The Cupcake Piñata

Source: http://thecupcakeblog.com/cherry-topped-cupcake-pinata/
Source: http://thecupcakeblog.com/cherry-topped-cupcake-pinata/

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Sarah Henderson’s blog Feminist in Spite of Them. It was originally published on her blog on March 30, 2014.

I want to share a very simple little story about something that was a precious moment for me.

When I was a child, we didn’t really have birthday parties, although my mother did make an effort most years to cook a favourite meal for the birthday child. When I was really young, we did have a party or two with a few friends invited and a special meal, but eventually as we became more isolated by the homeschooling, there weren’t really friends to invite, and there was no money for extras like birthday meals when my father was just not working. So in my last few years before I left home, all our birthdays were barely noticed, much less celebrated, except by my mom quietly making a preferred meal from pre-set options and often no cake, or a very plain one with no icing. Birthdays could be a cause for concern for us, since we also were fair game to be confronted about whether we had matured into more godly children in the past year or not, and there was no safe way to answer that question. We were also sometimes taunted by the chance of a birthday party or a coveted gift if we behaved well enough. This was never really a possibility, and we would always lose that privilege no matter how good we were, since the money literally did not exist for it.

I became a little resentful about birthdays and birthday parties as I became an adult, because not only were birthdays not special, they represented a loss. I had been to a few normal birthday parties as a child and just couldn’t be happy for those kids when I would never get that myself. Seeing someone have a nice birthday party became a difficult thing for me. I explained this my non-fundamentalist husband, who along with millions of North American children, apparently had birthday parties. He was a little surprised by this, and decided to do something about it.

My husband threw me a kid’s party for my 24th birthday, because I never got one. He invited friends over, and ordered a very pink cake that said happy birthday on it. He stuck a ton of candles in it and lit them all. He set up our kitchen and living room with pink and white streamers all over, and blew up balloons and hung them from ribbons all over the downstairs area of our house. He made some kind of supper, I can’t even remember what it was, the party was so exciting. And the best part of my party was the cupcake piñata. It was huge, at least two feet in diameter. It had a colourful “wrapper” base, and “icing” on top covered in sprinkles. He filled it with candy rockets and jolly ranchers and suckers and Hershey’s chocolates and little plastic dinosaurs. We hung it in the doorway between the dining room and the living room and he videotaped us hitting it until it cracked open, and then we had little goodie bags and gathered up all the loot.

I didn’t really eat a lot of the smashed piñata candy, but being given that experience at 24 years old was such a healing day for me. I still don’t like it that I missed that part of childhood, but I am not hurt by that any more because the thing that I had lost was given to me. He gave me a piñata for my birthday last year too, I am coming up on my 26th birthday this year.

Who knows, maybe I will get another one.

Not On Your Side, Debi: Jeri Lofland’s Thoughts

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Jeri Lofland blogs at Heresy in the Heartland. The following was originally published by Jeri on April 27, 214, and is reprinted with permission.

This week, embattled IBLP founder Bill Gothard received aid from an unexpected quarter–homeschool mom and popular author Debi Pearl.

In the past, self-confessed “old hillbilly” Michael Pearl has sometimes himself been critical of Bill Gothard for helping create the excesses of the homeschooling patriarchy movement–a highly ironic observation coming from the father of patriarchs! But this week, Debi came out swinging against IBLP victims who have gone public with their stories on “Recovering Grace” and other websites.

Beginning her post with the question, “Whose side are you on?” Debi attacks those who have dared to publish accounts of how Gothard lied to, molested, or otherwise mistreated them. According to Debi, these “critics” are “bitter” (that’s the ultimate pejorative in IBLP circles, remember?), they are “foolish”, and they have joined a “Satanic attack on God’s people”.

On the one hand, Debi describes Gothard as a “man who put his whole life into doing a work for God”. On the other, she denies having any connection to IBLP’s beleaguered “ministry” which, she claims, helped “set thousands of people free from bitterness”.

Gothard and the Pearls have, in fact, had a symbiotic relationship for years.

They attended a Basic Seminar in the late 1970’s. IBLP promoted and distributed the Pearls’ parenting book To Train Up a Child. The website for IBLP Australia still offers at least two of the Pearls’ numerous books. At least one of the Pearl girls worked at Gothard’s orphanage and training center (South Campus) in Indianapolis and the Pearls kept several Russian orphans at their home over the summer. Michael solicited donations for IBLP from his followers. Several of the Pearl children’s spouses were raised in Gothard’s ATI program. (I say “spouses”, but Michael Pearl made it clear years ago that his children do not need any such thing as marriage licenses. A ceremony and their parents’ blessing is apparently good enough.*)

Besides being given to racist and homophobic remarks, the Pearls are somewhat obsessed with sex. It gives Michael hope to envision homeschoolers “outbreeding” progressives. He counsels the wife of an angry man to “make love” to improve her husband’s mood. Debi often suggests that being sexually available is a wife’s primary responsibility. Michael even wrote a book on erotic pleasure for fundamentalist Christian couples.

And then there are the Pearls’ highly controversial child training methods, which have now been linked to three child deaths. There is currently a petition circulating to ask Amazon.com to remove To Train Up a Child from its website in the interest of protecting children from parental abuse. According to a BBC report last year, To Train Up a Child has sold over 800,000 copies and boxes of the Pearls’ books have been shipped for free to U.S. troops overseas. “No Greater Joy” pulls in over $1 million a year, with Debi functioning as “the financial brain of the company”, according to her son Gabriel.

Last year, Rachel Held Evans wrote a blunt piece about Michael and Debi Pearl and their abusive “ministry”. First, she quoted Pearl himself describing how to handle a rebellious child:

If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally.”  -Michael Pearl

And Evans added her own warning:

But it’s not just children who suffer from No Greater Joy‘s ministries.When I was conducting research for A Year of Biblical Womanhood, I read Debi Pearl’s popular book, Created to Be His Helpmeet…which I threw across the room a total of seven times.

The writing is awful, the biblical exegesis deplorable, but what troubles me the most is that the book reads like a manual for developing abused wife syndrome.

In their story “The Real Michael Pearl” a few years ago, Religious Child Maltreatment pointed out the peculiar rush Pearl appears to derive from seeing small children spanked into silence, and his sense that he has “come upon the holy grail of childrearing”.

To Pearl, and many parents who follow his teachings, the primary goal of parenting is not to support children by fulfilling their needs to feel safe and experience appropriate autonomy, but to control children.

In April 2011, Cindy Kunsman, a nurse explained the physical dangers of Pearl’s teachings in a post on the No Longer Quivering blog. Homeschoolers Anonymous reposted the piece in September of last year:

Due to the severity of the spankings with [Michael Pearl’s recommended] plumbing line, both Zariah and Lydia Schatz suffered renal failure because of rhabdomyolysis.

…[W]e may never learn the details about new cases of Pearl-related kidney disease unless it is reported by the families of the survivors.

Kunsman went into much more detail about rhabdomyolysis in another post at Under Much Grace. This article convinced me that the Pearls are not just cranks, they are dangerous.

If the children are aggressively spanked on a chronic basis, …it is possible that chronic damage could occur in children that is not bad enough to cause kidney failure but bad enough to cause damage.Unless a child undergoes blood tests at some point, “renal insufficiency” (inefficient kidney function that is lower than a normal, healthy level) could be present and no one would be the wiser. It is conceivable that at least some children have experienced some damage, but not enough to produce symptoms of kidney failure.

In October 2011 Rachel Stone wrote about Pearl in for Christianity Today. Her article included sadistic passages from To Train Up a Child and described the Pearls’ methods as “a program of calculated cruelty”:

One child suffering under this training is too many; it’s my hope that the Pearls will be widely discredited, and soon.

In a November 2011 post, a Chicago blogger pointed out that the popular Duggar family, who are still members of Gothard’s homeschooling cult, not only endorse but actively promote the Pearls’ materials on their own website:

www.NoGreaterJoy.org  Features some of the finest in family-friendly, value-based books, audios, videos, and articles on parenting, husband and wife relationships, ministry and more! Materials include, To Train Up A Child, Jumping Ship, Created To Be His Help Meet, Preparing To Be A Help Meet, Only Men, the Good and Evil graphic novel in over 20 languages and a FREE bi-monthly magazine.

