Saturday 21 February 2009

Finding my place

(This is a bit of a continuation of my last post.)

These past two years have been years of discovery and change, to the point where I no longer feel at home, well, anywhere within the Christian community.

I suppose, though I now cringe to admit it, I would previously have described myself as being on the very conservative side of conservative Christianity. If it was "conservative", I was there - and the more conservative, the better. And clearly anyone who disagreed with some part of conservative Christianity was just using that as an excuse to not have to be obedient in that particular area - a sentiment I still hear almost daily from the conservative side of Christianity.

Gratefully, and by the mercy of God, I no longer feel that way myself. Slowly I began to see the things that weren't quite "right" with that ultra-conservative ideology - first one thing, then another, then more and more until what I had previously felt at home with now looked so completely foreign to me that I could no longer abide with it.

Now I see it everywhere. It seems glaringly obvious to me, this ideology that appears so "biblical" on the surface and yet, digging deeper, is often nothing more than excess burdens imposed by man, a need to keep up with the Joneses, a competition, mere outward appearance.

I know I linked to this series in my previous entry, but Taunya really hit the nail on the head early on in her first installment of The Marketing of the Titus 2 Woman:

This month we must wear skirts only, the next we must purchase an 1868 dictionary, the next we must only read from the King James version of the Bible, the next month KJV is out and it must be the ESV or else we are reading heresy. By the middle of the year we must change our homeschooling curriculum because the one we are using is not Christian enough, by early summer we must all have our children stop dating and read the latest book on courtship, by mid-summer we are going to hell if our daughters even look at a college with interest. By then end of summer even our sons need to stay out of college in favor of an apprenticeship. By fall we must all put on clothes from the 1860's and admit that the South was right all along and Lincoln is the worse thing to ever befall this great nation of ours. By Thanksgiving we had all better be trying to have as many children as the Duggars (currently they have 18) or else we are not as godly as we think we are. By Christmas if we find we cannot have that many children we had better adopt that many. By New Years we need to have all of our children (dressed alike I might add) lined up according to size and ready to leave our church of 10 years to head to that Family-Integrated one down the road. What is a Family-Integrated church? Wow! if you don't know you aren't as godly as you thought you were. Finally and most importantly our husband must immediately be able to teach us and our children theology on a seminary level or else he is clearly a backslidder who does not love his family!

The hardest part in untangling it all is that it is all based - very loosely! - on biblical principles. Start with one verse or biblical principal, ignore the context, build up a whole set of rules around it, and presto! One more man-made burden to take on in the name of being "godly" - and shake your head ruefully at any who don't jump on the bandwagon right behind you.

So much of it I can no longer stomach. The patriocentric movement. The quiverful movement. The "biblical method" of parenting - I feel physically sick to read some of the descriptions. (And these are parents who truly love their children and mean well, earnestly desiring to raise godly children! If only they could see the damage they are doing - like the quivering daughters they leave behind.) The proliferation of "Titus 2" and "Biblical Womanhood" and "Biblical Femininity" writings, and the even greater abundance of women who form their ideas of biblical living based on such writings, turning their families' lives upside down every time they step away from the newest blog post or book. The "one size fits all" approach to everything. Our ("godly") way or the highway. The legalism that drenches it all.

As I said, I could never feel at home there again. Which is funny, because I do most of the things they preach - I just do them for different reasons, and I don't believe they should necessarily be universally applied to all Christians. I am a skirt-wearing, birth-control-avoiding, homeschooling, living-lightly mama with a marriage that most conservatives would approve of. And yet I firmly disagree with patriarchy, I don't believe it is a sin to take steps to conceive or to avoid conception provided the couple is following the promptings of the Holy Spirit and not the flesh, I don't think it is sinful for women to wear pants, and I understand that someone can be both Christian and send their children to public schools!

