Sunday, April 26, 2009

Homeschoolers, Hitler and Obama

We are a homeschool family.  We've had at least one of our kids in homeschool for the past decade.  We are not a die-hard homeschool family, but we do see and have experienced the benefits.  We've tried to overcome some of the obvious short-comings and argued with those who sometimes suggest that homeschooler are inherently socially inept, short-changed and culturally unawares.  These criticisms are normally overblown hyperbole from folks who have either been exposed to a few extremists, or are not plugged into the homeschool community and speak from prejudicial ignorance.  

So I've been a homeschool defender, until now.  I'm shaken.  

This week I was at a speech and debate regional tournament in which my wife and I had several experiences listening to a line of reasoning that says we as a nation, having fallen in love with a Hitlerish figure who has no substance but is a seductive soothsayer full of promises of a brighter future and willfully lulled an apathetic nation under his spell.  Just as the apathy of the Germans allowed them to blindly fall in love with and under the spell of a charismatic leader only to suffer the consequences, so too the United states is headed for a genocidal future. 

The assumption here, which is uniquely white, republican (and includes almost all self described evangelicals) is that the election of President Obama signals God's abandonment of our country into moral decline and debauchery.  Of course this was the same thing people felt about the election of JFK and Clinton and in the intervening years Reagan and the Bushes amounted to a reversing of courses.  

There is a clear association for many of my fellow-evangelicals of defacto equality between Christian virtue and Republican ethics. Yet literally 90% of our fellow members of the body of Christ around the world, and a similar % of our non-white brothers and sisters in the US, do NOT see it this way.  They spoke out almost universally against the war against Iraq, they developed deep distrust of our last President and welcomed with tears of Joy the present administration.

So the general view of US evangelicals rejects the outlook of the body of Christ around the world.  Now, within one of the most culturally isolated (yep, I said it) sub-cultures of US evangelicalism a new line of reasoning, a new line of rhetoric, a new line of hysteria, is developing as Obama is directly identified as a 21st century Hitler.  

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I was recently at the National Association of Black Evangelicals annual conference.  Let me just say for the record that these folks did not vote in lock-step for Obama, but these fellow believers would likely consider this race-baiting dialogue that I witnessed as a return to overt, explicit racism.  You can disagree with him but do it in substance on issues rather than in racially based fear-mongering.  To do that is to foment racist overtones to supplement the already ubiquitous "racialization".  

I have personally both admired and been dismayed by our new President.  My goal is is not to argue for his public virtue, but as I said a year ago, the current election cycle and administration is virtually guaranteed to create further, deeper divisions within the body of Christ. . . that for Christians should be a paramount concern.  

My question is:  Is this a homeschool (white-republican-evangelical) phenomena?  Or is this a larger Evangelical theme building upon the "socialist" labels being applied to the administration?


michelle said...

joel, thanks so much for continuing to post on these issues. i just struggle w/ politics in general and have a difficult time making sense of everything having grown up mostly in that traditional, white, conservative, republican, etc. demographic. i am so grateful for our time at sunshine as well as being here in the city to help me see differently! (thanks for being a part of that!) :) i also appreciated some of your dialogue w/ brian c. on FB awhile ago - i really struggled w/ some of the comments ppl were making on there, esp. during the election. and even now i think some christians forget that we are not supposed to trash talk our president, no matter what our views. anyway, i just wanted to thank you and paula for pressing on!

Eric Fager said...

I have two things to relate.

Some time before the 2004 election I walked into a chain Christian bookstore in the Twin Cities. The entire front row of shelves where covered in books about George W. Bush. It horrified me. How could a subculture, the evangelical subculture, be so sold out on W. To all who say, "Obama is a Maoist, Fascist, Socialist sign of God's abandonment;" I say welcome to my 2004 to 2005.

It is not just home schoolers taking this apocalyptic line. A gentleman at my church made a comment after Men's prayer donuts that flabbergasted me. He said Obama was going to lead the country into a race war. All I could do was exclaim; "WOW!" and walk out of the room. This gentleman is known for being very pro-republican and anti-democrat, but this statement was just too over the top.

There is much confusion and fear in the White Suburban Evangelical Church right now. Let's hope they can cling to God and the gift of his cross, and not to their fears.

JudyBright said...

Were these people saying that Obama would lead a campaign for the genocide of whites? I've heard Obama compared to Hitler but haven't heard any group of people say anything about some racially based genocide.

If I'm totally off base, I guess if you could explain how their comparison of Obama to Hitler is racially based?

hammerdad said...

Hi guys, thanks for the comments.

Judy, the comparison of Obama to Hitler is inherently racially charged. Listening to the discussion makes it clear that you should be very very afraid of him (Obama) and the genocidal comparison was linked to abortion.

Clinton and Bush both road incredibly high waves of popularity. . . yet no one compared them to Hitler. Labeling Obama this way is fearmongering largely around race. . . even if unspoken. Guilt by association with the worst figure of the past century not out of Hitler's race but Obamas.

I really think this is one of those slight of hand moves. Blackness is never mentioned but he can't be a Christian (in spite of his testimony) and he can't be one of us, and he can't be pro US. . . etc.... it is all this outspoken "otherness" and stuff to be afraid of . . . the undercurrent is race.

JudyBright said...

I am not trying to defend people comparing the President to Hitler. I think it's inflammatory and unproductive.

However, I do not think it's inherently racial and it's dangerous to assume that it is. Both Bush and Clinton were compared to Hitler, Bush much more so. He was compared to Hitler by and other liberal groups. A quick Google search shows this and multiple images painting Bush as Hitler.

I just think you're making some dangerous judgments here. I share many of the opinions that you listed in the last paragraph. I realize you disagree and that's fine, but my opinions are based on his voting record, who he has associated himself with, things he has said, and the policies he supports. He is the most liberal president in American history and conservatives obviously don't like that very much.

Why would all this stuff go unspoken if it was there? They were in a safe environment of their own people. I'd think if this was about race to most of them it would have been mentioned.

hammerdad said...

Judy, I responded earlier but just realized it never posted. . . weird. . any way:

most liberal president ever? on what topic? Fatherhood? "More" than JFK, FDR and Clinton? More than Carter on economics? I'm not so sure. . . that sounds like blanket statement that allows a) wholesale opposition and b) assertions without specific merit. I think as Christians we should avoid that.

Your point about comparing Bush and Clinton to Hitler is well taken. . . I had forgotten about that. But, that would only make me say "that's crazy too". It is a use of language to demonize the opposition and should have no place in christian debate. demonizing, fear-mongering and the like are not constructive nor honoring to Christ or the word of God.

Anonymous said...

You may have found kind of "racialization" in a homeschool debate forum, but you can also find it in suburban (pricey) Christian schools.

I would like to see some kind forum on "When Christian disagree" and "When the differences make a big difference and when they don't".

How should Christians disagree with each other? Also, lets get to the bottom of what the real impact of our differences are? I may be too vague, but I feel better.

Stuart Culver