So my last blog post on rejecting Quiverfull values ended up being used in a way I kind of expected it to be. I knew the average person would shrug their shoulders at it, but it was pure catnip to the right kind of legalist.
Unsurprisingly, a commenter who opposed the Homeschoolers Anonymous project as “unchristian” wrote to blogger and Christian homeschooling Mom, Julie Anne (who is supportive of and helping promote the Homeschoolers Anonymous project) and essentially waved my post around to declare me and Homeschoolers Anonymous to be immoral and sinful, and Julie Anne as immoral and sinful by extension. He said “I would ask you to read through this, and see if you think this person has “healed.” It seems to be the tone of most of what’s on H. A… The H.A. site is being used by people who are against Christianity to promote a philosophy/theology/worldview in opposition to Jesus Christ. Hardly anyone knows about H. A., but more will know and go there because of you. Instead of correcting abuse through Christ as the Harris blog intends to do, as well as others, you are pointing the abused to people who will direct them away from Christ… I wanted to understand if you believed that delighting in sin and rejecting Jesus qualified to you as a “healed” person as long as they went to college and now feel free to indulge their sinful desires without guilt.”
Later on in the (long) conversation R.D. only dug himself deeper, saying “I didn’t say bring up their sin, I said UNDERSTAND that they are sinners and in their own form of rebellion. My point from the beginning is that it does not help them to AFFIRM them in their rebellion.”
Wow, so I figure there is a lottttt of fodder for discussion here, more than I want to get into. Some of it is the whole “role of a true Christian” thing, and I simply don’t have the ability or inclination to go there, so I will leave that to others and just say I find the concept of looking at other people and thinking you can discern their sins because they openly do not subscribe to your particular beliefs to be both weird and rude. I want to tell those people “go read your bible again and I’m pretty sure you will find plenty places where it explicitly says nobody made you a judge” but that somehow doesn’t work with legalists. They’re squirmy when you get down to it, but if you reject the lines of latitude and longitude that they have drawn across life and swear govern this world (and I did reject them), they only freak out and get spiteful. I imagine it’s mainly because it’s scary for them to be reminded that despite all their efforts to the contrary, in the end they are still out in the great unknown.
Anyway, I want to set two things clear. First, I am definitely not anti-Christian and I am not out to persecute Christians. I am simply not a practicing Christian myself, and I have discussed my feelings on this topic and the issue of spiritual abuse before. Secondly (and I imagine maybe only people who were raised like I was would understand the proper weight of what this means), I have always liked how the word “rebellion” sounded, even as a little kid. It was as sweet a word to me as “freedom” because it meant the same thing – being able to be your own person. I worked very very hard to leave that stifling environment and I own my rebellion from it as badge of honor. It was the bravest thing I’ve ever done.
So that’s where I get to the real issue – this R.D. guy is apparently saying that Christians have a duty to try and herd people like me back into a place very similar to the one we fought to get out of. He stated that people who grew up like me should be sent to Josh Harris and Reb Bradley’s blog posts on admitting homeschooling and childrearing “mistakes” instead of having our own site where we can openly talk about what happened.
Unsurprisingly, there are some major issues R.D. seems to ignore here. One is that Bradley is a prominent homeschooler who has strongly advocated harsh corporal punishment and child obedience training. While Harris was homeschooled himself (and grew up to contribute to making the movement even more extreme) Bradley is not the formerly homeschooled. He comes at it only from a parent’s perspective. As much as parents might be able to identify through guesswork, they simply don’t know what it’s like to walk in a homeschool kid’s shoes if they went to public or private school themselves. They have much different cultural references. Fact is, it is simply different hearing about it from “one of us” rather than “one of them.” Some parents like Julie Anne and Opineaway and Vyckie Garrison get it. They see what happened and while they might not always agree, they are supporting us in speaking out, telling it like we see it. I think in recognizing how much their support means is where the real power dynamic issue comes out. For so long too many homeschooling parents did not listen to us. They were committed to the movement and they told us what to say and do instead and plenty of times we did it, even when it wasn’t healthy for us.