But I don't fit in with the liberal end of Christianity either. I do believe there is Absolute Truth. I do believe there is one way to God, through Jesus Christ, His Son and our Saviour. I do believe the Bible is true, inerrant, and historically factual. I do believe that homosexuality is a sin - while sincerely loving the person and welcoming them into fellowship. I do believe there are fundamental differences between a man and a woman - while wholeheartedly rejecting the teachings of patriarchy.

The evangelical movement. The health and wealth gospel. The emergent movement. I can't find any footing in any of them either. There seems to be no one set "type" of Christian that I can identify with - and many days I am so disappointed by what I see in the church that I wish there was some other way altogether of identifying myself as a follower of Jesus Christ.

(And, of course, there is no one defined "conservative" or "liberal" or "evangelical" or "emergent" or "_____" Christian - there are all sorts of people within each - which only makes it harder to find solid footing or to discuss any particular ideology in any sort of fruitful manner.)

Sometimes it can be difficult to avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater, if you'll pardon the cliché, but I have sought earnestly to be cautious that, while turning away from the extrabiblical principles of conservative Christianity, I don't leave behind the true biblical principles at the same time. So that's where I'm at right now - continually digging, searching, praying, looking for the Truth in a religion that has strayed so far from where it should be. Walking away from religous teachings and back to the Bible and the welcoming arms of the Creator Who left it for us. Giving my life to God, not to a movement or doctrine.

Relearning Grace - grace from God, grace for others, and grace for myself.

Grace, sweet grace.


  1. I was at the point of feeling the exact same way, and now I'm entering the Catholic church. Just a fair warning. ;)

    Though, could you clarify what you mean by "patriarchy" in this context? I'm not sure I understand.

  2. I want to pass along another blog you might enjoy reading (if you don't already). Maria often comments on and links to my blog regarding parenting stuff, but has committed to posting on Sundays about her religious journey.

    Perhaps you will find something there that will help you. Here was her inaugural post on the issue:

  3. Lauren, we would become part of the Catholic church over my husband's dead body! (And, truthfully, there is much there I couldn't agree with either - meaning absolutely no offense to you at all.)

    As for what I mean by "patriarchy" and "patriocentricity" in this context (I didn't get into it because it's such a huge topic all on its own, but I'll try to give a brief explanation here), I am referring to the movement that places a man as the "prophet, priest, and king" of his family. The movement espouses the idea that only men are given "callings", and it is the duty of women and children to support those callings.

    In this movement, a wife’s sole duty is to serve her husband. The most damaging of this twisted theology comes from Debi Pearl, who has a chapter in her book Created to be His Helpmeet entitled “Seeking Something Higher than God”. According to her, a woman who spends too much time digging into the Word is performing “spiritual masturbation”. All of a woman’s spiritual instruction is to come first from her father, then from her husband. But Debi and Michael Pearl are an entire series worth of blog posts all on their own.

    In this movement, a daughter is under the complete authority of her father until such time as he gives her away in marriage. Post-secondary education is discouraged or outright prohibited (some even go so far as to discourage even basic high school level education). She learns how to be a good wife by being a good "helpmeet" to her father. Anna Sofia Botkin of Visionary Daughters (a very vocal voice in the patriocentric movement) "urged girls to actively search for ways to make themselves helpful [to their fathers], including being delightful to their father; learning to love the unique blessings and challenges which come from being their father’s daughter; and equipping themselves with the skills to help their father in his interests-ordering their priorities around the goals of their father." Her sister Elizabeth Botkin has spoken on “How to be Your Father’s Arrow, Ambassador, and Princess", explaining that it is the duty of daughters "to bring honor to both their earthly father and heavenly Father, by their public and private example.”

    Others vocal in this movement include Doug Phillips of Vision Forum, Geoffrey Botkin, and Voddie Baucham.

    Patriarchy leads to a horrendous amount of spiritual abuse and, while “supported” by a cherry-picked series of verses, is in its entirety the farthest thing from being biblical. Jen has laid out one such story of the abuse she experienced under this movement, and there are so many more like it out there.

    I know that wasn’t terribly brief, and yet it’s only the tip of the iceberg as far as what the patriocentric movement (wrongly) teaches.

