The Unfundamental Conversion

Doug Phillips: He’s Priest Over Our Courtship Life, But Fails His Own

October 31st, 2013 | Posted by Lana Hope in Homeschool

Doug Philips, president of Vision Forum, and popular advocate of Christian reconstructionalism, Christian patriarchy, and the stay at home daughter movement,  and who has influenced 1000s of homeschool families to not use birth control or send their daughters to college and keep daughters at home until they marry, cites some kind of emotional affair as reason he is stepping down from Vision Forum.

by Douglas Phillips, Esq., October 30, 2013

With thanksgiving to God for His mercy and love, I have stepped down from the office of president at Vision Forum Ministries and have discontinued my speaking responsibilities.

There has been serious sin in my life for which God has graciously brought me to repentance. I have confessed my sin to my wife and family, my local church, and the board of Vision Forum Ministries.  I engaged in a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman. While we did not “know” each other in a Biblical sense, it was nevertheless inappropriately romantic and affectionate.

There are no words to describe the magnitude of shame I feel, or grief from the injury I caused my beloved bride and children, both of whom have responded to my repentance with what seems a supernatural love and forgiveness. I thought too highly of myself and behaved without proper accountability. I have acted grievously before the Lord, in a destructive manner hypocritical of life messages I hold dear, inappropriate for a leader, abusive of the trust that I was given, and hurtful to family and friends. My church leadership came alongside me with love and admonition, providing counsel, strong direction and accountability. Where I have directly wronged others, I confessed and repented. I am still in the process of trying to seek reconciliation privately with people I have injured, and to be aware of ways in which my own selfishness has hurt family and friends. I am most sensitive to the fact that my actions have dishonored the living God and been shameful to the name of Jesus Christ, my only hope and Savior.

This is a time when my repentance needs to be proven, and I need to lead a quiet life focusing on my family and serving as a foot soldier, not a ministry leader. Though I am broken over my failures, I am grateful to be able to spend more time with my family, nurturing my wife and children and preparing my older sons and daughters for life. So, for these reasons I want to let my friends know that I have stepped down as a board member and as president of Vision Forum Ministries. The Board will be making provision for the management of the ministry during this time. To the friends of this ministry, I ask for your forgiveness, and hope that you will pray for the Phillips family at this time, and for the men who will be responsible for shepherding the work of Vision Forum Ministries in the future.

Doug Phillips

When I read this letter,  I was hurt.

It has triggered so much. I’m the weak sex. I need a man to protect me. Eve ate the fruit first, you know.

I couldn’t date in high school. I was not supposed to go to college because I would lose my virginity. I couldn’t be trusted anywhere. I needed accountability.

I couldn’t speak in church. God couldn’t entrust me like he did men. I remember laying my head up against the “men’s meeting” at church (not his church) as a young adult, hurt because I couldn’t hear from God like them.

I remember so much of Vision Forum, all the catalogues and books and dolls. My sister as a kid entered their film festival, but was told she couldn’t receive the award alone (if she had won), not without our dad by her side.

Yet at the end of the day, what the heck? Mr. Philips has an affair.

It’s not the affair that irrks me. Whatever there. We all get messy. It’s that he said I couldn’t be entrusted to go to college. And he said I couldn’t be entrusted to be pure before marriage if went on dates or to college or whatever. And he said I was underneath the man. And Eve ate the dang apple.

This is what Mr. Philips needs to do.

He needs say look folks, I get it now. I’m messed up human like the rest of us, men aren’t better than women, and assuredly men in Christian leadership aren’t better than a lay woman. In fact, most of you are probably doing better than me.

And then he needs to get out of his daughters way.

Yea, that right there. He needs to say it.

Since I don’t have any citations (grad school papers are killing me right now), you might check out this post on Homeschoolers Anonymous for more on what Mr. Philips has actually said and done.

