Saturday, December 21, 2013

It's Very Complicated - Part I

Apparently, girls are too dumb to understand math… *facepalm* Such subtlety!
Preface: So it’s been awhile, actually more than awhile. It’s kind of pathetic actually. But I have really good excuses. For starters, I graduated college this year and went to Europe for a grand backpacking adventure. It was amazing and I highly recommend it to everyone. I came home with $30 in my bank account so obviously, I had to get a job and hence, I’ve been pretty busy. The whole Doug Phillips thing is also throwing me because I thought it would happen but of course, I was still surprised when it did happen. A lot of the articles on which I was working will have to be retooled (no pun intended) to fit the current changing status of Vision Forum. However, I do have a few other pieces to post soon, including this one. I will try my best to get the next part up promptly, though I must say, this book is so terrible that it’s hard to find the motivation to keep ploughing through it. :-D Still, I’ve been working on this review for over a year so it's time I finished it.

Finally, I procured a copy of It’s (Not That) Complicated by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin. I never read So Much Less More, as Grace took over that responsibility, so this is the first of their books that I’ve read. As most of you can probably guess and I cannot dissemble, my expectations were very low. Still, I tried to keep an open mind and notice the good and the bad in their effort. An entire package of sticky notes and two pencils later, I have an annotated version of the book and will describe my findings chapter by chapter. Hopefully, this review will make sense to everyone as I tried to summarize well. If it’s hazy, feel free to ask me questions… and seriously, don't read the book!

General Remarks: First, their grammar needs some help as there are consistent glaring errors throughout the book. The entire time I was reading this book, I was distracted by the constant end-of-sentence prepositions. It’s one of my pet peeves and the Botkins were guilty of misplaced prepositions on nearly every page. Sentence structure was okay, except for the fact that many of their sentences began with “But,” “And,” and “Because.” While I know they were trying to write conversationally, most people avoid constantly beginning sentences with these words. Also, in places their wordings were clunky and/or choppy. To be honest, I’m not sure that writing comes naturally to them―they’re okay writers but seem to struggle a little. Plus, their writing style is rather colloquial. They didn’t even fix the grammar errors in interviews (more end-of-sentence preps) or the readability of questions that must have been submitted via text message. In several places, I felt that they were overtly trying to sound hip or cool by using lots of slang. I’m out and about, in college, and have friends in many different places and stations of life and I’ve noticed that most people only use a little slang. Yet, in places, the Botkins use it as if it’s going out of style. This did not make them sound cool… it just made them sound awkward. Then, mid-slang paragraphs, their style will change and suddenly they’re writing high-brow, analytical sentences with big words and lots of jargon. Thus, in general, it was a difficult book for a B.A. owning, self-styled grammar-dragon to read.

Acknowledgements: The Botkin sisters begin by thanking their family for all the support that was given to them during the writing of this book. I’ll give their flowery language a pass here because it is good to thank those who help you. However, I have to say, they need to teach their brothers to make their own cookies. There’s no reason that 16 and 18 year olds would need to pull their sisters away from writing to make cookies for them! Also, in light of recent events, it is ironically hilarious and sad to see that Doug Phillips is one of the men who helped them “understand the purpose and value of our relationships with young men…” and set a “righteous example” for them (ii). Yeah. Wow. Finally, the last paragraph grates on the mind, as they write, “we could not have written this book on boys without hearing the perspective of… well… boys” (ii). Boys? Seriously? You’re in your mid to late twenties, they’re MEN!! My guy friends over 18 are really offended if anyone accidentally refers to them as “boys.” And, if you’re over 18, you’re a WOMAN, not a girl! This terminology is consistent throughout the book and I think it shows a profound ignorance on the Botkin’s part. Plus, it is just plain annoying. Anyway, rant over.

Introduction: Basically, the AS & E discuss the questions that inspired them to write this book. They also explain how/why they are qualified to write about “boys” and educate the reader on how to read the book. First, by starting at the beginning and reading to the end; second, by including your parents; third, by examining their work for correctness; and lastly, by reading “with a tender heart” (4). I tried to follow their rules, believe me I tried, but it was rather difficult.

Chapter 1: The Relationship Minefield 
Here, the Botkins explain why relationships are so complicated and give several examples of “it’s complicated” relationships. Though I find this section easily relatable and I didn’t have many red-flag moments, a few things stood out to me. First, the Botkins assume that young people aren’t one-anothering each other and/or that all young women view men as objects. Thus, they instruct young women to realise that guys are people too. I know some girls have to be reminded―sadly―but the majority of us with guy friends and brothers already have one-anothering and treating boys as brothers down to an almost science. It’s not as dire as they make it seem.

Chapter 2: Why We’re Interested in Boys – And Why that’s a Good Thing
This is the chapter where the rubber hits the road and I started writing on the margins of every page. If the Botkins were relatable to me in the first chapter, the distance between us grew immensely in this one. They talk about how it’s natural for women to be attracted to men and about the biblical basis for this attraction. In beginning the chapter, they talk about how old a little girl should be before her parents begin to instruct her about boys. Here, the Botkins assert that they were “savvy” about boys “as toddlers” and were sure that “grown-up life was all about boys” (15-16). In making such statements as these and saying, “Girls almost seem to come out of the womb with an awareness of boys, marriage, and romance,” they make all women, even the youngest, seem like boy-crazy nuts (16). They also speak of having, “serious highchair conversations” about boys with their parents and the “wisdom” that their parents imparted to them at this age (16). At best, this section was baffling and I honestly found it a little crazy, especially as I pictured parents instructing toddlers in highchairs to “be sensible about boys” (16). Of course, your little girls are obsessed with boys if you constantly talk about them!! Plus, there’s no mention of girls who just aren’t preoccupied with boys or the “cootie phase” that most girls encounter between the ages of 3-12. (I certainly spent more time thinking boys had cooties as a child than wanting to marry them!) Apparently, the Botkin girls never went through the “cootie-phase” and perhaps this is due to their parents constantly bringing the subject of boys into their minds.

Moving to the biblical reasons for interest in guys, the Botkins discuss how woman was created for man and assert, “From the beginning, men were our business,” which is kind of a weird way of putting it (17). Also discussed is the biblical definition of “helpmeet” and the Hebrew word ezer, which means “help” and has a connotation of strength and rescuing or saving. They do not go so far as to say it is an equal position, just a necessary one, and they stress that the “helper” found in Genesis is essential to man’s ability to succeed. However, the Botkins fail to mention that several times, in the Old Testament, the same word (ezer) translated “helpmeet” or “helper” is also used to refer to God Himself. This gives an entirely different flavor to the word helpmeet. As self-proclaimed Bible scholars, the Botkins should be aware of the dual use of this word and thus, it is strange and a little disconcerting that they chose to leave out this important information. Nonetheless, they are not the first patriarchy influenced teachers to fail to explain the full meaning and context of God as our “helpmeet.” *rolls eyes* The Botkins also assert that “every woman’s life is built around men and their leadership” and though true in most cases, the same could be said of men’s lives being built around women (19). After all, even unmarried men have mothers, and possibly grandmothers, sisters, aunts, and cousins. Unless we’re living on a desert island, we’re going to be in relationships with multiple people and some of them will be of the opposite gender. Using this concept to prove a point that women must be helpers to men is circular and almost laughable. According to the Botkins, even single women must learn to relate to men “according to our created purpose as helpers” (20). Then they state that marriage is where women’s helping purpose is “fully realized” and then they contradict themselves by saying, “women’s general purpose as helper is not confined solely to the marriage relationship” (20). So which is it? How is a fourteen year old going to understand this section when I can’t even understand what they’re saying?

Matters only grow worse as the Botkins examine women in scripture and state that men always led and women were always “following, responding, supporting, and enabling” (21). In saying that women “stepped into generally supportive roles towards the men around them” the Botkins manage to marginalize almost all of the Biblical heroines. Some of the Biblical women do fit into their mold, especially Rebekah, the widow woman of Zarephath, the “great woman” of Shunem, Mary and Martha and some of the women around Paul. However, the inclusion of Deborah, Miriam, and Rahab in this list is astonishing. In fact, the Botkins avow that “Deborah never actually took the reins of authority but rather gave them to Barak, and stood supportively behind him” (21). I don’t know what Bible they’re reading but in mine, it states “Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided” (Jgs 4:4-5). Clearly, Deborah is leading Israel and has authority over many men. In fact, Barak is the supporting player in Deborah’s story as he begs her to join him on his mission! Similarly, Miriam was the one who followed baby Moses’ basket and ensured that he knew his Hebrew mother; she’s a major player in the Exodus story. In the same way, Rahab hides the spies in her home and protects them. Although the spies are important characters in this story, Rahab is the only one named and the gets into the most action. At the end of their list, the Botkins write, “The most acclaimed leading ladies in scripture ― Miriam, Rahab, and Deborah, as well as Mary, Esther, Sarah, and the rest―held supporting roles to the men around them” (22). WHAT?! What about Ruth? She’s not even mentioned here! She has her own book of the Bible and she’s certainly the heroine of it. And what of Esther? She isn’t even discussed here, just tagged along with the rest at the end of the section. She also has her own book―about how she risked death to save the Nation of Israel and there’s even a Jewish Holiday named Purim which celebrates their survival. How is that a supporting role?? What about Mary? She was Jesus’ mother and quite the heroine of her story. How can they say that Ruth, Esther, Mary, and the heroines of the Bible are only supporting characters? What Bible are they reading? Continuing in this line of Bible characters, Abigail and Bathsheba and their influences on King David are compared and analyzed. While this is okay, the Botkins take the usual tactic of portraying Bathsheba as a horrible person who tried to cause David to sin. Later in the chapter, they say, “Bathsheba by giving David exactly what he wanted, was ultimately an accomplice to him in one of the biggest sins of his life (87).” Now, the Bible doesn’t actually state any of Bathsheba’s feelings in the affair and it’s very possible that she wasn’t interested in David at all. Yet, if the King (who has power of life or death over you) insists on having you, then you don’t have much of a choice. God actually punished David―not Bathsheba―and even allowed her to be the mother of Solomon, the next king of Israel and she’s mentioned in the lineage of Jesus in Matthew 1. Thus, I sense that there’s a little more to her than the Bible actually states and I find it aggravating when people insist that Bathsheba was the epitome of sin.

