Free Methodist Feminist

Challenging Christian Patriarchy One Post At A Time…

Taking a Critical Look at the Above Rubies Organization

While there are numerous organizations/movements associated with Christian patriarchy, one of the largest is the international organization Above Rubies.  Above Rubies was founded by Nancy and Collin Campbell over 32 years ago to encourage families to follow a very traditional, complementarian lifestyle. Above Rubies publishes a free magazine (donations requested but not required) once a month that contains articles about the joys of living simply, women who have given up work to stay home, and natural family remedies and family planning (or lack thereof).

Nancy Campbell also has an e-newsletter she sends out about once a week. As a regular subscriber to Campbell’s magazine and e-newsletter I’ve come to see some disturbing aspects of the organization. Many of the Christian organizations that favor male-headship are intertwined in some manner, whether that is through Biblical interpretation, worldview or involvement in multiple organizations and groups that hold similar views. In one newsletter I received Campbell thanked the families who send their daughters to help her run her office and put out the Above Rubies magazine. Nancy and Collin provide room and board and the girls’ work as Above Rubies interns. Campbell is strong advocate of homeschooling, you cannot help but draw associations between Campbell’s interns and the Stay at Home Daughters movement.  For those unfamiliar with the Stay at Home Daughters movement (I will cover it in more detail in a later post), it is the belief that daughters should be trained solely in the home through homeschooling and taught domestic skills. The fathers have enormous control over who their daughters date and marry, and they stress the importance of service to the family and to the Christian community. (Vison Forum’s founder Doug Phillips has received some mainstream media attention for his support of the Stay at Home Daughters Movement.)

So, it is not a surprise that families who read Campbell’s publications would subscribe to ideas similar to the Stay at Home Daughters Movement and “loan” their daughters out to Campbell for several months. One of the most disturbing trends that appears again and again in the Above Rubies magazine is supporting the husband at all costs. Almost every issue includes stories about women who are in difficult marriages, but when they gave up work and committed the time to stay home with their families their marriage and relationship with their spouse is magically healed.

In the Above Rubies November 2006, issue #69, there is a series of short letters from Campbell’s readers discussing tips on how they please their husbands and general advice on child rearing. One letter entitled “Dress to Please” notes:

Recently I’ve begun to honor my husband by dressing more femininely and lovely to look upon. I wear far more skirts than before. I wear bright colors and take care of my hair and makeup, My husband loves to come home and be greeted by a wife who has made an effort to please him. He always loves me no matter what I look like, but he is encouraged to know I love him enough to spend the extra time to delight him.” Another letter notes how the family has a “Daddy Alarm” which is a cell phone alarm set to go off an hour before Dad returns from work. The family scurries around cleaning up and the wife works on looking nice and getting dinner on the table when her husband arrives home. The wife notes the alarm also “reminds me to make sure my clothes are fresh, to fix my makeup and my hair, and say a prayer for my big sweet hubby.” While this mother does admit the alarm is sometimes a goal that isn’t achieved, she strives to follow the hour prep rule as often as she can.

Other reoccurring themes in the Above Rubies article are personal stories/testimonies of families who have given up on any form of family planning and allow God to control the size of their family. This is very much a Quiverfull belief, and going along with the belief that children are a blessing. The Quiverfull interpretation of Psalm 127:3-5 “ Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a mighty warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.” Thus, there is a spiritual warfare – us vs. the world – mentality to the mindset of the Quiverfull movement. Campbell does nothing to dissuade from this interpretation of children and their purpose, but instead reinforces it in her magazine, devotionals and e-newletter.

Campbell’s devotionals and podcasts are filled with passionate pleas for mothers to guard their children against the secular world. While you won’t see this very often explicitly stated in Campbell’s writings or the writings of Quiverfull authors, there is a recurring theme that we must raise Christian children, shielded from the world, to fight against Satan. Evangelism is not at the top of the Christian patriarchy’s agenda. Instead the focus is on keeping the Christian community insular, separate from world. Evangelism doesn’t matter if you are breeding and raising enough Christians.

