My Rebuttal to Diary of an Autodidact’s Blog Post Entitled “The Duggars: How Fundamentalism’s Teachings on Sexuality Create Predatory Behavior”

I read a blog today which I found so deeply offensive that I felt compelled to take the time to type out a response to his post. I am going to attempt to address each of the author’s points and explain why I find his generalized, sweeping statements to be logical fallacy and downright outrageous. Keep in mind as you read that I, myself, am one of those “fundamentalist Christians” about whom the blog author is writing. I am also a survivor of childhood molestation at the hands of a family member. For the record, I was not raised fundamentalist; I wasn’t even raised Christian, for that matter. (Please read the original post here before reading my comments.)

The author of this blog starts out by saying , “Fundamentalist teachings on sex tend to lead to young men who would not otherwise be predators act out in predatory ways.” Here are his various statements to back up his claim, which I intend to refute.

“Thinking about sex is lust, and lust is as bad as doing it…This idea is hammered into children by Gothard and others. The hope is that they would be able to banish all sexual thoughts and desires until that magical wedding night when the switch is flipped.” This statement is asinine and not at all based in fact. I presume his assertion comes from Matthew 5:28 which says, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” In this verse, Jesus is addressing intentionally lustful thoughts; in other words, the sexual coveting of another person. That’s not to say that men are never allowed to look at women and find them attractive, or vice versa. Simply put, what it means is that we believe it’s wrong to have mental sex with someone who is not your spouse, reducing them to the role of a visual prostitute. It is disrespectful of that person. It dehumanizes them and turns them into nothing more than an object. Lust distorts, dishonors, and destroys. As a so-called “fundamentalist Christian,” it’s my belief that we should practice self-control in all aspects in life – and that certainly includes our sexual thoughts and desires. Even within marriage we must practice sexual restraint at times. The verse is about keeping our hearts and thoughts in check and not allowing sexual thoughts to take over our lives; it’s not telling us that we’re never allowed to find another individual attractive.

“’Modesty Culture’ teaches that female bodies are the source of said sinful lust…The source of male sexual sin is the woman, who, by virtue of being attractive, causes him to lust.” No. Seriously, just…NO. This is completely wrong. I’ll be the first to say that I’m huge proponent of modesty, but it isn’t just about the way we dress. It’s about the state of our hearts. Modesty means humility and not living one’s life so as to constantly bring attention to one’s self. Being modest means holding ourselves accountable for not only our own thoughts, but also for our actions. Luke 17:1 states the following: “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.'” I believe that means that we are not to be stumbling blocks to other Christians. Also note that Jesus never specified that toward just women, either. None of us should be carrying on in such a way that would cause a brother or sister in Christ to fall into sin. In terms of modesty, we are all (men and women alike) held accountable for the way we present out bodies to the world. No, we cannot, and rightly should not, be held accountable for the thoughts of other individuals; however, Christians should make a conscience choice not to blatantly dress or behave in such a way that would cause others to be tempted to sin. The aforementioned verse about lust demonstrates Jesus clearly putting the guilt of immoral thoughts squarely on the individual thinking the lustful thoughts, not on the one who is the victim of said thoughts. This verse in Luke goes hand-in-hand with the verse in Matthew and addresses everyone else, making it clear that we should never be guilty of intentionally seeking to cause others to stumble. This, I believe, is the point the author fails to see. Like all of Jesus’ teachings, it comes down to our hearts. Are we putting ourselves and our own needs first, or do we have a servant’s heart that prioritizes others above ourselves? The very essence of Christianity is selflessness.

“Sexual desire is presented in a gendered way…The idea is that women don’t really want sex…Thus, females will always want to say no to sex, so the man will have to impose on them to some degree.” I’m guessing it’s been a while since this person has read Song of Songs. In case you need a refresher, Song of Songs is a collection of love notes from a man and woman to each other. It is a beautiful book about love and the gift of sex that God gives married people. God created men and women to enjoy sex! In many healthy Christian marriages, wives sometimes desire sex with their husbands more often than the husbands. That’s not abnormal or unhealthy, it’s simply the unique way God creates people. Never at any time have I been taught, nor will I ever teach others, that sex was designed solely for male pleasure. There’s nothing Biblical about that, and it’s certainly not a belief held by conservative Christians.

