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The cult of the Quiverfull / ATI / Vision Forum movement, Duggars and all

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Wide White: The cult of the Quiverfull / ATI / Vision Forum movement, Duggars and all

Monday, September 13, 2010

The cult of the Quiverfull / ATI / Vision Forum movement, Duggars and all

This post was written over the course of 4 days and got much longer than originally anticipated. I hope you'll read through the whole thing, but if you're looking to jump to a particular section, here's a topical index of the post.

1. Procreation - Have Lots of Kids
2. The Husband and Father Literally Rules His Home
3. Christians Must Home School
4. Other Elements
5. E. Stephen Burnett's Critique
6. Stories and Links
7. Conclusion

My Facebook status Thursday night read,
"Joey White wonders which Duggar kid will be the first to break free from their family's system of oppression that's entrenched in the cult of Vision Forum, Doug Phillips, ATI, Bill Gothard, Quiverfull, etc. I wish more people could see it for what it really is."
I was asked for more specifics and thought the blog seemed like a better place for my critique of this movement.

I include the Duggars in the groups listed because they espouse these views and teachings. Their website lists Bill Gothard's Advanced Training Institute (ATI), Doug Phillips' Vision Forum Ministries, David Barton's Wallbuilders, and many other links under "Essential Faith-Building Tools." (David Barton is a revisionist historian who is revered by many conservative, home school, fundamentalist Christians. He has no training as a historian, holding a degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University, and his teachings are heavily criticized by academic historians.) Because the Duggars advocate these views and teachings, I think it's safe to conclude that they follow them.

I refer to this collective movement as a "cult," which someone noted is a very strong word. Many definitions of the word "cult" are rather broad, but I think most of us are referring to the 6th dictionary definition when we think of a cult:
a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.
I believe this matches the Duggars and others within the ATI/Vision Forum/Quiverfull movement to a T. There are many others in this movement - Michael Pearl of No Greater Joy Ministries comes to mind - but ATI (or their parent group, IBLP) and Vision Forum are the predominant groups. They certainly fit the cult definitions of being unorthodox, extra-biblical, extremist, and living under a charismatic leader, with Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips being their primary leaders.

The Duggars have put a pretty face on this movement. The family everyone sees on television is attractive, fun, energetic, and happy.

But many people in this movement aren't as happy as they appear. They're experiencing a private hell. There are numerous resources critiquing and exposing the Quiverfull movement in far greater detail than I ever could. One of the more extensive resources is No Longer Quivering, a website containing a collection of stories from women who have been part of the movement as wives, mothers, or daughters. These women now range from atheists and feminists to conservative and complimentarian Christians. What they all have in common is they have escaped the movement. Their stories are eye-opening and heart-breaking.

But isn't it possible that these stories are just exceptions to the rule? Is it really fair to criticize the entire movement based on the negative experiences of a portion of those who have experienced it?

I believe these experiences are more than just exceptions to the rule. I'll cover a few of the teachings of this movement and why I think they're so destructive.

For clarification, I realize that "Quiverfull," "Vision Forum," and "ATI" are not 100% carbon copies of one another. However, there are enough overlaps within the groups that I think it's fair to lump them together. Those who embrace Quiverfull generally also embrace Vision Forum, and those who embrace Vision Forum generally also embrace ATI. Rather than visit each group independently, I'm taking a look at them collectively.

1. Procreation - Have Lots of Kids
One of the fundamental tenets of this movement is taking the Biblical phrase, "Be fruitful and multiply," and applying it out of context to mean, "It's wrong to use birth control, including natural family planning. Have as many kids as God gives you and don't worry, he will provide."

I'm the oldest of 11 kids and though these teachings are familiar to me, I had never heard of Quiverfull or Bill Gothard growing up and was only vaguely familiar with Vision Forum and Doug Phillips.

Here's how Vision Forum explains this philosophy:
15. God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” still applies to married couples, and He “seeks godly offspring.” He is sovereign over the opening and closing of the womb. Children are a gift of God and it is a blessing to have many of them, if He so ordains. Christian parents are bound to look to Scripture as their authoritative guide concerning issues of procreation. They should welcome with thanksgiving the children God gives them. The failure of believers to reject the anti-life mindset of the age has resulted in the murder of possibly millions of unborn babies through the use of abortifacient birth control. (Gen. 1:28; 9:1; 29:31; 30:22; Ex. 20:13: 21:22-25; Ps. 127:3; 128:3-4; Is. 8:18; Mal. 2:15)
I'm amazed that anyone could possibly interpret the verses referenced as being a mandate to have as many kids as possible. The statement, "Be fruitful and multiply," dictates no number or family planning/non-planning method and it's a huge stretch to argue that it's an eternal mandate for everyone to have as many kids as possible.

Let me be clear that I'm not advocating some arbitrary limit to how many children people have. I personally feel that if I were to have more than a certain number of children, I would be unable to adequately meet the various needs of each of my children. But if others feel they are able to devote the necessary attention and resources to each of their 15 kids, it's not my place to criticize them for that.

(The Duggars address this concern by pairing an older child with each younger child. The older child serves as a mentor, caretaker, and pseudo-parent to the younger child. The younger children often appear to be more attached to their sibling than to their own parents. My parents were always insistent that their older children were NOT the parents to the younger children. They never made us take on parenting duties with our younger siblings and I don't think it's right for any parent to make their own children take on parental responsibilities.)

But regardless of one's personal feelings on how many children to have, when you're mandating that all Christians must subscribe to the Quiverfull philosophy; when you're having children under significant health risk to yourself and your future children because, in spite of the doctors' warnings, you're "putting everything in God's hands" (as Gothard says in response to this sort of dangerous medical situation, "If God wants to give a child to a couple, He is also able [to] give the level of health in the mother and the child that will bring the greatest glory to Him."); when you're convincing couples to reverse vasectomies and jump on board with you, regardless of the fact that their $30,000 annual salary and 2-bedroom house can't possibly handle and adequately care for another child; when families are going on welfare and signing up for government health plans to keep up with their 14th child; when all of these things are happening as a result of these teachings, something is really wrong with the teaching.

