Saturday, October 30, 2010

To bmtt

Thanks for commenting here. I am trying to find more recent statistics, but as I was researching this issue I didn't bookmark any specific pages. In fact, I have been looking at this off and on for years now, but never too seriously. I really didn't think anyone else was taking YECS all that seriously either. :\

"Bishop notes that these figures have remained remarkably stable over time. These questions were first asked about 15 years ago, and the percentages in each category are almost identical. Moreover, the profiles of each group has been constant. Just as when these questions were first asked 15 years ago, creationists continue to be older, less educated, Southern, politically conservative, and biblically literal (among other things). Women and African-Americans were more likely to be creationists than whites and men. Meanwhile, younger, better educated, mainline Protestants and Catholics were more likely to land in the middle as theistic evolutionists." 1

It appears that I may be wrong about the "very few Christians" and I should have written "very few educated Christians". It makes me very sad to realize just how effective the YECS movement has been in indoctrinating the less educated among us. But only yesterday I found this link here.

I assumed it was a hoax, but after calling the hotel I found out that it was quite real. 0.0

I am still in shock.

If you'll go back a few posts to Across the Spectrum you will see that there are other ways to understand Genesis beyond the 6 day/6000 yrs and the Day Age model. There is the one I was taught as a young Christian, the Restoration View or Gap Theory, and there is also the Literary Theme Over Literal Chronology View.

I personally vacillate between the Restoration View and the Literary Theme View. I totally believe Genesis is the inspired Word of God. But it was also written by a human, a human who at the earliest lived in the Bronze Age.

Was it written by Moses, as theologians traditionally believed? Then for sure he was not there at the time of these recorded events! If it was given by Divine Revelation, then whatever the author saw and or experienced he could still only describe with his own understanding/vocabulary, describing objective realities in the only way available to that author (or any of us) his own subjective experience of that reality.

Or, again assuming Moses put ink to parchment, or reed to clay :) it is also possible that he was recording oral traditions just like the early literature of every other people group. As a Christian, this doesn't throw me into any kind of huge mental crisis. I am perfectly content that the important details made it into the stories as shared from generation to generation: that God created the world, mankind has a special status with God and in relation to the planet we live in, male and female were created to live harmoniously, etc.

I can't reconcile the Day-Age theory to reality because the order of the day-ages still don't make that much sense. So that's why I prefer the Restoration Theory (the earth is much older than mankind and other creatures populated the earth at this time; oh say like dinosaurs =) and further the Literary Framework Over Literal Chronology both.

Whoever wrote Genesis, they certainly weren't there literally to record events and they couldn't have lived the hundreds and hundreds of years from the Garden scene all the way through to the exodus from Egypt. So clearly, events in these passages were not described anything close to contemporaneously, nor by an actual eye-witness. Unlike the gospels, I might add. =D

The final truth about Christianity, for me, rests on personal experience of the Divine, experiences I have had while calling on Jesus. Honestly, there is no way I can come close to explaining what I have (mystically I think it would have to be called) experienced. Any analogy I make, any words I use, could not do justice to the Great Love, Goodness and Power of the Being I know as Jesus Christ.

When I read the Bible, I read stories of other people whose lives have been touched by that Divine Presence. Unlike many fundamentalist, I don't think these people are any better or worse than I as a human being. I don't hold any of them up as examples in any way other than as humans whose lives were touched by the Divine. God spoke to them, and it changed their lives, though it didn't perfect a single one of them.

I believe, with no hesitation, that Jesus Christ was fully God, fully man. I believe he was born of a Virgin, created by God in Mary's womb. Whether or not her egg contributed 23 of the necessary chromosome I do not know. I know that Jesus did not marry or have children, so the nature of his exact DNA will never be known. I believe that he lived a sinless life and that life revealed the true nature of God's heart to mankind by his words and deeds. I believe the gospels only account for some of his words and deeds, but I hold on to those accounts as precious and meaningful.

I believe his death on the cross brought God and man back into fellowship, though all the whys of the shed blood of Christ being the means for that are not black and white to me. I certainly don't believe the "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" scenario, because I have in a sense come face to face with God (mystic, remember?) and I know there is no Hate in him at all. Nada. Jonathon Edwards was a compelling speaker, but he was just manipulating a response out of people who already felt unloved and unworthy.

Jesus came with the opposite message: God loves you. He counts you worthy of His attention. God is good. As the Apostle Paul wrote: God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself and not counting men's trespasses against them.

