Creepy And Toxic Pseudo-Christian Ideas

A "Quiverfull" meme that should make it difficult to eat lunch after reading.

A “Quiverfull” meme that should make it difficult to eat lunch after reading.

On the fringes of American Christianity there are many small groups that do very strange things. Some, however, rush past “strange” and wind up in places that are not only psychologically toxic, but just downright creepy. Nine years ago, I noted the existence of something called “purity balls”. I wrote:

Like a cross between a cotillion, a wedding, and a prom, fathers and daughters dress to the nines, get together, and the daughters (I can hardly keep my gorge down as I type this) pledge their virginity to their fathers. They promise to remain abstinent until marriage, making the vow public.

Later on, I found an example of the kind of thing a father “pledged”:

I, (daughter’s name)’s father, choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity. I will be pure in my own life as a man, husband and father. I will be a man of integrity and accountability as I lead, guide and pray over my daughter and as the high priest in my home. This covering will be used by God to influence generations to come.

Really just profoundly wrong, on so many levels, right? What could be worse than this?

I’m sure you’ve probably, at the very least, heard of the so-called “Quiverfull” movement. The Duggars are an extreme example: Having many babies, as close together as possible, home-schooling them, and restricting their access both to peers and the media. As a parent, I tend to get itchy when people start going after how others raise their children. I’ve never appreciated criticisms of our parenting; I’m sure there are many who probably figure we’re too lenient, allowing our girls to have as much freedom to grow and become who they are. So these folks home-school their kids and are strict disciplinarians; I have nothing against either, up to a point.

Today I discovered that this movement is rooted in what I can only call pseudo-Christian nonsense, incorporating physical and psychological abuse both of women and children, and as the above meme from one of the “leaders” shows, borders on endorsing both child marriage and pedophilia:

Vaughn Ohlman is a sick man with a twisted sense of fatherly love.

Suzanne Titkemeyer, administrator of the No Longer Quivering blog, frequently features the bizarre rantings of “Let Them Marry” in the “Quoting Quiverfull” section and has had numerous interactions with Vaughn, whom she describes as, “a nonsensical pain in the ass who refuses to accept logic, facts and legitimate figures,” reports that Ohlman was interested in a girl at his church and her daddy judged him not good enough and rejected him.

(That story is all kinds of messed up, but the good news is … whew, she dodged a bullet!)

While there is some standard right-wing rhetoric tossed around on these websites, there are also far more disturbing topics discussed in all seriousness. For example, the whole issue of women submitting to their husbands.

Submitting is not difficult, we do it all the time; we just have a hard time submitting to our husbands, and in this case they are unbelievers. 

God has placed your husband to be the head of the home, the Commander. Submission is a “voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden” (Greek/ Hebrew Lexicon)

It means that no matter where our husbands are at spiritually we have a responsibility to them and to God to submit to their authority.

Submission is not a giving in and bending over to let him walk all over you.

Jesus was in submission to the Father, but He was considered equal with God the Father. We are to be in submission to our husbands, but God sees us as equals as well.

When we truly grasp the meaning of submission we will begin to see ourselves as no longer singular, but as a part of a unit, a part of a team.

Our motives for submitting to our husbands is not because “God said” so much as it is, “God said and I love God, so I am going to submit to this man God has placed over me, because I seek to please God above all else.”

Now you see your choice for submitting, in this case, to an unbelieving husband means that we seek his good above our own. Our motives for submitting are not for our good and our benefit, but for his good and his benefit.

This is a recipe for disaster. Weak and abusive men will see such behaviors as invitations to do even more harm.

There there is “disciplining” children, or as one writer puts it, “training” them.

I have observed and engaged a sufficient number of parents, both in action and in conversation, to have made a very good guess about what this frustrated father was thinking. I’m certain he was proud of his patience and tenderness, knowing that he was not being overbearing or insensitive toward this child. His philosophy clearly is, “She’s a handful, but kids will be kids! Just love them, and in time they will turn out all right.” No doubt, he was solaced by the fact that in the best of times she responds to his commands. He has “faith” that such a sweet child will survive and eventually “grow into” obedience.

I cautiously mentioned to him that he could actually train her to stop upon command, pointing out how much safer it would be if she obeyed instantly. He brushed it off with, “Oh, she is not being disobedient; we play games like that.” And then he made some comment about how he didn’t like to spank his children except in extreme situations. He didn’t really consider it to be disobedience in a child so young. He was a foolish young father, not yet having seen the final end of the seeds of self-will and rebellion he was sowing.

Nothing says someone has a twisted view of children when they talk about “training” them to “stop upon command”. Nothing says someone has a twisted view of children when they believe an 11-month-old being an 11-month-old – playing a game with Daddy – is actually an example of “self-will and rebellion”. How, precisely, are such children trained?

The methods used to create children who are always smiling, who always obey instantly, who never go through individuation, who never talk back– they should horrify us because they are nightmarish. In order to achieve this, you have to beat infants. You have to strike your children multiple times a day with a switch or a board or a belt. Age-appropriate exploration must be prevented at all costs– either through things like blanket training or slapping a baby every time they reach for a necklace or your hair. You must subject your infant or toddler to brutal physical punishmentevery single time they show a disavowed form of curiosity about their environment.

For older children and teenagers, you have to completely disallow any form of individuality. They must agree with everything you teach them. Doubts and questions are forbidden. If they attempt to express their own identity, they must be bullied by other members of the fundamentalist community to immediately stamp it out.

Being socialized as a fundamentalist child means being horribly abused.

I followed the link above about blanket training because I had never heard of such a thing.

In its simplest form, blanket training consists of 3 actions: (1) place a young child (usually an infant or toddler) on a small blanket, (2) tell that child not to move off the blanket, and (3) strike that child if they move off the blanket. Rinse, repeat.

