Friday, November 23, 2012

Hannah's Purity Ring Story

After posting the article, Fathers and Daughters: Who Owns a Daughter's Heart?, it opened up a can of worms for Hannah, my 25-year old daughter.   For new readers, she's my daughter who was also named in the defamation lawsuit by our former pastor (you can read her story from her perspective:  Hannah's Personal Story in Her Own Words and from my perspective:   In Honor of Hannah).  She abruptly left our home at the age of 21 because she couldn't deal with the spiritual abuse at our former church any longer and knew we would make her go to church if she remained at home - it’s a long and sad story, my relationship with Hannah is great now.   She mentioned that the video clip from the movie, Courageous made her get teary-eyed.  I asked if she had anything she might like to share about her purity ring experience.

Before we get to Hannah's thoughts, she refers to the "umbrella" philosophy in her story.   This is a teaching that came from Bill Gothard - a man whose teachings have strongly influenced the homeschooling movement (and our family): 

Protection Under Authority

The use of an umbrella to symbolize protection is commonly understood and accepted. In the insurance industry, an overall coverage of protection is referred to as an “umbrella policy.” In the Bible, similar symbols teach the concepts of provision, protection, headship, and leadership.
The use of this symbol in relation to the family is to give special encouragement to fathers to protect, instruct, lead, and provide for their wives, sons, and daughters. It is also to remind the family that no father is perfect, but as they pray for him and encourage him, they can increase his ability and motivation to fulfill his God-given responsibilities.
In addition to the father, Scripture has other umbrella analogies: The cloud of protection that God gave to Israel during their forty years in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21–22), the shadow of God’s hand over His people (Isaiah 51:15–16)“the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1), and the wings of a mother hen (Matthew 23:37).
Understanding the umbrella concept increases our love for God and assures us of His love, protection, and provision for us as His children.

Ok, I just yanked Research in Principles of Life Basic Seminar Textbook off the bookshelf.  I have been tempted to throw this book away many times, but decided to keep it for blogging material - HA!   

This is the workbook from Gothard's Basic Seminar which was very popular over the years, not only in homeschooling circles, but among Christians in general.   It was dusty and I haven't opened it since I heard the teaching around 18 years ago.  This should give some ideas about the teachings of authorities and young adults.  The expectation is for daughters to remain at home until dad can pass her off to her new authority - her new husband.  

"When does the parental "chain of responsibility" end?
The parental "chain of responsibility" ends when they delegate that authority to someone else - as in marriage or the ministry.  However, even before this, a certain measure of independence should be earned by learning to discern and obey the wishes of parents.  When they are confident that we will do what they would do in a given situation, they will give more freedom to make decisions.

What if I'm an adult and still single?
By this time, we should have earned the position of being in a "chain of counsel."  If we haven't, there must be some serious deficiencies in our attitudes or understanding.
Whatever our age, however, we are instructed in Scripture to always be responsive to our parents' counsel:  "Hearken unto they father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old."  Proverbs 23:22

What if I'm single and living in an apartment?
First, be very sure that God has led you to move away from your parents, and that they were fully in harmony with the move.  When God designed the family structure, He purposed that each one in the family meet basic needs for others - especially social needs.  When a single person leaves his family apart from God's direction, he exposes himself to many unnecessary temptations to wrongly fulfill these social needs.  If your parents are in full harmony with your move to another location, it is important to maintain good lines of communication with them in order to receive counsel from them.

What if I don't respect the authority over me?
It is important that we learn how to distinguish between an authority's position under God and his human personality.  We are to reverence his position, although at the same time we may be very aware of personality deficiencies.
To say that we reject an authority because we don't respect him would be as much in error as tearing up a speeding ticket because we didn't like the attitude of the arresting officer.   
If you'd like to read more stories from people who have gone through years of Gothard's teachings, be sure to check out Recovering Grace website, "a Gothard generation shines light on the teachings of IBLP and ATI."  By the way, ATI is the same program that the Duggard family uses for teaching their children - the Duggards are the famous quiver-full family on TLC television with 19 kids.   

Here is Hannah's purity ring story.  There are no real bells and whistles, but it's interesting to read her perspective now - nearly a decade later.