I fully believe Jesus rose from the dead and continued teaching for almost two months until he bodily left the earth. I believe He is here in Spirit today (meaning an actual mystical presence, not an idea) loving people, calling them into relationship with the Divine, answering prayers when it is in everyone's best interest to give us our requests, and trying to teach all who will seek Him what really is good, virtuous, holy. (Hint: that has nothing to do with avoiding love, life, learning and liberty, as so many seem to believe.)

I hope you realize what a gift it is for me to write so plainly. It is a gift of love to you, bmtt, and all others who have found fundamentalism a spiritual death trap. Because as you well know, I am going to now get comments suggesting I am not a "real" Christian. It won't be long before someone will accuse me of slandering truth when I speak truly of my experience of Jesus and my understanding of the Bible.

Already, I feel myself being pushed out of Christian circles. It started in the Christian home school community, but I know it won't end there. The existence of men like Wade Burleson, Steve McVey and Gregory A. Boyd gives me hope that there are people with whom I can experience true Christian fellowship.

Because therein lies the big paradox for me. Jesus commands that I am to love the fellowship of believers as He loves them. That's kind of hard to do when they are excluding you as a heretic. =) But from all I know of Jesus, this is not an optional add-on to the faith, but it is a central tenet of following Him. Loving my fellow disciples, loving my neighbor as myself, even loving my enemies (A group that increasingly seems to overlap with the group of self-identified fellow disciples! Ouch!) these are the main event.

I fail at this miserably most days, yet I am not discouraged. I am encouraged because I know that God is good, and merciful, and is in no way unjust. He will not condemn me, and yet at the same time wants me to go and sin no more. I accept this paradox gratefully, and I start each day new grateful that His mercies are new as well. I do not beat myself up when I fall short of my own ideals. I accept that I am just exactly who I am, loved by God and precious to Him, and also that by His Spirit and in the fullness of times, someday I will be like Him.

So there it is. My faith in Jesus Christ is the most precious thing in my life. And yet it seems that being honest about my faith in Christ is also the most polarizing, isolating thing in my relationship with other believers. This is difficult because as I understand it love amongst the disciples is supposed to be the New Command that supersedes all other commands.

In the meantime, I will refer all believers who read here back to the earliest book of the Bible. It is not Genesis. The book of Job is believed to be the oldest book in the Bible. In chapter 38, God sums up nicely what He thinks our attitude about the beginning of time should be: humility. Read it for yourself and see if you don't get the same message. =)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Get the Facts on YECS

This paper was copyrighted in 1999/2000 by Matthew S. Tiscareno. It is fascinating reading, especially if you have ever sat in on a Hovind or Ham seminar.

It should go without saying that any scientific claims you hear in a non-academic setting should be fully evaluated later with expert sources. Don't take everything you hear in church as, er, "gospel" truth. That would include scientific claims made in *religious settings like home school seminars of a religious nature.

I admit to being too lazy and unconcerned to so evaluate the claims of Young Earth Creation Science when I attended my first such meeting. Given my experiences in college at OSU in 1986, the paranoia about atheists professors aiming to convert college students to atheism seemed plausible to me. Since I had experienced this assumption as truth, I stopped thinking critically about the rest of their claims. Big mistake.

I never bothered to do any fact checking, mostly because I wasn't fully convinced but also because I was not very concerned with the subject anyway. My faith in Jesus Christ does not rest on whether or not the world was created in a literal six day period a mere six thousand to ten thousand years ago. I had nothing to lose or gain based on the claims of YECS.

My faith in Christ rests on the gospel, nicely summed up in the Apostle's Creed, coupled with my own personal experience of the presence of God in my life. A friend of mince converted to atheism, and she started to show me all the places she believed the Bible contradicted itself. I told her that if the whole Bible were proved false (which I don't believe is possible, but IF one were an inerrant literalist as she was previously, I can see why finding out some things weren't literal would seem to "disprove" the Bible to her) then on the basis of my personal experience I would still follow Jesus. It's very simple: I called on the name of Jesus and he answered me.

Long story short, in an attempt to be fair and open-minded I did not shelter my children from YECS teaching. I thought that my own caveats ("almost all scientists believe the universe including the earth, is very old") thrown in with the Christian textbook science was providing proper balance. Much later I found out that this was not so, and even worse, the negative attitude toward those who believed in evolution was the only part of YECS that really stuck with my (language inclined) oldest student. :\

In an effort to educate myself on the more scientific side of the issue, I came across the above link. I hope everyone who has exposed their students to YECS will also expose their students to the above scientific rebuttals so their students don't go off to college making spurious claims about "proof" for a young earth. Your students deserve to know what facts they will really be up against if they challenge a professor in class about the age of the earth. It's unkind to provide them with any less.

