A Line in the Sand and a Knife in the Back: A Response to Michael Farris

Posted By on August 30, 2014

linein thesand

I am a second generation homeschooler. I was homeschooled beginning in the mid-80s when it was still a new frontier. We were the third family in the state of California to register as a private/home school. Shortly thereafter we moved to Alaska where I grew up in a strong homeschool community.

As the oldest child in the family I was very much on the journey with my parents. I listened to many of the messages they listened to, heard their discussions with other parents, went to homeschool conventions and helped run our family’s homeschool bookstore. After I graduated I helped teach my younger siblings. Now, I homeschool my own children.

I miss those early days. In spite of our differences we were all united as homeschoolers who were blazing new trails together.

I have always thought highly of HSLDA and until recently, we were members. Michael Farris is one of the homeschool pioneers I grew up appreciating.

Over the past ten years or so, as my husband and I have prayed and asked the Lord for wisdom and guidance in raising our own family for Him, Vision Forum has been a huge blessing to us. We are among the many that are shocked and heartsick over the moral failures of Doug Phillips. We do not defend him or his actions in any way shape or form. However, over the past year I have been deeply grieved over the many accusations I have seen made against Vision Forum, their teachings and the families who have appreciated both. The statements Mr. Farris and others have made about the things that they taught and promoted, especially in regards to women, are blatantly false.

I can say this for a fact based on the following reasons:

1. We listened to almost every message VF ever produced and read almost every book or article they published on this topic and are extremely familiar with their stance.

2. We agreed with VF’s stance personally. We are among the families that believe in Biblical patriarchy and we absolutely do not believe the things Mr. Farris has accused us of. We personally know many other families who also appreciated and agreed with Vision Forum’s teachings and they also in no way hold to, or practice patriarchy as defined by Mr. Farris. In fact, we would agree with this statement by Mr. Farris 100% :

Women are not to be the de facto slaves of men. Women are created with dignity equal to that of men. Women have direct and unmediated access to God. Daughters should not be taught that their only and ultimate purpose in life is to be the “helpmeet” of a man. While being a godly wife is a worthy ideal, the only statement that is universally true for every woman is that she should love and serve God as her highest priority. My wife and I raised our own daughters to believe that being a wife and mother was a very high calling but did so in a way that would not crush them if God’s leading had been different.

3. I compiled a book on Biblical womanhood that was published by Vision Forum ( because it fit the message of womanhood that they wanted to convey.) My own words therefore are included in the materials that Mr. Farris denounced as a whole. I would invite any naysayer to read that book – “Queen of the Home”  – subtitled “The Honor, Power and Nobility of Biblical Womanhood” – and find a single statement that coincides with the accusations made by Mr. Farris. (Read this excerpt here for a sample) Read or listen to (in context!) any book, article or message that Vision Forum published on this topic. You will not find the view of women that Mr. Farris claims is taught.

4. I vote. I expect that my daughters will vote when they are old enough. I have business endeavors. I believe in higher education for women. I fully expect that my daughters will be well educated. I am not a poor, downtrodden doormat or victim. I am not forced to have babies. I have wanted every one of my 8 living children and the 4 that are with the Lord and I pray for more. I have a brain and I use it. I think. I have opinions. I study. I love theology. I love logic. And yes, I believe in Biblical  patriarchy.

Mr. Farris says

Some young people who were raised in patriarchal and/or legalistic homes are now telling their stories. It is from their stories that I have learned that these men’s teachings are being applied in ways that are clearly unwise and damaging from any reasonable vantage point—Christian or secular. People are being hurt.

I think Mr. Farris would agree that just because a few extremely disturbed and evil people who seriously abuse their kids and also homeschool, does not equate to the fact that all homeschoolers are extremely disturbed and evil people who abuse their kids. Yes. People misapply and abuse the idea of patriarchy, just like there are those who misapply and abuse homeschooling. But there are no victims of true, Biblical, godly patriarchy. It is vital that this distinction is made.

