Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Disturbing Return of the Daughters



(Late Entry Note: Please also see these posts pertaining to the topic.)
Here's my second attempt at posting my first comment here on Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin’s new film, ”The Return of the Daughters.” (I sent my first attempt into cyberspace oblivion.) There are so many things about the film that are disturbing to me, and I was amazed to see how “emotionally engaged” my very logical husband became when we viewed it together. We were both disturbed for a wide variety of reasons, probably because the general premise of young women desiring to live godly lives to impact society is such a desirable premise. But like so much of Vision Forum influenced ideology, “you get much more than you bargained for.” I actually thought at one point, that it might be nice to have Dave Letterman’s blink counter set to sound whenever “Biblical” was used as a modifier.


Vision Forum’s description of this film states
This highly-controversial documentary will take viewers into the homes of several young women who have dared to defy today’s anti-family culture in pursuit of a biblical approach to daughterhood, using their in-between years to pioneer a new culture of strength and dignity, and to rebuild Western Civilization, starting with the culture of the home….. As the home goes, so often goes the church, and society at large. Learn along with Anna Sofia and Elizabeth, the fulfilling, exciting life of impact and accomplishment that young women can and should have. Discover the power of
the family unit and a picture of the biblical home as the center of dominion work — a vibrant center of education, ministry, evangelism, culture, entrepreneurialism, and hospitality.
Certainly, this film represents great ideals, and many of them are vital to Christianity, representing core Christian principles. The film presents a vignette of the lives of several young women that either work for their fathers in their own place of business, volunteer or work from home to generate income to help support the vision of the father. What is more subtle is the reason why these young women are portrayed as shining examples of “Biblical womanhood” that is not directly and obviously stated in the film. The film doesn’t argue their point for the sole purpose of singing the glories of staying at home but as a positive support of their narrow, legalistic interpretation that this is the only acceptable “Biblical” standard for all unwed women.

In keeping with the patriocentric doctrines and practices taught by Vision Forum and the FICs, I think that a more appropriate name for the film would be “The Return to the Fathers,” because I found the focus of the film to be the glorified ideal of the father-daughter relationship. Brothers get a plug in the Extras section, but mothers barely appear on camera. After the focus on the first young woman and her family, there were few mothers on screen. I do specifically recall the mother of one of the girls appearing in the film, but only in portrait where she is shown embracing the girl’s father. If examining the content of the film, the focus is not on family or home, so the “Return of the Daughters” calls really for a return of daughters -- to return home to their father’s vision for them.

The Bodkin girls stare hypnotically into the camera with come-hither gazes, and everyone else is interviewed in documentary style, looking away from the camera’s eye. There’s been discussion on some blogs about the disturbing nature of some of this technique, especially when some interviewed demonstrate some unnatural lack of eye movement. Some people are trained to control eye movement to conceal information about the truthfulness of their statements, although this might have been due to the use of a teleprompter. This is a great distraction in the film, especially in the Extras sections where Geoff Botkin and Doug Phillips explain the “Biblical Foundations” for the belief system that they advocate in the film. The Visionary Daughters website posted a clip of this section online, but it was coincindently removed after only a day.

My husband was quite incensed over some of the poorly chosen language used in a particular clip within the “Courtship and Marriage” section, also included in the Extras on the DVD. If anyone has an opportunity to watch it, I would like to hear feedback on that section specifically via private correspondence. My husband was actually offended by some of the just poorly worded commentary in that section. In fact, I think that it’s so disturbing, unless interpreted with previous knowledge of the subject of courtship and within the mindset of the Christian community that embraces the courtship model, I will not present the transcript of that section here. I interpreted that section with understanding of the intent of the speaker, but I have grave concerns that those outside of patriarchy’s influence would not be so kind in evaluating it.
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COMMENTS:
Anonymous said...
I am surprised at the reactionary responses here, from what appear to be clear-thinking women. I think the film allows for one's own application of the principles laid out in the film, not some dogmatic, judgemental lagalism which you imply in your discussion. The film simply brings into question silly notions about college and career that are never thought through by most parents. What's wrong with that? The culture has gone so far off its axis that sometimes it takes a radical pendulum swing to bring it closer to center. Let's not be offended by radical ideas. Instead of reacting with such shock and amazement, let's first believe the best about the peddlers of new or different ideas, and ask ourselves why we're so offended (challenged?) by them. We just might have something to glean--
January 16, 2008 2:04 PM

