When I Rejected Dominionism

When I Rejected Dominionism August 9, 2013

by Lana Hope cross posted from her blog Wide Open Ground and Homeschoolers Anonymous

By now most people have probably heard of the dominionism in homeschooling and conservative evangelical circles — the idea that homeschoolers will change the world by their involvement in absolutely everything, from science to the high arts to politics. Oddly even after I rejected patriarchalism (and courtship and purity), I still saw myself as a huge warrior and heroine. I’ll tell you what changed that for me. But first thought I’ll give you a couple quotes of this in homeschool circles.

First here’s what we learn from the Botkins over at Ladies Against Feminism.

Will your children know how to handle business and finance in a down economy? Defend their faith to militant antagonists? Stand firm against a defiling culture? Fight for their freedoms? Take advantage of technological innovations? And see opportunity amid the chaos?

More importantly, what kind of salt and light are they prepared to be? They may be able to name every country in the world, but do they know how to disciple the nations? They may know about the Battle of Waterloo, but do they know how to fight the battles of today – to win? Homeschoolers have proven they can beat the world at geography and spelling. But can we lead in the arts? Can we lead in the gates? Do we know how to take dominion of science and technology?

Notice the idea that we should be the leaders in science and art, and basically everything. We are cultural warriors, we learn here.

Now here’s a second quote over at The Old School House from Gene Edward Veith over at Patrick Henry College.

Christians fight the culture wars. Some persons put their hope in politics, but that doesn’t seem to do much, even if you elect Christians. A lot of Christians are doing things with the arts and film, and I salute all those efforts. But the effort that is the most dramatically successful is what Christians are doing in education. And the homeschoolers are really leading the way in that.

If Christians become more educated than non-Christians, if they become the people who can use their minds and develop their talents, who can write, read, and have knowledge … if those are the Christians, while the non-Christians in many cases are functionally illiterate, who’s going to be the leaders and the culture makers of the next generation? Homeschool kids give me great hope for the future, that we may come back to where Christians are the influential culture makers once again.

Notice that while Dr. Veith appears to steer away from dominionism in politics, he ends back up in the same place.

If we breed the bright homeschoolers enough, and educate them enough, then homeschoolers can shift the culture. As the nature of Patrick Henry College students, this certainly includes law and politics.

With that, it’s no wonder that when I moved to SE Asia, I thought of myself in big leader terms. To be clear, I grew up in a family with a salary (at least at that time) of the working class, so I was shielded from much of the dominion attitude; we never dreamed big enough for speech, debate, law and politics. We could not afford worldview camps and debate. In fact, my family even slacked to an extent in academics. But I was still taught that motherhood was how I could change the world. I was still taught that Christians would change the world — Christians were that awesome. I was still taught that I was. somebody. special.

Then the bomb fell. I arrived in SE Asia, and I was not anybody special. In fact, I remember telling a friend over skype one day, “people think missionaries pull up to villages, and everyone loves them, and the kid’s kiss them. Yea right.” My work was mostly dominated by kids who either tried to steal from us, or who would yell at me. I was also the worst kind of soldier, and would often fight back. In all the day outreaches I did, the kids and people came running, but what they really meant was, “give me treats and goods.” I still loved those days, but it felt superficial enough that I almost preferred the drama of our kids at home.

That is when I finally began to realize that I am not the hero of my own story. I’m not. I did not come here to win over the world. I came here to serve. I came here to love because they need love, and they need to experience the human dignity that was never afforded to them. The kids do not owe me anything, and I was there to love them, change or no change. In fact, this is what the Bible has to say (I wish I had been taught this in a context other than serving a man).

...whoever wants to be great must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the willing slave of all–like the Son of Man; He did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give up his life as a ransom for many

If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.

And then there is the example of Jesus, who humbled himself to the point of death, even death on the cross (Phil. 2).

My response to Dr. Veith: I do not think the hope of the world is to breed upper middle class Christians with the best education in the world.

Education should never be used as a weapon tool. It’s not a trophy. Instead of focusing on breeding babies and breeding the middle class, we need to focus on all lives. Education is a gift we can give to the entire world, most especially those who have never been afforded one.

I still want to change the world. I hope I’m never too apathetic that my desire to see change dies with me. However, we need to remember that we are first and foremost here to be a servant and to love.

The story is not about us. It’s about other people.

Comments open below

Read everything by Lana Hope!

Lana Hope was homeschooled 1st-12th grade in a small town and rural culture. Involved in ATI, her life growing up was gendered, sheltered, and with a lot of shame and rules indisguise of Biblical principles and character qualities. After college Lana moved to SE Asia and began working with the abused, and upon discovering that the large world is not at all like she had been taught, she finally questioned it all, from Calvinism to the homeschool movement to the foundation of her Christian faith. Today Lana is a Christian Universalist, holds a B.A. in English, and is currently working on a M.A. in philosophy.  She blogs about the struggles she has faced leaving fundamentalism and homeschooling behind and how travel and missions has wrecked her life for good and bad at her blog www.wideopenground.com.

