Conversion as a form of violence

On June 6, 2007, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief held a meeting of religious leaders at the House of Lords in the UK. The purpose was to look at the challenges presented to various faiths in the implementation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states,

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Suraj Sehgal, the director of Hindu Council UK had some interesting remarks.

The right to freedom to change religion and to freely practice it both in teaching and observance has been grossly abused by aggressive proselytisation through fraud, force and deception. Article 18 should be amended to ban such conversions and the government should legislate against. it. The predatory religions seek the destruction of others faiths and cultures, others way of life, by sending missionaries whose religious freedom is enshrined in their mission to convert other God loving people into their own religious clubs, thereby seeking the destruction of other religions. Everyone has the right to convert through their own heart’s persuasion but MISSIONARY CONVERSION activity is a form of violence on the society it converts as it seeks to destroy their original way of life. History bears witness to it; when will the UN protect religions like the Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs? (emphasis in original) Hindu Council UK

These thoughts are not new. In 1997, psychologist Nicholas Humphrey compared religious education of children to female circumcision and, among other things, cited the pervasive disbelief in evolution as evidence.

We do live–even in our advanced, democratic, Western nations–in an environment of spiritual oppression, where many little children–our neighbours’ children if not actually ours–are daily exposed to the attempts of adults to annex their minds. The Edge

And he goes on to argue that in order to protect the children from the violence of wrong beliefs about evolution, the existence of God, astrology, etc., we should do away with the idea of parental rights all together. Instead, we should look at the relationship as one of privilege, to be revoked by society in the event of wrong teaching.

Because sharing religious belief is a violent act.

I think I prefer the age of relativism to what appears to be looming on the horizon.

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Shout to the Lord

This morning during worship, we began singing “Shout to the Lord.” Somewhere in the refrain, I felt tears welling up in my eyes and I started to get choked. I don’t usually cry. Not even during those “chick flicks” my husband teases me about. And it had nothing to do with the song really. I like that one, but it is not usually one that evokes much emotion for me. But I had just changed Baby Bear’s messy diaper and returned him to the two year old room. The teacher mentioned what a sweet boy he was and commended him on his manners. I smiled, praised him and went to service.

And that’s where this past year kind of hit me. One year ago, he was kicked out of the nursery for biting. I don’t fault them. He did bite. Anyone littler than him. And completely without warning. In fact, he seemed so friendly, like he was going to give a hug and then he’d leave a nasty mark. I grew tired of all the advice. “Biting is unacceptable. You have to stop that kind of behavior.” OK, in principle, I agree with that. But how does that work out practically in someone who is one? There wasn’t much point in punishing someone that young twenty minutes after the behavior occurred. And it never happened around me. Some told me that was because he really did know better. I needed to stop “babying” him. I figured it was because I never gave him the opportunity. On the rare occasion we were around younger children, I always stayed between him and that child. But what does mom know? So I walked the halls with him so that my daughter could attend Sunday School and we sat, isolated, in the crying room because there was no way I would dream of trying to sit through service with him.

Then I started hearing all this stuff about family worship and how he should be with me in service anyway. I know this isn’t how it was meant, but all I heard was, “what kind of parent are you?” My son bit. My son would prefer to run than sit still. I obviously had no ability to control him. I kept thinking, “But he’s one!” Just beginning to learn proper behavior. Those toddlers who sit through service are aliens.

Then the YMCA staff called me down to remove him from Childwatch (I was upstairs watching my daughter’s karate class). They warned that if the behavior was repeated, he would be suspended.

I almost broke down in tears right then. My husband is gone a lot. It is just me and the kids most of the week. The only adult interaction I get is Sunday School, it seems. My husband works for the railroad so his schedule is not very predictable. And the one hour per week I had to sit and do something special with my daughter was about to be taken. I felt painfully isolated and all anyone had to say sounded to me like I was a horrible parent to have a one year old who bit. And wouldn’t sit still for service. (That did not come from the church. In fact, when I finally asked for prayer on the matter, I got offers from people to help with him so that I could atttend a Sunday School class or enjoy an uninterrupted service.)

And now, one year later, his Sunday School teacher is saying what a pleasure he is. He listens. He shares (kind of…as well as anyone his age). He says please. He loves to help clean up and pass out snack. What did I do? Nothing really. I prayed. I cried. And I loved him and let him grow out of it.

The other day, he stuck the baby’s hand in his mouth and I jumped. He looked at me confused and said, in his cute little toddler-speak, “Mommy, I no bit no mo’.”

(This was originally written two years ago on my old blog, and at least in theory was published in Jane Bullivant’s book, Juggling With Hamsters.)

