I've always found it really interesting how obsessed some people are with what high school they went to. As if that matters at all if you move away from your hometown or when you are thirty-six. Seriously, when was the last time someone asked you what high school you went to? Mine was four and half years ago when one of my new co-workers found out I grew up in the same town and wanted to know what school I went to. I told her I was homeschooled, but what school district I was in and the conversation moved on quickly. No one cares. Also, contrary to what they tell you in high school and college, as an adult no one cares about your GPA either.
But when it comes to homeschooling, people have some super strong opinions about it. Almost all of those people are rather ignorant on the subject. Their opinions usually start with, "Well...I have a friend whose nephew is being homeschooled and they are super weird" OR "I knew a girl once who was homeschooled and she didn't know how to talk to people". And this is then followed by, "Kids need socialization, because this anecdotal experience I have is proof that homeschooling spawns socially inept losers." I have heard a lot of this talk because once again, people don't really ask what school I attended growing up and they have a stereotype in their head of what a homeschooler looks like.
Here are the stereotypes that are true to some degree:
64% of homeschoolers are doing so for a religious reason with the number being a little higher for providing a more general "moral instruction"
91% are concerned about the school environment
My sister-in-law certainly fits into both of these. Religious and very very worried about her children being shot at a public school. But homeschooling itself is quite a mixed bag depending on where you live, your parent's educational levels, the child, social structures, family dynamics, drive, disabilities, etc. I grew up in a city where there was a very active homeschooling organization. There were "enrichment days" once a week that consisted of either bowling, skating, or ice skating. A very active teen club that met and volunteered twice a month. Field trips were set up and went to Farms, factories, museums, and concerts. Classes were offered in which another homeschooling mom/dad who had an actual degree in a certain field would teach a small class of students in a subject that other parents struggled with. Among the courses currently being offered right now: Art, Shakespeare, Spanish, Local History, Robotics and Coding, Algebra, Debate, British Literature, Chemistry, Civics, Research Writing, Photography, SAT Prep, Orchestra, Intro to Investing and Budgeting, Food & Nutrition, Economics. This ensures that a student whose homeschooling parent sucks at Writing and Literature has a place they can go to for those classes. I took Science courses with them as science equipment is expensive. Here's the thing though, if you live out in the country or there isn't an active homeschool organization near you, things to get tougher. It's also harder on the child if their parent is a homebody and doesn't take them to these places to meet people. It does not mean the child is socially inept.
What does this have to do with unbelief? Those who homeschool are overwhelmingly concerned about their child's moral well-being. I understand this. There is this misconception from outsiders that if a child is homeschooled, even for religious reasons, that the indoctrination becomes too ingrained. That they are destined to become religious fundamentalists. Or that the child always agrees with their parent's decisions. If you go visit the r/exchristian subreddit, you will find several homeschooled teenagers that are just trying to make it to graduation and college, who disagree with how their parents have raised them, and are socially deprived not socially inept. Four of my nephews and nieces are being homeschooled. They have had absolutely no say in the matter I was a senior in high school when I realized that there were some things about what I was taught that I didn't agree with.
Don't you just love this word? For those not in the know, this phrase or wording originates from the story of Samuel in the Bible who heard the audible voice of God and thought it was his master calling at first and then once realizing it was God, offered himself into the service of the Lord to be whatever God wanted him to be. His calling, to be a prophet of the Lord. Now, no one these days (at least no one I have ever known) is claiming to hear the audible voice of God these days. No instead they say they "feel led" to do something. Or they use a series of confirmation biases to prove they are making a good decision. Maybe someone they know has a dream that could maybe, kind of be interpreted to support this thing that someone wants to do. A pastor will pray over them and say something convoluted like, "The Lord is telling me that you are trying to make a big decision. The answer is yes."
