He's drawn a crowd. Ten people have stopped their Friday evening activities to listen to what he's yelling into a portable PA system. One girl, I think she had blue hair, good-naturedly yells back, challenging his proclamations of fire and brimstone. The rest of the throng are part of the street preacher's entourage or college kids also looking to minister to the lost.
I'm one of them, out for an evening of evangelizing, and "bullhorn guy" doesn't seem to be helping.
"What do you think of this guy?" A middle-aged man has appeared at my shoulder and is asking me questions.
I do a terrible job explaining my inner turmoil. I realize some people are cut to the quick and repent at these kinds of things. But I also know that it's one of those quintessential "turn offs" to Christianity because what they're selling isn't good news. It's, at best, the solution to the bad news of being a sinner. And the girl in the blue hair has decided to move on, playfully flipping off microphone man as she departs.
"I really hope there's a better way," I finish, wishing I knew what it was.
See, I had spent the previous four years in high school determined to save my friends from hell. [Read more about that here.] My perspective was shifting. I was beginning to recognize the human side to reaching people, something I should have seen clearly from all the missionary biographies I had grown up with in Sonlight.
The man may have chatted with me longer, or, perhaps, he had disappeared. Either way, his question stuck.
The guy on the podium was there on conquest. He had zero interest in conversation. He knew that he knew that he knew that he was right and so discussion was out of the question. He refused to entertain "nonsense." He told people what was what--namely, that they were sinners--and urged them to come to Jesus. Trouble was, no one found that inviting.
A similar problem echoes through various groups of homeschoolers. There is a directive to shield yourself from lies and boldly declare the Truth. Like political pundits unwilling to even consider another perspective, such an approach severs communication and entrenches combatants in a deaf yelling match. Both sides, then, end up setting up and burning straw men, and so miss every opportunity to understand the needs and concerns of the other.
This happens frequently with the hot button issues in homeschooling. And those caught in the middle--our students--can be hindered or helped by how we respond.
If we mock every untruth as rubbish and proclaim discussion of the subject as somehow dishonoring to God, we cripple our children. When they one day encounter the arguments and evidence of the other side, they will be forced to reconsider, retrench, or reject. And too often I've seen such kids walk away from the dogmatic ideals of their family. But even if they hold fast to their beliefs, they are not likely to win anyone over to their side. A funny thing happens when you stop up your ears and reiterate again and again your position: The person you're talking to tends to respond in kind. And now, like the guys with the effigies above, we're not even close to talking about reality.
This brings us to the incredible opportunity you have: You can focus on seeking to understand the other points of view. You can tackle tough questions. You can address foolish ideas. You can discuss the uncomfortable realities of life with your kids. And through all that, they will be able to better understand and articulate what they believe and why. They will, one day, be able to have a conversation with someone who comes at the world from a completely different perspective... and share the reason for their hope.
But this requires a radical shift in perspective from conquest and defense to outreach and seed planting.
This is one of the unique aspects of Sonlight that is built into our homeschool curriculum. You will be equipped to empower your children to reach out into the world and bring Truth and Good News as they converse and connect with people from all walks of life. And it's one of my favorite parts of meeting other Sonlighters. You and I have a common curiosity and desire to learn so we can more effectively bless those around us, both in our homes and around the globe.
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian