Ken Ham is right!

I bet you never thought you’d see me writing that, did you? Ham has always insisted on a rigidly applied set of doctrines that may not be questioned — any doubt about any one Christian claim will lead to the whole house of cards collapsing. The Washington Post demonstrates the validity of that argument with this article, The Revolt of Christian Homeschoolers.

It’s about a couple in Virginia, Christina and Aaron Beall, who were brought up in an ultraconservative faith, with all the usual restrictions: women will submit to the man, public schools were evil, contraception was bad (she got pregnant within weeks of getting married.)

Aaron had grown up believing Christians could out-populate atheists and Muslims by scorning birth control; Christina had been taught the Bible-based arithmetic necessary to calculate the age of a universe less than 8,000 years old. Their education was one in which dinosaurs were herded aboard Noah’s ark — and in which the penalty for doubt or disobedience was swift. Sometimes they still flinched when they remembered their parents’ literal adherence to the words of the Old Testament: “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.”

What broke their faith was that last bit: the rod. They could not beat their children. And if whupping their kids with a stick was wrong, what else could be wrong about their faith? So they enrolled their daughter in <gasp> public school. She thrived and was happy. And they discovered that their religion had lied to them about schooling.

“People who think the public schools are indoctrinating don’t know what indoctrination is. We were indoctrinated,” Aaron says. “It’s not even comparable.”

They kept on learning.

Her loss of faith in the biblical literalism and patriarchal values of her childhood was coming in the way the movement’s adherents had always warned it would: through exposure to people with different experiences and points of view.

Those people just happened to be her daughter and her husband.

The article says they didn’t question Christianity, so they didn’t become godless atheists or anything horrible like that, but they did become significantly more open-minded and are now reading more than the Bible and awful books like Bill Gothard’s or Michael and Debi Pearl’s. Now look at what they’re reading.

Stacks of books on the living room’s end tables testified to their belated efforts at self-education: popular works by the biologists Neil Shubin and Robert Sapolsky, as well as “Raising Critical Thinkers” by Julie Bogart, a leading developer of home education materials who has criticized conservative Christian home-schooling groups.

Poor Ken Ham. He was right that any lapse in dedication to his interpretation of Christianity would lead to apostasy, but he’s probably sitting in a dark corner, hissing and gnashing his teeth and flicking his forked tail if he hears about the Bealls. One family has escaped his grasp!


  1. raven says

    …or Michael and Debi Pearl’s.

    This is the child torture book of the Pearl’s which tells you how to beat your children without getting caught by the cops or CPS.

    To Train Up a Child: Child Training for the 21st Century

    To Train Up a Child, written by Michael and Debi Pearl has been linked to Abuse and Murder cases. The Authors claim to be teaching an Amish tradition in child …

    I can’t believe Amazon is selling that book.

    Several children have been beaten to death by fundie xians who are following that book. This is a form of human child sacrifice to the grotesque gods who only live in their Dark minds.


    Its teachings are linked to the deaths of Sean Paddock, Lydia Schatz, and Hana Grace-Rose Williams. In all three cases, homeschooling parents acted on the Pearls’ teachings.
    To Train Up a Child – Wikipedia

    Needless to say, countless more children have been literally and figuratively scarred for life by continuous violence from their parents.

  2. says

    Don’t worry. There is still a major American political party committed to ensuring those biblical principles are brought forth to public schools or those public schools will die trying.

  3. birgerjohansson says

    Amazon selling this?
    I will borrow a word from the fungelicals: BOYCOTT.

  4. mordred says

    @2: I still remember telling my mother about this book and the stuff I read about the Fundies and the child abuse they call education. It’s been a long time since I saw her that angry! Fifty years as a kindergarten teacher and she knows what child abuse means – that someone could actually write and sell a book with detailed instructions had her wish for the author’s slow and painful death.

  5. says

    One of my earliest memories is my mom crying because she could not hit me hard enough for my dad. I remember some daycare employees getting upset at the hand shaped bruises and my mom gossiping with others about a child welfare call. I think the long term, maybe it’s PTSD, settled in by then. And got reinforced by the school bullying.
    Now I can barely stand groups. And my parents won’t even talk politics. All that and the cowardice pisses me off the most.

  6. René says

    escaped seems to me to be the keyword here. I wish Christina and Aaron (very Christian names, BTW) to keep freeing themselves from patriarchy and religious indoctrination. And indeed Shubin and Sapolsky could well be a lot of help there.

  7. robro says

    I saw this story yesterday. I’m glad these folks made this choice for their child. I don’t remember a spanking of any sort by my parents. My mom used to tell me that my dad spanked me once when I was a baby, but I don’t remember that, of course. They were Christian and Protestant, but not evangelical…my dad suspected that preachers were hucksters, you know, “Elmer Gantry.”