Then these people, using this information set forth to do something that, in most cases, is something they really wanted to do. I've heard people say they were called to adopt. Of course, despite this calling it doesn't always mean things work out and then the Christian spins it to say that God told them to do it to teach them a lesson. An example of this would be a friend who said she was called to adopt teenagers, particularly the ones no one wanted. All three of her teenage placements disrupted and didn't lead to adoption. In the end they ended up with three very young boys. They are much better parents to these little ones then they ever were to the big kids. But what happened to that calling? Well, lessons were learned so that must have been what God wanted. Sometimes the calling just doesn't make sense for other reasons. Like my friend Joy who felt called to be a missionary. She is now a tutor for missionary kids who apparently can't attend the local school because terrorist like kidnapping little white kids. She has no teaching degree, but sure, she's qualified to teach your children because who cares about schooling as long as God called her. She has been in the Middle East for almost a decade now. Although she has certainly taught a lot of white missionary kids over the past decade, she has not bothered to learn the local language in all of that time, lives a very private life surrounded by only the other missionaries, and is never sure if she will be able to raise enough money to remain in the country the next year. Nevermind that the country she is in, prosthelytizing is illegal. Not that she can prosthelitize...she doesn't speak the language. What's the point in going to another country to be a missionary if you keep yourself separate from the people and don't learn the language? What are you doing with your life?
I've written before about how my mom often felt God calling her to do things, but they were often, conveniently things that she wanted to do. "Dear God, should I do this thing, even though it will put a hardship on my family?" Oh, I had a dream where I was doing that thing...God must be telling me to do it. At one point I felt like God called me to go to Northern Ireland for a short-term missions trip. The Assemblies of God had a variety of short-term trips they offered each summer. Maybe a dozen or so. I was instantly attracted to North Ireland, a country with a good deal of violence and mystique. Maybe I should go there, I thought. A few weeks later we had a traveling youth team come to the church for a revival of sorts. One of the guys was from North Ireland. I took this as a sign and signed up for the trip the next week. Was it a sign? Probably not. Just a coincidence that the dude was from a country that I really wanted to go to.
My biggest issue with this phrase though is that it is often used to justify bad decisions. Look, I know as well as anyone that sometimes we make decisions that we think will be good and they don't always work out. It is important for our development as people to analyze the situation and see what you could learn from it. God told me to do it so even if things are going to shit, it can't be wrong. I worry for my missionary friend. I worry that she will one day return to the US with no retirement and a lifetime of regrets. I mean, the chances of her ever meeting a man and having children at this point are dismally slim and although this makes her deeply sad, she isn't willing to give up this "calling" in order to better her life. (to be clear, this is what she says she wants. I don't care in the slightest weather someone has children or is married.) Also, she would make a wonderful school teacher at something like a Montessori or Waldorf school and I hate to see her talents wasted. But she doesn't regret this life, right? Wrong. I've heard her regrets, her fears. She knows that this is not the best decision for her to be a happy person, but she can't let go of this calling because that would mean that either God was wrong or she was wrong in what she thought God said.
And let's not forget some of the super shitty people out there that say a god told them to do really shitty things. Like Abraham who believed God told him to murder his son. Or the 9/11 terrorists who believed a god wanted them to wage war against America in his name. Or a woman who beat her son to death because she believed God told her he was possessed by demons. Christians will tell you that they weren't hearing the real voice of God, that those people were clearly insane. But the truth is, the difference is that you are just the kind of person who, if you had those thoughts, you wouldn't act on them. Because you aren't a shitty human being.
I frequent a lot of message boards and Reddit in concerns to being an ex-Christian, in-the-closet, agnostic, atheist, humanist, unbeliever. Perhaps it is the anonymity that I enjoy, just like with this blog. Or perhaps it is knowing that I am not the only person out there who feels the way I do. I'm not sure, but being able to comment that I was homeschooled and grew up without a television and wasn't allowed to watch movies rated over PG and then have someone say, "Hey, that was me too." That's nice.
I also wish my parents knew how such a restrictive environment forced me to become super sneaky and good at lying. I learned very quickly how to delete browser history on the computer. In the trunk of my car, I stored movies that my mom said "weren't allowed in the house", watching them with friends somewhere else. I would read movie reviews about crappy PG movies and tell my mom I went and saw that instead of the actual movie I went to with friends that was PG-13. My husband has remarked that I am a bad liar, but I'm going to be really honest here...he has no idea when I am lying. He thinks he does because I have learned how to "be caught" so that people think I am a bad liar, but the truth is I am extremely good at it. Luckily for him and others, I don't really make a habit of it anymore, but in my youth....I was good. My parents trusted me to not get in trouble, and for the most part, I didn't. I wasn't partying. I've never tried drugs. Never been drunk. But I certainly did things that my super religious parents would NOT have approved of. For a while there, I felt guilty for this and was always asking for forgiveness from God. Never from them because I never told them. Now, I see that my parents were just super lucky that I was a bit of a perfectionist prude who didn't like being out of control. In other words, their strict religious parenting only worked because I had the personality to not go off the deep end. My brothers were not the same. All three went through some serious stages of rebellion. I did think it led to our deconversions (three out of four of us aren't religious now), but it most certainly led to a lot of unnecessary lies.
