The Same But Different

There’s something I’ve noticed about the way Christians argue. While everyone to some degrees argues to prove that they’re right, the most successful in the arenas of (more or less) intellectual battle are the ones that argue with a specific goal in mind; a thesis that defines their debates regardless of the topic.

I’ve seen lots of theses in my years immersed in Christian Culture. Some argue so that others will see the sovereignty of God. Some argue in favor of a family focused faith. Some argue on behalf of “the least of these.” Some theme everything they do toward showing the beauty of God. Those last people are a personal favorite of mine.

While there are most likely an infinite number of themes your arguments could have, the most successful of debaters usually settle on one broad-ish theme. Think back to people you’ve argued with over and over again and see if you can pick up on theirs. Think back again and try to identify yours. It’s kind of fun, isn’t it?

Here’s the deal. I think I’ve probably had a few different themes through the years. I’m ADD like crazy. Thinking about it recently though, I think I’ve decided what I want my thesis to be. I’m not saying this is currently indicative of the way I argue or debate, I’m just saying that I want this idea to permeate my involvement in the Christian Debate Arena.

Here it is: There are sincere, passionate followers of Jesus that disagree with you.

Did you miss it? Here it is again.

There are sincere, passionate followers of Jesus that disagree with you.

I don’t care what we’re arguing about. If we’re in the realm of Christianity and arguing a belief, conviction, or ethical position there are people out there striving their hardest to follow Jesus that disagree with you as strongly as you disagree with them. Odds are there are entire denominations with theologians, bible colleges, pastors, and congregations whose statements of faith put in black and white how much they think you’re wrong. I’ll bet they even have historic documents to help prove that what they believe is actually orthodox while what you believe is not; just like you do.

I find it mind boggling that this isn’t obvious to people. Yet so often we’re ready to decry anybody who disagrees with us as a person who obviously doesn’t know jack about the bible and doesn’t care about following Jesus. They just want a get out of hell free card or some such, right? They don’t seriously want to be a Christian; they just want their current lifestyle to be endorsed by the religion they practice. If they really cared about the truth of God and His Word they would change and be more like you.

Yep, that’s what “they” say about you, too. Welcome to the diversity that we call the Family of God.

I think our arguments and co-existence would both see a drastic improvement in quality if we could grasp this concept. Sadly, we don’t, and that’s why I want to make this central to my discussions.

Now here’s the funny part. I’ve been thinking this for a couple of months now, very intensely and purposefully for the last couple weeks, and then World Vision announced the change in their hiring policy.

Suddenly I’m topical.

I don’t want to rehash the crazy arguments about homosexuality and its pros and cons, but I do want to make one very important point.

Can you guess what it is?

You got it. People disagree with you.

This statement is critical to the uproar around World Vision’s policy change. Why? Because the people that are pulling their support for children around the world because of this don’t get that. No, they don’t. Even if they “know” it, they don’t understand it. Let me explain.

I don’t blame anyone for choosing not to support or even pulling their support from an organization that is doing things you believe are wrong. Please, act according to your own conscience, especially with where you use your money. I don’t want to infringe on that. I do want to call people on the carpet for a lack of understanding what the Body of Christ is.

Here’s the deal. According to your own logic, by supporting a child through World Vision you have, for however long you’ve been sponsoring that child, been saying that you’re cool with what the organization is doing. This is a commendable position. I have no issues yet. Then, by your same logic, by pulling your support of that child you are making the statement that you no longer agree with what World Vision is doing and thus refuse to support them in any way, including helping them help people. Ok; I’m still with you. If one of the ministries I give to suddenly started doing something I find morally problematic I would pull support too. I dig it.

But you have a problem. What did World Vision do?

It’s important to answer this question accurately. On it hinges your choice to not support them. You’re saying that whatever action it was that they involved themselves in is morally wrong. It’s a big statement. So what’s the answer?

All that World Vision did was change a hiring policy to better reflect a belief they already held; that differences in how we define sin does not exclude us from being in right relationship with God. To put it another way, they acknowledged that homosexuality has joined the ranks of things like divorce and remarriage in their place of debate amongst sincere Christians. They have a long standing policy of choosing not to judge people on things that are largely and honestly debated by the American Church as long as that person is living within the guidelines of local law and their local church. All they did was recognize that there is another issue that’s like that in American Christian Culture.