Samantha at Defeating the Dragons and Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism have both written boldly about the dangerous and abusive teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl. Author and mother of five Elizabeth Esther, whom Anderson Cooper interviewed alongside Michael Pearl late in 2011, has been both outspoken and tearful about the horrors perpetrated against children when parents follow Pearl’s advice. You can watch the interview for yourself here.

2011 New York Times article quotes Michael likening childrearing to training “stubborn mules” and explores links between child deaths and the teachings in Pearl’s book.

Dr. Frances Chalmers, a pediatrician who examined Hana’s death for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, said of the Pearl methods: “My fear is that this book, while perhaps well intended, could easily be misinterpreted and could lead to what I consider significant abuse.”

This video shows Michael and Debi Pearl in action at a child training seminar, apparently at the Cane Creek church that meets on Pearl’s property in a Tennessee hollow. Michael would much prefer to be known through his books than through these clips, but there he is on his own turf:

With his wife smiling and nodding beside him, Michael Pearl laughingly advocates cruelty against children. He encourages hitting children, even infants, with implements. He recommends luring young children with tempting objects and then swatting them to teach them obedience and self-denial. He teaches parents to instill fear in their children on purpose. Michael Pearl seems to get off on asserting his domination of a much younger, smaller human being:

” A proper spanking leaves children without breath to complain. If he should tell you that the spanking makes him madder, spank him again.”

The Pearls have long pointed to the supposed happiness of their own trained and obedient children as evidence of the efficacy of their methods. However, Michael and Debi have not taken well to being called out by adults whose parents followed this couple’s advice. Earlier this month, Michael became defensive against vocal homeschool graduates such as those of us who post at “Homeschoolers Anonymous” and posted his response at “No Greater Joy”. But even as he blasts those who speak the truth about their experiences, Michael must admit that homeschooling is no panacea:

“Not every homeschool experience will be a great success. Some will be total failures; others will be good but not altogether good. In some cases, out of six children a family may lose one or two to the world, but they will have two or three that are exceptional human beings.”

Alas for a child who turns out to be a less-than-exceptional human being! Pearl chalks such failures up to satan at work and recommends people buy more of his books, just to be safe.

I really should not be surprised to see Debi Pearl defending Bill Gothard and his ministry against what she considers defamation. But I look at her daughters, their body language, and I wonder what stories they could tell and what they would say about their famous parents if they felt completely safe.

It speaks volumes that the Pearls feel compelled to hitch their ministry to Gothard’s falling star.

*****

*Michael Pearl on marriage licenses:

“None of my daughters or their husbands asked the state of Tennessee for permission to marry. They did not yoke themselves to government. It was a personal, private covenant, binding them together forever—until death. So when the sodomites have come to share in the state marriage licenses, which will eventually be the law, James and Shoshanna will not be in league with those perverts. And, while I am on the subject, there will come a time when faithful Christians will either revoke their state marriage licenses and establish an exclusively one man-one woman covenant of marriage, or, they will forfeit the sanctity of their covenant by being unequally yoked together with perverts.”

 

Then She Stood By the Brave

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate Truth. It was originally published on April 8, 2014.

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**DISCLAIMER: the situation you are about to read about is in good hands and I ask that you not try to contact any of my siblings. They are safe and things are being taken care of.

About a month ago I got a phone call letting me know one of my siblings was being admitted to the mental health ward. All I could think was when it is going to be enough, how many more of my siblings are going to suffer.

Their story is theirs to tell, not mine, but I want to tell you about a story that has continued to unfold over the past few weeks.

Phil and I went to visit my sibling in the psych ward, and I saw my sibling relaxed, a little medicated, but they were relaxed, peaceful, and they were safe there and they knew it. We brought one of my other brothers in to visit our sibling and I found out that he had been faithfully visiting his sibling the whole time during their psych visit. This brother is the one I have had my spats with growing up, and in fact, thanks to him I have a nice numb spot on my hand from one of our fights. This brother is also the one I see holding one of the biggest, caring hearts I have ever seen. The fact that he would purposefully take time out of his day to go visit his sibling in the psych ward every day they were is a huge indicator of just how big his heart is.

*****

I am now barely 2 months away from having this child of mine.

I am becoming more and more aware of how important it is to stand firm with my boundaries when it comes to my mom and my dad. I somehow found myself in a position last week where I was asked by my mom to “draw out” my sibling who had been in the psych ward. My sibling had been asking to be admitted again that morning and wouldn’t talk to mom or anyone else about what was going on. Inwardly I knew my sibling was only going to talk to me and that’s why my mom was pushing me to talk with them. After spending awhile chatting, I knew what I needed to know and just let my sibling know that I was there whenever they needed me. The rest of my visit over there ended in me putting my foot down and being completely blunt with my mom. I told her my exact thoughts on how her staying with my dad was at the expense of the kids and how he wasn’t changing, how I didn’t believe her when she said he was, and just watched her shut down as I refused to let her screwed up logic change my stance.

In that moment I realized I have changed.

I am no longer blinded by the manipulative logic my dad uses to control those around him.

I could see right through everything my mom said and was able to see things I had known were there but had never been able to put words to. I am stronger, I am clear headed, I have changed, and yet, it became painfully obvious she hasn’t changed. She is still toxic to me, she is still clinging to some delusion that my dad is changing, and until she can let go of that and actually protect her children from that man, I have to be careful to keep boundaries in place.

It was encouraging to see how therapy has really worked and I have been able to break so many chains that had previously greatly bound me. I am also in a position now where when a sibling needs help, I’m one of the first people they call, and hell, I’m out the door before they can even coherently say anything other than to beg me to come get them. Which is what happened recently, and which included a visit to my siblings’ school counselor who after hearing our story immediately called Child Protective Services to make a report. I have proven to my siblings, the ones who need it most, that I am not the mean, evil older sister my dad makes me out to be. I am who I say I am and I will drop everything for them if they need me.

I sat in that office and watched my siblings find their strength as they stood up to the abuse they have personally suffered from our dad. My heart bursting with pride, I backed up their stories, and watched as they willingly gave information that will hopefully make a difference. I watched my siblings make very brave and bold decisions despite the possibility of facing retaliation. They are doing what I wish I could have done years ago, they are brave enough to stand up and say enough is enough and it hopefully will truly be enough.

The little girl inside of me wept as I proudly stood by my brave siblings.

I felt like I watched my childhood come full circle. The shame of not being “strong enough” to stand up to my dad was put to rest as I stood there being my siblings’ support. I went through what I had to so that I could be there for my siblings when they needed me. I am stronger now, I have the strength they needed to be able to be brave themselves. I can validate their fears and tell them they’re not crazy despite what the man at home will say. I don’t know about you, but that’s quite a good reason to have gone through what I have if only to be the support my siblings need.

I’m feeling hopeful, I am full of pride, and so relieved I can be there for the siblings who call for help and I can be there to lift up their voices.

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel 

A Thank You Note

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Faith Beauchemin’s blog Roses and Revolutionaries. It was originally published on February 26, 2014.

I’ve often talked about the culture I grew up, my parents’ various toxic teachings and attitudes, and you may get the impression that my childhood was all bad all the time.  That’s not even close to accurate.  Today I was thinking about the things I have to thank my parents for.  The ways that they laid the foundation for who I am today.  When they were raising me as best they could, they were seriously misguided about a lot of things.  But they were right about a lot of things too.  I just don’t think they ever imagined those things would lead to me being a progressive.  But, here we are.

None of these lessons were perfect, but today I am leaving aside the toxic aspects and focusing only on the good.

So, dear Mom and Dad, thank you.

Thank you for teaching me respect and compassion.  I don’t remember how you did it, but it was part of my life as long as I can remember.  We treat other people kindly.  We are careful with inanimate objects.  We are gentle with animals.  This, more than anything else, laid the foundation for me to grow into a healthy member of society.

I remember when I went vegetarian, you never said one word of objection, you just asked me to suggest some meals for our menu every week.  I remember long before that when a young neighbor purposely tore some leaves off the maple tree I’d planted from seed.  I was so upset I cried, partly for the poor tree and partly for a little boy who could be so mean as to hurt a tree for no reason.  That sense of compassion for every inhabitant of earth is your greatest legacy to me, Mom and Dad, and I thank you.

