Archive for the ‘homeschooling’ Category

A Grievance Mentality

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

Recently I was invited to join the Harvard Loser’s Club. This is an exclusive club, very exclusive. It is populated by Harvard graduates whose income is near or below the poverty line.
First, I am not technically a Harvard graduate. I know I am considered an alumni because I was a Charles E. Merrill Fellow (some think this is a greater honor than a degree) and I transferred to Princeton Seminary when I was a senior at Harvard Divinity School.
Secondly, I am not a loser. Dull, maybe, at times, I am sure my wife would say. But not a loser. I would love to attend the “Dull Men’s Club” that meets regularly in Pembrake, MA, south of Boston (Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2012, p. 1). They discuss such interesting subjects: Attendees have studied park benches around the world; leaf raking techniques. In one meeting they debated for 2.5 hours the best way to put toilet paper on the roll, over or under. Now that is an arresting subject! Sure interests me!
The problem is that losers and dullards have a tendency to define themselves according to what they are not, by what they don’t have rather than what they have. I call this a grievance mentality.
In 2017, we must be careful not to define ourselves according to what we are not, by what we do not have, by what we dislike rather than what we like. Let me explain.
Many social movements begin with a righteous cause but over time develop a grievance mentality against their opponents. For instance, the Civil Rights movement began in sincerity and earnestness that was righteous and good. It checked the unbridled racism that was polluting our nation. But eventually, Professor Shelby Steele in White Guilt argues, progress was slowed and then stopped by two things: African-American fears of whites and white guilt feelings that brought change in the socio-political realm but changed no hearts.
One reviewer explained:

The author [Shelby Steele] frames his book around a drive up the California coast during which he pondered the Bill Clinton–Monica Lewinsky affair. Why is it, he asks himself, that President Eisenhower would have been drummed out of office for a sex scandal like Clinton’s, while Clinton would certainly have been impeached if he had used the racial slur Eisenhower allegedly employed on the golf course? The answer, Steele asserts, is a fundamental change in American culture. The success of the civil-rights movement in the 1960s showed that America’s power structure lacked moral authority. For white Americans, the only way to regain that authority has been to “disassociate” from racism, which Steele says is now more frowned upon than adultery. The result has whites straining to appear benevolent toward blacks, while African-American leaders take advantage of “white guilt” to gain handouts such as affirmative action. Steele, who made the same points in his National Book Critics Circle award-winner The Content of Our Character (1990), contends that white liberals see blacks for their skin color instead of their individuality. (“Most of today’s conservatives,” he contends, “sound like Martin Luther King in 1963.”) Black leaders, on the other hand, fail to call upon African-Americans to exercise personal responsibility. Steele has some noteworthy insights into the ways blacks and whites relate, but his arguments suffer from his tendency to establish and then gleefully demolish straw men and from his sweeping generalizations based on personal experiences. Steele claims, for example, that the racial discrimination he encountered as a child did little to harm his self-image and then applies his experience to all blacks. This is the same form of argument he finds offensive in others.

Will we define ourselves as a rejection of other educational movements or will we embrace the iconoclastic future God has called us to grasp? We must be careful to avoid all roots of bitterness as we examine our future. There are great dangers in forming and maintaining a cultural movement based on dislikes and anger rather than approbation and affirmation of new possibilities. We are children of the living God! We are not afraid of any world view, any sociological theory, any scientific theory. We choose to define ourselves by what we are—not by what we are not.

Going Against the Grain: Rewriting History

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

My adopted, six week old African-American daughter Rachel clung to her new mother as she suspiciously surveyed her new father.  I was uncomfortably Caucasian.

While my wife Karen has several adopted siblings of sundry nationalities and racial mixtures, I had never know anyone who was adopted–of any race.  Now I was the father of a child who looked very much like a group of people whom I had been taught to hate.

I grew up in the segregated South. Racism was an old acquaintance of mine.  A sepulcher from whose shadow I could not escape, whose curse even a love for my new daughter could not seem to extinguish.

As surely as all people have been affected by racism, racial reconciliation is a task for all people. No one in American can escape the consequences of racism. It is about people with hopes and dreams and visions that are never realized.  Racial reconciliation also is a dream and vision that we must all cast.

My friend Thomas was a victim of racism.  He was told that black boys do not go to white colleges.  My friend Dwight dropped his head in shame when an elder blocked his path and told him n—– were not welcome at our church.   My friend, Craig, however, was also a victim of racism.  He threatened to castrate a young black man who vacated the balcony in the Malco Theater and sought a better seat in the back of the white only lower section.  Craig and I were perpetrators and victims, however, Dwight and Thomas were only victims.

