Mark Driscoll and the Presidential Inauguration

So on the day of the presidential inauguration, Christian celebrity Mark Driscoll decides it’s a good and relevant time to insult the president and cast doubts on his Christianity. Mark Driscoll apparently said: “praying for our president who will today place his hand on a Bible he does not believe and give an oath to a God he does not know.” While the USA allows Mark Driscoll to say anything he wants to, it bothers me for several reasons.

First of all, the president claims to be a Christian, and so I think that we ought to believe him when he says that, after all we have no reason not to. The second point is that just because Obama’s beliefs go against the beliefs of some of the more conservative Christians, it doesn’t mean that those Christians are right. Is it not possible that on some of the things in which Driscoll and Obama disagree may be things that Driscoll is wrong on? I’m not naïve enough to believe that Obama is right all the time; I just believe that his policies line up more with Christianity than Romney did. I’m not naïve enough to think that the president is a perfect Christian, because none of us. That means that he makes his mistakes like the rest of us and that, unlike most of us, his mistakes are made public for the whole world to see.

I see conservatives fight for causes like keeping the Ten Commandments in courtrooms, and yet I see those same conservatives break one of the Ten Commandments, particularly the one that tells us not to bear false witness. What Driscoll said bears false witness against Obama. If we want to keep the Ten Commandments in public places, we should probably be living them out so as not to appear hypocritical. I’m glad that Driscoll is praying for Obama, because Obama needs the prayer with the position he’s in. But even so, I’m sure that Obama would appreciate the prayers of others even if he wasn’t president, it’s one way that Christians can support each other.

Instead of trying to tear down his brother, perhaps Driscoll should continue to pray for the president, and remember that he is in fact his brother. 
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The Importance of Community

While studying for my dissertation about worship experiences and the technology involved in producing worship, I have learned a lot about worship that has been beneficial to me personally.

‘In matters of worship, community is no less important. In combining of our collective voices in song and prayer, we assure one another that God is present among us and that God is about God’s work in the world. When we sing, we are often singing ourselves into belief. As we repeat words and hear them repeated by the community, our faith is strengthened. However, when our voice has been taken away by the shock of grief, the disappointment of promises not kept, or the anger that still rises in our throats, the community sings for us and offers to God the words that we are unable to utter. When we are too bitter to pray, the community prays for us and lifts us up to God. In community we intercede for those around us and carry them to God when they cannot carry themselves.’ (Segler & Bradley, 2006, p. 87).

I have had worship experiences like this, experiences where I sang myself into belief, I remember doing so with ‘Like a Lion’ by David Crowder Band and ‘We Crown You’ by Fee, around this time last year right after I tried to become agnostic, but the fact is that Jesus wouldn’t let me because I kept being reminded of what he had done for me. Before that time, I had never before heard either of those two songs, and I sang myself into belief and declared the truth in those songs with tears running down my face.

My faith has been strengthened many times by singing worship songs in church. It’s also true that many times I have been hurt and upset and have relied on the faith of others to get me through. It’s why I gather with my church family in family in worship every week. Sometimes my faith is a little stronger and I can declare my faith, or sing myself into belief, but there are some times when I have been hurt or whatever when I have to rely on others.

We are relational creatures; we were created to be relational, that’s why worshiping with other believers is so important. Going to church is important so that we have a group of believers that we get to know. I need to remember that sometimes people are hurting and they are relying on me to declare and praise God for them while they feel like they are drowning in their hurt. When tears well up in my friends eyes I can put my arm around her and pray with her, right in the middle of church. People have done it for me, even people that I didn’t even know. They saw me break down in tears during the service and they put their arms around me and prayed for me. We share our faith with each other, not just with unbelievers in hopes that they will come to Christ, but we share it with believers for when their faith is weak.

Community is vital to my faith, and I believe it is vital to everybody’s faith. Community is why I drag myself to church on the days when I just simply don’t want to be there. Community is why I go to church happily on the days that I do want to be there. Feeling God’s presence as a community is a totally amazing thing, experiencing him together, it’s awesome. It’s one of those things that has to be experienced as it’s indescribable.

We need each other, despite our differing beliefs, despite our different circumstances, despite our different issues. We need to confess our sins to each other, to pray for each other and with each other, to declare our faith with each other, to share our story with each other, to serve each other, to be strong when the other is weak, we need to praise with each other. We don’t exist in a vacuum, and we were never designed to. We need community.

Reference:

Segler, FM & Bradley R, 2006, Christian Worship: It’s Theology and Practice, B&H Academic, Nashville.

Rachel Held Evans’ Year of Biblical Womanhood

I finally received my copy of “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Held Evans in the mail after months of the suspense of having it on pre-order. I can tell you that I prefer her first book “Evolving in Monkey Town” but “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” is a valuable read also.  My favorite chapters were “July: Justice” and “September: Grace”. To be honest, parts of the project seemed rather silly to me, but I do appreciate the overall idea that inspired the project and I do appreciate the many insights that I gleaned from the book.