So here’s what you’re saying by pulling your support from World Vision. You’re saying that it’s wrong to acknowledge that the church is divided on moral issues. Specifically, you may be saying it’s wrong to say that the church is divided on the issue of homosexuality. I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you’re thinking more specifically like that.

Guess what, though? You still have a problem.

The problem is you’re blind. Whether by design or uncanny accident, you’ve managed not to realize that the Church IS divided on this issue. If you want to claim that nobody who is accepting of homosexual marriage is also trying to follow Christ, you need to get out more my friend. If you want to hold to the idea that believing homosexual marriage isn’t a sin automatically makes you not a Christian…you have bigger problems. Most obviously is the trouble you’re going to have defending the idea that God’s grace covers all the things you could wrong about but not this one thing other people could be wrong about.

If you don’t want to make either of those statements, then you need to rethink pulling your support from World Vision.

Now, I get it. Reasonable people will disagree with me. (That is my thesis, isn’t it?) Maybe you define what World Vision “did” differently than I do. Maybe you really do believe that God’s grace doesn’t cover certain beliefs or errors. I think you’re very wrong about the first one. I shudder to think that you could get that second idea from a faith based in the person of Jesus Christ. Yet, I don’t doubt your sincerity. Neither do I have the audacity to claim that you’re not part of this whacky thing we call the Family of God.

Do the world a favor though, literally, and re-think pulling your support from World Vision. You’re not actually making a statement about what is and isn’t sin. You’re making a statement about how narrow the Body of Christ is and passing judgment on the heart attitudes of millions of people who are willing to claim that you’re their brother or sister in Christ.

If you’re good with that, go in peace and do your thing. I’m sorry.

If you’re not cool with that…

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Truth….Re-visited

(Note: This post is based on a conversation my wife and I had about something she said to somebody today. check her out and give her kudos over here: http://suburbanmonasticism.wordpress.com/ )

Here’s something I believe about Truth:

Truth is a thing. A fact. A reality. In fact, I try to avoid using the term Truth and prefer to replace it with the term Reality.

This is actually a pretty simple concept. It has only one uncomfortable and harder to deal with implication. It makes it so that truth as an idea can’t be nebulous. Truth is instead on some level a physical, non-negotiable entity. Maybe this is why an eternal deity would choose to define Himself (in part) by saying something as brazen as, “I am the Truth”

The other day I explained it to a friend of mine like this.

Imagine two people who had never met you were talking about you. Leaving your hidden neurosis aside, let’s imagine that conversation. Let’s go a step farther and say that these two people are actually arguing about what you are like. Maybe they’re having a lively debate about what you would do in a given situation. Let’s assume for the sake of simplicity that they took up truly opposing positions. There are three options.

–          The first person is right and the second person is wrong

–          The second person is right and the first person is wrong

–          They are both wrong

Missing from this list is the idea that they could both be right. Why? Because they can’t. It’s not like you’re a figment of their imaginations. They aren’t little kids trying to decide what their mutual imaginary friend is like. You’re a real person and they are talking about you. You exist. You are “true” in this sense. That means certain things about you are true and certain things are not. To say otherwise would be ridiculous.

If we want to believe that there is a God who is eternal then we have to believe that he is real in the same sense that you and I are real. Not in the same way, that’s confusing the ideas, but in the same sense. In the sense that there are things that are true about the deity and things that are not.

This is pretty old reasoning. In fact, it’s reasoning that has been used by people far more traditional than I am to “beat me over the head” for not believing what they believe is the truth about God.

Obviously I don’t approve.

“Absolute truth” is what exists regardless of how we feel about it. Like gravity, for example. On some level you really have to just live with that. Belief in an absolute truth does not however mean a belief in any one particular version of what men think that truth looks like. This is my pet peeve.

Most of the time when people are accusing others of not believing in truth they’re actually accusing them of not believing what they believe the truth is. This is a far cry from not believing in truth.  

