What exactly is patriarchy? What is the patriarchy movement? What influence does it have within particular areas of the homeschooling culture? How has it influenced the evangelical church in recent years? Who is promoting it? Why does it matter? Where is it headed?
For some people, the word patriarchy was just that, a word, until it was introduced into evangelical vocabularies last fall when patriarch Doug Phillips, founder and owner of Vision Forum Ministries, confessed to having an “inappropriate relationship” with a woman who was not his wife. Overnight, his teachings were placed on trial in the media throughout evangelicalism only to see them now facing a similar trial in the courtroom in coming months.
Interestingly, many of the more familiar voices within the homeschooling culture are now making pubic statements about patriarchy. Kevin Swanson from Generations Radio declares: “I am not a patriarchal-ist. I have never been a patriarchal-ist, and I’ve never called myself a patriarchal-ist,” in a blog article that brings even more confusion to what exactly he now believes. James McDonald, courtship apologist and teaching elder in a church whose recommended reading list includes Doug Wilson’s Federal Husband, continues to (and proudly) embraces the word. And Michael Farris, founder of Homeschool Legal Defense Association, an organization that has advertised and promoted Vision Forum in the past, has recently stated: “It would be easy to contend that Doug’s sin was separate from his patriarchy views. I am saying the opposite. His views of women were integral to his actions.”
Judging by the intense conversations all over the Internet and within homeschooling circles, there continues to be much confusion about what patriarchy really means and how its proponents believe it should be applied.
I would like to discuss this here in several blog articles and will be starting the conversation today by offering two thoughts to get us started. As always, please share your own thoughts and ideas in the comment section or privately via email if you prefer. Please keep in mind that I am much more interested in discussing the teachings themselves and the repercussions and ramifications of them rather than considering Doug Phillips’ sordid behavior.
The first point I want to make today is that I see the most common views of men and women within the body of Christ in more recent times as being on a continuum. At the far left end of the spectrum is the radical, secular view that there are no differences between men and women and this is where those in the second wave of feminism (modern day feminists) camp out. A woman becomes the focal point, the measure or standard of all things so that even abortion on demand is acceptable.
Then at the far right end of the spectrum are those I would call patriocentrists, even misogynists, those who believe women are less than men and some even believe we are “poisonous.” They tend to believe our only function is to have babies, provide for a man’s every need, and to seek to fulfill a man’s calling rather than have callings of their own from the Lord. (Interestingly, Calvin, Luther, and many of the early church fathers believed many of these things as well.)
There are people who profess to be Christians at either end of this spectrum.
Between these two, there are all sorts of perspectives. The question then becomes “where are the lines of orthodoxy?” And further, where is someone on that spectrum who calls himself or herself “complementarian” or “egalitarian?” What theology is the foundation for those beliefs? And how are they applied in each relationship, each home? For example, Voddie Baucham, who believes women are not biblically allowed to run for public office and says men are to be “prophet, priest, and king” in their homes, calls himself complementarian. Stacy McDonald, who believes there is only one single “role” for women, that is, to be homemakers, calls herself complementarian. Geoffrey Botkin whose daughters penned So Much More, a treatise on stay-at-home daughterhood, teaches that only men are given a calling and that women must work toward the callings of their fathers or husbands, would most likely call himself complementarian. John Piper calls for a “masculine church” and drafted the first document that used the word “complementarian.” It all depends on who is using the words. And, as Doug Phillips himself has often said, “he who defines wins.”
In my first series of podcasts I described myself as complementarian because I do believe men and women are different and do complement each other. And in the truest meaning of the word, they have differing roles. (For example, only a woman can be a mother.) However, the way the word is now used is troubling to me so I no longer use it to describe myself. For the record, I also do not label myself an egalitarian. I reside somewhere in “the normal middle.”
At one time I can remember reading articles from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood that were edifying; now their website is a scary place if you are a woman. I remember reading articles there by James Boice and being so blessed by what he said about women using their gifts. He did not call for women to be pastors but he didn’t have a problem with women using their teaching and speaking gifts in the church. There also used to be an emphasis on women and where they were needed in the church. That discussion has shifted to listing all the things women cannot do outside of working in the nursery and putting on potlucks. On a personal note, I am a great cook and am never happier than when I am feeding someone AND I love taking care of babies! But I also recognize other gifts the Lord has given me, some that fall outside of the currently acceptable ones in the patriarchy camps. I recognize those gifts in many women, including other very conservative women who are valued everywhere outside of the church. George Barna has even recently noted how many women are leaving the church and I cannot help but recognize that their departure coincides with the dramatic shift to the right toward patriocentricity that has happened through the influence of the homeschooling patriarchs.
