I wrote earlier this week about the way even Christian homeschool kids aren’t immune from peer pressure—or from picking things up from the culture that surrounds them. In that post I quoted from an article by Lorraine Espenhain, a Catholic homeschooling mother, in which she explained why her children are so lonely—because she has isolated them from any children who are not also both Catholic and homeschooled—-and why she thinks their loneliness is okay.
But as several readers pointed out, I didn’t quote from what is probably the worst section of Lorraine’s article.
First she says this:
When we make finding friends for our children our primary concern, instead of taking them by the hands and bringing them to Christ to serve as His friends, we are missing the entire point of our vocation as Catholic parents. Our children were created for friendship with Christ. Before anything else, this is their chief purpose in life: to be Christ’s friend.
In my experience, this kind of thing happens extremely often in Christian homeschooling culture. Parents see raising their children to be faithful, devout Christians as their primary goal, and everything else—giving their children a good education, ensuring that their children have friends, and so forth—as secondary.
And then she says this:
One day, when one of my daughters awoke, she found this letter “from Jesus” resting on her night table:
How would you feel if your parents gave you a puppy as a gift, but instead of wanting you, the puppy ignored you altogether and ran to others to be loved instead? How would you feel if that puppy ignored you no matter how often you called its name because it preferred others to you? How would you feel if night and day you saw that puppy (which was given as a gift to you) giving all of its love, joy, energy, loyalty and affection to others while wanting as little as possible to do with you?
Maybe if you stop and think about this, this will give you an idea as to how I feel watching you give to others all that you were created to give to Me. You were created by my Father for Me. He brought you into this world for one reason, and one reason only: to be My friend.
And yet, Me you have ignored while longing for human friendships instead. You were brought into this world by My Father to love Me. And yet, you have given that love to your toys, your DVDs, your music, the pleasures of this world, and most of all to yourself. But to Me, you have given no love. You were brought into this world by My Father for Me, not for yourself or for man. Why, then, do you cry for man, long for man, and search for man night and day?
It is My Father’s will that your entire life should be centered on Me—not on yourself, other people, or the things of this world. I often hear you say, “Maybe I’ll be a rock star when I grow up.” Your calling in life first and foremost is to be My friend; this is what you’re supposed to be, not only when you “grow up,” but now, as a young girl. When you give yourself completely to Me in the friendship to which you have been called, and for which you were created in the first place, then I will show you what I want you to do for Me. Your life does not belong to you; it belongs to Me. Therefore, it is I who will decide what I want to do with it. This is how life in Me is supposed to work.
The gifts, talents, skills, and abilities which My Father has given to you were given to you for Me. My Father wants you to glorify and honor Me with those things. They weren’t given to you for yourself or for the world.
Your parents are very careful when deciding whom to allow into your life in the way of companions and friends, for they are well aware that they will answer to Me in eternity for the choices they have made. My Father, who created you for Me, has entrusted you to them in order to serve as guardians to your soul. Therefore, they must be very selective when deciding whom to allow near to your soul, for the wrong companions can do the soul irreparable, eternal harm. This means that you will not always have the friends that you may desire, for the times in which you now live are perilous indeed.
It is I who long for friendship—yours. Where is it? My Father placed you on the Earth to be My friend. This is the number one reason why you were given life. And yet, Me you have ignored while searching for others to fill your heart. How long will you give to others what should belong only to Me? I want you to focus on your friendship with Me. If you do, I promise to fill your life—even your very soul—more than a million earthly companions ever could.
I love you, and I’m waiting for you. You are mine before you will ever be anything else. You have asked, “What should I be when I grow up?” My answer to this is, “Mine.”
“I want you to be completely Mine.”
That poor child. That poor, poor child.
This letter communicates to an impressionable little girl that she is selfish and a bad person for a completely natural human want—to have friends. In fact, it’s not a want, it’s a need. People—including children—need friends.
And here this little girl is being told that having friends hurts Jesus.
Let’s talk about the puppy analogy for a moment, because it doesn’t actually work. I mean, what kind of puppy owner would be upset at a puppy for liking to play with other puppies? I mean seriously, who even does that? That a puppy likes playing with other puppies, and even seeks them out when possible (pulling against the leash to sniff at other dogs, for instance) does not mean the puppy does not also love its owner.
Good puppy owners care about their puppies’ needs—including their need for companionship.
And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Supposedly, Jesus loves us. But if we love someone, we want them to be happy and have their needs met. The sort of love Lorraine is describing is a selfish love, not a genuine, healthy love. It’s the sort of “love” an abusive parent has for their child. And that should be disturbing.
I mean, think about it: What would we think of a parent who shamed and guilted her children for wanting friends, saying that since she birthed them and gave them life, they should want to be her friends rather than looking elsewhere? This level of emotional abuse is horrific.
And then their is Lorraine’s part in the whole thing. I have to wonder, doesn’t Lorraine believe lying is a sin? Why isn’t passing a letter off as from Jesus considered a sacrilege? She’s putting her words in Jesus’ mouth—why does she not see this as some sort of blasphemy? I’m simply trying to wrap my head around how Lorraine justifies level of deception.
I read some of the comments on Lorraine’s article, and some of her responses, and I see a lot of fear. Lorraine is convinced that her children are growing up in an evil, dangerous time, and that “regular” children are evil influences the devil uses to get at her children. She feels her only option is to remove her children from all of these influences—and the result, she says, is that they are very, very lonely, because “appropriate” companions are rare.
I have a daughter in public school, and I have to say, I don’t see Lorraine’s version of reality borne out in my daughter’s experience at all. I mean yeas, we do have different goals in some important areas—Lorraine is a traditional Catholic and I am not religious—but I would assume that we both want our children to be compassionate, hard working, and protectors of the weak. Sally is only five, but these characteristics are already evident, in both her and her friends.
It’s interesting, I grew up in a conservative evangelical home and I remember what it was like to think the world around me was dangerous and evil and disintegrating. But then, when I left those beliefs behind and took another look at the world around me, what I saw was very different. To be sure, the world isn’t perfect, but it’s also not the scary, perverted place I had been given to think it was.
I only wish Lorraine could see that too.