Peter Bradrick, Former Executive Assistant to Doug Phillips, Speaks Out on Being “Formally Disowned” and “Declared to be a Destroyer”

Peter Bradrick and Doug Phillips.
Peter Bradrick and Doug Phillips.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on November 30, 2013.

For those of you who aren’t entirely up to speed, Peter Bradrick is a Vision Forum intern turned executive assistant to Doug Phillips. He doesn’t work for Vision Forum any longer, but even after he left as an employee he was involved in their “Hazardous Journeys” trips, and was pretty much BFFs with Doug. He’s married to the daughter of Scott Brown (not the politician, the one who’s head of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches, an organization that Doug was on the board of until his scandal broke).

Anyway, everybody close to Doug and Vision Forum—Peter included—have been tight-lipped about Doug’s affair and the closing of Vision Forum Ministries. Tight-lipped until now, that is. As late as the end of Thanksgiving night, 11/28, Peter’s Facebook was locked down and all but a few random posts from months ago were private. That changed day after Thanksgiving when Peter made the following posts public on Facebook. I’ll post them chronologically below.

Tuesday, 26 November, 2013 (Facebook | Screenshot | PDF)

Dear friends, after a long and weary season of business failure and more recently significant shock and disappointment regarding a very tender matter close to me, I am planning on going off Facebook and other public platforms for a season. This is motivated solely because I want to focus on my private life. However, I know this will be misinterpreted by many, particularly since there has been a troubling silence regarding a recent difficult public situation. Before I go “offline” there are things that I need to share. In the coming days and weeks I will be sharing my heart with my friends regarding some difficult things that need to be said. After which, I hope to transition to a season of life focused on a new direction in business, focused on personal spiritual growth, and focused on my precious wife and children.

Tuesday, 26 November, 2013 (Facebook | Screenshot | PDF)

I apologize to many of you who have reached out and contacted me in the past days and weeks, and to whom I have not responded. I ask for mercy and understanding knowing many of you will realize this is a VERY difficult time for me and my family. I am attempting to exercise discretion, and to faithfully exercise my limited duties in this recent situation. In line with that, I have been leery of talking to many of you to whom I owe calls, emails, texts and FB messages back to, because I am committed to not “feed the gossip mill”, or pass on dainty morsels. And just not talking has been one way I have attempted to walk a very difficult line in a very messy situation.

Greater knowledge brings with it greater responsibility, particularly for those who have had close relationships with those involved. I’ve attempted to only communicate with people that have reason to know at this point. Please be patient with me. I promise I still love and care for each of you, and hope that you will understand.

Wednesday, 27 November, 2013 (Facebook | Screenshot | PDF)

The past decade of my life has been defined by my close relationship with my mentor and former spiritual father. Those who know me recognize my longstanding, fierce commitment to his family, his work, and his legacy. As soon as I caught wind of what was going on, I became very involved in working towards fulfilling the duties of friendship and brotherhood – to confront a man who has been like a father to me for a third of my life and plead with him to truthfully confess, and to genuinely take responsibility for longstanding betrayal of everything we had fought together for with the hope of ultimate restoration.

Friends… truth and justice are mercy. Covering sin is not mercy. (Proverbs 28:13, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”) This was the message of the men that joined me to go in person to plead with him. Men he’s called “bosom brothers”, son’s in the Lord, close friends, and a mentor of his. What for us was a tender, emotional, mission of mercy and plea for true repentance was met with something, and by someone I never could have imagined. Instead of being received as the “wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6), I was formally disowned and declared to be a “destroyer” to my face.

There is no way to describe the soul crushing blow I was dealt that day and it’s overall impact on my life. It’s was like experiencing the scene from Braveheart… where William Wallace finds out he’s been betrayed by Robert the Bruce, over and over again. Walking away from that meeting, I couldn’t speak for hours I was so stunned. I am still physically, emotionally and spiritually broken and asking God to give me wisdom. I know many people are so very hurt and confused regarding what has transpired and my prayer for myself, my family, and everyone involved is that we look to Christ alone with hearts of love, mercy, and repentance seeking to root out the sin in our own lives. Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

Particularly worth noting is the comment left by Joe Morecraft, himself a well-known figure in the Reformed part of the patriarchy world. The comment reinforces the idea that Doug Phillips still is not repentant and those in his circles are well aware of that reality.

morecraft

And finally:

Friday, 29 November, 2013 (Facebook | Screenshot | PDF)

“For one thousand years, this principle has guided Western civilization. Simply stated, that principle is this: the groom dies for the bride, the strong suffer for the weak, and the highest expression of love is to give one’s life for another. The men aboard the Titanic recognized their duty because they had been raised in a culture that implicitly embraced such notions. Only by returning to these foundations can we ever hope to live in a society in which men will make the self-conscious decision to die so that women and children may live. This is the true legacy of the Titanic.” Douglas Phillips

When those who champion “women and children first” hide behind smooth words instead of “suffering for the weak”… When the strong take advantage of the weak, and then turn them out like so much garbage… When the strong seize the lifeboats and leave the weak drowning in the icy water… it leaves no choice for men of God other than to rise up and oppose them when they discover the truth. Woe to those that do not.

Either Peter is positioning himself to take over and pick up the pieces, or this post looks like he’s completely had it and is fed up with being diplomatic about Doug Phillips. Even the third post where he talks about being “disowned” reads like something that had some thought put into it. This post looks like when I get royally fed up and go on a Facebook tirade.

Also of note is this comment by close Phillips associate Bob Renaud:

renaud

Again, this time from someone much closer to Phillips than Morecraft is, another comment from someone who believes that Doug Phillips is still in active sin and unrepentance.

The real question is why go public now? Has something changed such that people are breaking their silence as a result? Or did Peter Bradrick just finally hit his breaking point as he realized he spent the last decade idolizing this man only to discover that everything he thought he knew was based on a lie?

Here’s hoping that this gets him to realize that Doug Phillips’ patriarchal vision is a pack of lies and he and his family are able to move on to a normal life in the real world outside of the crazy of fundamentalist homeschooling.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop when the Vision Forum Ministries board starts trying to untangle the finances between the non-profit and Doug’s personally-owned for-profit Vision Forum, Inc. side of things. I keep hearing suspicions that the finances are seriously sketch.

This Road I’ve Traveled

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 1.47.01 PM

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate TruthIt was originally published on January 20, 2013.

For awhile now, I have been wanting to write a background for everything that I am working through… I want to write about myself, and who I really am.

Exactly two years ago, I found out that one of my dearest friends passed away from two brain aneurysms. Not only that, Phil’s guitar mentor passed away, the day before my friend, from ALS. Two days later, my dad kicked me out of the house. All through this time as well, Phil and I were trying to get married and get my dad’s blessing. This time was the climax of many years of hurt, emotional, verbal, and spiritual abuse, and it was the climax of Phil’s and my relationship.  That January of 2011 was a train wreck for both of us, and since then I have been deconstructing my faith, my past, and my broken heart.

I am the oldest of 9, 10 technically, with 3 sisters and 5 brothers. Being the oldest has given me heavy responsibility and has made me “old” before my time. I half jokingly say at times that I am an old soul in a young body. As with many typical Patriarchal and Quiverfull families, I — as the oldest — got the brunt of the house work. I took care of the children, made almost all of the meals, and all while trying to keep up with my school work for homeschool. I love all of my siblings, and I could never imagine life without them, but I will never have that large of a family. I don’t blame my parents, but when there are major issues that screw up the family, a lot of the love and togetherness that a “normal” family experiences ends up greatly lacking.

I don’t ever want to put my children through what I have been through growing up.

My husband Phil and I recently left Covenant Life Church for the purpose of finding a smaller church. But that wasn’t really my only reason for leaving. I needed to get out of an environment that told me that I had to forget and forgive, I had to not say anything negative, nor could I be angry over something that I should be angry about. For years, all of my life in fact, I have tried to block out, tried to forget, purposefully felt nothing (this didn’t really work though) whenever I saw my dad yell at my siblings, manipulate my mom, or whenever he got mad enough and started throwing things or getting in the kids’ faces. Getting kicked out two years ago, after all of the years I was my siblings’ protector to the best of my ability, all of the years that I have helped raise my youngest siblings, or made dinner consistently to feed the 11 mouths in the house, was the pinnacle of tolerance for me. I knew from a very young age that something wasn’t right in my family, and that something wasn’t right with my dad.

As my family bounced around over the years with dad being in the military, we have been in many different churches. And at each church, we would get a verbal beating from my dad on the way to church, but as soon as we pulled up, all of the fake smiles would go up, and the family would act like nothing was wrong. I could never do this. I could never put the fake smile on and pretend that I hadn’t watched my dad throw the breakfast dishes in the sink that morning because someone dared to speak back to him.

I couldn’t stand by and watch my siblings suffer while no one knew what happened behind the doors of my family’s home.

I don’t remember when my parents got introduced to Bill Gothard’s patriarchy ideas, but I have seen this stuff totally mess up my family, myself, and many other families. One of my biggest griefs with his version of patriarchy is that it enables narcissistic, controlling, manipulative, and abusive men to continue their abuse under the name of “God-given authority as the husband and father to rule over the wife and children.” Fathers who are abusive are enabled through this ideology by basically being “God” for their family.

There is no one above them, and they are the ultimate rulers.

God speaks through them, and never to the wife or children. It’s no wonder that I have seen, read, and watched so many children who were raised under this mindest leave the faith because of the hypocrisy they had seen in their dad.

Bill Gothard’s “patriarchy” says that women are simply baby-making machines who bow down to their husband’s rule, and who aren’t allowed to have a voice. “Patriarchy” says that young women are their father’s property and are to be traded to off to the father-chosen men when the times comes.  ”Patriarchy” seems to have this unspoken rule that even if it is a living hell at home, you don’t tell anyone else. “Patriarchy” told me that when I questioned something dad said, with the purpose of understanding better, I was not honoring him, or respecting him. “Patriarchy” said that when I fell in love with Phil, I was being idolatrous, lustful, and that I wasn’t honoring my dad. “Patriarchy” says that when I talk about the pain, the truth, the real life that I have experienced, I am not being forgiving, I am bitter, I am angry.

Well, “patriarchy,” I am angry.

I am angry that there are so many men out there taking advantage of this so called right to hold abuse over their wives and families and not being held accountable for the pain they inflict. Forgiveness is a difficult animal to deal with. It is not a one time deal, nor is it something I am always dealing with, or never dealing with. Writing these things out are just barely touching the surface. These are the truth, and these are not things I am bitter about, nor are these not forgiven. Patriarchy says that once you forgive, you must go on living life as if nothing happened.

I say hell no, and that is never the case in forgiveness.

When I wrote about reading my bible, and I wrote about how difficult it is for me to open my bible without being triggered, I meant that I can’t open my bible without hearing my dad’s hypocrisy, or without hearing the gut wrenching sobs that I had when my dad told me that he didn’t have time for me, that I was a bad influence on my siblings, that he wanted me to leave as soon as possible, and that he had had enough of me. Even though I have done my best to honor my dad, to initiate time and time again daddy-daughters dates so that we could have an actual father daughter relationship, he tossed all of that out when he told me to leave. I can’t open my bible without hearing the verses that have been thrown at me with the means of showing me how my pain is sin. I can’t open my bible without having flashbacks that start bringing on a panic attack. It’s hard enough opening the app on my phone to look up verses when I do make it out the door to church.

I can’t open my bible without feeling guilty of sin I did not commit and remembering the people who felt obligated to tell me about that so called sin.

The more that I have acknowledged the pain that is hidden in my heart, the harder it’s become to go to church, read my bible, sing worship songs, hear certain phrases, or even speak the lingo. Why? Because in all of those things I have been hurt, I have been burned, I have been broken.

I am eager to get to the place where I can once again enjoy all of those, but I am not there yet.

I am still rifling through the ashes trying to find the burning embers that are still burning me. I will, I promise, be able to open my bible again one day, but the promises that comfort so many of you, bring cries of pain and panic attacks for me right now. I find comfort in knowing that my salvation is never in question, and Jesus is always by my side. Through the uncovering of my broken heart, I am finding peace. But it takes a long time. The number of pieces that my heart has been shattered into time and time again makes it even more difficult to make sure that I have each shard back into place. I don’t think I will ever fully heal, but fully healing is not my goal right now.

My goal is to be able to admit to myself that yes, I have been hurt, and yes, it’s okay to cry.

This I believe is the step I need to take right now towards healing.

My story is an uncomfortable one. It sucks, it hurts, it has made me dissolve into a puddle of tears and totally forget entire weeks at a time because the pain is too great. I have learned great tolerance, compassion, and understanding for those who have been where I have been, and still are.

I can weep with those who are weeping, and I cheer the bold and brave who are finding their voice and stepping forth with their story.

To My Baby Brother: The Things You’ll Never Know, by Jessica

sisterbrother

Also by Jessica on HA: “Copy Kids—The Immorality of Individuality” and “Christian Discipline, A Child’s Perspective.”

To my baby brother:

I know we don’t have the best relationship.

I know you think I’m ungrateful for the things my parents gave us. I know you think I ran away that day when I was 18.  I remember the day you told me I abandoned you.  I know you weren’t as mistreated and I am glad for that, because I’m your big sister.  I love you.

I can prove I love you in the things you’ll never know.

When you were little, you  liked to flush things down the toilet.  Dad was always snaking the drain in our little 2 bedroom trailer house.  It’s a  quirky kid thing.  One day, when you were 3 and I was 7 or 8, you flushed a match box car and clogged the drain.  Dad found out.  You ran to the bedroom screaming and locked the door.  You were 3.  You weighed 30 lbs soaking wet.  When dad got that door open, he sat down cross legged on the floor with you on his lap and started punching you.  I ran for him.  She made him stop.

I took a beating for you that night.