2. The Husband and Father Literally Rules His Home
The "patriarchy" philosophy is the most hurtful, destructive, and grossly misapplied belief that this movement espouses. It instructs wives to submit to their husbands' authoritarianism, telling them that the Bible gives them no choice but to obey their husbands unless he's commanding them to sin. It causes children, especially young women, to remain under their fathers' regimes for years after their peers have become independent adults. It puts little girls' sole focus in life on serving their father in preparation for serving a future husband, resulting in 28-year-old women still living at home serving fathers who are unable to find that perfect man for their daughters. It emasculates young men who never really grow up and establish their own sense of direction as they're told that they are in permanent subjection to their fathers, even after they're married with their own families.

Here's how Vision Forum explains this philosophy, with my notes in italics:
5. A husband and father is the head of his household, a family leader, provider, and protector, with the authority and mandate to direct his household in paths of obedience to God. (Gen. 18:19; Eph. 6:4) [Portions of this statement are fairly standard within orthodox Christianity, but the philosophy of the man having an "authority and mandate to direct his household" is applied VERY broadly and is the foundation for a lot of awful behavior. Additionally, of the two verses linked, one is about Abraham and the other simply talks of fathers raising their children in the "discipline and instruction of the Lord." Neither really supports the statement being made, and nowhere in the Bible can one find a blanket mandate for a man to wield unchecked authority over his wife and children.]

6. A man’s authority in the home should be exercised with gentleness, grace, and love as a servant-leader, following the example of Jesus Christ. Leadership is a stewardship from God. (Ps. 103:13; Mal. 3:17; Matt. 11:29-30; Col. 3:21; 1 Pet. 3:7) [Sadly, this portion is rarely emphasized or taught. This movement is more concerned with drilling male headship into their followers' heads, presumably because society has no problem with gentleness, grace, and love, so why emphasize it? It's as if this is included because it's necessary to include it, but not because it carries significant importance to the movement.]

11. Male leadership in the home carries over into the church: only men are permitted to hold the ruling office in the church. A God-honoring society will likewise prefer male leadership in civil and other spheres as an application of and support for God’s order in the formative institutions of family and church.(1 Tim. 3:5) [I can't believe that this entire statement is derived from 1 Timothy 3:5. However, I've actually received criticism for having a female boss, being told, "I've never had a woman as my boss and couldn't work in a situation with a woman as my boss." That's the extent to which this belief is taken. It's interesting to me that women are prohibited from any resemblance of leadership over men at work, church, or in the home, yet women in this movement frequently engage in educating and debating with men online.]

12. While men are called to public spheres of dominion beyond the home, their dominion begins within the home, and a man’s qualification to lead and ability to lead well in the public square is based upon his prior success in ruling his household. (Mal. 4:6; Eph. 6:4; 1 Tim. 3:5) [Unfortunately, there are no qualifications presented for male leadership in the home. He is the unquestioned leader (or "ruler") simply because he is male. If he's abusing his authority, belittling his wife, or ignoring his kids, their job is to meekly follow him. Wives are instructed to simply apply I Peter 3:1,2, which says, "Wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct." I don't know how this is interpreted to mean that a wife should remain silent as her husband ignores his family and implements a pattern of emotional and spiritual abuse in his treatment of his wife, but that's how it's implemented within this movement.]

13. Since the woman was created as a helper to her husband, as the bearer of children, and as a “keeper at home,” the God-ordained and proper sphere of dominion for a wife is the household and that which is connected with the home, although her domestic calling, as a representative of and helper to her husband, may well involve activity in the marketplace and larger community. (Gen. 2:18ff; Prov. 31:10-31; Tit. 2:4-5)

14. While unmarried women may have more flexibility in applying the principle that women were created for a domestic calling, it is not the ordinary and fitting role of women to work alongside men as their functional equals in public spheres of dominion (industry, commerce, civil government, the military, etc.). The exceptional circumstance (singleness) ought not redefine the ordinary, God-ordained social roles of men and women as created. (Gen. 2:18ff; Josh. 1:14; Jdg. 4; Acts 16:14) [This is such a gross misinterpretation of scripture that I'm not sure where to begin. Not a single Bible verse referenced says anything to substantiate the claim that women can't work alongside men. In fact, Deborah, Israel's judge referenced in Judges 4, served as Israel's leader while married. Lydia, referenced in Acts 16, was a merchant. I'm confused and don't see how these examples do anything to prove that women shouldn't work alongside men.]

22. Both sons and daughters are under the command of their fathers as long as they are under his roof or otherwise the recipients of his provision and protection. Fathers release sons from their jurisdiction to undertake a vocation, prepare a home, and take a wife. Until she is given in marriage, a daughter continues under her father’s authority and protection. Even after leaving their father’s house, children should honor their parents by seeking their counsel and blessing throughout their lives. (Gen. 28:1-2; Num. 30:3ff; Deut. 22:21; Gal. 4:1,2; Eph. 6:2-3) [The scholarship to arrive at the conclusion that sons can be released from their fathers' "jurisdiction" before marriage but the daughter can't is shoddy at best. I'll let the verses speak for themselves on this one. It's one thing to train, educate, and guide your children; it's quite another thing to treat your children as your property.]

23. Fathers should oversee the process of a son or daughter seeking a spouse. While a father may find a wife for his son, sons are free to take initiative to seek and “take a wife.” A wise son will desire his parents’ involvement, counsel, and blessing in that process. Since daughters are “given in marriage” by their fathers, an obedient daughter will desire her father to guide the process of finding a husband, although the final approval of a husband belongs to her. Upon a Marriage taking place, a new household with new jurisdiction is established, separate from that of the father. (Gen. 24:1ff; 25:20; 28:2; Ex. 2:21; Josh. 15:17; Jdg. 12:9; 1 Sam. 18:27; Jer. 29:6; 1 Cor. 7:38; Gen. 24:58) [The Bible often refers to sons and daughters being given in marriage. This was the cultural norm at the time. It does not mandate this method of finding a spouse though and to suggest otherwise is unbiblical. Additionally, I still don't find any biblical evidence that daughters should be treated so differently from sons in regard to finding a spouse.]
In addition to all of this, here's an excerpt from a blog post written in 2003 by Doug Phillips in reference to a young girl's home school graduation:
To raise a daughter without thought to marriage, to instill in them a spirit of independence from the family, or to focus their training on a career outside the home, is actually to disqualify them for graduation and the next step in life. In contrast, a woman who meets the biblical requirements for graduation is one who is comfortable being under the jurisdiction of her father and seeks to make him successful in every way. She recognizes that God calls women to be under the authority of God-appointed men, first in the form of fathers, and later as husbands.
My goal for my daughter should not be that she make me "successful in every way." This is not a God-centered philosophy. This is a me-centered philosophy where everything in my home revolves around me and serves to glorify me. It's so selfish and so wrong.

