Friday, November 22, 2013

The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith

Source of book: My wife owns this and introduced me to the author

In general, I am not a big fan of genre fiction. However, I do have a weakness for mysteries - particularly those in the British tradition. (I devoured Agatha Christie as a child - following in my mother’s footsteps.) Just this year, I read and reviewed the fourth installment in Alan Bradley’s Flavia series, and A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd. McCall Smith (that is his actual surname - the McCall is not a middle name) is one of those truly eccentric characters that seem to be too odd even for fiction.

He was born in Rhodesia (in an area that is now Zimbabwe), came to Scotland to study law, taught law for a few years while writing short stories and children’s books, returned to Africa to co-found the University of Botswana, returned to Scotland to teach - and become a recognized expert in - medical law, and finally found his present career as a novelist at nearly age 60.

He served for a time on the British Medical Journal Ethics Committee and the Human Genetics Commission for the United Kingdom. During the 1980s and 1990s, he wrote or co-wrote a whole bunch of scholarly books on bioethics and related issues.

Oh, and he plays bassoon and contrabassoo in The Really Terrible Orchestra, a group he helped found. For some reason, his photograph on the book shows him with a tuba. I suspect he may fill in on that if necessary…

Alexander McCall Smith with his more proper instrument, the contrabassoon

The Sunday Philosophy Club is the first in the series of the same name, featuring the middle aged Isabel Dalhousie, independently wealthy editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, which is pretty much what it sounds like. From what my wife has told me, Isabel’s maid, Grace; her niece, Cat; and Cat’s ex-boyfriend Jamie are all recurring characters in the series. Cat has terrible taste in men (having rejected Jamie, of course). Jamie is still in love with Cat, while Isabel is in love with Jamie, but doesn’t realize it.

The book is filled with references to art - particularly Scottish art, music, and philosophy. The good news is the McCall Smith has enough background in these areas to get the details right. (It’s best that those who never listen to classical music refrain from saying anything about Stockhausen, for example.) The author also gets bonus points for introducing me to a (relatively) obscure Scottish composer, Hamish MacCunn. (Mostly unknown in the United States, as far as I can tell.) However, thanks to the magic of the internet, I was able to find clips and information.

I’m not enough of an art expert to be quite as picky as I am about music, but those details I did know, he got right. Philosophy is the big theme in this series, for obvious reasons. I enjoyed Isabel’s mental games as she analysed her options through the lens of philosophy. (And totally sympathized when all her careful ethical plans went out the window in the heat of the moment. Never done that before…)

The plot itself isn’t anything particularly striking, but it works. The characters are the interesting part, and their personalities drive the plot.

The best lines are the little observations in the mind of Isabel, as the story is told from her point of view (third person subjective, for those who care). Here is a good one regarding a particular article submitted to the journal:

It appeared to be written in English, but it was a variety of English which Isabel felt occurred only in certain corners of academia, where faux-weightiness was a virtue.

I also found her musing on the connection between manners - those deeper than the surface - and virtue to be interesting, although not universally true.

Good manners depended on paying moral attention to others; it required one to treat them with complete moral seriousness, to understand their feelings and their needs. Some people, the selfish, showed no inclination to do this, and it always showed. They were impatient with those whom they thought did not count: the old, the inarticulate, the disadvantaged. The person with good manners, however, would always listen to such people and treat them with respect.

Definitely food for thought. When compassion becomes condescending, it is usually because of this failing.

On a related note, this line:

The world, it seemed, was based on lies and half-truths of one sort or another, and one of the tasks of morality was to help us negotiate our way round these.

I’ve mentioned in the past that we tend to want to impose narratives on history to give us a sense that everything makes sense, and can be fully explained and understood. Often these narratives contain a good deal of falsehood - and all contain incomplete truth. When we let those falsehoods and half truths become more important than our basic morality, when we let our necessarily imperfect understanding of the world lead us to cause harm to others, we have done wrong, even when we have a political or religious philosophy to back us up. (The theological justification for the institution of slavery comes to mind, but there are plenty of modern examples too. One could turn on C-SPAN and listen to either party and come up with a hundred examples.)

I wasn’t really expecting to get off into that in a review of a relatively light book, but I did find myself thinking in that direction. Isabel has to negotiate some tricky dilemmas - such as how much she should involve herself in what may have been a murder - and the author intentionally avoids the easy cases. In that respect, I see some commonalities with G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories. (I don’t think anyone has bested Chesterton, though. His are still the best for their psychological penetration, in my opinion.)

Note on The Really Terrible Orchestra:

The Orchestra makes an appearance in this book, and it was a pleasant surprise to find that it actually had that name in real life too.

McCall Smith wanted to play in a group that was like a school orchestra, where everyone played for fun, not as a career, and marginal musicians were welcome. Since such an orchestra did not exist in Scotland, he founded one. The orchestra has a website, which is worth a visit.  There are some fun clips and interviews and such. McCall Smith is featured prominently, of course. Always leverage celebrity power. The orchestra is truly terrible, and fulfills its goal marvelously.

One thing that was pretty clear to me after reading McCall Smith’s account of its founding was that Scotland is vastly different from the United States. We have a longstanding community orchestra tradition, and such groups exist in most reasonably large communities throughout the country. Some of these are in the spirit of the Really Terrible Orchestra, while others are of higher musical quality, but all have the goal of allowing those who do not wish to pursue music as a profession to make music anyway. In addition, our junior college system encourages older and “enrichment” students to participate in their music programs. I know a number of players who lack the chops to go the professional route who nonetheless have great enthusiasm who have found places to play.

Even the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, while it is a professional organization, employs primarily those who have other “day jobs,” as it is a very part-time gig.

So, I certainly appreciate the thought behind the Really Terrible Orchestra, and am thankful that the tradition of community music remains in my own country.

Note on Hamish MacCunn:

Here is his best known work. Pleasant enough, but not in the class of the very best, which is probably why it is primarily played in the United Kingdom.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar by Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein

Source of book: Borrowed from my friend and longtime stand partner Donna.

“Understanding philosophy through jokes” is the subtitle of this book. Philosophy fascinates me for a number of reasons. Obviously, to anyone who reads my blog, I love pondering the big questions of life. I also find it fascinating that we still tend to fall in line with either Plato or Aristotle on so many questions. Well over 2000 years, and a myriad of changes in science, technology, sociology, and revolutions in our politics and economics, and we still are dominated by questions from bygone eras.

This book is a lighthearted take on the topic. Not shallow, but light. The authors’ main premise is that jokes are inherently philosophy. As they put it:

The construction and payoff of jokes and the construction and payoff of philosophical constructs are made out of the same stuff. They tease the mind in similar ways. That’s because philosophy and jokes proceed from the same impulse: to confound our sense of the way things are, to flip our worlds upside down, and to ferret out hidden, often uncomfortable truths about life. What the philosopher calls an insight, the gagster calls a zinger.

There are some rather funny jokes in this book. Which really do illustrate the concepts in a memorable way. If one is looking for an easy and painless way to approach philosophy, this isn’t a bad way to start. However, I would add that it is even better with a background in philosophy. (But one shouldn’t be too pedantic about it - this book is more about the fun than a truly rigorous and exhaustive approach to the topic.)

Several years back, I read through Socrates to Sartre: History of Philosophy by Samuel Enoch Stumpf, a venerable textbook still in print (in a later edition than I read). This book should not be confused with the book with a similar title by T. Z. Lavine, which I have not read. I highly recommend the Stumpf book for its systematic and sequential overview of the subject. I found it helpful to look at each succeeding philosopher as (in part) a reaction against what went before.

I’ll share just a few of the fun jokes as a teaser.

The book notes that the “Golden Rule,” which in Christ’s words is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is found throughout history and the world in different forms. After listing the different iterations from different religious and philosophical traditions, the authors include one more:

SOPRANOISM (Twenty-first Century A. D.)

Whack the next guy with the same respect you’d like to be whacked with, you know?

Or this law related gem, which seems particularly apropos after a couple weeks of court in which various litigants have said peculiar things to the judge. (The philosophical point the purpose of laws and penalties, and the fitting of a penalty to the crime.)

A man waits all day in traffic court for his case to be heard. At long last it’s his turn to stand before the judge, but the judge only tells him that he will have to come back tomorrow, as court is being adjourned for the day. In exasperation, the man snaps, “What the hell for?”
The judge snaps back, “Twenty dollars for contempt of court!”
The man pulls out his wallet.
The judge says, “You don’t have to pay today.”
The man says, “I’m just checking to see if I have enough for two more words.”

The jokes are not the entire attraction either. The authors themselves are pretty witty with their succinct introductions to the various topics of philosophy. My favorite, naturally, concerns law and society.

Social and political philosophy examines issues of justice in society. Why do we need governments? How should goods be distributed? How can we establish a fair social system? These questions used to be settled by the stronger guy hitting the weaker guy over the head with a bone, but after centuries of social and political philosophy, society has come to see that missiles are much more effective.

