Someone’s Shot of Whiskey

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Intangible Arts.

Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kit’s blog, Dauntless in Denver. It was originally published on January 26, 2016.

It’s funny, isn’t it, when we hear something we’ve never heard before, and yet immediately, it strikes a chord, and we go, “Yes! That’s IT!” I just had one such experience. I was out shopping today with my friend, Rowena, and we stopped in at Maurice’s, as we always must, when we’re shopping near one. I saw a shirt that said, “I’d rather be someone’s shot of whiskey than everyone’s cup of tea.” As soon as I saw it, I knew I needed it. That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking the last couple years, as I work on becoming more myself. Of not being afraid anymore. Of dying my hair, and piercing my ears, and wearing my black lipstick, etc., etc.

I remember many, many times when I looked in the mirror, and had no idea who it was staring back at me.

I knew who it was supposed to be. It was supposed to be me. But it wasn’t. I never really matched the part that I played for so long. And after a while, I completely lost who I actually was. As a kid, I was a rather fearless, adventurous tomboy. I often thought about joining the Navy, like my dad had. I was inquisitive, liked to figure out ideas by way of arguing (I deconstruct an idea, and then build it back up- much like an engineer takes apart a clock to understand how it ticks), and I was usually allowed. But after my family joined ATI, that all stopped. I was expected to be the meek and quiet, obedient lady. I was expected to have long hair, dress “modestly” (read…”baggy” and “frumpy”), wear no makeup, accept everything I was told as truth, stay at home until I married, have a dozen children and homeschool them all. That never appealed to me. And yet, it was supposed to. So I told myself it did.

ATI (the fundamentalist cult my family was in for 9 years) basically taught us that we were supposed to be everyone’s cup of tea. That with a bright smile, navy and white clothes, and the right attitude, we could win over anyone. Bill Gothard (the cult’s founder and leader) loved to tell all of us “apprenticeship students” stories of ATI students boarding planes in their navy and white with a good smile, and being randomly upgraded to first class. About ATI students who worked so hard for an employer, they were given a high paying job that normally required a college degree, without having a college degree. He loved to talk about the very rare exceptions to the rule, and tell us that, with the right attitude and dress and actions, everyone would love us, respect us, and the world would be open to us as we made money and gained the ear of heads of state.It took me years to realize what a complete joke that was. So I tried, so hard, to be everyone’s cup of tea. To gain everyone’s respect and admiration. I failed miserably, of course. I was labeled a rebel and a temptress at my fundamentalist church. Apparently, mothers actually warned their sons about me. Funny thing was, I really wasn’t that interested in guys in general until I was in my twenties. But no matter how hard I tried, I never really fit into their little mold of who I should be. As much as I often functioned as an ISTJ, I was still an INTJ. As much as I tried to function as a neurotypical, I was still Autistic (though I didn’t get my diagnosis until the age of 32). As much as I tried to content myself with not going to college and with the idea of being a stay-at-home homeschool mom to goodness knows how many kids, it never worked. It just wasn’t who I was.

But who I was, was bad.

And to be concealed and denied and buried and crucified as much as possible.

And so I forgot. For a very long time, I completely lost sight of who I was. After I got out of ATI, bits and pieces came back. My INTJ was eventually coaxed out of hiding. I started to wear makeup and clothes that, while still extremely modest by most standards, would be considered scandalous by ATI standards. I listened to secular music (GASP). I lived alone. I got a college degree, and then a graduate degree. I even started teaching college. When I finally read the Divergent trilogy and was reminded of who I was, I immediately started changing how I dressed and did my makeup. I got contacts, later, I got a much edgier haircut and even dyed it black and purple. I got more ear piercings, and planned a nose piercing and tattoos (which have yet to be gotten). As I looked in the mirror, more and more, I saw myself looking back at me. I was coming out of hiding. Sure, some people may look at my hair and makeup and piercings and clothes (which seriously, are still super modest by most standards), and make judgments about my character, based on that. Some may decide they don’t like me. And some may look at my departure from Christianity and decide I simply wanted to live my own life my way, and not by God’s rules. That I wanted to live my life governed by the “pleasures of this world.” They can judge all they like. It’s not true, not by a long shot. There’s way more to it than that.

But it’s okay if some people judge. It’s okay if people decide they don’t like me anymore. Or decide that I make them sad, or anything else. At the end of the day, I really would rather be someone’s shot of whiskey than everyone’s cup of tea. Because at least if I’m someone’s shot of whiskey, I’m being myself.

I’m not watering myself down and forcing myself into a mold, and wearing a mask.

I’m not playing a part. I’m being, well, me. Does it hurt to be rejected? Yeah, sometimes. But in the long run, I’ll be far more satisfied with my life, and far more at peace, if I’m open and honest. If I quit playing a part. At the end of the day, I can respect who I am. And I have the support of my parents, who know pretty much everything there is to know. While they may not agree with me on everything, they do absolutely respect me, support me, and they’re okay with where I am in life. I have many others, too.

People who have known me for a long time have witnessed this transformation. Some have been surprised, some haven’t. Most recognize I’m much more at peace with myself than I ever was before. And I am. I’m done being everyone’s cup of tea. I’m going to be myself. Sure, it takes courage, but hey. That’s what life is all about. Being brave, and not letting fear rule your life. Could I really call myself “Dauntless” if I was letting my fear of others rule my life? Nope. So I’m going to be brave and be myself. Otherwise, life is just a really sad exercise in jumping through hoops, toeing the line, and making sure all the “I’s” are dotted and all the “T’s” crossed. And that’s just a shame.

Dear Homeschool Kids

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Chlot’s Run.

Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Abi Pearson’s blog, Rambling Writer. It was originally published on January 27, 2016.

