The “TBB” in the name of this post means that it is part of The Big Box series. If you’re new to Scarlet Letters, read the introductory post to see what The Big Box is all about.
What you are reading is the end of the beginning…because today Scarlet Letters has reached an important milestone. What’s A Girl to Do? is the last of the “first tier” CDs in my Big Box (see here for an explanation of the term “first tier”) – which means I am officially one-quarter of the way through this series! Most fledgling blogs don’t last this long in the wide world of cyberspace, so I’d like to thank my dear readers for all their support, comments and views, especially the good folks at The Wartburg Watch, who inspired me to finally put feet on my idea for a blog. Thanks to you, many Big Box posts now appear on the first page of Google returns when the name of the product they critique is entered (in some cases before Vision Forum’s own website). Hopefully, this will further one of Scarlet Letters’ main goals: giving Vision Forum’s potential customers a second opinion before they buy.
So without further ado, let’s jump in and take a look at the last foundational concept in the “first tier”: stay-at-home daughterhood (SAHD).
After listening to What’s A Girl to Do?, I’ve decided that SAHD reminds me of this Monty Python sketch, with radical feminism as the mosquito and Doug Phillips as the hunter:
What the men in this sketch have done is overreact. Instead of using a flyswatter, they go after the mosquito with guns, a bazooka and a tank. And so it is with Doug Phillips. He sees radical feminism, and he doesn’t like it. But instead of merely pointing out the flaws in radical feminism, he goes after all feminism as “Satanically inspired”:
And then there’s been the feminist view, the Satanically inspired view of the French Revolution, the view that goes all the way back to the garden of Eden, a view which says, you can be as God. You can be by yourself. Individualism, egalitarianism.
(In fairness to Phillips, he does briefly go after some other (faulty) views of women, such as the view that women exist solely for men’s sexual gratification, or that women were created merely to be “ornamental.” It’s clear, however, that his main target is feminism throughout.)
Now most of us know that feminism, especially the early stages or “first-wave” feminism, has brought much measurable good to the world (women’s suffrage, laws allowing women to inherit property, etc.). (See also Wendy Alsup’s helpful post on a similar topic here.) Phillips, however, for theological reasons, rejects all these goods – even the 19th amendment:
…women are as intelligent as men. Women are as capable as men. Every bit. That’s not the issue. What happened when we adopted the nineteenth amendment was we stopped being a nation of families and we became a nation of individuals. Prior to that, the family was represented in the gates of the land by the head of the home. Now the wife cancels the husband, the husband cancels the wife. And you see, this is what feminism has done to you. Instead of thinking as a family unit, thinking as one, where the two become one and they colabor together, you think of yourself as I’m the wife, and he’s the husband, and I’ve got my deal and he’s got his deal, and the twain shall never come together. This is the egalitarian spirit of feminism.
Phillips is telling at least one historical half-truth here. It’s true that, before the passage of the 19th amendment, most families were (likely) represented in the polls by the husband or one or more sons. However, as someone who has viewed hundreds of census forms online while doing genealogical research, I can tell you that it was hardly uncommon for a widow to be the “head of the home” – and if that widow had only daughters, her family was not “represented in the gates of the land” because none of its members were legally allowed to vote. There’s a name for this situation, coined hundreds of years ago: “taxation without representation.” The American Revolution was fought over this issue. In other words, Phillips’ views go against the very heart and foundations of the American political system.
But where does Phillips get the idea that it’s wrong for a woman to represent herself in the polls? From the idea of “covering,” explained here in this pertinent quote from The Blessed Marriage:
Whenever you’re the head, it means you have responsibility. With authority comes responsibility. Part of your authority is to be a protector. That’s why the Bible says in Genesis 18 that Abraham was a covering over Sarah.
I’ve already debunked the idea that Abraham “covered” Sarah in a spiritual sense here, but we’ll let Phillips elaborate on the idea of “covering” as protection:
…there is never a normative example in the entire Bible of a young woman living out from underneath the roof of her father. Why? It’s because the father had the responsibility for protecting the purity of the virgin. It’s because the father had the responsibility for providing for the young lady. It’s because the Bible makes the distinction between young men and young women.
Elsewhere in the lecture, Phillips states that, except for widows with children, “virtuous women” are always “under the direct authority of a man.” Daughters are “covered” by their fathers, and wives are “covered” by their husbands. (Note also that, though Phillips acknowledges that it is Biblical for a widow with children to live without a male “covering,” and thus be the “head” of her household, he still refuses to extend her the right to vote, per his statements above about the 19th amendment. So he is apparently all right with certain American families being disenfranchised in his ideal world.)
