“We’ve gotten beyond the Galatian brand of legalism today. We haven’t resurrected circumcision as a requirement for salvation, and we’re clear that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ apart from the keeping of the law. Instead, we have developed another brand of legalism, a brand that is concerned, not with salvation, but with how we live the Christian life. I call this “evangelical legalism”… -Jeffrey Bridges
TWW has long been focused on the issue of abuse within the church. There are certain movements which seem to spawn a high number of reports of abuse behavior. The abuse can take the form of physical or serious psychological damage.
This trend can be seen especially in groups that impose "rules" for behavior that are based on an extreme, wooden literal translation of the Scripture. Sadly, some of these movements are gaining in popularity within mainstream evangelicalism. For example, Sovereign Grace Ministries (CJ Mahaney) has received much attention due to their practice of strict authoritarianism on the part of pastors. This group has spawned a host of survivors groups
Another movement that has come into close scrutiny are groups that eschew birth control methods, encourage early marriage, large families, and homeschooling. There is also an emphasis on strict gender role differentiation. This movement has been given the name "Quiverfull" which takes its name from Psalm 127:3-5
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one's youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. (ESV)
TWW has written extensively on our concerns with the Quiverfull movement. Here is a link to one of our posts on the matter. It is called Selling the Quiverfull Approach to Family Planning.
There are many logical inconsistencies in this movement. One being that birth control is outlawed and the good Christian allows God "to plan" the size of the family. However, those who practice these mandates seem to have no problem with accepting medical care to cure a disease instead of letting God "plan" the outcome of the disease. But I digress. That is not the purpose of this post.
This post is the story of Vyckie Garrison who runs a blog called No Longer Quivering. Here is the link. TWW has been reading her blog regularly. It is an eyeopening, shocking look into the real effects of this growing movement. Vyckie was a part of this belief system and eventually left her husband, taking her children with her, due to abuse at all levels. You may read her entire story at her blog. Just this week, Vyckie posted this heartfelt story on ExChristians.Net. Please note the blog on which her story was posted.
TWW has long been concerned about secondary issues being raised to primary doctrine. For example,there are a number of people who feel they cannot become Christians because some churches insist that one must believe in a young Earth to be considered an orthodox believer. Also, there are many young people who have left the faith over this issue. We received one comment on this blog which gave us cause for great concern. Said commenter informed us that these people were not meant to be Christians in the first place.
This dangerous statement reflects a "no harm, no foul" approach to the faith. Essentially, this means a supposed Christian can abuse people, act like a jerk, treat people like dirt and insist on adherence to legalistic doctrines and behaviors.When said abused person leaves the faith, the abuser then can wash his hands of the matter. This attitude is disgusting and reflects a profound misunderstanding of the faith. As it says in Luke 11:46:
Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. (NIV)
The first quote from Vyckie deals with her assessment of the root cause for the abuse that is seen in the Quiverfull movement. Note that most people in this culture also adhere to a patriarchal hierarchical structure.
"And how could I have known it was abusive behavior, when the glories of marital hierarchy were lauded from both patriarchal sources and the more mainstream complementarian conservative church world? “Have a problem in your marriage? Make sure your marriage is in order (Christianese for hierarchical ordering, man in charge of woman). That will solve all your problems…” Mark was certainly “in authority,” and if I would only do a better job at joyfully obeying him, inside as well as outside, we wouldn’t have any problems, now would we? Most of the time, we didn’t have any problems—if you define problems as conflict. How could we have conflict, when I wasn’t allowed to have any will but his?
Vyckie @ No Longer Quivering"
Here is the story that Vyckie wrote for ExChristians.Net. I have not changed anything. Vyckie graciously gave us permission to post this story on TWW. For some, it will be a difficult read . However, we feel it is essential that the Christian population faces the effects of legalism and abuse in the church.This story takes place after she has left her husband and is living on her own. She is visited by one of her former Bible college friends. By the way, this is a great example of what not to do or say to someone who has been abused by the church. May God have mercy on all of us who have failed the Vyckies of this world.
"It had already been the longest Thursday of my life ~ way too much to do, not nearly enough time to do it in, constant interruptions, crisis & drama from the kids, the phone, my email inbox ~ all of this conspired to distract me from getting the bills paid ~ a job which I'd procrastinated on much too long.
"Enough!" I told myself ~ "If I don't get this finished, I'll be drowning in late fees and disconnect notices." I sent the kids to their rooms, shut off the ringer on my cell phone, and closed all but one window on the computer so that I could focus, balance the checkbook, and finally pay the darned bills!
The doorbell rang.
Thinking it was one of the kids' friends, I jumped up quickly to shoo the visitor away before all the kids came streaming out of their rooms and chaos erupted again.
"Hello, Vyckie" ~ it was Al, my old friend from bible college ~ whom I hadn't seen in ages. He told me that his wife is in a nursing home ~ she's my age (mid-40s), so I was a little shocked and dismayed at the news. I invited Al to come inside.
Twenty years ago, Al and Laura had been first year bible school students with me. They had an apartment upstairs from where I was living with my family ~ and together we were on fire for God. In class, we studied our bibles and Christian apologetics (à la, "Evidence That Demands a Verdict") ~ on Friday evenings, we witnessed to our lost neighbors at our home bible study. We loved the Lord and spent hours fellowshipping around His Word.