Dear Homeschool Kids,

So I’ve seen these videos / blog posts / comments floating around everywhere and I just felt the need to say something. You’ve probably seen it too, a homeschooled alumni or currently homeschooled kids giving answers to questions that seem silly. “Did you actually do school?”  “Were you super sheltered?” “Did you have any friends at all?”   I remember doing this too, I thought these questions were laughable. Then as I grew older, I began to meet or read about other homeschool alumni, and I realized some of these questions are perfectly reasonable.

Here’s the thing fellow homeschoolers. Some of us had it great, some of us got a good education, had friends and generally just had a great time. My mother has spent so many hours researching the best curriculum. Obviously no one’s perfect, but I know that she did and continues to do the best for her children. I know I got a pretty good education, a little lacking in math and science. But the point is my mom really tried.

But some of us didn’t. Some homeschoolers were raised in families that didn’t take education as seriously for females. Some of them were abused, and some didn’t have any friends outside of siblings.  The more I read and the more people I meet through the internet, the more I realize that abuse and education neglect are both misunderstood topics, and that very few people want to talk about the problems.

Abuse and education neglect in homeschooling families happens, and happens more frequently then most people realize.  Stories like the ones shared herehere, and here, are just some of many stories that are being told by homeschool alumni.  My point isn’t to say homeschooling is bad or anything like that. My point is to simply help create more awareness in this area. We’ve all read about the stories of children being taken away from homeschooling and/or homesteading families, and I feel that some people think those cases are just random exceptions picked up by the media. Abuse can happen in any home; the schooling or religion doesn’t make people immune.

So if you’re a homeschooler, next time you’re asked one of these questions, don’t just laugh it off. Instead thank your parents or guardians for giving you the education and opportunities that you had because some people aren’t as lucky as you. Maybe consider donating to organizations like this one. But at the very least let’s all stop pretending like there’s nothing wrong.

Demons and the Consequences of Feeding Children’s Fears

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on January 21, 2016.

So, demons. I’ve written on this topic before, but it’s been a while, and when I last wrote on this topic my children were too small to be scared of the dark. When I was a girl, I was taught that demons were real. My dad used to pray a “hedge of protection” around our house, to keep the demons out. My parents told me that there’s an invisible world all around us, in which angels and demons are at war, constantly.

At one point when I was girl, another woman in my parents’ Bible study group told a story about confronting a demon in her hallway late at night. It must have been let in, she said, by some rock music her teenage daughter had been listening to that afternoon. I found that freaking terrifying. I wondered, sometimes, what I might do that might accidentally invite a demon in? I was terrified—utterly petrified—of getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

All of this was brought back to my mind when I read Pat Robertson’s recent comments on whether it’s okay to listen to rock music:

It depends on what rock you’re listening to… Some of the stuff is just evil. They used to talk about killing your parents and there were just some evil things. There were odes to Satan. You don’t want that stuff coming into your mind.

There’s some beat that’s out there that, you know, probably isn’t all that bad, although in one Indian context, they were playing rock music, and the person said, “Why are you calling on the demons?,” because that was the kind of music they used to, you know, summon demons.

And it was so much more than just music. At one point my aunt came to visit and stay for a few days, and brought with her a book she was reading. This was a problem, because the book was Harry Potter. My dad made her leave it in the car lest it invite demons into the house. The irony is that, a decade later, they decided that Harry Potter isn’t bad after all, and my mom is now in the process of reading through the series. But at the time, it was incredibly serious.

My parents are college educated, and my dad, especially, is very intellectual. He was always reading new books, learning new things, and taking in new information. I adored him, and I trusted him, and so when he was the one saying these things—talking about keeping demons out of the house, and praying a hedge of protection around our family—I accepted it completely. And I was frightened.

I’m serious when I say that having to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night was a serious problem for me. I was so profoundly frightened. I would lay in the bed with the covers over my head and my eyes tight shut, afraid I might see a demon if I opened my eyes. I was terrified. But alas, my bladder was such that I couldn’t fall back asleep when it was full. Eventually, terrified, trembling, I would slip out of bed and make a mad dash for the bathroom, do my business, and then run back into bed and pull the covers back over my head.

My daughter Sally is now six, and somehow that makes all this feel only more relevant. Sally has read books about vampires and zombies, and once when it was time for bed, she was scared and told me she was frightened of vampires. I reminded her that they’re not real, talked with her about it a bit more, and then sent her off to bed feeling much better. And then it struck me—I am dismantling my children’s nightmares, as best I can, while my parents only fed mine. They told me that demons were as real as you and I, and taught me that I had good reason to fear. And fear I did.

And yes, my parents also told me that I had the power to cast demons out, in the name of Jesus. But being the studious child that I was, I knew my Bible well, and I knew that in Acts 19 a demon beat up a group of men who attempted to cast it out in Jesus’ name, because those men were not Christians. “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” the demon asked. I suffered from salvation anxiety—the fear that I wasn’t truly, really saved—and those words terrified me. I imagined myself being confronted by a demon at the foot of my bed, attempting to cast it out in Jesus’ name, and then looking on in horror as it laughed at me.

Now I am very sure that my parents had no idea how afraid I was. When I went to my mom about my salvation anxiety, she told me that if I was worried about whether I was saved, I most certainly was saved. That helped, though it didn’t completely fix the problem. And as for demons, well, the literature they encouraged me to read didn’t help, either. Frank Peretti’s books, which depict the demonic world and its integration with the real world, were particular terrifying. I think they thought it was enough that the good triumphed over evil, but the evil still terrified me—especially because I believed those books were a realistic depiction of our world.

I may need to do a page-by-page review of a Peretti book at some point. They’re terrible, and they very badly need picking apart.