“No outlets for sexual feelings are acceptable – until marriage.” This one is broken down into several subcategories, so I am going to address each of them separately.

“Keep in mind that what applies to Gothardism also applies to most Fundie systems, and in some cases applies in significant part to mainstream Evangelicalism these days. Because of the obsession with preventing sex, these systems impose significant ‘safeguards’ against it occurring.” First of all, let me make it clear that Christians are not “obsessed with preventing sex.” I think I can speak for all conservative Christians when I say that what we are concerned with preventing is premarital and promiscuous sex. Those are different things entirely. Premarital/promiscuous sex leads to so many problems, both within the hearts of individuals and within intimate relationships as a whole, that if I were to touch on all the ways that these things cause permanent and sometimes irrevocable damage, I’m pretty sure it would take up an entire blog post in and of itself. From the emotional baggage it leaves behind to statistically-proven increased divorce rates, STDs to the perversion of sex it leads to… suffice it to say that sexual immorality is not good.

“For example, as I have already noted, they insist on constant work to repress any and all sexual feelings, because these are ‘lust.’ Second, as I noted, they work to keep female bodies from being visible. They must be hidden away as best possible, because without them, (presumably), young males wouldn’t want sex. This is what is behind the obsession with the way young girls dress, as I pointed out in my series.” I addressed all of these topics above.

“Third, in many of these systems – including Gothardism – cross-gender friendships are discouraged, and in some cases forbidden altogether. The young people must be kept from each other, or sexual feelings might develop.” Actually, this isn’t quite correct. That’s not to say that some families don’t go too far in their desire to help their children avoid sexual immorality, but I have never personally experienced this nor is this belief cultivated within my own family. We certainly are going to discourage the cultivation of inappropriate relationships with the opposite sex, such as allowing teenagers to spend long amounts of unchaperoned time with individuals of the opposite sex, but that’s because we have been teenagers ourselves and we know full well what can and does go on in those circumstances. Adolescents aren’t exactly known for their wise decision-making skills, so it’s my belief that there are times when it is appropriate for parents to establish guidelines for our children to follow to help them keep themselves accountable. If that’s wrong, then I will happily accept blame for that. We certainly do believe that boys and girls can be friends. If no one was ever permitted to socialize with the opposite gender, then how would anyone ever progress to the courtship stage?

“Fourth, many of these systems discourage sex education because it might lead to lust. This is particularly the case for girls, who ideally would learn about sex from their husbands on the wedding night. I wish I was making that one up. Certainly, a robust family discussion of sex is out of the question. Instead, sex isn’t talked about, except to say ‘don’t do it and don’t think about it.'” This is so far off base that I actually laughed when I read it. No, Christians are certainly not refusing sex ed. As I said before, I cannot speak for all families, and I know that in all sects there will be those extremists who do not account for the majority. His assertion is incorrect for not only my family but ALL of the like-minded families I know. We teach our children about sex from a Biblical view. We teach our children that it’s a wonderful gift God gives us and in the bounds of marriage can and should be thoroughly enjoyed. I answer questions my children may have in an honest and age-appropriate way, holding back only those things which discretion tells me their ears may be too young to hear.

