The Value of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

After finding it at Goodwill for less than a dollar, I decided that I was going to read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” partly because I think it is the coolest book title ever, and partly because it’s a bestseller and I feel like as a writer I should read at least some of the bestsellers, and mostly because the book intrigues me, and appears like it might actually be an intellectual piece of work, you know, completely unlike “50 Shades of Grey”. I’m not sure in what universe “50 Shades of Grey” sounded like a good idea, but I think it is a sad social commentary that we actually happily consume such stories. However, I’m not writing this post to complain about “50 Shades of Grey” although I can’t pass up having a good jab at it when I get the opportunity. So far, I’ve only read the first few chapters, and the book has proven to be a fascinating read.

“However, it was not Lisbeth Salander’s astonishing lack of emotional involvement that most upset him. Milton’s image was one of conservative stability. Salander fitted into this picture about as well as a buffalo at a boat show. Armansky’s star researcher was a pale, anorexic young woman who had hair as short as a fuse, and a pierced nose and eyebrows. She had a wasp tattoo about an inch long on her neck, a tattooed loop around the biceps of her left arm and another around her left ankle. On those occasions when she had been wearing a tank top, Armansky also saw that she had a dragon tattoo on her left shoulder blade. She was a natural redhead, but she dyed her hair raven black. She looked as though she had just emerged from a week-long orgy with a gang of hard rockers.” Larsson, Steig “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, p. 38.

The story basically says that it was rather unusual that a woman like this would be working at a professional job, because she wasn’t very conservative. I have to wonder why people value conservatism so much. Rather than seeing the value in all people, we tend to write off some people as worse than others, sometimes based solely on appearances. Just last week, I showed up to work in a neon yellow lace top that had a black cami underneath, a long leather skirt, a leather vest, and black flats that had square silver studs on them. My hair was jet black fading into purple. Although I was the same person that I always am, someone decided that my outfit was “offensive” and that person complained to management. I was completely within my company’s dress code, and the manager even told me as much when she informed me that someone had been offended. I did have about five customers tell me how amazing they thought I looked, also. Anyway, my purpose is not to complain about someone choosing to take offense to an outfit of mine, my purpose is to say that you can’t tell what a person is really like just by looking at the way they present themselves.

I’ve heard the argument that if people respected themselves, they wouldn’t have certain piercings, or tattoos, etc. I don’t think it’s really about self-respect, I think it’s more about symbols and meanings and art. There are a lot of piercings and tattoos that I don’t care for, but there are also piercings that I like. I have three holes in each ear and intend to get a nose piercing eventually. I don’t mind the look of tongue piercings although I would never personally get one because it’s not worth it to me. I’m planning on getting a tattoo soon, and when I do I will most certainly post about it. However, this post isn’t about my piercing and tattoo preferences either.

What this post is about is about not judging the character of a person based on their external appearances. We shouldn’t assume that someone wouldn’t fit into a professional environment because of their tattoos and piercings, or because of the cut and color of their hair, or because of the style of clothing they wear. The fact that in the story “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Steig Larsson had to write that Lisbeth Salander was different and didn’t fit in shows the sad state of our society where appearances mean more than character. We all have our own preferences and our own prejudices, but for me I have been trying to put aside my prejudices and see through to who a person really is. I’m not perfect at it and I do judge based on appearances, and it should not be so. The value of a person is not determined by how they look, their value is that they are them.

I think that I will probably have more to say about this story as I progress through it, it appears as if the author was very savvy about culture and I look forward to digging further into this book.

Reference:

Larsson, S 2008, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Black Lizard, New York. 
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Discussions on Faith and Doubt – Part 2

A friend critiqued my first post in this series saying that it could be interpreted as “we really can’t be sure of anything”. I really appreciate his feedback, and to be honest, sometimes I don’t think we really can be sure of anything, so maybe that’s why it came out that way in my first post. I mean, the post is about the subject of doubting and faith. However, I’m not saying there isn’t ultimate truth, I just don’t think that any of us has the monopoly on truth and that many things we believe are truth could be wrong. In fact, Jesus is the ultimate truth.

“Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”” John 14:5-6 (NIV).

Jesus is the truth, and the way to get to God, the way to be a Christian, the way to go to heaven when we die, is through Jesus, and only Jesus. Jesus said that the only way anyone can come to the father is through him. So, to be a Christian, to be saved, all one needs to do is trust in Jesus. God doesn’t ask us to take a certain position on homosexuality, abortion, politics, and so on. All we have to do is trust in Jesus, and that is the heart of the gospel, that is the truth.