Other Christian sources that can help your students in this way are Reasons to Believe and Biologos. Thanks to the ladies at the blogThe Wartburg Watch for the excellence resources.

Peace and good will, SS

*Actually, you should apply skepticism to pretty much all the anecdotal stories you hear in a religious setting as well. Many of them are great illustrations, though they have been fabricated and passed on as a sermon illustration in a book, on a website, etc. I have no problem with that, and the more honest among us usually cite their source, as in "I have no idea if this is true, but someone sent me this story the other day in an e-mail and it perfectly illustrates my point this morning. Seems there was this guy...."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I read the term on another blog located here. The blogger makes an excellent point.

More and more young women, Christians, mostly home schooled, are coming to me expressing deep dissatisfaction with what they see in their parents' evangelical marriages. Depressed and dowdy, overworked and under-appreciated mothers have shared their frustrations and discouragement with their daughters. These daughters have been looking and listening, and they are (rightfully) turned off by the example of total submission of women in the name of Christ.

But whose doctrine is that, really? It resembles nothing Jesus ever taught. It resembles no action Jesus ever took. Jesus, who called the woman with the withered hand to the front of the synagogue, healed the Syro-Phonecian woman's daughter, restored a widow's dead son to life, conversed freely with the Samaritan woman at the well, did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, and first appeared to a woman at the Resurrection and commissioned her to go tell the men Jesus wasn't in the tomb anymore- no where is it ever recorded that Jesus put any woman "in her place" or denied any woman mercy, help or honor.

I had a Conservative Jewish man once refuse to shake my hand because he couldn't know if I was on my period or not, hence whether or not I was "unclean". Jesus commends the woman with the twelve year issue of blood for her faith when she presses through to touch the hem of his garment. Mary of Bethany sat at his feet listening and Jesus told her she had chosen the best part. The woman who poured perfume on his feet was given eternal honor for her willingness to suffer the scorn of those who sat at table with Jesus in order that she might honor Him publicly. Women were part of his traveling entourage, no doubt a scandalously bold move for the times.

Even Paul, in explaining to the early church how they might, in spite of the Gentile law of the land "pater familia", live this new life of love, tells husbands to "love their wives as Christ loved the church and laid down his life for her". He tells husbands to "nourish and cherish" the wife as if the body of the woman was the literal body of the man. Paul tells men that women likewise have authority over the man's body in marriage, just as the husband has over the wife.

When Paul tells first century women how to live out the slavery that marriage literally was in the first century Roman Empire, he counseled woman to live that out "as unto the Lord"- to willingly give as a gift to Jesus what a husband legally demanded. Like slaves who were also told to "work as unto the Lord", women were told to "submit as unto the Lord".

Yet if the householder were putting into practice the words of Christ, to love others as Christ loved him, to serve others in love even as Christ came not to be served but to serve, no woman would ever be required to submit in a Christian household anyway! That's why even though both slaves and wives were told how to submit/obey "as unto the Lord" men are nowhere commanded to take authority over their wives nor own slaves. To do either is contrary to sound doctrine that Jesus taught and lived.

But it is very much in keeping with pagan practices! Jesus pointed out that "the Gentiles lord it over" those under their power, and the pagan king Xerxes commands "that every man should be ruler over his own household" (Esther 1:22). Clearly man rule, or patriarchy, is a pagan practice born out of the curse of sin.

Patriarchy, religious hierarchy, slavery: all are clearly contrary to the life and teachings of Christ. There is no way you can dominate a person if you are treating them as you yourself wish to be treated. It's just not possible.

What will become of these young women?

God knows, because He cares for them with tender mercy. Hopefully they will find sound teaching, pro-Jesus teaching that will allow them to continue to identify as Christians even while they seek to live according to the teachings of Jesus. But it's clear they will have to look diligently, because what their parents taught and modeled is shipwreck.

What will become of the church?

Well, the Lord adds to his church daily those that are being saved, so of course the church will continue to grow. I'm not so sure about American Christianity though. It depends on how many congregations are willing to throw out the tenets of tradition and focus on the actual words and life of Christ. We'll all see if we live long enough, won't we? =)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Looking Back and Looking Around

Looking back, I can see how far my husband has come in healing. He has been in therapy, group and individual, for almost a year now. He is receiving medical treatment for depression as well, which is making a huge difference. It's not that he never slips back into blaming, abandoning behaviors, but he doesn't stay there long and it is happening farther and farther in between. The actual aggression is a thing of the past.