Legalism is wrong and people will misapply good and godly teaching. This is not the fault of the teaching. This is the fault of our sinful hearts. It is good to pause and reflect on what we believe and why we believe it. Sometimes we need to dive back into the Scriptures and reevaluate our convictions.

But we don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We don’t need to turn on those who hold to different convictions than we do and condemn them as heretics. Perhaps those of us who believe in Biblical patriarchy are not just legalistic lemmings, blindly and thoughtlessly obeying the commands of our leaders as we all head off the nearest cliff. Perhaps we have carefully and prayerfully studied out the Word of God and are seeking, by His grace, to apply it. Perhaps our ideas aren’t all that extreme if people actually heard what we had to say about what we believe and not what others have decided we believe.

It is one thing to address wrong teaching. That is necessary, well and good. It is quite another thing, however, to define what someone believes, accuse them of error and then attack them based on something that is a total fabrication, that they repeatedly deny and that can be proven as false from multiple public and easily obtained sources.

This statement by Mr. Farris is one among many that is simply not true:

Look at the outcomes of these teachings. The personal failure of Doug Phillips in the area of marriage and his mistreatment of a young woman bears directly on the legitimacy of his teaching.

Mr. Phillips himself stated that he had betrayed everything he taught and held dear. The whole reason his sin sent shockwaves throughout the entire Christian homeschool community was because it was in direct opposition to everything he stood for.

This closing statement by Mr. Farris is disturbing on many levels – not the least of which is its ominous undertone:

I truly hope that our movement will continue to demonstrate considerable tolerance for differences of opinion. But I also hope that we will show the maturity to understand that some opinions deserve no promotion. Our movement will only be tainted by extremist views if we give our platforms over to such teachers.

Mr. Farris has not only “thrown us under the bus” as one excellent response stated , he has also fed us to the wolves. I am guessing that a good portion of the people he just slandered are (or were) faithful members of HSLDA and supporters of Mr. Farris and his fight for homeschooling freedom. What sort of defense lawyer publicly accuses, prosecutes and passes judgement on those he has stated he will defend?

“There will be more to say on this in the days ahead—by me and many others. I am not trying to give an encyclopedic answer; I am just trying to draw a line in the sand.”

Yes. This is a line in the sand. It is a line drawn with a sword that first stabbed in the back and then with one fell swoop severed off a large portion of the body of Christ. 

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”..that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” 1 Corinthians 12:21, 25

About The Author

Jennifer McBride is the blessed wife to Steve and the mother of 8 children, ages 13-2. She is also the editor of the book "Queen of the Home" - currently being revised and updated. In her sparest of spare moments she operates www.noblewomanhood.com, a website dedicated to proclaiming the honor, nobility and power of Biblical womanhood.

Comments

16 Responses to “A Line in the Sand and a Knife in the Back: A Response to Michael Farris”

  1. Tanya Johnson says:

    Such a sad situation the Bride is in.
    I am intrigued by it all and have some theories. My theories aside though, one thing is for sure, the devil is having a heyday.
    It really is so sad.
    I think if people (us included!!!) would just stop falling in love with the newest movement and instead focus on obeying the greatest two commandments (and the bible in general) we and the world would all be so much better off. I also think all these movements happen because people have books to sell. So we all get “sold”. There was Growing Kids God’s way (strict scheduled infant feeding)…
    To Train Up A Child… Bill Gothard… Dr. Sears (attachment parenting)… HSLDA… Vision Forum…
    And then the new missionary movement (Crazy Love, Radical, etc), … And Jen Hatmaker… All selling their ideas… Lots of it is great stuff…
    And then there’s the bible. The glorious, sweet, simple, eternal word of God without all the extra fluff. And it is alive! :-) It isn’t a dead frog we are supposed to dissect and label as some teachers I have sat under have implied. Scripture could unravel the whole mess if we would all act upon it. So many need our prayers. So many wounded. So sad.
    All we need is the bible and a relationship with God. Rant over!
    Love y’all!