So yes, this is a fun book. I recommend it, but also recommend a good background in philosophy as it will shed light on the great debates of history and our present time.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Douglas Phillips' Affair, and Why I Believe the Details Matter

First, a few preliminary things:

1. If you are asking, “Doug who?” see my note at the end.
2. If you are asking, “Why do you even care about this?” see the next note at the end.
3. If you are going to say, “Why are you being so nasty to a fallen leader?” or any of the usual Christian platitudes, see my note at the end, and don’t even bother commenting. Just don’t.
4. I want to give a shout out to my friend Sara, for some great ideas, my wife, Amanda, for her usual insight, and my friend Jon, for pushing me to write something.
5. I use “unprintable” language in this post where I believe it is appropriate. It’s my blog. If that bothers you, go watch Hallmark Channel or something. A big part of the problem with Phillips’ statement is that he uses a cute euphemism to avoid telling the truth about what he did. I’m going to call bullshit, bullshit. And I will use clinical names for body parts when appropriate. Got it?

I suspect most of my readers hadn’t heard of this, and may well not care. Which is fine, and definitely a good thing. It will do my heart good to think that many have no idea who Douglas Phillips is and why he matters. For those of us who grew up in the homeschool movement, and spent at least a little time in the Christian Patriarchy Movement, this is significant news.

So here is the quick summary. Doug Phillips, the founder and leader of Vision Forum, the foremost organization (arguably) of the Christian Patriarchy Movement, has resigned as official leader due to a “lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman.” Here is the official announcement on his blog, which contains the usual weasel words and so forth. (See Clinton, Bill, for how this works.)

I am not the least bit surprised by this.

And not only that, my many friends who have been part of the Christian Patriarchy movement and have left it concur on one thing: Not one of us is surprised that this has happened.

(The closest I have come is a friend of a friend who expected Doug’s “relationship” to have been with a man.)

First, a bit of background.

First, Douglas Phillips has three major claims to fame, all of which are related to a certain view of gender.

The first, as I partially discussed in my post on his connections to White Supremacy, is his belief that there is a single explanation for modern evils. Let me state this clearly, because I think it tends to be lost in all the static.

The foundation, the CORE of the Vision Forum doctrine is that “Feminism™” is THE cause of all modern evils.

That is, that the big error of our age, the big cause of all that ails us, is that women do not know their place. What is their place? In the home, and under complete subjection to me in every time, place, aspect of life, etc.

Don’t believe me? Read it from Douglas Phillips himself. Here are the “Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy.” 

Note, women are created to serve men. Men are the glory of God, while women are the glory of...wait for it...MEN. The entire created purpose of women is to serve MEN.

Out of this everything else flows. The cause of all our modern ills is that we have rejected “God’s purpose for women.”

So, the teaching of Vision Forum runs thus: We have forgotten that women belong in the home, doing housework and raising (large numbers) of children and, most importantly, obeying men in everything. After all, God speaks only to men, not women, and if women would just serve their men, everything would be great. So, we should teach our daughters to first, serve their fathers, until such time as their fathers find husbands for them, and then they should serve their husbands.

And it’s not just about who serves whom. Phillips (and others of the Patriarchy movement) teach that women are inherently easier to deceive, and thus must never be allowed to be in a position of authority. Of any sort. Instead, a woman must always be under the authority of a man. Her father, until she marries. Her husband after that. If she is widowed, she would be under the authority of her eldest son, or oldest close relative. Never ever can she be in charge of her own life.

(It cracks me up to see the gymnastic mental contortions patriarchists must undergo to try to make the claim that they view men and women as equal. Equal but “different.” Because when you say someone is much more likely to be deceived and cannot make their own decisions, you are totally viewing them as equal. Sure.)

I am not kidding about this. The vision is expressly one of re-creation of a past era - that of the Ancient Near East as Phillips envisions it. (From my admittedly limited knowledge of ancient culture, Phillips ideas sound, if anything, even more restrictive than that which existed in those times he wishes to re-create.)

Read the “tenets.” Google “stay at home daughters,” purity balls,” multigenerational faithfulness.”   It is the goal of control by the eldest male in the family. Particularly control of women.

Without this view of the subordination of women, Vision Forum doesn’t exist.

The second “claim to fame” of Vision Forum and Doug Phillips is his contribution (along with Bill Gothard and a few others) to what many of us call “modesty culture.” This is an inseparable facet of the general view of women, and runs thus:

“Women’s bodies inherently cause men to sin. Thus, they must be covered in a way that prevents men from feeling sexual desire.” I am not going to delve into this issue fully in this post other than to say that it is a restatement of rape culture, because I have been working on an extended post about this issue for the last several months. Stay tuned…

The third concept is that of “courtship.” I mentioned this in another post on my wife’s experiences, but it bear a bit of explanation. A woman cannot go out into the world to find a spouse. Rather, a young man approaches her father and asks to court her. If the father approves, then the daughter has - at best - veto power. However, she can only consider the man or men that her father considers acceptable. This may be a very difficult bar to meet. James McDonald - another figure in the Patriarchy movement - has this questionnaire for any prospects.  It makes me laugh (in a dark way) whenever I read the statement, “most of these questions do not have right or wrong answers.” Actually, most of them most certainly DO have right and wrong answers. Only a man who concurs with the father’s theological and political beliefs in excruciating detail can get in the door. And this questionnaire also clearly communicates to the young man that his potential future inlaws will be controlling his life. A man like me would, upon receiving something like this, tell the girl plainly that either she eloped and said, “screw off” to her parents, or we had no future.

These three ideas are inseparable, and also are vitally important to understanding the recent news. The common thread in all of them is a view of women as inherently dangerous and therefore in need of complete control.

I will come out and say it at the outset. I believe Douglas Phillips’ teachings are vile. Evil. Completely contrary to the actions and teachings of Christ. It causes me great pain that they have become mainstream within conservative Christianity. (See note below for a quick and dirty explanation.)

Until you have been a part of this movement, you may have no idea how this view of women can be sold in our modern era. Who would volunteer for a return to the idea that women are essentially the property of males?

One word.


Fear of what?


Plain and simple. I will give a bit of a tip-of-the-old-hat to my father-in-law, who explained some of his rationale behind removing his family from the company of average, normal people into a group heavily influenced by Phillips’ ideas.

After I posted my research on the White Supremacy link, my father-in-law explained that he made the decision after the 14-year-old son of a respectable friend and colleague got a girl pregnant, and thus rather ruined his prospects.

And, this is not the least bit unusual. I believe that there is a fear - nay, call it a TERROR of the idea of their kids having sex outside of wedlock, that led - and leads - many Christian parents to embrace ideas espoused by Douglas Phillips and others. Yep, God forbid their innocent virgin daughters might consider having sex. I also do not think that it is a coincidence that both my family and my wife’s family got into the Patriarchy movements right at the time that the oldest daughter hit puberty.

Want another? A fellow patriarchist (who regularly speaks with Phillips, and has defended him regarding this affair), Kevin Swanson (no relation, thank God) has said, repeatedly, that if you send your daughter to college, she will have “two abortions” and sell her body cheaply.


If you don’t lock your daughters up, keep them covered in layers of clothing, and above all, keep them from thinking they are equal to men, THEY WILL HAVE SEX!


I do not use the term “terror” lightly at all. Concern may cause us to slow down and consider carefully. Fear can lead to decisions that are logical in the moment, but may not be wise in the long term.

Terror causes us to do things that, by any objective measure, are bat-shit crazy and freaking insane.

Um, things like teaching our daughters that the only possible future they have is marriage and babies and serving men. Preventing our daughters from getting an education. Making them dress like wealthy females from the Antebellum South. Completely segregating young men and women. Insisting that they get to know each other only after committing to marriage. (See my post on this facet here.) 

I should also mention the related promise that Vision Forum, Gothard, and - let’s be honest - most of the conservative homeschooling movement makes: if you just do things our way, your children will be religious and political clones of yourself.

[Disclaimer: neither my parents nor my wife’s parents actually believed this - and indeed made sure their daughters were educated - but they affiliated themselves with groups that did believe and teach these things.]

Theologically speaking, Phillips also teaches that God speaks to people through authority structures. He speaks to the father rather than to the wife or children. (This is also the basis of Douglas Wilson’s “Federal Vision” philosophy and Bill Gothard’s teaching on “Authority.”) If you (as a woman) want to know what God’s will is for you, go ask your husband or your father. Because a woman’s one purpose on earth is to assist the man in fulfilling his vision. Women are not entitled to have one of their own.

So, let’s talk about the Vision Forum promise.

This promise wasn’t always explicit, as in the case with Kevin Swanson, but it was definitely implicit at all times.

If we would just go back to the “Biblical™” view of women. If women would just know their place as servants of males. If women would just dress the right way, so that men would not be driven to lust, then we could avoid all the sexual problems of our modern age.

That high percentage of out-of-wedlock births? Women aren’t dependent enough on men. The high divorce rate? Nope, it has nothing to do with domestic violence.  It’s because women are not sufficiently submissive to men. Homosexuality? The result of women and men not adhering to rigid roles and stereotypes. (Insert problem: solution is women obeying men)

I wish I could say I am oversimplifying, but I fear I am not. The entire foundation of the Vision Forum idea is a hierarchy of males over females. Again, read the Tenets of Patriarchy. The whole point is the rule of men over women.

It’s all about POWER.

The error of the modern age - according to Phillips - is that we have rejected the idea that men should and must have complete and absolute power over women. All problems with our society are caused by women having power. Read the “Tenets!”