    I can’t get my head around anyone trying to live their life by the Bible. For one thing, the guidances are contradictory, probably because they are a composite of folk tales and moralistic narratives finally written down (and probably edited) for the political purposes in the day. I’m particularly perplexed at the evangelicals buying the paternalistic rules of the Old Testament when their New Testament explicitly throws out a lot of that. But then humans are an enigma.

  8. shelldigger says

    I have to remember this, every time I am disgusted with the redneck, babble loving, sister diddling, orange idiot loving, Billy Bobs, I am surrounded by in Tennessee.

    There is some hope out there.

  9. says

    I think it’s also a means of creating of group of people with manipulable rage and resentment to direct, in addition to the “do what I say or I can Hit you” (fascist messages often go to that)
    Since you aren’t old enough to connect the pain and rage to anything solid in terms of why you were hurt (if they tried to explain) you have these feelings others can try to tie to the world’s problems and direct.

    I’m still thinking about it. There’s lots of variables. How the tourette syndrome fits in. What would that have looked like without the trauma? I think that is intensity and not necessarily intense and negative, but the culture decided.

  10. ionprof says

    Dinosaurs? 20-some years ago my youngest was begging to go on a trip with some middle-school classmates so I was sent to the house of the organizers to drop off a check. There was a stream of nice-looking tweenagers (this is an affluent neighborhood) going onto the house for some sort of meeting and the mother who was organizing the trip invited me in. “We’re going to have a talk about creation and evolution!” “Which side are we on?” I asked. “Oh, creation, of course!”. I had a commitment, but these were people we were entrusting with our son, so I returned later and got there in time for the question period. The speaker turned out to be a dentist from Texas (so obviously an expert, right?). This was a bunch of bright kids, and one asked “Were there dinosaurs on Noah’s ark?”. “Oh yes!” A short silence while the group digested this, then a brave young girl asked “So what happened to them?”. “Well,” the speaker said, “I believe…” (this seemed to be his mantra) “…I believe that when the ark finally touched ground Noah and his family were really hungry. So I believe that Noah ate the dinosaurs.” !!

  11. jenorafeuer says

    While I haven’t seen Fred Clarck at Slacktivist talk about this specific case yet, this is the sort of thing he talks about a lot, and why he describes a lot of this sort of literalism as theological child abuse, even from a Christian perspective. If you teach children blatant falsehoods that can’t survive contact with reality, and insist that all the beliefs are all a package that have to be taken or left together, then you are creating an actively fragile and brittle faith. You’re creating the situation in which either people get disillusioned and leave, potentially all the way to atheism (though not necessarily abandoning other prejudices that they don’t consciously associate with the church) or they create their own Morton’s Demon and become actively complicit in their own entrapment.

    Ham and his like are obviously hoping for the latter, but they’re well into ‘the harder you squeeze, the more they will slip through your fingers’ territory. Part of the problem is the old joke about the difference between a cult and a religion: in a cult there’s at least one person at the top who knows it’s a scam, while in a religion that person is dead. The first generation, taught directly by the person who knew it was a scam (in this case, the Beall’s parents) can be kept track of and steered away from dangerous lines of thought early. But because they’ve been steered away from those lines of thought, they can’t necessarily recognize when their children have skipped the step they were stopped at and are headed straight down towards the realization of ‘but these are people too, not the Satanic monsters we were taught about’.

  12. jenorafeuer says

    I think homeschooling in and of itself isn’t necessarily child abuse, and there are a number of cases where it’s probably the best thing to do, even. (There’s a suburban school district up here which has decades worth of complaints of actively racist behaviour that obviously goes deep into the school board based on the amount of non-response to all those complaints.) But unfortunately the Quiverful ‘Christian’ theocratic types have essentially taken over most of the big support groups and organizations for homeschooling, so trying to find good lesson plans for homeschooling that isn’t soaking in godisms is far more difficult than it should be.

  13. robro says

    I think homeschooling in and of itself isn’t necessarily child abuse, and there are a number of cases where it’s probably the best thing to do, even.

    Indeed, we almost homeschooled our son and did for a short time when we took him out of the charter school he was in. But he needed specialized help, which of us had, and most importantly, he wanted to be with other kids. So, we found a private special-ed school for him which was great the first year. Then, the director left and one family that was quite conservative, religious, and a major donor pushed for their pick for the new director. He was a jerk. He put in to runoff the gay couple that taught at the school, so they quit and started their own program with about 8 of the kids. That’s where our son finished middle-school.

