Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism


Quiverful men and why they can’t leave

Libby Anne is starting to put the questions for her Raised Quiverful project together. And just now I realized that, though I read all blogs written by the people who participated, there’s one person whose answers I’m most curious about. And that person is Joe from Incongruous Circumspection. I don’t mean to insult the women who answered in any way, I dearly love reading their blogs as well and I’m curious about their answers too. I think I’m so curious to read Joe’s answers because he is the only man to answer.

It’s so rare to read about men who lived in the P/QF movements and left them. It seems as if they don’t exist! Now, you could certainly argue on a gender based foundation, saying that women simply feel more comfortable talking about such emotional topics, that they talk more anyway, and that it’s easier for them to word these things because they know their emotions better than men do.

I don’t think that’s the (only) reason. I’ve been thinking about it and this is what I came up with:

In the P/QF movements, men model Christ with all they do, and they’re supposed to possess qualities such as strength both physical and emotional, intelligence, discipline, leader skills, responsibility, self-sacrifice by working and providing and so on. Women on the other hand are submissive, meek and quiet, simple (-minded), following their husbands who, as I said, are like Christ to them. Men are leaders, women are followers.

When a woman breaks free of these structures, she certainly will face a lot of problems with the circles she’s leaving. She’ll be called rebellious, evil, sinful, worldly. But you can’t ignore what she’s doing at that point: From being a follower, she strives to be strong, self-governed, responsible. She tries to equalize herself with men and, ultimately, with Christ. While that’s negative within the P/QF communities, she’ll be respected in the ‘real’ world. She’ll probably experience a lot of positive feedback from the normal people she meets, who will tell her she was right and strong. A woman always breaks free of rather negative characteristics and adapts positive (manly) characteristics.

Do not forget that women are blamed for ‘feminine’ men. It’s not the men who give up their strength, it’s always women who take it away from them. The strong woman is feared in the movement. She is something you have to scream about, criticize and beat to show her her place in the world. It takes a lot of violence to make a woman submit – or at least try to do that.

Now, men are never blamed for a loss of their power. It’s always women who take it. Men are generally attributed all these positive characteristics and the second they reject any part of this system – watch out, this is where it gets interesting – they lose their Christ-likeness. They voluntary step down from their position of power to a lower position – namely that of a woman. They lessen themselves by rejecting the P/QF beliefs. They supposedly admit their weakness, their lack of responsibility and intelligence, their lack of leadership skills.

While a woman who leaves is strong (in the position that only men should have), a man is weak and scared, retreating into the passive position of a woman.

And while a woman who leaves gets all this positive affirmation from the normal world, what do men get? Even in the normal world, they might seem weak and emotionally unstable. Even for the normal world, he loses his position of a ‘man’. And that’s precisely what I think doesn’t only keep most men from talking about their experiences, it’s also what stops men from leaving those movements in the first place.

No matter how you turn it, a woman will always be in a positive, strong position, a man will always be in the weak position. I can fully understand every man who is afraid of losing his entire manliness because of this. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t leave to preserve this manliness. But I understand what makes it so much harder to show ‘rebellious’ characteristics as a man.



When adoption isn’t a choice

As most of you know, many fundamentalists are involved in missions around pregnancy crisis centers and anti-abortion centers. Many of them feel called to defend one of the most important quiverfull rule: Children are a gift. Now, I don’t want to go into the whole pro-life/pro-choice debate here; this isn’t about abortion. This is about adoption.

Adoption in itself is something wonderful that should have your full support. It includes a mother who takes the responsibility for her child by giving it away and gives it away convinced that this is the only right thing to do, a family who has the wish to adopt a child, and hopefully, a happy child and finally adult in the end. That’s the perfect scenario of how it should work.

But a lot of fundamentalists don’t see it that way. Once you approach those “counselors” who are actually fundamentalists (of course, not all pregnancy crisis workers are fundamentalists!), they will talk you out of abortion at any cost. That’s step one.

Step two is where my personal issue comes in. Step two is to convince the woman to give her child up for adoption. Of course they’d never admit that this is the ultimate goal of the entire fuzz.

A lot of times, those women who approach these counselors are in a tough situation or at least not in the perfect situation. Maybe they’re young, or don’t have much money, maybe they’re in a tough personal situation due to death of a loved one or a breakup, due to sickness, you name it, it happens.

