Broaching "the subject" in your homeschool community


(Christy Hemphill) #1

Continuing the discussion from Introductions Thread (Come say hi.):

@Homeschool_Forum I was wondering if anyone had any stories they would be willing to share about conversations with co-op teachers or other homeschooling families where you “came clean” about not being young earth or about not being anti-evolution.

If it went well, how did you approach it? If not, what might you do differently in the future? What pushed you to speak up in the first place?


#2

I have found this topic to be really challenging in the homeschool community… Maybe even more so than unschooling, lol.

While I was trying to figure out what I actually believed, I was more quiet about it. Then, when I was firmly rooted in the EC position and what that means theologically and scientifically, I more actively engaged in the subject with other homeschoolers. What I have discovered is that initiating a full on conversation never really worked out the way I thought it would.

This subject is unbelievably inflammatory in our area. And I am one of the only people in our relatively large homeschooling people who hold to an EC position. There is a lot of Ham love here, and Apologia is the science of choice. Most people don’t even look at other curricula choices. For the record, these are not uneducated folk. Most of the dads are engineers or doctors, and most of the moms hold at least a bachelors and often degrees beyond.

When I was in my “shout it from the mountaintops” phase, I had a rude awakening at how many people that I’d thought were more along at least old earth lines, weren’t. Even good friends.

Which is why I changed my approach.

So, now I don’t hide what I believe, but I don’t shout it from the mountaintops either. If the subject comes up with most homeschoolers now, I may throw out a matter of fact, “We are more of the EC mindset, but we respect that Christians can disagree on the science and still love the same Jesus.” Said with a warm smile. If it came up after a comment on AiG, I usually add something like, “Yeah, I am not overly impressed with the misleading information that AiG puts out there, nor do I appreciate the lack of generosity of spirit they display for other Christians.” Then, I drop it and completely change the subject.

I have found that this gives the curious an opportunity to ask questions, and the dogmatic very little rope to push on. And I work really hard to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in my daily life. Most of these people know our family well and don’t know what to do with it because they see people who are living for the Lord AND not seeing a discrepancy between science and faith. They have been led to believe that it is the godless heathen that believe in evilution;-)

This approach also serves to put them on notice, so to speak, that if they want to talk about how awesome the Creation Museum is and what a hero Ken Ham is, that they probably won’t find a supportive audience in me.

God moves in the quiet as well as the storm, so hopefully, He can use this approach to His purposes. I especially try to plant seeds in the teens around me. Not to change their views, but to let them know that if they are confused or questioning, that there is an adult nearby to talk to. That is my prayer.


(Lisa) #3

I don’t like conflict, so I usually avoid bringing this up unless it comes up naturally or if it’s going to be presented in one of my kids classes. And full disclosure, I am still in the process of formulating my own views…but I can say that the evidence is leading me to something far away from YEC.

So…our co-op meets at a church that brought in Ken Ham and his singing sidekick Buddy Davis for a “Creation Conference”. Since it happened to fall on the day of our co-op, part of our morning classes were canceled to allow the option for families to attend his “Dinosaurs for Kids” presentation. I watched it on youtube and decided it was not appropriate for my kids :slight_smile: They are fully aware of the existence of YEC ideas (as homeschoolers, how could they not be?!?) but I don’t want them exposed to faulty scientific methodology, intellectual dishonesty and lack of charity towards other Christians. I appreciate that Ham wants young people to follow Christ and he thinks he’s giving them a coherent story that will prevent science from destroying their faith, but I think the reality is that his teachings do the opposite.

Anyway after the conference, I posted on facebook entreating people to consider other views and not just accept this one view of origins that they’ve heard and mentioned that it’s a topic I’ve been thinking through lately. I invited anyone interested to discuss it with me (in person…did not want to start a facebook battle). This did open the door to several conversations with people that either leaned OE or had gone to Ham’s presentation and felt really conflicted about it.

In thinking back on how my views have changed over the years on a few different issues, what has often opened the door is hearing other thoughtful Christians explain the questions they had and where it led them. Sometimes I have the same questions but hearing someone else wrestle with an issue helps me realize I need to think it through on a deeper level as well. While I don’t like the feeling of being the “different” one in the group, I think it can help others who may be silently questioning to know that they aren’t the only one and I’m someone “safe” to talk to.


