Words From God: Danica’s Story, Part Two

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

HA Note: Danica is a MK and homeschool alumni. She blogs at Ramblings of an Undercover TCK.

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In this seriesPart One |Part Two

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As Nancy slowly became more and more enmeshed in the prayer group, things started to shift.

I don’t know if it was the shift was so slow it was imperceptible to me, or that by that point I was so caught up in Nancy’s paradigm I didn’t notice it, but either way, the end result was that after six months, the prayer group had lost half its members, and the ones who stayed were sold out to Nancy’s vision. It was a vision handed down by God’s Apostle and Prophet Chuck Pierce, who Nancy had traveled to see at one of his conferences.

Chuck Pierce was someone I had never heard of. Looking like Santa Clause on vacation with his snowy head of hair, matching beard, and penchant for colorful Hawaiian shirts, Chuck is a top apostle and prophet in the New Apostolic Reformation movement. The NAR is based on a hierarchy pulled from the list of spiritual gifts in Ephesians 4:11. The so-called ‘Five-Fold Ministry’ places apostles first, followed by prophets, then evangelists, pastors and teachers. Devotees promote a strict adherence to this order, saying that this structure must be in place for a church to be properly aligned.

The year that Nancy went to his conference, Chuck and Dutch Sheets, another NAR prophet, had traveled around the country and received what they said were words from God for each State in the Union. Prayer warriors were supposed to ‘pray the words in’. At his conferences, you could count on the blowing of shofars and the waving of banners as the praise team sang prophetically, coming up with songs on the spot (inspired directly through the Holy Spirit, they said) that they recorded and sold to conference attendees. Nancy came home from the conference with CD’s for all of us, which she encouraged us to play in our homes as we ‘warred with praise’.

She said she had received a ‘mantle’ from Chuck’s team to do the work of ministry in our area.

(Interesting side note: Chuck Pierce also gave a ‘mantle’ to Mormon talk show host Glenn Beck when Beck and his wife attended a service at his Global Spheres Center, later playing it off to critics as a ‘mantle from Israel’, not from Chuck himself).

Nancy also came back with the year’s Vision for America, handed down by God’s prophets to us lower prophets to ‘pray in’. There was a Kingdom Shift coming, apparently, where a New Door would open into a New Season. Those who had Ears To Hear would answer the call, forsake king and kin, and enter into the New Season.

But there was a catch. Nancy had a vision foretelling our church and pastor weren’t going to enter into the New Season. They had welcomed and embraced the anti-Christ spirit.

If I, or anyone else in the prayer group, didn’t leave the church and join the home church Nancy was starting under the leadership of Chuck Pierce, then we would be partnering with the anti-Christ spirit and would be left on the other side of the closed Door, missing out on God’s New Season.

A Season that would surely usher in the End Times. As part of this new season, Chuck had issued a call for people to start up home churches, and Nancy was answering that call. She was sending her tithe to his ministry, she said, and encouraged us to send our tithes to her so she could pass them on to Chuck as well.

Now let me stop for just a minute. Writing this all out, it sounds like utter horse bologna. It sounds, literally, crazy. It’s honestly embarrassing. I mean, I had been raised to be able to spot cults coming. I knew the scriptures. I prided myself for my entire life on my critical thinking. So how was it that I couldn’t see this fledgling cult for what it was?

The simple answer is … I ignored my intuition.

My intuition warned me several times that something was off, but each time it reared its head, I firmly squashed it down again, misidentifying it as criticism and judgement.

The turning point for me was when she said I must leave the church and join her. I cried and prayed and agonized over this for days.

By that time, I had completely given away all autonomy of thought, relying on her to interpret any words or visions I had and give me understanding of scripture.

I was terrified of partnering with the anti-Christ spirit, but something in me, something very deep down at my core, said, NO! so loudly and so adamantly that I came up against an internal brick wall. I literally couldn’t follow her, even though I desperately wanted to.

The last contact I had with Nancy was on the phone when I told her, “I can’t leave the church. I probably am partnering with the anti-Christ spirit but I just can’t leave.” For about a month prior I had felt a change in my ‘inner circle’ status. Instead of the loving acceptance and happy understanding we had shared at the beginning, I increasingly felt a subtle but growing disapproval. It caused me to ever more frantically try to figure out exactly what to say, how to curry favor, to discern what it was I was doing wrong in her eyes.

I hung up from that phone conversation with my soul in splinters.

Time passed.

Without constant exposure to her presence, Nancy’s influence over me started to wane.

One day I woke up, like Edmund in the White Witch’s palace, to see with devastating clarity the web of lies she’d woven around me.

I made an appointment with my pastor, sitting broken and crying on his couch, to apologize for my part in misleading the people in the prayer group.

My faith, it was shattered.

I have since spent hours researching what it means to be pulled in by a narcissist. Every first-hand account I’ve been able to find follows a predictable pattern.

1. The Enchantment – The narcissist seductively woos you through fantastical stories that are tailor made to appeal solely to you. Narcissists have an uncanny ability to read their audience, intuiting exactly what that audience wants and needs to hear. Since they see their audience as a mirror, reflecting their own grandiosity back to them, the narcissist will choose what image to project depending on their audience, in order to communicate, See? I’m exactly like you … only BETTER. Thus they pull their audience in.

2. The Enlisting – Now that they have you, the narcissist enlists you into their Grand Scheme. This could be as a romantic partner, business partner, cult member, band member … the manifestations of a narcissist’s Grand Scheme are as varied as the people creating them. But the common thread is that the narcissist will have an image they want you to spend yourself for, and since by this time you’re fully under the narcissist’s enchantment, you’ll do so willingly and wholeheartedly.

3. The Execution – Everyone has a shelf life. I really don’t know why narcissists cycle through people, but it is a recurring pattern. Some people are willing to stay on the ‘outside’ long enough for the narcissist to cycle back to them and eventually start over again with Enchantment. Others get ‘executed’ and are left, bleeding and hopeless and alone, like I was.

My faith, it was shattered.

Everything I had ever known and believed to be true, I now second guessed.

I had so completely surrendered myself to Nancy that I couldn’t think critically for myself anymore. Like we’re warned about in junior high youth group pep talks, I had checked my brain at the door. Nancy had become, in essence, my Holy Spirit.

I was wholly and thoroughly brainwashed in the most insidious way possible, because the entire time I was thinking I was learning something new and different. A revelation of a higher order. Something not to be entrusted to just anyone. A Truth that only those who were called and set apart, only those who really had the discernment to see, could comprehend.

How does a person even come back from that?

My head had become so twisted that I had to shelve everything, in order to examine anything.

I started with God. For the first time in my life, I gave myself permission to doubt if he was real. And if he was real, was he good? And if he was good, was his word true? And if it was true, what did I do with the things in it that had been used to hurt me?

It was a long, slow, painful journey, this dark night of my soul. And yet somehow I have come out of it a better, more complete and truer version of myself. My faith I can hold with mystery and wonder and joy and sadness, knowing that the God I trust gives me the freedom to be honest and ask difficult questions. The swirling winds of doubt and pain that surrounded me in the aftermath of my involvement with Nancy and Chuck Pierce’s NAR cult have blown away the chaff that had grown unquestioned for my entire life, and now only the wheat remains – some of which I never knew was even there, some of which has grown up now that there is room since the chaff is gone.

The thing about a cult is that you don’t know you’re in one until you’re out of it.

The good news is that once you experience the pull of a narcissist, have sacrificed your intuition and your very self upon the altar of their cultish, narcissistic image, then you are able to more easily recognize when the next one … and then the next one … and then the one after that … come along.

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.

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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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To contribute your story or thoughts:

 

As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly.

If you interested in participating , please email us at ha.edteam@gmail.com.

The deadline for submission is July 3, 2015.

 

David Barton: Homespun History

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Jeri Lofland blogs at Heresy in the Heartland. The following was originally published by Jeri on September 10, 2013, and is reprinted with permission. All photos are courtesy of Jeri.

History was my favorite subject as a kid.

I devoured the Little House on the Prairie series, was enchanted by Ben and Me, and giggled through Jean Fritz’s junior biographies of King George III, Samuel Adams, and Patrick Henry. I would slip away into “the study” to read and re-read the fourth grade A Beka textbook on the American colonists, the lives of the presidents in our 1968 World Book, or tales of Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus.

Later, our bookshelves bulged with biographies of Lincoln, Anabaptist stories of the Reformation, and thick volumes from Bob Jones University Press skimming across the centuries from ancient Greece to World War II. Once, Dad brought me home a copy of Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. And I could recite most of the dialogue from “A More Perfect Union“, Brigham Young University’s dramatic film about the Constitutional Convention.

