“Dear Sheldon….” A Story of Maternal Abuse

Recently, Julie Anne from Spiritual Sounding Board posted the story of “Sheldon.”  It was so intense, so triggering….and so dang familiar….that instead of clogging up Julie Anne and Sheldon’s comment feeds, I wanted to reply to him here.  This is my story, and it never should have happened.  However, as long as churches defend abusers and place heavy burdens on victims, these stories must be told, so that the Body of Christ can learn how to tend wounded sheep.

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“She’s your mother. You know she loves you…”

Dear Sheldon,

I wish so deeply that you hadn’t experienced such crazy abuse at the hands of your parents, then your family’s pastor. I also wish that I couldn’t write this long letter to you and say, “Dangit, I understand.”

I wanted to share the highlights (lowlights?) of my story with you, and any of our readers, just because…it always made me feel more sane to know that I wasn’t alone. Between the parents (or any other abusers) who are crazy, and the church institutions that blindly defend them, it’s easy for us to suffer from gaslighting, and start to believe that, “Hey, maybe we should just submit harder, or do something different, and everything would be okay!” No, we would just slowly lose our minds and our identities. Like a caged animal in a zoo, eventually we would forget that freedom ever existed. Writing down our story is like dropping pebbles behind us in the forest: we remember that there is a way out.

The Early Years…

My mother never physically abused me—I just got to watch her physically abuse my father and sister. From my earliest childhood, I knew my mother had what she called “White-out rages,” where she claimed that she literally couldn’t see anything, and lashed out with her fists at my father. I witnessed her punch, kick, slap, and scream at him over and over again. Since I was apparently “such a good listener,” she would then pack me in the car, drive me all over the county, and explain exactly why he made her do it. ­

I learned the all-important lie before I could even talk: the victim is responsible for the abuser’s behavior.

The worst part of any week was the thirty-minute drive to church. My parents would scream, yell, argue in circles, and then get out of the car in the church parking lot and act like nothing was wrong!! How could they do that? Why would they do that? Every time they smiled at another parishoner, I wanted to scream, “It’s all a lie! They just threatened divorce for the thousanth time! They pulled over on the side of the road, she stormed off into a cornfield, and he begged her to not leave him alone with the baby!”

The Walkman was literally the greatest invention of my life. I could drown out their insanity with my music. My most vivid visual memories of my elementary school years are the floorboard of the car, punctuated by the soundtrack of the homemade mix-cassette-tapes I made off of the radio.

I grew older, I fell in love with Jesus in my own right, and I eventually went away to college. (That journey is another story and another can of worms altogether.) I was still frequently dragged back into the drama of my family—once, my mother even assaulted my sister, and drove for hours to my school to come pick me up so I could “intervene” with her.

This Can’t Be Happening….

However, the worst night was right before “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones” came out in the theaters. I was so excited to go on a “group date” to this moviewith a guy I cared about…and I got a screaming phone call from my brother: “Mom punched dad, and broke his jaw. He says he’s leaving. You’ve got to come home and do something!!”

I arrived at my parents’ million-dollar house the next day. Mom and dad were laying on their bed in their sweats. He was holding her hand. He was just finishing up a bowl of Honey Combs, wanted another, and asked my mom if she wanted some.

“No thank you, honey,” she said.

He turned to get up, and I saw the huge, swollen bulge on the left side of his face.

“Hey sweetheart,” he said to me. “What are you doing home from school?”

Walking straight into a Raymond Carver story, I thought.

I have absolutely no memory of what happened later that day. My best guess is that everyone else acted like nothing had happened—except that I knew my father had to look in the mirror while he shaved. I wondered, did he wince when the razor scraped over that part of his jawline? Did he close his eyes and compartmentalize? Logistically, I know that he didn’t leave. I went back to my school, my job, my dance-around-relationship with a guy I sort’ve liked.

