“A&E” refers to Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, authors of So Much More. I chose the abbreviation to save space and time.
Near the end of chapter 5, A&E ask a question that many of the rest of you have probably been asking as well:
What should a girl do if her father no longer wants to be her authority figure?
But don’t worry, A&E have the answer! Well, sorta:
This is such a complex problem we should not offer any specific advice. Each situation should be dealt with separately and with as much advice and counsel a girl can find among trusted authorities. We dare only offer the most general guidelines.
I have mixed feelings about this answer. On the one hand, it’s actually good that A&E acknowledge the existence of nuance in a situation like this, rather than just throwing a truckload of simplistic, black-and-white answers at the poor confused girls asking this question. On the other, however, this isn’t exactly the answer you might expect from patriocentrists, who spend much of the rest of their time insisting that God’s instructions about gender roles are not only clear, but also a near-guarantee of happiness and divine blessing if properly followed. If God’s instructions are so painfully obvious, why is this a stumper question for A&E? (And it’s really inconvenient for them that it is, because in a society like ours that has largely abandoned, at least formally, their patriarchal worldview, they’re going to get this question a lot.)
If a father, after his daughter’s fervent appeals and prayers, still refuses to provide authority, leadership, and protection for his daughter and tells her she’s on her own, it may be that he has effectively abdicated his authority over her without properly transferring it to a responsible party.
I find myself curious about a few things here. What exactly constitutes “[refusal] to provide authority, leadership, and protection”? It might help their readers to know if they are in this boat, if A&E included more description of the situation and actions being discussed. As it is, they’re making little or no distinction between an outright neglectful or emotionally disengaged father who does nothing but watch TV and play video games all day, and an otherwise normal dad who does everything right except buy into his daughter’s beliefs about patriarchy (which BTW I would expect to be a pretty common situation). Are both those fathers “[refusing] to provide authority, leadership, and protection”? Has the involved, employed dad who loves his daughter now “abdicated his authority” simply by refusing to sign onto A&E’s program? If so, I would call that massively unfair to him, and pretty clueless and callous of A&E. Sorry, dad – unless you go along with my new ideas, you’re a bad father and I’m obligated by God to go find something better. Ouch.
(I also wonder just how longsuffering and “fervent” the “appeals and prayers” have to be to qualify under this section. If the father is abusive and neglectful, this could become an important point because it would affect how soon a daughter would be “allowed” to find a way out of the situation.)
Next we come to the “general guidelines” A&E mentioned above:
In this case, the general solution would be to locate an alternative protector. Until you’re married, alternative authority figures would include your mother, a responsible brother, and/or a group of godly older men like the elders of a church, preferably those who would fit the qualifications for a bishop in 1 Timothy 3:2-9…
This sounds relatively innocuous on its face, but let’s look at it from a different angle. I’ve commented before that, in spite of the glorification of motherhood, homemaking and large families, mothers as parents involved in their children’s upbringing (as opposed to mothers as wombs and baby-incubators) seem to get very little airtime in patriocentricity. Thus, I was initially a little hopeful when A&E included the girl’s mother on their list of “alternative protectors.”
But then I kept reading and found this.
The reason we are focusing exclusively on fathers at this point is because this book just happens to be about fathers and daughters. Our mothers are very important, and their authority and guidance will be discussed in greater length in our section about the family in general. Even though we believe it is God’s best for women to be under the authority of godly men, there will be cases where there simple are no responsible men available.
Once again, on the surface this doesn’t sound bad. Maybe they’ll discuss mothers later, and after all, this book is about father-daughter relationships, right? While I obviously can’t tell yet how extensively A&E plan to discuss mothers – and I’ll be sure to point it out if they do – I can compare this paragraph with the one I quoted above. When I do, I see something I find rather disturbing.
In this paragraph, we learn that it is “God’s best” for a woman to be under the authority of a godly man. Okay, seems simple enough. Now set that statement side by side with the list of alternative protectors A&E gave us earlier, and then ask, who on that list is male? Obviously, the girl’s brother, and the board of elders – but more importantly, not her mother. Ergo, using the simple equation outlined in the second excerpt (God’s best = godly male authority figure), I must conclude that, in A&E’s minds, it would be more in line with God’s will for a girl to be under the direct, personal guidance and authority of her elder board – i.e., a bunch of (probably) older male non-relatives – than her own mother, and that optimally a girl should turn to her elder board before her mother, simply because the elder board is made up of men.
How, in the face of that, A&E are going to be able to honestly say that they don’t see mothers as essentially disposable, unimportant or at least less important, I don’t quite know. Assuming your mother is responsible, loving, involved and otherwise stable, in what universe is she less appropriate for counsel than some random (albeit presumably upstanding) guys at your church? Remember that we are not talking just about a second opinion here. We are talking about a girl finding an alternative “spiritual covering” and authority when her normal “covering” and authority (i.e., her father) has thrown in the towel and checked out. And as we’ve learned in previous chapters, this authority can entail everything from overseeing a courtship, to interpreting the Bible, to telling the girl in question what colors you prefer she wear. I don’t know about my female readers, but I most certainly would not be comfortable confiding to that level in the elders of my church – not because they’re bad or untrustworthy people, just because I don’t know them that well personally, and certainly don’t know them as well as my own mother and family members.
So what’s my takeaway from this? That, all other things being equal – i.e., all parties involved are responsible, involved, sane and non-abusive – when it really comes down to brass tacks, the ultimate, deal-breaking qualification for the position of spiritual head and covering, is nothing more or less than “possesses penis.”