Instead of acknowledging the fact that these women are actual very responsible, smart people to seek help and counsel, they’ll be talked into believing that they are not being fit to raise the child. Whatever her issue is, it will be used against her. And not only that, heavy pressure will be put on her in case she actually wants to raise the child on her own as a single mom. She’ll be shown statistics of the devastating effects of growing up with only one parent, she’ll be shown exaggerated lists of monthly expenses, she’ll be shown pictures of “perfect” families looking to adopt – typically rich, fancy, happy movement families – and at times she might even be introduced to them without even agreeing to an adoption (yet). Or even worse, the counselor him/herself is looking to adopt and will make it out to be God’s guidance that they found each other.

Whatever it is, it’s a fact that the movement doesn’t believe in single parenting. And to avoid more single parents, adoption is the only – THE ONLY – way they feel like they accomplished their mission. Having a woman leave happily with her child is failure to them. A child raised by a single mom is like spreading the heroin directly on the kid’s breakfast toast. They won’t give up because they believe that God sends these women their way so they can talk them into adoption, have the baby adopted by a movement family and the outcome is yet another mighty warrior for God’s kingdom. Come to think of it, it’s almost like having as many babies as you can before you die from some cruel pregnancy-related issue. It’s like every single baby they deal off into the movement is their own baby, their own creation, their own addition to the kingdom.

I read a heartbreaking story on a fundamentalist blog. It was the story of a 20something year old who got pregnant and initially wanted to raise it herself. She went to see a counselor so she could find out how to do this, and this counselor – by God’s grace a member of a fundamentalist group – convinced her that her idea was stupid. She ended up giving the baby away, which, as she said, pains her much until this day, but “she knows this is what God wanted her to do”. Sounds like a line to me. I’m not saying it might not be true, but it just doesn’t feel right.

Not every woman who gives her child up for adoption is happy with it. Some realize that they should’ve kept it. For some, it would’ve been easier to raise it on their own than to give it up. For others, this isn’t true, and that’s perfectly ok.

I feel this is an issue that needs to be addressed much more. Whatever each individual woman choses must be her own decision, one that she herself can live with. The fact that she’s seeking help shows a great amount of responsibility and mature behaviour. If the ultimate decision is not to keep the baby and to give to a different family to be raised, she must know what she’s signing up for. All of that talk about how it’s going to have a great life and family and all the financial support it needs is just distraction from the real issue at hand: The empty birthdays, the lone mothers day, the guilt some women feel when they have a baby later on, one that they keep. All of those are facts that are withheld from these mothers in order to convince them. All they’ll hear are those great stories of young women who gave their babies to christian families, and how happy they are about it. You don’t hear about the tears, the pain, the longing. It’s so easy to convince people when all you tell them are the good things.

I guess the end of the story is that adoption is something that should be encouraged, but if a woman is doubtful and you have to show her 500 different papers about how bad keeping the child would end up being, it might not be the decision that’s right for her.


