Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The New Patriarchs Abandon Patriarchy? Scapegoats and Other Drama

Dangerdust @ Twitter and Etsy
In the wake of the Vision Forum scandal, HSLDA and others abandon the appearance of patriarchy in high demand Christian homeschooling while ignoring the problems in the culture.

Not long after Doug Phillips “resigned” from the now defunct Vision Forum, his cohorts were quick to abandon him. Scott Brown who heads up the Family Integrated Church group quickly denounced Phillips. One almost imagines that some of the big names in this group were thrilled to hear of his failure.

On the heels of Phillips' resignation, Bill Gothard resigned because of more than thirty reports of sexual misconduct as reported by the Recovering Grace community. An article popped up about the poor handling of sex abuse at Patrick Henry College. Other articles (here and here) noted the same issues at Pensacola Christian College. All this took place while GRACE investigated Bob Jones University, was fired, and then was reengaged to complete their review of the claims that the university did not properly handle reports of sexual and physical abuse.  Patriarchy's having one rough year!

As the discussion unfolded concerning Doug Phillips, some lesser players in the movement began to suggest that in addition to abandoning Vision Forum and Phillips personally, the term “patriarchy” should also be abandoned. I don't know what on earth one would replace it with – as this leopard would be forced to change its spots if it were called something else. This group will never abandon it's basic assumptions of a father “taking dominion” properly over family as the panacea for all that ails the world, and it remains “alive and” thriving (but never well). How they wish to shed the rightful connotation which has come from the foul fruit of their movement! And the term “Complementarianism” has already been devised. Those who coined it did not want associated with the likes of the people who followed “Biblical patriarchy.”
3PM Addendum:  "Covenantal headship" may be the new term introduced by Kevin Swanson.  HT to Suzanne at Kevin Swanson Watch.

The Essential Patriarchy

Several years ago, I read two books written by Michael Farris, the founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association and of Patrick Henry College (PHC). The primary premise of those books was built entirely on patriarchy. I was amused recently upon reading some reviews of one of these books as it was characterized as both patriarchal and formulaic. Some chap even decided that he needed to enact a detailed plan that would take several months to correct his life as the book directed him. (I would suggest reading more HERE and HERE if your view of HSLDA is particularly glowing.)

I also recall the patriarchal messages in the film about Patrick Henry College called Come What May. (You can find it streaming online for free.) The film conveyed several mixed messages about life at the school and of what I assume they saw as the ideal Christian life. A young woman can attend there, but the film suggests that the true ideal involves the proverbial Mrs. degree. The protagonist's mother, an attorney who works outside the home, finds herself in an ethical quandary which parallels her son's better moral choices. I felt that this echoed complementarianism's idea that all women are easily deceived. The film's message brings home the idea that it would have been far better if Mom, Esquire had stayed home to serve her family instead of her adultery outside the home – the adultery of serving a man who was not her husband by holding a job. If you follow PHC's unspoken ideal plan, life becomes wonderful. Going against the proper order for family causes difficult problems and divides families. The film illustrated the prevailing patriarchy at PHC quite well.

Scapegoating to “Save” Homeschooling

Knowing of Farris and his long history of following the patriarchal ideal, I found his recent statements surprising – but not really. He was quick to distance himself and HSLDA from Doug Phillips soon after the matter went public, and I understand that they were not thrilled with him in private for quite some time. It makes me think of rats fleeing the sinking ship of Vision Forum. What surprises me given his own patriarchal bend is that he has also sought to scapegoat patriarchy as the bane of homeschooling. (Thanks to Kathryn Brightbill and Homeschooler's Anonymous for providing the audio clip and transcript of the quote.)

Michael Farris' statement:
And so the idea that people are going to create generational patriarchal legacies, that didn’t work out for them very well. We’re not seeing that. You erect a false view of god for your children, don’t be surprised if they reject god entirely. That's what’s going to happen. So what do we do as a movement first I would suggest that we run as far away from patriarchy and legalism as we can.
(Thanks to Kathryn Brightbill and Homeschooler's Anonymous for providing the audio clip and transcript.)