That sounds like a healthy way to discipline a child . . .

There’s always a fine line between proper discipline at the extremes and what constitutes abuse. Certainly parents who engage in these practices wouldn’t consider themselves abusive. The ideology behind all this, however, a steaming pile of Bible verses, extreme patriarchy, and the dehumanization of women and children, is something that deserves far more attention that it currently enjoys.

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7 thoughts on “Creepy And Toxic Pseudo-Christian Ideas

  1. Please understand that not all of us are like this. I’m certainly not defending this unfortunate meme in any way… I just blogged about it myself because it does not represent my family, and made me feel uncomfortable.

    And I’ve never actually observed a QF parent engage in what “blanket training” is described as on the internet… Blanket time among all the mothers I know is wildly different than what is described at sites such as you linked. And the original books that introduced blanket time concepts don’t even describe it that way.

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  2. I guess my question, then, is why do such “blanket training” or “blanket time” at all? It seems the whole point is to force children to restrict their curiosity of the world at exactly the time they should be encouraged to explore their world further. Furthermore, if the point is “training”, children aren’t dogs or monkeys. They’re human beings. And instilling “discipline” and “obedience”, it seems to me, is far more about the convenience of the parents who don’t want a toddler to act like a toddler. I find the whole thing questionable at the very least.

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  3. It’s about bonding with the baby, focused play time, naps… I use scented candles, incense, and music. It depends on the mother, naturally. Some children become very attached to the blanket over time, and can form strong bonds with it, sometimes allowing a parent to place the blanket down on the floor and have the child sleep, or even stay near it over their own accord.

    My first child, she loved it all – she even slept with the blanket at night. Wore it to tatters. My second was only so-so with it all.

    These wild abuse stories that circulate on the internet seem to have originated from 3 abusive parents. They are hardly representative of blanket time as any sort of normal, common behavior.

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  4. First of all, babies become attached to objects without the need for any kind of “focused” or “bonding” time. Second, cribs are for naps. Third, this doesn’t at all answer my main question: Why do this at all? All you’ve done is describe some new-age-sounding “baby bonding” experience when in fact babies and small children bond through normal interactions – feeding, rocking to sleep, just sitting and sharing time together – and there just is no need for “blanket time”, particularly with scented candles and music, if a parent is being . . . a parent.

    Again, why the need to “train” a child to restrict themselves to blanket-space? You mention several times that the children become attached to the blankets. When I was a child, I was attached, at various times, to blankets and stuffed animals. I’ve known plenty of children who do so as well, carrying them around and keeping them close to the point they’re worn to rags. And there’s none of this “blanket time” involved. So I’m failing to understand any of this.

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  5. Thanks, I am quite aware of how child psychology works.

    You seem to be unaware that there are different models for parenting, and the type you seem to be drifting uncomfortably close to what is called Uninvolved Parenting (or Dismissive), and it is just about the worst form of parenting that psychologists talk about.

    For a good primer on it see here: http://psychology.about.com/od/developmentalpsychology/a/parenting-style.htm

    I aim for what almost all psychologists say is the best-results model: Authoritative parenting. More specifically, I aim for what is known as a Concerted Cultivation method during infancy/toddler stages, and then aim to switch to a more Nurturant approach later on.

    Merely placing a baby into a crib for a nap is fine, but you implied that is the ONLY place naps should take place, which is Dismissive in my mind. Plenty of mothers do other things – and one such example could be laying down a blanket, creating a relaxing/soothing atmosphere, and fostering bonding in more constructive ways. Some mothers just lay on the bed itself.

    Of course, these are just broad examples. Actually having the time available is an issue for anyone.

    And I’ve said about twice now that the space should NOT be restricted: It is *defined*. You keep saying otherwise, which implies to be that you are unaware that child-rearing does involve the critical development and understanding boundaries, which is something that every child has to actually be trained in. If the child keeps fussing, wanting off the space to do something else, there is zero to be accomplished and I’d just pack it in and try again at a later time. I got maybe one full minute out of it from my first child.

    This conversation actually prompted me to blog about this the other day, so if it interests you further, see the post at: progressiveqf.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/blanket-timetraining … in either case, I hope you perhaps understand better.

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  6. That’s funny . . . uninvolved parenting . . . To a stay-at-home Dad with an 18-year-old and a 14-year-old, both happy, healthy, well-adjusted young women who love their mother and father, enjoy spending time with us (as I type this my wife and my 14 yo are heading out to have an afternoon together), whether it’s family movie nights or family trips to Disney World (three of them so far) or family dinners. So, yeah, we’re very uninvolved in our daughters lives, except that we’re deeply involved, and have been from the moment they were born. What we did NOT do is impose arbitrary restrictions upon them, like “blanket time”; we assumed that they would venture out and explore their worlds, which we’ve always encouraged, while always having a safe, loving home to which they are always welcome to return. To say that we’re somehow “uninvolved” just because we didn’t get all new agey with our kids, or pretend that bonding was a thing that had to be pursued purposefully and consciously instead of allowing it to happen from the interactions between parent and baby is ridiculous. I didn’t read the rest of your comment after that bit of ridiculousness.

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  7. Please re-read it then: I said it ventured *close* to that concept. I never said it *was*. I do not know anything remotely about you, much less have the room to actually make an accusation.

    The entire point of the comment, before you got all close-minded, was to explain that there are multiple parenting styles out there, nothing more.

    And then you gave me more details about your personal life that has to do with anything in a wholly defensive nature. I’m glad your children turned out fine, I never said they wouldn’t.

    And neither will mine. You can have different parenting styles and still produce fine children: THAT’S the point.

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