To close this section, the Botkins state that men need “us to help them toward their ultimate goal―their own duty to love God…” (25). So we’re responsible if they don’t love God? Is that what they’re saying? Honestly, I’m not sure what they mean here and many times, the Botkin’s lack of clarity leaves such statements open to interpretation. I think that they mean we’re supposed to encourage men to love God (which is very noble) but it could be taken as a responsibility and/or a necessity… and this is where it gets very complicated. :-) All of this is stated to prove that “it appears God means for us to have a healthy fascination with men…” and urge young women to channel their interest into being a helper to the men in their lives (25). While it is nice that they encourage young women to treat men with respect, shouldn’t we just treat all people with respect? Why stop with young men? Why can’t we just love everyone as a person and child of God? In ending the chapter, the Botkins stress making Christ the most important relationship in your life (yay!) and instruct women to focus on Christ, as discussed 1 Cor. 7:34: “An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband.” Then, the Botkins state, “There is a third type of female not mentioned in this verse ― the unmarried girl who is obsessed with worldly things, and how to please fifteen boys” (29). If this were important, it would be in the Bible―but it’s not. Therefore, Botkins, do NOT add to scripture! “Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will rebuke you and prove you a liar” (Prov 30:5-6).

Chapter 3: Boys are People Too – Learning to See Men as God Sees Them
This chapter begins with what should be an obvious statement to most of us―we should be totally aware that men are also human beings with feelings. Yet, I do agree with the Botkins that all too often women fail to see men as human beings and only see them as “a head of hair, a sense of humor, a fancy car, a handsome face, a strong arm…” (33). The Botkins stress that men are not “God’s gift to women” and that we must stop viewing them as objects (33). Then, they bring dominionist theology into the mix and quote R.C. Sproul Jr. talking about how men and women should have “a shared vision” to make “visible the invisible reign of Christ” (34). Yes, we are supposed to focus on Christ and not ourselves but God is responsible for revealing to us what He wants us to do. In addition, throwing words around like “dominion” “subjection” and “warfare” is just asking for trouble (34). In fact, it scares me a little that these people are encouraging others to seek power and authority. You don’t have to read very much history to see that a quest for power has never ended well for anyone. In this section, one of the interviewed guys make a big point of explaining that guys “aren’t looking for a storybook wedding. They don’t even think of marriage as entailing the big romantic wedding and the to-do of a romantic life…. Men, good men, love working hard, and will admire women who love a life of hard work as well” (35). Hmmm. Tell that to my guy friends who like to plan their engagement settings and think about their weddings. Believe me, even if they don’t care about all the details, most guys do care about their engagement, wedding, and romance. Plus, while that all sounds very nice and focused on God, it’s equally self-serving to crave adventure and “spiritual significance” (35). Don’t condemn the young women for longing for romance if you want adventure just as much―just because you cover it in Christian speech doesn’t make your desires holy or better than anyone else’s. Romance is equally biblical… hasn’t anyone read Song of Solomon? Finally, talking about “a life of hard work” can be a recipe for disaster. It almost sounds like Peter Bradrick insisting that he wants a “sturdy” wife and then nearly letting her die. A healthy marriage is a mix of romance and adventure―both things can be a great asset for Christ.

Moving on, the Botkins discuss “Make-Believe Men” such as Mr. Darcy, Edward Cullen, and Prince Henry (yes, he has a name) from Ever After and how young women expect too much from the men around them. According to the Botkins, many girls find out that guys aren’t like Mr. Darcy and protest, “Hey! They’re all like Mr. Collins!” (Probably because most fundie guys are like Mr. Collins! :-D Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Then, they go on to slam “female fiction writers” and refer to Jane Austen as a “19th century spinster” (36-37). (So maddening!) Seriously, though, why is there a whole paragraph about Mr. Darcy and how women swoon over him? Yes, I know it can be a problem but their audience is mostly single, patriarchy influenced young women who aren’t allowed to have crushes on anyone! Plus, no one I’ve talked to thinks that Mr. Darcy is perfect or wants to marry him. In fact, while I like Pride and Prejudice, I think Mr. Darcy is kind of proud, grumpy, and standoffish―I certainly wouldn’t want to marry him. (I prefer Mr. Knightley from Emma… though since he’s a fictional character I’m not planning on marrying him. :-D) In addition, the Botkins discuss “romance novels” and the effect of Twilight and Edward Cullen. Yet, they class Pride and Prejudice as a “romance novel” (37). Excuse me? Pride and Prejudice (and all of Jane Austen’s works) fall into the category “classic literature” and are NOT romance novels. Pride and Prejudice and all of Austen are about far more than just love stories and romance and if the Botkins can’t see this, I think they need to study the meaning of literature again. They also pick on Janette Oke, which bugs me because 1: Her works aren’t that mushy and 2: they are a wonderful way to introduce new believers to Christian fiction. All in all, the Botkins are very hard on romance―I get the feeling that neither of them are very romantic and don’t understand that some people might just be more sensitive, romantic, and i.e. like Anne Shirley.

I’ll admit it… I can’t stand Twilight or the Edward Cullen character so I don’t mind that the Botkins pick on these things. However, I don’t know why their audience would be reading Twilight―again, their main audience is a very sheltered group who would not be allowed to read these books. In addition, they single out Edward Cullen’s sensitivity and insist that manly men aren’t sensitive. Excuse me? While I do believe it’s wrong for women to expect guys to be perfect princes, there needs to be a happy medium. They go to great lengths to differentiate between pink and blue traits and explain that most girls are upset because men aren’t more like women. While I agree that Edward Cullen is a bit too broodish and almost girly, I don’t agree that sensitivity and domestic ability aren’t manly. From my experience, the guys that are sensitive to others and like to cook are far more interesting and better all-around people than those who eschew these things and claim to be “manly.” I was recently on a missions retreat with other young adults and really noticed the difference between the sensitive guys and the “macho” guys. The former were the ones in the kitchen helping make meals for 15 and washing dishes and the latter were outside talking to one another and wouldn’t even dream of picking up a kitchen towel. What’s more, when I observe my guy friends, the ones that are the most caring, helpful, and kind are also the most protective, strong, and well... masculine. In fact, most of the caring guys are the ones I’d like to have with me if I were ever in a crisis situation. The guys I know that are self-proclaimed “manly men” are too full of themselves to be helpful and I wouldn’t want them around in a crisis situation. It seems that the more masculine a guy claims to be, the more conceited he becomes and it’s the humble caring guys with servants’ hearts who are actually the strongest. And you know what? If the Botkins want women to realize that men are people too, insisting that men aren’t sensitive and have no feelings is a pretty weird way of doing it. According to the Botkins, “Interest in technology, war, current affairs, and anything else is quintessentially manly, according to the biblical standard” (40). Actually, there’s no biblical standard or rule book that defines masculine and feminine interests. Plus, I and many women I know are interested in technology and current affairs and would never classify these things as “manly.” The Botkins also think that we have a “particularly weak generation of men” and I’m not sure this is true. Maybe the definition of masculinity has changed and the Botkins are trying so hard to stick to Victorian standards that they missed the change.

Now, the Botkins begin to address the problem of “weak” men and not surprisingly, they blame feminism. (Big shocker there!) At times, I’m surprised to find that the Botkins can be snarky… they call a Christian psychologist that they shared a convention with a “scion of Sigmund Freud” and kind of make fun of him. Apparently, in the Botkin’s view of history, feminism was a vicious socialist effort, planned by Karl Marx and many others, over a period of 100 or so years, to supplant men as leaders and use “a most effective weapon… women” (45). In this gag-inducing section, I feel that the Botkins are just throwing out words like “Marx” and “Socialism” in connection with feminism to fan the ire of impressionable stay at home daughters. None of their history make sense and the facts are carefully crafted to present a completely one-sided view of the feminist movement. They take random quotes by Marx and Lenin and feminist leaders and make them sound like the entire feminist movement was inspired by and still is a part of socialism. Now, there were socialists in the feminist movement, mostly because socialism was popular in the early 1900’s. It was trendy, hip, and progressive to call oneself a socialist in this era. There were even large groups of Christian socialists who did very nice things and helped a lot of people. However, this doesn’t make feminists communists nor does it mean that all feminism is wrong. In fact, (and please don’t freak out) a lot of the early church descriptions sound like a kind of socialism, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” (Acts 2:44-45). I don’t include this as a defense of socialism, or to say that we should be communists, but to point out that the Botkins seem to want a strong reaction from their audience and they don’t provide any background for this Marxist view or any alternate viewpoints. I also believe they use words like “socialism” and “Marxism” to try to elicit an emotional response in their readers (think McCarthyism). As self-proclaimed history experts, the Botkins certainly have a narrow view of history and often, they are completely inaccurate. Next, the Botkins paint a very bleak portrait of our culture and its portrayal of men. One of their interviewed guys says, “Men in media are often portrayed as either sex-crazed teenagers or the Dopey Dad stereotype of every sitcom, with only a tiny sliver of androgynous romantic lead in between” (47). While these stereotypes are present in the media, what about men in films like Lord of the Rings, Men in Black, James Bond, Indiana Jones, superhero and action films, and TV shows like Downton Abbey, Sherlock, and The Middle? Why not talk about them? Is it because they only use examples that prove their point? And why do the examples presented by the Botkins need to be so dire, extreme, and full of angst? I think most of us would agree that it’s wrong to pick on men and put them down just as it’s wrong to do the same to women. There are a lot of problems with our culture but honestly, no one thing/gender/etc. is responsible for them. (Except sin.) So stop blaming feminism for every issue.