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  • Here’s hoping that Doug Phillips’ debacle leads to soul-searching in the Christian Patriarchy Movement. Maybe this ugly situation will help people realize that Christian Patriarchy ideology isn’t all its cracked up to be.

    • Lana Hope

      I hope you are right. But as Frank Schaeffer said, people are desperate for a leader. This isn’t just Christians.

    • Lana Hope

      But I agreed with what you said about the irony of a man who preaches the nuclear family to the extreme. Laws don’t work, Mr. Philips.

  • If girls wish to be independent, they need to have the courage of their convictions and leave this kind of patriarchy behind. Just live, and if family members can’t understand your ‘rebellion’, then leave the misogynist faith, and those who wish to continue practicing it on you, behind. I don’t mean to suggest that you must reject them; they catch up with you eventually, in which case you can get reacquainted as the equals you are.

    What Mr. Phillips has to say in the matter is worthless.

    • Lana Hope

      Oh just to be clear, I have a college education, so I did leave. My dad also woke up. But what you have to keep in mind is that girls often do not want to leave because they desire wht their parents taught them. Look at the duggar girls. They probably dont’ want to leave. They want to court, get married, and have kids. They probably won’t change their mind unless they experience something else…and how are they going to get those experiences? so people like Doug PHilips are getting in the way.

    • Warbler

      Saying girls just “need to leave this kind of patriarchy behind” is overgeneralizing and naievely simplistic.
      Its like telling a minimum-wage earner they just “need to work three jobs” and they can afford a better life.

      Brainwashing and isolation are HUGE barriers to thinking and independence, which are seen as criminal acts for women in most patriarchal families. The ones who do get out are lucky OR so low that they are willing to commit “mental sin” because of their extreme depression/self hatred/shame/agony/etc.

      • Lana Hope

        Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Most don’t get out. The deeper the parents are into it, the less likely they are to get otu.

    • I agree with the posters below that this sort of attitude is painfully naive and it minimizes the real struggles of those who have or have attempted to break away from this culture. “If girls wish to be independent…” by simply saying that one phrase, you are ignoring half of the struggle. Girls are raised to fear independence, to see it as a path to hellfire and destruction. They are shamed into thinking that female independence will harm their souls, as well as their family, their communities, and the world at large. And that is generally ALL they are taught, effectively brainwashing them and isolating them or strongly biasing them against all other forms of arguments, using shame and fear. No one wants to be in an abusive situation, but when that is all you have ever known and everything else is painted to you as the boogieman, how are you supposed to even know how great freedom is in order to want it?

      Now, if someone does indeed taste freedom and desire it, “just leave” is a horrific oversimplification. Sometimes these young women were not given a proper education (only taught to be mothers/wives), don’t know how to interact in the real world, are predisposed to seeking out abusive relationships, have no financial backing if they leave their family, may have their personal documents withheld from them, may not have an alternative housing situation besides their families, and may not want to deal with the ENORMOUS emotional toll of leaving just about all of the people they have ever known in their entire lives behind. In addition, controlling families, just like all abusers, have a massive arsenal of emotionally abusive tools with which to try to manipulate their daughters to stay using guilt, fear, emotional withdraw, threats, gossip, demeaning language, and more.

      YES, many girls in patriarchal families would be better off if they were not in patriarchal families. But to expect that all such girls can and should just “bootstrap” their way out of such a situation is simply not realistic. Some of them, sadly, are probably better off where they are because the alternative may be homelessness, further abuse, destitution, suicide, and other horrible consequences. Until we are willing to address the fullness of the situation and possible outcomes, we cannot simply write it off as a problem with an easy solution.

      • I am not naive. I understand the challenges involved and the stacked deck perpetrated against girls.

        The cost to acting on the courage of one’s convictions is not easy or brief and I never intended to trivialize the depth of this problem all of us face to different degrees in a patriarchal society. Each of us must do our part if we desire to be on the side of positive change, but in this regard I find the religious particularly complicit in sustaining and promoting accommodationism and apologetics for misogyny. That’s why I included the necessity of leaving the faith… because this is the premier barrier to eliminating misogyny. When one must face not only friends and family who wish to treat one as unequal but god himself as the oppressor, then the task is made just that much more difficult. Every single person who excuses or makes allowances for misogyny in the name of some religious faith is complicit in augmenting this difficulty.

