Courtship, Doug Phillips & Vision Forum, Full-Quiver, Homeschool Movement, Modesty and Purity Teachings, Patriarchal-Complementarian Movement, Personal Stories, Reconstructionist-Dominion Movement, Vision Forum

A Young Woman’s Relationship with Her Boyfriend is Shattered by Christian Patriarchy

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Personal story of a relationship broken by legalistic pressures brought on by teachings from Doug Phillips, Vision Forum and Christian Patriarchy ideology within the Homeschool Movement.

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A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from “Bethany” who shared her personal story with me and just recently she decided to share her story publicly.   Bethany comes from a diverse educational background.  She homeschooled with a group at church in kindergarten, then attended private school, and completed her high school online.  While in college last fall, she met a young man and developed an interest in him.  That is the story that Bethany is willing to share with us.  

What is unique about this story is that most of the time we hear from young ladies connected within the Christian Patriarchy Movement.  Bethany was not part of that system, but later found out her boyfriend was.   It wasn’t until the recent Doug Phillips scandal that pieces started coming together for Bethany so this is still very fresh for her.   With the help of her parents, Bethany was able to see the trap in Christian Patriarchy and the emotional and spiritual tug-of-war her boyfriend was facing as he attempted to make choices independent of his parents and have a relationship with Bethany.  

I am very grateful to Bethany for giving us a unique glimpse into this destructive culture of Patriarchy within the Homeschool Movement.  ~JA

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A Young Woman’s Relationship with Her Boyfriend is Shattered by Christian Patriarchy

by “Bethany”

I started college last fall and met a guy at one of the campus ministries. We hit it off very fast, and it was not long before I became interested in him. He was pretty much the perfect package in my book: handsome, intelligent, kind, good-hearted, and ultimately and most importantly, a devout Christian. He was simply one of those individuals that exhibited the light of Christ, and everyone noticed this. This was the first time in my life that I had truly been interested in pursuing a relationship, so I took things very slowly. I spent the entire first semester just getting to know him through the ministry. I noticed that even though he seemed to be pretty quiet, he always made the effort to talk to me.

Before we knew it, we were talking to each other all the time. Any chance we could, really. If we ever saw each other, an effort was always made to speak. One of the many conversations we had was about Calculus. I was currently in the class and struggling, while he was in Calculus III and a complete math genius. Over Facebook one day, I asked if he would mind tutoring me, and he let me know he didn’t mind at all. I noticed that we really connected with each other during our tutoring sessions. While it was hard to tell whether or not he was interested in me because he was nice to everyone, I still felt something special there. There was a connection, and I couldn’t deny it. He made me feel so much better about Calculus, and he genuinely was the one who helped me understand.

Since he helped me greatly with my confidence in the class (I firmly believe he’s the reason I got an A), I wanted to treat him to dinner at a nice restaurant as a way to thank him for all the time and effort he put into helping me. By this point, I was aware that he was the fifth child out of ten and didn’t really come from a family where he got nice things. He pointed out to me one day that he hardly ever ate out, and if he did, it was a fast food place. I really admired him as a person at this point and wanted to let him know in a special way that I appreciated what he did for me.

Even though we had neither addressed with each other that we were going out on a date, that is practically what it became. Later he told me that when he saw me walk out of the dorm towards his car, he decided in his mind to make it a date. He pulled out all the stops too, being a complete gentleman. He made sure the car was warm (it was December) and paid for the dinner, even after I had told him that it was my treat. He said he didn’t feel comfortable with me paying. We ended up spending over two hours at the restaurant talking, just getting to know each other. I was amazed at how well we kept conversation. Before we even left the restaurant he asked if I wanted to go to one of the college’s basketball games with him just a couple of days later. This is when we both realized that we were interested in each other and something was definitely there.

medium_3984435223We talked over Christmas and went out on a few more dates once we had returned from the break. That’s when the big questions started coming up and a riff with the family came into the picture. I expressed that I was interested in entering a relationship with him with the pursuit of marriage in mind. That’s when he explained to me that his parents did not approve of dating, but courtship. He had me at that. I was already confused. He said it was more likely than not that we could not start a relationship.

He didn’t tell me much back then, but he knew that his parents would not approve of me. I assured him that I was very serious about him and was more than willing to talk anything out that might be an issue.

Our conversations quickly escalated from getting to know each other to my views on homeschooling, birth control, working as a woman, and modesty.

I had absolutely no idea where it was coming from and why it was so important to him so early in the game. It was when he took me to meet his parents when I realized that he grew up in a completely different home than me.

I was extremely nervous about meeting his parents because he had told me how strict they were about their beliefs, and he made it aware to me that they were uncomfortable with me and my interest in their son.

Everything he told me about them came true when we met. Most of our conversation was about how they disapproved of our relationship and all of the reasons for why that was, which included keeping a reputation within their social/religious group and urging their son to seek their parents’ blessing, which they assured us he did not have at this point. They told us that we were unprepared for a relationship since we had not figured out how we were going to address issues such as homeschooling and birth control as a couple. I felt like these parents were treating us like we were heading to the altar tomorrow, but I just wanted to get to know their son and his family better. Assuring his parents that we were serious about marriage was not enough for them to accept our relationship. That night we made it official anyway, even though he was slightly uncomfortable with it. There was a part of him that I could tell wanted to be with me, while another side of him was scared for his life.

