In my critical thinking class I teach the children to analyze opposing viewpoints sympathetically. They should be able to get out of their own head and understand the other position, even if it is a wrong position. It helps the students to stay honest, makes the opponent more human and renders the critique more powerful.
It can be hard to do but it is necessary for proper critical thinking skills, especially in a pluralistic, post-Christian world. So I offer this essay as a way to explain Generations Radio's recent rant ("Homeschool Education Neglect") against both its detractors and World magazine's article ("Homeschool Debate"). I pray my essay helps readers understand the world this ministry inhabits.
Generations Radio is part of the ministry of Generations with Vision which is part of Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC). The director and host of Generations with Vision describes it thusly:
"[it is] a ministry he [Kevin Swanson] founded to strengthen homeschool families around the country. As a father who wants to leave a godly heritage for his own five children, Kevin’s passion is to strengthen and encourage the homeschooling movement all over the world, and to cast a vision for generations to come."
In a 2012 broadcast he explained why he trained to be a pastor in the late 90s:
"I think education is the battle. And that is why about 15 years ago I jumped out of the corporate world and decided to spend the rest of my life fighting for the life of the home education movement and a distinctively Christian education. Friends, this is the battle, the belly of the beast."
The original goal of this organization was clearly restated in a CHEC Newsletter of 2009:
"...I am doing this [promoting CHEC, Generations Radio] for my children and my grandchildren. I want something better for them—better academics, better character, better family relationships, a better civil government, and better churches. I want to see God's kingdom strengthened in every sphere. This is my priority as long as I have breath to breathe.”
But the priority of homeschooling stems from a concern to protect faith, family and freedom. The introduction to the episode in question sums up the matter fairly well:
"Homeschoolers, generally, like to restore and reintegrate the family as a family in the 21st century. And homeschoolers tend to like freedom. They are fighting for freedom...homeschoolers on the forefront of the battle to restore family, faith and freedom in the 21st century."
He wants to save faith, family and freedom—a theme that can be heard since at least 2007 when I first encountered the broadcasts. The about-page summarizes the ambitious goals:
"The vision of the program is to present life from the perspective of a biblical worldview and within the framework of a relational model of living….We believe God has raised up this ministry 'for such a time as this.' We are truly witnessing the breakdown of western civilization and the Christian faith in the west...Homeschooling represented [sic] an important element in the ministry focus, as we attempt to return truth and relationships to a lost and lonely, post-modern world...With these [Family Economics] conferences, we are working to establish a biblical socio-economic system, wherein faith, family, and freedom might survive and thrive."
These concerns are expressed positively and negatively, respectively, in the two flagship books: The Second Mayflower and Apostates. There are many battlefronts for the protection of faith, family and freedom. But the battle that Christians must engage in is a central, barn-door issue:
"Friends, I'm telling you, when pastors are not willing to fight this battle [over education], I think they've given up the battle for the Christian faith in the 21st century. This is core to the battle….I'm here to tell you friends this is a huge issue; it's an absolutely barn-door issue in the kingdom of God right now...If they're not teaching that [fear of God], friends, they are missing the very, very, very, very core of the battle of the present age. They are asleep. They are disconnected from reality" ("Pastors Who Don't Warn Against Godless Education—The Millstone Treatment," 2012).
Homeschooling (or, at times, the broader term, home discipleship) is first in a hierarchy of priorities:
"As a leader in the homeschooling movement, after over 40 years of participation in this movement, I believe that this is the single most important family-reformational movement in the world. The reformation of fatherhood, family relationships, family discipleship, and a distinctively biblical way of thinking in education is all important and exceedingly basic to the reformation of life. Yet, it cannot stop here. The reformation of family life is basic in our reformation agenda, but it must lead to the reformation of church relationships, church leadership, church worship, and church life. The dysfunctionality in family relationships have led to the dysfunctionality of church relationships…Without the renewal of relationships and truth in family life and in education, we will fail to see it happening in the church. When the family fails to function biblically, the church may try to compensate, producing questionable results – more wood, hay, and stubble" (emphasis added, "A Healthy Church in a Toxic Age," here).
These concerns, these goals, are expressed in various and sundry ways that can be distilled thusly: repair the breakdown of Western Civilization by means of a worldview that prioritizes the reformation of families and fathers, which is especially manifested in homeschooling.
The family is central to the rhetoric and practice of this ministry even if logically it may not be. But these quotes only scratch the surface of this family-centric world:
“There is hope for the salvation of Western Civilization and the Christian Faith because of home education...If there is hope for the church of Jesus Christ it is going to start in the families… We [homeschooling audience] are, I believe, the Second Mayflower. We are it. God’s not done with us yet” (2009 CHEC Men's Leadership Conference, Closing Remarks).
"Folks, one of the passions we have on this radio program is to see a Malachi 4 revival in the hearts of fathers and sons across America. I believe this is the catalyst to the restoration of faith, family and freedom in the 21st century " (Signs of Gigantic Reformation, 2013).
"Without fathers, there will be no sons becoming fathers. And without fathers there will be no elders. No pastors. No leaders. No shepherds...how in the world do you deal with dystopia but with fathers?" (Homeschool Vision for Victory, CHEC Summer Conference, 2013).
"Parents are losing rights everywhere except for the island of freedom, that is homeschooling. ..And I think we will begin to win back those freedoms. But it is going to begin with fathers of vision. And fathers that want to establish relationships. Strong families, family-integrated economies, not just family-integrated education, we are talking about family economics...the vision is much bigger. We have to integrate the family..." ("Stronger Family, Stronger Faith, Stronger Freedom: A Vision for the Generation,” CHEC conference, 2012).
“...but the fundamental issue, the fundamental issue is fatherhood, fatherhood friends. Without the restoration of fatherhood we are up the creek without a paddle. There is no solution for civilization and the breakdown of human society on planet earth [without fathers]….When you get to the issue of fatherhood you are effectively there when it comes to the social breakdown. We can talk about the theological breakdowns, we can talk about the ecclesiastical breakdowns in the church, there are a lot of problems, we could talk about political problems and the break down of freedom. Now I happen to believe that if we restore the family, we restore fatherhood, we probably restore freedom" (Generational Breakdown, May, 2013).
The significance of these quotes is further amplified by the deafening silence about important theological and ecclesiastical matters. The kind of robust, bombastic and aggressive attack in the recent podcast is rarely present with other issues such as legalism and abuse. Concerns about the fully documented wide-spread ignorance of the basics of Christianity, let alone the Gospel, play back-seat to the concerns of this program.
Although the bulk of the podcasts are socio-political and economic commentaries, this should not detract from the central concerns of promoting, propagating, and protecting families, especially that family which has God's stamp of approval: homeschoolers.
"I just don't think God is done with this nation yet. Why? Why would he plant a movement like this? Why would he turn hundreds of thousands of hearts of father and mothers to their children and the children to the parents? Why would this be happening? Unless God was doing something. I think Aslan is afoot. I think He's doing something. Amen" (Why Homeschooling Will Change the World, 2010).
Generations Radio's harangue should be no surprise to those who understand what motivates this ministry. America is fracturing. And only a worldview that has home and homeschooling at its center is strong enough to save her. Homeschoolers are God's vehicle of deliverance; His anointed ones. And World magazine made the mistake of not writing with that conviction.
This is not the first time Generations Radio has gone after other homeschoolers and critics. It is just the first time it received so much publicity. Hopefully, this little essay will put any future diatribes into perspective, and maybe encourage people and organizations to take Michael Farris' warning to heart:
"Our movement will only be tainted by extremist views if we give our platforms over to such teachers."