  4. Annie gave me the link to your post, and honestly from the title of your blog, I thought we might be kindred spirits. Well, except I'm not a housewife. LOL! I do, however, believe I am part hippie, and I have been looking at my spiritual journey with new eyes lately. I had wondered if I really fit anywhere as well, and then my husband took me to a Disciples church, and I have not turned back. Anyway, I look forward to following you and getting to know you (and your journey) better. It's nice to know I am not alone. :)

  5. Lauren, one additional thought - the patriarchy movement also teaches strict hierarchy, with a wife and children answering to the man of the house, and he in turn answering to God. This goes completely against what the Bible teaches in regards to everyone having direct access to God through Christ.

    And, with that said, I'll try to hold my tongue until such time as I'm actually writing a blog post on the subject, not "briefly" answering a reader's question. Heh.

  6. Annie, thank you for that link, I appreciate it!

    Maria, I'm glad you've found a place you feel at home in. I look forward to reading more about your journey. :)

  7. as I've been looking for a new church I've been dealing with some of the same thoughts. Part of me is just use to being the way I've always been though.

  8. This was amazing, and I find it very interesting. I think there are more people out there like yourself than you think.


  9. Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving your comment on my post which was about almost this same subject. I'm not sure how you found my blog.

    Anyhow, praise God for HIS grace. It really is okay to do things differently than others do them. There is no single right way to be a Christian woman.

    I have been bruised greatly by many through the years, not the least of which was the mainstream church which told me (as a young Christian with a 3 year old and 1 year old) that I ought to be more involved in the ministries of my church and to put my children with a babysitter to enable that to happen. All I really wanted to do was to stay home and be with my babies, but since that isn't what "good Christian women" did, I sought to be what I was expected to be. I could go on an on, but I'm sure you understand.

    God leads us all in different ways, and just because I might do something differently than you do (and we might not agree with each others' positions) it doesn't mean that either of us is wrong.

    For example, on your profile you list cloth diapering as an interest. Many in that camp have condemned those that do not practice cloth diapering. But it is just a preference. One person is not more godly because of what she does or doesn't do.

    May the Lord fill us with grace as we relate to those that have different ideas than we do.

    Have a lovely day. And enjoy every moment with that little guy. They DO grow much too quickly.

    Love in Christ,

  10. Patti, thank you for that comment full of such wisdom. I'm sorry that you have been hurt in the past but so glad that you have since found freedom in that regard.

    (And yes, while I do think there is much to be said for cloth diapering, I'd never consider myself more "godly" for doing so!! I suppose all camps have their extremes and moments of gracelessness.)

  11. Thanks for the definitions. :) The word "patriarchy" has a billion meanings, so I had no idea where you were going with that. I usually hear the word though from feminists who say it while spitting. :-P

    I've never heard of those things as a movement, interesting, though I've always believed some of it on a much less drastic level... Like, I was always taught the man being the head of the house and that before marriage the father is a head, and everything... It didn't occur in my family, lol, but every Christian I knew had this sort of family and practically every famous Christian book on dating follows it and it was mentioned in my premarital counseling as well. Perhaps these are two different things though?

  12. Lauren, you're right, it could mean a lot of things. I appreciate you asking for clarification. :)

    As for believing those things on a less "drastic" level, that's what I meant when I said that it's hard to untangle such things from the true biblical principles that they are supposedly based on. This excellent list of affirmations from might clear some things up:

    that husbands are to love their wives even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her;
    that wives should submit themselves to their own husbands as unto the Lord;
    that children should obey their parents in the Lord;
    that fathers should not provoke their children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord;
    that the truth of God is to be taught diligently to our children when we sit in our house, walk by the way, lie down, and rise up;
    that God commands husbands and wives to be fruitful and to multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over it;
    that children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is his reward;
    that aged women teach young women to be sober minded, loving their husband and children, discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed;
    that if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel;
    that John came before Christ in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children;
    that many in the patriarchy movement misinterpret these verse summaries and other scriptures, ignoring sound exegesis and application of Christian liberty.

