Soy Makes Kids Gay and Babies Masturbate!

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

On Monday, one of the stories we received for our “Homeschoolers U” series about Patrick Henry College experiences mentioned a curious anecdote. The anecdote involved a PHC freshman who believed soy products make people gay. Here’s the story according to Lillia Munsell:

Midway through my first semester, a fellow freshman insisted that soy milk turned people gay. Trying not to choke on the ridiculously expensive dining hall food, I asked what he meant. “It’s the estrogen,” he explained to me with all the confidence that came from studying high school biology at the kitchen table. “It turns people gay. How else do you explain California?” I don’t know how to explain California, but this did explain the rumors about my lactose-intolerant Cuban friend who poured soy milk over his cereal and said deviant phrases like “what the hell.”

While this story might just provoke laughter and ridicule towards a freshman who would believe such asinine pseudoscience, it might be better to direct that laughter and ridicule towards the source: the so-called educated adults from which that student learned the pseudoscience. And honestly, you don’t have to look far to find them.

This student was a homeschool kid attending Patrick Henry College. The man who created PHC, Michael Farris, is a self-declared “buddy” of Joseph Farah, the editor of WorldNetDaily, a website that pretends to do legitimate journalism. (In fact, one of Farah’s own kids has attended PHC.) Farris has featured Farah on HSLDA’s radio program, Home School HeartBeat. That program is where Farris mentions Farah is “my buddy”. Farah has returned the sentiment, making Farris an exclusive WND columnist in 2006.

You know what else happened in 2006?

WND published a series entitled “SOY IS MAKING KIDS ‘GAY.'”

Yes, WND ran six-part series by James “Jim” Rutz, a dominionist who wrote a book called Megashift that teaches you how to “prepare yourself to take part in a total makeover of Planet Earth.”Rutz’s soy series is full of ridiculous pseudoscience about soy. Here’s an excerpt:

There’s a slow poison out there that’s severely damaging our children and threatening to tear apart our culture…

The dangerous food I’m speaking of is soy. Soybean products are feminizing, and they’re all over the place. You can hardly escape them anymore…

Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality.

But Rutz is not alone in fearing the evil power of the soy bean. Nor is he the first. In 2001, half a decade before Rutz wrote “SOY IS MAKING KIDS ‘GAY,'” Debi Pearl — yes, homeschool guru Debi Pearl from No Greater Joy Ministries — wrote an article entitled, “Soy Alert.” Pearl, unfortunately, was entirely blind in 2001 as to how soy makes kids gay. But she was fortunately enlightened enough to realize another danger of soy:

Soy makes babies masturbate!

Yes, you read that right. I’ll let Pearl try to explain:

We regularly get letters from parents that are shocked and horrified to have discovered that their babies, as young as 18 months, are, without doubt, masturbating. It is a shocking but growing phenomenon. Some of the problems are associated with small children clutching vibrating toys, but not in all cases. Yet, there must be a predisposing prompted by hormones. Could it be caused by the hormone element in soy formula?

Pearl never answered the question. Which is convenient for her. But she also insinuated that marriage problems could be related to soy:

If your husband lacks leadership and male dominance, but you seem to have a strong assertive drive, then stop eating soy and do some research.

All of the “evidence” she found led her to a rather gloom conclusion:

Soy is a drug, like many herbs. It is too powerful of a drug to use freely as a food.

But fear not. Pearl discovered a biblically-based solution:

When men try to improve on what God gave, it should be questioned. Cereal should be grains; milk should be the way it was in the Promised Land; meat should be as it was when Jesus fed the multitude, or when Abraham fed the angels of God.

With homeschool “leaders” like Debi Pearl and “news” sources like WND teaching these myths, it’s no wonder a homeschooled college freshman at PHC thought they were real. Hopefully he has learned real science since then.

Hopefully, too, homeschoolers will start demanding real science from their leaders and news sources.

***** UPDATE: It seems the source of these myths might very well be the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF). WAPF is a lobbying organization that is immensely popular in homeschooling circles (just take a look at the comments on this popular homeschool blogger’s post). Homeschool curriculum company Sonlight sells the Foundation’s foundational textbook, the cookbook Nourishing Traditions. (It’s hard to exaggerate the adoration some homeschool families have for the book. It’s right up there next to the Bible.) According to WAPF itself, “The most prominent group warning about the dangers of modern soy consumption would be the Weston A. Price Foundation.” And what would that warning be? Again, according to WAPF: “The fact that soy can feminize males and masculinize females is evidence of soy targeting the brain.” WAPF’s president, Sally Fallon, first gained notoriety for attacking soy in 2000, a year before Debi Pearl’s 2001 “Soy Alert.” In 2000, Fallon called soy “the next Asbestos” and claimed it caused sexual problems for kids. It seems reasonable to assume this was source for Pearl in 2001, considering the Pearl family uses WAPF material.

Apostate: Lillia Munsell’s Story

Homeschoolers U

My first year at college involved no drinking, a lot of prayer circles, and five hour exams. This is not an experience I recommend to others.

I paid dearly for the privilege of a year at Patrick Henry College, the conservative Christian school frequently called God’s Harvard. PHC was founded in 2000 by Moral Majority darling Michael Farris, a constitutional lawyer who also began the Home School Legal Defense Association. Homeschooling is both an educational model and a lifestyle, growing from 800,000 in 1999 to over 2 million in 2012. As a homeschooler born at the end of an era of legal oppression, I owed a debt to Mr. Farris. I was taught I must continue his work by challenging the liberals and conquering the culture for Christ. At homeschooling conventions, young men in suits extolled the virtues of PHC, calling it a haven for homeschoolers, a place that would understand my lack of a GED and provide me with the Ivy League experience without the East Coast liberalism. My mother was immediately sold and began pushing for PHC in 2002, while the first class were still sophomores. Ten years later, I was in a Subaru Outback crammed between a printer and a mattress protector, making the drive to my shiny new fundamentalist future.

There are 1,318 miles between my childhood home and my gender-segregated PHC dorm, and I cried for at least 600 of them, but for all the wrong reasons. I should have been questioning the wisdom of leaving behind family, friends, and a newly acquired boyfriend for a school that isn’t accredited. I wish I could blame my mother for this decision—parents are the best scapegoats. But it was me who decided to embrace my childhood religion and sign a statement of faith that promised I would never have premarital sex and always deny the lie of evolution.

Depending how you count, there are five to eight passages in the Bible that refer to homosexuality, and Patrick Henry College made sure I knew each one. Midway through my first semester, a fellow freshman insisted that soy milk turned people gay. Trying not to choke on the ridiculously expensive dining hall food, I asked what he meant. “It’s the estrogen,” he explained to me with all the confidence that came from studying high school biology at the kitchen table. “It turns people gay. How else do you explain California?” I don’t know how to explain California, but this did explain the rumors about my lactose-intolerant Cuban friend who poured soy milk over his cereal and said deviant phrases like “what the hell.”

Another student refused to say the word “naked” because it was too profane. She carried around a stuffed bunny and sang opera at all hours and locations.

To many, PHC is an idyllic sanctuary of innocence nestled in the green Virginia farmland. Set back from Highway 7 on the edge of Purcellville, a small town with southern charm, terrible restaurants, and undertones of racism, the college was close enough to DC to funnel interns to work under the Bush Administration and far enough away to shield us from the liberal rallies. When Loudon County suggested extending the metro line out towards Purcellville, Mr. Farris objected because too much secularism could travel over the metal rails. The 24 hour Harris Teeter grocery store across the street was the most fun PHC students had, especially before they banned kick scooters in the isles.

To drum up numbers, free Chick-fil-a was offered to students who attended an anti-abortion rally. These were the pictures that appeared on my classmates’ instagrams with hashtag phrases like “God is good,” “protect the innocent,” and “Aslan is on the move.”

Student clubs littered stairwell bulletin boards with posters advertising their platforms. I was asked to join the Wilberforce society, a group devoted to moral reform, especially a local government ban on porn. To the best of my knowledge, they pursued this goal by picketing the one adult store near town and drafting legislation proposing a parental control that could be placed on all Loudon county internet.