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  • NeaDods

    If Christians become more educated than non-Christians, if they become the people who can use their minds and develop their talents, who can write, read, and have knowledge … if those are the Christians, while the non-Christians in many cases are functionally illiterate, who’s going to be the leaders and the culture makers of the next generation?

    That is an INCREDIBLY large series of “if”s! Yes, *IF* the entire school system fails — and not just in a city or a state, or for that matter, even a nation, because you’ve got to wipe out all of non-Christian education to the point of illiteracy, so you’ve got to take out the educational systems in all agnostic and atheist and non-Christian countries lest their students become our non-Christian teachers — *THEN* you get to take over.

    What gets me is the unspoken admission that in order to get Christian dominion, you can’t actually win in the world of ideas, not even with God on your side. No, it takes massive world-wide destruction for Christians to get to step up, because apparently even one literate non-Christian is enough to stave off the Quiverfull masses.


    I’d worry, except that I know what HSDLA considers a good homeschool education, and thus rest assured that Veith’s great hope of the future tends to be the oversheltered creationist intellectual road-kill of the present. Yes, one or two do actually become leaders – see Palin and Bachmann – but they’re hardly winning souls to either their governmental policies or their religion. And this is, of course, assuming that the homeschooled hopes even reach adulthood: I see in today’s news that Herbert and Catherine Shiable’s second failed attempt to pray the pneumonia away has led to murder and child abuse charges.

  • Kristen Rosser

    I think the myth being circulated by the HSDLA crowd is that public school education is already a failure and is turning out nothing but nearly-illiterate kids. I think they really don’t understand that many, many public schools are actually very good. But what really burns me is that where they’re not so good, these Christians don’t care about the kids at all. They’re happy to see disadvantaged kids just go downhill because it affirms what they already want to believe. The kids are just statistics to them, not people. An undereducated, disadvantaged mom can’t homeschool– but in their books only homeschooled children get to be allowed to succeed.

  • NeaDods

    The kids are just statistics to them, not people.

    That makes a grim sense; their own kids aren’t people either, they’re God’s Arrows.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the narrative is that all public schools everywhere are failures – how many years has the narrative been that evolution is going to be disproven Any Minute Now Really?

  • “I still want to change the world. I hope I’m never too apathetic that my desire to see change dies with me. However, we need to remember that we are first and foremost here to be a servant and to love.” Lana, I love what you wrote about changing the world and loving and changing yourself.

  • I post twice in a row, because I had 2 entirely seperate thoughts while reading this. My other thought is that one statement in this piece, taken in isolation, is certainly fodder for a “Quoting Quiverfull” post:

    Will your children know how to … Fight for their freedoms?” -the Botkins sisters. On a blog called Ladies Against Feminism.
    Now that, sisters, is irony.

  • Suburbint

    It’s just like the “Religious Right”‘s stance on abortion; as long as those children are inside their mother’s body, then they must be protected, cared for, and mightily defended at all costs. Once a viable newborn has entered the world, however, those same Pro-Life activists neither attempt or even desire involvement in their lives.

    It all comes down to a schoolyard us-vs-them mentality, wherein the big names on both sides of the issue love to debate with one another, but there is no trickle down effect that is actually improving the lives of future generations.

    Not to mention the fact that many (if not most) of the current generation of homeschooling, QF, Dominionist families are hard-pressed as it is to feed their broods, much less create environments in which those children will have the resources to pursue the type of education that is necessary in order for one to have any real clout, political or otherwise.

  • Trollface McGee

    Their idea of education is to drill kids with ideology and talking points. All the while actively rejecting basic science, twisting historical facts and in some cases wanting to deny girls an education altogether beyond some very minimal level. It might “win” them some debates on Fox News but it’s not going to get them far dominion-wise.

  • Julie McGalliard

    But can we lead in the arts? Do we know how to take dominion of science and technology?

    This is pretty ironic — how can you lead in science if you don’t even believe in it? How can you lead in the arts if all your arts are hollow exercises in doctrine?

    When I was in college, my pastor — a nice enough man, certainly — talked to me about my journalism major, and about how “we need Christians in journalism” — like we were spies or something.

    What we need is journalists who tell the truth. Are Christians more likely to tell the truth?

  • Great post, Lana. The beauty of my secular education (high school and college) was that we were challenged in our ways of thinking; taught to analyze and critique ideas, texts, and arguments; and emerge with a bit more gray thinking rather than the black and white thinking I’d been taught while I was fundamentalist. I may not have ‘all the answers’ now but I know how to think critically and for that I’m extremely grateful.

  • NeaDods

    I think “lead in science” means “enforce our doctrine.” Thing is, people are more interested in science that gets RESULTS!