Get Them Married: Selling Virgin Daughters

 

Image from Flickr, by Jeyheich

By Darcy, Homeschoolers Anonymous Editorial Team

Update: The current advertised retreat had its venue cancelled today by the Salvation Army, owners of Camp Hiawatha in Wichita. The Ohlmans have also posted an update after the “flood of attention” and clarified that there are “no current plans” for future events. 

Update 2, editor’s note: The original age of Mrs. Ohlman at the time of her betrothal was written here as 16. According to a comment left on her blog on May 2nd, she states she was 19 at the time of the betrothal. This story has been edited to reflect her correct age. 

Arranged marriages, child brides, teenage grooms, patriarchs, and bride prices. These sound like stories from faraway lands. However, this story today comes from Wichita, Kansas, where one man and his followers are showing the world exactly what it looks like when Christian patriarchy, authoritarianism, and “Biblical marriage” are taken to an extreme.

Vauhn Ohlman, who runs a site called Let Them Marry, is facilitating a family camp in Wichita Kansas this November, titled “Get Them Married Retreat”. The purpose of the camp? As stated on their website, “The Get Them Married Retreat is a 3-day retreat designed to bring together like-minded families (and their unmarried young men and women) who are committed to young, fruitful marriage …our major focus and priority will be bringing together unmarried young people and their families so they can intentionally network together with a goal of arriving at God-glorifying marriages.”

So just how does Ohlman define “God-glorifying, young, fruitful marriage”?

Ohlman is a proponent of what has been termed “betrothal”. In his words:

The betrothal covenant is the covenant that makes a man and a woman into a husband and wife. It has no specific Biblical form; indeed it is expressed in Scripture in a whole variety of different ways, from fairly formal to purely physical…. The couple who are in the betrothal covenant, but have not yet come together physically, are said to be ‘betrothed’; and the time period where they are like that is called ‘betrothal’.

Ohlman goes on to further explain in detail his doctrine of betrothal:

We on our site use the word ‘betrothal’ to refer to the entire set of principles, which differ from those of courtship and dating, which are taught by Scriptures for the path to marriage and several related subjects. These include:

A) The sufficiency of Scripture for the path to marriage
B) The authority of the father over the marriage of their virgin children
C) The continuing authority of the father after marriage
D) The importance of the betrothal covenant versus:
E) The problematic nature of the quasi-covenants of dating, courting, or engagement
F) The importance of young, fruitful marriages
G) That a ‘bad’ marriage is to be preferred over no marriage
H) That a couple is not supposed to ‘fall in love’ before they are in covenant; they are to be brothers and sisters to each other
I) That marriage is ordained for the prevention of fornication
J) That ‘unready’ people should marry
K) That early, fruitful marriage is normative
L) That the gift of being successfully celibate is very rare. [emphasis mine]

So according to Ohlman, the entire purpose of life is godly marriage. But not just godly marriage, young godly marriage. How young? Ohlman says that girls are ready for marriage when their bodies are developed enough to have children, when they start having interest in the opposite sex, thus increasing chances of fornication. Ohlman skirts around the question of when is too young, by quoting people like John Calvin who claim that twelve to twenty years of age is appropriate, and using phrases like “the flower of her age”.

But what does “flower of her age” mean to Ohlman? He goes on to further explain in detail how he determines readiness for marriage for girls:

The ‘youth’ ready for marriage has breasts. A woman who is to be married is one who has breasts; breasts which signal her readiness for marriage, and breasts who promise enjoyment for her husband. (We believe that ‘breasts’ here stand as a symbol for all forms of full secondary sexual characteristics.)

“The ‘youth’ ready for marriage is ready to bear children. Unlike modern society Scripture sees the woman as a bearer, nurser, and raiser of children. The ‘young woman’ is the woman whose body is physically ready for these things, physically mature enough to handle them without damage.”