When Bill Gothard first distributed David Barton‘s “America’s Godly Heritage” to homeschooling families in his Advanced Training Institute, I was entranced. We listened to that first cassette together and marveled at Barton’s rapid-fire diction. After that, I would follow along with the tapes with my notebook and pencil and try desperately to copy out the quotations from the Founders as Barton galloped from one to the next at rodeo speed. Protected as I was from secular influences and celebrity worship, Barton was the equivalent of a rock star in my world. I collected Barton’s numerous books and a stack of cassettes. I copied out and memorized my favorite lines. When he addressed the national ATI conferences in Tennessee, I was giddy with excitement. I wished the audience would quit applauding so he could fit in more of his speech!

Besides Barton’s books on American history, I even purchased his obscure 31-page booklet How to Have Success With God, published in 1984:

“To God, obedience is better than anything.”
“The more you do of what you hear from God, the more you will hear from God what to do!”
“Be a Christian who enjoys obeying God and you will enjoy being a Christian!”

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Besides Barton’s books on American history, I even purchased his obscure 31-page booklet How to Have Success With God.

Today, “David Barton is a former Vice Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas and a political consultant for the Republican National Committee. He is also a bestselling author and political activist who has worked diligently to arouse true patriotism and restore America to her Biblical foundation.”

But back then, Barton and his organization Wallbuilders had not yet gained notoriety outside Texas. In time he would get chummy with Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri, and the chairman of Gothard’s Board of Directors, Congressman Sam Johnson of Texas. Brownback would say of Barton, “His research provides the philosophical underpinning for a lot of the Republican effort in the country today — bringing God back into the public square.” And that was a mission I supported wholeheartedly.

When my worldview began to unravel, however, I revisited the Wallbuilders’ website, curious for answers that would settle some of my doubts. For the first time I realized that David Barton has no credentials as an historian or an archivist. He holds a B.A. in religious education from Oral Roberts University and has been both a [math and science] teacher and a principal at a private Christian school in his hometown of Aledo, Texas.

As a homeschooled student myself with limited exposure to the ways of academia, I could sympathize with Barton’s ignorance of correct protocol for citing sources. But I was flummoxed to learn that he lacks primary sources for some of his quotations. Including some of my favorite quotations–lines I used to recite glibly at candidates who brought up the spurious “separation of church and state”. Now this was unsettling.

I hadn’t heard David Barton for well over a decade when he appeared as a guest on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”. Well, here was a blast from my past! I settled in to listen to the Texan’s familiar too-rapid drawl and was surprised. Before, I had only heard Barton lecture to sponge-like crowds. His material seemed much less concrete in an interview before a skeptical audience. (And this incredible exchange with Glenn Beck puts Barton much closer to “unintentional comedian” than “educator.”)

Disillusioned with Barton, and with those who unquestioningly accept his version of the past, I discarded the remaining Wallbuilders publications on my bookshelf and set out to round out my re-education on American history and the variegated experiences and ideals of the brilliant yet flawed men who penned our founding documents. Thus did they launch these United States on her voyage into their future, hoping that we would prove equal to the task of sailing her, of maintaining her trim and keeping her prow pointed forward.

Even if we were to concede that America was intended to be a “Christian” nation (in spite of plain evidence to the contrary), even if we acknowledge that weather patterns were divine intervention on behalf of the Continental Army and that the Holy Spirit inspired the writing of the Constitution, even if we were to accept Barton’s version of the past, how would that enlighten our present conversation? It does not therefore follow that George Washington would now use his influence in favor of creationism in science textbooks. It would be presumptive to assume that John Adams would cast his vote today for pointless transvaginal ultrasounds or that James Madison would oppose national healthcare. We could not even conclude that Thomas Jefferson would want his children reciting a pledge to a flag, much less to a nation “under God”.

Mike Huckabee thinks our country would be improved we the people were all forced “at gunpoint, no less” to listen to David Barton’s spin on our history. But I cannot help wondering how our Founding Fathers would respond today if they could hear Barton’s appeal to an unrecognizable tradition. These men jettisoned the heavy time-worn design in favor of a revolutionary new ship of state they believed capable of carrying “we the people” through the vicissitudes of history. They were open-minded scientists, philosophers, and inventors, eagerly seeking and adopting new information and technological advances. Certainly, our nations’ founders looked to the past for guidance as they plotted a new course. But to David Barton, history and tradition are anchors with which to slow progress and avoid forward-thinking.

