Thursday, October 31, 2013

Doug Phillips Resigns from Vision Forum Over "Inappropriate" Relationship

Vision Forum, a ministry that supports Christian homeschooling and the Christian Patriarchy Movement, is in crisis. On October 30th, Vision Forum president Doug Phillips resigned from his position over a "lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman". In an online statement, Phillips apologized to God and his family.
"There has been serious sin in my life for which God has graciously brought me to repentance. I have confessed my sin to my wife and family, my local church, and the board of Vision Forum Ministries.  I engaged in a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman. While we did not “know” each other in a Biblical sense, it was nevertheless inappropriately romantic and affectionate.

There are no words to describe the magnitude of shame I feel, or grief from the injury I caused my beloved bride and children, both of whom have responded to my repentance with what seems a supernatural love and forgiveness. I thought too highly of myself and behaved without proper accountability. I have acted grievously before the Lord, in a destructive manner hypocritical of life messages I hold dear, inappropriate for a leader, abusive of the trust that I was given, and hurtful to family and friends. My church leadership came alongside me with love and admonition, providing counsel, strong direction and accountability. Where I have directly wronged others, I confessed and repented. I am still in the process of trying to seek reconciliation privately with people I have injured, and to be aware of ways in which my own selfishness has hurt family and friends. I am most sensitive to the fact that my actions have dishonored the living God and been shameful to the name of Jesus Christ, my only hope and Savior."
News of Phillips infidelity and resignation raises a multitude of questions. How will the Christian Patriarchy Movement react to news that one of its leaders resigned over an inappropriate relationship? What conversations will this generate in the movement? As with other high-profile affairs, will observers heap scorn on the "other woman" or Phillips' wife? Who will take the reigns at Vision Forum after Phillips' departure?

The irony of Doug Phillips' infidelity has not escaped me. A man who trumpeted the sanctity of marriage did not uphold the sanctity of his own. A man whose ministry glorified the nuclear family has now brought pain upon his own family. Hopefully, recent events will encourage self-reflection and remorse on Phillips' part.

Phillips' admission also points out uncomfortable truths about the Christian Patriarchy Movement's limitations. Christian Patriarchy ideology does not inoculate couples from adultery or betrayal, no matter how loudly it champions familial bliss. The submission and self-abnegation it demands from women do not necessarily generate faithful husbands. In short, Christian Patriarchy followers are just as fallible and human as everyone else.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Incongruous Circumspection: Doug Phillips Resigned, Martyrs Himself

Homeschoolers Anonymous: Doug Phillips Resigns from Vision Forum, Cancels Speaking Events, Due to "Inappropriate" Relationship

Love, Joy, Feminism: Doug Phillips Resigns from Vision Forum, Cites Affair

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Washington Post: Five Christian theologies scarier than Halloween

The American Jesus: Christian Haunted Houses Are Evangelism Porn

The Advocate: 7 Scary Stories for a Homophobic Halloween

Political Research Associates: Hell Houses and the Gender Politics of the Religious Right

What Would J.T. Do? Thoughts on the soup kitchen that denied atheist volunteers

Defeating the Dragons: Learning the words: Disorder

Love, Joy, Feminism: Pulling the Victoria’s Secret Dance

Ramblings of Sheldon: Isolating Kids to Shield Them from "The World" Is Not Only Harmful, but Counter Productive

News Tidbits

Huffington Post: The View's Jenny McCarthy Vs Catholic League's Bill Donohue Over Annulment And Pope Francis

Reuters: Don't let religious beliefs impede kids' care, say doctors

Religion News Service: Mega-church pastor Craig Groeschel says men need to learn how to fight

The Telegraph: Lessons in humanism from age five in new UK religious education lessons

Pink News: Nigerian Bishop blasts Archbishop of Canterbury for being ‘sympathetic to homosexuals’

John Shore's Advice to Callous Religious Leaders

In a recent post at Unfundamentalist Christians, John shore shared a letter from a woman who was sexually assaulted at age 16. When she confided in her pastor, he coldly told her, “It’s too bad that you didn’t force him to kill you instead. That way you could have at least died a virgin.”

Shore was disgusted by the pastor's callousness, as any compassionate person would be. Religious leaders have a responsibility to offer sound pastoral care to their congregants, and the woman's pastor failed miserably. Shore offered advice to other unfeeling religious leaders that I had to share.
"Are you are a pastor, priest, or ministry leader who holds that women are intrinsically inferior to men—that women should submit to their husbands, that women are less intelligent than men, less emotionally sophisticated than men, not as ambitious, driven, or proud as men? Do you believe that a woman’s highest calling is to be a good mother, that a young woman’s moral status is tied to her virginity, that women’s sexuality causes men to sin?

If you do believe those things, then I’m begging you to right now resign all of your authority in the church. Get out—and don’t talk to anyone on your way to the door, either. You do not speak for God. You wouldn’t know good counsel from bad porridge. At best you are profound and grievous embarrassment to God; at worst the devil himself wonders at the fullness of the damage you do.

Please just step away from the pulpit. Because surely you realize what a short step it is from, “God designed women to love but be inferior to men,” to, “You should have made your rapist kill you so that at least you’d have died a virgin.” If you do not realize how smoothy the latter extends from the former, then … then gosh, what a surprise: logic isn’t your strong suit."
I encourage readers to read the full post, and to show victims far more empathy than that pastor showed his congregant.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Salon: Darwin inspired Hitler: Lies they teach in Texas

Right Wing Watch: Focus On The Family, Alliance Defending Freedom, NOM Leaders Reportedly Met With Author Of Russian 'Homosexual Propaganda' Bill

Rolling Stone: Why Republicans Are Losing the Virginia Governor's Race

Religion News Service: Mark Driscoll makes pacifists fighting mad

Media Matters: Fox's Starnes Urges Listeners To Donate Money To Anti-Gay Hate Groups

Washington City Paper: Film Review: God Loves Uganda

Frontiers LA: Jelly Belly Candy Chair and New York Hedge Fund Manager Underwriting Anti-Trans Student Initiative

Think Progress: How The Incendiary Rhetoric Against Transgender Youth Is Escalating

RH Reality Check: Corporations Claiming ‘Religious Liberty’ Try to Infringe on Their Employees’ Religious Liberty

RH Reality Check: Purity Culture as Rape Culture: Why the Theological Is Political

News Tidbits

Pennlive: Pennsylvania bill would require schools to post 'In God We Trust' motto

Huffington Post: Peter LaBarbera Bashes Pro-Gay Christians For 'Same Sex-Marriage Tsunami'

Associated Press: Judge Who Changed Baby Name Could Be Disciplined

Springfield State Journal-Register: Illinois bishop bans gay marriage supporters from Cathedral

Go Upstate: Spartanburg Soup Kitchen turns away atheist volunteers

Washington Post: Air Force Academy may drop religious reference from honor code oath

KCTV 5 News: Anti-gay customers refuse tip to server, other patrons rally around him

Ms. Magazine: Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Ken Cuccinelli Gave Thousands to CPCs

The Advocate: NOM's New Attack on Trans Students: Nudity Trumps Sincerity

On Top Magazine: Lesbian Teacher Fired On Her Wedding Day Wants Apology From Catholic School

Gay Star News: Grove City College professor claims same-sex marriage part of Marxist plot to destroy the family

Gay Star News: Australian state parliament passes motion against ex-gay therapies

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Botkin's "Ready for Real Life" Webinar: Part IV

Introduction: Botkins Launch Webinar on Making Kids "Ready for Real Life"
Part I: Ready for What?
Part II: Are Your Children Ready for Real Life?
Part III: Arts and Culture
Part IV: Science and Medicine 
Part V: History and Law 
Part VI: Vocations 
Part VII: Q&A Session 

In part IV of the "Ready for Real Life" webinar, the Botkin family discusses the roles that science, nature, and medicine play in Christian homeschooling. While the Botkins spoke warmly of these fields, their words betrayed a distrust of evidence and scientific communities at odds with their beliefs.

Geoffrey Botkins encouraged parents to share things that delight them about science and nature with their children, such as a close-up of an owl's eye that he saw in National Geographic. Children must not be afraid of studying science, he said, celebrating parents who encourage children to think about science.

He cited a prayer attributed David in Psalm 28:3-5, which condemns those who "have no regard for the deeds of the Lord and what his hands have done". The passage warns that God "will tear them down and never build them up again" as punishment for their "wicked" ways. Geoffrey warned that God will similarly punish those who are indifferent to creation at the 3:18 mark.
"If you've noticed people in this culture that we live in in the United States who literally have decided that they will not trouble themselves to think about the works of the Lord, including themselves, they don't want to admit that they've been created by the Creator, and so they don't want to think about the implications of the works of the Lord all around them being of the Lord, nor the deeds of his hands. And what we see here from scripture is that the intimate Lord God almighty does deal with people on a very personal basis. He will tear them down and not build them up."
As with his previous webinar, Botkin threatened impious people with divine wrath. For all his warm words about learning, his ideology is firmly rooted in fear of divine retribution. A fear-based ideology is unlikely to produce critical thinking skills or genuine wonder, which makes Botkin's words all the more ironic.

As with previous webinars, Geoffrey Botkin began the talk with a prayer. He beseeched God to help them recognize God as the creator and humans as the created, to avoid worshiping the creation over the creator, to understand the truths in creation, and to comprehend God's will so that humans can take dominion.