Secondly, there has been much debate since last fall as to whether or not Doug Phillips’ behavior is a reflection of his beliefs and teachings on patriarchy. As absurd as it seems to me, many pastors and homeschoolers continue to defend these teachings, pointing out that adultery and abuse happen among many who do not hold patriocentric views. But here is what seems so strange to me: this perspective is coming from the same people who preach and teach because they hope and pray their teachings will take root in the lives of those they mentor and will have a profound influence on behavior! Their’s is double-minded thinking at its finest!
So, it is crucial that we examine the teachings of patriarchy and attitudes that are an organic by-product of being saturated in them. Please join me in this discussion! Continuing……….
A lawsuit was filed this morning on behalf of Lourdes Torres, the young woman Phillips’ claimed to have been in a relationship with for 7 years and which lead to the collapse of Vision Forum last October. David Gibbs, attorney for Torres, states ““In that patriarchal quiverfull culture, the ultimate and the highest ideal is then becoming married. What Doug did as the leader of the movement was take the ultimate ideal and perpetually promise that fraudulently to Lourdes to manipulate and control her to do things that she would otherwise not have done.” The entire article can be found here.
Read this and tell me that patriocentric teachings are not at the root of the whole sordid story!
“If we are harsh in our admonition to others, we are demonstrating that we are not qualified because is shows our lack of spiritual maturity. The opposite of harshness is the spirit of gentleness, which in the Greek means “with humility,” lest we also be tempted. If we look at this verse in terms of relating to our children, we have to ask how we can be tempted. I think it could be when we forget that we are sinners, too, and that we, ourselves, are overtaken daily in trespasses. When we reject a humble, gentle attitude toward our children, we are tempted to mistreat them, physically and verbally. We can either build up and restore a child by our words and actions or we can tear down and lord it over them, showing no spirit of humility whatsoever. We, too, are sinners in need of a Savior, and are still a work in progress ourselves. How we respond to sin in the lives of our children will have lasting consequences and if we are harsh might even cause them to give up altogether.” from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home
“Mercy is a command of God, yet it cannot simply be a response to a demand. It must arise out of hearts made generous and gracious by an understanding and experience of God’s mercy.”
One spring I was asked to address the graduating high school seniors at our church’s annual awards banquet. While I prepared my remarks, I kept coming back to the true meaning of success as I thought of each student I knew personally, many of them Christians with high ideals and starry-eyed goals for the future. What could I share that would inspire them, but also keep their feet on the ground so that the discouraging times I knew were coming would not result in the destruction of their faith? As I pulled a book of quotes off the shelf to consider what I might add to my presentation, I was surprised when a quickly written note I had scribbled on the back of an envelope came tumbling out. It read, “Success is obedience to the known, revealed will of God.”
Joshua 1:8 confirms this wonderful truth: “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” God’s will for us, as known and revealed to us in Scripture, holds the key to success!
Jesus made it even simpler for Christians to understand: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it; You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). According to Jesus, loving God and loving others are the marks of success!
Interestingly, nearly everyone, when asked, would quickly say that if they had to choose, success in relationships would win any day over career success. Even government studies that have been done to examine what makes American citizens the most happy have confirmed this: more than anything else, people want to be content in their relationships with each other! In fact, research presented in the American Economic Review (2004) concluded that “the conditions and experiences associated with people’s happiness are almost all ones that most Americans approved of heartily: strong marriages, close friendships, acts of charity and community service.”
So, why do so many families approach the education of their children as though the opposite were true? Government-approved academic success, entrance into top universities followed by careers with six figure incomes, athletic accomplishments, and even the telltale signs of popularity like being the homecoming queen or head cheerleader are the stories that grace the pages of family newsletters and social media. These are often what motivate a family’s choice of school districts when shopping for a home. Their siren songs lull parents into believing that these are the steps to achieving parenting success. Though most of them do not actually believe that material wealth or job security triumph over happiness in relationships, they approach teaching and training their children as though they do.
