Wednesday, February 3, 2010

49 Character Qualities of Ruth- Part 5

Originally posted on NLQ
Gentleness vs. Harshness – Showing personal care and concern in meeting the need of others (I Thessalonians 2:7) – Bill Gothard

by RazingRuth

From my earliest memories, my mother was a study in contrasts. Our home was chaotic (three boys and a new baby, all under the age of five). After my birth, my parents purposed to begin homeschooling. I say “my parents”, but that just means that dad decided mom would be doing her Christian duty best if she homeschooled. Not to mention the fact that dad’s employer and spiritual advisor had an up-and-coming curriculum that he was constantly retooling for use by homeschoolers. Mom could homeschool the children and dad could use the experience as a testimony and leg-up at work. It was a win-win – for dad.

My mom, on the other hand, was struggling and we all knew it. The boys took advantage of her disorganization and frustrations, as most preschoolers would. Many times a day, she would gather me from my blanket or playpen, sit down to nurse me and cry. She would sit in the rocking chair, in the midst of the noise and activity generated by the boys, and stroke my back while tears poured from her eyes. When I was done eating, she’d try to create the illusion of control and happy domesticity before company or my father returned home.

I think my mother suffered from post partum depression when I was born. When my brothers told my father how mom cried and sat in the chair most days, my father finally realized she needed help. He turned to his spiritual advisor for advice. This man told my father that my mom’s problems were from a lack of faith in the Lord and that the only way to get her over her depression was to get her to submit to God’s will. He asked my father to allow him to send “help” into our home. My father readily agreed and “Kay” was sent to stay with us for a month.

Kay was the wife of another organization employee. She was older than my mother by a few generations, but still advised the organization head on childrearing and pregnancy. For a few days, she adopted what I call the Super Nanny approach – following my mother around, observing the chaos. At the end of each day, Kay “gave report” to my father and prayed with my mother. At the time, my mother wrote a secret letter to an old friend, saying how much she hated Kay and resented my father for entering them into this lifestyle. The letter, which I saw after I left, is one of the saddest things I’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s full of self-doubt and regret. Since reading it, there hasn’t been a day that goes by when I haven’t wondered why my mother didn’t leave.

Seeing the situation for what it was, through adult eyes, I now know exactly what Kay and my father did to my mother. Over the month that Kay was in our home, they broke whatever spirit remained in her. They subjected her to daily “prayer wars” during which she was put in a small, prayer closet for hours on end to pray about her “sinful, prideful choices” (my mom’s words from a subsequent letter to her parents).

My mother was told that all her depression was the result of not fully accepting God’s plan and purpose for her. Of course she was relieved of some of the blame. Some of the blame, they said, was her parents’ fault for giving her gender confusing messages and “feminist ideals” (like an independent career and higher education). My mother was made to write a letter to her parents, asking why they didn’t protect her from the evils of pre-marital dating and unchaperoned exposures to men and women. Finally, my mother’s problems were blamed on a lack of spiritual maturity.

My mother later claimed that it was through Kay, and this experience, that she realized she’d never been “saved” or asked the Lord to take over her life. My mother decided that, in order to be happy, she had to commit herself, body, soul, 110% to God’s will —and my father’s dominion over our home.

Note from Ruth: This isn’t the end of mom’s story. But, in some ways, it’s the beginning of mine because her choice to give herself fully to patriarchy sets up my life. How she got there and why she got there shaped who I am and how I see her. I also wrote these first five parts to show how a vital, dynamic and independent woman becomes a shell of her old self. My mother is not alone. This is what fundamentalist patriarchy can do to women. It doesn’t matter if it happens in all cases – it’s possible!


  1. I have noticed that post partum depression is a constant theme in Quiverfull stories gone awry. The woman in Texas who drowned her children was in full psychosis, as was another who killed her baby in a very grisly way, and both were Quiverfull.

    My guess, and it's a sad one at that, is that for every 1 Quiverfull woman who explodes in violent post partum psychosis, there are 100 more like your mother who simply collapse into themselves, broken.

    I don't know what your relationship with your mother is these days, but if you can, secretly give her a hug from me. I feel so sorry for all the help and hugs she didn't get, from all the people who should have cared the most.

  2. Reading this makes me so angry. Your father should be ashamed of himself.

    Thank you for continuing to share your story. I would have never known these types of things take place were it not for courageous people like you.

  3. Oh, Ruth, what a life. Your poor mother. I'm just sitting here feeling so sorry for someone I've never met nor likely to meet. I would have gone insane.


  4. I don't know what to say. I, too, feel so sorry for your mother, and for you and the rest of your siblings. What a horrible, destructive lifestyle. I'm so glad you got out. Do you realize how rare that is? For someone brought up like that to realize that life doesn't have to be that way? I think it's amazing, and that you are very brave.