There are certainly biblical commandments regarding how husbands and wives should love and serve one another; there are commandments related to the relationships between parents and their children. However, many of the standards held by this movement are based on biblical narratives, not commandments. Children and women are oppressed because of the rigid implementation of cultural norms from 4,000 years ago.

3. Christians Must Home School
I was home schooled K-12 and it was actually my choice from grades 9-12 since I enjoyed the independence it provided and it allowed me to graduate from high school and head off to college a year early. The rest of my siblings have gone to public high school for most of their high school years. While my parents' education views are very conservative, they don't exactly extend to the level that Vision Forum and ATI suggest they should. I want that to be clear since many of you probably already know that I was home schooled. I'm not condemning home school as an education choice by any means; I'm criticizing a religious view that states that home school is the only acceptable choice for a Christian.

Here's Vision Forum's stance on education, with my thoughts in italics:
16. Education is not a neutral enterprise. Christian parents must provide their children with a thoroughly Christian education, one that teaches the Bible and a biblical view of God and the world. Christians should not send their children to public schools since education is not a God-ordained function of civil government and since these schools are sub-Christian at best and anti-Christian at worst. (Deut. 4:9; 6:6-9; Rom. 13:3-5; Eph. 6:4; 2 Tim. 3:15) [I have no idea where they get their claim that "education is not a God-ordained function of civil government." I'd like to see their outline of what constitutes "God-ordained functions of civil government" along with the scripture to support their position. They also seem to ignore the fact that the separation of church and state was actually initiated by Christians. Early Americans couldn't agree on what theology would be taught in school. Presbyterians wanted Calvinism taught while Methodists wanted Arminianism taught. They all agreed that keeping the church out of the classroom and in the church was the best solution. They didn't abandon the classroom though! If a parent wants to home school their child, there's nothing wrong with that, but there's no biblical mandate that dictates God's preference for home, private, or public school.]

17. Fathers are sovereign over the training of their children and, with their wives, are the children’s chief teachers. Christian parents are bound to obey the command personally to walk beside and train their children. Any approach to Christian education ought to recognize and facilitate the role of fathers and mothers as the primary teachers of their children. (Deut. 4:9; 6:6ff; Ps. 78:3-8; Prov. 1:8; Eph. 6:4)

18. Educational methodology is not neutral. The Christian should build his educational methodology from the word of God and reject methodologies derived from humanism, evolutionism, and other unbiblical systems of thought. Biblical education is discipleship, a process designed to reach the heart. The aim is a transformed person who exhibits godly character and a trained mind, both of which arise from faith. The parents are crucial and ordinarily irreplaceable in this heart-level, relational process. (Deut. 6:5-7; Lk. 6:40; 1 Thess. 2:7-12; 2 Tim. 1:5; 2 Pet. 1:5-8) [You can see how the argument is gradually built that all education must be done at home. This is clearly not what was being communicated in the verses referenced or anywhere else in the Bible, but it's the twist that this movement puts on those verses.]

19. Since the educational mandate belongs to parents and they are commanded personally to walk beside and train their children, they ought not to transfer responsibility for the educational process to others. However, they have the liberty to delegate components of that process. While they should exercise great caution and reserve in doing this, and the more so the less mature the child, it is prudent to take advantage of the diversity of gifts within the body of Christ and enjoy the help and support that comes with being part of a larger community with a common purpose. (1 Cor. 12:14ff; Gal. 4:1,2; 6:2; Eph. 4:16) [Again, the verses pulled out of context are baffling. Galatians 4:1,2 is once again used grossly out of context, as are others, to support Doug Phillips' philosophy. He seems to allow a window for other Christians to assist with education, potentially opening up the possibility for private school, but even this window is barely cracked open.]

20. The age-integrated communities of family and church are the God-ordained institutions for training and socialization and as such provide the preferred pattern for social life and educational endeavors. The modern preference for grouping children exclusively with their age mates for educational and social purposes is contrary to scriptural wisdom and example. (Deut. 29:10-11; 2 Chron. 20:13; Prov. 22:15 with 13:20; Joel 2:16; 1 Cor. 15:33) [It's clear from this section that Vision Forum believes all socializing, education, etc. must happen within the family and church. A private, church-run school may be a loophole that's allowed, but home school is strongly encouraged and regardless, public school is considered to be contrary to the Bible (which is interesting since until the 1970s, home school hardly existed in the United States). Additionally, the Bible doesn't say anything about prohibiting children to be grouped with other kids of the same age.]
There are other elements of the movement that are disconcerting. There's the lack of oversight that its leaders seem to have. There's the militantly anti-divorce view. I call it "militant" because even in extreme situations of abuse, women are encouraged to continue to be meek followers whose humble behavior and servant heart will turn their husbands around. Numerous women have suffered abuse and neglect for years thanks to this teaching. One example of this advice being doled out by Michael and Debi Pearl includes their persistence that even if the husband has molested the children, the wife needs to remain with him because "God hates divorce — always, forever, regardless, without exception."
It's not difficult to find others attempting to expose the problems in this movement. E. Stephen Burnett, a Christian and self-proclaimed complementarian, offered an excellent critique of Vision Forum in June 2010, using many of the same excerpts that I just used. Here are a few excerpts (click here to skip Burnett's comments):
1. Vision Forum insists a Christian woman must not obtain an education or hold a job outside the home; rather, if she is unmarried, she must stay under her human father’s authority.

Though many Christians (including me) would argue against this view, it is not itself anti-Biblical. However, VF does not seem to recognize this as an issue about which Christians can hold different views. VF’s leaders and resources encourage all Christian young women to remain under their human fathers’ spiritual authority and vision for his family, until the father releases his daughter to be married.