“Fifth, the whole system of ‘courtship’ or ‘betrothal’ further separates the genders until that magical wedding night. For those not familiar with ‘courtship,’ it forbids dating of any kind until both parties are ready to marry. That is, until he has enough money and income to support her. At that time, he asks her father for permission, and the courtship takes place under closely supervised conditions. Chaperones are present always, and the couple is considered as essentially engaged from the beginning of the process.” Courtship is not as simple as this blogger makes it out to be. It looks very different from one family to the next. Generally speaking, pro-courtship families encourage the couple to work together to make their own set of standards that they wish to follow and utilize tools (such as chaperones) to help them maintain those standards in the event that temptation arises. Some courtships will have kissing and hand-holding, while others might choose to save any and all intimacy for marriage. Ultimately, it’s up to them. Furthermore, it’s important to understand that courtship and engagement are two completely different things; individuals within a courtship are free to leave the relationship at any time if they feel that God is not leading that relationship toward marriage. There are a lot of benefits to courtship or, as some call it, “dating with a purpose” – far too many for me to list here. Check out this article to read more about it from someone who is far more eloquent and knowledgeable than myself.

“My experience in these cases is that the young men involved – again, not adults, but 12-15 years old[sic] – have seriously screwed up beliefs about women, consent, and sex; because the teachings are obsessed with preventing sex, not in creating a healthy view of sexualty[sic], which embraces consent, female sexual desire, and equality within the sexual relationship.” I’m pretty sure I covered all these claims in my comments above. There may be some families out there who are, as the author puts it, screwing up their children’s views of sex, but those families do not represent the majority of conservative or “fundamentalist” Christian families. I encourage the author to step back and truly examine the sweepingly generalized allegations he’s making against Christians and consider amending his remarks to not include a majority when he is clearly only addressing a small minority.

Why all the fuss over modesty?

Modesty. It’s not exactly a popular subject, is it? For most, the word elicits thoughts of Amish women covered from head to toe, Muslim women hidden behind their burkas, or frumpy, formless dresses. That’s not how I see it, however. I see it as a beautiful, feminine, even (gasp!) fashionable solution to a big problem facing our daughters today.

Yes, I said problem. I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to discussing that our culture has a major problem in the modesty department. When I walk past the baby aisle and see little outfits like this, it’s clear to me that we have a pretty big problem on our hands. Sure, it may seem cute and innocent to some, but let’s think for a moment about what this is really doing in the long run. Bathing suits like that on babies leads to bathing suits like this on little girls. And bathing suits like that on little girls leads to bathing suits like this on teens. And bathing suits like that on teens leads to bathing suits like this on young women. I think you get the idea. When we begin instilling these sorts of values in the minds of growing girls, we are ingraining in them the idea that this is an acceptable and desirable way of presenting themselves to the world. We are sending subtle messages to their young, impressionable minds that their bodies are objects to be displayed, and that their worth is measured by how much skin they show and how sexy they can be. Do not be deceived – there is nothing innocent or sweet about instilling thoughts of sex-appeal in a toddler. Trust me, I know firsthand that it’s easier to teach a child self worth from a young age than it is to un-teach those sorts of ideas when it really begins to matter.

When I look at my daughters and think of their future, I do not wish to see them with men who devalue them. Honestly, I see red when I consider the idea of a teenage boy lusting after one of my daughters. (And I’m just the mom! You do not even want to know the murderous thoughts that go through my husband’s head when thinks of boys having impure thoughts about his little girls!) There’s no denying that sex sells – but girls should not be selling themselves. Our daughters are worth so much more. When the world looks at my girls, my hope is that the world will see who they really are: their love for others, their generous spirits, their wonderful personalities. As their mother, it is my God-given responsibility to teach them how to clothe themselves in a way that allows the world to see their countenance and not their sex appeal. The Lord has given me four beautiful little girls – but their real beauty is in their love for the Lord and the fact that they are daughters of the King of Kings. THAT is true beauty that will never fade with age, and it is the beauty that shines above anything the fashion industry can offer.

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Mothers, fathers, caregivers, it’s time for a change. Let’s teach our daughters to value modesty. Let’s teach our sons to value women who value themselves. Let’s raise our children to know that there is more to life than the fleeting pleasures of the flesh. Let’s teach them what TRUE worth looks like, and let’s begin my modeling it ourselves.

What is “Modesty”?

I have always been of the opinion that when Christians have a question, we should first and foremost look to the Bible for answers. So why is it then, that when approaching the issue of modesty, we so often look to society’s standards and not God’s? The answers are there, if we are willing to look and listen to what the Lord has to say.