  5. This breaks my heart and enrages me all at once. I can't imagine what this life is like.

    Ruth, do you have any ideas about why your mom didn't leave or why she went along with this life? It is just so confusing to me why a college educated woman with a career and a supportive family (her parents) would "submit" to her husband like this. I am about as unreligious as a person can get, but I can see how if you believe you can get caught up in trying to do everything as "right" as possible. Most people draw the line somewhere, but clearly some don't. Why do you think your mom was in the latter group?

  6. An award!

  7. Ruth, this makes me sad and angry at the same time. And furious with your father, how COULD he do this to his supposedly beloved wife?
    I do hope that he doesn't has the nerve to come here and leave evil comments again, he should be ashamed of himself!

    I'm so glad that you got out.

  8. Ruth,
    It saddens me to hear your Mom's story. I do not mean to attack your mother, but like jkat said, I do not understand why an educated woman with options would STAY in such a lifestyle. Why would you want that for your children? Why would you want to be sexually intimate with someone who did not respect all of you, not just your reproductive capacity/care-giving skills? Your mother is not alone, many people (men and women) stay in bad relationships (mentally/physically/emotionally abusive- it doesn't matter)for various reasons, I just do not understand WHY. I hope you can give your Mother a hug soon.

    I was thinking about this the other day while reading your blog- perhaps your parents resumed having vaginal intercourse because your Mother felt she was finally menopausal and there was no risk of pregnancy? Obviously there was a risk, as baby Blessing is here (hopefully safe and sound), but the fact that there was no pregnancy for so many years after the the last dangerous birth tells me that your father must have cared about your mother's health somewhat- to be willing to give up vaginal intercourse. Not to defend him (because he does not deserve that), but I am sure there are men in the movement that would have not been willing to make that sacrifice........

    I am sorry to be so nosy!(I know no one wants to think about their parents' intimate life)

  9. I am a former counsler with a group who helps women in abusive situations. I can attest that the educational level of of victim does not make them immune to mental and emotional abuse.
    I feel for you and your Mom, and little Blessing as well. Your father is he worst kind of abuser. He abuses in the 'Name of God'. Shame on him.
    You are one strong woman to escape that horror show. Good for you. Like others have said, be there for your Mom and your siblings.
    I can only add, if there is any way you can slip your Mom the hotline number to a local woman's crisis service, please do so. She may turn you down. Keep trying. She has sisters in the cause who will help her through every step.

  10. Susan, I guess that is what I have hard time understand about abusive situations as well, especially ones in which a woman has a support system and people reaching out to help her. I understand the fear, the isolation, the co-dependence, etc. And I am not in any way discounting the power of all those things. And in a religious situation you add in the power of the belief that this is what the God you love and trust wants. But at some point, the woman is still making a choice. I hate to say this, because, on one hand, I don't want to blame someone for a psychologically complicated situation. But on the other hand, women are so often portrayed as helpless victims in this society. Sometimes I think we need to stand up as ask each other, "why the %*!@ are you letting this happen to yourself?".

    *(Again, I know that there are many complex layers to abusive situations, and that the religious/cult control are a separate breed unto themselves.)*

    All I am saying (asking?), is why or at what point, does the individual forget they have the choice? Or how/why/when a woman can become so conviced that what everyone else can see is literally killing her (both physically and mentally), is really the best situation for her (particularlly in a religious instance)? Clearly some women, like Ruth, eventually realize the damage this lifestyle causes and make the extremely challenging decision to leave.

    Make sense? Again, NOT trying to blame or oversimplify in anyway. Just curious if Ruth had any insight as to why she thought her mom stayed and followed her dad's decisions, especially since her mom wasn't raised in this lifestyle (or at least doesn't appear that she was).

  11. This almost made me cry. I had to skim the last couple paragraphs so I wouldn't.

    I am terrified that my future children will fall into this lifestyle, as it seems to be encroaching on mainstream Christianity more and more. It feels like the religious ideal I strive to follow is getting squeezed tighter and tighter between extremes; promiscuity, drugs, disrespect on one side, and fetishized purity, abstaining from enjoyable human experiences, and mindless obedience on the other.

    The image of your mother rocking you while ignoring the chaos around her reminded me of some of my worst days at my old job. After a rainy school day corralling young children, and then herding them into a classroom for after school care, I would sometimes just sit for a few minutes with the chaos around me (nothing dangerous, just loud, messy, and not ideal!) because I needed a break. Obviously your mother didn't have 25 5-8-year-olds, but even with three, I cannot imagine doing that day in, day out with no end in sight. I am so grateful that my husband and I see eye-to-eye on spacing out our children, and on getting me help if I become overwhelmed or decide the stay-at-home-mom life is not for me.