Later—I don’t know how many days later—I got a call from my mother while I was at work. Dad had left, and she had taken so many sleeping pills that she was slurring and crying. It was the first of four suicide attempts.

A Slow Awakening….

Over the next two years, I realized the truth of a saying from the book Understanding the Borderline Mother, by Christine Lawson: “Children are the first to know, and the last to recognize, that something is wrong with their parents.” I became a surrogate caregiver and spouse to my mom. I gave her money. I gave her time. I set her up with support from my church (she and I went to different churches—also another story) and I was there for her whenever she needed me, at any time of the day or night. I became absorbed in her needs, in her drama, in her sexual escapades (which she described to me in detail), in her hatred of my father, in her desire to have my father back…and slowly, over those two years, I realized two things:

1) I was a tool to meet her needs, nothing more.
2) She was not getting better.

She’d started and stopped therapy. She’d started and stopped meds. She continued to verbally and physically abuse my brother and sister. She stalked my father from two states away.

The Final Straw….

Then, she started on a peculiar form of sabotage—my relationship with my future husband. I called to tell her we were engaged, and she started crying, begging me for money. Which I hurredly and gladly gave, since she said she was going to be evicted the next day.

I called her to set up at time to pick out a wedding dress. “You realize he’s just like your father. He’s going to leave you the moment you gain weight.” WHAT??

I called my sister to let her know we’d picked out wedding invitations. “You realize, if that son of a bitch ever lays a hand on you again, I’m kicking his f*cking ass.”
I was dumbfounded, and asked her straight up, “Cecillia, are you high?”
“No! Well…yeah…”
“Ok, call me when you’re sober,” I said, and hung up the phone. I immediately called my mother. “Where did Cecillia get the idea that my fiance was beating me?”
“Well, she said you were hiding bruises all over your back, that you were acting like you were scared that she would see them.”
“Mother, I live TWO HOURS AWAY. When would she have seen me? When would we have changed clothes in the same room?”

It turns out Cecillia got the idea from my mother. She was stoned enough to believe it actually happened, and that she actually saw it with her own eyes.

I received drunk, screaming, crying, drug-induced, late-night phone calls every single day until a month before our wedding. My future husband and I had moved to a new city four hours away, started new jobs, paid rent on two apartments until we were officially married….and despite the distance, I was still crumbling under the weight of my mother’s insanity. I finally told my fiance, “This is never, ever going to change. She’s going to harass us until we split up. I need you to sit with me for this next phone call.”

I held his hand, dialed her number, and haltingly told her not to call me again until she was willing to get some help. She screamed at me that she was only calling about wedding presents, at two in the morning. I told her again, “I’m not speaking to you again until you get some help.” She hung up.

She called back. I let it go to voicemail.
She called again. And again. And again.
Once she called more than thirty times in a single day.

I answered once, to agree to let her come to the wedding. The wedding is a whole different story, but in some ways, it was just like my youthful drives to church: smile when people are around, pretend like nothing is wrong, and have a complete and utter meltdown in private.

Some time later, she assaulted my sister, beating her to a bloody pulp in the hallway of her apartment over a dispute about a credit card. The police were called. Apparently my mother played enough of a victim that the police believed it was both of their faults. I knew better. I knew that my sister had been hit enough times that she’d decided to fight back. In a sick, twisted sort of way, I was proud of her for defending herself.

But it cemented my resolve: do NOT let this woman back into your life until she’s treated for whatever screw is loose in her head.

To this day, my sister defends and maintains a relationship with my mother.

Enter Pastor, Stage Left….

Sheldon, the worst part of this story is actually not the abuse that my sister and father suffered. As you know, the worst part is the response of the people in the church community when survivors try to TELL SOMEONE what happened.

My sister found out through the grapevine that I was pregnant with my first child, and told my mother. My mother then called my former pastor ,from my former state, that I hadn’t seen in eight years, and told him she was suicidal because her beloved daughter was pregnant, and had cut her out of her future grandchild’s life.