I paused when I heard Geoffrey pray that people avoid worshiping the creation over the creator. An inaccurate fundamentalist myth about environmentalists is that they allegedly worship Earth and neglect God. Was Geoffrey taking a veiled jab at environmentalism?

Studying the sciences gave the Botkin children mental agility and breadth, Geoffrey proudly told listeners. Study of the sciences equips children with tools for life, including honed powers of observation and mental acuity, he said.

Noah Botkin, one of Geoffrey and Victoria's sons, stressed that the sciences are a tool to aid humans in obeying God and exercising dominion. At the 8:16 mark, Noah disparaged scientists who allegedly see their craft as a means of glorifying the human mind.
"You read a lot of secular sources ... you're forced to read a lot of papers by men who aren't Christians, and a lot of these scientists believe that the study of science is simply an exercise in glorifying the human mind. The attitude of them is just, 'let us see how far we can go to exercise our own intelligence and see just how good we are.' And that's wrong. Christians need to understand science as a tool. It needs to be thought of as a tool. The purpose of science is to assist us in obeying God's commandments, and the study of science is an avenue that we can take in order to learn about the glory of God's systems, the systems that he's designed. The world is a system that he's created and designed. And so, the application of this scientific study augments our ability to obey God's commandments, to fulfill the dominion mandate and the great commission."
Geoffrey Botkin emphasized that Jesus exerts dominion over all things, so humans should learn about their creator by studying everything he has created. Parents are to remind children that they will not take dominion someday for themselves, but for Jesus, Geoffrey reminded his audience. Christians are to take dominion in Jesus' name so as "to bring order to the world the way he wants it to be ordered," he said.

Geoffrey waxed poetic about cells as miniature galaxies unto themselves, and about the movement of nutrients from the soil into plants into humans and back to the soil. The world is a harmonious global ecosystem created by God, he explained, not a hostile setting that humans must struggle against.

Doesn't he mean a harmonious global biosphere, the sum total of Earth's ecosystems? I thought. As for Earth not being hostile, a few million survivors of hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, floods, volcanic eruptions, epidemics, and famines would disagree!

Geoffrey's wife, Victoria Botkin, caricatured public school science classes as meaningless courses that depict the universe as random and meaningless. At the 15:57 mark, she painted an ugly picture of public school science courses.
"Those of us who went to public school often have a hard time knowing how to think about science because to us, it's a school subject, right? It's like band and gym class, science class. Well, most kids in public school hated science class, and that's because in public school, we learned that science was bunch of facts about stuff that happened at random and for no reason. And we public school kids may have not been very smart, but we were sure smart enough to realize that stuff that happened at random and for no reason was meaningless and therefore boring and a waste of our time. We could see, maybe, that there were patterns in nature that were amazing, and maybe we could see things under a microscope that were beautiful and astonishing, but if we could see this, it was really frustrating because it didn't mean anything." 
This was emphatically not my experience of sciences classes in public school. I look back on my high school chemistry and Earth sciences classes with fondness, because the teachers made science both fun and relevant. For example, my Earth science course did not present the natural world as a pandemonium of random occurrences, but an intricate web of cause, effect, and interconnection. To boot, students learned about the real-world consequences of environmental policies, fossil fuel use, overpopulation, and shrinking resources, so our class content was anything but meaningless. Victoria Botkin may have drudged through class because of a poor science teacher, an inadequate science curriculum, or her own indifference, but her experiences are not representative of all public school students!

Victoria claimed that mothers who attended public schools are often ill-equipped to teach their children science. At the 17:42 mark, she discouraged mothers from using mainstream textbooks, lest they "infect" their children with the same "faulty" thinking.
"Moms who went to public school have a hard time understanding how to teach science, and in fact, we have a hard time even understanding what science is. And so, if our state's laws say that we're supposed to do a unit of science this semester, we think, 'well, okay, now what?', and we buy a science textbook, and if we do that, we're going to infect our children with the same faulty way of thinking."
Victoria defined science at the study of the created world, how it works, and how the creatures therein interaction. Deuteronomy 6 commands parents to teach their children to love God and honor his ways, she argued, and that command should be at the core of everything homeschooling parents teach, including science.

The Bible states that teaching science can help children love God, she insisted. Victoria quoted Deuteronomy 30:19, in which heaven and earth counsel humans to honor God, as well as Psalm 19:1-6, in which the skies reveal knowledge in the form of astronomy. The fact that the books of the Bible were composed centuries before the advent of modern science, and thus do not embody scientific principles, seemed to have escaped her.

At the 21:32 mark, Victoria lambasted non-fundamentalist scientists as "enemies of God" because they are allegedly trying to disprove God's existence. She gave no examples of scientists who are allegedly trying to do so, however, condemning them en masse as warriors in the "war for men's minds and hearts".
"I guess it should come as no surprise to us -- since we know that there is a war of ideas on, a war for men's minds and hearts -- that scientists have taken that which testifies that God is, and that he is good, and they have twisted it to try to prove that there is no God, and in a way this makes sense that the enemies of God would do this because the study of God's creation, which is what science is, is one of our best tools and one of our best allies for teaching our children to love and revere God."
Geoffrey Botkin addressed a listener question about teaching science on a budget. He replied that he'd known families who realized that public school wasn't an option, and who strove to give their children a better education than what "government schools" could offer. Libraries, access to books, and talking with children about science were vital in those families, Geoffrey explained.

Isaac Botkin, one of Geoffrey and Victoria's sons, discussed Christian homeschooler's reticence around evolution, stressing the need for Christians to fight evolution through science. What fundamentalists were supposed to do if science supported evolution was not explored.

Considering that scientific evidence supports evolution, good luck with that, I thought. If fundamentalists cite the pseudoscience they've relied on so far, I'm not worried.

In true fundamentalist form, Isaac trotted out tired stereotypes about evolution, eugenics, and racism at the 28:40 mark.
"There is a lot of skepticism in the homeschoolers' approach to science in a lot of ways, and I think a lot of that is reactionism. It's fear of studying books or resources that mention evolution, and this is a really good fear to have, because the evolutionary thought, the concept of Darwinism is itself incredibly destructive, and it's something that we need to fight by studying science well. You can't fight bad ideas with no ideas. You can't fight bad information with ignorance. And it's incredibly important that children understand that they can see God's hand in God's creation by studying science, but it's also important that they understand that they need to be able to refute the enemies of Gods who will deny God's work in creation, and there's dozens of reasons for this. There are reasons in scripture that describe that, but there's also the practical reason that evolutionary thought is incredibly destructive. It's one of the many driving forces between the eugenics movement. It's something that supports racism, that supports social Darwinism, that supports socialism."
Geoffrey Botkin elaborated on his son's statement, encouraging listeners to take a "bold stand" against "false science and pseudoscience". He mocked Charles Darwin as "not a real naturalist, he was a a fantasy naturalist, really, and came up with fantasy theories for his own personal theology that was just readily received by everyone."

Elizabeth Botkin spoke at length about science education for girls, arguing that both sexes are responsible for dominion and thus require a science background. At the 31:33 mark, she claimed that girls and women can help men exercise dominion.  
"It's very easy to think that these are guy things ... and to think that our role will never require us to know any of these things. That's because often, we girls have actually assigned ourselves a role as women that's a lot smaller than the role the Bible gives us, and we think, 'Oh, well we'll never have to be involved in invention or engineering or exploration, because our job is to do the dishes and the sewing', and we let ourselves off easy. And it's because, I believe, we've forgotten the dominion mandate, which involves invention, exploration, classification, cultivation, and discovery, was assigned to the man and the woman, and the great commission of discipling all the nations was assigned to men and women, and though there are very definitely differences between the Biblical role of man and the Biblical role of women, the lines between those roles are not drawn so much by activity as they are by jurisdiction and hierarchy. And so, yes, there are certain roles and jobs that are off-limits to women, the Bible says very clearly, but when it comes to what we're allowed to help our men do, the field is really as wide as the earth itself." 
Elizabeth elaborated at the 33:57 mark, arguing that girls need science education to help men and teach children.
"If we never have to do more than wear modest clothes, cook good meals, keep the house clean and decorated, then it's true. That doesn't require a super-vigorous education. But if a girl is going to grow up to help a man make disciples of the nations and teach her children to do the same, and be a highly skilled and productive Proverbs 31 woman, she needs a very vigorous education, including in all the sciences."
I was stunned. The Christian Patriarchy Movement restricts women to confined roles, but Elizabeth accuses girls and women of assigning themselves a small role. Furthermore, as much as Elizabeth tries to obscure it, she cannot avoid the fact that her subculture denies women career opportunities in the sciences. The best a woman can hope for is being "allowed" to help her men with scientific pursuits (between cooking, cleaning, homeschooling a huge brood of children, and recuperating from repeated pregnancies, of course). That's assuming that the men in her life have any interest in science. The idea that a woman could be more than a subordinate helper to her father or husband, that a woman could be a science leader in her own right, did not occur to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth should learn more about female scientists in recent history. The world has made great strides thanks to the efforts of women like Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, Wangari Maathai, Vandana Shiva, Grace Hopper, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, Gertrude B. Elion, Nancy Roman, Vera Rubin, Rosalind Franklin, Christiane Nusslein-Volhard, and Elizabeth Blackburn, just for starters. These women changed the world by breaking barriers, striving for excellence, and working alongside their male colleagues as equals. Had these scientists been content to be men's subordinate helpers, the world would have never benefited from their genius.