Training up this child – Part 20 – Hurt

(As some of you might have recognized I name many of my posts after songs or movies. I usually pick out a song that suits the mood of each post, usually googling “songs about XY” and then listening to my options. This time, I was torn between two song: Chris Isaak – Wicked game and Johnny Cash – Hurt. I ended up with Hurt because, well I think it sums up a lot of how I felt. I know that some of my readers are just as unworldly as me, so here’s a link to the song on youtube in case you don’t know the song.) Harry’s mother seemed a lot more excited than usual. She made compliments about how I looked, how nicely we decorated the house, how amazing the prepared food smelled. Everybody had a huge smile on their faces, a smile I immediately thought was… retarded. It felt as if the universe had shifted. I was no longer in the real world but in some weird dimension, full of retarded people who don’t even know that some sort of magical boss is shoving lies down their throats. I felt as if they looked at me like I was about to join their sect, go through a weird ritual where they’d take out parts of my brain to make me smile just as stupid as they did. I can’t recall much of this. I was in trance. I talked but it wasn’t me who talked. I heard myself speak and my voice was different, strange, not mine at all. My words didn’t come out of my brain – I didn’t know what I was saying and at the same time wondering how I came up with the things I said. Cold sweat was covering my entire body, my skin felt cold and tacky, but I still felt like that person wasn’t me. There must have been some sort of small talk, some sort of prayer, some words of encouragement but I memorized nothing at all. The only thing I can remember was looking at my shaky hands, covered in freezing sweat and desperately trying not to throw up all over the place. My insides were rotating and I was truly afraid my heart would stop beating any second out of sheer fear. I remember at some point Harry asked me to go outside with him, sit in the garden for a bit. I agreed, my face frozen in I don’t know what position and a very strong, sudden urge the really throw up. I think I held my hand in front of my mouth for a second, because my Dad gave me an encourage stroke on my head and opened the door to the garden for us. As soon as I was outside my mind started screaming: “RUN! Now’s the chance! Run away and don’t turn back!”. But I didn’t. Instead, I followed Harry to the bench in the garden and sat down. I was completely quiet and the sweat started to run down my neck and back. My hands were so wet, they sparkled in the evening sun as if they were powered with diamonds. Harry spoke up: “Do you like the flowers?” “Yes” I said, “Lilies are lovely. My favourite flower.” That was true. “I think so too. You know, you’re like a lily to me. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” “That’s true” I said, not knowing how to react. “Lisa, you know, I have been watching you for such a long time. Years now. I can’t imagine that there is anybody more beautiful and lovely than you.” He said and took my hand, squeezing it, which embarrassed me because my hands were freezing cold and soaking wet. “I didn’t have to think much about if you were the one. I knew it all along. I would’ve done this so much earlier but I felt I needed to wait and be patient on you. I was doubting your feelings for such a long time but now I feel like it’s different. I feel like we’re made for each other.” Harry looked at me, but I just started into the grass next to my shoes. I hadn’t looked at him during this entire conversation and I couldn’t find the courage to look into his eyes now. He was silent for a few seconds, but then let go of my hand. He stood up, slowly. My stomach twisted, making me feel sicker every second, my heart skipped at least 10 beats. Harry stood in front of me. And then, he did it. He got on one knee, found a little box in his pocket, opened it with shaky hands and presented a lovely ring to me. I stared at the ring and the universe shifted yet some more, completely separating my body and my mind at this point. And as I stared at the ring with my body, and my mind stared at myself sitting there, not knowing what to do, Harry finally said it: “Lisa Franziska Bennet, will you marry me?” I didn’t say a thing. I stared at the ring in Harry’s wet shaky hands and almost heard my mind laughing. This is crazy, this is unreal. “Lisa?” he said after some time which could have been hours for all I know. And for the first time I looked into his eyes and what I saw there I will never forget. I don’t think one can describe the horror and fear I saw on his face that moment. I looked back at the ring, then back into Harry’s eyes. Terror. An entire world crashing down, hands shaking violently, tears starting to fill his eyes. My, a lot worse than I could’ve possibly imagined. I still hadn’t said a word but I felt the need to react somehow. I took the ring in my hand, not putting it on and looked at the pretty little diamond. I could almost feel Harry dying inside and wanted to hold on to him, to make sure he wouldn’t just stop breathing. I put my hand on his hand, then on his cheek, stroking through his hair and while I did that I just slightly shook my head. I was still a mute. “Does that mean no?” he asked and I nodded just as slightly. Harry now sat in front of me, on his knees, staring into nothingness. “Do you really mean no? Why not? What’s wrong? What did I do wrong? I can make it right, just tell me what I have to do, I’ll do it. I’ll do anything.” I shrugged, silent, just staring at Harry sitting there in the grass, at my feet, not knowing what he or I should do next. Finally I found some words somewhere in the back of my head: “I’m so sorry”. There were some tears on Harry’s face, but he wasn’t really crying. “Well, tell me why you’re saying no. I thought everything went well.” My cheeks were burning as I tried to explain. That I felt like I wasn’t ready for marriage, that I was doubting practices and beliefs in the movement, that I didn’t feel quite right about marrying him. He took a seat next to me again, thought about what I said for a bit and then asked me “Ok, so what do you want? I’ll give you anything you ask for if you marry me.” I told him how I wanted an education and maybe a job, how I was afraid of having so many kids, especially right now, and that I wanted a different life, not as set apart from the real world and other people. I wanted to have friends. I wanted to be normal. Harry was quick to answer. “You can have that. You can find yourself some friends once we settled down. You can go to school if we can afford it and you can work until we have kids.” I told him that by our beliefs, we’d have a kid within the next year. He told me that I couldn’t say that. God would time them. And if we did, God’s way would still be perfect. That he thought if I kept following God’s plan, I couldn’t possibly be happier. As he told me all that, the truth started sinking in, the truth Beth predicted: I couldn’t change his mind, I couldn’t make some sort of deal with him that our marriage would be different. He was too convinced of his beliefs. “This isn’t going to work” I finally said. “We’re too different in too many ways. You’re sure that your beliefs are right while I’m doubting everything. You can trust God while I can’t. You dream of a biblical family, I dread it. How can we possibly be happy together? It might just be a phase for me, but I don’t know that yet. If it is, and we are meant for each other, we will be together eventually. But if it isn’t, you’ll be stuck with a wife and family you’re too good for. Is that really what you want?” Harry was quiet, crying and so was I. “If that’s what you want, if that’s what you can deal with, I’ll marry you.” I hadn’t said that because I wanted it. I said that because at this point, I realized what I got myself into. Two families were waiting for a happy, engaged couple. They weren’t going to get one. I was very, very afraid of what waited for me back inside. I was clueless how to explain all of this. I think at some point I wished he’d agree and still want to marry me so that I could avoid what was sure to come: Anger, hate, disappointment, being kicked out of the house into a world I didn’t know, cut off from my family. I realized the extent of what I just had done and it was just as scary as my other option. I was trapped with no way out. “No, I think you might be right. You’re obviously not in the right state of mind to make a good wife. You need time.” Harry’s answer was partially a relief and partially the scariest situation I could imagine. I took his hand again and for whatever reason I said Thank you. I was emotionally broken down to bits and pieces and started crying violently. “What do I do now?” I asked him. “What will we say?”. Harry just shook his head. “I don’t know.” I cried even more at that and Harry must’ve felt sorry for me, because next thing I know was that he put his arm around my shoulders. I couldn’t resist and hugged him, crying harder, begging him “Please don’t let me do this alone, please help me, please do something, I can’t do it.” We sat there for a few more minutes, until I found a tissue in my pocket, cleaned up my face as well as I could. “We should go back in. I bet they’re wondering what’s going on.” Harry stood up, but I just couldn’t find the strength to do it. He took my hand again and pulled me off the bench. “Come on, we’re in this together.” He didn’t let go of my hand, which I’m deeply thankful in retrospective. We slowly walked over to the back door of our house. My mind was empty, fear struck me but somewhere deep inside I felt that I had done the right thing. Harry held the door open for me, and inside I went to wash away those stupid smiles off my parent’s faces.