The beginnings of our garden one year when we tried “square foot gardening”
The beginnings of our garden one year when we tried “square foot gardening”

Thank you for teaching me to care for the environment.  Thanks to you, Mom and Dad, the first question on my mind when I look at a new town to live in is, what things can I recycle here? Because you were recycling long before it was cool.  You recycled long before curbisde pickup, before we could recycle almost anything, back when you had to take the labels off the cans and jars, long before our town started instituting a rewards system based on recycling volume which now has every person on our street doing it . We have a picture of me at two or three years old, both feet on a soup can, squashing it down to take it to the recycling center.  Squashing cans and milk jugs was so much fun! So was feeding bottles into the bottle return at the grocery store.

We had a vegetable garden for most of my childhood, and taking care of those vegetables and the profusion of flowers around our home ensured that I perpetually had dirt under my nails and a working knowledge of plant life.  You told me about how air quality regulations significantly improved the sustainability of American manufacturing.  You took me to state and national parks.  Dad, you were the first person to ever tell me about biodiesel.

Speaking of that vegetable garden,, thank you also for teaching me a strong diy ethic.  It may have been because we always had a hard time making ends meet.  It may have been because of how craft-y you are, Mom.  Whatever the case, you taught me how to do all kinds of useful things.  I can cook any meal from scratch, a skill which has really helped ease my shift to veganism.  The beautiful quilt I have on my bed right now is one that you taught me how to make. You would sew us dresses from scratch, a level of commitment I just don’t have, but thanks to you I have modified more than a few thrift store finds.

Dad, every time I build a campfire I do it how you showed me.  I also know how to paint a wall, how to saw a board, and how to keep a lawn looking tidy, all because you taught me.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for instilling in me a lifelong love of books and music. You kept more books on your nightstand than a lot of people have in their entire house.  We would go to the library every couple of weeks and return home with five or ten books each.  Mom, you read out loud to us kids at lunch time every day, and to the whole family on road trips.  That was a brilliant way of getting us kids to settle down in the car, by the way, because we couldn’t be fussy or get into fights when we were busy hanging on your every word. One time, you were reading Lord of the Rings to us and were within three chapters of finishing Return of the King.  So we all got in the car and took a spontaneous day trip up the thumb of Michigan just so we could finish the book.

Pianos also make excellent cat beds.
Pianos also make excellent cat beds.

Music was part of daily life.  Whether we were singing hymns during family bible time, or putting on marching band music and making up silly dances, it was a rare moment when there was no music to be heard.  I remember us kids sitting under the piano while you played it, Mom, because we wanted to get as close as possible to the sound.  I also remember you playing a piece called “Midnight Fire Alarm” over and over while we pantomimed rescuing everyone and everything from a fire.  Or we would all be in the living room, playing with the couch cushions (which made an excellent fort), or coloring (because you always encouraged our creative endeavors too), with a tape or a record playing in the background.  Later on, you didn’t really like our teenage music choices, but you would have never told us to stop listening.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for constantly modeling generosity and hospitality. You never had much money but you were always willing to share.  You would often invite people to come home with us from church for Sunday dinner.  Our home was always open to friends passing through, and since we lived near the Detroit airport, that happened quite a lot.

I know you always had a lot to deal with.  Raising three children on one small salary, several recurring health problems, and later on, Dad losing his job altogether.  But it was never a question that we would give whatever we could to those in need. We would always donate used clothes, books, and toys.  Mom, you coordinated the women at church to bring meals to people who were sick, having surgery, experienced the death of a family member, or had a baby.  Whenever there was an opportunity to help anybody, we would show up.  Mom, you have spearheaded a wonderful effort to make beautiful quilts for newly married couples and to make baby blankets and quilts to give to new mothers and to donate to women’s shelters.  Even now that you have a full time job, you can still be found making meals for others and endlessly sewing or quilting for those in need.

I haven’t stayed true to the doctrine you taught me but in a more important way, I strive to live up to all the important values you modeled and instilled in me.  So for these things, I am grateful to you every single day.

Why the Distance Between “Christian Patriarchy” and “Complementarianism” Is A Sleight Of Hand: Rebecca Irene Gorman’s Thoughts

 

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Also by Rebecca on HA: “The No True Homeschooler Argument,” “I Was Beaten, But That’s Not My Primary Issue With Homeschooling” and “‘Fake Someone Happy’: A Book Review.” 

My pastor was the director of the Chalcedon Foundation and the other teachers I studied under were Mark Rushdooney, President of the Chalcedon Foundation, Doug Wilson, Howard Phillips (father of Doug Phillips) etc. Ground zero of the ‘Christian Patriarchy’ movement.

The context in which they use the word ‘patriarchy’: It’s not always capitalized. It’s not always typed as ‘Christian Patriarchy’. They don’t think of ‘Christian Patriarchy’ as the name of their movement. Yes, they do think that patriarchy is a good thing, and say so explicitly. They love to talk about the Biblical patriarchy, and are often happy to capitalize Patriarchy as a value essential to Biblical Christianity.

If you ask them what their movement is called, they’ll probably tell you ‘Biblical Christianity’. They might go on to mention the Reformers or covenentalism or Reconstructionism or postmillenialism or paedobaptism, because all of these things are central to their identity. Which ones they mention is purely personal preference. If you ask them what they believe about gender roles, they’ll say: ‘complementarianism’. NOT ‘Christian Patriarchy’.

For these people at ground zero of the ‘Christian Patriarchy’ movement, they talk about ‘Patriarchy’ as a positive thing, method behind taking dominion, the reason for quiverful beliefs, beliefs around baptism, communion, etc. While their promotion of this word is very telling about their objectification of women, it’s not what immediately comes to mind for them when they’re thinking about gender roles. What immediately comes to mind for them when thinking about gender roles are various Bible verses and stories that make up the culture’s dialogue about gender roles, and when they have to boil their gender role perspective down to a term, they think of it and talk of it as ‘complementarianism’.

It’s disingenuous to say ‘I’m not a Christian-Patriarchalist, I’m a Complementarian.’ Show me a person who claims to be a Christian Patriarchalist, or a Christian-Patriarchalist who doesn’t define their gender beliefs as ‘Complementarian’, and I’ll show you a fairy. NOBODY claims to be a Christian-Patriarchalist. Claiming to be a Complementarian ‘because that’s what the Bible teaches’ IS the definition of what we now-outsiders call Christian Patriarchy, end stop.

Saying ‘I’m not a Christian Patriarchalist, I’m a Complementarian’ is like saying ‘I’m not a giraffe, I’m a large African mammal with a very long neck and forelegs and a coat patterned with brown patches separated by lighter lines.’

What “Christian Patriarchy” Is Not

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

“Patriarchy” has suddenly become a dirty word in the homeschooling movement. Whereas a short while ago it was a badge of honor, a symbol of pure righteous manliness, now leaders are scrambling to distance themselves from this word. They are swearing left and right that they aren’t “it” and they never were “it” and gosh, why are people saying they are? They have been so gracious about “allowing” their daughters the privilege of wearing pants — or the privilege to go to college — they, the men with the divine authority, have allowed this. How could anyone think poorly of them?

The sudden energy exerted by these leaders to claim they oppose Patriarchy has reached corners that are so actually patriarchical it has become almost humorous to observe. Kevin Swanson recently wrote a post on April 18 where he matter-of-factly declares, “I am not a patriarchal-ist. I have never been a patriarchal-ist, and I’ve never called myself a patriarchal-ist.” As evidence he offers the following statement: “It is no sin for a woman to take college level classes.”

Well, gee, that settles that. I eagerly await Bill Gothard’s declaration that he’s not a legalism-ist.

As news about the predatory conduct of Doug Phillips — one of the key figures in the Christian Patriarchy movement — and Bill Gothard — one of the most ardent advocates of Legalism — spreads into the mainstream media, this will become a more common occurrence. The problems plaguing the Christian Homeschooling Movement will be chalked up to “Christian Patriarchy” and “Legalism.” Leaders will swear they aren’t those things and therefore they’re safe. We will be tempted to become fixated on labels and forget that labels aren’t the problem. The problem, as Libby Anne points out, are “the beliefs [they’re] promoting.”