I recently read an article where the author tries to justify the degredation and violence towards women in the Bible by saying that God was just shining light on sin. Completely neglecting the fact that there were a number of passages where that same God didn't have a problem with rape or treating women, particularly virginal women, like cattle. Numbers 31 Moses and the priests instruct their people to kill all but the Midianite virgins, blaming the non-virginal women, men, and children for a plague. Because that's how disease spreads, right? Deuteronomy 20 has the LORD giving a town to the Israelite victors with instructions to kill all the men and take the women, children, cattle, and plunder. "You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the LORD your God has given you." Of course, in Deuteronomy you also just have to give silver if caught raping a girl. Meanwhile, if she is found non-virginal at a later date (let's say no one believes her or she keeps it a secret) she can be stoned to death. Zachariah 14 prophesies that a day will come when the LORD will give them women to be ravished, as any good god would do, right?
The article states, "The Bible is also clear: God hates inhumane treatment of women."
But that's just the beginning. These first three paragraphs are setting up for the idea that God loves women by asking them to cover their heads and that in a historical context, there was nothing wrong with it and nothing wrong with it now. When you look at the historical context you will see that almost all women in the area and many men wore head coverings, mostly for practical reasons. It's awfully hot in the Middle East. There is no issue with women wearing head coverings...until you make it a mandate of your religion and suggest that their eternal souls (and virginity) hinge on them wearing it. Although I understand that head coverings in Biblical times had a degree of practicallity, Paul very much made them a religious issue too. The man, who was definitely a man of his times, had some strong opinions about women's role in the church and how they should dress. Notice he never said anything about women wearing short dresses because such a thing would have been unheard of in the time. However, he was dealing with several different cultures, many not of a Jewish background, who did not wear head coverings while praying or in the church. So Paul saw fit to make some rules. And most modern Christians ignore these rules, stating that it was only a specific rule for a specific time. I honestly think Paul would find the modern church extremely disrespectful because he was, despite a big conversion, a man obsessed with making rules. He was after all, the leader of a religious movement, second only to God and a few disciples, some of which he didn't get along with.
Even as a Christian, it never sat well with me this idea that women were subserviant to men. Not only were we considered weaker physically, which is not always the case, but we were also inferior intellectually, religiously, morally, and philisophically. In the Assemblies of God churches I grew up in, women were only allowed to teach children and other women. There was never a co-ed Sunday School class taught by a women to my knowledge. The idea was considered absurd. After all, Paul said, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, she must be silent." Again, some churches spin this as meaning that this was just for some specific time, but in context he was writing this letter to his protege, giving the young man advice not just for one community but for building churches in general. In general, Paul who claims authority from a god, is stating that women should not teach or have any authority over men. And this pervasive idea permeated the western world for hundreds upon hundreds of years. Women continued to be nothing more than cattle, a possession to be bought and sold by the men around her.
What I am trying to get at is that the very idea that the God of the Bible cares about women and women's rights in the way we think of in the modern world is absurd. The God of the Bible is not pointing out how depraved (aka sinful) human beings can be, because if he was actually a caring god, there would be explicit passages talking about NOT raping women and how that is abhorrent in the eyes of god. But we know that the reason those passages weren't written is because the men of that time were the ones writing the many parts of the Bible and they didn't give a shit about the other half of the population. They didn't speak out against rape because they didn't have a problem with it. Although some of them knew very intelligent and strong women, this did not change their feelings in regards to being superior. And all those rules that are placed on women in the Bible, like having to cover their heads, can be seen for what it is: An attempt by people of a certain time to continue to assert their authority over a people who had been largely marginalized for a long time. It isn't a lesson about sin, it's a lesson about how people often think that their way of life and their culture are the end all of how things should be done.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.