The Image of P/QF and the Duggars

I have stated several times before that I think the Duggars are a very nice and sincere family and I have heard from people who know them personally that they don’t put on an act for the show – that they really are like that.

But I do see a general problem with the show and that’s the public image of the general P/QF movement. 19 kids and counting actually makes it look really good. I watch the show on a regular basis because it makes me feel a bit like… home. But I can’t stop myself from critizing the image of the typical P/QF family as shown in this show.

First off, the Duggars are a rich family. That’s a simple fact you can’t deny. I honestly believe that they practice their “buy used, save the difference” mantra and I believe that’s partially why they don’t have financial struggles, but let’s be honest here: That show makes them a lot of money, and so do their books, their meet-ups and their visits on multiple conferences each year. Did you realize that Jim Bob rarely ever seems to “go to work” in a traditional sense? He’s almost never really “busy”. He has lots of time to spend with his kids and wife. And this is why I believe that the family structure and the family relations are so much better within the Duggar family than they are in a normal QF family where the man of the house has to work all day, multiple jobs, to provide the basics for his large family.

Conclusion 1: The Duggars actually have time for their kids.

Let’s look at the way they dress: The Duggar girls aren’t dressed in an old-fashioned way. All of them wear pretty, modern clothes. I know that they say they buy only at thrift shops, but I think they’re talking about the upper-class thrift shop here. Not the ones with really outdated clothes for very little money, but the ones were you can find clothes from the latest seasons of fashion. Of course, this costs more. Not as much as new but this difference is a big deal for the normal QF family. The Duggars needn’t sew their own clothes or alter old clothes, they can buy fitting, modern stuff. Another point in the dressing issue is that not every QF girl is allowed to wear this type of stuff. I remember getting into a big discussion with my parents if jeans skirts and shirts were ok. In some families this isn’t possible, it’s too worldly. Jeans is considered men’s clothing in some families (forbidden in the bible). And on top of it all, the girls don’t always wear ankle-length skirts. Sometimes they just cover their knees. Dressing-wise, I’d consider them on the liberal end of the fundamentalist dress code.

Talking about the Duggar women, let’s look at Anna Duggar. Remember when Josh and Anna were courting/engaged? Anna never wore make-up. Her hair was long and didn’t look like she ever put much work into it. Her clothes were looser-fitting and plainer. Not that she looked bad, but she looked more like a typical QF girl. Look at her now: She cut her hair to shoulder length (VERY short for QF standards!), it’s always straightened and I believe she had some highlights and color put in (she was much more blond during engagement), her make up is noticeable and beautifully done, her clothes are much more modern, colorful and tighter. Her entire personality seems happier, bubblier, more outgoing (though this could be rooted in her shyness towards camera at first). She changed from this little wallflower into a blossoming, beautiful and seemingly strong woman. She is the walking image of how great the QF lifestyle is. I really like Anna Duggar, I think she was beautiful before and still is, that’s not the point. The point is that I get the feeling that she’s supposed to be a walking commercial for the P/QF lifestyle.