I really appreciated the information about fair trade that was in the chapter on justice, and I believe that it is an important topic to talk about and am glad that it was included in this book. Imagine my horror when I learned that some of my favorite candy is made from cocoa beans that were produced through child slavery. I have mixed feelings on the fair trade issue. I would really love to buy fair trade products where they exist, but I wonder if, like boycotts, doing that really helps anything? But now I can’t eat a package of pretzel M&M’s without thinking about some kid in Africa in forced slavery on the cocoa farm.

So I wonder if the fair trade issue is really about wanting to make the world a better place by not consuming products that were made as a product of the exploitation of other people, or if it is just about making ourselves feel better about the exploitation of other people by assuming that because we choose not to consume such products, that we are somehow superior. If I buy everything fair trade, yet I don’t speak out about the exploitation of other human beings, am I really helping to change anything? Should I get involved in some kind of movement or just file the entire fair trade topic under the “social justice” file in my brain? I know that social movements can cause revolutions, and this is a topic worthy of being pursued as a social movement. I guess my thing is that I am wondering what it is that I am supposed to do with the information that I have been given. To pretend that I never learned such things would be a betrayal.

I have to say that I think the book is worth the money just for the social justice issues that it raises, because the issue of child slavery isn’t the only social justice issue that Evans talks about, and I believe that the church is lacking greatly in social justice issues (as the presidential election is showing us).

I also appreciated the arguments that Evans makes for the role of women in the church and their importance to the church. It is a sad thing that in this day and age, women are still being restricted in what they do for the church even though all throughout the Bible women worked in the same positions as men.

She begins the book with the “ten commandments of Biblical Womanhood” and ends with ten resolutions that she emerged from the project with. If Rachel Held Evans didn’t have a book deal, the project would still have been worth it for her personal growth and development by the things she learned and the resolutions that she made as a result.

I like how throughout the book, Evans shows how “Biblical Womanhood” as the fundamentalists choose to interpret it, is an impossible task, and even more, that we weren’t ever supposed to live like that. It was good to read about the valuable things that she learned during the project and the things that she was going to continue doing after the project was complete. Not everything about the notion of “Biblical Womanhood” is bad, it’s the concept that there is only one right way to please God as a woman that is the problem. I think that Evans represents the distinction between the two very well. While I prefer her first book, this one is a worthy read. 

Individual Worship: Being an Individual

Lately as I’ve been thinking about worship, both individual worship and communal, corporate worship, I’ve had several epiphanies.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV.

Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 The Message.

I used to think that these verses meant that I had to dress in socially awkward ways to please God, that I had to have a neat and clean and perfect appearance, only have one set of piercings (ear lobe only), never get a tattoo, and people who had tattoos were supposed to be ashamed of them, and dress in approved clothing, being careful of styles and appearances. However, I recently began thinking of these verses in relation to individual, personal worship.

The Bible says elsewhere that God basically handcrafted us (well, that’s my paraphrase of Psalm 139:13-16 at any rate). Things that are handcrafted are unique; no two of them are the same. And that’s how it is with us. What this means is that I am the only me that will ever live. God handcrafted me, I’m authentically me and I’m an original. (I hear you all saying “praise God!” Ha). I am supposed to honor God with my body, and worship him with my body. The way I express this worship is going to be different to how other people express worship. I’m moving beyond the definition of worship as simply being participating in a praise and worship service at church on Sunday. It’s great that I participate and worship in those, but worship is so much more than that.

God is a creative God, and he has bestowed upon the human race many creative expressions with which to worship him. Some worship God by dancing, some by singing, some by playing instruments, some by writing songs, some by writing plays, some by writing novels, some by drawing, some by gardening, etc. God has also given us our own unique tastes and our own unique styles. He’s a creative God, and he’s given us a gift in giving us so many ways of expressing ourselves and making sense of him and ourselves through art and creativity.

Lately I’ve started to feel freer about expressing myself through my fashion style. It’s been difficult because of the rules and regulations that I used to live by about clothing and style. I like a classic, preppy style, but I also love the punk, Gothic style. I used to subscribe to the notion that liking the Gothic style was wrong and that I could not express myself in that way, but have in the past couple of weeks realized that I am a unique creation with unique likes and dislikes and that it is ok to express myself and present myself to God in worship in a style that is authentically me, the me he made me to be.

I’ve realized that I can worship God with one hole in each ear or three. I can worship God with a tattoo, in fact, having a tattoo is art, and that is one of the gifts in which God has given us to express ourselves, and so body art can be an expression of worship. (I know some will disagree with me here, and that’s ok). I recently had a period of a few months where I had bright pink hair, and I found out that that was ok with God. It was an expression of me, the me he had made me to be.

