Practicing What One Preaches

June 10, 2006 @ 10:18 am | Filed under:

I tried to leave a polite inquiry on Reverend Jim West’s blog, but for some reason Blogger won’t let me comment. Perhaps Dr. West will be so kind as to respond to me here. He has written a series of posts harshly criticizing home education, which he opposes, he says, on theological grounds. Well, he’s welcome to his opinion, and I have no interest in trying to change his mind.

However. I find some curious and uncharitable inconsistencies in his statements, and I wonder if he himself is aware that he is repeatedly contradicting himself—and is doing so in a manner which runs counter to a central tenet of his religion, which instructs him to do unto others as he would have them do unto him.

In a recent post, Dr. West satirized homeschooling by presenting a fictional character whose home education by his uneducated mother resulted in tragic illiteracy and poverty. Thanks to “Bob Little’s” ignorant mother, he grows up to be a street sweeper who lives in a cardboard box. As satire goes, this one is clumsy and silly; among the evidence of Bob’s educational shortcomings is the observation that he “was a regular sight at the soup kitchen during the raging days of the Great Depression.” You don’t say. At least Imaginary Bob would have been in good company, standing in the bread lines with the thousands of well educated folks made destitute by the Depression. Ahem.

You know, I love a good satire. Dr. West’s post was not a good satire, but I’d have been willing to roll my eyes and move on if it weren’t for what comes next.

Blogger Christopher Heard wrote a post pointing out an unfortunate irony in Dr. West’s post:

The really funny thing about the satire is that Jim—a product of public education who holds a Th.D. from a non-accredited, distance-learning seminary, teaches at a non-accredited, distance-learning seminary, and and constantly champions the cause of quality control in scholarship against dilettantes even though the school of theology for which he teaches “offers a free and open educational resource for self-learners everywhere”—cannot properly form the plural of “homeschooler.”

I’d giggled over that too. Dr. West responded that the grammatical error was deliberate, an extension of the satire. I shall give him the benefit of the doubt. However, in his public response to Chris Heard, Jim West makes the following statement:

In any event, if folk have questions perhaps its best if they ask me directly rather than depending on infidel message boards or incorrect web addresses and slanderous misinformation. I may well oppose homeschooling on theological grounds- but Chris evidently opposes finding out the facts first. Readers will have to decide for themselves which is more egregious.

(Emphasis mine.)

And here, Dr. West, is my question for you. I am glad to hear you oppose “slanderous misinformation” and believe that omitting to “find out the facts first” is egregious. It puzzles me, though, that you are unaware of the manner in which your satire promotes slanderous misinformation (through the suggestion that homeschoolers are inadequately educated) and that you yourself are prone to making statements for which you have no factual basis. For example, you wrote,

Agape Press reports today One of the authors of a proposed resolution urging the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to come up with a plan to pull its children from public schools says the resolution is a “call to holiness” and a “call to obey God’s Word.”

That of course is pure unadulterated rubbish. But what can you expect from two people who have neither theological training nor any sort of intelligent comprehension of the Christian mission. Only the most foolhardy and uninformed fall for the notion being peddled by the “exodizers”.

The only people who pull their kids from public schools out of fear are the same sort who haven’t ever read the Bible in Greek or Hebrew. In other words, they are the sort of people who get all their information second hand. This whole crusade is nothing but another in the long line of senseless crusades entered into by frenzied, uninformed, twaddling and prattling mobs of unwashed peasants. And it is doomed to failure. Fortunately.

To brand homeschoolers “frenzied, uninformed, twaddling and prattling mobs of unwashed peasants” is not only uncharitable in the extreme—a clear violation of the Golden Rule—it is also the presentation of unsupported opinion as fact. You, sir, have failed to “find out the facts first.” Homeschoolers may be many things, but “uninformed” is a word that seldom, if ever, applies. It certainly doesn’t apply across the board. Neither are we frenzied. (We may, sometimes, be unwashed.) If you are serious about the faith you profess, you ought to understand that hypocrisy is explicitly disallowed.

Chris Heard’s post apparently contained an error about the college you attended. This bothered you, and you blasted him for it. He apologized. Yet you yourself have repeatedly made public statements riddled with factual errors and have shown no willingness to educate yourself with the facts. Readers will have to decide for themselves which is more egregious.

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13 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Jennie C says:

    Melissa, there are some people not worth getting to know. I followed your links over to Mr. West’s blog, and he is one of those people. He is elitist and uncharitable and because he thinks he is better than others, he will very likely never listen to our stories. Unfortunately, by linking to him, you are encouraging him.

