Sunday, February 9, 2014

Gentle Apostate

I am a homeschool mom.
I keep to the "The Code."
You know. The Code.
I have a houseful of wonderful, amazing children.
I'm an ardent supporter of parental rights. And home birth.
I dig family integrated church.
I'm conservative and complementarian.

On the other hand...
The Code is more like a guideline.

I eat gluten--at every meal.
With heaping helpings of meat and dairy on the side.
And sugar for dessert.
Red food dye is something that we keep in the pantry.
Right next to the MSG.
Monsanto does not keep me up at night.
We eat what's put before us and give thanks.
Except for fish. Fish gags me.
Fish are friends, not food.
I think the concept of inoculation is good science
Because I think science is good science.
And common grace. And dominion.
Think smallpox.
But I would fiercely defend your right to differ. (See my support of parental rights above).
The only thing I miss from hospital birth? The epidural. Yeah, that's some Happy Juice right there.
I happen to know that 'wheat belly' is a compliment. See Song of Songs 7:2.

Now I realize the aforementioned list contains mere trivialities about which my homeschool sistren and I can agree to disagree. But I'm about to break with The Code in an unprecedented way.

Okay. Deep breath. Here I go.

Little House on the  Prairie.
But it's homesteading! And living off the land! And progress! These things are important!
So are colonoscopies.
But we don't write novels about them.
Little Colon in the Big Woods
Colon Boy
The Long Colon
These Happy Colon Years

Yes, I will henceforward be known as 'Homeschool Mom Who Hates the Prairie.'
Make that the only Homeschool Mom Who Hates the Prairie.

It's true. I don't care how you build a log cabin, or what you do with pig bladders, or how to deal with grasshopper plagues. I did my duty. I read the whole blasted series out loud to the children--twice. And I can't take it anymore. Now I just hand it to them. Okay, kids, read this. You'll love this...if this is the kind of thing you love. I'll be upstairs reading something interesting.

And I mean that with all my little homeschooling heart.
But jesting aside...

I really, really dislike the Little House series for a more serious reason. It didn't set well with me the first tortuous time through, but I didn't see why until my second run. I think Little House is precisely the kind of moralistic storytelling that leads our little ones to believe that all good folks go to heaven. I mean, what's not to like about the Ingalls family? They are the example of a loving marriage and warm parent-child relationships. They exude comfort with stories of Pa playing the fiddle after dinner while Ma sews by candlelight, and the girls are all braiding their hair before bed.

Little House disturbs me, not for what it covers, but for what it lacks.
Consider a family who documents hardship of living on a prairie in a dugout and the grasshoppers come and devastate their crops.
Or a winter so harsh and a blizzard so severe that people froze to death because they got lost between the barn and the house.
Or a daughter who goes blind without any way to treat or prevent it.
These were real hardships, the kind that devastate even the hardiest folk. But the silence about God is deafening. I would think that a godly family would be driven to their knees at times like these. They would be crying out to their merciful Maker for provision and grace. And, I think, a godly Pa would be leading his family in humbling themselves before a Mighty God. At least, at the very least, he would salve their difficult times by pointing to God's providence and love.

It is my belief that Pa Ingalls was apostate.
Gentle apostate, but apostate, nonetheless.
Did I miss it? Where does he, even once, lead his little ones to God?
The most telling incident, I think, is following the books through to the first difficult years of Laura's marriage, in which they lose a child. And we see that, tragically, the next generation also neglects to seek solace and wisdom from the Lord. The whole story left me cold, and I wondered why I was reading this to my children. How should I spin this for them? Well, now I know. We pass on our apostasy much like we pass on our faith. That's not interesting; that's disturbing.

We love Frank Gilbreth, Sr. of Cheaper By the Dozen.  We laugh at his antics and love his adoration of Lilly, whom he calls Boss. We can plainly see how committed he is to his brood of twelve children and how determined he was to pour the excitement and wonder of life into them. But Mr. Gilbreth disdained all things Christian, and he spoke contemptuously of pious things. To that end, he failed a dozen children and future generations.

We read Cheaper By the Dozen every few years. I love it. It's ingenious and laugh-out-loud funny and true. But the end always chokes me up. When he dies at the end of the story, our hearts go out to Lilly and the whole crazy family. More than that, though, I'm always sobered by the fact that he went to his Maker unknown by Him.

Another gentle apostate.
Another tragic loss for generations of one family.

As homeschool moms, we get the obvious apostates, like the ones listed in Kevin Swanson's book, Apostate.
We get Jean-Jacques Rousseau. who abandoned his children by a mistress on the steps of an orphanage. Five times he dropped infants there. And he never even checked their gender.
Or Karl Marx, who starved three of his own children to death. Two who lived to adulthood committed suicide.
We disdain men like Ernest Hemingway, who put a gun to his dad's head and cursed his mother, had numerous affairs--and was the fifth Hemingway to take his own life.
We warn our children about the John Steinbecks of the world, who made his wife abort their child, since children would interfere with his writing.

We get that Rousseau and Co. are punks. These men are obviously vile. The low-hanging fruit. And we work very hard at shepherding our children so they do not grow up to look like them. That's not what troubles me. What troubles me are gentle apostates, and the possibility of one living under my own roof.

I'm beginning to understand that it is imperative that we parents are always on the lookout for apostates in our own homes. And I'm not talking about the difficult ones who drive us to our knees and drive us crazy. I'm not talking about the kid who makes us throw up our hands, throw in the towel, and cry out to God, "Lord! This child you gave me. Really?"

I'm talking about that quiet one. The good kid. The one who not only doesn't make waves; he doesn't even make a ripple. Do you know the condition of that one's heart? Do you rest in his natural tendency to cooperation? his mild manners? his ability to lead or to get along well with others?

Or are you inspecting his heart?
Are you sure his fruit is the fruit of the Spirit?

I am disturbed by a tendency in the Church to give a pass to gentle apostates. But we read literature and teach history and raise kids like we believe in a Wide Path.  We had jolly well better start interpreting the world like we actually believe in the Narrow Path that Jesus preached.

Because false converts go to hell.

Being an advocate of homebirth or an opponent of vaccinations does not make me a homeschooler. Homeschooling, and homeschooling alone, makes me a homeschooler. Likewise, being a good parent or a good citizen does not make one a Christian. Only the Lordship of Jesus ruling and reigning in one's heart makes one a Christian. I know we're all working really hard at discipling our kids so we don't end up with a Rousseau or a Steinbeck on our hands. But we should work just as diligently to make sure we're not raising an Ingalls or a Gilbreth, either.

Good kids need Jesus, too.
So do good husbands and fathers, good wives and mothers.
We're not called to raise good kids;
We're called to raise godly kids.

That's a much more difficult task.


  1. I love it! Thank you thank you thank you for writing this. I've always been a "good kid", but I know that sin isn't just a set of actions. It's a heart of rebellion against God, and I am 100% guilty of that. I need Jesus desperately.

    But I am curious: if we are going to strictly apply the "narrow path" to all of our literature and media, how do we justify any secular entertainment at all, even if it's "innocent" like Cheaper by the Dozen? (Wondering what you think because I just had a very similar discussion with my dad.)

  2. Aubrey! Thanks for reading!

    I don't think we have to stick to Narrow Path literature. In fact, I think it's a good exercise to read things that are a bit 'off' and help our kids discern what's wrong. That's what I meant by 'interpreting the world' for our kids. Let's live in this off-plumb world and be able to point out both the things that are heroic and the things that are erroneous.