Anna Sophia Botkin praised female scientists of the past such as Ada Lovelace (née Byron) and Marie Curie, describing how they worked alongside their fathers, husbands, and male friends. At the 35:30 mark, she wondered why more homeschooled girls don't pour themselves into science and technology.

Because your subculture grinds their self-esteem into dust? I thought.
"You've got to wonder why is it that homeschool girls today are not doing any of these things. We see a lot of girls who are pursuing small handcrafts but not these bigger, dominion-oriented things. But there's really no reason why they couldn't be using their gifts for design and fine detail processing, for example, to do web design or graphic design instead of scrapbooking and kitting. There's nothing in the Bible that says that we have to use a sewing machine and not a skill saw. There's nothing that says that you have to make hand-knitted tea cozies and not furniture or robotic arms. There's nothing that says that the woman's job is to clean the house but not to build it."
Anna Sophia's comments troubled me, and not just because of her mirthless chuckles sprinkled throughout. Anna and Elizabeth seem to believe that females in their subculture deliberately limit themselves to lesser roles, ignoring how Christian Patriarchy suppresses females through sexism. They also seem to think that girls and women have boundless time and energy for scientific pursuits, ignoring ways that endless household chores, child care, homeschooling, and health problems from repeated pregnancies can constrain girls and women in their subculture. In the Christian Patriarchy Movement, females can't win.

Geoffrey Botkin offered advice to families with sons looking into careers in medicine. (The idea that daughters might do so was not considered.) He warned that modern medicine is a broken system, having been hijacked by "special interests". For example, Sen. Ted Kennedy advocated for "nationalized medicine schemes" in the 1970s, he lamented, with Hillary Clinton and President Obama continuing those efforts in the decades after. "Doctors are now agents of the security state system," Geoffrey claimed, in keeping with his prior statements about alleged "statism". Society need doctors, but it also need to reform the medical system, and thus sons may need to work outside the system as reformers or independent professionals. Geoffrey encouraged an independent, self-policing medical system with its own private licensing, private insurance options, and private medical education.

All this struck me as problematic. Self-policing isn't a reliable way of keeping organizations accountable. To address and prevent wrongdoing, policing needs to come from without as well as within an institution. Furthermore, if Geoffrey Botkin believes that the mainstream medical establishment is corrupt, how would an alternative medical establishment avoid the alleged pitfalls of its predecessor?

The Botkins' disdain for the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) was evident. Geoffrey took delight in new technology and its potential for helping people detach from the Obamacare system. His son Isaac blasted Obamacare as well, claiming that it would give patients fewer opportunities for care. In such a world, people need to be informed about medical care, requiring scientific knowledge.

Finally, I was confused by Geoffrey Botkin's contradictory advice on how to approach the science community. At the 1:08:47 mark, he urged listeners to "engage this century" by being leaders in science.
"We have to engage our generation. We have to engage this century. We need some students who really go far in these sciences so that they can be leaders, and they can understand the science. They don't have to be followers. They can be leaders."
On the other hand, he disparaged higher education as a "setback" for homeschooled students. At the 1:09:05 mark, he warned that college could alleged set students back, and that higher science professions could "compromise" or "enslave" them.
"You have to be so careful about throwing your children into a university environment to get certain qualifications that literally could trap them. For most people who go to university for other non-scientific, non-engineering pursuits, college is a real setback. You don't really want to be training your children or getting your children ready for that. It will truly set them back for the 21st century. But what about these more precise, heavy science obligations that we're facing? The students need to be extremely careful not to compromise themselves to be enslaved to any of these higher professions -- bioscience, in medicine, in medical research. They have to be very careful."
The contrast between the two statements baffled me. He encouraged young people to become leaders in their fields, then warned them against university educations and high-powered science professions. Did Geoffrey Botkin want young professionals to engage the world of science or not?

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   

Despite their ostensible respect for science, nature, and medicine, the Botkins' ideology prevents them from fully engaging with those fields. (This meme comes to mind...) Part IV of the "Ready for Real Life" webinar contained themes of poor science, sexism, and disdain for the scientific community at large.

Flawed approach to science: The Botkins assume that their inerrant interpretation of scripture is true, using science to justify those faith-based assumptions. Evidence that could undermine their beliefs is ignored or scorned. This is a mockery of legitimate science, which tests hypotheses against observed evidence, rejecting or modifying hypotheses not supported by evidence.

Science and medicine careers as male domains: In the Botkin's eyes, leadership roles in science and medicine are reserved for men. Geoffrey Botkin spoke of sons (but not daughters) seeking our medical careers. Elizabeth Botkin relegated females to subordinate roles as men's helpers. In doing so, the Botkins discouraging females from becoming leaders in science and medicine.

Distrust and disengagement from the scientific community: For all his talk of engaging the 21st century world, Geoffrey Botkins advocated for disengagement from higher learning and the science community. Geoffrey Botkin discouraged students from attending universities, calling university education a "setback". Furthermore, he encouraged Christians to work outside the mainstream medical establishment, ignoring the cutting edge research and promising careers it offers (for all its flaws). The Botkins also mocked and caricatured non-fundamentalist science professionals. For instance, Victoria Botkin derided non-fundamentalist scientists as "enemies of God" for allegedly trying to disprove God's existence. Noah Botkin also dismissed non-Christian scientists for "glorifying the human mind". Geoffrey Botkin sneered at Charles Darwin, attacking him as a "fantasy naturalist".

Stay tuned for part V of the "Ready for Real Life" webinar series!

11/6/13 EDIT -- Anna Sophia referred to the female scientist Ada Lovelace, née Byron.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Texas Theocracy Watch: Ted Cruz & Christian Dominionism

Africa Is a Country: Exporting Homophobia from Kansas to Kampala

Mother Jones: Do Bishops Run Your Hospital?

Alternet: Ted Cruz's Father Suggested His Son Is 'Anointed' to Bring About 'End Time Transfer of Wealth'

Heresy in the Heartland: Spanking

Religion Dispatches: Mark Driscoll vs John MacArthur: Battle of the Self-Promoting Calvinists

Wall of Separation: In Kansas, A Religious Right Hero Gets His Comeuppance

Right Wing Watch: Anne Paulk: Have A 'Healthy Detachment' From Your Gay Son

Equality Matters: NOM: LGBT People Need "Purification," Not "Celebration And Affirmation"

Rachel Held Evans: 10 Marriage Reality Checks

Political Research Associates: U.S. Conservatives and Russian Anti-Gay Laws -- The WCF

Political Research Associates: Profiles on the Right: Sandy Rios

News Tidbits

Wall Street Journal: Evangelical Leader Preaches Pullback From Politics, Culture Wars

World Magazine: The high cost of negligence

NBC 15: Ex-gay group demands ex-gay therapy at Virginia Universities

Arkansas Matters: Mt. St. Mary's Threatens Gay Teacher with Termination, Says LGBT Organization

Gay Star News: British MP to introduce bill to ban ‘gay cure’ therapists

Washington Post: Gay rights supporters wage a quiet campaign to push Republicans to the middle

I Am Sick of Fundamentalist Ignorance About Mental Illness

On October 21st, Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll posted a tweet that read, "'Thou shall not kill' includes suicide, terrorism, euthanasia, abortion, but not necessarily capital punishment, just war, self defense." Driscoll's anti-choice approach to abortion did not surprise me, but his demonization of suicide caught me off guard. The implication, it seems, is that Driscoll sees suicide as a sinful form of killing, in the same moral category as terrorism.

Driscoll's lack of empathy and compassion disturbed me. Suicide is an act of despair, the act of someone who cannot see a way out of a painful situation. For many, suicide is the tragic end of their struggles with mental illnesses, addiction, or trauma. Mental health disorders such as depression, substance abuse, a family history of mental illness or substance abuse, and traumas such as physical or sexual abuse are all risk factors for suicide. It's also a significant public health issue. According to the CDC, suicide was the cause of death for 38,364 persons in 2010, making it the 10th leading cause of death for that year. Instead of demonizing suicide as a sin, we must recognize it as a serious public health problem and offer support to those at high risk.

To declare suicide a sin is to demonize and belittle people who struggle with despair. It ignores our responsibility to help those in need, ostracizing people with suicidal ideation as "bad" and "other". To boot, it betrays a dangerous ignorance about mental illness, addiction, and trauma, one that I've seen too often among fundamentalists.

And I'm sick of it.

I'm sick of toxic forms of religion that propel mental illness instead of soothe it, that heap shame and self-loathing onto sufferers instead of equipping them with coping tools.

I'm sick of fundamentalist preachers blaming depression on a lack of piety, as if mental illness were a consequence of irreligiousity rather than a health problem.

I'm sick of religious people living in the 21st century blaming mental health problems on demons.

I'm sick of preachers promoting violence against children with no thought to how abuse can harm a child's mental health.

I'm sick of religious institutions stonewalling sexual abuse survivors and exacerbating their psychological trauma instead of encouraging their recovery.

Society needs to educate itself on mental illness and reject victim-blaming attitudes and superstitious explanations. Religious leaders especially need to educate themselves on mental illness, addiction, trauma, and suicide so as to provide the best possible pastoral care to their congregants. Religious leaders also need to partner with mental health and substance abuse service providers, so as to serve the best interests of their congregations. It's time to be more enlightened about suicide and help those at risk for it, not brand them as sinful.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Asian-American Christians Condemn Racism in Evangelical Culture

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, now finds himself at the center of two controversies over depictions of Asian Americans in the evangelical community. First Rick Warren traveled to Hong Kong in September to celebrate the opening of a new Saddleback church, according to NPR. Upon his return, he posted a vintage picture of a Chinese Red Guard woman on Facebook with the caption "The typical attitude of Saddleback Staff as they start work each day." (More Than Serving Tea captured a screenshot of the post before Warren took it down.) The Red Guard was a Maoist social movement that persecuted intellectuals and destroyed cultural relics during China's brutal Cultural Revolution.

