Jun 242011

I expect most of my readers are already somewhat familiar with Hillary McFarland's beautiful book and website Quivering Daughters, to which I've been honored to contribute as a writer. It addresses the spiritual and emotional abuses of women and children in the "Biblical Patriarchy" movement, though even people with no experience in that particular movement have found it deeply encouraging. 

So I was delighted to discover yesterday that the book had received an incisive review in Christianity Today. You don't need to work in Christian publishing to tell that that's fairly significant. Here's a brief excerpt:

When rules and standards are exalted above God, it's not surprising that law is emphasized over grace. This leads, McFarland tells us, to children who feel that they have to keep working for love even though they believe they'll never be good enough for it. Quotes from the various daughters of patriarchy who talked to McFarland drive this point home—quotes like "I was never patient or perfect enough." "The guilt would just increase." "There is so much pressure to conform." "I thought I might be okay—not good, but okay—enough for God because I was still wearing my long skirts every day."

The review is very well worth reading in full, especially if it convinces you to buy and read the book! Here's the link. 

(Full disclosure: The book has a chapter in it by me. It's the one about the love of Jesus. Well, one of them.)

As if that wasn't enough, the review sparked a lively discussion on the popular blog Internet Monk, consistently rated one of the top Christian websites. From the post by Chaplain Mike:

While children are often emphasized as “blessings” when quiverfull types like the family she grew up in want to stress having lots of children, the children, she says, grow up feeling like anything but blessings, for they can never measure up. As she puts it, “I am only a blessing when I’m useful, helpful, obedient, cheerful, kind, unselfish, submissive, compliant, and responsible.”

The comment section currently has over a hundred very interesting replies from various perspectives, so feel free to join in the conversation if you're inclined. Here's the link.

I'm delighted to see this increasing discussion of a book that, as I've seen firsthand, has helped many people come closer to the Lord beyond the confusion of legalistic doctrine. The teachings of Patriarchy do have an attractive "biblical" veneer, but as C. S. Lewis quoted Sir Michael Sadler on experimental forms of education, "I never give an opinion on any of those experiments till the children have grown up and can tell us what really happened." A doctrine may appear wise and even godly on the surface, but now the children are growing up and telling us how it looks in practice.

Hillary, one of these grown-up children, makes it clear that she is not against large families but against spiritual abuse, which is deeply tied to flawed teachings on authority, submission, obedience, and the like. The passive-aggressive moralism of her detractors is almost as revealing as the firsthand accounts of emotional abuse. This is a crucial issue that the church cannot afford to ignore. 

Here are the links for Quivering Daughters website and book. Congratulations, Hillary! May your dedication to the Lord continue to draw even more people to Him.

(On the off chance that you found my website through one of these discussions, welcome! I hope you'll stick around. I've got a CD and stuff.)

  • I am so thrilled that CT reviewed the book! And then….YIPPEE!!!! I open my e-mail to see Imonk’s artile…

    I have been so blessed by the words and lives of yourself, Hillary and Lewis Wells (and many more, of course).

    All of you write with such grace, building bridges for the wounded. God bless!

    (Oh and happy Friday to you and Carrie!)

    • Thank you, Julie! I appreciated your post with the links and posts about QD as well.

  • Dear Eric,
    I spent an hour perusing the links you listed above and was enlightened by the forum that I discovered. My heart winced as certain phrases struck close to home… “Being good” — no, make that “excelling” — was ingrained into me as a child, in part to “make up for” an unfortunate accident that left me scarred and therefore “different”; the remaining compellation to be the “best” can be attributed to a parent’s unending need to live vicariously through their child’s/children’s achievements. I’m SO thankful I found out that Jesus loves me (even though it took until age 40 to learn the Truth — my siblings did, too!) and your article was a wonderful affirmation of that. Thank you.

    Although my family is smaller than the norm noted, I can identify with Miss McFarland’s constant fatigue; the weight of living up to a dominant parent’s misguided “belief-system” and inflated expectations still haunts me periodically. The only “cure” I’ve found is the liberating freedom in Christ; I never knew there could be such sweet and complete rest, and I’m grateful for it. Again, THANK YOU for your excellent writing and encouragement!

    • Hi, Anonymous (which is fine)! Thank you so much for telling your story. It means a lot to me to hear how the Lord has used my writings to encourage people.

      • Anonymous, if I may

        I forgot to mention forgiveness! Don’t know if Miss McFarland touched on that aspect in her book (haven’t read it yet), but forgiveness salvages even the most ravaged of relationships, and Jesus makes that possible. With Him, all things are possible! Thanks again!