No, I Didn’t Die

I’ve just been a little bit busy! This year we updated and sold our large home, moved into a rental house and began construction on a modest, smaller home. Who knew buying a little program called YNAB last January would change our lives so dramatically?!

Sometimes I think about the future of this blog…does anybody really care about the world of patriarchy anymore? As I was telling a friend recently, “Patriarchy is on its way out.” And last month that sentiment was affirmed when I heard about Doug Phillips’ extra-marital affair and the subsequent closing down of Vision Forum ministry and corporation. While I feel sympathy for the Phillips family I am happy that Vision Forum, a substantial promoter of patriarchal ideals, will cease to exert its influence in the homeschool world and we’ll be that much closer to seeing an end to this craziness.

Speaking of crazy, Karen pointed out that Matthew Chapman is slated to be a keynote speaker at an Ohio homeschool convention next year.* Chapman, an advocate for betrothal (which is like courtship on steroids), was 26 and his future wife, Maranatha, just 13 when he approached her father about betrothal/marriage. Maranatha’s father allowed the marriage to take place in 1988 when she was 15 years old. Fast forward to 2008, when Chapman’s daughter Lauren married a man ten years her senior just weeks after she turned 16. Chapman writes,

“The way many Christian homeschooling parents raise their daughters, they mature rather quickly and develop significant capacities by a relatively young age. By their middle-teens, many daughters (but by no means all) possess the maturity and skills to run their own home. My point is to encourage you to be open to the Lord and take to heart that some of your daughters may be ready to marry sooner than your preconceived ideas have allowed for…. oftentimes, a difference in age—even a significant one—with the man being older, helps make for a better fit.”

If this guy, who advises fathers to consider marrying off their teen daughters to significantly older men, is speaking at my state homeschool convention perhaps patriarchy isn’t dying as quickly as I thought!

*Fortunately, the Chapman’s are no longer speaking at the convention.

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5 Things

1. I was so glad to read that Vision Forum will no longer be publishing Elsie Dinsmore books! I used to own the first book in the Elsie Dinsmore series (yes, I purchased it from Vision Forum back in the day, even before my girls were old enough to read) but was thankfully unimpressed by it and eventually donated it to Goodwill. Looking back I wish I’d trashed it so no one else would be subjected to its racism and its borderline incest and pedophilia!

2. I Am My Child’s Friend. I loved this. Such a contrast to Voddie Baucham’s advice that will end up making your child more of an adversary than a friend. It makes me heart-wrenchingly sad to remember how my parenting, just like Voddie recommends, centered around ME and not my children. Spanking made life pretty convenient for me. My kids did what they were told, ate what they were told and slept when they were told. It was a quick, easy way to keep peace and order in the house and, sadly, it never occurred to me to think more creatively about discipline. But praise God, He restores the years that the locusts have eaten and for the past few years I have been enjoying the friendship of my children, aiming to prefer them above myself, and using plumbing supply lines and wooden spoons for their intended purpose–plumbing and cooking!

3. I’ve been enjoying Jenny Rae Armstrong’s Equally Yoked series, posted every Monday. Jenny’s husband wrote this one and I also liked this one written by a couple who grew up in the Patriarchy movement. And this hits the nail on the head: There is Simply No Need for Hierarchy in Marriage if Each Partner Loves and Respects the Other. Because when you’re married to your best friend, “who’s in charge” becomes a moot point! As my pastor pointed out recently, everyone is called to submission. (Eph. 5:21)

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves. Phil 2:3

4. I found Mr. Money Mustache a few months ago when we were searching for more affordable cell phone plan options. His post, Our New $10 Per Month iPhone Plans, was exactly the information I was looking for and switching to Airvoice has been saving us $120 per month! I started reading some of his other posts and eventually read through his entire archive and became a subscriber. The idea of early retirement intrigues me, though my husband and I are a bit late to the game to try it ourselves. That said, we have made it our goal this year to downsize and simplify in pretty much every area of life. As much as we enjoy our possessions, and as hard as it is to let some of them go, I think the simplicity of life and the ability to be more generous with our time (and money!) will be worth it.

5. Speaking of simplicity, Becoming Minimalist is a blog I came across recently that I like to read. And can you imagine living a life that produces no trash? I can’t, but it’s interesting to read how Bea from Zero Waste Home does it!

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13 Books for 2013

I seem to be following a “better late than never” theme around here lately. I wrote about
Halloween in November, Christmas in January, and here I am posting my 2013 book list in February!