When confronted by others who found the image offensive, Warren dismissed them. "People often miss irony on the Internet. It’s a joke people! If you take this seriously, you really shouldn’t be following me!" Warren wrote on Facebook, according to the Huffington Post. "Did you know that, using Hebrew ironic humor, Jesus inserted several laugh lines- jokes – in the Sermon on the Mount? The self-righteous missed them all while the disciples were undoubtebly giggling!"

Asian Americans responded with disgust. "The image of the Red Army Guard soldier is offensive. It isn’t funny. And it does have racial implications," wrote Kathy Khang, a contributor to Sojourners and a regional multiethnic ministries director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

Sam Tsang, an associate professor at Hong Kong Baptist Theological seminary, called out Warren's insensitivity in a blog post at Engage the Pews. Disappointed by Warren's initial response to critics, Tsang reminded Warren of the Red Guard's savagery.
"Imagine, Mr. Warren, the Chinese in your congregation both here in the US and in Hong Kong.  Do you know what narrative is behind this picture you just posted?  Has any Red Guard ever raped your mother?  How about having your joints dislocated and quartered by horses?  Oh, this is a great one.  How about having your arms hung up in an awkward position until they’re dislocated while being beaten merciless with all sorts of torturous devices?  How about being made to stand near naked in freezing temperature outside?  If Mr. Warren is trying depict the Great Leap forward by Mao, does he know that more than 40 million Chinese died in that campaign?  I can go and on but I won’t belabor my point.  From the above images, Mr. Warren needs to think about just the Chinese descent members of his church.  Why did they immigrate to the US?  They did to get away from that image you just put up, Mr. Warren!  You just reminded all of them the nightmare they left behind and for what? For a joke on Monday? I know your your intent is not to make light of suffering but the effect of your post has done exactly that, because you have no idea."
Rick Warren came under fire again after an incident at a church-planting conference in early October. At the 2013 Exponential West Conference, hosted by Warren's Saddleback Church, a video on mentoring featured a scene parodying The Karate Kid, with a caucasian mimicking an Asian accent and practicing martial arts.

Exponential later apologized for the video, and its leaders hosted a meeting with Asian American leaders. "We never want to intentionally be offensive to anyone,” said Todd Wilson, director of Exponential. “The point and illustration we were trying to make could and should have been made differently without offending anyone. We know racial stereotypes can be a barrier to the Gospel. Our desire is for the only barrier between people and the Gospel to be the Gospel and not the things we say or do.”

The two incidents were not the first race-related disputes in the evangelical community, but they galvanized Asian American Christian leaders into issuing a collective statement. In an October 13th statement entitled "An Open Letter to the Evangelical Church", Asian American Christians United expressed disappointment in the current state of race relations in the American evangelical community.
"We, the undersigned, are distressed about the continuing divide that persists in the North American evangelical church in the area of racial harmony. Certainly, we acknowledge that over the past several decades, the church has grown both in its understanding and pursuit of racial reconciliation. However, such efforts have largely been reduced to black-white relations, or they have resulted in tokenism, in which organizations or events allocate an appropriate number of spots to include voices of color and mistakenly believe that is all that is required."
Lamenting that Asian American Christians continue to be "misunderstood, misrepresented, and misjudged", the signatories ask that the church make a concerted effort to acknowledge and address issues facing Asian American believers. The letter condemned ongoing racism in Christian publications and events, citing Rick Warren's recent "poor judgment".
"Over the past decade, Christian evangelicalism has been the source of repeated and offensive racial stereotyping, and Asian Americans have been inordinately affected. From VBS curriculum, to youth skits, to general Christian trade books, Asians have been caricatured, mocked, or otherwise treated as foreigners outside the typical accepted realm of white evangelicalism. And the situation has not improved over time. Within just the past month alone, a well-known Christian leader and a popular Christian conference ... have also exhibited examples of poor judgment and Asian stereotyping.

And it has to stop."
The letter criticizes non-Asian observers for dismissing racist incidents, reminding their fellow Christians that racial insensitivity undermines the fellowship and unity of the church.
"Whenever you marginalize, ostracize, or demean us through carelessness and ignorance in print, video, or any other medium, you are doing more than just ruffling the feathers of a small group of online activists. You are damaging the very cause of Christ, by maintaining and increasing fissures within the church. You are furthering the exact opposite of what it means to be the church, which is to reflect Christ and his love through the power of a reconciled body. And you are creating an environment that will not only disillusion current Asian American Christians within the church body, but also repel Asian Americans who do not know Christ and who do not see him represented in the actions of those who call themselves Christian."
Observers have called evangelical leaders to task for their messages about women and LGBTQ persons, prompting dialogue within the community. Recent events remind us that the evangelical community is racially diverse, and that it needs to address race issues as well. Rick Warren and the Exponential video serve as evidence that some evangelical leaders need to be mindful of the diversity in their ranks and serve their communities in a sensitive manner. Faith communities, and society as a whole, should be free from sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and racism.

Thoughts on Operation Christmas Child

Fall is here, and Protestant churches will be collecting shoe boxes full of children's items for Operation Christmas Child, sponsored by Samaritan's Purse. Several other bloggers have been posting their insights and reservations about the project, which I'd like to share here.

Samaritan's Purse, a Christian charity founded by Bob Pierce and later led by Franklin Graham, sponsors a gift-giving project called Operation Christmas Child. Every November, Samaritan's Purse collaborates with churches across America in collecting shoe boxes full of hygiene items, school supplies, and toys, which are shipped to disadvantaged children worldwide.

I first learned about Operation Christmas Child from friends years ago. The idea of giving boxes full of gifts to children in need was a powerful one, and I was soon at my local department store, buying soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, crayons, colored pencils, paper, and other sundries for shoe boxes. For two years I assembled shoe boxes, dropping them off at local churches designated as drop-off points.

And then I read the fine print.

According to their website, Operation Christmas Child distributes shoe boxes as part of its proselytization efforts. While Samaritan's Purse states that they share shoe boxes with children "unconditionally", shoe boxes distributions can be part of larger Gospel presentations. "Wherever appropriate, children are offered a copy of The Greatest Gift of All booklet in their own language by local churches and ministry partners," the Samaritan's Purse website says. "Soon after an OCC distribution event, the local churches and ministry partners may offer The Greatest Journey (TGJ) to the children participating in OCC in many of their communities," it adds.

This created a moral quandary for me. On one hand, I wanted to offer comfort, no matter how small, to children in difficult situations. I respected the global charity work of Samaritan's Purse and thought Operation Christmas Child was a novel initiative. On the other hand, I had moral qualms about proselytizing to children, especially children who might be emotionally vulnerable because of trauma from war or dire poverty. Children do not have the mental faculties to evaluate many of the messages they hear, including evangelism efforts, and may not fully understand the religion they are embracing. Choosing a religion is an adult task, not a childhood task, which is why Operation Christmas Child and the Greatest Journey made me so uncomfortable. Because of my discomfort, I stopped donating shoe boxes to the program, donating the money I would otherwise spend to secular charities instead.

Sheldon Cooper posted commentary about Operation Christmas Child at his blog, Ramblings of Sheldon. Sheldon is annoyed that an charitable organization would try to convert people while offering aid, instead of providing aid for its own sake.

"This really annoyed me, this is often the attitude that fundamentalists have when it comes to giving aid, whether in their home country, or elsewhere, that carrying out charitable aid is not done simply for the purpose of helping your fellow human beings live a better life, it’s done solely for the purpose of getting access to people to try to convert them. Carrying out charitable work solely to help people is seen as kind of pointless and ineffective.

... In the case of Operation Christmas Child, I find their attitude not only repulsive, but highly ironic since it’s lead by an organization (Samaritan’s Purse) that takes it’s name from the famous “Good Samartian” parable that Jesus told his followers.

In the story, the Samaritan man never expected anything from the man whose life he saved, and never tried to convert the man, who was Jewish, to his way of thinking, even though the two men would have had different opinions about religion. If the man in Jesus’ fictional story (which he used as an example for how people should act towards others) didn’t try to convert the man he helped, then why should an organization that takes it’s name from this story try to do exactly that? Why can’t helping others just be done for the purpose of helping others?"

(EDIT: At their request, I have made the source of the following comments anonymous and removed the original blog link.)

A friend of the blog shared insights from her missionary work. She highlighted both the strengths and weaknesses of programs such as Operation Christmas Child. On one hand, toys in shoe boxes might not be appropriate for children in all cultures, and charitable money might be better spent on the ground by humanitarian workers themselves. On the other hand, the shoe boxes were a great kindness to destitute children. She reminds readers that Christian organizations do deliver aid across a wide swath of the world, and that secular charities have a lot of catching up to do.

"OCC went to my partnering orphanage in [redacted] I don't know what was said because I wasn't there. But it's worth pointing out a few things.

1) This is the orphanage where the kids have nothing. Literally nothing. Every child has lice. They are malnourished. They kids don't even have an extra pair of clothes. Helping them out has been nearly impossible because the head of the orphanage (a local guy NOT westerner) is not wise with money. Bottom line: truly helping them will never be an option. A one time gift is about all that works, or spending time with them. So I honestly I thank OCC for what they did.

