Why “Not All Homeschoolers” and “No True Christians” responses are silencing dialogue

So I’m active in several online communities that discuss homeschooling and spiritual abuse. I also read a lot. Almost daily, I post articles and blog posts that I find interesting.

I’m also Facebook friends with people I met during each of the four times I moved cross-country between Texas and Colorado, people from every church I went to growing up, every place I’ve worked, people who are my fellow homeschool alumni and college classmates. This means that everything I share is being viewed by people all over the human spectrum. 

I value this diversity, that my community is no echo chamber. I welcome the opportunity to be challenged and corrected and grow, and I hope my friends do, too.

Yes, there are periodic flame wars in the comments, but I’ve also seen successful dialogue. This is why I want to foster debates and discussion, because I believe that if I limit myself to only people who agree with me, change will never happen.

But a couple of arguments surface over and over.

“Not all homeschoolers were raised in cults.”

“What does abuse in these churches have to do with true Christianity?”

And these rebuttals are killing our discussions. Here’s why. This week, I read an article posted by Relevant magazine on why there’s a problem with saying All Lives Matter. The subtitle read: “There’s a difference between ‘true’ and ‘helpful.'”

Responses like this usually demonstrate a failure to listen. Conversations usually go:

Person 1: “This is what my experience with homeschooling / purity culture was like.”
Person 2: “Good point, but remember, not all homeschoolers were abused / raised in cults.”
Person 1: *awkward silence* (thinks) But I wasn’t talking about all homeschoolers. I was talking about me.

And they feel like you don’t think their story is important.

It’s hard to have these conversations, I think. If you say, “Hey, this happened and it was bad,” or express criticism, you get a lot of “not all homeschoolers” responses. Which is technically true.

But the one doesn’t invalidate the other. Sure, not all homeschoolers were raised in cults. But some were, and problematic and harmful things happened as a result. I’m not against homeschooling as a form of education, and I don’t think it should be banned, but I do think the problems within the movement must be addressed.

“No True Christian” is basically another version of the No True Scotsman fallacy.

Person 1: “This really awful thing happened in my church / to Amish girls / to Pentecostals.”
Angry Defensive Person 1: “Not all Apostolic Pentecostals are like this!”
Angry Defensive Person 2: “What does this have to do with true Christianity?”

These comments are missing the point. Orthodoxy isn’t the issue here, abuse is. And if you’re more concerned with heresy than hurting people, you are contributing to the problem.

And almost every group thinks they are the true believers, the genuine thing. So asking whether or not the Amish are truly Christians is irrelevant. They believe they are. That’s why they live in isolation, making sure they aren’t corrupted by deviating opinions. Other high control religious groups operate similarly.

Just because you might not believe cult members or other denominations are actually Christians doesn’t stop them from identifying as believers. But shouldn’t Christians be more concerned about people who claim to follow their savior perpetrating abuse than whether or not the abusers are heretics?

Let’s be honest here. We use these arguments to protect ourselves. We don’t want to be associated with sexual abuse and hypocrisy, we don’t want our image threatened. So we cry “not all homeschoolers” to defend our educations, and “not true Christians” to defend our core beliefs. We don’t want to think that our community might be wrong, we hide our faces from the wounds, cover our ears and refuse to listen.

And we need to stop.

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3 thoughts on “Why “Not All Homeschoolers” and “No True Christians” responses are silencing dialogue

  1. We say the same thing about extremism/terror in Islam. “No true Muslim…” or “religion of peace,” etc. It’s deeply unsettling to have to face and accept that, yep, some true (as far as they believe) homeschoolers have promoted or at least allowed some terrible shit. It’s a fact. It’s a badfeel, but true whether we accept it or not (same for Islam).

    When I NEED others’ validation of my own life experience, despite it being MY OWN, then I know the problem isn’t others, the problem is me. I’m a narcissist—even if I’m a victim.

    I can exist outside of super affirming Tweets. The mean/dumb ones will come, but meh, they can go fuck themselves.

    Like

  2. Alternatively, the authors of these kinds of stories could display more tact in how they’re presenting them. Don’t unintentionally demonize a whole group of people and then expect the readers not to defend their image at the risk of hurting someone’s feelings. Dialogue isn’t dialogue if the greater audience now has the impression ‘that all homeschoolers’ or ‘that all Christians’ do this or that.

    Consider Paris, which undoubtedly will lead to greater anti-Muslim sentiment. Muslims can now silence themselves and participate in dialogue with how to solve the problem, while the greater audience is free to perpetuate ‘that all Muslims are terrorists.’ Popular opinion after 9/11 against Islam is what allowed the US to invade Iraq, and we may be headed down that same path again.

    Sometimes it might make someone feel like you don’t think that their story or situation is important, but I’d much prefer that to an infringement on freedoms or a loss of life driven by uninformed, emotional opinion. If you can’t make it clear to greater spectrum of readers that you’re not advocating against a whole group of people on an issue, then it’s probably best that the dialogue gets derailed. For example, If someone has a story about how they were assaulted by a black male, I’d suggest that it’s important not to perpetuate the idea that black men are violent by allowing the greater audience to interpret the story as meaning ‘that all black men are violent.’

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    1. Yes but this is the reply even when it is made crystal clear that this is a particular experience and not necessarily attempting to represent the whole. It’s more often than not used as a tactic to shy down the conversation. Dissenting opinion isn’t a problem, but not hearing anything, and going this doesn’t happen! Or not all whatever the group is only makes things worse. It also shows an utter lack of accountability on the parts that are good to accept the bad within their ilk, then loudly reject it.
      When the crappy people are the loudest, then that is what will be seen. If not all *insert group* is true, then the supposed decent majority meds to be louder than the horrid minority.

      Liked by 2 people

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