Related, and also irritating, is confusing uncertainty with not believing in truth. Often I will answer a question like, ‘Do you believe God is ____ _____  ______?’ with something like, ‘Maybe. It’s possible.’

Let me clue you in. It’s not because I don’t think there’s an answer to your question or the answer depends on what you or I believe. It’s because I don’t know the answer to that question. Often, I think that believing you have an absolute answer to such a question is arrogant and problematic all by itself.

So remember, because it helps you be a nicer person, that when we’re talking about truth we’re not debating if it exists. (Not usually anyway) Instead, we’re arguing about what it looks like. Also worth remembering is that it’s very much like talking about a person nobody in the conversation has ever met. Being too attached to your perspective as better than everyone elses is not only ill advised, it makes you the jerk in the room.  


American Jesus Madness

Hello! I’m glad both of you are reading this! (I know; I may be exaggerating my readership…sorry.)

Regardless, I’m going to jump right into my purpose for today. As you may have heard, there’s this thing called March Madness going on. Apparently it involves sports fanaticism, statistical knowledge of college athletics, and gambling. I only know anything about one of those. You can guess which.

It is my belief that this entire cultural event was nothing more than an elaborate set up to prepare us for the real glory of bracket competition: American Jesus Madness!

For those woefully ignorant, here’s a link: http://theamericanjesus.net/?p=11751

Now that we have that out of the way, on to the fun! Here’s my first round breakdown.

(Note: Like in sporting events, defeat does not mean a ceasing to exist. This isn’t the coliseum. Rather, I’m judging these match ups based on who will look bloodier after a confrontation/argument/throw-down between the two – I’m not saying who will eventually hold predominance in culture or even which ones will become mainstream orthodoxy. Clear as mud? Good.)

(Further Note: While the views expressed below vaguely resemble mine, they are intentionally exaggerated and made amusing for the sake of this type of competition. Don’t get too bent out of shape because I lampoon a favorite of yours.)

 Diogo Mordalo (Son of God) vs. Jeffrey Hunter (King of Kings):

–          Admittedly, my growing up under the extreme conservative rock makes it so my knowledge of all the movie depictions of Jesus is pretty limited. That being said, I think Diogo has a huge deficit to overcome in Christian culture due to the bad press his movie has been getting recently. I don’t recall any such vehemence against King of Kings, so if we’re judging on how Christian Culture will react, Jeffrey has the upper hand. My Pick: Jeffrey Hunter (King of Kings)

Robert Powell (Jesus of Nazareth) vs. Willem Defoe (The Last Temptation of Christ)

–          I actually saw part of the Willem Defoe depiction once. Of course, it was while I was still “sensitive” to inaccurate depictions of biblical truth, especially regarding Christ, and I turned it off part way through because it was so “bad”. (Of course, I didn’t turn it off until AFTER the scene with the prostitute…’cause…you know…) While the Willem Defoe representation makes for great conversation starters, he comes up short in making Jesus look good. Robert Powell will win the day even with a good fight from the artistically gifted Defoe. My Pick: Robert Powell (Jesus of Nazareth)

Brian Deacon (Jesus, 1979) vs. Ted Neely (Jesus Christ Superstar)

–          Again, I saw part of the “liberal” one of these two once. Again, I turned it off. This time it was because I was bored. So these are the options: Hate it because it’s liberal (and, bonus, full of “rock music”) or hate it because it’s pretty boring. Admittedly, I have yet to see a movie about Jesus that isn’t boring, so….yeah. Either way, advantage Brian. My Pick: Brian Deacon (Jesus, 1979)

Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) vs. Jeremy Sisto (Jesus, 1999)

–          Is this for real? That’s like the Sooner’s taking on a high school team that wasn’t even in the playoffs. (See? I can be sportsy…kinda…) The only people who didn’t love The Passion of the Christ were those of us who at the time believed seeing R rated movies and going to theaters were sins. Yep…I was both at the time… My Pick: Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ)

Christians’ Old Love for Duck Dynasty vs. Christians’ New Love for Matthew McConaughey

