Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Spiritual Self-Defense: Part One - Commentary One

My life has become unexpectedly busy recently.  I don't remember what I've shared so I'm just going to do a fast overview.  Due to some family issues, my husband decided to end his partnership on his family farm.  Since April, he's been wrapping up his work on the farm and finding a new job.  After a few false starts, my husband starting training on installing refrigeration/cooling units for agricultural, industrial and commercial uses as an employee for a local company.  He's really enjoying the new work - but that lead to his burnt arm. 

A month before that, his maternal grandmother was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer that's metastasized to the lymph nodes and chest wall.  She's survived several bouts of cancer previously and she was very clear that she was not interested in doing radiation or chemo ever again.  She's doing very well so far - good spirits, still able to do most basic care for herself - but her appetite is gone, she can't eat solids, and she's needing oxygen 24/7.  I'm taking Jack over to see her several times a week because she enjoys seeing her great-grandchildren who live close by.  I'm choosing to enjoy the time that we have together while she's able to fully participate with minimal pain medications.   I do expect that some time soon she will move into a more physically compromised state and when that happens I will be providing more direct care.

My son is doing great - but he has quarterly cycles of "All the specialists wanna see Jack.  Now.  On different days.  Preferably in a way that disrupts his nap cycle and leaves him cranky until the day before his next appointment."   We are entering that cycle again.

Because of that, I need to make two changes to my blog.  First, I will probably be posting on Tuesdays and Thursdays instead of the MWF cycle I was trying to hit.  Secondly, I am going to be focusing more on the web writings of the Botkins, Maxwells, etc.,  simply because it save a heap of time to not have to transcribe their books. 

Now, up until last week, I thought moving to a web-based discussion would free me from the Botkin Sisters because they never, ever update their website.   Except... they did update their website with a six-part digression on #Metoo that makes me deeply sad because they've grown so little since their teenage years.  It's pretty much a re-hash of "Good Girls and Problem Guys" - which was a re-hash of "It's Not That Complicated" - with a rare few changes in thinking.

There's a whole ton of bad ideas to unpack interspaced with an occasional neutral or even good idea.

To jump off, I'll run through the Botkin Sisters' idea of how a normal relationship ends up in a date-rape by coercion situation.

For example: Bryan is pushing his girlfriend Emily’s physical boundaries. Emily says no, I don’t want to do this. Bryan pushes harder. Emily finally gives in, but reluctantly. Afterwards, she’s furious and devastated and blames him for forcing her. Bryan says, What are you talking about? You were going along with it the whole time, and besides, look how you were dressed. Don’t try to tell me you weren’t asking for this. It was half your fault; don’t you go trying to get me in trouble like you’re some victim here.

There is no point in this scenario that looks like  a healthy relationship.   

This is a relationship that is dysfunctional far beyond a normal dating relationship.  In a healthy relationship, when Emily says, "I don't want to do this" Brian's response would be "ok" or "If you want to in the future, let me know" or "Well, what if we do _____ instead?" 

Bryan's response afterwards is pathological.  The first part of his response expressing confusion since he thought she consented makes sense if he was a normal human being.  Jumping into how she was dressed and stating that her clothing choices equal consent for sex is literally a pathological reaction.  The "women's clothing" as a defence for rapists has been socially frowned on since the late 1990's thanks to activism like "Take Back The Night" and awareness through shows like "Law and Order" and "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit".   Even in the 1980's, that defence was shaky-as-hell within relationships. 

Why do the Botkin Sisters assume that men will react like that?  I've never had a man I was in a relationship with act like a petulant child when I didn't want to participate in a given sexual activity.  If a guy did act that way, I would be seriously turned off - both in terms of not wanting to do anything sexual with him right then AND in terms of continuing a relationship forward.  My assumption is that they are mostly reacting to the fact they were raised in a cult.  Their father has told them - over and over and over - that men are generally untrustworthy, that young women like Anna Sofia and Elizabeth cannot determine which men are trustworthy, and that Geoffrey Botkin's protection is the only thing that stands between the girls and being raped by a boyfriend.  In "It's (Not) That Complicated" one of the girls talks about how her father was great at protecting her emotional purity because she'd tell him who she had a crush on and he'd spell out how dating that guy would lead to being abandoned after an unwed pregnancy and grinding poverty. 

I suspect Bryan follows the lead that Geoffrey Botkin has used in his family their whole lives.  Men tell women what to do.  If women object, emotionally abuse them until they concede they follow the plan.  If the plan fails - or the women bring up more objections afterward, point at the previous consent as giving the women equal blame in the failure of the plan.

The Botkin Sisters never say this in any of the six parts, but I will.  If you are in a relationship with someone who acts like Bryan, get the hell out now.  Find someone to stay with for a few days. Let your job know you are breaking up with an unstable partner who might try something at the workplace; even shitty managers will generally side with a worker over a crazy stranger.   Break up with Bryan in the safest way possible - text, phone call, in a public place with huge male bodyguards at a nearby table.  Remove him from all your social media.  Route his email or text messages to a separate file.  Let friends and family know that Bryan is bat-shit crazy and that you do not want them to communicate about you with him.  (If anyone objects, you can state that you are the bat-shit crazy party, then, but that doesn't change the fact that no one tells Bryan anything about where you are or what your are doing.)

Bryan is crazy and abusive.  I agree that Emily made some choices that complicate the situation - but she made the choices because Bryan is crazy and abusive.

The fact that the Botkin Sisters can't see that he's not safe to be around scares the snot out of me.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Dominion Orientated Femininity: Part Five

I apologize for the late post. My husband was injured in a workplace accident and burned his arm. He's doing fine, but the burn got infected so he's had a lot more doctor's appointments than usual so I've had much less free time than usual. Thank God for antibiotics!

This post covers the seventh and eighth points on the topic of dominion-orientated women.  When I was in junior high, I was really into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  In DS9, a massive interstellar federation that could be contacted by traveling through the wormhole was called the Dominion.  Bluntly, I'd prefer to listen to a podcast of fanfic surrounding women from the Dominion than having to listen to the Botkin Sisters blather on about womanhood.

Number seven is a dominion woman thinks like a shepherd. Jesus said, "Do you love me? Feed my sheep." And this is a basic Christian duty that we have to make disciples of all the nations. And this for many of us young homeschooled girls this is going to involve overcoming obstacles like shyness and timidity. This can be very hard for us. I used to be extremely shy. I used to be so shy I had a hard time talking to a person one-on-one let alone even thinking about standing up on stage and speaking to over 500 people like I'm doing right now.

I have a mental block when thinking about how CP/QF adherents are going to make disciples of all the nations.  So many of their beliefs are interwoven with white middle-class values from the 1950's US that they struggle to convert new members and lose a good number of children born into CP/QF homes to other belief systems.   When they struggle this badly in their homeland, I can't imagine how this could spread to other nations.   Derick and Jill Dillard's abortive attempts at missionary work in El Salvador demonstrates many of the issues.  The Dillards had energy, youth and enthusiasm on their side.  Unfortunately, their lack of fluency in Spanish, minimal cultural appreciation, and absence of previous training or experience in launching a mission doomed their venture. 

The Gothardite/Vision Forum/ IBLP/IFB belief system has two separate issues that doom missionary work.  First, cults work best when members are highly indoctrinated in cult materials and marginally educated in other ideas.  The Wisdom Booklets are constructed to indoctrinate by exposing adherents to the same ideas repeatedly while selectively demonstrating outside facts that "support" the cult ideas.   The problem is that these ideas won't hold up well when adherents are exposed to a wider education which happens when people are immersed in a foreign language and culture.

The second issue is the idolization of large families of closely spaced children.  In my church, missionaries are primarily single adult men and women - generally priests or sisters.  Simply, single adults are easiest to embed in a new culture.  They are able and willing to focus intensely on determining the needs of the community, searching out culturally and economically sustainable solutions, and are able to bring specialized skills in medicine, education, engineering or agriculture.  They strive to be a benefit to their new home.  The issue with missionaries who have huge families is that supporting that many kids is a drain on the new church mission.  Additionally, the medical needs of actively reproducing women and young children are much different than a celibate men and women.   Jill Dillard faced an unenviable choice of traveling repeatedly between the US and El Salvador for prenatal care and delivery or utilizing a scarce resource in a developing country that was facing difficult times.  As her sons grew and became more mobile, they would need a series of expensive vaccines for typhoid and rabies.

Changing subjects abruptly, a lot of kids are shy especially around new adults in groups.  Being so shy that you remember struggling to talk one-on-one to other person sounds agonizing.  I can't help but wonder how much kept away from other people through homeschooling along with exclusion from community activities worsened the issue.  Thinking back over my campers when I was a counselor, I always had a few shy or introverted campers who needed a bit of help breaking the ice with the other girls - but that wore off pretty quickly both in the cabin and in workshop groups.

And I realized after a while that my shyness was a result of two things: excessive focus on self and fear of man. That's what shyness always is. And my father helped me understand that this was something that I needed to get over. And so he told me, "You need to focus on other people and when you do that, your shyness will go away. And he was right. It did. But if we're going to be shepherds, we have to learn to stop thinking about ourselves and we have to learn to love the other people we are supposed to be ministering to. We can't retreat into ourselves. We have to ignore our comfort zone and reach out to others.