Thought experiment: remove “God” and “Jesus” and the scriptural references and replace them with, say, “Allah” and “Mohammed.” Or “Domestic Codes” and “Aristotle.” Or the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” and “Richard Dawkins” (a notorious misogynist, BTW), would anything really change? Or maybe the “Tenets of Patriarchy” would look very much the same, because the heart of the matter is a view of women as inherently inferior and subservient to men.

And let me be completely clear. This idea is sold to parents as a panacea to prevent their little darlings from having sex. If we could just keep women in their place. If we could just get them to cover their bodies completely. If we could just keep them separated from the opposite sex enough, then the wouldn’t want to have sex with each other, and we could get them to the marriage altar as virgins and God would be happy with us.

We can conquer sexual desire and make it completely subject to our moral preferences if we can just protect men from women’s minds, women’s wills, and women’s bodies.

This was and is the promise. This is what drives the hundreds of thousands of dollars into this organization. This is what has captured the heart of the homeschool movement. This is the terror that drives a certain view of women and has led to Douglas Phillips as being arguably the biggest name in Twenty-first Century homeschooling.

Why does this matter?

Phillips’ view of women is, in my opinion, VITAL to the understanding of this affair.

True, powerful men everywhere and at all times in history have had mistresses. Phillips himself acknowledges that power without “accountability,” whatever the heck that means, was a cause. (see note) He wouldn’t be the first to abuse a little power and take a mistress on the side...

Phillips misses the boat in referring to “accountability,” but he is right about the problem with “power.” POWER IS THE PROBLEM, but not in the way he means the term.

Although there is a problem with the fact that he rules a church and doesn’t answer to anyone because he is rich and powerful because of the way his name is revered in homeschool circles, that is the least of the problems.

The problem is that his entire philosophy depends on the power of men over women. Thus, he would never - in the philosophy that made him rich - answer to women. Not his wife. Not his mistress. Not the tens of thousands of women he had damaged through his teaching.

Again, it isn’t unusual for men with political or other power to take a mistress on the side.

But here is the thing.

Phillips didn’t just, say, get elected to office. He didn’t conquer Cleveland or anything. He didn’t get a television show about politics.

He built an empire and became wealthy promising that his way would save us all from the threat of sex out of wedlock.

Again, I want to make this clear. He sold our parents generation - and others - on the idea, the VISION, if you will, of a "Biblical™" world free from all of the sexual problems of “modern” life.

And yet, despite all the havoc he wreaked with the lives of females (and males for that matter) throughout the home school movement, he was vulnerable to a “lengthy, inappropriate” relationship with another woman.

Why might that possibly be?

I am NOT surprised by the affair, but I am a slight bit surprised at how it was handled, although I probably shouldn’t have been.

Let me explain.

The whole point (according to Phillips and his mentor Rousas Rushdoony) of the Old Testament is to give us detailed template of how we should live our lives, and how we should order our laws and society. Thus, the perfect example of “BiblicalTM” marriage and government and society is the Patriarchs. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Hence “Patriarchy.” (Don’t believe me? Poke around on Vision Forum’s site. It’s easy to find references to this concept.)

But, maybe we might actually look at how the “Patriarchs” lived, and see how they might apply to Phillips’ conundrum. We might see the natural - indeed inevitable result - of a societally enforced power differential between men and women.

It turns out, with the exception of Isaac, who was a bit of a henpecked wuss (honestly speaking), the patriarchs were all about the “other woman.”

I wrote previously about the view of women in tribal near-eastern cultures [insert link], which owes at least as much to the code of Hammurabi as to any Old Testament sources. Women were property. This basic understanding makes much of the ancient world make more sense. Most of us obviously tend to disagree with that basic premise these days, but we can gain a greater understanding of the ancients’ thought processes by looking at gender relations through their lens.

So, um, the “patriarchs” seemed to find their penises inside other women in a variety of situations. If we are interested in taking their lives as examples, well, then Phillips may not have had to apologize.

[If I haven’t already mentioned him in other posts, I should give a shout-out to my pastor, Jeff, who has a great sense of humor, doesn’t think he knows it all, and who tries to give the various points of view. If you want, listen to his sermon on “Family Traditions” for more on the tabloid version of Jacob’s sex life.]

But first, let me digress a little.

Robert Louis Dabney and his influence on Phillips

I wrote at length about R. L. Dabney and his connection to Douglas Phillips in the context of racism. However, I basically glossed over Dabney’s influence on Phillips in the context of gender.

Let me give a quick history. Dabney was the chaplain for Stonewall Jackson, the Confederate general in the Civil War. After the war, Dabney wrote a bunch of influential books. On the issue of slavery, he wrote A Defense of Virginia which basically defended the institution of slavery and Black inferiority.

He also wrote numerous pamphlets on the (somewhat related) issue of “first wave” feminism. That is, women’s suffrage. The right of women to vote. To participate in the political process. The right of women to be equal as humans, not just servants and subordinates of men.

For the purposes of this post, I am going to leave aside the racial issues. I dealt with them in more detail in my post on White Supremacy.

I want to note Dabney’s views on women and his influence on Phillips.

Dabney “predicted” that giving women the right to vote would lead to the destruction of the family, the decline of society, and the breakdown of sexual morals.

(Um, he also predicted that the end of slavery would lead to these things, but, um, never mind, um, [cough] um, make slur about “welfare queens in Cadillacs” um [cough, cough.])

I do not want there to be any mistake here.

Phillips WORSHIPPED the ideas of Dabney. Want proof?

Proof number one:

This is Phillips’ poetic ode to Dabney.

We must remember Thornwell, Palmer, Girardeau —
All Southern men who preached with power, unity, and flow;
But when it comes to logic pure there’s one that tops our list:
Hail Dabney, prophet of the South, our great apologist.

Geneva had its Calvin, Rome its Augustine,
England had is Cromwell to fight the libertine;
But in our land there was but one who dared to turn the tide
Of reconstructionistic zeal and yankeedom’s foul pride.

The feminist, the plutocrat, the wiley carpetbagger,
The Darwinist, the bureaucrat, and transcendental braggart;
The scalawag, the suffragette, the surly Statist simp
Were by your pen defrocked, exposed, and wounded, left to limp.

The solomonic wisdom from your pugilistic pen
Has rendered impotent the creeds of far less noble men;
And with a keen, perceptive flair that exceeds Nostradamus,
Your prophesies have proven wrong each foolish doubting Thomas.

You make us leave our comfort zone and re-engage the battle,
Content no more to tolerate the sophomoric prattle
Of Socialists, Republicrats, and those who compromise;
No longer may we coddle them or listen to their lies.

And so with joy we doff our hats and shout from every mouth:
Hail Dabney, wise apologist, defender of the South!

Hmm. Better prophet than Notradamus. Mentioned in the same context as Calvin and Saint Augustine. The amazing Dabney! He showed us the error of these terrible persons! And predicted the demise of morals if we let them prevail.

Who might they be?

Um, cough, cough…

Abolitionists! (Gasp!)

Yankees! (Gasp!)

Um. Cough. Cough. Cough.


Wait. Suffragettes? Meaning women who thought that (gasp) women should have the right to vote? Really?

Yes indeed.

Okay, so Phillips got a bit carried away in poetry. Forgive the guy a poem.

(Leaving aside for a minute that the whole CONCEPT on which his empire is built is the rule of men over women.)

Um. He wrote a whole freaking BOOK about how Dabney was a prophet and all. It’s called Robert Lewis Dabney: The Prophet Speaks. You can buy it on Amazon!

And guess what the causes of those evils were? Abolition of slavery and political equality for women.

Yep, all our cultural ills were predicted by a Confederate defender of the institution of slavery 150 years ago!

(I am going to gloss over Phillips close personal relationship with notorious racist Rousas Rushdooony and the other racial elements of his philosophy. Read about them on my other post if you want.)

Okay, so what does this have to do with Phillips’ affair?

This is why I believe that we should need to know more about the circumstances.

Whatever you think of the affairs of, say, John F. Kennedy or Bill Clinton; or, if you are true political junkie, those of Warren Harding; (Okay, wait, Phillips' buddy - and architect of the 200 year plan - Geoff Botkin actually defended Harding? Arguably the most corrupt American president of all time?) they were merely politicians who had affairs.

Their whole philosophy wasn’t based on men having absolute power over women or a promise of freedom from sexual disfunction.

They never promised that they knew the secret that would prevent our children from having sex.

They never claimed that our modern sexual dysfunction was due to women not knowing their place.

They were just powerful men who slept around. The story old as time.

Why I believe we need to know more about this affair.

Let’s start with this. I am a lawyer. If there is one thing we learn through our training and our experience with real situations, it is how to detect bullshit. And believe me, there is a bunch of bullshit in Phillips’ “confession.”

First, let me give some credit to a friend of a friend for mentioning Susan Wise Bauer’s book, The Art of the Public Grovel.

Seriously. Phillips’s “confession” hits all the elements. (Brilliant argument about why Bill Clinton survived, but Jim Bakker didn’t.) This confession is, let me say bluntly, politically motivated and morally bankrupt bullshit. He wants this to blow over, and has utterly failed to analyze how his own philosophy has contributed to his fall. (I also suspect that there is WAY more to this story than we know now. I’d bet even money this isn’t his only affair. Even money that financial shenanigans will eventually come out too.)