Thus, the Gospel and true Biblical authority on actual unquestionable matters are both sadly cheapened.
VF’s resources, articles and culture overwhelmingly see only secular feminism as Christian families’ main enemy. They do not talk about the risks of overcorrecting into chauvinism, much less the possibility of minimizing Christ’s role as believers’ only High Priest in their haste to uphold fathers’ roles as their families’ heads. Worse, statements about fathers’ “authority” over adult unmarried daughters are not accompanied by Gospel-centered context or support for this teaching from Scripture.
By serving her mother, creating a peaceful home atmosphere, and furthering her father’s goals, this young woman is a blessing to her family and to others. Her secret is placing herself under her father’s authority and at his disposal, content in her God-given role. This daily training has another reward—she will be well-fitted for marriage as a help-meet suitable for her husband. Fellow daughters, do you truly work at pleasing your father and helping him to accomplish his goals? Do you enjoy spending time with him?

Being Your Father’s Daughter, Elisha Ann Wahlquist, June 27, 2005, Ladies Against Feminism website (accessed June 7, 2010)
Let me tell you, there is liberty in submission. There is liberty in submitting to your father. Don’t let your heart be taken captive by the independent spirit of feminism. We as daughters are not sufficient to guard our hearts — God has placed us under the authority of our fathers to protect our hearts.

So I encourage you — give your heart fully to the Lord Jesus Christ and to your father (or if you are married, to your husband) and be under his authority. Find your mission in being his helpmeet. Your job is to honor and serve him as your leader, your protector, your head. The Word of God tells us as women to delight in being keepers at home and to love children. We are to make our father’s (or husband’s) home and work as productive as possible.

The Feminism of the Mothers is the Destruction of the Daughters, Sarah Zes, Jan. 14, 2004, Vision Forum website (emphasis added; accessed June 7, 2010).
VF and affiliated advocates seems not to recognize the lack of any Biblical support for the false dichotomy that either a daughter is influenced by worldly feminism or she must serve as her father’s “help-meet,” being under his authority and serving his vision until such time as the father allows her to be married.
2. Vision Forum promotes father-supervised “courtship,” not just as optional or beneficial for Christians, but required especially for a man’s daughter.

This concept recurs in many VF articles and resources, and is often promoted by VF-affiliated homeschool moms (such as Jennie Chancey) as part of the antidote to feminism. These principles are purported to be based on several Scripture verses — whose application upon closer inspection utterly falls apart.
VF is guilty of eisegesis and bad hermeneutics, applying descriptive Scriptures as if they are prescriptive.

This text fails to provide context and read Scripture naturally, rather, forcing from narrative a lifestyle that Scripture does not promote. Such “literal” readings, in the wrong sense, disrespect God’s Word and give credence to atheists’ and skeptics’ false charges that too many Christians “read all of the Bible literally.”

3. Vision Forum has obscured many views of its leaders by removing videos, resources and articles due to their controversial statements — yet has not publicly amended its beliefs.

This is less substantive than other criticisms, but still worth mentioning. Perhaps the clearest example is this: without explanation or retraction, VF has removed articles that directly claim it is a sin, and a violation of the role of Christian husbands as heads of household, for a woman to go to college or vote in elections.
And does it really make economic sense to invest tens of thousands of dollars for a woman to get an advanced education (often having to go into debt to finance that education) that she will NOT use if she accepts that her highest calling is to be a wife and mother?

[. . .]

God does not allow women to vote (cf. 1 Tim. 2:11 ff).

Originally seen in Biblical Patriarchy and the Doctrine of Federal Representation as of Sept. 20, 2007, since removed. Cited in Answering Vision Forum, Don Veinot (a rebuttal to Vision Forum’s Aug. 29 letter), on Midwest Christian Outreach’s The Crux blog.
Wise Christians (we hope we are among them!) know that it is not technically heresy to claim that women must never attend college and must serve their fathers as “helpmeets” until marriage; or that the best method of “courtship” is for a father to choose his daughter’s husband and supervise their relationship; or even that women should not vote (though we are among those who would argue heartily that such ideas are wrong!).

However, it is at least approaching disregard of Biblical authority, and perhaps even heresy, to add any of these ideas to Scripture as if they are required or “normative” of Christians.
I actually read Burnett's critique after writing mine. I was intrigued by how much overlap there was in some of the specific issues we both raised, especially regarding the Bible being taken out of context and narratives being turned into commands.

The best explanation for why this movement manifests itself as a cult comes from those who have been hurt and abused by it. The stories of the people who have come out of it are a testament to its toxic effect on families. Here are a few stories and other relevant links.
  • Jen tells her story of Doug Phillips' "ecclesiastical tyranny" (as some have put it) at Jen's Gems.
  • A young man tells a brief story of escaping his family, who followed Bill Gothard's teachings.
  • Many have exposed problems with Bill Gothard; examples can be found here and here and here.
  • The publishers of the Apologetics Index consider Bill Gothard's Institute in Basic Life Principles to be theologically a "cult of Christianity" as well as "cult-like in both a theological and sociological sense."
  • Jonathan W. Rice reviews the movement's slow and subtle grasp by responding to the question, "How did you get yourself into this mess?"
  • Michael Pearl's callous response to the death of a little girl at the hands of her adoptive parents, who were following his teachings on discipline, is absolutely shocking. (His original post can be found here on his Facebook page.)
  • Doug Phillips talks about signing Bibles and loving Bill Gothard in this post.
For those who don't click through a single link, I'll offer one story here since I think it's important - especially if you're still skeptical about all of this - to read at least one.

In response to a woman who protested that there are many happy families and loving husbands in the movement, one woman offered her experience in this letter:

I know similar families like yours.
What a joy they are!

What I do wish you would acknowledge, though, is that the specific teachings often promoted in this movement/camp helped contribute to the abuse, if not outrightly approved of it.

Not so much toward the abusive husband—abusive men will be abusive wherever they are (though this camp baptises their need to control and dominate their wives)—but especially in the area of the the woman’s meek *acceptance* of the hyper-controlling and dominating behavior of her husband.

I know that for me, I put up with it for MUCH longer than I ever should have, ONLY because I thought it was God’s will that I be in submission.

In fact, the very first thing that happened floored me (as we drove away on our honeymoon…that was the first time…I was shocked)…but I was a wife then…and I knew that wives HAD to submit…wives had to do whatever their husbands wanted, because wives were not allowed any personal boundaries.