My method for helping shy teenagers is to pair them up with friendly teenagers.  I'm going to stick with that method over telling the teenagers that they are being self-centered and need to get over themselves.   The Botkin girl who is speaking in this section clearly believes her father's method is great - but the story is creepy as hell to me.

The exhortation to reach out to others and avoid retreating into a personal comfort zone is surreal coming from a pair of sisters who have disappeared for months, if not years, from their website and social media.  They've withdrawn from all sorts of potentially discomforting arenas like advanced education, starting a career or forming their own family.  If they cannot branch out in the first steps to becoming independent adults when they are in their early 30's, how do they hope to convert everyone on the planet?

And the good thing is when we're thinking like that it gives us boldness in how we interact with people. Some girls have told us that they panic or they break out in a cold sweat when someone asks them, "So what do you do?" I'm sure you've all gotten that question and I'm sure you know it's an interesting question to be asked and I'm not sure why it's frightening for some girls. I guess because they're afraid of disapproval or confrontation. But instead I think we should look at this question as an opportunity to talk to people about the beauties of God's design. Why should we be ashamed? We have nothing to be ashamed of. God's ways are wiser than the heathen's ways and we should be happy whenever someone gives us the opportunity to explain that. Here's a verse I love in Deuteronomy 4. Moses has just given the Israelites several of God's Commands and says "Keep them and do them for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely, this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' For what nation is there that has a God so near to it as the Lord Our God whenever we call on him? Or what nation is there that has statutes and judgements as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?" Honestly, what nation is there that has statues and judgement as righteous as the law which we have?


Hi!  I'm one of those people who cannot entirely hide my disapproval of young women who leave education and career in order to "train" to be a wife and mother before they are married or pregnant.

I understand that sometimes people need to take time off for health or family reasons; that's part of life and NOT what I'm talking about here.  After all, I took time off from college to receive treatment for depression and anxiety and suspended my graduate school program to care for my premature son.  Sometimes life throws a curve ball and we just have to do the best we can to get through the tough times.

No, I'm thinking of the 17-year old woman who I met at a young adult Catholic event when I was 19 or so.  She had just graduated high school after being homeschooled and we were excited to hear about what she was planning to do next.  She replied that she was going to live at home until she got married and started a family.  Someone asked when she was getting married because we assumed that she was engaged.  She was not engaged.  In fact, she wasn't dating anyone.

The response of the rest of us was that being a wife and a mother was a great life goal - and one that she was very likely to achieve.  In the meantime, though, she should probably do something or learn something.  Most of us were concerned that a very young woman who was on the sheltered side who was focused entirely on marriage and motherhood would be far too likely to marry the first man who displayed any interest in her - regardless of if he was a good match.  We also worried about how boring living at home without any stimulation from a job or education might be for a young woman.

And we need to not assume that the other nations are going to be hostile or look down on us. Because they don't sometimes. A lot of people have responded very interestingly when Anna and I tell them what we're doing and why. A lot of girls actually.have responded very wistfully and said, "You know what? I wish I could do that. I would love nothing more than to be able to do that." A lot of people can see the wisdom in what we're doing but we have to be bold in our witness.

Let's discuss for a few minutes why those wistful girls can't stay home.

 If I had bounced that idea off my parents, they would have rejected it immediately.   There was no one in my home who needed me to give in-home care to and I was healthy enough to restart college within a few months after I was diagnosed with depression.  All of us kids had the option of working after high school or receiving advanced training.  Sitting at home for years while waiting for someone to marry sounds irresponsible from a parenting point of view.

The other issue I see is that the stay-at-home daughter movement expects parents to financially support unmarried daughters forever.  Most of the CP/QF families in my area are working-class families that won't be able to provide much more than room and possibly board for their adult daughters.  Paying for clothing, computers, travel, and all of the incidentals for a middle-class lifestyle is beyond these families unless the daughters are working.   I've never heard a coherent plan for how a stay-at-home daughter will be supported once their father has died.  Sarah Mally and Sarah Maxwell are in their mid-to late 30's.  Both women have income streams from self-published books and Sarah Maxwell does some work for her brothers' businesses - but I doubt the income for either woman is enough to support themselves independently let alone at the socioeconomic standard that they are used to.  Steven Maxwell seems to be withdrawing from at least one of the Maxwell Family businesses as he approaches retirement age while Anna is now prominently displayed as a call-service representative for Nathan's business.  The darkest outcome I can imagine for the Maxwell family is that Sarah, Anna and Mary's incomes are used to support the Maxwell parents during their retirement - and then the women are left without career skills or a nest egg when they are suddenly without a male income source when they are in their 40's, 50's or 60's.

Moving on to number eight. A dominion woman strengthens her arms and trains her mind. Now, one of the things that our family has been accused of is that we don't believe that women should be educated. I don't know how many times we can say this but we said it as many times as we possibly can. We believe that Christian women... Christian young women need to be the best educated women in the world in the right ways and for the right reasons. And a useful woman a dominion woman the kind we've been describing here today is one who has been equipped for the battle is ready for all the duties of life is ready for anything that life might bring her. She's ready to live in a 400 sq ft. almost finished house or she's ready to be the president's daughter or she's ready to live in a mud hut in Africa. She's ready for anything and everything.

The Botkin Sisters believe women should be highly educated - then immediately demonstrate their ignorance.   First, they highly qualify the standard of education to "the right ways" and "the right reasons".  They might as well just say, "We should be highly educated in cult materials." 

No one in their right mind should try and have two people living in one "almost finished" 400 square foot house.  That's a tiny space for two adults with all 400 feet being usable.  There's no room left for areas under construction.  Since people who are not using birth control have a 50% chance of getting pregnant within 3 months and 90% within a year, the family had better have have a plan for expanding that house rapidly.....

Let's not fall back on primitive stereotypes about Africa, ok?    Go read about 5 different African countries on Wikipedia.  Write a comparative essay on your findings. 

If the Maxwells and Mallys are looking down the barrel at future poverty, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth should be extremely worried.  Near as I can tell, the Botkin family has most of their income coming from the younger brother's T. Rex Arms.  That's not a lot of money to support six adults on let alone save up money for the Botkin parents' retirement or a nest egg for the girls.  I hope they are ready for that.

One thing that we need to be asking ourselves is "What is the goal of our education? What are we really preparing to do?" And here's a quote by William B. Sprague in a letter to his daughter that I really like and he says, "The object of education is two-fold: to develop the faculties and to direct them, to bring out the energies of the soul and to bring them to operate to the glories of the creator. In other words, it is to render yourself useful to the extent of your ability." So the purpose of our education is to equip us for the great assignment as women: to be helpers suitable to brave dominion men who have the task of discipling the nations and to be the mothers and teachers of the future generations of Christian warriors. And if we want to raise our sons to be the next presidents, preachers, filmmakers, writers, culture-changers, we're going to need to have an excellent education.

I agree with Sprague that education is about training people to be useful to society at large.  I don't think Victoria Botkin managed to do that with her daughters.    I was thinking about Anna Sofia and Elizabeth's lives while I was mowing the lawn.  They are in their thirties and have achieved none of the milestones that mark adulthood in CP/QF or wider society.  They've never held a job let alone a career.  They've never lived outside of their immediate family.  They've never had a long term romantic relationships.  They've never married.  They have no children.   I suppose they remain busy cleaning up after their two brothers who still live at home and I'm sure their sisters-in-law are grateful for the help they give in childcare - but is that really the fullest extent of their innate skills?  They update their website on a yearly basis.  They've written two books in 15-odd years.  They produced a thoroughly odd movie about stay-at-home daughters.   I'm not impressed.

Now, the question is, " Well, how do do we go about that? How do we educate ourselves in these ways?" And I have another quote here that I really like by John Taylor Gatto who's a former New York Time Teacher of the Year . He says, "Close reading of tough minded writing is still the best, cheapest and quickest method known for learning to think for yourself. Reading and rigorous discussion of that reading is a way that obliges you to formulate a position and support it against objections. It is an operational definition of education in its most fundamental civilized sense." And I might say even better than reading books is writing books [laughs].

*cringes*  The self-referencial praise of people who write books grates on my nerves every time.

I find Gatto to be a bit iconoclastic - but I completely agree with his quote.  My high school English courses along with a phenomenally good Morality course my senior year were based around reading difficult material and discussing it at length with other students and the teacher.  This followed through into my (unfortunately few) college level Humanities and Arts classes.  Based on my memories of  "It's (Not) That Complicated", I doubt either of the sisters was reading at the depth or breadth expected in a college preparatory education.  I know I've forgotten a few novels we read, but I remember reading "Red Badge of Courage", "Lord of the Flies",and "The Odyssey" along with a large research project on a composer, sculptor, painter and in 9th grade.  The next year we read "The Crucible", "The Great Gatsby", "Grapes of Wrath",  "The Education of Little Tree", and "To Kill A Mockingbird" along with a research project on any topic relating to TKAM in American Literature.  Junior year we read "Beowulf", "Macbeth", and "Jane Eyre" for British Literature.  My senior year we read "Utopia", "Hamlet", "Beloved", "Jazz" before diving into cinema classics like "Citizen Kane", "Amadeus", and "Casablanca".    On top of that, we were reading scads of short stories and poems between each of the novels.   Heck, two of my friends and I made a rather horrible, but accurate film version of Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" for extra credit.   