It was worth it and I would do it again.  This was the first time, it wasn’t the last.  I learned to take credit for your mistakes whenever I could when you were little.  I wish I had told him I flushed the car.

That day when I was 18, the day that made me leave, I cried all night.  I knew I had to leave.  I knew I wasn’t safe.  I knew being choked by my dad wasn’t normal.  I didn’t cry because I was worried for myself or that I was going to miss my parents.

I cried because I couldn’t take you or my older brother with me. 

I want you know though, I fought for you.  I spoke to your school about counseling for you.  I talked to social services. I spoke to an attorney.  I wasn’t trying to abandon you.  I thought about you every day and grieved when I was told their was nothing I could do.

You were just barely a teenager then and whether they will admit it or not, my parents learned something about smothering a teenager.  It backfires. You, little brother, were in public school after kindergarten and received a full education.  Be grateful for that, you’ll never know how valuable that is.  You were able to take drivers ed.  I heard one year that you were out celebrating halloween with your friends and I cried that day because I realized they were giving you freedom.  You were allowed to date.  You were given a car and they assisted you with college.

I am glad that they gave you a better a life. 

You were however, still abused.  I can’t say that enough and you need to hear it.  Dad was beating you too.  I remember your middle of the night cries.

So little brother, when we discuss these painful things, I need you to try to remember how things were.  I payed a price in love to try to make your life a little better.  I need to you to try to remember and see things from a little different perspective.  I don’t want you to stop loving mom and dad.  You guys have a good relationship.  I just want you to know that I fought for you.

I did not just run away. I didn’t abandon you.

German Churches Up in Arms over Abuse Study

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Jennifer Stahl’s blog Yeshua, Hineni. It was originally published on November 25, 2013.

German Bible. Photo by J. Stahl.
German Bible. Photo by J. Stahl.

In following the story of the Twelve Tribes, I had become aware of a study on religious families and their children, tendencies towards abuse and such being carried on within Germany. I had heard about the study. But not being registered to either the Evangelical, Free Evangelical or local Catholic Churches, we were not polled for the study, though we are a religious household.

I am somewhat curious as to what was in the survey itself. It seems rather revealing that the Free Evangelical churches are showing many of their members do, in fact, regularly beat their children.

For those who do not know, this is illegal to do in Germany.

One of my many concerns within the homeschooling movement and the greater German church community (especially after coming out of this environment in the United States) is to get away from the punitive and corporal punishment mindset, seeing children as sinful inconveniences unless they’re perfectly behaving like little adults and back to what the Bible actually teaches; namely love and parenting being a job of parent and child to do together.

My second major concern was finding on Amazon.de teachers such as: Michael and Debi Pearl (To Train Up A Child is now removed, but No Greater Joy volume 1volume 2 and volume 3 remain); Ted Tripp has three books represented (this remains, and as does this also); James Dobson‘s harmful books; Bruce Ray’s Withhold Not Correction (also a Spanish edition!); Gary Ezzo‘s books; Elyse Fitzpatrick’sTim Kimmel‘s (there is a second book here), and a couple other religious punitive-based child training manuals can be found.

Finding those books means that there is a market here in Germany. That, as someone who was raised so punitively, terrifies me. It terrifies me because this means there are other children being raised this way, who will not know a day in their lives where just being children is not a sin.

I had heard that some time back, that one branch of the Evangelical Churches in Germany had made statements against corporal punishment and other punitive discipline methods, which created some shock when I saw the results of this study: 45,000 students from 9th grade forward and about 11,500 adults were polled (so over 50,000 individuals) and they found that one in six very religious children are smacked by their parents or given other punitive disciplinary methods against their undesirable behavior(s).

In the Catholic and other Protestant students, the rate is considerably lower, if not rare.

The results of the study were published here, and does run through Google Translate in a mostly discernible manner into English. The name of the study is “Christian religiosity and parental violence. A comparison of familial socialization of Catholics, Protestants and Members of the Free Churches.”

More on the study and why everyone’s up in arms:

With parents from free churches that have no academic training, but declared themselves as “religious” or “very religious”, the trend is even more pronounced: More than a quarter of the surveyed children from these families has at some juncture suffered massive violence in their household. The study’s authors also provide a possible explanation: There is “a Christian tradition of parental driven beating as discipline for children.”
NDR – Freikirchen wehren sich gegen Gewaltstudie

The findings in the survey are quite shocking to me. I’ll post some of the figures below for those of you who don’t have time to sift through a pages long PDF:

image1
Source: http://www.ndr.de/regional/niedersachsen/freikirchen109.pdf
image2
Source: http://www.ndr.de/regional/niedersachsen/freikirchen109.pdf
image3
Source: http://www.ndr.de/regional/niedersachsen/freikirchen109.pdf
image4
Source: http://www.ndr.de/regional/niedersachsen/freikirchen109.pdf

Now, these are in order, but without all of the information behind what makes this all so shocking. What I want to point out is that this is consistent with studies done in the United StatesCanada, the United KingdomAustralia and elsewhere as it pertains to parental violence towards children and its affects on the children involved. One study paper that someone had pointed me towards a couple of years ago was “The Long Shadow: Adult Survivors of Child Abuse.” Psychology Today has several articles about this phenomenon as well. One that stands out in my memory is “The Lingering Trauma of Child Abuse.” (Note: My list is not exhaustive, but just to give an example of what one will find on the subject.)

Articles referenced within this NDR article and the PDF are as follows:

…in the late 90s the German Parliament had established a Study Commission to look at so-called sects and mind-control groups. The study found that in fundamentalist Christian communities there is a widespread “…significant advocacy for physical punishment…”
NDR – Kinder schlagen im Namen Gottes 21.12.2011

NDR.de: Critics say the national church must be clear in distancing themselves from such fundamentalist positions. Shouldn’t you make it clearer that you do not agree with such  positions [about corporal punishment being biblical]?

[Kerstin] Gäfgen-Track: In the case of these parenting books and this position, I can speak for the national church, because we draw a very clear line of demarcation. We have nothing to do with such, so we want to continuing having nothing to do with such. We wish to strongly condemn such counselors. [Ted Tripp and so on]  
NDR:  “Wir verurteilen das aufs Schärfste” 21.12.2011

…as they contradict the law and [Christian Beliefs], there is a secret culture of spanking among devout Christians… Parents who follow these beliefs belong to denominations such as those [found in the] Evangelical Free Churches and the Jehovah’s Witnesses who are apt to taking the Bible literally, and consider doubts about the Word of God as whisperings of Satan.
Süddeutsche Zeitung: Liebe geht durch den Stock 30.9.2010

…It is striking that the violence of evangelical parents seem to have a lasting effect on their young. With [such] systemic beatings, it may be that parents seek to break the will of children so that they would assimilate the beliefs of adults; warn psychologists..
Süddeutsche Zeitung: Schläge im Namen des Herrn  17.10.2010

There was a study published in April of this year (2013) by infoSekte in Zürich, Switzerland entitled “Erziehungsverständnisse in evangelikalen Erziehungsratgebern und -kursen.” (Yes, this too can be run through Google Translate!) It is 61 pages long, detailing “Problematic trends such as corporal punishment or psychological violence arising in connection with certain child rearing methods … [and] possible effects of certain parenting styles.” Also explained in the document is how Switzerland signed and ratified the UN Rights of the Child in 1997; and such parenting styles are incompatible with such an agreement.

The UN Rights of the Child is the very same document that many Christians in the United States have pushed for a refusal to ratify since the 1990s.

(The US has signed, but not ratified as of this date in time.) Also something to note; Michael Farris has really pushed home-schoolers into a frenzy over it as taking away parental rights to discipline punitively and claim it is “biblical.” (For the uninitiated, Michael Farris is the head of Patrick Henry College, The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and loosely affiliated with Schuzh, which defends many German home-schoolers in court. You may have recently seen Michael Farris in the news pushing against the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

If you get a chance, please do read this study. I understand that 61 pages is awfully long, but it is worth it. There is a serious problem when familial violence becomes an accepted piece of one’s culture and religious upbringing — when we normalize it to the extent that no one is shocked at all.

Issues brought forward by the Twelve Tribes in Germany are not at all shocking in many parts of the United States because such methods have become so normalized.

So many people believe it is the right thing to do. Anything contrary is “unbiblical.” That is not to say that there are not Christians, like myself, who believe that corporal punishment is actually what is contrary to the Bible.

If one wishes to claim that the Bible teaches beating their children, I would have to recommend you go back and actually investigate those claims for yourself as this is not understood to be the case within the Jewish community; and from whom we get the proof-text “spanking”/”smacking” passages from. It is a purely Christian phenomenon that came into place some time in the middle ages, as far as I can find at this juncture. Before, corporal discipline was for adult members of the faith who wished to submit themselves to flagellation.

One book that discusses this phenomenon and suggests a better way is Samuel Martin’s Book, Thy Rod And Thy Staff They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy.  I have others, should you wish to peruse them, but they are not free.

There are wonderful articles referenced here in an older post on my blog and I also have a ton on my Pinterest parenting boards, should you have an account there.

If you don’t know about the Pearls and their harmful teaching, I’d be happy to throw you more than the recommendation to read Hermana Linda’s Blog and this review of the Pearl’s ministry.  I would also like to mention that any court willing to speak with me personally is more than welcome to discuss punitive upbringing, homeschooling, corporal punishment proof-texts, etc.  I’m not an expert, but I’ve lived through it and am working to change things with my children and advocating for others to the best of my abilities.

Update: Michael and Debi Pearl and critiques about them and information on the Hana Williams case were on CNN last night via Anderson Cooper. If you still doubt the methods this couple advocates, look no further.

I would like to leave with a closing message by Robbyn Peters. It is “Violence: A Family Tradition.” For those who are still unconvinced, I ask that you please consider Robbyn’s words and investigate for yourself.

My Father, An Enigma

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on November 21, 2013

“Libby, you could be an engineer. You have the mind for it.”

My dad made this comment while we were in the car, driving by a factory of some sort. I was probably around sixteen. My dad’s comment was completely offhand, and I didn’t bother to respond. Inside, though, I was baffled.

Why would my dad suggest such a thing?

Didn’t he realize that my lot in life, the lot God had designed for me, was to be a homemaker, raising children, caring for my husband, and tending the home? Couldn’t he see that engineering was not even remotely related to homemaking, and that if I were going to learn a trade it should be something feminine like teaching or nursing?

Why would he even suggest that I could be an engineer? It made no sense!

I wrote recently about something similar regarding my mother. I grew up seeing that Above Rubies magazine on the counter, in mom’s bedroom, or on the stool in the bathroom, and I myself read it voraciously. It was clearly approved reading material, and I never heard my parents contradict it or disagree with it, so I assumed that my parents believed everything in it. I adopted its beliefs myself, and it shaped my conception of myself as a woman and my dreams for my future. And yet, my mother told me several months ago that she had never believed everything in that magazine.

I had had no idea.

Every so often I am reminded of my father’s offhand comment and I am bothered. When I was growing up, I was immersed in the literature of the Christian homeschooling movement and was surrounded by the patriarchal ideas I found there. These ideas shaped my understanding of the world and the trajectory of my life. But did I miss something? Did my father not actually hold all of these beliefs?

Did he honestly think that being an engineer would have been a perfectly legitimate life choice for me?

The mothers and fathers of my parents generation of homeschooling had no idea what it was like to grow up homeschooled in the Christian homeschooling communities they saw as so safe and godly. They may not have realized how deeply we children were imbibing and embracing ideas the that flowed through the Christian homeschooling movement—ideas they may not always have agreed with. Perhaps our parents took many of these things with a grain of salt—but if they did, unless they were vocal about this we had no way of knowing it. And so we believed.

As for my father, I honestly cannot say for sure. When I was in college and things started going haywire, he very clearly expected me to obey him, and very clearly believed that he was my male authority and that I was bound by God to submit to him. But was this perhaps simply the way he responded in his fear of losing me? How deeply did he actually hold those ideas? At the time, I took his reaction as confirmation that he bought into the entire slate of patriarchal beliefs that so characterized the Christian homeschooling world of my childhood and youth.

Now, I’m not so sure.

Now, I wonder.

About Those “Model Homeschoolers”…

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Heather Doney’s blog Becoming Worldly. It was originally published on November 7, 2013.

Recently a piece on Hana Williams’ death and her parents’ conviction, “The Tragic Death of An Ethiopian Adoptee and How It Could Happen Again” by Quiverfull and Child Catchers author Kathryn Joyce, came out in Slate magazine. My Homeschooling’s Invisible Children teammate and co-founder, Rachel Coleman, was quoted in it and HIC was linked.

Hana Williams’ tragic story is powerful and grotesque. It shows how at-risk children, including orphans adopted from other countries, can easily be severely mistreated or even die when living in homeschooling homes where the focus is on authoritarian “sin-punishing” parenting and having many children raised as “arrows” for Christ.

What I expect many readers of the Slate piece are struck by is how extreme the circumstances were for the Williams’ children. What they may not understand is that while that sort of awful story definitely exists on the far end of a spectrum of fundamentalist homeschooling, there are more common and often milder strains of it that are pervasive in certain homeschooling subcultures. These strains have made their way into others in a way that is often invisible unless you know what to look for.

The reason most parents do the authoritarian parenting thing in the first place is because they believe it will result in model children and successful adults.

They see children from these other homeschooling families that seem “perfectly well-behaved” and who do “first time obedience” and many understandably want that sort of awesomeness for themselves. What they do not understand is that this “model homeschooler” or “model child” image often comes at a steep price.

Like the infamous (and largely discredited) Chinese “tiger mother” style of parenting, you can sometimes have outwardly successful offspring that nonetheless have increasingly serious secret or not-so-secret mental health and emotional struggles because they have been trained to view the world as exacting, punitive, and unsafe. People who feel that the world around them is constantly requiring perfection out of them often respond by engaging in something that one of my friends called “self-cannibalization” in order to succeed. While you don’t hear much about the ones who don’t succeed, others noticeably surpass their peers in educational attainment and professional achievement.