Furthermore, while I agree with Libby Anne that the beliefs should take central stage, I am mystified because few people seem to understand the words themselves. And I wonder whether that’s why the beliefs are getting the short end of the stick. We’ve turned “Christian Patriarchy” into this bizarre caricature — i.e., “not letting your daughters go to college” — that’s completely untrue. Go look at Vision Forum’s “Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy.” Not letting your daughters go to college is not on the list. We’re collapsing so many different categories — Quiverfull, Christian Patriarchy, general Patriarchy, Stay-At-Home-Daughter Movement, Complementarianism, etc. — that these words are becoming powerless.

A fundamental rule of communication is this: “The One Who Defines the Terms Controls the Argument.”

This is true.

But there is another fundamental rule of communication: “The One Who Employs the Definitions Sloppily Loses Control of the Argument.”

We’re at a point now where someone has claimed that Patrick Henry College is not patriarchical and “proved” it by describing the college in blatantly patriarchical terms. And the reason for that is simple: we’ve exchanged the phrase “Christian Patriarchy” for “Patriarchy,” when the former is simply a particularly extreme version of the latter. Patriarchy is any and every system based on male authority and dominance, one manifestation of which is Christian Patriarchy. We’re also at a point where Michael Farris is confusingly equating “Quiverfull” with “Patriarchy”: not only did he think “not sending your daughters to college” had something to do with “Quiverfull,” he also thought that “not sending your daughters to college” (a caricature of Christian Patriarchy) was the definition of Patriarchy (which is has nothing to do with whether or not your daughters go to college).

So I’d like to dispel a few myths about what Christian Patriarchy is. I’d like to emphasize that, by saying Christian Patriarchy isn’t these things, I’m not saying it cannot be. I am saying it is so much bigger than these things. To limit it to these things enables misdirection.

Myth #1: Christian Patriarchy is Patriarchy.

Christian Patriarchy is Patriarchy in one sense: insofar as Christian Patriarchy is a system based on male authority and dominance, it is a subset of Patriarchy. But as I stated previously, Patriarchy — being a system based on male authority and dominance — is huge. Any system grounded in male authority and dominance is Patriarchy. Thus even Complementarianism — however mild or extreme — is still Patriarchy because it still rests upon the foundational idea that males have a unique authority or right to dominance.

When we say that, “Oh, ____ isn’t into Patriarchy” — when we what we mean is, “Oh, ____ isn’t into Christian Patriarchy” — we are giving someone an opportunity to downplay the fact that they are still into Patriarchy. And the problem with the subset of Christian Patriarchy isn’t that its an extreme version of Patriarchy. The problem is that it is Patriarchy. Period.

So for example, Michael Farris does believe in and advocate for Patriarchy. Just observe any of the politicians he endorses or, simpler yet, read his 2004 book What A Daughter Needs From her Dad. Sure, Farris doesn’t believe in and advocate for the limited caricature of Christian Patriarchy where daughters can’t go to college. But again, as stated earlier, even that’s a caricature of Christian Patriarchy (as we’ll discuss shortly). Michael Farris agrees with Christian Patriarchy far more than he disagrees with it.

Myth #2: Christian Patriarchy is Quiverfull.

Quiverfull and Christian Patriarchy are often confused as the same thing. In fact, Michael Farris himself has confused these categories, when he said that he does “believe women should go to college.” Whether or not you let your daughters go to college has nothing to do with Quiverfull. Quiverfull is, more or less, a specifically Christian form of natalism — the idea of employing procreation as a tool of sociopolitical dominion and categorizing birth control as rebellion against God. Michael Pearl gave us a perfect embodiment of Quiverfull’s dominionist streak, when he recently stated,

“If you can’t out-vote them today, out-breed them for tomorrow.”

That is Quiverfull (albeit a distilled, intense version of it). And see, that sentiment could exist in a matriarchicial society. (In fact, Mary Pride — often considered “the Queen of Quiverfull” — personally insinuated that she believes in Matriarchy more than Patriarchy. Though she has a nonsensical definition of Matriarchy, she has harsh words for Christian Patriarchy advocates.)

Yes, there are many advocates of Christian Patriarchy who are Quiverfull. And by all means, speak out against the dehumanizing and toxic idea that your children are your weapons, and a woman’s vagina is a weapons-building factory.

But remember these are distinct, especially considering there are many advocates of Christian Patriarchy who are not Quiverfull. Take Doug Wilson, for example. Doug Wilson is considered one of the pillars of Christian Patriarchy but believes birth control can be useful to ensure you’re actually taking care of your current children. That’s outright heresy to the Quiverfull crowd.

Myth #3: Christian Patriarchy is Opposed to Daughters Going to College.

The Stay-At-Home-Daughter Movement rose out of Christian Patriarchy. Indeed, many of this movement’s advocates — for example, Voddie Baucham, Doug Phillips, and Geoff Botkin, who promoted or were featured in the film, “Return of the Daughters” — are giants in the Christian Patriarchy movement. But — and this is crucial — not all advocates of Christian Patriarchy believe daughters cannot go to college. In fact, the majority of them are okay with it, provided their daughters (1) are still at home while attending college, (2) do not go to a secular college, and (3) study something relevant to “domestic affairs.” There is plenty to critique about that criteria, but using this “can daughters can go to college” litmus test is a red herring. Case in point: Baucham’s daughter Jasmine — while still living at home — not only has a Bachelors degree but is currently pursuing a Masters degree.

And this isn’t a “new” development in Christian Patriarchy. John Thompson, writing in Patriarch Magazine (a cornerstone publication of the Christian Patriarchy movement during the 90’s), articulated over a decade ago that it was tolerable to let your daughter get college-educated provided that education is gender-oriented and via home study.

So, again — this college litmus test is a red herring.

Myth #4: Christian Patriarchy is two steps away from wearing a burka.

This myth was articulated a few days ago, and I couldn’t help but laugh. Seriously, let’s look at two images of the daughters of popular proponents of Christian Patriarchy:

Geoff Botkin’s daughters, Anna-Sofia and Elizabeth:

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Voddie Baucham’s daughter, Jasmine:

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Burkas? Seriously?

Look, there are many, many parallels and connections between Christian fundamentalism and Islamic fundamentalism that one can make. Likewise, there are many, many parallels and connections between Christian Patriarchy and Islamic Patriarchy that one can make. The parallels exist because fundamentalism and patriarchy as systems transcend people groups and cultures. Identifying and speaking out against those parallels and connections is important; it should be done frequently, passionately, and loudly.

However, to say that, “Christian Patriarchy is two steps away from wearing a burka” is an asinine argument. Christian Patriarchy is not defined by clothing. Yes, there are many people within the Christian Patriarchy movement who have swallowed Modesty Culture. In fact, the above two images do not disprove this. (“Modesty Culture,” like Christian Patriarchy, is not defined by how many “steps” it is away from wearing a burka.) But they do demonstrate that slapping Christian Patriarchy with “burka” confuses the issue.

Myth #5: Christian Patriarchy is Limited to Homeschooling.

This is the weirdest myth. Rumor has it that Christian Patriarchy advocates are only into homeschooling, whereas Christian Patriarchy opponents tolerate other forms of education — for example, classical education in a private Christian school.

This is pure nonsense. Doug Wilson adamantly and vocally prefers private classical Christian education to homeschooling. He personally founded a private school and did not homeschool his kids. In his 1991 book Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, Wilson makes clear that he believes “classical private schools to be superior to classical homeschooling.” He states his case so strongly, in fact, that some say “he condemns home school as a viable option,” and one homeschooling parent demanded he “stop being asked to speak at homeschool events.” In his own words, though, it’s not so much homeschooling itself that he objects as much as it is “a radical home-centeredness” that “[insists] that the home can not only replace the school, but also the church and the civil magistrate.”

An appreciation of private Christian education among Christian Patriarchy advocates is not limited to Wilson. R.C. Sproul, Jr. — who co-wrote Vision Forum’s “Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy” with Doug Phillips — agrees to some extent with Wilson. In October 2011, Sproul Jr. said that, ultimately, what’s important is Christian education that teaches “day in and day out the Lordship of Christ over all things,” and thus “the real issue is the secular perspective of the public schools, more than the methodology of homeschooling versus Christian schooling.”

