An Open Letter to Frank Schaeffer
I am a former Christian homeschooling mother of seven who finally walked away from fundamentalism after our radical extremism drove my oldest daughter to attempt suicide — and I would like to help you spread your message and sell your books.
In bible college, your father was my absolute hero. I read all of his books and was determined to study Christian apologetics until I could defend my faith as skillfully as Francis Schaeffer!
However, as the years went by, fundamentalist “family values” put me in my place as a woman. So I shifted my focus and that’s when your mother, Edith became my role model as I devoted myself to homemaking and motherhood.
I dutifully birthed seven “foot soldiers for Jesus” — nearly losing my life on more than one occasion. I was totally sold out — and as a homeschooler, I was exposed to the most extreme aspects of Dominionism. I felt that James Dobson, Tony Perkins, even Don Wildmon were lightweights. I much preferred the uncompromising Randall Terry — and Paul dePairie was better yet.
When Flip Benham came to Nebraska, I baked chicken-pot pies for him and we packed all our friends and associates into our livingroom to hear Flip speak about what it really means to be radically “pro-life.”
I was married to a blind man and in order to create a way for him to support our growing “quiverfull” family, I started a “pro-life, pro-family” newspaper in Northeast Nebraska. I followed all the major right-wing leaders in the “culture wars” and used my newspaper to challenge Christians to join the fight to restore America’s godly heritage. My articles advocating no-birth-control-for-Christians and heralding the Old Testament patriarchal family structure were carried by all the major home school publications. I even wrote for AFA’s Agape Press News.
Now, my newspaper, which I published for 16 years, had a circulation of around 5,000. So I was totally a small-bit player compared to what you were doing on the national level, but that is not for lack of talent and ambition. It was only because, as a woman, I was too busy fulfilling my high calling of producing and raising up an army for God within my own home.
Cutting to the chase here: the extremist lifestyle was a total set-up for burn-out for me — and psychosis for my oldest daughter.
I met a long-lost uncle who is an atheist — and for some reason we hit it off and began a year-long email correspondence. At the very beginning, I wrote to my Uncle Ron this quote which I picked up from one of Francis Schaeffer’s books: “Atheists have both feet firmly planted in mid-air. ” There’s no way that I would ever give up my certainty — my absolute “Blessed Assurance”— for Ron’s worldview which he described as a “dissonant world of emergence and transition.”
Our correspondence was an opportunity for me to actually think about the presuppositions which I had accepted as a fundamentalist Christian. Before long, I lost my faith in the bible as the “Word of God” and now I count myself among those whom your father warned against, “with both feet firmly planted in mid-air.” Actually, it’s kind of exhilarating at times — and also scary for one who was accustomed to having chapter and verse for every minor detail of my daily living.
Back in March, I worked with Kathryn Joyce on a Salon.com article about my involvement in, and escape from the Quiverfull movement. Since that time, my website, “No Longer Quivering” has received a tremendous response. Within the first month, the site was nominated for the Canadian “F-word” Blog Awards for Best Feminist Blog International. The blog and forum are currently receiving approx. 70,000 hits per month.
I have done several radio and print interviews and will be featured in a documentary on the Quiverfull movement which the Women’s Entertainment (WE TV) channel will premier in December with my story as the primary focus of the piece. Beginning next month, I anticipate traveling to New York and L.A. for interviews in order to build publicity in advance of the show’s airing.
I am working with several women to establish a charitable and educational organization to promote public awareness and support for families — particularly mothers — who want to leave the lifestyle. These women are very passionate about fighting back against what one NLQ forum member recently described as the ‘soul murder’ of women and young girls.
The same company which printed Joyce’s book, “Quiverfull,” has expressed an interest in publishing my story, so I am currently working on a book proposal.
The reason I am writing to you is because I see a great deal of connection between your journey and mine. I am hoping to interest you in using the story of what happened to my family (oldest daughter attempts suicide, mother loses her faith, divorces husband — in 2003 we were recognized as the Nebraska Family of the Year by the Nebraska Family Council — by the end of 2008, our family had fallen apart and I am now a single mother of seven) as an actual example of what happens when families totally buy the “family values” agenda which you are now so adamantly renouncing.
It is very encouraging to those of us who have been harmed by the Religious Right to hear you refute that which you once helped create. Since you still benefit from your privilege (regardless of political affiliation) as a man in the public eye, the good you do could be greatly extended by practically helping those who are in their ordinary, private lives, still victims. The biblical Dominionism which you once actively promoted and now aggressively reject, has not only been detrimental to American politics. Families who take the “war on families” seriously end up broken and devastated. Identifying with me in this cause can only strengthen yours.
Mine is a candid story of one who was seriously sucked into a hate-filled worldview and was so committed that I was willing to die for the cause — and now I am equally bold in speaking up to say that the fundamentalist mindset is an insidious form of mental illness.
I believe having a face (a whole family of faces, in fact, as my children also suffered greatly because of this ideology) to put with your message could be a moving way to expose the human side of the real losers in this “Culture War.” As I have discovered, “With Promises of Protection, Security and Ultimate Victory, Peddlers of ‘Family Values’ Manufactured a Culture War, and Capitalized on Our Fears.”
I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time.