I’ve been taking a trip down memory lane recently, and re-visiting some of the old blogs by fundamentalist Christians which I used to read a lot about ten years ago. These blogs fascinated me, as the way of life these bloggers (all women) lived, mostly in rural America, was a world away from my own life as a someone who worked full time and lived independently in London.
These blogs became the inspiration for the True Way Ministry in my novel The Canal. I didn’t base the True Way on one ministry in particular, but an amalgamation of several, as the ministries and lifestyle those bloggers followed were all so similar.
They believed that men were the head of the church and family, and women’s roles were to be subservient helpmeets. Men were to be the breadwinners and women were generally not permitted to work outside the home. They all claimed to follow every word of the Bible, yet added on numerous rules which were never part of that book.
A couple of things stood out for me. Firstly, the idea of “courtship” as opposed to dating or relationships as most people would understand them in the UK or mainstream America. Secondly the concept of modesty.
Most of the families I read about followed the courtship model. Couples were not supposed to enter into a relationship until they were ready for marriage. The man would generally speak to his father, who would then approach the prospective future-wife’s father, who would then inform her of the man’s intentions. This is the model Cassie and her husband Joseph follow in The Canal. Not only is there no sex before marriage, but no kissing, hand-holding, or even being alone together without a parent present. And these are adults! I recently heard of a couple who were not even allowed to sit next to each other on a sofa until they were married – they were instructed to sit in separate armchairs!
The rules of modesty were strictly enforced and more than one blog I read had a checklist women should follow before dressing each morning, with the aim of ensuring that their clothes didn’t “tempt “men.
As one might expect, this meant high necklines and covered legs (most advocated skirts-only for women), as well as making sure no underwear was visible. The checklist I saw suggested women wear a double layer of clothing to make sure that the outline of a bra didn’t show through a top. This explains why so many women of this background wear pinafores over blouses, or two polo shirts, one over the other. Again, this was something I referenced in The Canal.
After immersing myself in these blogs for months on end, inevitably I got tired of the subject and moved on to other things, though I always knew I would write about this subject in some way. My trip down memory lane was interesting as I discovered that many of the bloggers I used to follow had also moved on to other things. Several had left that strict legalistic lifestyle behind altogether, wearing comfortable modern clothes (even jeans!), and working for a living. It was encouraging to see.