–          This one is easy. Matt’s charm is disarming, but he will eventually be called on the carpet for lip service without virtue to back it up. I mean, have you ever seen him pray on TV? Or defend traditional power systems? Or make pandering quotes about God, the Bible, and the American Flag? Come on…the duck guys look way more Christian. They even have beards and wear red white and blue. Just like Moses and Jesus. My Pick: Christians’ Old Love for Duck Dynasty

Mark Driscoll vs. Integrity

–          While it will only be a minor setback for the Mars Hill team, Mark has already lost this round. He even apologized for some of the offenses the other day. Integrity wins (doesn’t that count as a win for all of us?) and Mark gets to re-try his domineering patriarchy. This time with a little less “angry young prophet”. Sounds like a mid-life crisis to me, but that’s not the Christian way to say it I guess. My Pick: Integrity

Rachel Held Evans vs. Every Calvinist Dude On The Internet

–          This one is tougher than it should be. While her calm, calculated, and witty way of making her point and making dudes who disagree with her look barbaric is fantastic, poor Rachel is way outnumbered here. Calvinism has been drawing intelligent people who long to be a little less intellectually honest for a long time and has a lot of followers. That being said, I think Rachel makes them look bad enough she has a fighting chance. Maybe I just like rooting for the underdog. My Pick: Rachel Held Evans (Bonus: I actually hope she loses ‘cause I want to see Greg take on the Calvinists.)

Greg Boyd vs. Assault Rifle Jesus

–          Ok, I’ll fess up. I’m a huge Greg Boyd fan-boy. Have been since ’04 (If you don’t know why, you obviously don’t know enough about Greg Boyd.) While he is eccentric and radical, he’s as intellectual as they come. People can love their guns all they want (and they do, I live in Oklahoma) but Greg makes Peace-Nick Jesus look good. Hard to argue with and easy to love. My Pick: Greg Boyd

Mark Sandlin vs. Third Eagle of The Apocalypse

–          I’m sorry, unless we’re talking about sensationalism and bad acid trips, Third Eagle just loses. Period. Nobody thinks he looks good. I’m pretty sure the only people who think he makes anything look good voted for Fred Phelps when he ran for office. This dude can even make me dislike the 80’s beard he tries to rock. My Pick: Mark Sandlin

Nicolas Cage’s Left Behind vs. Kirk Cameron’s Left Behind

–          This is a tough one only because we haven’t yet seen the terrible theological errors in Nic Cage’s version. (Waits for the groan to die down…) Christian Culture loves how traditionally “accurate” Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort (of all people) made the Left Behind movies. Sadly, artistic value just doesn’t register on this Richter scale. Oh well. At the end of the day, we’ll always judge Hollywood harshly, so Nic loses. My Pick: Kirk Cameron’s Left Behind

Gay Wedding Cake vs. Christian “Persecution”

–          This one is going to be the upset I think. Gay Wedding Cake just doesn’t look evil. Despite Faux News trying to make middle/upper class white Christians look and feel like victims, I don’t think anybody’s really buying it. Even if a lot of Christians feel harped on, they come out of every one of these fights with egg (and frosting) on their face. It may be close, but reality shows us that even a ton of the “victims” are tired of this fight and are figuring out they’re not winning. My Pick: Gay Wedding Cake

Pope Francis vs. Every Pope Ever

–          Catholics love him. Radicals love him. The only people who don’t love him are um…capitalists and traditionalist…so…American Christian Culture. Yeah, they hate him. But since we’re talking about how good the two parties look after a confrontation, Pope Frank takes it hands down. Even outnumbered he steps away clean from this one. Unless you take off points for him slipping the equivalent of the “F” word during a speech once….but I sure don’t. My Pick: Pope Francis

Stephanie Drury and Matthew Paul Turner vs. Christian Culture

–          I feel like since this whole thing is based on Christian Culture the party in this match up that isn’t Christian Culture has a serious disadvantage. Of course, the rabble rousing aspect of mocking the establishment doesn’t endear them either. That said, I love ‘em and think they make Christian Culture look ridiculous. This one could go either way, but enough people who aren’t entrenched in Christian Culture are involved in these discussions anymore that I think Stephanie and Matthew might have a slight edge. My Pick: Stephanie Drury and Matthew Paul Turner