If only I had enough hours in the day for the countless books on my nightstand, bookcase and Amazon wish list that are begging to be read! With some difficulty I’ve narrowed my focus to this baker’s dozen that I plan to read over the coming months:

1. Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible by E. Randolph RichardsiMonk discussed this book recently and piqued my interest. I love studying the Bible and this book is right up my alley. An excerpt: “…there’s no way around the fact that our cultural and historical contexts supply us with habits of mind that lead us to read the Bible differently than Christians in other cultural and historical contexts.”

2. The God Of The Mundane by Matt Redmond. Is Christianity about what we can do for God or about what He has done for us? My life is made up of very un-radical activities such as folding underwear, scrubbing toilets, cooking oatmeal, teaching grammar and balancing the checkbook. Can a mundane life glorify God?

3. Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. This is a book that I started reading over a year ago but never finished. It’s an eye-opening, powerful book that is a necessary, but difficult, read for anyone who endeavors to “seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” (Is. 1:17)

4. Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis by William J. Webb. I quickly read this book on my kindle last year and found Webb’s redemptive movement approach to hermeneutics pretty intriguing. I’m planning to read my paper copy this year, slowly, with pen and notebook in hand.

5. Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women by Carolyn Custis James. For the Christian, this book goes hand-in-hand with Half the Sky. From the book description: “The strongest voices speaking into women’s lives in the twenty-first century are Islam and Feminism–systems that reside at opposite ends of the spectrum. Does the church’s message for women stake out the middle ground or lead the way to something much better?”

6. The Trinity & Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God & the Contemporary Gender Debate by Kevin Giles. Is the Son eternally subordinate to the Father? If the Trinity is the model for our Christian relationships then I want to have a better understanding of how the Son, Spirit and Father relate to one another.

7. Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think by Bryan Caplan. A couple years ago, while reading aloud Cheaper by the Dozen to my kids, I was inspired by the father in the story, Mr. Gilbreth, to make my bathroom time more educational. So I began broadening my horizons by listening to NPR while getting myself ready in the mornings (sometimes afternoons, depending on how my day is going!) I have gained insight on opinions that differ from my own, learned information on a wide range of topics and discovered quite a few authors and musicians who are new to me. Bryan Caplan is one of those authors and after listening to his fascinating interview on NPR one morning I immediately ordered this book, which promises to be the antithesis to Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother!

8. Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen. Nothing gets my 6 year old out of a pout faster than being chased around the house by a tickle monster on the loose! Humor is an integral part of our gentle parenting and I’m looking forward to reading this author’s thoughts on the subject.

9. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. For years I tried to fight my introversion instead of embracing it, buying into the mindset of our culture that extroverted personalities are the ideal. In this book Susan Cain not only brings to light the advantages of introversion but also gives advice on parenting an introverted child.

10. Families Where Grace Is in Place: Building a Home Free of Manipulation, Legalism, and Shame by Jeff VanVonderen. From the book description: “Here is a message about how God’s grace can transform relationships within a marriage and family…Healthy relationships between husband and wife, between parents and children, are possible only when the filter of God’s grace is placed over the processes of marriage and parenting.”

11. Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna. What are the origins of our modern church practices and traditions? I’m curious to find out.

 12. One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp. I’ve visited A Holy Experience a few times and have known about this book for awhile now but honestly wasn’t interested until I learned that Ann Voskamp used to struggle with anxiety and panic attacks. She states that “gratitude is an antidote for anxiety“ and, as someone who struggles with anxious and sometimes panicky thoughts, this is something I’d like to know more about.

13. Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson. Since I don’t have small children underfoot anymore I’m not sure I’m within the targeted audience of this book. However, I subscribe to Sally Clarkson’s blog, I Take Joy, and I’m interested because I enjoy her thoughts on mothering. I heard about Sarah Mae a year or more ago but, funnily enough, was turned off by her e-books about how to keep your house clean and how to get dressed every day. Most moms already worry too much about messes and I am not about to give up my yoga pants! So I never stuck around Sarah’s blog to see what she was about. I’m looking forward to learning more about her via this book.

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The Very Best Christmas Gift Ever

The lights, ornaments and nativity sets are packed snugly in the attic until next year, the radio is no longer playing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and shoppers are no longer serenaded by tinkling bells as they go in and out of stores. Fresh, sparkling 2013 is already threatening to dim my memory of December 2012 so before Christmas slightly past becomes Christmas totally past I’m going to squeeze this blog post in!

