Friday, March 5, 2010

Praying a Hedge of Thorns

Someone remind me... does praying a hedge of thorns mean praying for something bad to happen to shove the whisperer back under the great man's umbrella, or is it more of a general protection thing?

Bill Gothard gave a series of lectures where he talked about how men can protect the fidelity of their marriage. In these lectures, a concept came up that revolved around Ez. 22:30.
" 30 And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none."
Other scriptural references would be-
Hosea 2:6-7 (King James Version)
6Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths.
II Corinthians 12:7
"7And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure."

Bill Gothard teaches that Satan can gain "jurisdictional authority" over a person's soul. When a father or husband, as the authority and spiritual protector of the family, fears that this (Satan attempting to get ja) has happened or may happen, the man is instructed to "pray a hedge of thorns" around his wife/family/son/daughter. In doing so, Gothard teaches that the man will have created a "stronghold for Christ".

As a child within the hedge, you are supposedly protected from Satan's influence, so long as you keep a pure heart and follow, with every obedience, the true will of your parent and Lord. If, as a child, you purpose to step outside the hedge, by thoughts or action, you have opened your soul up to Satan and should not be allowed back inside the hedge without proper and due accounting.

In the beginning, Gothard preached this as a way to keep unfaithful spouses from straying. By praying the hedge of thorns around your spouse, God would keep the Satanic thoughts of infidelity and adultry from being able to breach your marriage. As time progressed, it was suggested that parents pray a hedge of thorns around children who strayed. This was to be done, both, as a means of protecting the children still at home and to keep out the child who had strayed until they "properly repented".

It's all out of context and misguided.


  1. For us, it was just a general protection thing, but that doesn't mean that it's not for other people. My parents did pray that bad things would happen to us if it would bring us closer to God, they just didn't use the hedge of thorns for it.

  2. hmmm "hedge of thorns" as opposed to the normal "hedge of protection" interesting

  3. Don't forget "completely fabricated"! :p

    This is the Gothardite stuff that drives true Bible scholars up a wall! You can't just pick out scriptures that have a few of the same words in common, string them together on a line of faulty reasoning and declare that this is Gawd's command!

    Utterly ridiculuous. Jesus taught us to pray using the words we call the Lord's Prayer. Not a word in there about hedges, neither of thorns nor protection. As far as anyone trespassing against us (relation or not) Jesus only words were about FORGIVING THEM!

    Bill Gothard is a charlatan. He is no more a man of God than my little lap dog is an Iditarod competitor.

    The only hedge of thorns around this Christian home is the wild blackberries growing in the hillside. Yum. I'll take all of those I can get. :)

    1. Well, ypu need to read about Hosea and his wife Gomer in the Bible

    2. Well, ypu need to read about Hosea and his wife Gomer in the Bible

    3. Well, ypu need to read about Hosea and his wife Gomer in the Bible

    4. Well, ypu need to read about Hosea and his wife Gomer in the Bible

    5. Well, ypu need to read about Hosea and his wife Gomer in the Bible

  4. To bad he forgot that faith without action is pretty worthless...Wouldn't that be great, if we could treat our family any way we wanted, but as long as we prayed a "hedge of thorns" around them, whatever happened wasn't our fault?


    Don't know if songwriter/musician/producer Steve Taylor had Bill Gothard in mind when he wrote this satire, but it has an uncanny resemblance.

  6. Ruth, thanks for putting the phrase into context. Given the source, I was wondering about the Gothard version in particular – I'm doing a bit more reading now and it's sounding more and more like using intercessory prayer as a magic trick. Perhaps even creepier than that is that the hedge is a way of removing choice from the insufficiently righteous person by making the alternative as bad as possible.

    Re: thorns in the flesh – my understanding of this was that it's something that stops anyone getting away with thinking they're a perfect Christian or better than other people. More 'nobody's perfect, but we have Jesus' than 'I'm not perfect, so I can't have Jesus.' Very unGothardy.

  7. This might be a slight digression, but I wonder if Ruth...or anyone else here...could explain to me to use of the word "purpose" in this post. I've heard in quite a lot now, starting with the first special I saw about the Duggars. Before that, I had never heard that work used as verb. Does it mean "decide"? "Plan"? "Determine"?

    This word, along with the use of "convicted" to means something other than "found guilty of a crime" seem to be specialized vocabulary. Are there clear definitions somewhere?

