Beka Horton’s Theology: Eleanor Skelton’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

By Eleanor Skelton, HA Editorial Team. Eleanor also blogs at The Girl Who Once Lived in a Box.

Beka Horton wrote and edited most of the A Beka Academy curriculum, produced by Pensacola Christian College. And she’s also the reason I started questioning fundamentalism.

Christianity seemed so simple in the early days.

I was born in Southeast Texas, in the Bible belt. At two years old, I prayed to accept Jesus into my heart with my mom before bath-time. She cried over my folded hands.

I was on the right path; I lived in light and not in darkness.

If only life had fewer complexities.

I was homeschooled from preschool to high school graduation, primarily with A Beka Academy Video School and some BJU press and Weaver curriculum sprinkled in. My mom told me the stories of Adam and Eve, Daniel and the lion’s den, David and Goliath with flannel-graph cutouts and the A Beka Bible flashcards.

This was what we believed, and we had the truth.

We were not deceived like the poor Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Pentecostals. We had the True Doctrine™. And my churches and homeschool textbooks mostly agreed, until high school.

In 10th and 11th grade, A Beka reveals why all the Scripture their students had been memorizing since kindergarten comes only from the King James Version.

That’s because Arlin and Beka Horton, the founders of Pensacola Christian College, believe all other translations are part of Satan’s plan to confuse the church.

I asked my pastor at our IFCA church in Colorado Springs who graduated from the Bob Jones University Seminary about it. We used the New King James Version in our services, but Beka Horton said this was sinful and contributing to the downfall of modern Christianity.

KVJ tampering
From Jesus and His Followers, A Beka Book, p. 22
KJV infallibility
From Jesus and His Followers, A Beka Book, p. 24

The same textbook also argued that abstinence from alcohol was the most moral decision for modern Christians, because Jesus only drank alcohol because the water in first century Palestine wasn’t safe.

From Jesus and His Followers, p. 67

This argument bothered me.

My parents and pastors had always told me that alcohol itself wasn’t sinful, but alcoholism hurt others. And we had a duty to not cause our brothers in Christ to stumble.

But Beka Horton was telling me the only way to follow Jesus was to be a teetotaler.

Something was wrong here. My textbooks disagreed with my parents, my churches. My parents bought me this curriculum so I could have a better education, so I could learn True Doctrine™.

I asked my pastor about these discrepancies. He told me, “I like Pensacola Christian College, but they are also legalistic. This is why young people lose their faith when they go to college, because they are told things like this, and then they learn it’s not true. So they question their entire faith.”

And he wasn’t wrong.

So in senior year of high school, I questioned when Beka Horton said that Adam and Eve never saw death before the Fall, not even dead plants.

From Genesis: First Things, p. 61

And arguing that the letters to the churches in Revelation was prophesy outlining the ages of the church throughout millennia seemed like an awfully convenient way to scare me into believing the Rapture and Tribulation were imminent.

From The Book of the Revelation, p. 5

I kept questioning, looking for more subtle legalism within what I’d thought was the safety of True Doctrine™.

Three years into college, I wondered if syncopated music was really evil or not.

My high school youth group textbook, published by Proteen / Positive Action for Christ, reasoned this:

Syncopated music is disorderly.
All disorder is of the devil.
Therefore, syncopated music (most modern music) is of Satan.

From The Holy War, p. 79

I made Christian friends in college who came from evangelical but not fundamentalist backgrounds, and their love for Jesus seemed genuine. I couldn’t believe they weren’t True Christians™ because they sang contemporary worship songs and listened to CCM.

Then the point of crisis came.

I read Harry Potter. I didn’t believe it was evil. I asked my parents to extend my curfew to midnight instead of 7:30 p.m.

My parents said I was being influenced by the world, that I had to move out or attend Bob Jones University. I told them I had prayed, and I felt like God wanted me to stay at UCCS.

They involved our pastor.

My pastor said I was disobeying God’s will for my life by moving out as an unmarried young woman.

He said it was wrong for me to leave because I was still under my parents’ authority if I wasn’t currently experiencing physical or sexual abuse.

And he said that God had clearly provided another option for me in transferring to BJU, a way to both obey my parents and gain independence.

He said, “If you are going to be obstinate and let Satan confuse you from following God’s will for your life, then I have nothing more to say to you.

And he walked out.

And I’d lost all trust for the label True Doctrine™.

I realized that fundamentalism is colorblind except for black and white. That fundamentalism uses fear to coerce obedience, that fundamentalism makes no exceptions, because that would be questioning Divine Will, and that is what Satan does.

