A Powerful Letter To Christian Homeschoolers

This letter by Darcy should be mandatory reading for the Christian parents who homeschool their kids in order to create an alternate Christian universe for their children:

Dear parents,

I’m in several online groups consisting of thousands of the homeschool alumni of my generation, the “Joshua Generation”, the products of the Christian homeschooling pioneers. And one major theme going on in our conversations right now is an overwhelming frustration that we cannot talk to our parents. We cannot be real with you.We want a relationship but don’t know how to get past the mental and emotional walls you have put up to protect yourself, the denial that your choices for us caused pain. Your disapproval of our choices and rejection of how you raised us is thick enough to be cut with a knife, and weighs very heavy on our shoulders. Can we just for a moment sit here together, walls and guards down, and be honest with each other? There’s so much we want to say to you, to help you understand. So much WE want to understand. So this is my attempt to give voice to so many, including myself.

Unless you’re never on the internet, I’m sure you know by now that your kids’ generation isn’t turning out how you’d hoped and planned. How you were assured we would if you only followed the rules. Dissatisfaction, pain, anger, and disillusionment are plastered all over the internet by your children and their cohorts. Story after story written by the adult alumni of the homeschool movement, honest and real and painful. Stories of dysfunction and inability to cope in the real world because of the choices you made for them.Stories of pain suffered, feelings of betrayal, and honest, raw emotions that are probably hard for you to see and hear. Words like “spiritual abuse” everywhere, directed at you and the people you trusted to teach your children how to be godly. “Survivor blogs” are popping up, being written by your adult offspring. That’s gotta hurt. We are walking away from so much that you held dear. We are raising our own kids so differently than you raised us. Even the leaders you followed have turned out to be frauds.

Further on, she writes:

Our rejection of your ways is not personal. It’s not a “reaction”, as we have been accused of ad nauseam. Many of us were taught to “stand alone”, to figure out what was right and then go do it regardless of what everyone else was doing. Well….that’s what we’re doing.We have weighed the teachings of our past and found them wanting. We have chosen different paths for our own families, much like you did for yours. We have taken what was good and thrown out what was not, some of us throwing out everything because, honestly, there wasn’t much good left to hold on to. Many of us are lost and dysfunctional, trying to put together pieces of a puzzle, trying to live in a world we were not prepared for because we were told we weren’t part of it. Many of you have taken this as ungratefulness toward what you did for us, but this is not about you. This is about us….our lives, our choices, our own children who we must now make choices for. Can you please stop making this about our rejection of you and instead see it as our embracing of our own lives? We are your children yet we are not children anymore, many of us older than you were when you set out to raise your family the way you saw fit. We want to have relationship with you, but not as your children. As your equals. As friends. As fellow human beings. Please stop treating us as rebellious children. Think back to when you chose differently than your parents and remember what that was like before you treat us with the same disdain and disappointment.

For those of you invalidating our stories, saying “it wasn’t that bad”, can I ask you to take a step back for a moment? To gain a broader perspective? Because what may have been only a small part of your life, was our ENTIRE lives. You were adults when you chose to attend that Basic Seminar, when you picked up your first courtship books, when you decided to promote the modesty culture, when you chose to become part of a patriarchal system, when you made the choice to spend your kids’ childhoods sheltered from the world in your own little reality and the culture you created. But us? We were born into it. We were raised our whole lives immersed in it. We spent the most formative years of our cognitive and emotional development in an alternate religious culture ruled by fear, shame, legalism, and authoritarianism. We had no choice. We knew nothing else. We had no other experience and knowledge and discernment to ground us like you did, to give us perspective, to compare anything to. For you, this was 10-20 years of your life. For us, it was our whole lives. It was all we knew. Our entire lives have been built upon a time period that was just a small part of your own life. So, yes, it was “that bad”. Our experiences were nothing like yours and you’ll have to see them through our eyes if you want to understand.

