March 13, 2009

And so it begins...

We have been warned for a while now that religious persecution was coming to America. Many people have said that post-Christian America would no longer tolerate the freedom of religion for which it was founded now that the principles of Christianity have been jettisoned. More and more, it appears that these warnings and predictions were right.

A recent report from WRAL's local news tells us about a judge who has ordered that three home-schooled children must be switched from homeschooling and placed back in the public school system. These children have reportedly tested two years above their grade levels, and yet the judge determined that their education is deficient. According to the news article, "all sides agree the children have thrived with home school," and yet the judge ruled that they be moved back to public school after four years of successful homeschooling stating that he was "concerned about the children's religion-based science curriculum." Apparently getting their answers about science from the One who created science is not the preferred method.

The judge also said, "the children [should] be exposed to mainstream science, even if they eventually choose to believe creationism over evolution." In a solidly oxymoronic way, the judge also proclaimed the the children's lessons' religious slant is the root of the problem and, on the other hand he said, "it's not about religion."

While the judge is clearly ruling in an anti-Christianity way, the mother who homeschooled these children produced an oxymoron of her own, which is what first propelled this case into the eyes of the court system. Venessa Mills, the mother of the three children, said, "My teaching is strictly out of the Bible, and it's very clear. It is very evident so I just choose to follow the Bible." And yet the judge in this case is not presiding over a home school rights case. This is actually a divorce case. So apparently Venessa Mills is not choosing to follow all of the Bible, but just those portions that deal with certain aspects of her children's education.

It's a mess and we Christians should brace ourselves for what appears to be the gathering onslaught of religious intolerance and persecution. But we also must hold ourselves to biblical standards and not just use the Bible in those areas we are more comfortable with. It's not going to be easy.


  1. Regarding this mother disobeying the Bible -- not every believer who is divorced wanted it to happen. Many are roped into these situations against their will. Do you know more of the particulars in the case of this mom?

  2. PS - I hope a God fearing, Constitution honoring legal defense organization takes this one on, and this decision gets overturned.

  3. It's tough. The question that we can't answer just now is, did this woman submit to her husbands authority before the divorce. Did he agree with homeschooling when she began to do it? I know that in some homeschool/divorce cases, (from friends who have endured this), that the actual dispute is about support. If mom is homeschooling, she can't work, so the financial needs are higher, and the husband doesn't think he should pay for her to sit home when she could be working.

    I live right in the area where this happened. I don't know the woman, and I am torn by what I would have done as a judge. The husband, if he has shared custody, should be able to have input on the child's education. It's not like this is government saying you can't homeschool. NC is a very homeschool friendly state.

    The bigger question is, will this case be used as precedent in other cases where grandparents or neighbors feel that the children are harmed by the religious education. Frankly, I don't think it can be used in that manner because it is a divorce case. We'll have to wait and see.

    Now for the shocker. I don't see a problem with the kids returning to school. If they've had four solid years of Bible teaching, and if mom continues to work with them, it doesn't have to be an issue. Without enough details, I see this as a parental power struggle, not a homeschooling issue.

  4. It's interesting how stories like these hit us at different points depending on our circumstances and experiences.

    What bothered me most in this story was the fact that the judge is apparently going to make his decision based on the fact that these children are being taught creationism without also being taught evolution. I am so amazed that anyone at all believes in evolution that it just floors me when people are upset that someone may not be taught this absurd theory.

  5. I agree with Lynn (Simplegifts) that maybe this woman didn't choose to have a divorce. Divorce happens even to people who were trying their best.

    I think homeschooling parents have to be cautious. Having moved around secular parenting boards and participated in debates over homeschooling (mainly European parents), one of the greatest fears I've observed is that Christian parents will indoctrinate their children, raising intolerant bigots.
    I think parents have to be smart and tell their children, as they become old enough to understand, that not everyone believes what they do. Teach them about the evolution theory, the Big Bang, and so on. Tell them that people have taken science, which should be dedicated to study how amazing God's creation is, and have used it to try and explain God away.
    Help their children see how the different theories are well thought out, but still, as Rich said, absurd.

    I went to a Catholic school for nine years and then to a public high school for four years. I remember debating issues like abortion, creation vs. evolution, the existence of God, and so on with both classmates and teachers. It was good for me.