My questions grew.

Did my purity ring actually remind me to stay pure, or did it just seem arrogant to my friends who weren’t virgins? I stopped wearing it.

Why did we use a handful of verses describing pagan temple practices to condemn the entire LGBT community? I remembered many more verses about loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Is creationism versus evolution actually a “salvation issue”? One of my chemistry lab instructors, who happened to be a Christian herself, pointed this out to me.

I took two semesters of Koine Greek, and I learned that museums have copies of scribal errors from the medieval period, something Beka Horton told me never happened, because the scribes destroyed an entire manuscript over slight errors.

scribe no error
From Jesus and His Followers, p. 5

Could I still be a Christian if the Bible wasn’t inerrant? My friend Cynthia Jeub reminded me that the disciples and the early church had no Bible. All they had was their experience.

I’ve been moved out since 2012, and I’m still questioning.

Still sorting through what I was told was True Doctrine™ and what the early church practiced historically, how I was told to treat “sinners” and what Jesus said about loving people.

Because I don’t believe Beka Horton has a monopoly on truth.


But For One Mistake: Samael’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

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

My homeschooling experience was fairly positive, almost in spite of itself. My sister, who had long since moved out and was working on her doctorate by the time we started homeschooling, voiced concerns at the time, and when I look back, I too can hardly believe that it all turned out reasonably well. One of my parents was abusive, and the other either didn’t understand what was happening or else was simply too apathetic to do anything. I was socially awkward before we started homeschooling, and the isolation resulting from the switch only exacerbated the problem. And yet, I came out the other end with some of the best friends for whom I could ever ask and a truly world-class education (along with a host of personality and mood disorders, but that’s another matter). This submission is not about any of that. Instead, I should like to examine for a moment what I would call simultaneously the best and worst thing about my homeschooling experience: a truly unfortunate curriculum choice on the part of my mother.

I’m sure that many of you are familiar with David Quine’s Worldviews of the Western World curriculum, but I shall try to summarize briefly for those who are not. At its core, WotWW is a three-year course (four years if, like me, you also take Starting Points, which inculcates you with what Quine insistently calls the “Biblical Worldview,” though to my mind it is more akin to “Biblical Idolatry” and lacks any real support in the Christian Scripture) in intellectual history, beginning in pre-Classical Greece and ending in Postmodernity. It chews through a prodigious amount of Western literature, philosophy, and history, pointing out what is wrong with each work and why it is wrong.

There are a whole host of criticisms I could make about this curriculum—not least of which is its airy dismissal of anything not European in origin as not even worth mention, let alone study—but I should like to focus particularly on the concerted effort it makes to close the minds of pupils to anything outside the (militantly Calvinist) form of conservative, Evangelical Christianity that it espouses.

It must be said for this curriculum that it does involve the pupil reading books with which he or she disagrees—indeed, books with which the author of the curriculum disagrees—which makes the use of this curriculum marginally better than outright book-burning, but the way in which it guides the pupil to read them is highly problematic, and, what is worse, it creates a habit in the pupil of continuing to read everything that he or she ever reads in the same way (I still catch myself doing it now and again). Quine’s curriculum tells the pupil that he or she already possesses all the Answers to the great questions of life (prime reality, human nature, ethics & evil, etc.) and then instructs him or her to read these works to figure out why the Answers that the works provide are Wrong.

To put it in simple terms, Quine teaches pupils to see the devil in every human thought or word (excepting, of course, Quine’s own interpretation of the Holy Writ).

But this does not only color the pupil’s interactions with new media; it affects how he or she relates to fellow students and even professors when he or she attends university. He or she seeks to proselytize the other person, to convince the other person that his or her Answers are absolutely and totally correct and that the other person’s pre-existing Answers are absolutely and totally incorrect—except insofar as they coincide with his or her own Answers.

He or she does not wish to exchange with other people, to swap information and refine his or her own Answers in light of new data (and hopefully help the other person refine his or her Answers as well).

In essence, such a person becomes impossible to teach or reason with. Unless. Unless something intervenes somewhere along the way and causes the pupil to suspect that they may only be getting part of the story, that the facts touted to them by the curriculum may not be entirely accurate or the interpretations thereof may reflect no more than a surface understanding.

Looking back, it’s really quite a minor thing. The curriculum got a date wrong. A date I had known from previous study. It told me that the Filioque clause was officially added to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed in the See of Rome in 1054, but in fact, that had already been done in 1014 (1054 is the year that the Pope and Patriarch excommunicated one another over, among other things, the Filioque, so the mistake is at least somewhat understandable).