I was sitting in Panera, trying to write a play, when my former pastor called me. I could tell you what I was wearing, where I was sitting, and what I was eating, as I spent forty-five minutes trying to explain to this man that my mother was an abusive person. That she lived and breathed a lie. That she was pulling the wool over his eyes with her, “My daughter has abandoned me” act.

Guess how he responded?

He told me I needed to “Honor my father and mother.” He told me that I was not doing the “normal” things a daughter should do when she’s pregnant—shop for baby clothes together, pick out names, take pictures, etc. (At that point, I almost threw up my brocolli-chedar soup-in-a-breadbowl, because all I could think was, “What part of this situation sounds NORMAL to you??”)

I told him I couldn’t do that, because I was afraid she would abuse the baby. He said, “Taylor Joy, you are being a tool of the devil to hurt your mom.”

I froze. I’d spent six years of my life in this man’s church. It was a small church. I’d thought he and I had known each other well. My mother had been in his church exactly three times. She wasn’t even a person in his pastoral care. How could he believe this about me? How could he take her word over mine? Wasn’t she harming me? My brother and sister? My father? My husband? My future baby? Who was the tool of the devil here?

I ended that conversation as quickly as I could—and I don’t remember any response I made to that accusation.

I immediately called one of the church elders, who’d been like a surrogate father to me during that season of life. It was a seventeen-minute call. He basically told me that our pastor was full of crap, that our pastor didn’t know the whole story, and that I was doing the right thing. “Your mother would be drunk on your doorstep every night if you let her into your life right now. You take care of that baby, and tell your husband I said hi.”

In seventeen minutes, my old friend may have saved our family’s sanity.

I Believe You….

Sheldon, I wish you’d had someone like that to speak sanity into your life—someone who would just say, “Yes, I see it, abuse is really happening, and it’s wrong.” I wish the the cop who came to your house had acknowledged the fact that yes, you were the victim. I’m able to write about this with some objectivity, some level of detachment, because our story is almost fifteen years old. However, when the pain was fresh and recent, all I wanted was for someone to believe me. I want you to know that I believe you. I believe you because I’ve lived it. I believe you because I’ve heard the exact same words you have. I believe you have the right to be hurt, angry, and free from their control. I believe you have the right to live your own life.

I don’t really know how to end this letter/post, except to say that I have to go get my kids some breakfast, and work today on being a better mother than I was yesterday.  Life goes on, healing can come, good work can be done on your own soul, and there are good relationships to be had.  I’ll write later on why I was able to stay a Christian–but i made a commitment that i would never, ever try to convert a victim of spiritual abuse back to Christianity, unless he or she asked.  So, I hope this has been an encouragement to you, and please feel free to come by and talk any time.

Sincerely,

“Taylor Joy.”

 

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KJV-Only Culture Shock (part 3)

In the past two posts on KVJ-Onlyism, I showed how the errant belief that the KJV is the only acceptable, inspired translation of the Bible 1) leads to what I termed “functional Biblical illiteracy,” since most Americans read five grade levels below the proficiency needed to easily understand the KJV, and 2) that illiteracy leads to people relying on a mediator such as a pastor, teacher, book, etc., to explain scripture, and 3) false teachers are able to exploit the Biblical illiteracy of others to introduce heretical teachings.

How do we as believers combat functional Biblical illiteracy?

I can only tell you what we did as a family. Since we’ve only been in this community for three years, I can’t tell you that this will work for every person, every time, but it’s a start.