#4

You handled this really well:-) And how terrific that you could be a support to others and also know that you are not completely alone in your journey.

I have also found that it is the personal interactions that have the most impact. Much of the influence we do have often exists because people know our hearts and want to engage in tough discussions with people they know/trust.


(Dana Gilmore) #5

Thank you so much for your thoughts on this forum. I have only just joined, but enjoyed your input so much!


#6

I was surprised when a conservative Christian co-worker said her 10 year old son (in a secular science and technology charter school) indicated that he was having serious doubts about his decision to become a Christian because of what he was learning about the age of the earth and evolution.

Surveys (Barna and Pew) say that 60-75% of those raised in an active Christian environment will leave active Christianity in the 15 to 29 age group. One of the major reasons is that the way they have been raised seems incompatible with what they are learning about the age of the earth and evolution. It seems to me that if we don’t stop this trend, Christianity will become increasingly irrelevant. Thinking about raising your children with an understanding of the evolutionary creation approach is a very wise step on your part. But how can you impact others, particularly homeschoolers and Christian parents (who don’t necessarily home school) with very conservative inclinations?

I have just completed a new website, www.scienceandfaith.org, which is designed be a fairly unbiased but truthful start to the subject, for people (including a target of parents looking for information for their children) who are searching for truth. I hope it can help you in homeschooling, but also that it could spread the word to at least some homeschoolers and conservative Christian parents. Even though the Christian co-worker I mentioned above was not normally inclined to be open to other approaches to evolution, she was very interested in the site, because of concern about her child’s Christianity. If any Christian parents are seriously concerned about their child’s faith, then they should be at least be open to a website that shows all Christian approaches so that their children don’t ever feel torn between science and faith. They can still emphasize what they want, but their children should know that the choices are not that limited. Children eventually will decide for themselves what they believe is true. This site encourages them to search for themselves. To be sure, it is designed more for the high school and above age. Perhaps some of you could come up with ideas for a more kid-friendly section.


(Darek Barefoot) #7

I welcome this forum and appreciate the comments so far. In twenty years’ time I can remember 2 Evangelical friends who are not a family members to whom I have revealed that I believe in an old earth and (by inference) evolution to some degree. In those exceptional cases, the individuals indicated some slight openness to a different perspective. However, in both cases when I carefully gave my opinion in deliberately broad terms, they moved on to other subjects and did not bring it up again.

My pastor knows my views but has made it clear it is the last thing he wants to discuss.

I sat down with the another local pastor who sees no conflict between evolution and Scripture, but from what I can see even he cannot be open about it with his own congregation.

I will not lie if asked directly what I believe about scientific accounts of origins, but if I were open about my beliefs in this area I would have no Evangelical friends outside of family. I mean NONE .“Speak truth each one with his neighbor,” but not the truth about science, it seems.

I can be honest and open with my wife, my kids, and my brother, who have the same belief I do. But it is a secret we have to keep in order to have any Christian fellowship. Other than maybe with the church a block from my house, which dispenses the spiritual wisdom of “Jesus, Buddha, and others”–but that is not where we are spiritually.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #8

That is a tragedy, Darek, that you feel you have to hide parts of yourself in order to have some fellowship. On reflection, we all probably hide parts of ourselves for similar reasons. How many of us leave our houses in their normal state if we are expecting company? In the same way, most of us feel considerable compulsion to ‘sanitize’ ourselves before we come to church. And while ‘sanitize’ in my context sounds like hiding things of which we are ashamed, it can (as in your case) also mean hiding beliefs we hold of which we think others would disapprove.

In both cases, though, we are denying others the privilege of knowing better who we are. Or are they failing to earn our trust by being outspoken about their own beliefs that don’t mesh with ours? Who is at fault here? And is there ever an appropriate time when issues should remain closeted away because they would just promote needless division? I suppose there might be some that could stay in that category, but you obviously feel that this is something important about who you are that should not remain hidden. Yet there is always risk that conflict might end fellowship, but if you feel you don’t really have full fellowship as it is, then perhaps gentle revelation of your beliefs is warranted?

I wish I had a clear answer for you. Should a community have to earn the right to be entrusted with the truth about who an individual is?