A conversation with good friends last month on the whys and wherefores of Christmas
got me to thinking: why is it that the shunning of Christmas seems to be a common denominator among aberrant religious groups? My neighbors, who are Two-by-Twos, don’t celebrate it. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate it.

I began to wonder whether or not patriocentrists celebrate Christmas so, to satisfy my curiosity, I googled a few prominent names. I discovered Michael Pearl’s motto is “Keep Christ out of Christmas and it’s OK.” His family does not decorate for Christmas, exchange gifts, put up a Christmas tree or have any church celebrations. Doug Phillips does not celebrate Christmas. Voddie Baucham and his family also opt out of Christmas, having decided several years ago to no longer exchange gifts or put up a tree.

Thankfully, until this year, I had no idea the celebrity families of patriarchy abstain from Christmas. So, in my blissful ignorance, I felt no peer pressure to align with their ideology.

Christmas in our home, for the most part, looks the same as it always has. We’ve relaxed our standards in a few areas; for example, we now watch a wider variety of Christmas movies such as White Christmas and Elf (these movies both used to be on our naughty list!) Santa is mentioned much more than he used to be. We used to have “off limit” children’s gifts such as gaming systems (too addictive and creativity-stifling), barbie dolls and noisy battery-operated toys. We’ve dropped these restrictions. As a matter of fact, last year we bought our family an Xbox for Christmas!

I love Christmas. I love spending time with family and friends. I love hearing Joy to the world, the Lord has come! while I’m browsing the aisles in Walmart. I even love the more superficial aspects of Christmas–Santa Claus, eggnog, the grinch, holly and mistletoe, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”–but most of all I love the freedom I have in Christ to celebrate both the sacredness and silliness of  Christmas!

So here’s to the very best Christmas gift ever–Christ entering our world, putting on humanness and offering Himself so that we can be free indeed!

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. (Gal 5:1)

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What’s Changed: Halloween

People sometimes ask me, “What’s changed?” and usually I struggle to come up with a reply off the top of my head because not many outward, tangible things have changed since I left patriarchy. Unless you are a close friend or family member you probably wouldn’t notice my life being much different than it was 5 years ago. But once in awhile I catch myself doing something that the “old me” would never have done and I think I ought to write about this on my blog!

So that’s what I’m doing today.

This week, for the first time in my life*, I carved a pumpkin! My kids, Sharpies in hand, drew faces of their choosing and then watched while I carved out the eyes, noses and mouths. Then we inserted a votive candle into each, turned off the lights and stood back to admire our handiwork. This Halloween business is kinda fun! I thought to myself.

We’ve always had a tradition of ignoring Halloween in our family. In order to avoid all the cowboys, princesses and witches that might show up at our door on trick or treat night we would go out to dinner, leaving the house dark and unwelcoming.

To this day my husband and I have never gone trick or treating and we’ve never taken our kids trick or treating. This year we had planned to finally join in this tradition of dressing up, begging candy from complete strangers and overindulging on chocolate, high fructose corn syrup and red dye #40. Unfortunately we wimped out over the weekend when hurricane Sandy hit, bringing rain and colder temps, and then a family party kept us home on Halloween night. Oh well, there’s always next year!

Though I haven’t been afraid of Halloween for a few years now, this year marks the closest I’ve come to actually celebrating the holiday. I’m most comfortable when I’m following the evangelical crowd so it’s taken some time to come to terms with Halloween and how I feel about it. I’ve never had any personal conviction from the Lord regarding Halloween. In fact, I don’t recall ever asking the Lord about it at all!

There’s no shortage of Halloween-related articles floating around the internet this week. Here are some of my favorites:

Hallowing Halloween: Why Christians should embrace the devilish holiday with gusto—and laughter by Anderson Rearick. An excerpt: I am reluctant to give up what was one of the highlights of my childhood calendar to the Great Impostor and Chief of Liars for no reason except that some of his servants claim it as his…As for Satanists, their calendar is a perversion of Christian seasons—there would be no Satanists if there were no Christians. Let them claim all they want. I give them nothing.

For some Halloween history, here’s Concerning Halloween by James B. Jordan.

Shame on those of us evangelicals who allowed Halloween to be taken away from families and many communities, all because we prefer to believe that life is a Frank Paretti novel. From iMonk’s Annual Halloween Rant.

Elizabeth Esther: This year, in fact, I actually laughed and chortled and giggled with sheer delight at the haunted houses, the creepy villains, the grim reapers. I laugh because I know why the darkness rages: it’s been defeated…O death, where is thy victory? O grave, where is thy sting? 

