Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Christian Urge To Hide

I don't want to be misunderstood, so let's get some things out on the table right away. I believe some pretty  ridiculous political things, like Americans have the right to be armed because of a covenant made between the states and its citizens. Or that the American State has been abusing its power more and more, and non-conformists have good reason to be afraid.

I also believe some pretty fringe religious things. I believe that the Great Commission is for the whole Church; and that it is foolish and irresponsible to make children missionaries. I believe that Christians shouldn't be in the government schools. I believe that the Kingdom of God is a kingdom and a city with a real culture, that exists distinct from that of the world, and that displaces it.

I believe that we can no more be a part of the world than we can be of the flesh and the devil, and that Christians compromise stupid things in the name of evangelism and cultural engagement. I believe we are called to be holy, a people set apart for God.

Now that I've settled my separatist bona fides, I want to talk about the evils of the Christian urge to hide away. It's a bad habit, y'all. And it's an instinct I have fine-tuned over many years.

I homeschooled from 8th grade until I graduated, that is, all my school years living in the United States. This was in the early 90s, when homeschooling was just emerging from the lunatic fringe. The 80s had been the time of brave pioneers, persecuted for their practices by the government. Everyone knew the horror stories. The Home School Legal Defense Fund had been created in the mid-80s, and most of the homeschoolers we knew were careful to be a part of HSLDA. There were as many rumors as there were true stories of Department of Social Services abuses of power, up to and including seizing children from their parents and fabricating stories of abuse.

I wouldn't say there was an atmosphere of fear in our home, by any means. But it was understood that we shouldn't draw attention to ourselves. Did that mean we cloistered ourselves away? No, not at all. I worked at a book shop a couple of blocks from my home. I volunteered at the Boston Museum of Science during the day, taking the subway in on my own. I went to the library and bookshops and museums during the day (I was a huge nerd). But while we might walk down Mass Ave or round to the subway station in the middle of the day, we didn't walk by the school. We were by no means afraid; we were just careful to be...discreet.

A lot of us "do our own thing" Christians are...discreet. By "do our own thing", I don't mean anabaptisty church rebels, I just mean people who live outside society's main systems to one degree or another. You know, (lots) more than 1.8 kids, not in public schools, adopting celebrity-like numbers of kids, homebirthing, drinking raw milk, Adventures in Odyssey, owning lots of guns while having lots of kids, living off of garage saling, whatever. This is not core Christian stuff, and Christians aren't the only ones who do weird stuff like this, but there are a whole lot of us, and we're, well...discreet. Very...discreet. (Yes, those ellipses will precede every "...discreet" I bust out tonight,) And we have our reasons. The persecution of homeschoolers is only one example. Government agents have harrassed adopters and foster parents over their faith in Jesus; people have been jailed for giving their own children unpasteurized food. I get it. The stories, and sometimes the fear, floods our Facebook feeds at times, reinforcing what we already know: keep your head down.

There is a Christian urge to hide in plain sight, like never bringing up abortion because it's "political". That's a different beast, which I will not be addressing now. In fact, I might even be suggesting that we weird ...discreet Christians could learn something from them. Although not the abortion-political part.

Do not mistake me. I'm not describing shyness, or retreatism, or defeatism. That exists in Christian circles too. I'm talking about we who are boldly willing to be different, and not only different, but confrontational. We defy our parents' insistence the kids go to "normal school"; we go to the abortion clinics every week; we drink dark beer and defend constitutional carry or do presuppositional apologetics (obviously). We're not shy. We're fighters.

And that's the problem. It's why we're hiding.

This is a thing that is difficult for me: we aren't willing to expose ourselves. We'll put ourselves out there...as long as no one knows where we live.

As a father, I know that it's my duty to protect my family. I'm willing to fight offensively, but when it comes to the family jewels, I'll always be defensive first.

Maybe you know what I'm talking about. As I've said, there are many different reasons "do our own thing" Christians, comfortable with being apart, might hide. My go-to move is to stop talking to people (or unfriend them on FB) as soon as I find out they were government school teachers. My rationale: they might have a vendetta against homeschoolers, and I know what such people are capable of. Yes, I have friends and acquaintances who are public teachers. But this is a preemptive move I've pulled several times, as a knee-jerk instinct.

Why am I saying all this? Because we probably need to expose ourselves a little more. And I don't mean that we ought to risk in even the smallest way the ones we've been entrusted by God with. I mean that, if you're like me, you should recalibrate your trust in the Lord. The kids need to see you not only living the Gospel in your house, they need to see you seated at the city gates with the other elders. They need to see you in the agora and at the synagogue. Christian gates are kept open, both to accept those streaming in, and to send armies out.

As for my particular bugaboo, a friend reminded me that there comes a time to stop protecting and start unleashing. And it's not when the kid turns eighteen. Lord have mercy!

I wrote the first half of this post a couple of years back, believe it or not. I forgot about it until today and finished it up. Since I started this post, however, we've decided to move back to our house in South Carolina. While we've been gone, the house behind us was purchased by someone whose lifestyle would give him reason to be anti-Christian. My first thought when I heard this was "Oh, crap, he's going to see these weird shirtless Christian homeschooling kids feeding their chickens and shooting their toy guns. I hope we don't have any trouble." My first instinct was to bar the gates. That was wrong. God put him there for a reason. Open the gates and sally forth, me.

Meanwhile, pray for us.

3 comments:

  1. I originally was majoring in education, but a friend and I dropped out of that because of a lot of problems we saw. Hope all goes well with the new neighbor.

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    1. This challenges me. I am a some-what public figure in my small community, but my instinct is to hide my children and keep quiet about our "personal life." The school here is the largest employer and we've been ostracized by folks that used to be friends and family. The "put your kids in normal school" from parents is a reality that we have dealt with. We are an embarrassment. As a business owner I have to be chummy with certain folks in order to feed my family. The balance is tiring. This was edifying, so thank you.

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