Also, a side note, the term “Dominion” and the phrase “taking dominion” is thrown around way too often in this book and most of the time, I get the feeling that the usage leans towards “Ruling Control: power, authority, or control” rather than “Sphere of influence: Somebody’s area of influence or control.” Quite frankly, when I think of some of these patriarchy influenced guys having any kind of power, authority, or control, it scares me. The little power they already have has shown itself to be quite dangerous and nearly unchecked by legitimate (i.e. God’s) authority. None of us needs any more power; we need to be servants and love one another unconditionally. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil 2:5-7).

Chapter 4: Relationship Boot Camp – Back to Square One: How to Be a Sister to Your Real Brothers 
This chapter is pretty self-explanatory… you know what it’s about from the title. However, the Botkins manage to throw in a few eye-brow raising statements all the same. Strangely enough, I sensed that they assume all brothers will be younger. First, they talk about how their little brothers were “time-intensive” and kept them from studying/working (53). Now, I think it’s great to have a large family and help out with/play with your younger siblings. Yet, I think that the parents need to be able to handle their children without expecting others, especially older daughters/sons, to be assistant parents. Also, they use examples that don’t always make sense. It is nice to help your siblings and even cook for them sometimes but it’s not necessary “to make your brother breakfast” (54). Better yet, teach him to make his own breakfast! They say that we shouldn’t divide our lives into “pink and blue worlds” and yet, that’s exactly what they do with the strict gender roles they portray! Also, they speak of foregoing their own interests for some time to help Isaac work on his Egypt project. While it’s sweet that they did this, I couldn’t help but wonder why Isaac didn’t do most of it himself. Apparently, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth wrote “content for the book, on everything from biblical chronology to French mysticism…” (64). This is good but it was Isaac’s project―shouldn’t he have done most of the work since it’s his passion? There’s also a lot in this chapter about trying to perfect oneself and while I think self-improvement is a good thing, it’s not a good idea to try to be so perfect all the time and fall into a “works” based salvation mindset. Plus, we really shouldn’t encourage the idea that familial love is conditional and only comes when we perform all our sisterly duties to perfection. Perhaps the Botkins don’t mean for their words to be taken this way but I believe that some young readers could easily become confused.

Chapter 5: Wounding Friend or Kissing Enemy? Reforming Our Philosophy of Relationships
The Botkins begin this chapter by being particularly critical of guy-girl interactions that seem flirty. They describe a scene in a church or school where two girls are giggling, texting, and teasing their guy friend and still say that they’re “just friends.” (And by the way, the Botkins shouldn’t include “posing” as flirty behaviour because they pose all the time. Practically every publicized picture of them includes pouting and posing.) While I agree that flirty girls can be a problem, I’m still confused as to why this is included in this book. I’m also surprised by the paragraphs that describe very modern situations and then the next paragraph contains a reminder to obey parents if they discourage all contact with the opposite sex. Again, the Botkins seem confused as to their audience. As stated before, their audience is made up of homeschooled, fundamentalist young women who often cannot date, flirt, or even stand too close to the opposite sex. I highly doubt that the situation they describe could happen at a family-integrated church. (And if it does, it seems highly hypocritical.) So why include it? Maybe it’s to make stay-at-home daughters feel better or more holy than their counterparts who can date and go to college. Hmmm… Going on, the Botkins describe friendship and pull out a definition from the 1828 Webster Dictionary (you knew that was coming!). It includes this snicker inducing sentence: “False friendships may subsist between bad men, as between thieves and pirates…” (74). I don’t know exactly why but the catch-all term “bad men” made me laugh really hard. Ultimately, the Botkins state that the Bible is our true guide to friendship. I do agree with this, especially when one looks at the friends of Jesus, the relationships between members of the early church, and Jonathan and David. However, some of the examples provided are a little strange and kind of… dumb. I think they try to be funny but really, I just found myself rolling my eyes in some places. Also, I found myself thinking, “Shouldn’t Bible-believing Christians already know a lot of this information?” Then, they urge young women to “stay in the lines” and remember the difference between “your male friends and your female friends” (77). Actually, this depends on the people involved and honestly, the Botkins are wrong when they say, “young men are not our buddies, bosom friends, or confidantes, and we are not ‘one of the guys’” (78). Yes, there is a “level of restraint” but actually, it is possible to be very close to a guy and not be interested in him. I have two or three guy friends to whom I am almost a sister and we know we’ll never be interested in one another―we’ve actually talked about it. At times, we discuss very personal stuff like who we are interested in and our dreams and hopes for the future. Sometimes, I am “one of the guys” because I happen to be the only girl at dinner after church events and on occasion my guy friends will ask me questions about girl-stuff or I’ll ask them questions about guy-stuff and our conversations are very enlightening. However, we don’t call one another for personal counseling or long one-on-one chats… that would be weird. So I guess all of this goes to say that there are a few lines but they really depend on the people involved and shouldn’t be so rigid. The Botkins mention a relationship that could be going somewhere but stress continuing to love “the other in a selfless and disinterested way” (79). While I agree we shouldn’t lose all reason and hold our breath waiting for him to say something, passages such as these may encourage young women to “shut down” and turn off all emotion. This is a huge danger of so-called emotional purity and it is important to remember that the Botkins are advocates of this teaching. So, while it is good to focus on the Lord, even when attracted to someone, it’s okay to experience hope and emotion. Lapsing into more fundamentalist type rhetoric, the Botkins write, “One thing we don’t see in the Bible is an individual guy recreationally pairing off with an individual girl…” (81). True, perhaps, but then again most modern men and women don’t go off “on special one-on-one bonding outings to make Just Friends Forever [sic] bracelets to remember each other by” (81). *rolls eyes* Again, some of their examples are just plain dumb. I think they’re trying so hard to find a “biblical” basis for their beliefs that they end up making very weak connections and using examples that don’t make sense. Anyway, to quote them again, “in our own case, the young men we’re proud to call our friends aren’t our personal friends, but our family friends. Friends are something all of us share in common” (81). Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful to have family friends but there’s nothing wrong or unbiblical about having friends of one’s own. The concept of having “family friends only” finds root in teachings of Jonathan Lindvall and other early patriarchy/courtship-type teachers―not in the Bible. David and Jonathan were one on one friends as was Jesus with the disciples and Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. It’s perfectly okay, normal, and right to have your own friends―of both genders.

Next, the Botkins talk about things that one wouldn’t do with one’s brother, namely flirting and shunning. While I agree that shunning is silly as well as rude, I do not agree with their definition of flirting: “Flirting. Right, right, none of us were actually flirting. We meant bantering, coquetting, teasing, joshing, bantering, being over-friendly, acting giddy and giggly…” and etc (82). There’s a big difference between flirting and teasing/bantering―the context of the situation is drastically important. I tease my brother, my guy cousins, my guy friends, and pretty much everyone else regardless of gender. My friends and I banter a lot―it’s our preferred mode of communication and merriment. Perhaps if the Botkins were watching me, they might think I was flirting… but context is everything. If you watch interaction between guys and girls and don’t know them, it’s possible to assume all kinds of ignorant things. Plus, it’s really easy to misjudge outgoing girls (and guys) and think of them as flirts when they are NOT. I have several extremely outgoing, witty girlfriends and if you don’t know them, you’d probably find them flirtatious―but they’re not. They treat everyone the same way and tease them equally. Thus, I cannot say it enough, context is vital. The Botkins discuss a time when they were “shy and extremely uncomfortable around boys” and watched an outgoing girl named “Sheila” from across the room (82). Though they were “too shy” to talk to Sheila, they were jealous of her ability to make all of the boys like her. Perhaps Sheila was a flirt but then again, maybe she was just an outgoing girl that the Botkin’s perceived to be a flirt. It’s hard to know since they never really knew her. Still, at the end of this story, they acknowledge that they were envious and point out that their resolve to ignore guys was just as bad as Sheila’s flirting. “Neither of us had the young men’s best interests at heart, and none of us were thinking of us as brothers (83).” Yet, I think there’s more of a chance that Sheila could have teased and joked with everyone―including her own brothers―and thus, was treating all of the guys as she treated her own family. It’s hard to know. One of the quotes from a young man (“Paul”) in this section is troubling, as he says, “When shyness comes from nervousness, which I think it usually does, it shows a lack of Christian love. A girl’s complete confidence is grounded entirely on her relationship with God…. If God has made her His daughter, then she should not fear me. In fact, she should love me…. (83)” So, if a girl is shy, this young man questions her salvation and faith? Ouch! I’m reserved with people I don’t know, especially men, does that mean that they’re judging my faith? That’s pretty harsh!

They go on to talk about how they realized that flirting is annoying as their brothers have gotten older and women tried to flirt with them. I mostly agree, it’s annoying when girls try to flirt with my brother too… but I don’t focus on it all the time. Then, the Botkins suggest that if girls are not ready to have God-honoring relationships with guys, they should just “sit out for a little while” and focus on their “own growth (88).” So, we’re not supposed to shun guys (that’s sinning) but if we don’t feel ready to be friends, we should step out for awhile? I’m confused. How would anyone else know my mindset if I decided to step away from being friends with guys? Logistically, it would be hard to not be friends with guys… unless you went to an all girl’s school or did shun them. And then again, after the quote from the last guy, if you’re not being friends with guys so you can grow closer to God, how will a guy know? Will he be like “Paul” and question your salvation when you don’t talk to him? This is a very confusing and contradictory passage.

Apparently, the Botkins went through a time of avoiding guys, which they now repent of doing, and discuss their road to being friends with everyone. Around the time they came back to the U.S. they “were determined (with Dad and the boys’ encouragement) to get out of our shy, timid comfort zones (89).” They continue, “We’re really indebted to our father for giving us the vision for what these relationships could look like” (89).” Talking about their opportunity to minister, they say that their father, “encouraged us to be natural, friendly, sisterly, and gracious, and to let go of our silly hang ups about greetings and handshakes (89).” Unfortunately, my thought here is, obviously he needed them to be at the forefront of his money-making schemes *cough* ministry and talked them out of their hang-ups for his own benefit. Now of course, they’re grateful for his guidance and for the discussions they’ve had with young men about “history, politics, theology, the philosophy of music and film and art, literature, military history, biblical law, and more. Talking to men is iron-sharpening in different ways than talking to women (90).” Is that because these subjects are seen as “manly” and women don’t know how to discuss them? I talk to men and women about all these things but maybe in the Botkin’s world, one has to find a man to have a conversation about history or politics because women don’t know anything about these topics. I could be wrong… but that’s how they make it sound.