Cindy said...
I have no problem with "staying at home," but the LPC that viewed this DVD found it to be suggestive of emotional and gender related, non-sexual incest (the using of a family member to meet emotional needs in an inappropriate fashion or by inappropriate means). The film portrays the Vision Forum and patriarchy movement's objectification of women as something very desirable and does not portray the families that the teachings have torn asunder.My husband was offended by some of the comments by the otherwise most likeable man in the film, Voddie Baucham. He became very upset because, at certain times, he spoke about his daughter as if she were an object. Considering that the patriarchy movement ascribes to so many of the teachers of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, I assume that they also believe or proabably believe that woman is the indirect image of God or only the derivative. In other words, woman was made in man's image and is a lesser order of being per the logical conclusions to some of the CBMW evangelists' arguments.The fruit that I've seen from this movement is all very foul, and I've suffered my own pains in the process of getting out of Gothard's very similar system if not the father of this movement.It puts a pretty veneer on false teaching that I have witnessed to be quite harmful to the families that they say they hope to help. That's the cause for reaction.
January 16, 2008 2:26 PM

Anonymous said...
Cindy, I'd like to know what specifically your LPC friend saw as "inappropriate" emotional need-meeting in this film. "Non-sexual incest" is a very shocking term to use here. I am wondering what is so threatening about a girl being useful, appreciated, loved, and protected in her own home until she gets married? I know about Gothard, too, but I don't get the sense that these folks have a "you must or else grieve God" list as he does. Again, this film presents a perspective that has become nearly extinct in our present anti-feminine culture. I don't think the film gives any suggestion whatever of an ignorant, inept, frumpy girl knitting and waiting for her dad to pick her a husband. Let's look at this with more maturity, and balance. It should make girls and their parents think about the ridiculous way we throw ourselves, or our kids, out to college (or where ever) at 18 to find their way. Very few know what should be next, and it's a wonderful blessing that these folks have dared to say what they think might be, at the least, a sound consideration from another perspective. And yes, I daresay, you could really call it a "biblical" one.
January 18, 2008 7:19 AM