“How can you tell these stories with a straight face?” My incredulous (and public schooled) friend asked me one night after I mentioned how a senior professor used the term “honey-trap” when referring to a vagina. “Because they’re true,” I shrugged. Later that year, the same professor was the keynote speaker on Faith and Reason Day, the most important event of the semester. Three hundred and fifty students sat in rapt attention as this doctor argued that divorce is a state conspiracy to destroy the family by emasculating the father. He claimed campus rape was over-reported and not a real problem, but rather a feminist ploy of crying “wolf!” and destroying godly young men. Although I heard from faculty members and students who insisted he didn’t speak for the whole school, the speech was edited and approved by the administration.

Of course, this is the same administration that interrogated journalism students, accused them of slander, and threatened to expel them after they circulated an independent article that criticised a professor.*** This is the same administration that ignored accusations that one of their blonde PHC poster boys had blackmailed and sexually abused two female students.

He was later elected class president and his sins conveniently swept under the rug.

One of the most disturbing things about an insulated community is the echo-chamber effect. I’ve met a lot of Christians who don’t believe in Reaganomics or distinct gender roles, but at PHC, they were considered the suspicious fringe believers. In US History, I heard arguments defending the Trail of Tears. In Economics, students leaped to condemn workplace safety laws. To be fair, many of the professors walked the narrow line of challenging these views without telling the students they were wrong. One female professor confided in me that plagiarism was an epidemic in her class, but she feared that if she reported it, the administration would fire her for being a woman and stirring up trouble.

Detachment became a coping mechanism. I realized I was in a nest of crazy, and there was nothing I could do about it. I tried to skip the mandatory daily chapel hour, but my RA caught on and confronted me, so I began sitting in the back and sneaking homework between the pages of my Bible. The cafeteria was a hive of debates about free will vs. predestination and whether slavery had anything to do with the civil war, so I never sat down to eat. The library, built in a basement and stocked with a few rows of carefully selected books, was functionally useless. With only two academic buildings and five dorms—two of which I couldn’t go in, because they were men-only—PHC lacked hiding spots. I holed up in my room and found solstice in the internet, especially when I purchased a virtual private network that shielded me from the nanny software that sent every url I visited to my RD and blocked me from buying a new bra because the product pictures were deemed “pornographic.”

I was raised to believe the Bible is completely inerrant. Although I had struggled with my faith growing up, I always came back to this idea because I thought it gave me a solid, consistent worldview. Worldview is a term fundamentalists love, thanks largely to the work of 20th century theologian Francis Schaeffer, who famously wrote, “Most people catch their presuppositions from their family and surrounding society the way a child catches measles. But people with more understanding realize that their presuppositions should be chosen after a careful consideration of what worldview is true.” I know this quote by heart because I used it over and over in academic papers. PHC made me reconsider my worldview by showing me its conclusion. I entered the school hopeful and convinced I was not a racist and maybe even a feminist, and I fled disillusioned with my own prejudice but also with a better knowledge of ancient Greek.

After two semesters, I left my friends and religion behind. I wrote a letter trying to explain the former, but I resisted publicly admitting the latter. To admit a lack of faith is to lose the soapbox. I will become secular, a honey-trap, a feminazi, a wolf in sheep’s clothing—a homeschool apostate, to use the term recently coined to describe the kids who have grown up and aged out of dogma. When I moved to Austin, one of the few liberal areas of Texas, one student proclaimed “that explains it,” and refused to elaborate.

I wish I could explain things that easily, but a year spent living in black and white opened my eyes to the shades in between.

*** UPDATE 2 pm Pacific, 07/28/14: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that (1) journalism students were threatened with expulsion for writing a critical piece about a professor and (2) the professor whom the critical piece was about was the same aforementioned professor who gave the Faith and Reason Day presentation.

The Difficulty with Admitting Trauma: Kandice’s Story

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to a pseudonym at the request of the author.

My name is Kandice, and I grew up being homeschooled.

My parents were and are members of HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) but in our part of Massachusetts, there weren’t too many other homeschoolers.

My seven siblings and I were all home-schooled together; initially started using a mix of curriculum including Christian Liberty, but my parents quickly switched over to Pensacola Christian College’s (PCC) ABeka Book program. I was homeschooled from 2nd grade through 12th.

My siblings and I were raised with very clearly defined social, political, and religious ideology. Strict Calvinism, coupled with the dogma of Independent Fundamental Reformed Baptist theology was the religious perspective; politically, my father is rabidly conservative – huge fan of the NRA, Newt Gingrich, and Rush Limbaugh etc. Socially, we were taught children to follow Biblical principles as my parents saw them.

We were taught the world is full of sin, and you can’t trust anyone other than fellow Christians as all others are under Satan’s sway.

Curiously enough, unlike many in Fundamental circles, my parents are not racist at all. In fact, they harbor great frustration and confusion over racism – we were taught all people are created in the image of god and therefore physical differences don’t matter; my parents explained differences in appearance and language are stemming from the tower of Babel (Genesis Ch. 11).

I have a B.A., which I got from Bob Jones University, which is private and religious.

I was raised by educated parents who valued learning highly – my mother has a B.A. in English and my father has both a B.A., and his M.Div. My father was a minister at an Independent Fundamental Reformed Baptist church – although his religious views didn’t start out there, they progressed to that point. In my early childhood we were traditional ABC Baptists, but after my father got his own church, things began to change.

My political beliefs changed before high school, largely because I knew I was gay, and then continued transforming.

My dad is an extremely conservative Republican and we were raised with that ideology. My biggest passion in life has been reading, I can’t remember not loving words, and this drove change for me. I started reading literature that changed how I saw things – several authors were powerful in this for me: John Steinbeck, Upton Sinclair, Sinclair Lewis, Pearl S. Buck, Thomas Hardy, and Fyodor Dostoevsky.

By the time I entered high school I already disagreed with my family/father on social justice and equality matters – reading literature made me explore history and social science which really helped to broaden my view.

I knew I was gay from a young age, and in college, in my Ethics class, we were taught “facts” about homosexuality that didn’t connect at all with my experience. Such things as, people become gay through being recruited, usually at a bar (I’d never been to a bar and as far as I knew, I’d never met a gay person); or that Jesus and the Bible condemned homosexuality – well, I read everything Jesus said and he did not ever speak out against the LGBT community; the OT references to Sodom and Gomorrah are referencing the sin of lack of hospitality, not being gay. So in college, my political beliefs opened up still further to be able to fully accept myself as gay, and to be able to say that all people, regardless of religion/gender/orientation etc. should have the same rights and freedoms.

My religious beliefs went through transition as I grew older.

I stopped believing in any way that Jesus was more than a man – he existed, but he is not god or any deity. My view of god changed – I don’t have a definition for the power that some of us use the word god to describe. That power exists, and that power is more than me, but beyond that, I don’t have definitions or rules about religion. I learned to see people in light of who they were and what they do, rather than what the claim to believe – beliefs are only as significant as we let them be, and they’re so tied in to our perceptions of reality that they are often wildly flawed. And contrary to what I was raised with, I don’t think it’s my job or duty to try to “convert” anyone. I think my responsibility today is to live the most spiritual life I can, following the path I’m on, and do my utmost to not cause harm but to be of service to others.

These changes occurred because I was reading, and learning. I took what I read and compared it to what I experienced and saw in the world around me and it didn’t align. Teaching I had been taught in the Bible didn’t match up to my experience, or what I experienced from people who were deemed “sinners” or “apostate” or “lost”. And in fact, what some Christians did to me, and others, was distinctly un-Christlike; there was no logic in saying that their behavior was acceptable because they called themselves Christians, while the person who doesn’t believe in god but does amazing good is going to hell.

I would have to say homeschooling was a traumatic experience for me.

I don’t like admitting that. Because admitting trauma means addressing it beyond the bleak recitation of the facts of what occurred. Diving into how it makes me feel, or affects me, is challenging.  I think that unless homeschooling is done in conjunction with an outside schooling process, it leads to isolation, control issues, lack of contact with reality, social discomfort, low self-esteem and self-confidence, poor communication skills, and significant challenges building healthy relationships.