In Campbell’s December 16, 2010, women’s devotional she notes that mothers must act as gatekeepers to their homes:

We go to 1 Chronicles 9:17-27 and see the gate-keeping Levites guarding the house of the Lord in Solomon’s time, just as their ancestors had guarded the tabernacle in the wilderness. They guarded “the entrance” and they guarded “the four sides, to the east, west, north and south… And they spent the night around the house of God, because the watch was committed to them.” In Nehemiah we read that they appointed guards, “each in front of his house.”

We are also gate-keepers, guarding on all fronts! We can never let down our guard. The enemy is subtle and he is out to destroy marriages and fragment godly homes. The biggest threat to his success is godly gate-keeping mothers who will not allow one opening for him to enter their home. They watch at their entrance and they watch on every side. They watch what their children listen to, look at, read and even what they speak! They check what is happening on the Facebook accounts of their children. They establish God’s standard of righteousness in their home, not the world’s standard. Consequently, when the enemy comes running to attack he comes to a screeching halt at the gates of this righteous home! He has no access! No loop holes to get in! And he bows! Proverbs 14:19 says, “The evil bow before the good: and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.”

Campbell travels the world (mostly in the U.S., UK and New Zealand) speaking at family retreats and encouraging Christian families to follow her example of stay at home motherhood. Her husband Collin has sections on their website devoted to male headship and godly control of the home. While the themes of the Above Rubies ministry might seem out there, there are similar themes floating around mainstream Christian culture. As I’ve noted again and again the threat is when we accept only ONE idea of Christian marriage and family. There is no one right way to raise a family or be a Christian spouse and the danger in the Christian patriarchy movement lies in its rigid self-righteousness and belief that it has the corner on the correct Biblical interpretation for marriage and family.

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24 comments on “Taking a Critical Look at the Above Rubies Organization

  1. Robyn
    December 31, 2010

    Holy controlling, Batman! Borderline cult-like. Or maybe not so borderline, if you read those who have “left” the patriarchy movement.

    Nothing wrong with raising godly children, dying to self for our spouses, and monitoring children’s internet usage, but YIKES! Your post doesn’t even scratch the surface of some of the frightening stories I’ve heard. I’d love to hear more about the brainwashing the kids go through, and what happens if they choose a different path.

  2. freemethodistfeminist
    January 1, 2011

    I have a forthcoming academic journal article coming out sometime this winter about the TLC Show “19 and Counting.” I agree Robyn that there is a lot of parental control (to the point of thought control at times) in the Christian patriarchy movement. Whenever that article comes out I’ll post a link to it. It addresses the family control aspects of Quiverfull a lot better than I could ever do in a blog post.

  3. Matthew
    November 19, 2012

    Are you kidding me? They live Godly lives, that’s all! They are great people, i have met them! You have no clue on what you are writing about. Do you not follow scripture? or do what the spirit calls you to do? So brain washing is teaching your kids to be responsible and live for Christ? Sorry but not everybody sends there kids to public school where they will get bullied or sexually abused. Not all people let there 10 year olds have lap tops, cell phones, or play video games because they don’t have time to parent. Not all kids skip the public streets of the city unparented sipping a soy latte from starbucks. Why do they bother you so much? I think they live in humble ways to honor God. Quit jugding them, you don’t know them.

  4. Heather Knapp
    January 22, 2013

    If only you got to know these families maybe you would think differently! I adore the Above Rubies ministry. It has been such a blessing to my family. I was raised very differently than I am raising my children and I see such good fruit. The families I know who like the Above Rubies ministry are wonderful families with happy children. My children are not brainwashed and not sheltered, but they are raised to understand Biblical roles and they see the good of it. It is a wonderful way to raise a family and I am so thankful for the Campbells. Maybe not judging what you don’t know would be more Biblical.

