“Your parents were not incorrect”

I received an anonymous comment today on the last segment of my story from an evangelical desirous of explaining to me that my parents acted rationally and not wrongly when I began to question their beliefs, and that I need to realize that they are acting out of love in what they do. I appreciate the comment, but there was an inference was that I shouldn’t be upset because of what happened or speak out against these beliefs because it’s just another “world view” and I need to respect that. Because I thought the comment was interesting, I have decided to respond here (as well as on the thread where it appeared):

To prelude the rest of my comment, I want to start off by saying I am a male evangelical Christian. I am posting because your story has struck a cord with me. I’ve struggled with how I want to respond here, so please bear with me.

Thank you for stopping by! I really do appreciate it when people who disagree with what I say leave thoughtful, respectful comments like yours. I’m all for an exchange of ideas.

I don’t think you can educate a child, live with a child, raise a child – without indoctrinating them to your world-views. While I don’t agree with humanism (I’m on the fence about feminism). I respect that it’s your right to teach your children your views, just as I think your parents shouldn’t have been prevented from raising you as they did.

I’m going to have to disagree with you on some of this. My parents saw passing on their exact views to their kids as incredibly important, but I honestly don’t feel that way at all. I’m going to let my daughter choose her own beliefs. She’s her own independent person. So, not everyone “indoctrinates” their kids. In fact, as a rule, I think that the more strongly someone believes in the possibility of hell, the harder they will work to indoctrinate their children. This is one of the many, many problems I have with the idea of hell – it makes parents willing to do anything they have to do to make their children share their exact beliefs, regardless of what the child wants and regardless of the consequences of family harmony.

As for my parents having the right to raise us as they did, I am not questioning that. I’m merely questioning the wisdom of some of their methods of child raising. I agree that they have a right to raise their children as they see fit (absent blatant abuse, of course), but that does not preclude me from speaking out against beliefs and practices and child rearing manuals I see as harmful. That’s all I’m doing here.  

I think your parents were not incorrect, or acted unnaturally to react they way they did. In the Christian world-view rejecting Christ is the same as death. Keeping your siblings away from you was not a way to hurt you, but a way to keep your siblings “safe”. (please forgive me if I misconstrued humanism for the rejection of God if it is not the case). The fact that you had the right to reject them, the fact that you still have a relationship with them (even though it has changed due to your rejection of them). means they have not rejected you. The fact that they are trying to change your husband (despite how misguided you perceive it to be). They are still trying to save you. I think it’s important to note that they still obviously care.

I understand that my parents were reacting rationally within their beliefs. I don’t blame them, but I do blame the beliefs. You have to remember that my parents weren’t just evangelicals. They reacted the way they did not simply because I was leaving some of their beliefs (at the time, I was only questioning a few things, such as young earth creationism, not religion in general), but rather because they followed Christian Patriarchy and therefore believed that I, as an unmarried adult daughter, was supposed to submit to my father and obey him. If they had, like most evangelicals, believed that daughters grow up and become independent, and had focused on praying that God would guide me back to the correct path rather than thinking they were supposed to be the ones to do that, my relationship with them would not be as broken as it is today. This is why I speak out against what I see as problematic beliefs, beliefs that cause harm and tear families apart.

This is really a nitpick, but I never “rejected” my parents. Rather, I rejected some of their beliefs. They might see those two as the same, but I really don’t. They then turned heaven and earth to get me to agree with them again, and in the end I left home to live my own life. I never rejected them. I simply disagreed with them. And my disagreement made them consider cutting me off from my siblings, though in the end they thankfully chose not to. I see any belief system that supports putting beliefs above people as highly problematic, and I see this as a major problem with the way my parents see the world – it’s almost as if my beliefs mattered more than I did as their daughter. This tears families apart when they should be able to agree to disagree.

Lastly, I wanted to say I don’t view my wife as a subordinate. I don’t view men as superior to woman. I view the spiritual headship of men the same way that the Levites were selected as the bearers of the ark of the covenant. It was role selected by God. The Levites were better than the rest of the 12 tribes, but were selected for the Role. I don’t have any delusions that woman are less than men. (in fact, as a married man, I know I’m wrong 99% of the time).

I understand that you may not see your wife as subordinate, but any time you evoke spiritual headship or male leadership, that’s not equality. I was never taught that women were “subordinate” either, simply that women have different roles than men: men are to lead, and women to submit to that leadership. Again, that’s not equality.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is: Homeschooling is no more indoctrinating than public school would be.