It's much easier to scapegoat someone or something to explain away problems – particularly when you're pushing a social engineering paradigm. While patriarchy has been a large part of high demand homeschooling set through the influences of men like Doug Phillips, Jonathan Lindvall, and their predecessor, Bill Gothard, the problem isn't solely that of patriarchy. It's a symptom of a deeper problem – that of the spiritually abusive dynamics of the movement (for those circles within the movement that are abusive). Rather than educating children, the option becomes a means of raising the fantasy family where kids turn out to be the adults that their parents desire. On a larger scale, many view the Christian homeschooling effort as the factory for the fantasy family, and these fantasy families will then take over the world for Jesus.

Homeschooling: “You're Doing It Wrong”

I've had some interaction with Mary Pride a couple of years ago after I posted a quote of hers on No Longer Quivering's old forum. Somehow, even Mary thinks that she's not patriarchal and wrote to me to ask me to say otherwise. I called her the “high priestess of patriarchy” in my post there. Somehow, because Mary doesn't like Vision Forum and the “stay at home daughter” concept, she expected me to be convinced that she's not patriarchal. Apparently, Vyckie Garrison had the same experience with Mary which she notes HERE.
Mary' quote subtitled “Evangelism Through Reproduction” (pg 80 in my copy of her book The Way Home):
We Christians can sometimes be inconsistent. We'd fight and scream if someone tried to stamp out our evangelistic efforts....Let's say that Christians are 20 percent of the US population. If each Christian family had six children, and the humanists, feminists, and others kept on having an average of one.....then in twenty years there would be sixty of us for every forty of them. In forty years, 90 percent of America would be Christian! That is without outside evangelism. All we'd have to do would be to have children and raise them for Christ... [T]hen in two generations...we would be over 40 percent of the population.

We also see the same idea elsewhere online among those who have abandoned only some of the sacred cows of this end of Christian homeschooling, but they don't want to abandon them all. In the end, it seems that they just argue like Mary Pride did: Their version of the system and their way of doing things is superior to the failed attempt of someone else. And most often, I've seen that the “better way” of their superior version of a paradigm only rehashes some element of the ideology that was originally promoted as a panacea for family.  They are nothing more than ways to get that fantasy family about which so many of these hopeful yet fearful parents dream. No Longer Quivering (HERE and HERE), Homeschoolers Anonymous, Kathryn Elizabeth, and Love Joy Feminism offer a deeper discussion of this phenomenon. It has also become a theme of discussion at Spiritual Sounding Board. As some people have described it, many of these folks still have “one foot in and one foot out” of patriarchy.

Ultimately, if homeschooling yields unreliable results, what we see among all of these groups is the message that parents failed to follow the appropriate plan. If you are a parent with an adult child that rejects some or all of the desirable profile that homeschooling was supposed to engrain in them as children, you're to blame for doing something wrong or failing to do something right. All of this builds on the assumption that these parenting plans are foolproof, particularly if they are believed to be a pure interpretation of Scripture. If the paradigm fails, in the minds of these parents, it is synonymous with failure of God's promises in Scripture – and that can never be. It can't be the “branding” that some homeschooling guru tried to establish as a new take on “doing Christianity better” and how homeschooling becomes a function of that better way.

Bad Apples, Bad Staves or Bad Barrel Design?

And it seems that if the “failures” can't be attributed to patriarchy or paradigms, their parents find themselves with no want for advice from other do-gooders who come around like Job's friends. There is no dearth of them in Christian homeschooling. Scapegoating individuals as “bad apples” seems to be the last resort. Confirmation bias makes it quite easy to serve up the “homeschool apostate” and these “bad apple” individuals on homeschooling altar to preserve parental comfort and convenience under the guise of piety. And it's just not right.

Patriarchy was a tool and a symptom of the homeschooling panacea, but it was not the disease. Using Zimbardo's analogy, it was not patriarchy that made too many apples in the barrels go bad. (It isn't due to “one bad apple” either.) Patriarchy was never the barrel. It was only a component of the barrel. The barrel itself is the high demand culture of some homeschooling circles that seeks to create a fantasy world where wishes come true. Patriarchy was just a means to an end which allowed some to grasp at their version of the ideal world. 

Many strive to only pull out a few barrel staves rather than going back to the proverbial drawing board to take a closer look at their barrel design.

It saddens me that too many fail to grasp this concept about this subgroup of homeschooling's ideal of the “greater good.” It's not Christianity's integrity that is at risk for them. It is the integrity of their paradigm of homeschooling, and it is lacking.