“… the above points represent, not a certain exact age, but a level of physical and sexual maturity. Not ‘maturity’ as in ‘been there, done that’, nor even a ‘maturity’ as in ‘have been at this level for a long time’, but a point of arrival…. The woman who has arrived physically and sexually at a point where she is ‘ready’ for a husband, is ready for a husband, else we make God out to be a liar… Calvin and Gill, quoting the Jewish authorities in reference to the term Paul uses in I Cor 7:36, place the lower limit of this at twelve years old for girls. Again, not that every, or even very many, girls reach this milestone at that age.

So while he says that they do not “endorse” marriage of 12-yr-olds, he implies that should a 12-yr-old display all the physical and emotional signs of marriage, she would be thus ready and her father needs to be on the lookout for a husband for her.

But what about the consent of the parties to be married? Do they get a say in the matter? Ohlman says, no. They don’t get to consent, they only obey their authorities, that consent is a product of the evil world and not Biblical.

Scripture speaks of the father of the son “taking a wife” for his son, and the father of the bride “giving” her to her husband (Jeremiah 29: 6; Judges 21: 7; Ezra 9:12; Nehemiah 10: 30; 1 Corinthians 7:36-38). It gives example after example of young women being given to young men, without the young woman even being consulted, and often, in some of the most Godly marriages in Scripture, the young man is not consulted.

First of all, Scripture never, ever mentions the idea of “consent” in regard to marriage.

Some use the idea of “consent” to deny the very relevance of the action of their authorities to bind them in covenant, as if a covenant was of no effect whatsoever and all that matters is what the person themselves decide.

In contrast, our study of Scripture has shown that the Word of God considers a covenant made by an authority to be meaningful and binding upon the those under his or her authority. Biblical consent is not the “consent” of dating or courtship. It is not a “veto” power. It does not presume to cast judgment over their father’s actions. And so, a lack of consent of the individual concerned is a choice of disobedience, a breach of a vow and of a relationship. God has designed the marriage relationship (in particular that of the virgin daughter marrying the virgin son) to be a relationship initiated by the parents, in particular the fathers, of the young couple.[emphasis mine]

Also on his website, is the story of his son and daughter-in-law, Joshua and Laura, and their betrothal. Ohlman and the father of a young girl (whom he had never met) decided their children should marry, so they arranged the entire “covenant” over long-distance. The children did not meet until 2 hours before their betrothal ceremony and were said to be too nervous to even speak to each other, thus letting their parents discuss details of the ceremony. The desires and the consent of the children did not matter, as Ohlman teaches they have to follow the authority of their fathers in this matter. In the words of Laura Ohlman:

Indeed, what really happened is that Joshua and I trusted our respective fathers to do the vetting for us… and to do a much better job than we could have done. Our dads weren’t dealing with raging hormones, crazy emotions, or an overwhelming desire to ignore important issues simply for the sake of getting married. My dad was able to take a serious look at Joshua’s character in a way I would have been unequipped (and unlikely) to do.

Less than two hours later [after they met for the first time] we held a small ceremony in our back yard. My dad and Mr. Ohlman gave a short sermon/admonition, each to their respective children… and then my dad put my hand in Joshua’s, thereby giving me away to the man I henceforth have had the privilege of calling my husband! Barring family members, I had never held a man’s hand before.

With this background and story in mind, we go back to the planned retreat in November.

It is, quite explicitly, a place for families to get together to arrange non-consenting marriages between their teenage children.

Kansas laws regarding child marriage state that a 15-yr-old can get married with special consent from a judge, and that 16 is the age at which marriage is legal with parental consent. However, Ohlman and his cronies practice betrothal which is not legal marriage, and can be done as soon as they determine a girl has breasts and her period. So the implications are that families can come here to sell off their young daughters in marriage, some much earlier than 15 if the betrothal period is taken into account. All without the consent of the children being married. (It should be noted that teenage boys are in a vulnerable and trapped position here as well, since Ohlman teaches that boys are always under the authority of their fathers, even after marriage, and that the betrothed wife moves in with the groom’s family and takes her her new life with them, under the authority of her husband.)

Critics are calling this legal sex slavery. It’s not that extreme of a definition. Young girls sold off as sex slaves to please their husbands and bear them babies, without their consent, young boys are expected to have sex and bear children and raise a family, also without their consent, and all organized by men in positions of power. The definition fits. We often think of child brides as a travesty that happens in other countries and other religions, but in reality, it’s happening right here in America, often under the guise of Christianity.