Sometimes, as we all know, we have to cross-reference different passages in Scripture in order to gain a clear understanding of God’s position on things. In my extensive research, here’s some of what I’ve found pertaining to modesty. (The emphases are mine.)

A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 22:5)

And you shall make for them linen trousers to cover their nakedness; they shall reach from the waist to the thighs.They shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they come into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister in the holy place, that they do not incur iniquity and die. It shall be a statute forever to him and his descendants after him. (Exodus 28:42-43)

I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. (1 Timothy 2:9-10)

I think these verses paint a clear paint a pretty clear picture as to some basic guidelines for how to dress ourselves. We should make sure we are covered from waist to thigh to cover what the Bible defines as our nakedness; women should not dress like men, and men should not dress like women; and we should dress in a manner that does not draw attention to ourselves. There’s more, however:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves. (Luke 17:1-3)

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! (Matthew 18:6-7)

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)

So, while the Bible does not clearly define the breasts or cleavage as “nakedness,” it IS clear that women should be very careful not to tempt men. Our culture has sexualized breasts, and breasts are something that women know full well they can use to their advantage over men. Understanding the verses above, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that we should dress in a way that covers our breasts and cleavage, so as not to be a stumbling block to the men around us. If we desire to trust the Bible to be applicable to all aspects of our lives, then I believe that, per the Bible, these are the guidelines we should use when selecting clothing: women should dress as women and not as men (skirts and dresses, anyone?), they should make sure their bodies are covered even down to the knee so as not to expose our nudity, and we should also adequately cover our breasts as they are widely seen by men as sexual objects. We should dress with discretion, taking great care to make sure that we are drawing attention to our hearts and minds, not our physical assets.

As I’ve said, we can gather through these verses that it’s a grave sin to cause someone else to sin. And according to Matthew, a man merely having sinful thoughts about a woman is equivalent to adultery. As Luke says, we need to watch ourselves. Are we intentionally dressing in a way to bring attention to ourselves? Women, we need to ask ourselves, will our short skirts or shorts, tight clothing, or low-cut tops cause men to lust after us? If so, we are in direct violation of God’s command. Jesus went to far as to say “woe” on us if we cause someone to stumble. I don’t know about you, but I never want to hear Jesus look and me and say, “woe is you” for something I’ve done! That’s a scary place to be!

I know that it’s unpopular to dress modestly in our culture. I realize that it tends to make us stand out like a sore thumb, and many people don’t want to make such a big, bold statement declaring that we are different. Christians nowadays want to live with one foot in heaven and one foot in the world, but this is not what God wants for us! We are called to be set apart – we are not of this world.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

We’re only on this earth a very short time; do we want to spend our time bringing glory to ourselves and our own bodies, or do we want to spend that time focusing on expanding God’s body, the body of Christ? Pray about it!

Evolution of the Swimsuit

A must-see for anyone who values modesty! Granted, her bathing suits are still more revealing than anything I would wear, but I think this is pointing women in the right direction – back to valuing our bodies, and understanding that our bodies are meant to be temples for God’s glory, and NOT to bring glory to ourselves! Please take a few minutes out of your day to watch this short video.

Why Skirts?

One question I get a lot is, “Why do you and your daughters only wear skirts and dresses??” The way we dress tends to bring us a lot of attention when we’re out (well, that, and the fact that we’re a larger than average family), and at times people can be outright rude. (Though, mostly, people are very sweet, and we often get compliments on how beautiful all the girls are!) It seems that, to some, our values are a little offensive, and are perhaps a symbol of female oppression… but, no matter! We’re very happy with our decision, and we love dressing modestly! Since some people are a bit uncomfortable to ask, fearing that they might offend us by asking outright, I thought I’d take a chance to explain the story behind why we decided to dress the way we do.