We need to stop throwing around accusations that anyone who doesn’t subscribe to our particular brand of beliefs, however passionate we are about them and however right we might think we are, isn’t a Christian.
Many of us, particularly the under-30 crowd, are starting to rethink conservative Christianity and its traditional beliefs. We’ve heard Christians go on long rants or seen them write lengthy articles about what they are against (and I’m guilty, on both counts). The thing is we are aware of what traditional conservative Christianity is against. Part of the problem is that we can’t figure out what they are for. Another part of the problem is conservative Christianity’s tendency to ignore the findings of science, and their refusal in many cases to accept academia and intellectualism. Those of us having doubts in this modern day are having doubts because what we know intellectually isn’t matching up with what we are told.

It appears that many conservative Christians think that the Bible and academics oppose each other. I don’t see it that way, and neither do a lot of the younger Christians these days. I see the Bible and intellectualism going hand in hand. God made us, he gave us our brains, and he gave us the ability to learn. I still see conservative Christian parents trying to steer their children away from going to college, thinking that college will destroy their faith. The thing is, for some of us, college can save our faith and renew our faith.

College made me realize that things aren’t as black and white as they sometimes seem. There are some things that are black and white, such as Jesus being the only way to be saved. However, some things are grey and Christians can disagree on those things and yet still be Christians. 

Discussions of Faith and Doubt – Part 1

Although I’m entering the political discourse again today, I hope that those of you who blatantly oppose my political views (which is probably most of you – and I’m cool with that) can see the bigger picture, the main message that I am trying to communicate, which transcends politics. My aim with my blog is to intelligently discuss issues that pertain to evangelical Christianity, and unfortunately politics plays a really big role in the expression of evangelical Christianity, and therein lays one of the problems.

I’m writing this post in response to two different articles from Christianity Today. “WhyWe Should Reexamine the Faith of Barack Obama” by Owen Strachan and “Barack Obama: Evangelical-in-Chief” by Judd Birdsall, which was written in response to Stachan’s article. The first article argues that President Obama is not a Christian. The article admits that the president talk often of faith, but the author’s argument is that if the president were a saved man, he would be against abortion.

Saving faith creates a relentless desire in the name of Christ to heal the wounded, restore the weak, and defend tiny fetuses that kick and spin and wave their miniscule arms when they hear their parents’ voices. Saving faith causes us to weep and yell and wrestle with God in prayer for infants that are savaged in the womb. Saving faith cannot abide unlawful death. It must and will decry it.

So when someone professes faith, yet has none of these instinctive reactions—and actually opposes such instincts despite years of membership in supposedly Bible-teaching churches—we realize, chillingly, that something greater than right morality is missing. The gospel, the ground of our ethics and the animator of our conscience, is very likely missing. Perhaps the person speaks of faith and their nearness to God. In reality, though, they are far from him. They may have come near at some point to the kingdom, but like the rich young ruler who chooses reigning with sinners over reigning with Christ, they are desperately far. (Strachan, “Why We Should Reexamine the Faith of Barack Obama”).
I think it is extremely dangerous to assume that a person is not a Christian simply because they don’t believe the same things we do. The Bible never mentions believing abortion is murder to be one of the pre-requisites of salvation. I as a Christian do not agree with abortion, but I do not assume that those who don’t agree with me are not Christians. When we get saved, Jesus comes into our lives and he changes us from the inside out…he changes the things that he wants to change, not the things that everyone else thinks we should change. I don’t know the mind of God; perhaps he is more interested in working on other things in President Obama’s life than he is about Obama’s beliefs on abortion.
One of the problems with evangelical Christianity is that we have chosen a select few things, normally things that the majority of evangelicals don’t struggle with, such as abortion and homosexuality, to be defining factors of Christianity, and the things that we choose to be the most passionate about. But, what if we decided to major on things that we actually struggle with? How might we be able to change the world were we first willing to take inventory of our own lives and be morally outraged about lying, arrogance, gossip, theft, greed, gluttony, fighting and the like? If we worried about ourselves and our sins first, and if we tried to rid ourselves of those sins as passionately as we try to outlaw abortion or ban gay marriage, maybe then the world would at the very least have a little more respect for us when we say we don’t agree with abortion or homosexuality. Choosing things that majority of evangelicals don’t struggle with and turning those into big issues is really a good example of the classic Biblical story talking about us trying to remove motes from other people’s eyes when there are huge beams in ours.