 

44 comments

  • I got my period at 9. I was fully grown and wore a 36b by 13. I was sexually aware by 15. At these ages I was most assuredly not ready for a relationship with anybody of any age and definitely not prepared for the demands of living in a marriage. Why do these people insist on forcing teens into relationships that are almost predestined to fail if either partner ever begins to exercise their own free thought? It seems to me like they are forcing children into a life of confusion and hardship, as well as ignoring the fact that many other Christians believe that they must wait on God because their heavenly “Father” chooses a life partner for everyone. These men are attempting to usurp God’s plans for their own children.

  • This is absolutely terrifying. This isn’t a man of God, this is a monster who should be locked away before he can destroy any more lives. Twelve year olds are children who should be climbing trees and playing with sidewalk chalk, not being forced into “marriages.” The periods and breasts of young girls/teenage girls are none of this man’s business. It’s sick.

  • It’s… slavery of a creepy variety. It’s still 2016, right? Holy crap, what other unholy things would be happening if the internet weren’t around to shine a few lights in dark places…? I can’t believe this is being suggested (or done?) to girls or boys in this current time.

    As I’ve watched IBLP/ATI wither since my leadership involvement, I’m always amazed at pockets of extreme fundamentalism that persist. I’m surprised at every story.

  • This makes me sick to my stomach….

  • Ghandi once said that the cruelest practice of his culture was child marriage.

  • I think the thing that downright terrifies me the most is that while my dad has never gone to this extreme, he holds a lot of the same views on things like the old testament law and the father being in control even of married children. I am genuinely afraid of what ideas he would take into his head if he were to ever read this guy’s stuff. I and two of my other siblings are safely out of the house and out of his control, but I have four siblings still at home. I worry about them a lot.

  • Loura Shares A Story

    It always centers around sex as the topmost sin. The solution? “Obviously” pedophilia and sexual abuse! It is genuinely thought to be a crime to encourage a woman to have “an independent lifestyle.”

    https://llawrenceauthor.wordpress.com/category/religion-2/christianity/christian-women-christianity/

    • Loura Shares A Story

      Whoops, that link should have been: https://llawrenceauthor.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/christian-underage-marriages/

      It was also featured on HA a few weeks ago.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      It always centers around sex as the topmost sin. The solution? “Obviously” pedophilia and sexual abuse!

      Do a Rule 63 flip from opposite-sex to same-sex and you have that “Rene Guyon Society” the preachers were screaming about back in the Eighties.

      • Loura Shares A Story

        Lol, I’m afraid you lost me. I’ll have to consult Google. 🙂

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        I heard bits and pieces about this “Rene Guyon Society” during the Eighties. It sounded like a more philosophical/psychobabble version of NAMBLA, advocating same-sex pedophilia as a Utopian cure-all for the disease of Christian Sexual Morality. In retrospect, sounds Lunatic Fringe.

      • Loura Shares A Story

        I see, thank you for explaining!

  • I’d like to smash Vauhn Oldman in the face repeatedly with a baseball bat, for being a disgusting perverted pig of a man and for crimes against humanity and for prancing about openly jeering and flouting the label of “Christianity” and for sheer unbridled stupidity.

  • This is horrifying and so creepy. It’s an obsession with girls’ bodies and a fetishization of virginity. What an elaborate way to justify thinking about (and making!) young people have sex!
    It’s also dangerous, especially with young girls maturing physically earlier and earlier. Not only does physical maturity not equate with mental readiness, but having breasts doesn’t mean you can safely birth children either! Young women’s bodies continue to change until adulthood in ways that make it safer and healthier for them to birth, and there are complications to having kids too soon.
    Maturity is a mental and emotional *process* through which parents can guide their children until they reach a place where they can continue to safely grow on their own. The goal is to equip them to be able to make good decisions for themselves. How can someone be ready to be married, and yet not trusted to pick that person? Such strange reasoning. If you can’t pick the spouse, you shouldn’t have one. Maturity is NOT the point at which a body is producing an egg or sperm, nor is it something you suddenly attain. This is really about control. Sex, and control.

