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Archive for June 20th, 2008

Springing off of what was mentioned in a recent post by Cally, I would like to tackle the issue of Vision Forum’s elitism in more detail. So grab a cup of tea, your lace doily, and sit down for a long rant…

Many readers of this blog are doubtless already aware of Doug Phillips and his great entrepreneurial gem, Vision Forum (www.visionforum.com). The very first thing that struck me about their website was its blatant consumerism. Buy all these toys, costumes, books, DVDs, CDs, and curricula so you can live out the real Christian life with your family! Honestly, I first had no idea it was a Christian ministry I simply thought it was a Christian company, my mistake. I heard from someone who knows Mr. Phillips personally that the Phillips family doesn’t give gifts on Christmas. If this is true, then I can only assume it is to protest how consumerism has taken over the true message of Christmas (which is a valid point). It is ironic then that Phillips’ website is largely devoted to things you can and should buy to enhance your Christian life! (Also, I’m sure a large portion of their sales occur in December.)

The second thing that struck me about Vision Forum was their American-ness. Although they will not say it outright, their method of Christian living is not only created by Americans but also crafted specifically for Americans. Somehow I don’t see Brits getting all excited about buying American revolutionary war costumes for their boys. And Native Americans (to which group I technically belong) would not be so pleased to see VF’s array of cowboy and pioneer items for sale under “American Heroes of the West.” Granted, there is an overpriced teepee, but not even one Indian Chief costume! Oh, that’s right, by American they mean white American, I forgot.

Besides their very un-PC catalogue, Vision Forum has many more serious problems. They alienate people through their teachings by adding a long To Do list to the cross of Christ. If people are offended by the gospel, it ought to be because of the offense of the cross of Christ, not because they can’t embrace a lifestyle of hyper-patriarchy and clichéd femininity. But beyond the pharisaical elements… let’s just say, for argument’s sake, one wishes to live the VF life. You can only do this fully if you have an enormous income. Think about it this way: a couple has as many “little blessings” as God will give them (and that normally means 6 or more); mom and daughters cannot work outside the home and daughters live at home until they are married; all children are homeschooled; the arts are encouraged (think piano lessons); and there is a strict counter-cultural dress code. What family can afford that? Only upper-middle to upper-class families. VF’s solution is to become an entrepreneurial family and have everyone contribute to generating income from a home-based business. Sounds great, but what if the husband and wife aren’t very business minded (no MBAs in this crowd)?

Vision Forum likes to hold up particular families as pedestal examples of the VF way. One such family is the Botkins. In their new movie The Return of the Daughters and in their blog posts they make it very clear that their adult daughters enjoy living at home. Who wouldn’t when one’s home included such diverting things as a recording studio where you could make your own movies or a lovely, expensive harp (which you could play), an extensive library, and much more? If that was my home I wouldn’t want to leave it either.

A further problem I see is that they idealize a particular culture and a particular time period. To VF the ideal of human civilization is the time period from about England’s Georgian era until women started wearing pants (which we all know corrupted society)—with the pinnacle being the Victorian age. Countless blogs from mothers who follow VF and hyper-patriarchy are replete with Victorian art. I swear, if I see one more picture of serene, lace-clad, white, Victorian women with children in tow I think I’ll puke.

Another thing that is a red flag to me is their collection of buzz words and extra-biblical virtues. Many cults and religious sects, in order to create and maintain an identity, will create their own lingo or even re-define terms so that, when in discussion with them, apples are no longer apples. Some examples of VF’s jargon/re-defined terms are: visionary, dominion, help-meet in training, multi-generational, biblical patriarchy, and biblical family. As far as the virtues VF esteems, most of them are in fact biblical; VF, however, puts those virtues on steroids as well as adding some others such as entrepreneurialism. Ultimately it is a type of Gnostic Legalism… in order to live the Biblical way or the Christian way you must do what they say and live as they do.

So, according to VF, if you are poor, voluntarily sterile, using any type of birth control, a feminist of any shade, a female who eschews dresses for pants, a female college student, a single female missionary, an old-earth creationist, a pacifist, a working mom, a working widow, a stay-at-home dad, a tomboy, a Native American, non-white, or non-American, then you can’t really live out the ideal, visionary Christian life or enjoy the benefits of the true Christian family. My wrong… I thought John 3:16 said “for God so loved the world,” but I guess, according to Doug Phillips, it is “for God so loved the white, middle-to-upper-class, Americans, that whosoever of them believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The reason I claim that Doug Phillips’ version of the gospel is elitist is best explained by transporting all these “values” and the VF type of lifestyle into southern Sudan, or rural China, or any number of places in developing countries or simply in cultures very different to ours. Can you imagine a Sudanese woman, who contracted aids from her dying husband and lives in a one-room hut with five children living out the Vision Forum lifestyle? Christ’s gospel is universal but Vision Forum and hyper-patriarchy are not.

Whatever else it is or isn’t, VF is most certainly a product of a post post-modern society. Post-modernity has stripped away objective truth and many traditional/family values. So it is natural that after post-modernity has ravaged America, movements which strive to give people a purpose and/or a method of purposeful living have become popular. Just look at the rise in Neo-Paganism and New-Age groups (think Yoga), or the popularity of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. For many people who come from families or educations that left them adrift, VF gives them an anchor. The anchor, however, is not Christ and His gospel. The anchor is a 21st century, Americanized version of the Old Testament Law. In the end, either the anchor won’t hold the ship, or the ship will become submerged under her heavy yoke. Only the test of time will tell—something Vision Forum hasn’t had yet.

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