About 3 years ago, the Lord began laying on my heart the desire to dress more modestly. I didn’t start out intending to wear nothing but skirts and dresses, rather simply to try to wear things that covered me more. It all started when I was reading a book called Raising Maidens of Virtue. This book (which is amazing, by the way!) greatly stresses the importance of dressing modestly, in a way that does not draw attention to ourselves in a sexually enticing manner. I was deeply convicted that I needed to dress in a way that was more respectful; not only to me, but to my husband, and to other men as well. While I am not responsible for the lustful thoughts of other men, I am responsible for the way I present myself. If I am intentionally dressing in a way that would cause men to stumble, I am not following God’s will. It’s also disrespectful to the wives and future wives of these men of God. I remember reading a quote on Facebook once, which said something along the lines of “Dress the way you would want other women to dress around your husband.” How convicting that was! I certainly don’t want women flaunting themselves around my husband, so I should be respectful enough of others to refrain from flaunting myself in a similar manner, no?

So, I began to dress in clothes that had higher necklines and not too snug, and I made sure the bottoms I wore were not too tight and came at least to the knee. As the Lord continued to transform my heart, I began to see the value in dressing more femininely as well. Our culture has really blurred the gender lines, and sometimes it can be very difficult to tell men from women, and vice versa! The traditional role of women has been so devalued, and with wave after wave of feminist movements, it seems that it’s now very prevalent in our society for women to want to be, well, men! But I believe that God designed a very special role for women, as wives and mothers, and it’s something we should treasure and be proud of! I no longer desired the things that “feminists” desire. The more God worked within my heart, the more I have began to love being a wife, a mother, a woman. With this newfound joy, I realized that I wanted to dress in a way that was not only modest, but also celebrates my femininity. And so, I began to wear skirts and dresses! It’s been about 2 years now since I made the switch, and I have never looked back, and I do not miss wearing pants at all! I love how comfortable and flowing my skirts are. I love when my children tug gently at my skirts to get my attention, or when they are sleepy and snuggle into the folds of my skirts. I especially love that my husband admires me every single day for the way I dress. He has told me more that once that it’s such a treat for the eyes to see me dressed so nicely every day – which is so funny, because even my “around the house” skirts, which seem so frumpy to me, still seem to appealing to him!

I’m sure that to some I may seem completely crazy. I’m okay with that, as it probably is at least partly true! 😉 The way we choose to dress is a very personal decision, and for many people, it’s not a spiritual issue the way it has been for me. I respect that we all must dress in the manner which seems appropriate to us. But if you have ever been on the fence about this issue, let me be the first to say, nothing feels more wonderful than to be shown the amount of respect I have been since we began dressing more modestly! I began to feel for the first time in my life that people (read: men) were finally seeing me for who I was, and not just the cleavage I had exposed, or the form-fitting clothes which left very little to the imagination. It’s a wonderful thing to have a conversation with someone who looks you right in the eyes, not glancing down at your chest, or legs, or whatever else is showing. I have doors opened for me, and young men calling me “ma’am” and show a level of respect I never knew before. It’s amazing, the difference! And all because God put it on my heart to clothe myself in a way that would be honoring to Him. These are the principles I have been instilling in my daughters, and will continue to impress upon them as they grow and reach the age when they will be torn between wanting to please the Lord, and also wanting to keep up with their peers. I pray that they will respect themselves and their bodies, and choose to clothe themselves in a way that brings honor and glory to the Lord. Amen!

New Life, New Blog

This blog has been a long time coming.

My family’s journey toward becoming quiver-minded began when my husband and I first married, three years ago. We knew from the get-go that we wanted children as soon as possible. Or, I should say, more children. I already had a daughter from a previous marriage, who was 2 and a half at the time. From the moment we married, we did not use birth control. It took the better part of a year of trying to conceive our first child together. There were moments when we did not know if we would become pregnant at all. After seeking infertility treatment we discovered that I was not ovulating (for which I began taking monthly doses of Clomid), and my husband had less than 1% normal sperm (for which I started him on an extensive vitamin and supplement regimen, after hours of painstaking research). Still, we did not become pregnant. We were told that our only hope was to pursue IUI (intrauterine insemination). This suggestion from the doctor seemed far too invasive and drastic for us. After all, if God intended us to be pregnant, would we really need to go to such lengths? Does the Lord not open and close the womb as He sees fit? So after much thought and prayer, we decided then that if we did not conceive naturally that month, we would stop trying.

