Lifetime TV Show Preachers’ Daughters Is Both Endearing and Dangerous

bibleChristianity was a huge part of my childhood. I have enormous respect for my Christian influences: namely, my parents and the husband and wife team of co-pastors at my home church. Even though I identify as an atheist now, I’m not a Richard Dawkins drone or a Bill Maher type who insists anyone who believes in a higher power is stupid. In fact, my opinion is that Christians who have reasoned and studied and come to their faith after introspection are far more worthy of the label “intelligent” than the often college-educated people who brush off religion as hoopla.

Maybe that’s why I have a hard time processing Lifetime TV show Preachers’ Daughters. On one hand, it seems like harmless fluff. The adults in the reality show aren’t overtly abusive or hateful to their daughters (in other words, it’s not Westboro Baptist Church). Some of the daughters even joke around with their parents about dating and their teenage desires.

But then I think what bugs me is that, ultimately, this show is playing into the popular notion that all Christians are backwards people with super conservative ideals. This is, frankly, not true — Preachers’ Daughters only sheds light on Evangelical Christanity, which is just one small sect of Christianity as a whole.

Andy Kopsa of The Atlantic reveals the statistics: “According to a study by The PEW Forum on Religion and Public Life, 26 percent of religious Americans self-identify as Evangelical Christians. In comparison, 23 percent identify as Catholics and 18 percent as a mainline Christian. Importantly, the PEW study goes on to reveal 59 percent of self-identified Evangelicals say the Bible is not only the Word of God, but literally true “word for word.”

Yes, over half of Evangelicals take the Bible at face value. But this equates to maybe fifteen percent of all American Christians. That’s not huge.

So when a show like this makes headlines, it upsets me that atheists, agnostics and those who simply haven’t been exposed to religion may see this as an accurate portrayal of all Christians. Don’t get me wrong, Preachers’ Daughters is a pretty damn accurate portrayal of Evangelicals. I live in the Bible Belt and see these attitudes and worse all the time. But this isn’t how all Christians are.

At the same time, there’s another level of damage that this show does. The fact that it’s not called “Preachers’ Children” speaks volumes about how far we — religious or godless — have to come regarding the way we view our daughters’ sexuality. Kopsa writes about how the daughters wear purity rings and how Christian companies make bank on purity products. I’ve attended an Evangelical wedding where there was a whole segment boasting that the bride had faithfully worn her purity ring all throughout childhood, much to the smiling satisfaction of the traditional audience. There was no mention of the groom’s chastity.

Why do parents, both religious and non-religious, freak out about their daughters’ sexual activity but nonchalantly insist that their boys will be boys? Preachers’ Daughters may be endearing at times, but I fear it’s just another step backwards for women’s rights.

(photo: Jacob Gregory/Shutterstock)

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  • Makabit

    I simply don’t understand the purity ring thing at all. It strikes me as horrifyingly immodest, as do those girl pop stars who make public announcements about staying virgins. This is not anyone’s business except the young woman’s, and her partners if she has any.

    I’m coming to this from far outside the culture, and what I know of it is through reading people on the Internet who are usually very critical of it. But it seems prurient and inappropriate to me,

    • Psych Student

      Oh, purity rings are horrible! I think it’s especially bad when a dad gives it to her as if he’s holding on to her daughter’s virginity. It is dreadful.

  • Tea

    My family was pretty deeply immersed in that culture, which I genuinely find ironic given the number of pre-marriage babies and “Boys will Be Boys.” that have been given a pass. My mother tried to push purity rings and a heaping dose of young men’s retreats on me. My partner and I were both expected to go become the man of the house, and have 4 kids and a wife who shouldn’t be “permitted” to work because “A real man can handle everything” (My uncle’s words, he was bragging about this.) The boys will be boys mindset drives me nuts, because it lets so many “good christian boys” get away with everything, and still think they’re superior, because their dads seem to think they are too.

    I’ve become a black sheep, for both my sexual leaning, and my conversion to Orthodoxy.

    It was deeply hurtful to me, to know that my cousin who has never had an unchaperoned date and had never talked in private with her husband before her wedding night, is genuinely being upheld as the ideal marriage in my family. She has no life skills, no independence, no communication skills (She and her spouse fight like cats and dogs, then make up, constantly), no sexual health knowledge (every baby is a gift from god, and denying sex is not permitted, ever.) and no education, and this is what my family is striving for.

    My other cousins flaunted their purity rings, one was even custom made, and some even gossiped about what ways it was okay to “cheat” around the ring. None of them have any sexual wellness education, not even for things they NEED, like cervical cancer screenings, because only sinners get HPV which means they are immune to cancer.