But I knew the first time I met Rachel, no matter how uncomfortable it might be, that it was time that part of my history was changed.  It was time that racism in my life died.

Rachel was my promised land.  She was my new time, my new land, my new chance.  She was more than my daughter: she was God’s invitation to me to experience wholeness and new life.

Theologian Walter Brueggemann in his commentary on Genesis argues that Abraham, when he accepted God’s call, entered a new history.   Racial reconciliation calls us all to a new history.  The new history is without link to the old.  The new history begins with a call for all of us to repent and a summons to leave old comfort zones and to go somewhere we are not to become someone who I once was not.   In my life this new call was a second call. A new birth.

Homeschooling is like that.  A call to a new life.  A new history. An alternative track.

Through Rachel God called me to an alternative life, a life that is the antithesis to the cold, barren one based on hatred and mistrust.   My first destination was the wilderness.  The wilderness is a place of diminished resources and manna but it offers greater possibilities than the comforts and the garlic of Egypt.   We who live Ur and seek the Promised Land will–as I have found–experience some obstacles.  We too will have our faith tested, our memory of God’s deeds questioned.

In my case, Rachel was engrafted into my genus, into my family line.  My great-great-great Uncle Howeard was a slaveowning Confederate soldier. His great-great-granddaughter is an ancestor of slaves.  Progress.

When I grasped Rachel in my arms I rewrote history.  I ended a curse too.  From that time, to forever, my family has an African-American in its history.

When I look at my youngest son, a Stobaugh with all his Caucasian tint, I see a better version of myself.  Peter, my son, has three older African-American siblings.  He was homeschooled with, he lived his life with, his siblings are, African-Americans. There is not a hint of racism in my white boy.  The curse is ended. Progress.

Perhaps, saints, that is the best we can do in our home schooling—write a new history for our children.  End those curses.  Give them a new history of hope.

Elisha’s Tears – Part II

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

“I weep because I see what you will do to Israel . . .”

–2 Kings 8

2 Kings 8:7-29



To a large degree, we are to do nothing.  We are to wait.  The Hebrew  understanding of “waiting” is “to stand firmly and actively watch God’s will be revealed.”  The Greeks and the Romans and some of us today tried to build society upon their gods.  But these gods will not be big enough because they are finite, limited.  Even mighty Rome, with all its power, did not have satisfactory answers to the questions plaguing humankind.  So they fell.  They are finished.  They were Hazael.

But we serve a God who never slumbers or sleeps.  A God who in a blink of an eye created the universe.  A God who has no beginning nor an ending.  A God, also, who loves us enough to send His only begotten Son to die for us . . . that is one response to Hazael–embrace the Son of God as our Savior–do not rewrite the rules of the game–play another game!

When the three young students refused to worship mighty Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar they were thrown into the fiery furnace (see Daniel).  “We believe God will deliver us,” they said.  “But even if we die, we shall not worship you.”

Home schoolers, are we willing to stand firm in our faith no matter what the cost?  If we are, then Hazael shall not have our souls . . . even if someday he takes our lives.

Will we stand with Joshua on the edge of the Promised Land and proclaim: “You may follow whom you will but as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord!”

As Elisha weeps, he stands with saints of all ages–he stands on Carmel with Elijah–with Moses on Horeb–with Abraham on Moriah–and he asks us again, “If Baal is god then worship him; if God is God worship Him! But choose ye this day . . .”

I know that it seems that we are looking into the face of Hazael . .  . and we are.  But let us stand–as countless saints before us stood–let us stand firm and choose life this year. . . eternal life!  If the present home school movement does nothing else let us call our nation to be hopeful in the face of Hazael because . . . our Redeemer liveth!

References include: New International Version Study BibleHow Should We Then Live? by Francis A. Schaeffer, and Pulpit Digest.

Homeschooling and the Church 1

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

            Eons ago, I was serving as a summer pastor at Matinicus Island, ME (as in Keep the Light House Burning Abby!, by Peter and Connie Koop). I was  with my whole family, Karen, my wife, and our four children. Summer pastors served congregations for a month or two and for payment we were able to live in the parsonage rent free.

            My duties were pretty light. I preached on Sunday and handled emergencies. But most days we were free to explore this exotic paradise, full of exotic Puffins who delighted us with their reticent composures and dark Russian U-Boats who lingered off the coast in Cold War stealth.

            Almost every day we loaded up our backpacks, and three year old Peter, our youngest son, on our backs and headed to the beach (about a mile away). We aggressively negotiated with Peter him to be a big boy and walk a little. Being a good natured child, he always succumbed to our approbation.

            And he walked for about a mile, bless his heart! Despite occasional excursions–like a  butterfly expedition–and an inconvenient potty break–a task at this stage of his life was generally relegated to the male member of the team (me!). But we made pretty good time and Peter walked with no more encouragement than the nudging of his older sister.

            Inevitably, though, about 100 yards from the beach, Peter began to cry,  “I am tired daddy I am tired!”  Peter, even at age 3 knew that his dad’s commitment to character building, if it meant necessary suffering, was much more fragile than his good mother, and he also took advantage of my detestation of his lamentation.

            So I carried Peter in my arms.

            But my humane intervention could not diminish, much less abrogate, his weeping. In fact, the closer we got to the beach, Peter became even more agitated.

Moral Man, Immoral Society: Part 2

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

 Individuals can be moral in purpose and in actions.  But, combine a bunch of individuals into a coercive group can cause the group to become immoral.  For example, Adolf Hitler’s rise to power was initially a good thing for Germany.  He brought jobs and prosperity to his people.  However, as he gained power, the moral imperative became the despotic immoral coercion.
 The answer to this apparent contradiction is, of course the Gospel.  Neibhur stresses the role of the Holy Spirit (what he calls the “religious imagination”).   In a sense groups, political parties, remain moral because the individuals in that societyanswer to a “higher power,” not to the coercion of the group or to the agenda of the group.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German World War II martyr, for example, was perhaps the most patriotic of Germans because he loved his God and his country enough to obey God and His Word above all persons.  This was the only way, Bonhoeffer understood, that his nation could be moral and right before the God he served.  Unfortunately he was a lone voice in the wilderness!
 Today, young people, as you look ahead of you, do the right thing.  All the time.  Every time.  Do not seek to overcome evil with evil, even if your society tells you it is all right.  Make the Word of God central to your life and, as you do, and as thousands do, society will change too.

Bokononism: Choices in Homeschooling 2

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

  Pastor  Gardner quotes Edward O. Wilson’s Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge.   Wilson’s grand conclusion is that “all tangible phenomena, from the birth of stars to the workings of social institutions, are based on material processes that are ultimately reducible, however long and tortuous the sequences, to the laws of physics.” He envisions the unification of the natural sciences with the social sciences and humanities. As he puts it, “The human condition is the most important frontier of the natural sciences,” and “the material world exposed by the natural sciences is the most important frontier of the social sciences and humanities. The consilience argument can be distilled as follows: the two frontiers are the same.”
 The bird is being lowered into the mines .  . .
 Can you imagine how much fun it must be to sit through a sermon with Brother Clinton?  Wow—Consilience—nice word.  What biblical text would he use?  Existentialism and nascent naturalism can be pretty cold bedfellows.  Ain’t gonna mend many broken hearts though!
 Seriously, though, these peckerwoods are arguing quite eloquently that 1. My fundamentalism is not only irrelevant, it is uncool and rude (what a low blow!).  2. My belief that that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God is, well, old fashioned.  3. Finally, my belief in a 24 hour creation is likewise dumb.
 What can I say?  I believe all these things and more.  The God I serve is amazing, far more amazing than the God of Brothers Clinton and Edward. 
 Pow  tee weet

Bokononism: Choices in Homeschooling 1

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

 The late Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s  Cat’s Cradle  creates a new religion, Bokononism. The bible of Bokononism is the “Books of Bokonon”, written by Bokonon — a British Episcopalian black  from the imaginary Carribean island of Tobago whose real name was Lionel Boyd Johnson– as a way to distract the people of Tobago from their unhappy lives.
 What is important to Bokononists? Not God; just one thing: man.  Bokononism is a strange, Post-modern subjective faith that combines nihilistic, and cynical observations about life and God’s will.  The supreme act of worship is an intimate act consisting of prolonged physical contact between the naked soles of the feet of two persons, supposed to result in peace and joy between the two communicants.
 Hummmm . . .
 I know a lot of Bokononists these days.  Post-Modern, Post-Christian Bokononist American leadership are asking us to suspend belief.  Pastor Clinton C. Gardner, in his book Beyond Belief: Discovering Christianity’s New Paradigm, “raised on Christian fundamentalism, he felt liberated by the grand picture of evolution and the empirical science of the Enlightenment.”  Ok Brother Clinton!  Imagine,  there are people who believe that God really loved us enough that He sent His only Begotten Son to die for our sins!  How uncool!  And, get this, some of those  remnant fundamentalist Christians—who have not yet bowed down and worshiped at the altar of Bokononism—actually believe that Jesus Christ is the only way, the only truth, the only life.  How old fashioned can you get!
 The last line of Cat’s Cradle includes a warning that I offer here: Pow Tee Weet. At one time song birds were lowered into coal mines to ascertain if methane gas was of dangerous high density.  Everything was fine as along as the miners heard “Pow Tee Weet.”  However, quite literally, if the bird stopped singing, everyone is in trouble.
 I wonder how much longer the song bird will sing.

Pretending: homeschooling in love 2

Friday, July 15th, 2011

 After establishing our password, Zion and I grabbed our browning automatics (broken broom handles), grenades (plastic donuts from Zion’s sister’s pretend kitchen set), and bowie knives (Karen’s carrots) and quietly, with great alacrity, approached the dangerous mail box.
Along the way, of course, we were attacked by banzai warriors (our four barn cats), a German Stuka (our Black Lab), and an enemy patrol (Our neighbors on a walk).  Against all odds we made it.
 But not without casualties.  I sustained a serious leg injury and Zion was nicked in the left arm.  In fact, we lost several good pretend companions. 
 Sly Zion, halfway, as we hid behind the chicken coup insisted on a field promotion to lieutenant or he would desert.  I reluctantly agreed.  In the midst of such carnage, what was I to do?
 After such an arduous and dangerous mission newly promoted Lieutenant Zion and I celebrated at Granna’s kitchen table.  She unceremoniously served us A-rations (Christmas cookies) and mess coffee (hot chocolate with marshmallows).
 It doesn’t get much better than this, 10-4?

Pretending: homeschooling in love 1

Thursday, July 14th, 2011


 I like to pretend. 
 Every trip to the post office, every trip across country—it doesn’t matter where I go—I like to pretend I am on a mission.
 My wife Karen doesn’t like to join my team, or army, or panzer group—even when I offer her a lieutenancy. Of course I am always the captain, but that is incidental.
Karen just frowns at me.
 “Look to the South, Good Buddy,” I warn.  “The Nazis are coming fast . . .”
 “Keep your eyes on the road Jim,” she scolds.
 “10-4,” I respond as I pull the Tiger Tank (aka Toyota Prius) back to the center of the road.
 How about you?
 Why not make a mundane trip to the grocery store into a mission behind enemy lines? Why not make a trip to church into a scouting mission across the Sahara?
 Life is interesting enough, I suppose, without all the pretending  but it is never as much fun.
 My  7 year old grandson Zion will pretend with me.
 Last Christmas high command gave us a mission to take important orders to Second Army (i.e., Karen told me to take a letter to our mail box at the end of our 150 yard driveway.) Brave Master Sergeant Zion (AKA my grandson) volunteered to join me.
 “General Granna (i.e., Karen),” I warned.  “Do not be surprised if we don’t make it back alive.  My will is in the safe deposit box”
 “Don’t miss the postman, Jim,” Karen responded.
 “Yes mame,” I deferentially responded. “10-4.”

Homeschooling: A different Kind of Hero 2

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

         Finally my executioner appeared.  “Roll up your sleeve,” the perfunctory and sturdy 6´3” Nurse Roxanne quipped.
            “Hello,” I replied.
            “Do you mind shots?” the Nurse Roxanne asked as she ignored my greeting.
            “Yes, I do,” I quivered almost in tears.
            “Too bad,” Nurse Roxanne replied with the first hint of enthusiasm.
             I muttered, “It is a far better thing I have done than I have ever done before . . .”
            Nurse Roxanne, who obviously had not read Dickens  attacked me with the needle as if she was going after a dart board.
            I whimpered a little and Nurse Roxanne frowned and pointed her index finger at me, “No wimps allowed.”            No wimps allowed.  Yes, fellow Americans, we have dumbed down, glamorized, and wimped down our heroes to the point where they hardly seem to be heroes at all.
            But now, suddenly, on the silver screen, appears Captain America. Captain America is a different kind of hero. In 1940s American ordinary, unspectacular, five feet something, Steve Rogers inadvertently receives an injection that turns him into a superhero.  But not a run of the mill hero, he is actually a genuine hero.  As one reviewer explains, “He’s got a lot of ailments, but it hasn’t made him bitter or jaded in anything. Even after he has been given his great gift, he still continues to do the right thing.”  No that is a novel idea—doing the right thing. Take that Will Smith and your character Hancock!
            Yes, a new hero has arrived—a hero who does the right thing without equivocation or self-interest.  Captain America.  Or is he that new afterall?
            Sounds to me like Moses who left the courts of Egypt to obey God. Or Joshua who conquered the Promised Land. Or Peter, even after much failure, found that even Hell itself could not prevail against the Church he founded.
            Yes, and, again, perhaps we meet a man who even John Wayne would like.  Wayne was fond of saying, “Courage is being scared to death – but saddling up anyway.”  Roll up your sleeves America, Nurse Roxanne and Captain America are finally here.  And there is no room for wimps.