I’m honestly not sure what the solution is. It would be easy enough to say that teaching children that demons are a real and present threat in their lives is misguided at best and abusive at worst, but evangelicals like my parents really and truly believe these things. It’s not as though they set out to terrify me. It’s just that their beliefs were terrifying. If nothing else, I think we need to call attention to the ways religion may affect children in different ways from how it affects adults—and, perhaps, to the fact that some religious ideas are just plain frightening whatever your age.

It’s not just religion, of course. Had I confirmed Sally’s fear of vampires, had I told her I had once encountered one and barely escaped, that could have serious consequences for her mental health as well. I could see Sally always carrying a wooden stake with her at night—she’s well versed in vampire lore—if I were to build up her fears rather than taking them apart. At one point in my childhood I became obsessed with UFOs, and checked out all of the books the library had on them. If my parents had told me that aliens from other planets did indeed roam our back roads looking for humans to kidnap, I imagine I would have been terrified too.

Of course, what they told me about UFOs had its own problems. They said UFOs were illusions created by demons to prepare the way for a mass deception after the rapture—Satan would make those left behind believe that those who had been raptured had simply been kidnapped by aliens, and thus prevent them from gaining true knowledge of what had happened and through it attaining salvation.

But the point I was trying to make before that digression was that I suspect run-of-the-mill UFO enthusiasts could probably easily frighten their children by teaching them to believe all the stories about UFOs and alien kidnappings as literally true. And some probably do. The point I’m trying to make here is that what we teach children matters, and that things don’t always affect children in the way they affect us as adults. We need to remember that.

I mean for goodness sake, when I was in grade school I read a story about a Volcano that grew suddenly in the middle of a field in Mexico, and I spent years having nightmares—nightmares—about a volcano growing in the field behind my house. At least in this case my parents tried to help by explaining that that wasn’t geologically possible, rather than confirming and encouraging my fear.

Kids don’t always process things the way we expect them to, and feeding their fears rather than dismantling them is a terrible idea.

How “The Village” Illustrates Isolated, Fear-Based Homeschooling

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Eleanor Skelton’s blog The Girl Who Once Lived in a Box.  It was originally published on December 13, 2015.

I grew up in the Village.

The first time I watched M. Night Shyamalan’s 2004 film, my head hurt and one of my roommates asked me if I was okay. I didn’t have words. Sometimes I find those books, those films that resonate so strongly with my own experience, that the bittersweet rush of knowing takes my breath away.

The Village became the movie that I showed all of my friends who’d been affected by a cult environment. As they started to question their high control group, I’d find a way to sneak a movie night with them.

It became our movie, something that we refer to when discussing our past.

There’s a few reasons for this:

1.) The whole thing was manufactured like a utopia to protect innocence.

Many of our parents chose homeschooling to create a new generation, protected from negative influences and intellectually superior to the rest of the world. But our parents grew up attending public schools, something we never experienced.

The elders in the Village came from the Towns, but none of their children can remember the outside world. This is the only life they know. Ivy Walker’s father says in a moment of crisis, “What was the purpose of our leaving? Let us not forget it was out of hope, of something good and right.”

When I was young, my dad told me his middle school classmates used to throw small knifes at each other in the playground and my mom remembers hash being passed around in bags around her Houston high school in the 70s. They and others who grew up in the 60s counterculture movement wanted a better life for their children and believed that removing them from the public schools was the answer.

Just like our parents often told us they’d done things they regretted growing up and we had a unique opportunity to be different, the elders in the Village keep a black box of memories, “so the evil of my past can be kept close and not forgotten.”

Mrs. Clark’s sister, Mrs. Hunt’s husband, and Mr. Walker’s father all died through violence and tragedy. Edward Walker tells his daughter Ivy, “It is a darkness I wished you would never know. There is not one person in this town who has not been so shaken that they questioned the value of living at all.” Ivy says, “I am sad for you, Papa, and for the other elders.”

2.) They sought protection from evil in the ways of the past. 

In The Village, a history professor decides to take a group of people and recreate 1840s pioneer America. In the 90s conservative Christian homeschooling movement, our moms taught us to sew our own clothes and we all wore homemade skirts and dresses.

We watched movies like Sheffey about itinerant preachers in the last century produced by Bob Jones University Films and read reprints of Victorian literature like Elsie Dinsmore and A Basket of Flowers from Lamplighter Press and Vision Forum.

I wore one of my pioneer dresses nearly every day when I was 12-14 and pretended that I lived in the colonial era. I checked out and devoured every historical book on the colonial period and Civil War that my mom would allow from the local library.

A friend once said, “I get why they wanted this life for you guys, they meant well. But it turned out to be the Little House on the Prairie fan convention from hell.”

3.) They used euphemisms and emotional repression to ward off what they most feared. 

Growing up homeschooled, we didn’t get sex education. Purity culture often adopted a “see no sexy things, hear no sexy things, speak no sexy things” approach. One of my friends never heard the words penis and vagina until college. I was told that dancing was basically “a vertical expression of a horizontal desire,” something to be avoided.

This kind of approach extended to anything considered “evil” or a “bad influence,” including peers, extended family members, and movies or TV shows with magic or profanities. Often, the avoidance became obsessive over time. The circle of safety was ever narrowing.

The settlers in The Village use phrases like “Those We Don’t Speak Of” to refer to the creatures in Covington Woods, or “The Old Shed That is Not To Be Used” for a shack on the edge of town. Red is the bad color, yellow is the safe color. In the opening scenes, two girls sweeping on a porch run out to the yard to uproot and bury a red flower.

Later, Ivy tells Noah, a young man with a mental disability, “This color attracts Those We Don’t Speak Of. You ought not to pick that color berry anymore.” When the villagers find skinned carcasses of livestock, the schoolchildren assume, “Those We Don’t Speak Of did it.”