I don't believe that the Botkin sisters have been exposed to close readings of works that would be critical of American exceptionalism or patriarchy in general.    I'm sure they've been kept carefully away from any feminist literature (well, except maybe "Jane Eyre" or "Little Women").  Have they read anything written by a person of color?   Have they really participated in an intense discussion where the outcome is not necessarily in line with their family's beliefs? 

The self-serving reference to writing a book as a sign of education screams that the Botkin family doesn't really educate their children.  My project related to TKAM was on the Nazi Olympics of 1936 which was an extravaganza of highly organized propaganda for the Nazis.  The Nazis produced plenty of books and articles on why genocide was not only needed, but beneficial to humankind at large.   IOW, writing a book does not prove that the author is thinking critically at all.   

Let's be honest.  The Botkin Sisters two books are awful on so many levels.....

One thing that I think that I mentioned in the last part was novels and fiction and how young ladies can read too many of those and they can escape through them and they can become enraptured by them and that's not the only reason I would caution girls not to read them. The other reason is that there are so many other books that need to be read right now. Elizabeth and I have a reading list that's about a mile long and I don't know if we're ever going to get through it. Some of the subjects that we're studying right now are theology and worldview, writing and communication, history and understanding the times. There's so much to study. There's so much to learn. And I do believe that reading books is the best way to do that.


"Worldview" and "Understanding the Times" are not exactly tricky academic subjects - and I really doubt either of the Botkin Sisters are digging deeply into authors who have any opinions that diverge from the party line. 

Theology, writing, communication and history are genuine areas of study - but it's rare that someone would be able to combine all four of those topics and study them deeply enough to be a real expert.  Perhaps if they were studying a specific theological doctrine and how it changed over time....that would lead to a paper of some sort....and I guess that the presentations on the final topic would be a form of communication...but I'm never going to see that from the Botkin Sisters. 

I feel sad reviewing this section because I know how much the Botkin Sisters have missed.  Imagine if they had attended a college or a seminary.  Imagine if they joined Toastmasters.  Imagine if they took a few community college classes on public speaking.  Imagine if they acted in a community theater or started a book club that read works by women, LGBT+ or people of color.  Imagine if they flipped burgers at the local greasy spoon or joined a literacy outreach to their local community. 

Imagine if they lived fully.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Preparing Sons: Chapter 11 - Part 2

The first post on this chapter covered Maxwell's wild and crazy views on how to control a son even after he's graduated high school.  I'm not sure how effective those ideas are especially if the son has been prepared enough that he's ready to enter the workforce even at a minimum wage job.  Either way, I saved a subsection of the chapter for a separate post.  This section shares Maxwell's obsession with purchasing a house debt-free along with his exceptionally optimistic views on the amount of earned income for first-time business owners.

Maxwell's views on debt-free homes is that owning a home debt-free prevents white-collar crime:

Is the ability to purchase a home debt-free a good goal for sons? Think about what a burden rent or mortgage payments are. They pressure men to work in places where Christians should not be employed. I have known men, under tremendous financial pressure due to their mortgage, who participated in unethical and illegal business dealings. Concern over loss of income should never hold a Christian to a job with which his Lord would not be pleased. (pg. 166)

As a counter-example, the only person I know who was tried for defrauding the state multiple millions of dollars was a man who earned seven figures who married a woman who had a healthy savings account from years of working in science industry.  They owned a lovely home outright.  I won't pretend I understand exactly why the man decided to inflate the number of students that attended our school (which took a good deal of work including creating records for imaginary students and populating classes of imaginary students), but I've always chalked it up to a combination of greed and hubris.  He received some hefty bonuses based on the growth of our school and he had massive narcissistic tendencies.  If I used Maxwell's line of logic, I should argue that buying a house outright leads inexorably to fraud instead of putting the blame on the illegal choices my boss made.

Maxwell discusses slightly the weight that a mortgage or rent payments put on a worker while ignoring the burden that owning a house places on that same worker.   People lose jobs.  Companies fold, downsize and relocate.  Entire industries do the same thing.  I've lived in Michigan my whole life; when a manufacturing sector declines, there's a massive migration of people out of the state and lots of people moving around in the state.  The industry workers leave first, followed by human service providers and businesses that were supported by the workers' incomes.  It happened in the late 1970's, the early 2000's and the early 2010's.   Owning a home narrows the area where a worker can easily access a job without selling their home and potentially makes the worker less attractive to businesses where the worker will have a long commute.   

If a worker cannot get a job within commuting distance, they have to move.  This adds an another layer of stress and financial demands on a family already in hardship.  Trying to sell a house in an economically depressed area is hard; there are plenty of other houses up for sale of similar quality which depresses prices.  In really bad times, the market values are depressed further by the presence of homes which have been foreclosed on.  The location that the family is moving to is generally in a more competitive real estate market so it's quite possible for the family to have to lose half of their investment on their original home and need to take out a mortgage on their new home.

Teri and I would have loved to provide our children with homes according to Proverbs 19: 14, "House and riches are the inheritance of fathers; and a prudent wife is of the Lord." Unfortunately, we are nowhere near being able to do that. However, we can provide them with room and board for as long as it takes them to save up for their house. Even then it is our desire that they will continue living with us until God provides them a spouse. (pg. 166)

I cannot figure out why Steven Maxwell interprets that verse to mean that fathers should give houses to their sons; if that was the proverb, it would state "Houses and riches are the inheritance of sons..." My understanding of that proverb is that married men who have living children and a prudent wife are economically farther ahead in subsistence agrarian societies.  My interpretation is a no-brainer...but most proverbs are simply pithy statements of general societal trends anyways.

More problematically is the fact that Maxwell blithely assumes that parents can afford to house and feed all of their offspring prior to marriage.   I really doubt that most CP/QF families can do that to the point that the Maxwells do. The Maxwells have eight kids spaced across 20 years supported by a father who had a Bachelor's degree in Engineering.  The oldest three kids were working in external or family businesses by the time the youngest girl started preschool.  Compare that with the 19 children born in the same time frame to the Duggar or the Bates family to self-employed parents.  Additionally, the Maxwells have five sons and only three daughters.  Since CP/QF boys are allowed to work outside the home, the Maxwells have had more children who could support themselves (at least partially) by their late teens.  The Coghlan family of the defunct blog "In A Shoe" has eight daughters and three sons; the seven oldest children are daughters. Trying to support 7 adult daughters until they got married is much more challenging than supporting three adult daughters as the Maxwells do now.

If a young man has been prepared well during high school, he should fairly easily be able to earn $35,000 or more a year when he graduates. Start with a yearly income and then subtract tithes, offerings, and taxes. Then money must be put aside for transportation, insurance - medical and auto, and other incidental expenses. If your son is frugal, he should be able to save 50% or slightly more of its income while living at home. (pg. 166)

I had to stop for a minute or two to stop laughing so hard I was crying.  After I could see again, I hit the internet to double-check my instinct.  In 2001, the median income for men who completed high school without college experience was $34,723.   That figure includes men at the beginning, middle and end of their careers; using it as an estimate for what a recent high school graduate could expect is unrealistically high.    For comparison, I began teaching in 2006 for ~$27,000 a year (plus benefits).

This is where Maxwell begins using magic math.  Through the rest of the topic, he behaves as if $35,000 in sales from a personal business is the same thing as $35,000 in personal income.  It's not because Maxwell forgets about removing business expenses from the total in sales.  I'm extremely skeptical that all taxes, health insurance, auto insurance for a late teenage or early 20's man, and all of the incidental expenses that come with a job/career like clothing, haircuts, networking experiences etc, take less than 50% of a man's income.     

Within six years from high school graduation, your 24 year old son will have saved $100,000, not counting any appreciable interest. I find that very exciting. If he earned less than 35,000 a year, it just means he must save a little longer.(pg. 166)

Here's a more realistic scenario.  I worked at Meijers as a cashier for between $8-12 dollars an hour during that time period.  I worked full-time (or close to it) during the summer months and during Thanksgiving through New Years.  The remainder of the year, I worked between 6-20 hours a week depending on the amount of available shifts.  I made roughly $16,000 per year before taxes and "saved" around $7,500 which I used in real time to pay for college.. 

Now, I passed up some shifts due to attending college - but I also cross-trained in the Men's/Shoes, Cosmetics, Pharmacy and Garden Center so I could pick up more shifts during slow periods.  If I hadn't been in college, I think I could have increased my number of hours across the year by about 30% at most because there's a seasonal dead time in January through April followed by a shorter one in late September through October where shifts were hard to find for love or money.  Assuming that I could save at the same rate, I'd make $20,080 before tax saving $9,750 per year.   My expenses were a little different because my parents covered my health insurance and I didn't have a car so I didn't need automotive insurance outside of a rider on my parents' policy but I did pay room and board to college so I think it about evens out in the end.

Saving $100,000 would have taken me 10.25 years at that rate.  There's no way my parents would have wanted me living at home from when I was 18 until I was 28 in hopes of buying my own home immediately. 