    Thank you for continuing to share your story. You are a gifted writer, and I enjoy reading it, despite the negative emotions it stirs up for me.

  12. The sad thing I take away from this is that children in QF families are inevitable, not joyous events. It's like the mothers are too busy being numb to really raise and participate in the kid's lives. Of course, it would be hard to not be numb with that much work/family to take care of. I just think of how happy my mom was to do stupid things with us (watching worms crawl, looking at baby bird eggs).

    It must be hard for you to leave your family behind Ruth. I can tell how deeply you love these people. It must be hard to be the odd one out even though you know you are living the right life for you.

    At least I know how the Duggars hand off their kids so easily. I guess after the first nine, you get bored with the stages of development.

  13. I can imagine that any woman who had had four babies in a very short period of time, physically and emotionally overwhelmed with the responsiblities forced on her, cut off from her family, etc..all those things combined would leave her in a very vulnerable place. Then she is constantly told god will take care of her and her needs..well, staying would seem like a good option. Brainwashing at its best (plus a bit of fear I'm sure ..fear of what would happen not just herself but her children, whom I'm sure she loved much. That would keep her pinned in her sad circumstances). Worded badly, sorry! I was an abused child so this resonates deep within me (why someone doesnt speak up, escape etc).

  14. This is so sad. It sounds more like Stockholm Syndrome than being "saved".

  15. "I am terrified that my future children will fall into this lifestyle, as it seems to be encroaching on mainstream Christianity more and more. It feels like the religious ideal I strive to follow is getting squeezed tighter and tighter between extremes; promiscuity, drugs, disrespect on one side, and fetishized purity, abstaining from enjoyable human experiences, and mindless obedience on the other."

    Is there a faction of Christianity pushing an extreme of promiscuity, drugs and disrespect? Because these are not, as many religious people have been led to believe, in any way the hallmarks of secular living. I myself am a completely secular person and have been since age 14, but consider myself to live a rather balanced life.

  16. Ruth,
    I find the form of Christianity you describe to be so far from anything I imagine Christ himself to approve of. I would not describe myself as a Christian, but I have a deep and abiding respect for the His most important message: Love one another. What you describe can in no way be considered either loving or compassionate. It is cruel and vindictive. It is blind to suffering, sometimes even delighting in it. It is sadistic. I want to cry for your mother, because somewhere along the line, she forgot that she had choices. Her existence can in no way be considered truly living. So, I find myself angry.

    Dave, I don't think that Jenna was sayin that Christianity is promoting promoscuity, drugs or disrespect. I took her to say that the "Christian" choices between the two extremes she described are being narrowed, because Christianity itself is being taken over by more conservative factions. I don't think that anyone would suggest that promiscuity, drugs or disrespect would be the hallmark of any form of Christianity - or any other religion, for that matter.


  17. "I took her to say that the "Christian" choices between the two extremes she described are being narrowed, because Christianity itself is being taken over by more conservative factions."

    I just wanted to make clear that this idea of being pressured "from both extremes" is illusory. The pressure is all coming from this conservative faction; the idea of some lawless, hedonistic mob pushing back from the other side is a fictional bogeyman of their own invention. This 'siege mentality' is part and parcel of the authoritarian mindset. If you feel like you're fighting an authoritarian group on one side and the barbarian hordes on the other, then in fact you're already in the authoritarians' grasp and they're simply constricting their coils.

  18. (I think the same dynamic is true within politics...)

  19. I just signed up for Swagbucks through your widget. I learned that apparently, Canadians can use it, too. Yay! It doesn't really fit on my sidebar very well (shows less than yours does), but I've contacted the Swagbucks support to see if they can help me. Thanks for the link!

  20. Oh, one more thing--to understand more cultural references, you might find it helpful to read "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams. I was surprised to find all the pop culture references I wasn't getting until I read it. It's nothing to do with TV, but if you're ever stymied by someone answering someone, seemingly nonsensically, with "42," this will help! :o)

  21. DaveL

    As someone raised up in fundamentalism, I agree with you. The fundies are always making it sound like nonreligious people are all about having sex, doing drugs, living selfishly with no moral code.

    My nonreligious friends are NOT hedonists! Some of them are more strict in their morality than I am. Not eating meat because you are against violence is dedication!

    Now I am grateful for all the many friends I have of many different kinds of faiths. They keep me on MY toes! =)

  22. Thanks for your blog.
    My husband and I are both former 'Gothardites.'
    My husband comes from a pilot family.

    You are spot on, Ruth.

    Spot on.

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