So, he is trying to control the damage. Yes indeed. And he wants everything to go away with a resignation from the public role, but hopes that the details will remain private.

So I am going to “go there.”

Douglas Phillips, I want to know who the other woman is, and how she fits with your view of women.

Because, frankly, I am a bit surprised that things went down the way they did, and I am going to call “bullshit” on your public “confession.”

Here is what I think as a lawyer:

You admitted to a “lengthy” relationship with this woman. You know what? I’m not a betting man, but I would be willing to put some money down on this: You didn’t choose the timing of this revelation.

I do not believe that you had some revelation that your behavior was wrong. Sure, you probably knew it was wrong from the start. But you didn’t just wake up one day and feel the need to confess.

I’m not stupid. Okay? I’ll bet some real money that she threatened to out you, and you decided to try to control the public narrative. Something went wrong, and she threatened you. Or maybe her parents threatened you.

Otherwise, why resign? Why cancel all your lucrative speaking engagements? Your conscience didn’t bother you during this “lengthy” affair, right? And it wasn’t physical, right?

And really, how long was this? A few years? Since your days with HSLDA? (See note.) How many years did you speak as “keynote speaker” at the various homeschool conferences while canoodling with this woman?

You know, I would bet it’s been a bunch. Probably lots of years talking about how “Godliness™” requires that women never have dreams of their own while you were getting your rocks off with her. Want to bet some real money?

Second instance of lawyer “bullshit alarm”:

I actually admire how you used the description “While we did not “know” each other in a Biblical sense…” Do you know who that sounds like? Hmm, let me guess… Maybe Bill “I did not have sex with that woman” Clinton?

This again sounds like damage control. (And please, dear God, let it not involve cigars this time.) Maybe even brilliant damage control.

You know what, Doug, I am guessing that, according to the dictionary and the common sense definition of of “sex,” you had sex with her, whoever she is.

Just say it. “I had sex with that woman.” Own it. And explain it. Maybe you did something that fell short of a penis in a vagina, but at least one of you got off. OWN IT.

Douglas Phillips’ explanation matters.

Because his view of women and their relation to men colors this affair. He may wish to avoid it, but it completely colors this affair.

Let me again give credit to my friend Sara for an insightful comment. In Doug Phillips worldview, there is no such thing as a woman that is equal to a man. (Sara actually had personal experiences with Phillips, by the way. So she has seen how he views women in person. I’ll also note my wife’s personal experiences with Jonathan Lindvall's home church, philosophically and theologically nearly identical to Vision Forum; and my own experiences within the Patriarchy movement with their utter disregard of what women have to contribute.)

So how was this “other woman” related to Phillips?

It matters.

Was there a power differential?

It matters.

Let’s go with some possibilities. I love playing “devil’s advocate.” I am, after all, a lawyer.

#1: The “Other Woman” is a younger girl.

My first response on hearing the news was that Phillips shouldn’t have resigned.

He should have just married the “other woman” as his second wife.


If you are really going to adopt the “patriarchs” as your life examples, why not just take the other woman as your second wife? Seriously. Abraham had no qualms about having sex with Hagar. Didn’t get your first choice? Jacob took a couple of sisters. Um, and their servants/slaves. Why not? Jacob got laid after all, so why would he protest? And, after all, was culturally acceptable in those days!

So, Doug, if you really think that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are your perfect examples, why not? It’s in the Bible, for crying out loud!

(I’ll give another hat tip to my friend Karen, who has a great blog at for our mutual speculation that Christian Patriarchy will eventually embrace polygamy.)

It would not surprise me at all if the “other woman” in this case is a younger female. The whole philosophy infantilizes women, so Phillips may well have been attracted to a young woman who gave him that unjaded admiration and awe that he claims a woman should give to a man. Someone his own age might see through the bullshit and see him as he is. (Like my own wife. She doesn’t have illusions that I am god-like or anything. Which is why it is so thrilling that she loves me anyway.)

So, I would not be surprised if Phillips fell for a younger woman that better matched his fantasy of the ideal female than his own wife.

I’ll also note that Phillips employs at least two young women as nannies for his large family. It strikes me as highly likely that a young woman enmeshed in the “God speaks only to men, and it is women’s job to serve them” worldview would be uniquely vulnerable to pressure from a venerated older man.

That isn’t the only scenario that is possible. However, if this is the case, Phillips ought to ‘fess up and admit this flaw in his system.

Did power differential contribute to your affair?

And, let it be said: Doug, if you started this affair when she was a minor, may you get the jail term you deserve. ‘Fess up like a man.

#2: The “other woman” was his employee.

Although I do not have personal knowledge of this, I am “informed and believe and therefore allege” that the Phillips family has had a long term, live-in “servant” of the female variety. Um, a minority female servant. Again, using the usual legal language, I have been informed that said female servant has worked for them for years essentially for room and board. Could this be because she was your long term mistress, Doug?

I am going to take a leap of my own, and note that this sounds suspiciously like the role Dabney might have ascribed to a favorite family slave. (I think it is completely fair to note Phillips sale and advocacy for the Elsie Dinsmore books which were thoroughly rooted in a racist and slave oriented worldview. As in, African American children would become white when they got to heaven. That racist. So, yes, I think it is entirely fair to wonder.)

One of the young nannies would also qualify here.

So Doug? Did you take a servant or employee as your mistress? I think we need to know.

Because if she was, your worldview says that she is legitimately your concubine. (See Jacob and Bilhah and Zilpah.) So go ahead and have sex with her. Her children will belong to your wife.

Yes. Who is this “other woman”? It matters, Doug.

And your personal friendship and philosophical relationship with Rousas Rushdoony matter too, Doug. Your philosophical brother Douglas Wilson (and fellow proponent of the ideas of Rushdoony and Dabney) has made the outrageous claim that it was rare for masters to rape their slaves. So why do the vast majority of those African Americans descended from slaves show “white” ancestry in their DNA? Maybe because using the bodies of one’s “property” for sexual gratification was more the rule than the exception? Again, a societally enforced power differential is a prime cause of this. Did your belief that men should always have power over women contribute to this?

Doug, did you take advantage of your servant? Is she your Sally Hemings? This was a common occurrence in the Antebellum South, which your “prophet” Dabney idolized.

I also believe it is good to talk about the problem in Christian Patriarchy of “emotional incest.” I am not the only one who has been appalled by Doug’s friend Voddie Baucham and his claim that, and I quote, “A lot of men are leaving their wives for younger women because they yearn for attention from younger women. And God gave them a daughter who can give them that.”

WHAT? (I didn’t write exactly what I said out loud. Use your imagination.)


And, let me say, both my wife and I have observed this sort of thing. The official “wife” must obey and admire and so on. So the attention of a younger woman is sought.

Again, this is a feature, not a bug, of the power differential.

Tell us what really happened.

Scenario #3: You had an affair with an “equal.”

I know this doesn’t fit with your worldview, Doug, but let me raise a truly terrifying idea. What if you you had sex with a woman who didn’t think you were superior?

What if you did it with a woman who completely contradicted your worldview?

What if you became passionately involved with a woman who didn’t believe that men were created to be superior and to rule over men?

I sympathise!

I married a woman who thinks of me as an equal. She knows that I am human, and that God doesn’t speak to me to tell her what to do, and that I really don’t have any innate superiority. And, you know what? She loves me anyway! It is a huge turn on for me - and I imagine it might be a turn on for you too!

I can imagine that after all these years of teaching that the wife should always respect, obey, and support the husband, merely because he has a penis and therefore is God’s “leader” that you might find your wife’s love to be a representation of mere duty and “Godliness™.” I really do sympathise! I understand how great it is to have a woman who can see your flaws, and not think first of what her duty to “God” and “Patriarchy” is. I know how nice it is to have a woman who doesn’t just, as the doggerel verse goes, “Close her eyes, and think of England.” To have a woman who, some nights, just wants to jump your bones.

And, you know what, Doug? Your wife at one time may very have been that! And you probably have no idea, because you have spent your life and made your fortune selling the idea of the obedient wife who obeys you because “God” tells her too.

As Fleetwood Mac sang, “Rulers make bad lovers. You’d better put your kingdom up for sale.”

Maybe you were drawn to someone who admired you naturally and without guile. Because many of us find that far better than “love” given from a sense of duty. Was that the case with you?

You know what, Doug? Just admit it!

If your philosophy is a failure, just admit it!

Yes, it will cost you your fortune and your empire. But are you really just all about money and power? (Um, I suspect so, actually.)  If your philosophy made you fall out of love with the wife of your youth, maybe it is time to re-evaluate?

(I am going to note here that there are two possible scenarios here. It is possible that Phillips’ wife is impossibly frigid, or difficult to life with. It’s possible.  But from what I have heard of her from people who have met her, she is likely the sort of woman that I might find fun to be around. So, maybe, just maybe, it isn’t her fault as much as the fault of the philosophy. Just saying…)

Scenario #4: Maybe it is just one of those things.