Real Life Steven Furtick vs. Coloring Book Steven Furtick

–          When you in real life get to create and commission a coloring book version of yourself how can it not be better than you? Oh, that’s right, when you live in a mansion and make millions being a Christian celebrity that gets to commission a coloring book version of yourself. Still, coloring books hit ALL demographics. Sermons bore a couple demographics. Most of them, actually. My Pick: Coloring Book Steven Furtick

Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Tattoos vs. Albert Mohler’s Suits

–          Suits have been dominant for so long, but I just don’t think they have another win in them. They’ve been running out of steam since the late 80’s and now they just look like they’re trying too hard to be taken seriously. Yes, even over designer jeans. Sorry guys. Tattoos may not be the new reigning champ, but they beat the suits this time. My Pick: Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Tattoos

Ken Ham vs. Reality

–          Ever tried to tell one of those lies that conflicts so badly with reality that it hurts to tell it? Welcome to Ken Ham’s life. It is possible to be a creationist with an intellectually fair position.  Maybe nobody ever told poor Ken that. He should try that next time he takes on somebody like Bill Nye. My Pick: Reality

 And there you have it. I think I just decreased my readership even more….but it was fun.

 Enjoy playing and voting!


Going Through Changes

I’ve recently been thinking about the idea of Christian Faith as a living, changing thing. In doing so, I stumbled across this quote and was struck by several pieces of it. Read it for yourself real quick.

 “I think significant percentages of older Evangelicals are deeply wrong on a wide range of issues – including homosexuality, our spiritual responsibility for the environment, the reality of evolution and climate change, solidarity with the poor, our role regarding peacemaking and war, equality for women, the reality of white privilege and systemic racism, and the legitimacy of torture, to name a few. So homosexuality is only one of a long list of things that I think older white Evangelicals need to rethink. Thankfully, on most if not all of these issues, younger Evangelicals are moving to a more just and wise understanding than their parents and grandparents, just as their parents and grandparents forsook much of the overt racism and anti-Semitism that were much more common among their parents and grandparents.” – Brian McLaren

 It’s pretty good. I’ll go one step further; it’s pretty good even if you disagree with him. The reason is because he’s talking about how Christian Faith changes over time and generations.

I’ll be honest; my thoughts are too disjointed to really write a great post, so I’m just going to hit some bullet points.

  1. Christian Faith changes with time. Yes, this even applies to Reformed Theology and Baptists. Things that were accepted and orthodox before have fallen out of vogue and been replaced by a more nuanced and reality based perspective on Scripture and Faith. Think of slavery. Maybe think of the priesthood of believers.  Freaking out because something changes is a proud tradition of the Christian Faith, but so is changing some pretty strongly held beliefs. That’s worth remembering.
  2. Scholarship matters. So much of what we believe is based on our current understanding of an ancient text written in a different language within a completely different culture. Trying to apply modern western thinking (or old fashioned western thinking for that matter) to such a text is rather ignorant. Ignoring modern research into the culture, language, and literature of the time when the texts were written is willfully ignorant. If our understanding of the text we base our beliefs on develops, then our beliefs will by necessity develop too. This should not scare us.
  3. In almost every case, those of us who change a belief or position do so BECAUSE we value scripture and God’s authority, not despite it. Disagreeing on what the Bible means is not proof positive that one side doesn’t care about the text. It is only proof that this thing called Faith is hard and complicated. If we didn’t care about what the Bible said we wouldn’t be making our argument from a biblical perspective; we’d just tell people they’re bigoted and hiding behind a book of lies for defense. Some people say that. Those of us who argue for change from the Bible are not those people.
  4. Those of us preaching/teaching/sharing in favor of change (especially societal and justice based changes) in the church are not doing so because it’s popular. If you’re a person who has ever made this claim, are you even listening to yourself? If we had given up on Christian Faith and left the Church, this claim might possibly, sort of make sense. But for those of us committed to faith and the Church Jesus began, the opposite is true. We’re willing to stand up for what we believe despite how wildly UNPOPULAR those beliefs are. Open your eyes and pay attention.

I know, they’re disjointed thoughts. I did warn you. I think though, if I have a primary point in all this, it’s that change happens and that’s ok. Instead of yelling at each other because things are changing or not changing, let have a real discussion about what this generation of changes should look like and why.