  8. Sorry about the typos above. There's something sticky on my keyboard.

  9. "To purpose," I think, is the Xian fundy equivalent of the Buddhist expression "to hold the intention to". An old expression of similar meaning is "to will". None of these phrases are commmon vernacular English anymore but they all mean to determine (think, act, believe) wholeheartedly toward a particular outcome.

    "Convicted" is the guilt trip you feel when you've acted against the taboos of your particular brand of fundegelical Christianity. It is supposed to be a mood, or better term: a soul state, that is set upon you by the Holy Spirit, aka God, to lead you back to the straight and narrow.

    Yup, specialized vocabulary. The jargon of the in-group so everyone knows they are IN.

  10. not meaning to hijack, but does anyone else get a bunch of religious ads by Google on this blog now?

  11. Lauren,

    I think the Google Ads pop up based on content. When we were passionately debating homeschooling, various curriculum ads popped up.

    Since the post quoted scripture, I think that drove the ads to a more religious content.

  12. Hmmm, Google Ads popping up about what we post?

    Ice cream! Beach resorts! Puppy adoption!


  13. All I can think of when I hear "hedge of thorns" is the original Grimms' (and grim!) version of Sleeping Beauty, where a hedge of thorns sprang up around the castle and for 100 years horribly maimed anyone who tried to enter. Prince Charming made it because he happened to come along at the right time, not because he was the best qualified.

    Actually, that last part STILL works with Gothard's misguided lectures, doesn't it?

    -- tatortotcassie

  14. I don't think those words are the "jargon of the in-group so everyone knows they are IN." I think it is just vernacular, like "STAT" in the medical world.

    Convicted doesn't mean solely a guilt trip. It can also mean led to, convinced of, interested in. As in, I feel convicted to give to X misson effort; I feel convicted to volunteer for X ministry outreach; etc.

  15. Anon said "I don't think those words are the "jargon of the in-group so everyone knows they are IN." I think it is just vernacular, like "STAT" in the medical world."

    You don't think that every time an MD or RN says "erythematous pharyngeal cavity" they don't get a secret little thrill over the rest of us who say "sore throat"?

    Jargon, of course, does not evolve simply to identify the IN crowd; it develops based on the specific communication needs of a group. It's identity function comes later but I think it is no less important.

  16. "Their language it was new to me
    But Christianese got through to me
    Now I can speak it fluently
    I want to be a clone" - I Want To Be a Clone, yet another song by Steve Taylor from the '80s.

  17. Hey Ruth!

    Maybe this isnt the best spot to put this, but what the heck...Im not sure where else would be better :)

    Firstly, I wanted to commend you on the incredibly strength you've shown in leaving an oppressive way of life in order to fully live your own. That's an incredibly difficult choice, and as someone who has watched people close to me make a very similar decision, I can appreciate how utterly wrenching it is. Having watched them..and others...I've also noticed some pitfalls to be careful of. So if it isnt too obnoxious of me, I hope you don't mind if I offer some well meaning advice?

    1) After someone has been controlling you for a long time, it's a difficult journey to finding out exactly who you are. Things that other people take for granted...knowing your opinions on politics, religion, heck-even where you want to go for dinner!- and being able to express those opinions, are something many people take for granted. When you've been told what to think for so long, finding out those things about yourself, and having the courage to tell others, can be a long process. So take it slow. Read from a wide range. Listen to anything you can get your hands on. Experiment and push yourself to try out new things you wouldn't normally, and find out what YOU like, and then be confident in those tastes. (note by experiment I mean try out yoga, not vodka. Which brings me to #2)

    2) Ive seen people coming from fundamentalist backgrounds go through a stage where they throw out the rules they had to previously live by. Which is important. Unfortunately, theyve sometimes mistaken throwing out the BAD rules with throwing out ALL of the rules...and gotten themselves intro trouble with destructive behavior as a result. So again: Take. It. Slow. Figure out your own morality, but be wary of making any huge lifestyle decisions right now. You're in a period of big change, so appreciate that for what it is and act with a certain amount of caution. Also, be extremely wary of alcohol. It's very easy to overindulge on a college campus, especially if you haven't been taught how to hold your liquor and are emotionally stirred up. If you want to be a social drinker later in life, great. But for now, for most people, it would be a huge mistake to start. I don't mean to sound condescending because you're a smart lady, but I saw a good friend leaving a strict JW background fall into college drinking (rather than address his issues with leaving the church) and it got I feel compelled to warn.