When we got back from our honeymoon and he commanded that I give up my car, my tv, my guitar, etc, I complied with only a whimper of protest. I didn’t have the rights to own things anymore. I was a wife now, and my husband was my spiritual authority. HIS vision for how our home would look, for what we would do with our lives, etc, was to be MY vision. This is what I’d learned in Bible School, this is what all the books said, and besides, he wasn’t asking me to sin. Right?

So later, when my husband gave me lists for what I had to clean to perfection before being allowed to go to bed at night, etc, I submitted because I thought that was what God wanted. In fact, if there was anybody who was in sin, I was positive it was ME for feeling so humiliated at being given these long lists. I thought *my* reaction was what was sinful, not my husband treating me like a child.

According to the teachings of this camp, the only time a wife has the right to say no to her husband is when he’s asking her to sin. And giving a detailed list of how the kitchen had to be completely sanitized and toothbrush-scrubbed before I could climb the stairs for bed (where he was waiting for me, ready for some action), was not sin. Right?

My heart would sink to my stomach as I climbed those stairs, finally done with my job, and, get this, again, I was sure (thanks to all the books I’d read) that the problem was ME. I would be so ashamed of myself for MY sin at not being a cheerful and amorous wife.

I learned to fake it (because a godly wife NEVER ever says no to her husband in bed—she has no rights to any boundaries when it comes to what he wants, and that includes the most intimate parts of her own body), and I fervently prayed for the real feelings to come (looking back, er, I can figure out REAL quick why I would walk up those stairs in dread…who wants to be amorous with someone who treats you like a child…?)

Who backed up those beliefs of mine? Who taught them to me in the first place?

The patriarchy movement.

So while it’s good to openly acknowledge that there are many good families in this movement, it’s also important for you to acknowledge the part that your movement had in what happens to the families where dad isn’t a healthy person.

I learned all sorts of ways to help my unhealthy husband become even unhealthier, thanks to the patriarchy movement. I was submissive for all those years because of my love and obedience to God. I would have NEVER put up with that stuff had I not thought that God’s will was for wives to submit.

If you never say no to a toddler and always give them what they demand, you’ll have a monster on your hands in no time flat. Same with unhealthy husbands. But the patriarchy movement taught me the exact opposite, such as,

- Douglas Wilson’s “Reforming Marriage” where we were taught that I was the ground and my husband was the farmer and whatever he wanted to grow was what I had to grow.

- Doug Phillip’s publication by Phil Lancaster, “Family Man, Family Leader,” where men are told that if their wife is always happy with them, they must be doing something wrong, because a good leader will make decisions that his wife doesn’t like sometimes. That same book talked about how the husband was in charge of EVERYTHING the wife does, making my husbands hyper-control look pretty wimpy, really—making me think I had it pretty good.

- I learned it from Debi Pearl’s “Created to be His Helpmate,” where I learned that I was created solely to fulfill my husband’s vision, that when he was a “command man” and demanded this and that rudely, I had to do it with a smile. When he was a “visionary,” and had crazy ideas, I had to applaud and be his biggest fan. (I’m filing for bankruptcy now. Let’s just say the ideas got crazier and crazier and the last one was particularly horrible). I also learned there that suffering quietly in a bad marriage was what women of faith do, and women who don’t have faith leave or talk to a counselor.

- I learned from “The Excellent Wife” that I could only give “one appeal” when I disagreed with my husband, and after that, I wasn’t allowed by God to say anything more. So when my husband was beating our dog’s head into the porch, I was only allowed to ask him to stop once. Any more than that was sin. So I ran upstairs and sobbed my prayers to God to stop my husband. I literally thought, thanks to all of these books, that submission was THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, that me not submitting was a far greater crime in God’s eyes than letting an animal be beaten mercilessly.

- I learned from Denny Keneston that a godly woman is a “Hidden Woman,” she is somewhere in the background. She serves her husband as if he was an incarnation of Christ–he is her earthly lord.

- From Elizabeth Rice Standeford, “Me? Obey Him,” we learn that a woman should obey her husband in everything, even if he tells her to sin, because God promises to protect her from the worst of the sin. If her husband tells her not to go to church, she can’t go to church. If he wants to go left, she must go left, if he wants to go right, she must go right, etc. (When you are married to a hyper-controlling perfectionist, let me just say that this is really really BAD).

I won’t go on, but I have more books I could mention. I think it’s important that people in the patriarchy camp stand up and say, “We’re not all like that!” But I also think it’s important that you acknowledge that many of the “popular” books SUPPORT what happened to these families where things DIDN’T go so well.

These books do not talk about abuse in any sort of detail—many times, they actually condone it. For example, a husband controlling his wife’s decisions isn’t abusive in these books. Rather, it proves he’s a godly leader, and they encourage him to do it even more!

Those within the QF patriarchy camp, if they are opposed to abusive men having carte blanche over their families, must stand up and demand a different kind of reading material, a different kind of family vision than the one that is currently selling like hotcakes.

What happened to Laura and Vyckie is not some odd strange isolated event. What happened to my family was completely invisible on the outside. My husband was a full-time minister, lauded and loved by our congregation, during the entire time all of this was happening!

If those of you in this camp don’t stand up against your camp's books and teachings that openly FEED these unhealthy families abusive behaviors, but yet still support this camp as being God’s way and back up these teachers and their publications, you are, albeit in a smaller way than the book’s authors, *helping* to contribute to the abuse.

So, yes, stand up and show the world that there ARE healthy good families in this movement. But also stand up against some of the more popular teachings in this movement that support the very thing you do not want your movement to be associated with.
I hope those of you still defending this movement just read that. The point isn't that there are families like the Duggars that appear to be doing well under this lifestyle. The point is there are families all over the place who are not doing well as a direct result of this lifestyle. This movement simply doesn't acknowledge the hurt its own teachings cause so many people.

This is a movement that lives in constant fear of "the world." Fear of God is supposed to reign supreme in the Christian's life, but the movement doesn't seem to believe that God is big enough to protect a child from the evils of the world if that child goes to public school. They're afraid of what will happen to a 19-year-old who goes to a college 200 miles from home. They fear the direction a wife may go if she makes a decision without her husband's express stamp of approval or does anything while out from under his watchful eye.