Similarly, Patriarch Magazine argued over a decade ago that, while homeschooling is “ideal,” “Christian schools are a commendable alternative to the degenerate state schools.”

*****

It is pretty amazing that “Christian Patriarchy” as a specific concept — and Patriarchy as a general system — is finally being widely discussed among Christian homeschoolers. Seriously. It is amazing. This is the first step towards wider awareness and change: our vocabulary is being adopted and we can point to that vocabulary to facilitate conversation.

However, we take a step backwards if we start equivocating between terms and diminish those terms’ potency. If you are new to this conversation, please take the time to educate yourself about what these words mean. Libby Anne has a great breakdown of what “Christian Patriarchy” is that she wrote in 2012. Read it. Think about it. Also read about what Patriarchy is and how it differs from the specific subset of Christian/Biblical Patriarchy. Educate yourself about how similar Christian Patriarchy and Complementarianism are (and arguably even identical), and why both are Patriarchy. (And while you’re at it, look up Kyriarchy, too.)

Then reassess this mass hysteria among homeschool leaders who are begging us to consider them anti-Patriarchy. Because they are not.

Sugar-coated Patriarchy is still Patriarchy.

What “Christian Patriarchy” Is

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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 February 19, 2012.

In a nutshell, Christian Patriarchy is the belief that God has ordained a specific family order, and that this family order must be followed. The husband leads, the wife submits, and the children obey.

There are two important aspects about Christian Patriarchy. The first is the belief in the importance of male headship or authority, and the second is the belief that men and women have vastly different roles to play. A third issue involves the role of children.

Male Authority

Christian Patriarchy holds that women must always be under male authority (or headship). A woman is never to be independent of male authority. First, she is under her father’s authority, and then under her husband’s authority.

(A widow would be under her son’s authority, or, if she had no sons or her sons were young, she would return to her father’s authority. If is not possibles possible, some argue that widow should place herself under the authority of a church elder or pastor.)

Many evangelicals use the rhetoric of “male headship” but see it as merely spiritual or figurative. For Christian Patriarchy, though, being under male authority includes obedience. This obedience is absolute; a woman is only excused from obeying if her male authority orders her to do something illegal and immoral (some dispute this, and argue that she is still required to obey, but that God won’t hold her accountable for any sins she commits at the order of her male authority).

I Corinthians 11:3 – But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Under Christian Patriarchy, the framework in this verse is extended to women in general. Every woman has a male authority, and that male authority looks to Christ as his authority. A woman is to obey her male authority, whether it is her father, husband, brother, or son, and he in turn is to obey Christ. By obeying her male authority, a woman is obeying God. This is seen as the natural and God-given order. 

Separate Roles

Christian Patriarchy holds that men are to provide and protect and women are to care for the home and the children. This is seen as the divine order for the family. The idea is that the two sexes are equal, but that they have different roles to play. Both roles are highly important, and neither sex can fulfill the role of the other. Men and women are simply different.

The man’s role is to hold a career and provide for his family, to protect his family, and to represent his family to the world in politics and in the church. The woman’s role is to bear children and raise them, to cook and keep house, and to support her husband, building him up as a man through her affirmation and obedience.

Hard core followers of Christian Patriarchy hold that women are never to work outside of the home in any capacity – even if their families desperately need the money. Yet just as with Quiverfull, there are plenty of families who are influenced by the ideas of Christian Patriarchy without being completely hard core. These families most often hold that married women, or married women with children, should not hold jobs outside of the home, and that it’s not women’s place to have “careers.”

Children 

Under Christian Patriarchy, all children are expected to offer their parents absolute obedience while they are minors. No disobedience is accepted, and children are taught that obeying their parents is obeying God, because God has placed them under their parents’ authority.

Daughters remain under their father’s authority until married to a man he approves of, generally through a parent-guided courtship. While under her father’s authority, it is the daughter’s duty to obey him and accept his will for her as God’s will. Many in the Christian Patriarchy movement reject college for girls, and the Stay At Home Daughter movement is growing.

Sons are under their father’s authority until they become men. The point at which this occurs isn’t so clear, but it definitely occurs sometime between when they turn eighteen and when they marry. Once he becomes a man, a son no longer need to be under male authority, and he becomes the male authority for his wife and children.

Some families in Christian Patriarchy have trouble completely letting go of their sons, however, and there is in some circles the idea that even an adult son should be obedient to, or at least highly respective of, his father’s desire. This is where you get Geoff Botkin’s 200 Year Plan (also known as Multigenerational Faithfulness).

Conclusion

The most important thing to remember about Christian Patriarchy is its emphasis on a hierarchical family order, which it regards as the natural order ordained by God. Men and women have different roles to play, the man as protector and provider and the woman as nurturer and homemaker. Women are always under male authority; daughters are to obey their fathers and wives are to obey their husbands. When everyone fulfills the role God has created for them, the family prospers.

The things I find most troubling about Christian Patriarchy are its emphasis on women offering absolute obedience to their male authorities – when you think about it, there is nothing really to differentiate this from slavery – and its emphasis on strict gender roles, which classes people by their sex rather than by their talents, interests, or abilities. Christian Patriarchy fails to recognize the huge diversity within each gender, and pushes people into prescribed slots based on their genitals rather than seeing people as individuals first.

The vast, vast majority of Christians do not hold to the teachings of Christian Patriarchy. In fact, many Christians actively fight against these ideas, arguing that they represent a fallen order of mankind and that Christ has ordained equality between the genders. However, it should be noted that even as some Christians fight these ideas others are unknowingly influenced by them, and that is what makes understanding the ideas behind Christian Patriarchy all the more important.

Homeschoolers U: A Call for Stories about PHC

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

It’s been called “God’s Harvard” by some, “Homeschool Harvard” by others. Still others find those nicknames either laughable, insulting, or downright silly.

Whatever you want to call it, Patrick Henry College is arguably the finishing touch to the culture wars waged by many movers and shakers within the Christian Homeschooling Movement. However, with the recent allegations of the administration’s mishandling of sexual assault cases and an ongoing definitional debate about whether or not the college supports “Patriarchy,” it is obvious that even those who have attended the college have widely different perspectives about their alma mater and its impact.

For our next open series, Homeschoolers Anonymous is inviting current and former students of Patrick Henry College to speak for themselves about their experiences and stories at their school. We are open to hearing about all of it: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Our one parameter is that you speak to your experience, rather than speaking in universal commentary about popular (mis?)conceptions about the school. Help others get a more nuanced understanding of the campus culture and ideology — whether that commentary be positive or negative.

* Deadline for “Homeschoolers U” submission: Friday, July 25, 2014. *

Please put “For Homeschoolers U” as the title of the email.

As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly.

If you interested in participating in this, please email us at homeschoolersanonymous@gmail.com.

You Can’t Lace Geography Lessons with Jesus: A Response to Israel Wayne

 

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

For Israel Wayne, homeschooling is not about education. It’s about discipleship. His recently viral blogpost, “A Shift in the Homeschooling Movement,” testifies to this fact. In it, he suggests that we “shift” homeschooling towards the “lordship of Jesus.” In order to understand the post, one must understand that, for him, homeschooling must be religious or spiritual in its essence — education, academics, those are disposable accouterments to the goal of evangelizing your children.

Israel Wayne is the son of Home School Digest‘s Skeet Savage and a repeat speaker at the Homeschool Alumni National Reunion. He runs BiblicalBetrothal.com, which features writings from betrothal advocate Jonathan Lindvall and child marriage apologist Matthew Chapman. He himself has written for Above Rubies, Brannon Howse’s WorldviewWeekend.com, and Answers in Genesis, and has authored a number of books, most notably Homeschooling from a Biblical Worldview. You can read his bio at his organization Family Renewal here.

In Homeschooling from a Biblical Worldview, we get a basic picture of Wayne’s perspective on homeschooling and education. Essentially, all education is religious and — as the book’s own summary so neatly states — “Beginning with proper biblical presuppositions will enable students to make sense of the world around them.”

Fail to have the proper biblical presuppositions, and students fail to make sense of the world.