    My union will always be seen as dysfunctional and on the edge of collapse, not because of how we behave or anything they know about us, but because we’re catholic, we lived together for a while (we actually never had sex before our union ceremony, but that was our CHOICE, and not something pushed upon us) and because neither of us is a girl.

    • Psych Student

      It is common now-a-days for kids to engage in anal sex because they think it doesn’t count as sex and it means they can remain virgins. However, since they get no sex ed (especially not about anything that is straight, vaginal intercourse), they are likely having unprotected sex.

  • Suzie

    One of the most uncomfortable (and creepiest) moments I have ever experienced at a wedding was at an evangelical wedding, the groom was an old college friend of my husbands, the bride was in her early 30′s, and her father presented her virginity to the entire church and to the groom, and said, “and now I’ve got a suprise for you” (ICK) and went on and on about her purity ring that she had been wearing since she was 13….It seemed very odd to openly be discussing one’s sex life in a church. Also part of the the vows included (only on her part) to “Make her self busy in the home, and obey her husband how she obeys the Lord”.

    Also there were no cocktails at the cocktail hour, and the bride and her dad danced to a very creepy song called, “I loved her first”…We hightailed it out of there after the cake cutting…..

    That was my first and last evangelical wedding experience.

    • Guerrilla Mom

      Oh my God. Worst wedding, ever. That sounds surreal.

    • Tea

      That sounds really, really creepy and weird, and I think I went to the same wedding…

    • Sara

      In a lot of these fundamentalist religious communities, I’ve often been perplexed by what seems to be a real obsession with sex. Purity rings, talking about sex and your virginity at a wedding, etc. It’s not only in Evangelical Christian communities, either.

      A friend of mine grew up ultra-Orthodox Jewish, and she left as a late teen. She describes how one of the things that really freaked her out about it was seeing friends of hers get married, and how before a girl got married, sex was completely taboo and they don’t learn anything about it because to teach a girl the facts might encourage her to be promiscuous. But then, on their wedding night, all of a sudden they’re supposed to have sex with this stranger (and again, some of these girls don’t even know the proper terminology for their reproductive anatomy when they’re expected to lose their virginity) and their entire function becomes sex and having babies. This isn’t everywhere, of course, or even in most communities, but it does exist and it strikes me as incredibly backward and hypocritical. It reduces sex to nothing more than a physical act, when it should be so much more.

    • faifai

      You know, this obsession with sex kinda reminds me of how religiously conservative communities shun gay marriage. See, it seems to me that people who are against gay marriage are only focusing on the sex in the marriage (“you both have ‘outies’ instead of an ‘outie’ and an ‘innie’! ew! your sex is gross!”) instead of on the love in the marriage (because love doesn’t care about ‘innies’ and ‘outies’). Knowmsayin? The concept of marriage for those type of people is all about sex, not about love…

  • Katia

    Sounds like You are making assumptions about us college educated agnostics being ridiculously uninformed – and you have no evidence for your claim. I’ve never said religion is hoopla. I’ll say it’s a money grab though. Don’t assume that if someone doesn’t share all the reasons they would never join a church they are less thoughtful than someone who has decided to have faith. The only difference is the person who is not religious cannot easily say her views out loud as they are “negative” and perhaps considered critical, socially out of place and impolite, while the Christians saying they’ve thought long and hard about their faith are just sharing, noone will say they are rude to not embrace agnosticism …
    Also why dismiss people who have their own education and have made a similar decision to your own, but praise those who have thought and thought and still believe something that you yourself are saying you think to be false. Know what I’m saying? I’m just not sure how you define “intelligent.”

    • faifai

      Hmm… I’m going to answer your last question, even though it wasn’t directed at me, because I can completely understand the author’s point of view. To me, someone who has completely thought through and understands all the logical fallacies, stupidity, inconsistencies, lack of proof, and self-contradiction of their religion–someone who’s seen all these things, knows all these things, accepts all these things, yet *still* holds onto their faith is worthy of admiration. Don’t like the word “faith”? Call it love. That’s what true love is, after all: seeing someone in all their weird, wacky, illogical, silly, stupid glory and deciding you love and accept them after all. And let’s face it, *all* mythologies, from Christianity to Taoism, have their flaws. Except Christianity has such a hold on this country that you’re only allowed 2 choices: either 1) you believe that it’s perfect and true, or 2) you’re an evil apostate for daring to question any portion of its perfect and true nature.
      Bottom line: If I meet someone who knows and accepts that Christianity is nowhere near perfect, I have respect for him or her because it’s a difficult truth to face, and because I have respect for people who are capable of that “I know who you are, in all your flaws and imperfections” love. Not everyone can love like that.