    3) After you've been in a controlling dynamic, it's all too easy to fall into that again...totally by accident! Because you're used to that kind of dynamic, and love being expressed via control, exercise great caution and awareness when you start dating to make SURE you arent accidently getting into a controlling relationship just because it's what you're subconsciously used to. Again...seems insultingly obvious, but it's all too easy to fall prey to.

    4) Work on accepting that you will likely never get an apology from your family, or understanding, or even a fair conversation. Know that this is simply the way they are, that their animosity has nothing to do with you as a person and is in no way a reflection of your worth (they'd treat *anyone* badly for leaving, not just you!), continue to love them in your own way, and then make your OWN life.

    I hope that isn't all too horribly useless, and that it perhaps helps some small bit.

    W/Affection and Best Regards

  18. Margaret/CappuccinoLifeMarch 6, 2010 at 5:49 PM

    Wow, I think Edith's #2 point was excellent. When my family left the cult we were in, we stayed together and I was only 14 at the time-we were able to stabilize and not go off the deep end. But many of my schoolmates left in their later teens and were basically just abandoned at the roadside...ohmygoodness it pains me to see the hurt the walked into trying to go the opposite way of the cult. :(

    The "hedge of thorns" thing is so bizarre to me. Not that much different than asking God straight up to "smite" someone. Which I don't presume to have the authority to do. Good grief.

    Ruth, don't know where you are spiritually, but here's a song for you:
    It doesn't matter what BG says, or what your family accuses you of. ATI doesn't have God in their little box. I know he loves you, and I know he hurts for your hurt. I will be praying for you. Not for thorns but for complete healing and peace of mind, heart and soul.

  19. Sandra, I'm the anonymous upthread who wrote about the context of conviction and the like.

    You wrote, "You don't think that every time an MD or RN says "erythematous pharyngeal cavity" they don't get a secret little thrill over the rest of us who say "sore throat"?"

    Sandra, I don't know what you mean by secret little thrill over medical jargon or Christian jargon. I don't want to get too off topic of Ruth's posts, i.e., discussions between two posters to such an extent that you and I end up hijacking the comments, but am curious about what you mean. :-)

    If you mean, "does having a common vernacular mean there is an already established common ground," then yes, I agree. In any industry or profession of faith.

    I may be taking your comments out of context...they "read" as if you have a negative conotation of those words, or either a negative experience with someone who has used those words. I, too, have; and am a believer, who does believe God gave us a brain for a reason and we are not to check it at the door, so to speak.

    I truly do believe we need to not assign one meaning to words only, when their inherent definitions mean they have more than one. Thanks for your consideration.

    And Ruth, thanks for allowing us this exchange.

  20. Harper--

    Jargon exists, as you pointed out, to provide a common vocabulary to discuss common ground in groups whether the groups be industry, medicine, religion, or teenagers. But a side effect of having jargon is that it also identifies who is an insider and who an outsider of the group.

    This identifying purpose is more or less important depending on the group. Using the right slang is fairly important to certain teen groups; the right terminology is less important in industry. Medical language is definitely used to separate the medical expert from the patient for the purpose of increasing the power of the expert and decreasing the power of the patient (this is not a primary purpose but a recognized purpose nonetheless).

    My experiences with growing up evangelical and fundy Christian (through my mid twenties) taught me that church jargon is used for much the same In/Out and power-tripping purposes. "Convicted" is in particular a triggering word for me because the groups I was involved with in college abused it as a means to prove how holy they were (as in "I was convicted about" something and now look at how much more righteous I am for changing that minor behavior) and, worse, to put down others (as in "the Lord told me that you need conviction" but the connotation was an accusation of perceived wrongdoing).

    If my earlier comments were offensive, I didn't mean them to be. They were admittedly bitter.

    I think language is an important tool for rigid groups such as Gothardites to keep members well-controlled by the hierarchy. Understanding how language can used in power-mongering ways is relevant to how Ruth's family is still trying to bring her back into submission to the group's beliefs and behaviors. By pointing out that purpose of language use, sometimes we can rob the tool of its function.

  21. Gosh, I hope Daddy's Voice o'Doom never stops posting. His pretentious, self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude NEVER fails to make me laugh.

    BTW, I second the call for Harris dish!!! ;-)


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