Stay tuned for Part II!


Friday, November 1, 2013


Doug Phillips' Statement of Resignation 

I can't say I'm surprised. In fact, I knew something like this would happen eventually. A little bit of power is a dangerous thing. Now I hope they start looking into the financial aspects of Doug's "ministry" because I've long suspected that those costumes & trips don't pay for themselves. And I find it disgusting that this statement makes no mention of the other woman and how this has affected her life. Pray for her. Because I'm guessing she's being thrown to the lions right now.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Please Tell Me More...

I've decided to respond to these comments in a post and plan to do the same with similar comments in future. If I have time, I may do this with all anonymous and cranky comments in the future. However, I'm still moderating the comments and all the rules in the comment form still apply. Normal commenters are still safe from trolls and are welcome to have open discussions. 

So trolls, you have been warned. Comment at risk of being made an example and given a nickname you'll probably hate.

Dear Warmly, my own personal troll of the week,

(Since no name was provided, I dub you Warmly, after the convivial valediction in your comments.)

Thank you for providing several perfectly, articulated examples of trolling. Seriously, that was grotesquely impressive. In the course of a few hours, I think you managed to commit every one of the things that I find disturbing.

I’ll be honest: it is hard for me to see this from your point of view. I found your tone to be very accusatory, invalidating, and at times, downright bonkers. I’m going to try to address some of your points but, it’s hard to know where to start.

First, what right do you have to be so upset with me? I’m not talking about you, in fact, I’m writing about very personal issues and hurts in my life. I have been personally injured by the patriarchy movement and I don’t want others to experience the pain of legalism and false teaching. That’s why I work on this blog. Maybe you don’t agree with that but I think you could respect it. I’ll admit it, my writing isn’t perfect―I openly admit that it’s always a work in progress. Still, that does not give you the right to act in this manner.

Of Trolls and Hatemail

You wrote, “it's impossible for you to know their hearts and by slandering them with your one-sided research is childish and ungodly.” I never claim to know the hearts of these leaders/teachers nor judge their faith/salvation. However, I can see their fruit and I will point it out when I can clearly see that it is rotten. (Matt 7:15-20)

“It's just plain wrong for you to be saying most of what's on this blog; you have no right, so quit whining when others criticize you and buck up if your going to continue your pharisaical rantings. [sic].” To quote you again, “This is a free country and conservative Christians ought to be given the same right to living as they believe God is directing them.” I am a conservative Christian and I believe God has called me to write on these matters. Why will you not give me the same rights you claim for yourself? Are you given the right to decide who can speak up and who can’t?

“If you're a Christian, as you state,” It is impossible for you to know my heart just as I cannot see the hearts of the leaders in the patriarchy movement.

You wrote, “people…don't need a professional research assistant to do it for them.” I disagree… and you took my meaning out of context. Busy homeschool moms and dads don’t always have time to pull all the pieces together and do the research required to present a wider picture. I compile the information and provide background. Yes, I include my own analysis but I encourage people to think critically about all the information presented. My words were never meant to suggest that I think people cannot find these things or interpret them on their own. I know nearly everyone could find all the information but some people simply do not have the time to do so. Plus, if these leaders continue to post things and then take them down, it is important that someone holds them accountable by saving the information.

"I feel sorry for you, Ingrid. You must be miserable; I'll be praying for you." How touching! Please refrain from praying the incendiary Psalms down on my head.

Learning to Fly

“You're grossly mistaken, Ingrid. Unless someone has specifically explained to you that that is the reason they ask you how you're doing with your sister's marriage, you should not make premature assumptions (which are extremely biased, I might add) as to what people mean by their questions. Now, I'm no expert on reading peoples' minds as you seem to qualify yourself; so this is my human opinion….” I find it intensely amusing and weird that you believe yourself qualified to not only read my mind, but also explain how I was wrong in interpreting a personal experience/conversation. Were you there? Did you see and hear the conversation? Did you examine the non-verbals and the feedback? What did the kinesics show you? Tell me more about your “human opinion” of something that happened to me since I clearly can’t interpret conversations without your help.

"Think about it: you and your sisters are probably really close; one of you is getting married; can't you put two and two together and realize that most of the time a sister's sister is marrying the other sister is, excited, yes! But also a bit saddened?" Oh, now you're telling me how I should feel! Thanks so much!

"Maybe I'm wrong and your relationship with your sisters is not a very good one, so perhaps you instinctively knew that there were unspoken, hidden meanings behind their questions after all." Nope. My sister and I have a good relationship. But even if we didn't, I doubt my friends would try to pry into it.

“But I don't think that is a good topic to be covering here if it's your own personal relationship and trying to apply it to other unmarried young women is unfair.” Your sentence structure makes this hard to read but again, I find it amusing that you’re telling me not to write about my personal experiences (which, as any writer will explain to you, is the best source of all) and that I have nothing in common with other young women. Wow. You must know so much about me.

“Then, you go on to describe and critique what these single girls are THINKING. Goodness! You must be a mind reader! Or, perhaps you've spoken with girls who tell you these things, and even in that case, why are you trying to put all of us single girls in a box and assume that we all have the same problem?” *sigh* Damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Let me just say that I used my own thoughts and struggles for this article and wrote to help other girls like me. If none of it applies to you, then don’t put yourself in that box and don’t read about my experience.

“Honestly, Ingrid, when I read your posts I only need to read through two paragraphs to write an entire article on.” It’s probably a good idea to read each article in it’s entirety before writing a rebuttal. But if you don’t want to do that, you could stop reading them altogether.

“Have you EVER considered doing something "honest and true" with your life? ... You have grown a deep, deep root of bitterness in your heart, Ingrid, and trying to find comfort in nit-picking other people's personal decisions as to how they dress, live and love is never going to make you feel better.” Since you don’t actually know me and all the different facets of my life, I think you should stop before you embarrass yourself. And then you go on to describe and critique what I'm THINKING. Goodness! You must be a mind reader! Sound familiar? It works both ways you know.

“First of all, Ingrid, why do you so readily assume that girls in conservative Christian homes live and breathe only for the goal of marriage?” Because it is such a clear focus on blogs, in books, and in the conferences that these families read/attend. There’s a whole book titled “Before you meet Prince Charming” and discussions by the Botkins of “How to occupy ‘till he comes.” Why did Anna Sofia Botkin write an entire article about her issues with turning 25 and not being married? (Maybe she shouldn’t write about her singleness and try to apply it to other girls? Isn’t it unfair of her to try to apply her struggles to others? :-D You see, Warmly, it again works both ways.) And if marriage isn’t the goal, why in heck are all of you preparing to be “helpmeets?” If you never get married, how do you justify all this training to be a “helpmeet?” Spending your whole life serving your father is not in the Bible, it's just not there and those who believe it is are taking Scripture wildly out of context.

“But where do you get the idea that if we never marry we think our life to be worthless (maybe these are your thoughts and you feel that way)?” Haha. No. I love not being married, it gives me freedom to travel the world and write all the time. But I wouldn’t mind getting married someday if the right guy asked me.

“From my perspective within a loving, conservative Christian home (not fundie, not part of a Patriarchy "Movement", not bewitched), life is about serving, loving and ultimately glorifying God in everything we do, say and think. Do you not agree? It's not about marriage.” Yes, I do agree. I’m glad you have this perspective.

“So when you see a 30-something single woman joyfully serving and living with her family, stop to think: maybe, just maybe she is doing God's (not Ingrid's) will. Maybe God has other plans for her than marriage, or He's using her in other ways before marriage and she's passionate about those things. Maybe, just maybe, Ingrid, God's right and you're wrong...just this once.” I’m sorry but I would probably stop and feel sorry for any woman who is 30+, single, without a self-supporting job, and living with her parents.  Maybe, just maybe she is living out her father’s will rather than God's? I find this an extremely narrow idea of God’s calling for women and refuse to believe that it is God's will for most of the young women involved in the movement. "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26-27)

“What "system"? Scriptural Christianity should not be considered a ‘system.’” Scriptural Christianity? Really? Where in the Bible does it say that women cannot go to college? Where does it state that they must serve their fathers until marriage? Where is courtship? Where is militant fecundity? Where is the family integrated church? These things are a system. The gospel of Jesus Christ is Scriptural Christianity and it is a relationship, not a list of hoops to jump through and visions of men to fulfill.

“Oh, and you're right- this is a "tricky situation"; for you. Because you can't seem to wrap your mind around the "whys" that girls are choosing to stay with their parents at home until marriage. And if that is the case, you have no say on the subject.” I live with my parents. Mostly to save money and save for travel and my future. However, I will move out eventually, married or not. Is that what you’re asking? It’s nice to know you won’t let me have a say on the subject, but then, I can choose not to listen to you.

“…the only thing that truly cuts it in God's eyes is who we really are; deep down inside, are you really saying these things for Him?” Yes.

“Or does it make you feel all warm and fuzzy to put others down?” No.

“Is your goal to truly help and love conservative Christian girls and their families?” Yes.

“Or are you trying to take revenge on them for past hurts and disappointments?” No.

“It's not your job; let it go.” Yes, actually it is and no, I will not stop. Who are you to tell me God’s will for my life? Do you really think He would tell you and not me? Stop and think: What if God has called me to write these articles? Would that change how you respond to me?

Grace’s Story

I will respond for Grace as she is lately married and also, I don’t want her to have to read your hurtful words right now. I cannot believe how you invalidated her experience. Not cool.