The light as well as the darkness in humanity becomes repressed, and this affects romantic attraction. Ivy knows Lucius cares deeply for her but won’t act on it. She tells him, “Sometimes we don’t do things we want to do so that others won’t know we want to do them.”

There’s a parallel scene when Lucius tells his mother that Mr. Walker is in love with her.

“He hides, too. He hides his true feelings for you.”
“What makes you think he has feelings for me?”
“He never touches you.”

When Ivy chooses to travel through the woods in spite of the creatures, the other young men sent to protect her are too afraid to go against the rules. “Why have we not heard of these rocks before, why is it that you wear the cloak of the safe color? I cannot go with you, it is forbidden.”

We homeschoolers also had arbitrary rules and standards, always shifting according to the preferences of our authority figures. We were taught to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess 5:22) and that “it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret” (Eph 5:12).

Just like in many homeschool communities, Noah’s mental illness is dealt with by only natural remedies. Noah dies a monster, which seems to enable stigmatization of mental illness.

Noah becomes the example of what not to be for the other villagers. He becomes the creature, one of Those We Don’t Speak Of. He embodies the darkness that they sought to eliminate from their little world.

“Your son has made our stories real. Noah has given us a chance to continue this place if that is something we still wish for.”

But the one line that echoes in my mind when I think of how I grew up is this:

“I tell you this so you will see some of the reasons for our actions. Forgive us for our silly lies, Ivy, they were not meant to harm.”

No, it was not meant to harm. But it did.

No Unbelievers Allowed: How Homeschooling Became a Christians-Only Club

Gregg Harris, YouTube.

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

As a child, I remember my family was friends with another Christian homeschooling family. My parents ran a local Christian homeschooling support group. This other family, however, was part of an “inclusive” homeschooling support group. I knew this was a source of tension between my parents and the other parents. Whether accurate or not, my child-brain discerned that since the “inclusive” group was not only for Christians, it was not a “Christian” homeschooling group — and that was a problem.

At the time, I did not realize that this tension between my parents and my friends’ parents about whether to include non-Christians in local homeschooling support groups was a significant debate among homeschoolers. The fact that it was a significant debate can be traced back to one person in particular: Gregg Harris.

The influence Gregg Harris has exerted on the modern homeschooling movement cannot be overstated. He is described by journalists Kathryn Joyce and Helen Cordes as one of the “four pillars of homeschooling” (alongside HSLDA’s Michael Farris, NHERI’s Brian Ray, and The Teaching Home‘s Sue Welch). In his 2006 book Homeschool Heroes: The Struggle and Triumph of Home Schooling in America, the late Chris Klicka of HSLDA describes the exact influence Harris had on the fledgeling homeschooling movement in the 1980’s:

In 1980 Gregg Harris and his wife, Sono, elected to take a giant step and homeschool their son, Joshua… Gregg wanted to start a ministry to encourage other families to homeschool. He saw homeschooling as a means of restoring the model of the Bible-centered family, a place to train future leaders… His ministry, Christian Life Workshops (CLW), offered these two-day homeschool workshops… He urged families to homeschool in order to fulfill God’s command to train our children.

His homeschool workshops at first drew a few hundred… Pretty soon the workshops grew in attendance to nearly fifteen hundred. Over 180,000 families were trained by Gregg Harris from 1984 to 1995. At least thirty-five of the now large statewide homeschool associations got their start as Gregg shared his attendee and mailing lists. Many had their founding organizing meetings at Gregg’s workshops.

Without Gregg Harris’s early influence, I am convinced that the homeschool movement would not be the thriving Christian influence on our society that it is becoming today (21-22, emphases in original).

HSLDA’s J. Michael Smith has also noted that Harris’ “early Homeschooling Workshops inspired…many state homeschool organizations to launch annual state conferences.” According to Harris’ own website today, he has taught over a quarter of a million homeschooling families.

It is because of Harris’ overwhelming influence on both the modern homeschooling movement in general and the Christian subculture within that movement that HSLDA named their Lifetime Achievement Award the “Gregg Harris Award for Leadership.” (This is the award HSLDA bestowed upon accused rapist Bill Gothard in 2010.)

One of the primary ways that Harris influenced homeschooling, as noted above, is his transformation of homeschooling from an alternative educational method to a specifically Christian way of life. In his 1988 book The Christian Home School, Harris directly compares Christian parents who send their children to public schools to medieval Christians who sent their children into actual slaughter during the Children’s Crusade of 1212.*** “A similar slaughter is taking place today,” Harris warns, when “Christian parents send their children to the public school… The result is the same” (11). Because “God has entrusted the care, the nurture, and the education of those children primarily to [parents],” “not to the State” and “not to the Church” (11), Harris sees homeschooling as the biblical method of education.

To Harris, part of making homeschooling a specifically Christian way of life means purging local homeschooling support groups of non-Christians. In The Christian Home School, Harris urges Christian homeschoolers that, “For spiritual support, you and other like-minded Christians will clearly need to meet together in homes or churches as a separate group… We should try not to get entangled in the affairs of unbelieving families” (186-7).

Not being reported for child abuse is also an advantage of shunning “unbelieving families.” In a guest chapter for Chris Klicka’s 1995 book The Right Choice: Home Schooling, Harris argues against “inclusive,” or interfaith, homeschool support groups. He warns that non-Christians do not understand the biblical mandate to physically strike one’s children according to Proverbs. Consequently, “Biblical methods of discipline may be reported by fellow group members to authorities as ‘child abuse'” (188).

For these reasons, Harris recommends in The Christian Home School that support groups create statements of faith. “A disagreement over policy or doctrine or an aggressive intruder can mean a lot of problems for the group,” he writes. “Know who you are and what you stand for when you begin.” This means that, “A statement of faith, which should be affirmed by any potential group leader, ought to be broad enough to include Christians who disagree on nonessential matters (such as eschatology), but narrow enough to exclude people from a nonevangelical framework or who hold abhorrent opinions” (185).