Homeschooling did have some lasting psychological effects on me. While this is not as powerful as it has been in the past, the scars still remain. My journey involved alcohol use that became alcoholism… that was one of the ways I coped with what I was experiencing/had experienced. I also suffered from severe depression and anxiety, leading to suicidal ideation, and this started around age 11. In college I actually attempted suicide because I just had no coping mechanism, and I didn’t know enough to know there were supports available.

Additionally as an adult, I learned that a lot of the behaviors I had as a kid that my parents labelled as “sin” and tried to punish/discipline out of me, were actually tied in to having Asperger’s and having an IQ/mind that naturally asks questions, and that needs to be challenged. It was actually hard to learn that because it hit me really hard to realize that I had spent so many years and so much time trying to change something that was neurobiologically programmed and that couldn’t be changed. Also, it didn’t need to change – it wasn’t wrong.

But the concept of Autistic persons as being sinful is very prevalent in the community I come from.

My father has repeatedly told me he would do the same thing over again, and that it’s [the way I process things] sin, not the way my brain functions.

Guilt over leaving my younger siblings behind to go to college and then leaving them again when I came out as LGBT is something I’m working through. It’s not as bad as it was, by far, because my siblings hold no animosity towards me. I just felt very responsible for them because as their older sister, I always had been responsible for them. And in big families in these environments, you sometimes feel more like a protector or caretaker than a sibling and that changes things.

Had I been in a public school setting, these experiences would have been very different.

I know this for sure since I was in public school for kindergarten and 1st grade – and in 1st grade, when teachers and administrators began to have concerns over what they saw in me, as well as my siblings, my parents shut the door on the world and began homeschooling. Getting diagnosed at a younger age, having supports in place, learning healthy coping mechanisms – yes I definitely believe this would have made a difference. I can truly say I like myself today, though, so I don’t know that I would want to not experience what I experienced because I don’t know who I would be if I hadn’t gone through that.

In conclusion, homeschooling was a mixed bag for me, very much so.

I enjoyed not being held back or slowed down by anyone else, I enjoyed having no homework, and I felt comfortable (translate – safe/understood) being around my siblings. I’ve been told, as an adult by a psychologist who had done a series of IQ tests on me, that homeschooling was actually a very good thing for me in terms of my intellectual development. So I’m grateful for being homeschooled in the sense that it allowed me to really develop my mind.

Emotionally, socially, psychologically, spiritually – homeschooling was extraordinarily damaging. Not knowing how to interact with anyone comfortably that wasn’t from my family, being raised to not trust other people, not having healthy psychological supports in place or anyone in place who could say, “Wait. This is not ok” – that wasn’t good at all. Being able to learn to reach out to people for help has taken years.  And it’s also taken a lot of work. It’s still not easy. Knowing that’s it is ok to feel something other than gratitude for being one of god’s elect was another learning process; the reality that feelings of sorrow, anger, depression, grief, loneliness – these are ok, also they’re normal and they are not sin was definitely not something I was raised with. Most emotions and thoughts were deemed sinful; learning how to first say “sin is man-made, in fact it’s not real” and then say “feelings are feelings, not good or bad unless I want to assign them so”, that also took many years.

If I were a parent, I would not home school my child.

I think we exist as part of a community, a whole, and that community is so much more than a family or small homogenous group.

I think removing the opportunity for children to learn, from a young age, about differences is unacceptable. It stunts growth emotionally, mentally, and socially. I think raising children in rigid, rule-oriented, controlling and judgmental environments is harmful. Not knowing who you are, not being able to develop your own views through experiences and feelings, is not healthy and it leads to damaging behavior and unhealthy practices in adulthood.

I’m not angry or resentful that I was homeschooled; as I mentioned above I like myself and this is a part of who I am. But I can’t in good conscience recommend or advocate for homeschooling.

Ken Ham — The Evolution of a Bully: Jeri Lofland’s Thoughts

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Jeri’s post was originally published on her blog Heresy in the Heartland  on October 16, 2013. It is reprinted with her permission. Also by Jeri on HA: “Generational Observations”, “Of Isolation and Community”“His Quiver Full of Them”“David Noebel, Summit Ministries, and the Evil of Rock”“The Political Reach of Bill Gothard”, and “Bill Gothard on Education”.

Last week, in an approach founder Ken Ham described as “cordial and engaging”, the creationist organization Answers In Genesis sponsored billboards like this one in several major cities. I can’t help wondering who Ham’s atheist friends are, and how long they will remain his friends with engaging expressions of cordiality like these.

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*****

I first encountered Ken Ham at an ICR conference in Michigan.

I was a young homeschooled kid and adored Ken Ham from the first time he opened his mouth. I loved his Aussie accent, his beard, his jokes. I retold his story about “nursing the baby” way too many times. Science was my least favorite subject, but I liked history and social studies and I believed his every word.

It never occurred to me then that Ham might be wrong about fossils, Cain’s wife, homosexuality, or the book of Genesis itself.

*****

In 1974, Ken Ham himself was searching for answers.

Ham taught science in a public high school in Australia, but apparently, teaching about evolution and millions of years presented a challenge to his faith. A church friend directed him to the book The Genesis Flood by Henry Morris (a hydrologist and founder of the Institute for Creation Research in California) and John Whitcomb (a theologian).

Morris viewed the Bible as a history book and was excited to share his notions of catastrophism and how a global flood a few thousands years ago could have shaped all the geological forms we see today. Morris was greatly influenced by a Seventh-Day Adventist named George McCready Price, who went searching for geological evidence to support the visions of Ellen White, who proclaimed that the fossils were “thus preserved as an evidence to later generations that the antediluvians perished by a flood. God designed that the discovery of these things should establish faith in inspired history“.

Morris, a Baptist, read Price’s book on “flood geology” in 1943, then quietly repackaged this novel approach to geology in his 1961 book The Genesis Flood. A decade later, Ken Ham was thrilled with Morris’ solutions that could simply do away with the “millions of years” question. He felt compelled to tell as many people as he could about these new answers.

Ham quit his teaching job in 1979 to start Australia’s Creation Science Foundation (CSF) with fellow schoolteacher and fundamentalist John Mackay. At first, CSF operated out of the Hams’ home. Ken Ham later wrote that Mackay had suggested on multiple occasions that he (Mackay) and Ham could be the two witnesses described in Revelation 11 (an idea Ham says he could not accept).

Dr. Carl Wieland, a medical doctor and former atheist, believed he had encountered the supernatural while playing at card tricks with his wife.

Recognizing that modern science and telepathy were incompatible, Wieland became a creationist and even founded a creationist magazine Ex Nihilo. When Wieland joined forces with the fledgling CSF, the young magazine’s name was changed to Creation.

In 1987, Ham moved to America with his wife Mally and their five children, first to work with Films for Christ on a creationist documentary, then to work for the Institute of Creation Research as a traveling speaker to popularize ICR’s creationist message. Ham continued to direct CSF from across the Pacific until 2004. Carl Wieland, still recovering from a near-fatal car accident that took his sight in one eye, served as CSF managing director in Australia. But the Creation Science Foundation was about to rip wide open.

Margaret Buchanan, a widow, and her disabled daughter, Debbie, joined the CSF staff in 1984. Margaret served as Ham’s personal secretary. Shortly after the Hams left Australia, John Mackay, angry about being replaced as editor of Creation magazine, called Buchanan at her home, told her not to come in to work, and made bizarre accusations.

Mackay claimed Buchanan practiced witchcraft and necrophilia and was a tool of the devil.

(Mackay told Ham that he had had to cast demons out of his dog and a black cat because of Buchanan’s satanic influence.) Another staff member then sprinkled Buchanan’s office space with grape juice to cleanse it of evil spirits. Buchanan agreed to take a four-week leave of absence while staff considered the whole affair.

