So Is VF a Christian Group?
The jury is still out on this one. There are tenets of Christian faith (it is a Calvinist-based Dominionist offshoot), but the majority of Biblical scholars consider the group to be heretical. The preponderance of emphasis placed on Old Testament living, laws, and ideas that are specific to the group (in some ways, almost secretive) not supported/refuted by New Testament scripture places it squarely in the “gnostic-type” heretical category. Gnostics, just as a refresher, were an offshoot in the early first century who said (among other things) that they had a “special knowledge” that set them apart and made them “more Christian” than other Christ-followers.
What is appealing about joining a group like this? I’ve pondered this one for some time now and can come up with one of three scenarios:
- The husband in the relationship is a control-freak who, based on his past and the baggage he brings to the relationship, needs absolute control over all circumstances in his life in order to feel secure. The wife he marries will either marry him unknowingly (i.e., he keeps the control-side hidden during courtship) or comes from a chatoic background and sees his ability to be controlling as a “calming influence” in her life, one that’s a welcomed-change.
- The husband in the situation has an inferiority-complex and is drawn to the Patriarchal idea that the husband is always right, is never wrong, and can have absolute control over his family. He might have abuse in his background that led him to feel this way, or have grown up with authoritarian parents who stripped him of all ability to make wise choices in his life, leaving him feeling as though he will never measure up. His wife might play in to his inferiority complex by being particularly strong (or even abusive), and he sees this as an opportunity to “take control of his life.”
- The couple is drawn in, incrementally, to the structure and comfort of “old world values” that VF/IBLP seems to provide. The catalogs and seminars are rife with imagery of pre-Industrial-Revolution America; a time when rebellion in teenagers and families falling apart was less-common (and/or less-publicized). The husband might not have any baggage and this might be a joint-decision for he and his wife. They may not have a huge amount of Biblical knowledge and put themselves at the mercy of the Bill Gothards and Doug Phillips of the movement, not understanding how things are being twisted out of context and warped beyond what God intended. Like many groups that seek to promote a “counter-culture existence,” there’s a strong sense of camaraderie and belonging, and if in the group long enough, evidence of “shunning” for those who choose to leave. This is oftentimes powerful motivation to “stay within the folds” and continue in this lifestyle, even if it’s not working for the family unit.
There are probably other extenuating circumstances and ways people get involved in VF/IBLP, but I think these are the major reasons. Is abuse at the heart of every man who chooses to lead his family in patriarchial theology? I don’t think it’s quite that dastardly. But sometimes pride is a big stumbling block to admitting that one has gone down a wrong path, and someone without a desire to be abusive will continue on the path simply because it’s embarrassing or too humbling to make a U-turn.
So why did I spend all of this time writing about this? Why did I focus so much on this heretical sect? Partially because their words about debt, children, and values is so enticing. Partially because their influence is hitting the homeschooling community hard right now. And partially because my heart absolutely aches for women in this type of group. They have little hope, little joy, and many burdens. Their men are “faultless,” and they bear the brunt for everything wrong in their marriages and families. I want them to know, even if it’s through words of a friend who might read this: this isn’t all there is to life with God. He has SO much more for you than this. If even one woman glimpses hope and finds strength to leave this sect, it’s worth it to me. If even one person reads this and is dissuaded from getting further involved in VF and their political agenda, it’s worth it.
The things of God are not as burdensome as the things of man. Ever. If you doubt me, that’s fine – but give benefit of doubt to the Man Who said it (oh yeah, and He rose from the dead, so go with Him anyhow):