In addition to non-evangelicals (e.g., Catholics), Harris also contends for the exclusion of families with “homosexual and lesbian parents.” LGBTQ parents, Harris explains, “have a history of trying to join Christian support groups and move into leadership under false pretenses.” Since “God’s Word clearly condemns these sexual perversions,” Harris argues, “to keep these people out, you need a clear statement in the founding documents” (185).

Note that these families are being excluded because of parental sexual identity. So even if the parents’ children are straight, if the parents are not straight, Harris recommends casting the whole lot out of one’s group.

Furthermore, Harris wants these LGBTQ families excluded while acknowledging they are isolated and persecuted. He points out that LGBTQ families “are attracted to home schooling because they have been socially isolated and often persecuted. They seem to assume that home schoolers are kindred spirits because of the legal battles related to home education. Needless to say, Christian home schoolers have little in common with such people, but we need to say so” (185-6). He does, nonetheless, advocate for showing LGBTQ families personal kindness: “Respond to them on a personal level, but keep them out of the group” (186).

These sorts of exclusions are what homeschooling forefather Raymond Moore referred to in his 1994 white papers in which he lambasted Harris, HSLDA, and others for causing division in the homeschooling movement. Also known as “The Ravage of Home Education Through Exclusion By Religion,” Moore’s white papers lambast all four homeschooling “pillars” for a “form of bigotry” he labels “Protestant Exclusivism.” Moore gives the following harsh description of Harris:

A “Christian” fired from a homeschool job for fraud began using a statement of faith to split states and obtain a following, His Protestant exclusivist [PE] move was joined by lawyer-preacher Mike Farris and Editor Sue Welch of TEACHING HOME magazine, making money from the move, yet it did not come from the Christ whose flag they wave. Backed by publisher who profit by formal, conventional programs, it destroys the historic unity and quality of the Movement, splitting state groups by requiring a statement of faith.

Sociologist Mitchell Stevens gives a more nuanced take on the disagreements between Harris and Moore in his 2009 book on homeschooling, Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement. In contrast to Moore’s description of Harris being “fired,” Stevens claims Harris “left” his job with Moore:

As the years passed and Christian home education flourished, other stars began to rise. Gregg Harris, who had begun his homeschool career as a conference planner for Moore, left his employer in a bitter business dispute and began his own fledgling ministry… Moore and his wife were themselves Protestant Christian, but their vision for home schooling was an ecumenical one. The next generation of believer elites had different ideas… By the dawn of the 1990s, Raymond Moore was finding himself on the outside… Ultimately Moore’s more ecumenical vision for homeschooling lost out to a distinctively Christian home education (172-3).

Over the last decade, news articles have proclaimed the religious diversification of the modern homeschooling movement. People often point to surveys that show fewer parents are homeschooling primarily for religious reasons. Nonetheless, it is estimated that anywhere from 70 to 94 percent of homeschoolers are Christian.

*** While this is the description of the Children’s Crusade given by Harris, it is not historically accurate.

That Time Mary Pride Put the Modesty Survey on Blast

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Mary Pride is considered by some to be “the queen of homeschooling.” She is one of the founders of the Quiverfull movement, the anti-feminism author of The Way Home, and the publisher of the wildly popular magazine “Practical Homeschooling.” I have previously covered problematic aspects of her worldview, including her thoughts on domestic violence and child abuse. Her belief that women’s use of contraception turns men gay is also bewildering.

That said, Mary Pride is also an expert at putting people on blast. Normally she puts her archenemies — child advocates, feminists, and LGBTQ people — on blast. But sometimes even her peers are not spared. The best example of this comes from her trash-talking of Alex and Brett Harris’ 2007 “Modesty Survey.” The following passage is from page 221 of the “Afterthoughts” chapter added to The Way Home‘s 25th Anniversary Edition in 2010:

Speaking of our daughters, I would like to say just a few words about the “Modesty Survey” and other attempts to “encourage” young ladies to dress according to some ill-defined, ever-shifting male standard of “modesty.”

The bottom line here is the belief that women’s dress can cause men to fall into ungodly thoughts. If I had the space, I would have plenty to say about this. For now, consider just this:

  1. The only female features that the Bible says cause potential male downfall are “eyes” (Prov. 6:25): literally “eyelids,” as in the KJV.
  2. The “strange woman” (KJV) or “adulteress” (NIV), who is by no means a Christian sister, leads a young man astray by her smooth speech (Prov. 5:3), not by her outfit.

Those arguing for the “Burqa Lite” standard of Christian dress also fail to explain how young men who faint at the sight of a Christian ankle are supposed to control themselves when out in the world.

Doctors see naked women. Missionaries see half-naked women. But we don’t expect them to go insane with lust.

Proverbs 7:6-27 describes a woman leading a man astray. She is loud, defiant, dressed like a prostitute, and deliberately talks him into committing adultery. Even so, the passage is all about how he should have known better.

I’m all for modest dress, but not because Christian men are going to fall into temptation left and right if various arbitrary skirt lengths, etc., are not met. In the New Testament, “modest” dress refers to “spending a modest amount on clothing,” not to the amount of cloth and where it is draped. “Modest” dress is contrasted with ostentatiously expensive clothing and hairstyles—and the passage is talking about how to dress for church (1 Tim. 2:8-10)!

This preoccupation on men’s part with women’s modesty is misguided and proto-Islamic. Once again, the older women should be teaching the younger what is appropriate. Neither older nor younger men are responsible or authorized to instruct the younger women in this area.