In case the math scared any of the readers, Maxwell immediately moves the goal posts for a home purchase:

Depending on the location, size, and age of the house your son will purchase, he might not even need $100,000. There's so many possibilities and intriguing options, but nothing happens unless a son has a vision, and you help him prepare. (pgs. 166-167)

Yes and no.  Michigan, like most of the Midwest, has low housing prices compared to either coast.  I grew up in an area of mostly starter homes and live in a fairly depressed area of rural home prices.   I have a hard time finding a home now that was under $100,000.   My first apartment was 600 square feet with one bedroom.  I can find homes for sale right now that are 700-800 square feet with two bedrooms and one bathroom in both areas - but they are selling for $110,00-$130,000.

I'm sure I could find cheaper homes if I was willing to purchase a foreclosed home at an auction - but those homes often need a lot of work.  In the best case scenario, the home was well-maintained upto the point that the home was surrendered to the bank and had minimal damage during the period it was uninhabited.  Here's a worst case scenario. A family down the block from us had a house foreclosed on when I was a kid.  We met the poor souls who bought the house sight unseen.  They purchased a home that had been occupied by animal hoarders who apparently decided to destroy everything they could on their way out.    The house had to be stripped down to the studs and built back up again - including new electrical to replace the parts ripped out and new plumbing.    I don't know what they purchased the house for - but they spent a ton more than that making the house habitable again.

I want to encourage you with the possibilities for your own son. If a father says, "My son isn't involved with computers and can't make that much money," my question for him is, "Do you think your son could learn to handle commercial lawn mower?" I think you will agree that most sons are capable of running a lawn mower.

Mark, a recent high school graduate, has his own lawn mowing business. It is nothing fancy, just one man with a commercial, walk behind mower. I spoke with him on his mobile phone and he was about to start on another lawn. I asked him if he thought a young man could clear 35,000 a year by mowing lawns. He chuckled and said,"Yes, pretty easily in fact!" Then he pointed out that income came from mowing lawns for only 5 months, during the growing season. (pg. 167)


I agree that most adult humans can learn to run a lawn mower.  We're not setting the bar real high here, are we?

I agree that random guy named Mark that Steven Maxwell knows believes that someone could theoretically earn $35,000 a year.  I'd like to point out that Mark never says that he earns that much - just that he thinks it is possible. 

Right now, the internet tells me that people who hire a lawn service expect to pay $80-100 per mowing for a suburban size lawn.  My lawn is a bit over an acre and would be closer to $150 per mowing.  We have a 5 month mowing season and let's assume people want their lawn mowed 8 times during that period.  That's around $800 per suburban yard and $1,200 per rural yard.  To clear $35,000 in sales, that means a teenage CP/QF home school graduate (who may not know anyone in his neighborhood) would need to have 44 suburban clients or 30 rural clients. 

Let's discuss the pitfalls that spring to mind:
  • No one in the area I grew up used a lawn service.  It was too expensive for a chore that young working families could do on their own.  CP/QF kids in blue-collar suburban areas are out of luck.
  • No one in the area I live in now uses a lawn service.  Everyone owns a self-propelled lawn mower except me.  (I'm the oddball who uses a reel mower on an acre lawn.  I enjoy the exercise and the look of horror on people's faces...)  CP/QF kids in rural areas are out of luck.
  • A lot of that income is going to be eaten up by business costs:
    • A used walk-behind commercial mower is between $600-$2500.  The cheaper end require local pick-up and have an unknown number of clock hours on them which means availability is spotty and the mower might die midseason.  
    • Finishing around the home and walkways requires a commercial weed whip for around $150.  
    • The mower and weed whip needs to be transported from site to site.  This requires either a pickup truck or a flatbed attached to a pickup truck.   A used light truck with over 100,000 miles on it runs between $7,000-10,000.  
    • Both the mower and the truck require gasoline or diesel to run.  Time spent moving the equipment and truck for refueling is wasted so the business would probably benefit from having an in-bed fuel tank in the pickup truck - but small trucks have small beds so the mower might not fit with an extra fuel tank.  
    • I feel like having a late teenage boy driving around in a light truck with an in-bed fuel tank and a heavy commercial mower is a disaster waiting to happen.  I'm thinking this will lead to a higher automotive insurance rate - but I could be wrong on that one.
    • I hope Nathan, Christopher and Mark sprung for business insurance when they were running mowing businesses.  That's around $500 per year.
  • Adding it up and assuming a 4-year loan on the truck gives a low-end of $3,000 to a high end of $5,650 not including fuel costs and automotive insurance.    I'm also assuming they have minimal advertising costs.   That means the business needs 4-7 suburban clients or 3-5 rural clients to clear costs..  (Rural clients have larger yards, but the cost of transporting equipment to rural clients becomes expensive quickly.  44 suburban clients might live in a 10 mile radius; 30 rural clients may be a 30 mile radius.)  
  • Who is funding this?  Most families - ignoring CP/QF status - don't have $3,000 to drop on a family member's start-up.
This means our hypothetical new small business owner just out of high school needs to find 48 suburban clients or 33 rural clients to met easy-peasy goal set by Steven Maxwell after getting $3,000-$5,650 to cover start-up costs. 

Yeah.  Good luck.  They'll need it.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Maidens of Virtue - Appendix on Modesty

Stacy McDonald faced a dilemma at the end of the twentieth chapter of "Raising Maidens of Virtue".  Her enthusiasm for writing was winding down; the chapters became shorter and shorter as the book went on while the quality of writing dropped to perilous lows.   In reading the proof, however, she realized that she still had a few stories from her life that she wanted to include in the book.  She writes up the three stories, slips in a few Bible verses and thus the appendix titled "Modesty Promotes Friendship" was born.

Honestly, I have no idea what Stacy McDonald's writing process is - but my imagined scenario explains this appendix as well as any other scenario.

I think the title for the chapter should be "Dress Modestly so Judgmental Women Don't Bitch about You Behind Your Back", but I suspect that's going to be unacceptable for the book's audience.  I'd accept "I get one standard; everyone else gets another standard" for a working title - but really, we could title 90% of CP/QF books that.  I wish it had been named "Here's How to Bragging About Having A Smoking Hot Bikini Body at Age 22 While Still Judging Other Women in Church."

This paragraph jumped out at me for needing a proofreader desperately:

Even though the Apostle Paul makes the principle clear in 1 Timothy 2:8 that women are to "adorn themselves in modest apparel," and even though older women are instructed to teach the young women in their lives to be "discreet and chaste" (Titus 2:4-5), too often, the subject of modesty is either treated as a legalistic, optional teaching for the week, or it's handled by creating a very distinct and detailed set of rules. (pg, 185)

Yup.  The paragraph is a single sentence of ~70 words.  I can only imagine what my high school English teachers would have said if I turned in a paper including a sentence that uses the phrase "even though" twice.     I concede that this would be a fascinating sentence to diagram.....

I'm curious what Stacy McDonald thinks the definition of "legalistic" in a religion means.  My understanding is that the definition of legalistic IS any list of distinct and detailed set of rules that a given person thinks is too long.   The sentence-paragraph would make more sense if "legalistic" was moved to after the word "or" .  The other option is for her to define what she means by legalistic, I suppose.

The appendix is filled with eye watering paragraphs like that so I'm going to skip the others ones in favor of the stories from Mrs. McDonald's life.  This first story is great.  Mrs. McDonald manages to brag about her immodest dressing while shaming the woman who called her out on it.
I was 22 years old and a brand new Christian when something happened to me that forever impacted my opinion of how to approach a modesty in new Christians. An older woman, the precious lady who had led me to the Lord, became very frustrated with me after she and her family invited me to their beach cabin.

I have been walking around in front of my friend's husband and teen sons all weekend long in a bikini, with just a light, open, button-down shirt thrown over the top of it. Finally, and obvious frustration, she told me I needed to " go put some clothes on!"

I was horrified and so embarrassed! I still remember standing there on the beach wondering if I could run to the cabin or bury myself in the sand. Maybe a wave would swallow me. I felt like the " Emperor who had no clothes!" All of a sudden I realized I was practically naked - and have been, all weekend!

I recall wishing that she would have been frank with me about modesty at the beginning of the weekend ( privately and gently). Her hesitancy caused her own unnecessary frustration, and it cost me immense humiliation. I've noticed her coolness towards me that weekend, I hadn't realized what was causing it. (pg. 186)

Half of this story is humble-bragging on her beach body at age 22.  I've gotta admit that I enjoy that part of the story because she seems so normal. During Michigan summers, a lightweight cover-up and a swimsuit/bikini/tankini/whatever is the official dress code within a mile of the Great Lakes.  I imagine wherever this story happened that the husband and sons of the older lady have seen plenty of women enjoying the beach in similar clothing.  In the real world, the male members of the family might have looked at her appreciatively for a moment or two when she first appeared in a bikini but gaping at her or ogling her would be viewed as crude.  Plus, most guys at a beach display the acclimation over time.  She caught their attention when she first appeared - but the novelty of seeing this woman in this bikini wears off quickly assuming that the bikini is similar to what other women are wearing. 

