Israel Wayne on the (Patriarchal) Father’s Role

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on August 4, 2014.

Israel Wayne is supposed to be a voice of reason in the Christian homeschooling community. A homeschool graduate himself, and now a homeschool father, he travels the convention circuit and has written blog posts criticizing various patriarchal homeschool leaders. It’s a pity he’s unaware that he is himself one of those patriarchal homeschool leaders.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’ve heard the smash pop hit, “Rude” by the group Magic!. It speaks about a young man, seeking permission to marry a traditional man’s daughter.

He is turned down by the young lady’s father, but rather than being rebuffed, he retorts with the line, “I’m gonna marry her anyway!”

This is obviously a disturbing thought for any man who has spent a couple of decades nurturing what he considers to be one of his most valuable relationships on the planet. How might a father respond to such a scenario?

Hi Israel! Guess what? I was one of those daughters!

My now-husband Sean asked my father permission to marry me, and was denied that permission. We got married anyway, and we’ve never—ever—regretted that. Believe it or not, I was actually in the best position to decided who I should marry, because I know my strengths, weaknesses, interests, and desires better than anyone else—including my father. I also knew Sean a whole lot better than my father did, or cared to, which meant I was also a better judge of his character, and I knew what I was getting into.

Had my father spent a couple of decades nurturing his relationship with me? Sure! But I had also spent a couple of decades growing, maturing, and transitioning to life as an independent individual. I was—and am—more than my father’s relationship with me. And it’s a good thing too, because my father let my decision to marry against his wishes ruin our relationship, when he didn’t have to. He’s the one who chose to let our relationship die. If he had wanted to keep that “valuable” relationship he could have, but chose not to.

This really isn’t all that complicated. It is completely reasonable for a young couple to choose to marry without parental permission. If that decision destroys a father’s relationship with his daughter, that is generally his doing, not hers.

As I read Wayne’s post, I became curious about the music video he was referring to. So I looked it up. Allow me to share it with you!

I don’t know about you, but I really appreciated this music video. The woman was clearly an adult, as I was when my father denied his permission. Furthermore, while the young man tried three times to get the young woman’s father’s permission, the father made absolutely no attempt to get to know him. It’s very clear that the father was judging based on outward appearances and prejudices rather than any actual specific concerns for his daughter’s happiness or safety.

Indeed, his daughter appeared just as sure and happy in her choice as is her fiancé.

But of course, Wayne has more to say:

I think the popularity of Magic’s hit, “Rude” emphasizes the shift that has occurred culturally in America over the past 60 years, where fathers are no longer considered to be important entities in family life. They are regularly portrayed on television and movies as weak, bumbling idiots, who are constantly rescued from their folly by their wives and children.

I don’t actually think this is the case. I mean yes, it is true that fathers are too often portrayed as “bumbling idiots” when it comes to things like childcare. This is a problem, and is a feminist issue—men are just as capable of being nurturing and devoted to their children as are women, and it is a disservice to so many fathers to suggest otherwise. And you know what else? Diaper changing isn’t done with ladybits. But I’m not so sure that this is what we see reflected in this music video. This father isn’t portrayed as a “bumbling idiot” but rather as a judgmental control freak who doesn’t want to let his adult daughter make her own life decisions. And the reason this portrayal hits home is that it happens. I’ve been there. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

There has always been a tension that has existed between fathers and prospective young men hoping to whisk away their daughters. I believe it was G.K. Chesterton who said that fathers in every generation feel that they taking a priceless vase and handing it to an ape when they give their daughters in marriage. There certainly are scenarios of over-bearing fathers who act in a domineering and abuse manner, but sometimes proper protection can be seen as over-protection.

You know something? I am not happy with being compared to a “priceless vase” to be put on a trophy shelf or handed over to a new owner. Can Wayne not see that this completely robs women of their autonomy?

How exactly can Wayne call out patriarchy in the homeschooling movement and then so clearly endorse it?

He apparently thinks that fathers should exercise some sort of veto power over their adult daughters’ marriage decisions—but this is the very problem we anti-patriarchy bloggers have been talking about!

And another thing—Wayne apparently thinks it’s easy to tell between “over-bearing fathers who act in a domineering and abusive manner” and “proper protection.” What is the distinction, exactly? Where is the line? My father certainly never saw himself as “over-bearing,” “domineering,” or “abusive.” From his perspective, he was simply trying to protect his daughter. Wayne throws in this bit about over-bearing and domineering fathers to try to assert that he is against “that kind of thing”—even as he advocates for it.