    All For Jesus,
    Tanya

  2. […] A Line in the Sand and a Knife in the Back: A Response to Michael Farris   […]

  3. Sara says:

    I did personal hear Mr.Phillips say he did not believe women should vote or have a say in church government either. It would seem at least in his church that, that is more of the case than not. The church where Mr. Phillips, was it appears the only elder with a vote. Mr. Phillips, seems to not like women to work outside the home either, this is not always possible, though it is ideal to stay home with one’s children and I believe best to do so, as long as on can, it is not always possible for the Mother to not earn a little money, out side the home that is. Many of us liked some of his materials too, but not everything he had to say or sell I believe the less one needs to go into a liberal school to get higher education the better, if it can be avoided and once achieve training for what God has called them to do, that is not a bad thing, sometimes we have to be prepared ourselves and prepare our children to spend a least the end of their higher education in a liberal school if a good christian college cannot be found or afforded for what God had called them too. This may be a trade school also. They need to know the world is Satan’s playground right now and that he pretends to be an angel of light so he can deceive and murder. We have to release them into this world saved or not, sooner or later. Better to be armed with the truth and go into the world then, as opposed to not being prepared and trying to keep them always from encountering Satan. This idea of staying away from bad influence and ideas is not going to last for one reason or another ,as adults, we cannot even keep this from happening to ourselves. Even without a TV or liberal school we are not safe from this. Sometimes it is the very faith based or so called faith based churches, groups or leaders that we must tell our children to avoid and be very weary of. The days are evil the bible says. Mr. Phillips old church is very divided but sometimes this is so what is good and what is genuine can be seen. 1 Cor. 11, 17-34

    • Hi! Thanks for your comment. Again, it is important to take things in context. Mr. Phillips did teach that historically women did not vote. There was a reason for this (only landowners had voting privileges and husbands voted as representatives of families) It was not because women were inferior and I never heard VF teach in any way that women were NOT to vote. I even remember a picture on Doug’s Blog of Mrs. Phillips having just voted. Mr. Farris has given a very wrong impression of their actual stance.

      As far as women in church government goes, that is a very common and Biblically based position.

      • Sara says:

        At a MassHope.org conference he did say just that, that he did not believe women should vote and that he looses persons, or followers with this statement, I to some degree was one of them at the time. He has done and the other man far more damage to the HS movement that Mr Farris ever has. It is damaging to all Christians as well to have such a public fall from grace and Mr. Phillips not be more forth coming than he was. He did not accept church discipline either it would seem?? Daughters, wives and even others in the Church need to be protect from this, I believe much more than Mr. Ferris. I have more thoughts on biblical womanhood and manhood as well, for now that felt important to say. Sincerely, Sara

  4. Kevin Subra says:

    Excellent! I wrote an article from a different perspective, which addresses the “knife in the back” a bit more, and how Mr. Farris did not present anything well. You can find my article here: http://captive-thinker.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-perils-of-policing-patriarchy-in.html. It was also published here: http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/2014/09/perils-policing-patriarchy-home-schooling-community/
    Blessings to you from a father of 15.

    • Thank you for your note. My husband and I read and very much appreciated your excellent commentary on the article by Mr. Farris!

      • Kevin Subra says:

        Thanks. Awesome to find your very encouraging site. I’ll share it with my wife and 9 daughters. My oldest must be around your age. She has 5 of her own (and several in heaven). Keep up the great work.