    I do affirm those things which are biblical. It is the "extras" that I have such a problem with. The idea that abuse is always the woman's fault for not being "submissive enough". The notion that a daughter is her father's helpmeet, and under his direct headship until such time as she gets married, no matter how old she is when that happens (also relevant is 1 Corinthians 7:34, which says that a single woman is concerned about the Lord's affairs, devoted to Him in both body and spirit - not about how to bring glory to her earthly father). The presumption that wife and mother can be a woman's *only* calling, despite the Bible stating that singleness is perfectly acceptable. The audacity to refer to a man as the prophet, priest, and king of his household. The concept of headship in the sense of a woman having to go through her husband in order to get to God, rather than approaching God directly through Christ. The control rather than relationship, the abuse, the strict prohibitions - and on and on and on.

    Like I said, this is such a big and complicated topic, so please don't take this as the complete picture nor even the beginning of a biblical argument against it.

  13. I HEAR you!!! This is a great post... one worth re-reading!!! I always tell my husband that I am a blend of this and that, but in the end... I love Jesus and am so thankful for His saving Grace and work in my life! As a future Pastor's Wife I feel so many of the burdens you addressed and am saddened by them. We are praying we will be led to a church that fits us...We are thinking E-Free becasue they keep the main thing the main thing and are not into details!!!
    Huge Blessings!

  14. It took me a few days to digest what you were saying. I think I understand now and I wholeheartedly agree with you. While I believe in a lot of the things you mentioned, like not using birth control or wives submitting to their husband, I also don't like the degrees to which they've been taken by many groups, churches, etc. It does seem like so many concepts which are indeed biblical have been turned into a sort of legalistic, abusive system of domination and control which misses the love and humility of Christ.

  15. I've seen a lot of wacky and even a few awful things during a two year period of time that we attended a small, family integrated church. I feel a strong urge to rant about them here, but even after being out of that church for a year I feel so much emotion well up in me that I don't think I could clearly articulate the things I witnessed or experienced personally. There's so much rubish out there in the name of God that people forget to look to God's word to find the truth.

    As an aside, I can tell by your comments that you're no fan of the Pearls. I can see where you're coming from, but for fairness sake I would like to point out that they are not supporters of the patriarchal movement. Mike Pearl wrote about his views on this movement in the last two or three newsletters. The first is entitled "Cloistered Homeschool Syndrome" in the Sept/Oct 2008 issue. The second is "Patriarchal Dysfunctional Families, Part 2" in the Nov/Dec 2008 issue. And, the latest is "The Balanced Patriarch" in the Mar/Apr 2009 issue. You can find this in the magazine's archives at the No Greater Joy website. I don't feel it's right to misrepresent Mr. Pearl's views, even unintentionally.

  16. Hi! I found you via the sidebar at quivering daughters. I'd like to link to this - it very much sums up the searching state that I am in at present as well.

  17. I love this post! The church today drives so many people away because it's so concerned with works, and they are so pious. Even online it's like this! I have felt 'not Christian' enough to even have online friends because my girls go to public school and daycare, and I work outside the home, etc, etc. It was so refreshing to read this! It's not a view point I hear a lot :)

  18. I found this from Carole's link. What a great post. I can so relate!

  19. Joyce, I appreciate your clarification and I understand what you're saying. You're right, they have spoken out against parts of the patriarchical movement, and yet their words in other places make it difficult to pinpoint what exactly they truly believe. As with many other subjects they speak about, what they say in one place doesn't seem to line up with what they say elsewhere. Regardless, I do appreciate you pointing out those articles; you're right in that I am no fan of the Pearls, but I wouldn't want to speak falsely either.

    Carole - I'm flattered!

  20. I think where the Pearls lean toward the patriarchal movement is in their notions about the marriage relationship. Their overall belief seems to be that if there are any problems in a marriage it is the woman's fault. If only the wife will submit, submit, submit then no matter how lousy her husband is the marriage will be good. If the husband doesn't take care of his family, is addicted to pornography, is out drinking, etc. then it must be the wife's fault; she surely must be an unbearable nag who isn't submitting to her husband.