Another source of Phillips’ beliefs about “covering” is Numbers 30, a passage in which certain vows made by women can be nullified by their fathers and husbands. Cindy Kunsman has covered this passage before, in her series comparing Vision Forum’s ideas about marriage to those of Orthodox Jews:
Under the patriocentric paradigm, daughters train for service to their mates by serving as a type of “helpmeet” for their fathers until they are given to a husband in marriage. The proponents of this view offer Numbers chapter 30 as a proof text to demonstrate a type of “male headship” for all women during all times of life, despite the fact that the passage discusses fiduciary responsibilities of men as guarantors for their wives or for underage daughters (as specified in verses 4 and 17). A modern analogy that involves a pledge of this type might be a married woman or under-aged girl who uses a credit card, vowing to make payment. The guarantor in the person of a father or husband would be responsible for making payment on purchases made with the card, should the woman not have independent funds with which to pay the debt personally. This passage mentions no assignment of personal moral responsibility of the father or husband for the woman. Numbers Chapter 30 also mentions nothing about a directive for a grown, unmarried woman to remain under mandatory “male headship,” care or ownership, though many patriocentrics use this chapter to support the their claims that a woman without male supervision lives “outside of Kingdom architecture.” The concept of this interpretation of male headship within the patriocentric circles suggests a type of salvific ownership of women by men wherein care (ownership?) of women transfers from father to husband when a woman is given in marriage.
There’s several things we can take away from this. First, whatever Numbers 30 means (and I had a difficult time finding information on the cultural background to determine that), it definitely does not apply to all situations in a woman’s life or even to all women. The discussion is restricted solely to religious vows; it’s clear from other passages that women did not need male permission for every decision (see Numbers 36:6); and the vows of widows and divorced women cannot be nullified by any man (see 30:9).
Second, I’d like to return to something Scott Brown and John Thompson mentioned in their lectures on the Family-Integrated Church. If you recall, they made much of the fact that the father officiates the Passover seder in Jewish tradition and used this to support their notion that fathers are the “priests” of their home. So what does Jewish tradition say about unmarried women? Must they be constantly in the care of some male “head,” whether it be their father, brother, uncle, or even the male head of another Christian family while traveling?
In contrast, Lamm teaches that prior to marriage, a woman of age is her own, free moral agent. An orthodox Jewish marriage is not a transfer of property in the person of a daughter-turned-wife but is rather an indirect declaration of how God used the law to sanctify the institution of marriage (never the woman as the patriocentrists maintain). …
If a daughter was a type of property and ownership was transferred from father to new husband through marriage, why is a daughter considered to be in a “state of abandonment” and “ownerlessness” prior to her marriage while under the care of her father? If this concept came from Judaism, would the woman not bear the official status of one who was previously owned in regard to her relationship to other men so as to call for the use of language describing the transfer of property from father to spouse? … Lamm explains that the woman’s status under Jewish law only relates to her status of availability to potential mates, a status that was never held by her father. Prior to marriage, the law never declares that an unmarried woman requires a “male head,” and even the Hebrew language that describes her status (hefker) makes this distinction.
How interesting that this part of Jewish tradition, which contradicts Phillips’ idea that all women except widows must be attached to and represented by a man, is never mentioned, while the Passover seder, which seems to support their ideas about male “household priesthood” (though this is explicitly overturned in the New Testament), is trumpeted from the rooftops!
So what are stay-at-home daughters supposed to do while waiting for the Christian boy of their father’s dreams (see last week’s post) to arrive and whisk them away? Serve their fathers as “helpmeets,” of course. Phillips actually used that word and claimed that Christian parents are to actively train their daughters for this role.
Phillips’ first problem here is that daughters are never described in the Bible as their fathers’ “helpmeets.” Only wives are given that title. His second problem is the word “helpmeet” itself, which was originally a corruption of “help meet” from the KJV’s rendering of Genesis 2:18. Here are more details from the Oxford Etymologist (the full article’s well worth reading):
In the Authorized Version of the Bible, we read: “And the Lord God said, it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” The phrase meet for him is supplied with the following marginal note: “Heb. As before him.” The Hebrew word for help (its old-fashioned pronunciation is approximately a-z-er) has a meaning slightly different from the one the context of Gen. II: 18 suggests to the modern reader because it is regularly used in addressing God in the Psalms (in which too “help” is the gloss). Psalm XXVII: 9, “Hide not thy face far from me; …thou hast been my help…” Perhaps the most colorful example occurs in LXX: 5, “…O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying.” Obviously, help in the story of how Eve was created does not mean “servant” or “assistant,” as in the advertisement: “Help wanted.”
Meet “fit, suitable” is an obsolete adjective. It has nothing to do with the verb meet “encounter” but shares the root with mete in the equally archaic collocation mete out and the noun meat. Both refer to measuring: mete (out) does so directly (compare German messen “to measure”), meat indirectly (the noun designated “portion of food,” and the ancient sense of meat “food” has been retained in the idiom meat and drink and in compounds like sweetmeats). Thus, with the emergence of Eve, Adam acquired someone on whose love and help he could depend, a companion, a partner “measured out” for him. The Authorized Version gives a marginal note to this place because the Hebrew phrase corresponding to the conjunction like is hard to render in English, but “help” does not seem to have caused the translators any problems. The Vulgate text (in Latin) has adiutorium similem sibi (adiutorium “help, assistance; support”).
Phillips’ third problem is that the Bible itself flatly contradicts the idea that unmarried women serve their fathers:
There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world – how she may please her husband. 1 Cor. 7:34
If an unmarried woman were required to serve her father, she would be worrying not about “the things of the Lord,” but about “how she may please her father”!