Looking around, I can see how much improved all of our family is, both in a personal sense and in our relationships. My son is really enjoying life now, taking on new hobbies, setting academic and personal goals. He's losing weight and getting strong.

My daughter is shining socially now, a whole new thing in her life. Every week she is growing and accomplishing new goals she has set for herself. We rarely argue. She calls me just to talk, sometimes for advice. She invites me to do things with her and accepts my invitations too. It is a relationship I now enjoy.

I am much happier now. I have more peace, and more joy. I actually have thoughts and feelings about my own life now. I am not always worried for my family and praying for them, because I know things are going to be okay. It's wonderful to have the freedom to think about my self, my future, my happiness. n_n

My husband smiles often now. Not always. Occasionally the depression takes over still. He is working through a lot of personal things from his own childhood in therapy, and it still casts a cloud now and then. BUT it used to always hang over his life, unrecognized and unacknowledged, driving him to alternate between withdrawing from everyone and striking out in seething resentment, mostly to me. That rarely happens now.

It's a relief and a blessing. My blog may change focus and direction as my own life changes focus and direction. I may even shut it down after a season, if I think it is not really serving a purpose anymore.

When I started this blog, I didn't know if we were going to make it or not. Now I am as close to sure as I think I will ever be about anything in this life. "Life is what happens while you're making other plans", so I am no longer one hundred per cent certain about anything these days. Age and experience will give you that perspective! =)

My spiritual journey is taking turns I never expected. I more fully want to follow Jesus than ever before, if that's possible. I have less confidence that organized religious institutions help much in that journey. I guess what I mean by that is that I don't believe pastors or preachers or seminary grads are any closer to knowing and walking in the truth than any other disciple.

I will always go to church: to share in corporate expressions of gratitude (worship), bear one anothers burdens, rejoice with those who rejoice, and remember the Lord's great love for us all by sharing communion with the saints. I will honor the work of the Holy Spirit in the church by allowing the Lord to minister to me through the gifts and insights He has placed in others, including the man standing up front. But certainly not limited to the man standing up front, or exalting God's work through him to a higher status than God's work in the "least of these my brethren".

I am digging into theology and broadening my field of inquiry. I am leaving fundamentalism behind. I recognize that it only hinders my walk with God and hinders the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth. I can accept fundamentalists as my brothers and sisters in Christ, well loved by Jesus, but reject their doctrines as rules taught by men that crush lambs and drive away all but the most resilient true sheep.

I hope my readers have been helped by following this crappy home school marriage's path out of misery and on to the path of healing. If anyone is informed to make good decisions, reject damaging doctrines and practices, and helped to a better life in any way, then I am glad I blogged so honestly about such private matters.

Peace and good will to all who read here, SS.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Darcy Said It

Darcys' Heart Stirrings

I will be silent and let a younger, wiser person write. =)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Across the Spectrum

I am currently reading Across the Spectrum by Gregory A. Boyd. I highly recommend this book to everyone, but especially home school parents and teens!

I remember asking my father-in-law once about fundamentalism. The media seemed to really have a beef with that word, and fundamentalists were getting blamed for all kinds of hypocritical, mean-spirited, ugliness in politics and society.

I thought I was a fundamentalist, yet I was none of those things. So I asked my seminary educated father-in-law a question. "I guess I'm a fundamentalist, aren't I? I mean, all it means is that you believe that the Bible is fundamentally true, right?"

Maybe it's because I am a woman, and I needn't bother my pretty little head about such things, but my father-in-law told me that "yep, that's what it means all right." Very simplistic and patently untrue in all that was left unsaid.

My father-in-law and I apparently meant very different things by "fundamentally true". I meant affirming the Apostle's Creed. Unity in essentials, liberty in all else. What my father-in-law meant was pre-trib, dispensational, Armenian, six day Creation, young earth, male supremacy, and substitutionary view of the atonement.

These are all areas where evangelical, Bible-believing Christians disagree. But most of us have only been taught one point of view, the belief of our parents and/or denomination (or non-denomination, for those who don't affiliate with other congregations) promoted. The Christian home school curricula out there is full of apologetics, yet always promotes their own doctrinal stance as Divine Truth. I have yet to see a Christian curricula yet that explains that there are any other Christian beliefs on the matter besides the one they are promoting as The Truth.