It didn’t take me long to figure out why he was scared. He told me that his parents were constantly dragging him to their room or other isolated areas of the house (he was in college but still lived at home) for lectures about how he was not heeding to the instruction of his mother and father and that he was being unwise for not following their counsel. This happened several times, to the point where it drove him crazy. By this point we were open to talking about anything, so I knew about the whole thing.

He did anything he could to be out of the house. He always wanted to be with me, and I did my best to come up with several things to do to ensure that he didn’t see his parents much. He left his house every morning at 5:30 for class and sometimes didn’t leave for home until past midnight, when he knew his parents would be asleep and he could sneak into his house only to get up and leave early before they woke.

The harassment from his parents got so bad that my parents came into the picture. They drove to his house and we had a discussion about us. The entire time, his parents were completely hysterical and out of control, barking at my parents, him, and I about how terrible our relationship was. His father kept looking at him, repeating Proverbs passages about how wise sons listen to and obey their fathers and mothers, and his mother kept talking about how she saw us taking our relationship in our own hands as an act of defiance. My parents remained calm and collected throughout the meeting and mainly listened to these people list everything they didn’t like about us, including the way their son lovingly held my hand and wrapped his arms around me. His parents also didn’t see their son as ready to properly guide me throughout life since he wasn’t heeding their counsel. It all went back to the parents, and that’s when red flags went up for my parents.

My parents weren’t comfortable at all with his parents after meeting them. Throughout the entire meeting they were using code that we didn’t understand (which we later found out to be lingo used in the world of Vision Forum). They knew something wasn’t quite right, but they couldn’t put their finger on it. Since they saw that this boy and I were truly in love with each other, they gave us time to observe and see what would happen.

Over the months I became mentally and emotionally married to this man. We knew we were going to be together forever. We were just waiting to reach a level of financial independence to where we could. My parents had come to this realization as well, and he became a son to them. The rest of my family claimed him as one of us too. He was dearly loved by everyone in my life. My parents and I did everything in our power to help him, seeing that he needed it. While he was struggling with several things, he didn’t go into much detail with us and we didn’t understand it.

We did realize though that he almost had two personalities. One day he would be having the time of his life and the next day he would be depressed. It was very confusing for me because on the days he felt good, he was so happy and showered me with love. On his bad days, he was uncomfortable with our relationship and often shared something he didn’t like about me or my family, which made me upset and mad. Knowing that God had placed him in our lives for a reason, we simply continued loving him and letting him know that we were there for him. Since we didn’t know the extent of his background, we thought this would be the best way to handle it. He even spent the summer with us working with my father on an app (my father is an engineer and he is a computer scientist), and we thought we had seen tremendous growth from him. We thought he was finally coming into his own and developing a sense of confidence. When we headed back for school this fall, however, something dramatically changed.

He was no longer the man I thought he was. He started treating me differently, and I was so lost and confused. One day I would be his princess, and the next day he would want me out of his life. I became the one to blame for everything, and he started criticizing everything I did. It didn’t even matter that through it all, I unconditionally loved him and always put himself before me. I started changing for him because I was that afraid of losing him. Eventually, things blew up when my parents finally figured out why he was struggling with the issues he was and why his parents were acting so strange to everything about my family and me.

My parents started researching about Vision Forum once Doug Phillips’ affair was publicly announced, and after days of research, my parents finally figured out that his parents were followers of this ministry and he, the one I loved, had grown up in it. I finally realized that he had been controlled and manipulated by his patriarchal father his entire life.

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He was never allowed to be his own person and form his own opinions.

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I now realized that the first time he had ever attempted to live life the way he wanted to was with me, and it all makes sense now as to why the parents can’t stand me and my family. It also helped me understand why he changed with the flip of a switch. To this day, I do not know what, but I suspect his father started threatening and manipulating him through e-mail and text messages to get him to come back to the movement he was trying to break from. And he caved in. I truly think that he wanted it both ways: me and his way of life. He found out from my parents quickly that he could not drag me into this lifestyle, especially with the way these people viewed women.

My parents had to show him some tough love by telling him that he had to let me go while he figured life out. I could tell that he had been really stressed this fall but didn’t know until recently why. He kept begging for time and space for him to figure things out, but I didn’t realize why he wanted to do that without me.

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I now realize that the good man that I love is a victim of spiritual abuse, and truly has parents who would rather have things their way than what is best for their child.

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I know deep down he wants to be with me, marry me and live the rest of his life with me, but he’s in such a bad place. His parents have beaten him down and so effectively convinced him that this is the only way God allows his people to live. I’m upset that when things got bad he ran back to his parents and pushed me away, but unfortunately I think he’s trying to handle his situation as best he can.

Now that I know the nature of how he was raised and why he thinks the way he does, I’m worried about him more than ever. I’ve shared our story with several friends and our campus minister, hoping that people will reach out to and pray for him. On top of feeling like he can’t have a happy life with me, he feels like he’s bound to a way of life I know he doesn’t want deep down. His father is so effectively terrifying his son that he feels like he has no other choice but to obey him.