People like R.D. apparently think we should still listen to the people who came up with the ideas that hurt us, instead of telling of the hurts that happened. Um, yeah, so I’ll just say – not gonna happen. Sorry. They screwed up big time. It is our turn to talk.
Also, while being directed to listen instead of speaking out is a big issue in and of itself, let me talk a little bit about who exactly this guy thinks we should be listening to.
Josh Harris is that “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” person who is largely responsible for starting the “have your first kiss on your wedding day” phenomenon. So obviously Harris has a few weird ideas, right? I mean, what if you kiss and the person you have just promised to spend your life with tastes bad? What if it is downright icky and you don’t like it? Well, that night, no matter how you feel, you will be getting your partner’s tongue (and other body parts) all up in your personal space nonetheless and that’s how it will be for the rest of your life. Yeah, so I think this is a terrible idea and that on that idea alone Josh Harris should be asked to hush, hang his head, and quietly go consider all the bad sex lives he has likely helped bring into existence. Anyway, I digress. That is an issue for another post. Back to the issue at hand – the indoctrination.
Harris has already attempted to control people by controlling sex, an excellent tried and true way, obviously, even if it doesn’t always turn out all happy as promised for the people whose actual sex lives are being controlled. Harris still very much adheres to this method though. What about Bradley? Well, as Latebloomer at Past Tense, Present Progressive notes in her lovely four part series, Bradley does not disavow any of his previous positions either, rather saying “After several years of examining what went wrong in our own home and in the homes of so many conscientious parents, God has opened our eyes to a number of critical blind spots common to homeschoolers and other family-minded people. Bev and I still stand behind what we have taught on parenting in the past. However, we urgently add to it the following insights.”
So Harris and Bradley’s positions can basically be summed up as “oops, we did the indoctrination wrong. Here’s a better way to indoctrinate.” Now maybe some might find that a bit of a harsh characterization on my part, figuring that I should be happy and appreciate that they were humble enough to recognize that there was a problem. I’m not. Here’s why. Way more of these guys should be recognizing the problem because the problem is big. It is the elephant in the room. Most homeschooled kids hate this stuff. Even in a promotional video (start watching at 1:30) for HSLDA they talk about these sorts of meltdowns, hinting at and often referencing the long-suffering parent and the “prodigal son” metaphor. Thing is, many realize after some time that unlike in that story, we’re never coming back. They have lost our hearts and minds. So what do they do about it? Well if the video is any indication, they marry the complaining daughter off young (presumably to someone she has never kissed.) That’s the issue. These guys hushed it up as long as they could and then finally recognized they had to admit the problem in order to keep themselves in business. So they essentially said “Hey, here’s version 2.0. Sorry about those glitches. Please purchase the upgraded software.” Yep, in the very same blog post talking about how they messed up, Reb Bradley’s site is selling some video for how to “fix” things. It’s listed as “Parenting Teens with the Wisdom of Solomon” for $39 on CD or $80 on DVD, right there at the bottom.
This kind of stuff (with the obvious financial component) just makes me want to throw up, but the bottom line is if you go back to Harris and Bradley for advice you are not making a good decision. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.
I for one, am very glad to be a part of Homeschoolers Anonymous. I think it’s much-needed and it will help with getting the word out and with healing. I also hope that it will help clue people in who might otherwise fall for the Harris and Bradley stuff (or the people who shill for them like R.D.), get them to make the connection and realize its best to stay far away from this toxic “cure-all.” It is controlling and abusive and long-term a bad thing to do to your kids. Be a devout Christian all you want. Homeschool all you want. That’s perfectly fine, just don’t go drinking the Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy kool-aid.
Correction: On 3/24/2013 this post was edited to note that Josh Harris was in fact homeschooled himself and is also a current homeschooler. Thanks to a blog reader for catching the error.