A line in the sand
Carnacki printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Dec 15, 2005 at 07:49:45 PM EST
As home schooling parents, my wife and I receive many different catalogs to assist us in the education of our children. But one catalog called "A Line in the Sand" we recently received from the Vision Forum Inc. in Texas not only wanted to sell us products, it also attempted to indoctrinate us into their world view.

And what an interesting world view the Vision Forum catalog is trying to sell. Women should stay home and have babies. Men should defend to the death their faith and families from the threat of modernity. The most godly people in America were the Puritans during the Salem witch trial period.

Why is it important to understand groups like this? Because the people who see the world in the same way as Vision Forum are the people drawing that line in the sand farther and farther to the right and aim to drag the rest of the country there with them.

The cover photo shows a blond boy of about 12 standing in front of an old door. In his right hand is a sword that he has drawn a line in front of him with as he stands guard in front of the mission entrance. His left hand holds up a parchment with the large script "The Biblical Family Now and Forever." With his riding boots and pants, a red sash above his scabbard and Confederate gray jacket, he appears to be ready to defend the church from all that threaten it.

Of course, an armed guard at the door also keeps people out. And I'm not sure that's what God intends for us to do.

But I could be wrong about this group. Let's go past the cover and see.

Doug Phillips, the president and founder of Vision Forum Inc., has a two-page column explaining his view of "The Biblical Family Now and Forever!"

He starts off the catalog with scripture:

"Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed...He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established , he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies... The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away." (Psalm 112:1-2,7-8,10)

Not exactly "Love thy neighbor," nor particularly welcoming with the teeth gnashing and all, but what's with all of the ellipses?

What did he leave out? I'll bold the passages he skipped over.

1 Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.
2 His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed.
3 Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever. (Hmm. Maybe Phillips didn't want to remind the reader that he's running a business and he's trying to make a buck or two off them. That's the American way. Let's go on.)
4 Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious and full of compassion and righteous.
5 A good man showed favor and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion.
6 Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.

7 He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD.
8 His heart is established , he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies.
9 He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor: his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honor:10 The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away."
(Psalm 112:1-10)

Wow! That's some interesting stuff covered by those ellipses.

Phillips emphasizes the lines about fear the Lord, evil tidings, the wicked, teeth gnashing, but doesn't include the lines about being gracious, compassionate, righteous, giving to the poor on purpose.

Let's go over that again (because I want to make a point about something Phillips does repeatedly throughout the catalog). The upright have enemies that will grieve and melt away. Nothing about the upright showing compassion.

It is almost as if Phillips is promoting a world view that we are surrounded by enemies and should be afraid.

Maybe I'm making too much of his cherry picking of scripture. After all, it's just the first part of a two-page column of a 87-page mail-order catalog. What comes next?

"It was patterned before time began by an eternal Father who loved His eternal Son. It was birthed on the Sixth Day as the very pinnacle of Creation. It was chosen as the vehicle for globe-transforming dominion, covenant faithfulness, and the incarnation of the Savior of the world. It is modeled in the life of the Church through the spiritual brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers who are the very body of Christ. It is pictured and perfected in all its beauty at the culmination of time through a divine wedding feast. In its purest expressions, it is a society of love declared in the last verses of the Old Testament to be inextricably linked to revival and national peace. From Genesis to Revelation, it is proven to be the flesh and blood organization through which men first learn love, law and the meaning of life. It shapes the destiny of children, the character of leaders and the future of civilizations. Its definition is immutable, transcendent and non-negotiable.
"It is the biblical family - now and forever!"

I'll interrupt Phillips briefly to point out, since he places such an emphasis on family, that he has a lovely photo of the "Vision Forum Family in San Antonio, Texas." All the men and boys in khaki pants and blue jackets. Ms. Carnacki pointed out the women, all save one, have jumpers. One woman has a skirt going about mid-calf -- maybe she didn't get the memo. The 44 of them in the photo also are very, very white. There's a reason I'm pointing this out which I'll explain later.