I’m not claiming that one has to have hot pink hair or a bunch of piercings or be covered in tattoos to worship God. On the contrary, I’m saying that I learned that one can have hot pink hair, a bunch of piercings and be covered in tattoos and not only be right with God, but for some of them it could be an act of worship and they might have a very vibrant relationship with God. Which then leads me to the topic of communal, corporate worship…when all kinds of handcrafted by God people gather to worship together, their uniqueness and individuality are an asset to the corporate worship rather than a hindrance.

And for the record, I haven’t gotten either my tattoo or my second lobe and my cartilage piercings yet. :p

Thoughts on Prayer and Worship

Since leaving fundamentalism, I have struggled a lot with prayer and with worship. I do not write this to mock at any expression of Christianity whether it is fundamentalism or evangelicalism or Catholicism or whatever. I write this in order to write about my experiences and the things that I have learned that have helped a great deal.

 I have struggled to understand prayer and its purposes, as it seemed to me that many used prayer as magic, in that they expected to pray for something and God would do what they wanted. That idea of prayer always bothered me, and many times I would pray for things that were very important to me, big things that I thought would matter to God, only to have them not work out for me. It left me wondering if prayer really “worked” because my whole life I have heard clichés like “prayer changes things”.

Sometimes, I buy a book and read a paragraph that makes the entire book worth the money that I paid for it. “For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts” edited by W. David O. Taylor is one such book for me. In the first chapter, Andy Crouch says:

“What if God is more utterly, completely for us than we could ever be for ourselves? What if we no longer have to offer a sacrifice that might waft up into his nostrils and compel his distracted attention – what if he himself has taken the initiative, become the sacrifice, torn the temple veil? What is left but gloriously unuseful prayer and praise?

What we do in our churches, when we do what we should be doing, is unuseful! It is better than useful. The economy of grace overflows with the unuseful. Does prayer work? Should prayer work? No. Prayer does not work. It does something better than work. Prayer brings us into the life of the one by whom all things were made and are being remade. It aligns our life with the one who suffered most deeply on behalf of all that is broken in the world, and through whose sufferings the world has been saved, is being saved, and will be saved.” (Crouch in Taylor, 2010 p. 39).

This was my “duh” moment about prayer. Maybe prayer is not supposed to “work”, because it isn’t a magic trick or a spell. Maybe I have had the wrong idea about prayer all this time. Perhaps prayer is about God rather than me, perhaps “answers to prayer” is not what I should be looking for. It’s entirely possible that prayer really is conversation with God. When I have a conversation with friends, I don’t come to them with a list of demands that I expect them to fulfil, and I guess it is the same way with God. Prayer is about God, prayer is about talking with God and having a relationship with God. It seems that I have to learn all of this slowly…that none of this God-stuff is about me. It’s all about God.

Worship too has been a struggle, where I often wondered if worship were an individual thing, or a communal thing, until I suddenly two Sunday’s ago while sitting in church and listened to the preaching it suddenly hit me…worship, in fact, my entire faith, should be both individual and communal. I ought to worship God on my own, and I ought to worship God with others. Faith is a very individual experience; it’s about my own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Faith is also a very communal, corporate experience; it’s also about my relationship with others, and other people’s relationship with Jesus Christ. I am meant to have my own walk with God, and I am meant to support others in their walk with God.

I have also continually struggled with doubts and questions about God and Christianity, thinking that I was a terrible person who could not worship God with all the doubts and questions that I had. I felt guilty about claiming to be a Christian while I struggled to believe it and struggled to live it. But again, two Sunday’s ago in church, my pastor said something that just resonated with me. He said to bring my honest questions and doubts to worship with me. God doesn’t want me to pretend, and he knows that I have questions, so I might as well bring them when I worship. I have been struggling, but I have been worshipping anyway, and God has been meeting with me especially when I make the effort when I’m just not feeling this whole God-thing.

In the times I have struggled, I have sometimes wondered if this whole God-thing is really true. The reason I have clung to it so much is that I know that something happened when I got saved, and that things have been happening since in my life, and that I cannot ignore those things or chalk them up to coincidence. But sometimes the exact intersection of faith and science confuses me. I am a person that likes to research and to ask questions and gather evidence and find answers. People say that seeing is believing. However, my pastor said that with faith, believing is seeing! (Hebrews 11:1-2). Basically, I have been choosing to believe in God and who he says he is and who I understand him to be even though I have had my doubts. As I have done this, I have had my eyes opened to more truth. In this case, believing has come before the seeing. I felt such great comfort when my pastor said that.