But all of a sudden, I was forced to admit the possibility of an error in what I had been taught: either my prior knowledge was incorrect or Quine was incorrect.

As it turned out, I was correct. And I wondered: “What other errors have I been led to believe?” Possessed of a, frankly, prodigious intellect and a powerful thirst to know, I almost immediately set about a lengthy program of doing my own research into all the historical details and making sure to read everything that the Quine curriculum “helpfully” summarized in their syllabus, rather than asking that I read (not to mention quite a few works not even mentioned in the curriculum). More importantly, though, I read them with an eye to find the truth, not with an eye to find lies.

A year later, the curriculum had me reading Camus’ The Plague, a work which the curriculum claimed to center around the question, “How ought one live in a world without God?” (While this question is certainly found in the book, to say that it is the sole focus of The Plague is a grave insult to the book itself and to the author). The curriculum also tried to tell me the answer to this question, namely, “This question is stupid, because God does exist.” But that is to entirely miss the point. Even if God were to exist, that wouldn’t invalidate the question. I myself believe that God exists—and that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Incarnation thereof—but I learned a great deal about ethics and human nature from Camus, lessons I do not believe I could have learned without considering the hypothetical and (in my belief, anyway) counterfactual question, “How ought one live in a world without God?”

In the end, this curriculum is responsible for giving me a better education than I expect I could have gotten at any “regular” institution anywhere (and I lived in one of the best school districts in the country); my father (who was never quite on board with the use of the Quine curriculum anyway) saw my frenzied attempt to supplement the Quine curriculum and decided henceforth to buy me as many textbooks or other books as I desired and leave me to my own devices to read and learn from them (being available to help, of course, if I ever got stuck, which did happen at times). But sometimes I consider how close I came, and it frightens me terribly.

But for one error—indeed, an error which could plausibly have been no more than a misprint—I could have had my mind completely closed by that curriculum.

Indeed, it remains an arduous task, trying to keep my mind from ossifying, and the balance between holding true to one’s convictions and bearing in mind that one might be wrong is a very difficult one to strike (but absolutely essential if one wants, as I do, to engage in an exchange of ideas rather than a war). It took me an embarrassingly long time to get my head screwed on straight about some things. But though I remain Christian, it is a very different sort of Christianity than the one my parents and their peers tried to force on me, and many of them have levelled accusations of heresy or apostasy, but I’m no longer afraid of that. I’m learning, and I’m going to keep learning, as much as I can, whether they like it or not.

Why I Chose to Walk Away: Elle Christopherson’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

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

My mother was the model Christian home educator. She self-reported to the local school board when she wasn’t required to do so. She had me tested every few years for her own peace of mind. She kept journals and records and piles of my work and even paid for a distance-learning program in high school to ensure official transcripts for college. My mother led creative workshops in our co-op, and enrolled me in an animal dissection class taught by a certified biology teacher. She enjoyed teaching, from her own childhood play to leading Sunday school today, she has always loved to teach. Mom was in so many ways the ideal Christian home school parent. We were the envy of the church and even my friends. So why don’t I speak with her today? Why so deep a rift between me and the woman who passionately raised me?

This is the story of my lightbulb moment.

‘Biblically based.’ The core tenet guiding every moment of my life in school and out. My mother converted from Catholicism to Pentecostalism when I was three years old. Unable to afford our church’s private school, mom took inspiration from a visiting missionary couple and began to home school me when I entered Kindergarten.

She had good reason to avoid our local school system, which today is even further financially drained and failing, but so much more than simply avoiding a poor school, she hoped I would embrace God’s word and its relevance to our lives.

I was four the first time I prayed the sinner’s prayer. For months following, at bedtime I silently repeated, “Jesus, please be in my heart. Jesus, please be in my heart. Jesus…” until sleep came. I was terrified that He might not know that I really meant it, that if I didn’t wake up I might go to hell and be separated from my Mommy forever.

Mom chose books through Abeka and Hewitt-Moore catalogs.