        • Sara says:

          Here are others that would not disagree with at least most of what Mr. Ferris has to say. I did read your articles and the gentlemens, his before i read your last email. I can see that there are different views here, clearly and there is a bigger picture. My first post, that i cannot see here anymore, was addressing that and the context of Mr. Phillips was not misunderstood by myself at the conference, over 4 or 5 years ago. As i said in the first reply, many of us liked some of his materials too but not everything he had to say or sell. I believe the less one needs to go into a liberal school to get higher education the better, if it can be avoided and once achieve training for what God has called them to do, that is not a bad thing, sometimes we have to prepare ourselves and our children to spend at least the end of their higher education in a liberal school, if a good Christian college can not be found or afforded for what God had called them too. This may be a trade school also. The need to know the world is Satan’s playground right now and that he pretends to be an angel of light so he can deceive and murder. We have to release them into this world saved or not sooner or later. Better to be armed with the truth and go into the world then, as opposed to not being prepared and trying to keep them always from encountering Satan. This idea of staying away from bad influence and ideas in not going to last for one reason or another, as adults, we can not even keep this from happening to ourselves. Even with out a TV or liberal school we are not safe from this. Sometimes it is the very faith based or so called faith based churches, groups or leaders that we must tell our children to avoid and be very weary of. The days are evil the bible says. Mr. Phillips old church is very divided but sometimes this is so what is good and what is genuine can bee seen. 1 Cor. 11, 17-34

          I may not agree with every thing on these sites but the first two articles at least address the freedoms in Christ we all have and the Grace the church is under including women. I may and feel you may find some of the last site not something to entirely agree with but there are the voices there who may be whom Mr. Ferris was speaking of, that left extreme views or legalism in a church or family.

          http://www.quiveringdaughters.com/2011/04/bondage-of-betrothal.html

          http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A265/the-biblical-portrait-of-women-setting-the-record-straight

          ethinkingvisionforum.org/helpful-websites/

          I am sure I am a sinner saved by Grace, if I did not sound respectful here at any time, of others opinions, I apologize for that. We can all be forgiven, if we in our hearts repent and ask God for forgiveness. I say this because I know that even the persons that make it difficult for us as Christians, as Paul the apostle once did, can be saved or forgiven too, God’s word states this. Women, children and others still need protection from spiritual abuse. Where ever it happens.

          Respectfully,
          Sara

          • Hi! Thanks for your gracious response. I guess I should clarify that I am not responding to the allegations about Bill Gothard, just the comments about Vision Forum. I am not very familiar at all with Mr. Gothard’s teachings, and I was NOT impressed with much of what I did know. His teachings did strike me as very legalistic in many ways.

            As far as Vision Forum goes, I still stand by my statements that they did not teach anything that was demeaning to women. Their positions on voting and girls going to college were based on Biblical convictions (and historical pattern) I grew up in a system that did not believe that Christians (men OR women) should vote, based on their interpretation of Scripture. This did not make them abusive. My husband and I studied it out after we were married and decided we no longer agreed with that position and formed our own convictions. People were free to do the same when listening to VFs opinions on these things.

            I do believe that people will misapply good teaching, but that does not mean the teaching was in error. I am not doubting that there are those who have suffered abuse in the NAME of patriarchy. But as I said in my article, there are NO victims of true, godly, Biblical patriarchy. It is vital that this distinction is made. What about all the happy, healthy, thriving families that believe in Biblical patriarchy? Why are we swept in with the few sad cases? (who obviously did NOT practice what WAS taught.

            Vision Forum’s teachings honored and upheld women. They were considered equal to men in worth, just given a different role. Even if people differ on the voting or college issue, it does not mean that women are demeaned or abused.

            Perhaps we will just have to agree to disagree on this :-) If you would like a copy of my book, please email me your address via the contact form and I will pop one in the mail. It was published by Vision Forum and I think you will find a very powerful and honoring view of women. :-)

  5. Carolyn says:

    I fail to see how Michael Farris has misrepresented VF when his accusations are taken straight from materials on VF’s website. See the footnotes on HSLDA’s article for reference. The article “Biblical Patriarchy and the Doctrine of Federal Representation” https://web.archive.org/web/20080720101456/http:/www.visionforumministries.org/issues/family/biblical_patriarchy_and_the_do.aspx is extremely verbose, but if you can make it through all the unnecessary detail, you will find arguments against women voting and attending college.