Conclusion 2: The girls don’t look crazy and weird, but worldly (though modest and nice). The show depicts women rather worldly looking, but happy and fulfilled in their traditional role.

And another thing about the Duggar girls: They don’t give this submissively oppressed vibe. The interviews with them are fun, they joke around, do funny faces. They seem to be running the place, have authority over decisions and their own opinions. They aren’t weird around others, they are open, talkative and funny. They have a great way to interact with people outside the movement. They never come across as judgemental and scared. This type of behaviour simply isn’t true for many girls who aren’t allowed to be so loud and outgoing. Many QF families see this as a problem in girls, that girls should be shy, quiet and meek.

Conclusion 3: The girls portrait QF as a fun, normal, fulfilling lifestyle for every girl.

The activities of the Duggars aren’t exactly boring either. They have a huge house with tons of options for the kids, a huge garden with fun activities. They go on trips all across the world, sometimes as family, sometimes just the parents or the kids. The boys and girls are members of the local volunteer fire department. They live in a world with lots of action and fun, while it is at the same time full of purpose and meaning. They put a heavy emphasis on learning through these journeys and activities. And that’s just not possible for many normal families, even secular ones. Plus, I think the fact that the girls too are members of the fire department is very strange. I don’t know any girl who would’ve been allowed to do such a thing. It’s men’s work. And that just doesn’t add up for me. I think it’s utterly unrealistic for the vast majority of P/QF families.

Conclusion 4: The show depicts meaning through fun, exciting activities and doesn’t show the boxes of men’s and women’s activities (like it would be the case in a normal P/QF family).

Probably the biggest minus of this show is that it doesn’t show actual problems and struggled in the matter of family and/or spousal relations. There are no glimpses of how the kids are “trained” or disciplined, neither are there fights between Jim Bob and Michelle. Everyone seems to be so close, so happy with each other, never getting into a serious fight. It’s not shown HOW the Duggars resolve conflict, between kids, kids and parents or between just the parents. Life looks peaceful and filled with joy and mutual respect and understanding. I don’t even believe there is much fighting in this family, after all they are well off with little worries for money, so not that much to fight about. The only struggle shown in the show was Michelle’s last pregnancy, and that was handled with almost inhuman strength and understanding from every member of the family. They make it look easy and natural when in reality that’s simply not true for most families. The show entirely ignores the struggles and fears of wife dealing with submission, child discipline, overwhelming amount of duties and so on. To the outsider, or to a person who’s playing with the thought of following the fundamentalist teachings, this show is extremely appealing.

Conclusion 5: The show doesn’t talk about struggles and problems with people in their “biblical” role and between people within the families. With God’s help, it seems, everything is easy and good.

Looking at this short and incomplete list of things that simply don’t appear in reality, I can no longer wonder why ex-P/QF people have such a hard time being accepted as abused. People have this beautiful image of the Duggars in mind and of course wonder “What was so bad about that lifestyle?”. They say things like “Get over it, let it go” because they don’t know how life REALLY is in the QF movement. I think the Duggars are to be seen as their very own version of QF and shouldn’t be used as example for all QF families, but that’s hard to understand for outsiders. I’m glad the Duggars seem to have found a way to get it to work more or less, but it makes us others, from families where nothing worked, look like whiney girls raving on about something that wasn’t as bad. And that, in my opinion, is an image in desperate need for a reality-check and some change.


P/QF: How can I make friends/family realize what they’re getting into?

I’m not quite sure how to tackle this subject. I read a lot of comments and emails, on my blog as well as others, asking what to do when a friend/family member/somebody in your community starts showing signs of moving towards radical christian movements.

I’ve been thinking about different ways how to answer this question and I really can’t come up with a satisfying idea. Every person and family is different and I think it depends a lot on the history of that person/family how much they’ll be attracted to the different movements. For a start I’ll describe what really made ME realize I was on the wrong track.

Right at the beginning I want to say that theological reasoning does not help in any way. They’re all muddy to say the least. You say evolution is a fact – they’ll ask “Why would God lie to me on the first page of his infallible word?”. You say you must interpret passages in the bible, they say it’s the actual, literal word of God. You see where I’m going with this. Don’t even get into fights like this because they will make you look like you’re not only against God or the bible but also against the specific person you’re talking to. They might still talk to you in order to convert you, to make you see the light, but they won’t change their opinions based on what you’re telling them about God and the bible. Worst case they’ll just cut contact with you and you’ll blow all your chances to help them out of it.