My wife is not my slave and my kids are not my property to be used as I see fit. This is how they're treated by this movement. This is the end result of subscribing to their philosophy.

But what about the Duggars? They look so happy! Why do I think there are problems?

I think problems will be exposed because the problems within this movement are rarely visible to the public. When people are watching (or cameras are turned on), everything looks perfect and at times it really feels like it is. But too many things just don't add up to me. We know that the Duggar children are denied access to higher education; don't have the freedom have any friends outside of the church/family/ATI circle; have zero privacy within their own home; and have an almost total lack of freedom and independence, particularly for the older girls who live in a state of virtual indentured servitude. But while all of this is clearly undesirable, there is no evidence of outright abuse.

But the abuse usually isn't physical. It's psychological, emotional, and spiritual. We need to quit seeing this as just another sect of Christianity and call it what it is. If it looks like a cult and smells like a cult, chances are it's a cult.

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Anonymous Anonymous declared,

Joey, I can tell that you are very familiar with this patriarchy movement. I believe you have been more than fair and balanced in presenting your observations here.

Having fully left this extra-biblical "cult," I can only say that you have just touched the tip of the iceberg here. I wish pointing out the obvious here would enlighten those who are in bondage to these false teachings, but when you are in the midst of it, your eyes are blinded to everything that is not espoused by one of these cult leaders.

I realize that these folks truly think they are obeying God, even to a much higher degree than "other" Christians, but instead there is a veil that seems to lie over their hearts, as in II Cor. 3. I have no animosity toward anyone caught up in such bondage and pray fervently for them to experience the freedom in Christ that is theirs for the taking.

9/13/2010 10:16 PM  
Blogger watchman declared,

Joey, thanks for posting this. I expect you will get some kick back on this, but the conversation that will result will be worth it, I hope.

To me, your point is clear - the influencers in this movement are, to a certain extent, responsible for some of the abuses that have occurred. They have declared that God's word demands a particular environment, and that environment is often toxic.

Too often, these fringe fundamentalist sects are perfect environments for abusers and narcissists.

If my house is filled with trash, old food and is generally filled with nastiness, I should not be surprised if it attracts rats. I think the same way of the sub-cultures you describe in this post. If a religious system gives men god powers, don't be surprised if men think they're God. Narcissists and abusive maniacs are sure to be attracted to such an environment.

9/13/2010 11:20 PM  
Blogger The Whites declared,

"when families are going on welfare and signing up for government health plans to keep up with their 14th child;...." This is untrue as far as VF goes, they are very against any form of government assistance (and private insurance) even to the detriment of their followers, as you can imagine.

9/14/2010 12:54 AM  
Blogger roddma declared,

While true Quiverfull and VF are against welfare and assistance, I think he means the one who may have left the movement or got in bad situations because of the teachings. I imagine many don't strictly adhere to these rules. Anyone can claim not to be on assistance but they are. It is strange they accept donations. The Jeubs mother in "Kids by the Dozen"' stated every time she leaves or arrives home donations are at her door.If government assistance is wrong, shouldn't taking donations be wrong too?

9/14/2010 1:33 AM  
Blogger Joey declared,

@The Whites, thanks, that's a good point. I've seen instances where this has happened but those people may not have specifically been subscribing to VF philosophy. There are so many shades of this movement and VF is just one of them.

9/14/2010 1:33 AM  
Anonymous Hillary declared,

Very detailed...thank you for this. God bless you and your family.

9/14/2010 7:27 AM  
Blogger rachel declared,

thank you for this post! Very clear and more than fair to the groups you mentioned. My family was in ATI and our home is full of quiverfull and VF books. Thankfully they got out but many of us are still dealing with the repercussions.

R -

9/14/2010 9:52 AM  
Blogger Joey declared,

@jensgems, I read your entire story last week. It's insane! I was so impressed with how you handled it. I saw VF's response to your blog and just couldn't find any substantiating evidence to prove their position against you.

@roddma, The type of government assistance that can be taken seems to vary based on the situation (and probably the person). Politics play a big role in the movement as well, so that probably doesn't help make things any clearer...

@Hillary and Rachel, I've read your stuff before and it's great. Thanks for stopping by to read this.

I really have to thank everyone who's told their stories before. I'm not sure I could have put this together without them.

9/14/2010 7:56 PM  
Anonymous Carla declared,

I read your blog post.

Still love the Duggars and have several of their shows on DVD. :)

9/15/2010 7:11 PM  
Blogger Joey declared,

I wasn't exactly trying to get anyone to quit loving the Duggars. We should all love them. I do want people to see their beliefs for what they are. There's nothing okay about this movement and the Duggars are a big part of it.

9/16/2010 10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous declared,

This is excellent and well worded. Thank you for going back to the Word of God - when God's Word is made to say things that it doesn't, that's where the trouble begins.
I would encourage you, if you haven't already, check out Hillary McFarland's book Quivering Daughters. new off the press - check out her blog as well. Very gentle heart but clear and true on exposing the wicked within these cults. She also takes it back to the gospel.

May the Lord lead those with open hearts and ears to read what you've written and may God free others to get back to the basics and not make these movements their identity and their god.

Having been involved in the movements you've mentioned to one degree or another in my past - I have experienced them first hand and their leaders in person. Many times, if one is to speak opposition to the teachings of these movements, they are labeled feminists and bitter people. Of course, there are some who have broken free and that is exactly what has happened. But not all - I desire to see others break free from these cults and know God for who He really is and make Him Lord of their life, rather than all the issues that are made god by these movements/cults. God can do this - we need a heart that longs to see these people know the love of God and how He is not impressed with our performances or lifestyles, but bases His love completely upon His own heart. these people need our prayer and our bravery to speak truth in love.

That being said, there are also those who have had hard run ins with these cults and it's easy to take their side because we know how wrong the cult side is and what they have experienced. . . but not in all cases is the seemingly innocent party, who has been burned by the cult, walking with the Lord either.

As believers in the Lord and His Word we need to cry out for discernment. I believe God has given you discernment even in what you have written here. You see through what many do not - that many just take as truth, blindly following charismatic leaders who from my personal experiences with them, will not, and refuse to be questioned. They are always right. Anyone who questions is always wrong, not godly. If we are in God's Word we can detect that which is not in His Word. If we are broken before God in humility because we know we are nothing without Him, than we will detect that which is of pride and self-righteousness. God is after our hearts - not after whether we make our daughters remain home from college. :) The root of these cults is self-love... making many well meaning commitments, in place of dropping all the extra external to do lists and getting back to God Himself. He is after us serving and loving others, not controlling them.