When the board finally decided Buchanan was innocent, Mackay laid down an ultimatum. He would not stay unless she was dismissed. So Mackay left, with a handful of followers, to lead his own creationism organization. When Margaret and two other staff members tried to meet with Mackay at his home, he threatened them with police action if they did not leave his property. Mackay was later excommunicated from his Baptist church. CMI’s website includes more than 63 sordid pages of documents dealing with the allegations, investigations, witnesses, diary accounts, signed letters, and more.

In the stormy aftermath of Mackay’s departure, Dr. Andrew Snelling, a CSF scientist who later followed Ken Ham to ICR, admitted to having had concerns about Mackay’s “extremely sloppy research”:

I worked alongside Mr. John Mackay for some years when he was with the Foundation…

As a Christian and a scientist, I have become more and more concerned with some of the claims he has been making, particularly in the area of geology. Instances have come to my attention that are either totally untrue, or misleading, even to the point of deception. Even while working with him I was concerned about an emerging pattern of extremely sloppy research, coupled with a tendency to gloss over opposing facts, even when they were graciously brought to his attention by myself and others, which drew progressively closer to the borderline between honesty and dishonesty. My concern, then as now, was his growing potential for bringing discredit to the whole creation movement.

Warnings such as these are difficult to give about someone professing to exercise Christian ministry. Undoubtedly, if past experience is any guide, Mr. Mackay will skillfully seek to have them interpreted as further ‘persecution’.

(Meanwhile, Dr. Wieland ended up divorcing his wife and marrying Margaret Buchanan. Of course, this added to the tension within the organization as some staff members believed the Bible forbade remarriage after divorce.)

In 1994, the Hams left ICR to found their own layperson-oriented creation ministry (CSM), and moved to Kentucky with the Creation subscriber list. CSM (USA) and CSF (Australia) were closely tied and their leadership overlapped significantly. Before long, “the board decided to change the organization’s name to “Answers in Genesis,” to reflect the fact that the ministry was not just about “creation,” but the authority of all of Scripture—as well as about evangelism and equipping believers to build a biblical worldview.”

According to Ham, the Australian and American AiG organizations made a “mutual” decision to separate in 2005 over differences of philosophy and organization and met “cordially” to iron out the details. Other sources describe the split much less pleasantly, writing of a years-long “bitter power struggle”, “domination”, taped phone calls, and accusations “of deceptive conduct”. The Australian organization rebranded as Creation Ministries International (CMI). Still more friction arose over printing and distributing Creation in the U.S., with AiG introducing its own Answers magazine sometime after the Creation Museum opened in 2007.

Today, creationism has become a multi-million industry with AiG strongly dominating the market.

AiG materials are available in 77 languages. The organization conducts evangelistic campaigns and literature distribution at the Olympic Games. Plans are in place for the construction of an amusement park around a “replica” of Noah’s ark, partly to serve as a warning of God’s judgment for tolerating homosexuality.

Ken Ham and his brother Steve authored the parenting study Genesis of a Legacy, in which they teach that children are foolish sinners who are actually disobeying God when they disobey a parent. Instead of “reasoning” or allowing “questioning” or “delay”, the Hams advocate John MacArthur’s approach: “short, stinging strokes to the backside”, “painful enough to make the consequences of disobedience… unforgettable”.

Based on the story of Adam of Eve, Ham is a staunch opponent of gay marriage.

He has written an article suggesting that if homosexuality is to be deemed morally acceptable, then child sacrifice should have an equal status. 

He also opposes efforts by schools to accommodate transgender students. His suggestion that transgender students are disguising their real motives betrays a truly painful ignorance of gender issues:

Sadly, these school authorities don’t recognize the sinful heart of man and what can come out from it. Surely schools officials have thought about the potential for high school boys to pretend to “identify” as a female just so they can have access to the girls’ restroom and, maybe, to their locker room—winking to their friends as they do it?  

*****

AIG prayed for my request. :)
AIG prayed for my request. 🙂

For years, I read Ham’s books, got his newsletter, sent him my money and my prayer requests. I was excited about the progress of the creation museum as they overcame the opposition of the community to build a temple to unchanging Truth.

Then, I had kids of my own. Before I knew it, they started to gravitate toward picture books about dinosaurs and stars at the library. My parents had always rejected books that mentioned “millions of years” or talked too much about biological “adaptations”. I didn’t want to discourage my kids with unnecessary censorship, and I didn’t want them to grow up feeling as uneasy around science as I was. So I started researching. As a homeschooling mom, it was important to me to be able to teach them accurately about dinosaurs and astronomy and geology. And as a Christian, I looked for trustworthy sources who shared my belief in the inspired truth of the Bible.

But what I learned shocked me, and sparked new questions.

The next time I visited my parents’ house, I pored over the latest book from AiG, studying their answers. And I felt lied to. AiG isn’t about the data, or the scientific method. AiG doesn’t offer scientific responses to questions about the rock strata or the age of the earth or fossils of whales with hips. They can’t offer plausible explanations for day and night and light and vegetation on Earth before the Sun appeared on the fourth day of creation. Most of their “answers” can be summarized as “Well, a global flood could have caused…” And they pretend there is no contradiction in the two Genesis creation accounts.

AiG is about one specific religious agenda — a fundamentalist approach to Biblical doctrine that assigns everyone who is “wrong” to hell.

Suddenly Ken Ham, my former idol, looked more like a bully.

*****

In 2010, Rachel Held Evans rocked many in the evangelical world with her book Evolving in Monkey Town, in which she considered the scientific validity of theistic evolution. When Ham shook his head sadly over the “indoctrination of our age” and “compromising church leaders”, dismissing the faith of Christians who also embrace modern science, Evans posted an articulate and heartfelt response on her blog:

We are tired of fighting. We are tired of drawing lines in the sand. We are tired of Christianity being cast as a position in a debate when it is supposed to be a way of life.

“What we are searching for is a community of faith in which it is safe to ask tough questions, to think critically, and to be honest with ourselves. Unfortunately, a lot of young evangelicals grew up with the assumption that Christianity and evolution cannot mix, that we have to choose between our faith in Jesus and accepted science. I’ve watched in growing frustration as this false dichotomy has convinced my friends to leave the faith altogether when they examine the science and find it incompatible with a 6,000-year-old earth. Sensing that Christianity required abandoning their intellectual integrity, some of the best and brightest of the next generation made a choice they didn’t have to make….

Ken likes to frame his position as an unwavering commitment to the authority of Scripture, but in reality his is an unwavering commitment to one interpretation of Scripture.

The following year, Ham was banned from speaking at a homeschool convention in Cincinnati after making “mean-spirited” remarks about another speaker, a Bible scholar and theologian who approaches the Old Testament very differently than Ham does. AiG also used its deep pockets and legal staff to bully a smaller Christian ministry with a similar name, threatening them with charges of trademark infringement.

And this month, AiG’s billboards appeared. Responding to criticism over his message to his “atheist friends”, Ham both defended and reiterated his satisfaction with his own belief that atheists will spend eternity in hell, while mocking the notion that dead people cease to exist. He described atheism as “sad” and “purposeless”.

*****

Many, many followers of Jesus doubt Young Earth Creationism, and even St. Augustine considered the Creation account to be allegorical.

Exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
Exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

But no one told me that. I swallowed the whole Ham sandwich: you couldn’t have faith, or sin, or Jesus, or heaven, or God… without Adam, Eve, Eden, a global flood, and less than 10,000 years. The only problem was, when I could no longer believe in a young earth, the rest of the story disintegrated, too.

Once upon a time, my meager tithe checks helped build Ken’s creation museum. Today I am one of his “atheist friends”, taking my kids to see dinosaur footprints and ancient rocks. Ham’s cartoons (the red “Abortion” balloons flown from the castle founded on Evolution) and his jokes (“God didn’t make Adam and Steve”, “fossils don’t come with labels!”) led directly to my atheism.

My life is neither sad nor purposeless.

But if it makes him feel better, Ham can thank his God that I’m finally wrong.

Incorporating Thinkers: When Communities Are Unsafe or Unwelcoming

thinkersincorporated

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on August 14, 2013.

