The Unfundamental Conversion

HSLDA: Discourse Problem Between Fundamentalist and Outsiders

May 10th, 2013 | Posted by Lana Hope in Fundamental/Evangelical

The problem with fundamentalism is not just the ideas, or the content of their belief system. Sure, as I have written much in the past, the strict gender roles, dominionism, and legalism is oppressive. But the bigger problem in fundamentalist or other highly conservative circles is that fundamentalists have closed themselves off from ever hearing, reading, or corresponding with people with other ideas. In this way they effectively shut themselves off from any outside knowledge.

Take the recent controversy over HSLDA, a homeschool colition in America that protects homeschool families. Libby Anne of Love, Joy Feminism cited in her blog post evidence of HSLDA praising parents who had pleaded guilty of child abuse (a “hero” to use the exact words), and then in one case a HSLDA attorney even defended the right for such an abuser to homeschool. HSLDA responded to Libby Anne’s post in some ambiguous lawyer language, and from reading the 180 something responses on facebook, I almost got the feeling that many of the HSLDA fans did not even bother to read Libby Anne’s post, and many of those who did read it dismissed the article before checking out the sources.

Over on facebook, these homeschool parents praised HSLDA for doing such a fantastic job, said Satan was attacking HSLDA (yes, they said Satan was attacking HSLDA), and said they can’t trust Libby’s article because it was written by someone who doesn’t believe in God.

Here is a few of the many, many ridiculous quotes (each paragraph was written by a different person).

Articles slandering a right wing, conservative Christian, all written by a woman who was raised in a Christian home and is now a self proclaimed atheist, feminist, and progressive (her parents must be so proud). Sounds like someone went to the dark side.

Yes Rob, rebellious! After reading several of her “stories”, that’s the picture I received as a reader. You probably only read the one’s that are being pointed out here. I wanted to know who this person is that everyone is accepting her word as the only truth. So I read several of her stories and I find her completely bogus as a source of good information.

It depends on what your definition of is is. There are those who believe giving chores is abusive. So an accusation is just that, a claim of wrong doing, not proof or evidence.

Anyone with any intelligence can see straight through the fog in the article.

I am not here to defend Libby Anne’s post. She cites her sources, and it speaks for itself. But I write to point out how closed-minded fundamentalists really are, that they won’t even listen to someone who doesn’t believe in God. These homeschool parents are a great example of the fundamental and hyper-conservative stupor.

“Satan is attacking us.”
“I don’t listen to atheists even if its a neutral issue like child abuse.”
“Anyone who disagrees with us is rebellious.”
“Anyone who disagrees with us isn’t intelligent.”
“These people probably think chores and homeschooling is abusive.” (Said people clearly did not read the article.)

If you want to know what life is like growing up in a fundamental home, this is a clear picture. In essence its a life where kids are trained never to read or listen to anyone but other conservative Christians.  This is what I wrote about on my guest post on Jonny’s blog. Fundamentalist use the scripture, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” as proof that those who don’t believe in a God cannot have any knowledge or wisdom. (As an example, see R.C. Sproul Jr.’s book When You Rise Up.) And somehow I don’t think “no knowledge or wisdom” for the fundamentalists means that one must believe in universal forms to know ultimate reality, as a philosopher might say. No, no, instead what the fundamentalist means to say is “if you are an atheist, we consider everything you say to be complete B.S.”

When I went to college, my mom warned me not to listen to my professors too closely. She told me, “I heard that the religion professors at your university believe the Bible has errors. You can’t trust their perspective on anything.” Or “Some of your professors believe in evolution.” Or “Some of your professors are socialists.” The point was always, “Don’t listen to people who are not conservatives.”

In my undergrad program, I took a critical interpretation of literature class that devoted half a semester to Marx criticism. My fundamentalist indoctrination was so strong that I resented the reading. Looking back, I don’t understand why as I loved reading poststructuralism and existential philosophers. Perhaps it was my mothers words, “Don’t listen to socialists” or perhaps it was because children of fundamentalism learn to accept humanism as valid study long before they ever question the right wing politics. Nevertheless, I was careful. I was guarded.

