By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
On Monday, one of the stories we received for our “Homeschoolers U” series about Patrick Henry College experiences mentioned a curious anecdote. The anecdote involved a PHC freshman who believed soy products make people gay. Here’s the story according to Lillia Munsell:
Midway through my first semester, a fellow freshman insisted that soy milk turned people gay. Trying not to choke on the ridiculously expensive dining hall food, I asked what he meant. “It’s the estrogen,” he explained to me with all the confidence that came from studying high school biology at the kitchen table. “It turns people gay. How else do you explain California?” I don’t know how to explain California, but this did explain the rumors about my lactose-intolerant Cuban friend who poured soy milk over his cereal and said deviant phrases like “what the hell.”
While this story might just provoke laughter and ridicule towards a freshman who would believe such asinine pseudoscience, it might be better to direct that laughter and ridicule towards the source: the so-called educated adults from which that student learned the pseudoscience. And honestly, you don’t have to look far to find them.
This student was a homeschool kid attending Patrick Henry College. The man who created PHC, Michael Farris, is a self-declared “buddy” of Joseph Farah, the editor of WorldNetDaily, a website that pretends to do legitimate journalism. (In fact, one of Farah’s own kids has attended PHC.) Farris has featured Farah on HSLDA’s radio program, Home School HeartBeat. That program is where Farris mentions Farah is “my buddy”. Farah has returned the sentiment, making Farris an exclusive WND columnist in 2006.
You know what else happened in 2006?
WND published a series entitled “SOY IS MAKING KIDS ‘GAY.'”
Yes, WND ran a six-part series by James “Jim” Rutz, a dominionist who wrote a book called Megashift that teaches you how to “prepare yourself to take part in a total makeover of Planet Earth.”Rutz’s soy series is full of ridiculous pseudoscience about soy. Here’s an excerpt:
There’s a slow poison out there that’s severely damaging our children and threatening to tear apart our culture…
The dangerous food I’m speaking of is soy. Soybean products are feminizing, and they’re all over the place. You can hardly escape them anymore…
Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality.
But Rutz is not alone in fearing the evil power of the soy bean. Nor is he the first. In 2001, half a decade before Rutz wrote “SOY IS MAKING KIDS ‘GAY,'” Debi Pearl — yes, homeschool guru Debi Pearl from No Greater Joy Ministries — wrote an article entitled, “Soy Alert.” Pearl, unfortunately, was entirely blind in 2001 as to how soy makes kids gay. But she was fortunately enlightened enough to realize another danger of soy:
Soy makes babies masturbate!
Yes, you read that right. I’ll let Pearl try to explain:
We regularly get letters from parents that are shocked and horrified to have discovered that their babies, as young as 18 months, are, without doubt, masturbating. It is a shocking but growing phenomenon. Some of the problems are associated with small children clutching vibrating toys, but not in all cases. Yet, there must be a predisposing prompted by hormones. Could it be caused by the hormone element in soy formula?
Pearl never answered the question. Which is convenient for her. But she also insinuated that marriage problems could be related to soy:
If your husband lacks leadership and male dominance, but you seem to have a strong assertive drive, then stop eating soy and do some research.
All of the “evidence” she found led her to a rather gloom conclusion:
Soy is a drug, like many herbs. It is too powerful of a drug to use freely as a food.
But fear not. Pearl discovered a biblically-based solution:
When men try to improve on what God gave, it should be questioned. Cereal should be grains; milk should be the way it was in the Promised Land; meat should be as it was when Jesus fed the multitude, or when Abraham fed the angels of God.
With homeschool “leaders” like Debi Pearl and “news” sources like WND teaching these myths, it’s no wonder a homeschooled college freshman at PHC thought they were real. Hopefully he has learned real science since then.
Hopefully, too, homeschoolers will start demanding real science from their leaders and news sources.
***** UPDATE: It seems the source of these myths might very well be the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF). WAPF is a lobbying organization that is immensely popular in homeschooling circles (just take a look at the comments on this popular homeschool blogger’s post). Homeschool curriculum company Sonlight sells the Foundation’s foundational textbook, the cookbook Nourishing Traditions. (It’s hard to exaggerate the adoration some homeschool families have for the book. It’s right up there next to the Bible.) According to WAPF itself, “The most prominent group warning about the dangers of modern soy consumption would be the Weston A. Price Foundation.” And what would that warning be? Again, according to WAPF: “The fact that soy can feminize males and masculinize females is evidence of soy targeting the brain.” WAPF’s president, Sally Fallon, first gained notoriety for attacking soy in 2000, a year before Debi Pearl’s 2001 “Soy Alert.” In 2000, Fallon called soy “the next Asbestos” and claimed it caused sexual problems for kids. It seems reasonable to assume this was source for Pearl in 2001, considering the Pearl family uses WAPF material.
