Over the past couple of weeks, the Rob Bell controversy has been written about all over the internet with both sides taking strong positions even before his new book was released. Few who have followed his ministry should have been surprised at his views and even fewer should be surprised now at where Christians of all stripes are lining up in their support or condemnation of him. Just about everyone’s orthodoxy is being measured by their perspective on Rob Bell.*
I am now wondering if this will also be the case among homeschoolers in the controversy that has erupted over the last few days surrounding Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis and founder of the Creation Museum and Brennan Dean, the mastermind behind the wildly popular Great Homeschool Conventions that are taking the country by storm.
Anyone who has been paying attention to the civil war going on within the homeschooling world over the past decade should not be shocked at what happened earlier this week and there should be few surprises when it comes to speculating who will support the two sides of this issue. Indeed, it is pretty predictable to see who is already weighing in and where.
In case you think this is as simple as a debate on evolution vs creationism, let me try to explain why it is not; this is about far more than whether or not someone believes in a literal 6-day creation or an old earth perspective. It is also not about the authority of Scripture and who actually holds to that and who doesn’t; both young and old earth proponents believe they can make a case for their views without compromise. It isn’t even about Ken Ham or the Great Homeschool Conventions. It is, however, about the power struggle that has been brewing for years between tightly controlled state homeschooling organizations and those who see a need for a more diverse group of speakers than the usual rotation that is repeated at conventions around the country year after year.
Most of the long standing state groups are closely associated with Home School Legal Defense and Vision Forum, both organizations committed to practicing their brand of dominion theology and using the homeschooling community via their conventions to accomplish their goals, political and otherwise. Through their ever-narrowing standards of orthodoxy, they have managed to alienate the vast majority of homeschooling families, including most Christian homeschoolers. They have been quite open about their agenda, both by identifying their priorities at their 2009 Homeschool Leadership Summit** and by readily acknowledging that they “must take back” homeschooling from those who disagree with them. They began this several years ago when Kevin Swanson’s Colorado Christian Home Educators kicked John Holzmann’s Sonlight curriculum out of their convention because it “wasn’t quite Christian enough” for them, Swanson later vowing to accomplish all over the country what he and CHEC had accomplished in their state.
Now there is a daily increase of whining from inside these ranks because, heaven forbid, other homeschoolers won’t comply with their agenda and, horror of horrors, someone, (ie those they are now calling “for-profit conventions”) other than vendors who are in lockstep with them can actually be given a venue for making money in the homeschool market. Oh the irony…
But that isn’t where the hypocrisy ends….there is still the question of whether or not it is OK to publicly call out someone you think is teaching doctrinal error and, in this case, warning parents about the content of textbooks. I absolutely think that Ken Ham has the right to do this and I believe that right can be supported biblically, including the naming of names. It is not always uncharitable or unchristian to do so. It isn’t even always wrong to question someone’s salvation or even their integrity when doing so, as GHC wrongly believes as shown in their statement regarding Ham and AiG. (I am not saying anyone did this or that those things apply in this situation, only that there could be times when it would be appropriate. The first example that comes to mind is Jesus telling the Pharisees what He thought of them, as religious leaders, adding to the requirements for Gospel faith.)
However, Ham must recognize that he may have to pay the consequences for speaking out, especially if done in someone else’s arena; this didn’t just happen on his blog in his own space of the internet. He was invited to come into Great Homeschool Convention’s home to present his views and as such needed to behave like a guest. I think he forfeited his right to do so at future conventions by dissing both the conventions and the other speakers who shared GHC’s invitation.
Ken Ham isn’t the first to follow through on their personal convictions in this way. There is always plenty of anti-something going on within this branch of the homeschooler speaker circuit; others before Ham have just been more creative and less transparent as they condemned others. For example, Doug Phillips refers to women bloggers who don’t agree with his brand of men/women relationships as “Titus 2 lesbian bloggers” and Stacy McDonald loves to hurl her “white-washed feminists” moniker the direction of any Christian women who aren’t drinking her particular cup of womanly tea. You can be sure both will readily name names and imply heathenism if the situation presents itself.
You need a play card to navigate the hypocrisy of it all; several people who have jumped to Ham’s defense for speaking out are also quick to censor others. Right after the Ken Ham announcement, a friend dropped me a note to tell me she had posted links to the podcasts about the 2009 Leadership Summit** in a FB discussion about the validity of “for profit” conventions on the page of a well-known HS vendor. It was removed and she was admonished that she was not allowed to post any links to my blog. So much for fair and open discussion; again, it is all about the control of information.You even see some of the same people who are condemning Ham’s behavior openly denouncing Rob Bell themselves! Does that make any sense? I guess it all depends on your own personal agenda and the “heretics” who are in your way.
Sadly, rather than cleaning up some of the Ham messes from the past two Great Homeschool Conventions, it looks like the upcoming Cincinnati convention may be the site of some real ugliness. Some people are planning to disrupt the event by wearing pro-Ham t-shirts and it appears this morning that Doug Phillips, who is also scheduled to speak at that conference, is beginning to rally the troops. Ham has become a martyr and, by default, the hand of state convention people around the country has now been strengthened. Part of me wonders if this wasn’t part of the plan all along. Any thoughts?
*In case anyone who is dropping in here and doesn’t know where I stand on the authority of Scripture, let me assuage your concerns: I believe that Scripture teaches a literal hell where those who leave this world apart from a saving faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation will spend eternity. I also hold to a literal 6-day, young earth view of creation.