    In this article, The author, Brian M. Abshire, describes women winning the right to vote as an “unmitigated disaster[ . . .].” He goes on to state that, “. . . God does not allow women to vote (cf. 1 Tim 2:11ff).” Further on in the article, Abshire says, ” We do not need MORE female Christian lawyers, doctors or artists, but MORE godly women raising MORE godly children who will fill the earth and subdue it to the glory of God. And does it really make economic sense to invest tens of thousands of dollars for a woman to get an advanced education (often having to go into debt to finance that education) that she will NOT use if she accepts that her highest calling is to be a wife and mother? ”

    You simply can not let VF off the hook either because some followers actually took their teachings to heart or because other followers chose to use their filters and ignore some of the more unbiblical, nonsensical things they taught. These beliefs are stated clearly on their website. If they had begun to see things differently, they should have removed articles like the one linked to above and publicly recanted their views on such issues. I know several patriarchal families, two of whom have faithfully followed VF. Both of those families believe in the “stay-at-home-daughter” philosophy advocated by VF and are against sending their daughters to college.

    Perhaps the teachings of Philips and Vision Forum need a rebranding. Maybe some thing like, “When we said ‘such and such’, what we actually meant was ‘this and that’. Don’t be going all crazy now and start doing such and such, because, well, that’s not what we meant and now it’s giving us a bad name.”

    • Thank you for your comment. Firstly, I would point to my statement in my article to read and listen to the things VF taught in context. The article you linked to here by Mr. Abeshire is not full of “unnecessary detail” as you say. On the contrary, it is full of information crucial to the argument and provides the context for his statements. I have listened to and read other materials from VF on politics and voting since that article was written (and I even remember a picture on Doug’s Blog of Mrs. Phillips having just voted) and never heard that women should not vote. The statement about women voting was mentioned in passing by one man (not even by Doug Phillips himself)and was never an official stance of Vision Forum. The article that Mr. Farris quoted and that you have linked to here provides a balanced view of patriarchy when read as a whole. After reading through it I am even more appalled that Mr. Farris would take these few statements as proof of the evils of patriarchy. This article is full of quotes that would lay these accusations to rest.

      I would like to quote further from that same article:

      “Until the twentieth century, Americans almost universally held to this doctrine of representation in some form or the other. The reason why women were not allowed to vote had nothing to do with women being considered “inferior” or “too emotional” (these values arose during the Victorian era and were themselves theologically and socially deviant) but rather because the husband and father was ASSUMED to represent the family to the broader community.”

      “The doctrine of representation provides a necessary theological presupposition that encourages genuine reformation in the family, and the establishment of a stable social order. The model for the Christian family is NOT the post-war “Father Knows Best” or “Leave it to Beaver” where an “all-wise” father governs a “ditzie” wife who vacuums in a cocktail dress. Instead, we must rediscover the father’s role in governing the family wisely and justly according to Divine Law as he represents the family to the outside world. We must also understand and accept that with authority comes responsibility; the family belongs to God, not the father. The father cannot govern any way he pleases but only as a wise steward of God’s people; and like unjust, tyrannical kings, God CAN and WILL depose us if we do not fulfill our responsibilities according to His law.

      For example, biblical patriarchy never excuses, justifies or motivates godly men to devalue, denigrate or relegate godly women to “second-class” status in the home. Women are NOT inferior to men even if they are subordinate in their roles. Husband and wife are to be “one flesh;” which is more than a quaint euphemism for marital intimacy but rather a spiritual union of two individuals (1 Cor 6:16-17). Granted the wife is to respect her husband and submit to him (1 Ptr 3:1) but the husband is also required to treat her with grace, kindness and respect granting her honor as a joint-heir of the Kingdom, lest God refuse to hear his prayers (1 Ptr 3:7). In pagan patriarchy, the wife was often little more than a domestic servant and child-bearer (as in ancient Greece, the “cradle” of “democracy”) but in the biblical view, God praises the godly woman for her industriousness, creativity, aesthetics and business acumen (Pvbs 31:10ff). A wise man, understanding his duty as representative, will therefore lawfully utilize all the assets of the family, including his wife’s wisdom, gifts and concerns, for the common good of the family.”