I agree a bit with Mrs. McDonald; her older friend really should have discussed clothing guidelines at the cabin prior to the trip or as soon as the friend had a problem rather than letting it fester most of the weekend.    On the other hand, Mrs. McDonald is ragingly hypocritical because she's never addressed anything gently in this book.  Remember this is the woman who couldn't be bothered to ask a friend why his hygiene was horrible and decided that when her teenager expressed compassion for people who committed suicide that the best response was to remind the teenager that everyone is a flawed, worthless sinner. 

"But, Mel", I hear you thinking, "maybe she can't remember what she wrote before."  That's fair criticism - but she launches into two other stories that show other women behaving horribly towards immodestly dressed women and clearly sides with the rude women.  Here's a great example:

Years ago, I was sitting with a friend at church when a young woman (with solid Christian parents) who was showcasing her assets in skin tight jeans and a low-cut blouse walked by. My friend glanced over at her husband and sons who were standing nearby and said, " I realize she is very proud of her breasts and all; but, it would be nice if she kept them to herself."
I was a bit taken aback by her bluntness, but it struck me that day that she was onto something. Although, I think a more accurate observation would be that this young woman should have been glorifying God by " keeping them" ( as well as other things) for her own husband, instead of " sharing them" with everyone else's... because, well, because that would be the loving thing to do. (pg. 187)

See, Stacy McDonald needed gentle hand-holding because she was a new baby Christian; even a frustrated aside comment from a friend was enough to wound her.  Cradle Christians, on the other hand, learn best from bitchy, passive-aggressive comments lobbed in their general direction by co-dependent older women.   

The amount of codependency in these stories boggles my mind.  Older woman from story one is poorly policing a young woman in a bikini to protect her fragile husband and sons.  Older woman from story two is policing women at church to protect....her fragile husband..and..sons.   In the third story, a young woman is policing women at church to protect her fragile husband.   Monitoring other women's dress as useless as policing the universe for alcohol when living with someone addicted to alcohol.  Either the men will develop the skills to deal with the presence of an attractive woman or they won't.  Having another woman pointing out all of the immodestly dressed women she sees is not helping the men learn the skill - but it does allow the woman to remain in control of her husband's and sons' lives. 

The last story shows what happens when codependency reigns unchecked:

I remember one friend whose husband struggled with pornography. In tears one day, she shared with me how she didn't even want to go to church anymore ( at least with her husband) unless they were able to sit in the front row. She said she was tired of catching her husband staring at the backsides of the girls in skin tight jeans in front of them (this particular megachurch had a huge problem with sensuality - almost as big as her husband's lust problem).

Sadly, even when they sat in the front row, they had to look up the skirts of the choir members on stage when they sat down. For a woman struggling in this type of marriage, it was torture. But, no one seems concerned about her. If she complain to leadership she would have likely been called the judgmental or legalistic.

Of course, this husband was totally responsible for his own sin. In fact, my friend ended up divorced; but, that isn't the point. In fact, the point isn't my friend's husband at all. The point is that my friend was hurt, not only by the wandering eye of her own husband, but by her many sisters in Christ who gave him such ample opportunity, and who should have known better. (pg. 188)

This is what codependency looks like when the addict is less invested in recovery than the codependent spouse.   Rather than setting reasonable limits with her spouse, the young woman is alternating between attempting to control his behavior and attempting to control the behavior of every woman her husband looks at.    The woman had plenty of options.  She could inform her husband that she would not attend church with him if he's going to stare at other women's asses.  If he continues, refuse to attend church with him.  If he's really dedicated to stopping, he could ask the minister to reserve seats for him and his wife smack dab in front of the altar/pulpit after explaining his problem with staring at the crotches of women at church.   He could find a different church; there's always a conservative church where the average age of the female congregant is over 70 within driving distance.  He needs to man up and do the work - and she needs to stop working harder at overcoming his addiction than he is.

My dream is that if the woman did talk to the leadership of the church they would introduce her to one of the Al-Anon mottos.  She didn't cause his addiction to porn; she can't control his addiction to porn and she can't cure his addiction to porn.   Imagine how much time, energy and freedom she would gain eventually if she let go of his burden.

The last paragraph shows that Stacy McDonald can be codependent by proxy.   She's blaming other women for the bad behavior her friend reports about her friend's husband.   That's absolutely freaking insane - especially when she deflects the vast majority of the blame from her friend's creepy husband onto the women he's ogling in church.  Ew.  Ew.  Ew.

Oh, and she gets a bitchy slam in at her friend by casually mentioning her divorce which is a Big Personal Failing in conservative Christian land.    Because, you know, her friend didn't really do it all right, ya know.   Ew.  Ew.  Ew.

I'm so glad to nearly be done with this book.

*I think conservative Christians often misuse the idea of people being addicted to porn.  There is a world of difference between struggling to not watch porn for religious/philosophical/moral reasons and being addicted to porn.  There's a clear parallel to alcohol.  Most people can consume alcohol without becoming addicted.  For people who choose to abstain from alcohol for religious reasons, there is a struggle in overcoming the sporadic desire to have a drink or two.  That struggle is quantitatively and qualitatively different from an addiction that leads to spending needed money on the drug of choice or having career setbacks because of the addiction or ruining a family because of the addiction.   The man in story #3 might have a porn addiction - but he's a skeevy creep too if he's leering at teenager's rear ends and sneaking peeks up women's dresses at church.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Preparing Sons: Chapter 11 - Part 1

Honestly, I was surprised that the book didn't end immediately after Chapter 10.  The book is about how to prepare sons to earn enough to support a single income family and the last chapter covered what a teen needed to know or do before graduating high school.  In my world, high school graduation is the beginning of adult life.  Parents are still very important for advice, emotional support and financial support - but a person in their late teens needs to start making career choices for themselves since they are the ones who live with the consequences.

Steven Maxwell disagrees with me strongly in the chapter titled "Post Graduation":
If you have only recently begun to consider the subject, there is much to do. It will be difficult to attain what you might have if you had started sooner, but not impossible! Begin by rereading this book beginning at chapter six. Be confident that you are building on a sure foundation. Then proceed gradually to apply the suggestions in each chapter. Proceed to the next chapter only after you are satisfied with the progress your son has made through the suggestions in the current chapter. Be committed that if it takes your son until he is in his twenties to have him properly prepared, you will do it.

For the parents who have been preparing their son for years, be encouraged that the fruits of your labor are close to being harvested. You may decide that your son is to continue his education and training. Or there may be other plans. Possibly he owns a business or is about to begin employment with another company. Regardless of the direction, be sure of God's leading. (pg. 163)

I've had plenty to say in other posts about irresponsible homeschooling, but I've never met a homeschooling family that waited until a student had graduated high school to think about post-graduation options.  Even the least organized, most hands-off parent knows that the next step is for the kid to become employed somewhere.  That often works because there are plenty of jobs for people who do not have a high school diploma in retail or restaurant services that are underpaid and have high turnover. 

Maxwell's plan to have the imaginary family who waited to prepare their kid for the workforce until he was 16-19 years old is ridiculous.  The imaginary family does not need to have their teenage son shadow Dad without helping in the family business as recommended for the 2-6 year old kids or start with extremely basic organizing tasks in the 7-12 category.   Definitely skip requiring that the kid's first job be willing to have a parent stop by whenever the parent wants to judge the Christian nature of the workers and clients.  My two-cents is based on having worked with some really unprepared high school students; have them get a job at one of those retail or food service places I mentioned before.   Those places expect to have to do a lot of employee training on workplace expectations anyways so may as well see if they can teach the kid faster than you can

Maxwell ignores an inconvenient legal truth - in my state, once a person has completed a high school diploma they are a legal adult for purposes of working.  In the US, legal emancipation happens at age 18 regardless of readiness of the person in question.  The system works pretty well, but can require some advanced planning for families with offspring struggling with developmental, cognitive or emotional disabilities.  A parent may be willing to slog through the Maxwell plan of career-readiness for half a decade or so, but they have no legal recourse if their young adult offspring decides to follow another path.  CP/QF parents can use financial restrictions to penalize young adults who stray from the family "mission" and many will restrict access of "wayward" young adults to their younger siblings - but all of these things are time-limited by nature.   Once a young adult has a job at a store or restaurant, they will meet other young adults looking for a roommate in their house/apartment.  Plenty of minimum wage workers make do by holding multiple jobs and sharing costs with multiple roommates.  Bluntly, a young adult who is driven enough to get out of a family-based cult has most of the soft skills they need to move up into positions that pay a bit more than minimum wage on the first step to a long-term career that is closer to lower-middle class income.

The second paragraph is just strange.  As children become teens, they should be taking on more and more of the responsibility and excitement of planning their own careers.  Parents shift from making the decisions on behalf of their children (like "Should Juinor start preschool this year?") to taking on a purely advice-giving role (like "Which job offer should I accept?")