As a final note, I’d like to draw attention to how much Phillips emphasizes the relationship between fathers and daughters. No one denies that father-daughter relationships are important, but I cannot recall a single instance where Phillips mentions the relationship between a daughter and her mother. Lots of talk about daughters serving their fathers, “giving their hearts” to their fathers – but hardly a word about mothers, in a lecture which was ostensibly about “virtuous womanhood.” In a functional Christian family, what better model of “virtuous womanhood” could a daughter have than her own mother? Fathers cannot model “virtuous womanhood” for their daughters – something Phillips must know, since he heavily emphasizes gender differences and talks about the importance of even children’s play reflecting those differences. Nevertheless, the only time Phillips mentions mothers is when he’s talking about motherhood – or in context, training your daughters to get married and have (lots of) children. This disturbs me greatly.
Same old song
Before we close, I’d like to go through some specific points in What’s A Girl to Do? that have been addressed in earlier posts. First is Phillips’ heavy emphasis on “dominion,” which is so central to his views that he includes it in his definition of the family:
In the Biblical model, God intends the family to be an economically viable, self-sufficient agent for dominion.
Phillips has also, in past lectures, referred to marriage as a “joint dominion work.” I’ve already shown that the word “dominion” is closely connected to Christian Reconstructionism, but let’s look at how Phillips uses the word anyway (emphasis mine):
In other words, there is not a single area of neutrality in the entire universe. Everything is understood and interpreted in light of the person of Jesus Christ, and all those things – this is our field of work – we go out to take captive every thought and to take care of this wonderful world that God has given us. A world bespeckled by sin, but a world that God has given us, a mission. To be fruitful, multiply, and take dominion.
Christians are supposed to “take” dominion. This makes sense in light of the Reconstructionist belief that Adam “lost” his God-given dominion when he sinned, but did Adam really lose his dominion? Psalm 8:6-8 seems to indicate he did not:
You have made [man] to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen – even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas.
There are obvious similarities between this verse and Genesis 1:26-28, where God gives Adam and Eve dominion over creation. David, however, writes as if mankind’s dominion is still very much in force and that all creation is “under his feet.” Why, then, should Christians try to “take” dominion over anything? (See also Bob DeWaay’s excellent critique of Reconstructionism here.)
Phillips also connects having children to dominion, and seems to imply that they are a tool for this “dominion-taking”:
This is the first command. Be fruitful and multiply, that’s have children. And with those children and and with that family have dominion over the earth.
The second recurring theme in What’s A Girl to Do? is Industrial Revolution-bashing:
Dads left the home. The Industrial Revolution said, hey, you can have more money, more opportunities…so leave the home and stop developing the economy of the household. And by the end of the 19th century women were entering it, becoming the resident theologians, even the political leaders, and now the defenders of the families.
Notice the phrase “economy of the household” in the above quote. Phillips emphasizes repeatedly that families are supposed to be “self-sufficient,” and seems to date the decline of this “self-sufficiency” as beginning with the Industrial Revolution. He also mentions a few times that Christian families should not have debt. This is nothing new, of course, as I’ve documented here, and it still looks frighteningly similar to the dystopian predictions of Christian survivalists. But let’s look more closely at Phillips’ words here.
When most people think of a “traditional” marriage or the “nuclear family,” they picture a mother staying home with two or more children, while the father goes to work in the morning and gets home in time for a piping hot dinner. This is not, however, what Phillips is describing. Notice the phrase “dads left the home.” Phillips does not only want the mothers to stay home. He wants the fathers to stay home too!
I cannot emphasize this enough. Women are not the only ones required to stay home according to Phillips. In other words, though it’s often assumed that only women’s activities are restricted in such heavy-handed patriarchal systems, men’s activities are restricted just as much! Remember that Phillips speaks disparagingly of the modern office workplace, and of fathers who spend what he perceives as too much time at work. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s no accident that Phillips promotes Joel Salatin.
The last point Phillips restates is the “normativity” of marriage:
God actively commands His people to marry. Marriage is considered a blessing. It is Biblically preferable to singleness unless you have a gift of celibacy or you’re a eunuch, and those are both two Biblical offices – the office of the eunuch, we may laugh about that, but that is a Biblical office – and the person who specifically has been given the gift of celibacy. Apart from that, unless you can claim one of those two things, you should plan the future of your life, if you’re single, and you should plan the training of your daughter around the normative assumption that she will get married.
I’ve already covered this here. My objection then was that Phillips makes no provision for finding out if your daughter (or son, for that matter) has the “office” of eunuch or celibate, and sadly the situation hasn’t improved in What’s A Girl to Do?. Phillips still simply advises parents to train their children for marriage, as if eunuchs and celibates only existed in other people’s families.
If you didn’t have all your questions about SAHD answered in this post, don’t worry. I have no doubt that we’ll be encountering it again. There are two lectures on daughterhood in my Big Box by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, whose documentary, The Return of the Daughters, is all about SAHD (see here and here). So until then, in the words of the evening news:
It’s ten o’clock…do you know where your daughter is?