(Phil) #9

Derek,
I fully understand your feelings and situation, though perhaps in a bit more open church ( but not much.)

I wonder if some of the discomfort people have with the subject of science and specifically age of the earth and evolution, is that they themselves experience cognitive disonance when confronting the subject head on. Most of the time, they accept without objection the pictures from the Hubble of deep space, they look with awe at the Grand Canyon and marvel at its age , they vacation in Hawaii and see first hand the age and progressive formation of the islands and marvel at it. Yet, at church, they are told of a young earth and literal creation story, and if asked will say that is what they believe is true.

I do not think they are intentionally lying, but rather are placed in a situation where they are forced to give the correct answer to be members of the tribe. That is a very uncomfortable position.

Perhaps I am wrong, and am sure a few diehards look at those things and honestly believe they represent a young earth, but I think most are trapped in a hard place and just want to stick their fingers in their ears and say, “la, la, la ,la,la.”

Perhaps we trade the relief of letting go of that cognitive disonance for the discomfort of having to live on the outskirts of the tribal village. Perhaps having a online community is a very good thing for those of us that live there.


(Darek Barefoot) #10

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. In a metro area there is a greater choice of churches and a better chance of finding a fellowship that has at least a relatively high view of Scripture and yet tolerates an evolutionary view of creation. Although even at that I suspect it is not always easy to find one. I live in a small-medium sized city (~100k) in the western US without so many choices.

It’s one thing to hang on the perimeter of a church because of an issue like this, avoiding personal relationships and commitments, if you are a single man or even just a married couple. If you have kids that you want to be part of a Christian community, there is more at stake. In any case, Christianity is not an individual pursuit, nor one for the half-hearted and lukewarm.

Occasionally, believers I know voice something between mockery and contempt for those “experts” with their “billions of years,” simply assuming that since I am a Bible-believing Christian I will be in agreement. They own the Evangelical playing field everywhere I personally can go, and the only alternative is to have a very lonely house church consisting of one family.


(Darek Barefoot) #11

Conforming beliefs to be part of the tribe is a good way to put it, but there is a bit more to the psychology.

Do we want ordinary Evangelicals to be persuaded by (a) their own personal analysis of the evidence in various areas of molecular biology, genetics, paleontology, geology, etc. or (b) the consensus of the scientific experts?

Let’s say it is (a), personal analysis of the evidence. The evidence gets pretty technical pretty quickly for the average scientific layman, particularly in genetics and molecular biology. Is the average believer qualified to analyze it? How much would they have to educate themselves to have an opinion that would be technically informed in those areas? That’s asking a great deal, isn’t it? Does one need to become a scientist in order to have an idea of what Scripture is saying on an important historical question?

OK, let’s say it’s (b), just trust the experts, please. But which experts? The “scientists” at AiG and Institute for Creation Research? The Discovery Institute? Or the wider scientific community? The wider community, of course. But wait, the majority of the scientific community at large is made up of unbelievers who reject the core teachings of Scripture. If there is an important question bearing on faith, requiring expertise, and I see one group of experts who mostly dismiss Scripture and reject its teachings and another group who loudly proclaim their respect for Scripture and faith in Christ, why would it be surprising that I would trust those who embrace the faith over those who, as a majority, deny it?

Finally, there is the conception Evangelicals have of faith itself. To them, the strength of one’s faith is, in a sense, measured by how much purported evidence a person is willing to disregard in order to keep believing. The more persuasive the scientific evidence, and the deeper you pile it up, the greater their faith is proved by rejecting it. Just one more test their faith passed with flying colors!

I don’t pretend to see how this subtly mistaken psychology can easily be overcome. I’m just thankful that Biologos keeps plugging away. I don’t see what else is to be done.


(Phil) #12

Interesting observations, and perhaps your points support the idea that we cannot change the minds of those who reject science due to religious conviction by arguing the science, but rather by arguing the theology that leads them to their erroneous conclusions.
I have seen more than one testimony to that effect, where pastors change their minds on the basis of a deeper understanding of Bibical interpretation, rather than on the scientific data. After all, the data is overwhelming, and can stand on its own,


(Darek Barefoot) #13

I could not agree more that a spiritually-based approach is critical, and at the same time the science has to be brought in somehow. There is no magic formula, but occasionally progress gets made with one believer here, another there.

I have to admit that this issue has been the cause of considerable spiritual distress and discouragement to me, and I may have given expression to those emotions too forcefully.

However, this site and the new forum is a great blessing, and I am indebted to everyone at Biologos who keeps it going.


#14

I used to naively think that I would make an impression on my Young Earth Creationist, Ham-ite friends by asking them, “In the history of Christianity, how well has science-denial worked out for us? How often has telling the scientists that they are completely wrong worked out for us?”

Unfortunately, I soon discovered that Ken Ham had already taught them wrong definitions of “scientist”, usually dating from before modern science. So I was told, “Scientists used to think that blood was expendable so they would bleed people to death. But the Bible says that the life of the flesh is in the blood!”

Of course, that’s not true. Science never determined by the scientific method that blood is purely expendable and bleeding it away would heal people (with perhaps one kind of blood disorder involving excess-iron in the blood.) So I try to explain to people that blood-letting was ancient folk medicine and was reinforced by ancient Greek philosophy involving the Four Elements and the good and bad humours. George Washington was bled to death by his doctors (as anti-science Christians often tell me) but I tell them that that was because the American Colonies didn’t have any medical schools and so blood-letting persisted in the New World even after European Science had dismissed it as dangerous.

I find that I have to do that same point-by-point rebuttal to so many of Ken Ham’s silly “Scientists are so often so very wrong!” examples. They’ve spread like a cancer within many churches.


(Scott Jorgenson) #15

I think creationism remains pervasive in the conservative evangelical church in America for reasons that have far more to do with sociology than with the natural sciences, theology or even biblical hermeneutics. Creationism is a boundary marker for conservative evangelicals. As such it is analogous in that community to a whole range of other diverse boundary markers they have: biblical inerrancy, soteriological exclusivism, patriarchy, and of course conservative opinions on sexual ethics, homosexuality, gender, abortion, race, political party affiliation, climate change, and so on.

These boundary markers originate for various case-by-case reasons, some good and some bad; but once they reach a certain threshold of acceptance, cultural conformity takes over and becomes the dominant factor in their maintenance over generations. Dissecting and arguing with the underlying reasons that inspired these markers to rise in the first place - the hermeneutical, exegetical, theological, scientific, historical, philosophical, legal and/or moral reasoning that originally lent them credence - is almost beside-the-point. And violating any one of them by holding, let alone being vocal about, different opinions can lead to outcomes ranging from occasional awkward conversations to outright severing of relationship. (And lest you think I’m picking on conservative evangelicalism too much, I think most or all cultural groups behave this way.)

That said, the boundary-stones are not immovable and do rise and fall over time - even rapidly. We’re seeing that happen now with homosexuality. In broader American culture, increasing acceptance of homosexuality is now affecting, and will continue to inevitably affect, the perception of homosexuality within conservative evanglicalism as well. In a rapidly short period of only a couple of decades, the broader culture has moved on homosexuality from “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” acknowledgement and co-existence, to acceptance and tolerance, and now closing in on welcome, encouragement and affirmation. And the same thing will happen within the conservative church in the next couple of decades, until traditional negative views of homosexuality are seen as simple bigotry - just as has already happened in the conservative church following the broader culture with respect to race (miscegenation, etc). And so the “homosexuality boundary marker” will fall. Biblical arguments, scientific arguments, moral arguments and philosophical arguments about whether it should or not will matter little, once the new paradigm has entrenched itself and cultural momentum takes over.

The only thing that will make evolution acceptable within conservative evangelicalism, then, is for the same sort of thing to happen with creationism (though perhaps less dramatically, as unlike sexual orientation, evolution poses no “threat” in everday ordinary life). Factors ranging from “beachhead” pro-evolutionary pastors, churches, and para-church organizations (eg Biologos), to increasing millenial-generation acceptance of mainstream science, will chip-away at creationism until - once evolution-acceptance reaches that threshold point - social momentum will carry it the rest of the way.

Incidentally, there will of course be factionalization in all of this. As a new paradigm becomes established that is unacceptable to more-traditionalist holdouts, they will separate. Evangelicalism will fracture - it is already starting with progressive evangelicalism (aka “post” evangelicalism) having less in-common theologically with its conservative roots than it does with mainline Protestantism. It remains to be seen whether evolution/creationism is one of those wedge issues (to borrow the expression from Philip Johnson in not-at-all the way he intended it) that lead to division.