    • Amy

      “..someone who has completely thought through and understands all the logical fallacies, stupidity, inconsistencies, lack of proof, and self-contradiction of their religion–someone who’s seen all these things, knows all these things, accepts all these things, yet *still* holds onto their faith is worthy of admiration.”
      I actually laughed outloud at this one. I would not be able to admire anyone who, after rationally and skeptically analyzing a proposition that turns out,upon inspection, to be completely illogical, would continue to have unyielding faith/love in that proposition. I would actually have to question this person’s judgement at every turn.

    • faifai

      Yeah, that’s the illogic of love. Amazing, isn’t it?

    • Amber

      Um, no. That’s not love. Unless you think being married to an abusive con artist is love. LOL

    • Sean Phillips

      you are making assumptions, not the writer. she did not say anything about ALL agnostics and atheists, especially “college educated” ones. the fact is there are evangelicals in all belief-based groups, including agnostics and atheists, who make their judgements based only on information that confirms what they already believe – such as this show in the case of the most hateful among your group. and yes, there are hateful people among atheists and agnostics, the people who call all religious people idiots and refuse to respect others’ right to believe, or the legitimacy of their choices for no other reason than “god isn’t real”.

  • Emily

    Pretty sure that any statement of the form “All ________ are _________” is incorrect at some point. Fill in the blanks as you wish: clowns/funny, cats/striped, Evangelicals/nut jobs.

    • Valeri Jones

      All clowns are nut jobs. I am comfortable with my blanket statement.

  • Rollergirl09

    It is dangerous and even secular society buys into this “boys will be boys” thing. Because when Jessica Simpson who was a very famous virgin got *gasp* divorced and THEN had a baby with a man she wasn’t married to, she was mocked and shamed all over the place. Yet, Joe and Nick Jonas ditch their purity rings and no one has anything to say about it except, “fair game” or “about time.”

  • Tusconian

    Haven’t seen the show, so I can’t comment much on that, but I totally feel what you’re saying about a certain brand of anti-religious people being uninformed. Most of what I hear of the all-encompassing anti-religion rhetoric is based 100% on American Evangelical Christians and Mormons. Some more thoughtful might acknowledge mainstream Protestants, Catholics, and fundamentalist Muslims and bring up the Inquisition in Europe, but usually only at a very superficial level. The idea that anything but Judeo-Christian religions exist (and the “Judeo” part is usually ignored), or that other religions or denominations don’t function in the same was as small-town Bible Belt Evangelicalism, or Catholicism in the 1400s, seems very foreign to them to the point that most religions are ignored, and most denominations and members of the religions acknowledged are ignored. It’s honestly kind of ethnocentric, and just as much of a social bubble way of thinking as all the purity ring nonsense. Though I guess it’s something that, if you only know about religions from a Dawkins book, or fled the Bible Belt after a bad experience with your particular small town Evangelical church, it’s basically impossible to understand.

    And I’m a college educated agnostic/atheist. But being raised Catholic in an area that was religiously diverse has been better education about religion as a social and spiritual idea than anyone could get in an isolated environment, or from a book.

  • ajb2972

    I haven’t watched the show, but did grow up as a Southern Baptist preacher’s daughter in the Bible Belt. Of course I grew up attending church, but my parents also raised me to make my own choices and decisions. Although most of them fall in line with the belief system I was raised in, some of them have not.
    One choice I made was to remain a virgin until I got married. My parents didn’t force me to do, threaten to disown me if I didn’t, etc. There was also no big show of this at my wedding. That would have been creepy. Our wedding was in the church my dad pastored and he performed the ceremony. It was very beautiful with no mention whatsoever of my sex life or my husband’s. My husband wasn’t a virgin when we married but he respected me and my choices while we were dating.
    Although I do hold more conservative opinions on certain social matters, I do not push them on others. I believe that loving others, treating people kindly and fairly, and respecting others is a much better way to operate than hurling insults towards others who don’t believe as I do.

  • CW

    I don’t know any conservative Christians who are okay with their sons being active but not their daughters. The Christians I know want both their sons AND their daughters to wait for marriage. Girls may get more of the chastity message because they are the ones bearing a higher risk of negative consequences from pre-marital intimacy (pregnancy and also more likely to catch a STD). But it isn’t like it is ONLY going towards the girls.

    • Valeri Jones

      This!!! I could have said it better myself. Thank you for putting my exact thoughts into words.

    • Tea

      Unfortunately, I’ve seen this. It’s less that us guys get a free pass, but that it’s expected that we’ll slip up, our hormones help excuse us, and “Boys will be boys”, and not that it makes us “spoiled goods” like it would a girl. We don’t get a complete free pass, but it’s seen as a lesser crime. I’ve never seen a young man in my family be shamed that he was not a virgin on his wedding night, but I have certainly seen the opposite.