I was judging a persuasive speech round about 5 years ago and this kid gave a speech on why soy was bad. His main point was that soy made little boys gay. I had a hard time not laughing out loud. He had some junk science as his “proof” and the whole speech just went on and on about soy being the root of homosexuality. It was funny, but scary….this is what we’re sending into the world?
“When men try to improve on what God gave, it should be questioned. Cereal should be grains; milk should be the way it was in the Promised Land; meat should be as it was when Jesus fed the multitude, or when Abraham fed the angels of God.”
But why can’t it be like in the Garden of Eden, all vegetarian? Or much of the Hebraic history, scarce?
Anyone remember Salem Kirban?
After writing what had to be the WORST Christian Apocalyptic novel of all time, he went into Godly(TM) fad diets. One of my writing partners’ father was caught up in it. Said Godly diet was whole-grain bread only. (And I mean ONLY.) You had to measure and weigh everything you pooped out. And you could tell it was working because you could see the Light of the Holy Spirit in the dieter’s eyes. I am not making that up.
Yum, raw milk, fish and breat(maybe goat or lamb on special occasions)?… Sounds like a balanced diet.
What about the part where Jesus says not to worry about what we will eat or drink?
All Asians must be gay then
When Abraham fed the angels of God? Goodness, they must be starving nowadays, then. Poor angels. We should get Sarah McLaughlin to sing over an ad for them. “In the arms of the angels… There should beee, sweet peas…”
Your derision is misplaced. Soy is dangerous for many reasons, the phytoestrogens, while real, are only one issue. Soy also causes thyroid problems for many people. These are facts. backed with plenty of real, peer reviewed scientific studies. Stay away from making fun of stuff you don’t really understand. I like you and I hate it when you make yourself look petty and stupid. 🙂
My derision is directed towards the claims that soy makes kids gay and babies masturbate. So assuming you don’t believe such claims, we’re probably in agreement. 🙂
I am not a scientist nor have I informally studied the science of soy. So I don’t feel it’s right for me personally to have an opinion at the moment about phytoestrogens or other such issues. But I am definitely aware of people who have very real health issues that are exacerbated by consumption of soy. And I would never want to make, or appear to be making, fun of them or their struggles. I apologize that I communicated my derision was directed towards those people or issues!
I think the jury is still out on soy. It’s a staple in Okinawa, the island in Japan where people live the longest in the world. Maybe if they quit eating soy they would live to be 120 instead of 115 😉 that said, maybe they have adapted to it. Who knows?
Okay. PHC junior here. This makes me mad: I was AT THE TABLE when the now infamous soy bean conversation happened. It was a joke – and acknowledged as such by all members at the table. No one truly believed that. In fact, the topic came up because someone’s grandma had read it in a magazine. We all thought it was humorous. The fact that lilia is trying to turn a dining hall joke into a reason to stay away from PHC is ridiculous and absurd. Don’t believe everything you read on here, guys. [HA note: Comment modified due to Comment Policy #3.]
And seriously, attacking the freshman who sang opera all the time? So now picking on and bullying people who are different is cool?
I thought that’s what this website stood AGAINST.
People should stay away from PHC unless they like Taliban mentality.
This is a classic example of Poe’s Law at work. There were things that people said at PHC that were so extreme that when someone said something like this, it wasn’t always easy for the hearer to tell that the person was joking. As the author makes quite clear, there are a number of homeschoolers who do hold bizarre and unsubstantiated beliefs about soy/estrogen.
And that brings me to your point about the freshman who sang opera all the time. Too often at PHC, I noticed students engaging in countercultural, anti-social, or just plain rude behavior for the sole purpose of drawing attention to themselves and/or flaunting what they thought made them unique. It is an all-too-common exponent of homeschool culture to adopt an outré viewpoint or behavior solely for the purpose of being different. Because most homeschoolers are different from nearly everyone else already, they have a tendency to embrace the notion that being different is a good thing in and of itself in every circumstance. For example, I recall a couple of guys that I knew at ATI training centers who wore Mennonite-style suit coats, not because they were Mennonite, but because they wanted to look “different” from all of the other ATI students who wore regular suit coats. We were supposed to be impressed by this.
That in and of itself is enough to kill any credibility PHC might have.
I remember WND. Stealth Christianese vibe. Young Earth Creationism articles. Pat “Blame the Jews” Buchanan and Hal “Pin the tail on The Antichrist” Lindsay on its editorial staff. That alone was enough to kill its credibility with me, and it’s only gotten worse since.
My last experience with WND was on vacation in PA 2-3 years ago. WND had sponsored a couple Birther billboards on Route 15 between Gettysburg & Harrisburg: “WHERE’S THE REAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE?”. The WND logo was in the lower right corner.