Another thing we as evangelical Christians need to realize is that we don’t have the monopoly on truth. It’s possible that some of the ideas we cling to and promote as Biblical may be anything but. We need to be willing to be wrong, instead of being adamant that our view of the Biblical text is the only accurate one. In the words of the president himself:
No matter how much Christians who oppose homosexuality may claim that they hate the sin but love the sinner, such a judgment inflicts pain on good people – people who are made in the image of God, and who are often truer to Christ’s message than those that condemn them. And I was reminded that that is my obligation, not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided, just as I cannot claim infallibility in my support of abortion rights. I must admit that I may have been infected with society’s prejudices and predilections and attributed them to God; that Jesus’ call to love one another might demand a different conclusion; and that in years hence I may be seen as someone who was on the wrong side of history. I don’t believe such doubts make me a bad Christian. I believe they make me human, limited in my understandings of God’s purpose and therefore prone to sin. When I read the Bible, I do so with the belief that it is not a static text but the Living Word and that I must be continually open to new revelations – whether they come from a lesbian friend or a doctor opposed to abortion. (Obama, “The Audacity of Hope”, pg. 223 – 224).
Obama tells us what his beliefs are with his current understanding of God, and even has the humility to admit that he may be wrong, and is obviously willing to learn. If more evangelical Christians reminded themselves that they could be wrong and that they maybe don’t have the exclusive rights on truth, maybe we could then have better discussions and have more respect in the world we are supposed to be being a light to. 

References: 

Obama, B 2006, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, Three Rivers Press, New York.

Strachan, O 2012, Why We Should Reexamine the Faith of Barack Obama, Christianity Today, June 21, 2012 accessed on 22 August 2012. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/juneweb-only/why-we-should-reexamine-the-faith-of-barack-obama.html?start=1

Republicans, Stereotypes, and Sociology

So I know I haven’t blogged in over a week which is sad because I try to blog every day. Truth is, life has bogged me down and being a writing major in college and taking two writing courses this semester, I’m totally spending a lot of time already writing. 🙂

I did, however, want to talk some about comments made by a certain Republican Senate Nominee Todd Akin. His words have caused a firestorm, and, in my opinion, rightly so. What he said was that women who were “legitimately raped” don’t usually get pregnant from it because their bodies have an automatic defence against getting pregnant as the result of rape. His comments just blow my mind, because a woman’s reproductive system works the same no matter whether the sexual experience was “legitimate” or “illegitimate”. If a woman has sex, she is at risk of getting pregnant, it doesn’t matter how the sex happened, if the timing and conditions right the woman will conceive.

The problem here, (a problem I intend to write about very soon), is that a lot of people seem to discount science and intellectualism and academia even if the facts are proven, simply because it doesn’t fit with their ideology. So instead of changing their ideology, they try to pretend the facts don’t exist. Ignorance of this variety is not pretty. Choosing wilful ignorance is an awful thing for people to do to themselves.

I’ve seen several comments from Republicans that have been offensive, sexist and downright degrading to women. But, when I make a statement to this effect, even giving examples, I’m told that I shouldn’t blame the whole group for the actions of some. The problem is that these people are speaking for their party, which means that while it’s possible that not everyone in the Republican Party agrees with these statements, these statements were made by Republicans on behalf of the Republican Party, and therefore we can in these kinds of cases blame the whole group for the actions of some.

The problem here is that the Republican Party’s groupthink is what is wrong; its entire party’s attitudes and beliefs concerning women that are the problem. I don’t think that so many Republicans would say things like this if they weren’t sexist. I don’t see how it is possible for them to use the kinds of offensive statements they have been using if they weren’t sexist. See, the problem isn’t necessarily what these people are saying, it’s what they believe. We need to look beyond what they say and look to what we believe.

Also, their actions will also reveal what they believe, and the fact that a lot of Republicans want to make sure women can’t get their birth control paid for on their insurance (yet Viagra is covered), it means they are more than likely against birth control, no matter what they say. The blatant sexism is appalling here. Medicine to help men’s sexual function is covered by insurance, but medicine that helps enhance women’s sexual experiences (and a whole heap of medical issues), they don’t want covered.

I’m really not trying to bash the Republican Party here, I’m trying to make a point that we need to look at what politicians say, and what they do, to determine what they believe. Chances are, most of the politicians in the same party agree with them to some extent, it was, after all, the fact that their ideals and beliefs were similar and they could work together that brought them together. While I’m not trying to bash the Republican Party, I will speak out against sexism and male privilege no matter who is endorsing it. For the record, sexism in the church is just as bad to me, and I speak out against it too. In fact, sexism in the church, where we should know better, is actually worse.

Being a sociology student, I study social trends; I study how the elite, those that have a lot of money and are in power, manipulate society for their own gain. This is a passion of mine, it’s what I do, and it’s why I decided to study sociology in the first place. I’m supposed to scrutinize social situations and analyse them and comment on them. Not that I want to turn this into a sociology blog or anything, but my point is that I talk about these things because they are interesting to me and are part of my passion. 