I’m not saying that fathers shouldn’t express any concerns they may have about their daughters’ prospective marriage partners. They absolutely should, especially if there are abusive relationship patterns or warning signs. But that doesn’t tend to be what Wayne or others like him are talking about. My own father refused to give his permission in large part because Sean was not “100% pro-life,” for example (yes, my father had a checklist). What Wayne and men like my father are concerned about is not healthy relationship patterns or abuse but rather ideological purity.

Even in cases where there are actual concerns about abuse, all a father (or mother) can do is express their concerns and then be there for their child. Adult women do not in fact need their parents’ permission to marry. Shutting the door in your daughter’s fiancé’s face is more likely to drive your daughter away than it is to make her leave her fiancé.

Wayne also includes (and appears to endorse) this homemade video. In it, the father threatens prospective suiters with assault and proclaims that he’s not afraid to go to jail for it. I had to stop before finishing it.

Look, daughters aren’t property to be bought and sold.

If you’re worried about your daughter’s safety, whatever happened with equipping them to protect themselves rather than trying to “protect” them by controlling their life choices? Because I’ll tell you this right now: controlling their life choices is not going to end well.

Actually, let me amend that—that’s not going to end well for you. Your daughter will probably make it through, with some therapy, and have a wonderful life with her chosen partner. You’re the one who will be left alone in the cold, written out of your daughter’s life—just like the father in the music video.

P.S. A number of people have that the young man in the music video comes across as too possessive, and as having little interest in what the young woman in question wants. I understand those critiques. However, it’s worth noting that the father appears to reject the young man based not on these concerns but on prejudice, and that in reacting as he does the father himself is too possessive of his daughter and shows little interest in what she wants. The result is that, regardless of the quality of her suitor, he drives his daughter away. I also do appreciate that in the music video the young woman appears to have her own agency and be just as into the relationship as the young man, for what it’s worth.

Critics may find the following interpretations interesting. Both are sung by women; the first is a lesbian interpretation and the second is sung from the perspective of the young woman rather than the suitor.

You Can’t Lace Geography Lessons with Jesus: A Response to Israel Wayne

 

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

For Israel Wayne, homeschooling is not about education. It’s about discipleship. His recently viral blogpost, “A Shift in the Homeschooling Movement,” testifies to this fact. In it, he suggests that we “shift” homeschooling towards the “lordship of Jesus.” In order to understand the post, one must understand that, for him, homeschooling must be religious or spiritual in its essence — education, academics, those are disposable accouterments to the goal of evangelizing your children.

Israel Wayne is the son of Home School Digest‘s Skeet Savage and a repeat speaker at the Homeschool Alumni National Reunion. He runs BiblicalBetrothal.com, which features writings from betrothal advocate Jonathan Lindvall and child marriage apologist Matthew Chapman. He himself has written for Above Rubies, Brannon Howse’s WorldviewWeekend.com, and Answers in Genesis, and has authored a number of books, most notably Homeschooling from a Biblical Worldview. You can read his bio at his organization Family Renewal here.

In Homeschooling from a Biblical Worldview, we get a basic picture of Wayne’s perspective on homeschooling and education. Essentially, all education is religious and — as the book’s own summary so neatly states — “Beginning with proper biblical presuppositions will enable students to make sense of the world around them.”

Fail to have the proper biblical presuppositions, and students fail to make sense of the world.

This is reiterated in Wayne’s recent post. The post itself is long and meandering. It addresses a variety of topics, including the history of the modern homeschooling movement and how different “camps” within the Christian Homeschooling Movement have competed and/or cooperated with one another. His post also proposes “new” paths for Christian homeschoolers to consider (though, as I will articulate here, these paths are anything but new). The post has been quite popular and many people have been taken in by Wayne’s rhetoric. (In my mind, however, it should give everyone pause that Kelly Crawford — an outspoken advocate of Patriarchy — thought his article was “very well done”, considering that his article was prompted by the Doug Phillips-inspired “Patriarchy” controversy as of late.)

There is so much one could say about Wayne’s post. But for this response, I want to focus on one particular passage of his. And heads up: I am going to approach this solution of his from a Christian theological perspective. I feel it is important to engage Israel Wayne on his own turf in this instance because it is necessary to show that this turf is incorrectly grounded.

The relevant passage from Wayne’s post is as follows (emphasis added):

If we ever forget that the homeschooling movement is NOT about academics at the end of the day (they are a means, not an end), then Jesus will abandon us to our own devices. The homeschooling movement must NOT become ultimately about methods and tools (curriculum). It must be about Jesus, and His Lordship over our families.