“Grace, I'm sorry that you took godly books meant to be used as guidelines (not law) so legalistically.” Was that meant to be kind? It didn’t sound like it.

“But please don't slander the Biblical wisdom laid out in them.” Biblical wisdom ? Are you crazy? You think these books contain biblical wisdom? Again, show me in the Bible where it talks about courtship and where it explains the concept of emotional purity laid out in these books.

“God wrote the Bible; not you. So no matter what went wrong in your thinking, God's always right.” What does this even mean? Grace isn’t talking about the Bible but books written by fallible human beings. You do know the authors could be wrong, don’t you? Are you getting these books and the Bible confused or equating them on the same level?

“And those of us who live by His Word are living vibrant lives.” So we didn’t follow the system correctly and that’s why we were so hurt? Ouch. You just completely invalidated this deeply personal experience. Do you go around saying this to other hurt and broken people? Do you think you’re only blessed by God if you do everything right? That sounds like a prosperity gospel. Further, how do you explain Job’s situation?

Have you ever considered the minute possibility that YOU were wrong and not the books/authors? That YOU took things too literally and YOU are the one to blame for your difficulty in conversing with young men?” Certainly, there is a margin for error on Grace’s part… but don’t you think the authors of these books could also have made some mistakes? Do you think they might have overstepped their authority and made up rules not found in scripture? Do you really think giving impressionable fourteen-year-olds these books is a good idea? While I don't like to think of myself or my sister as victims... don't you think it's wrong to blame the victim?

“I think you and your sister must be incapable of taking responsibility for your own actions, thoughts and decisions in the past and are attempting to play the blame-game on Christian authors and single girls who "actually" choose to save their first kisses for marriage and take seriously the amount of influence we have on young men's fight with lust (oh, I do hope you believe Matt. 5:28; otherwise I see how it would be hard for modesty to be an important issue to you).” Wow, that was a long sentence. As for blaming others, we do take responsibility for our own actions. However, those who have set themselves up as teachers are here being held accountable for their words. If they set up stumbling blocks and tie up heavy burdens for others then they are very much accountable for these actions. (Matt 18:6 and 23:4). I think that filling a young person’s head with false teaching is just as bad as dressing immodestly and produces a similar stumbling block. Finally, what’s wrong with you? Just because Grace and I don’t agree with legalistic approaches to relationships doesn’t mean we’ve gone off the deep end and are kissing every guy in sight and dressing immodestly. Not everything in life is extreme and dramatic. To quote my own article, “Please stop acting like a hormonal teenager and realize that there is indeed a middle ground.” In fact, Grace did save her first kiss for the guy she married; she just didn’t make a big production out of it. And I’m still saving mine and I’ve been complimented and thanked many times for my modest apparel. These things are just a part of my life—they don't define me—and I just don’t make a big deal out of them.

Really though, it’s probably not going to do any good that I just refuted your words. You have your opinions about me and frankly, will anything I say change them? All I can say is that “by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect.” (1 Cor. 10) I’m a sinner, saved by grace, and that’s all that matters. Even if I am all that you believe me to be: miserable, bitter, controlling and etc.; God still loves me, accepts me, and will never forsake me. I don’t know what happened to you to cause you to respond to me this way. I’m sorry if you have been the recipient of such words… it’s not an enjoyable experience. Yet, God is greater than any of the storms we face and He will never let us down.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom 8:31-37)

P.S. Your warmth burns like fire... maybe you should reconsider your valediction in the future.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Of Trolls and Hate Mail

I’ve had this blog for nearly seven years and there have been times when I have been very tempted to stop writing. None of these moments were very recent… in fact, most took place six months to three years ago and that’s why I can talk about them now. To be honest, I’ve received a lot of hate mail from multiple sources (some published, some not) and even several uncomfortable threats because of the things that I’ve challenged on this blog. Honestly, there’s been a few times when I was so scared, I wanted to stop. At times, it’s been really hard to keep blogging. I get the idea that people think I’m some kind of sarcastic nut with a lot of time on my hands (I’m not!)… I’ve had commenter’s question my salvation, I’ve had barrages of 10+ angry comments within an hour, and I’ve been told by complete strangers that I need to repent. It’s crazy! I don’t mind when people ask intelligent questions and politely disagree or want to discuss, heck, I actually like it, but this is wrong on so many levels. It’s not always easy to keep working on this blog. Don’t get me wrong, I like being able to help people and provide resources for those who need them, and I’m not meaning to complain. But I have to be honest and tell you that it’s really hard sometimes. For the record, over the last seven years, I’ve been called: a worker of iniquity, immature, cynical, caustic, angry, deceiving, lying, conniving, “so mean,” lacking in humility and love, bitter in heart, accused of being Jennifer Epstein (that made me laugh actually), and told that I am glorifying satan. I didn’t make any of those up and believe me, there are lots more.

I talk about a lot of upsetting stuff on this blog. Do you honestly think I enjoy this? I used to like Vision Forum and Doug Phillips and Little Bear Wheeler. I read Josh Harris books and thought Emotional Purity was the way to go. But then I learned it was all a lie. And I don’t want anyone else to be deceived. Do you think I like having to write about Kelly Bradrick’s near death experiences or that men in many churches abuse their authority? Because I don’t. It makes me sad. Things aren’t meant to be this way and I can’t believe that the name of Jesus Christ is being used for such evil purposes. I can’t understand how people can act like this in the 21st century. But if I don’t say anything, who will? There’s a lot of sheep out there who can’t seem to think critically about the right things and there are a lot of people, some of them even my friends, who fail to notice important issues and take a stand. Sometimes, I feel like Aragorn in The Fellowship of the Ring when he speaks of his efforts to protect the Northern part of Middle-Earth, “And less thanks have we than you. Travellers scowl at us and countryman give us scornful names. “Strider” I am to one fat man who lives within a day’s march of foes that would freeze his heart, or lay his little town in ruin if he were not guarded ceaselessly” and sometimes I also feel like Sherlock, “Is it nice not being me? It must be so relaxing.”

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this lately, because I’ve gotten a lot of comments over the years and read a lot of “woe is me posts” written by leaders in the patriarchy movement. Frankly, I think people should be aware that it is hard to keep up an anti-legalism blog and the tactics resorted to by followers of patriarchy and legalism. Not every follower of patriarchy has been like this, but unfortunately, the majority have been.

So, here’s a list of the things that Patriarchy followers tend to do as they comment on my blog:

1. Question my salvation. This. Makes. Me. So. Mad. Who are you to judge my salvation? I may criticize the teachings and actions of people like Peter Bradrick and Doug Phillips but I will never question their salvation. Only God can see a person’s heart and know where they are with Him. I can jolly well evaluate their teachings, words, and actions, but I can’t see anyone else’s heart. You can evaluate my words and decide you don’t agree with me but that doesn’t give you a right to play god and declare that I’m not a Christian or need to repent. It absolutely disgusts me when this happens. Therefore, I expect that those who consider themselves Christians will treat me with the respect that is owed to another believer. So, don’t be like this…just don’t do it. It weakens your credibility. And if you're saying I'm not a Christian just so you can be mean to me... wow. Like, really, wow. That is some perverted theology there. I can only imagine how you treat non-Christians.

2. Claim to be persecuted or spiritually abused while actually dealing out persecution and spiritual abuse. See #3. This is so annoyingly hypocritical. So it’s okay to be horrible to me and say all kinds of nasty things but when someone so much as questions you, you’re all up in arms? Oh and you should know: people questioning your beliefs is not a form of persecution. It’s perfectly okay to have legitimate questions and concerns and if you’re a Christian, you should have an answer for your faith. However, treating me and other bloggers terribly and then being very sensitive about how you’re treated is just nauseating.

3. Threaten me. Threatening to call my pastor(s), bring me before church councils, take me to court, have me kicked out of my church, or thrown to the lions is not okay. In fact, it was horrible. There have been times when commenters have been so vicious and intrusive that I’ve been afraid of physical harm. Lying awake worrying about knife attacks is not something that I should have to deal with… frankly; it reminds me of the persecutions that the early church faced from the Jewish religious authorities. I should probably note that it wasn’t really the government persecuting the early church, it was another religious organization. Come to think of it, a lot of persecution in the past has come from other religious bodies trying to correct or “save” one another. (Jews/Christians, Catholics/Protestants, Puritans/Quakers, etc.) It’s a pretty ugly past. So knock it off and don’t be like them.

4. Love-bombing. Try to act loving and write things about being kind and loving towards you when they are clearly so angry that they cannot see straight. Maybe it would be better to just say, “I’m feeling very angry with this right now!” instead of “I’m lovingly trying to discuss this with you.” You don’t love me, you really don’t, so don’t try to act as if you do. Why don’t you cool off a bit and find some perspective before you write to me.

5. Patronizing and/or accusing me of gossiping. This happens all the time… commenter’s act like I don’t know what I’m talking about or that I cannot possibly be credible so they have to explain things to me in small words. Look people, I have a college degree in research and I’m really good at it. I use lots of credible sources, check it a half-dozen times, and make sure it’s right. If I’m wrong, I admit it and I’ll correct it. Stop telling me I’m making all of it up and gossiping. All of the information I found is well documented, still available in multiple palaces, and/or posted by the people themselves. If they didn’t want it discussed, they shouldn’t have put it out there.

6. Defend people they don’t know/barely know. This boggles my mind. Why would you defend Doug Phillips, the Botkins, or etc. when you don’t even know them! I’ve had people who know me actually take the side of the person whom they’ve never met and probably never will meet. What is it that makes these distant pastors/teachers more important than someone you’ve known for years? Don’t you have any respect for your friends? Any loyalty that drives you to try to understand my concerns? Haven’t I been there for you? This is just so disappointing. And may I say that the sin of partiality is a very real issue in the church today. (See James 2.)