In a series called “Homeschoolers are Out,” Homeschoolers Anonymous told stories of the life of conservative Christian homeschooling from the perspectives of LGBT individuals.

It was interesting to me that while bloggers such Libby Anne of Love Joy Feminism were used as mini props to parents who rallied against gay marriage, individuals like me and Melissa of Permission to Live were sheltered from learning that gays existed. The stories had a lot of diversity like that because our homes were all so different.

But there is always the party pooper. Not too surprising is that this series is quite controversial. This is what a group called Thinkers Incorporated said.

HA, specifically in their series of posts on the experiences of homeschoolers of alternate gender and sexual orientation, paints a picture of homeschooling that is foolishly simplistic. All religious homeschoolers do not believe that homosexuals should be stoned in the streets and bullied into oblivion. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find a group of any size comprised of homeschoolers that really believes this hypocrisy.

While I do not doubt that real abuses have occurred, it is unfair and slanderous to claim that homeschoolers have some type of cultural mass objective of slamming the LGBT community. The underlying principle of home education is that full parenting control is in the hands of the parents. Thus they may choose to bring up their children however they see fit. Therefore, making any kind of generalization at all about homeschooling is fallacious. We are all different to some degree, and that’s frankly the point of the whole idea. We don’t have to subscribe to anyone else’s views on any subject.

I’d bang my head against the wall, except I need to use my head to write this. The whole point was that you don’t have to believe that gays should be stoned in order to not foster a safe environment for LBGT individuals. The point of the whole series is that bigotry is always bad whether we are talking stoning, shunning, or just not welcoming. Bigotry does exist in the Christian homeschool community. Those who do not welcome gays into their community are, actually, part of the problem.

I’m not speaking for the writer Luke Adams at Thinkers Incorporated; he may be very welcoming.

But just in general, most people I know don’t believe in stoning gays; yet, most conservatives I know are not overly welcoming gays into their communities. (Some might say it’s an oximoron for conservatives to welcome gays. But just ask Frank Schaeffer that who grew up in the 60s as the son of the fundamentalist parents Francis and Edith Schaeffer and saw lesbians kissing in their missions house. We conservatives make our bed and lie in it.)

I am not gay or bi, but I am scared to talk to old members of my homeschool community about what I believe about hell or life because I know people will judge me for it. In fact, Thinkers Incorporated themselves already judged me when they critized H.A. for their universalist bloggers, aka, me. [HA note: Lana is our only blog partner who self-identifies as a “Christian universalist”].

Homeschooling isn’t a very “safe” place to come out as anything not conservative: universalists, gay, lesbian, atheist, democrat, whatever.

This does not mean every homeschooler is bigoted or sexist or racist or whatever (although I think we all are more of those things than we care to admit – I include myself). But the Christian homeschool community is not safe for me, and I’m a straight Christian who does missions work.

Just stop and imagine what it would be like to come out gay in a conservative homeschool community, or any other religious, conservative, non-homeschool community, and then tell me we are over generalizing this, and that we don’t need to tell stories from LGBT individuals.

This is from Andrew, on growing up gay.

But from the moment I learned what “homosexual” meant, I knew that I would never truly be the person they wanted me to be, because I knew that I was inherently flawed. And as is often the case with things like this, once I knew what the word meant, I began noticing it everywhere. But in the conservative Christian circles (including homeschooling support groups) I was a part of, it was rarely something I heard in its entirety. Instead, it was like something just out of the corner of my eye, a fleeting shadow in the midst of a conversation. It was that-sin-which-must-not-be-named.

….

I did everything I could to try and “fix” myself, including looking into electroshock therapy, though thankfully I had to have a parent’s consent and there was no way I wanted to tell my parents. Eventually, after a failed attempt to turn myself straight by dating my then-best-friend (a woman) in college, I reached the end of my rope.

I fell into a deep depression, was suicidal on multiple occasions, and through it all was desperately trying to reconcile my faith (and thus the large majority of my friends and family) with my sexuality.

Now to be clear, Andrew has already said that this is not uniquely a homeschool problem. He wrote,

“In other words, I realized that I can’t blame ‘homeschooling’ or even ‘the homeschooling movement’ for the majority of my struggle in coming to accept and love the person that I am.” 

But the point is that the messages he received was that he was flawed and needed fixing, and whether that battle comes from homeschooling, fundamentalism, secularism, or internal, it is always a toxic feeling. It is always a story that needs to be told, so we can heal of our bigotry together.

Everyone who shared their stories on H.A. has a different story. Some tell stories of people who welcomed them, and some tell stories where people shut the doors behind them. The point is that where bigotry exists – even if it’s not in Luke’s church – it is wrong. This is not a generalization; it is not a generalization about anything at all.

It is just individual stories, stories that need to be heard and told.

I’m listening. What about you?

David Noebel, Summit Ministries, and the Evil of Rock: Jeri Lofland’s Thoughts

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 12.26.23 PM
Summit Ministries’ Jeff Myers and David Noebel on James Dobson’s radio show.

Jeri’s post was originally published on her blog Heresy in the Heartland with the title “Time Makes Ancient Good Uncouth.” It is reprinted with her permission. Also by Jeri on HA: “Generational Observations”, “Of Isolation and Community”, and “His Quiver Full of Them.”

*****

New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.

~James Russell Lowell, 1845

I ordered David Noebel’s booklet “Christian Rock: A Stratagem of Mephistopheles” from Summit Ministries in Manitou Springs as a teenager sometime in the early ’90’s.

I needed to know that Gothard and my parents weren’t crazy, that other intelligent adults had reasonable arguments with which to oppose Christian rock.

From the back cover: “It is The Summit’s purpose to arm Christian young people with facts and information concerning God, home and country so they will be able to hold fast to the true and the good in building their lives for the future.” I wanted facts; I wanted information.

And it turned out that Noebel supported my parents’ position:

“The church is beset with a relentless beat which weighs on the nerves and pounds in the head. And the syncopation evokes a most basic sensuous response from the body, since it is purposely aimed at the physical and sensual.”

“Squeezing in a few ‘thank you, Jesus’ or ‘Hallelujah, it’s done’ in rock music does not cleanse rock of its evils. Indeed, the lyrics were not its main sin for some time. The beat of the music was its evil.

Noebel presented 30 reasons, plenty of Bible verses, a study involving houseplants, and claims about applied kinesiology by a John Diamond. He quoted Henry Morris (a civil engineer and ardent young-earth creationist also opposed to modern art) and had a lot to say about sex and Marxism. Additionally, he linked the rock beat to atheistic Soviet communism and objectionable art styles like cubism and surrealism.

David Noebel is the author of "Understanding the Times," a book popular in evangelical and homeschool circles.
David Noebel is the author of “Understanding the Times,” a book popular in evangelical and homeschool circles.

I knew nothing about David Noebel.

I was not familiar with his much earlier work Communism, Hypnotism, and the Beatles, published in 1965–long before my birth–by Billy James Hargis’ Christian Crusade.

In one reviewer’s words: “Noebel is compelling because he’s intelligent, coherent, and well-researched, despite being absolutely paranoid and utterly mad. Aside from some inconsistent use of the Oxford Comma, he has a clear, if discursive thesis:

“Rock ‘n’ roll is turning kids into gay, Communist, miscegenators.”

Billy James Hargis was a right-wing evangelist and radio and television ranter long before Rush Limbaugh. He saw communist plots everywhere: in the NAACP and the civil rights movement, in the assassination of JFK, in water fluoridation. According to TIME magazine (Feb. 16, 1976), he founded American Christian College “to teach ‘antiCommunist patriotic Americanism'” from the city he called the “Fundamentalist Capital of the World”. From there, he promoted a hard line against drugs, homosexuality, sex education, abortion and the Beatles and toured with the college choir.

David Noebel was an aide to Hargis for twelve years, speaking around the country, founding The Summit in 1962 as a Christian Crusade program to combat anti-Christian teachings from secular universities (like the University of Tulsa) and contributing to Hargis’ television show where together they decried marijuana use and rock music. Later, Noebel became Vice President of Hargis’ new American Christian College in Tulsa.