But then I was contronted with a common ground. One crisp autumn day my professor, classmates, and I gathered around the yard outside, and my professor explained in an ecstatic voice, “Did you read this work? Adorno is so dead on.” And then we wrestled through quotes of how the arts in modern culture changed to replace a world of media, romance movies and TV.  *This* was the opium of the people. *This* is what drowns out bad weeks at work and keeps people hoping that the future will be better. And then somehow Grays Anatomy came up, and my professor admitted she had no idea what the show was about (other than the title). I had no clue either. And it was at that moment that I became excited about Marxism and felt very united to my professor. She was a socialist, public-schooled, Ph.D. I was a former homeschooler, but in essence, we agreed on TV.

I later picked up Althusser on my own, an author who writes about the purpose of public education  in shaping the attitudes of children to be content in a factory-based world. Althusser sounded like a homeschooler, for crying out loud! And through all this, I came to see that these socialists, communists, and humanists writers and critics shared a lot in common with my world.

I came to realize that even where I did not agree, I owed it to myself to read and wrestle with ideas contrary to my worldview.

I came to realize that I can’t shut myself off from people who believe different. I have to engage, heart and mind.

In short, fundamentalism shuts people off from outside ideas and isolates the individual from any awareness of the other. It cuts off diversity, it cuts off relationship, and it cuts off all hope of discourse. Sadly, some conservatives will fall off the cliff with their leaders rather than read outside sources.They will take no truth from anyone but the patriarch, and honestly, I don’t know what to do about that one.

Has anyone else noticed this problem?

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

  • As someone who lives in fear of ending up in an “echo chamber”, I usually feel the need to search out the opposite view to the one I hold. I may have my opinion changed or swayed, maybe not, but as long as the argument is well constructed, I feel better informed in my choice.
    As an Orthodox Christian who believes that God is everywhere, I believe that God is just as much at work in the lives of those who don’t believe, as He is in those who do? Otherwise, we humans have the power to restrict God, and that can’t be right! Surely God is working in all of our lives and we have the daily choice to reject or accept, whatever our mood, background, or beliefs. I don’t believe it follows to say that someone’s point of view is wrong just because they don’t have a faith, without putting yourself or that person in a more powerful position than God.

    • Lana Hope

      Yes, yes, yes, that’s exactly right about God. There is nowhere He is not, and God is giving the “lost” experiences of himself.

  • Yes, I have noticed this problem in conservative circles. What boggles my mind is that this refusal to engage with outsiders cuts off any chance of having a meaningful, influential relationship with them. And it’s through relationships that people come to know the power of the gospel. It seems many fundamentalists believe that if unbelievers see enough smiling, submissive women in long dresses, they’ll eventually decide they need Christ. But that’s not how Jesus reached the lost; he ate with sinners and spent time with the poor and broken. Fundamentalists claim to want to be like Jesus, yet shut themselves off from effective, transformative evangelism in their attempts to be ‘holy.’ I don’t get it.

    • “But that’s not how Jesus reached the lost; he ate with sinners and spent time with the poor and broken.” EXACTLY!!!!!

  • JW

    There is a writer who wrote about similar to this problem. It is called ‘Wisdom Hunter’. I am currently reading it right now. Look it up on amazon, you might like to read it. It is a great adventure book and how this pastor finds and questions everything he believed in the first place.

    • Okay, thanks!

  • I think the root of this philosophy traces back to Cornelius van Til, who heavily influenced Rushdoony, and thus the modern homeschool movement. The idea was, as you have stated, that there is no truth apart from “God’s” perspective, and that therefore those who do not acknowledge God must be wrong about everything and cannot be trusted. As you discovered, this is baloney. Truth remains true, regardless of the other beliefs of those who speak the truth.

    I might also add that the view of government as always the enemy stems from the Dominionist/Reconstructionist roots of HSLDA and the homeschool movement. Rushdoony et al. again…

    • You know, that’s kind of an odd thought. Is truth dependent upon an agent?

  • Even though I wasn’t homeschooled, there was a time in my christian walk that I thought I had to restrict everything to what fundamentalists at this one bible church I went to said. I was still worried about being “truly saved.” I thought if I rehearsed what I was told enough, that would secure me. Now I’m back to believing God’s grace is bigger than that and there is not necessarily a pat answer to every question that’s out there. Thanks for posting on my blog.

    • That fear is common in the evangelical church as a whole. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to following your blog!


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: