Leslie Ludy: I’m No Longer a Fan

As you may have gathered so far, I have some issues with Leslie Ludy, and the things she teaches. Prepare yourself, because this blog is going into details over the next few weeks.

I loved Leslie’s books as a teen. I was super passionate about loving God and serving Him with all my being and actions. Leslie showed me practical ways to do that. I loved her passion for Jesus, for purity, for living a set-apart life. And I wanted to do that too. I had read a lot of books about Christian femininity by other authors, but they were from the Christian Patriarchy movement, and seemed a bit too extreme or old-fashioned to be realistic. Leslie, on the other hand, was more in touch with the real world. And yet she wasn’t part of the world. In it but not of it. She was my prime example of what godly femininity could look like.

I prayed for a Christ-built warrior poet. I dressed modestly and watched how much of my heart I shared, to avoid causing my brothers in Christ to stumble. I surrendered my life to God and stayed far away from  profanity and entertainment. I spent more time praying and reading the Bible. I pored over the latest gorgeously-designed Set Apart Girl magazines, and devoted myself to the lonely but oh-so-worthwhile life of devotion to God. I traded my fantasy novels for missionary biographies, and avoided any music that wasn’t Christ-honouring. I did my best to live the life that Leslie promoted.

And I felt stressed and guilty all the time.

Which leads me to my Big Question: How did something that seems so Christ-focused bring so much anxiety, stress and heaviness into my life?

What Leslie preaches is supposed to be all about centering our life around Christ. It’s about how to make him Lord of our lives, to live with vision and hope and deep satisfaction. And yet, all I experienced was pain and frustration. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough. . . But I think if I’d tried any harder I would have killed myself. I burnt out.

Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” And “A good tree produces good fruit”. Paul said “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom”. I didn’t experience that from Leslie’s writings. In the last few days I’ve come across a couple other people who had similar experiences, so I know it’s not just me.

That’s why I’m reading her books again–to find out why something that would appear to bring life actually brought death to me.

Leslie Ludy and Single Women’s Books

Leslie Ludy has written a host of books for young women. Young, Christian women who are presumably single. I own four:

Answering the Guy Questions
Authentic Beauty
Sacred Singleness
When Dreams Come True (co-written with her husband Eric)

I’ve read a bunch of her other books, though it’s been a while.

When God Writes Your Love Story (again, written with Eric)
Set-Apart Femininity
The Lost Art of True Beauty

Leslie also has an online magazine called Set-Apart Girl, and a blog devoted to topics of interest for young, single Christian women.

Last week I was re-reading When Dreams Come True, which is an autobiography of the Ludy’s love story. Eric and Leslie alternate telling their story in different chapters. This time, something hit me that I had never realized before.

Leslie was never a single young woman.

She met Eric when she was around 16, and they began dating (or courting or whatever you want to call it) a few months before her 17th birthday. She got engaged at age 18, and married at 19. When Leslie was still single, she was a girl.

I find it very strange that a woman who has had no adult experience as a single person is writing so many popular evangelical books for young single women. It’s just as strange as a 21-year-old single, Joshua Harris, writing the top-selling Christian book on dating and relationships.

Now, I do realize that there are basic principles of life than can apply regardless of your age or marital status. However, I believe that when you’ve lived something, you have more wisdom and weightier advice to bring to a situation. This is why I’m not telling my friends how to raise their kids; I haven’t had kids, so I don’t really know what I’m talking about.

I wish Christian publishers would stop publishing books by under-qualified authors. It’s not healthy or helpful for us. And the damage is worse when the audience is young impressionable people who haven’t yet developed wisdom or discernment.

It’s going to be interesting re-reading other books by Leslie, having realized that she never was part of her target audience.

 

 

Counterfeit Manhood according to Leslie Ludy

A couple days ago I decided to go through Leslie Ludy’s Answering the Guy Questions. I’ve read it a few times, but not since I kissed legalism goodbye. I’ve been going through it and taking notes about how the ideas affected me as a teen, and what I notice now as an adult. It’s been educational. And I’m only partway through chapter one.

Leslie begins the book by describing “Counterfeit Manhood”. She talks about the dismal state of modern masculinity, which I find especially interesting in light of the current discussion about toxic masculinity.

She starts the book with a discussion of her seventh grade experience. “Boys were loud and obnoxious, insensitive and crude.” She then goes on to talk about guys who “treated  every girl like a piece of meat to either lustfully consume or carelessly discard.” Her high school experience was even worse. Most of the guys she knew actively viewed pornography. Her youth pastor constantly asked the girls if they had boyfriends, and flirted with the attractive girls. She constantly overheard guys lustfully describe girls’ bodies, and when she finally called a guy out on it, he told her that’s just the way guys are.

All of this is utterly foreign to my high school experience. I was home schooled and the guys that I interacted with were decent people who respected the girls and women in their life. Some were obnoxious, selfish and arrogant, but they never treated women like meat.

What Leslie talks about is far removed from what I know. “Like most girls my age, I reasoned that being treated like a sex object was better than being disregarded by guys and spending the rest of my life alone. So I began catering to the masculine perversion all around me by dressing seductively to gain male approval, laughing carelessly when guys touched or grabbed me sexually in the school halls, and giving away my heart, emotions and almost all of my physical purity to one casual, meaningless fling after another. Like most other girls my age, giving in to the dismal state of modern masculinity left me heartbroken, wounded and plagued with debilitating insecurity.”

I was horrified when I read that. And then something clicked in my mind. This isn’t a description of modern masculinity. This is a description of sexual harassment and toxic masculinity.

Just to be sure I did a quick google search. I ended up at the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s page about identifying sexual harassment . Certain points fit Leslie’s story all too well.