    Really, I've found a lot of things written by the Pearls to be very useful, especially concerning tying strings to your child's heart and teaching responsibility. Even a lot of the things written about being a good wife have been helpful to me, but they always seem to take it a bit too far. I know whenever I read something by them I have to be prepared to pull out the weeds.

  21. This post really hit home with me. Since I've become a parent, I've found myself more and more alienated with most Christians I know. I long for friends who share my faith as well as at least simliar views on parenting and life in general- or at least aren't polar opposites. It's so hard when we have friends who share our faith over, but then they take their children to the bathroom to spank them. Or, I meet people who I can talk to about making my own green cleaning products for the house, but then in the next conversation they are telling me that they don't think God exists. So, it was nice to read your post and know that there are others out there feeling the same way.

  22. I returned to the Catholic church because I was so tired of the others and their idea of a woman's role. I left the church many years ago due to what I thought it was. I returned and got educated and agree with most of it. It isn't perfect but then name one thing here on Earth that is.

    I am twice your age, raised my kids as agnostic and have turned back to God as a Catholic and am home. If you ever get a chance go to It is a Catholic station.

  23. Hi, I stumbled on to this from another blog and couldn't help but to comment. I hear all of what you are saying. I grew up Baptist( only on special holidays and occations though) and went fully to the world and all that comes with it at a very early age. When I was 24, the Lord reached out to me and drew me so to speak by a preacher who stood on the street corners of the downtown district we lived in holding signs that had scriptures and words of truth. I know how you are feeling, you see the obivious hypocrisy in the "conservative side". The problem with this side is that these people are ruled by the "church" and what they deem as right or wrong. Didn't God give every man a conscience? This is what rules us and keeps us following Jesus. The church is not suppose to rule our hearts, Jesus is. BUT may I add lightly, that there are very clear teachings that are to be applied i.e. modesty(for the opposite sex and our sake)Headship in the home, etc.. and basically anything that Jesus teaches in the NT. If we love God sincerly, we WILL find truth by doing what HE says. There is a cross in TRUE Christianity, and it comes at a high price. I'm not talking about the cross that Jesus died on, but the one that we are called to die on daily. Read the Martyrs Mirror and also I recommend this website Search the early Christian writings(ante-nicene) and see what they held to, as most of their teachings and beliefs they got directly from the apostles. Make sure that they line up with scripture of course.

  24. I'm a bit late to the party - I just found your blog. I was wondering if you had looked into Orthodoxy. My interest in Orthodoxy has led me to learn more about the early church and the continuation of that church. I have no idea of where you are in your journey or where you've been, but I did want to mention this as it has been very eye-opening for me personally.

  25. Sounds like a condensation of the journey I have been on, too.

    I really enjoyed the quote from Taunya who really captures the spirit of peer pressure and keeping up with the Joneses that seems to help spread these things, and this phrase of yours:

    "turning their families' lives upside down every time they step away from the newest blog post or book."

    Many people have the ability to make legalism sound not only palatable, but glowingly delightful. And there is no one who shares the glow of it all like the new convert....who has not yet been ground down by the system. And often it is those new converts who write the blogs, who share the delighted sense of finally having found it, the system that pulls it all together. And the system comes with concrete specifics that are not unappealing. Being concrete, they are easy to write about.

    And suddenly everyone around you is feeling "convicted."

    I am cautious by nature, but I got caught up in too much of that kind of stuff when my kids were younger. Just the other day my husband and I were laughing at the stuff we "protected" our boys from when they were little. Not on the strength of our own discernment, but because it was making the rounds in our conservative homeschooling milieu that such-and-such silly toy thing was dangerous and demonic.

    Your blog has been delightful to read this morning. You're a really good writer and have a gift for sharing your journey in such a lovely, transparent way.

    God bless you today.