In history, I learned how the events of the Pentateuch played out into the formation of the societies we have today (Gen 10:32). I learned from science textbooks that ‘the circle of the earth’ (Is 40:22) indicated knowledge of our spherical world well before this discovery, proof of the Bible’s scientific accuracy and divine origins (2 Tim 3:16). In my health book I learned of the US’ abysmal rape statistics, but was encouraged to follow the Bible’s guidelines on modesty (1 Tim 2:9) and trusting God for a mate rather than dating (Ruth 3:10) to prevent unwanted attention. I attended church an average of 4 days a week (Heb 10:25), volunteering in nursery (Prov 22:6) and with the worship team (Col 3:16), church cleaning (1 Pet 4:10) and eventually leading Sunday School (1 Tim 2:2). At fifteen I chose to become my mother’s apprentice (Titus 2:3-5), and took charge of my youngest brother’s schoolwork until I married and moved out. As training for womanhood, I did the majority of housework at that time, and cooked all meals three to four days a week (Prov 31:13-19). We read the Bible together every morning, and individually (Joshua 1:8). I read it cover-to-cover four times and came to the conclusion that I should never wear pants (Deut 22:5).

The first real fight I had with my mother was over a woman’s right to preach in church. I had become convinced that the Bible indicated it was never okay (1 Tim 2:12, 1 Cor 14:34); she insisted God made exceptions like Deborah (Judg 4:4-5) especially in gifts of prophecy (Joel 2:28). At that time she told me that she was eager for my wedding, because she didn’t want me to ‘corrupt’ her children with my ideas (Rom 16:17). This hurt me deeply, because so long as the gospel was being preached, that’s all that mattered to me (Phil 1:18).

I was fearful, lonely, and unhappy, with no real understanding of why.

As far as I could tell, I was doing most things right, and repenting of the rest. This was supposed to bring me fulfillment and happiness unknown to the world! (Gal 5:22-23) But then, my mother always told me the world can ‘enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.’ (Heb 11:25) That must be why relatives appeared so carefree! Some of my viewpoints changed over time — I stopped wearing dresses (Gal 3) — but I always prayerfully came to these conclusions through scripture… or so I thought. Then I began to research infant circumcision.

The New Testament makes abundantly clear that circumcision is no longer requirement for a relationship with God (Rom 4), and in fact is even insulting to the cross (Gal 5:2). I easily decided it was wrong for a Christian to choose this. I was told that it was ‘cleaner,’ that modern science has shown this as wisdom God gave to the Israelites, and this is why Christians still follow the practice in spite of Biblical admonitions to the contrary. I looked into the science and discovered that it is hardly proven, this notion that amputation of genital tissue is necessary and beneficial for all mankind. That this practice was introduced among Americans only in recent history out of a desire to reduce ‘sinful’ masturbation in children. That over seventy percent of the world’s men have their parts intact, and modification is most common among highly religious people and nations — not the most scientifically advanced. Still, they asserted that the world was missing God’s will. I argued that if anything, science supports the New Testament’s position that it is no longer necessary.

As I delved deeper into the history of genital alteration, I learned of intersex individuals. I had never heard of this before, except in a passing joke. If it was possible to be born with both male and female parts, how was this ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Ps 139:14) individual to find a partner and not be forced to commit the ‘abomination’ of homosexuality (Lev 20:13)? What if it were possible that those with same-sex attraction actually were born with that preference in their biology, since it’s possible to be born with a combination of sexual parts? I began to read more. Maimonides stated that circumcision was intended to curb the adult sexual inclinations of both males and females. Brit B’peh actually gives diseases to children.

The more I read, the more disgusted I became, and the more I found discrepancies between basic human decency and the Bible itself.

We fought for pro-life legislation because of verses that spoke of the value of human life, citing scriptures like Psalm 127:3. It certainly didn’t matter that the babies had unbelieving parents. Yet in just as many verses there are stories of God backing and causing infanticide and forced abortion among the disobedient (1 Sam 15:3, Hosea 13:16 for starters). We abhorred slavery of all kinds, and our Abeka history texts glorified the good Christians who brought slavery to an end in America. Yet there is not even one verse in the entire good book that condemns slavery. No, but there are New Testament admonitions for slaves to obey their masters (Col 3:22). How can one live ‘Biblically’ with a good conscience? By cherry-picking, apparently.

We lived by the verses we liked, explained away the ones we didn’t.

Everything began to crumble.

So it was that simple concern for baby humans which opened my eyes to the extent to which our textbooks (and churches) selectively chose Bible quotations alongside manipulated scientific and historical data to ‘prove’ conservative Christian theory, thus instilling their ‘Biblical Worldview.’ My mother was correctly led to believe that lifelong indoctrination would make departure from the faith extremely difficult. All my siblings still believe what they were taught, to varying degrees of fervor. It was only after marriage and caring for my own firstborn that I finally realized how little love is shown to all mankind’s sons and daughters in the Bible. The claim that God loves us all is constantly challenged within that same ‘good’ book.

I’m still unpacking all the pseudoscientific claims I relied upon as proof of the Bible’s validity.