7. Think that just because they are Christians, their motives are pure and right and therefore, it is okay to harass me. Prefacing scathing comments with “it’s for your own good!” and “I’m writing because I want to lovingly correct you!” does not make them okay. On several occasions, I’ve had barrages of angry comments that were really consistent with stalking and harassment but when this was pointed out, those responsible could not believe that their actions were, in fact, criminal. Being a Christian does not make you above the law and certainly does not exempt you from practicing common decency and respect. If an abusive husband is a Christian, he’s still an abuser and he’s still accountable for his actions. No matter how good you think your motives, you’d better consider your actions from several angles before proceeding. As C.S. Lewis said, "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

8. Enlist other people to help you when you think you’re losing a discussion/argument. Bringing in other random people to yell at me doesn’t help your case at all. And trying to involve my parents (or significant other when he appears) is just silly. I’m an adult and I can take care of my own problems.

9. Don’t take the time to organize their thoughts and end up word vomiting every incoherent, sleep-deprived thought in their head into a comment. I’ve gotten lots of angry comments that were submitted late at night and, from what my stat counter tells me, immediately after reading a post. If you’re upset about something, it’s a good rule of thumb to wait at least one day before commenting. You’ll be more coherent and rested and maybe I’ll actually learn something from you instead of wondering a: why you’re so impulsive and b: if you were drunk, in pms, high on caffeine, or a professional hit-man.

10. Flounce after leaving a scathing comment or conversely, constantly monitoring my blog so you can leave nasty comments on every new post. My stats reveal a lot and I can tell if you come back or don’t come back. Why bother to leave a comment that requires a response if you’re never going to read my response? You might be wrong you know and maybe you should listen to my side, even if just to be polite. Goodness knows, I read every comment I receive, no matter how awful may be. On the flip side, constantly checking my blog so you can critique me is creepy. You’re turning into a stalker so just stop it.

11. Misquote scripture and/or take it out of context in a desperate attempt to validate your beliefs. This happens all the time, to the point that it would be funny if it weren’t so serious. Sometimes I wonder if patriarchy followers even read their bibles because many of the ones who comment do not understand/apply scripture correctly at all.

12. Think that teachers/leaders cannot possibly be questioned. Ever. But then again only certain leaders who have been deemed worthy (mostly due to celebrity status, wealth, and/or number of books/cds sold). Hate to break it to you but Jesus made it clear that it is perfectly acceptable to question religious leaders and hold them accountable. He even called them snakes, hypocrites, and broods of vipers. (Please don’t decide to call me that! :-) I already know I’m vicious and conniving *rolls eyes*) He told us how to judge the teachings of others. Multiple passages in scripture speak of holding teachers to account for their actions and teachings. (1 John 4, James 3, Luke 12:47-49). I take this very seriously because I think that includes me too. Plus, all Christians are supposed to be wary and act as Bereans so my questioning shouldn’t be this big of a shocker to you.

13. Not catching sarcasm and/or completely lacking a sense of humor. I’ve had commenter’s take my jokes and sarcasm seriously. This is usually followed by a very awkward, condescending lecture by comment on their part and hysterical laughter on mine. Seriously people, learn to laugh at yourselves. Life is hard enough already without taking ourselves and our lives so darn seriously.

14. Claim and cling to a lofty ideal or vague hurt while dishing out a steaming personal attack. Focus on the problem, not me. Calling me names does not make you seem like a victim to anyone, it just makes you a bully. Clinging to your own faith and idealism while attacking me is also very wrong, not to mention disturbing. As a matter of fact, stay away from personal attacks all-together, it’s not fighting fair and will not accomplish anything. If I’ve hurt you personally, talk to me about it calmly in one coherent e-mail, devoid of threats, patronizing, and the like, and I will be willing to listen.

15. Jump to conclusions/extreme thinking. This ties into #1 and it happens all the time. Why is it that when you point out one fault in a leader, patriarchy followers assume that you’re a horrible, vindictive person? Just because I discuss Peter Bradrick or the Botkin sisters and point out their errors, does not mean I viciously hate them, am scandalously trying to tear them down, ruin their testimony, or blah, blah, blah. (They’re doing a pretty good job of ruining things on their own; I’m just making it more visible.) Sorry to disappoint you but I actually just believe that their teachings are wrong and that this should be pointed out. I’m also very concerned for them and wish that I could help them escape from their controlling influences. Please stop acting like a hormonal teenager and realize that there is indeed a middle ground.

16. Trying to sidetrack me with another issue or little, nit-picky details that don’t matter. This isn’t fighting fair, in fact, it’s called kitchen-sinking in communication terms. You say you’re a Christian, so please act like one and focus on the gospel and the issue at hand.

17. Throw out all logic, reason, and common sense in their desperation to justify their leaders. I got this a lot with my post about Kelly Bradrick. Several commenter’s seemed to think it was okay for Kelly to be emotionally and physically abused as long as it was okay with her. NO! It’s NOT okay! Stockholm Syndrome is a real thing! Abuse is wrong, it has been wrong, and will always be wrong. Your desperate attempt to justify Scott Brown and Peter Bradrick is extremely disappointing and pathetic.

18. Tell me to just contact that person or just go meet with them and it will all be okay. *insert cynical laugh here* Yes, because it’s so easy to go out to lunch with Doug Phillips or Kelly Bradrick. Most of these people never respond to e-mails or phone calls that question them, if you can even find an e-mail address or phone number at which to contact them. I wrote to Shelley Noonan nearly two months ago, she isn’t even that high on the ladder, and I still haven’t gotten a response. These people are very insulated and not accessible at all. It’s not that simple. Plus, these teachings are very public and if no one refutes them publicly, how will anyone know they are wrong and/or realize that there are others who do not follow them?

19. An incredible, passionate, furious desire to defend their favorite leader(s) from any and all criticism and questioning. Seriously people, if these leaders were upset with me for calling them out, they would have taken care of it themselves and contacted me directly. It is truly astonishing how sensitive patriarchy followers and even evangelical Christians can be. Quit acting like these people are your “gifted” children and protecting them. They are all adults, with lawyers no doubt, and can take care of themselves. So, save all these defensive instincts for protecting your family and real, close friends. And maybe you should examine why you’re so darn protective and touchy about these people. Perhaps you’re making an idol out of them and that’s what makes you so very sensitive to my criticism of their actions?

Honestly patriarchy followers, you’re a pretty vicious bunch. Who would have known that so much venom lies behind those sweet facades and pretty pictures! I’m not impressed with you. You should be secure and cemented in what you believe, not flying into a mad panic at the slightest bit of questioning. If you’re so secure in your beliefs, why do you lash out like you’re afraid of something? And if someone asks you something that makes you question or makes you mad, why do you flounce? What are you afraid of? Of finding out that the people you admire and/or follow are sinners and maybe even false teachers? Jesus never lets you down… if you’d just focused on Him in the first place, you wouldn’t be so scared, confused, and angry now. Try thinking critically and taking a step back to see things from other people’s perspectives for a change and stop lashing out like a bunch of wounded tigers. A couple years ago, I decided one thing, even if I have been scared sometimes; I’m not going to stop writing. I began this blog to protest the injustices of courtship. That was the main goal. I was personally injured by the courtship movement and I’ve seen the inside of all of it. It’s not the pretty, little picture they try to sell and it doesn’t work all the time. I do have to remind myself to deal with the message and not the messenger. That’s why I’ve edited some posts over the years to remove nitpicky things, though sometimes those lines blur and you have to discuss a few issues that are more personal. There’s a place for standing up for what you believe in but it should still have a sense of decency and respect. And if you don’t like something on my blog, that’s okay. I never expected everyone to agree with me or see things exactly the way I do. My articles are open to discussion but my personal life is not. You can disagree with anything I write but if you’re attacking me personally, save your fingers. I’ll probably post it and I’ll respond if I feel it is worth the fight. If only one thing has come from this, I am more interested in my blog than ever and more determined to keep fighting against rules and formulas and legalism―and arguing for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Honestly, I don’t really mind that I’ve faced name-calling and threats as I’ve pointed out false teachings. It doesn’t worry me anymore and truthfully, I’ve moved on. It’s made me a lot stronger and even more willing to stand up for truth. And be warned, God keeps on giving me the strength to write and thanks to all of you, I have developed a very, very thick skin. So don’t expect me to stop anytime soon.


P.S. Don't think I am the only anti-Patriarchy writer who deals with hate-mail. All of the people I know who have blogs and/or help those caught in Patriarchy movement have endured similar situations. Some have even dealt with lawsuits and far worse attacks than those that I have experienced. We just don't talk about it a lot and we definitely do not mean to complain. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Paradise Recovered

I don't usually recommend films, especially Christian ones, as I find that most self-styled "Christian" films can be very trite, over-sentimental, rigid, contain poor production values, and can have fundamentalist overtones. You're far better off watching films like Chariots of Fire or The Blind Side than Courageous. (Especially since the Kendrick brothers, the filmmakers behind Courageous, Fireproof, Facing the Giants, and Flywheel, have documented ties to Gothardism, Vision Forum, and other fundamentalist groups, see here and here.) That being said, I am happy to find a film that is relevant to what I write on this blog. Paradise Recovered is an excellent film that clearly portrays the dangers and allure of fundamentalist cults, as well as the journey taken to escape from them. After sitting through many fundamentalist films and documentaries, such as Return of the Daughters (and usually yelling at the TV the whole time :-D)it was refreshing to see that there are filmmakers who are Christians who want to share truth and use film to raise awareness about real problems. In addition, since I've worked in independent film, I'm very sensitive to elements of production and find it grating when they're not right. I was very happy to see that Paradise Recovered has excellent production values and the music was really good too. All in all, I highly recommend this film and I'm so happy that there's finally a film that I can give to friends who wonder why I'm so fussy about theology, courtship/dating, and gender issues within the church.  

Watch the Trailer here:

And, here's the link to the film's website:


Monday, January 14, 2013

The Three Weavers

My copy of The Three Weavers, complete with lots of post-its flagging the many troublesome spots. 

