Vision Forum, Christmas, and a Marketing Scheme

I am subscribed to “vision forum” on google, which means I get an email each day with every new internet article or blog post containing the words “vision forum.” Lately, essentially every new article or post has been something on all of Vision Forum’s Christmas sales. Fundamentalist and evangelical blogs across the segment of homeschooling influenced by patriarchy are lighting up in excitement and in preparation for giving their children a very Vision Forum Christmas.

There’s just one problem with this. Doug Phillips, who founded Vision Forum and continues to run it today, does not believe in Christmas. He says it is a pagan holiday and he and his family let it go by like any other day. Apparently, for Phillips, money means more than principle. I mean think about it, he could use the Christmas season as an opportunity to advertise the holiday’s pagan roots and urge Vision Forum followers not to participate. He could refuse to offer sales or to give any sign of the holidays on his website. Isn’t this what principle would dictate? But no. Because to Doug Phillips, money appears to matter more than principle.

If you want to see what I mean, go to Vision Forum‘s main page. Oh yes, it calls the sales a “December Kick-Off Special,” but really, who do they think they’re fooling? They’ve marked everything down by at least 20% and some items down by 50% and offered free shipping on orders over $25.

I have to be honest. This is making me sick. I’d like to think that Doug Phillips, along with Bill Gothard, Michael Pearl, etc., are at least sincere. But when I see something like this, I have to wonder.

This also confirms something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Vision Forum, with its snazzy pictures and overpriced merchandise, seems like the ideal marketing scheme. Vision Forum may sell a message, but it also sells products, and LOTS of them. I can’t even begin to tally the amount of money my parents have spent on Vision Forum products over the years, especially at Christmas, but we’re talking thousands and thousands of dollars.

I’ve also heard that Bill Gothard’s training institutes and workshops cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and that even participating in Gothard’s character training homeschool curriculum program costs hundreds of dollars per family per semester.

Michael Pearl has been offering a “business in a box” opportunity where supporters can buy No Greater Joy products at 40% the retail price and then set up a family business selling the materials to others. The catch, of course, is that you have to start in the program with an initial investment of at least $2,500.

What is going on here? Are these people about serving God, or about making money? If they’re really about serving God, why not make a genuine ministry of it, taking in donations and then offering conferences, literature, and products for free, or at least for a reduced rate or actual market cost? I mean, didn’t Jesus throw the money changers out of the temple?

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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.

  • Hopewell

    Doug also doesn't like Catholics, but has made the very Catholic Von Trapp family a part of their catalog with books, cds and a Maria dress for the dolls they sell….. ALways a way to make a buck off the gullible I guess!;=0

  • staceyN

    Yes, but you have to admit, Vision Forum DOES have the coolest in toy weaponry and such. As a mom of four, weaponry is "fundamental" in our home, and I can thank Vision Forum for hours of fun (and a number of injuries, though no ER visits yet, thankfully). I am just as much a sucker for a heated wrist rocket contest as any of kids. They have their eye on that overpriced (but super fun) zip line this year. They're not going to get it because all of our acreage is FLAT, which would make for a pretty slow zip line (we could call it a "putt line" I guess, unless we motorized it). Since the toys are so cool, I really don't care about the VF message any more than I care about Toys R Us's political contributions, but I can see how the contradiction is most annoying and BLATANT. Kind of like how my family likes to observe a day of rest on the Sabbath, but we think nothing of going out to lunch on Sunday, which means that others have to work that day and don't get a rest. Hmm, certainly good food for thought about having consistency between beliefs and actions. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    I didn't expect better of them *sighs*Hipocrisy:

  • Anonymous

    Interesting. So Doug Philips won't celebrate the birth of the god he follows? Or does it he do it without the tree and the presents? ~E.

  • saraquill

    I guess they worship money.

  • Mommy McD

    My church growing up was passively against the celebration of christmas because it is a pagan holiday. The preacher when I was a child didn't have kids and didn't feel like it was right to tell other people not to celebrate but he warned that it had pagan influence and shouldn't be celebrated as a religious holiday. When I was a teen the preacher explicitly said that celebrating Christmas is a sin of idolatry and worshiping other gods and money.Of course the Church of Christ doesn't make any kind of money, because despite their joyless assholery (generally speaking only of course) they were at least consistent. My family always celebrated "secular" christmas as a compromise. Meaning Santa and tree, no Jesus or nativity (or Christian carols – Church of Christ is weird).

