Tunnel Vision


It is rare that I read anything on the Web that sets me a-nodding from the first line. Josh Harris’s reprint of “Exposing Major Blind Spots of Homeschoolers” by Reb Bradley gave me motion sickness from my perpetual head-bobbing in agreement.

Beyond its look at how homeschooling parents can miss the forest for the trees, it exposes the general disconnection from simple reality that often plagues the most zealous Christian families and churches. Bradley’s confession at how his son received more love from the boy’s tat-laden, stoner co-workers than from his own Christian family is a tale oft-told yet one rarely comprehended.

It’s also an article woven through with examples of overt gracelessness, as holier-than-thou condemnation takes center stage in households that should know the core of the Gospel better. But knowing isn’t always living, and if anything, better praxis in the American Church is the one area of needed growth no rational person can argue against.

I’ll also put in props for my previous post (“Fear: The Ruination of the American Church“), as the Bradley article amplifies how fear of the times and the world as it is contributes to the errors committed by well-meaning Christian homeschoolers.

More than anything, I believe this article argues for the Way of the Average. I continue to note that the people who seem to get on best with life are those who were neither too outstanding nor too underperforming. I learned this at a reunion many years ago: The people who were average in high school (and possibly overlooked then) were enjoying the best, happiest lives.

One could argue from the experience of averageness that it is not the spiritual superstar in the youth group who goes on to achieve the greatest ministry. Same goes for the über-student held out as the homeschooling pinnacle. For every Nobel prize winner, there’s a Todd Marinovich. It very well may be that it is possible to be too Christian, especially when that which is gaged as “Christian” has more to do with impressing the spiritual Joneses than with clinging to the Faith as expressed in Palestine AD 60.

Hat tips to Challies for bringing this one to light and to all the others who noted it. Do read this one. It’s an 11 out of 10.

An Economic Homeschool Meltdown?


Things I think about…

Seven years ago, few of the moms my wife and I knew worked. Today, nearly all do.

Many of the men we know make less money than they once did. And that was before enormous increases in the cost of nearly everything, so their reduced incomes buy even less.

More than 2.5 million jobs evaporated in 2008. Gone. Possibly for a long time.

Every indicator shows that more households than ever homeschool. At least that’s what the latest polls show. The problem is that most statistics run only through 2007.

So what’s been going on in the last year or so in the homeschooling ranks as the economy slipped into depression?

Truth is, I’m not really sure. Few homeschooling resources are talking about the economy. (Although I did find one, and almost could not believe what I read there. Yow. Talk about spin!)

But I have got to believe the downturn must be having some effect. With many male breadwinners succumbing to the pink slip parade, more jobs will open for moms, if the last downturn proved anything. Dads? Not so much.

Where will that leave homeschooling families when mom is forced to do full-time work to keep the family in their home? What happens when both parents are scrambling for elusive jobs? What happens to a mom forced to return to work having been out of the workforce for…well, a small eternity.

For many families, homeschooling is a badge of honor, a sign of God’s righteous blessing, and the password into that hoity-toity back room at the world’s most exclusive club.

And I say that as someone who has homeschooled and fully supports homeschooling families.

Sometimes good Christian people will talk and talk about a subject as long as that subject is working in their own lives. The second it stops, the silence is deafening. A vanishing scene?I’ve seen this so many times I may trademark a term for it.

For some families, the shame that comes from extended unemployment may lead, in their minds at least, to an even more crushing blow: the inability to continue homeschooling. (That shouldn’t be the priority, but it is for some.)

Though this post may be nothing more conjecture on my part, I know that my wife and I had to make tough decisions about homeschooling and the future of my business (along with my role as primary breadwinner). Homeschooling lost. Was that our wish? No. But sometimes you really can’t have it all.

If you’re a homeschooling family that is dealing with the kinds of situations I’ve outlined in his post, I want to extend to you something you may not find elsewhere: grace. I also want to hear your story.

Thanks for stopping by. God cares. So do I.


(I’ve writen extensively on homeschooling. Some of the best posts: The Myths of Homeschooling Series:1, 2, 3, 4; A Few Thoughts on Homeschooling, A Bag Full of Wet Tribbles, Choosing Your Canaan, and Super Christian Homeschooling Ninja Moms of Death.”)


Banking on God: Crisis, Part 5


The picture of dark daysSo here we are a month later at the penultimate post in this series. Today, I’ll be expanding some of the general ideas I discussed yesterday, while adding practical ways we can address crises better as a body of believers.