When my daughter was very young, she used to protest when we explained disagreeable facts. “I don’t want that to be true!”, she would cry. Perhaps Barton is ignorant of the way he misleads and misinterprets evidence in order to achieve his political agenda.

Or perhaps he just doesn’t want history to be true.

Why You Need To Know About David Barton

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Sarah Jones’ blog Anthony B. Susan It was originally published on August 16, 2012.

News that Christian publisher Thomas Nelson had decided to pull David Barton’s latest book, The Jefferson Lies, catapulted another major figure of the religious right into the public consciousness. Like Dan Cathy, Barton has been known to evangelical Christians for years. Think of him as the Ken Ham of US history: an apologist for an alternative reality that enshrines American exceptionalism as the manifestation of God’s work on earth. In Barton’s version of history, Thomas Jefferson professed orthodox Christianity, never raped his slaves, and mandated Christian worship services in the US Capitol. It is a version of history so far removed from fact that it has come under attack from other conservative Christian historians.

Yet Barton’s influence in the evangelical world clearly dwarfs whatever power these genuine historians wield. He is a prolific writer and the history he tells is exactly the sort of mythology necessary to sustain the existence of America’s religious. For this reason, Time has named him one of America’s 25 most influential evangelicals, and he enjoys his own personal webpage at the Southern Poverty Law Center, where he is listed as one of the leading figures of the contemporary radical right.

Barton’s credentials as a historian have been repeatedly shredded. It’s common knowledge that he holds only a bachelor’s degree in Christian Education from conservative Oral Roberts University, and therefore possesses no training whatsoever as a professional historian. But this lack of credentials appeals to a right wing movement that associates intellectualism with secularism and leftist bias. That is exactly why universities like Oral Roberts (and my own alma mater) exist. They’re ostensibly a sanctuary from secularist brainwashing. It’s also why the homeschool movement is dominated by evangelical families that rely on books published by institutions like Bob Jones University and Pensacola Christian College.

The version of history taught in these books mimics Barton’s work: America is a Christian nation, and liberalism has perverted it. The fact that this a minority view, considered discredited by mainstream historians, only bolsters evangelical support for it. Barton is a prophet, crying out in America’s liberal wilderness.

You can consider Barton and his organization, Wallbuilders, directly analogous to Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis. Neither actually possesses any credentials in their fields and both enjoy positions of respect because they act as the public faces of the religious right’s alternative to academia. They legitimize the evangelical movement and promote it in the political sphere. Barton has been active with the Texas GOP, and acted as an “expert consultant”  to the Texas School Board. That same school board voted to approve changes to the state social studies curriculum that included the claim that the Founding Fathers were Christians.

Despite the controversy over the Jefferson Lies, the religious right will not abandon David Barton. It needs him to legitimize itself. It does not matter how times his books are debunked, any more than it has ever mattered that Ken Ham’s version of biology can be torn apart by anyone with a high school diploma. These controversies merely reinforce the right’s perception that it is a martyred movement, ordained to struggle because of its adherence to “traditional values.” These are the roots of Chik-fil-A “Appreciation Day” and statements like this. It’s why, as a veteran of homeschooling and private Christian education, I had to reteach myself history. It’s how I made it to graduate school without ever sitting through a basic lesson in evolutionary theory.

If that disturbs you, I urge you to educate yourself about Barton and his version of America, because education is the best defense against the movement he represents.

The Many Men and Women Behind The Curtain: Noah’s Story

The Many Men Behind The Curtain: Noah’s Story

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

"There is a homeschooling machine, whether some people want to admit it or not. There is a Man Behind The Curtain."
“There is a homeschooling machine, whether some people want to admit it or not. There is a Man Behind The Curtain.”

My family started homeschooling because they didn’t like the public schools.

This had nothing to do with God or the feared specter of Marxism. There was no prophetic mandate from above, no urge to add more offspring to Michael Farris’ cultural Illuminati. No, my parents’ reason for homeschooling was really that simple: they didn’t like the public schools. They thought the public schools were a failure.

But my story is a common one. It has a theme mirrored in so many of my friends’ stories. As time went by, my family got slowly but surely sucked into the vortex that is a particular type of homeschooling: the conservative Christian type. While a lot of people want to lay the blame at my parents’ feet, that’s not really fair. And it’s disingenuous. Because the people wanting to blame my parents are specifically not wanting me to blame homeschooling. But those people don’t know my parents. And they don’t know what my early homeschooling looked like. Those people don’t want to acknowledge that it was the homeschooling machine that changed my parents.

There is a homeschooling machine, whether some people want to admit it or not. There is a Man Behind The Curtain. Or, rather, many men (and women). Call me crazy or a conspiracy theorist. But why do all our stories bring up the same names? Gregg Harris. Michael Farris. Mary Pride. David Barton. Ken Ham. Little Bear Wheeler. Michael Pearl. Josh Harris. Etc. Etc. Etc.

You do realize that that a shit ton of money is being made by all these people, right? There is literally a homeschooling industry that is profiting off these peoples’ ideas. Their ideas are being pedaled at homeschooling conventions all over the country, month after month, year after year. Their books are being promoted in every edition of every homeschooling magazine (well, the conservative Christian magazines, but I think you know I’m talking about a particular subsection). Their ideologies are reinforced in state and local support groups, where parents that don’t follow the line get ostracized, just like the so-called “Four Pillars of Homeschooling” have long ostracized the secular homeschooling movement.

It’s really, honestly, a type of bullying. My parents experienced this from the beginning, when they tried to get into a local homeschool group when we were young. We weren’t “Christian” enough (even though we were Christians!). The other homeschooling moms talked shit about my mom until, in tears, she almost gave up on homeschooling us entirely. She eventually found a more supportive homeschooling group, but, as the years went by, she started turning into the moms she originally hated. It’s, strangely enough, just like peer pressure. As one “cool thing” like courtship became a fad, as soon as the “cool” family picked it up, everyone else had to as well. If you didn’t, if you weren’t into courtship, you became that kid in public school who got his shoes at Goodwill. You were ostracized and made fun of, rejected and abused. It’s no wonder that my parents slowly became what originally almost turned them off from homeschooling.

That’s not to say people aren’t responsible for their own actions. But my parents have honestly tried to do their best for me. I respect them and love them. But they respected and loved me not because of the homeschooling community. They respected and loved me despite the homeschooling community.

It’s really ironic, that homeschoolers hold up their practice as this alternative to the evils of bullying and peer pressure in the public schools. Because there is so much bullying and peer pressure between homeschooling parents, it’s ridiculous. Watching homeschool moms tear each other apart with their words is really scary. They’re brutal to one another.

I’m deeply grateful that I had parents that stood up for me. And I’m glad finally people are standing up for people like my parents (and in a sense, against what my parents later became), by standing up against the systematic bullying, peer pressure, and brainwashing that pervades the homeschooling world.

The conservative Christian homeschooling world, that is. I know I already said that.

But sometimes people are tone deaf.

Why I Blame Homeschooling, Not Just My Parents: Reflections by Nicholas Ducote

By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

Author edit to clarify my call for more oversight: I recommended intra-community policing in my post. State action should be a last resort. Those that care to preserve their parental rights to homeschool need to hold other parents accountable. Unfortunately, fundamentalist homeschooling communities are often isolated from anyone who would question the parents. I don’t have a solution, but I know we can’t just assume the status quo will fix things. Hopefully, projects like this will scare other parents enough to make them confront other parents. But let’s be honest, do you see that happening in these sort of communities? Most of these people laugh at the idea of children having rights and would never support anything that encroaches on their ability to teach their children whatever they want. If you suspect child abuse or neglect in a family you know, please report them to Child Protective Services. 

Homeschooling, as a method of instruction, is not intrinsically bad, dangerous, or damaging. I saw many children raised in homeschooling who were not abused by religious fundamentalism – even if they were Christians. However, as a society, we have to realize that the current state of homeschooling gives parents unique power over their children. Yes, many homeschooled children are a part of co-ops, interact with neighbors, and have relatively normal social interactions. But other homeschoolers are isolated in rural areas, with no contact with neighbors, or the outside world. Abuse develops in these environments because there is no oversight from outside the parents and, if criticism if lodged, the parents are defensive. To many homeschooling parents, homeschooling (the method) is part of a larger worldview that involves rejections of secularism, science, and academic institutions.