Collateral Damage

A few years ago I found myself in the middle of a group of post-graduation homeschoolers sitting around a living room enjoying laughter, conversation, and copious amounts of Mt. Dew until the wee hours of the morning.  We were from all across the country, but had met up for a weekend of goofing off, eating, and (of all things) dancing. We were having ourselves a grand old time. We swapped stories, compared home school and youth group experiences, and poked fun at the more awkward among us during the dance. We may not have all known each other terribly well, but we knew this crowd. This was the culture we grew up in.

It was the last evening of our weekend together and as dawn grew closer the conversation grew more serious. It was no less fun of a conversation, mind you, it was only more serious. You must remember that we were all graduated homeschoolers from conservative families. Debating the foundational truths of the universe was a 6th grade requirement for most of us. By the time we were in high school it was an elective. We did it for fun; and we were good at. Most of us still are.

I believe the strand of conversation I’d like to talk about began as a debate regarding the virtues and vices of courtship versus dating, but gradually morphed its way into tackling the much more nebulous pros and cons of the conservative, fundamentalist worldview that we had all grown up in. Even though most of us were still fairly conservative and most would have self-identified as fundamentalist in our theology, it’s was a pretty hot topic. I was just beginning my journey out of that mindset at the time, but found myself the primary prosecutor of the conservative worldview as we examined and cross examined our personal family experiences to determine merit or guilt in a myriad of issues.

At one point in the conversation the friend of mine whose home we were in found himself on the witness stand. I was maintaining that the particular program that he and I had both grown up in had overshadowed any good it may have done with a track record of bad theology, guilt based behavior modification, and other such crimes against our generation of homeschoolers.  I finished what I seem to remember as a rousing condemnation of the program in general with a question. Can you honestly say you don’t feel like you were personally harmed by the teachings and culture of this ministry we grew up in?

The entire conversation stopped abruptly. For the briefest moment I thought my eloquence had stunned everybody into awed silence. Not quite. A sickening feeling settled into the pit of my stomach as I followed everyone’s eyes to the very quiet person sitting at the foot of the stairs. Listening so politely that most of us had forgotten she was there; was my friend’s mother.

All you have to do is look at the Facebook feed of any ex-homeschooler who shares an anti-homeschool or anti-fundamentalist article and you’ll see this scenario play out in a hundred less amiable ways. People aren’t glad we’re talking about this. People are hurt. The homeschool debate has seen a drastic increase in collateral damage and it’s a destructive swath of hurt feelings, broken relationships, and bitter or tearful people. No matter which side you’re on, it’s not pretty and it’s not fun. It’s hard and it hurts.

Here’s why. Ex-homeschoolers believe what they do for a reason. This isn’t just a late-onset teenage rage against authority. This is a large group of adults with legitimate concerns and some serious suggestions on how to address them. The problem is that these reasons have very little to do to with the ex-homeschoolers themselves. They actually have everything to do with the values, opinions, and decisions of the culture, religion, and parents that raised them.

I’m not saying that people aren’t personally responsible for their own actions (or in this case, reactions) but the primary sources of disagreement and friction are not things that the ex-homeschoolers did that went badly, but rather things their parents did or decided that, in their opinion, went badly. For example, think of the answers to these questions. What denomination did your family belong to? Were you allowed to attend youth group functions? What curriculum did your parents use? What homeschool groups or organizations did they choose to enroll in? In almost every case the children involved had absolutely zero influence in these decisions. Yet, these and many other questions directly shaped their experience as homeschoolers, teenagers, and members of their community. (It is worth noting, of course, that the same is true for every child, regardless of the culture they are brought up in. It’s just important to remember that the tendency towards religious fundamentalism,   isolation, and patriarchal authority in the homeschool movement amplifies this particular facet of upbringing – often cranked to 11, if you’ll pardon the pop-culture reference.)

This has a very obvious but sadly underappreciated effect on all debates regarding homeschooling and upbringing. When we’re talking about the issues with homeschooling we aren’t dealing in abstract philosophy or even analyzing our own personal choices. We’re talking about, judging, and either criticizing or praising real people that we have real relationships with. We are reflecting on the actions and attitudes of pastors, churches, siblings, and friends. More importantly and with greater potency, we’re passing judgment on our parents.