  5. Shefali
    June 5, 2013

    I don’t have a problem with women who are called to traditional roles and who find them fulfilling – but not all of us are called to this, and yet we love God and seek to obey Him. I also don’t have a problem with wives wanting to submit to husbands or husbands to love their wives, but what does that actually mean? When I became a Christian, I died to myself to live for Christ. When I got married, I wanted to put my husband’s needs first, and he wants the same – to put my needs before his own. But that doesn’t mean the same for every couple. For some couples, a “traditional” marriage model may work and be the best. But for others, they are also Godly and love Christ – but their marriages are different.

    I know a lady who gets Above Rubies magazine, and she is very happy with a traditional lifestyle… and her children are wonderful… BUT, she is NOT dogmatic. I have met other women, however, who are in that lifestyle who are very rigid in their thinking – perhaps even fanatical. That to me is the danger. When you slavishly follow a particular teaching and turn off your own brain, that is a danger.

    God gave each of us brains for a reason. When a woman gets married, she does not give her brain over to her husband. Submission does not mean I never express myself or critique my husband. To me, it’s about healthy boundaries, not putting on a hypocritical happy face. The minute you try to pretend something that you are not, you are shutting off the power of the Spirit to work within you – the Spirit is not deceived, but how can God communicate with you when your deceive yourself? Does that make any sense?

    Anyway, I am not criticizing women (or men) who are genuinely called to a life of raising Godly children in a traditional home setting. I think this is a tough and important calling and God bless them. BUT… some women (and men) are called to be single, or childless married couples. Some couples are called to a life where the woman’s career might be the more significant one. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t submit to her husband – but their idea of submission might be very different, yet still valid.

  6. Susan McCurdy
    June 14, 2013

    Perhaps you guys need to be “free” enough to let Nancy be who she is….and not like you in thought, dress, or interpretation of Scripture. She is holding no one captive and people don’t have to agree with all of her teaching yet she is kind and gracious to those who disagree. She proposes positively what she believes in ….rather than writing post about people who choose to do things differently. Novel idea, really.

  7. Wendy Kraak
    June 23, 2013

    How sad that the world and even the church, have come so far from the biblical example that those who encourage people to get back to it are called cult-like.

  8. Christina
    July 6, 2013

    Wow – we love Above Rubies and we value Nancy’s input. I was brought up in a world with no leadership and no accountability. When we live in a world that has none, we think that a world with those parameters is “control”. We have become so secularized that we don’t know that the Christian church as conformed to it and walks in it – not as a light, but as a group who has given in.

  9. Sierra
    August 9, 2013

    I’ve read many Above Rubies magazines (put in my mailbox at church) and it is pretty disturbing to me. It didn’t feel right in my spirit at all. A lot of these woman are guilted and pressured into having baby after baby and living a life of exhaustion. The overwhelming message is that you are failing your very calling and reason for existence in life- if you aren’t raising your own little christian army. Not only having them- but having natural deliveries, breastfeeding. homeschooling, and looking thin and trim while doing it! One of Nancy’s daughters was quoted in the magazine as saying, “5 hours of sleep is great!” Um, really? Children are a blessing- but there is wisdom in not having more than you can handle. Some people (myself included) feel pretty maxed out with the unimpressive number of three. :) I feel totally at peace with that. I am the one (the hubby too!) who have to live with and raise the children we bring into this world. My opinion is that God gave us free will for a reason. The command to be ‘fruitful and multiply’ has a New Testament application to evangelize to this lost and dying world. It seems like the Quiverfull people make an idol out of motherhood. Motherhood is so important but it is supposed to come far behind your devotion to Christ. The two may overlap but your identity in Christ far supercedes your identity as a Mother.

    • mlinsc
      November 5, 2013

      You said it so well…. Thanks, Sierra!

