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Monday, December 9, 2013

Feeding Children from the Tree of Death: Fundamentalism's Abusive Legacy

Uncharacteristically, I begin this post with my own comments, and then move on to quoting from the article on which I am commenting.  I do this because this is a very important issue which has potential to adversely affect all of us (no matter what perspectives we hold), and the planet itself.

Anyone who has ever entered a Protestant Fundamentalist (authentically Fundamentalist, and not Evangelical, because there is a difference, even though the inexperienced/untrained conflate the two far too often) congregation's meeting hall and interacted with the members of said congregation, experiencing the situation with an open mind and some background in social sciences, will probably not be terribly surprised at the reports of child abuse contained in the article from which I quote a small portion below.  What is more likely to surprise is the fact that some have managed to escape the conditioning.  More noteworthy is the fact that they have developed the skills to combat the movement (and particularly its brainwashing efforts) effectively.

Something else to which the article alludes, and which deserves much attention, is the reproductive proclivity of the Fundamentalist cults, a technique they have learned from conspiracy theories concerning the Roman Church (which has been accused, by clergy members on the fringes of Protestantism, of growing a religious empire by means of condemning birth control).  For over a decade now, Protestant Fundamentalists have included persons who have sought to stack the deck in favor of ignorance, superstition, irrationality, and bigotry, by means of having large families, and indoctrinating their unfortunate offspring in the dogma of their preferred brand of Christianity, which usually also involves the promotion of Far Right Wing Exremist economic philosophy (to the tune of Ayn Rand) and socially reactionary perspectives.  The separation of church and state was, not that long ago, a distinctive doctrine of most Baptist sects in the United States;  that is no longer the case.  These fundamentalists, many of whom claim "Baptist" as part of their self-designations, have goals which include the imposition of their own religous biases on everyone by means of legislation, and their roadmap to success in that particular goal involves spawning more and more offspring and raising them to be voters who will support such initiatives and candidates who will push such initiatives.  This is a very frightening reality, but it is indeed reality, and ignoring it is dangerous for the future of humanity and the earth itself.

What I will quote here from the article is merely some history of the homeschooling movement, and how it became usurped by fundamentalist fanatics, but the remainder of the article describes (in some detail) the ordeals of several children raised in Christian Fundamentalist homes, isolated from reality, and fed the poisonous fruit of the dogma of insanity, abused physically, emotionally, and intellectually.  The article also describes how some have escaped those horrors, and how they have banded together to help others who are still imprisoned by their own parents, who view them not as human beings to be loved, nurtured, and cared for, but rather, as pawns to be exploited in a great "cultural" struggle.

From AlterNet:

Homeschooling didn’t begin as a fundamentalist movement. In the 1960s, liberal author and educator John Holt advocated a child-directed form of learning that became “unschooling”—homeschooling without a fixed curriculum. The concept was picked up in the 1970s by education researcher Raymond Moore, a Seventh-Day Adventist, who argued that schooling children too early—before fourth grade—was developmentally harmful. Moore’s message came at a time when many conservative Christians were looking for alternatives to public schools. ...

Moore’s work reached a massive audience when Focus on the Family founder and Christian parenting icon James Dobson invited him onto his radio show for the first time in 1982. Dobson would become the most persuasive champion of homeschooling, encouraging followers to withdraw their children from public schools to escape a “godless and immoral curriculum.” For conservative Christian parents, endorsements didn’t come any stronger than that.

Over the next two decades, homeschooling boomed. Today, perhaps as many as two million children are homeschooled. (An accurate count is difficult to conduct, because many homeschoolers are not required to register with their states.) Homeschooling families come from varied backgrounds—there are secular liberals as well as Christians, along with an increasing number of Muslims and African Americans—but researchers estimate that between two-thirds and three-fourths are fundamentalists.

Among Moore and Dobson’s listeners during that landmark broadcast was a pair of young lawyers, Michael Farris and Michael Smith, who the following year would found the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). With Moore’s imprimatur and Dobson’s backing, Farris and Smith started out defending homeschooling families at a time when the practice was effectively illegal in 30 states. As Christians withdrew their children from public school, often without requesting permission, truancy charges resulted. The HSLDA used them as test cases, challenging school districts and state laws in court while lobbying state legislators to establish a legal right to homeschool. By 1993, just ten years after the association’s founding, homeschooling was legal in all 50 states.

What many lawmakers and parents failed to recognize were the extremist roots of fundamentalist homeschooling. The movement’s other patriarch was R.J. Rushdoony, founder of the radical theology of Christian Reconstructionism, which aims to turn the United States into an Old Testament theocracy, complete with stonings for children who strike their parents. Rushdoony, who argued that democracy was “heresy” and Southern slavery was “benevolent,” was too extreme for most conservative Christians, but he inspired a generation of religious-right leaders including Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson. He also provided expert testimony in early cases brought by the HSLDA. Rushdoony saw homeschooling as not just providing the biblical model for education but also a way to bleed the secular state dry.

With support from national leaders, Christian homeschoolers established state-level groups across the country and took over the infrastructure of the movement. Today, when parents indicate an interest in homeschooling, they find themselves on the mailing lists of fundamentalist catalogs. When they go to state homeschooling conventions to browse curriculum options, they hear keynote speeches about biblical gender roles and creationism and find that textbooks are sold alongside ideological manifestos on modest dressing, proper Christian “courtship,” and the concept of “stay-at-home daughters” who forsake college to remain with their families until marriage.

HSLDA is now one of the most powerful Christian-right groups in the country, with nearly 85,000 dues-paying members who send annual checks of $120. The group publicizes a steady stream of stories about persecuted homeschoolers and distributes tip sheets about what to do if social workers come knocking. Thanks to the group’s lawsuits and lobbying, though, that doesn’t happen often. Homeschooling now exists in a virtual legal void; parents have near-total authority over what their children learn and how they are disciplined. Not only are parents in 26 states not required to have their children tested but in 11 states, they don’t have to inform local schools when they’re withdrawing them. The states that require testing and registration often offer religious exemptions.

The emphasis on discipline has given rise to a cottage industry promoting harsh parenting techniques as godly. Books like To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl promise that parents can snuff out rebellious behavior with a spanking regimen that starts when infants are a few months old. The Pearls claim to have sold nearly 700,000 copies of their book, most through bulk orders from church and homeschooling groups. The combination of those disciplinary techniques with unregulated homeschooling has spawned a growing number of horror stories now being circulated by the ex-homeschoolers—including that of Calista Springer, a 16-year-old in Michigan who died in a house fire while tied to her bed after her parents removed her from public school, or Hana Williams [6], an Ethiopian adoptee whose Washington state parents were convicted in September of killing her with starvation and abuse in a Pearl-style system. Materials from HSLDA were found in the home of Williams’s parents.

Read more:
Escape from Christian Fundamentalism - the Kids Who Flee Abusive, Isolated Christian Homes

Related (as linked in the article):

Homeschoolers Anonymous

Homeschooling's Invisible Children

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