You know, people in this modern world just fall out of love. I know that there has been an emphasis in conservative Christianity for the past couple of centuries on love being a “decision” rather than a “feeling.” Fair enough. But maybe your “decision” wasn’t worth crap without the “feeling.” Admit it!  If, in fact, despite all the stuff you have taught all these years at homeschool conferences, all the millions of dollars you have made over the years, all the times you have said, “Thus saith the Lord!”  you found that it really didn’t matter when you fell in love with someone else, just say so!

If you really found that the philosophy that made you your millions didn’t work, just issue a public retraction of your ideas. Oh, wait. You have made and will probably continue to make millions selling this false lifestyle to others. My bad. You should totally continue to make money off a view of women that didn’t work for you. Because that will totally make non-Christians respect our faith. Yeah. You can make everyone think Christianity is all about gender roles to the detriment of rest of us Christians while making your millions. Great idea.

So yes, You Owe it to us to Explain Yourself.

Details matter.

You promised that by keeping women in the home, making them obey men, and making them dress a certain way, you could keep us all from sexual sin.


Because you promised. You said that we could cure our society’s sexual disfunction if we only made women know their place. You said that R. L. Dabney predicted this. Were you wrong?

Here is where your love affair with the Confederacy causes problems. Here is where your personal friendship for Rousas Rushdoony causes problems. This is where your view of gender relations as a power differential causes problems.

Is the cause of our modern sexual disfunction really that women aren’t submissive/obedient/modest/staying at home?

Was your affair caused by your wife or the other woman?

Do you believe that? You teach that. Be a man and tell us if you blame women for your affair!

You know, your fellow Patriarchist Douglas Wilson (always reliable to say something bat-shit crazy on demand) has already gone there.  Yes, not only is Patriarchy “inevitable,” the other woman in this case is a “Delilah,” seducing the noble Samson from his divine calling. This is offensive in any case, but doubly so if Phillips had sex with a much younger woman who was in a position of vulnerability.

[I might have mentioned Wilson’s obsession with “dominance” by men - including in sexual matters - in my previous posts.]

Did you have sex with her because she didn’t dress the way you prescribe?

Did you have sex with her because your wife didn’t obey you enough? Because she didn’t stroke your ego?

Because this is what you teach.

You have told us that we need to return to a Victorian/Medieval/Ancient Middle Eastern view of gender.

You taught us that equality of power between men and women is the primary cause of evil in the modern world. You said that in order to restore “godliness” we must give men back sole power over women, and that this would cure our ills.

Did this fail?

Or maybe, what you did was fully in line with your teaching, but you can’t admit it or you would lose your following. And your money machine.

What is the REAL view of women in the Victorian era/Antebellum South/Ancient Middle East?

I already blogged about the views in Old Testament times. I am tired of arguing the case with people who haven’t read about Hammurabi’s code. Women were property. Sorry. End of story. If you really want to return there, be my guest. But don’t give me all this bullshit about how the Ancient Middle East is God’s ideal society. (This is the cornerstone of Rushdoony’s theonomy, and Phillips’ view of women. Seriously. Read about Hammurabi’s domestic codes and then read the Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy. Then come talk to me. Likewise, don’t talk to me about “Biblical” gender roles until you have read Aristotle’s Politics. Don’t be intentionally ignorant and expect to sound wise because you can quote a lot of Bible verses.) In the ancient world, men could sleep around at will - unless they took another man’s “property.”

And then, what about Phillips’ view of the Antebellum South? I already mentioned his adoration of Dabney.

So what were the moral views of sex in that era? Well, let’s see. White girls must remain virgins until marriage. But, in practicality, white men could father children with the slave girls. Perhaps even rape them. As Thomas Jefferson would later note, this meant an economic benefit. More slave children meant an economic increase. (See below.)

Again, this is why the details of Phillips’ affair matters.

Did he take a servant as a mistress? It would be very much in line with Antebellum South morality. I think we need to know.

Okay, what about general Victorian morality?

One need only have a passing acquaintance with the literature and history of the Victorian Era to realize that sexual morality was rather relative.

The middle classes were generally expected to adhere to the basic ideals of sexual morality. The lower classes were condemned for failing to meet it.

The upper classes were excused from “middle class morality.” Again, even a passing knowledge of history reveals this! For the average upper class gentleman, it was entirely acceptable to have a legitimate family, and also a mistress on the side.

In fact, it was okay for a man to have both the secret and the legitimate family - as long as he paid the bills for each. And didn’t flaunt his second family in public.

I’ll note Daniel Deronda as an example, but there are many from history - including Charles Dickens himself.

While a woman had better be faithful, a man could sleep around. A man could divorce his wife if she was unfaithful, but the woman did not have the reciprocal privilege. Men were given a legal pass. Again, the legal rule was a feature not a bug, of the differential in power.

(Again, let me note the state of the law regarding domestic violence.  As long as a man paid the cost, he could be the boss. (Apologies to B.B. King.))

In fact, the sexual double standard is the strongest in societies that adhere to the patriarchal point of view. Throughout all places and times in history.

Doug seems like a reasonably intelligent guy. Surely he knows this!

And actually, the double standard isn’t a flaw in the system. Nookie on the side for men is a feature of the patriarchal viewpoint, not a bug! Since women are essentially the property of men, they can be used at will. As long as the man doesn’t tread on the rights of another man.

So, Doug, let’s analyze your behavior according to your own teachings.

If we follow the Rushdoony idea, we need to return to ancient Middle Eastern law.

So, if the “other woman” was married to someone else, it was adultery. So let’s kill her and you. Go ahead. Tell us, and we’ll ask your friend Gary North - and long time Ron Paul associate - to throw the stones he is so eager to throw.  

If she wasn’t already married, then you have legally taken her as as second wife. You know, pay the freaking bride price to her father and have sex with her. Or, if she is just a concubine, say that. She is yours, and her children will belong to you.

Your first wife can’t really complain, as long as you continue to support her. According to Old Testament culture. Rushdoony may well approve!

This is where I am puzzled. If she isn’t married, why NOT take her as a new wife - or at least a concubine? After all, it was good enough for Abraham! And Jacob! And King David, a “man after God’s own heart!” It was perfectly acceptable in the culture you and Rushdoony claim is the model for “Biblical” behavior.

Unless, of course, she was married already, in which case, according to your view of the Old Testament law, both you and she should be dead, because you stole another man’s property. Boy, this gets complicated...

Maybe you would prefer the Antebellum South

Okay, so your hero Dabney might weigh in. Was the “other woman” the wife of another (white) man? If so, he should have the opportunity to duel you! They did that in those days. Perhaps God will weigh in in favor of the person who is in the moral right! Will you live or die?

Oh! What if the “other woman” isn’t white? Then, it doesn’t matter, does it? You can use her body her all you want, because, she is your property! (Or that of another master, perhaps…) And maybe you will gain a significant property value! Jefferson said he gained 4% from the birth of slaves.

Not bad in this economy!

So Doug? Who is this woman?


Hmm, Maybe Victorian England would be better…

Just my own observation. The general thrust of Vision Forum and similar Christian Patriarchy organizations seems to be to a return to the Victorian view of morality and gender.

I suspect that this sounds attractive to many because they have no idea of what the Victorian Era was really like. It has been astounding to me how few have read, say, Dickens, Hardy, Collins, Eliot, and so forth - to say nothing of reputable non-fiction histories of the era. Leaving aside such evils as child labor, the slave trade, and the necessity of prostitution for women abandoned by men (see Les Miserables, as an easy literary example of that one…), one might note that there was a rather well known sexual double standard.

Simply put, women must under no circumstances fail to be virgins at marriage and faithful thereafter, but men could screw around pretty much at will. I’m sorry. If you claim otherwise, I must dub you rather ignorant of history. Perhaps even willfully ignorant of history. Seriously, read some real - not whitewashed - history once in a while. And no, David Barton, who claims that Thomas Jefferson was a devout Christian who wanted to establish a theocracy, doesn’t count.  If you have been learning history from him, no wonder you have no clue what life was really like in the Victorian Era.

So, in this light, Doug Phillips’s dalliance is really not out of character with his worldview.

Here are the possible excuses I could see him give that would fit perfectly with what he teaches:

1. The “other woman” is my wife or concubine according to Old Testament law. (This is, in my opinion, his best logical argument. It fits with the Rushdoony Old Testament theonomy view. But, I suspect this might be too much for many of the people who send him money.)

2. The “other woman” was dressed immodestly, and thus, I had no choice but to have sex with her. (This is the “modesty culture” argument. I suspect a court of law - if invoked - might not support him. But I refuse to predict Texas law.)

3. Doug’s wife wasn’t sufficiently submissive. Since she didn’t give him sex on demand, he couldn’t help himself, and had to go have sex with someone else.

So, Doug, explain yourself.

What REALLY happened.

Don’t hide behind the legalistic bullshit of “we didn’t Biblically ‘know’ each other.” Don’t give the Clintonian dodge.

You did have sex with that woman. One way or another.

How did your view of women as servants of men contribute to this?

How did your insistence that women never have power - even over their own lives - contribute to this?

And if your philosophy DIDN’T contribute, how did you; and, more to the point, your wife and/or the “other woman” cause your downfall?


You have made your fortune and your reputation on the promise that if we would just keep women at home and out of any position of power (and covered in layers of clothing) that we could avoid sexual sin.

And now, you have gratified yourself sexually with another woman.