This simple fact causes two things; passion and collateral damage.

Nothing is as passionately important to us as things that deal with our relationships. A hard task at work doesn’t pose nearly as large of a problem as a co-worker that we just can’t stand personally. No amount of philosophical disagreement can create the vitriol, rage, tears, and sorrow of a wrong suffered at the hands of a trusted friend or family member. We’re relational beings, and this is where it shows.

Such passion is not without consequence. Remember, in these debates we’re talking about how the decisions and actions of real people effected their children. People are angry, people are defensive, people are hurt, and people are getting hurt. That’s the real collateral damage of the ex-homeschool debate.

This damage is labeled as “collateral” very intentionally. Relationships and people are not the target of the debate. There are people, posts, and arguments targeting specific people, but those aren’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the debate as a whole. What’s being targeted and often attacked are the problems. Whether it’s patriarchy, low academic standards, isolation, manipulation, or abuse that’s being torn down, the primary target is the problem, not the people involved in the problem.

That creates its own problem though, doesn’t it? How exactly are we supposed to separate the problem from the people who perpetuate the problem?

Welcome to the hurt. This is the core problem.

This is a two edged problem. It exists both on the side of those voicing their concerns and those hearing the concerns. When we fail to make a distinction between a belief, conviction, philosophy, or action that is being discussed based on its merits and the person or people who uphold or have upheld it we are the problem. Whether we don’t clarify when voicing a concern or we choose not to hear such a distinction because we feel like we’re the ones being complained about, we’re the ones causing this divide and this damage.

Here’s the deal. Nobody who is seriously involved in this debate is saying that their parents were out to screw them up on purpose. Every reasoned voice you hear knows, and will usually gladly say, that their parents were doing the best they knew how and had their children’s best interest at heart the whole time. What’s actually being said is that despite the best efforts of a generation of parents, the children of the homeschool movement have been hurt. Not because their parents wanted to hurt them, but because the parents believed harmful lies. None of the serious handling of the debate denies that the parents were doing their best. It only maintains that their parents were misinformed or lied to in a few key areas of philosophy or theology and THAT was the problem in their upbringing.

Regardless of how much we would like to say there shouldn’t be this much collateral damage, there is. It exists, and it is going to keep growing as the debate does. It’s something that can be lessened, but not eliminated. With that thought in mind, there tend to be two different schools of thought among the ex-homeschoolers on how to deal with it.

Most obviously, of course, you have those who feel like the collateral damage is a necessary evil. They just grit their teeth, toss their grenades, and let the shrapnel shred what it does. As we’ve discussed, the philosophy and problems are their primary target, but if mom and dad or Pastor Joe get in the way, too bad for them. They should wise up or face the music.

Second and less noticeable are those who would rather err on the side of peaceful relationships (or at least less strained relationships) and choose not to say something if they feel like it would cause stress or damage. Through their silence they choose to endorse practices or beliefs that have caused very real physical, psychological, and spiritual damage to them and other like them.

As you may have witnessed, neither option is particularly healthy. Such is the nature of extremes. While we all strive to be somewhere in the middle, it’s hard not to lean one direction or the other. What should we do when we see a huge problem and nobody seems to believe us? What about the children, often our own siblings, who are still living in this culture and being actively hurt by the things that hurt us? What about the very real chance that saying something will end family ties? How do we balance all of this, be honest with ourselves and the people around us, and still manage to be good people through it all? You can see why this is so complex and messy.

Yet, we continue to struggle our way through these tough, tear inducing, and relationship ending conversations. Why?

Because it’s not actually about us.

For the ex-homeschoolers it’s important that their story be told, but self-expression is very rarely the driving force behind the articles and discussion filling the web right now. Rather, it tends to be much more about truth and exposure. Letting the culture around us (especially the extended family and church members many of us grew up estranged from) know the reality of the picture perfect homeschool world matters because truth matters. So many organizations have spent decades peddling lies about how well their products work. A vast number of families have perpetuated these lies simply by not wanting to admit their struggles or failures to those around them. This needs to end.