I have taken formal apologetics classes, but these also have only taught one point of view, other than perhaps mentioning opposing arguments against the other side(s) in passing. I have taken formal comparative religion courses through Christian sources, and they never told me the history of fundamentalism. (Did you know it did not exist before the beginnings of the last century? That it is wholly an American invention? That fundamentalism was birthed by a set of reactionary pamphlets against the modernist liberal German school of thought, which denied the miraculous? Sort of like "I see your Sadducee and I counter with a boat load of Pharisee!! Ha! Take that!")

In those classes I learned the history of Mormonism, Jehovahs Witnesses and other world religions. Over and over growing up I heard what was wrong about Catholicism. I heard about the beginnings of the Protestant faith in Martin Luther's brave dissent. But I never, ever was taught the historical beginnings of fundamentalism and what it meant exactly and how it differed from other Christian beliefs.

This book is a treasure because it presents all the evangelical positions on many of these issues. Everyone should know what the basic Christian evangelical doctrines really are, and the supporting and opposing arguments for each position. If you want to teach yourself or your students true apologetics, start here. Let them see the rich variety of opinions and also the strong agreement between the world of evangelical believers.

If you are going to teach your children apologetics (and I think every Christian should!) do so honestly. Teach the whole spectrum of doctrine and belief in the evangelical world. Do so without prejudice or bristling if your students decide the other side rings more true to them. Let go of rigidity, and let freedom ring. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Faith Suicide (or is it homocide?)

This blog post started as a response to this blog post at The Wartburg Watch. The author of that post coined the term "faith suicide" for the phenomenon that the Barna group recently uncovered. The cold hard truth revealed was that 61% of young adults stop going to church once they leave their parent's home. Here is my reply on that blog. Comments that I added later as I edited it for my post are all in italics:

I am both horrified and and strangely encouraged by the term “faith suicide”. Horrified for what should be obvious reasons, since my relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is life itself to me. Strangely encouraged because at least some few people are starting to understand that it is the fundamentalist rigidity and poor reasoning that are responsible for what is happening to our youth.

I am a Christian home school mom. I started home schooling (as any home schooling purist would say! ;-) ) on the day my first child was born. I was attracted to home schooling as a nurturing, creative, possibility-filled, liberating way to raise and teach a child. All of this is possible for a home school, and many people choose to home school for this reason.

(I am a Christian, and passing my faith on to my children is as important to me as any Christian parent. However, it was never my primary motivation for home schooling, as home schooling is not necessary to passing on the faith. A genuine living relationship with the Living Lord of Love is the only thing necessary to passing on your faith. That is something all Christians should live daily, regardless of who teaches their children their ABCs.)

BUT, once you start exploring the religious branches of the home school sub-culture, especially the “Christian” support groups, curricula, seminars, etc., you quickly find that it is a rigid, doctrinaire, fear-based lifestyle. Ken Hamm rules in this world. Apologetics are taught in every spelling lesson, math workbook, history text, and especially in what passes for science education. The most popular high school science textbooks supplier is even called Apologia.

I am a curious person, and I watched closely the families that had gone before me. One thing I began to notice after only a few years in the home school community, was that children were not turning out to be the principled holy warrior world changers the home school prophets were promising. I noticed quite a few home school grads starting families awfully young and not according to script, i.e. out of wedlock, and certainly outside of mom and dad’s master plan for the lives of their young people.

So what was the religious home school community's answer to this? More control! Vision Forum sprang up, and scared parents willingly shelled out the money and started putting a stricter milieu control into the lives of their children.

And now, what am I seeing? Starting a family young and outside of mom and dad’s master plan is the least of the home school community's problems. (That can hardly even be called a problem, if one believes in a God of grace and a life of faith, now can it?)

Cutting, eating disorders, suicide attempts, substance abuse, and atheism are (some of) the products of this impossible to survive religious paradigm. These are real problems. The insanity of trying to live up to impossible standards destroys hearts. The madness of denying the realities of life and trying to distort it all to fit into the doctrinal constraints of fundamentalist demands takes a toll on young minds. The spirits of these children are starved for the unconditional love Jesus spoke of, yet is rarely manifested in the daily experience of rigidly religious families.

It is this rigidity of thought and coldness of heart that is destroying the faith of our children. 61% of our young people are leaving the church? Jesus said in John 6:37 “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

So who IS driving these children away? Clearly it's NOT Jesus.

Rigid ideologues are driving their own children out of the faith. They are doing so by relentlessly insisting on a more and more stringent belief system. YE creationism is at the heart of this movement, but is only one example of doctrinal demands trumping truth and damning any deviation from the family party line.

