A Theocratic Star Flames Out
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 05:46:06 PM EST
We may never know the full story of the marital infidelity of Doug Phillips, a San Antonio, Texas-based, theocratic homeschooling entrepreneur of national significance.  But one thing is clear: The ripple effects of his disgrace and the dissolution of his Vision Forum ministry will be felt for years to come.  This is because his worldview hinges on the absolute integrity of the marriage bond and in this way he sought to model a vision of contemporary Biblical patriarchy. But the model he has now offered to the world is what the late Calvinist theologian R.J. Rushdoony would have called "treason" against the God-ordained institution of the traditional family.  

It is not clear how closely Doug Phillips adheres to Rushdoony's notions of Biblical Law.  Suffice to say that Rushdoony and his followers assert that the laws of Old Testament Israel are applicable today -- and that adultery was a capital offense.  While not everyone in the Christian Reconstructionist orbit embraces the list of biblical capital offenses, and adultery is not a crime let alone a capital crime in the U.S., the gravity of this offense against Phillips's own view of the family is nevertheless profound.  

The fall of Phillips's ministry comes less than a year after the death of his father Howard Phillips, a founder of the contemporary Religious Right, a leading Christian Reconstructionist political leader, and founder of the Constitution Party. The senior Phillips had also served as vice-chairman of the board of Vision Forum.  (Doug Phillips' brother Brad Phillips remains involved in theocratic politics internationally via his Persecution Project Foundation and as Sudan country director for Voice of the Martyrs.)  Doug Phillips has been a leading figure in the Christian homeschooling movement, conservative Christian film making, and a fixture at state homeschooling conventions for many years.

Abby Ohlheiser of The Atlantic Wire has an excellent summary of the Vision Forum situation and what it means.  

Vision Forum's work centered around the "restoration of the Christian household." In short, the organization enforced what it would argue is a Biblicly-based family structure where the husband serves as the spiritual and practical head of the household. His wife and children, especially any daughters not yet of marrying age, live under his dominion. Phillips's family, like the well-known Duggars, were also practicing Quiverfull adherents. That movement holds up procreation as the highest calling for (properly married) women, meaning that Quiverfull families grow quite large. Phillips has eight children, and the Duggars have 19 kids. Adherents usually home-school their children, rejecting the notion that anyone but the family and God should have input into a child's education. Family is central to, and the mission of, Vision Forum's entire reason for existence.

But that doesn't mean that the movement itself is down for the count, nor does it mean that Vision Forum and Phillips will disappear completely. Vision Forum is actually comprised of two companies: the non-profit Vision Forum ministry, which had about $3.3 million in revenue in 2011; and a for-profit with a very similar name. In resigning from the ministry, Phillips announced that he would retain control of the for-profit company. The ministry paid Phillips a salary of $44,000 a year, and gave an additional $193,176 for "labor and services" to the for-profit company in 2011. Likewise, Monday's announcement of the closure of Vision Forum applies to the non-profit ministry only. The for-profit wing of Vision Forum is still selling downloads of Phillips's speeches and sermons.

Indeed. Phillips writes that he is turning his personal blog into the Vision Forum blog, and will publish the writings of others, undoubtedly to draw traffic to the site to sell books, tapes and videos -- for example, novels for boys by neo-confederate theocrat, Douglas Wilson ("three-book treasure chest is packed to the bulwarks with adventure, history, and strong Christian morals").  Whatever else his ministry has been, and no matter how far his fall from grace, he has still got a business to run, providing theocratic products for the Christian homeschooling market.

merits much wider discussion than it has received so far.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 10:50:19 PM EST

Former staff member at my church is all into this movement with 7 kids.  Seems Phillips might be seeking to expand the full quiver movement to new possibilities!

by wilkyjr on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 10:41:35 AM EST

I'm thankful these liars have found they are incapable of living under their gods laws ! those that wish to live in a fairy tale need to be considered mentally ill and institutionalized so they can bring NO harm to the Public and Our Nation ! Religious Fanatics should NEVER be trusted and any Politician that tells you different is busy trying to take your Rights away and most likely steal all you own ! Only those that are TRUE Scum ever have the feeling of NEEDING to be Saved, and that is why the Preachers of the Churches of the Fundamentalist Fanatics consistently turn out to be Perverts and Child Molesters, because theirs is the House OF Scum ! treat these Skells as the Vermin they are and rid our World of religious Perverts posing as Saints !

by dave1120 on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 01:44:47 PM EST
Your rhetoric is rather jarring and not particularly helpful in the discussion. I urge you to reread the Guidelines for this site. Thank you.

by MLouise on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 04:45:17 PM EST

I am guilty of going ballistic too, from time to time. The site regulars remind me of the guidelines, and I just apologize and lapse into a bit of Schadenfreude over the fall of the pompous. All that said, I do feel sorry for the wife and kids, particularly because they are likely to be blamed (wife) or outcast (wife and kids) by their community. I suspect that Doug Phillips will repent and be accepted back more quickly than the wronged family, if only because the celebrity has the money and fame, and wives and kids are less important to the community. This dynamic isn't confined to "religious communities", but might be a little more pronounced in that particularly patriarchal community.

by NancyP on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 08:01:24 PM EST
I suspect you are correct, NancyP. The religious right seems to love a good redemption story ~ "I once was lost but now am found" sort of thing. I think that is one reason they loved George W. Look for Doug Phillips' tearful return sometime in 2014. Meanwhile, as you say, the wife and kids will be on the outside looking in. The whole dynamic is shameful.

by MLouise on Fri Nov 15, 2013 at 06:02:15 PM EST

The theocratic star has finally burned out. For years, this star system was ruled by a brutal regime that used fear and intimidation to keep the populace in line. Pearl West Group Now, with the help of the rebels, the people have finally overthrown the government and are now free. This is a great victory for liberty and democracy, and it is sure to inspire other oppressed people to rise up and fight for their own freedom.

by isabelladom on Tue Nov 29, 2022 at 02:57:47 AM EST

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