Grassroots in Education: The History of the Modern Homeschooling Movement in America – Part 3

Right Wing Conservative Politics

Christian fundamentalists consider America to be a Christian nation founded by Christians and on Christian principles. The Christian fundamentalists are highly involved in political activism, and their workforce is made up mostly of stay at home wives and mothers. (Gaither 2009, p. 337). Cooper and Sereau state that parents who homeschool are more highly involved in politics than parents of children in public or private schools, and they are involved by voting, contributing money, contacting officials and attending rallies. (Cooper & Sereau 2007, p. 122). They also say that homeschool families are politically savvy and have used an intense political commitment to advocate some real change in society on the issue of homeschooling. These families are very well organized and have lobbied for their rights. (Cooper & Sereau 2007, p. 125) 
Coleman (2010, unpub.) claims that the religious fundamentalist homeschoolers are also politically motivated and intend on solving the culture wars through political platforms. She further says that the Christian fundamentalist homeschooling crowd are now a very strong and powerful political force. (Coleman 2010, unpub.) The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) which is run by Mike Farris fights for the rights of fundamentalist Christian homeschoolers. These homeschoolers also have their own college to accept homeschooled children called Patrick Henry College.  And many a high school or college aged Christian fundamentalist homeschooled child finds themselves being involved in political activism for the conservative religious right. The religious right also successfully infiltrated the Republican party in the 1980’s and have been strong in their political involvement ever since. (Dowdy & McNamara 1997, p. 168). Cimino and Lattin (1998, p. 137) claim that the religious right is heavily involved in wanting to make America into a Christian nation and therefore push their fundamentalist ideals onto everybody. Many of these fundamentalists are Christian Reconstructionists, a movement which advocates bringing back many of the Old Testament laws and living a life based strictly on the Bible. There are, however, some Christian fundamentalists who do not advocate reconstructionism but rather they fight for “traditional values” or “family values” which is where the culture wars come into the picture. (Cimino & Lattin 1998, p. 137)
The Ideologues see homeschooling as a major way to wage the culture wars and gain political clout, trying to get America to live by traditional white, Protestant, fundamentalist values. These fundamentalists are now unhappy with the public school system that was a Christan fundamentalist initiative in the first place, many homeschool their children in order to teach them their own ideologies. If they can have lots of children and indoctrinate those children well enough into their belief system, they’ll have a new generation to carry out their plan as they will believe the same thing their parents did. If they sent their children to public school their children would be taught a different worldview and would have much less chance of growing up to be a right wing, conservative, Christian fundamentalist.
Although there are plenty of secular families who homeschool, this paper focused on the religious right, the Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals, because they make up the bulk of the homeschooling modern homeschooling movement and have certainly had the most influence. These people homeschool in order to wage a “war” on the culture, wanting to change American society into a Christian society based on Biblical values and rules, as interpreted by the religious right and not necessarily by what the Bible actually says. 
It is very important for American society that they realize the magnitude of what is going on here. The Christian fundamentalists basically took over an entire movement and rallied their own crusades for homeschooling, so that they can pass these same ideologies on to their children whom they hope will repeat the pattern. Their goal is to infiltrate further into the political arena, in order to fight the culture wars. If Americans want to be sure that they won’t be executed for being homosexual or for having an affair, or live under other such laws, they had best keep a close eye on the actions of the conservative right wing Christian homeschoolers and not underestimate their influence.
References

Carper, J, & Hunt, T 2007, “Chapter 9: Homeschooling redivivus,” Dissenting tradition in American education pp. 239-264 Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 August 2011.

Coleman, R.E. 2010, Ideologues, pedagogues, pragmatics: a case study of the homeschool community in Delaware County, Indiana, Masters thesis, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.

Cimino, R & Lattin, D 1998, Shopping for Faith: American religion in the new millennium, John Wiley & Sons, New York.

Cooper, B & Sureau, J 2007, “The politics of homeschooling: new developments, new challenges”, Educational Policy, 21, 1, p. 110-131, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 August 2011.

Dowdy, T.E. & McNamara, P.H, 1997 Religion north American style, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Gaither, M 2009, ‘Homeschooling in the USA: past, present and future’, Theory and Research in Education, 7, 3, pp. 331-346, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 August 2011.

Goldfield, Abbott, Anderson, Argersinger, Argersinger, Barney, & Weir 2001, The American journey: a history of the United States, 2nd edition, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

Klicka, C.J, 1995 The right choice: the incredible failure of public education and the rising hope of home schooling: an academic historical, practical and legal perspective, Noble publishing associates, Gresham, Oregon.

The Christian Left – Part 5

Looking at the teachings of Jesus changed my worldview drastically, and it was the teachings of Jesus that, in the end, made me change my political beliefs as well. I’m not totally on the left side of politics either, I identify as a moderate that leans left because when it comes right down to it, on some issues I’m conservative and on some issues I’m liberal, I just happen to be liberal on more issues than I am conservative.


