Abuse and the Wilderness Family Adventure

Colossians 2:20-23 ESV If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations– (21) “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (22) (referring to things that all perish as they are used)–according to human precepts and teachings? (23) These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

It doesn’t work. The wilderness family adventure is not an answer to our troubles. My first church was in the mountains of Montana, 70 miles from a store of any significance. I loved that place. Spectacular mountains, streams, fishing and hunting like you can’t believe. Firewood and woodstoves. The first snows in November. Saddle up your horse in the yard and ride out into the woods. I loved it and I miss it. We lived there for 8 years.

But the church there was hell. Constant infighting. Mostly unsaved people who got very low marks in “plays well with others.” Abuse? Ha! In those little picturesque cabins in the woods, you wouldn’t want to know what went on in many of them. That church persists to this day. I hope that genuine Christians rule there now. I hope.

People moved there, including many professing Christians, to pursue the wilderness family adventure. They built their own log houses and soon ran out of the money they had when they came. Jobs were scarce. Many of them home-schooled. And they tried. How they tried to follow “the plan.” Keep the kids protected from the world. No TV, today it might be no internet. Modesty, modesty, modesty. No “worldly” music. And numbers of them had their rule books all printed out and categorized by men like Bill Gothard. The wife was to submit, which meant keep quiet and obey.

And you had to tread very carefully around them lest you violate one of their rules. I once took a group of young people to a skating rink on an outing and caught it from one of the dads when they ratted me out and told him that there was secular music playing at the skating rink. His two boys did not turn out well, by the way. Not well at all.

Let me caution all of you that when the Word of God says that these programs and rules that men create which are supposedly going to lead us into a higher plane of holiness do not work, it means exactly that. If anyone truly wants to live in the mountains and have a large family and home school because they truly want to and love it, go for it! But if this lifestyle is one that is dictated by some kind of list that someone has come up with and equated with godliness, beware. Beware! Here is the pattern I am seeing from stories told to me over and over again by abuse victims/survivors:

  1. Move to an isolated place
  2. Return to a pioneer lifestyle in food, clothing, reading material, etc.
  3. The husband/father is the patriarch who decides. Wife/mother and children submit.
  4. Home school using very, very conservative materials.
  5. Train up the boys to be men/leader/warriors and the girls to be maidens/mothers/wives/submitters.
  6. Find the rule book for these things that some person has written (preferably a guy with a long beard or a woman who stands behind her guy with the long beard), and follow it.
  7. Have a very large family.
  8. Have a home church.

Now I know there is a ton of potential here in what I have said to be misunderstood. Boys for example SHOULD be raised up to be men and fulfill manly roles. The same for girls (only womanly roles). Our current public schools often SHOULD be shunned by Christians. There is nothing inherently wrong with having lots of children. Ok? Understand?

But what I am saying is that I regularly have abuse victims tell me that in this kind of lifestyle/philosophy/pattern, they ended up being very, very damaged. That the children grew up and still bear some of the damage done to them. Damaged by what? Legalism. By the religion of the Pharisees. They have not come to know the freedom every Christian has in Jesus Christ. They see themselves as rotten sinners deserving of hell, even though Jesus has redeemed them. They see virtually everything as a crucial, moral issue — right or wrong. Usually wrong! And they are shamed.

What a load! What a burden to put on ourselves and our families. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work.

Galatians 3:9-14 ESV So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (10) For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” (11) Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” (12) But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” (13) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”– (14) so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

4 thoughts on “Abuse and the Wilderness Family Adventure

  1. Natalie

    Nailed it! We lived this exactly as you described. The mom and children have all these extra rules that the dad does not have. He gets a life and the rest of the family is alone and just gets weird and socially awkward and fearful. These lifestyles are easy ways to isolate victims and hide abuse.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sarah

    I have one question I like to ask these segregatists/isolationists – how do you carry out the Great Commission? If anything, shouldn’t they be living the exact opposite of this ‘Wildernes’ plan? Enroll in public schools, live in populated areas with high unchurched rates, attend a church with active outreach across many demographics…with their home/family being a sanctuary, dug in and solid – practicing a faith like Paul, who was able to convert his own jail guards.

    Like

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