Fast-forward to Thursday evening. Al had read the local newspaper's sensationally-titled article, "Losing Her Religion" ~ all about my loss of faith and how I am "No Longer Quivering" in fear of God. The article was printed in August of last year, but the Lord had led Al to come over and witness to me on this Thursday night. (God somehow had a lapse of omniscience since He didn't realize that I was fairly stressed and pressed for time with the bill paying job ~ this really was not a very good time.)
He took a seat and we looked at each other awkwardly ~ two old friends who suddenly were separated by a far greater chasm than the mere passing of many years. Al began to speak in fits and starts ~ I could tell he was trying to formulate something intelligent to say ~ something profound and convincing which would be just the right thing to draw me back to the faith ~ but before his thoughts could come together into something coherent, he realized that I already knew where he was going, had thought it through, and rejected his line of thinking. I waited impatiently while he tried again … After a while of this, we both were exasperated. He was getting nowhere and I was not getting the bills paid.
"I honestly fear for you," Al told me with such a grave tone that I almost burst out laughing ~ except, really ~ he was very serious.
"You are fearful of what? That I will go Hell?"
"The thing is," I explained ~ "I've already been to Hell." My life as a devoted fundamentalist Believer had become a living hell of emotional and spiritual abuse. For all our efforts to know God, to love Him, discern His will and live out His precepts in our lives ~ our family was going crazy ~ we hated ourselves and we hated each other and we all wanted to die.
"That's when I think of Romans 8:28," Al began …
"Oh no," I interrupted, "do not quote that evil bible verse to me!" I told him that "God works all things together for good" is the idea I used to console myself ~ it was the thought that kept me hanging in there ~ long past the point when I should have put my foot down and refused to tolerate another minute of the abuse, suffering and tyranny coming from the "head of our home" ~ my patriarchal ex-husband who had gone off the deep end with the power and authority that comes with biblical headship.
My life as a devoted fundamentalist Believer had become a living hell of emotional and spiritual abuse. For all our efforts to know God, to love Him, discern His will and live out His precepts in our lives ~ our family was going crazy ~ we hated ourselves and we hated each other and we all wanted to die."I kept waiting on God ~ trusting Him to work everything together for good," I said. "But it never happened ~ things didn't work out for us."
Al's eyes lit up ~ he'd figured it all out and had the answer now!
"But you have to consider the second part of the verse," he explained triumphantly, "He works all things together for good … for those who love God and are called according to his purpose …"
I cut him off again. So now he's telling me that if the Christian walk of faith didn't work out for me ~ it must be evidence that I did not love God ~ that I was not really called. Ugh!
"Al, you knew me!" I protested, "You were there ~ and if anyone was sold out and whole-heartedly dedicated to the Lord ~ it was me. I was willing to follow Jesus no matter the cost ~ though He slay me! If I was not a true Christian ~ then there is no such thing as a True Christian."
"For your sake, I honestly hope that you were never a true Christian," he responded with a look of genuine fear and confusion in his eyes. (He was referring, of course, to that scary verse in Hebrews 6 which threatens, For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.)
"If there is a God who would burn His creatures in eternal flames," I countered, "such a Being is not worthy of my love and devotion. I couldn't treat my children like that ~ you wouldn't do it to your cats ~ and yet, you are willing to reverence Someone who tortures His children forever?" I was on a roll … 'cuz truthfully, even as a fully-convinced Believer, I never believed in Hell ~ the idea is so ridiculous.
"But God doesn't send anyone to Hell," (You knew he was going to say that, didn't you?!!) "He gives us a choice."
Now what kind of sense does that make? Free will ~ bah! If one of my kids is rushing headlong into a fire ~ I'm not gonna give a rat's ass about respecting his free will ~ I am going to grab hold of the kid and restrain him with all my might to keep him from going up in flames.
"In fact," I told Al ~ and by this point I was sitting up straight and gesturing for emphasis, "if there's a God who will roast people for eternity ~ then I will gladly go to Hell in protest of such an evil monster!" My hand flew up in the air and I shot "The Big Guy" the bird.
Poor Al. The look on his face was one of oh-shit-this-nightmare-is-real terror. His eyes darted around the room ~ he was looking for a safe place to hide. I seriously think he expected a bolt of lightening to come out of Heaven and zap Blasphemous Me as I sat there defiantly with my middle finger pointed in the Almighty's direction.
"Well, I don't want to keep you ~ I'd best be going now." We both stood and I walked him to the door. He was so scared, I would have thought he couldn't get out of my house fast enough ~ but he lingered. He looked at me. Then he embraced me ~ not a polite "goodbye" hug ~ but a crushing, "Goodbye for all Eternity" hug ~ and he didn't let go. I never felt so awkward. Really ~ it was too much. At last, he let go and took a step back.
It wasn't over. Al cupped my cheeks in his hands, lifted my face toward his, and looked intently into my eyes.
F.o.r… a… v.e.r.y… l.o.n.g… t.i.m.e…
This was beyond awkward. From the look on his face it was clear that my old friend was visualizing the future Damned and Tortured Me ~ crying out in agony for relief from the unquenchable fires which engulfed my writhing, tormented soul …"
Was he praying silently? Wrestling with God ~ pleading with Him to spare me and bring me back into the safety of His fold?
After what seemed like an eternity, Al released my face ~ and with tears in his eyes, bid me his final farewell.
I closed the door and then waited a minute for the Candid Camera guy to jump out and tell me to smile.
But alas ~ Al's visit was no prank. He's a True Believer ~ and he is genuinely terrified for my eternal well-being. Sigh. I really didn't mean to upset him so with my casual blasphemy. He takes it all so dead seriously ~ to him, it is Eternal Life or Death and unless I repent … I'll be damned."