“As far as I’m concerned the teachings of Jesus are far too radical to be embodied in a particular platform or represented by a particular candidate. It’s not up to some politician to represent my Christian values to the world: it’s up to me. That’s why I’m always a little perplexed when someone finds out I’m not a republican and asks, ‘how can you call yourself a Christian?’” Rachel Held Evans, “Evolving in Monkey Town”, pg. 206-207.

If Jesus was walking this earth and he was in America in this day and age, I don’t think he would be a republican. I don’t think he would necessarily be a democrat either, because his teachings were so radical that not even Christians believe or follow all of them. I know that for me, sometimes the teachings of Jesus are downright scary because they are so radical and I’m afraid that if I live passionately for him, I’m going to face ridicule for it, because people are going to think I’m crazy. I’m not arguing that we need to fit in to our culture necessarily; I’m arguing that Christians need to obey the teachings of Jesus, and, if we did so, I believe that the current political landscape in the USA would look much different.

As Tony Campolo says in his book “Red Letter Christians” (2008, pg. 215), I’m a theological conservative who has embraced socially progressive ideas. I know that a lot of people don’t understand how the two can go together, but for me they just do. When I really and truly focus on what my Savior taught, I find that the two go together just fine. The “Lord’s Prayer” says “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Matthew 6:10 NIV. I believe that when I accepted Jesus, I became a citizen of the kingdom of God, and that as such I need to live by kingdom principles. These principles have changed me, and I think that’s the point.

I’m nowhere near perfect at living out the teachings of Jesus, I fail at it every day, but when I absorb the teachings of Jesus and meditate on them, and live them, they change me.

“If our theologies make us focus only on the eternal and the individual (i.e., getting my soul into heaven) so that we avoid God’s concern for the historic and the global (i.e., God’s will being done on earth as well as in heaven), then the more people we win over to our theologies, the fewer people will care about God’s world here and now.

                The more converts we make, the worse the world will become.

If God really cares about justice in this world here and now, and if we are converting people away from that concern, then we are working against God. We could inadvertently become enemies of God’s wishes. Brian McLaren, “Adventures in Missing the Point” pg. 57.

I realized that if my political beliefs did not align with the teachings of Jesus, I was going against God. I started to realize that perhaps God cared much more that I love my neighbour and less about the culture-wars. Perhaps he would rather me act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God (Micah 6:8). I started to realize that if I live as God is calling me to live, that would make a bigger statement than any political position I hold.

“Jesus replied: ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 NIV.

References:

Campolo, T 2008, Red Letter Christians, Regal, Ventura

Campolo, T and McLaren, B 2006, Adventures in Missing the Point, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Evans, R 2010, Evolving in Monkey Town, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grassroots in Education: A History of the Modern Homeschooling Movement in America – Part 2

Culture Wars


The culture wars in the USA emerged in the 1920’s and they continue until this day. (Goldfield et al. 2001. p. 777). The USA had gone through many social changes and people were reacting to the changes.

The Main Issues

The main issues in the 1920’s were 1) a new morality promoting greater personal freedom which those who were against this thought would take away pre-existing morality. (Goldfield et al. 2001, p. 778). 2). The teaching of evolution was being promoted as progress in science but there were people who believed this to be a threat to their religious beliefs and freedoms. In fact one of the major players in the culture wars was the famous “Scopes Trial”. (Goldfield et al. 2001, p. 778). 3). Jazz music emerged and was met by enthusiasts as something that was important to culture and modern. There were those who opposed this however due to the beat and style of the music. (Goldfield et al. 2001, p. 778).  4). Immigration was a major issue in the 1920’s, some wanted greater diversity and to allow immigrants from all different places, but many saw this as a threat to their white privilege. They argued that it was important to block certain kinds of immigrants due to the fact that they wanted to maintain the rights and interests of white, protestant, males. (Goldfield et al. 2001, p. 778). 5). Prohibition was a name given to a policy that outlawed liquor. Those who were in favour of the prohibition argued that by prohibiting alcohol, families were stronger, crime rates were lower, and society was more stable. Those who were against the prohibition claimed that people needed to be allowed to make their own choices about their own lives without the government interfering. (Goldfield et al. 2001, p. 778). 6). Religious fundamentalism was also a large part of the culture wars, and is also one of the main focuses of this paper. Christian fundamentalists wanted to observe what they considered to be traditional Christian beliefs based on the Bible. However many people saw the Christian fundamentalists as intolerant and dogmatic, and saw them as a hindrance to social and political progress. (Goldfield et al. 2001, p. 778). 7). Racism was still an issue at this time and the Ku Klux Klan emerged claiming to be an organization that promoted admirable values such as community responsibility, patriotism, and traditional values in society. Those who opposed the Ku Klux Klan saw them as a group of bigoted racists who resorted to violence to try to force their values on society. (Goldfield et al. 2001, p. 778). 8). Popular culture also began its rise during the 1920’s and many thought that it provided them with great entertainment and was something that helped them to relax, but many also saw it as something that posed a threat by convincing people to conform to the ideals of the artists or authors of popular culture. (Goldfield et al. 2001, p. 778). 9). The consumerism mindset was also coming about in the 1920’s, and this caused people to have a higher standard of living and they were able to own more things. However those against this mindset saw it as selfishness and also as wasteful. 

