Throughout my time in patriarchal churches, the Stay at Home Daughters (SAHD) movement was always in the background. I have watched incredible girls slowly beaten down over time into a life of submission. I have seen countless dreams extinguished because they do not fit into the box of approved biblical roles laid out in twisted teachings of the Bible. Over and over I have seen choices being taken away from these girls. Many times, the first choice taken away is their education. As Nelson Mandela said, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” As I see it, one of the smartest (not in a good way) decisions that leaders in the SAHD movement make is to deny their daughters a solid education. To paraphrase Stacey Schiff: an educated woman is a dangerous woman. Personally, I have no doubt the leaders of the SAHD movement know this. I believe they purposefully under-educate their daughters because it makes it easier to keep them under control, in submission, and to continue the perpetual cycle of SAHD. I believe this because I watched it happen. Time and time again, we see how women who are educated can change the world: Oprah, Emma Watson, Kathryn Sullivan, Winnie Byanyima, Malala Yousafzai, Condoleezza Rice, Jennifer Wiseman, Bonnie Wurzbacher, Tracey Bianchi, Brenda Salter McNeil, and the list goes on. By denying SAHD an education, these girls are kept in shackles—unable to break free and change the world for the better.
On top of the poor education these SAHD are given, they also receive “biblical” teachings—the purpose of which is to reinforce gender roles and embed words like “submission” and “headship” (in favor of men) in these girls’ minds. The Bible is used as a weapon to keep SAHD in submission to their male authority. They are constantly taught that God’s words explicitly teaches that women are easily deceived, are manipulative, should not have authority over men, should submit to their male authority, and the list goes on and on. To go against these “biblical” teachings is to rebel against God—resulting in having your salvation called into question. Ultimately, SAHD grow up internalizing these toxic teachings and completely believe in the idea of patriarchy because “the Bible says so”. Once married (which is a MUST), many of these women struggle to make decisions, feel guilty about asking their husband to help around the house, or to help raise their children. Others may enter a “soft comp” marriage, which at the time seems more balanced or safe than what they were taught growing up. However, at the end of the day they choose to enter a form of “fluffed-up” patriarchy because to reject men as providers, protectors, and leaders is to rebel against God’s word. To choose to leave their father’s house, get a solid education, have a career, or follow their own dreams is to reject God.
So how can SAHD make a real choice if it’s between serving God or receiving eternal damnation for disobedience?
By limiting a girl’s education and teaching her this toxic, oppressive theology, it creates a perfect storm that makes it very difficult for a SAHD to escape—even as a grown woman. By leaving or rejecting this ideology, women (and men) risk losing entire families, church families/support, community with people they have known their whole lives—it is a form of excommunication. However, I firmly believe the Holy Spirit is working in this toxic environment. I am hearing, with more frequency, of women leaving this toxic theology and embracing the freedom that Christ freely offers us.
I would like to encourage all of you to pray for SAHDs—both the ones you know by name and the ones you don’t! God knows who they are. Pray that the Holy Spirit would work in them to see that this is not best for these dear daughters. Pray that God would place believers around them to gently and lovingly speak truth into their lives. Pray that God would place people and organizations to help them and free them, to walk with them through the uncertainty, the financial hardships, and the ups and downs of starting a new life and navigating a career or an education. Pray for healthy churches to embrace them in all their brokenness and to truly walk with them as they deconstruct the theology they have been taught. Pray that they embrace freedom. Pray that all those teaching this false and toxic theology would repent and go on to empower women both in the church and in the home. Amen!!