Do tell!

So really, you want to issue a obviously bullshit statement and then continue to make money off of your failed philosophy?

I’m sorry, that won’t cut it.

Let me draw an analogy.

Does anyone remember Jim Bakker? The television evangelist?

So, he ended up in disgrace because he had an affair. Okay. Whatever. Does anyone remember what happened next?

He spent time in prison because of fraud. He was ripping off his followers and lying to the IRS. Um, bad stuff, legally speaking. Bad enough to send him to prison.

[From the religious point of view, it was even more sad what happened to his late ex-wife, Tammy. Okay, she had terrible makeup. She was found to be largely ignorant of her husband’s financial fraud - the “wife submit to the husband” thing again - and eventually divorced him. A good decision, in my opinion. Oddly - or not - she suffered even more rejection by the Christian community than he did. Yeah, her makeup was worse than his. But he was convicted of fraud. So she, before her death from cancer, confessed that while the Christian community rejected her (while to a degree continuing to support her husband) the homosexual community embraced her. Because a “leader” man who defrauded supporters while lying to the government was far better than a “submissive” wife who had bad makeup. Yep. Makes me proud to be a Christian.]

So, here is the link. Jim Bakker took millions of dollars from his supporters while claiming to give God’s blessing to his followers. He did his time. Made a bullshit apology. Fine. He somehow remains in ministry. Whatever, I guess. At least he eventually disclaimed his former "prosperity gospel" philosophy.

Bakker’s schtick was simple. “Send me money and God will bless you.”

People sent money, and Bakker became a millionaire. Whatever. Maybe people are stupid. At any rate, Bakker did time in prison for fraud. As a lawyer, this part makes me happy. Justice was done.

Phillips schtick was - and is - more insidious. He sold a lifestyle at a good profit, making himself rich. (And, make no mistake, he is freaking rich by most standards. His standard of living is far beyond that of us average middle class folk. At least two nannies and a housekeeper for his 8000 square foot house. Major acreage in Texas for his compound. The man is in the top 1%. Freaking rich.) For Bakker, all he did was rip people off.

For Phillips, his teachings led to tens of thousands of females who never got an education. Who were never free to leave their families and find a career or a spouse or both. Who were taught that God made them to serve men.


Who might well gratify themselves with other women despite all of those teachings. Who might do EXACTLY what Phillips has done.


This is Phillips’ legacy.

I know of a number of women stuck in this situation. Heck, it doesn’t take much skill with the internet to find this. Women who have no marketable skills, and who are unmarried - and still
“serving” their fathers even past age 30. (If you haven’t been in the movement, you have no idea how widespread this is.)

And you know what? This would be awful even if you never had an affair!

I have two friends who lost their husbands to cancer in the last couple of years. Leaving behind teenagers or small children. You know what? They need to be able to support themselves and their children. Leaving aside the ludicrous promise you - and the other Partriarchists - make, that if you follow the system, nothing bad will happen to you, wouldn’t it be nice for ALL women in this potential position to have a way of making a living? If they had a full high school education, and (gasp) had gone to college?

Or what about another friend. He got a freak infection which went to his heart. A valve blew up and sent fragments throughout the blood vessels in his brain. It is a miracle he is alive and that he is not a vegetable. However, he suffered brain damage that affects his vision and motor control, and has has also affected memory and function. He can no longer work and support his wife and kids. Sure, he gets a bit from our government safety net - which you preach should be abolished - and got some support from his church to get them through the rough time. But ultimately, these are small temporary fixes. His wife is now learning a career so she can support them. I know you patriarchists promise that those who stay under that little umbrella of authority will avoid things like this. Bullshit!

Or maybe I can cite dozens of my clients, who have left abusive or philandering husbands.

A woman raised in your system is particularly vulnerable to men who behave as you did.

When a man is abusive or unfaithful or leaves, what is the woman to do? Starve? In your system, would the church really support her? I already wrote about this when I discussed domestic violence. I have every reason to believe the answer is no. If the woman (to use an example from my practice) refuses to gratify the man’s sexual desires in an excruciatingly painful and humiliating way, she is not being submissive, and deserves to starve if she leaves.

It’s a pretty impossible system. If she remarries, she is living in adultery according to your system. (And, even if she does, the “his, hers, and ours” arrangement of children combined with a power differential is - in my experience - an open invitation for abuse of the “hers” kids.)

So what is her option in your system? Oh, that’s right! She can STAY! And serve him! Even if he abuses her. Even if he sleeps around on her. She should stay and serve him, because that is what women are made for.

It bears repeating: the sexual double standard whereby men are permitted to sleep around is a feature, not a bug, of the power differential.

A differential of power. POWER. Because that is what patriarchy is about, whether it has the “Christian” label or not.

So I am going to go there:

Douglas Phillips. You owe all of your followers an explanation.

How exactly did your teachings fail you?

You cost tens of thousands of women an education. You told them that if they just obeyed men that they would be saved from sexual sin. You told them that their sole purpose was to marry and make babies and serve men, and that if they did so, they would have better marriages and lives than other people. You told them that the cause of evil was that men didn’t have absolute power over women.

How did that work out for your wife? Do you think that was her fault? Or did your teachings that were forced on a generation of young women by their terrified parents fail?

Either explain this, or retract your doctrine.

Because, you know what? I believe some day you and I will stand before the throne of judgment. We will see Christ face to face.

And from what I can see from the words of Christ himself, here is what might happen:

If you cause damage to “the other woman,” he might ask you about the damage you did to her. Perhaps you did take advantage of your superior power and position. Fine. You will answer for what you did to her.

But that is NOTHING compared to the damage you have done to countless other women in the name of Christ.

You have told them that their worth to God is measured by their obedience to males.

You have told them that God’s sole plan for them is to be wives and mothers.

You have told them that they are to obey their fathers until they marry, and that all times they must obey someone with a “Y” chromosome. Because they are male.

You told them that God doesn’t speak to them. Only to their fathers or husbands - or even their oldest sons - but not to them.

I don’t know all the circumstances of your affair. Probably you hurt your mistress. Definitely you hurt your wife. God will hold you accountable.

What you did to your mistress and your wife is probably shameful. But think of all the others that you have hurt, because that is the bigger issue.

You have become rich selling the lie that by keeping women in their place, having them dress a certain way, and being completely obedient, that they will be safe. Stay in the box, and God will keep their husbands from sleeping around.

I’m sorry. Whatever you intended or not, this is the message by which you have become rich. And you are rich, by just about any standard.

And you know what? You lied.  You’re ideas weren’t true. You probably have no idea how many you have hurt. Probably tens of thousands, like my friends and my wife have been damaged by your ideas.

And now, you screwed your mistress, and thereby damaged your wife.

And we get weasel words from you.

You know what? It’s time to actually be a man. Admit that you have become freaking rich telling lies about the nature of male and female. All your ideas about obedience didn’t keep you from disrespecting your wife. All those “great” ideas and promises that have caused so much pain to the next generation were really meaning when you decided you needed to be “served” by your mistress. Just say it.

Oh wait. You are freaking rich because of the “vision” you have sold. Yep. Maybe it is better to prove Marx and Nietzsche right. There is one vision of “morality” that applies to the average person, but the rich man or ubermensch need not live by the same standards.

I, for one, will not consider your “apology” to be sincere until you follow through. You need to make things right for those you have injured.

In fact, here are your own words about what repentance actually means. I - and many others - suspect you wrote them at a time (August 2013) when you were planning how to control the political damage from news of your affair.

Restitution: Those who experience godly sorrow and true repentance will desire to make restitution to the victim. There is a spiritual debt to God himself which they can never pay and which only the blood of Christ will satisfy. But there is a temporal debt to their fellow man which they must be willing to pay. It is not enough that they will cease and desist from the wrongdoing. They will do whatever is necessary to heal those they have injured by restoring to them what they have taken. Godly sorrow produces such compassion for the injured party that the penitent man aches to bring health and wholeness to those he has injured.

So how are you planning to make those whom you have wronged healthy and whole?

1. You need to publically indicate who the mistress is, and demonstrate you have made her at least financially whole. Period. If she was raised in your system, she is now unmarriagable and has no way to support herself. She is, as Doug Wilson puts it, a “Delilah” - a threat to "GodlyTM” men everywhere. How will you support her? As a lawyer, I need to see details. Otherwise, you are just another Clinton, humping and dumping as convenient. (Oddly, she would probably be better off - financially - if you were to take her on as a second wife or concubine.)

2. You need to explain how your philosophy of the subservience of women has failed you. Because it has failed. Your ideas about the need for power of men over women didn’t keep you from having sex with your mistress. You are one of the most visible figures in the Patriarchy movement. You speak at conferences nationwide. Explain.

3. You have damaged countless young women - and  young men - with your philosophy of hierarchy. Honestly, after what you have said and done, I would not blame a generation of women for considering Christianity synonymous with an excuse for men to hump and dump. For men to have absolute power to abuse women. How do you intend to fix this? You have become a millionaire selling this bullshit to families throughout the home school movement. How will you use your wealth to make this right?

Again, you have had a “long term” relationship with your mistress.

You have spent years standing up in front of adoring thousands at homeschool conferences around this nation telling them that God’s will for women is to always be under the command and authority of man.