This is my story as well, really. I grew up isolated and poor and then went on to be an honors student in college, make lots of friends and throw good parties once I learned how to socialize. I was a good neighbor, presented well in public, and was not a half bad partner to love or marry.

Nobody would have guessed at what battles went on in my head or how much intense effort went into “passing for normal” until it all came crashing down.

The walls separating the different spheres of my inner world crumbled during grad school into what for me was delayed-onset PTSD and for others might more closely resemble depression, anxiety, substance abuse, compulsive behavior, self-harm, and/or social phobias.

Some people don’t seem to connect these kinds of dots. Many people trying to defend the reputation of homeschooling (which I will note is different than defending the right to homeschool) note that the writing, educational attainment, and professions of many of us former homeschoolers speaking out about negative homeschooling experiences are respectably good.

These kinds of achievements are the stuff that homeschool leaders and proud parents would love to take some credit for, attribute to homeschooling. But for those of us who have lived through the kinds of experiences we describe, when someone assumes that the reason we have the skills and careers that we do today is because of homeschooling, we get annoyed (and sometimes triggered).

We know that they do not fully understand what happened to us and that they are definitely not hearing from or seeing all of us.

For people who see ourselves as survivors of what I’m going to start calling the Authoritarian Christian Homeschooling Movement (to differentiate it from the views of both ordinary Christians and fundamentalist Christians), it is upsetting to hear the sort of homeschooling we were subjected to and our subsequent skills and accomplishments connected in a positive causal relationship without our permission. It negates some of our feelings and experiences, doesn’t paint an accurate picture, and can also be (wrongheadedly) used as an argument for the status quo not changing (and yes, it definitely needs changing).

See, we know from experience that “well, you’re obviously doing great stuff today” can be and often is used as the basis of a “no harm, no foul” argument. This argument implies that homeschooling in fact worked as intended and the problem simply was that the formula needed a bit more of an ingredient or two, perhaps one of them being love. While I am not one to ever speak against love (as it is a many splendored thing and I think I did need more), I think what we really needed most was less authoritarianism and social isolation so that we could have the choice, rather than the commandment, as to who to give our love to and how.

So while I get that expressing appreciation or admiration or an enjoyment of the things some of us have produced is likely not meant as anything but a sincere compliment (and I and others working on shedding light on this issue do hope you like reading our stories) it is not ok to then attribute our abilities, skills, or professions to quality homeschooling.

However, I realize that me simply stating that it’s not alright to call people exemplary or model homeschoolers when they don’t want the label does not convey the full message as to why. So I decided to ask some of my fellow survivors to fill out the following prompt and share their own answers with you, so you can know why:

#1 – The Prodigal Son’s Brother (pseudonym), male, age 29
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because: 
Much of my social interaction during certain formative years was with adults, rather than peers, and my reading material was far ahead of that for my age 
What I wish people really knew about me was:

I am self-loathing, codependent, sex-negative, vengeful, immature, and suicidal.

#2 – Trinity Ruth Ruhland, female, age 23
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because: 
I relate better to my supervisors and older adults. I have a kick-ass work ethic because I had no choice but to work to survive.
What I wish people really knew about me was:
I still struggle to have friends my own age, and that I feel a lot of pressure to always be perfect. Also, I am in the Air Force and I’d like people (coworkers who tease me relentlessly) to know that I have an honest fear of things flying through the air and hitting me. It is not that I don’t like playing Wally ball for PT, but that I seriously can’t handle things flying at me anymore. I also wish they’d understand that I have issues with nightmares (a combo of growing up and my time in Afghanistan) and that I can’t watch certain movies because of triggers.

#3 – anonymous female, age 28
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because: 
I work hard, I’m efficient, and I do a good job.
What I wish people really knew about me was:
I frequently short-change myself to deliver this level of work. I wish they knew that I struggle with panic attacks at the very thought of making a mistake and that this makes it hard to function. I wish they knew that I suffer from chronic health problems stemming from overwork and stress during my teens. I wish they knew that I have a hard time relaxing and enjoying myself.

#4 – Holly (pseudonym), female, age 34
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because: 
I work hard and push myself beyond reasonable limits.
What I wish people really knew about me was:
I have daily anxiety, frequent panic attacks, depression, nightmares and night terrors, and sometimes am unable to leave my house for days, all because of my childhood experiences in a controlling religious subculture.

#5 – April Duvall, female, age 33, homeschooled 2nd – 12th grade
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because: 
I produce high-quality work. I had to get things right the first time all the time to avoid beatings and learn how to hold a job so I could escape as a teenager.
What I wish people really knew about me was:
I panic when thinking I have gotten any small detail wrong. I wake up with nightmares after any small correction. I spend hours talking myself down telling myself it’s okay, I won’t be beaten or rejected, I won’t die and won’t bring harm to those under me for not achieving a nebulous perfection. I struggle to navigate group situations, and I see that my oldest child also struggles as I haven’t been able to teach her what I don’t know – how to enter a small group of children playing. My social skills are only good in professional or maybe 1:1 situations.

#5 – Deborah (pseudonym), female, age 23
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because: 
I was isolated from every single person except my family and every moment of my life was not only accounted for by watchful adults but used to teach me something – generally not actual education, but “character” or skills I needed in order to be a housewife.
What I wish people really knew about me was:
I didn’t have friends or a childhood and that has left me crushed and unable to interact socially with others in an appropriate manner or date until well into my adult life.

#6 – anonymous female, age 26, law student
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because: 
I have suffered so much pain, I don’t see the point in laughing or having fun anymore. I don’t go to parties. I don’t hang out with friends. I don’t even take vacations.
What I wish people really knew about me was:
I am in counseling for anxiety, I am terrified of people, I have huge trust issues that prevent me from forming close relationships, and I am triggered by anything that reminds me of family. I work hard and accomplish things because burying myself in activity is how I hide from the pain. Don’t look at me and say ‘She’s fine.’ Look at me and wonder how on earth I still manage to function.

#7 – Stacy (pseudonym), age 25, graduate student in history and English
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because: 
Growing up, if I wasn’t capable and mature at all times, at every age, at every event and in all subjects, it meant that I was not only failing as a Christian, cultural warrior who was the only hope for America, but I was misrepresenting and disrespecting God as my creator.
What I wish people really knew about me was:
I appear so together and capable today because that binary (fail-succeed) is still dominant in my mind– joy, peace and happiness (feelings that emerge from those grey areas in the process outside failing and succeeding) are fought-for blessings.

#8 – anonymous female, age 30, married, with a master’s degree and established career
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because: 
I was required to do everything perfectly every time, both in “school” and out of it, and there was no break from those expectations.
What I wish people really knew about me was:
Now I am on an SSRI just so I can sleep at night because of my anxiety problems and my doctor’s belief that I am on the OCD spectrum.

#9 – DoaHF (Daughter of a Heavenly Father, pseudonym), female, age 23
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because: 
I had a perfectionist mother who was always on my back about doing things her perfect way.
What I wish people really knew about me was:
I hate the voices in my head that won’t go away. I have authority issues and I dont trust ANYONE, even if I have known them for years. My heart is locked away so it can’t get hurt… for the thousandth time.

#10 – Susannah (pseudonym), female, 38
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because: 
I have decades of practice raising children and managing a home; I am articulate, read constantly, and live in a nice neighborhood.
What I wish people really knew about me was:
What is less apparent is that I get panic attacks from grocery shopping, that I get tongue-tied conversing with confident men, and seeing my mom’s handwriting causes me psychosomatic pain.

#11 – Hadassah (pseudonym), female, age 31
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because: 
I seem to have it together, am great at organization, pretty awesome in the kitchen, and I am often praised for my kids and understanding them. I’m praised for my language skills, but I refused to learn it from my parents. I have learned everything hands on.
What I wish people really knew about me was:
I have some pretty intense anxiety. I have trouble working with others, because I find them in my way or that they’re honestly not working. I end up being assigned projects on my own and do above and beyond the call of duty for fear that I will be kicked off of the program or fired, because it has happened before in a no-fault state.

The only reason my kids and I have “an understanding” is because I’ve gone out of my way for the last 6 years to read a large amount of childhood development books that I bought on my dime.

I seem like I know all the chemistry in the kitchen when I’m barely able to handle the mathematics and never once took chemistry classes. I freak out if my cooking/baking is less than perfect.

People also do not know that I am chronically ill, and often cannot function like they do; or I have panic attacks and need to stop and try again. People do not know that I was held back simply because I am female. That I was forced to be a stay at home daughter and basically was a servant to my parents until I was finally able to marry my husband and get out of my parent’s home. People have no idea that hiding behind the “cool” veneer of homeschooling, my education is so lacking that I’m still filling in the blanks as money avails itself.

#12 – Julia (pseudonym), female, age 24
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because: 
Failure was never an option, appearances were all that mattered, and I am skilled at communicating with my elders as opposed to my peers.
What I wish people really knew about me was:
I am just going through the motions. I deal with anxiety, depression, diagnosed PTSD, and feel as though I must always second-guess what others do and say. I can’t trust them, and I can’t relate to them, and I often wish Socialization 101 courses existed.

#13 – Libby Anne, mid 20′s, blogger
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because: 
I am hard working, polite, and well spoken.
What I wish people really knew about me was:
What I wish people really knew about me was that because of my perfectionism and past family trauma I get panic attacks when my boss says “I need to talk to you about something” and my heart rate goes sky high when I see a letter from my mother or my dad’s name on my voicemail.”

#14 – Kelly (pseudonym), female, age 30, law student
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because: 
As a child I could not rely on my parents to be mature or conscientious–I had to parent myself in many ways, and was held to adult standards even as a child. They did not support my decisions or acknowledge my feelings unless they mirrored theirs (i.e., they were “correct”), so my decision making and interpersonal skills were stunted.
What I wish people really knew about me was:
This resulted in me constantly second-guessing my feelings, decisions, and interactions with others. I have been addressing these issues through reading self-help books and several years of professional therapy, but have a long way to go. My therapist was shocked that I am as functional as I am, given my past. Several of my siblings have not fared as well.

#15 – Samantha Field, female, 26, blogger
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because: 
I was forced to take over the daily running of a household when I was 10 years old, and I didn’t have any real friends– just people who watched everything I did, everything I said, like a hawk and shamed me in public, in front of my entire church, for ever doing something that wasn’t “ladylike” and “mature.”
What I wish people really knew about me was:
I desperately loved science, but because no one was capable of teaching me math I got a degree in music– a degree I don’t even use now.

#16 – anonymous female, age 24, graduate student
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because: 
I am the perfectionist daughter of perfectionist parents. I never knew that the pressure I was under to always get A’s was not something everyone experienced until I was in college. The pressure to be perfect, to never mess up, and to handle everything with poise and excellence has been one of the defining struggles in my life.
What I wish people really knew about me was:
How inadequate I feel most of the time. I wish they knew about my struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and the depression that made the last ten years of my life so hard. I wish they knew that I struggle with anxiety and social awkwardness, that it’s hard for me to get close to people, and that no matter how hard I try, I never feel like I measure up. I wish they knew that the hurt I’ve suffered from legalistic conservative Christians has made it hard to hold onto my faith.

#17 – Noelle, female, age 22
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because: 
I was forced to grow up at a young age and hold more responsibilities than a lot of adults do, as the oldest of 8 kids.
What I wish people really knew about me was:
I wish people knew that I have no self confidence in myself, I struggle with depression and self injury and my biggest dream right now (which seems impossible) is to radiate peace and positivity.

#18 – me, 30, blogger and homeschool reform advocate
As a former homeschooler, I am noticeably capable and mature because:
I am friendly, educated, conscientious, good at retaining and aggregating information, and I have a knack for bringing up issues, finding common ground, and mediating disputes in stressful or high-conflict situations.
What I wish people really knew about me was:
A violent authoritarian upbringing skewed my baseline settings and left me to struggle with self-care, perfectionism, avoidance of others when I’m struggling, sweaty palms if I hear church sermons, and a strong feeling that harsh or needy attention is love.

Snake Oil Homeschooling: The False Promises of Fear and Control

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

A friend of mine recently shared with me a post from Cindy Rollins, a homeschooling mother of 9 children who blogs at Ordo Amoris. The post is entitled “Homeschooling and the Fear of Man.” It is circumstantially about Doug Phillips’ resignation and the fallout that resignation caused within the Christian homeschool movement. But more than that, it is about an overwhelming human emotion everyone can relate to:

Fear.

Fear is a powerful force. When it becomes a motivating factor for our actions, it often leads to control. We try to control our environments — and kids’ environments — because we are afraid. We are afraid of what might happen if we do not control. We are terrified of “the world” and its many “influences” — sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll; secular humanism and evolutionism and all those other spectral -isms.

Having grown up in the Christian homeschool movement and ingested these messages all my life, I really appreciated Cindy’s perspective in her post. Cindy contextualizes Phillips’ resignation within a broader picture of homeschooling “gurus” who peddle their fares among the masses:

Over time gurus age and new ones take their places. Perhaps like viruses the new gurus are stronger than the old ones. They adapt and change to survive… These are men (and women) who make their way into your homes and…lure you because you are afraid. They lure you because you want to be in control of the future. They speak to your worst nightmares and offer you hope and while you are not looking they exchange the gospel for your own lousy efforts and theirs.

I am not a parent myself. But I still understand what she is saying. My parents fought against this trend, but not always successfully. I have seen many other homeschool parents get sucked into this trend and I have seen new parents — homeschool graduates themselves — get sucked in, too. This is the sort of trend that my older brother empathized with yet resisted yesterday: “Living a life without those extra rules can be scary.”

Good, well-meaning parents want the best for their children.