A good first step would be to find out why this person or family is eyeing with the movement. Has there been some sort of tragedy in the family such as the death of a loved person, or maybe a case of rape or long-term unemployment? Really anything that can make a person depressed can trigger an attraction towards radical movements. Or has the person simply had a bad history? Lots of love lost? Decisions made that turned out badly? Or simply missed out on chances that person thinks if he or she took it, their life would be better? Try to carefully investigate to understand where they’re coming from. It could simply be the case that a person or a member of a family has some sort of psychological disorder, in that case you can’t really do much but carefully try to push that person towards professionals. In case of some sort of trauma, you might be able to talk to them. You have to gain their trust and live as an example that radical faith is not necessary to be a loving person. Show them you truly care, help them out, talk to them, listen to them. They really need to open up to you in order for this to work. And unfortunately that’s not always the case.

If you don’t have those strong connections to said person maybe talk to someone who’s close to them, someone you can trust will not go and gossip about how you mess with other people’s business.

I can honestly say that without the fact that I got into a courtship I didn’t want to be in, at a point in my life where I didn’t feel ready opened my mind up to that type of work. The people who made me realize and say out loud that I didn’t want this sort of life didn’t talk bad about my family or my beliefs. They urged me to listen to my heart and mind and to investigate whether the decision I was making (or that was made for me) really felt like the right path for me. They didn’t cut me off, they were there for me with love and compassion and even when I fell back into very radical behaviour encouraged me and kept my mind working on my problem. They showed me that happiness, love and a good life are possible without radical behaviour and that God doesn’t abandon people who don’t follow this set of rules made by people like Bill Gothard and supported by communities such as Vision forum. They showed me, in my case particularly, that you don’t have to be a “feminist” (in the sense fundamentalists use it) to be a free woman. They showed me that there were many women in the bible and in history who followed God’s wish for women without being married off to a guy they didn’t want to marry. They showed me how normal relationships work, not by telling me but by living it. That a marriage very well can be happy without the wife being as submissive as a door mat.

If you know a person who is already in the movement and you see things happening that you think are bad – such as abuse, forced courtship/betrothal, and overall strange behaviour – you should investigate as well. Why is this family so radical? Please remember that, if your church community is a mixed groups of different strengths of faith, it’s not that bad yet. The very abusive, hardcore families tend to leave “normal” conservative churches and form up new private church groups, consisting of only like-minded families and meeting up for service at home. That’s the point where they are so cut off every other community that you have no chance to get into real contact with them anymore. Though this isn’t true for all fundamentalist families, it was something I saw happening in my own family as well as others. We used to go to different conservative churches when I was younger, but the worse it got, the more we lived in our own world. We met up with like-minded families only, the fathers leading private service. I think this was partially due to the fact that the girls in my family (me and my sisters) got older and my Dad was more and more nervous that our purity would be damaged through the contact with other families and kids our age, especially boys and men. As long as they are in your church (and you’re a sane person going to a normal church!), you still got chances to build up some sort of contact.

Again, do not get into theological arguments here. Don’t tell them that this isn’t how this church works and what it stands for. Encourage them to stay! Say things like “You’re a great addition to our community” or “I love exchanging ideas and views with you!”. Gain their trust and respect because that’s the only way your word will have some sort of meaning to them. If your pastor is against this sort of radical religion and abuse, talk to him. Tell him you’re worried, but you don’t want to drive those people away. Initiate meetings and groups where you can talk about the different views and teachings. Again, be very careful with this one. Don’t talk about how teachings are ungodly or unbiblical, that’s muddy and won’t make things better. Instead, you should talk about teachings matter-of-factly. Discuss them. Pick out what’s good about the teachings, question the problems, ask for their opinions before you word out a strong opinion of yourself.

Something that will most likely find open ears is beating the teachings with biblical reasoning. That’s actually very easy. Talk about the danger of idolizing leaders like Bill G and the Pearls. Talk about how you have a big problem with the Pearls comparing kids to animals and that you find Jesus would be strongly against such a view. They are children of God, not mules. They can’t be treated as such. Talk about how Harris and Ludy plant ideas into girl’s minds without a real biblical foundation (because in fact, they have none). Talk about how girls read their books more often than they read their bible. Question this behaviour. Really, your strongest argument in this case is that many of the teachings and people are idolized above the bible. They might argue against it to your face but it will get them thinking.