1. Develop friendships and relationships with KJV-only believers.
We ended up taking our children out of the KJV-Only schools, and finding a Bible-believing church that freely used several translations. However, we maintained our friendships with local KJV-only adherents, and allowed them to see into our lives. I freely used key phrases in our conversations, like, “God led me to do this,” and “God truly used this verse or those movies or that song.” Over time, my KJV-Only friends began to accept me as a “true Christian,” not unlike Bob Jones’ reaction upon meeting C.S. Lewis: “That man smokes a pipe, and that man drinks liquor, but I do believe he is a Christian.” In my case, it was more like, “That woman wears jeans, that woman reads the NLT, and that woman plays music with back-beat, but I do believe that she loves Jesus.”
2. Don’t argue—instead, ask lots of questions.
A friend of mine mentioned that her pastor-husband strongly objected to any drum music, because of “the beat.” I asked her, sincerely, “Why?”
She couldn’t answer me.
She either had no idea, or didn’t want to accuse me of perpetuating music that was infested by demons. Either way, I could tell by her confused face that it was the first time she’d ever actually thought about why she believed this particular doctrine! What was the source of this teaching? What was the outcome? KJV-onlyers need to understand that this type of questioning authority is okay, and completely sanctioned by the Bible.
She thought for a few minutes, then said, “I guess mostly because the beat overshadows the lyrics.” Which brings me to my next technique…
3. Be light-hearted about disagreements.
In my experience, any emotion other than joy is seen by KJV-onlyers as evidence that the devil is behind any argument. So, when my friend mentioned “the beat” interfering with understanding musical lyrics, I chuckled and said, “I know exactly what you mean. Most churches really don’t have good sound equipment. That’s why I’m glad we have such a good sound tech, because he works really hard to make sure any lyrics are completely understood. I love the skill level of the artists at our church.”
“Really?” she said. “I’d love it if you posted a video sometime.”
You see, she would never be allowed to actually visit our church. 😦
4. Let them see the fruit of your life.
When your marriage doesn’t fall apart, when your kids don’t turn into angry Bible-rejecting degenerates, when God does answer your prayers in a personal way, and when you receive hope from God’s word in a different translation, the KJV-only friends in your life will see that something is different. Yes, there is a time and place for face-to-face disagreements. However, these friends have been conditioned for years to believe that you are a heretic. Show them, one interaction at a time, that the truth of God’s word lives in you, and is accessible to them as well.

I love the reactions on my KJV-only friends’ faces when they see God answer my specific prayers: “I only had thirty dollars to spend on maternity clothes. I prayed about where to go, and God led me right to this yard sale that I had no idea was there—and a woman my size was selling all of her maternity clothes for a quarter apiece!”

5. Pray for opportunities to show grace.
Friends who are in authoritative, restrictive churches have very little grace in their lives. Slipping up in homemaking, homeschooling, or any part of parenting, may carry an intense amount of shame—shame that they’re not allowed to show on their faces. Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you an opportunity to show them the grace and love of the God who saved you. “Your toddler had a temper tantrum in Wal-Mart? Oh, you handled that so well. Don’t worry, it happens to us all–I remember when my two-year-old peed in the corner of my mother-in-law’s living room when I wouldn’t let her have a pop tart….”
I want to call on the scholars in the Christian community to argue for accessible Bible translations at every opportunity. The fact that the KJV-only heresy can live on in the 21st century is shocking to me. The fact that people in America are deceived into having limited access to God’s word should be frightening to us all. For years I dreamed of being a translator for Wycliffe, taking the Bible to areas that had no access to God’s word—not realizing that some parts of the Midwest were in just as deep of a need.

May go radio silent for a few days. :) I have a good excuse!!!

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(Update at the end!)

I’ve been completely, totally, amazed and overwhelmed at the response this teeny new blog has gotten. 🙂  Nearly EVERY spiritual abuse survivor blog that has been instrumental in my healing has commented/responded/emailed/contacted me somehow, and I’m amazed at the goodness of God in bringing us out of darkness, and into His marvelous light.

