Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Manly Men, Domestic Women, and Granola-Eatin' Earth Worshippers

Julie Ingersoll recently penned a fun commentary for Religion Dispatches entitled "Promoting Patriarchy and Fighting Pantheism, plus Adventures to the Amazon and to Space (!)." Vision Forum Ministries advocates for traditional gender roles in line with the Christian Patriarchy Movement, and offers events and publications related to Christian homeschooling and child-rearing. Ingersoll critiques Vision Forum's Ten Lessons from 2010 and Ten Visions for 2011, which reflects the organizations patriarchal, anti-environmental values. Ten Lessons from 2010 and Ten Visions for 2011 is a year-in-review pamphlet that documents Vision Forum's 2010 projects while offering sneak peaks of projects to come in 2011. 

The pamphlet makes for interesting reading. Lesson #4 discusses the Father and Son Retreat of 2010, intended to prepare young men to "lead" as fathers and husbands. The pamphlet lambastes young men who are "loafers" and who "leech off their parents" instead of accepting the responsibilities of manhood. Their language associates responsible manhood with marriage and fatherhood, so I get the impression that men who postpone or forgo marriage and children are being stereotyped as lazy leeches. Vision Forum blames absentee fathers and broken homes for this supposed social ill, celebrating its annual Father and Son Retreat in Colorado as a setting where fathers and boys could cultivate "bold manhood" together.

I have news for the Vision Forum. I'm unmarried and child-free, but I also work full time, pay my bills, help my aging parents, and volunteer in the community. Being unmarried and child-free is NOT the same thing as being a loafer. There are many ways to live as a responsible adult, not just one.

The Father and Son Retreat blurb stands in fascinating contrast to Lesson #5, which focuses on the Father and Daughter Retreat. The pamphlet laments the fact that Christian young women are growing "discontent at home and disillusioned with their role as women", seeking an identity beyond the God-given "noble calling of virtuous womanhood." (Translation: some women want more from life than cooking, cleaning, and pumping out babies.) The root of this development, supposedly, lies with fathers who have neglected to give their daughters affirmation and Biblical values. In response, Vision Forum offered a Father and Daughter retreat at Georgia Callaway Gardens in 2010 to help fathers and daughters bond.

Lesson #10 condemns so-called "environmental pantheism", which is depicted as a form of false worship, an attack on the Christian family, and a rejection God's mandate to man to exercise dominion over the Earth. The pamphlet celebrates Vision Forum's national screening campaign of The Mysterious Islands, a creationist film shown around Earth Day, a day the report demonizes as a "global guiltfest" that vilifies humans. Vision Forum also presented a keynote message at the Christian Filmmakers Academy, decrying Hollywood's supposed "earth-worshipping message." (Any of this sound familiar?) Has the authorship had much exposure to real-life environmentalism, I wonder?

Other 2010 lessons focused on homeschool events, Christian filmmaking, bioethics, and Michelle Duggar's "Mother of the Year" award. Visions for 2011 include a Life Preparation and Manhood Bootcamp, a tribute to Normandy, and the launch of a documentary project on God and Earth. Additionally, a Reforming Food and the Family conference will focus on the food industry, food-related bioethics, and the challenges of the "anti-Christian Green Movement." By labeling the Green Movement as "anti-Christian," the authorship refuses to acknowledge the many "green" Christians in the world, Christianity's rich tradition of ecotheology, or countless faith-based environmental initiatives.

It's remarkable how much information one can glean from a short pamphlet. In the span of a few pages, the Vision Forum has revealed many of its core values: patriarchy, stereotypical gender roles, and disdain for environmentalism.

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