2) Obviously money goes further if we give money directly to the humanitarian workers to buy. Like waaaaaaaaaaaaay cheaper. Plus it's easier for us to buy what they need. For example, it's too hot in
[redacted] for socks. In the jungle, our kids don't know what to do with a stuffed animal because animals are what you eat. Kids have to carry babies on their backs by the time they are 6. The jungle kids have no interests in dolls or stuffed animals. But then this remote village where I lived in the mountains, we couldn't buy socks there, yet had to have them for boots because the mud was too thick for flip flips. Where I lived 70 miles from there up until a few months ago, I never used socks. As you can see, what the kids needs vary so much that people who fill up the boxes are stabbing in the dark. However, I've never met kids who don't cherish paper and school supplies. Pretty much people can't go wrong there.

One of my friends refused to receive boxes from the US. She said, "Give me the money, and we'll buy." But here's the problem. Westerners won't send money. A pastor can get a congregation to send 200 boxes. But if a pastor asks everyone to donate $30, only a handful will respond. That is EXACTLY why we have boxes. Not because the missionaries prefer boxes. Not because the locals prefer boxes. But because that's how we get people to give.

3) Obviously I'm not a big fan of evangelism. I will also say as one who lived in an area with a lot of missionaries, that missionaries evangelize 99% less than they tell their western churches. In fact, I could count the number of missionaries that I've seen evangelize on my hand, of course the IFB missionary being one of them. Yet everyone goes back to their home churches in the west and acts like they evangelize because western churches would stop giving without it.

4) The secularists are not even remotely trying to take the place of where the evangelicals have gone wrong. If they don't like OCC, what are they doing instead? Usually the secular people tell me about a local western charity they are doing instead. I've got nothing against local charities. Nothing at all. But they can't ask me as a western missionary to stop working with or even thanking evangelicals for donating boxes for foreign aid until they step into their shoes. There are some organizations out there in my area, the UN, several animal rescue places in SE Asia, and a few non-religious organizations. There are also plenty of Christians who have funded non-religious organizations. So of course, this isn't a sweeping problem. Yet it remains true that the evangelicals have their hands in more areas.

5) I say this as one who would gladly work with a secular organization if I found one. I get tired of working with Christians because I'm expected to go to church and this and that. But you know what? I haven't found one that suits me."
Readers, what have been your experiences with Operation Christmas Child? Do you donate shoe boxes? If so, what motivates you to do so? What are your thoughts on some of the issues that Sheldon and the friend of the blog have brought up?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Humble Stumble: My Response to the 'Act Like Men' Conference

Salon: Family Research Council: Christians should not want the government to care for the poor

AWID: Landmark Case Against Christian Fundamentalist Affirms LGBTI Rights as Internationally Recognised Human Rights

O-blog-dee-o-blog-da: Scott Lively in Russia to Bolster Anti-Gay Hate & Partner with Russian Orthodox Church

Huffington Post: Poster Boy for Anti-Gay Campaign Against Military Religious Freedom Really Could Be Court-Martialed for This

Think Progress: Debunking The ‘Complementarity’ Argument Against Marriage Equality

Love, Joy, Feminism: Kevin Swanson on “Apostate Homeschoolers”

News Tidbits

ABP Press: SBC President Paige Patterson Says Don't Talk to Press

Raw Story: Right-wing Christian Tony Perkins: Liberals are the real theocrats because they want to help the poor

Raw Story: Kansas Supreme Court indefinitely suspends license of former Attorney General who speciously prosecuted Planned Parenthood and George Tiller

Gay Star News: Anti-gay pundit slams US Postal Service for upcoming Harvey Milk stamp

My Fox Detroit: Single mom: Son born out of wedlock snubbed by Winans' church

Saturday, October 19, 2013

LGBTQ Equality Activists Tackle Homophobia Before the Values Voters Summit

On October 10th, a coalition of progressive voices spoke out against religious homophobia during a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. The NALT Christians Media Conference took place shortly before the start of the 2013 Values Voters Summit, an annual gathering of right-wing leaders and activists in Washington D.C. Leaders from the NALT Christians Project, Faith in America, People for the American Way, Integrity USA, and the faith community criticized Values Voters Summit organizers for their homophobia, calling for a more inclusive Christian vision.

First, Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out and co-founder of NALT Christians Project, condemned the Religious Right for its homophobia. Besen called for a new national vision that would cherish justice for the LGBTQ community.
"Tomorrow, social conservatives will gather at the Omni Shoreham Hotel for the Values Voters summit. We are here today to articulate a starkly different vision for America, one that embraces traditional values but rejects valueless traditions such as sexism, racism, and homophobia; a vision that is inclusive rather than exclusive; diverse, not divisive; one where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are loved and not loathed, accepted and not rejected, celebrated instead of shunned, and most important, are regarded as full and equal citizens under the law."
Besen argued that the Religious Right has done nothing to improve the political climate of the country, and that its homophobic messages at the Values Voters Summit could harm LGBTQ youth. He reserved special ire for the Family Research Council which hosts the annual Values Voters Summit, insisting that the FRC should be "relegated to the fringe of the fringe where they belong".
"In 1979, Rev. Jerry Falwell founded his Moral Majority. In the 80s and 1990s, Ralph Reed, who headed Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, led this movement. Today, the Family Research Council and those at the Values Voters Summit lead the Religious Right. I ask you, are politics in America more civil, more humane, dare I say, more Christlike, since the infusion of the Religious Right? The answer is clear. Washington and much of the country's angrier, more dysfunctional, and more fractured than ever. It's time for a change. We must create this change to protect LGBT youth from damaging ideas that will be spewed at the Values Voters Summit."
Catherine Shore, co-founder of the NALT Christians Project, condemned the Religious Right's fixation on resisting LGBT rights, calling out the Family Research Council by name.
"The Family Research Council claims to speak for Christian families, but LGBT persons are our families. They're our brothers and our sisters and our sons and our daughters. The anti-gay Christian preoccupation with fighting LGBT equality negatively impacts our youth, both gay and straight, encouraging straight youth to intolerance and bullying, creating profound struggles with self-esteem within our gay youth ... This relentless anti-gay Christian messaging is damaging to Christianity itself."
Brent Childers, executive director of Faith in America, warned the audience that the Religious Right has ties to thousands of churches across America, into which it is injecting its homophobic messages.
"I would like to address some churches in America today because someone previously mentioned the Family Research Council being designated as a certain hate group. We have to remember that the Family Research Council communicates with hundreds of thousands of churches every week, so as the American Family Association. Probably the National organization for Marriage. So there's a lot of churches out there that are getting the message ... and it's a message that is causing great harm to a lot of individuals, LGBT youth especially, but not just them. Their families."
Childers shared accounts from LGBT people who confided in him about homophobia and physical violence they'd endured from their churches. He likened the homophobic Religious Right to anti-gay protesters at a pride festival, likening their propaganda to a protester's megaphone and signs. He blamed Christian silence for the presence of homophobia in society.
"The anti-gay religious industry component of the Values Voters Summit invades the societal consciousness today with their signs, plastered all over the media and on the internet, and the megaphone that they carry because of untold millions of dollars that they raise. And it's because, in America today, it's okay to mistreat gay people. It's okay for churches to do that. It's okay to bring that emotional and psychological pain against a young person, and the reason it's okay is because we Christians have not stood up to those voices of the anti-gay religious industry. That's why it's continuing."
Childers slammed the Values Voters Summit for promoting messages that cultivate despair in LGBT youth people. He expressed remorse over his previous participation in Religious Right bigotry, thankful that he was later liberated from their intolerance.
"What message would make a 12 year-old individual think that choosing death is better than growing up? That's the message that the anti-gay religious industry of the Values Voters Summit--that is the message they are putting out there. You go to their website and you will see that they ask churches to partner with them. I happened to be one of those individuals who once did partner with them, and I can tell you today, after coming to understand the harm that I unfortunately caused for many years, I am so very thankful that I was allowed to be liberated from that bigotry, from that prejudice, from that hostility."
Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, jokingly called the Values Voters Summit "the high holidays of extremism". He spoke at length about the breathtaking homophobic rhetoric of past and present Values Voters Summit speakers, including the FRC's Tony Perkins, AFA's Bryan Fischer, Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver, Ben Carson, and Rick Scarborough. Additionally, he reminded listeners that prominent Republican lawmakers also took place in the summit.
"These are not fringe people. These are the main speakers ... The list goes on and on, but I think the most important point that I want to make here today is that among all these hate-mongers who spew this hate, they will be joined by the leading Republican elected officials, including Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz, all of whom have been discussed as potential presidents of the United States. They will all be there."

No one should give a pass to these right-wing activists or these politicians simply because they cloak their bigotry in terms of faith. Even more importantly, no one should accept their claims that they speak for all people of faith, because they don't, and I'm proud to be joined today by leaders who are standing up to this very dangerous lie."
Vivian Taylor, executive director of Integrity USA, apologized to the LGBTQ community for the harms that some Christians inflicted on them. Taylor urged anti-LGBTQ Christians to end their oppression of the LGBTQ community and enter into right relationship with others.
"I want to speak to my brothers and sisters in Christ who have worked against gay and trans people, who have a distaste or a disgust or even a hatred for gay and trans people, who have ever worked to limit the rights of gay and trans people, who have ever worked to make it harder for gay and trans people to exist in the public sphere, to have full and equal rights in all ways, who has ever said that gay and trans people are just not as good as straight people.