In 1974, Noebel was staggered when students confided to him that Hargis, ardent promoter of traditional morality and father of four, had had sex with several of them.

Eventually four men and one woman exposed Hargis’ sexual abuse and manipulation over a period of years. TIME reported on the scandal in 1976, Hargis was forced to resign, and the school closed its doors the following year. Noebel went on to effectively “fold” Christian Crusade into Summit Ministries, building it into a successful international worldview training/brainwashing center targeting all ages, but teenagers in particular.

Noebel was an aide to Billy James Hargis, a right-wing evangelist and radio and television ranter who saw communist plots everywhere.
Noebel was an aide to Billy James Hargis, a right-wing evangelist and radio and television ranter who saw communist plots everywhere.

Postmodernism has replaced communism as the bane of our times. According to an article by Summit’s Steve Cornell,

“[The] pre-modern era was one in which religion was the source of truth and reality…. In a postmodern world, truth and reality are understood to be individually shaped by personal history, social class, gender, culture, and religion…. Postmoderns are suspicious of people who make universal truth claims…. Postmodern thinking is full of absurdities and inconsistencies.”

As a postmodern myself, I find it ironic that the decades have softened Noebel’s hardline position on Christian rock.

Apparently Mephistopheles has released it for other uses. Students at Summit’s youth conferences speak of the meaningful “corporate worship“, which now includes rock songs like “How Great Is Our God” by Chris Tomlin and “Jesus, Thank You” from Sovereign Grace Music.

The teens attending the worldview lectures today were not yet born when David Noebel penned Stratagem and would likely be surprised to learn that the religious anthems they find so powerful are actually “estranging them from traditional values”. According to the now retired, but still involved and revered, “Doc” Noebel, “although the lyrics might acknowledge the concept of true worship, the music itself expresses the unspoken desire to smash it to pieces.”

Summit’s John Stonestreet writes, “Truth does not yield to popular opinion. Unlike postmodernism, the biblical worldview can withstand all challenges and still speak to the dominant culture.” This belief is at the core of Summit’s “worldview” training.

And yet, Lowell’s line rings more true: time does make ancient “good” uncouth. Morality and truth are, in fact, shaped by history and culture.

As Summit’s stance on Christian rock illustrates so well.

Maybe, in another 30 years, Noebel’s successors will stop fighting same-sex marriage and even give up warning kids about “the gay agenda” as they “keep abreast of truth”? One can always hope…

His Quiver Full of Them: Jeri Lofland’s Thoughts

His Quiver Full of Them: Jeri Lofland’s Thoughts

Jeri’s post was originally published on her blog Heresy in the Heartland. It is reprinted with her permission. Also by Jeri on HA: “Generational Observations” and “Of Isolation and Community.”

Decades ago, I cross-stitched a scripture motto for my parents from Psalm 127, the favorite psalm of large families.

“Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”

The psalmist goes on to say: “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them…”

The term “quiverfull” is now used as both a noun and an adjective to describe a theology and lifestyle that glorifies human fertility while maintaining that God will provide the resources to raise as many children as he allows a couple to conceive. Contraception is held to be “playing God” and a violation of the command to be “Be fruitful and multiply”. The ideal Quiverfull couple are always open to “more blessings”, regardless of financial situation, health concerns, housing limitations, or needs of existing children.

I’m not certain when my parents decided that contraception was immoral. As a high schooler, Mom was an advocate of zero population growth and intended to adopt rather than bear children. A few years later, she graduated from a strict Catholic nursing school and married my dad. I was born a year later, my brother two years after that, and so on for the next 20 years.

Mail would arrive periodically from the Couple to Couple League and my parents had a couple of books by Catholic authors John & Sheila Copley explaining the practice of abstinence and/or breastfeeding as a means of birth control. Of course, even “natural family planning” (NFP) sounded too much like the evil “Planned Parenthood” so it was usually referred to as “child spacing”. Somewhere along the line my parents abandoned NFP (turns out it’s not all that effective at preventing pregnancy!) and the babies began to come even closer together.

Certainly Mom was influenced by Mary Pride’s 1985 book The Way Home, a story of the author’s journey from feminism to what she calls “reality”. Mary had just three young children when she wrote the book, in which she blasted away at contraception, lingerie, Marabel Morgan’s The Total Woman, and even Christian schools.

All forms of sex that shy away from marital fruitfulness are perverted. Masturbation, homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, prostitution, adultery, and even deliberate marital barrenness–all are perverted.”

“Since the word used for female is connected so strongly with the idea of nursing babies, whereas it has no connection at all with the idea of sexual activity, I believe that God is saying here that when women exchange their natural function of childbearing and motherliness for that which is ‘against nature’ [that is, trying to behave sexually like a man], the men tend to abandon the natural sexual use of the women and turn to homosexuality. When men stop seeing women as mothers, sex loses its sacredness. Sex becomes ‘recreational’, and therefore the drive begins to find new kicks.”    (Mary Pride, The Way Home, 1985)

(Pride’s position against family planning was more extreme than even the Catholic Couple-to-Couple League’s, prompting a correspondence between her and John Kippley, president of CCLI, and leading Pride to grudgingly endorse NFP in some situations in her sequel to The Way Home.)

Pride went on to birth six more babies and became a powerful force in the new homeschooling movement. My mom used to share The Way Home with all her friends and donated it to church libraries when she could. (When she encouraged me to read it, I was confused. Especially by the story about the lady wearing saran-wrap. Sexually naive young women raised in patriarchal, homeschooling isolation were definitely not Pride’s target audience.)

Mary Pride’s views fit rather well with the teachings of Bill Gothard–a middle-aged bachelor who handed out plenty of sexual and parenting advice at his seminars and encouraged couples to have surgeries to reverse previous vasectomies and tubal ligations. One of Gothard’s books informs us, “Labor in childbirth… was given to the woman for her spiritual benefit…” and points out that the God of the Old Testament “cursed several women by closing their wombs.” Attendees of Gothard’s conferences learned to associate infertility with God’s judgement. A full quiver, on the other hand, was a sign of God’s favor, a spiritual status symbol.

In 1990, a Nebraska couple published A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ. In this book, Rick and Jan Hess (homeschooling parents of ten) invite the reader to imagine a world where no one has ever had more than two or three siblings, effectively eliminating many historical figures. This exercise concludes with visualization of a future where enormous families are normal and God provides spacesuits for a missionary family moving their brood to evangelize a colony on the moon. My parents had this book, probably purchased at an IBLP seminar and still available on Gothard’s website.

Then there was Nancy Campbell’s occasional magazine for moms, Above Rubies. Nancy is a fierce promoter of anti-feminism from her compound in Tennessee. Her website includes multiple articles by women who felt guilt and regret over “the biggest mistake” of their life. After they repented, they went on to expand their families by four, five, six more babies. What mistake is reversed by more pregnancies? An abortion, perhaps? No, as it turns out, the biggest mistake of these women’s lives was a tubal ligation. Nancy also sells a book, A Change of Heart, encouraging couples to have surgeries to reverse both vasectomies and tubal ligations.

Vickie Farris, whose husband Mike is president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, homeschooled their ten children and lived to write a book about it. She encourages other women to reject birth control methods and embrace motherhood. Quiverfull women like Farris, and Michelle Duggar of “Nineteen Kids and Counting”, have built their lives on the mantra “God won’t give anyone more than they can handle”, sometimes phrased as “What God orders, he pays for”.

My parents were opponents of both birth control and sterilization. They even encouraged some of their friends to have reversal surgeries, resulting in many more babies. My mom had eleven children over 24 years, including ten [unassisted home]births. Pregnancy was not easy for her–she often referred to herself with the phrase from St. Paul, “a living sacrifice”. She spent most of my childhood breastfeeding, diapering, potty-training, and homeschooling on top of that. I understood that this was not culturally normal, but sought to convince myself that God was pleased with this self-sacrifice. I spent my teen years watching my mom’s body swell and deflate, and changing thousands of diapers.

