In Which I Finally Speak Out about Vision Forum3:45 PM
For context to this post, see this link. It contains sexually explicit language, so please use caution.
Vision Forum's president's adultery surprised me. While I long ago distanced myself from Vision Forum's teachings and lifestyle, I still respected their sincere desire to defend families, manhood, and womanhood from secular erosion. So many young women came out of stay-at-home daughterhood angry, bitter, and crushed by misleading or downright false teachings. I determined not to be a victim. Part of that meant refraining from vilifying the organization that provided a hub for these extrabiblical teachings that kept me in spiritual bondage so long.
Turns out, the Vision Forum scandal went far deeper than an inappropriate emotional relationship. It involved predatory sexual abuse of a young woman whom many Vision Forum aficionados will recognize from the Botkins' documentary, The Return of the Daughters. My heart breaks for this beautiful young woman who still clings to her faith in Christ -- something refreshingly different from the many women who walk away from Christ's healing after experiencing patriarchal abuse much less than this. I still have no wish to unfairly attack any adherents to Vision Forum, but this depressing incident gives me boldness to fairly speak out against the abuses I've seen.
While, yes, exceptions to abuse may abound, there appears a strong link between Vision Forum's vision and abuse, especially spiritual abuse.
The patriarchal dogma on daughters staying at home under their fathers' protection (and indeed, any man's protection -- a brother's, perhaps, if the father is deceased) wreaks havoc on women's lives. For one thing, this teaching creates a relationship nowhere found in Scripture. It is an odd mash-up of submission to one's husband and children obeying their parents. The daughter has the responsibility of an adult woman, a wife, to be the helpmeet to her father, while at the same time possessing only the status as a child. She further takes on the role as mother and homemaker. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a big sister mothering her little siblings or helping around the house -- I can personally attest that! The problem comes not from the action but the expectation. The daughter must share her mother's sphere and duties, otherwise she ceases to be fully woman.
Such a relationship is nowhere found in Scripture. Because of this, there are no clear scriptural guidelines governing this sort of hybrid relationship -- no guardrails against abuse. Indeed, parents feel pressure to make their daughters into this wife-child, lest she defect to feminism and apostasy. Thus, they micromanage their daughters' lives with the sincerity and severity of a normal parent disciplining their child against any other moral failing. This leads to the most prevalent abuse of spirit and emotions. Countless women experience crushing guilt from their parents because they desire ministry opportunities, jobs, and education outside of their predetermined sphere. Relationships, development of a personal conscience, freedom in Christ, and adulthood itself gets run over by an overarching paradigm of what a young woman must be and do. Many girls have come to me bewildered over their parents' bizarre criticisms, hurtful backstabbing, and inconsistent rules -- clear signs of manipulation. A common tactic is to treat the young woman as both an adult and a child (consistent with the stay-at-home daughter relationship, I suppose): it extends freedom while withholding affection and approval if the daughter chooses wrongly. For instance, a girl who finds a cute skirt that hits the knees instead of the floor might be told, "Fine, you can make your own decision" yet is criticized every time she wears it. Think Mother Gothel from Tangled -- in behavior only, not in motives. I sincerely believe many parents are totally unaware of how their beliefs bind their daughters' souls in bondage.
That is the emotional abuse. The spiritual abuse comes about when the daughter believes that indeed she ought to be something that she has no desire or capacity to be. She creates her own guilt and punishments, begins to hate herself, and spirals into depression or at least intense unhappiness. Of course, parents can also compound spiritual abuse by twisting a common spiritual ground they share and misapplying it to the daughter -- claiming she's a rebel or a feminist or disobedient or brazen or something similar.
Much more can be said on this subject. Word of advice to any girl still trapped in this situation -- reach out to someone outside of this patriarchal view. Reach out to someone steeped in Gospel grace. Believe it or not, the majority of homeschoolers and Christians reject this patriarchal view of daughters, and there is another alternative to womanhood besides raging feminism and stay-at-home daughterhood!
Along similar lines, Mr. Phillip's sexually abusive behavior and the subsequent deceit brought to light how destructive Vision Forum's teachings on manhood are. Vision Forum presented a picture of manhood as salvific heroism -- men protecting their wives and daughters, rising up as spiritual leaders against the evil forces of secular culture, and standing strong as mature husbands and fathers. Of course, I have no quibbles with men being great men, husbands, and fathers! My problem lies with the image and expectations of manhood dissociated from the Gospel. Knights in shining armor, antebellum Southern gentlemen, and manly '50's daddies -- these are older stereotypes enforced by their cultures that Vision Forum retold in such a way that promotes their good side and ignores the ever-present sin. It it quite possible for men to doff their hats to ladies, open doors for older women, and feed their pride and pornography addiction in the quiet of their own soul. I know groups of guys who are perfect gentlemen around girls and very. . .immature and inappropriate when the ladies aren't around.
Emphasizing a manhood that centers around correct treatment of women and proper fulfilling of assigned roles does nothing but uphold empty images from cultures that eventually degenerated to where we are now -- not because guys abandoned fatherhood but because "gentlemen" abandoned Jesus. There needs to be a far stronger emphasis on the Gospel, grace, and dealing with sin than Vision Forum puts. Manhood needs to be defined according to how closely a man aligns to Jesus Christ, the perfect man, who was neither a father nor a husband.
It does not surprise me that Mr. Phillip's fell into egregious sexual sin when he espoused an idea of manhood that focuses more on external dress and behavior than on seriously dealing with sin. Many (including me!) put him and men like him on a pedestal for being manly, strong, bold, and a spiritual leader. Many of us younger women have been encouraged to seek husbands in his stereotypical likeness. Our adoration of such facades of manhood have created a culture where pride, ambition, and inappropriate sexual desire can run undetected and thus unchecked.
I feel little need to beat the dead horse of Vision Forum like many watchdogs have. I think I have only to point to the truly Biblical picture of manhood, womanhood, and family that is subordinate to the Gospel and the spreading of Christ's kingdom. It vastly outshines the patriarchal vision of life espoused by this company, to its president's and other people's spiritual destruction. More than ever I am convinced that their view is not a valid alternative but instead a dangerous, potentially abusive teaching. Please tread gently yet persuasively with those still entrapped in this patriarchal culture, both the victims and the perpetrators.