My question I often ask myself is "God how do I respond to these people who are blindly following? How do I love them? how do I speak the truth in love when they see me, one who is not following the cult, as the "bad guy?"

God always brings me back to the these things:
1. I've been blind too.
2. God's mercy is great. He came to save. He came to save even those who are in "christian" cults. He opens eyes.
3. Life is too short to get upset over things that are outside of my control :)and the men who spear head these beliefs and teach them are for sure outside of my control lol!

Again, thanks for your post here and being willing to share the truth despite the loud voices of those shouting in the movements/cults. It is refreshing.
blessings to you and your family.

resolved2worship on xanga

9/16/2010 2:20 PM  
Blogger roddma declared,

I have been trying to tell the truth on the '19 Kids and Counting' Facebook page. I posted the link to this post and someone said 'this aint the place for that'Its scary when even atheist and mainstream Christians hold the Duggars them up as role models. More who left the Fundamentalist-Quiverfull cult need to post on there whether any of the 'fans' like it or not.

9/16/2010 4:40 PM  
Blogger sarahepm declared,

So just out of curiosity Joey, what are your views on passages like Ephesians 5 that do talk about wives submitting to their husbands as the church submits to Christ? I only ask for clarification because I believe there is a very biblical view of submission that is not a woman kowtowing to her husband's every whim, but is rather a husband lovingly leading his family. I have recently had to put into practice this idea because my husband got a job offer in another state and although I had zero desire to move he felt that it was where God was leading and if I was honest with my self I knew it too. So, we moved. He knew it was hard on me and though he regretted making a decision that was going to be so difficult for me he knew he had to do it. Sorry for the rambling, I guess I'm just trying to ask for some clarification because we can't simply write off those passages of the Bible that liken a marriage relationship to the relationship between Christ and the church.

9/16/2010 10:57 PM  
Blogger Joey declared,

@resolved2worship, you're right, we need to be careful about bitterness. I would add that whether or not someone is still walking with the Lord doesn't change their experience and in some cases, they point to their experience as the direct reason they left. As much as I don't identify with that reaction, it is pretty tough to blame them. I have a hard time with knowing how to respond in a helpful manner to these people, and there are a lot of them!

@sarahepm, I would label myself as complementarian. The Bible seems pretty clearly complementarian and I just don't see the argument for egalitarianism there. I'd like to go through the DVD series from John Piper, "What's the Difference?" to get his detailed take on it. I do think there are a number of people who claim complementarianism but in reality live more of a patriarchal lifestyle, or have a blend of patriarchy and complementarianism. This only muddies the conversation as it puts complementarianism in a bad light. So I think going through that DVD series would hopefully help me get a better perspective with how exactly my church believes it should be lived and how I believe it should be lived. I have a pretty good idea in my head but I'm not sure how well I would do at putting it down on paper right now. I do know that I would not move my family without my wife's full support. We would have to both agree that it's what's best. I don't believe that God speaks only to the husband. To me, if both spouses aren't convicted of something like that, then it's probably not God's will for you to make that move. But that's me, and I know plenty of people who disagree with that way of doing things (and I suppose practically, you could say it's pretty egalitarian...).

9/17/2010 10:26 AM  
Blogger sarahepm declared,

Thanks Joey! You know that I know that you're complementarian, I just wanted some clarification for the sake of clarification. And (seeing as I typed my comment at 11 last night) I realized I was pretty unclear about the circumstances of the decision of our move. I didn't want to move but I also knew undoubtedly that it was what God's will was for us and that it was going to be to the betterment of our family in the long run. So, it was not a decision N made without my support. :)Hope everything's going well with those adorable babies of yours!

9/17/2010 11:23 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Kari declared,

I feel like I'm going to throw up:
"Various forms of physical abuse and aggression, including a child's arm being broken during a spanking; children occasionally being grabbed and shaken roughly by the shoulders in a father's angry rage, including being pushed and thrown against walls; a child kicked in the behind by his father in front of all of his peers."

9/17/2010 2:10 PM  
Blogger roddma declared,

The passage in Ephesians also says husband love your wives which is often overlooked. Then the husband has to be living right. Submit to your husbands doesn't mean in the form of slavery. The verse is often turned into something its not.Some men use it to mean the wives must obey every command without question. This was the case of Andrea Yates.

9/18/2010 7:07 PM  
Blogger watchman declared,

About all the Eph. 5 talk...

Any couple that has to sit down and decide who is in charge is in real trouble to start with.

I heard a preacher say once that part of the judgement in Genesis 3 was that the 'husband ... he will rule over you.' So, if the husband has to rule over the wife, we are more a part of the consequences of sin than the solution to the sin.

So, some of the quotations here seem to be a little out of whack with the narrative of scripture and Christ's effort to overcome sin, instead of surrender to the consequences of sin.

Now, when it comes to Eph. 5:22, this is a classic proof-text. In all actuality, there is no delineation between verse 21 and verse 22 in the Greek. The best way to read this passage is to put a colon after verse 21 and make a bullet list. So, Paul says to mutually 'submit to one another in worship of Christ' in the following ways:
- wives
- husbands
- children
- slaves
- masters

Ok, now the first thing we have to recognize is that some of these things are principles and not necessarily supposed to be followed literally, which sounds like heresy to my fundy friends, I know. If we don't take that stance, though, then we should all go out and purchase a few slaves. There are clearly cultural factors here.

Now, how exactly do these ancient husbands act as 'Lord' of their homes? Like Christ, Paul says, who died for his bride and wildly accepted his bride with all her issues. He won her over with love and sacrifice, not by abusing her. He did not belittle her. He did not try to 'break' her or show her who was boss. He never showed any insecurity about his place and role because he was absolutely confident in the radical power of his own love.

9/18/2010 9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous declared,

Well written J-man. I guess the silver lining in this least they are out breeding the muslims!! I think you know who this post is from. :)

(I just wanted to post on a blog so I can say I blogged, I hope this first blog post from me was as good for you as it was for me.)