As you probably can figure, this is an extremely difficult time for me. The man who was my world is no longer with me. It’s so hard to tell when he’s made his decisions lately based on fear and manipulation. I do have some peace knowing that he sent me a long and kind e-mail apologizing for the ways he’s done me wrong and he made sure I knew that he loves and cares about me more than he realized. Time apart from me has made him realize how much I truly meant to him.

Now all I know I can do is love and care for him from afar by praying without ceasing. I keep researching just so I can understand these movements and spiritual abuse better just in case I have to help anyone through the aftermath one day.

In the past month since the devastating breakup, I have learned several things that took me forever to accept as truth. For one, I was so in love with this man that I ignored several warning signs throughout our relationship. From the lingo used in his family around the house to attending social events with his people. I always thought it was strange but couldn’t figure out why. I’ll never forget when I attended a 4th of July party at his sister’s church. They embraced the colonial lifestyle and, even though it was the 4th of July, I actually heard a Quiverfull sermon and the battle for The Lord was discussed. I was completely unaware at the time that they were talking about Vision Forum and Reconstructionism.

Two, because I was in love and thought he was the one for me, I slowly became more like these people through thoughts and actions. As Julie Anne has discussed with me before, I became more sucked into this movement in the nine months we were together –  much more than I realized. It scares me looking back how fast I fell for it. I increasingly became more critical of everyone and everything, and as embarrassing as it is to say, suffered from what I call “holier than thou” syndrome.

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I also gave up my career dreams and changed my dress. I practically became a different person.

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Three, I realize now our entire relationship for what it was. The parents, from the moment they met me and saw how serious their son was about me, wanted me converted. For example, when he left home to be with my family for the summer, his mom gave him a book on modesty that she wanted him to read to me. He read it for himself and never made me look at it. He said it was extreme and I didn’t need to read it.

I also recognize now that my former boyfriend started off truly wanting to break free from the way he was raised because he was in love with me and wanted to be with me for the rest of his life. He was a true gentleman with me in the beginning and did so much to let me know how special and loved I was. Unfortunately, as pressures increased for him to not only come back but take me with him, he proved himself unable to leave the movement. As hard as it is for me to accept, he decided in his mind at some point in our relationship that he would live that way and never really told me.  Our relationship became a lie because he hid his thoughts from my parents and me.

The only reason we figured everything out was because we recognized how different of a person he had became. It saddens me now to realize that God used us as his ticket out of the movement, and he chose to stay in an oppressive and abusive environment and hurt me and all my friends and family in the process.

I’ve also realized that it is not good for me to be around him. I naturally snap back to my changed version of myself when I’m around him. He’s simply not good for me. When we broke up, I was hoping to be friends with him but I don’t think that is a possibility. He snaps back into his two personalities when he’s around me and all it does is confuse, upset, and frustrate me. I’m afraid things have simply been ruined between us and I don’t think I can be around him anymore. Which I hate because I know deep down he has feelings for me. But I know I don’t want nor deserve a man who chooses to live that way.

On a positive note, at least through him I have decided 100% what I want from a man and will approach dating in a completely different way than I did with him. I will be much more cautious with the next man and not allow my emotions to cloud my logic. I now fully understand what I believe as well and what I want out of life. I’ve been given so much advice through this process, one of them being to figure out what I want in my life first before bringing someone else into the picture. That is what I’m using my time for now that I am single.

As I start a new chapter in my life, I pray for wisdom and guidance from God as to where He wants me to go and what He wants me to do. I also ask for prayers for my former boyfriend and his family, for my friends and family who have been affected by my past relationship, and for everyone whose lives are in chaos as a result of the recent blow up of Vision Forum.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 2:1-5

photo credit: Kikasz via photopin cc

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142 thoughts on “A Young Woman’s Relationship with Her Boyfriend is Shattered by Christian Patriarchy”

  1. I want to throw out a question for those hear.

    I have heard from some Christians that in biblical times if you were intimate with the one you were with that was considered “marriage” (one flesh). Some today say that if a couple are courting and they have been intimate, and later decide on marriage, since they are the only ones they have been intimate with, since their union they are biblically “married”. Any thoughts on that?

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  2. Good morning, Hannah. Yah, the whole dating/marriage process is a hard slog in itself. (Sooo glad I don’t have to do it again!) How overwhelming, then, to load that on top of trying to come to terms with such an upbringing! And it is no wonder Bethany was extra confused and hurt, not having met that sort of abuse before, and finding it in a first love!

    Indeed, life has pain in it, and some get more of it than others. We learn what we can, when possible, but it is always grievous when damage occurs. It was not meant to be so!

    Celebrating Christmas today at my house. I wish you and all the others here a delightful, affectionate holy day, whether alone or with family!