"Every generation has its defining challenge. Ours is the systematic annihilation of the biblical family. It is during this deceptively peaceful yet culture-transforming epoch of history that God has placed us. This is our watch.
"We stand on the threshold of the single most destructive social event in the history of the West. Much has happened over the last two millennia, but it was not until our generation that women have been asked to strap on machine guns and die in combat, that parents en masse have rejected the fruit of the womb, that the majority of women have left the home as their primary mission field, and that the mass execution of the unborn has received legal sanction. And it was not until our watch, our moment in history, that men have sought to redefine marriage to include the most perverse of human behavior. All this on our watch! How will we respond?

"Think back for just a moment to your own childhood. Think back to an America that was, an America already in the throes of radical changes, but an America in which the people of this land still retained a moral conscience. Can you remember the days when moral perversions were not mentioned in public (let alone glorified on national television)? Do you remember? I do.

"And those memories are not so distant. You need only look into the eyes of those precious little ones given to you by God whose innocence and purity have been entrusted to you. I do this every day - with all seven of my children. It puts a fire in my belly. It daily reminds me that there is nothing I would not be prepared to do for my Lord, if only to preserve a future in which these little ones will not be offended. I am reminded that teaching my children the way of Christ "is not a vain thing; because it is [my] life" (Deut. 32:47) and that parents can state, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (III John 4).

"In defense of the biblical family, we today join faithful Christians across this great land by choosing sides in a fight. Like William Barret Travis before the Alamo defenders at the defining moment in Texas history, our sword is drawn and we call upon parents, pastors, and leaders - civil and ecclesiastical - to choose sides in the defining issue of our generation and fight to the death.

"Be not ye afraid of them: remember the LORD . . . and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. (Neh. 4:14)

"We will never surrender. Nor will we lack the proper weapons of our warfare. The Lord has predetermined both the means and the ends of this battle. This is a battle to be fought in the homes of families, in the local churches, and in the very gates of the land; but it is a battle that is primarily fought in the hearts of men as Christians do what Christians are supposed to do best - make the life of Christ extremely attractive as we evidence the sweet aroma of Jesus by thinking, looking, and acting very different from the world.

"We win every time a father turns his heart to a son. We win every time our daughters reject feminism for femininity. We win every time children rise up and call their mothers blessed. We win every time a local church embraces a vision for family-integrated worship. We win every time a grandfather embraces his patriarchal vision to bless his grandchildren. We win every time a candidate for public office speaks truth regardless of the consequences. We win every time a Christian filmmaker prefers the path of Christ to the sanction of Hollywood. We win through obedience. We win through faithfulness. We win by leading our households in a multi-generational vision of victory...."

(Look! Ellipses. If you're worried I'm leaving out the good stuff, full link here.)

"The products in the 2005 edition of the Vision Forum Family Catalog have been carefully selected to share our passion for the Christ-centered biblical family. Each reflects the commitment of others who have drawn a line in the sand and who will fight to the death in defense of Christ's truth."

Then he goes into a list of products available inside. Be afraid. Defend the family under attack. Buy our products.

"This is our watch. Let's serve the Lord with such vigor that Christian children yet to be born will someday look back and say: this was our finest hour!

"Victory or death! The biblical family - now and forever!" emphasis mine

Wow! Lock and load after a speech like that. My family is under attack and I've got to defend it from everything modern!

Seriously, nearly all the book covers have paintings depicting scenes of people in the 18th and 19th centuries. The compact disc on page 7 of "Biblical Womanhood Victorious, the Role of Women in the Local Church" has cover art of Pilgrim women walking on a snow-covered path apparently to church escorted by their watchful, musket bearing men folk. A toy covered wagon on Page 77 shows two buckskin clad boys escorting two young girls inside the wagons and peeking out from behind the canvas. (My oldest daughter's reaction: "That doesn't look like very much fun.")

"Family Man, Family Leader," on page 6 shows a man and woman, both in Victorian garb, looking at a map spread across a table. "The Right Stuff: How to Evaluate a Suitor," available on two compact discs, shows a bucolic wedding scene from mid 18th century.

In addition to books on parenting, home schooling and history, there's also a section on books about the federal judiciary and federal government.

The review for "How to Dethrone the Imperial Judiciary" by Edwin Viera includes this: "Incredibly, some of these men - professing Christians - demand that judges must be obeyed, even when they offer rulings which provide for the vivisection of little babies, or seek to redefine that which only God can define - the institution of marriage. In his new book, Dr. Edwin Viera explains how issues like abortion and homosexual marriages can be resolved immediately, without special constitutional amendments, if we simply avail ourselves of the measures given to us by our Founding Fathers to hold lawless judges accountable for their behavior."