*Updated to add: My mom, who I think must be my most loyal reader, informed me that we did in fact carve jack o’ lanterns a couple times in my childhood. I have absolutely no memory of this but I’m going to take her word for it :)

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Lessons Learned

I was not one of those people who could eat the meat and spit out the bones when I read or listened to patriocentric authors, bloggers, and speakers. And I’ve never been a person to do things halfway regarding issues of great importance to me. I was only 18 years old when I got married and began my journey into patriocentricity by reading The Way Home by Mary Pride. A year later, at 19, I became a mother and discovered Michael Pearl and To Train Up A Child.  After that I was hooked and became a steady consumer of all things relating to the “biblical” homeschool lifestyle, especially materials and websites related to Above Rubies, No Greater Joy, and Vision Forum. I was young, naive, idealistic, and clueless.

I can’t blame my parents for my mistakes because they did not insist I stay at home, eschewing college life and a job outside the home in order to help raise my younger siblings and be my dad’s helpmeet. Remember, this was the early 90′s and, although I was committed to abstinence before marriage, I’d never heard of Josh Harris or the concept of waiting until my wedding day to kiss. I had a very healthy, normal, Christian upbringing for which I’m incredibly grateful. My parents loved me, taught me about Jesus, took me to church, supported me in my interests, sacrificed to send me to Christian school (and one year of homeschooling), and, as an older teenager, let me make my own decisions about my life.

I can’t blame my husband either. He was only 19 when we married, struggling with issues of his own regarding faith and salvation and spiritual bondage that took years to work through. I was the one who was a whiz at Bible trivia and had memorized huge chunks of scripture and had devotional time every day like clockwork so he just assumed I knew what I was talking about! He put up little resistance to the ideas I was gleaning from homeschooling books, magazines and websites.

I had no idea, at 18 years of age, that over the next decade of my life the movement I was embracing would cause me to

  • spank my two year old daughter, who would frequently wake up crying in the night, for continuing to cry and not go back to sleep when told (oh how I wish I could go back…I would rock her and sing her back to sleep or read to her until she was sleepy instead of giving her harsh commands in the middle of the night and spanking her when she didn’t obey)
  • seek out male professionals (such as doctors, realtors, etc) rather than female because every woman should be a homemaker and I didn’t want to support women who were being disobedient to the Word
  • criticize women who ran for public office (again, they ought to be homemakers–public office, whether county commissioner or vice president, is man’s sphere)
  • consider an ideal church to be one led and run solely by men so that the women would be free to remain silent
  • view my husband as my priest, prophet, and king–essentially a mediator between myself and God (though I never would have said that!)
  • advise people who told me that the methods in To Train Up A Child weren’t working for their child, “You’re not spanking hard enough. Light spankings will only make them mad, not submissive!” and give them a plumbing supply line because I thought it was more effective than a wooden spoon
  • be critical of teenage girls or women who wanted to work outside the home, believing this made them a helpmeet to a man other than their father or husband
  • refuse to put my babies and toddlers in the church nursery, preferring instead to make frequent trips out to the car in order to spank them for not being quiet during church
  • Though I did vote, I believed that the world was a better place when women couldn’t vote. Feminism, so I thought, was the root of all evil

I didn’t come up with these ideas on my own but I blame myself more than anyone else for the years of bondage I lived through. False teachers will always be around–it was my responsibility to follow Christ alone and hear only His voice and I had to bear the consequences of not doing that. I hurt the ones I love most–my children. My husband and I struggled in our marriage, each trying to act out the roles of “biblical manhood and womanhood.” I was harsh and critical in my thoughts toward others.  I pasted on a smile and endeavored to maintain a pristine image and be a good advertisement for the homeschooling, patriocentric lifestyle so that others would be drawn to this “biblical” way of life. I was unhappy and depressed but I tried to never let on to others how confused I felt.

I’ve experienced first-hand the pain caused by swallowing and digesting patriocentric teachings, meat and bones. I wasted a lot of years trying to put the cart before the horse, making obedience and godliness my goal instead of simply seeking Jesus first and allowing Him to lead me into the good works He had planned for me–unique work, especially suited to me and my family.

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Burdens Are Lifted At Calvary

I’m still getting used to living life without the demon of fear crouching on my shoulder, whispering threats in my ear at every turn, reminding me of what the “experts” say, coercing me into making safe decisions rather than wise decisions.

Jesus has given me a taste of the free, abundant life available in Him. Over and over He comforts Don’t be afraid. Fear not. I have not given you the spirit of fear. 