Ironically, the tighter controls they are taught are necessary to keep their children in the faith are the very thing that is causing their children to reject the faith. These youth are not rejecting Jesus, they are rejecting the false Jesus and his ridiculously narrow and mean- spirited dogma that their parents are presenting to them.

These same parents insist that anything less than complete agreement with the whole paradigm is apostasy. So when broken and discouraged young people finally realize that there is no earthly way possible to be happy and healthy in that paradigm, they choose apostasy. The teaching allows for no other options.

Tragically, those late-comers to this fear based lifestyle are calling for the rest of the church to follow in the footsteps of these home school train wrecks: Why Young People Are Leaving The ChurchThis author thinks parents need to dominate their children's thought and social lives more completely, and that will solve the problem. Insanity.

YE creationsim is responsible for creating more atheists than Darwin himself, from where I sit. And that is just the beginning of the problem. Total subordination of women, adults living as children under their father’s “authority” for the rest of their lives, no birth control, women can’t work outside the home, college is evil, it’s considered sinful to work for anyone other than yourself, the medical community can’t be trusted- the list of verboten thoughts and practices just keeps getting longer and longer.

Total milieu control and attempted total thought control of our children will not produce disciples in love with Jesus and passionately devoted to Him for a lifetime. When successful, it will produce automatons who parrot back what their parents and church taught them to say. Only God knows if that can even be called "faith". If you have never had any real choice about what to believe...

But mostly it will fail, and produce angry, defiant, hurting and broken people who will logically conclude, if faith in God is so weak that it requires total isolation and continual indoctrination to survive, then it’s a sham.

Well, I have gone on long enough, but it is a subject I am passionate about. It is very encouraging that others see how damaging and destructive this rigid ideology is to the future of the church.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Let's Hear from Another Home School Grad

More and more home school grads are blogging about all sorts of things. Like every other human undertaking, home schooling is not a perfect endeavor. There is a lot to learn from hearing what home school graduates have to say about their experience in home school. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so grab a spoon and dig in!
Kiery's Notebook

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I finally watched the movie Saved, with Mandy Moore.

I had managed to ignore it for a very long time. When it first came out, I was still living under the guidance of Focus on the Family, handing over to the fundamentalist establishment my decisions about movies and television. I was still living under the ethic of avoidance outlined in Mark Buchanan's book Your God is Too Safe, chapter 11, The Ethics of a Dangerous Faith.

Ironically enough, that was already one of my favorite chapters, although I was able to apply it only within some pretty strict parameters. I was enlightened enough to put into practice what I meant to be an ethic of involvement that brought the gospel of grace into a broken world. I think I succeeded on some levels. I hope I did.

But I still was pretty much living under an Us vs. Them mentality. The world was very much not me, not one of us. "In the world and not of it" means something very different to me now than it did then. At that point, advancing the kingdom of God meant underscoring the difference between saved and not saved. I still had some idea that it was important to convince people of the truth of my religious convictions, and that, while praying the sinner's prayer was important, what really meant it had "taken" was their whole-hearted jumping into American religiosity with both feet.

I saw nothing dangerous or wrong in American religiosity, other than a penchant for self-righteousness. So I had no interest in seeing Saved, a movie which (I was told) made all Christians seem like self-righteous Pharisees who had totally mucked up the faith.

My resistance to seeing this movie was so strong that even after my son saw it, and told me I would love it, I bristled inside at the thought. Uh, no way. Besides I never sent my children to Christian school, so why should that movie be of interest to me? Totally irrelevant to my life, I thought.

Last week I saw the movie. I won't spoil the movie, but I will tell you that I did find it totally relevant. I found it so relevant, I encourage all Christian home school moms to see the movie. And here's why: the movie shows clearly that our children see our lives and our doctrine from a literal perspective, and it is often not at all what we meant to convey.

Oddly enough I found myself full of compassion for the antagonist of the movie, who is trying with all her heart to be a young woman of superior virtue but finds the reward she expected elusive. She works very hard to put into practice everything she is taught, but reaps no reward. In the end her frustration at doing everything right but having nothing go her way, leads her to jump in there and do for herself what God would not- take down her competition, remove the sinners from her world, so that she will finally get the life she has been told righteousness reaps.

