in the fact that gay people are prohibited certain choices in life.

You are not allowed to be married because you don’t want to marry the opposite gender. That’s freedom right there. What happened to the legendary pursuit of happiness? That’s only allowed if you conform to the standard.

I even understand people who have doubts about the socioeconomic consequences. Really, I do. But you have to realize that allowing gay marriage will not “make” more people gay. The percentage stays the same. Gay couples are just as productive to a nation as any other couple who doesn’t have kids – or no biological kids for that matter, since gays might still adopt one if they wish. Plus, this logic doesn’t apply in all cases! I know that many lesbian couples, in fact, do have biological kids. It’s no problem for them at all. I have even heard of one couple who ended up actually having sex with a man in order to get pregnant because they couldn’t afford artificial methods. Sure this isn’t for everyone, but matter of fact gay couples do have biological kids. Likewise, a male gay couple might just as well find a biological mother (and maybe a surrogate mother as well) and have biological kids – may it be through natural or artificial methods. It’s simply not true that gay couples don’t contribute by not having kids. And, as I said, there are just as well heterosexual couples who don’t have any. If you go down the road of social and economical value of a couple, you might as well punish every couple who doesn’t have kids by not allowing them to marry. I suppose every couple fill out a contract that forces them to have at least 2 kids within the next 5 years. If they do not, they’ll be automatically divorced. How’s that sound?

But moving on the my actual point: It creeps me out, it disgusts me, how any living person could compare gay marriage to pedophilia.

To quote Answers in Genesis on that matter:

The majority in power in many of our Western societies once believed the institution of marriage should be one man for one woman. But this has changed. Many are now allowing “gay marriage.” So how long before polygamous or pedophiliac relationships are allowed, which some people are starting to advocate? Who is to say they are wrong, if the majority agrees with them? (Full article here)

I also think it’s wrong to compare polygamous relationships to pedophilia, but that’s a different subject.

What’s being done here is lining up forms of relationships that are formed between two (or more) consenting adults to a form of “relationship” in which one adult in some sort of position of authority over a minor who is, by law and by developement, not in a position to consent. The first two forms are an agreement between adults, the last one is a form of child abuse by pressuring him or her into doing things he knows nothing about, with consequences he or she can’t understand yet, by making him or her believe “it’s ok”, “just don’t tell anybody”, it’s “their secret”. How can you possibly put that on one level?

It’s funny how suddenly supposed wrong behaviour in adults is made equal to certainly wrong behaviour (towards children). It’s especially funny to me because to those very same people, violence and physical abuse are two different things depending on whether the victim is a minor (and related to you) or an adult. Beating your children with spoons and belts is right, doing the same to your wife is wrong. Why differentiate here when you don’t differentiate sexual relationships? Why is two consenting adults having sex just as bad as having sex with children?

I get the point that sin is sin is sin, and in that matter they might be right, it might be viewed as “just as bad”, but so is stealing and envying your neighbor for his beautiful cow. But, speaking strictly from a point of view that puts freedom and equality of each and every citizen as the focus, gay marriage is NOT like sexual abuse. And the fact, the mere fact that you would publish a sentence such as the one I quoted above, and put this material into young people’s minds, that’s irresponsible and disgusting.

Have not enough people suffered and died because they were gay? Must you put them in a place where they are just as bad as people who sexually abuse girls and boys? What’s going to happen if these gay people end up being in a place where they are at mercy of maniacs who believe they are just as bad as child abusers? They’re going to hate them, beat them, and in some places on the planet, stone them. It’s done, just read the news.

Oh my, I can’t tell you how much these things upset me. We all scream for more freedom, consider us as people who live in countries of freedom. Not everybody here is free, nor will ever be. But, bah, can’t we at least try?

(I wrote this post a while ago and just now remembered it after I read one of Melissa’s recent posts. It’s not connected in any way and I don’t mean to associate her or her story with it. I simply remembered because she’s saying the same thing about gay rights and I think that’s something that needs to be said. Anyway, I encourage you to read her posts, I was very touched by her honesty and courage. How many people would’ve just given up? Sounds cliché, but Melissa is a role model for me – and so is her husband.)

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About Mom and Dad

The last few posts in which I was talking about my Dad received plenty of comments with a lot of thoughts, ideas and opinions. I want to thank you all for that, simply because it proves to me personally that this feeling I had about my Dad, that he wasn’t handling things the way he should, was in fact right all along.

