Then we have Michael Farris of Home School Legal Defense Association strongly distancing himself from Phillips in his latest magazine column titled “A Line in the Sand,” really kicking the guy when he’s down and accusing Phillips of damaging families with his leadership.
Then, Doug Phillips' wife Beall issued a scathing response that sounded verrrrrrrry much like something her husband would have written. Go girl for standing by your man, but I think Doug Phillips wrote it.
Boys, boys. Let’s all regroup a bit, shall we?
All of this nastiness has confirmed something I’ve been thinking for a while now, which is that homeschool families are – gasp – absolutely no different from anyone else. Homeschool fathers are – shock – no different than any other flesh and blood dude.
I’ve heard Doug Phillips speak at conferences, I’ve read his books, listened to his speaking CDs and bought wholesome dolls for my daughters from his company. That fellow has some very cool things to say, and he has taught my children and me a lot about history from a Biblical worldview. Because of Doug Phillips, my book shelves are full of treasured resources that could not be found in any Christian book store. What’s disappointing is when we are shown in a disturbing way that someone we admire is simply human.
I’ve also heard Michael Farris speak at conferences, I’ve read his books, listened to a lot that he has to say and supported his organization for years. Mr. Farris is widely accepted as not just legally defending homeschooling, but as being the voice of homeschooling in our nation and even in the world. He's smart, articulate, classy and working hard in Washington, D.C. to keep the rest of us free to homeschool. He is brilliant in defending the Constitution, and my children are taking his course. He and his family are admirable people.
But I don’t like that Mr. Farris is now publicly proclaiming that one guy, Doug Phillips, is misleading and even “damaging” families, when Mr. Farris himself is capable of doing the very same thing. I’ll give you two examples. One, Mr. Farris is very passionate about homeschooling and paints it in a rather Biblically sound light. Two, his books make birth control seem very unbiblical. These two issues are simply the Farrises’ very sincere opinions but that’s all they are. Opinions. Now what if a wife were to follow along behind these two theories of the Farrises’ against her husband’s wishes?
Wife: Homeschooling good, birth control bad.
Husband: Public school good, six children bad.
We’ve got problems. We don’t have affairs with nannies but we’ve possibly got divorces happening. Thankfully, we are smart enough to think for ourselves. I appreciate Mr. Farris's very important warning not to follow after any teaching that isn't purely God's. Ezekiel chapter 13 poignantly echoes his warning not to be led astray by another person's opinions. The homeschool community needs to hear that. But Mr. Farris would have us believe that, because of his arguably "out there" opinions, Mr. Phillips is somehow more susceptible to sin and scandal than the next guy, as if abusing nannies is part of Mr. Phillips' schtick. Mr. Farris implies that we all should have seen it coming.
We have in Galatians 5:19 a list of no-nos that includes adultery. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.”
Perhaps Mr. Farris’s own sin nature would not likely ever come to adultery, but does that make him any less sinful than the next guy? Has he ever envied anyone? Has he ever idolized anything in his life? Has he ever felt hatred in his heart, or tried to emulate someone other than our Lord?
It is distressing to learn that great men have erred. And then are bickering afterward. All of this is very confusing and disheartening to your standard homeschool family and it really brings us down. Perhaps the solution is that homeschool leadership guys need to stick together and stop trying to keep up the exhausting charade that says “real" Christian homeschoolers are somehow better than everyone else. If our liberty hinges upon our integrity, I don't know that we can deliver.
Jesus, as we well know, invited whoever was without sin to throw the first stone. He was writing in the sand when He said that. The only line that could have been drawn in the sand then, or now, would be a line between Jesus Christ -- and everyone else. I understand Michael Farris's intent is not to directly question anyone else's sin, only his theories. But of course, questioning theories is itself a theory. Who gets to decide which theories are from God and which are not? In that sense, we're all on the same side of that line in the sand. If a new goal of HSLDA is to wipe clean the image of homeschooling, then no one will be left.