    • “How can someone be ready to be married, and yet not trusted to pick that person? ”
      Wow.
      Thank you for that perspective.
      I never thought about it that way….
      (Having been indoctrinated with purity culture and ‘courtship’ all my life.)

  • I really hate it when people twist God’s word to make it conform to their own disgusting ideas and use it to control those around them. This is truly disturbing. Besides the fact that it is unconscionable to marry off their children so young before they are able to make a decision, what about leave and cleave? How does he get rid of that verse? Oh wait…he probably has written his own bible!

    • Quoted from his website:

      “What about “leave and cleave”? As with everything, we must continually bear in mind “the analogy of faith”—that is, that Scripture interprets Scripture, and that clear passages help interpret unclear passages. So, when we find an idea, a doctrine that is only stated in a single verse in Scripture (especially if it is not in unequivocal terms), we should look to the surrounding context (i.e., the entire of Scripture) to help clarify what is being said in that one verse. It is generally unwise to create doctrines that are isolated to single verses and have no other support in the remaining canon of Scripture.

      No one denies that this idea originates from a single verse (Genesis 2:24), and no one moves beyond this one verse to any other part of Scripture to show this principle. Isn’t it strange, then, that we never actually see any examples of anyone doing exactly what we think this verse means? Isn’t it strange that there are no laws or teachings to expound on this supposed doctrine? In fact, when we look at the examples of Scripture, we seem to find the exact opposite!

      From Jacob’s family that had all of his “adult” sons under his authority to the “household” of Zabdi that consisted of at least four generations, from the parable of the Prodigal Son where the rebellious son left while the faithful son stayed to the example of Christ who worked for His earthly father as well as His Father in Heaven (Luke 2:49) and who always did His Father’s will (John 4:34, 8:29), we see that the Biblical norm and ideal is for the son and his family, regardless of where he lives, to remain a part of his father’s household, and for his economy be part of the general family economy.

      (See the examples of Isaac, Jacob, Esau, sons of Jacob, the Prodigal son, Christ, Peter, James, John & Andrew, David, Saul, etc. Notice that Abraham, a married man, was part of his father’s “house” before being called away—Genesis 20:13. See also Joshua 2:12-18 and Judges 11:2-7.)”

      He says elsewhere that sons are supposed to stay under their father’s authority even after marriage, and that the son’s entire family is subject to the patriarch. I’m really not sure how that works practically once there are multiple families and “authorities”. It seems to me the only kind of man that would desire such ultimate authority over so many people is a very unhealthy, controlling one.

  • I’ve relieved that so many blogs and news websites are bringing this into the sunlight. I suspect that underage marriages have been taking place in the Quiverfull subculture for some time. Underage marriage and forced marriage are vile practices that must be stopped.

    • Oh, it’s not done secretly or anything. I can think of a handful of girls that I knew who were married as minors, and I wasn’t even directly involved in the culture (just sort of adjacent to it, with long-time family friends getting involved).

  • Marriage is so much more than big boobs and a period. What about spiritual maturity?? Without it there marriages will be a prison. Sad.

    • Loura Shares A Story

      “there marriages will be a prison.” That’s precisely what they want. People “under control”.

  • Is anyone aware of good programs to help out children from environments like these? Like maybe a ‘host a child’ program? I am in a very good position now to help a child/young adult get up to speed in their education and get a footing on life.

    • Loura Shares A Story

      I don’t know of anything specific, but a professional counselor and a tutor (unless you teach) would be my starting points.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Also on his website, is the story of his son and daughter-in-law, Joshua and Laura, and their betrothal. It lends more context to the discussion at hand when we discover that Laura was around 16 when she was betrothed to Joshua. Ohlman and the father of a young girl (whom he had never met) decided their children should marry, so they arranged the entire “covenant” over long-distance. The children did not meet until 2 hours before their betrothal ceremony and were said to be too nervous to even speak to each other, thus letting their parents discuss details of the ceremony.