I want to ask you today to stop. I want you to know that there is redemption and there is love and there is forgiveness for you. There is right relationship with all of your brothers and sisters and siblings, and all you have to do is ask for it. All you have to do is come back. Just know that in Christ, there is forgiveness, but the first step to that forgiveness is to stop working to do harm to your gay and trans brothers and sisters and siblings."
Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy for God and Patience with God, accused the Religious Right of inspiring "politics of division and polarization within society". He called the tension between the Religious Right and its opponents a "collision between a fact-based existence and a mythologically-based existed, which brings a bitterness with it because that is the losing side." While discussing his new book, And God Said, Billy, Schaeffer warned that fundamentalist hatred pulls people away from the divine far more than nonbelief.
"There are things that take us far further away from God than no religious involvement at all, if it leads you towards the kind of hatred and exclusion that so much American religion has gone toward."
Rev. Gary Hall, the dean of the National Cathedral whose October 6th sermon on LGBTQ dignity drew national attention, reminded listeners about physical and psychological violence against LGBTQ persons.

"The violence that is done against LGBT people is real. The violence that is done against LGBT children and youth by the culture, especially the culture of the faith community, and more specifically, the culture of certain kinds of Christianity, that violence is real." 
Rev. Hall argued that churches must recognize that sexuality is good, and that humans are called to live out their sexuality freely, responsibly, and ethically with others. He urged the faith community to affirm healthy sexuality among LGBTQ persons and heterosexual persons alike.

"Homosexuality is not only not a sin, homosexuality is actually good  because it is a gift. One's sexual orientation is the way one was made, and it is the gift that one has been given to reach out to and relate with other people. Certainly, as a Christian, I believe that there are moral and relational constraints by which I exercise my sexuality. This is not an argument for profligacy or for promiscuity, but it is an argument for saying that the Christian church needs now to say not only that it's okay to be gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender, but it's good to be that way because that is the way that God has made you, and we need to say that now as clearly and compassionately and straightforwardly as we can because so many children and youth suffer in silence. So many children and youth are oppressed by their schools, by their families, and by their churches." 
Finally, Andrew Lang, executive director of the United Church of Christ Coalition for LGBT Concerns, spoke proudly of faith community efforts toward equality for LGBTQ persons.
"The capacity to love and to seek love in return is not a curse, but a gift from God, and we don't want any lesbian or gay, bisexual or or transgender youth to grow up in a church or a synagogue where they are taught to be afraid of their capacity to love and to seek love. This movement has been around for more than thirty years, and it's growing rapidly, and we're not content any longer merely to be a sanctuary for LGBT people, to be a safe place. We are that and will continue to be that, but we also want to be advocates. We want to stand with the LGBT community when their dignity and their rights as citizens are under attack." 
I applaud the NALT Christians Project and its allies for holding the Religious Right accountable for its homophobia and articulating a vision of acceptance. The values they celebrated at the press conference stand in stark contrast to the anti-gay bigotry of the Values Voters Summit. In time, I hope that more believers reject the intolerance and ignorance of the Religious Right in favor of a saner, more just worldview.

Commentary Tidbits

Ramblings of Sheldon: If That Is All We Give Them, Then We Have Given Them Nothing

Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely: Mark Driscoll, James MacDonald, Strange Fire and Leslie Nielsen

The Bilerico Project: Racists, Homophobes, & the GOP All Love Special Rights

Wonkette: Bigots Demand Their First Amendment Right to Ex-Gay You for Your Own Salvation and the First Amendment

Daylight Atheism: American Fundamentalists Applaud Russian Eliminationism

Los Angeles Times: God Loves Uganda looks at missionaries, anti-gay bill

News Tidbits

Religion News Service: John MacArthur vs. Mark Driscoll: Megachurch pastors clash over charismatic theology

Orange County Register: Saddleback pastor Rick Warren gets reaction from Asian Christians

Pew Research Center: Conservatives continue to oppose same-sex marriage but by smaller margins

Detroit Free Press: Detroit Baptist leader resigns after announcing she married a woman

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Thoughts on the Government Shutdown and Impending Default

At the time of this writing, the U.S. leaders have yet to resolve the government shutdown and address the debt ceiling, although a possible Senate deal may be in the works. If no resolution occurs, the government will default on October 17th. According to the Los Angeles Times, Fitch Ratings has placed the U.S. government's AAA credit rating on watch for possible downgrade, and the Treasury Department cannot guarantee sufficient funds to pay the government's bills after October 17th. The U.S.'s status as a dependable, creditworthy entity is in the balance, and if default occurs, it will have hard-hitting ramifications for the American and global economy. Meanwhile, the world looks on in dismay as one of the most powerful nations in the world finds itself unable to resolve a major problem.

Cheered on by right-wing voices against "Obamacare", conservative Republicans have tried to stonewall health care reform to the point of a standoff, which should have never gone this far in the first place. What does the GOP hope to gain from this debacle? Why were so many willing to bring the government to a standstill -- resulting in thousands of furloughed workers, paralyzed social services, and a looming economic crisis -- just to attack health care reform?

Several commentators blame far right forces within the GOP for the current mess. Deborah Caldwell, Amanda Marcotte, and Morgan Guyton have written commentaries on the Religious Right presence in the Republican party and its role in the shutdown. Here in the blogosphere, Infidel753 looks askance at the Republican alliance with the Tea Party and Christian Right.
After Obama took office, when the Tea Party first arose in all its paranoid race-baiting spelling-challenged glory, the Republican establishment was happy to exploit its rabid energy and ride the tiger to victory in the low-turnout 2010 election.  Even when primary-spawned nutbars cost the party Senate seats in Delaware and Nevada, criticism was muted.  The tiger was dangerous, but it was useful to the agenda the establishment has successfully pursued for decades -- tax cuts, deregulation, and attacks on the welfare state, which have exploded the deficit, held the bottom 99% in economic stagnation, and concentrated wealth more and more in the hands of a tiny, obscenely-wealthy minority (not such a "moderate" agenda, in fact).

Nor is this the first time the Republican establishment has joined forces with a movement of dangerous fanatics in order to profit from their zeal.  In the late 1970s the party embraced the rising new Christian Right, unfazed by its anti-gay, anti-female equality, anti-science, anti-modernity fervor, or by the theocratic totalitarian implications of its ambitions.  The fundies helped get Reagan elected, and the alliance has been tightening ever since.  It was only after forced ultrasounds and gay-baiting and slut-shaming and "legitimate rape" started losing elections that the establishment started gingerly trying to dissociate itself from the crazies.  

And now that the latest bunch of nuts has come within an inch of wrecking the global economy that the financial parasite class depends on almost as much as the rest of us do, the establishment wants to disown them and go back to being a sane party and accepted as such.
Similarly, the Hipcrime Vocab blames alliances among right-wing fringe factions for the current state of the GOP.
"The short version is this: Wealthy elites, alarmed at the flattening of incomes that had happened between World War 2 and the 1970's decided to wage an all-out campaign to undo those policies (unions, a social safety net, good public services, progressive taxation,  environmental regulations, etc). To do so, they allied with all of the most venal, extremist, paranoid, reactionary and authoritarian elements in American society that had always been lurking under the surface but had been marginalized and kept under control by the "adults": John Birchers, Evangelical fundamentalists, Christian Reconstructionists, Southern racists, white supremacists, Dixiecrats, Posse Comitatus, "Big Mule" politicians, corrupt politicos, "sovereign citizens," "Patriot" militia brigades, libertarian Robber Barons (Koch Brothers, et. al.), Wall Street swindlers and takeover artists, Randroids, social Darwinists, and so forth, and used these elements to take over one of America's two major political parties in the name of eliminating their taxes, curtailing regulations, and busting unions. Now, having united all of the worst elements in American society under one banner for the first time (for they seem to have little else in common), organizing it, shaping it, and giving it a powerful vehicle (the reactionary authoritarian movement that calls itself the Republican Party), the business class can no longer control it, and like The Sorcerer's Apprentice, can only watch helplessly as the forces it has unleashed for it's own short-term benefit, fueled by white rage and decreasing living standards, tear the country apart (the "Corn-pone Nazis")."
Citizens need to hold their governmental leaders accountable for this mess. The shutdown was unnecessary and completely unacceptable, and observers need to take a close look at who instigated it and why. I hope that a solution emerges by the time I go to bed tonight (but I'm not optimistic), and that this debacle leads to national soul-searching.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Metro Weekly: At Values Voter Summit, signs of a morphing Republican Party

Think Progress: 10 Disgusting Things Said About LGBT People At The Values Voter Summit

Wall of Separation: Tyranny: At The Values Voter Summit, A Heavy Word Is So Lightly Thrown

Slate: Values Voter Speakers Blame Civilization’s Decline on Gay People, the Pill

RH Reality Check: Why Did ‘Values Voters’ Attendees Laugh About Gays Being Killed by Nazis?