Anyway, that’s how I see it, and it’s one reason I find myself having little interest anymore in arguing the good reasons for accepting evolution with anyone.


(Darek Barefoot) #16

Of course, one way to frame the problem is as a question of whether Scripture has any relevance to determination of morals or historical facts. I have a church just a block from my house that treats the Bible as a kind of quaint artifact of continuous human striving towards human “flourishing,” which is inevitably defined according to the dominant opinions of society at large. For them the resurrection of Jesus is not an event in history but a symbol of the rebirth that people experience in a thousand ways if they but open their eyes to see. Written revelation is essentially on a par with Aesop’s Fables.

If that were the way I looked at the subject, I would not have a problem. I would not bother with any of it.


(Scott Jorgenson) #17

They may indeed see scripture and the resurrection that way - certainly some churches and denominations do. But I wonder - because that kind of characterization is how some conservatives often describe churches less conservative than themselves. Is your characterization of them fair and accurate or is it colored by those in your own circle? No offense. Best to you!


(Darek Barefoot) #18

It’s a fair question, but no, I’m not attacking a straw man in this case. I listened online to the Easter sermon given by the pastor of the church I was talking about. I was genuinely surprised by the teaching. No one in the fellowship I attend has ever even mentioned that church. I do have two close friends who attended the church in question for a couple of months several years ago, and they were disappointed by the accepting attitude the church showed toward cohabitation, for example, and the low view of Scripture generally expressed.

On the church’s website “links” section, they include the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.

The subject of same sex attraction is a deep and difficult one, and I do not treat it dismissively. However, I do not believe that the popular LGBTQ agenda leaves any room for a recognizable biblical sexual ethic.

And this does get to the heart of some tough issues. Many believers think that evolutionary creation amounts to putting biblical lipstick on unsaved, unredeemed worldly natural philosophy. I don’t believe that’s true, but it’s not hard to spin it that way. When Christians appear to get their ethics and values from the world, then dress those values up with a biblical frill here and there, it feeds that misperception about evolution and unreflective literalism.


(Whitney Wallace) #19

This issue has recently come to the forefront in our homeschool co-op. We are a fairly diverse group, especially considering our location in a rural county in the mountains of NC. We even had a science class taught by a local park ranger that included evolution. Those parents that did not agree with that just didn’t have their children take that class. Some of my best friends in the group are YEC. They are aware of my views on the subject and I am of theirs and this is just one of those topics we’ve agreed to disagree on and not really discuss with one another. This year, however, the church where we meet for co-op classes instituted a policy that stated that not only the did the group as a whole have to sign a user agreement with the church, but each teacher who taught a class there through the group had to sign off on the same guidelines. One of the points on the agreement stated “WIll not teach any topic that goes against biblical principles”. Long story short, this has now created a “Christians vs non-Christians” sense of division within the group (that really did not exist before) and has caused our science class to be moved to another location (our local library). Unfortunately, this move means that some kids won’t be able to take the science class because of transportation issues. We are figuring out ways to make sure that every child that wants to take the class can and working out ride sharing and some of us that do find ourselves occupying a middle ground on this issue are trying to keep conversations around this going and lines of communication open. It’s sad though that this has created an issue/division where there honestly wasn’t one before. I am lucky that the church our family attends is very open to views other than YEC so we don’t have to “hide” our views there at all. I’m also lucky in that my soon to be 14 year old is pretty mature for his age and is able to comfortably operate in groups of other homeschoolers who fall all along the spectrum of beliefs in this area. He doesn’t hide what he believes but also knows that sometimes it’s best not to “stir the pot”. We do have great discussions at home around these issues!


(Phil) #20

[quote=“wsquared77, post:19, topic:4826”]
the agreement stated “WIll not teach any topic that goes against biblical principles”
[/quote

Disagreeing with evolution is one thing, but that statement is difficult to take, as it equates any way of interpreting the Bible other than theirs as being against Biblical principles if they are using it as an occult way of saying to adhere to YEC teachings. Sometimes you just gotta love them anyway, but it would be interesting to explore and have them define what they really mean by that.
You could easily provide information that would support evolution as not being against biblical teaching, but …