  10. Our Little Homestead
    October 8, 2013

    I enjoy reading Above Rubies and have ever since my mother use to get them, but as a now wife and mother who has broken away from quite a fundamentalist family (in our country – fairly mild compared to the US though I think lol) there are a few things that have really started to sit wrong with me.
    I work at having the house tidy and dinner on the table when hubs gets home, I’m a SAHM to 3 with #4 on the way and I homeschool (well, we unschool) but tbh it’s purely because those decisions suit our lifestyle. We won’t be having more children (bleugh I’m on round 4 of severe hyperemesis and months of bedrest – no more thank you very much!!!), school is an option further down the track if our children want the experience, and on those nights that my husband gets home and the bench is strewn with dirty dishes, toys are spread through the whole house, the kids are screaming and I’m bawling my eyes out with no dinner on the horizon, I absolute expect him to step in and help. There’s a theme running through Above Rubies that strongly implies (to me at least) that to be a successful mother and wife you should never show any sign of weakness. That expecting your husband to support you and your children above and beyond the basic ‘love you’ is failure on your part. That to be anything less than star quality is to be unworthy. It’s what I was taught by my parents too. To me there is a fundamental flaw in this. Firstly, I’m a broken vessel being made perfect in Christ – as in HE is making me perfect as HE sees fit, which may or may not involve my approach to parenting and marriage. All I can think is that getting obsessive about one area is only going to get in His way. Secondly, how does protecting my husband from the day to day crap that is part of family life help him? Where is the depth to our relationship if all I offer him is the sanitised version? How will he cope then being thrown in the deep end if something terrible were to happen to our family? Loss of child, loss of me, severe illness or injury? How is he expected to fulfil the ‘love your wife as yourself’ scripture when his wife is apparently superwoman? The whole thing seems as about insincere and condescendingly ‘supportive’ as faking an orgasm… I’m still thinking these things out as I continue to develop my own thoughts and direction and reassess all I’ve been taught so this may or may not hit the mark but I’m rabbit trailing through it ;)

  11. Gemma
    October 17, 2013

    I really pray that Jesus reveals the bitterness in this blogpost to those who read it.

    The Campbell’s encourage women who feel called to be stay at home mom’s. I regularly read the publication and find myself agreeing with some things and not others, because the Holy Spirit guides my life. What God says is right for my life, may not be right for another person, because God created us as individuals with different functions within the Body of Christ. It is an insult to Christians to presume that we are not thinking individuals or that we are being taken advantage of via brainwashing because we find aspects of this publication uplifting, supportive, and encouraging. I certainly don’t sense any coercive tactics being used by the Above Rubies ministry and have observed no evidence of the mechanisms by which cults generally control their victims within the Above Rubies magazine. I’ve also noted that none of the readers of the magazine that have responded to this blog post have criticized the way you believe God has called you to live your life. Why would you criticize other Christians for doing the same?

    The interns you mentioned while associating Above Rubies with the philosophy that girls should only stay home, are interning in the publication of a magazine that has worldwide distribution. They gain editing skills, graphics experience, and every other experience that accompanies the publication of a magazine with a distribution of that scale. It’s quite easy to not read the publication if you disagree with its contents, but to criticize something that provides support to women who don’t have the same calling of God on their lives that you do is harsh. To criticize the Christian parents of those who send their children to gain work experience at the magazine is also harsh. To say that evangelism is absent in Above Rubies overlooks the numerous articles written by missionary moms, missionary families, and others who may or may not have mentioned the ministry they’re involved with in their article or letter.

    The Methodist church isn’t for me, but rather than beat up on my fellow Christians at the Methodist church, I attend services where I feel my family fits. It has nothing to do with Methodists, but everything to do with what God wants for my life. You would never find me criticizing the entire Methodist movement or the Free Methodist Feminist movement, because you have your place in God’s kingdom too. “The eye can’t say to the hand, “I have no need of you.”” 1 Corinthians 12:21. We make up different parts of God’s kingdom and as Christians, we should take care not to attack each other and criticize one another in situations where there is no evident sin taking place. And when there is sin, we’re supposed to use care and meekness to help the person who stumbled. There is no evident sin in what the Campbell’s are doing in providing spiritual support to wives and mothers whom God has called to stay home. I really pray that God gives you a tender spirit when dealing with other Christians, who might be very different from you, but a part of the same family of God.

