Quite a few home educating parents in this country are Christians who have chosen to educate their own children for religious reasons. They are probably a minority. In the USA though, this may well be the main strand of home education. The big homeschooling groups such as the HSLDA are firmly Christian in character. Parents who home educate because they are Christians often tend to look to the Bible for advice on how they should raise their children. I have no problem at all with this; it is pretty much what I did myself. There is a bit of a difficulty though, one I touched upon when responding to a comment yesterday from a guy in the States.
To begin with, I think it fair to say that many Christian parents, particularly in the USA, believe that physical punishment of children is a good form of discipline. The Bible backs them up in this. Proverbs 13:24 tells us ' He that spareth his rod hateth his son. There are many similar passages. Christian parents are also often opposed to sex education lessons in schools which teach that homosexuality and sex before marriage are OK. Again, there are a number of places in the Bible where such practices are condemned. As it happens, I also disapprove of homosexuality and premarital sex and so I can go along with these passages of scripture quite easily. Now for the difficulty.
There are two ways of looking at the Bible. One can view it as a collection of sayings, myths, historical anecdotes and genuine prophecy which must be sifted through carefully in order to find out what the Lord was really driving at. Or one can regard it as inerrant, the inspired word of God which must be taken pretty literally. Both options are fraught with pitfalls if we are going to use the Bible as our guide for day to day life, whether about home education or anything else.
I am obliged to my daughter here for some of what follows. She is a God-fearing young woman with strong views backed by a formidable command of scripture. Let us imagine first that we believe the Bible to be a collection of writings produced by fallible men. In this case, we cannot be sure that even a requirement to love our neighbour is the authentic word of God. We could hardly use writings from the bronze Age to justify either our condemnation of homosexuality, the practice of corporal punishment or our decision to home educate. Times change and much of what is contained in the Bible must be outdated by now.
Suppose though that we assume that the Bible is actually the inerrant word of God. This is better, because if it is all true then an injunction to punish our children physically must be an instruction from the Lord. Sounds reasonable, we can spank our children because the Bible tells us so. But hang on a minute, what's this? Deuteronomy 21:18 says that, 'If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother...' It goes on to tell us that we must take the boy to the city elders and that he will then be stoned to death. I am sure that even the most dedicated Christian home educator would not want to apply the death penalty to cheeky and uncooperative kids! Yet there it is, just as clear and specific as the injunctions to take a rod to our children. We fare no better when we use the Bible as an infallible guide to sexual morality. Many Christian home educators do not want their children exposed to the notion that homosexuality is normal and acceptable. The Bible forbids the practice strongly in both old and new testaments. 'A man shall not lie with other men as though they were women, it is an abomination'. Again, this is very clear. Wait though, I have just seen Deuteronomy 22:23. 'Suppose a man is caught in a town having intercourse with a woman who is engaged to someone else. You are to take them outside the town and stone them to death. the woman is to die because she did not cry out for help, although she was in a town where she could have been heard'. This also seems quite clear. If a man rapes some guy's fiancee, then the victim is to be executed. Sounds fair enough. After all, if I can spank my kid because the Bible tells me so, then surely the rules about rape victims should also be applied?
The Bible is a vast book containing a huge amount of information and sayings which cover practically everything one can imagine. We approach it with our own prejudices and preconceptions though. If I feel a distaste for homosexuality and look in the Bible, then lo and behold I can find a verse which conforms my views. If I were the sort of man who wished to hit his kid, I can find justification for that too. My daughter has drawn my attention to the fact that the New Testament specifically endorses Kosher slaughter and instructs all Christians to follow this tradition. At a meeting in Jerusalem, the apostles, including Peter and Paul, decided to tell new converts who were not Jews how they should live. Acts 15:29 says that Christians should, 'eat no blood, eat no animal which has been strangled'. How many Christians today follow this explicit commandment form the apostles? Any Christians reading this who insist on Kosher meat?
I believe that the Bible was inspired by God and written by men. We must search carefully for the true message. To use it as justification for corporal punishment and the prohibition of homosexuality, as many Christian home educators do is very dangerous indeed. It can be a wonderful guide, but not if taken literally. I am aware that most English home educators will find all this pretty irrelevant, but while we were discussing Christian home education apropos of the Johansson case, I thought it worth going over this topic a little. Normal business will be resumed tommorow.