Like most homeschoolers, my world overlapped with Doug Phillips. He found a much-too-welcome home among homeschool communities across the United States. Late last year he admitted to an affair, and yesterday the story broke that gave its dastardly details.
You can read the entire WND article for yourself. In a nutshell, Phillips is being sued by his former nanny, someone he knew for over a decade and was very close to the Phillips family. Her lawyers have graphic details of Phillips forcing himself sexually, and Phillips’ lawyers are denying little of it, claiming “consensual” contact between adults.
For those of us in the Christian homeschool community, this is just as bad as guilty. Phillips is a married man and father of eight children. This behavior is inexcusable.
The courts will figure out what to do with Doug Phillips himself. I’m more curious with this thought: What will the homeschool movement do with Doug Phillips’ signature ideology of “patriarchy”?
Perhaps you’re new to this concept. Doug Phillips and his Vision Forum Ministries had a webpage “Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy” that many homeschoolers practiced to a tee. Though the page is now taken down, it is listed on Wikipedia. Biblical patriarchy have these tenets:
- God reveals Himself as masculine, not feminine.
- God ordained distinct gender roles for man and woman as part of the created order.
- A husband and father is the head of his household, a family leader, provider, and protector.
- Male leadership in the home carries over into the church: only men are permitted to hold the ruling office in the church. A God-honoring society will likewise prefer male leadership in civil and other spheres.
- Since the woman was created as a helper to her husband, as the bearer of children, and as a “keeper at home”, the God-ordained and proper sphere of dominion for a wife is the household and that which is connected with the home.
- God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” still applies to married couples.
- Christian parents must provide their children with a thoroughly Christian education, one that teaches the Bible and a biblical view of God and the world.
- Both sons and daughters are under the command of their fathers as long as they are under his roof or otherwise the recipients of his provision and protection.
Surprised that homeschoolers would fall for this? Perhaps you’re defensive of some of this list. To tell you the truth, I’m not too surprised that patriarchy found a welcome home in the homeschooling movement. Homeschoolers by nature are non-conformists, and I like to think that is one of our greatest strengths. Problem is, we are sometimes found going overboard. Such is the case, at least, with patriarchy.
I have witnessed patriarchy do a lot of damage to individual families, mine included. On a broader scale, patriarchy has done much harm to the homeschool movement itself. I confess: I was seduced by some of the tenets in the list above, and I’m having to wrestle through some of these harmful ideologies that I used to ascribe to.
If you were caught up in the Doug Phillips frenzy of patriarchy and are now coming to light that a lot of it was harmful, I encourage you to consider these five problems with the patriarchy ideology:
- God in a box. Read the list above and you read a very narrow, dogmatic view of God. Declaring God as solely (absolutely, literally, no-doubt-about-it) “masculine” is odd, really. He’s God. I find it just as odd as when feminists push the pronoun for God as “she.” Insisting on a gender for the creator of the universe is political, agenda-driven and theologically shallow. I find it offensive to those of us who find great value in the life-long journey of understanding God. Putting God into a box has got to go.
- Gender roles. Whenever patriarchs would speak of “gender roles,” they really meant “gender hierarchy.” Women could never lead, and in some patriarchal circles they couldn’t even speak. I know patriarchal families where women are quiet mice, hardly the great women I believe God wants them to be. How unfortunate. Women have great beauty in their femininity, and the so-called “biblical patriarchy” movement didn’t understand this at all. Gender hierarchy has got to go.
- Dominion. I’m becoming more and more repulsed at the use of the patriarchal idea of “dominion.” I have always took the biblical term as more of a conservationist view of addressing the environment (its root from Genesis 1:28). Doug Phillips took this verse and ran with it, declaring it his Christian duty to take over all areas of society, government and church culture. Phillips’ idea of “dominion” was an extreme abuse of Genesis 1:28 into whatever the patriarchy movement wanted. The idea of patriarchs literally taking over the world has got to go.
- Quiverfull. I have to give this one some serious thought; I have found myself caught up in the subculture of Quiverfull (the idea of “be fruitful and multiply”). I’m conflicted because on one hand, I don’t appreciate the idea of using reproduction as a means to seek dominion over the earth. But on the other hand, I have a house full of life and love (16 children, that is), a counter-cultural life that is awesome. I am sure there are many large families that do not subscribe to Phillips’ ideas that essentially take the love out of family and replaces it with a means to fulfill the “dominion.” I believe much of this idea has to go.
- Control. People within patriarchal communities don’t seem to realize how controlling the ideology is. Children (especially daughters) are expected to stay within the home until married. Phillips discouraged military service, employment, even missionary work outside of the fathers’ direct oversight. Mothers working outside the home was akin to moral failure. This narrow view of family dynamics when children became adults has got to go.
Like any cult, Doug Phillips carried just enough truth in his ideas to be seductive. In a strange way, Phillips’ moral failing is an opportunity for home educators to re-calibrate their focus, turning away from the harmful ideology of patriarchy on toward a more wholesome perspective of faith, family and fun.
I’d like that to settle in: Doug Phillips’ fall is an opportunity to focus on that which home educators should focus.
What that focus is is debatable, I suppose, but it certainly should not include patriarchy any longer.