    I think it's sad when parents choose to isolate their children. There is a world out there that they need to know exists, and they need to know how to live in it.

    I hope things work out well for that family. Children who are brought up with much doctrine but a poor example run the risk of becoming bitter and turning away from God, at least for a painful season.

  6. I don't think I got my point through very well in my post above...

    Children's education needs to be well rounded. They need to have knowledge and respect that other people are different and believe different things. If they grow up isolated and overly protected, believing that what they know is all that is "valid" out there, they will probably be very intolerant and unloving. Without compromising our faith, we can bring our children up to love and respect people for who they are, be compassionate, and then their love for them will compel them to share the life-giving Gospel. See what I mean????

  7. Madame - I think you made your point well (and eloquently) in both posts. And it is important for us to teach love for others and compassion in spite of differences. And we must teach them the reason that we have to be loving and compassionate--because God created man in his own image and each of us must be seen as valuable. This is the message of the Bible, especially so in the first eight or so chapters of Genesis, which were the chapters that judge was concerned about.

    I think it is important to teach our children some wrong teaching, such as the claims of evolution, because it is the mainstream thought of the world and our children will have to interact with it. But we must teach it as false or we are not giving them a very good education.

    I'm not sure how all this impacts this news story, since they didn't give very many details. But I don't like the idea of a judge being able to interfere in a parent's teaching because that teaching is based on the bible.

    Regarding divorce--I agree that not every person who ends up divorced wanted it to happen. In my state, if you don't want a divorce, it does not have to happen. Both parties must agree to it. And that rules out the "I didn't want the divorce" defense. I don't know how that is handled in other states. But I do believe that if a man does what he is commanded to do in scripture, his wife is not likely to want a divorce from him because he will be a great husband. And if a wife does what she is commanded to do in scripture, her husband is not likely to want a divorce because she will be a great wife. There are those who don't want to live with a believer, and in those cases divorce may result and that is very sad. However, I have never seen such a case in my life. I have seen many, many divorces - but never one in which one of the parties left the other because that person was a believer.

    I'm not saying this to look down on anyone I know who is in such a situation. I need to take care of my own sins without worrying about my perceptions of other people's sins. In the case of the news story, since I do not know this family it was purely theoretical and her insistence that she only follows the bible made me question the divorce angle. I could be way off the mark with that though.

  8. This article gives a little more info:
    He committed adultery, she filed for divorce. Very sticky issues involved here, indeed. Since we don't know what caused the breakdown of the relationship initially, we can't really offer a judgment on who was right or wrong.

    Madame, you are absolutely correct. It is imperative that we give our children a balanced view of what others believe. We do this regularly in our homeschool, BUT, we have done this incrementally by dispensing biblical truth first, then, as they grow older, give them opportunities to defend or reject that truth. They will be doing this soon enough when they leave our home, they might better get opportunities to do it while we are still around to offer guidance.

    One of the practical ways we've done this is through video. When they were much younger, we were very selective in what our children watched (BTW, presenting too many choices when a child has not yet developed the use of logic is careless at best. It creates confusion and insecurity in the those little hearts -- there really is a better age in which to deal with this). Now that they are older and developing reasoning, we allow videos that take an opposing view to our faith -- but we don't stop there. We ask LOTS of questions. Since our kids already know what we believe, we let them explore the reasoning behind their faith, and interject arguements, both pro and con, to their explanations. Most of our kids would agree with what we have taught them, and can do a bang up job defending it without us being in the room.

    This was demonstrated recently in a waiting room by my fifteen year old. I was in my eye appointment, and she tackled the difficult subject of someone repeatedly using God's name as an exclamation. She asked if they knew Him, and believed in Him. The conversation went on from there, and she politely shared with them why He was great enough to be respected. A gentleman who sat by and later interacted with her was so impressed that when she was in her appointment, he told me how impressed he was by her ability to intelligently defend her faith without being obnoxious or rude.

    I am pro-homeschooling, obviously, since I still have teens doing high school here at home. However, I am not one of those who thinks that it is the "righteous way" to raise your child. If God gives you the opportunity and the burden to do so, I'd recommend it. But if you are not serious about it, it will kill you or your children eventually. I just recently had my yearly, "call the schoolbus" blowout. We reached it later than usual this year. But we have persisted through it every year until the joy returned.