Of course all that brings into her life is exposure and shame, the very things she wanted for those she saw as enemies of the faith. I loved, absolutely loved her final scene, which I interpret as a smashing of her fundamentalist idols. I like to believe it was the beginning of a new freedom in Christ for the character, that she would finally start to understand that God has bigger plans for our hearts than inhabiting a Christian sub-culture where everything is in its place and people play their prescribed roles without deviation from the fundamentalist script.

Other characters in the movie, particularly the protagonist, portray other ways our children misunderstand us. Actually, they understand better than we do exactly what we are saying and they put it into practice without all the dissembling and double-speak that keeps their elders from putting into practice all they say.

I am teaching a class in British Literature right now, and the martyrdom of Thomas Becket comes to mind. The king asks rhetorically, "Won't someone rid me of this man?" and his knights take him literally and go murder Mr. Becket.

I think a lot of the religious rhetoric we parents throw around is on the same level. In the movie, the protagonists boyfriend tells her that he thinks he might be gay. The heroine, believing that homosexuality is an abomination that sends people to hell, also believing her whole life should be dedicated to "saving" people, decides that God has called her to save this young man from damnation. How else to do this than by turning him to heterosexuality? She has come to believe, by giving equal weight to all she has been taught, that being heterosexual is as important to salvation as any thing else the Bible teaches.

I won't go into all the other ways the message the adults think they are giving out is not the message the kids are internalizing. Or rather it is what the kids are internalizing, but without all the nuance, experience, mental trumps and denial in which adults are so well-versed. (Like the pun? =)

Focus on the Family should have given this movie a thumbs up for parents and older teens at the very least. There is a lot that evangelical Christians can learn from this movie. It is a critique of Christian subculture, and as such it does expose the weaknesses without highlighting any of its virtues, but that is the whole point of the movie. It's a drama, not a documentary. I think it gets the message across well.

The message? It is far more important to live the Great Commandment than to load our children down with doctrines and rules to keep them from sin. Real life is too messy for a list of rules, and knowing which spiritual premise trumps which rule is not something we can anticipate and teach with doctrine. Better to teach and live the greatest of these: love God and love people. Treat them how you would want to be treated. Accept one another just as Christ accepted you, and not to argue. Major on the love God has for all people, the message of reconciliation of which we have been made ministers. Major on the message that brought joy to each of us when we first heard it.

At least that's the message I got. You may find something else. Certainly other messages are that Christians live messy complicated lives like everyone else in the world, and adults capacity for denial is larger than we want to admit. Both of those messages are supported by the movie as well. Take what you need! =D

Monday, October 4, 2010

Religion-less Home Schooling

I am still home schooling this year, my last student's junior year. As I sit here and write, my teens are in the living room watching a cheesy zombie movie from the '80s. If you told me ten years ago, when my children were in elementary school, that there would ever come a day that my kids would watch zombie movies in my house, I would have been very offended. Perish the thought! I was much too righteous for that! 0.0

Funny thing, my son is much happier as a home schooled high school student than my daughter ever was. That's because there is so much less religion in our lives than she grew up with. Oh this is a Christian home, so it stands to reason it will never be religion free. But less religion? Definitely. There is conversely a lot more of a sense of the presence of God, but isn't that like God? When we stop going about to establish our own righteousness, we find He was here beside us all along.

When my daughter was in her elementary years, there was religion everywhere in our lives! Morning, noon and night- religion. I used a major religious home school publisher for the background of our academics. I bought the Victorian era collections of moral stories for sale at the home school conventions, and we read them! I bought the Anabaptist moral stories too, and we read those. I also spent a ton of money at the local Christian book store, buying up all those evening devotional guides for children.

We studied the history of the peoples of the Bible first, before we looked at any other ideas about early man and early civilizations. That was our first set of morning devotions. As if that and the Christian readers and the evening devotions was not enough religion, I also sent my children to AWANA every week, in addition to Sunday school and church services. Of course television was very limited, but Christian videos and story tapes were encouraged! And yes, the radio was set only to the Christian station, naturally.

After AWANA Bible memory, we would have our own times of scripture memory. We would pantomime whole chapters of the Bible together as a family. I remember Luke 15, Proverbs 3 and 1 John 1 as favorites. Those family times were actually a lot of fun, and those words will no doubt be a light to my children's paths as long as they walk this earth. I wish I had limited scripture memory to those family times alone. Memorizing with laughter, fun and family connection was way more productive than memorizing scripture for stickers, patches and public honor.

Some of this religious activity honored God and drew us closer to home. Some of it would have been salt in the flavor of our lives, enhancing our relationships with God, each other and the world around us. But just like one can overdose on salt and ruin a dish, we overdosed on religion and it became very unpleasant.