This is reiterated in Wayne’s recent post. The post itself is long and meandering. It addresses a variety of topics, including the history of the modern homeschooling movement and how different “camps” within the Christian Homeschooling Movement have competed and/or cooperated with one another. His post also proposes “new” paths for Christian homeschoolers to consider (though, as I will articulate here, these paths are anything but new). The post has been quite popular and many people have been taken in by Wayne’s rhetoric. (In my mind, however, it should give everyone pause that Kelly Crawford — an outspoken advocate of Patriarchy — thought his article was “very well done”, considering that his article was prompted by the Doug Phillips-inspired “Patriarchy” controversy as of late.)

There is so much one could say about Wayne’s post. But for this response, I want to focus on one particular passage of his. And heads up: I am going to approach this solution of his from a Christian theological perspective. I feel it is important to engage Israel Wayne on his own turf in this instance because it is necessary to show that this turf is incorrectly grounded.

The relevant passage from Wayne’s post is as follows (emphasis added):

If we ever forget that the homeschooling movement is NOT about academics at the end of the day (they are a means, not an end), then Jesus will abandon us to our own devices. The homeschooling movement must NOT become ultimately about methods and tools (curriculum). It must be about Jesus, and His Lordship over our families.

…We need to pick a few hills that are worth dying on, and be willing to allow a few others to fall by the wayside. In my view, the authority of Scripture is a hill to die on… The Lordship of Jesus Christ over every sphere of our existence is another. We cannot merely marginalize the Lord Jesus Christ as an optional plugin to our homeschooling endeavors. He demands supremacy over His people and demands to be recognized as our rightful head.

The leaders of this movement…must continue to hold up these banners as supreme, or else our Lord will leave us to our own devices, and the homeschooling movement will denigrate into another expression of humanism.

To put it simply, Israel Wayne has constructed a false dilemma. A false dilemma is when you present as an either/or a problem that can actually be resolved in more than two ways. Here Wayne presents “academics” and “the lordship of Jesus” as distinct entities (and either we uphold the latter over the former, or the whole world will burn). Why do I say this? Well, because if they are not distinct, then pursuing academics as the end of homeschooling would not necessarily exclude pursuing the lordship of Jesus in one’s life. But in Wayne’s mind, pursuing the former as an end means one is — to one extent or another — not pursuing the latter.

This is a crucial point — Wayne rejects education as a legitimate end in itself. It is so crucial because the Christian Homeschooling Movement’s similar rejection has led to many of the problems we are seeing today. The fact that Israel Wayne continues this rejection, just as his elders did, means that he will not be able to promote any significant change in homeschooling.

This solution — eloquent though it may be — is all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Lana Hope has already articulated one reason why this point is key:

The fact that homeschooling was seen as a Christian method is, in my opinion, what went wrong with baby boomer homeschool parents. It started out as an education model, but when it became about religion and the preservation of a Joshua generation, it went [sour]… The Christian homeschool movement, because it was all about religion and not academics, became about censoring certain information and stuffing Christ into other information.

Lana is spot-on here: the Christian Homeschooling Movement, as a movement, has used education to indoctrinate, not to empower. And when education becomes a tool of indoctrination, rather than being valued as an inherently empowering process, it gives rise to exactly what we at Homeschoolers Anonymous have called out for the last year: twisting homeschooling into an ideology-first movement, rather than a children-first movement.

I am not interested in debating a definition of “indoctrination” here. That’s not the point. What I conceive of as indoctrination is not limited to Christian education, Buddhist education, or even “secular” education. It is simply when education is used to pass on an ossified set of ideologies (a closed system) as opposed to being an embraced process whereby all children freely, enthusiastically, and wisely discover life on their own terms and at their own pace (an open system).

Israel Wayne clearly has no interest in education as an open system. This is evident in his “you must start from ‘proper biblical presuppositions’ or you have no chance ever of understanding the world” mindset; these so-called presuppositions automatically ensure a closed system. Yet in order to reject the concept of open system, notice what he has to do: he has to argue that education is not in itself an end. In other words, to Israel Wayne, education is not inherently valuable. It is only valuable insofar as it furthers “the lordship of Jesus” (whatever that means).

Wayne does this — and so have many others in the past and so do many others today — because everything is supposed to be subsumed under his idea of a “Christian Worldview.” Wayne’s Christian Worldview is a giant sucking sound, a Total Institution under which everything must be subjugated. It therefore sets up all other ends — in this particular case, the end of education — in diametric opposition to his end, the end of the Christian Worldview, e.g., lordship of Jesus.

Here’s the irony: the whole concept of “Christian Worldview” originated primarily with Francis Schaeffer, who wrote in Escape From Reason that this dualism — the very species of dualism Wayne advocates for, while saying he advocates against it — was causing the downfall of Christianity in the West. Schaeffer’s project — indeed, what the whole project of the “Christian Worldview” movement was supposed to be — was to cast aside the dualism and opposition between “faith” and “reason.” But whereas Wayne and others think this means “sell reason as a slave to faith,” Schaeffer meant it as embrace the entirety of the world as inherently valuable, informative, and empowering. This is why Schaeffer could boldly declare that, “Man is something wonderful.” Obviously that’s not what the Worldview Studies Movement has become within American evangelicalism or homeschooling curriculums. But that was Schaeffer’s goal.

When you begin with this closed system of presuppositions, you lose the very idea that human beings are made in God’s image.

You lose the fact that, no, you don’t have to start from any presuppositions at all because God gave each and every individual the same insatiable curiosity, rational thinking processes, emotional receptors, and desire to figure out life. You deny this fact and you deny a cornerstone of the biblical narrative. And doing so leads to (as Lana Hope pointed out) the stilted, articially “religious” environment that the Christian Homeschooling Movement was and continues to be, which denigrates the importance of academics and thus fails at responsible stewardship of children’s education.

There’s another way here, people. Academics can be the end of the homeschooling movement when we conceive of academics as inherently valuable, an end in themselves. Dedicating what resources you have to educate your child as best you can what if this is very definition of making Jesus lord of your life?

There is no need to conceive of “academics” and “lordship of Jesus” as distinct or opposed. In fact, I am just going to call out Israel Wayne as preaching a false gospel here. The Gospel is not about the totalitarian, totalistic imposition of Jesus on every aspect of our lives. The Gospel — as preached by Jesus — is a transformation, a process that becomes radically relevant, informing, and empowering to each individual in each individual’s unique context. In the context of a parent who has the resources to teach a child, that parent has a responsibility — call it God-given if you want — to give that child the very best education possible in the most nurturing and loving environment imaginable.

That is making Jesus lord.

And if that parent hides those educational resources out of fear of what that child may do with them, that is a rejection of Jesus as lord.

To conceive of homeschooling as “discipleship,” and education as inherently “religious,” is to reinstate the dualism whereby you can teach something like geography in a “Christian” way but also in a “non-Christian” way. No. That is pure nonsense. You either teach your child geography or you don’t. There’s no “Christian” way to teach geography, any more than there is a “Christian” way to change a tire. To say so ignores the fact that the simple act of teaching your child geography — in the context of homeschooling parenthood — is the definition of discipleship. You don’t have to artificially force “religion” into a geography lesson, like Kevin Swanson’s bizarre suggestion at the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit that, “We’ll shock everybody when we begin confessing our sins in the geography class.” And note that Swanson gives the exact same reasoning as Wayne, that education isn’t an end in itself:

We need to call [Christians] to use words like discipleship and nurture. Stop talking schools with me. Don’t talk about education with me. Let’s not talk about home education and Christian education, Christian schools. Let’s talk about discipleship. Let’s talk about a focus on faith and character. Let’s focus on the discipling of a child.

Sorry, but you can’t lace geography lessons with Jesus in the hopes of drugging your kids into Heaven.

Teach them geography well, as well as science, math, sex education, and so forth. Show them the world and do not instill fear in them.

That is making Jesus lord.

When you equip your child for life — when you teach them academics as a valuable end in itself — when you empower your child to face the storms that life will present, to wrestle with ideas, to master reasoning and humility — when you protect your child from abuse, and show your child you will protect other children from abuse as well — when you become Jesus to your homeschooling community by standing up for the abused and the marginalized — when you, like Jesus, say “Let the little children come to me,” to be safe, to be educated, to be empowered to succeed —

— that is making Jesus lord.

Homeschool parents who are afraid to educate their children thoroughly, who withhold from their children information about the world out of fear that it might “lead them astray,” need to imagine a bigger God.