  2. Alice says:

    Lissa, thank you once again for being an active and intelligent voice for all of us.

  3. Danielle says:

    I appreciate your well-reasoned, charitable, and intelligent response, Lissa, as I could never muster the energy for such myself.

    I must admit that I am inclined to agree with the your first commenter: If someone wants to engage in a fact-based, charitable, intelligent debate about the pros and cons of homeschooling (as happened in the ClubMom blogs not so long ago) I am all for taking part and encouraging it. Discussing anything with this Mr. West seems a complete and total waste of time, though.

  4. Theresa says:

    Lissa, I am glad you have the energy to combat this kind of stuff. I find myself weary of idiots who spout their nonsense without regard to fact or feelings. Good for you for taking them on.

  5. Alice says:

    Well, it may be that trying to change West’s mind would be a waste of time (and I notice you mention right up front “I have no interest in trying to change his mind.”) Still, your measured and articulate response is of great value. Not only does it hold a detractor accountable for maligning and negatively stereotyping a significant and all too often misunderstood segment of the population, but it also educates all of us in ways to formulate an effective response when criticisms like West’s arise.

    It is easy to assume that no one could be swayed by rhetoric as flimsy as West’s, but I disagree. A response like yours sets the record straight and lends credibility to the homeschooling movement, proving we are anything but uninformed and prattling.

  6. Lissa says:

    Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I quite agree that my remarks are unlikely to have any effect on Dr. West, and I honestly don’t care what he thinks about homeschooling. The reason I think his posts deserved addressing—once only, for certainly I cannot spare very much time for such endeavors—really has nothing to do with homeschooling and everything to do with Christianity. Dr. West professes to be a Christian; if he really does practice what he preaches, then an honest scrutiny of his own statements may help him to admit (to himself, if not publically) that he has behaved badly.

    We don’t undertake to do only those things at which we are certain to succeed; we undertake to do what we believe is right, whether or not we have a prayer of success.

  7. Karen E. says:

    Excellent rejoinder and excellent reasoning as to why it was necessary. Brava!

    Prayers for the misguided man ….

  8. Laura says:

    Well, I posted a comment to the dear Reverend’s blog, but it has to be approved before it is posted… hmmm, I wonder if he’ll let it be seen?

    For those of you who wish to see for yourself, here’s my comment to him:

    Wow! For a Christian man, aren’t you being just a bit rude here?

    Though I’m not homeschooling [YET – the day may come still], I know so many homeschooling families and homeschooled graduates, most of the graduates with college degrees and fully functioning brains, even.

    Did you stop to think for a minute that Bob may have been right on target with many other people of his generation? So what that he was homeschooled “back then” – I can’t even count the number of real-life stories I’ve heard of people dropping out of school, just because they wanted to – not because their uneducated mother didn’t want them in school. Some of those drop-outs found success, some didn’t.

    Some public school graduates find success, some don’t. Some college graduates find success, some don’t.

    Homeschooling is not the issue – motivation is.

    Such a scathing blog – I’m glad the Christians that I know & love aren’t full of this kind of hate… can you imagine if all of us went around spewing this kind of trash?

  9. Steve the LLamabutcher says:

    He had me at “peasants.”

    Remind me to never cross you!

  10. The LLama Butchers says:

    That one’s going to leave a mark

    Melissa Wiley—uber homeschooling mommy blogger—issues a savagely polite takedown of some ignorant anti-homeschooling twerp. Seriously, dude: don’t take on homeschoolers as a bunch of low-standard illiterate dorks if you yourself have a theology “do…

  11. Mrs Blythe says:

    I am not a homeschooler but I am offended by Dr West’s comments. Does he not remember that Jesus did not have ‘theological training’ and came from the despised Nazareth (considered peasants), St Peter had no theological training and was a Galilean (looked down upon as peasants). So hurrah for non-theologically trained peasants!! Because I’m one of them! The pharisees on the other hand were knee deep in theological training and did it get them praise from Jesus, NO! Dr West, it would appear, is a pharisee and they are to be avoided at all costs.

    I loved reading your post and your response. Blessings.

  12. veronica says:

    My little ones are too young for school, but we are tossing around the idea of homeschooling.

    And both my husband and I read Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.

  13. Becky says:

    I’ve read his comments once before via Darryl’s blog and have to say that, sadly, West does indeed seem to practice what he preaches. May it be a small congregation.