9/27/2010 3:23 PM  
Blogger Angela declared,

I found your blog via "Why Not Train A Child" page on Facebook. Thank you for a thoughtful and well-written post.

We are from a conservative Reformed tradition with a an excellent grasp of the gospel. However, a few years ago, we had to move to a rural area for my husband's work. There, I would estimate 90% of the Christian families were deeply immersed in Gothardism and the Pearls. We had never heard of these groups before, but folks quickly began attempts to "recruit" us into their cult. We saw first hand much of the mindset and behavior you are speaking of. It was a scary time for us, unable to find a church in the area that didn't spout this patriarchal heresy, where men make idols of themselves and their authority, and women make idols of their submission, meekness and their children's perfect obedience. And children are beaten and treated as mules to be broken.

It was a breath of fresh air to "escape" and move back to our hometown, our homechurch, and our community based on solid theology. Looking back, those years were a dark time of doubt and fear for us, and we continue to pray that those families will give up their cult-like, extra-(or non-)Biblical ideas and embrace the Gospel of Grace worship at the feet of the King of Kings who made himself the Servant of all.

9/28/2010 8:50 PM  
Anonymous Allen declared,

Via interest in their annual film festival and some correspondence regarding it, I've noticed a strange and enticing quality about these people. Intuitively I began to discern a demonic presence. The more I learn about them, and their complete ineptitude with Biblical hermeneutics, the more my "spiritual gut" is confirmed.

10/20/2010 11:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous declared,

Thank you for your post. I know families who are in this cult and it is very sad. They do not understand the depth of these organizations and the corrupt things that are going on behind the scenes. Their children are running away from them, and they just can't seem to get "why". I wish they would realize that these teachings are not actually biblical and are false. I'm afraid for them and many others.

11/09/2010 9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous declared,

I am so sorry for all the bad things that have happened or been done because of the movement of the quiverfull. But I must say that I have heard more than not many good stories coming from people who read books from vision forum and other similar companies. I do not feel oppressed because I live under my fathers roof and I am not abused. I believe its unfair to put us all in one basket and that all of us are crazy and abusive to our children! Thank you for your post and opinions, but you should not prejudge people you have never met and say we are all the same because we read vision forum materials.

1/10/2011 8:03 AM  
Blogger Marie declared,

Big, fat, huge, enormous AMEN. I am not involved in this movement and don't plan to be (although my husband and I are conservative Christians, we do not homeschool our kids and I work part-time outside the home...two very big no-no's in their minds), but a number of families, all friends of ours, left our church and jumped on board the "Familiy INtegrated Church" bandwagon. They seem to hold all these's steeped in legalism and judgementalism. Thanks so much for being the voice of reason!!! I agree, they take verses out of context.

3/25/2011 1:29 PM  
Blogger La Rêveuse declared,

Your Google Ads is for Vision Forum clearance specials. Rather ironic, no?

4/06/2011 9:25 PM  
Blogger Joey declared,

La Rêveuse, the irony isn't lost on me at all. (Of course, neither is the meager revenue...) As you probably know, I don't choose whose ads show up, but I do find them strange and even humorous at times.

4/08/2011 1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous declared,

It's interesting how so many here paint with a broad brush, and take much out of context. One of the basic fundamental truths violated here is that "correlation does not mean causation". In other words, if someone who was in ATI becomes disgruntled, or is legalistic, etc.; you automatically blame Bill Gothard when said person may have been this way anyway or for any number of other reasons.

Furthermore, people who have “left” any of these so-called movements are automatically assumed to be honest and objective about their own experiences.

Could it be some of these folks are their own worst enemy and just looking for an excuse to blame someone else for their failures?
Finally, much of what you present is actually an argument against your own biased thinking. You freely criticize those who are calling people to follow Christ in a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Many dishonest statements are being made here…far too numerous to counter all of them. For example, none of these groups you mentioned here demands that you have as “many children as you can”. They do encourage Christians to allow God to control their family size, but the way it’s being presented here is badly out of context.

BTW, we used to be in ATI and we have read and/or attended events sponsored by the others you attack on here, and all I can say is you have things out of context. I don’t know if you are ignorant on these matters or being dishonest but the Lord knows.

5/11/2011 2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous declared,

One other comment I would like to make is that most young people are not in any of these groups you assail, but are leaving the church in droves. Who do you blame that on?

5/11/2011 2:13 PM  
Blogger Joey declared,

I'm well aware that no response will change the way you think. I'll only say that it's very interesting to me that you found my post by searching for the email address of someone from Vision Forum and you live in San Antonio, TX, where Vision Forum is headquartered. Perhaps it's just coincidence, but I suspect it's not.

5/11/2011 2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous declared,


In response to your post, I already stated that I have been in ATI and followed others' work you have attacked on here, so what's the point about how I found your post, etc.? This is just more of the same from you that is consistent with what you have already posted. This is what I find interesting.

Do you care to address the merits of my points, my question about most young people leaving the church, or are you more interested in where I live?

5/11/2011 2:55 PM  
Blogger Joey declared,

Anonymous, I don't find conversations to be very productive when A.) either party is not open to changing their current opinion and B.) either party is engaging anonymously. Living room conversations usually go much better than blog conversations, and blog conversations come much closer to living room conversations when the two people conversing at least know who they're conversing with.

So, with all due respect to your positions, I'm not interested in addressing your points unless I have confidence that neither A. nor B. is a factor. I've been a part of a few too many online discussions that dissolved into craziness when these two parameters aren't met.

5/11/2011 3:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous declared,


I agree that further conversation with you would most likely yield little if any benefit. And, I didn't expect you wanted to discuss issues anyway. Your forte seems to lean more toward the personal assassination arena rather than having open dialog about issues.

Character assasins are a dime a dozen on the Internet. They will give an account for their words just like everyone else.

5/11/2011 3:18 PM  
Blogger Joey declared,

There's a huge difference in a critical analysis and a character assassination. Most of what I provided here was direct quotes linked back to their original sources followed by my analysis. That's a far cry from character assassination.

Having said that, I do believe that Doug Phillips and some of the others mentioned here are leading a cultish movement. If you want to consider that assessment to be an assassination of their character, then so be it.

5/11/2011 4:20 PM  

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