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  3. Patrice-

    I heard this once..there is pain arriving into this world (both for mother and child) and that somehow it prepares us for what is ahead.
    All pain toughens the skin and thus the Spirit.
    And one who suffered a lifetime of pain, the only solution is for Jesus to carry that load for us. One we were never meant to bear.
    As a Jew I never much got into the “Spirit” of Christmas even as a believer but I thank Him daily for His birth into this world to bring me salvation and a rest I could never have apart from Him.
    Blessings to you and yours and may we all rest in His peace that surpasses all understanding!
    I need some prayer since we are going to visit unsaved family members.
    May His light in us shine through darkness for each of our family members who do not yet know Him!

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  4. Patrice –

    “I ask because my pastor-father had told me throughout my childhood that I was “made for suffering” which, besides being cruel, is plain bizarre. I would like to find a source for it (not sure why, maybe just to give it context?). Your former pastor seems to have a similar mind-set.”

    Don’t you think your father went here to ease his own conscience? How else can a father justify the awful things he does to his children in the name of God? This is what people with sick minds do. Justification is a step in seering the conscience. Your father went down that path, Patrice. Thankfully, you have not chosen the same path 🙂 Many children do choose the same path as their parents. I wonder if someone told your father the same?

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  5. Hannah said, “I have heard from some Christians that in biblical times if you were intimate with the one you were with that was considered “marriage” (one flesh). Some today say that if a couple are courting and they have been intimate, and later decide on marriage, since they are the only ones they have been intimate with, since their union they are biblically “married”. Any thoughts on that?”

    Well, here’s one thought. Can a woman be married without a husband?
    John 4 (NIV) says:
    “I have no husband,” she replied.
    Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

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  6. Bethany: I can relate to your ex. Throughout our relationship, my former boyfriend felt guilty for dating me (I don’t know if he always wrestled with these thoughts but I suspect he did), and I was worried that he would leave me for his family’s legalistic way of life. And he did. But by doing that, he proved to me that he was not the one for me. The one for me will always stand by my side no matter what the cost, and he will certainly choose to be with me over mom and dad.

    Thank you! I hope he can find his way out of it as well, because right now he is so trapped and deeply embedded in the system I just don’t see him breaking free of it.

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  7. Estelle: I hope that is the future family I am blessed with! I don’t know if I’ve told you this earlier or not but I really do pray for a wonderful man who will stick with me through anything, and I hope he has a great family who loves me to go along with it. I’m so glad that The Lord has blessed you with this!

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  8. Steve Scott: Why do the Calvinist/Reformed Baptist churches make a big deal about single men getting married?

    That makes sense. I know his parents were grilling him about me ever since we had our first date. When he mentioned a girl to his dad the first thing he asked my former boyfriend was what my beliefs on baptism were. I thought it was odd that he didn’t even ask his son first what he thought of me or what I was like. Although, looking back, I guess he didn’t really care. He just wanted to see if my beliefs would match up with his enough to be an acceptable future wife for his son.

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  9. Patrice: I am glad that I am out of the “crying all the time, my life is over” phase of the healing process. Now I’m progressing into anger, especially towards his parents because I know now that this is practically and entirely their fault. I have no doubt in my mind that they did several things with my former boyfriend behind the scenes that I never knew about. I knew from the beginning they always hated me and wanted us broken up, but I was disappointed of my former boyfriend for actually letting that happen. I have to be gracious to him though because I have no idea what his parents held over his head to get him to do what he did to me, and I know deep down he is probably hurting a lot more than me. He’ll realize with time that the support system he had with me and my family and friends is gone. He might be too wrapped up in his family and the system to see it now, but I suspect one day he might realize he made a very big mistake by leaving me in the dust.

    It’s sad that the process is so slow, but I guess that just proves how destructive the system really is on the psyches of these people.

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  10. Patrice: After hearing all these stories, including yours, I’m really struggling with being tolerant of people who are extremely controlling.

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  11. Hannah: I do agree with you that we were too young. Unfortunately, my former boyfriend felt so much pressure from his parents and me on marriage. For his parents, they wanted us to get married so young since they saw how serious he was with me and they didn’t really see a reason to wait. They were especially freaky on the purity stuff and didn’t want us to lose our purity by their standards outside of marriage. I also now realize looking back that they wanted us married so young so that I had no choice but to willingly submit to my rightful place in the system. For me, I simply turned into what most girls turn into when they fall in love and think they have found the one. I just started talking excitingly about it, and I will admit that I mentioned it far too frequently with him. My former boyfriend was in a tough spot in our relationship, between being badgered by his parents and being with a girl who was more confident in her love for him than the other way around. On top of all this he was trying so hard to figure out who he was and what he believed, which was an even harder process for him than most with the oppressive way he was raised.

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  12. Bethany,

    I am so, so happy & cheer you on for processing through this like you have so far. It is obvious you have done so much thinking about what was going on, what happened, what you noticed & felt uncomfortable with then, what you didn’t notice at the time but see now looking back. This is how healing happens.

    Sometimes when we are hurt, and hurt badly, it is painful to even think about it, so we chalk it up to something that doesn’t require thinking, dismiss it & attempt to move on. We DO really need to process through things no matter how painful or slow the process is, so we can learn, be even more wise, be even more aware, know what is good & what to look for going forward.

    I would say you are so young to be so wise, but that’s not correct. Wisdom isn’t necessarily tied to age. Wisdom is a willingness to think, ponder & learn. And is also child-like faith in God’s love, even when circumstances may try to get us to believe differently. I am glad you have your parents & friends to help you through. Know we have you in our thoughts & prayers as well. Godspeed, Bethany! 🙂

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  13. Bethany

    You sound like a young lady with a good head on her shoulders. And one seeking the Lord’s will. And you have humility which is one of the greatest traits of a Spirit led Christian.

    We all must learn from out mistakes. Some of us go around the same mountain over and over again….like the Israelites. They had a 4 day journey that turned into far too long…

    If you seek the Lord with all your heart, He will make these experiences mold you into the person He wants you to be. Sounds like you are well on your way. I would continue to pray for this young man. This may not be the end of the story! With God all things are possible! (Matthew 19:26)

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  14. Bethany asks: “Steve Scott: Why do the Calvinist/Reformed Baptist churches make a big deal about single men getting married?”

    I learned it this way: God created Adam and he was alone. All the animals had mates, Adam didn’t. God said it was not good for man to be alone, then made Eve. They use this verse from Genesis as a proof text that men have to get married, because this was God’s plan for the human race. God is the one who said it was not good to be alone. Men should get married and have families. The lone exception to this is where Jesus says that there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom, such as the Apostle Paul and Jesus himself. (Actually the other exception would be unmarried castrated males used as body guards for harems, but we don’t do much of that in America).

    So, unless an “of age” male has taken the vow of singleness for the kingdom, then it is his duty to find a wife. And pronto. The Reformed Baptists put a lot of pressure on young men to marry and marry quick like.

    For me, I was divorced before becoming a Christian (my non-believer wife had an affair and divorced me to continue the affair). The church I went to before the Reformed Baptist church held that there is no remarriage after a divorce, no matter the consequences. When I arrived at the Reformed Baptist church, they told me that not only was my previous church wrong, and that it was okay if I remarry because the divorce was because of adultery, but that since I was free to remarry, I should make it a priority. Such confusing diametric opposition from legalistic churches! 😦

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  15. A Mom: I definitely did this towards the beginning of the unraveling of our relationship. I didn’t want to accept anything that was happening as truth and stayed in denial hoping the problems would go away. I learned that only made things worse, and I stayed in my depressed state until I finally started thinking through some things and finally stopped spending my days crying. This was my first experience with real pain and loss and in the beginning I simply didn’t know how to handle. Thankfully, The Lord has blessed me with wonderful family and friends that counseled me through the grieving. I appreciate the compliments, thoughts, and prayers so much! And as Hannah said, I would greatly appreciate prayers for my former boyfriend as well. Regardless of what he has done I know our situation is very unique, but above all he needs prayers. I haven’t stopped praying for him since the break up for he is still on my heart. As others have said, there is a part of him that always will be.

    Hannah: Thank you so much for the kind words. I definitely want to learn from the mistakes I’ve made and move on instead of repeating the pattern. I pray for wisdom from God to be able to do this. It is so comforting to rest in the fact that everything that happens in my life works to the good of the plan He has for me. I haven’t stopped praying for my former boyfriend since the break up. I really desire for him to be free and much better off than he is now. Just like when I met him, I still admire him as a person, for who he is deep down. I saw a lot of beauty in him when we were together, even though we went through some pretty awful things as well. He simply deserves a much better and happier life than he is been led to believe, and I pray one day he will see himself as worthy enough to save himself from that oppressive world.

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  16. Steve Scott: That’s interesting. I definitely witnessed that from my former boyfriend’s parents. Even though they didn’t like me, there came a point where they really pushed marriage on him, and I think that was simply for the fact that he was in a serious relationship with a girl and we did not have the married status. There was a lot of talk among his group of people when we went public with our relationship and I suspect his parents didn’t like the attention and wanted to hush all the talk by marrying us. Although I will say that throughout our relationship, even when things were pretty bad, he had a different view on the timing of marriage than his parents did. He always told me he was not comfortable with marriage until he was out of college and had his own job and own place to live. He wanted to be a fully independent individual before he got married. I did appreciate him wanting to be financially secure and independent before marriage, which is a completely different concept in the circle he grew up in.

    I can’t even begin to describe to you how confused I still am with people in church groups such as this. They are so inconsistent, flighty, and vague you can never really tell what’s going on. I remember just trying to get to know his family and whenever I would try to talk to his mom just to get to know her, I never got a straight forward answer. Everything was a secret and that drove me nuts since I’m pretty open about who I am and what I believe.

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  17. Bethany,

    I found the same difficulty in getting to know people in the legalistic churches I attended. I think the legalism was so debilitating for them that simply talking was like trying to navigate an obstacle course in a mine field. Every word out of the mouth was intensly scrutinized by every other person. Something as simple as, say, somebody’s favorite flavor of ice cream was difficult to find out. Because, you know, if you have a favorite flavor of ice cream, you’re probably lusting after that flavor, and since lust is a sin, then it’s probably not wise to have a favorite flavor of ice cream. Or at least a favorite flavor that you’re willing to admit to God and man that you have. So asking somebody what their favorite flavor is may end up in a twisted response that gives you no clear idea. It was all about outward appearances and avoiding somebody else making a judgment on what you liked.

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  18. Bridget (22, 9:35am) wrote, “Don’t you think your father went here to ease his own conscience? How else can a father justify the awful things he does to his children in the name of God?”

    Yeah, it was merely a rationalization, but not one I’ve read in other Christian-world survivor tales, although I’ve not read a large number of them.

    I just wonder how his old-school Calvinism helped him find that rationalization. It’s not important, really, but I’m fascinated with how people use theology to rationalize destructive and demeaning systems/actions: what they pick up and leave out, why/how it appeals to others, what about the wretched ideas cause the broader community to not notice, etc.

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  19. Bethany (22, 1:38pm) wrote, “Patrice: After hearing all these stories, including yours, I’m really struggling with being tolerant of people who are extremely controlling.”

    Yah, tolerance has limitations, best understood as an element inside love. We practice tolerance towards those we believe wrong but are correctly intolerant toward those who use power to damage those around them. Our compassion lies with the hurting, and we do what we can to help them again be free to become themselves, as God originally made them.

    Your ex-boyfriend’s parents abused their power over little ones, and that is intolerable. Likely their abusiveness is sourced in a cruel controlling leader, so he is also not to be tolerated. Abusiveness passes through people, so your ex-boyfriend abused his power with you, too, and you were hurt by it—not at all ok.

    The only allowance I give your ex-boyfriend is that he is a brand new adult. There’s a battle being waged inside him and we hope love and liberty will triumph but this particular skirmish was lost. Thus, because of love, I am intolerant of the damage he caused you and sympathetic towards his current position because I remember how painful it was to grow into adulthood when raised in an abusive home.

    Such a damaged person cannot grow up without causing (at least) a little more damage along the way, and that is a terrible truth. Yet, if he eventually sides with truth and love, he will come to terms with these wrongs, too, and you might, someday, unexpectedly, find a letter or a voice message, asking forgiveness from you. I hope it happens!

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  20. “Mark (21, 2:06pm, 3:01pm) Do you have any idea where your ex-pastor got his ideas of suffering (besides the verses themselves)? I mean, was he pulling them out of his back-end or was there some doctrinal treatise from which he drew?
    I ask because my pastor-father had told me throughout my childhood that I was “made for suffering” which, besides being cruel, is plain bizarre. I would like to find a source for it (not sure why, maybe just to give it context?). Your former pastor seems to have a similar mind-set.
    Not that abusive people can’t come up with their own garbage, of course. But I have been relieved to discover that although abuse is various, most of it isn’t at all creative. Abusive people generally walk the same nasty paths—some just go further down it than others.”

    Wow Patrice!!! This is SUCH a great question, especially on a spiritual abuse blog where people come looking to find answers to their “God-ordained?” suffering. I think many reading here have or have had the same question at some point in time. I have wrestled with this question also: Suffering. Why is there suffering? How do you reconcile it? Is it meant to be? Does anyone have a personal obligation to intervene to stop suffering? Is it God approved/ordained? It is a question that sends us on a quest for God, who God is, what type of God each of us believes in, & whether we believe in God or not.

    This question & the answer each one of us has to it, determines quite a bit, IMO. The answer will steer us down certain paths. What we think about suffering will direct our behavior & whether we will accept certain behaviors from others. What we think about suffering will determine what we do & what value we place on ourselves & others.

    I am also curious what others think about suffering. What has helped them to heal? How have they found peace? This question & the answers all of us may have would make a great post in & of itself! 🙂

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  21. A Mom,

    He was vague to say the least of his Doctrine as he only partially admitted his Doctrine, after he was identified as a Calvinist. But he wouldn’t completely admit to that.

    I added the pieces together when one of his very young disciples he was mentoring started taking a correspondence course through Reformed International Theological Seminary and then disclosed it to the Elders who then confronted the Pastor about his stealth Doctrine his response was “how did they find out?”

    The only thing he did admit was he embraced TULIP. Also, on his facebook page, he disclosed taking a correspondence course through Andersonville Theological Seminary throughout his tenure, receiving a correspondence Masters Diploma 6 months after he left our church. (split and broke).

    About a year after he resigned from our church I contacted his former church in Georgia and discussed our former Pastor’s Doctrine. That Pastor said that he caused a split in that church as well. He was covert about his Doctrine there, as well.

    It was indoctrinated in his brain that he needed to endure persecution to find favor with God. The best way for these guys to endure persecution is to fabricate it within the churches they are Pastoring, even if it means deceiving or not disclosing doctrine to their church.

    He and his wife’s treatment of WOMEN (and MEN) who appeared a Doctrinal challenge was vicious, Christmas Programs and Children’s Sunday ended all together..

    We are beginning to show signs of God;s hand as we had our first Program in 5 years (2 years ago he resigned) last night with a 123 people showing up to watch kids and grand kids perform.

    We still have a long way to go, even though we are averaging 30% to 40% more attendees since our former Pastor resigned our numbers are still way down. (about 40 to 45 now attend)

    In truth the best way for a Pastor (or Leader in a Sect) to endure persecution is divide a church simply by avoiding disclosing their beliefs.