I developed claustrophobia, a generalized anxiety disorder, and panic attacks in high school. At the time, I assumed my panic attacks were the result of the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sins. The most common trigger for my panic was sexuality. As a teenager, I would often shake uncontrollably after masturbating. Homeschooling can make children feel trapped because they are literally never away from their parents. When I was quasi-dating girls in high school, behind my parents’ back because they wanted me to court, I would have a mini-panic attack when the phone rang – scared that my parents would find out. When I got in trouble it meant a few hours with mom and dad, crying and arguing about what God told them to do, ending in me feeling completely trapped. When I woke up the next day, I had no choice but to bottle up my anger, shame, and humiliation and go “do” homeschooling. In ATI, many leaders preached about how listening to rock music would literally result in demonic possession. This is abusive to teach to children. To this day, I struggle with anxiety before I fall asleep.  I was taught, by my parents and by ATI’s leaders, that demons were very real and they could possess rebellious Christians. Many in the homeschooling movement conceptualized the “culture war” as spiritual warfare — the secular humanists were literally portrayed as the minions of Satan.

Spiritual abuse is a difficult term for many people to wrap their heads around. It may seem like we are trying to say that raising children in a religious tradition is abusive, which we are not. However, I can say that when homeschooling is mixed with religious fundamentalism, abuse almost always occurs.

There is a distinction between religious fundamentalism and mainstream religions. I once told my mom, “I would have been fine if you stayed Baptist. It’s when you drifted into fundamentalism that hurt me.”  What many people fail to realize is that most parents don’t wake up one day and decide they need to start controlling their childrens’ lives and prepare them for the culture wars. Yes, my parents are to blame for subscribing to fundamentalism, but the homeschooling community and movement are also to blame.

In many states in the 1990s and 2000s, homeschooling parents received most of the curriculum, instruction, and indoctrination at state, regional, or national conferences. There are a myriad of institutions and groups that formed the movement, so it is impossible to point to a single root cause of the abuse in homeschooling. But I know abuse doesn’t just happen because of bad parenting. The bad parenting that people indict was being advocated on stage before thousands of people. There is a reason why so many homeschooling alumni share stories and experiences. Tens of thousands of homeschoolers attended state Christian Home Educator Fellowship (CHEF) conferences, where they were exposed to

  • The Harris family and their beliefs about Biblical courtship
  • David Barton and Little Bear Wheeler’s revisionist history
  • Evangelical leaders that scared everyone about the evils of secular humanism
  • Michael and Debi Pearl’s harsh ideas on corporal punishment and misogynistic ideas of gender roles
  • Huge book sales populated mostly by Christian fundamentalist textbooks — advocating creationism, teaching math based around the Gospel message, or other “educational tools.”

All of these ideas circulated around the homeschooling communities and trickled down to local CHEF chapters.

Parents’ responses have been mixed, but many of them see our blog as a tool to take control of their children away from them. Parents emphasize their rights to raise their children however they want. But, as a society, we have already decided that parental rights end where abuse begins. Thus, one of the main issue in this debate becomes whether or not a homeschooling environment is emotionally or spiritually abusive.

You might think this is only a problem of the past decades — that now, in this new zenith of modernity, fundamentalist homeschoolers that spiritually abuse their children are dying out. You would be wrong. Yes, there is growing momentum behind secular homeschooling, but there is no hard social science about homeschooling.  At this point, observational data is almost all that exists about homeschooling and its demographics. We know very generally how many people homeschool and for what reasons. But ten states do not even require the parents to inform them of their childrens’ “enrollment” in homeschooling.

This is the start of an important conversation about homeschooling. I am opposed to religious fundamentalism in all forms and I believe that the abuse that occurs when fundamentalism is allowed to dominate homeschooling has no place in the modern world. I’ve heard so many Evangelicals and homeschooling parents mock the Islamic madrasas for their religious instruction, but fundamentalist homeschooling isn’t different by much.

To those homeschoolers who are afraid of this exposure, it’s time to own up. These abuses happened, the community’s leaders encouraged it, and the community does not regulate itself. If the homeschooling community is not willing to regulate itself – lest a parent tell another parent their methods and ideologies are abusive! – then someone else will.

I am tired of sitting around hoping that the abusive fundamentalist culture within homeschooling will die out.  I don’t want it to die out, I want to trample it out so that no other children face the sort of abuse I, and many other, went through. Part of the means telling the honest, visceral truth about what happens in many homeschooling homes. Yes, abuse is ultimately the fault of the perpetrators, but why does everyone leave the homeschooling community blameless for how it brainwashed my parents?

The issue of abuse in homeschooling is an issue of the distortion of parental rights and the reality of systemic indoctrination.

You cannot stop the abuse without exposing the advocates.