In my twenties, as I waited for my turn to become a wife and mother, I quietly ticked off how many children I could have in years. I may have been ideologically persuaded that contraception was wrong, but I didn’t want to spend twenty years lactating either. When I got impatient for God to bring me a husband (no boyfriends on the horizon), I consoled myself by guessing how many fewer children I would bear in a shorter window of fertile sexual activity.

Fortunately, when I did get married, my husband and I quickly began to realize that many aspects of Quiverfull thought and practice were contradictory to our values. Not before taking NFP classes from a Catholic certified trainer, though. When we got pregnant anyway, we were told the method worked fine–we’d just had sex when [it turned out!] we were actually fertile. Well, what do you know?

I think my relationship with the Quiverfull movement finally ended a few years ago as I was perched on the end of an exam table in my doctor’s office. Looking up from my chart, she compassionately observed, “You’ve been raising kids for a long time,” and I burst into unexpected tears.

These days, stories of ex-Quiverfull moms and their “quivering daughters” are multiplying on the Internet like rabbits in the spring. The fruit of the movement has not turned out to be sweet; we deal with health problems, poverty, anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, cutting, sexual abuse, emotional incest, and divorce. (You can read far more than you want to know at the Homeschoolers Anonymous blog.)

In spite of these firsthand horror stories, Quiverfull continues to enjoy wide support in America and is gaining traction in other nations. Earlier this year, the BBC reported on the movement’s growth in the United Kingdom. You can listen to more, including scary-sounding clips from Nancy Campbell, here.

Meanwhile here in the States, Hobby Lobby and Catholic hospitals gnash their teeth over their employees’ rights to use birth control. Texan teenagers are taught that contraceptives don’t work. (The result? Texas has more than 10% of America’s teen births.) And TLC continues to profit from shows like “Nineteen Kids and Counting”, promoting Quiverfull ideology to some unsuspecting viewers.

The show should include a disclaimer: For your own safety, don’t try this at home.

TeenPacters Speak Up: Part Ten, TeenPact and Relationships

TeenPacters Speak Up: A Series by Between Black and White

HA note: This series is reprinted with permission from Between Black and White. Part Ten was originally published on May 24, 2013.

*****

Part Ten: TeenPact and Relationships, by Kierstyn King

Everyone is told, no crushes are allowed to happen at TeenPact (because you can “allow” a crush to begin with).

Boys are told, to open doors for women, to let them go first in line, and to treat them like they’re delicate little flowers. Essentially, boys are taught to treat women like objects who are helpless and can’t take care of themselves. Girls are told to accept these gestures, always, even if they’re unwanted. Never turn them down.

Some of this is Tim Echols forcing southern manners down everyone’s throat, and some of it is perpetuating the idea that women are “the weaker vessel”. It’s hard, as a courteous person, because, having boobs means I can’t practice common courtesy on a human level. I’m not allowed to open a door, trade my place, give up my seat for someone who’s a boy because then it is interpreted as a slap in the face to them and their efforts at (forced) chivalry. This tells women to expect “special” treatment because they’e seen was weaker, and teaches men that women are weaker and need help to do basic things.

We’re supposed to let the men take command in setting things up, in making decisions, and whatever even if we disagree or have a better one. We can’t just assert ourselves and say no like normal people, because we need to learn submission.

In what I like to call the 2007 Speech From Hell, Tim Echols started by going on a raging tirade about “effeminate men” and I’m pretty sure he worked in how homosexuals were evil too. He said that it was an abomination to god and he was really angry with any man he saw who didn’t act manly enough for his liking. He listed specific examples (that I thought were ridiculous) but I can’t remember what they were now.

Then, he turned his attention to women, he singled us out and spent far too long on another tirade.

He talked about how we need to grow up and get married (fast! young!) so we can start breeding an army, because that is what we women are supposed to do. Our job in life, our job to further the cause, is to create more people and train them to make the changes that (hopefully) our husbands will have started to make. If we did that, god would be happy, we would be fulfilling our roles as women — because that’s just how it is. Women are not supposed to actually lead, women’s place is in the home, behind a man, who is supposed to be bringing the nation back to it’s christ-centered roots (don’t get me started).

Well before that point I had sworn off marriage, because a life of doing nothing but being pregnant and teaching children with the hope that they would be passionate about the thing I was and want to do the same thing just sounded horrible and unlikely. When he singled out all the women in the audience I felt embarrassed, ashamed, sad, horrified, and broken.

Because I had been told by my parents that what Mr. Echols was conveying was indeed my purpose, but I didn’t want that. I never had. It sounded like hell to me, though I would never have used those terms. It sounded just….the thought of it crushed my soul, and I was hoping TeenPact would be the place I didn’t have to fit that mold, but I was so wrong. I knew that once I got married I would have to go into that box — so I swore it off, and in case that didn’t work, I resolved to do all the things I wanted to do before I got married. Remembering that speech still devastates me and kills that thing that it killed before over and over again. I think maybe it was hope.

I felt completely broken, like a failure, because while every other girl was sitting there, raptured, already sold on the idea of getting married and having kids and getting permission to get married young, I was devastated, because that was just not the life I wanted – not the life I felt I was supposed to live.

I was supposed to do what they wanted me to do, without question, because a guy said it. I was never supposed to think.

And yet, thinking is what saved me from that fate, so: Thank you, TeenPact, for introducing me to my thinker-husband, my thinker-friends, and our sense of knowing we can indeed change the world, and reverse the lies and beliefs you perpetuated that only serve to enable the abusive environments we escaped from.

Because of you, maybe we can make that change.

To be continued.

Why Not to Judge Racist, Bigoted, and Sexist People: Lana

Why Not to Judge Racist, Bigoted, and Sexist People: Lana

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on January 22, 2013.

Yes, a lot of people are racists, bigoted, and sexist. We live in a world where people love to push the other person down. People love to make themselves superior  and shove the world in a nice box. But life doesn’t work that way.  And that box is wrong. As we’ve seen from the test of time, women aren’t more dumb than men, and girls aren’t worse at math than boys. Stereotypes are not only wrong, but they are also holding us back from moving forward.

But. Yet.

I grew up in that box.

I hated being the inferior sex, but I still believed I was. I was taught that I had to wear more clothing, speak more soft, and watch boys at our homeschool camps get to rock climb. My homeschool leaders would have denied they were teaching me that I was inferior, but they were.

And I honestly believed being gay was a choice. A simple choice. I had never met a gay person. I had no idea.

I grew up isolated. I simply didn’t know what I didn’t know. I love homeschooling. Always will. But this doesn’t change the fact that because I was homeschooled, I was taught my parents’ view of the world and never had the opportunity to have a teacher with a different perspective. I simply could not imagine another world out there. The homeschool, evangelical culture was my life. One world, one lens, that’s all I had.

My friends in Asia can’t understand a way of life where people work hard and live above the poverty level. Some cannot imagine earning the kind of money that would even afford a car. I’ve tried to teach them tricks, and its failed. In the same way they can’t imagine, I couldn’t imagine another way of life outside fundamentalism growing up. My world was black and white. How could I imagine what colors were? The Bible said homosexuals can’t inherit the kingdom of God; this meant they went to hell. Logical? Not quite. But I simply couldn’t imagine.

Some of us didn’t grow up fortunate enough to be taught what it really meant to love our neighbors as ourselves. My family was not mean or malicious. We weren’t out to get anyone. We were simply clueless. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. My parents were honestly as clueless as me.

That’s changed now.

When you meet a clueless person, try to have patience. Yes, talk to them. But have patience.

I changed. But the part that made me most reluctant to change was that people called me bigoted and sexist at my university. That hurt me. And I grew to think of these people as just hateful people. They never convinced me. Only leaving the country convinced me.

Always remember, people are a work in process. Let’s go alongside and help each other rather than judge each other.

The Queer Elder’s Son: George

The Queer Elder’s Son: George

Trigger warnings: this story contains brief references to molestation.