There were many questions concerning my Mother and her role in this, so I want to talk a bit more about her as I feel it makes more sense to know her character and personality as well.

My mom is a very very quiet, introvert person. Ever since I can remember, she’s been quiet, hardly talking to people outside of our direct family. At church, she had a very hard time connecting with people, finding friends and such. She tried to be more outgoing, but it went only as far as signing up to bake a cake and then dropping it off without a word, only a smile.

While in the normal world, this would cause her problems, within the movement, it didn’t. Quite the opposite. My mom was praised for her quietness, her submission, her willingness to be simple and “die to self” as they love to say. While she was ignored, not noticed by the world, in the movement, she was somebody. And she didn’t have to do anything but be herself.

My dad was (is) really proud to have such a wife. She brought him honor and praise, she made him look really good in front of the other Patriarchs. She was the walking symbol of his strength and wisdom. If a woman was and could be this meek and quiet, it had to mean that the husband was an amazing leader. My dad took all his pride from the way his marriage looked to the outside.

My dad on the other hand always felt the need to be right and unquestioned. I was told that he was always a strong personality, but that he wasnt this bad. During the marriage it seems, the fact that my mother hardly ever spoke up, voiced an opinion or questioned him, must have gotten him used to feeling like this. My mom is addicted to harmony and peace. She’d rather swallow all her anger than get into a fight. And so, even if she felt my dad was wrong, she didn’t tell him simply to keep the house a peaceful and quiet place.

Over the years, my dad worsened. When you’re used to being right, it must be hard to accept criticism from anybody. My dad’s ego depended on the quietness of my mother, and likewise, the peace my mother loved so much depended on my dad’s ego.

 

Now, some comments talking about the wrong concept of submission in my family. Don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly agree with you. But for my parents, submission looked different. Here’s an excerpt from one of the comments:

“Honestly, he should be hit with Ephesians 5:28-29 (Husbands love your wives and cherish them–my paraphrase) and Ephesians 6:4 (Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.) Perhaps the children should make posters of those verses and hang them around the house. It’s a thought.”

That IS a good idea, but it wouldn’t work out at the end of the day.

In this mindset, it’s really hard to argue whether a man really love his wife. Even if he mistreats her, its covered by “he wants to protect her, hence he loves her.”. Shes living on a really small budget? Protection of the family. He doesn’t listen to her? Because she’s not as smart and he’s protecting the family from foolish decisions. She doesn’t feel loved? He just has a different way of expressing it. She needs to adjust to her head of the house. Theres ALWAYS some way to explain every male behaviour, no matter how bad and degrading it is.

A wife on the other hand can be easily caught unsubmissive. She does it her way? Unsubmissive. She criticizes you? Unsubmissive and not honoring the husband.

Really, I could go on and on with thousand examples, but we will always end up with one answer: The man’s faults are encouraged by unsubmissive wives. A submissive wife will cure all problems within marriage. I encourage you to read http://www.nogreaterjoy.org/articles/general-view/archive/2003/july/01/learning-our-place-as-wives/

The Pearls answer questions about marriage and family life on their site and they demonstrate a deep understanding of this form of submission. It’s about total submission to a point where you can’t do anything in order to talk to your husband about problems. If you are too lazy to read through all the articles, here’s the basic principle: Submission is key.

 

My mother firmly believed that her total submission could cure all the problems within our family and within her marriage. Whenever things got worse, she tried to be even more submissive. She never questioned his decisions but blindly trusted that he had a divine revelation about everything. Whatever it was that he said or did, to her, it was directly from God and if it was a bad thing that was said or done, then it was because of her lack of submission.

 

I know many people are going to comment that it’s a wrong form of submission, not meant like that, that my mother needs to act rational, like a normal woman. But that’s NOT going to happen. It wont happen just like it wont happen that they leave the Christian faith. This is their faith. It’s irrational, yes, but so is all faith.


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Family design – Men in the movement

I often feel that while us girls and women who left the movement get a lot of sympathy and have a loud voice, the men are neglected. After all, they don’t suffer as much. Or do they?

A family. The man as the head, the provider. The housewife, raising God’s mighty soldiers, subject to her husband. The kids obey and honor their parents, preparing for their future roles in the kingdom. Or so I thought.