There are, of course, problems within this passage, including Pride’s penchant towards Islamophobia. But still…

burn

An Open Letter to Hillary from Quivering Daughters

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap.  It was originally published on January 11, 2016.

Dear Hillary,

I don’t even know where to begin. You’ve grown and lived and thrived and your life journey is a beautiful work of art, it almost feels wrong to bring up Quivering Daughters even just to say thank you. But I’m not speaking just for me, when I say, sincerely, thank you for writing through your journey, for taking care of us as we left our families, for writing Quivering Daughters and leaving the blog up. Your tender heart and kind words were the gentle encouragement we needed to start moving forward ourselves. You didn’t judge and yet firmly confirmed that abuse was happening, that we weren’t wrong or broken for feeling how we did – you opened up the doors to healing for so many more of us than you know.

And I just really, truly, with all the warmth in the depths of my soul want to say thank you. Thank you for being the big sister so many of us needed, even though it was and is heart wrenching and hard and messy and exhausting. Thank you for moving forward in your own journey towards healing and showing us that it’s okay to embrace ourselves and make our life what we need it to be.

You are a beautiful human being and Quivering Daughters and now your art + life journey, mean so much to me, and so many of us.

Thank you. Thank you for being gentle and kind and healing. Thank you for lighting the way for so many more people than you realize.

Mary Lambert and the Ups and Downs of Being a Survivor

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on January 18, 2016.

In the time I’ve spent around survivor communities, one thing I’ve noticed is an alternating feeling of euphoria and despair. It is not uncommon for a person to feel they can take on the world one day and to feel like all they want to do is curl up and hide the next day. I’ve watched this happen in various online communities as someone freshly liberated from an abusive home environment will post one day about how incredibly happy she is, as though she is floating, and the next day she’ll post in tears, struggling with PTSD, fear, and self-doubt and asking if it ever gets better.

I’ve experienced this phenomenon myself.

Anyway, I’ve never seen this up and down illustrated so clearly as in two of the songs in Mary Lambert’s 2014 album, Heart on My Sleeve. These songs, Secrets and Ribcage, present the euphoria and devil-may-care attitude, on the one hand, and the desperate lows encountered as survivors of abuse or trauma on the other. Interestingly, they were intended that way.

First, Lambert’s music video for Secrets. You can read the lyrics here:

Here’s how Lambert explains the contrast between Secrets and Ribcage:

The genesis of “Ribcage” was an interview that followed 2014 Grammy Awards, where Lambert performed her part in Macklemore‘s “Same Love.” Soon after, she was blindsided on TV: “I was asked without relevance or warning about my childhood abuse, as well as being raped in an army barracks as a teenager,” the singer tells FADER in an email. “I tried to respond as best I could, knowing that it was live television, but everything afterward was a blur. As soon as the cameras were off, I went into a full-blown panic attack. I didn’t know it then, but this same situation would happen multiple times in the year.”

“I questioned so much after that interview,” Lambert continues. “Have I done this to myself? Is this what happens when you are vulnerable and open? How do I take back control of the telling of my own story?”

“I wrote ‘Ribcage’ because I was exhausted,” she adds. “I wrote it because my truth was hungover and needed a sarcastic joke. I wrote it because ‘Secrets’ was an optimistic version of vulnerability, and because self-empowerment doesn’t always come wrapped in a bow. I will continue to talk about my own sexual trauma when I feel safe enough to, and when I’m in control. I still believe in the power of vulnerability—that openness is the key to empathy, and that empathy is the key to human connection.”

You can read the lyrics for Ribcage here and watch the music video below:

I love this contrast because you almost can’t believe the same person wrote and performed both songs. The one is so upbeat, so happy, and so peppy while the other is so sad and so dark. I find that extremely validating. In fact, I may start sending this pairing of videos to survivors I see going through this up and down. It’s powerful. It’s real. It’s what vulnerability actually feels like for so many of us.

Since I’m writing about Lambert, it’s worth mentioning her background. In a 2012 blog post, Gay Christians Are Totally Okay, Dog, Lambert wrote the following:

I grew up in a strict Pentecostal home. My parents would speak in tongues and were devout in prayer and we were at church 3-4 times a week. The church was known for ostracizing folks who were said to “go against God”. After a traumatic upbringing, and having my family shunned from the church because of my parent’s divorce, I was decidedly agnostic for many of my grade-school years.

A friend brought me to an Evangelical church in high school, known as Mars Hill, where I fell in love with the music and the bands that played on Sunday evening. The pastor was funny, charismatic, and made the bible seem simple. I was sad that my gay friends were going to hell, but the pastor said that I could still be friends with them. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” was the accepted rhetoric. When I fell in love with my first girlfriend, I recognized my sin immediately. She was also Christian. When you’re 17, and you feel like a freak already, and you’re in love with a girl, and high school is a battlefield, you can’t stand to let another part of your life down. I remember making a conscious effort to accept my sin. My recognition allowed me to repent daily. I prayed often, apologizing to God, but accepting that this is who I had always been and always would be. I still went to Mars Hill. I was never hated on, never felt rudeness from the community, but the sermons were difficult to hear.

You can read the rest of Lambert’s post here, but it shouldn’t be at all surprising that I see Lambert as a kindred spirit. By now we’re hopefully all familiar with Mars Hill, discredited evangelical pastor Mark Driscoll’s former church. I look forward to seeing where Lambert goes from here and hope she has a long, fulfilling career.

Kirk Cameron Lends Support to G.A. Henty Audio Drama

Bill Heid and Kirk Cameron. Source.

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Content note: anti-black, racist language.

Three years after championing a providential view of history in his movie Monumental, former child star Kirk Cameron has joined forces with Marshall Foster and Bill Heid to create and promote an audio drama based on G.A. Henry’s 1890 book, With Lee In Virginia.