Good, well-meaning Christian parents want their children to thrive in good Christian ways. Rules or formulas give a sense of security. But that desire for security goes haywire when coupled with your worst nightmares, when those nightmares lead you into artificial and stagnant legalism with the false hope of perfect kids.

Furthermore, your worst nightmares — your kid ending up a Satanist or a socialist or 16 and pregnant and twerking — are preyed upon at nearly every homeschool convention and exacerbated in so many parenting books by homeschool “gurus.” People who promise that, if you only follow their system, your kids will be spared from heartache and pain and apostasy.

Cindy minces no words and calls those promises nothing less than “snake oil”:

Even now some homeschool vendors sell their products as if there were spiritual value in them. There are only two words for this type of sales: snake oil. I just keep asking myself why. Why are we so fragile? Why do we fall for this stuff? Why do these people have such power over our minds? The Bible tells us there is no fear in love. Love conquers a multitude of sins.  But we fear and we fall over and over again for false hope.

From my interactions with now-grandparents, older and wiser parents, and new parents, I am aware of how significant this struggle is. This is probably one of the most universal concerns parents have: wanting their kids to be ok, to be mature and independent, to be healthy. And if you are Christian, your desire that your kids remain Christians can override all these other concerns. It is Christianity or bust.

The “Christianity or bust” mentality leads to unfortunately-named articles like “How to Raise a Pagan Kid in a Christian Home.” This mentality leads to false either/or situations like, “Do you teach your kids ‘be good because the Bible tells you to’ or do you teach your kids that they will never be good without Christ’s offer of grace?”

This should be a neither/nor. 

Parents should want their kids to be loving, compassionate, humble, healthy truth-seekers.

Period. 

If Christianity is true, then what better sort of kids to have prepared to embrace it? And if Christianity isn’t true, well, hey — you still have loving, compassionate, humble, and healthy kids.

There is no product, no curriculum, no educational option that will guarantee the condition of your child’s soul. I have seen friends raised with every creationist text imaginable become evolutionists. I have seen friends raised with hardly a whiff of creationism become hardcore fundamentalists. There is no guaranteed outcome. Even that stay at home daughter you know, the one who seems perfect and happy — one day her parents will be dead and she will have to figure out life for herself. That is just how life works. The person that today seems to have his or her life together might in two decades be convicted of child abuse. The person who today is doing lines of cocaine in a strip club might in two decades be changing the world. Life happens. There is no guaranteed outcome. 

But I can tell you what is constant: kids wishing home was a safe place. Kids wishing their parents loved and accepted them.

That is what you have control over. You have control over whether you show your children love and acceptance, whether you model for them the love you see in Christ — the self-sacrifice, the unconditionality, the grace and forgiveness and patience. When you model that sort of love, you are seeing your children as human beings, as autonomous creatures rather than IKEA furniture. As Cindy says,

At no time should our goal be to make our children into artifacts. There is a difference between a soul and a product.

Somebody Tell Me What to Do!

decision

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hobbs’ blog Lana Hobbs the Brave. It was originally published on November 5, 2013.

I have trouble making basic decisions. Big decisions are paralyzing.

I’m nearing the end of my first semester back to school. My one class was a pretty fun, fairly easy fiction writing workshop. It was an elective. I took it more for the chance to be around other adults than anything else.

And now here I am, facing a new semester with two classes, one for my minor and one for my major. More serious classes, requiring more serious brain engagement. I don’t know whether to take them or quit college again.

I am majoring in Media Communications, but other majors have begun to appeal to me. So what should I do? Do I even want to major in MC? I don’t know.

Do I even want to go to school at all? Do I want a job afterwards or should I skip it all and stick to trying to write and get published?

I’m not used to making decisions like this.

My future was all planned out. After finishing homeschooling, I was going to go to college. Then in college, I got married and was going to quit school if I got pregnant (I ended up quitting earlier), and then I was going to be a stay at home mom, and have ‘as many children as God gives us’ (no decision necessary). Then I was going to homeschool those children, then in 30 or forty some years when all the kids were grown up and graduated, I would have time to write.

It was all decided.

But we’ve decided not to have any more kids, at least for now. We’re not planning to homeschool, and in fact are going to send the kids to part time preschool next semester. And with those decisions, my future is no longer all planned out.

I have options for the future. I might get the first real job of my life in the next few years.

And I am terrified.

As stifling as a scripted life can be, it’s safe; it’s comfortable in a cramped sort of way. I didn’t have to take responsibility for many decisions.

I no longer have my mom scheduling my homeschool day, or my dad telling me what major he thinks would be helpful to my husband. I no longer have God insisting I be a submissive, stay at home wife and mom.

I decide where to go and when (mostly nowhere), and I decide what to major in, if anything.

And sometimes I miss the days when i didn’t have to make and own my decisions. It’s terrifying to hold your life in your own hands.

Does anyone want to boss me around?

But no. Because even if I hand the decision making to someone else, I still have to live my life and live with the choices I make (even if that choice is to follow other’s prescriptions for life).

There is no perfect decision maker, there is no formula for a perfect life. There’s just me, trying to do the best I can do, and owning my decisions.

Love Misapplied: A Response to Chris Jeub

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on November 9, 2013 as a response to Chris Jeub’s article for HA, “Stiff-Necked Legalism.” We extended to Chris the opportunity to write a follow-up post, but he decided to respond directly on Libby Anne’s original post. You can view his response here.

I grew up hearing about Chris Jeub.

He was a big name in NCFCA homeschool debate circles, and while I never met him I did use the evidence briefs he put out. The Jeubs had 16 kids and were deep into the patriarchal and controlling ideas at the heart of the most conservative strains of the Christian homeschooling movement. In fact, they kicked their daughter Alicia out of the family and shunned her completely when she became “rebellious.” However, Chris says that he and his family have since left that whole legalistic mess.

In fact, Chris is, I think, the only current Christian homeschooling leader who has written a post for Homeschoolers Anonymous.

All of the Jeubs’ book titles have the word “love” in them. Even their blog title has the word. Their move away from legalism involved embracing love. Then why, I have to ask myself, does their approach make me so very uncomfortable? Oh right! Because the problem I had with my parents was not that they didn’t love me. They did.

The problem I had with my parents was that they didn’t accept me.

I would feel a whole lot more comfortable if instead of Love in The House and Love Another Child, the Jeubs titled their books Acceptance in This House and Accept Another Child.

I just read Chris Jeub’s recent blog post Pattern of the Fallen. Here’s an excerpt:

I consider it tragic when people walk away from God. Sometimes they leave in a huff, sometimes they’ve intellectually wrestled, sometimes they dive into crazy sin and blow up their lives. Whatever the story, they are no longer walking with God, and that’s sad.

I’ve seen a pattern, though. This may give you hope. Wendy and I see this time and time again. Any separation between man and God can be attributed to a lack of love.

. . .

One is of a former student of mine who, on the surface, is angry with God. He and I have had rich conversations, but he’s struggling with some genuine relational hurdles that he finds bothersome. Here’s what I find encouraging: this young adult has a deep heart of compassion and love for people. He’s justifiably ticked at people who treat others wrong. His doubts about God stem from the lack of love from the so-called Christians in his life. Funny, I believe God is love (1 John 4:8), so though he is denying God’s love, he’s still running with God whether he believes it or not.. . .