  • noelle

    I would be a little uncomfortable with purity rings being discussed during a wedding ceremony or the words obey used in wedding vows, but I also shared my first kiss with my husband at the altar. I am even more uncomfortable with white dresses on brides that are not virgins, but I guess that will never change.

    • Daisy

      What is the difference between discussing purity rings, and advertising your “virginal status” with the colour of your wedding dress? Both are icky and inappropriate and none of anybody else’s business. Why don’t you just go ahead and paint a scarlet letter on the dress? Brides wear white because it’s traditional for brides to wear white. That’s it. Anyone can wear white if they darn well please, or hot pink for all anyone else should care.

    • Tusconian

      Your own story is great and all, but why do other people’s fashion choices bother you? Because first and foremost, a white dress is just a fashion choice that has stood the test of time. It was not a sign of purity, it was a sign of wealth that I believe started with Queen Victoria, meaning that the bride’s family is well-off enough to buy a dress that she could probably never wear again, much less while doing any kind of physical domestic labor (cleaning, cooking, diaper changing). It’s a testament to how much people are obsessed with copying what society folks do, not virginity. At this point, we do it because we’ve been doing it for 150 years, same reason men wear tuxedos and the couple exchanges rings.

      And why do you know intimately all these people’s sex lives, and if they’re the type to shout them to the rooftops about their goings on, why do you spend so much time thinking about it? And perhaps SOME brides in certain areas do it because they don’t want a gaggle of gossiping church ladies like you to squack for years that “so-and-so wore a purple dress at her wedding, I wonder why THAT is, well, you know how the girls in THAT family are.”

    • whiteroses

      Traditionally, brides simply wore their best dress. In American colonial days, wedding dresses were blue or yellow. Martha Washington’s wedding gown was purple. In Ancient Rome, the de rigeur color was orange (of all things). White was impractical, yellowed quickly, and was hard to clean. Most frontier brides wore black, because they could keep wearing it over and over. It’s only recently (in the last one hundred years or so) that white has begun to connote purity. Kate Middleton wore white on her wedding day. Since she’d been living with Prince William for a while by then, I’m pretty sure they didn’t have seperate bedrooms. Some brides who are virgins wear ivory, because it looks better with their skin tone. I myself got married wearing gray.

      My point? It’s sad if it makes you uncomfortable, but it’s not your wedding.

    • Justme

      Looks like you’re uninvited to my wedding.

  • Véronique Houde

    I just hate the use of the word “pure” to describe a virgin. As if, because a woman doesn’t have sex before marriage, she is flawless and without sin. Which is so sexist and false. It only contributes to the notion that women who have sex are dirty. What about other sins? They just magically rinse away, leaving you clean if only you confess your sins? Why is it different for sex?

    After reading your post, I went and watched the show out of curiosity (I mean, who can resist trashy reality TV?!), and I’m appalled that a pastor can claim that the only way to have safe sex is to have sex within marriage. What a load of crap… I feel horrible for her daughter, who can’t even enjoy her first crush without feeling that she won’t be able to resist temptation. Instead of helping her figure out how to stay true to her values, her mom is guilting her into completely avoiding a natural part of any teenager’s life – dating.

    And don’t get me to the part where pastor dad feels that because he smoked weed every day before school when he was 14, that fate – or god – has made sure that his daughter paid the price by getting pregnant out of wedlock. Good lord.

    I have no issues with people believing in God. I myself became an evangelical christian as a teenager – it wasn’t for me in the end, it only made me super judgemental of people who didn’t choose the path to god. What I have issues with is using guilt to make people act the way that you want them to.

    • CW

      If someone is far too young to be looking for a spouse, then he/she is far too young to be dating. High schoolers have enough to be worrying about without the distraction of dating that rarely leads to anything other than heartbreak. How many high school romances lead to successful marriages? Only a tiny fraction. And if they do wind up meeting Mr./Ms. Right in high school, then they can start dating after they are adults.

    • Véronique Houde

      what exactly is wrong with heartbreak? People act as if getting emotionally hurt is the worst thing that can happen to them, but in truth, the most significant way we grow in life is through making mistakes. Teens date douchebags, learn said douchebags are bad for them, meet good guy, etc. ;) The fear of getting hurt is always worse than getting hurt itself. Emotional pain doesn’t last, you grow out of it.

  • wmdkitty

    Oh, please.

    If someone has truly “studied” and “reasoned”, the only logical and reasonable conclusion is atheism. If, after all that studying and reasoning, one still has faith, then one is not only NOT intelligent, but highly gullible and ripe for the scamming — which is exactly what preachers and pastors are counting on so they have more sheep to fleece.

  • Cassy

    As a Christian, I’m put off by this show at best. You hit the nail on the head. But I guess that’s Lifetime TV for you.

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