Some of the main issues in the culture wars in the USA remain the same to this day. Religious fundamentalism, as this paper shows, is still a major player. Goldfield et. al. claim that the main contender of the culture wars today is women’s rights. (Goldfield et al. 2001, p. 781). The modern homeschooling movement is dominated by religious fundamentalists, who for the most part are against women’s rights. The fundamentalists also kicked back against the supreme court decisions to outlaw organized school prayer and Bible reading. This remains a large “culture war” value to the Christian fundamentalists today. (Gaither 2009, p. 338). The other main contenders are gay rights, abortion, euthanasia and social justice. (Cimino and Lattin 1998, p. 145) The culture wars lead us into the political realm as the fundamentalist homeschoolers believe that they can use their right wing conservative politics to influence and even infiltrate the government and manipulate them into governing America by fundamentalist ideologies and interests. (Coleman 2010, unpub.)

References

Carper, J, & Hunt, T 2007, “Chapter 9: Homeschooling redivivus,” Dissenting tradition in American education pp. 239-264 Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 August 2011.

Coleman, R.E. 2010, Ideologues, pedagogues, pragmatics: a case study of the homeschool community in Delaware County, Indiana, Masters thesis, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.

Cimino, R & Lattin, D 1998, Shopping for Faith: American religion in the new millennium, John Wiley & Sons, New York.

Cooper, B & Sureau, J 2007, “The politics of homeschooling: new developments, new challenges”, Educational Policy, 21, 1, p. 110-131, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 August 2011.

Dowdy, T.E. & McNamara, P.H, 1997 Religion north American style, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Gaither, M 2009, ‘Homeschooling in the USA: past, present and future’, Theory and Research in Education, 7, 3, pp. 331-346, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 August 2011.

Goldfield, Abbott, Anderson, Argersinger, Argersinger, Barney, & Weir 2001, The American journey: a history of the United States, 2nd edition, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

Klicka, C.J, 1995 The right choice: the incredible failure of public education and the rising hope of home schooling: an academic historical, practical and legal perspective, Noble publishing associates, Gresham, Oregon.

Grassroots in Education: A History of the Modern Homeschooling Movement in America -Part 1

I am archiving on here what I believe to be my “best of” posts on the old blog. This one will be in three parts and it’s actually a paper that I wrote for school. I’m trying to integrate them with the new content. I am putting up new content every second day and archive every second day until it is done. Well, that’s the plan anyway.


Introduction

The story of the modern homeschooling movement in fundamentalist and evangelical Christian circles, who currently dominate this movement and have done so for more than a quarter of a century now, is a story of manipulation. A lot of the modern homeschooling movement happened because of the “culture wars” which started to emerge in the 1920’s. In fact the whole premise of this paper is that the main reason the modern homeschooling movement is as strong and popular as it is currently is because the religious right wanted to gain political and cultural influence in order to “take back America for Christ” and turn the USA into a Christian country. The religious right want to force the American people to live by their ideals and their morals by changing laws in America.
This paper focuses on the fundamentalist and evangelical Christian homeschoolers because 85% – 90% of homeschoolers are fundamentalist or evangelical Christians. (Gaither 2009, p. 341) When the modern homeschooling movement first started there were roughly 10,000-15,000 children who were homeschooled in the USA, but by the mid-80’s the professional estimates are at somewhere between 120,000 and 240,000 (Gaither 2009, p. 341) and now that number is even higher at 1.35 million children in the United States are now homeschooled, (Cooper & Sereau 2007, p. 110) with the majority of these being fundamentalist or evangelical Christians.