        Not everyone has the intestinal fortitude and intellectual integrity and emotional maturity to step away, to independently tackle life as it really is, to survive, and even thrive. This takes moral courage and it takes resilience of character to create the change we need. Yes, this can be facilitated by attached caregivers, by a good education, by having allies outside of the dysfunctional constraints so many patriarchal families exercise, and yes, it can be made very difficult by a host of contributing factors, which is why all of us need to criticize loudly and with vigor using social media and the internet patriarchy wherever we encounter it. We need to get this message out: you can leave.

        But just look at what happens when one dares to criticize religious patriarchy! It has been my experience that religious apologists and accommodationists come out of the woodwork to condemn those who criticize a divine misogynist! It is absolutely typical for people who say they would like to get rid of misogyny to be the first to defend it in the name of piety! They also seem to be the loudest and most articulate maligning the characters and moral standing of those who dare to point out the religious roots of misogyny that are being supported. Perhaps some readers here have encountered such marvelously compelling words to describe these folk as ‘militant’, ‘secular’, ‘strident’, ‘angry’ and so on. Talk about a sacred cow! Patriarchy in religion prepares the ground for the unhindered growth of misogynistic practices we see listed in such real life stories, yet who among us has the courage to dare stand against it and condemn those who support it?

        Me… in my supposed naivety.

        • I would never claim that patriarchal values ought not be challenged, whether in religion or elsewhere. I understand by your comment that you did not intend to trivialize the complicating factors involved in escaping a deeply oppressive society. My concern is simply that your initial comment came off as very trivializing. I am glad to hear it clarified.

          The reason I challenged it is that, as a person who had to shake these chains in my life (not the worst, I am certain, but still horribly binding) saying things like “if you don’t like it, just leave” makes me shudder. My own abusers still use this sort of language in defense of their actions: “if it was really that bad, you would have left much earlier or told us to stop.” No, no, no… this sort of language empowers oppressors and tears down victims. For one, I did ask them to stop, but abusers are excellent at playing cat and mouse, giving a little ground and then taking it back and pretending that the conversation was never had, carefully wearing the victim down over and over until they are so used to their boundaries being disrespected that they assume that is as it should be. Secondly, “you can just leave” makes victims feel more weak and helpless in their circumstances. There are ways to address abuse victims in order to best support their escape, but it requires more delicacy than “just leave” based on my personal experiences, anyway.

          I also disagree that women must leave their faith in order to escape abusive systems. There are plenty of facets of different religious traditions that are affirming of equality. Certainly, she should leave the particular tradition that is oppressing her, but abandoning faith altogether may not be the best path for all. For many, faith helps affirm their humanity and restore them, while for others, escaping the faith does the same thing. I eventually left my faith (even though I still believe in god, I suppose) but I would not claim that is best for everyone. Lana here is an excellent example.

          In the end, we’re both on the same team. I just think it’s important that we are careful with our words and listen to each other when we have concerns with the way something is worded. I will, of course, welcome your insights as well, and I hope that I have come off respectfully and not pretentiously. Have a good day!

          • You keep suggesting that I said “just leave.” This not true. I want to correct this misconception. I said “If girls wish to be independent, they need to have the courage of their convictions and leave this kind of patriarchy behind. Nowhere did I suggest flippantly to just leave but went to some length to say the opposite: to be courageous and leave.

    • With what outside experience to know what the real world is like? With what education to get into college, or skills to earn a living? With what outside friends to support them? Even for the ones who do want to get away, it’s not so simple.

      • I never said it was simple; I said it took courage and resilience to make a life one’s own and be responsible for it. Nobody is going to give this to people who are raised in a fundamentalist family; it must be taken.

  • I can understand the difference between leave and just leave. But do you believe leaving faith is a necessity at all? (I was a bit confused, so just clarifying.) I totally think women, men, whoever, need to leave patriarchy, but I don’t see religion as the problem.

    • Freud wrote an interesting little book called Civilization and its Discontents:

      “A special importance attaches to the case in which this attempt to procure a certainty of happiness and a protection against suffering through a delusional remoulding of reality is made by a considerable number of people in common. The religions of mankind must be classed among the mass-delusions of this kind. No one, needless to say, who shares a delusion ever recognizes it as such. […] Religion restricts this play of choice and adaptation, since it imposes equally on everyone its own path to the acquisition of happiness and protection from suffering. Its technique consists in depressing the value of life and distorting the picture of the real world in a delusional manner.”

      And one of the most common distortions is the role of gender where the life giver and sustainer of life becomes cast in the role of temptress, of lasciviousness, of earthly appetites and disobedience, of dependence and shame and dishonor by being a real person. That religious belief in a heavenly father figure begins and ends in misogyny is no surprise given that only women have the god-like power to bring forth new life. Assigning divinity to a harsh male law giver is nothing more than trying to even the playing field in the service of men’s egos. Such a religious structure is as infantile as it is anti-life (aimed towards the supposed next one). That women themselves have bought into this power imbalance and agreed to think of it as pious requires a special kind of delusion that accepts misogyny as a divine idea when reality shows us every day it is the most vile of ideas that de-humanizes half the population based not on any specific character trait but the very body parts necessary to produce life. This is not an accident nor coincidence. It is a deep-seated psychosis of men and it reveals itself (and its central importance to many of the most childish of them) with these misogynistic religions.

      Do I think leaving such a religious faith is a necessity for the emancipation of women from misogyny? Yes. Absolutely yes. And it can only happen one woman at a time who refuses to yield to the kind of fear and anger and sexualization that men worship and see their real power as the necessary people they are without any mewling apology and agreement of these man-made gods.

      • Lana Hope

        But many religions use female deities. And Christians can refer to God as a she if they want.

        • Yes, many relgiious have female deities, but we aren’t talking about those; we are talking about fundamentalist monotheisms.

          Try something for kicks, Lana; put aside (if you can) your christian ‘interpretation’ (a gross abuse of a perfectly good creation myth) and go back and read the Genesis myths about Adam and Eve with the idea of seeing what it says about the ‘relationship’ they must have to grow up, leave their daddy’s garden where they simply exist, and live according to their natures. It may help you begin to understand just how deeply warped religious belief must be to counter human wisdom.

          • As an academic, I focus almost exclusely on the existence of a theistic God verses non-theism. I am well aware at the problems of the portray of God throughout the Bible and in Christianity. That has little to do with whether or not a maximally great being exist and whether that maximally great being is worthy of my worship. I recommend John Hicks. I find it highly unlikely that there was ever a garden that people fell from as he well lays out as a Christian. I also don’t find suffering and evil incompatable with a theism. I’m not going to defend that here today (I can’t defend a life long debate, in which intelligent people on both sides have come to different conclusions, in a few words). so I’ll just disagree today.

          • Lana, I didn’t mean to offer up a contrary opinion or desire any kind of disagreements; I meant to suggest that the kind of mature and responsible and respectful relationship between men and women that you talk about in your post is beautifully laid out in the Genesis creation myth. To find this meaning about the vital importance of relationship (of what I think is deep wisdom as pertinent today as it was millennia ago) in the myth requires us to read it as a myth rather than as fundamental beliefs associated with a particularly dysfunctional religion that uses the and abuses the myth to justify its misogyny.