When you’re at a point where you think they’re trying to cut you off, trying to move away from the community they were in, don’t let them shake you off. Back off for a while with discussions of faith and teachings, but be their friend. Help them, be there for them, ask their advice. Tell them how you solved problems. Even if they don’t call you anymore, you call them. Don’t let them hide in their own little world because I can promise you, it’s going to be hell for some of them.

Beliefs are generally a very hard and problematic issue and even if you did everything, your best, to help them and get them out of the muddy waters of radical religion you might still fail. That’s always sad and there isn’t really much you can do anymore in that case except have a clear consciousness that you have tried everything you could. And at the end of the day, that might be worth just as much, at least for you.

And at this point I want to translate a quote I found true, not only for this sort of situation but as a general things in life: “We thought we could do it all. We thought with love it was possible. But sometimes you just don’t make it.”


Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the purest of them all?

Ages after we abolished paying money to a father so that he would let you marry his daughter, we still somehow see virgins as something desirable. Though we might not measure in gold or land anymore, we certainly put a price tag on every woman, spiritually, emotionally, culturally.

These price tags are especially important in christian fundamentalism. And that price goes WAY down if only the slightest scratch was ever attained (though, it was only right at the back of the knee and didn’t leave a scar).

We’re not talking about physical virginity here. That is important, though, because once that’s gone, a man might as well marry a street-walker.

We’re talking about emotional purity here. Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free? That’s old news. Why buy the cow when you can look at it for free would be much more accurate to describe what fundamentalism is doing to its’ daughters.

There is only one way a woman can stay pure: If she never even had an emotional attachment of any sorts with a man. And with this mindset, purity become the impossible good. A girl will be damaged goods if she has had a deep friendship with a boy. A girl is damaged goods if she ever held hands or “flirted” with a guy. And flirting is stretched very far here. Laughing about a joke a guy tells might be flirting if the wrong people see it. Being in a room with a boy who’s not part of your family is considered damaging to the girl’s purity. Purity becomes a minefield and the only way to avoid it is, I’m sad to say this, staying at home. Inside your house. Seriously, don’t even take out the garbage because some boy might say hi and talk to you, and you would be flirting. And anyway, what if somebody saw you? They’d gossip their mouths fuzzy that you’re having a secret boyfriend and once that’s in people’s minds, you’re about as damaged as a vase somebody dropped out the 13th floor on the hard concrete sidewalk.

And what about men? Well, men are so focused on sex even at a young age, you can’t really blame them for a slip here and there. A man who wastes his purity on, say, holding hands, will not be “as impure” as a woman doing it. And even worse: A man who admits his “sin” is considered strong, spiritually mature and godly. His purity is easy fixed in the minds of people. A woman admitting her “sin” is still damaged. The reputation of being impure will always follow her around.

I grew up in an environment where even talking to a guy could make me look like a slut. Any interaction between boys and girls was so dangerous and at a young age lead to strict discipline that I stopped interacting with boys completely. I wouldn’t talk to them in church or at conventions unless a male relative of mine was right next to me. They don’t tell you to behave that way, but it’s expected.

I couldn’t go out alone, or with girls only, or, much worse, with boys who weren’t related to me. Whenever I wanted to do something outside the house, I needed a male relative with me. Even at the supermarket I couldn’t move too far away from my mother (unless one of my smaller brothers went with me). My smaller brothers were trained to “protect” their sisters, us older ones as well as the younger ones. Age didn’t matter, gender did. A girl out alone, walking down the street to bring something to that nice old lady a living a quarter mile away? Can’t have that! There’s all those horny, sexually perverse, monkey-like men just waiting for to pick you up, tell you you’re so pretty and they feel an instant connection. And of course us girls are stupid enough to hop right into bed with them. Or into the car, whatever. No joke, I had to take my younger brother with me in order to bring that old lady a pot of soup when she was sick.

The very few times I got to talk to boys and later men was when my brothers were around. At church, my brothers would talk to their friends while us girls stood next to them, smiled and acted quiet and meek. We were not to look into their eyes, or to laugh about their jokes as this would imply interest in them, not to ask questions because that again would imply interest in them, not to mention that we were supposed to look godly, and godly girls and women are meek and quiet, not straight-forward asking a bunch of questions.

Our lessons for school were different. We learned female things like cleaning, sewing, music and cooking, together with girls from like-minded families. There were meetings with other women from our community, old and young, teaching us different instruments and exchanging “secrets”. How do you get grass stains out of those jeans? What can you do when you overcooked potatoes? It was treated like secret, sacred knowledge. We were miles ahead of those secular feminists who couldn’t even boil water without burning down the house.