Loathsome, even.

I never thought I would ever come to say that I regretted cramming religion into every facet of my children's lives (especially my daughter's early years) but I do. Do I love the Lord Jesus less? Not at all! Jesus is my life! He is the friend who sticks closer than a brother, my Savior, my Counselor, the Lover of my soul. I love Jesus more than ever.

But what I thought was life to my children, was not life at all. It was the letter of the law that kills, not the life giving Spirit. (2 Corinthians 2:6)

As I commented on Quivering Daughters:

Hillary, I love your writing style. It's so poetic and comforting. It helps to soften the blow I often take to my heart when I read your work.

You openly explain so much my daughter wanted to say to me, but feared my defensive reaction too much to speak. Instead she retreated into depression and despair, and I spent years trying to coax her out again. Slowly she opened up, and as she did, she became defiant, deliberately challenging us parents, "You love me, huh? Well how about if I do this? Do you still love me, huh?"

Painfully, shamefully, repeatedly - my pride broken, all my dreams of creating the perfect Christian child dashed- I would affirm- "yes, even still I love you".

I am crying as I type this. What was life to me- the wonderful Word of God- became death to my daughter. I think of Saul insisting David wear his armor to face Goliath.

That's what all the devotions and character training and constant quoting of Bible verses was to my child. I put an adult's armor on her tiny frame, and expected her to march around in it. I expected her to grow into it, and one day be a Giant slayer because of the godly training in righteousness she received.

Instead, the visor kept her world dark and constrained her ability to see the beauty around her. The weight of the armor limited her range of motion and wearied her constantly. Defeated, despondent, she simply stopped moving and collapsed, numb with failure.

Ashamedly I confess that I first saw this as rebellion. I would yell at her- get up! get moving! why are you so resistant?! Finally a friend mentioned depression, and I looked it up on the internet and BINGO. My precious daughter was depressed.

Well, it was the beginning of a road to healing, one in which I had to (and still have to) chunk out all my expectations of the "godly girl of virtue" I held dear. I had to (and still have to) remember our frame, that we BOTH are but dust, and that Christ came for sinners, not the righteous. This includes me, as I knew all along.

But it also includes my daughter, which by my training I had sought to make righteous. Imagine had I succeeded, how would she ever come to know grace?

Grace is not something we can train or teach. It is experienced, and it is only experienced by those who need it.

Well, I've gone on long enough. Thanks for writing, Hillary. Keep it up!

September 17, 2010 8:25 AM

My hope in writing this is that other Christian mothers starting down the path of home schooling will not make the mistakes I made. My hope is that they will not isolate themselves into "Christian" home school support groups, choosing only "Christian" curriculum, "Christian" activities, "Christian" television and movies and sports teams and museums and (as Steven Taylor wrote in the 80's) becoming so relgious that we'll "only drink milk from a Christian cow".

There really is such a thing as overkill in the attempt to share your faith with your children. I urge you all to think of your overt teachings about the faith as salt. You need it in your home. It is a must have. But it must not be overdone.

The covert sharing of your faith, the life-giving Spirit, is what you can't overdo. You can't be too gentle, too kind, too loving, too joyful. When your children see you joyfully singing songs of praise while you wash the dishes, that is the life-giving Spirit. In other words, be a living epistle known and read by all in your family (2 Corinthians 3:3). Let them memorize the feel of your hug, the way you delight in their play, the sight of you serving the Lord and your family with peaceful satisfaction. Above all, as Hillary wrote, remember that both we and our children are but dust: delicate, temporary, yet very precious to God.

A final thought to consider for all the Christian home school moms zealous for God who might be reading here, not yet convinced that my life experiences are in any way inevitable for all who choose religious overkill. Do you consider yourself totally committed to the Lord?

Did you get there by a steady, continual diet of religious instruction as a child, or by experiencing the love of God in your moments of weakness in life? Who influenced you most, a Christian who showed you mercy or a master theologian? Even if that person had a lot of Bible knowledge, was it their knowledge or their love that drew you to the faith?

If you, then, became a committed Christian because of the mercy of God to you in your time of need, then does it not stand to reason that massive amounts of religious instruction are not necessary for a person to come to love Christ? Take heed from Jesus' warnings to beware the leaven of the scribes and Pharisees, those professional believers who studied God's Word all day, every day. Their continual study of scripture blinded them to the reality of God in their midst: they didn't recognize the Messiah in front of them because they were blinded by their love of scripture. They loved their scripture/religion more than they loved Life itself.