This is a letter I sent to Shelley Noonan, the author of The Three Weavers Plus Companion Guide which contains the short story "The Three Weavers" plus a study guide. This story has always bothered me and I think it's about time someone pointed out the issues within it. In addition, I'll send this critique to any author/company who republishes this abysmal story in the future. If you haven't read it, I believe that it is available online as it was published in one of The Little Colonial books in 1903. The original story was written by Annie Fellows Johnston but it has been republished by many Christian authors because of it's perceived merit. Anyway, here's the letter: 

Mrs. Noonan,

Allow me to introduce myself, I grew up in a happy Christian home, was homeschooled, and am now a young, college-graduate. I’m pretty familiar with many of the books popular in the homeschooling/courtship movement in the last decade and the ideologies that drive their authors. Recently, your edition of “The Three Weavers” came to my attention.

As a child, I received the story of “The Three Weavers” in a collection of “Christian” fairy tales. While I liked the story, something about it always bothered me, and as I’ve gotten older, I finally realize why I was disturbed. This story runs counter to scripture and presents false truth―based on works and not on grace. In order to be certain that the story presented was the same as mine, I purchased one of your editions. To my dismay, the text is even worse than the one I read as a child. In both editions, “The Three Weavers” teaches that God doesn’t keep His promises, that love is conditional, that it’s always your fault―even if someone else causes your pain, that grace and forgiveness are not possible, and that good things only come when you do everything right. Additionally, the study guide provided in your edition renders the text even more disturbing, especially because there is no attempt to counter the warped ideas of the text. The study questions even further some of the repellent ideas presented in the story. I know this letter is long but it contains the issues that I found within the “Three Weavers.” I’ve gone through the whole book, making notes and carefully studying the ideas and concepts presented. I tried to divide my analysis into two sections and so I’m looking at the story first and then the study guide. Please take your time and really consider what I've written.

Before beginning, I must define the word “biblical.” For my purposes, “biblical” means scriptural truth, rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the character of God. All too often, Christians believe that if something is in the Bible it is “biblical” and thus, right and worthy of emulation. This is completely erroneous―if this definition is followed, it means that slavery, bigamy, incest, and genocide are also “biblical.” Thus, my use of the word “biblical” refers to scriptural truth.

One of the first problems with “The Three Weavers” is that it was written during the later-Victorian period and contains ideals popular at that time. Though some books from this time period are wonderful, many written for children exhibit empty moralism rather than truth. Some books from this time, such as the Elsie Dinsmore series, even include racism and/or neo-colonial ideas. It is wrong to believe that any story from this era (or any other time) is “Christian” or biblical simply because it mentions God and/or employs “Christianese.” Many book published at this time used Christian language and sentiment because it was popular to do so and thus, they must be held to a high standard and carefully examined for their merit. Scare tactics are also common in stories from this period―which is highly unbiblical as we are told not to fear (2 Tim 1:7). Unfortunately, this story contains features typical of a sentimental Victorian story that isn’t actually based in truth: fear is used as a motivator, grace is gone, the perfect girl is rewarded, and those who fall short are doomed forever.

Looking at the text, one of the biggest issues with the story is this: if God promised that each girl would marry a prince, why didn’t it happen? This allegory portrays completely counter biblical themes as it declares that God will only keep His promises if people do everything right, keep all the rules, and work as hard as they can. This is wrong and not in line with God’s character. God promised Abraham that he would be the father of Israel and that the Messiah would come through his line. Abraham messed a lot of things up, he lied, slept with his maidservant, and his descendents weren’t much better but God still fulfilled His promise. Why publish a story that makes God seem indifferent and untrustworthy?

Turning to the characters, there are multiple issues in their moral compasses. Dexter is clearly an abusive, authoritarian father; he blows up and yells at Dinah when she asks a simple question and refuses to treat her with respect. Yet, the study questions do not address this: “Dinah went to speak to her father about the loom ‘with eyes downcast and cheeks flaming.’ What does this tell you about Dinah’s personality?” (74). What should those studying the text write here? It is clear to me that she is abused―she presents the classic signs of being afraid of her father. “Do you think she approached him in the correct way? Why or why not?” (74). What exactly are the questions driving at here? How exactly should one approach a bully? Especially when the bully is a parent and you are a child. What could Dinah have done? Is it Dinah’s fault that she’s abused? Acting as if abuse is okay is very wrong―the study guide should address Dexter’s sin far before it addresses Dinah’s fear. Also, the text is very vague about Dinah’s situation: if she didn’t disobey her father, her cloak would never have been ready for her prince and when she did, she doesn’t get the prince. This presents a completely lose/lose situation. Her father was clearly wrong to forbid her from weaving and yet, the study guide says that even though her father is a “tyrant” her “error came when she chose to weave in secret after he told her not to weave at all… Dinah’s life would have been easier and less disappointing if she had just obeyed her father. Severe as he was, God placed him over her to guard her heart and protect her from harm” (59). This presents an extremely sticky situation. Can’t we admit that we live in a fallen world and there are some fathers that are not worthy of obedience? What if a father asks a daughter to do something morally wrong? Or tries to completely thwart her chances at happiness, as Dexter did to Dinah? In this area, the study guide excuses the abusive behavior of the father and pins all of the blame on the daughter. How is this okay?

Elton’s behaviour was disgusting―if Esmee really needed to stay perfectly pure in order to marry a prince, then it is half his fault that she didn’t. Yes, she chose to give away multiple cloaks but he encouraged her in this, teasing her and saying, “‘Is that your prince?’ or ‘Is it for this one you weave?’” Esmee is a child and then a young girl; she needs guidance and takes her cues from her father. He certainly has a large part in her not taking her work seriously and even tempts her to sin. Jesus said in Matthew 18, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (v.6-7). Elton’s sin is very serious and unfortunately, is not addressed by the study guide. For a book that encourages parental guidance, I would think that this area should be emphasized so that father’s (and mother’s) understand how important it is to keep from tempting their children to sin. Again, the father is the one primarily at fault but it is the daughter who suffers the total and complete consequences. I find this very disturbing and off the mark.

Each girls’ relationship with her father seems to be the product of chance… it seems that none of them actually could do anything to change their situations. Dexter was abusive and controlling, Elton was careless and uncaring, and Griffin was the model father. This presents a rather strange determinism; the idea that the daughter’s fate is out of her hands, being steered by her father and his actions, and cannot be remedied. Doesn’t it seem wrong that Dinah and Esmee are doomed to their fate by the poor choices of their fathers? At the end of the book, the study guide confirms this idea in saying, “From the day of the daughters’ births, the fathers set into motion the conclusion of the story by their words and deeds (or lack of them!)…. What the fathers sowed, the daughters reaped” (122). What does this tell girls with fathers who fall short? That they have no hope of a future? Plus, this takes scripture out of context! The study guide claims, “we will examine more closely the law of sowing and reaping (122).” What law? Galatians 6:7-10 is clearly speaking of an individual and their personal choices affecting their personal life…not the lives of their children. For according to God’s law, “Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin (Deut. 24:16).” Deuteronomy 24 is referenced several more times in the Bible, such as in 2 Kings 14:6: “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sins.” Thus, the claimed “law of sowing and reaping” is not a law and the phrasing of the study guide seems like an attempt to add to God’s word.

By the way, where are all the mothers? I know that the original story does not say anything about the girls’ mothers, but it is odd that they aren’t in the picture. Did the girls just spontaneously generate? Didn’t this ever bother you? Honestly, I find it a little creepy and weird that mothers don’t seem important in this tale and for the most part, are even left out of the study guide. I agree that most fathers need to work harder in building relationships with daughters but at times, the book’s ideas seem over the top. Purity is a subject that a daughter needs to discuss with both of her parents, not just her father. It is wrong to focus more on one parent or gender than another.

Later in the story, Griffin tells Gabriella that the man she has noticed is not for her and says, “This is not the one that has been promised by God for you” (95). Are we supposed to assume that Griffin was a prophet or priest? This passage seems to indicate that he has become a priest who has complete control over all of Gabriella’s decisions. What if Gabriella was destined to marry a page or knight who was a prince at heart? How did Griffin know any of these people were right or wrong just from looking at their outward appearance? “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). I understand that this is a fairy tale… but why would we encourage people to act this way in real life? To be honest, I really don’t appreciate the story’s vilification of normal, common people such as shepherds, pages, and knights. It seems to be written from a 19th century upper-class perspective and it seems strange to me that we would try to encourage this line of thought in the 21st century. Plus, it doesn’t follow Christian history as King David was a shepherd, some of the first people to receive the news of Christ’s birth were shepherds, and Jesus himself was a carpenter, born into a poor family.

In addition, the examples of the “princes” interested in marrying the Dinah, Esmee, and Gabriella are disappointing at best. In each case, instead of looking at the girl’s inner and outer beauty and accomplishments, the prince is only interested in the gift each girl can present to him. When this gift is below his standard, he doesn’t provide a second chance or any alternative to the young woman. He simply walks away and leaves forever with “one look of distain” or a sorrowful gaze (111). What does this tell young girls? That we are to judge others for one aspect of their life? That we must set expectations so high that we cannot forgive or show any grace? That their purity is the only thing that gives them value? Or, that if they make even one mistake, that a godly young man will be unable to forgive them? This is so off the mark. Look at Tamar and Judah, Samson, Jonah, and even David! All of these people made mistakes, and some even committed sexual sins, but God still used them for his glory. How blessed are we that God is the giver of second chances! Finally, who would want to marry these so-called princes? None of them seem very admirable or worthy, just full of themselves and their own importance.

Furthermore, why doesn’t the text offer a second chance to Dinah and Esmee? All we are told is that “Dinah’s heart was as broken and shattered as the mirror of the lady of Shalott” and that Esmee’s “heart broke like the shattered mirror of the Lady of Shalott” (112-113). That’s it? Do their broken hearts ever find healing? Do they recover? Find a new life somewhere away from their horrible fathers? Is this supposed to make us feel good? Are we supposed to think we’re better than them? And then the girl’s studying the text are asked to “complete” their stories? What a sad exercise. These women live in a world without grace, just what sorts of things would be open to them?