  • invading personal space
  • unnecessary physical contact, including unwanted touching, etc.
  • derogatory language and/or comments toward women (or men, depending on the circumstances), sex-specific derogatory names
  • gender-related comment about a person’s physical characteristics or mannerisms
  • displaying or circulating pornography, sexual pictures or cartoons, sexually explicit graffiti, or other sexual images (including online)
  • sexual jokes, including circulating written sexual jokes (e.g. by e-mail)
  • bragging about sexual prowess
  • questions or discussions about sexual activities
  • requiring an employee to dress in a sexualized or gender-specific way (ok, she wasn’t required to dress a certain way by an employer, but there was definitely a cultural pressure to “dress seductively”)

I’m horrified and sad that her school was like this. Yes, I’m probably naive, because people will say that’s just what high school is like. But that’s not what it should be like.

What disturbs me most about this chapter is that Leslie calls all this “modern masculinity” and “counterfeit manhood”. She perpetuates the lie that nearly all guys, and especially non-Christian guys, are like this. She takes the blame for not standing up and having high morals, and not encouraging guys to do better. She doesn’t call out sexual harassment for what it is: An unhealthy and unacceptable way for guys to interact with women, regardless of whether the’re Christian.

Thankfully in college I never experienced what she described. If I had, I probably would have believed that unwanted touching or sexual comments were my fault for interacting with a non-Christian guy. Because after all, what else would I expect from a modern man?

This leads to greater problems later in the book. One premise of Answering the Guy Questions is that we can inspire men to valiant manhood by being princesses of purity. We can make guys behave better by following God’s Plan™ for femininity. Thus the responsibility for men to change is put on women’s shoulders. Which is ridiculous. We can’t manipulate guys into changing their hearts.

What we can do is call unacceptable behaviour by its true name. Let’s not pretend that leering, catcalling, unwanted advances and inappropriate touching is just “the way modern guys are”. No. It’s sexual harassment, and it’s wrong.

 

 

Those Books

Before You Meet Prince Charming by Sarah Mally

So Much More by Anna-Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin

Sacred Singleness by Leslie Ludy

I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris

Set Apart Girl by Leslie Ludy

Authentic Beauty by Leslie Ludy

Answering the Guy Questions by Leslie Ludy

When Dreams Come True by Eric and Leslie Ludy

It’s (Not That) Complicated by Anna-Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin

Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends by Sarah, Stephen and Grace Mally

Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris

Extreme Romance by Jesse and Heidi Jost

Leave Dating Behind by Christina Rogers

Bright Lights curriculum by Sarah Mally

Emotional Purity by Heather Paulson

This list (and a few random others that I’ve probably forgotten) are what I like to call Those Books. I read them multiple times as a teen. The first few books on the list I read over and over and over again. They were my anchor, my lifeline, my window into the world of guys and relationships and romance.

The ideas in them thoroughly messed up my thinking. They did NOT lead to healthy relationships with myself, with God, with boys, and even my girl friends. Three years after realizing most of them were built on fear and legalism, and I still find so many warped viewpoints that I have to deconstruct. Even today I was talking with a friend about a belief I held in one of my relationships. She replied, “That’s not true!”, and I realized Those Books were speaking again. Oh well. I have fun punching the lies in the face (with God and my friends’ help).

Part of me is haunted by this list. What if I had read pro-dating books and books from different points of view as a teen? Would I be in this mess?

(Probably yes, because would I have listened to those other ideas as a teen? I’ll never know.)

But the point is I can read different viewpoints NOW. I do. And I shall.

And I’m having fun picking apart the unhealthy bits in Those Books.

New Years’

Instead of new years resolutions, in 2019 I’m going to be looking for new year’s revelations.

I don’t like goals. They stress me out. Resolutions seem like let-downs waiting to happen. Maybe one day I’ll be friends with goal-setting, but today is not that day. And this coming year is not that year.

In the summer, I felt like God was encouraging me to focus on what is there, not what is missing. I’ve spent so much of my life looking at the gaps and the holes, the places where I’m not living up to expectations (my own or others’). I would look at how I needed to change and where I needed to grow. It’s pretty stressful always living in that emptiness. God’s suggestion was pretty radical for me. I started looking at what was good in my life. What do I do well? What was a great moment from today? What am I proud of? What am I already doing? The shift was a breath of fresh air. Instead of looking at all of holes in my garden beds of life, I started looking at the plants that were already there, and I was astonished by how beautiful they are. It gave me hope. The empty spaces just made me stressed.

I’ll be taking this attitude of looking at what’s already there into the new year. And as 2019 goes on, I hope to stumble across all sorts of amazing new years revelations.

(And I’ll probably write some of them here. No promises though!)

In Which I Discover A New Language

I thought it was about time for a new blog, as many people have been encouraging me to write. I decided to give WordPress a try, so I could learn some new skills while blogging.

I’m pretty good with computers. I was that kid who played with PowerPoint and Word as much as The Sims and Rollercoaster Tycoon. I’ve been able to pick up a lot of computer knowledge just by fooling around and using my prior knowledge. Sort of like how I can get the gist of Spanish by using my knowledge of English and French. I figured learning how to make my own website would be somewhat intuitive.

Well. Turns out WordPress is like me learning Russian. I have to learn a new alphabet before I even understand what’s going on.

Procrastination is pretty happy about that. Instead of writing blog posts, I have to research books and websites with make-your-own-website tutorials. I have to learn coding. I have to read and watch all those tutorials. And it all has to be perfect before I start my blog. 

I have bad news for Procrastination. I’m going to write first, and learn the website business second. Done is better than perfect. As a result, my blog may be rather simple and sometimes messy, but I hope you’ll stick around as I write and learn.

With all that said, let’s dive in. Welcome to my new blog! I have no idea where I’ll end up, but it’s going to be a good adventure.