Maxwell begins the chapter topics by rehashing the same fluffy spiritual goals he's been trying to make sound different from the chapter on ages 2-6.   This time, he decides to try to see how scaring his readers goes over:

(... )there are undoubtedly many working men who are not mature believers, but as examples in Chapter One illustrate, there are consequences. Even if your son goes on to receive an advanced degree, if he lacks the ability to make wise, Biblical decisions, there is no guarantee that he will ever earn enough income to adequately provide for his family. (pg. 164)

Who knew that the answer to the War on Poverty was as easy as being saved in a method viewed as valid by Steven Maxwell?  How did the government miss that the best predictor of having a middle or upper-class income was being a conservative fundamentalist Baptist with no advanced education or training and reliance of God to plan family size?   I mean, it's clear that as soon as one of God's Elect becomes an atheist they will lose all their financial freedom.

Seriously, Maxwell.  That's an especially daft one even for this book.

The next topic is service.  Maxwell gives two examples:

For example, several post-high school young adults from our church minister at a local Housing Authority. They work with the children from the complex in a weekly after-school program. Jesus is proclaimed in deep friendships between the children who attend the program and the leaders are developed.

Another example of serving in the post high school years is Christopher. He helps his grandfather with a living Last Supper performance each year around Resurrection Sunday. He is responsible for the lights, staging, sound, set up, and tear down. There are lots of details to manage, including overseeing his assistants during the performance. It takes a significant amount of time each year, but he loves to help. (pg. 165)

I am extremely curious where these post-high school young adults in the Maxwell's retirement home church came from.  Are they employees who come to the service weekly?  Are they grandchildren of residents?   Hmmm.   Equally striking to me was the fact that none of the precious Maxwell hot-house flower young adults were encouraged - or allowed - to participate in that program.  I suspect that participation in that ministry would have been eye-opening if not mind-blowing for Christopher or Sarah.   When the book was written, Nathan was working full-time launching his technology career so he probably wasn't available, but both Sarah and Christopher have talents that would have been appreciated by that ministry.

Instead, Christopher continues the yearly round of doing the same production under the watchful eyes of his grandfather.  I stage-crewed in two plays a year during high school and spent most of my childhood "helping" at my dad's high school productions so I'll let you in on a secret.  The first time a company works in an auditorium (or church) is the hardest because everything is new.  The next hardest thing is when members of the company move up in their job category because being an assistant to the sound manager is different from being the sound manager.   Doing the stage crew work for the same production yearly in the same space is not difficult because the crew has already figured out the kinks of how to build the set, light the stage and optimizing the sound.   Yeah, there are always a few snags each year, but it's not like he's being dropped into a new auditorium with a different show every year.

In the chapter, Maxwell dives into a section on purchasing a home debt-free by having a young adult start their own business.   This section requires a pause for discussion at the end of each paragraph so I am going to separate it into its own post for next week.

After that topic, Maxwell decides to double-down on his objections to academic higher education followed by objections to seeking vocational training from anyone else:

Whether your son continues his education - and, if so, where he goes - may be one of the biggest decisions of his life. Schools are described as learning institutions. The students sitting under professor's teaching will be influenced by that professor's words and attitudes. If the school is a secular institution, your son could adopt that worldview or at the very least be influenced by it. The university he attends, could potentially impact every decision he makes after having attended that school.


If you choose to send your son on for more education, I implore you to be zealous in your evaluation of the school and your son's maturity. Instead of the Godly influence of his parents, peers and professors will now surround him. That is why you want to carefully evaluate your son's maturity, the school, and God's direction where higher education is concerned. (pg. 168)

Wow.  The sentence that explains that schools are "learning institutions" deserves some sort of Captain Obvious award. 

As a practical matter, if a young adult is unable to hear about another worldview without immediately giving in and following that worldview, parents should simply give up all hope for that kid.   They should also invest in a good lawyer and psychologist because the family is going to be forcibly bailing their kid out of cults for the rest of their lives. 

In my experience, college students are fairly impervious to different worldviews.  The stereotypical atheist professor - or his liberal counterpart of the fundamentalist Christian aimed at conversion - can certain blather on about their worldview, but the students will pretty much tune them out.  More usefully (or less depending on the point of view), the students will also probably ding the professor at student evaluation time for wasting their time if they are off-topic in a class that's required for a major or a minor.

Next, Maxwell decides to mix a real problem with an imaginary one:

Unfortunately, if God isn't directing your son to attend higher education and you encourage him to go, his life may never be the same. If God hasn't provided the finances, your son could carry the financial burden of repaying student loans for many years. Many young men meet their spouses at college. If your son isn't living in the center of God's will, how will that affect his consideration of a spouse? Other wrong influences may negatively affect his walk with the Lord and his relationship with you. All of these can have a potentially damaging in fact on your son's provision for single-income family. That is why I encourage you to be certain higher education is God's will. (pg. 169)

Try reading that paragraph aloud with a dramatic "Dum-Dum-DUUUUM!" at the end of each sentence that includes "God" or "the Lord" in it.  It really improves the experience for me!

To paraphrase: If your adult son goes to college, he will want control over his life.  Avoid that trap or you won't be able to arrange his marriage.

I'm flabbergasted that Maxwell can't see that he's undermining his entire spirituality training regimine in this paragraph.  People have been training their son in being a Godly Christian Who Walks with The Lord (TM) since infancy but the training is so flimsy that taking "Business Finance Law" with an atheist professor is going to cause the student to become an apostate immediately.   

Practically, young adults should be mindful of the amount of loans they take out to pursue advanced education or training.  People can and have ended up with absurd amounts of debt relative to the salary they can expect to earn on leaving college.   Ironically, CP/QF families shouldn't be dismissive of this; it's the direct result of changing private college loans from being highly monitored by the government to opening the loans to free market practices.   The free market is as Christian as the American flag, you know! *rolls eyes*

Lastly, Maxwell makes sure parents know that their kid can totally homeschool their way through advanced training, don'tcha know!

Training is often a high priced commodity, and if your son is able to study on his own, he can save thousands of dollars. For example, we agreed with Nathan that God was leading him to pursue further certification. To learn the necessary material he could either take classes or by the curriculum and study independently. Nathan chose the study on his own even though he knew it would take significantly longer to get a certification. He was successful in achieving a certification and saved himself thousands of dollars. (pg. 170)

I enjoyed a good giggle when I read this part.  There are a lot of well-paid skilled manufacturing and utilities jobs that have training programs that are fully funded by business-union partnerships.  In my area, jobs like pipefitters, HVAC, electricians, plumbers and welders have apprentice programs where a candidate will receive 3-5 years of training that is fully paid while also being placed in local businesses.  This means that at the end of the paid training, most journeymen have multiple job offers in businesses that will support their continuing education to become masters.  Financially, let's just say that a journeyman generally makes at least what I did as a full-time teacher and a master would outearn me easily.   For these trades, studying on his own (like John Maxwell did) is NEVER cost-effective.

Let me demonstrate. 

A lot of my former students were interested in nursing, but wouldn't be able to qualify for a BS or AS program in nursing right away.  Instead, they took a short training course to become an CNA.  The total maximum cost for all tuition, fees, and equipment is $1,580 dollars.  CNAs in our area make between $10-14 dollars an hour.

 $1580 dollars / $10 dollars per hour = 158 hours.

Essentially, if a person can study for the CNA and pass it in LESS than 158 hours (which is 19 8-hour days) of study, they may be better off studying on their own rather than taking the course.   (I'm ignoring some of the other benefits like employment help - but you can estimate it by taking $80 dollars off the total cost of tuition for gained day of employment if you want.)

Let's look at Nathan's choice.  A local program in leading to the same security IT certifications he has takes a total of $7,500 in tuition and fees for an expected salary of $25 dollars per hour.  That means the mathematical breakeven point is around 300 hours of study.  Now, the CNA program took roughly the same amount of time as the breakeven point of studying by yourself - but the IT program moves a person through in 180 hours (or half the time) - so unless the person can study at the same pace as the class, they are better off paying the money for the class.

The funniest one is John Maxwell's choice.  To become a plumber or electrician apprentice would have cost him $0 in tuition plus a paycheck of at least $10 per hour while studying.   Choosing to study for those certifications on his own COST him money.

Good thing he listened to his dad, huh.....

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Maidens of Virtue: Chapter 19

I am over this book.  I've been over this book for a while, but I'm reaching the point that I'm dragging my feet to avoid having to blog about it.  The stories make me feel claustrophobic by proxy. 

On a positive note, we've got about three chapters left and I skipped one entirely.  Oh, and the remaining chapters are short.   At the end of the chapters, I'm going to discuss my feelings about some of the "projects" included at the end.

Anyway, this chapter is titled "The Heart of a Maiden".  It commemorates the day that Mrs. McDonad's daughters gave their hearts to the safekeeping of their father.  Most of the chapter is reprints of the letters or poems the older daughters wrote and read to their father during the ceremony.  There's not much to discuss there; it's pretty standard teenage writing.

The chapter starts with a snippet written by Jessica McDonald:

This was our morning - the morning we gave Daddy our " hearts." He already had our hearts, of course, this is the moment we showed him we really meant it. Today we gave him a keepsake - a representation of our hearts - a symbol of our trust in him. I'll remember this morning for the rest of my life. From the way Daddy smiled, I think he will too. (pg. 172)

I remembered this quote because Jessica McDonald unconsciously demonstrated how absent the entire idea of consent is in CP/QF homes.  There is no way for any of the daughters to decide that they are perfectly content keeping their own hearts.   There's never any discussion that teens or adult women are capable of managing romantic relationships without a male gatekeeper.  This absence of a way to opt out is important because if a person can't say "no", they can't really say "yes" either.   Yes, Jessica and her sisters are excited about ceremonially handing their hearts over to the keeping of their father - but it is meaningless since he "already" had their hearts.