Sadly, too often this is also the case with homeschooling families. Feeling the pressure to be accepted by friends or even confirm to disapproving family members that their educational choices are valid, moms and dads prioritize in the same way for their own children. Typically, the first question asked by new homeschoolers is, “What curriculum should we use?”, assuming that academic success ought to be the first priority. And yet, if happiness in life is most fully measured by the success of our relationships, why is it so rare to hear someone talk about the dynamics involved in building sound relationships, especially those based on the commands given in Scripture? Library shelves are full of books promoting man’s wisdom, but what about desiring to know what the Bible actually says about fulfilling the two greatest commandments?
I would be the first to tell you how much I enjoy all the curriculum options that are available to homeschooling families, and I could spend hours chatting with other moms about the pros and cons of various methods for presenting such educational materials to students. I love cheering on homeschoolers as they achieve academic awards, often watching them rise above and shine in places our critics told us they never would. But, far too often, I am seeing parents miss out on the greatest joy of homeschooling: building solid relationships with their children that will last a lifetime, helping their children establish patterns for all future relationships they will have. In their passion to do it right, too often they are missing God’s best. I know this is true because there have been many times when I nearly missed this myself!
Homeschooling is not simply a means for teaching and training children in the academic disciplines. Homeschooling is a way of family life that, if successful, reflects all the one anothers of Scripture. If we look on the pages of the Bible, on the surface we see very little direct instruction for raising children. We see even less that tells us what sorts of subjects to include in daily lesson plans. There are no how-to lists, and yet, how often Christian parents readily welcome any and every teaching on raising children that labels itself as “biblical” while ignoring the very real commands for relationship building that are found in the passages of Scripture called the “one another” verses.
Love one another. Encourage one another. Pray for one another. Submit to one another. Serve one another. Scripture is filled with dozens of these lovely one another passages that teach us how to be successful. When we apply these verses appropriately in individual ways with our own children and within the context of the homeschooling family, we begin to enjoy the fruits of our labors in amazing and unexpected ways!
During one summer vacation, our family spent a couple days driving down Highway One on the coast of California. Traveling south of San Francisco along the Pacific Ocean and through the area known as Big Sur, we experienced some of the most breathtaking scenery I have ever seen. Wild and untamed, each fabulous view soon gave way to yet another work of God’s creation.
Sitting in the front seat passenger’s side, I looked out my window and straight down several hundred feet of rocky coastline, often dotted with pine trees and wild grasses. Sandy beaches reached their arms out into an unending expanse of intense blue water, the bright sun of a June day casting a sparkly surface on the waves. Gulls drifted overhead, searching for their suppers, and the deep, husky wails of elephant seals could be heard from caves hidden deep beneath the winding road. My heart cried out, “Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” I felt quite small and insignificant in God’s grand scheme of things.
Inching along the road, stopping often to take pictures and to chat with tourists from around the globe, we had no real sense of exactly where we were going. We looked ahead and our eyes could only take in the next curve, the next beach. We followed a map, estimating the time we needed to reach the highway where we were to turn back east, away from the ocean and into the desert. But it was only a guess; we were traveling an unfamiliar path. We didn’t know how long it would take to navigate the winding road or where we would need to stop for lunch, to get out and stretch, or to pose for that year’s Christmas card picture.
At one lookout point, the parking area was on the top of a cliff with a large overhang, which allowed us a nearly panoramic view. It was only then that I was able to grasp the big picture of our journey. Looking back toward the north from where we had come, I saw the wall of rocks that appeared to grow straight up from the water’s edge. Squinting my eyes, I could barely make out the tiniest line that was the road we had just traveled! Catching my breath at what I was seeing, I silently thanked God for His hand of protection of us as we drove along that precarious path. We continued on our trip, but I found myself, this time, repeatedly looking back at where we had been.
And so it is as I look back over our years of homeschooling. We got up every morning, finished chores and schoolwork, met each others’ needs, and arrived where we are today, simply by God’s grace to us. We traveled a road that we could not see at the time. It has been lovely and uncharted by us; many times it caused us to pause in wonder and awe at what we were seeing. Sometimes it was a lonely journey, one touched by the cold hands of grief and the voices of forbidden longings spoken to us from caves we could not see. But God, in His sovereignty, went ahead of us with His plan and kept us on the path as we followed His leading.