Hi, I’m George, and I’m a queer man who was homeschooled.  And guess what?  For me, it wasn’t all that bad.  Yes, within the conservative Christian community I was raised in, complete with the requisite Bill Gothard character studies and HSLDA membership, I actually turned out okay.  How is this possible?  Let’s take a look.

I’ve never attended a public school.  I stayed at home and was taught by my mother from a self-created curriculum from kindergarten through senior year of high school.  During this period, my family attended a series of churches, trying to find the correct mix of the fundamentalism my mother sought and deism my father was attracted to.  Surprisingly, this meant a lot of different churches including one ill-fated and ill-advised attempt at creating our own.

We’ll start with some of the ugly stuff.  Like most in my situation, sexuality was always correlated directly with shame.  We never, ever spoke of sex.  I found out about it when I was ten years old and reading the encyclopedia article on vaginas.  The line “insertion of the penis into the vagina” was the most detail I got, later telling my parents who laughed, asked if I had questions, and never spoke of it again.  The secrecy and taboo nature of sex led to me being more than slightly obsessed with it.  However, the idea of purity had been ground into my mind, and I remember flagellating myself after masturbating for the first time, thinking I had left my purity behind.  No God could love someone like me.  But the confusion of sex as being ugly — after all, God struck down that man who ejaculated on the ground — and somehow ‘good’ was something my mind was unable to rectify.

I still hesitate when trying to find words for what happened next.  The simplest explanation is often the best.  While at a Christian summer camp, I was molested by a male counsellor over the course of a three-week session.  He was in his late teens and while what occurred between us wasn’t rape, it obviously wasn’t consensual sex either.  I came away from the experience with two major problems.

First, my purity was definitely gone now.  What I had done with that man meant I was officially damned to hell.  It was over.  Could I even go to heaven now that I’d lost that part of myself?  I figured the answer was no.

Second, I enjoyed it physically.  I found myself attracted to him.  Him, a man.  I was a homeschooled preteen, and thus the idea of homosexuality didn’t even make sense to me.  But it was obviously not normal and not something men were meant to feel for men.

For mostly the second reason, I kept it a secret.  And the next year?  I went back to the same camp, he was still there, and we picked back up where we had been.  This move I did regret afterwards, serving myself up to him so obviously.

So that year I decided to tell.

This is probably the lowest point of this tale, the part where things suddenly screech to a halt.  My mother told me she did not believe me, it was too ridiculous to think the person I was specifically singling out had done what I was saying.  So I slammed it back inside and did not speak of it again for years (this post is around the fourth time I’ve ‘said’ it in the last fifteen years).

Unfortunately this didn’t mean the attraction to boys went away.  Which was a problem, especially once I found the terms to label it.

Sitting through long discussions of purity?  Of how to remain like Timothy or Titus or some other short book of the Bible?  I had already committed the sin of Onan, with another man.  How on earth was I supposed to return to a time before that all happened?  So I settled for keeping it quiet.

Fast forward a few years, to my first same-age homosexual encounter.  In an extremely conservative Christian organization, I attended an annual ‘summit’ of sorts.  Boys and girls were kept very separate for propriety’s sake.  I am unsure how the organizers didn’t see how this would backfire, as it led to me and several others initiating activity which was just a ‘joke’ and ‘so gay lol’.  I do wonder about those men, some of them now married with children being raised in the heart of southern baptist ministries.

This was when I decided to embrace my sexuality.  I had only one life.  The shame I felt about it?  Still present.  Always present.  Knowing God hated me.  But he had hated me since the first moment I had had hands lain on me back at summer camp, so what did it matter any more?

I manifested this choice in several overt ways.  I began to dress much more flamboyantly, with bright colors, patterns, and the occasional piece of non-gender-appropriate clothing worn in public, even to church.  I started to spend time grooming myself, discussing personal hygiene with ‘the girls’ and loving the camaraderie we shared.  My male friends dropped away one by one, until none were left, which was picked up on by the homeschooling community we were a part of.  My mother was a leader in it, my father an elder in a church with a few thousand congregants who all paid close attention to his kids.

The son showing up in makeup, flares, and paisley?  With a sash?!  Yes, it was noticed.  The boy who was quickly becoming ‘one of the girls’?  Oh, very much noticed.

People whispered.  People talked.  I wasn’t invited to so many messianic seder celebrations any more, but I could handle it.  Because I was already damned to Hell!

But soon the girls weren’t allowed to be my friend either.  The more conservative families pulled away entirely, leaving my own siblings without close friends.

Finally my parents had two very different conversations with me.

My father sat me down and requested very plainly that I not come out of the closet.  He said if I did, he would cut off ties with me.  But otherwise, I was free to live my life.  There was no preface at all, it was said during a car ride to get groceries, and I guess my desire to self-destruct had reached a point where he felt it necessary to say something.  I told him I was still into girls, and his smirk made me want to prove him wrong.

Within the same week, my mother and I were baking together (yes, a homeschooled son allowed to help prepare family dinner!) when she asked me if I was gay.  She quickly followed with “because it seems like you really want people to think you are.”  I told her I sort of was and sort of wasn’t.  I just liked expressing myself.

My mother, a friend of Michael Farris, worshipper of Francis Schaeffer, former pal of Doug Phillips, said she just wanted me to be happy.

We had Bible studies every morning still.  I read about how much Jesus loved those who were as fucked up as me, obviously lacking the belief that this was true.  My parents loved me, and still love me.

Shortly, my father was removed from the board of elders of our church.  We were still welcome to attend, but not to hold leadership or serve in any particular area of ministry.  The hunt for a new church began quickly, settling on a liberal Presbyterian congregation that left me with less of a desire to rub my sexuality in everyone’s face.

Prior to enrolling in college, I dated a Good Christian Girl for a year to make my family happy.  We did it all the right way, asking about courtship, allowing her father to have some level of control (my own father terrified of messing up what seemed like the perfect ‘out’ for him with regards to his gay son), and keeping things very chaste.  After our breakup, my mother asked if we had ever kissed, and seemed disappointed when I said no.  Seemed like that wasn’t the cure, but she had hopes still.

I dated another girl in college, one I got much more physical with, though not to the point of full-on sex, as we were at a conservative Christian school and she wanted to preserve her ‘purity’ for marriage.  I was aware mine was gone and didn’t believe in the magic ability to restore virginity, so I broke up with her rather than break her heart with the truth of me.

I remained celibate for the next two years, toning down my flamboyancy and joining a church’s youth ministry where I quickly became a favorite of the kids and a hot item for the single ladies seeking a man to produce a quiver full with.  I think perhaps browsing my old Facebook photos was enough for them to know it probably wasn’t going to happen.

The period of celibacy brought great joy to my parents.  Perhaps I wouldn’t turn out gay, just maybe.  I had dated two girls after all.  I was just a bit more…out there than most men.

When I started dating my most recent partner, a black male poet from Brooklyn, I kind of figured it was time to admit something to myself.  But my Dad’s words about coming out still rung in my head, and I kept it quiet.

That relationship ended without anyone ever hearing about it.

Shortly thereafter I moved far from my family’s location.  Dated a couple other men, a couple other women.  Kept it quiet and out of their earshot (except for my mother, who once asked specifically about my ‘special friend’, who she found endearing).

The shame is still there.  The desire to hide it is still there.  Most of my siblings don’t even know I’ve dated men, much less several men.

I wonder where I’d be had it not been for that summer camp.  I wonder if my belief in purity would have resulted in many more years of repression or would have resulted in me being able to maintain a heterosexual relationship?

But those value judgements are for people who desire to make value judgements.  I’m past that.

My parents still love me.  They are from a different time, a different age, and aren’t quite able to cope with the entire truth.  But they know who their son is, and they love him anyway.  They love him enough to lose friends, to be removed from a church, to question their own deep biases.  Sure, things could be better.  But they could also be a lot worse.

Mostly, I worry about those who are less happy than me.

Is my story the picture of perfection?  No, not at all.

But I’m finding ways to like myself.  Finding ways to believe in something that brings me joy rather than pain.

I’m here, I’m queer, I was homeschooled and I’m not ashamed.