  • I’m no longer afraid that my family will be riddled with health problems or chronic disease if I don’t grind our grain, grow our food, drink raw milk, avoid all sweets and junk food, and prepare all our meals from scratch WAPF-style.
  • I’m no longer afraid that the liberals, or worse, the Muslims, will take over the United States if I don’t do my part to outnumber them through militant fecundity–birthing and raising as many warriors for Christ as I possibly can.
  • I’m no longer afraid that my children will learn rebellion and walk away from God if I don’t perfectly submit to my husband and spank the children for the slightest bad attitude or delay in obedience.
  • I’m no longer afraid that reading or watching Harry Potter will turn my kids into occultists. Or that sleepovers with trusted friends will be the ruin of them.
  • I’m no longer afraid to wear a swimsuit or shorts and a tank top (check out my modesty series for more on this topic.)
  • I’m no longer afraid of end-of-the-world scenarios. Yes, natural disasters may occur, the end of the United States (as we know it) may be just around the corner, but I’m no longer trusting in my own homesteading skills, emergency preparedness, or food stores to save me. Instead I’m taking Christ at His Word:

do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

  • I’m no longer afraid that listening to Taylor Swift or watching Lost will “feed my flesh” and lead me into sinful behavior. Or that missing my morning quiet time will cause me to be grumpy and irritable, therefore ruining my day.

Jesus is calling me to faith, not fear. To freedom, not the bondage of rules. As the hymn says, my burdens are lifted at Calvary, not added!

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Michael Pearl in the News

I finally watched Michael Pearl’s recent appearance on the Today Show, as well as his interview along with Elizabeth Esther on the Anderson Cooper show.

Michael Pearl and the media seem content to keep discussing spanking vs. not spanking instead of focusing on the real issue here–repetitive spankings intended to break a child’s will. I thought Elizabeth Esther did a great job of zeroing in on this. Michael Pearl spouts spanking statistics without acknowledging the fact that the vast majority of parents who spank do not do so in the manner he outlines in To Train Up A Child. In Michael Pearl’s methodology, spanking is not a one-time consequence for disobedience but a means of wearing down the child’s spirit…“spank him until he’s totally broken.” 

I thought I’d share a letter I wrote last summer to my local Christian homeschool group’s email list. The discussion had been sparked by a link to the videos of CNN’s investigation in August 2011. Some spoke in defense of Michael Pearl, claiming that his teachings are biblical and that the Schatz girls suffered from a pre-existing condition called rhabdomyolysis. I felt I had no choice but to speak out against this misinformation so I composed this reply:

“I am not anti-spanking and I don’t enjoy seeing the media put their liberal spin on the topic either. But where the Pearls are concerned the issue goes beyond spanking vs. not spanking. I don’t mean to be argumentative, but just honestly share my family’s journey and the details I’ve learned about the Schatz case, a story I’ve been  following with interest for over a year.

I read Michael Pearl’s book To Train Up A Child back in 1999. As a new wife and mom (my firstborn was 7 or 8 months old), I was very eager to do things right. We attended their child training seminar in the late 90s, I read their marriage/parenting books, watched their videos and read their newsletter for 10 years.

We had a collection of 1/4″ plastic plumbing supply lines in varying sizes–shorter ones for the glove box of each vehicle, and longer ones for each room in the house. The supply lines served as our “rod of discipline,” as Michael Pearl suggested. We were frequently complimented on our well-behaved children (behavior modification does work) and I was a big fan of No Greater Joy…until the spring of 2010 when I learned about Lydia Schatz. I knew the Pearls did not advocate child abuse, and in fact speak against it, so I began looking into this issue on the internet.

I had never paid much attention to the Pearls’ theology before but during my research I learned that Michael Pearl 1. Denies the doctrine of original sin, 2. Has a gnostic view of sin nature (sin works only in our bodies), and 3. Believes in sinless perfection (we are instantly sanctified when we are born again and from then on we sin no more).

Catez Stevens has listened to the sermons of Michael Pearl and points out the doctrinal errors. (I don’t know Catez Stevens from adam so don’t take this as a blanket endorsement!)

Also, there’s a free e-book which examines the false doctrine of Michael Pearl. This book is extremely thorough and I highly recommend it.