I believe that this journey of one anothering our children is what homeschooling families are called to make and is one of God’s grace alone. We must embrace the truth that God’s grace is the force that keeps us moving forward, that protects and provides for our every need; it is ordained by His good pleasure and is not of our own doing. This assurance of God’s grace in our lives is the heritage we pass along to our children and our grandchildren, knowing that He will accomplish what He will in each of us. Confessing to God our great need for that grace is the first step in a wonderful lifetime of what I have come to call relationship homeschooling.
If you are looking for a new whiz-bang formula for homeschooling, you will not find it here. In fact, on these pages you may find very little that is new to you. I believe that the principles I am sharing are ones you already know in your heart of hearts as a mama or daddy, truths that are sometimes forgotten in the 21st century evangelical world of raising and educating children.
This is a book of lessons, accounts of my weaknesses and failures, but, most importantly, the stories of God’s unfailing goodness and mercy that has rained down on our lives as we have shared this journey with our children. Let me tell you some of the things I have learned about that mercy and grace and what it means to one another our children in this great adventure! Let me introduce you to the joy that is relationship homeschooling!
Karen Campbell, Spring 2014
“ Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up to cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” (12:14-15)
Bitterness, once it takes root, is nearly impossible to remove and almost always causes us to fall short of God’s grace in one way or another!
We are told to “pursue peace with all people.” The word used for “peace” in this passage comes from a root word that literally means “the wholeness that you experience when all the essential parts are tied together!” It conveys the completeness of a relationship, the joining together of separate parts. We are to actively work toward bringing about this type of harmony.
However, this pursuit must go hand in hand with holiness. In other words, while this is to be our goal, peace is not to be practiced at all costs; declaring that there are no problems for the sake of a worldly type of unity is really no peace at all. Psalm 85:8-10 tells us that in God’s restoration process, “mercy and truth have met together….righteousness and peace will kiss.” Holiness and righteousness require truthfulness in discerning the problems that caused the broken relationship in the first place. It means we must agree with God as to what sin actually is.
Being a peacemaker, then, is to seek to bring people into a right relationship with God through Jesus. Anything short of this brings no true peace at all.
I recently attended a baby shower for a young woman who looks forward to being a homeschooling mom and it was exciting to see lots of children’s books in the gift bags. Experts all agree: exposing even very young children to books is the #1 best guarantee of reading success in the elementary years. But how do you begin to assemble a home library?
Cultivate an atmosphere of reading and researching in your home. Keep stacks of books by your bed and near a cozy chair for reading with your little ones. Arrange small “book nooks” in special places: in an unused closet, under the stairs, or in a tent in a corner of the family room. Pile large floor pillows near shelves to encourage quiet reading and place reading lamps (and flashlights) near beds for late night literary adventures. Preschoolers love to have their own books in a spot on the shelf or in a special basket. Cover their picture books with clear contact paper for longer “shelf” life! Make books more accessible than TV or video games!
Keep a running list of books you would like to own. Think ahead! You never know what you might find that will be perfect in another 10 years! Remember that books are a long-term investment in your whole family. Share your list with grandparents and others who might like to add to your family library. Our children keep Amazon book lists for us for each child so shopping for the grandchildren is easy! Be sure to include “real” or “living” books in your budget each year along with curriculum and take note of topics and titles that will interest individual family members.
Keep your eyes open for used book resources. Let everyone know you will gladly accept hand-me-down books. Frequently visit garage sales, Goodwill, and church and local library discard sales. Find a connection at your local school who can give you books before they are sent to the dumpster. One of our friends who was an elementary school janitor brought us hundreds of books each year, many of them now hard-to-find classics. And our very best garage sale find: a complete set of The Great Books for $10.00!
Collect a wide variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction, and for all age levels. My preschoolers enjoyed the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness books long before they were able to read the text; they loved the interaction and cuddle time as we “read” together. Most new children’s books include a suggested reading level or you can use the Microsoft Works reading level feature or one of the many online formulas to decipher the level of particular books. Living history books like The Little House Series are “graded” in that they increase in difficulty in reading as you progress through the series, making them perfect for reading aloud to a variety of ages of children and the D’Aulaire books, with their delightful drawings, are the ideal introduction to history and mythology for young children.