Before our children reached the " dating" age, we made a decision to explore courtship. There are many different opinions of what courtship should look like, and each family will have to determine how this will play out in their own lives.

In 2003, my daughters decided to give their father a special gift, one that will symbolize their willingness to trust in him with their hearts until the day he walks them down the aisle to entrust them to another in marriage. After the girls and I discuss their plan, I purchase a sterling silver engravable bar pin charm holder and had Malachi 4: 6 engraved on it in soft script. Each of my daughters then purchased a unique heart-shaped charm and wrapped them separately. ( I bought the younger girls' charms.) (pgs. 172-173)

Again, Mrs. McDonald demonstrates that even adult children are not allowed to have autonomy over their romantic lives.  The parents have decided that their children will meet spouses according to a courtship model created by the parents.   I see a practical problem with individual families deciding how courtship should go since this means that every family has a different set of guidelines.  This lack of autonomy is worrisome for the maturity level of the adults who are looking to get married and have children.   Of course, that lack of maturity may well be a feature of raising CP/QF children rather than a flaw; it's easier to prevent people from leaving when they don't have the emotional skills to do so.

I hope that she got all of Malachi 4:6 engraved on the holder since it states "He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the hearts of the children to their parents so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse".   I know that's a lot of characters to fit on a pin, but he's got a heap of daughters to hang heart charms for on the pin. 

Let's talk for a minute about how old the McDonald daughters were when this whole ceremony went down.  The oldest three young women were certainly old enough to be dating by US standards at ages 19, 17 and 16 so this ceremony makes sense.  The next daughter was 13.  That feels a bit young to me in broader US culture for anything other than going to a school dance or a movie with a young man.  After all, she's too young to drive.  In CP/QF land, it makes even less sense because she's not supposed to be thinking about romance at all since she's way too young to marry.   Their last three daughters were ages 5, 2, and 1.  Oh, there's an implication that the youngest girls will do the same ceremony when their older - but, holy shit, they should simply be spectators!  The five-year-old might remember the ceremony, but the two babies won't.    The only way I can wrap my head around it is that Mrs. McDonald pre-purchased the little girls heart charms to be sure that they matched (but they are supposedly unique) or to be sure that the charms wouldn't have been discontinued in the next 12 years or so. 

So...what happens when one of the girls get married?  Does he rip the charm off the pin?  Does he hand it to her husband at the altar?  Is handing the heart over to the husband the literal moment of marriage since women obviously can't handle something as hard as consenting to a marriage?

That's the end of the main section of the chapter.  In the middle of the "Share your heart" questions, there's a random list of tips for guarding your heart:

Practical tips for " guarding your heart":

1. Read God's Word and pray everyday. Specifically ask God to help you guard your heart. Pray for your father to make wise decisions regarding your training.

2. Avoid being alone with a young man. It is best to fellowship and foster healthy relationships with young men within the environment of the home and family.

3. Avoid fantasizing about who might be " Mr. Right." Stay on guard, especially when you sense that you may be attracted to a young man (or that he might be attracted to you). Remember your goal is to stay pure for the one you marry, both physically and emotionally.

4. Talk to your parents about your feelings. Let them know when you need prayer in a specific area. God has placed them over you for your protection -trust them and Him. (pg. 175)

Let's see. 

The fact that girls are supposed to pray for their father's to make good decisions about their "training" is super-weird in a creepy way.  What are they being trained for exactly?  If it's to be a wife and mother, shouldn't her MOM (who successfully navigated the transition from child to wife/mother) be making those decisions?

The second point is just going to make the awkward preteen and early teenage years when young people are trying to figure out how to interact with peers of the opposite gender without being totally self-conscious last forever.  Heck, Ask A Manager - which I love - already has a decent selection of people who are messing up their own careers by enforcing stricter versions of the Pence Rule.

The third point is going to make people insane while causing them to spend more time obsessing over Mr. Right.  The funniest part is that interacting with Mr. Right alone is the best way to kill a crush quickly. 

Number four is ok assuming that the daughter's parents are sane.  Raising a kid in emotion purity, though, feels like the parents might be a tad overprotective.   Also, remember that Geoffrey Botkin would deride every single guy his daughters were remotely interested in....and the sisters are both unmarried at 30-ish.
The following letters and poems were written by our daughters. None of us will ever forget Tiffany's wedding day, and the moment at the reception when my husband, with tears in his eyes, read her poem aloud, and handed to Ben Tiffany's heart on a chain. (pg. 175)

Huh. Tiffany's symbolic heart was handed off to Ben while everyone had to listen to a poem she wrote when she was 17. I 've been through worst toasts, I suppose.    What does Ben do with the charm now?  Does he have to wear it all the time?   Is he buried with the charm or does Tiffany reclaim it if he predeceases her?   

Probably best to simply leave it in Tiffany's jewelry box.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Mally Family rejoices in survival after neglecting basic safety:

I had lost track of the Mally family since I finished reviewing "Before You Meet Prince Charming" and decided to go visit their blog. 

Sarah Mally has written a new book for young women that teaches them to suppress all of their negative emotions or critical thoughts under the guise of following Jesus.   I'll probably review that at some point - but I prefer getting second-hand copies so it may be a while. 

Next up, Grace Mally wrote a post about how her family was in a serious single-vehicle accident during snowy weather.    Their brother Steven was driving when he lost control on an icy area.  The heavily loaded passenger van they were driving hit a post-and-cable center median barrier and went through it.   The van rolled across two lanes of oncoming traffic before stopping on the far side of the highway. 

The accident itself is pretty normal in the northern US.  Steven was trying to pass a semi-truck on the highway.  The passing lane is often less traveled and more slick than the right-hand through traffic lane.  The air flow around semi-trucks often includes areas of increased wind pressure.  A tall vehicle like a van is at higher risk for a rollover and can act like a sail in windy times. 

What really pisses me off is that Sarah, Grace and their mother were all not wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident - in spite of known bad weather and, oh yeah, the fact that seatbelts are counted as one of the most important public safety inventions of the 1900's. 

Grace ends with an asinine reflection about how people will remain safe until God decides to bring them home.   

My take is more cynical: people survive absolutely insanely dangerous life-choices pretty regularly - but I don't think God appreciates people who skip basic precautions. 


Monday, April 30, 2018

Dominion Orientated Femininity: Part Four

I think I've moved on beyond my disappointment that we will never know what Anna Sofia and Elizabeth's point number three is in their podcast "Dominion Orientated Femininity".   My guess for the third point is "A dominion woman doesn't waste time on proofing media" - but I am open to suggestions in the comments section. 

Let's see.  We can cover points 4-6 today.   I should warn you; I adore point six for so many reasons!  Let's jump in:

Point number four is: a dominion woman is invested in the family that God gave her. One verse that we love to look at about this is Psalm 144. And it says in verse 12 "Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants and our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace." This is an amazing piece of imagery we have here. One of the Webster's 1828 definitions of the word "pillar" is "A supporter that which sustains or upholds that on which some superstructure rests." And this helps us understand a little more about what the role of a daughter is in her family. She doesn't just have an ornamental role. She`s there actually to help hold up her family to help support her family. But the other thing that I get from this verse is this is not a crude, roughly hewn pillar that this girl is. She's been polished, very carefully polished, so that she not only gives strength to the home, but she also provides grace and beauty to the home.

Anna Sofia/Elizabeth seems to have gotten swept away in the excitement of the verse and forgot that it's a piece of imagery.  The next verse says "May our barns be filled with produce of every kind; may our sheep increase by thousands by tens of thousands in our fields!"  I doubt the Psalmist was creating lists of what types of produce was in the barn or how the number of sheep could increase by a thousand-fold. 

In terms of describing the human offspring of the family, the Psalmist was symbolically saying "may your children be healthy, fertile and beautiful".   Let's be honest: childhood mortality rates were atrocious. The only social safety net for old age was having living adult offspring to support you.  Having a pretty daughter (or two or three) could mean a better marriage, more grandchildren and a comfortable old age.

It's unlikely that the main interests of families raising girls during Biblical times was raising a daughter who could bring grace or beauty to a home.  A strong girl who was skilled at the tasks of keeping a home, preparing food, making textiles and caring for the ill would be far more useful than a girl who could make the house look nice by arranging flowers.

It's also interesting to me this verse seems to presuppose that a woman would be living at home with her family. But we need to realize that there's a way a girl can live in her home without really living in her home. Her body can be there, but her mind can be somewhere completely different. Her heart can be somewhere different. We've known girls who have removed themselves from the home in every way except physically. And I think the reason is because all families have problems and some girls see the problems in their families and they become sullen. They become bitter. They give up on making anything change and daughters can help make things change.

 Some girls give up and they withdraw into themselves and into their own little private world. Their dreams, their fantasies, their novels, whatever they like to use to help them escape. They are waiting for something better. They say, "We're waiting until we get married. That's when our life is going to really start. That's the family that will be our real family." And so they're not engaged in the home. They're not engaged in the relationships there. They are not engaged in the business of the home. They're not trying to improve the atmosphere of the home. Their energies are not focused on their families and sometimes we've heard them say, "Well, uhnh! Why should I get really invested in this family because I'm just going to be leaving soon?" Those are the girls who never leave. Because what young man is going to look at a young woman who is not invested in the relationships God gave her and say, "That's the kind of wife I want! That's the kind of wife I want helping me and raising my children!"? Those girls do not usually get married. And so we all need to be invested in the families the Lord has given us right now.

I'm skeptical about using an ancient song to discuss the role of daughters in the home because the daughters are described as pillars in a castle.   If we're putting that much emphasis on imagery, the fact that the daughters were castle pillars instead of pillars in a home implies that God wants women to be outside their family at maturity.

In CP/QF homes, unmarried adults daughters have no power in the family structure.  Their father is the head of the household.  Adult sons living at home at least bring in money which gives them some power.  The mother in the household still maintains primacy over raising the children and has a far longer standing relationship with the father.   Telling unmarried adult daughters that they should change the issues within their family is absurd; they have no power to make anything change.

The reason that unmarried daughters mentally withdraw from their families is that they realize how powerless they are.  Staying enmeshed in their family of origin doesn't help adult daughters find a spouse to marry.   There are plenty of examples of good CP/QF adult women who follow this advice and pass years or decades as unpaid au pairs in their parents' home and businesses like Jana Duggar, Sarah Maxwell, Sarah Mally,  and, oh yes, Anna Sofia Botkin and Elizabeth Botkin.

And that takes Anna to our next point which is number 5: A dominion woman lives in the real world.

And I want to talk about something that a lot of us young ladies have a tendency to do. We women love beautiful, feminine, romantic pictures, don't we? But let me tell you something about these images. This is not a picture of the real world. This is not even an accurate depiction of history. This is not what women looked like during the Roman and Greek Era or the Medieval Era. These are romantic depictions of history. Real life doesn't look like this. Real women don't look like this. Real houses don't look like this. But we young ladies can have a tendency to idolize these beautiful, feminine, romantic images and to lose ourselves in the beauty and the romance. But this is something that we need to be extremely careful about. And when we look around our world and we can see that it's unromantic. It's ugly. It's ungodly. It's perishing. It's so easy for us to want to escape into these beautiful, romantic pictures and want to just lie around "Oh, if only the world were liked this! If only homes looked like this! If only we looked like this! I'm sure that things were much more romantic in history. It's too bad things are so unromantic now." This is a very dangerous thing for girls to do. And girls can do this by looking at pictures. They can retreat into books. They can retreat into movies, romance novels. There are so many different avenues for young ladies to want to escape to.


In the first few sentences, Anna Sofia manages to make a mish-mash of everything I learned in my history and humanities classes in high school and college.   I think she's talking about Romantic style paintings of events in Classical Greece, the Roman Empire and the Medieval Era.   I think that straightens out the first bit because the art types of Greece, Rome and Medieval Europe are not that similar.  Trying to make the images I remember from Greek and Roman art fit the description of "romantic" and "feminine" makes my head hurt.

Once I straightened that out, I realized that Anna Sofia was sharing the fact that paintings don't depict history accurately as a big, life-changing idea!  I'm both horrified and amused by that declaration.  My horror comes from yet another example of how frightening uneducated the Botkin family assumes their listeners are - and the Botkin presumably know that better than I do.  My amusement comes from the fact that my reaction is "No shit."   Have you seen a painting from those times that depicts smallpox scars?  How about women dying in or after childbirth?  How about crushed limbs from farming accidents?  Yeah, successful artists generally do well by selling what people like to see - pretty farmlands, healthy children, beautiful women - rather than what is really there.

If a person is lying around wishing they were alive in the 'good ol' days', they need to study history more.   Everyone enjoys physically taxing labor interspaced with disease and starvation, right?

And we need to be grateful for the battleground that God has given us. And not desire to live in a different sphere or a different generation or a different world or a world that never existed. It's not for us to wish that we could have authority in the gates. And it's not for us to wish that we could live in Jane Austen's England or Victorian high society and we really should not wish that we lived in Greek and Roman times. It's not for us to escape into fantasy worlds. This messed up world, this crooked and perverse generation, this America which is scheduled for judgement is the world that God chose for us. And it's the world that we need to be thankful for.

Got a Bible verse for this blanket condemnation of wanting to live in an easier time or place?  No?

The only sentence in that whole chunk that interests me is the one that discusses how women shouldn't want to have power in society or "authority at the gates".   The idea is out-of-place in the middle of a section on how women should be happy in the time and place that God put them because in Botkin-land women should never ever even aspire to be an authority.  I think that sentence gives a bit of insight into what life must be like for Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin.  They've grown up in the mutual fantasy world that Geoffrey and Victoria Botkin have spun where the Botkin Family is destined for greatness.  The parents and sons have carved up separate spheres of influence and are waiting for the day that God destroys the US and hands leadership over to the Botkins and their ilk.  It's a disturbing vision - but how much more disturbing is it when the Botkin Sisters realize that they've been handed the most inconsequential portion of rebuilding society?  Their job is to reshape women's roles into "helper of men".  See, I just did their job for them in three words; it's not that complicated. :-P   Their other job is to birth and raise children - but Anna Sofia and Elizabeth's children are not counted as part of the Botkin patriarchal line so getting husbands for them is not a priority for Geoffrey Botkin.

Anna Sofia/Elizabeth inserts a random quote by Rushdoony about how bad it is when people don't want to follow God's Law.   I'm skipping it because it is long, I can't verify the quote, and I'm not entirely sure that the speaker doesn't reflect on the quote in the middle.

After that, we learn that Anna Sofia and Elizabeth have done research themselves - online even!
Part of the reason that girls seek to escape is because they're bored. Part of the reason girls seek to escape is because they are not satisfied with where God has put them and it's the easiest way to deal with hardship. This is something that I've had a tendency to do. This is something that Elizabeth has had a tendency to do. I think that is something that we all have a tendency to do. And we need to be very careful about this.

Elizabeth and I have done a lot of research online and talking to young ladies. One of the things that we've noticed is that they all have a tendency to escape into novels. We didn't realize that this was as big a deal as it really is, but 90% of the young ladies that we've talked to have at one point been addicted to romance novels even if they wouldn't call them novels. It's partly because as homeschoolers we love to read, but it can become an idol for us as it has for so many of the young women that we've talked to.

Allow me to propose that the real reason for boredom among young unmarried women in CP/QF families:  the girls know on some level that they are being held back from fully living the lives God gave them.  The CP/QF unmarried women authors I've read seem to have natural talents including intellect and a willingness to work.  If properly educated and allowed to follow their own interests, most if not all of these women would be well-established in a career by their late twenties.  Women who are in their mid to late thirties could be leaders in traditionally female occupations like teaching early childhood, working in community health or home-care aide.    Instead, these women are spinning their wheels in family-based "ministry" businesses where they often do most of the work but receive none of the accolades or praise. 

Anna Sofia's declaration that 90% of homeschooled stay-at-home-daughters become addicted to "romance" novels makes me giggle every time.   I'm trying to imagine the physical side-effects of withdrawal from romance novels.  Maybe the young women become overly skeptical and morose.

Everyone needs a break now and again - and I think SAHD need a break more than the average person.  Reading a book - especially something as un-edifying as a Christian romance novel - is a tame way of rebuilding energy.

Now, I unveil my favorite point: Number 6!!!!  I love number six!

One of the attributes of a dominion woman - number 5 - was she lives in the real world.

Number six is a dominion woman embraces a hard life. And a dominion woman loves a hard life.

That's it. 

There is no more discussion, information, or elaboration on what a "hard life" is or what "loving a hard life" looks like. 

I suppose this lack of elaboration is because they didn't want the entire female component of the audience to start crying or defensively arguing.   From an outsider point of view, women in CP/QF have a brutally hard life from start to end.   They are trained from infancy to ignore their own wishes, wants, desires and talents in exchange for acceptance in their family.  Their academic education is minimal and undercut by implying that learning to do daily chores is the same thing as learning math or science.  Young girls are taught that physical and emotional purity is the cornerstone of their worth as a person.  The young women are indoctrinated that anything other than an early marriage that produces many children is a failure - but they are also prevented from socializing with the young men who would marry them.   If they marry, they will spend their lives juggling the impossible tasks of running a home and school on little predictable income while being pregnant or nursing.   On top of that, many married CP/QF women attempt to bring in income through an additional home-based business.  How the women manage to do that with all of the other work - and without making their husbands seem like poor providers - is beyond me.   Those who married young and continue having children into their 40's will be raising children until they are in the mid-sixties.   On the other hand, some women never marry and live with their parents their whole life.  Even in a healthy family, supporting one or more unmarried adult daughter can be a financial strain.  In an unhealthy family, the daughter(s) are continually exposed to the whims and caprices of their parents.  At the same time, the daughter is aware that she has failed to fulfill God's single, uniform plan for women: to marry and bear children.

Life is hard - but CP/QF creates crushing burdens for women.