He Does Not Represent God to Me: the resignation of Doug Phillips

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Originally posted on Constellation Hope

I struggled with whether to comment on this event. However, it brings me hope, and it will to certain others, so I’m posting about a horrible situation for Doug Phillips’ wife and children. I apologize to them in advance, and pray that God will heal them somehow.

Vision Forum is responsible for quite a few things in my life. One is a fantastic three-man slingshot which my siblings and I have put to very good use over the years. Others include a revolutionary war-styled play rifle, a circular cipher, a book called “Endurance” about Sir Ernest Shackleton, and a “wrist rocket.”

My first in-person encounter with the founder and president of this organization, Doug Phillips, was around age 12 or 13 at a homeschool convention where he was one of the main speakers. I don’t remember the topics I heard him speak on, but he doesn’t have that many – modesty, male leadership, femininity, family structure, boys being men, and men being MEN.

With the purchases and the speeches came one very large item that they didn’t ask payment for: GUILT. And lots of it. You see, I was supposed to be buying the pink frilly dressed dolls and doing nothing but learning to cook and sew and being a lovely little lady. As it happened, I was learning to cook and sew, but I preferred watching my dad fix our cars and talking politics and arguing theology with my guy friends IRL and on forums. And playing with the play rifle and slingshot and reading about adventures at the South Pole. But that pink, wilting femininity? That was what God made women to be. And I wasn’t it.

Two years ago I attended a homeschool convention with my family. I went on the condition that I did not have to go to any sessions by Doug Phillips. He somehow came to represent all that had told me I was being sinful for not being that kind of girl, for being ambitious toward other things: college, music, and later theology, philosophy, and writing. A guilt I have yet to eradicate as I wrestle with post-college options. I could not stand being in the room as he spoke.

All that to say, when I found out that Doug Phillips resigned from Vision Forum, and from the speaking circuit, I can only say that I let out a sigh of relief. He is resigning for a very nebulously defined “affair,” which I can only imagine has done great harm to many people directly. For them I am very sorry. Many others have commented about Phillips’ actual announcement and its continuance of a pattern which has been traced by some for a long time. That has many, likely negative, implications.

But for me personally, this is a hopeful moment. It is the removal of someone from my extended sphere of influence. It gives me an opportunity to express my difficulty with someone who has long been held up as a god in the homeschooling community. It gives me hope that perhaps things can change for the better.

It especially reminds me that this particular man does not represent God to me – and I never have to think that he does.

I hope that this event provides a catalyst for some serious rethinking of the ultra-conservative homeschool culture. May it rock the homeschool world for the better.