Read aloud to the whole family. We have enjoyed many adventures as a family with Dad reading to all of us right after dinner. When I asked our now-grown children to share their favorite, The Hobbit won! A close second was Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which I read every day after lunch one year, creating all the voices! Be sure to include biographies and missionary stories for reading aloud to all ages. Hearing how God has worked in the real lives of real people is a tremendous faith builder!
Have a storage plan. This is still a challenge in our home! Peruse Pinterest for ideas for building shelves. I have seen amazing bookcases made from old pallets, repurposed dressers, and even sturdy planks on heavy cement blocks. Our first built-ins used defunct kitchen cabinets as a base with shelving on top! As a homeschooler, you will probably never have enough bookshelves!
Recommended books for toddlers and pre-schoolers:
Harold and the Purple Crayon
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
Guess How Much I Love You
Go, Dog, Go!
The Tawny Scrawny Lion
The Snowy Day
Where the Wild Things Are
The Giving Tree
The Paper Bag Princess
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
Make Way for Ducklings
The Mitten (and other titles by Jan Brett)
The Monster Bed
I Can’t Said the Ant
Cricktor the Boa Constrictor
Make Way for Ducklings
A Little Bit of Winter
One Kitten is Not Too Many
The Carrot Seed
Blueberries for Sal
Caps for Sale
Jesus Storybook Bible
How Many Goodnight Kisses
I’m Special, I’m Me
Big Green Pocket Book
Caps for Sale
The Corduroy Books
Are You My Mother?
Go, Dog, Go
Who is Coming to Our House?
Where the Wild Things Are
The Tale of Tricky Fox
Can I Keep Him?
Give the Dog a Bone
What’s Under My Bed?
Winnie the Pooh
My Side of the Mountain
Indian in the Cupboard
American Girl series
Jesus Storybook Bible
The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes
The Children’s Story Bible
Complete Tales of Peter Rabbit
Danny the Champion of the World
My First 100 Words (Spanish/English)
All titles by Sandra Boynton, Virginia Lee Burton, Alexandra Day, Dr. Seuss, Leslie Patricelli, and Richard Scarry
Early Elementary and Read Alouds
Frog and Toad
Billy and Blaze
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
James and the Giant Peach (and other titles by Roald Dahl)
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle
The Phantom Tollbooth
The first four Betsy-Tacy books
Little House on the Prairie series
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
In Grandma’s Attic
Trumpet of the Swan
Chronicles of Narnia
The Boxcar Children series
The Little Princess
The Series of Unfortunate Events
The Enormous Crocodile
The Mouse and the Motorcycle
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar
Danny the Champion of the World
The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me
George’s Marvelous Medicine
The Magic Finger
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
The Enormous Crocodile
All the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary
“Paul reminded his beloved Thessalonians that he was willing to do spiritual battle on their behalf, assuring them that being a Christian is not easy. He was transparent with them as he shared his past experiences and painted no picture of a perfect Christian life. Just imagine Paul showing his scars to the wide-eyed believers, making sure they understood what embracing Christ could look like up close and personal!
“This is the model Scripture places before us. We must admit to our families as well as ourselves that life isn’t always perfect. I say admit because they already do have an awareness of this on some level as they observe us on a daily basis; they will fully understand it as they grow and mature and have families of their own! Paul wanted to be sure his students knew life was difficult and that boldness is required, even in the midst of our daily lives as believers. Sometimes all we can offer to our children is the truth that life is hard but that God is always good!” ~ The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling, Spring 2014
“……Even in describing sinless Jesus as a youth, we are told that “He kept increasing in wisdom, and stature, and favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52), which indicates that there are various ages of development children pass through that are normal and not a reflection of a sin. This is why I believe it is so important to learn all we can about each stage of a child’s life and what common characteristics there might be so that we can parent with understanding.” ~ The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling, Spring 2014
“The sense of personal calling on the lives of our children will help them persevere during those times of discouragement and difficulty that are certain to come to them. Early on, our children must embrace the truth that God has no plan B for their lives, only a plan A, and that He is bringing that plan to pass in spite of our best efforts or worst mistakes. Sometimes our children sin miserably and, lost in our own grief and disappointment, we forget this truth ourselves. But it is during these very times that we need to fulfill the calling God gives to us as parents: to comfort, exhort, admonish, strengthen, and encourage our children, affirming God’s forgiveness and watch care.” ~ The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling, Spring 2014