      “Some have criticized the “patriarchs” for having the view that “the mother’s role is to bear children, cook food and keep her mouth shut.” If this accusation were true, then it would be a serious blow against “patriarchy;” however, one searches in vain for those “patriarchs” who espouse such a view. The godly “patriarch” lives with his wife in an understanding manner (cf 1 Ptr 3:7ff) and represents HER views to the world as a part of his greater duty as her federal head. Yes, undoubtedly, many ungodly men tyrannize their wives; but the problem is their own personal sin- NOT the theology of “patriarchy.””

      “Different men will of course work out these basic principles in different ways; for example, finding an alternative to post-industrial economics, some men might establish a family business that employs his wife and children in profitable enterprises; others may have to work outside the home to provide for their households. Some men may decide that certain activities are counter-productive to the spiritual welfare of his family while other men decide differently; e.g., whether a wife may work outside the home or not until God blesses them with children. The basic principle is that God’s law is sufficient and we must not make rules where God Himself has granted liberty.”

      “Since we are now three generations into the modern humanist interpretation of the family, rediscovering biblical patriarch is fraught with danger. Since so many modern Christian men are too lax in leading their families, failing to teach and protect them, they risk losing them to humanist culture. In response, other men will be too strict with their families and hence risk “vexing” their children. There is also the danger that some men will over-react against the common emasculated concept of the modern “father” and will overcompensate by denying any authority other than their own; including lawful authority in the church and State. The simple fact is that ALL Men will sin; they will sin against God and they will sin against their families. However, the divinely required methodology of dealing with that sin is by meditating and applying the unchanging standards of God’s law, being humble before Him, recognizing and confessing that sin, and then through repentance, taking the appropriate course of action.

      Thus, we ought to expect that in the process of trying to rediscover biblical patriarchy, some men will struggle with finding the proper balance. Some will confuse their own personal values with Scriptural ones-attempting to bind other’s consciences without lawful warrant. Some men will no doubt err by being too protective of their children. Yet the solution is NOT to undermine the concept that the father is the federal representative of his family, both to God and to the world, but rather instruct him in his duties before God and encourage him in fulfilling his divine mandate.”

      “Finally, some criticize the “patriarchs” for not wanting to invest in an expensive college education for their daughters because we “we need more young ladies in law, school, medicine, the arts and so on.” Again, this criticism assumes a modern cultural value and established it as the norm despite the fact that it has no biblical warrant and constitutes social suicide. Even the radical feminists today admit that women cannot adequately function as both a “career” woman and mother. A simple examination of the birth rates for professional women shows that the more highly educated a women becomes, the LESS likely she is to get married and the LESS likely to have children. Thus, this writer is actually encouraging brilliant Christian women to take a course of action that will mean cutting off their genetic inheritance for future generations! We do not need MORE female Christian lawyers, doctors or artists, but MORE godly women raising MORE godly children who will fill the earth and subdue it to the glory of God. And does it really make economic sense to invest tens of thousands of dollars for a woman to get an advanced education (often having to go into debt to finance that education) that she will NOT use if she accepts that her highest calling is to be a wife and mother? Thus, this “reformer” is actually encouraging a sociological system that impoverishes the family and reduces its ability to exercise godly dominion.”

      • Also, to be clear, just because we might not want our daughters (or sons for that matter) going away to college does not in any way mean we are against higher education.(nor does it in any way equate to abuse.) There are many excellent, time and cost efficient ways of obtaining a college education if necessary.

  6. Deborah says:

    Jennifer, well said! Thank you for your articulate response to Mr. Farris’ erroneous claims.

    Warmly,
    Deb Yuck

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