When we start imagining a bigger God, when we start prioritizing children over ideology and children’s lives over our so-called “freedoms” — that’s when we’ll actually see a shift in the homeschooling movement.

Sorry, Michael Pearl, But These Fireworks Are Calling You Out: Lisa Joy’s Thoughts

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Lisa Joy” is a pseudonym.

Disclaimer: I have been reading Libby Anne’s reviews of the Pearls’ materials on her “Love, Joy, Feminism” blog as they’re published each week. When I read Michael Pearl’s recent article, “Homeschooling: Success or Failure,” I started wondering what she would say to tear it apart. Then I realized I couldn’t wait to see if/when she’d cover it, so I started writing my version of a rebuttal! So if it sounds like I’m parroting her in some way, I’m not trying to… but I might end up doing so to some extent because I love what she has to say in her book reviews. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or something like that!

“It is such a marvelous pleasure to observe the many young couples coming out of the homeschooling community. They are bright as spring flowers, full of hope and good cheer. Children are springing up like dandelions, without a care in the world, secure in their parents’ love.”

Dandelions… a weed that many people try to kill

Michael Pearl has a nasty habit of dehumanizing people, especially women and children. He compares them to dogs, horses, pick-up trucks (yes, really!), etc. Now we can add weeds to that list.

“There has never been a movement in America that has so consistently produced godly young people and holy marriages.”

Oh, really? Are these marriages “holy,” or are they simply trapped & trying to put on a good face? The latter is my story — married for 13 years to a man I knew was cheating on me and lying to me. But I didn’t dare leave because that wouldn’t be the “godly” thing to do. <sigh> (Don’t worry, when it finally dawned on me that my children were in danger of being molested, I worked up the courage to face all the judgment and criticism from my church and my family, and I left him.)

“These kids—they are in their 20s and 30s but to me they are kids—”

I am 36. I am not a kid. I’ve been a legal adult for 18 years, so I should be an adult twice by now!

My parents still treat me like I’m a rebellious teen-ager, including trying to correct me when I have what they consider a bad attitude, tell me where I should attend church, what I should wear, whom I may date and marry now that I’m divorced, (or as they would prefer, that I am to never marry again, except to my abusive ex!) and even punish me when I stray from their desires for my life. (And no, I’m not currently on speaking terms with them. Enough is enough! When they learn to treat me like the adult I am – twice over – then maybe we can be friends again.)

“are the most emotionally balanced, mentally positive, and hopeful human beings in the world;”

Either that, or they’re really good at faking it and putting on a happy face so that they aren’t a bad testimony. After all, if they and their lives aren’t perfect, they know that it’s their fault because they aren’t spiritual enough.

“and let me tell you something: Even at 68 years old I can see that among them are the prettiest girls ever. There is something about a genuine joyful smile and an inquisitive, positive expression that lights up a healthy female face like sun, moon, stars, and fireworks at the same time.”

Stop and really read this again. Let it sink in. This. Is. Sick. I hope all of you are holding your mouths to keep the vomit from hitting your keyboard or tablet or phone. I know Debi Pearl has her issues, but I feel sorry for her right now. I would be horrified if my 68-year-old husband publicly admitted to admiring women 1/2 or 1/3 his age. Maybe I just have a dirty mind, but for an old man to admit that a pretty face reminds him of “fireworks” is beyond gross. Sick. Sick. Sick.

Michael Pearl says in his “Created to Need a Help Meet” book that when he’s at church luncheons, he wants to be surrounded by pretty ladies! What a sick, dirty-old-man vibe I’m getting from him. <shudder> Even if you’re okay with a 68-year-old having these kinds of thoughts about a 20-year-old “girl,” (really a woman but always a “girl” to Michael Pearl!) remember that he’s married. And he just published this on the Internet and in print. His wife is presumably reading this. Just. Yuck. Nasty. Must. Stop. Thinking. About. This.

“I see young mamas and daddies producing a whole new generation of godly, wholesome kids.”

Or producing a whole new generation of abused, trapped kids who must put on a happy face or they’ll be beaten when they get home for making Mama and Daddy look bad in front of other people?

“If we can’t beat the progressives today, we will beat them tomorrow in the numbers game. While they kill their children and stuff them in a green refuse container bound for the city dump, two of our kids multiply to become eight, ten, or nineteen in about 20 years. Think about that—two million homeschoolers today, ten to sixteen million in twenty years. If you can’t out-vote them today, out-breed them for tomorrow.”

I heard this kind of thing when I was a kid. Homeschooling has been more-or-less legal in America since 1985, when my family started homeschooling. That’s awfully close to 30 years – a generation and a half. So – where are all the thousands and thousands of homeschool graduates who, like me, now have children of their own that are school-age? Oh, wait, that’s the whole reason for this article.

Because these thousands and thousands of homeschool graduates who were going to take over the world haven’t done so yet.

Also, not everyone can have 8, 10, or 19 kids. There’s infertility, serial miscarriages, dangerous pregnancies, painful/uncomfortable pregnancies, financial and practical considerations such as housing and food and clothing, “kids” who are close to 40 and haven’t married yet (thank you, courtship!), and couples who choose not to have kids even though they probably could. And – assuming 2,000,000 is an accurate number, which I kinda doubt coming from Michael Pearl – how many of those 2,000,000 are homeschooling for non-patriarchal reasons? Dad’s (or mom’s) work schedule, convenience of other pursuits (did you know that Ross Lynch of the Disney Channel & the “R5” band is homeschooled? Also the Jonas Brothers?), peanut allergies, disabilities requiring frequent hospital stays and/or constant monitoring, learning disabilities, etc. I don’t think Michael should be counting on a great army of straight (mostly) white Christian conservatives just like him rising up from the ranks of homeschooling to rescue America!

Another point – doesn’t it irk you that if you aren’t following Michael Pearl and similar patriarchal teachers, then of course you’re killing your children & throwing them in dumpsters?! There’s no middle ground. I’ve seen this over and over as I read Libby Anne’s reviews of the Pearl materials. The Pearls see people as all being in one of two extremes – their way, or the way of absolutely horrifyingly evil.

“I know there are a few highly-publicized stories from time to time of homeschooling failures. There is an online militant group of ex-homeschoolers who hate the experience and are actively trying to denigrate us; but anything that grows large will accumulate detractors and dissenters—great enemies even.”

News flash, Michael Pearl – we are the homeschool graduates that were going to take over the world!

Remember us? From your last paragraph? Sure we’re 20 and 30 years older than the generation that you say will end up out-breeding them, but we were told that we would be the ones that would be the mighty army raised up to overwhelm the enemy with our godliness!

I am curious as to which “online militant group of ex-homeschoolers” he’s referring to, because last I checked, there are quite a few of them. There’s the Homeschoolers Anonymous blog. There’s the Recovering Grace blog. There are dozens and dozens of personal blogs that address everything from page-by-page reviews of the Pearl books to personal experiences of de-programming from the cult-like environments (or actual cults!) in which we were raised.

“Satan hates goodness and will find broken people who want everything to be as broken as they are. But we are not moved by their bitterness; we have too much joy and hope to be brought down by someone already way down near the bottom.”

Good thing that you, Michael Pearl, are so godly and perfect that you can so easily ignore the pain that has brought someone “down near the bottom.” What an arrogant – okay, I’ll stop there but you finish it up with your choice of words!

“Not every homeschool experience will be a great success. Some will be total failures; others will be good but not altogether good. In some cases, out of six children a family may lose one or two to the world, but they will have two or three that are exceptional human beings. The Devil is after us. The flesh is still weak. The world has not lost its luster. So there will be casualties. We are saddened by every failure, but we are not daunted or discouraged. The large number of beautiful successes keeps us charging ahead with confidence.”

Again – I heard when I was a kid that I was in the generation that would rise up and change America – and the world – back to godliness. Now Michael is admitting that only about 1/3 or maybe 1/2 of homeschool graduates will be “exceptional human beings.” Another 1/3 to 1/6 will be lost “to the world.” I guess the other 1/3 to 1/2 is just mediocre so they don’t count for either camp? Very convenient, too, that Michael and similar leaders get to designate what is “exceptional” and what is “worldly.” What is good to Michael Pearl may be considered carnal to the Bill Gothard camp. The Doug Phillips followers have yet another definition of what is good and godly. The Amish and the Mennonites and the Independent Fundamental Bible-Believing Baptists have their own definitions. It must be so nice to be a Michael Pearl or a Bill Gothard or a Doug Phillips and get to decide what is godly and what isn’t… that would make life so much easier on me, because I would be the godly one and all of you had better do what I say or you won’t be godly like me!