In times of darkness, we must be Spirit-led, radical thinkers who take chances that flow against the status quo’s stream. Truth is, the status quo got us into many of the troubles we face as Americans, as no one wished to buck the system to make things better. Too often, though we say we love the rugged individualist, the strongest voices for godly change are the ones we shout down fervently. Remember: they stoned the prophets, but the prophets were right.

Here are a few ideas I believe we must seriously consider in our churches if we are to prevail and be a shining, countercultural light for Christ in dark times.

Healthcare is troubling issue because fewer and fewer people can afford it, yet none of us is immune to entropy. The early Church made its name in Rome by caring for the sick. Most of the world’s hospitals were founded by Christians. Yet Christian leaders today seem utterly flummoxed by the issue, preferring to ignore it even while their congregations suffer.

I had a taste of this Easter Sunday when one of the key members of my church’s worship team was laid out by a condition easily treated by a physician. The problem? He couldn’t afford to see the doctor and get the prescription medicine he needed that would have enabled him to join us!

For this reason, I believe that churches need to start stepping up to the healthcare plate. Many communities are home to retired doctors. No reason exists that a church (or a communion of churches) could not approach these retired doctors and offer to pay them a stipend to look after those people in the church who lack healthcare options. A retired doctor could see the sick on a Saturday for a few hours. House calls are even possible. This kind of thing is easily set up.

To be even more radical, why can’t a series of churches in a community band together with local politicians to have the entire community buy the services of an actively practicing doctor—or three or four? We pay for fire departments and police, why not community doctors? Keep it local by keeping the county and state out. That keeps if from becoming a big government initiative while continuing to benefit an entire community. With most office visits handleable by general practitioners, there’s no reason why this can’t work. Why then are we not pursuing it?

For funding such an idea, or any other benevolence fund, most of us, as I noted yesterday, could get by fine without 75 percent of what we own. The early Church divested itself of all sorts of extra goods, including houses, but we seem loathe to give up even the smallest thing. Just how stingy are we? Look at how many families are failing around us and see how the cultivation of our island (every family for itself) mentality has damaged even our church families.

We need to get some sense about how we spend our money. When we’re starving, we can’t eat an iPod.We spend millions on junk, yet what really lasts escapes us. God will judge our generosity some day. Are we feeding Christ by feeding the hungry or are we simply out to feed our own desires? Which one makes us sheep and which makes us goats?

We Christians will collectively spend umpteen millions of dollars each year on Christian conferences that we attend and then forget about a month later. Imagine what we could do if we channeled that money to worthy preparation and stopped our fixation with one religious high after another. Could we strategize new ways of living and fund those initiatives?

Take housing, for instance. A coalition of churches could buy older apartment buildings, rehab them, and offer housing to those who fall prey to bad times. We had a family in our church lose a home to fire just a couple weeks ago and another family offered the use of the home they just left. That’s one way to go. Or a couple churches working together could buy up foreclosed or auctioned properties and rehab them for families. Or they could work deals with families who are moving to donate their old homes. Heck, that’s even a tax writeoff! These are all readily workable ideas.

We need to re-explore Christian communities. I’ve written before that I believe it a wise thing for a group of Christian families to buy available land, build their houses together on that land, have a common meeting building, farm the land, and maintain some percentage of common purse for use when tough times hit. Or a couple families could build condo-type houses with common areas linking two homes. Or we could work to rent out apartments together in the same building. We are not limited here if we set aside our faulty ideals on what it means to be well-off!

Food is big issue, too. Dark times almost always mean less food. I was in the store today and was shocked at how prices continue to rise either outright or through what I like to call “packaging fraud.” (Your half gallon container of ice cream is now 1.75 quarts, or even 1.5 quarts. I noticed today that packs of cheese that were once half a pound are now six ounces. Same price, but no fanfare on the smaller size. I consider that fraud, frankly.)

How do we deal with the problem of food? We grow our own.

I catch a lot of flack from naysayers on this, but if we have a backyard and we’re not growing food on it, we’re wasting our property. We can’t keep relying on others to feed us. It’s time that we Christians started assuming leadership on the back to basics of growing and making our own food. No excuses here, either. If I, the world’s worst “black thumb,” can grow food in raised beds on my property, you can, too. I have a fruit orchard, also. No reason why you can’t, either. And it’s far cheaper to grow food ourselves and preserve it than it is to buy from big food conglomerates. Tastes better as well.