I guess not enough people have bought Viera's book to find out how to dethrone those judges.

In his "Christian Controversies in American History" series, there's this:

*"Pilgrims vs. Indians: Racial Genocide or Biblical Dominion in Colonial New England?"
"Recently 'America's Hometown' erected new monuments near Plymouth Rock referring to the Pilgrims as genocidal murderers. In truth, the Pilgrims provided the most godly view of Christian-Indian relations seen in American history."

*"Christians vs. Deists: The Truth about the Faith of America's Founding Fathers."
Joe Morecraft sets us straight on those who refer to the Founding Fathers as Deists.

*"Yankees vs. Rebels: Understanding the True Causes of the American Civil War"
"Slavery? States rights? Economic pressures? What were the true causes of the War Between the States? How was it possible for so man 'great men', many of who me were Christians, to disagree so fundamentally on the defining war of American history? For years, Christian students have been befuddled by the nonsense spouted by secular commentators. Into the historical fray steps historian Bill Potter with a scholarly Christian response."

Now back to the issue of race. I mentioned that the 44 people in the photograph of the Vision Forum Family were all white. Of the more than 500 images of people in the 87-page catalog, counting photos of CD covers, and book covers, and models of clothes and toys and lecturers, one shows an Asian-American boy. And there's one photograph of an African-American boy. Guess where his photograph is? If you guessed the very back page, you're correct.

This is Part 1, which originally appeared on DailyKos. Part 2 should be completed soon.

And thanks for your detailed unpacking of Doug Phillips' materials. A lot of homeschoolers are being raised on this stuff.

I'm looking forward to part II!

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Dec 15, 2005 at 11:32:58 PM EST

One thing I'm trying to find and you might know where to steer me: How much of this is Phillips simply meeting the market place demands from a certain segment of homeschoolers versus his subtly and not subtly shaping the views of the homeschoolers? For example, is he providing it because they want it or is he using this as an opportunity to present dominionist propaganda to an unwitting public?

by Carnacki on Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 05:19:01 PM EST
This is something that is a perennial headscratcher. It is always difficult to get inside people's heads and figure out if people believe what they say they believe, or whether they are seeking to maniupulate others in some way.

I have heard Doug Phillips speak, and I have no reason to believe that he does not believe what he says he believes.

At the same time, he is in business, and he has political interests. He is a Christian Reconstructionist, and like his father, Howard Phillips, he is involved in the Constitution Party. He actively sells his stuff to the homeschooling market.

My personal approach has always been not to speculate too deeply about such things, and let the facts speak for themselves. Although, informed speculation about motives can be useful.

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 06:17:20 PM EST

I need to find some polling data or surveys with homeschoolers.

by Carnacki on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 09:06:20 PM EST
although I haven't seen it myself. I believe that the U.S. Dept of Ed. keeps statistics in this area.

Some googling should turn up what you need.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 10:46:46 PM EST

Thank you for a wonderful exposition on how "scripture twisting" is used in the dominionist community, even in homeschooling programs.

(Scripture twisting, as an aside, is increasingly recognised as a "danger sign" of a coercive group in regards to religions--including Christianity--that actually have some form of a codex.  Talibanists in Islam and Aum Shinrikyo in Buddhism are documented as using the same "Scripture twisting" with the Koran and the writings of Buddha respectively.)

And yes, they very much DO pick and choose.  I'll be looking forward to the second part of this.

by dogemperor on Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 07:54:29 AM EST

Thanks. I should have part 2 completed by next week.

by Carnacki on Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 05:19:34 PM EST

I suppose a parent's right to indoctrinate their children in any way they wish is one of our American rights, and material like those mentioned above continue to have me concerned to the point of hopless pessimism over our culture (and a decision, made years ago, to never have children of my own). There will always be nutcase subcultures here in the US - it's one of the results of our "free market of idea" devised by the founding fathers, with the separation of church/state as a crucial component. But every time I hear of news like this, from home schoolers to Bob Jones University Press, Patrick Henry College, etc., I must remind myself that these kids live HERE with all of our media and information, and there's no way to lock it out forever. We all have to have the same chance to mess up on our own, including with our parents baggage, with the hope that we come out OK in the end. Sites like T2A, and the information presented here, is SO critical for balance of views - keep up the great work!

by joelp on Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 06:27:40 PM EST

I've recently commented here at my blog on a similar theme.  As a future parent, I will most likely choose to be a stay-at-home mom, as well as homeschool my children... yet the paradox is that this makes my family look "traditional", as if we would naturally support dominionism... and this makes me concerned if we're making the right choice... should we conciously decide NOT to look or act like a "traditional family" simply so that our community knows where we stand because of our actions...

In other words, will acting like a "traditional family" be condoning dominionism because to the outside world we look like dominionists?


by EmilyWynn8 on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 12:30:42 PM EST

With respect, I believe you're mis-reading the artwork on the catalog to some extent.

The boy on the front of the catalog can't defensibly be seen as suggesting all that you think he is. He's evoking an specific episode--whether wholly real or not--that looms large in San Antonio's history, in 1836 when Lt. Col. W. B. Travis inside the besieged Alamo drew a line in the sand with his sword and said that only those who crossed it need stay to defend the abandoned mission, all others could attempt to get through the enemy's encirclement while there was still a small chance of escape.

The boy's uniform is basically accurate to the era of the Alamo, which predates the Civil War by nearly 30 years. He is not wearing a Confederate uniform in part or in whole. (In fact, at the beginning of the Civil War, many regimental uniforms from Northern states were gray. This caused confusion on the battlefield on more than one occasion--particularly at the battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri. Such episodes accelerated the process of standardizing uniforms among Union regiments.)

As far as the "old door," well--it's not just any door. It's the door of the Alamo's main building, which is the only part of the Alamo that stands today in San Antonio.

So, I think you're probably reading some nefariousness into that particular illustration that simply isn't there. This is not to say the catalog isn't disturbing, and it's not to suggest that your concerns or overall observations aren't valid! Quite the opposite! I share the concerns, and I was raised in Iowa w/in the conservative evangelical Christian subculture in the days of Pat Robertson's presidential run, when many men (always the men) in local evangelical, charismatic, and Pentecostal churches rose in the ranks of the local Republican Party. Several of them headed households that schooled their children at home.

Also, the artwork is simply timely--March 6, 2006 will mark the 170th Anniversay of the end of the battle at the Alamo. To some extent, realize that the artwork may primarily just be a result of the Alamo's fall being a big subject of discussion and commemoration in the town that Vision Focus is based in, though it's a non-religious subject that Vision Focus certainly has co-opted for their own purposes!

I argue that bringing to all this a proper understanding of the Col. Travis episode at the Alamo actually bolsters your overall analysis of the catalog.

Notice how much of a siege mentality the catalog has--it's like you said, "Be afraid. Defend the family under attack. Buy our products." It's fear-based, and fear-inspired, and the catalog seems to want to present itself as a haven, a sanctum to retreat to--which is exactly what the Alamo was--a place to make a last stand. The Alamo ended up being completely surrounded and the best evidence suggests that no one escaped alive, except perhaps a handful of slaves and a woman and child or two. Though it's a stretch, one could argue, I suppose, that this catalog has the aura of martyrdom about it!

Also, the Alamo was a former Spanish mission--i.e., a religous structure. It's not thought of in those terms popularly, but rather as a "fort." But, adding to the correctness of your assessment, the boy is--technically--defending something that could be seen as a symbol of the Church, (albeit, Roman Catholicism!).

Finally, as far as the racial aspect, consider that it was a Mexican army that was at the gates of the Alamo in Travis' day, 1836. Given the heated debates these days concerning immigration, the Alamo is a symbol that could easily be seized upon by anti-immigration &/or racialist conservatives, though I don't know how conscious the Vision Forum is about that angle. My guess is they're not naive.

by IseFire on Sun Feb 26, 2006 at 09:35:37 PM EST

This sounds like a really terrible world view. I can understand that they have to indoctrinate people with it since hardly noone would ever like it in any other way....
Christina, IT Freelancer currently working on the health menopause project.
by Christina N on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 09:23:31 AM EST

That's some interesting stuff covered by those ellipses.| Decking Contractor               

by maroso on Mon Sep 13, 2021 at 07:17:47 AM EST

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