The modern homeschooling movement started as a grassroots effort in the 1970’s on the part of secular educational reformers who believed that an institutionalized school setting was not conducive to their children’s education and wanted to educate them through means they considered to be more natural. By the 1980’s, the fundamentalist Christians, the ideological homeschoolers, were beginning to infiltrate the homeschooling movement and by the mid-80’s had completely hijacked the movement from its founders original intentions and had turned it into a political fight against society. (Coleman 2010, unpub.) During the 1970’s the “Christian Right” (fundamentalists and a lot of evangelicals) rose to a position of great political influence. (Dowdy & McNamara 1997, p. 162)

Educational History in the USA

Emergence of the Public School System in America

The public school system in America originally emerged as a protestant religious initiative in the 1830’s and was established by the religious fundamentalists such as the Calvinists, Puritans and the Reformers. (Goldfield et al. 2001, pp. 403 – 404). The Puritans believed that everybody should learn the Bible as well as basic math, reading and writing skills, and they thought that the best way to do this was to develop a public school system. (Goldfield et al. 2001, p. 403). Klicka (1995, pp. 117-118) claims that the main reasons for wanting the children educated at all were so that children could read the Bible for themselves and if they could read and understand it for themselves then they would obey it. The main goals of the original public school movement were literacy (but only as it pertained to learning to read and obey the Scriptures) and vocational training (which was really either household work, the trade of the child’s parents, or an apprenticeship in another trade). Although colleges have existed in some form in the USA since the 1700’s, the goals of the Colonists did not usually include a college education for their children. (Klicka 1995, pp. 117-118). However the public school system was very loose and unregimented until the 19th century.
The public school system was overhauled and reshaped between 1880 and 1920. (Goldfield et al. 2001, p. 681). The 1920’s were the start of what has been dubbed the “culture wars” (Goldfield et al. 2001, p. 777). It was during this time of public school reform that things such as compulsory attendance laws came about, and when kindergarten was started and age appropriate segregated classes were formed. The public schools began to hire professional teachers, and the schools provided students with vocational training. (Goldfield et al. 2001, p. 681).

Although it was fundamentalist Christians who began the public schooling movement, they abandoned it in droves during the 1980’s in order to home school. Secular educational reformers started the modern homeschooling movement which was soon taken over by the Christian fundamentalists and while secular people homeschool, it is not to the same magnitude as the Christian fundamentalists. There are also many Christian fundamentalists who place their children in public schools too but there are many more who home school. 

The Modern Homeschooling Movement


When the modern homeschool movement began, it was actually lead by secular educational reformers in the 1970’s (Coleman 2010, unpub.) who believed that schools damage children. The two secular leaders of the modern homeschool movement were John Holt and Raymond Moore. (Gaither 2009, p. 339) In the 1980’s Christian fundamentalists began to join the homeschool movement in large numbers, but for different reasons than the secular crowd. Coleman (2010 unpub.) refers to the secular educational reformers as “Pedagogues” and the religious crowd as “Ideologues”, because some homeschooled for pedagogical reasons and some for ideological reasons. During the 1980’s the Pedagogue crowd and the Ideologue crowd worked together with common goals such as making homeschooling legal in all 50 states of America. (Coleman 2010, unpub.) By the early 1990’s, homeschooling was legal in all 50 states even for parents with no teaching certifications. It was at this time that the Ideologues split off completely from the Pedagogue crowd having completed their goals of making homeschooling legal. The split had been inevitable and had been in progress since about 1985. (Gaither 2009, p. 340)
The Pedagogues simply wanted their children to be able to learn in a natural environment rather than be in institutionalized schooling, because they believed that natural learning was better for their children. Their primary motive was that their children be well-educated. Whereas the primary motive of the Ideologues was to religiously indoctrinate their children in Christian fundamentalism. (Coleman 2010, unpub.) In fact, most religiously motivated homeschoolers believe that they are fighting a culture war and that they must keep their children from being influenced by society, which they usually call “the world”.  The culture wars are very important to fundamentalist Christians, and they believe that they are raising children in order to “take back America for Christ”. (Coleman 2010, unpub.)

References

Carper, J, & Hunt, T 2007, “Chapter 9: Homeschooling redivivus,” Dissenting tradition in American education pp. 239-264 Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 August 2011.
Coleman, R.E. 2010, Ideologues, pedagogues, pragmatics: a case study of the homeschool community in Delaware County, Indiana, Masters thesis, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.

Cimino, R & Lattin, D 1998, Shopping for Faith: American religion in the new millennium, John Wiley & Sons, New York.

Cooper, B & Sureau, J 2007, “The politics of homeschooling: new developments, new challenges”, Educational Policy, 21, 1, p. 110-131, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 August 2011.

Dowdy, T.E. & McNamara, P.H, 1997 Religion north American style, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Gaither, M 2009, ‘Homeschooling in the USA: past, present and future’, Theory and Research in Education, 7, 3, pp. 331-346, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 August 2011.

Goldfield, Abbott, Anderson, Argersinger, Argersinger, Barney, & Weir 2001, The American journey: a history of the United States, 2nd edition, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

Klicka, C.J, 1995 The right choice: the incredible failure of public education and the rising hope of home schooling: an academic historical, practical and legal perspective, Noble publishing associates, Gresham, Oregon.