            When one reads the Genesis myth as a stand-alone myth and interprets the supernatural signposts (including a fatherly god) to be symbols of deeply human themes, it’s like the sun breaks through and we have access to wisdom that can help us find a way today to reclaim our proper gender identities in relationship with others and also accept full responsibility for our how we act in the world in this regard. This myth is a criticism of patriarchy teaches us how to leave it behind, and we have access to this central message if we are somehow able to detach our christian interpretation of it (made thousands of years after it was written, which shows us just how wrong the christian interpretation must be) and read it as if for the first time.

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  • This was exactly my feelings when my father had his affair…same thing, same response. I knew he didn’t mean a word of it, and I was hurt, betrayed, even though I had by that time moved out from the toxic environment, I was still upset that he’d dared to hold me back – I was never forbidden per se to do any of those things, just…strongly discouraged. And then he fails in such a way, unable to keep his own relationship faithful while he’s trying to dictate mine, and I just felt….yeah. It’s hard.

    • Lana Hope

      Yes, exactly! And Doug Philips is the head of the stay at home daughters. A long time ago I remember my sister hearing him say he wouldn’t let his daughters marry someone who looked at pornography. Maybe that story isn’t true. I don’t know. But yea, you can’t gave these strict rules and not keep them yourself.

      • The thing is that I want to be fair, and I know that in his case it is complicated by him feeling that his parents required him to move out before he felt the need to, so he wants to be the opposite and keep everyone at home, but that isn’t healthy either. There’s no one size fits all answer for what growing up looks like. Some will be content to live at home until they marry, will be fine with accepting what they’ve been told and not need any answers, and others will need or want independence, as I did. Especially if you are a person who needs to question and think for yourself, you feel like you can’t stay under the same roof when they expect you to follow their line as long as you are there. So it was suffocating to me, the feeling of not being able to think or question, looked at like I was rebelling just because I felt the need to search things out for myself, and not just take the word of an ‘authority’ – especially when I ended up disagreeing about some things, and I felt like it wasn’t allowed to disagree, that I would always be wrong until I thought exactly the same things in the same way. Living with a constant pressure to conform when you feel like that’s dishonest, and like you aren’t being given truth as an option, and the more hypocrisy or discrepancy you find between what you are told and what they actually do or say, it gets worse. You can’t lay down the law for everyone else and not follow it yourself.

        • Lana Hope

          I actually hate the stigma in our society to make people leave home. It’s not economical. In SE Asia, no one would think a salary should be able to afford you an apartment and car. Either you will live in families or rent a single tiny room (about the size of a laundry room) somewhere.

          I think the difference in DP’s case is 1) what you said. It’s required, and there is no option to leave 2) No college 3) No jobs for girls. 4) The father ruling you. It’s one thing to stay at home; it’s another thing not to have a job or have your father bossing you around.

          • I chose to work, because we couldn’t afford college regardless, and my dad didn’t outright refuse to let us get student loans but made clear that we would be burdening ourselves with debt that we would never get out from under and it would be our problem. I even managed to work a few jobs that I liked, more or less, but I’ve never had a ‘good’ job, one that had holidays off, and even the one I liked most was so high stress that it wasn’t nearly worth the barely above minimum wage I was making. And to be fair, when I got really sick and couldn’t work anymore, my parents let me move back in and they haven’t made me feel like it was my fault, but I still hate being dependent on them when they expect certain things because of it, and I would far rather be sharing a place with a few friends – I like living alone, but having roommates that you get along with is nice, and makes better financial sense for everyone. I do think it’s wrong that it gets stigmatized either way – people should be able to choose what’s right for them, without feeling like they have to stay or have to go if they’re not ready to make that leap. Of course, all of those things would be less problematic if we had a better social safety net – family who maybe hates you wouldn’t be the only thing you had to fall back on. There’s a lot of things broken about our economy, and it’s putting people in bad situations everywhere.

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  • Perhaps this is the best piece I have read on his affair. This is so true. I think you explained exactly why this issue caused so much commenting everywhere.

    It is not gleeful gossip, it is evidence that the system he set up does not work. God would not command us to always obey someone who is no less of a sinner than us – we should follow the spirit, not men.

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