I disagree. Homeschooling IS more indoctrinating than public school, because homeschooling gives parents the ability to completely control what information their children should be exposed to while public schooling exposes children to a greater variety of ideas, information, and people. You can’t shelter (aka isolate) a kid sent to public school the way you can a kid who is homeschooled.

Christianity is a differing worldview, and and it’s not any less wrong than other world views.

I understand that Christianity is a differing worldview. I have taken religious studies in college. However, not every world view can be correct, especially when so many contradict, and I have become fairly convinced that Christianity is wrong, and indeed that any world view that includes the supernatural is wrong. Additionally, some world views cause a lot more harm than others, and I therefore don’t privilege all worldviews equally and I actively speak out against some – such as the one in which I was raised.

People who believe differently are not monsters or crazy, or ignorant.

I am aware that people who believe differently from me are not monsters, crazy, or ignorant. I used to believe differently myself. My parents were in many ways wonderful parents, and that’s why I speak against the specific beliefs that resulted in harm and hurt. I used to share my parents’ beliefs, so I understand how they see things and why they do what they do. I’m not judging them, I just happen to think that the beliefs that they hold and the way they see the world is highly problematic and even harmful. It is these beliefs I speak out against, not my parents themselves.

One more note. Your comment sounded like you had probably only read My Story. In my other posts I outline specific problems I see with Christian Patriarchy. The problems go beyond my parents’ response to my questioning of their beliefs.

Sorting Out the Good from the Bad
HSLDA on those “Radically Atheistic” Public Schools
Sorting Out the Good from the Bad
Fifty Shades of Evangelical Justifications for Patriarchy
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Lola

    I disagree with you that you can parent without indoctrinating your kids to an extent, however, I think that it's a matter of how it's done. You're raising her to be a feminist, so I'm sure your parents would say you're indoctrinating her that way. You're raising your daughter to create her own beliefs and be independent, which is a reflection of your beliefs, so in a way, indoctrinating her. You have expressed your concerns about her being an atheist, which is your belief, not hers, because she is not at an age where she can separate her beliefs from yours, yet. It just seems impossible to avoid as a parent when your children are young. That being said. If your child questions your beliefs (or lack there of) your reaction will not be as dramatic as your parents' was. Also, right on about the homeschooling vs public schooling. If public schooling is as indoctrinating as homeschooling, then why are there such a range of beliefs coming into and out of them? And I'll even defend a chunk of religious based schools (particularly Catholic) in that regard. The more people you have teaching, and the more variety of students and teacher backgrounds, the less likely there will be a lot of indoctrination, especially compared to huge amounts of homeschoolers. Libby Anne, I do have a question because of thinking of how you would react to your children choosing a different belief system. What do you think your reaction would be if one of your daughter (or some other kid down the line) chose to enter Christian Patriarchy, or something similar?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11116252614235163923 Cherí

    Lola,Indoctrination isn't simply teaching your child about the world; that's called education. That's called parenting. Indoctrination usually carries with it a connotation of teaching someone to accept a certain teaching uncritically. (Check out these definitions from various sources…was just researching this for a post myself yesterday) Teaching someone to value people equally, teaching them to create their own beliefs and be independent, these are not indoctrination. They may be called indoctrination by those who fear them and are heavily invested in a system which would shatter if they were accepted by its adherents (like Christian Patriarchy, or fundamentalism of any sort), but that is only because the word does carry powerful negative connotations and can be used as a rhetorical tool. So no, I don't think Libby is indoctrinating her daughter (from what I've read of her blog), and I do think parenting can be done in such a way as to not indoctrinate, but to inform and allow the child to choose with freedom and the power of knowledge.

  • S_Morlowe

    Is the definition of 'humanism' within the Christian Patriarchal sector different to the more widely accepted one? I've always defined it as "a belief that people are inherently decent" and thrown in the golden rule for good measure; but reading how fearful evangelicals and other Christians are of humanists just makes me question what definition they're working off?