Finding Purpose

Three years ago, our family made the decision for me to leave the workplace to stay home. The beginning was very tough. I struggled with boredom, lack of direction and lack of purpose. I truly believed my children to be more important than all I gave up, and struggled with a sense of guilt when I realized that I really wanted to return to work. I began feeling like I was only serving everyone around me and had no real sense of my own worth. I told myself it was just a matter of time and it would take care of itself as I got used to the transition.

I viewed this decision as an act of obedience to God to benefit our family. I set my children as a priority above myself and reminded myself that they were worth the sacrifice when I struggled. That is not such a bad line of thinking, but it wasn’t working for me, and it really is not scriptural.

God created Adam in the garden for work. He tended the garden, took dominion of the animals and subdued his environment. Eve was created from his side to be a help-meet for him. In other words, Eve was also created for useful labor. The dominion mandate is given before the command to be fruitful and multiply. Since God created woman for this purpose, woman can only feel truly complete fulfilling this purpose.

I think too often those women who make the decision to leave the workplace fill their time with entertainment and child-rearing duties. Soaps, luncheons, study groups, play dates and a plethora of activities fill each day. Unfortunately, these are only pastimes and do just that: pass the time. They do no minister to the soul, giving purpose to each day. Take a look at the Proverbs 31 woman. Her day was not focused on entertainment, nor her children, nor yet fellowship with other believers. Her day was filled with useful labor, and through her godly example, her entire family grew spiritually.

I’ve never considered the price of a vineyard, nor sold my fine weaving down at the market, but I have found purpose in useful work. I have taught myself to crochet, knit, sew and can. I have made things for the children and for presents. I have tried to find ways to save money while maintaining a nutritious diet for our family. We have virtually eliminated convenience foods from the menu and I have been making our own fresh bread and recently began making pasta as well. I have taken time to work on my writing since it has always been a dream of mine to some day author a book someone would actually want to purchase. As of yet, none of this has actually resulted in an increase in our family’s income, although some of it has definitely saved us some money. I’m working on that part next.

I think the feminist movement has denied a good deal of what it is to be a woman by denying the innate desire to be home, raising children. But I also think the church has done the same by denying her desire to work. In reality, the desire to labor productively and to rear children are two halves to the same person. I think this plays out differently for each person, but I truly believe the key for battling some of the depression and anxiety that frequently accompanies the decision to stay home with children is found in recognizing God’s plan. We are created by Him, for Him and to Him. Our children are the heritage of the Lord, and we certainly have a great responsibility teaching and leading them, but when they become the focus of our day, we step outside what we were created for. It is not good for us and it really is not good for our children, either. Useful, constructive labor (not just hobbies) will help give purpose to each day. And when a woman is successful in ordering her days according to this God-given purpose, “Her children arise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.” (Proverbs 31:28)

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I’m a dominionist, isn’t everybody?

Thanks to a question on an e-list, I’ve actually spent the evening researching dominionism, a movement I long ago relegated to the fringes of Christianity with Phelps and his friends. But the term will not die. And everyone, it seems, is a dominionist. Even Abeka users. I’m not terribly familiar with Abeka, so I don’t know. Maybe they do have a hidden plot to take over the world and return to Old Testament law, stonings and all. But that isn’t my impression.

I think my little curriculum choice (Principle Approach) has remained safely out of the limelight on this issue because it is small. And it takes a great deal of research to figure out exactly what it is we believe since we don’t have a curriculum, per se. We have more of an idea and unifying set of principles.

But any Christian ministry which seeks to “restore” the nation and promote its Christian heritage seems to beg for the accusation of dominionist theology. There are people listed in the “like-minded” ministries section of FACE’s website who are identified as or who identify themselves as “reconstructionists.” Some of them even have interesting articles about theocracy, or government by God. But I’ll stick directly with what FACE says on the topic, and what I personally believe. You could call it a theocracy of sorts, but this forms the basis of our homeschool and our beliefs about government:

In order to have true liberty, man must be governed internally by the Spirit of God rather than by external forces. Government is first individual, then extends to the home, church, and the community. This principle of self-government is God ruling internally from the heart of the individual.

It is actually a pretty libertarian view of government, just that we believe that in the ideal, each individual is governed by God. It really is not much different than what John Adams wrote in a letter to Zabdiel Adams:

The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a greater Measure than they have it now, they may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty.

Virtue is inspired, not legislated. It is necessary to maintain the degree of liberty envisioned by our founders, but cannot be codified into law. More laws will not make the nation virtuous.

For anyone with lingering doubts, I do not believe that dominionism is well-supported by scripture (emphasis mine):

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. John 18:36

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