All my life I heard pastors and home school mothers debating how and why adult children fall away from the faith when the Bible clearly says, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it.’ (Prov 22:6) Now I understand why those fell away, why I have chosen to walk away: the Bible tells me so.

‘And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.’ Mark 9:42

Warning Fairy Lights: Irina’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

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

There never was just one “aha” moment for me as a homeschooler. Maybe it had to do with how deep and how isolated my parents had us. Maybe it had to do with the fact that I was keeping my head down. Maybe it had to do with the fact I was looking for any way out that I’d just tuned out so much. Perhaps.

As a homeschooler, my parents used very conservative materials to school me for six grades.

The first light bulb moment I had was when I was not yet a homeschooler. Teachings from various conservative Christian authors were shared with my parents. Of course, I was very familiar with “Jack Chick”, and many of those “Chick Tracts” were substitutes for comic books when visiting my mom’s parents. We were introduced to teachings by authors such as William Schnoebelen and Caryl Matrisciana, and my mom started to read Frank Perretti novels. You can imagine what followed.

Two years prior to homeschooling, my parents outlawed Easter and Halloween.

We modified Christmas greatly. We did gifts on Christmas Eve, but we were to have “church” on Christmas Day. Easter now no longer had bunnies, eggs, chickens, ducks or anything related to the secular holiday. We no longer did special cakes and whatnot. We still did have ham for a good long time, which I never understood. We also went to sunrise services… it seemed wishy-washy. Halloween was totally verboten. No dressing up. No candy. No scary music and sound effects any longer. We started having “Fall Festivals”. It took a while, but I started questioning it entirely.

At another duty station, I happened upon BJU materials and thumbed through them at one of our pastor’s houses. I don’t remember what all was in it, but I remember recoiling, shaking my head, wrinkling my nose and asking if “this was what my parents planned on teaching us now that they pulled us from school.

My third light bulb moment had to do with the growing infiltration of Bill Gothard’s materials into our church.

It was seemingly small things here and there. The “Umbrella of Authority”, the forbidden music other than Hymns, whispers of people that said “anyone who listened to rock music is seriously backslidden…”, the introduction of some Character songs, Patch the Pirate and so on. We had a new dress code instituted at our church that required dresses or skirts for every female family member of those men in every position of leadership, even at home. My dad turned down a position of leadership due to this new legalism.

We moved twice, and I found myself ever more isolated. Our pastor, at the time, was homeschooling four children and had a fifth on the way. We visited often for various reasons, including the fact that my parents were serving in various offices at the church, at the time.

I started seeing homeschool curricula that taught that Dinosaurs and mankind lived together once upon a time.

This is how we got the mythology about dragons!

Some materials even went so far to say that the dinosaurs we know today in museums were just put together mish-mash by archaeologists because they have never found complete skeletons of some of these creatures. This is why some dinosaurs, such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex have impossibly teeny tiny arms and can do nothing with them.

I noticed that my homeschool material was swiftly changing in tenth grade. It went from generalized teachings to segregated “Girls do—” and “Boys do—” and that any mixing in between either set of the other sex’s jobs or enjoying any of those tasks was sinful and to be avoided. I complained again, of course, and my mom said to just answer the materials how they like and she’ll grade it appropriately.

We began attending homeschool youth meetings. and I was being exposed ever more to Vision Forum materials and teachings, Bill Gothard’s ATI/IBLP materials, CBMW (Counsel on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) … and I kept questioning everything everywhere.

I noticed more and more quiverfull families and that the oldest daughter or daughters were always missing meetings or outings with us because they were in charge of watching the babies or toddlers at home. I kept asking my mom and dad, “If it is so biblical to keep having so many children, why can you not take care of them on your own? Why is it that the teenage girls who should be going to college are being told to stay home and that they can’t go anywhere else, they have to stay at home until they get married?” There never was a satisfactory answer to that.

I felt like all my light-bulb moments were snowballing. I started experiencing anxiety, but like everything else, I had to shove it all deep down and follow along unquestioningly.

We moved again, began attending another Non-denominational church that had high influence by the ATI/IBLP, Vision Forum, CBMW and Family Integrated Church model. My dad somehow connected into that group and I balked. I shut down and then found a way out with the youth group. It worked out alright for a while, until I realized I’d never be accepted as a homeschooler, as there was a clique formed at that church. The main clique were the kids who attended the church school The second clique were those who went to local public schools and the third were the homeschool rejects who refused to go to the FIC services, like myself. The more I read the FIC model materials, the more I woke up to the sickness that was patriarchy which seemed to permeate every little bit of my life.