In looking at the study guide, I think I should note that statements such as “obedience is the second trait to cultivate in your daughter’s character. This is necessary for her to have in order for you to guard her heart,” are completely off base (59). No one can build character in another person! Only God can change someone’s heart. “There will be times when you make a decision that she will see you as a tyrant. Learning to be obedient, even when she doesn’t understand your reasons, could save her from untold heartbreak” (59). This is also troublesome, as I have rarely thought my parents to be tyrants. The few times I recall thinking that they were oppressive or tyrannical usually ended in an apology from their end. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton). Parents who expect absolute obedience and believe that their children must have specific character qualities are emotionally abusive. Nowhere in scripture does it state that fathers (or mothers) are to guard their children’s hearts nor are they to claim absolute obedience from them. And then, there’s that whole issue of adult children and their independence. Expecting absolute obedience only protects small children who cannot understand; for older children and teenagers, this only produces outward conformity and inner resentment. Eventually, these children and teenagers grow up and more often than not, end up experiencing more heartbreak as they try to free themselves from controlling parents. The best parents are those who take the time to explain and reason and earn the respect of their children. All too often, parents do not relinquish control and cause their adult children untold irritation and pain because they cannot let go. Finally, the language used in the study guide is worrying with lines such as “Find out what scripture says about obedience and techniques you can use to train your daughter to develop this rare quality” (60). Honestly, it makes daughters sound like pets in need of obedience training rather than human beings. Also, some of the verses on obedience (60-61) are taken out of context; the misuse of scripture passages is a persistent problem throughout the study guide.

Before I go into the next section, I must address the concept of “guarding your heart.” This phrase is only found a few times in scripture (3 in the NIV) and is often misinterpreted. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Pvbs 4:23).” Currently, “guarding your heart” is often used in reference to romantic relationships―i.e. keeping yourself unentangled and pure. However, that is not really what scripture means here. Guarding your heart has more to do with discernment and keeping filth from polluting your mind and then coming out of your mouth. It does not mean that you are to try to keep yourself perfectly pure and sinless―that’s impossible. As scripture says “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin?’” (Pvbs 20:9). God promises to give us a new clean heart washed in the blood of Jesus and He himself guards our hearts. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:7).” And this popular verse: “My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways” is often taken out of context and really means something along the lines of “pay attention to me as I warn you about dangers you may encounter in your life” (Pvbs 23:26). Thus, the concept of guarding your heart or giving your heart to your parents is a completely modern sentiment and actually, can be quite destructive. Unfortunately, Proverbs 4:23 is often taken out of context and used to crush dreams, feelings, or ideas involving romance; encouraging a state of detachment, even in a romantic relationship, that promises to keep one’s heart “pure” and the owner without any pain. This is selfishness and certainly not biblical and can end up causing a lack of openness and an unwillingness to be vulnerable. As C.S. Lewis writes, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

While I agree that mutual trust does build a relationship, the discussion of trust found in the study guide is rather alarming and seems to place the father in a position that only God can fill. “Trust on her part means having a faith, reliance, expectation, and belief that you indeed have her best interest at heart. Inversely, trust can be defined for you as caring, keeping, protecting, and guarding her and desiring her best” (63). I italicized the last sentence for emphasis―this is not trust on the father’s part. Trust is defined as confidence and faith in a person or thing―a true definition of a father’s trust in a daughter looks something like this: “Having a faith, reliance, expectation, and belief that she will make the right decisions and act according to God’s word even when her parents are not around.” As for the explanation of the daughter’s trust, I love my father and I trust him but I never thought of it in such flowery terms. “Ultimately, your trust relationship with her will form her view of her heavenly Father. You have a weighty responsibility” (63). Jesus is the only person who is our example of God in human form. It is true that sometimes people view God in terms of their earthly father. Yet, this is not found, nor encouraged in scripture. We are all models of Christ, both men and women, but we are fallible human beings. We should want our children to look to Jesus and not to ourselves. Instead of encouraging fathers and daughters to trust in man, I believe it is crucial to encourage trust in God and His plans. The salvation section contains these words, “Father, make sure your daughter has entrusted her life to you” (104). WHAT? This is crazy! “She should not only place herself under her heavenly Father’s protection, but she must also trust you enough to allow you to protect her here on earth. Is she willing to place her heart in your hands? Is she willing to give you the key to her heart for safekeeping?” This is not based in scripture! Yes, it is a good idea to protect your daughter along with the rest of your children but this is just wrong. There’s nothing in the Bible about trusting your life or your heart to your parents―only to Jesus Christ. Why would any parent want to claim their child’s total devotion? No parent is perfect. Plus, when the child becomes an adult, there is no need for the father (or mother) to continue micromanaging their child’s life.

In the silver yardstick letter, the study guide states, “Your points need to be based on scripture so you can fortify your position with biblical truth” and yet, the example letter contains points that are not found in scripture (64). Number 3, “He must be able to support a family” is found nowhere in scripture and is simply based on the gender roles of our culture. There is nothing in the Bible about the man being the sole or primary provider for his family―this is a cultural assumption. Number 4, “Both of you must have similar life goals” is a nice idea and I find it an obvious goal but again, it is not found in scripture. Finally, Number 5, “He must meet with my approval” does not have any scriptural basis. As much as many people wish that there were guidelines in the Bible for dating and marriage, there really aren’t any and the God does not give parents final say in their child’s future. It is a good idea for the parents involved to approve of their child’s future spouse but sometimes, they are unreasonable or foolish. Ultimately, the choice lies with the (presumably) adult daughter to make her decision and live with the results.

Going further, this question: “What kind of (spiritual) profit would you like to see in your daughter’s life?” really bothers me (91). A father’s (or parent’s) concept of spiritual profit for their child might be vastly different from God’s plan. The accompanying Proverbs seem to be taken out of context as they cover a broad spectrum of “plans” and there are just as many Proverbs and Psalms that hold this thought: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Pvbs 19:21). It seems that only scriptures that suit this theory have been included and ones contradicting it have been left out―resulting in a narrow concept of God’s will. It is not biblical to plan out someone else’s life and the following passage holds multiple problems, “Picture the rolling of your plans like a big ball into God’s capable hands and through Him; they are established… it is a done deal!” This makes God sound like a vending machine or Santa Claus―a benevolent figure who takes the plans of men and makes them happen exactly as we desire. This is completely contrary to scripture! God makes His plans and we carry them out. We do not tell God what to do! God can do whatever He wants with us―just look at Job―because He’s God. Yet, He’s loving and has plans to prosper us and not to harm us (Jer 29:11). Yes, prayer and free will do have an impact but ultimately, our plans must be submitted to His will.

In the activity on page 107, these two lines gave me pause, “You will protect her from men that are not qualified” and “You always have her best interests at heart.” First, who is the judge of the qualifications? The father? Both parents? What if their criteria is not biblical? This is an extremely sticky area because there are many, many stories of parents ruining the relationships of their adult children, especially in conservative evangelical circles. Controlling your teenage or adult child’s love life is not biblical or right. Second, many evil things have been done with the words, “I have your best interest at heart!” We should be teaching parents to give their children to God and let them go as Hannah entrusted Samuel to the Lord.

The text of the study guide places a lot of emphasis on crushes being evil and wrong and a girl could start to think that she’s lost her purity, or part of it, by having a crush. Crushes are normal. Every young girl has them and they are a part of growing up. With a bit of common sense, they aren’t a big deal. Demonizing crushes only leads to guilt and anxiety as girls are afraid to admit that they have feelings and believe that they are sinning in having natural attraction to a young man. Nowhere in the Bible does it state that attraction to the opposite sex is wrong, in fact, Song of Solomon almost encourages a healthy appreciation of attraction. As long as they do not turn into willful sin, crushes are a completely normal, natural part of being young. Attraction happens and making it into a sin is only setting up young women (and men) for failure and guilt. In addition, there have been multiple reports (and I know from personal experience) that teachings like these can cause serious emotional problems. If a young girl turns off her emotions or views good things as dirty or evil, she will have a long and hard time recovering when she does marry.

The concept of a mistake is poorly defined within this text and could be confusing to girls. Is it simply having a crush? Or is it actually a physical action? Again, does the text really mean that a woman’s value is only found in her purity? If so, what about victims of rape or incest? Or those who make one mistake or come from a troubled background? Are they now devoid of value and unable to receive forgiveness? I believe that virginity is important and purity is beautiful but neither purity nor virginity are commodities that can be “lost forever.” For those who repent from a life of sin, choosing purity can be a reality. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

Overall, this book places a high emphasis on getting married with the discussions of hope chest, purity ring/ceremony, and wrapped gift/letters to be opened before the daughter’s wedding. While I think these items are well meant, they may not be the best thing for daughters. These things can easily become idols and encourage frustration with singleness―which is also considered a gift on par with marriage in God’s word. What if it is God’s plan that the daughter never marries? What if she is single for a prolonged period? Marriage is a beautiful, God-given institution and gift but it is not the ultimate end of any person. Our purpose is to love God and glorify Him forever. In fact, Jesus was not married, nor were many of the prophets or the Apostle Paul. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul writes that it is better to be single and that “it is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do” (v.7). Our Christian culture has made marriage into an idol, caused untold suffering, and put unneeded pressure on those who have been called to temporary or even permanent singleness. There should be some portion of this book that acknowledges the gift of singleness and does not make marriage into an idol.

I know this has been long and probably hard to hear, but someone needs to say it. It is my hope that you complied and published this work in ignorance of its errors, both scriptural and moral. Obviously, you are not the first Christian publisher to wrongly believe that this story is worthy of study. Still, I beg you to consider the product that you are selling. It needs to be seriously re-written or taken off the shelves all-together. I will be posting this review on my blog because unfortunately, the damage has already been done. Multiple copies of “The Three Weavers” from many different publishers are floating around, wrecking havoc on the lives of otherwise normal people. I want this critique to be available to anyone who searches for this book and thinks that it might be a helpful resource.