In the months before I left the movement, I struggled with the role the family had designed for me. Being a wife and mother with no other choice, no way out, not even being allowed to follow activities they considered too “boyish” was stifling for me. I could never make my own decisions, I wasn’t “made” for it simply because I was a woman. While I felt I was getting the unfair end of the deal I thought men weren’t nearly as bad as I was. They were free, could do anything they wanted, be anything and never had to listen to anybody else.

Only after I left I realized that this isn’t true. Men too are pressured to fit into a role which might not be what they want for their lives.

Men aren’t only not expected to help with housework, there is somewhat of an unwritten law that men who do too much housework are feminized. Like cooking. Now that I left I know some men who honestly enjoy cooking. One of them, he is not a chef, cooks so well – it’s just as good as any really expensive fancy restaurant. He comes up with his own combinations and menus, knows about herbs, how to make perfect meat and even makes noodles from scratch. And it doesn’T stop there. His cakes are divine to say the least. He does all of that after work, for fun. It’s his hobby, his favourite activity. He doesn’t want to be a chef because he wants to make what he feels like making.

Now, within the movement, a man who cooks and bakes this way for fun… he’d have a hard time. A really hard time. Can you imagine a patriarch in an apron, making the best cupcakes in town? No, men like the one I described are unmanly, feminized, castrated by the feminist world, confused which gender they belong to, what their role in life is.

One of my cousin’s friends is married. When they had a baby 2 years ago, she stayed at home for 6 months. After that, her husband decided to stay at home and raise the child for 2 more years until it was ready for kindergarten. I didn’t know about this when I met them. I met them only once and it was right after I moved here. Still very much in my typical role mentality, I watched this little family in awe. The man fed the baby. The man changed the diapers. The man carried the diaper bag and the baby. The woman had to ask the man if there was another pair of baby socks in the bag and he said yes, and found them immediately. It implied he had packed the bag. And when the baby cried, he was the first one comforting the baby. It was strange. A man acting like a mother? A woman acting like the man? What was that all about?

I didn’t want to be rude, so I refrained from openly addressing it. But I asked my cousin later in private what kind of family that was. She explained that they thought about this decision, that he would stay at home, for a long time. He felt that his wife already had such a strong, intimate bond with the baby, and he wanted something very special too. He had always dreamed of having babies and being REALLY there for them. So he felt like staying at home raising it would be the perfect way to find a special connection.

While this is certainly not the norm, I thought it was a beautiful idea.

A man in the movement doesn’t have the opportunity to do these things. Being too “motherly” is out of the question. Most women are so conditioned not to feminize their men that even if they want to change a diaper once in a while, the women don’t allow it. What would people say if they saw that? Of course, men are supposed to be gentle dads, but they are also the main disciplinarian, the fun part of the parental combination, the one who comes home at night, is comforted by wife and children, plays with them for half an hour till they go to bed. And on occasion, there might be a daddy day. But really getting deep into raising them is usually not an option.

Now while all of the cases I described may be on the extremer end, it still proves that men aren’t free either. They still have to stick to the roles designed by the legalists around them. Since I started blogging I read many thoughts by ex-fundamentalist men. That they feel pressured into a “boss” role within the family which they just don’t feel is right for their relationship and family.

The hurt caused in men is often neglected. Maybe that’s because they are raised to believe it’s a sign of weakness. Boys don’t cry. Boys are boys, strong and brave and the head of the woman. It must be very hard to admit to oneself that this just doesn’t feel right. That they want to be married to a woman who has an opinion and makes decisions. One who doesn’t blame them for wanting to cook on occasion, or take care of the baby on their own for a while, or simply want to pick their own clothes because they have a better sense of style than their wife.


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Fundamentalist weddings 2 – Planning a wedding in 6 weeks?

Now, as I was thinking about the actual weddings in the movement, I couldn’t find much of a difference to normal weddings. Obviously, there are differences, but there aren’t any strict rules the couple has to stick to.

If you were at a fundamentalist reception, you might not even realize it’s not a normal wedding, except you won’t see anybody dancing, and there might not be constant music. But there too is a lot of talking, eating, walking around and such. There are usually fun activities to do, too, like photo booths and different games to play. Let me try point out some of the most common differences.

Generally I found that big fancy weddings are considered somewhat selfish. Spending a great deal of money on that one day is considered foolish, as most would have to expect a baby really soon after the wedding and the money should be invested into the marriage, not just the wedding. It’s all about being frugal and smart on money, which doesn’t mean that everything is dull and boring. There are plenty of people, women usually, with amazing skills for decorations, flowers, cooking and sewing. I don’t think you can tell that the foods and decorations haven’t been done by a “professional”.