You stood there and said it over and over, and then you went back to your mistress and had sex.

Over and over.

Over the course of years, apparently.

It isn’t enough to just make a bullshit political confession.

Details matter.

I really do hope that this doesn’t just blow over as Phillips intends.

And, I do see a silver lining in this. Phillips has cancelled his future speaking engagements. Perhaps this will take the shine off of his star just a bit.

Perhaps the homeschooling movement will finally start to break its disturbing relationship with the Patriarchy and Reconstructionist movements.


I can at least hope. Although the cynic in me suspects that he will be “contrite” for a year or so, and go right back to making millions selling panicked parents that their children will be virgins and Republicans and good little Christians if only they will realize that men should always rule women, and that women should always serve men.

Note #1: Who is Douglas Phillips anyway?

Before I met my wife, I would have asked this question. Although my family was influenced by the same ideas (through our general home school involvement and through our dalliance with Bill Gothard), we never did the Vision Forum thing.

I remember first hearing about him when my father-in-law joked about the fact that he was holding his fishing rod upside down in his photos, and accidentally advocated using explosive fuel in a stove he was selling. (So yes, selling a “vision” he didn’t really live has always been a problem for Doug.)

Most will be familiar with Doug through his father, the late Howard Phillips. Howard Phillips ran for president a few times as a founding member of the U.S. Taxpayers’ Party. (Now the Constitution Party.) Howard served in the Nixon administration before setting out on his own.

Howard (and Doug) were close friends with Rousas Rushdoony, the father of the Christian Reconstructionist movement. I have written a good bit about Rushdoony in the past, both about his racist views and his advocacy for a literal return to Old Testament law and culture. Doug mentions Rushdoony frequently in his blog, and spoke at his funeral. So yes, they were reasonably close. Doug got many of his views from Rushdoony, although he never emphasized the racial aspect to the extent Rushdoony did, although his worship of Dabney seems to indicate he still loathes the abolitionists.

Doug is an attorney, although I believe he no longer practices. For a number of years, he worked for Home School Legal Defense Association, before setting off on his own to found Vision Forum.

Vision Forum self identifies as having a “Patriarchal” worldview. That is why I use the word. Again, read the Tenets. It might make your head spin. The basic idea is that women were from the very moment of creation intended to serve men, and that men were to be the leaders and have the power in the home, in the church, and in society.

Doug’s worldview has in the last couple of decades or so become the dominant force in the Christian homeschooling movement. He was the keynote speaker at last year’s CHEA convention. (The biggest - by far - homeschooling conference in California.) And it isn’t just here. Look up the speaker list for any state you like. Doug Phillips will almost certainly be in the list of “big name” speakers. Patriarchy (and courtship and modesty culture) has become the thing in homeschooling. It’s gotten hard to find homeschool groups that don’t have a heavy involvement in Vision Forum and its ideas these days.

Note #2: Why do I even care about Doug Phillips?

Believe me, I would love it if I never had to think about Phillips again. If he could be safely put in the same category as, say, Lyndon LaRouche, as a fringe figure that everyone snickers at, I would be content to quietly chuckle at his foibles.

But I care deeply about homeschooling. I was homeschooled from second grade on. My folks started homeschooling me (before hardly anyone had heard of it) because of my poor health.

For the most part, my family subscribed to the ideas of Raymond and Dorothy Moore, who saw homeschooling as an escape from the educational industrial complex. An opportunity to tailor education to the needs of the individual child. An alternative to the endless testing and lock-step developmental guidelines. I have seen this approach referred to as “unschooling,” but it really isn’t quite the same. (An interesting future discussion, perhaps.) My education was academically rigorous. And, I taught myself plenty of stuff beyond the curriculum. (I am still fond of learning. Hence the name of my blog!) In one sense, I am a homeschooling success story. I am self supporting, and have been since I passed the bar exam. I am a productive member of society, married well, and had a hoard of adorable children. On the other hand, my wife and I are the black sheep of the movement. Why?

Although I didn’t know it then, I have since researched the origins of the homeschooling movement, and discovered that the Moores were one of the big names. But there was another. Rushdoony. Along side the Moore’s focus on the needs of the child there was a competing agenda. Rushdoony saw in the homeschool movement the minions he needed to eventually establish an Old Testament theocracy in America.

Again, I’ve blogged about this stuff before. And it is readily available online. In fact, guys like Phillips don’t hide their agenda. They proclaim it from the rooftops. Here is Phillips’ 200 year plan. 

So, somehow, the Christian portion of the Homeschool movement drifted from the Moores’ focus to a Rushdoony/Phillips paradigm. Instead of a “how to teach academics” emphasis at the conferences, they became about teaching a certain worldview. Hence Doug Phillips as keynote speaker. His gender agenda has become the visible face of homeschooling.

Yes, I care. I am a huge proponent of home schooling. I homeschool my own kids. I encourage others to do so. (Although I don’t think it is for everyone. And, unlike Phillips, I believe one can be devout Christian and send one’s kids to public school. I don’t believe God commands homeschooling any more than I believe he commands grown women to stay at home and serve their fathers.)

It distresses me to no end that something so good has been co-opted by a bat-shit crazy agenda.

This is why my wife and I are - to a large degree - pariahs within the movement. My wife (gasp) works outside the home. She doesn’t dress in the Vision Forum way. We don’t believe that men should rule women. And, among those of our friends and family that still adhere to these ideas, we are pariahs. As are all that reject even one facet of the Patriarchy orthodoxy.

And it isn’t just within the homeschooling movement. Vision Forum’s ideas have permeated conservative Christianity in the last couple of decades. I have noted before that mainstream evangelicals - and more flamboyant personalities like Mark Driscoll - have made gender roles a central matter of the faith. (Driscoll notably said that he would excomunicate stay-at-home dads, for example.) I have heard from friends that “If God knocks on your door, he will ask to speak to the man.” “Modesty” has become a litmus test for “true” Christians. (This will be the subject of a future post.) “Courtship” has become, through books like Josh Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a mainstream aspiration, if not yet a universal practice.

And don’t even get me started on the number of times I have heard, “FeminismTM has ruined the family and the nation.” (Usually, these people say “Feminism” when they mean “The Sexual Revolution,” but some indeed do mean that the family and the United States were ruined because women no longer have to obey men at all times.)

It sickens me that Rushdoony’s ideas have infiltrated the faith I was raised in.

That is why I write about Douglas Phillips.

Note #3: Why am I [fill in Christian cliche about not rejoicing at the fall of others]?

You know, if an ordinary person stumbles, that is one thing. I don’t see the point of piling on those who have weaknesses that they are struggling with. This is why I will never write a blog post mocking those fighting drug addiction, for example.

As I see it, there are two differences.

First, anybody who takes it on themselves to tell others “thus saith the Lord” should in fact be held to a higher standard. If you want to lead, you can’t just go in front of thousands of people week after week claiming to speak for God while screwing your mistress after the show. Sorry. You should not be in leadership under those circumstances. You do not get a free pass just because I am a Christian and am supposed to be nice.

Second, I believe it is quite appropriate to rejoice when someone who has caused damage to others is removed from the position where he can cause damage.

I don’t rejoice that Doug personally failed. And I feel terrible for his wife and kids and his mistress, as they will probably suffer far more than he will.

But I will openly say I rejoice at the hope that his vile teachings might be discredited. I think another analogy is in order.

I grew up in Los Angeles in the 1980s. There was a guy whom the media nicknamed the “Night Stalker.” (Fellow Los Angelinos of my age and older will probably re-live the visceral horror.) His name was Richard Ramirez, and he was eventually arrested and convicted of over a dozen murders and rapes. Yeah, a really bad guy, who seems to have been unrepentant to the end. Even though he never struck in our neighborhood, I remember the sense of fear about this man who would break into houses to rape and murder.

And then he was caught. I don’t remember parties in the streets exactly, but there was relief. Palpable relief. I was reminded of this earlier this year when Ramirez - who had been on death row for 20 plus years, died of cancer.

Likewise, I believe the ideas of Doug Phillips have damaged countless people. And continue to damage them. (I will include my wife in this number. And a good number of my friends.) There are many women in their twenties and thirties that never had the choice to get an education or a job. (As my wife noted from her experiences, many she knew never gained even a high school level of education.) Many others were married off to men chosen by their parents. (Phillips teaches “courtship,” which in practice is a close kin to arranged marriage.) Many more adults have had to cut ties with their parents at least for a time in order to break the cycle of control. (Phillips calls this “multigenerational faithfulness.” Faithfulness to the father’s vision. And to Doug’s vision, of course.) You can find even more stories throughout the internet on sites like Homeschoolers Anonymous.

Phillips has caused immense damage with his teachings and I rejoice at the hope that maybe, just maybe, his influence will wane as a result of his affair. And maybe, just maybe, his ability to commit evil will be lessened.

Note #4: I find an aggressive note in the resignation

There was a family that I knew that was heavily into Bill Gothard’s organization and Vision Forum ideas (even if I didn’t really register at the time that they were following the Doug Phillips way) about the same time my family was.

They continued to pop out children (I’m thinking they got to 8 or 9) right up until they divorced. A seriously dysfunctional marriage. I mean, it was obviously bad, in so many ways. But, by God! they could do the gender roles the Patriarchal way! Perfect submission in public - and probably private too. But, it was clear as well that they did the typical passive aggressive manipulation that made up for the wife’s lack of nominal say in her life.