    “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” Gal 5:14-15

    • freemethodistfeminist
      October 17, 2013

      I appreciate your comments, but reading your response I did have one question. I agree that the girls that intern at Above Rubies are gaining editing and graphic design skills, but show me where in the magazine those skills are highlighted and the interns abilities as editors praised? How many of them actually go on and have a career in editing and how many of them return home, marry and become a wife and stay at home mother?

      I’m not opposed to stay at home moms. In fact, my own mother was one and I appreciate the time and attention she devoted to the family. That was her calling.

      What I am concerned about is that I see Above Rubies as promoting motherhood as the only career for women. Not every married woman is called to be a stay at home mom. God gives each person a diverse set of talents and recognizing that we are not all called to the same profession is crucial- I don’t see that diversity being promoted in the Christian patriarchy movement.

  12. Kathleen Helmey
    November 3, 2013

    The command to ‘be fruitful and multiply is not a profession. It is a command from God and unless one keeps God’s commandments, one will never know the true blessings that come with keeping them. So people can read about these families all day long, but without truly experiencing the blessings that come with keeping God’s commandments, they’ll never know. Trusting and obeying God’s Word takes faith. Families that give their lives to worshiping only the Creator God, understand and have that faith and are truly blessed for putting their faith in their Lord and Savior. The world will call them a ‘cult’ because satan is miserable and he wants to pull as many down with him in the fiery pit in the end. And basically, these are the end days “when people call bad good, and good bad”. I say, God bless families that take having children to heart and understand that those precious little souls are God’s blessings and as their parents, they are taking their responsibility very serious. Praise the Lord! And Praise the Lord when wives realize that they are called by God to submit to their husbands and manage their own homes! Ever wonder why they are so happy? Because they are reaping their blessings! :) Again, Praise the Lord!!!!

    • Shefali
      June 10, 2014

      What about women missionaries who remained single but helped reach many people for the Lord? I think they were also fruitful, but in a different way. Or women who cannot have children but who adopt, or who find other ways to serve God… I think it is great when a woman is called to be a mother and home-maker and that is a blessing, but it’s also great when a woman (or man) follows another calling as long as they are serving the Lord and truly following His guidance. St. Paul talks about how his life as a single man was better for a variety of reasons, but for those who cannot remain single without sin, it’s better to marry. Was St. Paul disobedient to God because he was not producing children? What about Jesus Himself? I guess what I am trying to say – let us not put each other down or imply that our way is the only way to serve God. Some of us might be called to be eyes in the body of Christ and others to be hands or ears or tongues or bellies – but we are all part of the body of Christ. Let’s respect and love each other.

  13. Ana Rebeca Castillo M.
    November 3, 2013

    The biggest issue for me would be how it tries to put daughters into one category, I believe God has given us different gifts and talents, and that in order to be part of Kingdom of God here on Earth, we must use and perfect the talents and skills God has given us. This could take each one of us, as women, into different paths. As I felt reminded today, no path is better than the other, they’re just different. If we were all the same, we would not serve our purpose.

  14. Trish
    June 12, 2014

    As a 17 year retreat coordinator for Above Rubies I can honestly say our family, & many of the families that attend our retreats, look nothing like you describe here. maybe because we are Californians we are already a bit more kooky than our midwest counterparts. Most of the wives wear shorts & Tshirts as well as the children, they are noisy & like horseplay, the wives & hubbies do argue, being away from home sometimes brings out the *best* in some people (tongue in cheek!). We all hang out & swim in bathing suits that are somewhat modest but don’t cover our entire bodies, we laugh & tell bad jokes at times.

    Our Above Rubies retreats are filled with real people living real lives with real challenges that are all different & we are coming to each other & the Campbell’s with, no little stepford wives with little stepford children following in toe. Some of the wives who come have a job outside the home &/or have been sterilized. NO ONE there shuns them or judges them for where they are at, God loves us & forgives all our mistakes no matter what they are & we all make them, He doesn’t need us to shoot our wounded. Life is already pretty challenging, don’t shoot the people coming alongside families trying to offer them some Biblical hope & solutions without condemning them

  15. Sandy
    July 12, 2014

    God for you for writing this post! The Above Rubies organisation is nothing but a cult. A cult which has many blind followers, who are always keen to crucify anyone who says anything against them, pretty much anywhere on the internet. I see some have called in here, which isnt surprising. I used to get their magazines, 20 or so years ago when they were kind of starting out here in NZ, and I very quickly realised that they see everything in black and white. No room for any grey in life. If you don’t agree with them ( ie, have 200 kids, be a housewife, homeschool your kids etc) then there was something wrong with you. I don’t think so. There is something VERY wrong with them, and as far as I’m concerned, the southern states of the US can have them.