I’m committed to being a part of this community that’s helped me so much, but I have a…well….life-changing event that looms quickly on the horizon. 😉

Say a prayer for me tonight. 🙂

In Breathless Anticipation, 😉

Taylor Joy

 

UPDATE: Well, the “drastic life change” got put on hold for a few extra days. 😛 In other words, no baby yet. 😦  That whole “beginnings of birth pains” thing is really, really irritating, but I’m comforting myself with chocolate and a date to go see Captain America w/ my Genius.  😀

KJV-Only Culture Shock (part 2)

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Botox? Oh, no, my spiritual leaders just told me that not-smiling is selfish.

Yesterday, I shared how the KJV-only beliefs literally cut many people off from being able to understand the Bible.  I explained how, if the KJV is written at a twelfth-grade reading level, the average American would need someone to interpret the meaning of the text for them–just as most people need footnotes to understand the subtext, slang, and old-English phrasing of Shakespeare’s plays.

This creates a very strange situation for KJV-only believers.  They may not even realize that, in order to understand God’s word, their beliefs actually require them to have a mediator, such as Pastors, Sunday School teachers, easier-to-understand devotional materials, and Christian living books. They need an authority to tell them how to walk with God. And unless they read for fun at a twelfth-grade level,  they have no guaranteed way to double-check the teacher’s words with Scripture, to see if this “authority” is speaking the truth or not.

This ends up having crazy consequences.  Long before I knew about the KJV-only belief system, I prayed about whether or not to join the church that sponsored my daughters’ school, and was surprised when I knew the Holy Spirit was saying, “No.” Why would He do that?

I prayed and asked Him to open my eyes. That’s when I started noticing something strange.

Everyone at the school, and at the supporting church, had exactly the same facial expression.

They smiled. They smiled in the morning before they had coffee. They smiled when they just got out of surgery. They smiled on Mondays before a week of exams, and on Fridays when they were finally all done. They smiled when they asked for prayer for their mother’s sister’s neighbor who had cancer and was going through chemo. They never, ever asked for prayer for themselves, unless it was an “unspoken.”

I wondered, “Does every believer in Indiana have a hard, glossy coating on their face, freezing it in one expression? ”

I visited four different churches in their denomination in a two-county area. After a while, another thing started to bother me: the voice of the pastor.

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It’s important that my body language convey exactly the right impressions, for the glory of God, of course.

Now, I’m a worship leader, songwriter, and guitar player. I’ve also lead drama programs in two churches. This means I’m very sensitive to rhythm and structure in music, and catch little variances in body language and movement.

In each church I visited, every pastor used the same cadence of speech. The same vocal inflections—this syllable goes up in pitch, that one comes down, that one stays level. The same rocking rhythm with their volume—this word is soft, that one is a bit louder, and THAT one is punched for emphasis. Even their walks were similar! Straight up, shoulders back, chin at a certain angle, and a certain firmness to the handshake—I couldn’t have asked for more consistent performances from a church drama team.

Then I started reading some of the “Christian Living” books that were passed around my daughters’ school, and my friends’ churches. I was shocked at what I learned:

  • I  learned that there are certain types of smiles that God approves of—a “ministry smile,” a “joyful smile,” and an “obedient smile.” I learned that your eyes would “shine” if you seek God’s face, but that your eyes would be “dark” if you were in rebellion against God. (I guess a bad night’s sleep, or a case of pinkeye, is naturally indicative of sin.)
  • Worse, not smiling was seen as drawing attention to yourself, and was regarded as selfish. Romans 12:1-2 was used as a proof-text for this: these dear brothers and sisters thought they were just presenting their bodies as a living sacrifice to God!
  • I learned that everyone had to act under an “umbrella of authority.” The first umbrella was the Pastor, then the Husband, then the wife, then the children. Stepping out of that “umbrella” meant that Satan could rain on you—and was the cause of any trouble in your life.
  • I learned that, as a woman, I should not spend my time reading the Bible or engaging in Women’s ministry groups—my primary role was to be a submissive wife to my husband. His job was to “wash me with the water of the Word.” In other words, I was supposed to get all of my spiritual and Biblical information from him. I was also supposed to believe exactly how he believed. God was not honored through my wasting my family’s time, selfishly studying my Bible on my own. God was honored by me serving my family by making sure the house was clean, and the dishes were done.
  • I learned that, if anyone believed that a person in authority over them was actually sinning, then there were certain steps to “make an appeal.” However, if your appeal was rejected, and you were forced to do something you felt was wrong, it was guaranteed that you would be blessed by God for following your authority anyway. I was reminded that “His yoke is easy, and his burden is light,” implying that it was perfectly reasonable for God to ask this of us, considering what Christ did on the Cross.
  • I learned that any music with drums that contained a certain beat had demons attached to them, and that they would infiltrate the minds of impressionable young people. It didn’t matter what the lyrics said—the beat would override that.
  • Most importantly, I learned that any translation of the Bible other than the King James Version was perverted by lesbians and Satanists. There must not have been any other sinners of any sort in the KJV translation committee—no secret adulterers, liars, thieves, drunkards, child molestors, or even gluttons—because they all came later, with other Bible translations.

This crazy, convoluted set of rules meant that, in these KJV-only churches, 1) no one could question anything that the pastor said or did, 2) everyone’s lives were managed down to the expressions on their faces, and 3) there was no outside source—like THE BIBLE—that anyone could turn to for truth, because everyone in the church literally had the Bible interpreted for them.

It was a very creative trap–worthy of the Father of Lies who concocted it.

Let me state very clearly: this level of deception and control is not the fault of the King James Version of the Bible. The KJV is a translation of God’s word that has been used to great good. I’m not here to argue about the legitimacy, validity, or translation philosophy the KJV. However, Shakespearean English it is no longer the dominant language of the English-speaking world.

The level of deception I saw is the direct (and perhaps unintended) result of only allowing the Bible in a language that common, uneducated people (like the first disciples) can never, ever understand. We as believers need to know why such Biblical illiteracy exists, and determine how to fight it.

In my next post, I’ll share a few simple strategies that my family started using to engage KJV-only believers.

 

 

 

KJV-Only Culture Shock (part 1)

 

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King James Bible, London, England, published by Robert Barker, 1611. Gospel of St John 1 BL C.35.l.11, signature 2I31 Copyright © The British Library Board c/o http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/takingliberties/staritems/444kingjamesbible.html

When my kids started reading, I found a handy chart on Bible translations for each student’s reading level on Christianbook.com. I loved it! From the King James Version (a 12th grade reading level) all the way down to the Contemporary English Version (3rd grade and below), I could now give my kids new Bibles in new translations as their reading improved.

I was surprised then, after we moved to Northern Indiana and enrolled our kids in a small Christian school, that the school required King James Version Bibles for all of their students. Even kindergarteners. I’d grown up in small-town churches, and had never heard of that. We used the NIV.

I thought, “Wow, won’t the kids stumble over all of the ‘Thees’ and ‘Thous’? Isn’t that far above their comprehension level?” However, the teachers did a great job of helping all of the kids understand each verse they were reading. Before long, my girls were quoting twenty or more old-time King James verses from memory, and were doing well academically.

I thought, “Hey, a Bible is a Bible. It’s God’s word, no matter how it’s translated. Besides, I don’t want to cause division over something that’s really not a big deal.”

 

Then, as I left my daughters’ school one day, I saw a bumper sticker on a teacher’s car: “If it ain’t King James, it ain’t Bible!”

They really believe that?

I asked around—yes, they really believed that. “Real Christians” only used the KJV. Every other translation was a perversion.

Without even touching the theology of that statement, there are some nasty consequences to believing this: the average American reads at a ninth grade level. The average American also reads for pleasure at two grade-levels below his proficiency level, so most blockbuster novels are published at the seventh grade level. [Source: http://www.impact-information.com/impactinfo/literacy.htm%5D

This means that the Average American reads five grade levels below the required proficiency level for understanding the King James Version.