The Pearls do recommend using plastic plumbing supply line as a spanking instrument, exactly the same instrument used to spank Lydia to death. And the district attorney in the case stated that there is a direct connection between Michael Pearl’s book and Lydia’s death. Yes, the Schatzes are certainly responsible for their own actions. But it is possible that someone with no discernment could overdo the Pearls’ advice to spank until the child is broken. Michael Pearl himself warns that the battle of wills can sometimes take awhile. But what if the child never gives that submissive whimper? When exactly are you supposed to stop before it crosses the line into abuse? TTUAC never clarifies this. For example (this is from the version of TTUAC that was found in the Schatz home, emphasis mine):

If he continues to show defiance by jerking around and defending himself, or by expressing anger, wait a moment, lecture again, and again spank him until it’s obvious he’s totally broken.(To Train Up A Child, p59)

Switch him 8-10 times on his bare legs or bottom. While waiting for the pain to subside, speak calm words of rebuke. If his crying turns to a true, wounded, submissive whimper, you have conquered; he has submitted his will. If his crying is still defiant, protesting, and other than a response to pain, spank him again. If this is the first time he’s come up against someone tougher than he is, it may take awhile…if you stop before he is voluntarily submissive, you have confirmed to him the value and effectiveness of a screaming protest! (TTUAC p80)

If you have to sit on him to spank him, then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he has surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring, and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally…A general rule is to continue the disciplinary action until the child has surrendered. (TTUAC p46)

Rhabdomyolysis is caused by damage to the muscle tissue, usually caused by trauma such as a car accident. It was not exacerbated by the spanking, it was caused by the spanking. If it were a pre-existing condition surely Kevin Schatz’ attorney, Michael Harvey, would’ve mentioned that fact. Instead, according to the Contra Costa Times, he said in regard to rhabdomyolysis, “most know it’s inappropriate to shake a baby, but few had heard of the medical condition that could be caused by Schatzes’ disciplinary method.

Our “Pearl years” were characterized by graceless parenting and my heart aches to remember how I used to treat my children, thinking I had their best interests at heart. Anything less than first time obedience was disciplined for as disobedience (I’m glad God doesn’t treat me this way!) We expected behavior out of our children that, realistically, they were too immature to give. We used the rod as our first (and pretty much only) form of discipline. I rarely gave my babies pacifiers because Michael Pearl teaches that this is rewarding self-indulgence and leads to intemperance/overeating later in life. I stuffed down my motherly instincts when it came to training and discipline–I didn’t want to be that weak, emotional mother that Michael Pearl describes as loving herself more than her children. For the sake of my children’s souls I had to be tough and unrelenting, “a cold rock of justice,” to put it in Michael Pearl’s words.

In His mercy, God has drastically changed my perspective on parenting. Studying how God parents His children has been key for me. Sally Clarkson has some great thoughts on parenting with faith and grace as opposed to performance-based training. Also, I’ve been reading a parenting book by Elyse Fitzpatrick called Give Them Grace and it’s excellent so far. [edited to add: at the time I wrote this I hadn’t read Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel. Although I did enjoy Give Them Grace, Kimmel’s book is far better!]

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Modesty Part 6: Blame it on Bathsheba?

Bathsheba is often portrayed as an adulteress whose immodesty, either naive or seductive in nature, set off a chain of terrible events. Patriocentrists love to hold Bathsheba up as an object lesson, to keep their women hyper-focused on whether or not their clothing might cause a man to stumble.

For example, in Created to be His Help Meet Debi Pearl argues, “Because Bathsheba was indiscreet, she caused great calamity, resulting in the bloodshed and suffering of many. Her lack of discretion cost…the integrity of one whom God upheld as a man after his own heart.”

And in his book Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America, Jeff Pollard states, “Bathsheba’s unwise and imprudent public nakedness certainly fueled the fire of David’s lust…Bathsheba failed to govern her modesty.”

Was Bathsheba indiscreet? Was she publicly naked? Is she to blame for the bloodshed and suffering of many?

Bathing Beauty
So often Bathsheba’s bath is thought to be very public, and Bathsheba herself very naked. In fact, when I did an image search for “Bathsheba” it was hard to find a picture that I felt comfortable inserting into this blog! Thoughts from Bob Deffinbaugh:

Bathsheba is bathing herself. We tend to assume that this means she is disrobed, at least partially. I believe Bathsheba is bathing herself in some place normally used for such purposes. Only David, with his penthouse vantage, would be able to see her, and a whole lot of other folks if he chose.

Incidentally, Bathsheba is washing herself in Jerusalem,from which all the men of fighting age have gone to war. Remember the words of verse 1:

1 Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem (emphasis mine).