“It has been our ministry to help parents raise godly children from birth to grandkids. We have addressed every conceivable subject several times from different angles, written over twenty books and thousands of articles, read your letters and answered many of them. We have heard your stories and sought to understand problem areas and the things that make for consistent success. So one more time, I will address the reasons for the few who fail.”

“The few who fail”? I guess if he repeats it often enough, he can convince his followers that the “online militant group of ex-homeschoolers” he mentioned before is in fact just a couple of hotheads. Except that he just said that approximately 1/3 of homeschooled kids go “to the world,” and 1/3 apparently just disappear. That doesn’t sound like “a few” to me. That sounds like 2/3. That’s the majority. Like, 2 out of every 3 homeschooled kids is considered a failure.

If a friend recommended a restaurant that was so delicious and so wonderful and only 2 out of every 3 people got food poisoning… do you think I’d want to eat there?

“How many times have you heard me say, “More is caught than taught,” or, “Your attitude speaks louder than your words”? I have often said, “Children are rooted in the soil of their parents,” and, “You must model what you want your children to become.””

So if Johnny or Susie ends up going bad, it’s your fault, not Michael Pearl’s. Shame on you for being so imperfect.

“It is not enough to teach morals, good character, the Constitution, Creationism, and modesty. Goodness without God is humanism at its finest.”

This is exactly one of my big complaints about the ATI curriculum. It’s a bunch of rules, but with very little to no teaching on having a relationship with Jesus. In fact, Jesus is barely mentioned. The only major teaching I can remember about Jesus was “The Commands of Christ.” Emphasis on the commands. Still no relationship. Most of the Pearl family-related books, such as “To Train Up a Child,” and the “Help Meet” books, throw a few out-of-context Bible verses at you, interpret them for you, then tell you what you need to do in order to raise kids properly, or be a good wife, or keep your wife in line. Again, there is very little emphasis on a relationship with God.

To be fair, I have not read/listened to any of Michael Pearl’s doctrinal teachings, but the family books are by far the most popular of their materials, so that’s what I’m basing my complaint on. They’re just another manual, another to-do list, of what you must do so that you and your family will be godly, as defined by Michael and Debi Pearl.

“Right living without worship is the arrogance of Cain, unacceptable for its lack of faith. Satan can tolerate us being good as long as God does not receive the praise and worship. The world can appreciate and even praise our morals (it makes for good citizenship), but they despise us giving glory to the God of creation, who is the judge of all men.

“Good kids without God are just bait for the sharks of this world. Sometimes the bait in its naïveté wants to be eaten. We can control the family and our environment so as to protect our children from the world—until they get old enough to seek it out, and then the only protection they have is that which is within. If God is not within, they are empty vessels waiting to be filled with folly and fornication. Those who fall from the highest moral standards fall further and land harder, doing more damage.”

Or – maybe those kids grow up, get a taste of the “real world” at their jobs, in their communities, or in their marriages, and realize that the big bad world wasn’t really as awful as our parents thought it was.

“I have observed that most of the failures come from families who did not raise their children in a community of believers.”

Ah, here it is again! The failures aren’t the Pearls’ fault. Nope. Definitely not. The failures aren’t Bill Gothard’s fault. Or Doug Phillips’ fault. Or patriarchy itself’s fault.

It’s because you didn’t take your kids to church.

Except there’s this little thing called “home church,” that the ultra-conservative homeschoolers and/or ultra-controlling homeschoolers like because then there’s no Sunday School, no friends, no youth group to steal the teens’ hearts away, no rock music to invite demons into their souls, no teachers or pastors to offer a different opinion… if another family or two joins your home church, then they’re carefully screened and carefully controlled to make sure that they don’t bring in any worldly influences.

“Few families are completely balanced, able to supply all the needs of their kids.”

Shock – there’s one line in this article that I actually agree with? Kinda. I disagree with the word “few,” because all families are imperfect, because all parents are imperfect, because all people are imperfect. Still, I come within 3 letters of agreeing with this statement. Don’t worry, it won’t last long.

“But in a church of like-minded saints there is balance. The church of Jesus Christ is God’s supply line of ministry to the family. If your family is not part of a Bible-believing congregation of saints, your children are being deprived of God’s method of sanctification and ministry. If there is no church or community of believers within comfortable driving distance, then move to where you can hear the preaching of the word and participate in ministry, and your kids can socialize with other godly youth.”

My parents changed churches 5 times in my growing-up years, and a 6th time since I got married. Yes, that’s 7 different churches within my first 25 years of life. If you’re going to change churches every time you disagree with a church policy (not doctrine, *policy*) or every time they play a taped accompaniment with <gasp> drums with a soloist, then that’s not a very stable environment for your kids to grow up in. Remember that because you follow Michael Pearl, and/or Bill Gothard, and/or Doug Phillips, your family is one of the spiritually superior ones, so chances are, you’re more spiritual than your pastor or fellow church members. It’s difficult for a kid or teen with that mindset to be able to fully engage in and learn from church. Been there, done that.

Also, it’s very easy for Michael Pearl to tell families to “move to where you can hear the preaching of the word.” He’s never had to do that, because he is the preacher of the word. (Whose word, I’m not 100% sure, but I suspect he’s preaching Michael Pearl’s word more than God’s Word. Again, my only exposure to the Pearl philosophy has been through their parenting books, but there’s precious little true Bible in there!) It’s not exactly easy for a family, especially a large family, to just pack up & move to a new place and find a new job for dad that will allow mom to still stay home with the dozen kids, plus how about a house that they can afford debt-free that will fit all those people?

“But when everything else is right, if the husband and wife relationship is not a thing to be envied by the children, you can be sure that you are going to lose some if not all of your children to the world. The last you will hear of them as they look back over their shoulder is, “Hypocrite.” I have heard many say, “If that is what a Christian is, I don’t want anything to do with it.””

Nope. That’s not what turned me away from my parents’ brand of Christianity.

It was actually reading the Bible for myself (gasp… a WOMAN reading the Bible FOR HERSELF?!) and realizing that most of what they taught me IS NOT IN THE BIBLE.

“You need to have a family Proverbs time.”

Conveniently enough, one of the other articles in this newsletter just so happens to be about Proverbs Time! The Pearls are very good at self-promoting their other publications, as you’ll see in a minute.

“You need to “go to church.””

Why is “go to church” in quotes in the original article? You either go to church or you don’t. He doesn’t seem to using a quotation from another source. So these quotes just don’t make sense. Weird.

“You need to involve your family in ministering to others. You need to teach morals, character, and the Bible stories; but most of all, you need to look at your children and smile with delight, and they need to see you looking at your spouse and smiling with appreciation and thanksgiving. It is the difference between success and failure.”

Anyone else notice what this is? IT’S A TO-DO LIST.

If you can check off all these things – Proverbs Time, “go to church,” minister to others, and so on… then your kids will be a success. You can beat them within an inch of their lives (or beyond, as tragically has happened several times) and they will still grow up to love you and admire you and want to be just like you and raise their kids to also be just like you.

“Read again Created to Be His Help Meet and Created to Need a Help Meet. Listen to my FREE Romans messages online, and my series Sin No More, available through the NGJ web store.”

There it is – more self-promotion. Just in case you haven’t bought the “Help Meet” books, or the “Sin No More” series, then hurry your little self over to the No Greater Joy web store and send us money, stat! At least Romans is free… but it still seems a little tacky to be promoting his own materials as the solutions to all your problems! This also reminds me of Bill Gothard, Doug Phillips, and the like. Excellent sales technique – create a problem, then conveniently offer a solution the customer can buy to solve that problem. When that doesn’t work, encourage them to buy more solutions.

This is what I think Michael is saying:

“Yes, some homeschooled kids are failures. It wasn’t my fault, and it wasn’t the system’s fault – it was their parents’ fault because they didn’t follow my checklist! Here, buy more of my stuff & listen to me preach & at least your kids will be successful!”