“Unshackling the American Church” Series Announcement


Rarely do I read a book that leaves me saying “Amen” after every sentence. More amazing is the fact that this book, while it does deal with Christian thought and living, resides in the Politics section of your average secular bookstore. So dead-on accurate is the content, though, that I’m considering starting a new category of Essential Reading in my sidebar just to house it.

Long-time readers know that I take great care to avoid bringing politics into this blog. But this book is not so much a tome on politics as it is on living a sacramental lifestyle that goes beyond the glitz and gloss of modern-day Evangelicalism in America to a new vision of life that is truly ancient.Rod Dreher's Crunchy Cons

The book? Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher.

Dreher’s released one for the ages. In fact, this book is so good that I’m hacked off at him for writing it because what he’s penned is the next book I had planned to write (although mine was aimed more squarely at the Church).

The gist of this book explores a little-known tribe living in the United States: Political conservatives, usually Evangelical Christians, who are dropping out of the rat race by going back to traditional ways of life that existed in pre-Industrial-Revolution America. Anyone who’s caught my epic The Christian & the Business World series is well-acquainted with my views on the dire need for Christians to rise up and question our lifestyles, the non-stop, community-destroying, materialistic live-for-today zeitgeist we’ve adopted indiscriminantly.

As the subtitle proclaims, the book gathers under its wings the disenfranchised out there who firmly believe that conserving the family unit, better stewarding creation, restoring genuine community, and overseeing local market economies by restoring America’s agrarian heritage, will recapture the essence of what it means to live a full life that honors God, family, neighbor, and country.

Weeping is not my normal reaction to reading anything, but this book has so far uncorked a torrent in me. And while too many Christians in America brush all this off as utopian nonsense—even as they adjust the volume on their latest in a string of iPods and munch on genetically-modified tasteless veggies—I’m imploring readers of this book to check it out, if only for the first few chapters.

Despite the finale of the subtitle, I’m personally not interested in saving the Republican Party, but I am for saving conservative values—even if truly conservative values look more like some of the elements of the Left than the Right. The kind of conservativism championed by Edmund Burke in no way bears any resemblance to the “free-markets-at-any-cost” stupidity we see enshrined by today’s GOP, but that’s okay. If enough of us drop out of the prevailing societal madness, someone will notice and want to court our vote.

Though Dreher’s beaten me to the punch, I know that you know I’ve been talking these points for a while, so in concert with my reading of Crunchy Cons, I’ll be starting a series called “Unshackling the American Church” that will further examine many of the issues I’ve touched on at Cerulean Sanctum, ideas that dovetail with Dreher’s book.

Stay tuned. I promise a mind—and possibly soul—altering ride.


Other posts in the “Unshackling the American Church” series:

More on Homeschooling


Apple for the homeschool teacherLast year, I wrote a few posts on homeschooling that riled many. Seeing that a couple nerves were touched with yesterday’s post (“Super Christian Homeschooling Ninja Moms of Death“), I’d like to offer up those posts to new readers who haven’t encountered them before.

“The Myths of Homeschooling” series was widely quoted in homeschooling sites across the Web, proving to be one of the most divisive sets of posts ever offered at Cerulean Sanctum. Respondents ranged from wanting to have me boiled in oil to those who offered thanks that someone had finally come out and said what a lot of people thought but were afraid to speak in public.

Having recently encountered several people who clung to those myths like barnacles to a sunken ship, I can only say that nothing’s changed since they were written. In truth, I suspect that the environment is growing more rabidly partisan. I know that I recently encountered a mom who just about accused me of selling my son’s soul because I was enrolling him in a state-sponsored public homeschooling program, Ohio Virtual Academy. When she pointed out that this was not an explicitly Christian program (though the curriculum comes out of former Secretary of Education and The Book of Virtues author William Bennett’s K12 organization), I pointed out that I had a degree in Christian Education and could more than adequately cover my child’s Christian education. Needless to say, she doggedly stuck to her point, as if she knew my child and me better than I did. Pretty typical; you’ll find points on this in the series.

For 10 tips every homeschooler should know, I offered this post:

Not so many people found that post divisive. Just some musings on the whole issue and plenty of grace offered, too. Hope you all find these blasts from the past worthwhile.