    I had a work colleague who lived in Santa Cruz and homeschooled his kids. Santa Cruz public schools had a homeschooling program with training for parents, programs that the kids could participate in, and other services. Sounded like a good approach.

    Something like that might have helped our son because the in-school environment could be difficult for him to deal with. It was stressful to him and he didn’t have good coping skills. In a similar vein, we’ve been hosting guide dogs that are in training but are not coping well with being kenneled after spending their first year+ in a family home. Stress is bad for learning.

  14. birgerjohansson says

    Did you say “rigid doctrines”?

    Connecticut voted to exonerate 12 people that were executed for witchcraft 370 years ago.
    One state senator voted against it.
    (It is 32 minutes in)

  15. nomdeplume says

    So many horrible stories in the religious jungle. Good to have a slightly happy one. But why oh why are they still christians?

  16. magistramarla says

    “I think homeschooling in and of itself isn’t necessarily child abuse, and there are a number of cases where it’s probably the best thing to do, even.”
    This immediately brought to mind my two little granddaughters, ages 10 and 7.
    My daughter and the two girls have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. It’s basically allergies on steroids.
    My daughter nearly died before getting the correct diagnosis and treatment.
    The family is pescaterian because the youngest reacts violently to eating meat. There are numerous triggers that can send them into severe and anaphylactic reactions requiring epi-pens and/or a trip to the ER.
    Since my daughter is a high-earning executive, her husband (a child psychologist) chose to take on feeding and homeschooling his daughters. He dutifully takes them in to the school district for testing. The 10 year old is reading on a 12th grade level and is doing college level math and science. The 7 year old is almost through the district’s 4th grade curriculum, while reading and doing math and science on a 7th or 8th grade level. Every year, the school district tells my son-in-law that he’s doing a great job and that the school district does not want to tackle the liability of keeping the girls healthy in school or the challenge of attempting to educate them.
    These are progressive and intelligent parents who are homeschooling for their children’s health and doing an excellent job of teaching them critical thinking and progressive values. Sometimes homeschooling is the best option.

  17. jo1storm says

    The names of Debi and Michael Pearl bring back nearly 10 year old memories. A shout out to Love, Joy, Feminism for their time and analysis of the couple and their writing. Turns out, that rabbit hole is much deeper and worse than anyone thought.

    And also about that specific book:

    I was saddened when Patheos exiled all non-religious bloggers.

  18. lanir says

    I would think the biggest potential problem with homeschooling is if the parents are idiots with bad ideas the kids lack a vital resource they could use to break free. Like the parents in the featured story. There’s also the potential for being less social or not knowing enough to teach your kids all the right things. If you don’t fall into any of those traps your kids probably aren’t any worse off than they’d be in a school.

    The “man bites dog” aspect that makes this story newsworthy in my opinion is that the parents listened to their kid and grew more open minded. Mostly when I hear about conservative takes on parenting, listening to their children and being open minded are the opposite of what’s happening.

  19. jo1storm says

    @John Morales,

    Yes, she did. Too bad Patheos turned out to be less tolerant of non-believers after the change of ownership.

  20. Silentbob says

    @ ^

    Dude they literally linked to Patheos. Are you drunk? Senile? Maybe go have a little lie down.

  21. John Morales says

    I was of course addressing resident troll Morales.

    And I was, of course, noting she used to blog here, before Patheos.

  22. John Morales says

    [maybe not an exodus, but an efflux of former bloggers on this network who left for $reasons$.
    Bunch of them; some, more ideological (Orbit), others, more for remuneration (Patheos).
    Libby went to Patheos]

  23. jo1storm says

    @28 and that’s relevant how exactly?
    Anyway, Aaron and Christina gives us all much needed hope for the future. Good for them.

  24. John Morales says

    jo1storm, since you asked so directly:

    @28 and that’s relevant how exactly?

    Its relevance is contextual; you brought up her post from Patheos, and to someone who did not have the background she might have seemed to be a Patheos blogger; which she was, but only after leaving this network for the $$$.

    That’s its relevance.

    Anyway, Aaron and Christina gives us all much needed hope for the future.

    “Too bad Patheos turned out to be less tolerant of non-believers after the change of ownership.”

  25. brightmoon says

    @21 that is probably the only reason why homeschooling isn’t completely vilified by me. Most homeschoolers I know can barely read and most of them are fundies of one religion or another. L

    I didn’t homeschool my kids but because of health issues they both missed a lot of school . So I had an extensive library ( 9 full sized bookcases) in the house because I wanted them educated . Since I’m the type to read textbooks for fun I had a lot of books that were above their grade levels . I also would get the old textbooks from the library and the school that they would discard . Usually there was nothing wrong with them.