Ever since starring in Left Behind, Cameron has enthusiastically embraced the Christian Reconstructionist worldview, a worldview that Foster has long promoted through the World History Institute. In her 2015 book on Christian Reconstructionism Building God’s Kingdom, scholar Julie Ingersoll notes the following: “When I told Foster that I was writing about the influence of [Christian Reconstructionism founder] R.J. Rushdoony, he embraced Rushdoony’s influence on all his work, and indeed, it is Rushdoony’s philosophy of history that Foster articulates throughout the film [Monumental].” A friend of Doug Phillips’s, Bill Heid is a self-proclaimed “expert of Christian history” and the Executive Producer of Heirloom Audio Productions.

Heirloom Audio Productions specializes in creating audio dramas based on stories by G.A. Henty. As Heid says on his website, he “turned to the adventure books of G.A. Henty for rich, exciting story material.” Henty lived from 1832-1902 and was, ironically, a universalist and racist evolutionist who wrote popular historical adventure stories. Despite his beliefs in universalism, white supremacy, and evolution, conservative Christians who fetishize the U.S. Antebellum South (like Doug Phillips and Marshall Foster) have long adored Henty’s books, which are ripe with defenses of southern slavery, idyllic depictions of slaves adoring their masters, and thickly patriarchal gender roles.

This time around, Heid chose to create an audio drama based on Henty’s 1890 book With Lee In Virginia. Last July, Marshall Foster and Kirk Cameron were both enthusiastic about and endorsed the project. Cameron voices the character of Stonewall Jackson. He has stated that he liked the project because it makes “people look biblically at the subject of slavery, and to understand that there were good and godly men on both sides of this war [the American Civil War].”

In the book, the main character Vincent is a Confederate supporter who fights against the Union. Though the character initially finds slavery repugnant, Vincent learns from his father that not all slave owners are bad and that some slaves like being enslaved. “There are good plantations and bad plantations,” the father tells Vincent, “and there are many more good ones than bad ones.” Throughout the book, Henty as narrator (and through his characters) defends the institution of slavery. He lambasts “Mrs. Beecher Stowe” (abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin), accusing her of “libel” against the South. Henty writes that, “Taken all in all, the negroes on a well-ordered estate, under kind masters, were probably a happier class of people.” This sentiment echoes other contemporary slavery apologists like Doug Wilson. At the end of the novel, Hentry has the freed slaves decide to return to their former owners because the black people decide freedom “was a curse rather than a blessing to them.”

This theme of black people returning to their former owners extends from Henty’s belief in white supremacy and black inferiority. In With Lee In Virginia, Henty writes that black people “are very like children.” Henty believed black people could not handle freedom, a belief he makes explicit in his other novels as well. In By Sheer Luck, he writes, “The intelligence of an average Negro is about equal to that of a European child of ten years old… Left to their own devices they retrograde into a state little above their native savagery.”

In A Roving Commission, Henty declares that, “The majority of blacks are as savage, ignorant, and superstitious as their forefathers in Africa.” He also describes “the utter incapacity of the negro race to evolve, or even maintain, civilization, without the example and the curb of a white population among them.” Because of their alleged “incapacity to evolve,” Henty thought slavery was necessary for black people. In A Woman of the Commune, Henty refers to slavery as the “nature of the negro” because “servitude is his natural position.”

This is not Kirk Cameron’s first foray into the controversial subject of slavery. Though he has taken a firm stand against the modern-day practice of human trafficking, he also published in 2012 — and continues to host to this day on his website — an article from WallBuilder’s Stephen McDowell that claims, “We cannot say that slavery, in a broad and general sense, is sin.” McDowell says this is because “aspects of slavery are Biblical (for punishment and restitution for theft)” and because “unbelievers are by nature slaves” and thus can “be held as life-long slaves.”

10 Surprising Revelations in the Lawsuit Against Bill Gothard and IBLP

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on January 11, 2016.

Last week, I published a summary of the allegations included in an ongoing lawsuit against fundamentalist guru Bill Gothard and the Institute for Basic Life Principles, which he founded in the 1980s and spent three decades running. The lawsuit focuses on Bill Gothard and IBLP’s negligence in failing to report abuse and failing to train their employees to recognize and report abuse, and at its center are allegations that Bill Gothard spent decades grooming, sexually harassing, and molesting teenage girls he employed at his organization’s headquarters.

Having read through the lawsuit in full, I want to take a moment to mention ten things even I found surprising. Many of the allegations included in the lawsuit have been common knowledge since being posted in 2013 and 2014 by Recovering Grace, a website run by graduates of IBLP programs critical of Gothard and his teachings. However, the lawsuit also includes information I had not seen before. I want to focus on these points because of the questions they raise about why Gothard’s abuse was not recognized and addressed earlier.

As a quick note, I would appreciate it if you would keep down the snark in the comments section out of respect for the survivors who are bringing this suit. Their suit isn’t some sort of “gotcha” against Christians or against fundamentalists or even against Gothard himself, it’s an attempt to bring justice to Gothard and ensure that IBLP actually fixes the problems that allowed Gothard’s abuse to go unaddressed.

I want to throw into stark relief the extreme predatory nature of Gothard’s actions. I want us to look at these points and ask how this could have gone on for so long.

1. Gothard once gave his credit card to a girl he was grooming and told her to “fix” her clothes. When she expressed confusion, one of his assistants explained to her that Gothard was unhappy with her ankle length skirts and would like her to buy some that were calf length.

2. Gothard paid for a young woman he was grooming and sexually harassing to have cosmetic surgery to remove two skin blemishes which he called “a distraction.” The lawsuit positions this move as part of the increasing control Gothard was assuming over the young woman’s body.

