What if you grow up in what you now call a sex cult, and you marry because your dad told you to?

Did you really consent to that marriage? And how does it even happen in North America today that girls are being pushed into arranged marriages?

Today’s podcast sounds more like one of those True Crime documentaries.

Alyssa Wakefield is the daughter of a couple big in the fundamentalist homeschooling movement; the Gothard movement; and John MacArthur’s church. She married a man big in the same circles, and joined Doug Phillips’ Vision Forum circle.

Homeschooled, she was groomed for an early marriage. They stopped teaching her at 16, though she desperately wanted to go to college. And her father arranged for her marriage to a man more than a decade older than her. That marriage, Alyssa says, was abusive.

Today Alyssa tells her story for the first time–at least her story in her own words. For many years, she and her ex-husband were used as poster children for a successful courtship story. Her story was in homeschooling videos. She’d be up on stage at conferences.

Today she gets to tell the story without her father’s input or her father-in-law’s input. I’m honoured she chose to tell it to us.


Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:


Timeline of the Podcast

0:10 This is a new topic for us!
2:15 Alyssa shares her childhood upbringing
9:25 Breaking her will, intro into purity culture and Gothard teachings
17:45 Intro into betrothal culture
21:30 Being a target for grooming
37:15 Fathers made a marriage arrangement
44:15 How Alyssa was selected for her marriage
49:45 Proposal at first real meeting
55:45 Rebecca and Sheila talk through this kind of upbringing

This is what happens when we take away children’s agency.

Notice how the whole focus of parenting of Alyssa was fear. Her parents were trying to control her life because they were afraid of outside influences. They use pious words and Christian language, but it all comes down to fear.

And when we’re afraid, we want to control. And so in these communities, there’s a hyper-focus on control. Combine that with a theology that tells men they’re supposed to have power over women, and it’s a toxic mix.

But can you see how Alyssa’s childhood meant that she didn’t have the emotional bandwidth to refuse that marriage? That’s why we need to stop using parenting techniques that try to control our kids, and instead learn to raise them with compassion, guiding them to make good decisions rather than forcing our will on them.

Join us on June 21st for an awesome FREE webinar with Wendy Snyder from Fresh Start Families (she was on our podcast several weeks ago talking about what compassionate discipline looks like.) It’s totally FREE, but you just need to register!

What if you don't need to control your kids and punish your kids to raise great kids?

Let's look at evidence-based parenting methods that WORK that bring life, rather than break our kids' spirits. Plus they're easier on you!

Join us for a FREE webinar June 21 with Wendy Snyder from Fresh Start Families. Start your new parenting journey!

Much of what Alyssa said her parents believed and practiced is actually mainstream evangelical theology.

When Rebecca and i were processing Alyssa’s story afterwards, we were commenting on how so much of what she was saying her parents believed and practiced is merely common theology taken to its logical conclusion. Yes, it’s extreme. But it’s still on the same spectrum. It’s still about control. It’s still about men being in charge. It’s still about not trusting your emotions. It’s still about blind obedience.

We need to stop promoting these things as correct at all, even in small increments, because this is what it leads to. We need to realize that the root is the problem. The extremes aren’t the problem–the root is! A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough, as Jesus said. It’s time to put an end to these theologies which try to control women and children, and instead help people thrive as children of God.

Things Mentioned in This Podcast:

UPDATE: Listen to Part 2 of Alyssa’s story!

Podcast Alyssa Wakefield Groomed for Abuse

What did you think of Alyssa’s story? Can you see the commonalities in theology that’s common in evangelicalism and in fundamentalism? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find BIBLICAL, HEALTHY, EVIDENCE-BASED help for their marriage. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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