We had two shotgun weddings occur within our local homeschool group. This occurred not long after some parents found out that their courtship model failed with their darling daughters. The girls were found to be pregnant, and since they were extremely pro-life, the logical conclusion to them was that the girls needed to be married off. There would be no baby shower. The girls would be removed from their position of influence, no longer serve in any office in their church, and would apologize publicly to us girls that they let down. I was extremely angry at the injustice of it all.

I questioned a homeschool culture that would basically sell a girl to a boy who either raped her, or at least only had a short-lived fling and shackled her to him while shaming her, removing them both from school and forced them both to care for a child they neither planned nor had means to provide for.

Don’t get me wrong, I was staunchly anti-choice, but pro birth control. I did (and still do!) believe that mothers have a limit to what their health will allow and that parents need to be able to care for their children on their own or with their family, but that children should be children. Yes, they should pitch in and help out, but they definitely shouldn’t be treated like lesser sister wives and Cinderella.

We moved one more time. We attended three different churches, but it seemed like the homeschool umbrella group that was involved in all of them seemed to have a circle that was just like our previous group at my dad’s last duty station. We plugged into a girl’s bible study, which I now recognize as being highly influenced by Debi Pearl, Above Rubies, Vision Forum, Elisabeth Eliot and various affiliated authors. At this point, I shut down for a time.

I had moments where I tucked away information and just secretly questioned it, but for the most part, I was like a secret agent on a mission to not be found out.

My mom fell in love with books by Francine Rivers and teachings by Beth Moore. She began sharing them with me, and ever so quietly, I started research (a little here, a little there) on the internet asking questions about the model “biblical womanhood” in her books. I never could quite put my finger down on what it was that bothered me, but I kept questioning.

It wasn’t until after I had graduated that the big names in purity culture gained prominence and my youngest sister was falling in love with the teachings of Joshua Harris, Stasi and John Eldredge… She started to hand me the books and asked if I would give them a read.

I’ll preface this with this fact: I’m a bibliophile. I love books. I would never do harm to any book, or at least, I thought I never would, until I read those books. I’ve never thrown a book so hard or so far until I had those in my hands.

Every single fault of the relationship was laid at the feet of the woman for whatever squidgy reason. If sex happened before marriage… if the male was tempted…

It was like my brain broke after that. I wasn’t going to take it anymore. But, the cognitive dissonance was so very strong. Inside, I was screaming at it all and hated it. I knew it was wrong. It was upside down. The theology was poor, at best. On the outside, I was dressing more and more like a proper stay at home daughter. I was even trying to be submissive. It was KILLING ME.

I cried almost every single night.

I hated my life, but I had no way out.

I had co-workers who obviously wanted to help, but had no idea how to even reach into my world and give me some sort of scaffolding or support to crawl out.

I never let anyone in or close enough to know what I was living with. I’m sure I harmed some people by things I repeated and didn’t believe in, but felt forced to parrot. I am so very sorry for that.

After leaving, I was so stuck in the mentality I was raised in that I actually could not function very well in the real world.

This was compounded even more with the fact I had moved to a foreign country and was dealing with the very real effects of culture shock, learning a new language, new laws and a completely different political structure from the United States.

It took having my children to see how evil all of it was and how it all just snowballed downhill into one great big pile of irredeemable poo. Everything that has happened to me up until moving out were, themselves, that pivotal light-bulb moment that woke me up to the fact I needed to tear everything down to the foundation and begin building again.

It was not just one light, but a string of little fairy lights that kept blinking at me the entire time I was in the homeschooling movement.

I hope that all of the people I have met who were hammered down by these teachings have also found themselves to be free like I have. I may have had many starts and stops like Rapunzel in the latest Disney film, but thank God, I’m free at last.

The Power of False History: Nicholas’ Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

HA Note: This is a preview of our upcoming Lightbulb Moments series. We would love for you to contribute your story as well.

By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

My “lightbulb” moment in my youth, which convinced me of the lies that my upbringing was filled with, centered around the study of history. I was interested in history from a very young age, and my parents made sure to purchase fundamentalist American history for me to study. The Light and the Glory and From Sea to Shining Sea by Peter Manual and David Marshall, alongside Foxes Book of Martyrs, David Barton and Little Bear Wheeler’s histories, made up most of my historical and political education. But the history written by these men are filled with fallacies, false history, cherry-picked examples, and gross misinterpretation of historical events.