Babies masturbate all the time, with or without soy. Why wouldn’t they? It’s funny to picture grandma gasping with shock at the “lustful” baby who sticks its hand down its diaper. What a perverted baby!
LOL, one of my wife’s earlier memories is joyously humping a pillow.
Yes, this is definitely the WAPF–they’ve done a terrific job spreading anti-soy propaganda all over the internet, frequently capitalizing on less-than-enlightened attitudes on gender and sexuality and they appear to be HUGE among conservative Christians–not surprising since they share with them a ridiculous fetishism of an imagined, idyllic past. And the soy stuff is just the tip of the Iceberg of Crazy with the WAPF. They are also a big promoter of anti-vax hysteria and its attendant pseudoscientific theories about “curing” autism with diet and they have a lot of anti-medicine, anti-science views in general, although they’re happy to cherry-pick bits of dubious research (mixed with romanticized, frequently offensive, ahistoric depictions of “traditional” peoples and their supposed diets) to prop up their dietary recommendations many of which are ludicrous or even dangerous (eg. telling pregnant women to gorge themselves on unpasteurized milk and also to use it in homemade infant formula). Interspersed with all this woo-woo is a lot of good-sense stuff about eating local produce and and humanely, sustainably produced meat and avoiding lots of processed foods, which makes them all the more insidious because their total lunacy is not necessarily readily obvious to regular crunchies (and btw, I’m pretty crunchy myself) who like farmer’s markets but don’t happen to think that autism is a digestive ailment caused by vaccines, antibiotics and or gluten or whatever that is curable with a diet of sauerkraut and chicken broth. (Yes, really.) The result is a lot of reasonable, scientifically-minded people believing completely outrageous and unscientific things.
Thank you for mentioning this group. Keep an eye on them and avoid them like the plague.
“…their total lunacy is not obvious to regular crunchies…”
This! I have heard of Nourishing Traditions and I think I know some people who own & use it, and I do NOT mean “Christian homeschooler” types. In fact I was wondering–does anybody here know of any resource on the web actually debunking the stuff in that book? Because much as this article serves a good purpose, I would feel weird sending my crunchy friends here about why there are problematic things in that book–it’s not quite a good fit for that.
I love how my mom (a homeschool mom, vegetarian, and former RN) addressed rumors of harmful phytoestrogens in soy:
“Well, Japanese men don’t have any trouble having children, and they’ve been eating soy for centuries.”
lol. How’s that for a dose of common sense? 🙂
PS. I’m a recent PHC grad, and I never heard rumors about soy making people gay. In fact, in all my time at PHC, the extent of my discussions with peers re: homosexuality amounted to, “Dr. F should’ve let Soulforce on campus.” Needless to say, there are far more moderate students than most people realize.
I never knew that the ancient Greeks ate soy!
I find it interesting that people posting to many of these homeschool exile blogs are surprised at the connection between Mike Farris, Joseph Farah, Joel Beltz (World Magazine Publisher) etc. They all belong to the Council for National Policy (CNP). In fact I would not be surprised if that is how Farris and Doug Phillips originally connected.
The CNP meets three times yearly at various high end hotels around the country. The membership list is like a who’s who of anyone in conservative circles. Probably 50 of the 600 or so members have deep ties in the homeschool movement.
My 5 or 6 years on the CNP Youth Council were quite heady, back in the days when I was an insufferably stuck up homeschool kid. Perhaps I should write an article for HA about it, but a lot of the ideas make there way into the more extreme side of homeschooling start there.
People like Dr. David Nobel, Dr. James Dobson, the late R.J. Rushdoony, Howard & Doug Phillips, Tim LaHaye, Most of Reagan’s staff all rub shoulders with big financiers like Foster Friess, Holland Coors, Rich DeVos, Steve Forbes and others.
It’s really quite interesting, but unfortunately some of the nuttier ideas to reach the conservatives and nuts who lead them really find their wings in the CNP. Many of the folks who fund PHC come from this group and to say that they are far right of right would be an understatement.
This sounds quite interesting. I hope you write more.
So, long story short: go ahead and eat soy and/or masturbate, but maybe don’t do it every waking moment? I think we can all handle that.
Just don’t be that troll who brings a bunch of soy-based candy to the nursery room at church.
The thing about babies “masterbating” really irks me. Babies are extremely curious and are constantly learning by exploring the world around them. They touch and explore their own bodies because they are curious. This is natural baby behavior. At some point in their exploration they will touch their genitalia and discover that it feels good. Babies and small children do not have complex motives. They touch themselves because it feels good. They are not really masterbating. It is not in any way sexual or connected with sexual thoughts or impulses. And its not related to hormones. It is totally normal for babies and small children to touch themselves. It really ticks me off when people like Debi Pearl take the innocent actions of innocent children and turn them into something perverted.