For my sixteenth birthday, my parent's gave me a purity ring. I was taken to an up-scale restaurant and given a little box with the gold and gem ring. I vaguely remember the little speech that went with the ring. "This symbolizes a covenant..." They discussed the "umbrella" philosophy they'd taught me - that I was under my father's protection until he was able to hand the "umbrella" of protection and love to my husband. 
I remember having mixed feelings about the entire concept. My mother recently reminded me that I loved reading courtship books - I did, but whether it was for the love story, the romance, or because I believed in the courtship model, I couldn't tell you. I've had reservations about the concept. 
I've always loved working on my career, and had plans to go to school and graduate. I didn't know when I'd want to marry a man, because school and work were very important to me. I know I was not quite comfortable with thinking about living with my parents, under my father's "umbrella" until at least my mid-twenties and had finished school because I thought that if I married before I finished school, I would never finish because my husband and having babies would take precedence. 
Sadly, I was never able to bring myself to discuss my concerns about the purity ring, the covenant it symbolized, and my ideas for my life with my parents. I took the ring that day because I couldn't not take it, I was in a public place, I was trained not to disagree with my parents, I didn't want to spoil the mood, etc.  Once I moved out, I realized I had major issues with the whole concept, and since have not worn the ring on my ring finger. I still like it as a piece of jewelry, but that's all it is to me.

From my perspective looking back, we were trying something different than how we were raised to hopefully avoid some of the pitfalls we had experienced as teens/young adults.  I don't think modern day "recreational dating" where couples go out spontaneously with "sexperimentation" is an ideal situation.   I think we were hoping courtship would be a healthier way to find one's life partner.  The courtship model we appreciated involved getting to know potential suiters, having them over, working on projects together, spending time with the family to see how he interacted with younger siblings, etc.  I still think a lot of this is important, but I am not convinced that courting is the ideal way anymore.  I think it made Hannah feel confined and I especially do not agree with the father having ownership of his daughter's heart.  I think I could type up a post or two on just that topic alone.  

Another thing that the purity ring/courtship emphasis did was created real boundaries between guys and girls.  The ring represented that she was taken (by her father) and so any guy who saw a ring on her finger kept his distance.  I noticed some uneasiness of teens when they were in a group setting that I never experienced in high school.  I can only think that comes from the rigid boundaries.  

Interestingly, our other daughter who is now 18 years old does not have a purity ring and we have not discussed courtship with her.  She is equally comfortable hanging out and talking with guys or girls.  

photo credit: <a href="">Atilla1000</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>


  1. Why must women still be thought of as property in some "religious" circles?

    1. I know, Tom. When you look at the whole system, you can see who it is benefitting - the Patriarch. He gets his wife and now his daughters to serve and tend to his needs. Do wives have needs in these homes?

    2. Julie:

      Sadly, I do not think the men in these systems care one whit about the women's needs. From where I sit I can not see the teachings of Jesus in their system.

  2. Can't tell you how refreshing it is to read your acknowledgement of buying into these ideas in the past and now having a new perspective.

    I am so thankful to have become a Christian as an adult and bypassed all the weird umbrella teaching during my teen years and early twenties. I grew up knowing I had choices for my life, and that my dad as an adult is my ally and friend, not some creepy owner of my heart.

    Still, having been a part of SGM as a young single woman for several years, I learned and bought into a lot of that teaching. It's been a process of un-learning the extra-biblical ideas, sifting through what is true versus what was culturally taught.

    Reading this post brought another story to mind of a family I know who is a part of another patriarchal church. The adult daughters live at home still and probably will until/if they marry. The mom was telling me once about someone they know who's daughter just recently moved out at age 30, and how the family prayed through this decision and the parents cautiously allowed the daughter to move out. I remember listening thinking "why in the world did that girl need permission to be independent and live a normal life?" I know of several other families doing the same thing- keeping their unmarried daughters home indefinitely.

    Reading the excerpts you posted above makes it more clear to me why these friends of mine were telling me this story as if were normal. And it makes me all the more grateful for having had exposure to the rest of the world prior to my SGM stint.

    1. These stories of singles not finding a spouse because dad can't find the right one bothers me. I know of another public family - the Maxwells - who have 8 kids and the oldest daughter is 30, single, and remains at home. She helps the family business so it makes one wonder if that is why Daddy-o hasn't found the right husband for his daughter. The father has raised his sons to buy their first home outright before they marry and 2 of his sons have already done that. Another son was engaged to be married last year (purchased house, paid in full) and I think the bride-to-be realized she'd be drinking some wild Kool-Aid if she went through with the marriage, and called it off a week before the wedding. It was a very quick engagement/courtship. But it makes me wonder if Daddy-o has that qualification for the guy who will marry his daughter - - having an already purchased home? How many people do you know who can buy a home and have no mortgage in their 20s? Those are some amazingly high standards.

  3. I want to believe there are healthy families where a daughter is meant to feel loved and respected by her father. She can go when she wants...usually 18 to college, etc. But, still have his love and be there for her when she needs it. I understand the above stories and how the patriarchal system can be controlling and absolutely abuse. I guess I might be one of those that are hopeful that there is a good balance. I'm also hopeful that a dating situation can turn into a marriage of mutual respect and working towards loving God and doing His ministry that they have been called to together. Maybe that's a ideal crazy dream...but, a girl can dream can't she? After an amazingly crappy childhood clouded with abuse and a dysfunctional dating life...I guess I'm thankful God has taken me this far to even have these hopes and dreams.

    1. Keep believing, Tammy. I don't think it's a crazy dream. I've seen those fathers. It melts my heart when I see it.

  4. I can remember teen girls showing me their purity rings and me thinking, "that's kind of a neat idea." At the church I went to, though, I think it really was more of a purity idea than the father covering the daughter. I remember most of rings being a stone of color, rather than a diamond. Since we're not really involved in this "movement," what kind of rings do most of the fathers purchase? If it's a diamond, I can totally understand why a guy would be hesitant to interact with a girl.

    1. Kathi - I think if you canvassed a group of families who do the purity ring thing, you'd get a wide spectrum of answers. Ours wasn't very formal, where others do the full-blown ceremony with signing of a covenant. There are websites devoted to purity rings ( I selected Hannah's ring - it was a heart-shaped aquamarine (her birthstone). No one would have associated it as a "purity" ring except by the fact that she wore it on her left hand. My thoughts are that any ring on the left hand ring finger would imply the girl is not available. But that might just be me. I really don't know.


  5. This is a new concept to me. I had never heard of it before. Of course I am new to the Patriarchy Movement in general.

    If I had met a girl with such a ring it probably would not have bothered me a lot, UNTIL she explained it to me.

    If she explained it in a way that made it appear she was married to her father I would have freaked out. Last date. No more.

    At least I think I would have felt that way. I guess it depends on how well I got to know her before finding out about the ring thing. At my age now it is so easy to look back and second guess what I would or would not have done.

    To be totally honest it kind of sets of my creep-o-meter....

    1. Sheep-Dog - First of all, it would probably be difficult to meet such a girl - they tend to stay with like-minded people. But if you did meet one, it probably would have been in a group setting and it would be difficult to talk with her at such a deep level. All eyes are on you if you are a boy talking with a girl. If you expressed any interest in her whatsoever, she would have referred you to her father. Her father would then run you though his testing process to see if you fit his qualifications to court his daughter. Now, if your family was meeting with another family in which there was a girl - there are possibilities of talking in that setting, but there will still be people around. There are no opportunities for girls/boys to be alone together. That is taboo.

    2. JA,

      Ya know... Ya really know how to hurt a guy, don't cha...

      I would probably not pass papa's "testing process". Unless it happened to actually be about the real world, such as having a good job & making a fairly nice income. Steady work. Honest work.

      Those were the kinds of "family values" that I grew up with. In the economy we are in I surely hope "papa" is wise enough these days to look for the boy with a good education and a good job, rather than focus on religion..

      Seems like I did read that sometimes the boy will purchase a home etc. Very wise on "papa's" part, IMHO.

      Just my 2 cents worth...

      PS: Well that part about not being alone together would be a deal breaker for me. That really sucks! Big time! I guess I would not want to even try dating such a "nice" girl. Where's the fun in that?

      I guess I would just have to go chase the sheep... lol

    3. I married a very nice girl. Her father was a farmer and a good honest hard-working man. They didn't have a lot. He was never a religious man in any sense. But he didn't smoke, drink, or swear. He just wasn't raised in the church.

      My sweet wife had no purity ring. But she was just a pure as they come. I actually was allowed to be alone with her. WOW! And we have been married for 41 years. I had been "alone" with quite a few other girls before her. But she was the special one. No regrets here. I was 25 when I married her.

    4. That's wonderful, Sheep-Dog. I love reading happy stories like yours. Thanks for sharing :)


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