The childhood is by no means all horrible, even seen from the outside. Much of it is quite appealing.
I also enjoyed gardening. We always had large gardens, and we children did a great deal of the tending and weeding, sometimes waking at dawn in the summer months to weed before the summer heat. In addition to learning to garden, I found books at a homeschool convention about edible plants and medicinal herbs and set out to teach myself these important skills. I learned that dandelions could be eaten in salads, that plantain was good for mosquito bites, and that raspberry leaves made an excellent tea for pregnant women (such as my mother). I even tried to make flour out of clover. I loved walking through marshy areas or abandoned lots looking for plants that matched the pictures in my books, becoming excited at each new find. I knew that a proper wife should be able to forage for food and prepare herbal remedies, especially if the government collapsed and the country descended into anarchy as we always feared it would.
The proper wife bit and the descent into anarchy bit are a downer, but then that’s apparently what it was like: a mix of patriarchal doctrine and pleasantly industrious rural life.
My mother was constantly reading books like Me? Obey Him? as she strove to be a better, more submissive wife. This was difficult for my mother, for she was a very strong woman. I watched her war with herself as she tried to reconcile her strong spirit with the submission she believed in so steadfastly. I watched her cry over it, watched it eat away at her. My father, usually a reasonable man, became quite upset with my mother if he felt she was infringing on his authority. His most common response was to give her the silent treatment, and that was enough. In response, my mother generally first felt indignation and then blamed herself for not submitting enough and resolved again and again to do better. While my parents loved each other dearly, this tension added strain to their relationship, and I could see it.
The sad thing is that it’s an artificial strain, a worked up strain. A reasonable man has no need to think he has an authority that his wife shouldn’t infringe on. If both had thought of each other as partners and equals, they would still have disagreed about things, but without doctrinal anger or resentment or guilt. Nonsense about authority and submission is an extra element. It’s truly sad that people mess themselves up this way. It’s a disaster that they teach their children to do the same.
In addition to teaching me about theology, politics, and current events, my father taught me to think. He taught me critical thinking, and told me never to believe something just because someone says it, but to always question everything and follow truth wherever it leads. He taught me to never trust authority for authority’s sake and to never be afraid of truth. He taught me logic and how to recognize logical fallacies. Of course, the context of all this was learning to rebut worldly ideas and bogus concepts like global warming and evolution.
Not patriarchy or submission or god.
But then Libby Anne went to college…and as so often happens, the doors opened.
I began to have theological and political conversations with a number of non-Christians. I worked hard to show them the perfection of the Bible, the evidence of young earth creationism, the evils of abortion, and the love of God.
Strangely, I found a surprising number of my arguments rebutted by arguments I had never heard before. I was told that there were serious problems with creationism, ethical issues with the Bible, and more affective ways to decrease abortion than banning it. I turned to my resources, my books and websites on creationism, theology, and conservative politics, and I tried again. And again. And again. But some things just didn’t add up. I paused my arguments to do some serious research, and I was astounded by what I found.
An open door.