It is not as if Bathsheba is acting in an unbecoming manner, knowing that men are around. She has every right to assume they are not. David is around, but he should not be. On top of this, she is not bathing herself at high noon; she is bathing in the evening. This is when the law prescribed (for ceremonial cleansing), and it is when the sun is setting. In other words, it is nearly dark when Bathsheba sets out to wash herself. David has to work to see what he does. I believe Bathsheba makes every effort to assure her modesty, but the king’s vantage point is too high, and he is looking with too much zeal. I am suggesting that David is much more of a peeping Tom than Bathsheba is an exhibitionist.

II Samuel 11 does not specify Bathsheba’s extent of undress during her bath and it adds no commentary as to whether or not this bath was inappropriate behavior on her part. To say that Bathsheba was publicly naked, or even that she was indiscreet, is adding to what the text actually says.

Adultery, Rape or Seduction?
I have always considered the affair between David and Bathsheba to be adultery, not rape. But after examining all the Scriptural clues, I no longer believe that Bathsheba was an enthusiastic adulteress. Here’s why:

1. I read the text carefully and noticed that throughout the passage David is the one “doing.” That evening David walked, he saw, he sent, he inquired, he took Bathsheba and he lay with her. 2 Samuel 11:4 clarifies that David sent messengers and took Bathsheba–he fetched or captured her (Strong’s H3947 - laqach). Then he lay with her and when she became pregnant, he concocted a plan to dispose of her husband, Uriah.  Verse 27 reads, the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the LORD. Nowhere in the account does God hold Bathsheba at all responsible! God blames David and only David.

2. There’s no record that Bathsheba cried out for help or tried to resist David, but he was a rich and powerful man, roughly 30 years her senior, in a culture that treated women as property. I tend to think that David seduced Bathsheba, perhaps not by violently raping her, but by using his position as king to intimidate a powerless young woman. Deffinbaugh gives more insight:

When we read of this incident, we do so through Western eyes. We live in a day when a woman has the legal right to say “No” at any point in a romantic relationship. If the man refuses to stop, that is regarded as a violation of her rights; it is regarded as rape. It didn’t work that way for women in the ancient Near East.

Lot could offer his virgin daughters to the wicked men of Sodom, to protect strangers who were his guests, and there was not one word of protest from his daughters when he did so (Genesis 19:7-8). These virgins were expected to obey their father, who was in authority over them.

Michal was first given to David as his wife, and then Saul took her back and gave her to another man. And then David took her back (1 Samuel 25:442 Samuel 3:13-16). Apparently Michal had no say in this whole sequence of events.

To approach this same issue from the opposite perspective, think with me about the Book of Esther. When the king summoned his wife, Queen Vashti, to appear (perhaps in a way that would inappropriately display her to the king’s guests), she refused. She was removed (see Esther 1:1-22). She did not lose her life, but she was at least replaced. Then, we read later in this same book that no one could approach the king unless he summoned them. If any approached the king and he did not raise his scepter, they were put to death (Esther 4:10-11).

Does this not portray the way of eastern kings? Does this not explain why Bathsheba went to the king’s palace when summoned? Does this help to explain why she seems to have given in to the king’s lustful acts? We do not know what protests — like Tamar’s in chapter 13 — she may have uttered, but we do have some sense of the powerlessness of a woman in those days, especially when given orders by the king.

3. David’s sin with Bathsheba seems to be connected to Amnon’s rape of Tamar:

in 2 Samuel 13 there is another way the text blames David. In the story of David’s son Amnon’s rape of his sister Tamar. The placement of the rape so soon after the incident of Bathsheba seems to draw a parallel between sexual misconduct of father and son.(Coogan, Michael D. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Pg. 212)

4. In the prophet Nathan’s parable to David (chapter 12) Bathsheba isn’t portrayed as a beautiful, tempting possession. Instead God pictured her as a cherished pet–an innocent, helpless ewe lamb!

God held the rich man (David) entirely accountable for his adultery and murder; He says, “You are the man! You did evil! You struck down Uriah and you took his wife!” In 12:13 David rightly confesses, “I have sinned.” Scripture does not hold Bathsheba, the ewe lamb, at all responsible for David’s actions.

In conclusion…
Bathsheba does not deserve to be called indiscreet, nor to be blamed for causing great calamity, as Debi Pearl claims. Neither can she be accused of public nakedness, as Jeff Pollard argues. These accusations simply cannot be backed up with Scripture! Let’s stop using this biblical account as a “proof text” for sermons or books on modesty.