I also want to remind everybody that this scenario doesn’t only describe a very short engagement. Longer engagement periods don’t change the fact that the wedding should be frugal and a lot of work will be done by family and friends, not by hired caterers or decorators.

Before the day of engagement: Typically, the suitor of the girl will have to have some money saved up in order to get the blessing to propose to the girl. This can go as far as the bride’s dad wanting to see actual bank account numbers and all savings. Additionally, it is normal that the suitor already has some sort of living arrangement prepared, be it a house or a rental apartment. This sometimes may happen in the first week of engagement, but many times I have also seen that the groom already had it prepared prior to proposing. Obviously, it wouldn’t be fully furnitured, as most of that would be the bride’s job and many things will be given as a wedding gift.

As most girls don’t receive any sort of pricey education like college, the family of the bride will have some amount of money saved up for her wedding day. All of this money will go into the preparations. So, even before proposing, the financial factors of a wedding will be more or less cleared.

Another important factor in fundamentalist weddings is that the community helps the couple with all preparations. Sometimes, money will be gifted prior to the wedding by wealthier families. Most of the time, the community will offer all sorts of services: Sewing, catering, decorations and so on.

A room for the reception will be no problem either: Most of the time, the wedding will be outside in somebody’s garden. Other times, they will find a church which is bookable on short notice. They don’t care that much about the denomination of the church as they don’t consider themselves a member of either denomination. For the reception, they will have a range of places to choose from: A big room at their own house, their garden, family friend’s houses, or even a “community center” in areas with many QF/P families. Those community centers can be anything from old houses to barns to bigger garages which have been built into community houses and private churches.

After the proposal: The bride and her bridesmaids and her maid of honor will go hunting for dresses. Sometimes, a seamstress from the movement may sew the dresses all together. Others will look for used dresses in the community. Though some do buy on ebay, that’s not typical. They are a bit afraid that a used dress from outside the movement may mean bad luck. Used dresses from inside the movement are no problem. Some others have old wedding dresses from their own family. These will be altered and reuse if need be. I have seen a girl get married in a dress that her own grandmother wore – the dress had been altered four times at this point! She again kept it for her own daughters. Few ones will buy a new dress. Especially if the kids come from a big QF family, this is an exception. A new dress is a lot of work, too: You can’t usually use the dress as it is, as most new dresses are too “immodest”. They usually need to be altered, anyway. If the groom is generous, or the dad saved up a lot, the girl might nevertheless have a new dress. The same applies for the groom’s outfit, as well as the one for the best man.

Also, they will start looking for a place for their honeymoon. Sometimes, that is just one night at a fancier hotel in the area. Richer ones who can afford to actually travel will find and book a place. Again, it’s totally dependent on the money they have, but big fancy journeys to a far away place are a huge exception. An expensive honeymoon is not seen as desirable, especially since most people believe the money should rather be saved for the future babies.

The families will be trying to find a place for the wedding and the reception. Different places will be visited and evaluated. Typically, cheapest wins. Anything that doesn’t look great will be decorated, so it doesn’t matter that much anyway. Decorations like flowers may be ordered, but it’s more likely that the family/friends/community will make them themselves. They use their own flowers or maybe even ordered ones. That way, it’s not only cheaper, but also faster, as more people are working on them.

Lists will start going around, calculating how much food will be needed and who will prepare it. A professional caterer is something I have never seen. The families and members of the communities will provide all foods and drinks. I have seen weddings where a “traditional american BBQ” was the theme of the foods served. There were steaks, burgers, ribs, salads, everything. And a lot of cakes, cupcakes and candies, too. All of it was prepared by the families and some family friends (men) where responsible for the meat.

Decorations are sometimes borrowed from other families, or they will be self-made. Same goes for the flower arrangements. Many fundamentalist families don’t see a point in spending 100s or even 1000s of dollars for flowers. As most of the movement families I knew lived out on the country and had big pieces of land, there was always someone with a huge flower garden which were used for the decorations.

Jobs will be given out: Who is responsible for the food station? Who’s working as a waitress? Who helps decoration, who helps cleaning?

Also, “entertainment lists” are written. Who will give a speech? Who’s the band (usually community members)? Does anybody want to read stories, poems, bible verses? Do kids want to prepare a little play? Things like that. The individual entertainers will start working on their things.

