No Perfect Protection for Our Kids, But Better Thinking Would Help

17 06 2008

Nance to another unschooler and thinking parent this week:
“Trying to make a tough decision? You get to use your brain! Think about what is best for you and yours and go for it. Unencumbered by having to mumble the right religious phrases and justifications.”

I think homeschool families have particular reason to pay attention here, because “home education” as a regulated minority suffers one way or another from our all culture’s confusions and conceits, controls and misguided compassions. I don’t claim to have figured it all out but I can claim my own golden circle of free will and free thinking remains unbroken and I’ve got a lot more thinking to do, especially about the church, school and family stories we tell each other and ourselves.

Principled Discovery is hosting comments about a tornado killing a homeschooled boy scout in a shelter when the stone fireplace fell on him. Parents so far have reacted to this tragedy by :
a) running through a checklist of what could have been done differently,
b) empathizing with the family’s loss, and
c) murmuring it was God’s will that things happen just as they do.

A little girl was killed by lightning in a state park here in north Florida Sunday, heard it on the local news late that night. She was with her grandparents and siblings in a camper as a thunderstorm was passing. They came out of the camper as lightning struck a big tree and traveled down the roots across a dozen feet of open ground, and into (only) her body, while the rest of her family stood helpless.

Did somebody’s god single her out to die that day that way, and if so, do we really believe it likely to have been HER god, protecting her with some perfect plan? And she may or may not have been a homeschooled child but really, what possible difference does that make to her family or to society, in thinking about real life and death?

Daryl in NC blogs criminal news of four-year-old “homeschooled” Sean Paddock’s death, in which wicked mind-controlling patriarchy from the child-beating “ministry” of Michael and Debi Pearl isn’t newsworthy, but the tragic lack of homeschool inspections is the Big Problem. The Long family child protection case in California wasn’t about homeschooling freedom or intervening to save kids who were behind a grade level in school.

It was about our tragic failure to protect those specific children from real abuse at any level from the home right on up through the system, and our collective inability to think about THAT instead of dithering about our own “freedom” and choices and parent rights — never mind what hell on earth our delusions of our own importance damn unprotected children to, as a result.

Yeah, I agree whatever we do or how we do it, there’s no perfect protection plan for our kids. OTOH, I find monstrous the belief that God has perfect plans to kill them and will get them no matter what I do. If I *did* try to accept that in my own mind, I think it would drive me literally insane, make me unable and unwilling to function, even suicidal and homicidal as terrorists’ divinity delusions seem to do.

I’ve studied CS Lewis’ Problem of Pain etc. Intellectually and emotionally I get the intent of saying god’s will be done as comforting power of story. I just want to point out that religious homeschoolers assuring each other that child victims are somehow part of God’s plan doesn’t translate to the secular public that way. It can sound seriously frightening in fact, heard as the wrong kind of “strength and faith.”

The idea of any god willing, planning and executing the horrible deaths of individual children anywhere in the world, has been twisted (even by famous preachers) about tragic mass misery and murders like Katrina, AIDS and 9-11. It played as shocking apathy from a devout but simplistic president. Monstrous whatever the source of the error and the rhetorical refuge of the scoundrel spouting it as truth.

By the end of the weekend I realized how quaint was the mere suggestion that Christians of this type should learn to “be rational” or “set aside your religion” about such things as the Iraq War or other policy matters. Once you’ve made a journey like this — once you’ve gone this far — you are beyond suggestible. It’s not merely the informational indoctrination, the constant belittling of homosexuals and atheists and Muslims and pacifists, etc., that’s the issue. It’s that once you’ve gotten to this place, you’ve left behind the mental process that a person would need to form an independent opinion about such things. . . Once you reach that place with [a roomfull of like-minded folks] you’re thinking with muscles, not neurons.

. . .All that matters is being full of the Lord and empty of demons. And since everything that is not of God is demonic, asking these people to be objective about anything else is just absurd. There is no “anything else.” All alternative points of view are nonstarters. There is this “our thing,” a sort of Cosa Nostra of the soul, and then there are the fires of Hell. And that’s all.