David, the rich man, used Bathsheba, the poor man’s pet lamb. He took away her dignity, he murdered her husband, and her child died because of his sin! Even David himself acknowledged that he had sinned in this matter. God’s Word puts all the blame squarely on David’s shoulders and we must do the same. 

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Parenting with Grace

I just finished reading Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel and all I can say is wow. Hands down, it is the best parenting book I’ve ever read (besides the Bible itself). What a beautiful breath of fresh air after 10 years of being indoctrinated by the graceless methods of No Greater Joy.

Kimmel affirms the importance of intentional, conscientious parenting. I have said that my works are useless at preventing sin or producing righteousness in anyone; that only Christ is capable of this. Does this mean that I allow my kids to run wild and live only to please their selfish desires (while I am pursuing mine), trusting that God will deliver them from my rotten parenting? Of course not! I heartily agree with Kimmel when he says,

What happens inside the four walls of a family home does more to affect the outcome of children’s lives than any other single factor…Because this is true, the people in charge of their children have a huge responsibility to pay attention to what they’re doing.

Being a graceful parent does not mean it’s okay for me to walk in the flesh and allow my children to do the same. It’s tough to explain that my works don’t produce righteousness in my children without downplaying the importance of attentive, sacrificial parenting. How do I clarify that I no longer stash all my parenting eggs in a basket labeled “homeschooling” without sounding like a commercial for public school? How do I make the point that more clothing is not the answer to the problem of lust without sounding like I approve of provocative clothing and advertising? Tim Kimmel addresses this:

You run a risk any time you talk about sin and grace in the same sentence. People assume you’re trying to set up a nice little theological system that allows you to do whatever you want…I’m confident many would assume that when it comes to sin, grace offers too much latitude…I’d have to rip Romans chapters 5 through 8 out of my Bible in order to believe such nonsense [that grace is a license to sin]. There is nothing in the realm of grace that gives anyone to license to ignore God’s standards.

My family has done a pendulum swing from legalism to grace–a night and day transformation God has wrought in us and in our parenting. Tim Kimmel describes our prior legalistic parenting very well:

In these types of families, it’s real easy for kids to assume that things can actually be sin (R-rated movies, spiked hair, short skirts, rap music, etc.). These types of homes also make it easy to assume that certain actions are inherently sinful (dancing, watching The Simpsons, coed swimming, going to secular rock concerts, French kissing, etc.)…

When these children do sin, they are punished more for allowing the sin to happen than they are for the fact that it happened. It’s as though the power to sin or not to sin was somehow connected to their personal will power and resolve. Guilt and fear can plague children in these homes without the children ever falling into sin. They can get fearful when they simply get in proximity to one of those “things” that is considered sinful (see above)…This forces them to pull away from the people who live in the mainstream of life…these families are preoccupied with keeping sin out by putting a fence between them and the world.

I used to be a dedicated fence-builder and it made my family afraid of the world and the people in it. Christ compelled us to put down our nails and boards and hammers and turn instead to Him. His broom of grace is clearing out the cobwebs of our performance-based, self-righteous living that depended more on “sweet frames” than on Jesus Christ. Tim Kimmel describes the grace-full family:

The difference with grace-based families is that they don’t bother spending much time putting fences up because they know full well that sin is already present and accounted for inside their family. To these types of parents, sin is not an action or an object that penetrates their defenses; it is a preexisting condition that permeates their being.

It’s not that grace-based homes don’t take their children’s sin seriously. Nor is it that grace-based homes circumvent consequences. It isn’t even that grace-based homes do nothing to protect their children from attacks and temptations that threaten them from the outside. They do all these things, but not for the same reasons. Grace-based homes aren’t trusting in the moral safety of their home or the spiritual environment they’ve created to empower their children to resist sin. They know that ultimately a home and an environment are no match for the forces of evil.

Grace understands that the only real solution for our children’s sin is the work of Christ on their behalf.

Legalism uses outside forces to help children maintain their moral walk. Their strength is based on the environment they live in. Legalism depends on a controlled environment to hold children’s urges in place and the temptations away. 

Grace, on the other hand, sees the strength of children by what is inside them–more specifically, Who is inside them. It’s not that children in legalistic Christian homes don’t have Christ in their lives; it’s just that they haven’t been taught how to appropriate His power to overcome the spiritual challenges they encounter. They have been taught that their power over sin and their victory over temptation rest in things other than Christ. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t back up that premise. There is no power outside Christ; there is only the illusion of it. 

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