This means if you’re not reading Shakespeare for fun, with no editor’s notes, you probably need a different version of the Bible than KJV for daily use!

When a person can read words, yet not comprehend them well enough to truly know how to apply them (say, a car’s instruction manual, or a prescription drug label, or directions on how to apply first aid) it’s referred to as “functional illiteracy.” Roughly 20% of the population of America is considered to be functionally illiterate.

This also means that if the general population of America—reading for pleasure at a seventh grade level—only had the KJV available to them, then more than fifty percent of the country could be considered “functionally illiterate” regarding the Bible!

Remember, this has nothing to do with simply liking the King James Version. This has nothing to do with enjoying the language or prefering the translation. Many KJV-onlyers honestly believe they have no other choice regarding which Bible they’re allowed to use.

How then would any KJV-only brother or sister in Christ know anything about Christian doctrine, the Christian life, or the God they desired to serve?

Easy—they learn from the Pastor, from Sunday School teachers, from easier-to-understand devotional materials, and from books. In other words, they need a mediator to understand Scripture. They need an authority to tell them how to walk with God. And thanks to their “functional illiteracy,” they have no guaranteed way to double-check the teacher’s words with Scripture, to see if this “authority” is speaking the truth or not.

This should kindle a fire in the bones of every Believer in Christ who reads this. The Bible, the Word of God, is unavailable to Christ-followers right in our back yards.

Next time, I’ll go over some of the visible results I saw of KJV-only theology in its adherents, and how their “functional Biblical illiteracy” affected their daily lives.

 

 

 

How Quiverfull Speech Can Crash Airplanes

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The Quiverfull/Patriarchy culture produces plenty of “how-to” books, such as Fascinating Womanhood, and Created to Be His Help Meet, to show women how to be the most “godly” wives and mothers they can be. Since I practically absorbed a ton of these types of books through my skin for the first eight years of our marriage, I noticed one thing they all had in common: they tell us how how to talk to our husbands with “respect,” “honor,” and “deference to his authority.” We learned how to use encouragement, childlike phrases, praise, focusing on the positives, and carefully worded requests to communicate within our marriages.

For example, in the book Fascinating Womanhood , a man is about to make a disastrous financial decision, where he could lose everything. The author encourages the wife to say, “It sounds like a good idea, and I can see why you’re excited about it, but for some reason, deep inside, I just don’t feel right about it.” It’s not that she doesn’t see specific reasons for the financial danger—it’s that saying those reasons outright could hurt what the author calls his “Sensitive Masculine Pride.”

In Created to Be His Help Meet , Debi Pearl states: “It is important for a woman to understand that [a wife] must be feminine (devoid of dominance and control) in order for her man to view her as his exact counterpart, and thus willingly respond to her protectively, with love and gentleness. A woman who criticizes her husband… is expressing dishonor. When the relationship is properly balanced, a wife can make an appeal at the right time and in the right manner, and it need not be a challenge to his authority.” (emphasis mine)

These books promise that if you do speak to him just the right way, he will listen to you.

And if he doesn’t listen to you, it’s the outcome God wanted anyway.

The good news is that this method of communication has already been tested extensively in another context—commercial airlines—and the results were startling: they caused planes to crash.

Malcom Gladwell, in his book Outliers, tells us of “The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes.” Apparently, when investigators analyzed the events leading up to many crashes, using the black box recorders, they found a common thread. More than engine failure, bad weather, pilot exhaustion, or drug use, the most common cause of a plane crash was what the author called “Mitigated Speech” between the Captain and the rest of the flight crew. For example :

“In the 1982 Air Florida crash outside Washington, DC, the first officer tried three times to tell the captain that the plane had a dangerous amount of ice on its wings.

FIRST OFFICER:
Look how the ice is just hanging on his, ah, back, back there, see that?

[Later]
FIRST OFFICER:
See all those icicles on the back there and everything?