My pastor also went on to say that if we could prove God and prove his existence scientifically, we would have no choice but to believe because it would be blatantly undeniable. But God has always wanted us to have a choice, it’s what he did in that fateful moment in the garden of Eden allowing Adam and Eve the choice whether to obey him or not. We believe in gravity because we can prove it, we don’t really have a choice but to believe, because the concept of gravity is obvious. Society would think someone crazy who didn’t believe in gravity. But God is unproveable by design so that we have the opportunity to choose to believe, or not to believe.

Reference:

Crouch, A in Taylor, W 2010, For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts, Baker Books, Grand Rapids.

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

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

The Christian Left – Part 4

I believe we need to live in this world, and as much as we can, to live in peace with everyone. In the Old Testament, Israel fought wars at God’s direction, but when Jesus came, the New Testament, the new covenant, came with him, and Jesus taught us a different way, the way of peace. Part of the reason is that when Jesus came, he brought the kingdom of God with him so to speak. The kingdom of God is not of this world, and the philosophies of the kingdom of God are far different than the philosophies of this world. Jesus came to save us from the world and it’s philosophies and to reconcile us to God and make us part of the kingdom of God. We discussed some of the ideas of the kingdom of God in the last post, but here is what Jesus himself preached:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3-10.

The way that I see it is that when Jesus came to earth, he established a new religion. Instead of Judaism which had been the way to be right with God until then, Jesus changed everything and instituted Christianity. There was no more need for Judaism anymore because Jesus had come to permanently bridge the gap between God and man, and Jesus’ blood rather than the blood of animals, was now what reconciled people to God. When Jesus came to earth, many things changed, and he brought the kingdom of God with him. Alisa Harris says beautifully what I am trying to portray:

“I had always heard that the Pharisees missed Jesus because they were searching not for a suffering servant but for a warrior king who would come with armies to overthrow their political enemies. How absurd, I always thought, never seeing that I, too, had searched my whole life for an earthly messiah who would overthrow my own political enemies, the one God would use to lead His chosen people in his chosen nation back to him.

I was done chasing supermen. I had stopped believing in the perfect leader who could say ‘let there be justice’ and by the force of his word change the whole earth into heaven. Instead I determined to grab hold of the truth I’d always known – that the leader had already come, had chosen instead to say; ‘my kingdom is not of this world,’ and had been despised and rejected because his message was bigger than the first century political pundits had predicted. When Jesus said to go the extra mile and turn the other cheek, he called us to subvert tyranny with love and redeem injustice with suffering. He didn’t say that tyranny and injustice would cease immediately, be he promised that the time would come when the meek, the poor, and the merciful would inherit the earth.” Alisa Harris, “Raised Right”, pg. 74-75.

Jesus’ message was bigger than the first century political pundits knew, and Jesus’ message is bigger than modern politics. I believe that I ought to make political decisions based on my faith, but I need to be careful that my political positions do not determine my faith, they are a manifestation of it, only one manifestation of it, and there are so many other ways to show my faith without making politics to be the most important. There are others that are more important, like worshipping God, and worshipping God is not the same as having the right political beliefs. Both show my faith, I just need to be careful not to elevate politics to a higher position than they deserve. There are many other legitimate ways to express faith, and I need to make sure I am expressing my faith in a variety of ways. I need to make sure that my faith gets its meaning from Jesus, not from politics. Alisa Smith again says it beautifully:

“For nearly all my childhood and adolescence, on into early adulthood, politics gave my faith meaning. Politics expressed my faith. Politics was a way of fighting for ‘a future and a hope,’ my way of proving I believed what Jesus said: ‘Take heart! I have overcome the world.’ A surge of political fervor marked my soul’s revival, and the vision of a godly America was my promised land. My faith was so intertwined with conservative politics that I viewed them as one and the same. In my ironclad worldview, faith and politics were inseparable.

So when I ventured out into the complicated world and found it shaking my confidence in the goodness of culture-war politics, my faith shook too. With the conservative political accoutrements of my evangelical Christianity stripped away, little of my faith remained.” Alisa Harris, “Raised Right”, pg 5-6.

I want to unpack what Alisa is saying here because parts of her journey were similar to mine. I went from a soldier in the culture-wars to being disillusioned with the culture-wars, and that disillusionment almost ruined my faith altogether. The injuries I sustained from fighting in the culture wars were almost lethal. But the thing is that Jesus heals. He’s the Great Physician, and with his gentle care to my wounds, my faith survived.

When I stopped fighting the culture wars, stopped living to prove about what I was against, I started figuring out what I was for. Instead of being self-righteous and telling the world that I was against abortion, gay marriage, birth control, illegal immigrants, and environmentalists, I started to be for life, love, peace, feminism, helping the less fortunate and taking care of the earth God has given us. Instead of passionately arguing the things I was against, I started to live the things that I was for.

Reference:

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