At Parenting Beyond Belief, Dale McGowan describes the thinking error called “confirmation bias” and how those of us who think best, think most about it and are leery of it in our own thinking. Those of us who think worst, think least about it, and then only to deny its existence.

That’s as monstrous a delusion I think, as a modern culture so impotent and morally messed up — even as it thunders personal faith in god from capitol rooftops and forecasts divine world-ending vengeance as “good news” — that its reply to a child’s tragic death is to discuss who’s behind grade level in school.

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11 responses

17 06 2008
Dana

Interesting thought.

I just want to point out that religious homeschoolers assuring each other that child victims are somehow part of God’s plan doesn’t translate to the secular public that way.

I don’t think that either of the two commenters in the thread who mentioned God meant it in any way that should frighten anyone. Taking some sort of comfort that even in tragedy there is a “plan” or “comfort” or whatever may seem bizarre to someone who has no faith in this God, but while you see some sort of insanity resulting serving this God, many of us see the same sort of frightening world by leaving it all to senseless random chance. There is no meaning, no ultimate good and only the chance that all that we hold most dear may be taken at a moment’s notice.

Dismissing all Christians as irrational, or victims of a monstruous delusion seems to me to fall into the trap of categorizing “others” we don’t understand as illogical and thus unworthy of the discussion. It is thinking which to me seems “defined primarily by an unshakable belief in the inhumanity of their enemies on the other side…”

17 06 2008
JJ

I know, I know, sigh — I know it can sound that way, to someone who didn’t mean what I heard the way I heard it.

That’s why I commented on it in the first place, and why your comment is helpful. I hope you’ll do what I do, Dana, go back and read both what I said and compare it to what you think I meant, and see if you can detect any differences, and then think about that as if neither one of us were involved and you were the neutral professional mediator between us, or maybe a foreign language teacher grading a translation? 😉

And I definitely did NOT dismiss all Christians as irrational and delusional, nor did the author. He said and I quoted “Christians of this type” and he was talking in that chapter about a very specific, and I hope unusual, type. A type that your commenters likely don’t fit and surely don’t want to be mistaken for?

What I do think and tried hard to say carefully — what I think about a good bit these days — is that humane and honest homeschoolers of all different political types can really help each other correct for all our personal “confirmation bias” in this election and beyond, by doing a lot more listening and talking back and forth about what really matters (what Scott Somerville called matters of ultimate concern) and then together we might shake up all the types and sides. 🙂

p.s. I did indeed mean to call monstrous, though, our whole do-gooder secular culture, perversely over-regulating all the wrong things (like kids’ minds, books, opportunities) while letting a family like the Longs continue their child abuse basically unabated for decades: “That’s as monstrous a delusion I think, as a modern culture so impotent and morally messed up. . . that its reply to a child’s tragic death is to discuss who’s behind grade level in school.”

17 06 2008
lori

“There is no meaning, no ultimate good and only the chance that all that we hold most dear may be taken at a moment’s notice.”

Not believing in god is not equivalent to thinking life has no meaning. It’s so tiring to have to say that yet again.

I find random chance more comforting than the idea of a god who deliberately chooses, seemingly for sport, which children will suffer and die horrible deaths (or just live long, horrible lives) and which ones won’t. It’s impossible to find perfection in a plan that includes hordes of starving, abused , mutilated, deathly ill, and/or abandoned children all over the globe.

17 06 2008
JJ

Speaking of “random chance” Nance and I collected resources on our old parent website that included all sorts of great stuff about understanding how we mis-think chance as power of story in our own lives, from things like the odds of being struck by lightning or getting a good parking place to winning the lottery or meeting two people with the same birthday at a party.

One thing that particularly impressed me poring over that stuff back then, was the evidence that we generally overestimate the risk of losing something and are loathe to take that risk — compared to the exact equivalent potential chance to win or gain something. Apparently human psychology is set up that way, to make us hate the idea of losing more than we love the idea of winning.

Hope and fear, baby. So that might translate politically to fear tending to outweigh an equal amount of hope? No wonder change is so hard!

18 06 2008
JJ

Doc on the Paddock-Pearl case:

There’s no need for more oversight to homeschoolers. Homeschooling didn’t kill Sean Paddock, an emotionally unstable Lynn Paddock kiled Sean, helped by Johnny Paddock, Michael Pearl and the State of NC.

. . .If a state agency, responsible for placing and providing for the well being of adopted children doesn’t investigate the background of potential parents, or provide the necessary support after an adoption, why would MORE oversight by yet another state agency be proposed to combat child abuse?

Go after those who train parents to abuse. Go after Michael Pearl.

And stop beating your kids in the name of Jesus. Jesus wouldn’t want you to whip your child with a pipe, tie him to a tree, or beat the demons out of him on a county road.

12 11 2008
Dale McGowan’s Guide to Thinking Parent Blogs « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Homeschooling No Perfect Protection for Our Kids But Better Thinking Would Help […]

8 07 2009
Robotic Orders From Above? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Wait, what? Isn’t that the OTHER guys?? […]

12 08 2009
JJ

A biblical god no thinking parent can believe in:

“… as evangelicals, the Pearls believe that salvation only comes through punishment and pain. God punishes his Son with crucifixion so that humanity might not have to face the Father’s anger. This image of God the father, for whom violence is an expression of tough love, is lodged deep in the evangelical imagination. And it twists a religion of forgiveness and compassion into something dark and cruel.”

16 10 2009
Never Mind Using Kids Is Immoral in Any Belief System « Cocking A Snook!

[…] No Perfect Protection for Our Kids But Better Thinking Would Help […]

6 06 2010
amberlee

Thank you for this post. I grew up in a strict “Christian” household and constantly prayed for someone to come and save me from the hell and the beatings. I am still recovering and I appreciate the thoughts here as well as in the yahoo groups. I never understood the “beat the devil out of them” behavior (having lived through it) when coupled with the words Jesus taught in the New Testament. He was all about love, compassion, caring for each other. The world I grew up in tried to teach me that yelling, screaming, beating, unnecessary discipline, constant abuse/neglect and cruelty to your children was the norm and that God expected me to grin and bear it…..that I had to “Honor” my parents at all times in all places and was a bad person for trying to turn them into social services……or telling anyone at all about the abuse. I am sure some teachers suspected….I know my best friend’s family knew. But fear of what would happen to my siblings kept me there…Fear has been too much of my life..I don’t want that for my children.

It wasn’t until college that I realized what a load of garbage I had been fed by my parents. Unfortunately it took a little longer to pull away from religion all together. I didn’t want to get married or have children at that time and thought it would be best as I never wanted to be my mom or parents. That fear didn’t last once I met my husband and I am trying my darndest to be different and treat my children with respect. I am still learning and blogs like this and Sandra Dodd’s really help. So thank you. Thanks for putting up with my questions and concerns too, I know they aren’t always well written, but I am getting better. 🙂

6 06 2010
JJ

Amberlee, I happened upon a new post you MUST read, via Southern Female Lawyer. It’s about girls raised with that mindset of enduring and obeying and forgiving, and the hell it creates for the whole family one way or another, AND about getting out and getting better! Hugs. Sounds like you’re doing healthy things now:

I was six years old. I lived in a very religious world in which I already understood that a man’s word was much more valuable than a woman’s, and an adults word was much more valuable than a child’s. He was both a man and an adult (from my vantage point – he was sixteen and fully grown). I also lived in a world in which sex and genitals were dirty and not something to be discussed. I didn’t know the phrase “attempted rape.” I didn’t understand the things he did to me, but I knew they made me uncomfortable and sometimes scared and they seemed kind of naughty, and he didn’t want me to tell anyone, and trying to explain it and convince anyone of the truth of what I said would be really difficult and embarrassing.

Embarrassing mostly because I didn’t want to embarrass the adults I would have to convince. Because I was already socialized in a feminine role, and knew that it was better to live with something painful than to inconvenience or embarrass someone else.

And I was socialized into a very patriarchal religious context in which men spoke and women listened and tried to find a way to be at peace with the decisions men made.

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