The main thesis of all these histories was that the Christian God was responsible for the prosperity experienced by the United States. From Christopher Columbus, to the Conquistadors, Plymouth Rock, and the American Revolution, the European conquest of the Americas was portrayed as Christians harvesting souls for the Lord and the Lord blessing them. Columbus was a pious missionary – no mention of him riding on the backs of natives for sport and exacting untold violence on innocents. The genocide against native tribes was “mission work” and “fixing them.”

Constructing this false history was vital to mobilizing Evangelicals and fundamentalists into contemporary political action.

The most important goal was to influence American politics “back to Jesus/Christianity.” The establishment of theocratic laws depends on convincing people that the US Constitution means whatever the Founding Fathers, in their eminent foresight and wisdom, meant it to mean. Supreme Court be damned.

My parents pushed me into the Christian homeschool debate league (NCFCA) at 15, and I began developing critical thinking skills. I remember my first big political debate with my dad (where I believed differently) was over whether we should drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – it was a topic during energy policy year. By the time I was 18, I began to read scholars and historians that disagreed about the foundation of the United States.

I originally intended to only educate myself about the enemy so I could better defeat those damn socialists in an argument, but my research demonstrated that so many “experts” in the homeschooling world were frauds.

They cherry-picked facts and characters, while ignoring all nuance and complexity for their over-simplified, overly-political narratives. It took me four years in a political science bachelors and another 18 months in a graduate program for history to feel like I finally had a firm, realistic grasp of American and world history.

In my final graduate term, I studied Islamic nationalism in communist Eastern Europe and central Asia. Just like the Christian fundamentalists, the militant religious-nationalist factions (Orthodox Serbs, Muslim Kosovars, Bulgarians, and Bosnians, and Catholic Croats), invented history and conflict to motivate their constituents to fight with each other. Everything became clear. People who wanted power created a false history to rally homeschooling parents to a fight what really didn’t exist. Our government has always striven to be secular, and just because a few Founders were Christians doesn’t mean they wanted the United States to be a Theocracy.

The Christian homeschooling movement encourages an intrinsic cognitive dissonance about history.

They praise and almost worship the American Revolution, individualism, liberty and freedom, but then turn around and wish for more theocratic laws that favor their flavor of religion. Fundamentalism of all religions is typically anti-democratic.

The best example of this would be the patriarchal ideas found in the Homeschooling Movement. The spectrum of religiously-motivated sexism, from Complementarianism to outright-Patriarchy, is founded in anti-democratic ideals that women should not have the same civil rights as men. My mom actually believes that the United States started going astray when women were given the right to vote.

By consigning women to the domestic sphere, fundamentalists want to restrict or completely deny women access to the public sphere and civil engagement.

I could not reconcile the sexist, Patriarchal ideas with the stark liberalism of the Founders. I decided that to advocate for laws based on my views of religion would be no better than implementing Shari’a law. I became an outspoken liberal feminist in college, but not because I was “brainwashed,” as my parents would have my family believe. But, for the first time in my life, I had access to an array of scholars, knowledge, and philosophies.

No one brainwashes me, I make up my own damn mind.

David Barton Ruined Conservative Christianity For Me: A Call for Stories

By Shaney Lee, HARO Board Member

Recently, a group of homeschool alumni were sharing stories of their “lightbulb moment”: a moment when we realized that we had been taught an agenda, rather than how to think for ourselves, and when we realized that the strains of conservative Christianity we had been raised with were grossly flawed. Some of us are still Christians and some are not, but we all had that “moment” where we realized we wanted to go a different direction with our lives.

As a result of that conversation, Homeschoolers Anonymous has decided to open up a call for stories from homeschool alumni about their “lightbulb moments.” The purpose of this series is twofold: One, to shed light on the individuals and ideas that need to be weeded out from the homeschooling community; two, to allow homeschooled individuals to tell their stories. Those who don’t continue in conservative Christianity as adults are often referred to as “apostates” or assumed to be “backslidden.” We want to give alumni a chance to share their side of the story.

To start off the call for stories, I wanted to share my story. This is the story of when I realized I needed to find a different path.


In October 2012 I was invited to the annual banquet for Texas Alliance for Life (TAL). Being a pro-life individual and lover of fancy events, I decided to go, despite not being thrilled with their keynote speaker: David Barton. At that point, Barton had recently been in WORLD News because his most recent book, The Jefferson Lies, had been rejected as full of inaccuracies by conservative Christian historians, and Thomas Nelson eventually decided to pull the book entirely.

Barton’s speech had three points. To this day I wish I had taken notes on what exactly Barton said and what sources he used, but to the best of my memory I will take you through just how bad the speech was.