Equality Matters: Fox News Whitewashes American Family Association's Record Of Hate

Salon: The religious right is a fraud: Nothing Christian about Michele Bachmann’s values

The American Prospect: Blurred Lines at the Border

Right Wing Watch: World Congress of Families Plans New Push For Anti-Gay Policies in Ukraine

Huffington Post: The Far-Right Christian Movement Driving the Debt Default

News Tidbits

The Tennessean: Southern Baptist Convention challenges law that health plans cover contraception

NBC News: Wedding companies that shun gays feel impact, for better or worse

Greenville Online: South Carolina school science standards get initial OK amid conflict over religion

Religion News Service: InterVarsity Christian Fellowship sued after woman says she was fired for getting divorced

The Australian: Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies Calls Gay Marriage "Unholy Matrimony"

Gay Star News: Uganda threatens to ban charities supporting LGBT rights

Gay Star News: Bishop tells Nigeria’s president: Ban gay marriage before the world ends

Monday, October 14, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

The Root: Dr. Ben Carson: Obamacare Worst Thing Since Slavery

SPLC Hatewatch: Rep. Randy Forbes Cancels Appearance at Hate Group Event

Political Research Associates: At Values Voters Summit, Racist Revisionism the Order of the Day

Washington Post: The Values Voter Summit doesn’t own God

The Wartburg Watch: Malala Yousafzai Risking Her Life For the Education of Women; Some Christians Should Listen

Center for American Progress: Hard-Right Americans Fear the Future

Marketplace: Preachers of L.A. reignites debate over pastor wealth

The Nation: Meet the Evangelical Cabal Orchestrating the Shutdown

Spiritual Sounding Board: Has the Godly-Designed Family Image Become an Idol?  

NPR: God Loves Uganda: How Religion Fueled An Anti-Gay Movement

Butterflies & Wheels: Witch Hunting and Adeboye’s Evangelical Tour of the Pacific

The Botkins' "Ready for Real Life" Webinar: Part III (UPDATED)

Introduction: Botkins Launch Webinar on Making Kids "Ready for Real Life"
Part I: Ready for What?
Part II: Are Your Children Ready for Real Life?
Part III: Arts and Culture
Part IV: Science and Medicine
Part V: History and Law  
Part VI: Vocations
Part VII: Q&A Session

12/7/13 UPDATE: Recently, controversy erupted over Geoffrey Botkin's remarks about Christian rap at the Word of God conference. Some readers have expressed interest over Geoffrey Botkin's thoughts about other musical genres. I have updated this post with a quote from the 37:45 mark of this webinar, in which he talks at length about jazz and ragtime.

In part three of their "Ready for Real Life" webinar, the Botkin family discusses the role of the arts in homeschooling, contending that parents must train their children to appreciate Christian-friendly art and music instead of worldly arts. The webinar amused me in its disdain for Bratz dolls, jazz, ragtime, Picasso, the Frankfurt School, and Jimminy Cricket, but disturbed me with its advice on constraining children's tastes. The Botkins' approach to the arts struck me as a constricted and passionless, focused more on supposed Biblical principles than creativity, expression, and expansion.

Geoffrey Botkin began the webinar with a prayer asking for God's wisdom, reminding his audience that they were living in "such a dark and crooked and confused and perverted and twisted generation". As with previous webinars, Botkin depicted the modern world as a depraved place that Christians must resist.

A listener submitted a question regarding how much school work to do with children versus how much time to spend on skill-building for real life.Geoffrey Botkin replied that as young Christians, he and Victoria quickly realized that homeschooling parents cannot make a distinction between academic and real-world studies. If academic materials do not prepare children for the real world, parents should discard it, he said. The Biblical paradigm teaches that all of life is training for living in the world, he claimed.

Victoria Botkin chimed in, encouraging homeschool mothers to be flexible and take advantage of opportunities for their children to learn. Anything a mother does with children can be education, she claimed, as long as a parent is talking with them about it. She explained that real life offered her children learning opportunities that were sometimes better than the academic tasks she'd planned for the day. For example, one day she and the children found an injured lamb that fell off of a truck, and they spent the day butchering the lamb.

Geoffrey Botkin spoke at length about culture from a fundamentalist Christian perspective.He defined culture as the "secondary environment" superimposed on nature by "man's creative effort". Another definition of culture he offered was activity by man (the image-bearer of God) that fulfilled the mandate to exercise dominion over the earth. Dominion involved bringing order to the world as God designed it, Geoffrey Botkin explained, adding that human activity must reflect a relationship with the divine. "Man's essential being is expressive of his relationship to God, or it will be expressive of his relationship to rival gods like Satan," he said at the 11:38 mark.

The purpose of humanity is to teach all the nations and obey everything Jesus commanded, thereby bringing order to the world and glory to God. He quoted Isaiah 9:7 ("Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end"), citing it as the essence for teaching culture to children. At the 13:24 mark, he envisioned a goal in which God's government and peace were everywhere, with no "enemies" to get in the way.
"If we're doing our duty to obey Jesus Christ because we love him, and we're seeing the increase of his government, we're extending the reign of the king, then we are enculturating the world in a way that it need to be enculturated. Your children need to know how to do this. How do we increase his government and peace so that there's no end of it, no interruption to it, no enemies who get in the way?"
Christians are called to impose order through culture, even while living in a "disorderly generation", and even to the most "disrupted, degenerate places and corners on planet earth". Children must develop zeal for their father's business and for Jesus Christ, he insisted

All culture is religiously oriented, Geoffrey Botkin claimed. We can "dress" culture according to what God wishes, or conform to a world which "disintegrates" culture. Christians must "dress" culture with meaning, he stressed, rather than inject culture with meaninglessness or madness as many poets, musicians, and filmmakers do.

"Culture is being formed by people who are either on God's side or working against his will," he said at the 17:54 mark, dividing cultural contributors into godly and ungodly. Geoffrey Botkin described his son Isaac's visit to Egypt, where he found "an irreligious people worshipping a false religion, and they're tearing the order of the world down by what they do." Egypt's Islamic religion shaped Cairo's culture, he claimed, including its women's dress and its dirty streets (!).

Culture is not neutral, he emphasized, nor is culture the mere "flavor" of a place or time. Words such as "diversity" and "multiculturalism" frame culture as different flavors of living, ignoring the role of culture in exercising godly dominion. He contrasted the art of Johannes Vermeer with that of Picasso, a "truly a degenerate man, an impure man" who cursed his father, ran away, and lived in a brothel which "deranged his mind", Botkin insisted.

Victoria Botkin stressed the importance of talking to children about what they see and hear in the world. For example, Victoria sees a little girl feeling drawn to a Bratz doll in Wal-Mart as a "red flag". Something in a child's heart causes them to gravitate to the messages that a Bratz doll communicates, she explained, and parents must redirect their children's hearts. Victoria added that the Botkin household had a constant running commentary on the outside world, and if one of her children gravitated toward the "wrong" parts of culture, the parents had a duty to redirect their tastes.

Geoffrey Botkin argued that a battleground exists in every discipline, including science. In every discipline contains people who worship and obey God, alongside others who present new, unbiblical theories. At the 30:22 mark, he elaborated on such battlegrounds, lamenting that Christians lost the battles for control of political science and government. 
"One of the great dramas that our children have really loved talking about is when we as parents ... say here is a subject we're going to study, biology or astronomy or chemistry. What is the battleground in this science and in this discipline? What is the battleground in the queen of the sciences, theology? What is the battleground on political science? Every single one of these disciplines, there has always been a raging battle, which is called the antithesis ... It's a battleground. There are people who will worship and serve the creator, and try to organize things and study things and proclaim things that are correct and true, and there will be others who say, 'no, we have a new theory on biology, the origin of man. We have a new theory the way society should be run. Our political science is scientific secular statism, for example. It's a new authoritarian organizational method that we've come up with and we think it's better.' And so, one of the greatest battles of the 20th century was in this sphere of political science and government and governance, and Christians truly lost this culture battle in America, in the 20th century."
Geoffrey Botkin reserved special ire for Wilhelm Reich and the Frankfurt School, depicting them as ungodly forces that wanted to win battlegrounds in academia. "They worked very hard, these Frankfurt school revolutionaries masquerading as academic to insert what they called ... a complete social revolution to overthrow Christianity with decadence and cultural disintegration," he said at the 34:21 mark, caricaturing Frankfurt School thinkers as anti-Christian libertines. Botkin preached that an overthrow of Christianity would culminate in tyranny. ""It's such a simple formula. If you can eliminate the knowledge of God, then you have a perfect opportunity for tyrants of totally centralized regulatory government to rule," he insisted at the 33:38 mark.

His depiction of Wilhelm Reich was equally hysterical. He accused Reich of wanting to rid the world of Christianity and replace it with behavioral control via mass psychology. At the 35:20 mark, he claimed that Reich wanted to reduce society to permanent adolescence by promoting "polymorphous perversity".
"That's what your children have been born into, and this polymorphous perversity means you just do what you want when you want to. You justify it any way you want, any kind of misbehavior but especially sexual misbehavior. You justify and rationalize according to the tools this modern culture is giving to young people."
On the topic of music, Geoffrey Botkin caricatured early American music as devout, in contrast to modern music that he decried as chaotic and debauched. At the 35:51 mark, he pined for an earlier era characterized by songs of God and nation-building. 
"For three-hundred years, Americans wrote music about nation-building, bringing order to a culture, building culture the way it should be built, honoring the Lord's design, his architecture for it. The very first music sung in this country were Psalms ... We fought a war over the freedom that we wanted to have so that we could continue building the foundations around proper Biblical culture, and we sang about them. We built music around it. We had lyrics around the Christian foundations of culture, both black and white. For four-hundred years, Americans have expressed themselves through music, and until the 20th century, the lyrics and instrumentation was very orderly and very Biblical. And so, you need to teach your children that music is theology, both externalized and internalized, because music is one of the most theologically influential arts there are."
Music allegedly declined in the 20th century, Botkin claimed, when American culture succumbed to an "antithetical urge" that drew its music away from nation-building themes. At the 37:45 mark, Geoffrey Botkin spoke at length about the American music scene's descent into "uninhibited immaturity".
"The 20th century -- 300 years prior of good, solid, Christian, Biblical nation-building -- and now in the 20th century, American culture begins to succumb to an antithetical urge in musical creativity, something different from nation building. It was fueled by--in a New York neighborhood known as Tin Pan Alley, they produced just thousands and thousands of songs every month, and were putting them out there. So many of America's hard-working nation-builders now have children and grandchildren who had leisure time, some money to spend. They were buying the sheet music. They were playing it, and we started running into a period of great prosperity. There was freedom, there was wealth, there were advantages, there were cities, there were automobiles, there was mobility, Roaring Twenties prosperity, and these printing houses and record companies were using music to create a genuinely original, very different cultural structure. 