When I read Doug Phillips’ resignation and “apology,” I thought of the man in this couple. Why?

This man had a problem with pornography. And he was really good at confessing it too. In public.

He was using it as a way to humiliate his wife for her lack of sexual enthusiasm.

Likewise, Phillips’ note strikes me as being worded so as to be a bit humiliating to his wife. He could just have resigned without comment (unless someone threatened to out him). Instead, he took the time to explain that he didn’t have full sex. (Others have pointed out that in his teaching, this means that his wife cannot divorce him, or risk being damned.) So, he can remind her that she can’t leave, while also reminding her that she failed to satisfy him.

Note #5: My theological problems with Patriarchy

All of the “Big 4” in the Patriarchy movement adhere to a common view of gender and authority. Douglas Phillips, Douglas Wilson, and Michael Pearl all use the term “patriarchy” to describe this view. (Many lesser Patriarchists use either this term or “complementarianism,” which covers a much wider range of views about gender, not all of which are truly patriarchy.) Bill Gothard, who definitely teaches patriarchy in a similar manner to the others, doesn’t use the term. The details are close enough that I consider them the same philosophy. Since Gothard’s teachings are the most familiar to me, I’ll start with his.

Gothard teaches that the big insight God gave him into human relationships is this: God interacts with humanity through authority structures. Learning and following God’s will is done by obeying authority. Within the family, this is how it works. The man hears from and follows God. The wife does what the man tells her to, unless it is clearly sin, and the children obey the parents. As long as all the underlings submit, they will be protected from harm. BAD THINGS happen to you, if you are not absolutely obedient to your husband or father - even as an adult.

Absolutely connected with this is the teaching that God will not hold an underling responsible for following a mistaken or bad decision by an authority figure. So, if your father says “no college” for his daughter, she must obey, even if she believes God is calling her to get an education. Even if she believes it would be a wise idea for her to have a means of support in case she never marries, is abandoned by her husband, or is widowed. Her opinion doesn’t matter, because God’s only will for her is that she obey. Likewise, a wife must cut ties with her friends if her husband asks it. (I have seen this happen.) Because God speaks to her husband, not to her. She is only held accountable to obey her husband. He will be accountable for his cruelty or bad judgment, but she may not question his decisions or risk being damned.

This teaching is at the heart of the patriarchist philosophy. It can be found in Douglas Wilson’s “Federal Vision.” (Which, incidentally, he co-wrote with notorious neo-Confederate Steve Wilkins.) The “Federal Vision” is that communication with God goes through a “federal” system. That is, the pastor speaks to God for the church and God speaks to the church through the pastor - not to individuals. And God speaks to the family through...wait for it…the father. Does this sound familiar? And so on through the ranks of Patriarchy.

I find it interesting that there is are a group of very similar institutions with views like this. We call them militaries. For the purpose of waging war, it is crucial that each soldier be willing to sacrifice his life for the good of the organization without hesitation and without questioning the leadership. We accept this in soldiers because it is necessary. However, our society (at least since the Divine Right of Kings went out of vogue) refuses to extend this idea to civilian life - and indeed, expects that citizens should have the right to question a decision to go to war.

One of the big epiphanies that I had about the Patriarchy movement was its direct connection to Reconstructionsim. It makes the whole authority issue make sense. The goal of Reconstructionism and Patriarchy is the eventual takeover of all earthly institutions, and the establishment of a totalitarian theocracy modeled on Rushdoony’s interpretation of Old Testament civil law. To do that, one must out-produce the competition, and maintain absolute purity of purpose. Dissent cannot be tolerated. Women cannot be allowed to go outside of their roles as mothers of the next generation of soldiers. (Totalitarianism looks remarkably similar, regardless of the underlying reason. Hitler’s plan for women looks pretty much like Christian Patriarchy’’s plan - read it sometime!) So it was easier to see why control - militaristic control - was necessary.

Here is my theological problem.

As a protestant, I believe in the individual priesthood of believers. In essence, that each of us hears from God and speaks to God on our own behalf. As Saint Paul said, there is only one mediator between mankind and God: Christ. Just as I do not have to call on Mary to go ask God about me, I do not have to go to my father. And my wife does not have to go to me. God will hear her just fine without my help. And my children likewise. (If he could speak to the teenaged Mary and the 5 year old Samuel, why not my wife and kids? Did something really change?)

But the Patriarchists are clear about this. The father is the Prophet, Priest, and King of the family. Yes, this EXACT phrase is very popular in Patriarchist circles. It was the theme of a Voddie Bacham sermon. It is used extensively by John Thompson (an affiliate of Phillips’ who advocates for “Family Integrated Churches.” It appears in Phillips’ materials. I heard it during out Gothard years.

[Teaser: I have a personal story to tell about my experience with John Thompson some day.]

Where did the phrase come from? It is a reference to Christ himself, who was/is prophet, priest, and king. And let us make no mistake, this phrase is used intentionally to convey that the father is Christ as far as his family is concerned. He is to be their one link to God. He is to be - let us be honest - GOD to them.

This is a serious theological issue. I am astonished that mainstream evangelicalism hasn’t rejected the Patriarchists on this ground alone. I would have thought it was a big deal.

My theory? Evangelicalism is every bit as obsessed with sex as the Patriarchists. They also have bought the idea that it is “FeminismTM” which has ruined everything. Thus, those who reject a rigid view of gender and gender roles are the enemy. That error is, to the modern evangelical, far more serious than the replacement of the role of Christ by a man.

And so, Evangelicalism has decided to ally itself with those who propose that only men can speak directly to God rather than risk the possibility that men and women might actually live together as true equals.

Note #6: “Accountability”

I will admit that this term is a serious trigger for me.

“Accountability” is one of those terms for which I feel the philosopher Inigo Montoya applies: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Let me tell a story again.

Some time ago, there was a group of persons who had to make an interesting decision. This decision would ultimately affect the course of history, and lead to the deaths of millions of people.

But they didn’t realize that at the time. They were concerned with their own duties and responsibilities. In many ways, they were the ultimate “accountability” group.

This group was a bunch of men - and a few women - about 400 years ago. We called them the kings and queens of Europe. And they had to answer an important question: What was the limit of royal power.

Any students of history know what their answer was? (Hint: George Trevelyan discusses it in his excellent book, The Stuarts, reviewed here.) 

Amazingly - or not - they decided that kings could do whatever the hell they wanted, because God had given them authority over their subjects. (Wait, did I just see a reference to God and authority again?)

History reveals that this did not end well. Charles I of England lost his head. And England suffered through 50 years of civil war, until finally the will of the king was made subject to Parliament and the era of representative democracy began. In France, it took longer, and the flagrant inequality grew greater until blood flowed in the streets of Paris for years. Even worse, the revolution was delayed in even longer Russia, resulting eventually in Stalin and the purge of 100 million.

So yes, “accountability” works really well when those in power decide among themselves how they should act. Those under them tend to get the shaft - at least until they rebel.

Why do I bring this up?

The general view of “accountability” in conservative Christian circles tends to be among “equals.” That is, those in the same strata of power. Again, at least for those at the top.

Underlings are “accountable” to those in power, of course.

But those at the top are only accountable to their “equals.”

Phillips thinks that it would fix things for him to be accountable to other powerful men who rule over women.

It doesn’t work.

True “accountability” requires that the power structures be abolished altogether.

Again, let’s look at Phillips’ favorite theologian: R. L. Dabney.

I’m SURE that plenty of slave owners got together and talked about how to be ethical and good in one’s treatment of slaves. “Accountability” among those in power.

That “accountability” didn’t free the slaves. Because the slaves weren’t invited to the “accountability” meetings.

You know what finally stopped the abuse of slaves? You know what ended the rape of slaves by their masters? You know what finally caused slave owners to be accountable? Do I really have to fill in the blank here?

True accountability comes when we abolish the structure of power.

Masters stopped abusing and raping slaves when they no longer had legal power over slaves. Likewise, Jim Crow ended when the force of law stopped it. The power differential ended. (Mostly - there is still work to do on this problem.)

Likewise, despite assertions by the Patriarchists to the contrary, domestic violence rates have declined in certain societies. Which societies?

Those who broke the power structure by using the force of law to prevent violence against women.

And again, when did monarchs lose the ability to oppress and slaughter their subjects?

When the structure of power was broken by revolution.

This isn’t a mystery.

Those in power will, because of human nature, continue to abuse and oppress those under them until the power structure is broken.

“Accountability” means answering to one’s former inferiors. Not one’s fellow oppressors.

So what does “accountability” mean in patriarchal circles?

In my experience, it means the enforcement of legalistic standards. It means that others tell you how to think, and what to do in every situation.

It is the right to judge others and punish them for not meeting your standards.

My fellow blogger Lana Rose explains this phenomenon well: 

“Accountability” is how we ostracize those who disagree with our specific beliefs on the details, while we excuse flagrant abuse on the part of those leaders with true power.

In other words, “accountability” means nothing more than reinforcement of power.

True accountability that leads to true change requires viewing those you have wronged as equals, not subordinates.

A few good links: