Let’s talk about something real

So the whole world, relatively speaking, seems to be exploding with outrage over the recent suit against Doug Phillips. And for good reason. The man who earned a lavish living preaching that men should keep their daughters close in order to keep them safe was discovered to have been sexually preying on a young woman he’d invited into his home and called “part of the family.” Regardless of how much “consent” she articulated at any given time, he was still preying on her by virtue of the fact that he was in a position of authority over her, and he had in many ways adopted her as a kind of spiritual daughter. Despite the fact that Doug Phillips said he believed that females should serve the visions of their fathers with a meek and submissive spirit until they were married, he seems to have had no qualms about taking over this authority and providing a teenage girl with his own vision for her — apparently an extremely creepy and perverted vision, even if you only believe his side of the story.

I’ve always found it a little weird that the quiverfull/patriarchy crowd has been so into women serving their fathers in the confines of their own homes. The idea is that by doing this, they don’t go out into the cut-throat world of corporate politics and serve anyone unworthy (cough, Doug Phillips, cough). The idea is that they’re protected from nasty male bosses (cough, Doug Phillips, cough), and work for the glorious rewards of familial love and duty, rather than merely being “wage slaves.” Sidenote: this is also a great way of justifying not paying the women in your employ, whether they are your real daughters or merely young women of your congregation.

Besides the obvious abuses made possible by such an arrangement, the result of this is, there are a lot of women in this culture supporting some fairly mediocre family business ventures. Some appear to spend the majority of their time blogging about how imperative staying at home is to their faith. Some take pride in the endeavors of their fathers and brothers, which is probably how it should be on some level, but it also means that said brothers and fathers don’t get much of a reality check in the event that their business practices or ideas are actually terrible. Anything with the slightest sheen of testosterone is labeled as “manly,” and therefore a worthy masculine pursuit, no matter how flimsy the result is.

About ten minutes ago, I just finished creating a website for Collin Beggs Design Build Timber Framing, which — the company, not so much the actual website — puts everything I’ve ever seen coming out of the patriarchal culture to shame. I’ve been learning about the company for over a year, and from the first moment I walked into one of Collin Beggs’ houses, I was awestruck at how real it was, how solid and rich and long-lasting. The Port Orford Cedar, hand-planed into silky smoothness, wafted in the quiet air; the ceiling curved upwards like a cathedral cut from living wood. I’d heard a lot of talk about 200-year plans, laid out on a spreadsheet grid, but I’d never actually seen anyone who expertly built things to last that long. I’d heard a lot of talk about starting your own business, learning a craft, and not needing college for something like construction, but I’d never actually met anyone who pulled all of that off better than the masters-level architects I knew. I’d heard a lot of discourse on classical education, but I’d never seen a twenty-first century home built the way homes were built in the middle ages. And naturally, had I never left my own house, I would never have known about this company, let alone collaborated with it.

What I didn’t put into the website is that the person behind the business is such a purist that, for better or worse, he has refused to compromise on just about everything, without regard to money or winning people over. At one point, he had some clients who brought him a photo of a hammer beam truss, which is popular in commercial timber framing, although it is rarely used in a historically accurate way. Collin looked at the photo, crumpled it up, and threw it in the trash. “Let’s talk about something real,” he said.

Today I remembered that in relation to all the revelations of Doug Phillips’ charismatic, money-making, two-faced ways. Let’s always talk about something real. It seems more healthy than dwelling overmuch on the unreal.

5 thoughts on “Let’s talk about something real

  1. I home schooled my kids back in the 90s. I could see the patriarchy ‘creep’ coming in back then. I wasn’t interested in it.

    Then sometime later, after I had sent my children to public school and had gone to work full-time, I noticed this patriarchy ‘creep’ encroaching on popular Christian culture.

    I found it alarming because I already knew what real men were. My life was full of them. Farmers, Engineers, Rail Road Men, Miners, and one Fighter Pilot.
    As you imply, those walking around, thumping their chest, trying to prove how manly they are? They aren’t real. They are play acting trying to fill a role.

    Whenever I look in dismay at the patriarchy creep going on in popular Christian culture (Courageous, anyone?), one thing that keeps me sane is to back up, look at my real life, and see the real men who have always been there.

    1. Indeed. If you have to tell people you’re “manly,” or that you’re “the leader,” chances are, you’re not. Such things are usually self-apparent, and they don’t require that you keep everyone cloistered away from any other manly leaders for them to be true.

      I’ve known plenty of protective and heroic men, and none of them dressed up as protective, heroic men and posed on the cover of their own documentaries. I’ve known plenty of skilled men, and none of them needed to explain constantly that nobody appreciated their skills because the culture was just so degenerate.

  2. Thank you so much for this. As I peruse the blogs and literature of the quiverfull/patriarchy crowd, I am constantly struck by how incredibly insular and removed they are from “real” life. These are people who essentially cloister themselves, proudly admit to doing so, and yet still feel qualified to issue forth sweeping indictments and critiques of the very same “popular culture” and American society from which they so pridefully claim they are removed. There is a bit of an “emperor’s new clothes” sense that I get when I read the blog posts of the under-30 crowd, in particular. It is abundantly clear from their writing that they have virtually no actual experience beyond their families and church groups and that they are regurgitating the hyperbole they’ve been hearing all their lives from their parents and ministers.

    Fair enough, though. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and religious beliefs. What concerns me is that, throughout history, the cloistering of religious groups has virtually always led to significant dysfunction and abuses over time. I studied minority religious groups at some length in college and one of the biggest takeaway points was that isolation was the single biggest determinant of whether a religious group (no matter how big or small) would become dysfunctional to the point of violence or pervasive sexual assault. At the extreme end of the spectrum, there is Jonestown, Heaven’s Gate, Warren Jeffs. A significant proportion of religious groups with significantly lower amounts of isolation, however, have also been marked by surprising amounts of abuse. And this is the direction in which I see the quiverfull/patriarchy crowd moving. Families exert an incredible amount of control over their children who have extremely limited contact with anyone outside of their family or church group. (Instead, they send out smoke signals via their blogs much like people used to send out carrier pigeons and telegrams). Religious leaders, in turn, exert a great deal of control over the families who are under their sway. (There have been stunning testimonies about life in Doug Phillip’s church that have come out recently that demonstrate the extent of his control). And the members, particularly the younger members, have no point of comparison from which to work and so are unlikely to see how truly dysfunctional things have become until it is far too late. It is very, very concerning.

    Worse, there seems to be no introspection about the isolation issue amongst the community itself. I read with bemusement blog posts about the “courtship crisis” in which young people are not getting married in large numbers. As someone from the outside, it’s hard not to bang my head against the table when I see these laments. Let me get this straight: (1) you isolate your children, particularly your daughters, at home where they are supposed to serve daddy’s “mission” and focus on pleasing him, and (2) you micromanage if not completely control any communication between your *adult* children and members of the opposite sex, and yet you are baffled that marriage rates are down? This is not, as my father is fond of saying, rocket science. And the “courtship crisis” is really the least of my worries. The number of recent sex scandals among the leaders in this movement should give everyone serious pause about how dysfunctional this movement has become.

  3. I’m a lurker on your blog and this post made me finally comment. The analysis of patriarchy culture is spot-on, and so is the reminder that we need to stick to reality if we want to survive (and emerge from) all the crazy. Thanks.

  4. Regarding your third paragraph, I find it interesting that some bloggers preach that women should be satisfied at home, always put their families first, and rely on their husbands as the providers. Yet they have big blogs, which are obviously very time-consuming . Of course, they would argue that they are doing it from within the home and not taking time away from their families. But the truth is that blogging takes a lot of time and effort I’d like for them to call it what it is: a business. They’re making their living by telling other women they shouldn’t be making a living….

    (To be clear, I think it is WONDERFUL that women can both stay at home and have a career these days. Blogging is just one way that that is possible. It is fantastic these women have found ways to do both of those things, but it seems insincere to preach the benefits of not having a career when they really do have a career. Own it! It takes balance to be a stay-at-home-yet-working-mom!)

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