We experimented with the music of uninhibited immaturity. Jazz is an art form, but what if the music begins to dissipate into uninhibited sensuality, dragging the patrons along? And jazz started doing this, 1905, 1910, 1915, 1920. Jazz and ragtime developed as a sloppy expression of mockery and criticism and covert protest against the triumphalism of the European traditions. And it wasn't just driven by black musicians, as some historians have suggested. It was rich white kids who were really in defiance of authority by misbehavior. They were ragging the old days. They were ragging the Founding Fathers. They were in defiance of that authority and that triumphalism."

Ragtime and jazz both emerged from the African American community, I recalled. Is Botkin making a veiled race commentary here? Even though Geoffrey Botkin claimed that "rich white kids" delighted in these musical genres, I was still uncomfortable with his statements, given jazz and ragtime's origins.

Such music was part of a larger "dissipating culture", Geoffrey Botkin maintained, arguing that Hollywood too was contributing to a changing moral tone in America. For instance, he cited the song "When You Wish Upon a Star" in the 1940 animated film Pinocchio as an example of the "superstition theology" taking over America.

Really? Duke Ellington and Jimminy Cricket contributed to America's decline? I thought.

Victoria Botkin told listeners that she and her children listened to classical music at home, listing "Peter and the Wolf", "The Nutcracker", and "The 1812 Overture" as examples of pieces that her children enjoyed. Victoria trained her children to appreciate music that was good and "orderly", she explained, discouraging any taste in "bad and ugly, chaotic, discordant music".

This broke my heart. By restricting her children's exposure to different musical styles, Victoria Botkin denied them so many tastes of innovation and beauty. I couldn't imagine my youth without heavy metal, or summer vacation trips with my father without classic rock playing in the car. Not only were the Botkin children fed revisionist history and a rigid, fundamentalist worldview, but they weren't even allowed to explore their own musical preferences. How can someone blossom as an emotionally mature person -- fully alive, fully self-aware, fully engaged with the world around them -- if they aren't even allowed to explore their own tastes, to savor many kinds of paintings, photos, and songs?

Benjamin Botkin, son of Geoffrey and Victoria Botkin, argued that the world should come to Christians to learn about music, not the other way around. The assumption, it seemed, was that Christian values and aesthetics would create superior music. The idea that musical talent takes many forms, and that people of all belief systems can produce quality music, was not considered.

Geoffrey Botkin used the music discussion to expound on children's gifts, arguing that gifts can become obstacles to serving God. He argued that gifts are entwined with service to God, and that some gifts have to be put aside sometimes so as to best serve God. Botkin cited his daughter-in-law Audrey as an example, telling the audience that Audrey had been a gifted cellist, but understood that marrying Benjamin Botkin was far more important that playing cello.

How many other women in your movement have been forced to put aside gifts and dreams? How many were pressured into nigh-mandatory marriage and motherhood while their gifts atrophied? I thought.

At the 49:07 mark, Geoffrey Botkin warned against children using undesirable gifts, or allowing gifts to instill too much pride. His comments about cheerleading were very revealing.

"The two greatest spiritual battles that you and your children will face between the ages of 10 and 20 are related to parental authority and how your children respond to that, and the emerging gifts. And this is one of the widest gateways to sin in our generation, because of the gifts they think they have. And you know, little girl thinks she's totally, absolutely gifted in the ability to be a cheerleader. That may not be a gift that qualifies her to conform to the ugly conventions of our time. It may not be a God-given gift. It may just be a lustful desire on her part to be seen and noticed as a performer. And so the ability to mimic fools and show off foolishness is not a gift, it's a vice."
Botkin transitioned from music to art, complaining that modern art is supposedly atrocious. At the 51:21 mark, he divided art into Christian and anti-Christian categories, arguing that bad art instills vices.
"Your children are so completely surrounded by really bad art, and the ugly art in our generation, like Picasso, like the art they see on billboards, the art they see surrounding them all over the place, on taxi cabs, on the sides of buses, it inspires men to rebellion. Selfish art inspires men to childishness. Undisciplined art destroys standards of discipline. Meaninglessness, meaningless art robs men of hope and vision ... Art will be either Christian or anti-Christian."
The Botkin daughters discussed artistic standards at length, critiquing artworks. Anna Sophia and Geoffrey Botkin discussed different pictures, criticizing pictures that struck them as unrealistic or stylized. At the 1:10:43 mark, Anna Sophia Botkin scoffed at the idea of art as a vehicle for emotional expression or spontaneity, calling works that draw upon these forces "sloppy" and "mediocre". 
"The art world and the music world are both infected with the idea that the highest artistic expression is one that just comes from inside us, from our hearts, from our emotional impulses. They think it's better if it's more spontaneous, and less planned and worked out ... Christian artists have taken this to a worse extreme by thinking that those emotional impulses are from the Holy Spirit, which makes their art inspired, and above rules and above criticism. And I believe this is why there is so much poor art and music and film-making coming out of the Christian community, and I believe that we take the Lord's name in vain when we say that he or that his holy spirit is responsible for our sloppy, mediocre efforts."
Elizabeth Botkin elaborated on her childhood, during which their parents frowned on "chaotic" forms of creative expression. At the 1:13:18 mark, she discussed the "discipline" and "good attitude toward reality" that her parents instilled in the Botkin children. 
"Mom and Dad knew that whether we became artists or not, all of our lives, we'd be building a culture of art around us. We'd eventually be creating art anywhere we went, which is actually exactly what's happened ... They wanted to be really, really careful that they were guiding us toward more disciplined efforts and better taste in all of our creative endeavors, from the little people we made out of Play-Do, to the pictures we drew. And so, if we did something in a sloppy way or with a bad attitude, they wouldn't say 'Oh great job! You are so talented!' Or if we seemed attracted to things that were ugly ...  or things that were smarmy or chaotic or had a bad view of reality, they wouldn't say, 'Oh, you're just so unique, such a free spirit!' They would keep trying to disciple our attitude back toward God, give us a Good attitude toward God's created order, a good attitude toward reality, a good understanding of reality."
Isaac Botkin joined the conversation from offsite, discussing photography as an art form. He used the photography discussion to preach against hobbies, warning that any activity performed purely for self-expression or self-gratification is selfish. At the 1:17:24 mark, he had this to say.

"At the moment, photography is a very easy hobby to get into because cameras are so cheap. Pretty much every phone has a camera on it now. And so, photography is an easy way to very selfishly pursue self expression ... This is a good opportunity to talk about the concept of hobbies, and the idea that Christians really shouldn't have hobbies. And I'm not saying that they shouldn't do work for free, but the idea of having a hobby that you do purely for self-gratification or for self-expression is not something that a Christian should be doing. Christians should be learning skills and desiring to express their creator."
Isaac Botkin's comments floored me. Is the Christian Patriarchy Movement so resistant to individuality that purely personal hobbies are considered sinful? Enjoyment and self-expression are necessary parts of life, not sins, and denying oneself these healthy outlets is a recipe for repression. In typical fundamentalist fashion, the Botkins transformed natural human impulses into sins.

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Part III of the "Ready for Real Life" series contained many of the same themes as the previous two episodes, such as distrust of the outside world, binary thinking, and control over what information children absorb. However, Part III also contained several themes related to the arts.

  • Art as servitude to God. In the Botkins' eyes, artistic expression should always serve God. Art for self-expression, emotional outpouring, or pleasure was frowned upon, as was any aesthetic that deviated from Botkin-approved principles.

  • Antipathy toward anything deemed "ugly" or "chaotic. Art that deviated from the Botkins' aesthetics was rejected as "ugly", "chaotic", or "sloppy". First, such ad hominem attacks ignore the merits of art and music that the Botkins happen to dislike. In essence, the Botkins failed to recognize that art need not be realistic and perfect to express truths about the human condition. Second, real life contains things that are unpleasant and chaotic, and a refusal to countenance these things in art is a refusal to acknowledge all of reality.

  • Parents molding children's artistic preferences. The Botkins repeatedly told listeners about how Geoffrey and Victoria trained their children to like certain paintings, music, and film. The Botkin children were discouraged from showing interest in the "wrong" kinds of toys, music, and art. While there's nothing wrong with parents teaching their children about high culture, children also have the right to explore their world and develop their own preferences. Many art forms capture beauty and convey truths about life, and to deny people these art forms is to deny them new perspectives.

Stay tuned for part IV of the "Ready for Real Life" webinar series! In the meantime, I'll be reading Alex Grey's Transfigurations while listening to goth metal, out of spite.