…We need to pick a few hills that are worth dying on, and be willing to allow a few others to fall by the wayside. In my view, the authority of Scripture is a hill to die on… The Lordship of Jesus Christ over every sphere of our existence is another. We cannot merely marginalize the Lord Jesus Christ as an optional plugin to our homeschooling endeavors. He demands supremacy over His people and demands to be recognized as our rightful head.

The leaders of this movement…must continue to hold up these banners as supreme, or else our Lord will leave us to our own devices, and the homeschooling movement will denigrate into another expression of humanism.

To put it simply, Israel Wayne has constructed a false dilemma. A false dilemma is when you present as an either/or a problem that can actually be resolved in more than two ways. Here Wayne presents “academics” and “the lordship of Jesus” as distinct entities (and either we uphold the latter over the former, or the whole world will burn). Why do I say this? Well, because if they are not distinct, then pursuing academics as the end of homeschooling would not necessarily exclude pursuing the lordship of Jesus in one’s life. But in Wayne’s mind, pursuing the former as an end means one is — to one extent or another — not pursuing the latter.

This is a crucial point — Wayne rejects education as a legitimate end in itself. It is so crucial because the Christian Homeschooling Movement’s similar rejection has led to many of the problems we are seeing today. The fact that Israel Wayne continues this rejection, just as his elders did, means that he will not be able to promote any significant change in homeschooling.

This solution — eloquent though it may be — is all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Lana Hope has already articulated one reason why this point is key:

The fact that homeschooling was seen as a Christian method is, in my opinion, what went wrong with baby boomer homeschool parents. It started out as an education model, but when it became about religion and the preservation of a Joshua generation, it went [sour]… The Christian homeschool movement, because it was all about religion and not academics, became about censoring certain information and stuffing Christ into other information.

Lana is spot-on here: the Christian Homeschooling Movement, as a movement, has used education to indoctrinate, not to empower. And when education becomes a tool of indoctrination, rather than being valued as an inherently empowering process, it gives rise to exactly what we at Homeschoolers Anonymous have called out for the last year: twisting homeschooling into an ideology-first movement, rather than a children-first movement.

I am not interested in debating a definition of “indoctrination” here. That’s not the point. What I conceive of as indoctrination is not limited to Christian education, Buddhist education, or even “secular” education. It is simply when education is used to pass on an ossified set of ideologies (a closed system) as opposed to being an embraced process whereby all children freely, enthusiastically, and wisely discover life on their own terms and at their own pace (an open system).

Israel Wayne clearly has no interest in education as an open system. This is evident in his “you must start from ‘proper biblical presuppositions’ or you have no chance ever of understanding the world” mindset; these so-called presuppositions automatically ensure a closed system. Yet in order to reject the concept of open system, notice what he has to do: he has to argue that education is not in itself an end. In other words, to Israel Wayne, education is not inherently valuable. It is only valuable insofar as it furthers “the lordship of Jesus” (whatever that means).

Wayne does this — and so have many others in the past and so do many others today — because everything is supposed to be subsumed under his idea of a “Christian Worldview.” Wayne’s Christian Worldview is a giant sucking sound, a Total Institution under which everything must be subjugated. It therefore sets up all other ends — in this particular case, the end of education — in diametric opposition to his end, the end of the Christian Worldview, e.g., lordship of Jesus.

Here’s the irony: the whole concept of “Christian Worldview” originated primarily with Francis Schaeffer, who wrote in Escape From Reason that this dualism — the very species of dualism Wayne advocates for, while saying he advocates against it — was causing the downfall of Christianity in the West. Schaeffer’s project — indeed, what the whole project of the “Christian Worldview” movement was supposed to be — was to cast aside the dualism and opposition between “faith” and “reason.” But whereas Wayne and others think this means “sell reason as a slave to faith,” Schaeffer meant it as embrace the entirety of the world as inherently valuable, informative, and empowering. This is why Schaeffer could boldly declare that, “Man is something wonderful.” Obviously that’s not what the Worldview Studies Movement has become within American evangelicalism or homeschooling curriculums. But that was Schaeffer’s goal.

When you begin with this closed system of presuppositions, you lose the very idea that human beings are made in God’s image.

