Saturday, October 09, 2010

Escape, FLDS, and some parallels

Today I finished reading Escape by Carolyn Jessop. This is her story of living in the FLDS and finally escaping it with her 8 children. It is a compelling story that kept my attention even though it wasn't as well-written as it might have been. Carolyn does a good job of telling stories that explain the extremely unhealthy situations she was in, including abuses that are truly mind-blowing.

When I finished reading today I spent some time thinking about the many parallels I saw between some of the FLDS beliefs, and that of things being taught by people like Michael and Debi Pearl, Above Rubies magazine, Vision Forum, and others.

The greatest parallel I saw was the one about a woman's place of total submission, total turning-off-her-brain-in-all-ways-not-approved-by-her-husband, and for the man, complete control along with lack of accountability. I think that any system that requires total submission by one person and total control by the other person is a situation inviting abuse. While not all men would turn abusive in a situation like this, many will, and even in the more mainstream Christian community, the message to women is that they aren't doing enough of the right things:

Debi Pearl is quite vocal in teaching women that they are the cause of all of their unhappiness. Her book Created to Be His Help Meet drives home the point, letting women know that putting on a happy face and having sex with her husband as often as possible are the answers to a happy life. In Debi's world, like the FDLS situation described in the book, sex is the main currency that a wife has in a marriage.

I watched a video by Debi Pearl the other day. She was talking about how it is important for a couple to discuss all of their differences before getting married, because once you are married, there is no more give and take; the husband's way will be the only way after that point. In a nice relationship with a benevolent man this might turn out ok. But what about the guy who takes advantage of knowing how his future wife has been raised, so he tells her what she wants to hear before the wedding, and then goes his own way after the deal is sealed? I can't help but think that must happen at least some of the time. According to Debi's teachings, the wife is stuck, and that's ok. Smile! More sex. Accept. The end.

Nancy Campbell uses her magazine Above Rubies to encourage women to embrace even the worst situations for health, sanity, and safety with faith that God will come through for them. The magazine is often filled with stories of the fortunate minority that survived extreme circumstances related to childbirth or their marriage, held up as encouraging examples for the rest of the world. What about the great majority who will not survive their similar circumstances? We do not read about those in Above Rubies.

Doug Philips of Vision Forum decided to take a strong stand earlier this year against women getting medical attention for tubal pregnancies. Yes, that's right. According to Doug it would be better for a mother to die from having her fallopian tube rupture than to have the tubal pregnancy removed. Considering that his followers are commonly not using birth control and having lots and lots of kids, I fear for the many women who will find themselves in a life-threatening situation and feel that they must give up their life for a child that will not be able to live regardless. And what about the faithful men who will feel pressured to encourage their wives to sacrifice their own lives? He gets left with no wife and a house full of young children without a mother. Easy for Doug to say. What an abominable person he is.

Tonite I re-read my posts from April-June 2008 (you can find them through the Current Events category) about the FLDS situation where the YFZ ranch was raided and the children taken into foster care for months. After reading in Escape about the grievous situation that this group was in, I wondered if I would feel differently about anything I said then.

Well, I don't.

I still think it is very complex. I think it is not a good idea to try to prosecute cults based on their religious beliefs. Yes, I am in favor of getting after them for illegal behavior (and it seems that wackos usually have illegal behavior going on in addition to their religious teachings), but I think it is mighty subjective to start saying that the government has the right to interfere with whatever people think is the right way to live. I can think of so many groups that have "survivors" who would say they were damaged by the teachings of their religion. Most are considered pretty mainstream and normal. In a nation where we have religious freedom, unfortunately, that sometimes results in groups that believe and practice things that we do not like or think are healthy. I would still prefer religious freedom over the alternative.

I think that if anyone really wanted to help those people at the YFZ ranch, they should have made efforts to get helpful information to the women and children about resources for escape, options for education or birth control or whatever else they may have felt they needed. In a raid situation, this group had to stick together even tighter than ever, no matter how bad their situation might really have been.

Escape is worth a read if you have an interest in the subject or just like a compelling story. It certainly gives some interesting things to think about. If you are a fan of Big Love, you will see many similarities to the Juniper Creek group. And if you are watching TLC's new show Sister Wives, Escape will be quite a contrast.


Anonymous said...

A second must read "Triumph" by Carolyn Jessop.

Favorite chapter is about forgiveness.

A friend of Carolyn's

Anonymous said...

written by a flds lady who left the fold also with children.

Alana said...

I read Escape about a year ago, and it was an interesting read.

As someone who is no longer part of the protestant world, phenomena such as Vision Forum and the patriocentric movement are things I'm just now learning about and quite frankly, from where I sit, they astonish me. Part of what astonishes me is how very very fringe and "out there" these movements are when they are compared with 2000 years of Christian history. Same definitely can be said for the Pearls and the Above Rubies stuff. I'm glad I got out of where I was when I did.

Speaking of people countering the Vision Forum stuff, here's some blogging you might enjoy: Particularly, perhaps, the archives.

Anonymous said...

Yes, there are men who will say whatever the wife wants to hear before marriage, only to go the other way once the ring is on. My husband did that to me. I warned him before we were even engaged that my beliefs were no longer lining up with the church we had attended and that I was leaving. I gave him the option to leave me, and he chose not to take it. He led me to believe he would try to be on board with me, but he never really was.

Fortunately, he cannot say he was warned that I was not putting up with certain churches anymore. Fortunately, he knows I have the stronger character so he'll never try to get me in those churches again. Unfortunately, he chooses instead to ensure we'll never find a church we can both agree on, while insisting that worship at two different churches is not an option. Lovely.