    God did not call all of us to the foreign mission field, He did not call all of us to serve in the nursery, nor did He call all of us to serve in the music ministry. If we ignore His leading and venture into an area where we are neither gifted nor called, we can do much more harm than good. God has a place for Christians in the homeschool, the public school, and the private school. We need to examine our motives and our goals in the educational choices we make to be sure they line up with God's goals for us and for our children.

    Unfortunately, there are those who have homeschooled out of pride and/or out of bitterness. They are generally the ones who get the attention in the media, because rightfully so, it is scandalous. But the general homeschool community is ecclectic, and most kids thrive in the setting. Secular psychologists agree that a homeschool setting is really a great option for students with learning disabilities or emotional needs.

    Finally, when we first began, we developed a mission statement for our homeschool. It has helped me through those "call the schoolbus days", it has significantly narrowed the curriculum choices (and there are so many out there!!), and it helps us to re-evaluate each year if homeschooling continues to be the best option for our kids. It's a simple statement: "We choose to homeschool so that we may produce productive citizens who contribute greatly to our society and who can effectively communicate the gospel to a darkened world."

    This probably could have been a post, but it's really a response, so I've put it here.

  9. Richard,
    I'm glad you understood my posts...

    I agree with you, we have to make sure we teach our children what is right, and present alternatives from the world as wrong.

    It sounds like you have a very healthy approach to homeschooling!
    We live in Germany, where homeschooling is illegal, so our five year old goes to Kindergarten.
    At home, he is memorizing Bible verses and on our walks to and from the Kindergarten I've been able to explain in a practical way what the memorized Scripture means.
    Psalm 1 was very interesting!

    I laughed at your "call the schoolbus blowout".

    It sounds like your daughter has a very Christlike approach to evangelism :-)

  10. Wow! Kudos to Brooke or Lanelle. What a wonderful thing that she was able to confront this person respectfully and uphold the glory of Christ.

    Madame - You have always made me take a careful look at my arguments and my apologetics. I'm so glad and honored that you're commenting here on my blog. It is so very important for us to see others through Christ's eyes of love. I am still learning this and need to be continually reminded.

    At the risk of embarrassing my friend, Mary, some of the things you said in response to her are among the myriad reasons I asked her to write on this blog. She's a deep thinker, a committed Christian and simply an inspiring woman.

    Thanks to both of you.

  11. I must tell madame about my husband's approach to family devotions. He began reading through the Bible with my kids when they were very young. If you want to deal with current events from a biblical viewpoint, read Genesis to them. We covered reproduction, homosexuality, adultery, honesty/dishonesty, shoddy business practices.... It was REALLY COOL! Lance would read a passage (usually one or two chapters) and then we would discuss what happened, did it honor God, how should the person have responded, what was the consequence of the decisions made by this person, how can we respond biblically when we face this issue, etc. I admire you taking the time to talk through the scriptures with your child, and it will reap great rewards.

    If it weren't for Lance, a lot of the spiritual disciplines would have been overlooked because I'm usually exhausted and ready to crawl in a cave by evening, but that is an excellent time for such things. Yet he has made family devotions interesting and has spent time praying with the kids, and they really enjoy it. A good deal of what they know has come from their daddy.

    And if there's anything that you can learn by reading through scripture, it's that great men and women are capable of blowing it spiritually. That teaches us that we need to "guard our hearts" and to be more compassionate when our brothers fall.

  12. I'm reading through Genesis with David each night - one chapter a night. We began reading Genesis when I read his Earth Science notes and he told me the kids had made fun of him because he didn't believe in evolution.

    I ask him the same sorts of questions that Lance asked, but the past few days, he has been asking me questions in the middle of it. He's amazed that the Bible actually addresses such things as continental drift, language groups, and diet. We're really enjoying this.

  13. Richard,
    Thanks for making me feel welcome on your blog!
    I'm glad I am able to add to the conversation :-)

    I usually just read through the post, often have little time to reply, but know that I enjoy your blog and the glimpses both you and your wife (over at her blog) offer into your family life.


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