“For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
So, I heard the news today (oh boy) that Bill Gothard had resigned, and I must say I felt a slight twinge of sadness and ambivalence and I wondered where that came from. This was a man whose teachings overflowed with isegesis and whose system screwed up the family of someone I care about very much; and I have read accounts of his patriocentric umbrella-of-authority nonsense wreaking havoc with many other families. It empowered the need for control in many control-freak men who didn’t need that empowerment. But was that slight sadness I felt the Holy Spirit saying, “Carl, the bell tolls for thee”?
Even a stopped clock is right twice a day and the God whose voice is heard from the mouth of a donkey can use the most mis-taken and fallen of men to advance His kingdom. I have at least a couple of Fb friends who were saddened by the news that Gothard was under investigation and had temporarily stepped aside as head of the ATI and IBLP. And the unseemly rejoicing of some should be tempered by the realization that he will just be replaced by nameless and faceless clones who will likely be even worse than the man who spawned them. They will have the same spirit of fear driving their need for power and control.
I know, I obsess about control-freak people. I’m sure I’m overly sensitized to them. I’m not good about being submissive and under authority, especially when I perceive anything about it that smacks of a control-freak’s needs, and I know I react with a murderous, rebellious anger when I feel their grip on the back of my neck. I’ve blogged about that issue a half-dozen times—but I see controllers everywhere. I see them in the workplace, in churches, in the government, in education, in politics and in every man-made system and organization that exists. I see the controller in every narcissist, and their victims in every codependent. But, of course, we mostly experience controllers in our homes, in our families.
I got turned on to the power and control paradigm way back in the mid-1980s when I read M. Scott Peck’s book People of the Lie. It is a book written by a Christian psychiatrist about evil—and evil people. At some point in the book he makes a statement to the effect that the need for control over others is the ultimate evil and accounts for most of the misery in this world. What is war but one group wanting to control another, and what is murder but the ultimate form of control. That all went k’ching in my brain because I knew I’d been given a golden truth that brought much about my experience of life into sharp focus.
But anyway, what this blog is mostly about is some thoughts that have been rolling around in my noggin about the homeschooling movement, and how at least some of the impetus for that movement comes from folks who have the spirit of fear and the spirit of control in spades. Gothard got big in the 1980s along with the Christian homeschooling movement. They kind of fed off of each other. Gothard’s teachings were all about a fear of worldliness and giving folks a system for controlling their fears—follow the rules, stay under the umbrella of authority and everything will be okay. About 8 or 10 yrs ago I went to one of his introductory seminars and I couldn’t disagree with most of the content. It was pretty much Christianity 101. But I really didn’t know anything about him or the ATI beyond that, and in retrospect I can see how well-meaning believers could get sucked in. He taught a system, and a system does your thinking for you: the system has an answer for everything. A system teaches the system, it doesn’t teach Jesus.
I first heard about the concept of homeschooling somewhere back in the 1980s, and my first reaction was negative. I thought it might work for elementary ed but I wondered how housewives could teach teens things like chemistry or physics without a lab and a lot of specialized knowledge. It just didn’t make sense to me. But by the dawn of the new millennium homeschooling had become fairly prevalent and I was hearing success stories about kids who had been largely educated at home. And almost all of those kids were educated in Christian homes.
It didn’t take a rocket-scientist to see that the world was, well, worldly—an evil, corrupt place for sure. I counsel a lot of kids and parents and I’d heard plenty of horror stories about what went on in the public schools. I knew that children were being exposed to things by their peers in the third grade that I didn’t know about till I was a senior or in college. And I could appreciate Christian parents wanting to insulate their kids from the darkness of this fallen world. But unfortunately, in the minds of some, homeschooling becomes part of a retreat from the world into some Old Testament fantasy world ruled by patriarchs and almost as looney as polygamous old-school Mormons or the Taliban. At what point are modest long skirts in danger of morphing into burqas?
I understand that most Jesus-followers who home school are doing this as an act of love. In many cases mom’s are giving up lucrative careers to home school. However, it’s also becoming apparent to me that homeschooling is made to order for parents with high needs for power and control. I see a danger in ceding too much control to the state and what professional “educators” consider essential knowledge for education, but on the other hand there is a great need for oversight for both ignorant parents and potentially abusive parents. The other factor is that homeschooled kids are missing opportunities to experience face-to-face truly inspiring, outstanding educators. A good friend recently visited who taught art in the public schools for about 30 years. He is an outstanding teacher who brings out the best in kids both creatively, and as people. Educate your kid at home and you’re going to miss out on people like my friend Ted. Also, my ex-wife taught H.S. Physics, and I know that no housewife in 100,000 is going to have her specialized knowledge.
The other part of my thoughts about homeschooling is where in scripture do you see people of God retreating in the face of the enemy? We have enmity with this world (James 4:4, 1 John 2:15-16), but we are not going to change the world by retreating from it. Souls are won for God in the world. Everyone God uses gets battered and bloodied by the world, and I can appreciate parents wanting to protect their offspring from that battering—surround them with the protective umbrella of authority—but it isn’t about real life. It is too much about the spirit of fear