Barton’s first point was that the Founding Fathers were pro-life. Barton’s evidence for this assertion was a quote that condemned abortion after the “quickening.” Barton followed up by telling the audience that “quickening” in that day was equivalent to “conception.”

This, however, is not even close to true. John Bouvier’s Law Dictionary defines the quickening as follows: “The motion of the foetus, when felt by the mother, is called quickening, and the mother is then said to be quick with child. This happens at different periods of pregnancy in different women, and in different circumstances, but most usually about the fifteenth or sixteenth week after conception….”

So the quote Barton read that night actually said nothing about early-term abortions, and in fact allowed for them. To this day I don’t know if Barton was lying, or just ignorant of female biology. Either is a plausible explanation.

Barton’s second point was that all that needs to happen for pro-life candidates to win elections is for pro-life voters to vote consistently, rather than sitting out some elections. While that assertion may or may not actually be true, Barton’s analysis of voting numbers and percentages from several elections in a row showed a gross misunderstanding of how statistics work. To be perfectly blunt, Barton’s analysis was so far off you couldn’t even call what he did “statistics.”

This is another area where I wish I had taken detailed notes, but his analysis essentially went like this: In this particular election, pro-life candidates got an average of 59% of the vote, while pro-choice candidates got an average of 40% of the vote. Therefore, in that election, pro-life candidates had a 19% higher chance of being elected. (Barton did this X-Y=percentage method of “statistics” several more times. Actual statistics are much, MUCH more complicated.)

The last point Barton made was that candidates who vote “correctly” on pro-life issues (as defined by the organization National Right to Life) would vote correctly on other issues as well. To demonstrate this point, he put up a chart with 10 congressmen rated “100%” on pro-life issues, and a second column next to their names and pro-life voting records that was labeled “economic issues”. With a click of a button, the chart indicated that these same congressmen had voted “100% correctly” on economic issues. Barton then did the same thing with a second chart that included 10 congressmen who had 0% records on pro-life voting issues, and according to the chart also had “0% correct” records on economic issues.

I don’t know where Barton got his numbers for the “correct voting percentage” on economic issues, but I was quite surprised to hear people around me who I knew were libertarian and I knew thought the only person who ever consistently voted correctly on economic issues was Ron Paul, gasp in delight at seeing these charts.

All of this–the out-of-context quote with a false definition for “quickening,” the numbers that may as well have been pulled out of a hat and called “statistics,” and the charts that gave no context for what “voting correctly on economic issues” meant, were enough to convince me that Barton was indeed a fraud and made me very disappointed that Texas Alliance for Life had invited him to be their keynote speaker. But it still didn’t prepare me for what happened at the end of his speech.

The entire room (excluding me) gave him a standing ovation.

In this room were NCFCA coaches, parents, and adult alumni. People who had taught me debate, logic, and rhetoric. Yet here they were, applauding a man who had just fed them lies, logical fallacies, and more fluff than a cotton field.

Something inside of me broke that night. I realized that I couldn’t trust these people to have given me a solid foundation of any sort. When given false assurance that their beliefs were correct and would prevail, they ate it up.

So I started questioning everything. If this man, Barton, was their shining example of a historian, how could I trust what they had taught me about science, economics, religion–even right and wrong? The thing about an experience like this is it’s not even about the specifics of what you’ve been taught. It’s about realizing that the people who taught you were too quick to accept what somebody had told them and ready to pass it on to future generations without subjecting those beliefs to scrutiny. As I examined other beliefs, I found many of the same patterns: arguments against evolution that were incredibly weak, disdain for trans* people that had no basis in Scripture, and more issues that didn’t stand up to scrutiny became clear as I asked questions and applied more scrutiny to the things I was taught.

I’ve left behind many things I used to believe as a result of that night. While I’m still a Christian, I am no longer conservative. I would later realize that conservative Christianity has many leaders who are liars, manipulators, and abusers; that most of the arguments I heard for conservative positions had very shaky foundations; and (the final blow to my conservatism), that when I wanted to confront real-world issues like racism, rape culture, and poverty, conservatives either turned a blind eye or offered “solutions” that weren’t really solutions at all.

I tell my story today not to belittle conservative Christians. I still know many who are good, honest people. I tell my story as a wake-up call to conservatives, especially to the conservative Christian homeschool community. If you continue to teach your children based on David Barton’s “history” or Ken Ham’s “science,” continue to follow leaders who then get exposed as sexual abusers, and don’t teach your children true logic and critical thinking, I predict the homeschool movement will eventually collapse under its own weight.


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