The Christian Left – Part 3

When President Obama got elected, I was severely disappointed, and I “just knew” that it was a huge mistake and that the problem was that the American people had rejected God. I myself had worked with my church to promote Ron Paul’s campaign, something which now embarrasses me but is part of my journey. During the period of the Obama administration, I have gone from the extreme right, from believing conspiracy theories, from extreme conservatism and fundamentalism, to a position I believe is more balanced. Now I claim to be just Christian, definitely not a fundamentalist, and to being a moderate that leans left. Looking back, I’m glad Obama was elected, although sometimes I wonder if I might not have preferred Hillary Clinton for president. I personally believe Bill Clinton was a pretty good president. Anyway, the main thing that changed my mind on my political views is the teachings of Jesus.


The very first issue that I faced in my journey was the issue of war and peace. I had always struggled with the concept of war, and had always been unsettled about the idea, but I wasn’t sure why. So I purposed to study the issue out, and I have to say that it changed me. Basically, as I looked at the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament and the historic teachings of the church, I became a pacifist, and for me this was life changing in a number of ways. Not only did I become a pacifist, but it was not long after that that I started to support the idea of gun laws, and I have several ideas on what kinds of gun control I would like to see. I believed that human life was valuable, certainly more valuable than stuff. I say this because the main reason I hear people in this country claim that they need a gun is for if someone breaks into their house and tries to steal their stuff. I would rather let the person take my stuff than take his life; life is precious and certainly more valuable than stuff.

As I delved further into pacifism and my support for gun control, and the sanctity of human life not only for the unborn but for the born as well, it changed the way I viewed people, and slowly began to change the way I treated people. As I turned away from violent thinking and violent imagery, I began to think differently about people, and recognize how valuable they are to God. And in my journey to non-violence, I quit spanking my kids. Now when I get into an argument with someone, instead of just lashing out and fighting with them, I usually stop and think about how precious they are to God, and it helps me to be more calm and rational with my responses. (I did write some articles on pacifism which I am going to put up on this blog as an archive).

I believe that Jesus really meant it when he said to do good to those who treat us wrongly, and that by me choosing to love others, people will know that I am a Christian. As my ideas about pacifism and gun control and non-violence evolved, so did my ideas about social justice. Now that I viewed all people as precious and worthy to God, I believed that Jesus would have me help the poor, and do right by others. As I walked in the new things that God had shown me, it changed me, and my Christian faith began to have so much more meaning than before. In fact, here’s a quote that sums up better than I could what I am saying here:

“Jesus came to offer more than just salvation from hell. I realized this when I encountered Jesus the radical rabbi and re-examined my life in light of his teachings. When I imagined what it would be like to give generously without wondering what was in it for me, to give up my grudges and learn to diffuse hatred with love, to stop judging other people once and for all, to care for the poor and seek out the downtrodden, to finally believe that stuff can’t make me happy, to give up my urge to gossip and manipulate, to worry less about what other people think, to refuse to retaliate no matter the cost, to be capable of forgiving to the point of death, to live as Jesus lived and love as Jesus loved, one word came to mind: liberation. Following Jesus would mean liberation from my bitterness, my worry, my self-righteousness, my prejudices, my selfishness, my materialism, and my misplaced loyalties. Following Jesus would mean salvation from my sin.” Rachel Held Evans, “Evolving in Monkey Town” pg 174-175.

Another quote that really made me think just recently as I take these ideas and values further and I live them out is this:

“I’m not always sure how to react to war today. I can vow to work at Dunkin’ Donuts before taking a job as a defense contractor. I can threaten to weep should my children decide to become soldiers. I can choose not to tell the lie that it’s sweet and fitting to die for one’s country and say instead that it’s tragic. But all of these are just taking stands, and Jesus requires something more. Jesus didn’t say ‘people who speak out against war will inherit the earth’; He said people who embody, in their character and soul, this strange and alien value of meekness will inherit the earth. He didn’t say ‘blessed are those who refuse to fight’ but blessed are those who make peace. He didn’t say ‘blessed are those who don’t kill’ but blessed are those who show mercy. He didn’t call us simply to oppose positions that are wrong but to embody values that are heavenly.” Alisa Smith, “Raised Right” pg 107-108.

In other words, I see now that God is taking me even further, not just wanting me to be against something, but to be for something, and to live out the ideas that I claim to believe in.

*Disclaimer: This is not intended to be an attack on people who believe in war, or the military, or those who are conservative, fundamentalist, and right-wing. I’m simply trying to tell the story of my own journey and why I believe what I believe today.

References:

Evans, R 2010, Evolving in Monkey Town, Zondervan, Grand Rapids

Harris, A 2011, Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith From Politics, Water Brook Press, Colorado Springs.