There will be meetings for bible study together, evenings where stories about the courtship of the bride and groom are told, how God brought them together, how certain people felt when they saw God work in the couple and so on. Also, there might be meetings of the couple with older married couples to exchange experiences.

The last few days before the wedding is when “the talk” happens. Typically, it will be within the last 2 days of engagement. Though they most likely have somewhat of a biological knowledge about their own bodies, they will hear for the first time in detail how the other sex’s body works. Women’s groups and men’s groups get together with each the bride and/or the groom to tell them some last advises. This has been done during courtship already, but this time it’s really about marriage and normal life that the couple soon will face.

The wedding:

In the morning, the women are usually busy getting all the food cooked and ready. Last touches and decorations will be added to the cake. The bride and the bridesmaids will be helping with this until noon, or they will be doing the last decorations in the church and the reception hall.

The men do the “hard” stuff. Putting up chairs, transporting people around, transporting the food to where it’s supposed to be (if need be) and so on.

By late morning/early noon, the bride and her bridesmaids will be busy doing everyone’s hair and make up if they are allowed to wear it. Dresses are put on and everybody is getting ready.

Wedding pictures may be taken at this point already. Most fundamentalists don’t believe that seeing each other in wedding dresses before the wedding means bad luck.

All weddings I have been to started rather late during the day. 3 PM was the earliest as far as I remember. There’s a simple reason for that: The bride and groom are supposed to “sleep in” and have a relaxed day. Also, the celebrations are kept rather short as to not wear out the couple. The actual wedding would be late noon or even early evening and the celebrations would last until 10 PM on average, 12 if the couple is “wild”. Simple reason: This is the day the couple will have sex for the first time and neither of the two should be tired or worn out. It ends that early to have time for… well, sex. It doesn’t really matter if the couple wants it that way, they’d usually be pushed into this pattern.

The wedding vows usually include: “I will submit to you, obey you and serve you like the Church does for Christ” for the bride, and “I will provide for you, protect you and love you like Christ does for his church” for the groom.

Generally I found that fundamentalist weddings can be rather long. Sometimes, the couple doesn’t want to be the center of the party and wedding will have more of a church service feel to it than that of a wedding. Others keep it short and sweet, without long sermons and vows and music. That would be done later during reception then.

The reception is rather unspectacular and normal. Dancing is an exception as it’s too immodest and sensual for most groups. There will be a lot of speeches and such. There might be some group dancing done by the kids.

The reception won’t be so much about the newlyweds as it will be more about religion, God’s plan, prayer and bible readings.  Depending on the taste of the family, the reception could be that everyone sits on their chairs and listens quietly to hours of studies, or it might be like an actual, fun reception where people sit together and talk, discuss and have fun. It’s not like all fundamentalist weddings are boring.

As said before, the night will end early in order to give the newlyweds time to actually fulfill their marriage that night. The families might stay longer than the couple to celebrate into the night, but since most families have small children, they don’t last much longer than the couple.


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Further reading on betrothal

I have received many comments on my last post in which I made a short mention of betrothal. It seems many have not heard about this form of relationship yet and I don’t feel like I can answer all the questions since it wasn’t practiced in my group, but I gathered some links and articles for the ones who are interested in it.

As for the many questions, betrothal is still very rare in fundamentalist christianity, but it’s not an exception among the messianic jewish (or old testament christians, whatever you want to call them). These groups are very close-knit to the fundamentalist christians and I know of many fundamentalist christians who have decided to follow the OT law. We had several families in our circle of friends who didn’t eat pork and wore tzitzit. It’s not that uncommon among fundamentalists anymore.

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/09/us/new-christian-take-on-the-old-dating-ritual.html (Short mention of a betrothal right at the beginning of the article)

http://ylcf.org/courtship-stories/bowers-testimony-of-betrothal/ (A short story of a betrothed couple. Note the fact that they entered their relationship with vows which are considered unbreakable)

http://www.goodmorals.org/lyman.htm (Another article, betrothal is talked about especially at the end of the article.)

http://www.lifeandlibertyministries.com/archives/000195.php (Older article dealing with the differences)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09OXeGZcJQY (Video of an actual betrothal ceremony – I don’t know whether the rituals shows are typical or not)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnDlwPoou9g (Trailer for a documentary about Betrothal – I haven’t seen the movie yet as I can’t get my hands on it, but I would be interested if any of you guys have it where you got it!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rky0k7zP0ew&feature=related (An interesting interview with fundamentalist christians talking about betrothal)


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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!


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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.