Lo and behold, we became pregnant! We believed then that God had sovereignty over our fertility. Simply put, we had not conceived prior to that because we were not yet meant to. It could only happen in God’s time, and not a moment sooner. And how overjoyed we were when our time finally came!

As I neared the end of my pregnancy, my obstetrician began pressuring me to make a decision about birth control. I researched different forms, but none of them “felt” right. I knew immediately that I could not take ANY form of birth control that would cause a fertilized egg not to implant; to us, this was abortion, which we find morally reprehensible. I happened upon a concept called Natural Family Planning, or the art of observing fertility signs to avoid pregnancy. For a woman who is exclusively breastfeeding, the Lactational Ammenorrhea Method (LAM) should prevent conception, as the hormone released by breastfeeding is known to suppress ovulation. We decided that this was the route for us. I followed the rules of LAM closely; however, God had other plans. Just 3 months after giving birth, we became pregnant again, despite the fact that were not “supposed” to. I was devastated. I just knew that I could not possibly be ready for another pregnancy and baby. I already had a very young baby to care for! I cried for weeks, and had to endure careless, hurtful comments from friends and family. Couldn’t they see how I was hurting? I spent the majority of the pregnancy dreading the arrival of our third baby girl. This should have been a joyous time for us, yet we felt cheated out of what we believed would most certainly be our last pregnancy.

Once again, I found myself nearing the end of my pregnancy and being pressured into choosing a birth control. This time, I considered my options more carefully. For a short time I did consider sterilization; either a vasectomy for my husband, or a tubal ligation for me (the latter being the more likely option, as I have cesarean sections and they would already be “in there”). We did not consider that option long, however, because as the pregnancy progressed we slowly began to realize that we were not yet done having children. We knew must choose some birth control method, though, because we could not handle yet another pregnancy so soon. I didn’t even know how I was going to handle the (soon-to-be) three children I already had! I finally decided on a copper IUD. It was non-hormonal, and my OB assured me that it would not inhibit implantation if conception did occur.

I gave birth and, to my amazement, that sweet little bundle fit perfectly into our lives from the moment she arrived. It was a thousand times easier than I had imagined it would be! God must have known that I could handle it!  (Shocking, right?) I began to have doubts about the IUD, but I was still scared of having another baby right away so I went ahead with it, despite my concerns. I regretted it almost immediately. I bled for about 8 weeks, and spent every single day cramping as though I was about to begin my period. I found later that being intimate with my husband was unbearably painful. What an effective birth control this was! After all, you can’t become pregnant if you practice nothing but abstinence! After 4 months I had the IUD removed. I could no longer handle the constant pain, nor the distance it was putting in my relationship with my husband as a result.

We found ourselves back at square one, once again having to choose a birth control method. It was at this time that I realized that I had been struggling with coming to terms with birth control all along. The very idea of it did not sit well with either of us. Why? Why did we feel so much guilt, as though we were doing something wrong? Finally, it dawned on us. It was because birth control is not Biblically supported. The very first command is to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28), and nowhere is this command revoked or revised. Children are clearly viewed as a gift from the Lord, and only He should have control over when and how often I become pregnant. Had he not already proven to us that He has the ultimate say in our fertility? Twice I became pregnant when I was trying to avoid it, and the other time I did not become pregnant for quite some time, despite our every effort to the contrary. I realized that trying to control our fertility myself is yet another power struggle between myself and God; yet another area where I am not allowing Him to call the shots. From that moment, we decided to allow God to have control, and to trust His will for our family, even if the idea of relinquishing control is quite scary! However, God is at the wheel, and the knowledge of that is enough for me.