More than that, most ex-homeschoolers have very specific teachings and cultural norms squarely in their sights. Remember, this isn’t blind rage. This is passion against specific things that are harmful and hurting people. It’s important to stand against hurtful and abusive teachings. Usually that means loudly and publicly. As often as anything else, that’s why the ex-homeschoolers are speaking up.

Nearest and dearest to most in the movement is the well-being of the children still involved in the dangerous or damaging cultures that we have come out of. For most of us that means siblings, nieces, nephews, and very close friends. It’s personal; which makes it very important and very hard. We’ve been hurt very badly and see the same dangers being piled onto children who have very little or no chance to speak up for themselves. That’s why we’re speaking up. That’s why this is important.

The homeschool debate, especially with the recent inclusion of the ex-homeschooler voice, is an incredibly important issue to tackle head on and wrestle with continually. Ignoring it is not an option, especially for those of us that have homeschooled, are homeschooling, or are planning on homeschooling. We have to engage intelligently with all of the evidence and all of the positions for the good of a lot of people, and not just those currently or previously involved in homeschooling. Our entire culture needs to have this debate.

So let’s have it, but let’s limit the damage. The point of the entire conversation is truth, understanding, and correction of error. The end goal is the healing of past hurts and the prevention of future hurts. We are the problem when we forget any of that. We are the problem when we refuse to hear genuine concerns and stick blindly to what we already decided and acted on years ago. We are the problem when we lose sight of fixing things and attack people for the hurts they’ve been a part of.

We all win when we’re willing to both speak and hear with sincerity. Let’s do that.

 


Reading List

Just for the fun of it, I thought I’d share my reading list right now. I’m one of those people who reads several books at once, and I found my current list an amusing combination, so I thought I’d let you laugh along with me.

So, here we go.

On my nightstand/kindle app you will find:

– The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis (Re-reading for my enjoyment and learning and so I can share it with my philosophy class.)

– Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins (Part of the Hunger Games Series, just for fun.)

– The Naked Anabaptist – Stuart Murray (Recommended by Greg Boyd)

– Because the Angels – Kathleen Kern (An odd genre stretch for me.)

– Pat the Bunny – Dorothy Kunhardt (Read every night with my daughter before we put her down. It might be my favorite for that reason.)

So, there’s my reading list. Hope it made you smile.


Oops…

Would you believe I just deleted an entire post that I wrote this morning? True story.

I just wrote a pretty intricate post about how much of a problem superficial attitudes and priorities are in our culture. Then I re-read it. Then I deleted it.

I didn’t delete it because I was wrong. I didn’t delete it because it wasn’t good quality. I deleted it because my attitude stunk. I was being judgmental and harsh. I was pointing at all the “other people” shallower than I am and calling them out.

That’s just wrong.

Not just wrong in the sense that it’s mean, but wrong in the sense that it’s inaccurate.

Let’s deal with both of those, shall we?

It’s wrong because it’s mean. Yeah, mean like mean-spirited. It’s accusatory, belittling, and nowhere close to believing the best of people like we’re called to by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians. I’m convinced (and super convicted) that if what we have to say is from God it will be marked by the Fruit of the Spirit. You know, love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If what is being said is spirit filled, then it will be full of these things. Judgment, condemnation, pride, bigotry, and everything else that goes with them will not be present.

If what is being said is not full of the Fruit of the Spirit then it is not from God. Even if I’m saying it and even if I’m right.

Inaccuracy was my other problem, right?

See, it’s easy to call out other people because their problem is obvious to me. It’s harder to diagnose myself and be honest about my shortcomings. Ironically, that was my point! I was making a call for a deeper inner-life and more self examination. I need that as much as everyone else I was frustrated with, I just need it in different areas…most of the time.

Why is it my natural response to conviction to point to everyone else who has the same problem? And then call them worse than me?

I want desperately to be filled with the Spirit. I want people to know this because I ooze the things on that list above. I want that to be the case because I’m seeking God and he’s dwelling in me and overflowing out of me into everyone around me. That’s what I want.

I don’t want to be right. I don’t want to be convicting. I don’t want to be important.

I want to be like Christ.