3. Gothard told an 18-year-old girl who rebuffed his advances that if she had still been 17, he would have called social services and gotten her taken away from her parents.

4. Gothard tried to convince a woman to divorce her husband and take a job at headquarters because he wanted to groom and molest her daughter, who had told him she would not be without her mother. See also above.

5. Gothard once had a girl he was grooming placed in a bedroom opposite his office window “so he would know when she could come to his office, after everyone else had left.”

6. Gothard preyed on girls as young as 13, had parents send girls as young as 14 to his headquarters at his request, and assigned girls as young as 15 to be his personal assistants.

7. In the early 1990s, Gothard asked the IBLP Board of Directors for permission to marry Rachel Lees, a young woman he was grooming. At the time, he was nearly 60 and she was around 20. Gothard did not mention the subject to Rachel herself. It was not until Rachel learned two decades later that Gothard had asked the board’s permission to marry her that she recognized Gothard’s behavior as predatory.

8. Gothard told a victim of childhood abuse “that parents were to be believed over children and that children were to obey their parents no matter what, even if they were being sexually abused.” When Jane Doe II reported her father’s sexual abuse to Gothard, he immediately called her father on speakerphone and asked him if the allegations were true (not surprisingly, her father said they were not).

9. Gothard made a habit of having teenage girls come to his office alone late at night under the guise of “Bible study” or “mentoring.” This isn’t technically a new revelation, but it is striking how many of the plaintiffs refer to these late-night one-on-one sessions. For an organization that teaches that people of opposite genders should never be alone together, it is startling that this practice was allowed to continue for so many years without raising an eyebrow.

10. It was common knowledge at IBLP that Gothard took teenage girls as “pets.” It was also common knowledge that Gothard’s behavior with regard to these girls was not appropriate. At one point in the early 1990s, after Gothard asked the IBLP Board of Directors for permission to marry Rachel Lees, the board barred Gothard from having female personal assistants. This ban was never enforced, and Gothard continued his pattern.

I’m sitting here trying to come up with some explanation for how this went on for as long as it did. People knew this was going on. The IBLP Board of Directors knew, the personal assistant who told Jane Doe III to buy shorter skirts knew, the employee who arranged the room assignment for Jamie Deering knew. People knew something was off. We’re talking about an organization that sent teenage boys home for merely talking to girls, while its leader held late night one-on-one “mentoring” sessions in his office with teenage girls.

Well sure, you say, it was a cult. That’s how cults work. But I want to stress just how widespread IBLP’s influence was within the Christian homeschooling world throughout my entire childhood and beyond. There were hundreds and thousands of families involved who had no idea that anything untoward was happening. This wasn’t so much an insular group like we’re used to thinking about, with its members cut off from contact with the outside. Rather, it was one that faced outward and led wide swaths people across the country to trust it its leadership and its “godly” mission and methods.

I am filled with sudden respect for one of my younger brothers, who approached me five years ago at age 17, worried. He told me that our parents wanted to send him away to a program in Texas, but that he was worried that it was a cult and wanted my advice. (It was Gothard’s ban on rock music that worried him—he played the drums and loved Christian rock music, which my parents grudgingly allowed.) At this point, I hadn’t given Gothard’s name a second thought. I grew up learning about the “umbrella of authority” and I attended a COMMIT Bible study for teenage girls, but my family had never been an ATI family, and I’d paid little attention to his name.

I texted my brother this morning. I wanted to let him know about the lawsuit. I wanted to make sure he knew just how right he had been, five years ago. What made the difference, exactly? How could he see it while so many others—including my own parents—did not? My brother told me, actually, that he and my dad had visited Gothard’s ALERT program headquarters in Texas, in anticipation of sending him there. Apparently my dad was a bit worried there might be something “off” about Gothard’s ministry—my dad by nature is antiauthoritarian, except in his parenting, and I think the focus on a single leader threw him off—but the visit assured him that all was fine, and that the ministry was godly and sound, one he could get behind.

And perhaps that is the problem. For whatever reason, my 17-year-old brother was already starting to push back and ask questions, but to those predisposed to see anything with a “godly” image as de facto good—well, you can see how that might prime people to accept Gothard’s ministry without asking too many questions, especially when so many others were already supporting it—after all, could they really be all wrong? And yet they were. And perhaps that is the biggest lesson for anyone—don’t assume that a leader or organization is legit just because it has a lot of followers, or projects a certain image.

Also, don’t create authoritarian power structures focused on a single leader.

I keep coming back to the fact that there were people close to the situation who knew these things were going on and did nothing. I can better understand people following the ministry without any knowledge that something was “off,” but once you’re in the organization and you see what’s going on—it’s boggling. There are, of course, explanations. Someone who said something might not be believed, or might be kicked out or shunned. Some might have doubted what they were seeing, given Gothard’s godly extra-human reputation. And some, too, might have assumed that if something was actually wrong, someone would surely have spoken up, so it must not be. And then, too, there’s the fact that obedience was central to Gothard’s teachings.

And so, in the end, we have a cautionary tale. This isn’t simply about one more Christian organization beset with sexual scandal, it’s about power structures and beliefs that create a situation where numerous people let significant warning signs go by, either unrecognized or ignored, but unaddressed either way. No more.

Some of my readers may be wondering what came of my brother, and what I told him when he came to me for advice. To tell the story briefly, I googled Bill Gothard’s name to assess my brother’s concerns and quickly came upon blogs written by homeschool graduates raised in ATI voicing their concerns and processing their experiences. It was those blogs that inspired me to start this blog, and it was those blogs that informed the response I gave to my brother. Over the next year I helped him wade through his options and find ways to make his own choices. He never did go to ALERT, and for that I am thankful. And so perhaps, in some small way, the voices of survivors can serve as an antidote to Gothard’s abuses.