You lose the fact that, no, you don’t have to start from any presuppositions at all because God gave each and every individual the same insatiable curiosity, rational thinking processes, emotional receptors, and desire to figure out life. You deny this fact and you deny a cornerstone of the biblical narrative. And doing so leads to (as Lana Hope pointed out) the stilted, articially “religious” environment that the Christian Homeschooling Movement was and continues to be, which denigrates the importance of academics and thus fails at responsible stewardship of children’s education.

There’s another way here, people. Academics can be the end of the homeschooling movement when we conceive of academics as inherently valuable, an end in themselves. Dedicating what resources you have to educate your child as best you can what if this is very definition of making Jesus lord of your life?

There is no need to conceive of “academics” and “lordship of Jesus” as distinct or opposed. In fact, I am just going to call out Israel Wayne as preaching a false gospel here. The Gospel is not about the totalitarian, totalistic imposition of Jesus on every aspect of our lives. The Gospel — as preached by Jesus — is a transformation, a process that becomes radically relevant, informing, and empowering to each individual in each individual’s unique context. In the context of a parent who has the resources to teach a child, that parent has a responsibility — call it God-given if you want — to give that child the very best education possible in the most nurturing and loving environment imaginable.

That is making Jesus lord.

And if that parent hides those educational resources out of fear of what that child may do with them, that is a rejection of Jesus as lord.

To conceive of homeschooling as “discipleship,” and education as inherently “religious,” is to reinstate the dualism whereby you can teach something like geography in a “Christian” way but also in a “non-Christian” way. No. That is pure nonsense. You either teach your child geography or you don’t. There’s no “Christian” way to teach geography, any more than there is a “Christian” way to change a tire. To say so ignores the fact that the simple act of teaching your child geography — in the context of homeschooling parenthood — is the definition of discipleship. You don’t have to artificially force “religion” into a geography lesson, like Kevin Swanson’s bizarre suggestion at the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit that, “We’ll shock everybody when we begin confessing our sins in the geography class.” And note that Swanson gives the exact same reasoning as Wayne, that education isn’t an end in itself:

We need to call [Christians] to use words like discipleship and nurture. Stop talking schools with me. Don’t talk about education with me. Let’s not talk about home education and Christian education, Christian schools. Let’s talk about discipleship. Let’s talk about a focus on faith and character. Let’s focus on the discipling of a child.

Sorry, but you can’t lace geography lessons with Jesus in the hopes of drugging your kids into Heaven.

Teach them geography well, as well as science, math, sex education, and so forth. Show them the world and do not instill fear in them.

That is making Jesus lord.

When you equip your child for life — when you teach them academics as a valuable end in itself — when you empower your child to face the storms that life will present, to wrestle with ideas, to master reasoning and humility — when you protect your child from abuse, and show your child you will protect other children from abuse as well — when you become Jesus to your homeschooling community by standing up for the abused and the marginalized — when you, like Jesus, say “Let the little children come to me,” to be safe, to be educated, to be empowered to succeed —

— that is making Jesus lord.

Homeschool parents who are afraid to educate their children thoroughly, who withhold from their children information about the world out of fear that it might “lead them astray,” need to imagine a bigger God.

When we start imagining a bigger God, when we start prioritizing children over ideology and children’s lives over our so-called “freedoms” — that’s when we’ll actually see a shift in the homeschooling movement.

Is the Christian Homeschool World Really Changing?

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on April 22, 2014.

Things are changing in the Christian homeschooling world. Vision Forum has fallen and ATI is shaken. People are talking, really talking, and the narratives are shifting.

Some are still resisting this conversation.

They claim that Doug Phillips’ fall had nothing to do with his patriarchal ideology. With both Phillips and Gothard, they argue, the problem was with the leader, not the belief system. These claims are dispiriting, because in some sense these leaders are interchangeable. Old ones will fall, new ones will rise, and if the ideology remains the same nothing will change.

But other leaders are being more honest. They, Michael Farris and Chris Jeub among them, are connecting the dots and calling out a problem deeper than an individual leader. In this facebook comment, Farris responds to a homeschool graduate’s reiteration of her story (I’ve marked the relevant bit):

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When I read these things, I am reminded of evangelical attempts to soften toxic ideas so that they become more palatable, and that concerns me. For example, I heard evangelical leaders at the megachurch I grew up attending walk the idea of male headship back to spiritual leadership and breaking the tie when husband and wife cannot come to an agreement. While I appreciate that there are evangelicals who have moved away from an emphasis on total wifely obedience and submission, the idea of male headship itself is a problem, and softening it doesn’t change that. Is the walked-back view better? Yes, but it’s still a problem.