    • gtkdz@yahoo.com
      July 13, 2014

      So not true! If you read my post you’d have seen that a t-shirt & shots wearing mom with a part time business who goes to movies with her kids is running retreats for Above Rubies here in Southern California. And we get all people, working moms, divorced moms & dads, those who have had sterilization, etc. Nancy & Colin are very loving to everyone who comes to our conferences. God is bigger than the narrow box you are painting of AR!

      • freemethodistfeminist
        July 14, 2014

        I was really impressed with the diversity and acceptance the Above Rubies events seem to have in Southeren CA. Sandy, is writing fron New Zealand, where the organization originated. I think the events, especially, are determined by what region of the world hosts them. An Above Rubies retreat in the Midwest (where I am from) or the south would be very different than on in Southeren CA.

      • gtkdz@yahoo.com
        July 14, 2014

        Yes I coordinated one in Washington State in 2000 & my friend from WA warned me I should at least wear pants as she felt the crowd of women might not be as accepting of my shorts (not shots like I typoed in the comment above). But the women there were wonderful & even though I didn’t pack my shorts for the event I really don’t think they would have cared.

  16. gtkdz@yahoo.com
    July 14, 2014

    I think anyone who takes a stand for anything is going to receive flack as not everyone is going to agree and bottom line is no one is perfect & there has to be grace on all counts, speakers shouldn’t be held to a different standard than other Christians because that just leads to failures & disappointments. God always wants to be the one on the throne & will not tolerate people replacing Him with Christian leaders.

    • Sierra
      July 15, 2014

      The Bible DOES say teachers are held to a higher standard (James 3:1). They are putting themselves in a position to influence women so they are held accountable for what they are teaching. I am not in a position to say they are right or wrong, just that reading their magazines made me feel very conflicted & confused in my spirit, not at all uplifted. They elevate a very narrow standard of womanhood and the over-all tone is that if you aren’t lining up with that you are failing not only as a mother but as a human being. A lot of the success stories even strike me as sad because the women are so guilt-motivated. I read one where it seemed a mother was consumed with guilt for being unable to breastfeed and having baby after baby trying to succeed. I feel like most of us Christian moms are really doing our best and dealing with enough mommy-guilt without having to strive to meet this insanely high standard of the super-mom that is held up in their publications.

  17. freemethodistfeminist
    July 20, 2014

    Sierra, “the super mom” standard is deeply concerning to me. We get that message enough from pop culture as well. In regards, to the question of is Campbell’s theology on mothering right or wrong, and it is something that makes people ( including me uncomfortable with giving a blanket statement).
    I’m just going to say as the blogger I write and research from a Wesleyan perspective. Hence, the title of my blog Free Methodist Feminist; so theologically she and many other individuals who write from this perspective tend to be more Calvinist. I want to say I am NOT attacking Calvinism, but trying to illustrate that when a magazine writes advice for all Christian women, regardless of their denominational background they should be upfront with how their theology influences their parenting views. I’m going to publish another article about this on my blog shortly. I’m working on an academic journal article about Above Rubies right now and the organization’s theology. Theology does influence our views of Christian living and we all come from different Christian traditions and might not agree or want to raise our children learning a different theological perspective from one we believe ( if we knew what theological perspective- male headship) we are reading. It’s not just Above Rubies that does this; it’s common with almost all Christian self-help books and literature. We have to dig to make sure we are okay with the author’s background before accepting the opinion.

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Christy Mesaros-Winckles

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