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  22. Patrice:

    Bridget (22, 9:35am) wrote, “Don’t you think your father went here to ease his own conscience? How else can a father justify the awful things he does to his children in the name of God?”

    Yeah, it was merely a rationalization, but not one I’ve read in other Christian-world survivor tales, although I’ve not read a large number of them.

    I just wonder how his old-school Calvinism helped him find that rationalization.

    In one word: “IN’SHAL’LAH…”

    Both Calvin & Mohammed were heavily into Predestination. Obviously “the awful things he did to his children” were Willed and Predestined by God before the creation of the world.

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  23. Steve Scott: Ahh that makes sense. So sad and frustrating their lives must be!

    Patrice: That’s a good way to word my feelings towards him and his parents. But particularly him (I have a lot more grace towards him than his parents). I am not ok with the wrongs done against me, but in a way I feel really sorry for him. Less sorry for the parents because they know exactly what they are doing and seem to be ok with mistreating everyone they come into contact with. I feel sorry for my ex because now his parents are giving him so much praise and attention, but he doesn’t realize they are only doing so to get him back under their thumb. He’s really buying into it too. I can see him diverting back to old practices and I’m so saddened by the fact that he doesn’t realize what is being done to him and what he is doing to himself. He’s slowly digging his own grave and his parents are gonna throw him in it.

    I want nothing more than for him to come out on top of this. The unfortunate truth though is that he is so wrapped up in it now I have no idea what it will take for him to decide he wants out. He practically ran back to his parents and away from me. His heart does not seem to be with freedom. And as you said, the only allowance would be if he was a completely new adult. And I mean COMPLETELY. That just doesn’t seem to be very realistic to me, especially with how tied he is to his parents. He’s not able to stand on his own two feet and think independent thoughts. Sad realities and something I hope changes for him in the long run, but this is where he is today.

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  24. A Mom: One part of me being able to heal was recognizing that despite all the suffering I felt through the break up, I know I was a positive influence in the life of my ex and his siblings and friends. I know God used me for good things with the time I had with him. I showed them what it truly looked like to unconditionally love people despite mistreatment. I was also their first taste of someone relatively normal. I do not doubt at all that despite what a lot of those kids were told, they did love me and I loved them. I still miss those siblings today, especially those younger ones who were always so kind to me.

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  25. Mark: It’s so encouraging to hear that your church is in the process of being rebuilt! Prayers are being lifted up for you all!

    Headless Unicorn Guy: Now that’s just scary. Although, I guess I see the sweet deal in a theology like that. Zero accountability. They think “hey, I can be a ‘Christian’ and do whatever I want!”

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  26. Bethany wrote: “The unfortunate truth though is that he is so wrapped up in it now I have no idea what it will take for him to decide he wants out. He practically ran back to his parents and away from me. His heart does not seem to be with freedom.”

    Ach! God gave him such a lovely opportunity via you and your parents. That’s very sad! More pain ahead for him.

    But I am confident that God will give him more chances. I’ve seen it with my sister, who had occasional windows open up for her over the decades. She ignored one after another, but a couple of years ago, she took hold of one and is now slowly winding her way out of the harsh system of our childhood. Damage also spread through her, which is simply depressing, but…well, while there’s breath, there’s hope.

    And after that, when all is said and done, I do trust that God will sort us out in the best possible ways. However that will look.

    If you were my daughter, I would be proud of you, as I’ll bet your parents are. Be well, young lady!

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  27. Bethany:

    Headless Unicorn Guy: Now that’s just scary. Although, I guess I see the sweet deal in a theology like that. Zero accountability. They think “hey, I can be a ‘Christian’ and do whatever I want!”

    That’s one way to put it, but normally that theology emerges as the Arrogance of the Elect (and they KNOW it). Amazing what a Get Out of Hell Free card pre-signed by God can do to your attitude.

    Some years ago, a writer contact of mine moved to Louisville, KY, and spent a short time in a Hyper-Calvinist church. He reported many of the same attitudes that have handicapped Islam through its history, leading me to figure they are side effects of extreme Predestination beliefs:
    1) Passivity and fatalism for the pew-warmer majority — “Whatever happens, happens. Eh, Kismet.”
    2) No brake on ambition for the leader caste — “I Wanna, so God Must Have Predestined It.”
    3) No need for skill or competence — “God will make it succeed.” (This gets especially nasty if you assign tasks opposite the actual competence and skill sets, under the rationale “Then it’s not done In the Flesh.”)
    4) Perfect excuse machine after (2) & (3) blow up — “Not My Fault! God Willed It!”

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  28. Patrice,

    I responded to A Mom much of what you asked @11:41 am 12/23/13 earlier today.

    I forgot to mention before I disclose my former Pastor’s doctrine to the church elder’s, I spent several months praying and agonizing for God’s guidance to find or understand the Pastor’s Methodology.

    Oddly, earlier in his tenure I wrote a specific letter to him explaining my difficulty embracing his “Methodology” using that specific word 3 times and he still refused to disclose. I also inquired about his message of suffering he didn’t disclose.