  • Incongruous Circumspection

    I 100% agree. Michael Pearl should also require a video of the business wannabe properly spanking their children as well as the wife showing some proper submission to a lazy husband with his dirty feet up in a chair.Yep. That should be the qualifications.

  • Incongruous Circumspection

    Doug Phillips probably quickly realized that, even though Thanksgiving is such an awesome and Christian approved holiday (being that the dirty filthy pagan savages were converted to true religion), you can't really make a buck selling paper turkeys and felt pilgrim hats.

  • pagan christmas?

    Can someone explain why a christian would think Christmas is a pagan holiday? They don't believe in celebrating the birth of Jesus?

  • Libby Anne

    Okay, the whole "Christmas is pagan" thing is because late December was originally home to some sort of Norse pagan winter solstice celebration, and that's where the yule long and Christmas tree come from. It was also home to a Roman holiday called Saturnalia which involved merriment and gift giving, which is where we get the whole presents thing. Basically, at some point in the early middle ages Christians took those holidays, combined them, and made it about the birth of Jesus, even though there is absolutely no evidence that Jesus was born in late December. So most of our Christmas traditions really ARE pagan in origin. And same with Easter, actually. Christians back then were really good at taking over pagan holidays. Most Christians have no problem with that, because of all the Christian elements, but some still object to the holiday because of its pagan roots, and Doug Phillips is one of them. And he's not the first; there was a lot of rejection of Christmas after the reformation, because it was lumped in with Catholic pomp and circumstance, and because of this the Puritans and Pilgrims didn't celebrate the holiday at all. Now this is just my understanding, I grew up in a family that was A-okay with celebrating Christmas. If someone knows more about this issue, feel free to chime in!

  • Mommy McD

    My church* taught that celebrating Christmas as Jesus's birth was a sin because A) we don't know the day and the day picked was the birthday of a pagan god B) the bible never tells us to celebrate the birth of Jesus only his death and resurrection. My first preacher had reservations on the "secular" aspects as well because of the pagan implications – christmas trees, wreathes, santa, rudolf, even frosty. But he didn't declare it off limits, just something to keep in mind. Later the new preacher we had said that celebrating any part of Christmas (or Easter) was taking part in idolatry and worshiping false gods, being worldly and deceived by Satan. Part of it is that the church had a huge problem with anything Catholic and most of the christian aspects of the traditions are Catholic in origin.*The Church of Christ is a small sect so the issues raised here don't reflect a large portion of Christians even fundamentalists. They have a few problems with Vision Forum but I know that the home schooled kids at church used the curriculum anyhow.

  • twilekangel

    As a inhabitant of one of the Nordic countries, I can attest to that Christianity is a thin varnish indeed on a pagan festival ;) Take a closer look at almost all of our traditions, and you see their pagan roots quite obviously.Eating roasted pork on Christmas eve? The food of the gods of Valhalla. Setting out porridge for Nissen (Santa)? Originating as offering a symbolic part of the harvest to the Varden, a spirit being representing the ancestors. There's a lot more but those were at the top of my head. Not to forget the words themselves; Jul, Nisse quite clearly have nothing to do with Christianity :)(Hey look, I'm not an Ananymouse anymore!)

  • Anonymous

    Santa was not part of the heathen festival.

  • Libby Anne

    Saint Nicholas was Catholic. And to Doug Phillips, that's basically the same as pagan.

  • Stacy aka Fahiima

    I grew up in an IFB church that frowned upon Christmas as well. We did our last Christmas tree when I was 11 or so (I'mm 28 now). We spent some years in a less-strict Baptist church that did celebrate Christmas, then eventually ended up in the cultic Messianic movement that condemns its celebration as well.It is pretty clear that Christmas traditions have absorbed various elements of solstice celebrations along the way, but we do know that it was celebrated as the Nativity of Christ at least as far back as the 4th century. The date was probably established by assuming that Christ was conceived on the same day that he died. If he was conceived around the Passover, December 25th would be a good estimate for his birth. Convenient since so many other celebrations were happening around the solstice.

  • Anonymous

    To get a good headstart about the historical background of all Christian holidays get the book about the early developments and backgrounds of this (and other similar) religion. Even with some errors, the book can be really an eyeopener showing the correlation of Christian and pagan myths.