    Isn’t this called an Arranged Marriage?
    Not only an Arranged Marriage, but one Arranged without consent or input from the ones getting married?

    Were there patriarchs’ family alliances or 200-year-legacy dynastic plans involved?
    Like Cersei Lannister’s marriage to Robert Baratheon?
    Or Sansa Stark’s to Ramsey Snow/Bolton?

    • Funny you should say that because every time I read his creepy articles, all I could think of was various Game of Thrones men claiming that this girl or another had “flowered” and was thus ready for marriage.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    This is horrifying and so creepy. It’s an obsession with girls’ bodies and a fetishization of virginity. What an elaborate way to justify thinking about (and making!) young people have sex!

    With the Patriarchs of both Houses as Witnesses to make sure the marriage (and alliance) was consummated?

    (IRL, the French Royal Family used to have official observers for the King’s wedding nights to record how many times the marital act was consummated to document the legitimacy of any Heirs to the Throne…)

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    …ignoring the fact that many other Christians believe that they must wait on God because their heavenly “Father” chooses a life partner for everyone.

    A belief and practice which has its own set of problems.

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  • This practice is both sick and creepy and is a highly sexual situation.. I’m not hearing anything from the moms of these girls, the ones who gave birth to their daughters, right? Oh, wait, she has to submit to her husband. But I would like to hear from any young women who have escaped from the betrothal situation before actual marriage (or even after marriage), and I don’t doubt that includes severing all ties with the father, the rest of the family, as well as this cult.

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  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 16 part 2 that marriage shall be entered into only with the full and free consent of the intending spouses and in part 1 says “men and women of full age” which the UN designates at 18. Thus forced marriage is a human rights violation like slavery and torture. The difference between these guys and the mullahs of Iran, Pakistan, and Yemen are the holy books cited.

    • Loura Shares A Story

      Interesting. Thanks for sharing that. 🙂

      • Welcome; I’m really into human rights and ensuring that everyone has the rights listed. (This causes me to disagree with both sides of the aisle!)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Already anticipated you, Seeker.

      Remember the UN is the One World Antichrist World Gubmint, above and beyond “Laws of Men or Word of GOD”.

  • For those interested, I wrote a theological deconstruction of the “betrothal” doctrine several years ago: http://www.ericpazdziora.com/the-bondage-of-betrothal/

  • This was difficult to read. The idea of subjecting my young daughter to marriage and chil-bearing and raising at such a young age is complete cruelty. And against her will too! She has her own dreams for her future. My job as a good mother is to nurture her so she can make those dreams a reality. Not to completely destroy her life. To know God is know love. To share God’s love is to be Godly. There’s not one area in this whole story where we saw that these actions are loving and are of God. These adults will be judged harshly by Jesus on their last days. May God help these innocent children! Oh, and where are child services in these cases? These parents should be reported. These children need to be protected.

    • Loura Shares A Story

      Many times child services are never called because such families only associate with other like-minded families. They have a very close-knit community and the thought of bringing “the gov’t” into a “Bible-based” family situation is seen as the height of betrayal, tantamount to turning Christians in to Roman officials and the lions.

      These families are also perversely prepared for social service visits/calls by organizations like HSLDA, who regularly put out literature to their members on how to avoid detection and/or intervention from child services.

  • GAG! my stomach literally churned as I read about the mindset of this awful man. How could they think such awful things?? I’m a fifteen year old. do I want my dad to go find me a husband so I can get married next year?? NO. I would much rather live my life as Jesus’ bride, than to be stuck with a man I didn’t even love.

  • This is messed up!

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  • Recently heard a Christian woman say that she is so terrified of getting into a union with a Bible-believer (who may later come up with weird expectations of his children) that she would much prefer to be a single mother. At least single mothers have the brains to understand the wrongness of hawking off virginal daughters; and also, there is no man in the home to terrorize the kiddies.

    People like to moan about the growing numbers of Single mothers in society, but sometimes I think that a loving God has allowed this to protect a good percentage of children from situations like the ones elaborated here.

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