I wonder how far Christian homeschooling will change over all of this, and whether that change will be deep or surface-level. All Doug Phillips did was take ideas already out there—the idea of the Joshua Generation, the emphasis on male headship and wifely submission, the idea that girls should be encouraged to be homemakers and discouraged from having careers—and deepen each, using direct language, until his words and dictates became an embarrassment.

If Christian homeschool leaders see Phillips’ direct language and strident emphasis as the problem and fail to realize that it is at the core the underlying ideas that they themselves have long held that is the problem, change will be shallow indeed.

The word “patriarchy” is not the problem. The ideas that underly that word are the problem.

If the Christian homeschool leaders who are speaking out today reject the word “patriarchy” but hold onto the idea that a wife must submit to her husband, what have we actually gained? What is actually different?

Israel Wayne of Family Renewal wrote that:

In September of 2013, Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) spoke to state convention coordinators and other national homeschooling leaders, at the annual leadership conference they sponsor. He warned against the dangers of the excesses of extreme child discipline and a low view of women that has taken hold in some corners of the homeschooling community. He warned that unless homeschooling leaders actively speak against abusive and unGodly approaches to child discipline and unBiblical views of Patriarchal authority (that demean and devalue women), we risk losing our very legal freedom to homeschool.

From Wayne’s description, it sounds like Farris told other homeschool leaders that they needed to speak against child abuse and the devaluing of women or else homeschool freedoms would be at risk. The emphasis here appears sorely misplaced. Shouldn’t the primary concern be for the children who are abused and the women who are devalued rather than for the possibility that people will react to these abuses by turning against the legal freedom to homeschool?

I should note that I very much question what Farris means by “our very legal freedom to homeschool.” I suspect what he actually means is our freedom to homeschool without oversight or accountability. And here is a very real issue—Farris is now speaking out against “patriarchy,” and it appears that he may begin speaking against child abuse (though that remains to be seen), but he is still against legal accountability for homeschooling, accountability that would support children’s right to an education and their right to an upbringing free from abuse or neglect.

HSLDA’s current president, Mike Smith, will be presenting this keynote address at an upcoming homeschool conference:

Remembering the Reason, Renewing the Vision A general overview of the challenges, burdens and benefits of homeschooling from a veteran homeschool father and leader. Addressing the potential homeschooler, the new homeschooler, the veteran homeschooler and all homeschoolers in between, Mike outlines the success of homeschooling in academics and socialization, describes legal and legislative advances,and concludes that homeschoolers have earned the right to be left alone. 

This last bit is a serious problem. Whether or not Farris indeed intends to speak out loudly and publicly against patriarchy and child abuse, his organization will continue to work against legal reforms that help fight these problems, reforms that would bring homeschooled children into contact with mandatory reporters or ensure that homeschooled girls are not passed over educationally because of their gender. A change in culture is needed, yes, but the unregulated nature of homeschooling in many states both contributes to and is a result of that culture.

We need more. Homeschooled children deserve more.

But this is only the start of the things that concern me as I watch this current moment. Israel Wayne followed up on his discussion of Farris comments with these unfortunate paragraphs:

Mr. Farris has sounded a much-needed warning. My concern, however, is that when we over-react and swing to the other ditch, we end up teaching only love, grace and mercy (with no boundaries for children). By rejecting “Patriarchy” (abusive or domineering tendencies of men towards their wives and families), we may revert to the Feminism of the 1960′s, and all the problems that came with it, that led many women to react 180 degrees in the other direction by staying home and homeschooling their children. By rejecting rigid step-by-step rules about issues like strict clothing mandates and courtship procedures, we may revert back to the kind of sexual permissiveness that led to the legalism in the first place.

Do we really want to go back to families where mom is trying to pull that whole family uphill all by herself, while dad is off playing golf, letting mom run the family all by herself? Do want three-year-olds who rule the parents with an iron fist and parents who jump at their every demand? Do we really want teens who are groping their girlfriends in the back seat of a car because we don’t want to impose a legalistic standard on them? Do we really want to encourage the kind of American narcissism that says children are a nuisance and O.8 children is the goal, because we want to avoid the imbalance of policing bedrooms and imposing doctrines not clearly spelled out in Scripture?

This is not change, this is more of the same. What we need is change, real change. I think we’re at a moment of contingency where we might see such change, but to be honest. I don’t feel all that hopeful at the moment. I worry that the change will be more in gloss than in substance.

I can promise you one thing—I’ll keep pushing.