We also had lessons on men. How to treat them, how to act around them, what they liked and didn’t like. Wise tips and tricks were given. Always have a glass of your husband’s or Dad’s favourite drink ready when he gets home. Don’t bother him with questions. Cheerfully eat the food you hate once a week if that’s his favourite food.

We were given advice how to dress, too. Our clothes were checked for potential immodesty: Was the neckline too low? Would the top show the skin on your back when you kneeled down to pick something up? Would the skirt outline your butt if you picked something up or was it still lose and modest?

I had a time, or better phase in my life, I was 15, 16, where I discovered a love for colorful hair bands. They made my long, boring hair look somewhat fashionable and allowed different hairstyles than the typical modest braid. I could wear it up, wear it open, wear it in different braids artistically wrapped around my head and top it off with a cool looking hair band. My intention in this wasn’t any other than trying to look somewhat worldly. It had a surprising effect: I was praised for covering my hair. It started a whole discussion whether women should cover or not, and I was asked why I did it – to which I replied “Because I think it looks pretty”. They didn’t realize I meant fashionable, they thought I meant modest and godly. I never corrected them and quiet this practice a while after.

Purity goes far beyond sexual relations. Extreme purity is something that has an effect on every area in your life. I was considered one of the really pure girls in our community. My fear of being anything else was too big to be rebellious.


The sin within us

I have always struggled with christian teachings of sin. Namely, with original sin. I thought it was unfair that God would let us all suffer for a sin that we aren’t guilty of. And yet, in christian belief, we are born sinful beings.

The teachings of sin in Christianity lead to a whole rat-tail of behaviour. Among them is the child abuse the Pearl’s teach. Being born a sinful being means that babies are not pure. They are hunks of meat full of original sin and the parent’s job is to teach them morals and values that they naturally do not possess. “Negative” or “annoying” behaviour in children therefore is not – or only partially – caused by the parents, mainly it is due to their sinful nature. Cleansing this sinful nature to a point where it can be controlled by the child at an older age is the goal of christian parenting via the Pearls. You must make the baby/kid understand that it is evil and bad and that only belief in Jesus as well as strict discipline can limit this sinful nature to a degree where you can actually find salvation. Though they acknowledge the fact that we’re all sinners and will always sin, discipline is the first and foremost way to cage this sin so that a logical, moral way of thinking becomes possible for the person in the first place.

Being born in sin every act of so-called selfishness is due to unlimited freedom of the sin within the young child. If it doesn’t want to share his or her toys, it’s not because that’s a phase or because the child might be afraid to lose its dear possession, it’s due to the sinful urges of selfishness, putting self in the first place with the others and God following behind. Practically a child can be punished for pretty much everything that doesn’t suit the parents in some way and hence leaves the door wide open for domestic abuse.

As a matter of fact the belief of original sin doesn’t exist this way in Judaism. There, babies are born without sin, pure beings. They are corrupted only by their own sin, not by any other. Thought the “seed of evil” exists in every person, brought into the world by Adam and Eve, it’s not the same. Adam caused death and pain in a material way but did not destroy or corrupt the pureness and goodness of every human soul and therefore sin isn’t a pre-existing condition in a human being but an acquired disease if you will.

Why does that make a difference? Because when a child cries at night to be fed, some fundamentalist christian leaders actually recommend not to follow the child’s pleading, as it is sinful, the child wants to control the parents and gain authority over them (three months olds are really mean snakes to some people…). They recommend putting the babies on a feeding schedule that suits the parent’s needs, not the child’s. Funny enough, that isn’t selfish behaviour by the parents.

And then again, we have the Muslims, very closely related to the jews and christians, and they too do not believe in original sin. There, too, a baby is born without sin, pure and good.

I’ve been wondering where this belief in original sin comes from. The jews didn’t believe in it, so it must be something the christians came up with. Maybe at some point, some people got it all wrong and wrote down wrong dogmas?

I know that the teachings on original sin vary even within the christian denominations. I don’t want to go around generalizing christians, I want to point out the very screwed up beliefs among some groups and movements, where a child isn’t born as a little lamb but as an almost demonic animal, wanting to control everybody around; self-centered and wicked. As an example I want to point your attention to an article by Libby Anne. The child in this story obviously isn’t old enough for a reflected decision and simply acts as some children would in certain phases for various reasons. It is being treated as if it was an evil demon, hungry for control and sin. It just reminds me of my own upbringing, where everything a child did was full of sin and evil if it didn’t suit our parent’s wishes. We were born evil, sinful by nature – and in our family, that lead to a whole lot of abuse.