Every family in our churches should be growing food. End of story. And for those with bigger properties, goats, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, and cows can supply meat. (I’m exploring that for my family even now.) Those people who have more resources for food production can assists those with less. Folks, this is about survival.

As for other skills, your church directory should list not only the basics like a phone number and address, but the skills and talents of each person listed. Someone got car fixing skills? Time to use them to the bettering of everyone in the church. Who sews well? Who can teach others sewing? Who has legal training? We need to know this. Every ability should be noted and made open for use. People who can pay should. Those who can’t should try as best they can to, yet that inability to pay should not keep them from getting services from their brethren. People with plumbing skills should be fixing plumbing in the homes of people in the church. Same for electricians, accountants, and whatever other skill is needed. We need to start depending on each other and living up to real community, even if it hurts. Again, the days of our privacy are gone. The government already knows everything about you, so privacy is a myth anyway. Our churches need what we have to give, money, skills, and all. Time to pony it all up.

Jobs are a big issue. Those people in the congregation who can make hiring and firing decisions need to understand that they should be hiring their out-of-work brethren. For those people in our churches who can train others in worthwhile work, they need to do it now, not wait till bad times come. An out-of-work person in a church is everyone’s responsibility. You can tell how loving and godly a church is by how well they meet the needs of their weakest members. And nothing in our society renders people weaker than being out of work. If our churches are filled with out-of-work people, then we’re not living up to the high calling of Christ. Jobs training, networking leads, anything that works we should be exploring. Absolutely no excuses on this, either.

Churches need to be working with local businesses to ensure them that they can provide ethical employees. Our churches should be able to go to any local business and say that the people in that church will make the best employees because they are godly, moral, ethical people who will do a company right. If we can’t say that, then we fooling ourselves concerning our discipleship programs. Church leaders need to be able to make that promise and fulfill it. They should cultivate relationships with community business leaders that will ensure that, even in down times, their congregants will have work.

As you can see, this takes on an alternative economy kind of thinking after a while. Underground economies exist all over the planet, but we suburbanites do a lousy job of creating our own. We need to learn how to barter and exchange outside the system. One day, off the grid and outside the system may be our only means of surviving. We better start planning those means now.

Why aren’t we training our children to survive? For all our obsession with homeschooling, how many homeschoolers are teaching real survival skills like animal husbandry, power generation, farming, and the like? Knowing Latin won’t fill an empty stomach. Our kids need to know how to live like the pioneers of old if they are to live in the days to come. (We adults also need that wisdom, too, though I suspect too many of us spent our precious time learning how to play video games or memorizing sports stats and not enough learning how to sex chickens.) Who in our churches can teach the next generation how to do these things? We need to identify them. And if we can’t identify those people, then we need to drop all the other junk we’re doing and start teaching ourselves those skills.

Our churches need to learn what real persecution looks like, too. How is the Church persecuted in other countries? We need to know how those persecuted churches survive. What happens if we have our church building taken away? How do we keep meeting? How does an underground church work? Our church leaders should stop assuming that tomorrow will be all milk and honey and start finding ways to test-run persecution. Break your church up into house churches for a while and see where the pressure points and weaknesses are. Who are the leaders of the church? Who will run things if the pastor or elders get taken out? How are we training people to assume leadership roles? This is basic discipleship training! How are we living it out?

Do we have prayer meetings in our churches going on all the time? Why not? Dark times call for serious prayer. Why are all the old ladies filling our prayer meetings? Why are all the able-bodied men camped out watching sports? What a waste! Are we serious or not? I’ll tell you, we’ll be serious when we lose our houses or can’t put food on the table. But by then, it may be too late.

Bad days call for fasting and repentance. I read all sorts of headlines about the dire economy, but I hear no Christian leaders calling for repentance, fasting, and prayer because of it. Why not? How badly do we want to be caught unawares? I don’t wish to be and I don’t want my church to be, either. Are we serious people or are we dancing when we should be preparing for winter? Dance when the stockpile is in place, but not before.

I could go on and on here, but I think the time has come to wrap this up.

I ask again, How serious are we? When did we Christians get so “fluffy”? Tough times call for tough people and brave ideas with committed follow-through. Good times won’t always be here, yet we act like they’ll last forever. How foolish we are when we, of all people, know how things will end, yet we are not prepared for that Day!

In the next post, I’ll wrap up the “Banking on God” series. Stay tuned.


Banking On God: Series Compendium