There is a pattern here, don’t you see it? You probably see it in your family. For me, every single squabble or fight we have (sibling vs sibling, parent vs parent, parent vs child) can be attributed to a lack of love. Wendy and I have found that when we focus on love, solutions to the fights work their way out. A quick read and application of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 solves a lot of problems in our household.

Remember: LOVE is the most excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31). This reality slaps us up now and then. The trials, heartbreaks, disillusions, confusion, and turmoil in life can often be whittled down to a lack of love in our lives. Someone along the way failed to love, it is as simple as that.

No. Just, no.

Do you know, I would rather be accepted than loved.

Want to know why? Because my parents loved me until it hurt so much that I thought the inside of my chest was going to implode—and not in a good way. I have spent hours curled into a ball sobbing because of how much my parents loved me. I have been ripped apart, shredded, and mangled by their love. Through all of this, I honestly didn’t want my parents to love me. I just wanted them to accept me.

Before you say that love includes acceptance, I’ll point out that for Chris Jeub it clearly doesn’t. Chris very clearly can’t accept the former student he mentioned. Instead, he has to spent an entire paragraph saying that his former student is an atheist because he is angry at God, and that this former student is actually really following God or he wouldn’t have a heart to help those in pain. That is not acceptance. That is so not acceptance. Speaking from personal experience, that kind of thing can feel like a slap in the face to the person on the receiving side of it.

I grew up in a family that had a lot of love. I honestly don’t think I even for a moment questioned whether I was loved. My parents told us frequently that they loved us, and they were always physically affectionate toward us. Mom read us books, baked cookies with us, did crafts with us and sewed clothes for our dolls. Dad showed us how to plant a garden, built us playground equipment, read aloud to us on winter evenings, played board games with us, and took us swimming. My parents centered their lives around us, and we always felt incredibly loved.

And in the end, that is why it hurt so much.

When I was in college, I began to form my own beliefs and to disagree with my parents. Sex? Drugs? Alcohol? No. It was things like just how God went about creating the world, whether or not God required unmarried adult daughters to obey their fathers, and whether I needed my parents’ permission to go out with a guy. But while my parents had buckets of love, they had not a drop of acceptance. They didn’t stop loving me, and in many ways that’s what hurt so much. It hurt that these people who loved me so profoundly could stand in front of me in tears and tell me how much my actions and beliefs hurt them. It hurt so much my insides shriveled. And don’t say they didn’t actually love me. They did. If they hadn’t, that period wouldn’t have been nearly so painful.

Love is a very slippery thing.

Anyone can claim to have it, and people can claim it means anything they want.

For example, I am willing to bet that most abusive parents would claim that they are acting out of love for their children. And are you really going to argue that legalistic parents don’t love their children? Really? Indeed, I’ve heard it argued that the most loving thing a parent of a gay teen can do is to refuse to accept that child’s homosexuality. Telling that child that they are accepted, it is argued, only validates that child’s sin and keeps them from coming to wholeness in Jesus. I grew up hearing from religious leaders who told parents that if they truly loved their children, they must require them to submit to parental control and punish them with the rod when they are disobedient. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the religious leaders I grew up hearing from preyed on parents’ love for their children.

So when Chris Jeub goes on and on about how the solution to dysfunctional Christian homeschooling is love, I can’t help but say no. No, it most certainly is not. If I had experienced a lack of love, my life would have been a whole lot simpler and a whole lot less painful.

The problem isn’t a lack of love. The problem is a lack of acceptance.

The problem is love misapplied.

Raising Aria Rose: Christopher L. Stollar’s Thoughts

Even before our daughter was born, people were telling us how to raise her.

Christopher L. Stollar, his wife Natalie, and their daughter, Aria Rose.

Some said we should home school. Others advocated for public school. Then there were those who railed against day care. And vaccines. And infant formula.

To be fair, these people probably only wanted the best for our child, Aria Rose. But my wife and I started to see a dangerous pattern in this type of advice — it was given as Gospel truth. If we home schooled Aria, we weren’t letting her be a “light” in the public schools. If we sent her to public school, we were allowing her to be taught by “godless” teachers. And if my wife wanted to go back to work, we were just letting others “raise” our daughter.

Unfortunately, none of this advice has anything to do with the Gospel. While the Scripture gives general commands about parenting, it has nothing to say about specific forms of schooling, day care, vaccines or formula. And yet, as a former homeschooler, I have seen this type of thinking prevail in some religious subcultures of American Christianity — especially the modern homeschooling movement. Thankfully, I had good parents who taught me well, but look at this quote from the introduction to a K4 A Beka Book:

“The Christian home school is not a school merely for the sake of academics, but for the sake of fulfilling the church’s God-ordained role in carrying out the Christian education mandate … Just as we believe it would be wrong to place a student under the influence of godless teachers, so we believe it would be wrong to place him under the influence of godless, humanistic readers and teaching materials.”

This textbook uses Deuteronomy 6:7, Proverbs 22:6 and 2 Timothy 3:15-17 as proof. But if you look at the context of those passages, the authors are specifically referring to teaching the ancient Scriptures to children — not math or science:

  • Deuteronomy 6:7: You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise
  • Proverbs 22:6: Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it
  • 2 Timothy 3:15-17: From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work

Of course, this is not the first time a religious subculture has twisted Scripture for its own gain. Jesus himself called out the Pharisees for their narrow-minded interpretations of the law in Matthew 23:

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others … Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees — hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.”

In the previous chapter, Jesus summarized the law in two simple commands:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

That’s the true Gospel.

Nothing more. Nothing less. There is no law that states:

  • Thou shalt home school thy children
  • Thou shalt not send thy child to day care
  • Thou shalt not vaccinate thy children
  • Thou shalt only breast feed
  • Thou shalt vote Republican
  • Thou shalt attend a Protestant church
  • Thou shalt not drink
  • Thou shalt not smoke
  • Thou shalt not have oral sex
  • And thou shalt especially not challenge these laws

The good news is, groups like Homeschoolers Anonymous have been recently challenging these laws — and the hypocrites who enforce them. The community coordinator for HA, my brother R. L. Stollar, recently wrote this in a powerful story called “The Stones You Cast, The Tables You Built”:

“If we threaten your bottom line, if we call your idols into question, if we melt your golden calves and dance like David in their shimmering puddles while we reclaim our lost youth, it’s on you whether you will listen or pick up stones … And we will keep overturning those tables. We will keep overturning the tables made from the stones you cast.”

Jesus himself overturned the tables of hypocrites in the temple so that we might experience freedom grounded in love — not man-made laws. Of course, living a life without those extra rules can be scary. It’s easier to define love by our lists. I’m guilty of that, especially when it comes to raising Aria.

But the beauty of the Gospel is that I don’t have to be a perfect father.

I can fail. I can mess up. And each time I do, my true Father in Heaven is waiting to welcome me back home.