  • Anonymous

    Good questiom, S_Morlowe. Libby Anne, can you define what you mean by "humanism" and how your use of it is understood by your parents? Do they have their own different defintion? I am used to thinking of it in the historical sense, as in "Renaissance humanism."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Lola and Cheri – I think the issue is the definition of the word "indoctrinate." Technically it originally simply meant "teach," but today it has the connotation of "teach your specific views in exclusion without allowing for other views or information." Sure, I'll be raising my daughter as a feminist/humanist mother, but I'll also not be sheltering her from other information or ideas or expecting her to echo my views exactly, so I don't see that as indoctrinating. Lola – You're right, there are some lifestyles that it would hurt me to see Sally adopt, but it's not because of the beliefs per se but rather because of the harm the beliefs do. I would be upset by her joining a group where she was required to turn off her brain, or to see herself as lesser because she is a woman, or that she must hurt or harm others. But wouldn't any normal parent be saddened if their daughter joined such a group? And if she did, I would still want to know what she's thinking and where she is on issues, and I wouldn't reject her or cut her off or guilt her or try to manipulate her. I would simply try to love her. S_Morlowe and Anonymous – Good question. I keep meaning to do a post. By "humanism" I mean three things: The belief that humans are inherently decent and should be valued, the belief that humans have the potential to better the world through cooperation and the application of ethics, reason, and justice, and the belief that humans should work together to do just this. Now because I am an atheist, I am technically a "secular" humanist, meaning that my humanism is devoid of any supernatural thinking or any appeal for supernatural aid. I think what we have here is what we've got, and we need to join hands and work with it. There are also "Christian" humanists who agree on my three points but also believe in God and his ability to aid their efforts. Humanism itself, whether Christian or not, appears problematic to some evangelicals, most fundamentalists, and all of those involved in Christian Patriarchy because they believe that humans are miserable crap who have no ability to do good or better their lives or those of others without the divine. They also don't see humans as having worth outside of God's love, and believe that all efforts should go toward saving human souls, not better human conditions, because ultimately it is the next life that matters, not this one. They also essentially believe that humans don't matter outside of God's love, and that spreading the gospel and saving souls should be the goal. Even as these groups have a problem with humanism itself, they reserve most of their vitriol for secular humanism, which they say elevates man to the position of God and worships and serves "the creature rather than the creator." They generally discusses it in their list of evils (alongside feminism and environmentalism). For these groups, secular humanism essentially represents the rejection of God and the elevation of man to a God. They see it as the antithesis of their beliefs, which hold that God is incredibly righteous, good, holy, and loving while man is evil, sinful, and wretched. Man doesn't matter; only God does.

  • Wendy

    I am teaching my 12-year-old daughter my ideas about how the world works, but I try to avoid "indoctrination" by remembering to tell her things like, "The political party that I don't support still has the best interest of our country at heart; they just have different ideas about how to achieve that."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12117442983915295489 Jesse (Great Grandmother’s Kitchen)

    That's a great example to me, Wendy. With religion, too. It's entirely possible to teach a child what you believe, but also what others around you believe in a respectful, loving way. We are in the process of doing our best to do that with our children and the beliefs of their grandparents.

  • Anonymous

    The statement "My parents saw passing on their exact views to their kids as incredibly important, but I honestly don't feel that way at all. I'm going to let my daughter choose her own beliefs."Has to be one of THE single most hypocritical (and utterly arrogant, self-delusional) things I have ever read.If (when?) your daughter (or son) chooses to support a return to a Patriarchal/Fundamentalist culture, you will be PISSED as all get-out! You will fight with her, tell her she is stupid, ungrateful, and probably (almost inevitably) disown and disavow her (or him). Why? Because ultimately you are still a VERY self-centered and childish individual (every aspect of your current "philosophy" exudes and reeks of selfishness).Hopefully your child will actually see that and (despite your influence and indoctrination) will end up maturing past it, rather than becoming stuck in eternal adolescence as you have.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Anonymous – "If (when?) your daughter (or son) chooses to support a return to a Patriarchal/Fundamentalist culture, you will be PISSED as all get-out! You will fight with her, tell her she is stupid, ungrateful, and probably (almost inevitably) disown and disavow her (or him). Why? Because ultimately you are still a VERY self-centered and childish individual (every aspect of your current "philosophy" exudes and reeks of selfishness).Hopefully your child will actually see that and (despite your influence and indoctrination) will end up maturing past it, rather than becoming stuck in eternal adolescence as you have."What? (A) I'm not sure where this is coming from (are you saying that endorsing freedom of belief was "selfish" or "childish"?); and (B) it absolutely isn't true. I would of course be saddened if my daughter joined a belief system that taught her that she was lesser as a woman, but I would never call her "stupid" or "ungrateful" or disown here.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    I wonder sometimes if some people cling so tightly to the importance of their children holding the exact same beliefs that they do that they simply cannot fathom the idea of a parent seriously letting a child choose his or her own beliefs. There's a sort of projecting that goes on there I think.

  • Anothermous

    Wow, Anonymous, you're a total douchenozzle, aren't you?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12284971176688746388 Andrew G.

    This is reminding me of some of the stuff in Bob Altemeyer's (free) book The Authoritarians. Highly recommended reading for everyone.

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