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  29. Patrice: I’m so sad for him that he will cause himself more pain in the future by doing what he did to me and my parents. He could’ve come with me and made his life a whole lot easier and enjoyable. Sad to see your sister ignore the opportunities for years, but it’s nice to know that she came around one day. I sure hope he doesn’t stay in this for his entire life. Even if he’s 30 or 40 when he finally sees the light, I just hope he does. He doesn’t deserve it and I don’t want him to have a hard and miserable life. Sad to say though that as of now, he doesn’t seem to be interested in any other way of living. All I know is I certainly can’t do it! Thank you!

    Headless Unicorn Guy: That’s a good way to put it. I’m still new to what all this is about and still trying to learn more about it. I know you all are much more knowledgeable on the subject than me! I’ve definitely seen this arrogance, and I can’t stand it.

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  30. Thank you, Mark. That particular slant wasn’t part of the general trad Calvinist culture (at least not the one I grew up in), as it was for a while, part of RC culture: hair shirts, dried peas in shoes, etc. It’s definitely a subversion of doctrine taken on by abusers within the theology.

    HUG, yah, if God had truly made me for suffering, it would certainly have been predestined. Maybe he combined that with some old martyrdom garbage. Ick.

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  31. Bethany’s story is a powerful reminder that the Christian Patriarchy Movement squelches both men and women. That man’s controlling parents, combined with a suffocating ideology, mean that so much of his potential has been suppressed.

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  32. That man’s controlling parents, combined with a suffocating ideology, mean that so much of his potential has been suppressed.”

    Right – and when you’ve never been allowed to make choices for yourself, how do you start as an adult? What a difficult process to undo all of brainwashing.

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  33. Ahab: The sad thing is, over the summer when he was with my family, his potential started to come out. I’m convinced the dad couldn’t stand this, and did everything he could to beat him down. It was like he didn’t want his son to be successful. When he created his own app that is being successfully sold on the app store, I don’t think he even congratulated his son or anything. Now that my ex has gone back to his dad, I don’t know how he’ll get that potential back. His dad will do everything he can to keep him suppressed.

    Julie Anne: What’s sad is I don’t think his parents want him to think for himself as an adult. How can you control and manipulate someone who thinks for himself? I can’t even imagine how you can undo almost 21 years of brainwashing.

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  34. Bethany — With luck, though, maybe a seed has been planted. He knows now that another way of life is possible, so maybe someday he’ll escape the CPM and live life on his own terms. I hope so.

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  35. Ahab: Perhaps. I and my family did show him another, better way to live. That was one of the reasons I was disappointed with his decision to go back to his dad and leave me. He knew better, but I guess his dad never stopped brainwashing him. As I’ve said several times in comments, I want nothing more than for him to be free. It sounds harsh to say that I want him to completely leave his family, beliefs that have been brainwashed in him his whole life, and go to counseling for a long time to deprogram from his horrible childhood, but I know and everyone on here knows that this would be the best thing for him. Still praying for this boy as much as I can. I am so unbelievably angry at his father for how he’s mistreated him and the rest of his siblings.

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  36. I knew a family that was really into homeschooling. The father was a pastor and the mother…how do I put it…it seemed everything was black and white to her….no grey areas in doctrine, TV shows, child rearing, etc. One daughter went to the Bible college her parents chose and found a boyfriend at the Bible college the parents didn’t like and they made sure it was broken off. A couple of years later the same daughter met a divorced man in church and the parents were livid. However, this time the girl married the man and the entire family “shunned” her. It was tragic. I tried to talk to the mother but she could not hear me. Years passed with no contact and the daughter had a baby. One time the mother showed me a photo of the baby a friend had given her. She kept the photo hidden in her wallet, as if she was ashamed to have it and yet so wanting to connect with her grandchild. She told me not to mention the photo to anyone. Again, I tried to persuade her to phone her daughter, and let the past be the past. Her only response was, “She knows my number.” Years passed and I connected with the daughter on Facebook and she and I had some private conversations about healing, forgiveness and family. She wanted to connect with her family but was afraid of rejection. A couple of more years pass and now the father is dying of cancer. I encouraged her again to phone her family….to take a chance on love and forgiveness. Praise God the family reconciled and the daughter was able to bring her own family “back home” and spend time with the dad before he died. God redeemed and healed ….but when I think of all those wasted years because of rejection, with parents not willing to forgive and extend grace and mercy to their children and to allow them to live their own lives. Sadly I have seen this with too many Christian families.

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  37. Been around: That’s so sad! That’s not what God wanted families to be like. I can perfectly relate to the whole black-and-white thing though. That’s exactly how my ex’s parents were. White was right and black was not and in between was not either because it wasn’t white. They were impossible people to deal with. I can’t stand the whole shunning concept. It’s so scarring to these children’s well beings. I hurt for every one involved, whether they see themselves as in trouble or not.

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  38. I am very sympathetic to all of this. This all stems from the family integrated movement and I have been exposed to more of this than I have ever wanted to be. I will say, it has nothing to do with being reformed or Calvinistic. I am both, and most of the Christians I know are also and would never hold to any of the above teachings. The majority of sound, Reformed Baptist leaders would reject it as well. The people involved in the patriarchy movement are a group all of their own whether they are reformed or not. By the way, I have been exposed to more than one church of that belief that is not reformed or Calvinistic.

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