You had a different life before this, and a different one after. This homeschooling movement and the resulting culture is all we know. It made us who we are, for better or for worse. Our stories cannot be separated from it. We are the products of that movement. You were the facilitators who got to choose what affected you and what didn’t. We didn’t have the capacity as children to even begin to make that choice. What you only observed and instigated and perpetuated, we lived, felt, internalized, and became. 

You keep telling us we’re overreacting. You’re offended because we “don’t appreciate” what you did for us. But this is not about you. How we tell our stories and work through the consequences of your choices for us is not about you. It’s about us. Our lives. Our hearts, souls, minds, marriages, relationships, spiritual journeys, and futures. The things we write about how teachings like emotional purity, the umbrella of authority, modesty, andcourtship affected us, how they hurt us, messed us up, how we’re working through the messages we received and internalize….these things are not about you. We aren’t telling our stories to “dishonor” you. We’re telling them because truth sets free and light banishes darkness. Because wounds fester in silence and heal in openness. We can love you, forgive you, and have a relationship with you and still tell our stories. We HAVE to tell them and tell them truthfully. Because sometimes it’s the only way to wade through the muck and the crap and the dysfunction that you inflicted on us and we are leaving behind.

Please read the whole letter and share it widely. It’s just loaded with urgent pleas for some empiricism, reason, compassion, introspection, responsibility, and accountability on the part of countless well-meaning parents whose reckless vices of dogmatism overcome whatever virtuous love they have for their children.

I also want to stress that these parents are not “conservative” in anything but name only. They are reactionaries, they are revisionists, they are “restorationists” who, out of knee jerk overreaction against the social change of recent decades, want to magically restore a past that only exists in their revisionist histories. They have no interest in conserving the lessons of their broader culture. They want radical overnight changes. Conservatism is a good desire to want to make sure that good things are preserved as change happens, that we not thoughtlessly discard accumulated wisdom that previous generations won at a hard cost, but that as we make changes we are deliberate to make sure we preserve those gains as we seek after new ones.

By contrast the homeschooling, reactionary right wing Christians are brazen social engineers. Appallingly arrogant because of their uncritical confidence that they work on behalf of God and His eternal order they are willing to dogmatically impose their worldview and create an alternate universe that shows no responsiveness to reality, to the accumulated insights of Western culture, to the input of science, or to the values of anyone but those terrified of modern liberalism.

This is one of the plausible, logical, and actual extremes that the arrogance of believing with no evidence constraints (i.e., by faith) leads to. This is one of the consequences of truly believing in the authoritarian God presented in the Bible and thinking that everything you do in accord with what you perceive to be His will must be unimpeachable.

Relatedly, all week I have been highlighting the tangibly destructive consequences to LGBT youth being raised in conservative Christian culture in general.

Libby Anne wrote about one Focus on the Family’s destructive impact on gays and one of her friends a few years ago in a post I serendipitously stumbled upon this week:

The documentary [For the Bible Told Me So] also talks about Focus on the Family and the damage its teachings do. I don’t think I’d ever thought about this directly before. I mean, people are free to believe as they choose, and I’d always seen the consequences of religious homophobia largely in terms of efforts to prevent gays and lesbians from marrying. I’d never thought quite this directly about how the teachings of Focus on the Family and other groups effect teens growing up in homophobic religious homes or churches. Did you know that a gay teen commits suicide every five hours? I have a gay friend who grew up in a Southern Baptist family. He knew by high school that he was gay, but he hid it. He tried to take his life. He swallowed a bottle of pills, but it only knocked him out for several hours and left him alive. Why did he try to kill himself? Because of what his church told him. Because of what Dr. Dobson said. Because of what his parents believed. Because of what he believed because he’d been taught it.

Here’s the documentary:

Many thanks to Libby Anne for cross-posting Darcy’s letteron her must-read blog, Love Joy Feminism. Libby Anne is a must-read for parents and for students of religion.

Your Thoughts?

 

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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