Cindy said...
Again, as I stated before, incest is the using of another family member in an inappropriate way to meet emotional needs. I admit that this term carries a narrow and very undesirable connotation, so I did explain my use of the term and will do so again. Based upon the body of professional literature concerned with addiction and recovery, this dynamic has been well documented. The first author that comes to mind having written extensively on this topic is Pia Melody, in both her books on Codependency and on Love Addiction.Based upon that model, parents who fail to establish healthy personal boundaries with children develop a pattern of enmeshment. This is well documented in other sources as well, wherein the child is sometimes pulled into the world of adults or can be simply a source of the meeting of emotional needs of the adult, the major caregiver or parent. This is especially true and an unavoidable circumstance in many families wherein one parent is debilitated due to physical illness. Under normal, healthy circumstances, the parent gives to and supports the child until adulthood, and the child does not exist for the use of the parent. In dysfunctional families (beyond the general level of the dysfunction of all human beings), the parent can draw from the child to meet all sorts of needs.Most people associate the term "incest" with sexual abuse, but the addiction and recovery literature identifies other types of incest, off the top of my head, ranging from sexual, non-sexual gender related, emotional, physical, psychological and religious abuse and usury. Unfortunately, per the pattern and evidence gained from studying these dysfuntional families, the usury has gender implications. The child, when reaching adulthood, will have gender related patterns of behavior stemming from the gender of the parent with whom the usury occured.The gender oriented pattern seen in the patriarchy movement is very consistent with a "love avoidant" pattern. When a child becomes enmeshed with a parent, there is a specific pattern of behavior that ensues. They are often risk takers, seek helping professions, become enablers and rescuers, find value in objectifying those whom they save in order to codify their unresolved feelings regarding offense and bitterness directed toward the parent that used them inappropriately. (Again, this may fall within any spectrum of human need and does not necessarily regard sexual misconduct at all.)The adult who grew up enmeshed with a parent will protect his or her ego when relating to members of the same sex of the parent with whom they were enmeshed. They objectify members of that sex as a result. Even through rescuing behaviors, the adult "proves" their potency by objectifying those whom they rescue, essentially with the message that "without my help, you are incapable of helping yourself and therefore lesser than me." There is also a tendency to create intensity outside of relationships as a distraction when the responsibilities of the role of rescuer beome overwhelming, often creating conspiracy theories and apocalyptic theories as a distraction.The pattern emerging from patriarchy demonstrates prior enmenshment of male leadership with a female parent resulting in the objectifying of women (treating them as objects or lesser beings on some level, such as the "indirect image of God" taught by CBMW and John MacArthur), further establishing these concepts through a gross misuse of the Word of God. It actually reads like the textbook example of enmeshment. The pattern is thus repeated by a seeking of enmeshment with children, and I see this pattern recurring with the next generation wherein the male leadership enmeshes with daughters through unhealthy relationships. Such is demonstrated, IMO and that of many professional counselors, in this concept of a father as keeper of his daughter's heart and daughter as the junior "helpmeet" of the father as training for marriage. It was actually amazing to see how quickly a group of expereinced counselors (mature Christians) immediately identified this pattern of enmeshment without leading on only a very brief discussion of the patriarchy movement at a conference that I recently attended.The dynamics of addiction and codependency hinge on fear and control, and I see these as the predominant features of motivation within the patriarchy movement. This also gives credence to the application of this model. Considering also the strong association and correspondence of the dynamics of battered women with the patterns and effects of spiritual abuse (authors Lalich, Lifton, Hassan, etc.), I am even more inclined to find this as a valid theory, applicable to patriarchy.I encourage you to read Pia Melody's book on Love Addiction, as the first title that comes to mind if you have further interest. It has been my experience that those outside the patriarchal movement find the dynamics of this father/daughter relationship both culturally irrelevant and disturbing as it goes far beyond the relationships that we find in Scripture. I don't doubt that those still within a patriarchal and hierarchical viewpoint find my perspective disturbing and inappropriate at the least, but with some more rounded perspective (both culturally and Biblically) with distance from the patriarchal mindset, this pattern is glaringly obvious and, well frankly, disturbing.Again, I don't doubt that those under the influence of the patriarchal and hierarchical teachings find nothing wrong with this Vision Forum father/daughter relationship perspective, but therein I believe rests the root of the problem. Much of patriarchy is passed off as "Biblical" when it is actually a cultural preference that is not rooted in Scripture but rooted in pagan Hellenistic, Victorian and antebellum culture. Janet Fishburn in "Confronting the Idolatry of Family," Mark Noll in "The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind" and Steven Keillor in "This Rebellious House" discuss this intermingling of cultural and religious concepts, including the additional addition of American Nationalism as well. Consider also the neoConfederate movement and the writings of the Confederate Presbyterians that this patriarchy movement relies upon so heavily. Patriarchy has more to do with cultural and patriotic nostalgia, or at least just as much as it has to do with Biblical Concepts.If you've been sympathetic to the patriarchy movement teachings such as propagated by groups like Vision Forum and even Federal Vision, I would ask you to give my assertions fair consideration. I challenge you to read this literature that I've mentioned for yourself, and I also highly recommend the book "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse" by Johnson and VanVonderan as well. Having been all the way through the mill of the patriarchy movement and endured my own journey through the various ideologies and teachings, giving my attention to all of the arguments, these are my earnest conclusions with full confidence towards God. I believe that the truth inherent in the writings I've cited as well as the Word and the Spirit will prove to be good seed that will take root in the hearts of all those who earnestly seek God and the truth about the patriarchy movement.
January 18, 2008 8:15 AM

Cindy said...
Anonymous,Upon re-reading your comment, I note that I neglected to state and validate a very important comment that you made. The film definitely contains Biblical elements and brings attention to many virtuous ideals. It is the intermingling of those ideals with what I believe is a very unhealthy construct, representing the whole package as the perfect and the only expressly Biblical interpretation of the Scripture in our current culture. So there are virtuous and delightful elements included in it, but the whole package and the ideology behind it (not readily apparent in the film) make it a dangerous mixture of both Biblical concepts and the traditions of men, all wrapped up together in a neat and sweet, very misleading package. The mixture of truth along with what I deem (based upon both experience and diligent study) to be errant doctrine of so-called "Biblical patriarchy" highly deceptive and therefore dangerous to the unsuspecting (just as it once was to me).I don't really expect you to agree with my assessment and appreciate it for what it is at this point, but I do ask that you give it a fair reading. I believe that the truth of it will eventually transcend your doubts, by God's grace and guidance.I would also like to thank you for not resorting to abusive tone and demeaning language in your comments here. I appreciate your maturity and your desire to approach this topic with respect and dignity, also clearly giving me the benefit of the doubt. I pray that God will greatly honor and bless you for dealing with me and this issue with a most notably and truly Christian spirit.