Challenging Christian Patriarchy One Post At A Time…
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.