Super Christian Homeschooling Ninja Moms of Death


Mother's Day is this weekend. According to the restaurant industry, it's the single busiest day of the year for most sit-down restaurants as guilty husbands and children treat mom to a freakin' break for one day. And moms deserve it, too. Most Hallmark-derived holidays are bogus to the nth-degree, but I think it's hard to argue against Mother's Day.

(And yes, I know that Hallmark didn't come up with Mother's Day. I am blaming them for Sweetest Day, though.)

On the heels of the two-part "Speed Kills the Christian Soul (1 & 2)", I feel the need to address an issue that few women are willing to discuss. Being a profound extrovert, and also not a woman, maybe I can put into words what many married Christian women today are feeling, but are afraid to say:

  1. "I'm burned out, burned up, and the ember that is my personal existence is running on fumes—
  2. —yet I have to keep up appearances."
  3. "While I will say in public—public being church—that my husband is the rock of the household, I'm the one holding our home together."
  4. "I'm petrified to admit I'm barely holding on."
  5. "I'm terrified of letting anyone else know that I question whether this is the abundant life or not."

If that's you, I have a word for you: Grace. My prayer is that you receive it abundantly.

I don't understand what we're doing to women today in the Church. The pressure to conform to a lifestyle that incorporates one part Beth Moore, one part Martha Stewart, one part Jessie Wise, and one part Salome astounds me. And don't even toss in that proverbial woman from chapter 31 that every female is told she must aspire to. That's a whole 'nother post.

Is it any wonder that so many Christian homes are struggling? What woman wouldn't struggle underneath that burden? And as I noted, as she goes, so goes the home.

Frankly, I'm angered at the expectations and the pressure to conform that many women endure. We men don't have that same burden. Yes, our lives our hectic and we're overburdened, too, but we can always opt out and claim we're "just being a guy for the day." Fire up the tube and plugin to six hours of football and no other man will accuse you of being a jerk. We'll all nod and say as one, "Yep…."

But let an Evangelical Christian woman tell her compatriots that she thinks it might be easier to send her kids to public school this year and you'll witness a shunning worthy of The Scarlet Letter.

Honestly, I wonder why there are so few married women in mental institutions today, what with all the pressure to conform they must endure. It's looks, household abilities, childrearing skills, teaching ability, and a million other lines on the checklist. Fail to tick off one and you might as well drop out of church—at least some churches.

I understand it gets worse the farther south you go. Yeah, a few tongues may wag up in Lake Wobegon, MN, but by the time you hit Atlanta, they haul out the pillories that Sherman left behind. That "Well, bless her heart!" that you hear tossed at the mom who microwaves most of her dinners and sends her kids to one of "those schools" actually means, "She's sullying the good name of motherhood."

This may be extraordinarily coarse of me to say, but I wonder if for all the talk of female empowerment we prattle on about in some sectors of the Church today, that we're not subconsciously holding out The Stepford Wives as the sine qua non of feminine existence—albeit with the additional knack for rightly dividing the Scriptures.

Too harsh? I think if we could peer at the unveiled souls of women in our churches today, we'd be surprised how many are suffering silently.

If you're a man, I want you to think about a few things. If you're insisting on homeschooling your kids but you're not carrying at least a third of that load, then you're shirking your responsibility and should perhaps give up the homeschooling idol. If you think it's okay to rush off to your cave (be it the TV room, a Christian men's group, your garage, or the Internet) after dinner at night without asking your wife how you can make her life easier before you do your own thing, then consider that you might not deserve to be married. As much talk as I hear about men being the "prophets, priests, and kings" of their household, I hear far less about being the "servant."

Tammy Wynette may have sung the line, "Sometimes it's hard to be a woman…," but countless women in our churches today are living that reality, and they're barely holding on. This week, let's find ways to strengthen their grip, not only on their daily existence, but on the Lord.

And don't just quote a Bible verse at them, either.

{Image: (Update) Travis Seitler comes through and tells me this is Donna Troy (AKA Wonder Girl), an Infinite Earths variant of Wonder Woman from DC Comics, drawn by the exceptionally talented George Perez. I should have been able to recognize Perez, as he's long been a favorite of mine. Now I'll probably be sued for using the pic, since a friend of mine wrote a book on comics and the Gospel and DC wouldn't let him use any images (though Marvel had no problems). Hey, I'm giving the attribute here, DC! The full-sized version is nicely done.}