[Right before take-off]
FIRST OFFICER:
Let’s check those [wing] tops again, since we’ve been setting here awhile.
The captain says, “I think we get to go here in a minute.”
They don’t de-ice the wings.
The only direct statement this co-pilot made to the captain was as they were crashing into the Potomac River: “Larry, we’re going down, Larry.”

In an analysis of a similar crash, the investigators report was heartbreaking:

“The copilot was right. But they died because… when the copilot asked questions, his implied suggestions were very weak. The captain’s reply was to ignore him totally. Perhaps the copilot did not want to appear rebellious, questioning the judgment of the captain, or he did not want to play the fool because he knew that the pilot had a great deal of experience flying in that area. The copilot should have advocated for his own opinions in a stronger way…” (emphasis mine)

Even worse, when a pilot and flight crew was steeped in a culture that valued honor and hierarchy, such as Korea, then the odds of the plane crashing were astronomically higher. In the case of Korean Air, the planes were seventeen times more likely to crash than a comperable American airline.

Why?

As Gladwell says, “Among Korean Air flight crews, the expectation on layovers used to be that the junior officers would attend to the captain to the point of making him dinner or purchasing him gifts. As one former Korean Air pilot puts it, the sensibility in many of the airline’s cockpits was that ‘the captain is in charge and does what he wants, when he likes, how he likes, and everyone else sits quietly and does nothing.’”

And later: “At a [Korean] dinner table, a lower-ranking person must wait until a higher-ranking person sits down and starts eating, while the reverse does not hold true… in greeting a social superior (though not an inferior) a Korean must bow… All social behavior and actions are conducted in the order of seniority or ranking; as the saying goes, chanmul to wi alay ka issta, there is order even to drinking cold water.”

Sound familiar?

In the realm of the Christian Patriarchy Movement, if a wife disagrees with her husband, or communicates too forcefully, she’s fundamentally dishonoring him. Is it any wonder that marriages, finances, careers, children, and churches crash and burn? No one can tell the Pilot when danger is approaching.

And if the plane crashes…oh well, it must have been God’s will.

There is no scriptural support for this. By contrast, Proverbs 31:11 & 12 says:
11 Her husband can trust her,
and she will greatly enrich his life.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.

If a husband trusts his wife, then a wife telling him the truth without mitigated speech should be viewed as a blessing, not an unfeminine quality that should be squashed.

Also, in Isaiah 33:
“3 When the watchman sees the enemy coming, he sounds the alarm to warn the people. 4 Then if those who hear the alarm refuse to take action, it is their own fault if they die…..6 But if the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm to warn the people, he is responsible for their captivity. They will die in their sins, but I will hold the watchman responsible for their deaths.’” (emphasis mine)

Could you imagine the watchman saying, “Um, I don’t want to bother you, and I know you’re normally prepared, but I saw something that might have been a dust cloud kicked up by an army. If you get a chance, could you come double-check for me?”

My marriage has been crippled and broken several times by my own use of mitigated speech, and by the faulty, unscriptural belief that, “Well, if he doesn’t respond, it must have been God’s will.” I’ve learned that my husband simply can’t read my mind to discern when something is deathly serious, and when something is just a passing concern. I have to speak assertively, passionately, and clearly in order to communicate things like:

“What you said hurt our daughter, and was unfair.”
“We can’t afford that, and do the other things you wanted to do.”
“I’m sick, and I need help.”

According to Gladwell, what turned Korea Air around was a cultural shift that demanded the Pilot and First-Officer see each other as equals. They had to address each other by first name instead of rank, speak English-only at the airline, and work hard to overcome their ingrained cultural belief that the Pilot was always right.  Every single day, they had to work to change destructive habits that had been with them since birth.

Six years later, Korea Air received an award for the most improved safety of any airline.

We can change our own habits too, if we are willing to recognize that the culture we came from is not Biblical, is not helping us reach the goal of a good marriage, and is actually harming us.