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Christian Isolationism: Be Ye Holy?

Proverbs 18:1
A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire;
He rages against all wise judgment.


Isolationism.

It is a response to the Biblical mandate to:

“ Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.”

Or to be peculiar, as the KJV states in 1 Peter 2 and Titus 2.

What does this look like within a patriocentric family?

Obviously, this extreme form of separation is not practiced by all homeschooling or Quiverfull households. It is imperative, however, that we are aware and understand certain factors of this lifestyle, for untold numbers of Christian brothers and sisters promote the "righteousness" and "godliness" of this way, and many children are being raised in seclusion. It is impossible to calculate statistics due to the very nature of desolation and privacy, which is a right claimed with fervor by those who support this way of life. I grieve at the lack of godly balance and grace that wrecks havoc upon the lives--spiritually, physically, intellectually, and emotionally--of the ones who would be considered "the least of these" in such a family.

Mark 9:36 Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”

Matthew 10:42 And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.

Matthew 25:35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Mark 9:41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. 42 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—

A cup of cold water

Jesus took seriously the welfare of children, to the point of telling his disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones."

In our culture, both religious and mainstream, we have adopted a very lax approach to the concept of offense, or offending. We bristle at certain words, taking offense. Ideas or manner of dress that we find distasteful offend our sensibilities. We are quick to take offense at even some very innocuous things--I confess I have done so myself, forgetting what is important in light of eternity and the souls of those created in the image of God.

It is interesting to study what it is, truly, to offend or cause offense.

Just a few results from thesaurus.com, words that can be used interchangeably with offend:
  • sin
  • anger
  • distress
  • pain
  • hurt
  • wound
  • abuse

Definitions from dictionary.com:
  • to irritate, annoy, or anger; cause resentful displeasure in.
  • to affect (the sense, taste, etc.) disagreeably.
  • to violate or transgress (a criminal, religious, or moral law).
  • to hurt or cause pain to.
  • to cause to fall into sinful ways.
The Jesus who beckons little children to come to Him is the One who did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. He is the One who cares about the least of these, and who exhorts us to become as they. He is the One whom healthy parents should emulate, as He, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, tenderly knelt before His disciples and washed their feet.

Common Features of an Isolationist Lifestyle

Many Christian Isolationists feel a conviction to go back-to-the-land-- Agrarianism /Biblical Agrarianism / Agrarian Separatist Philosophy --to live what they consider to be a simple life, free from the materialism, secularism, and influence of modern culture. This is also closely related to Asceticism, which is the practice of "doing without" or "going without" for religious reasons. Many ascetics believe that most pleasures, many comforts, and modern conveniences are worldly and distract from the things of God, whereas hard work and physical labor are representative of righteous living. The drudgery of farm life is revered. Keeping busy, many reason, ensures that people simply will not have the time, energy, or inclination to live "foolishly."

Pooling strength and resources, some agrarians reside in intentional communities, groups of like-minded individuals who live, worship, and work together, sometimes even school their children together. Even with this abbreviated level of relationship, the community as a whole, as an extended family, remains largely sequestered from the world except for what is necessary interaction for survival. While religious communities such as the Amish lead such rustic lives, the FLDS is one that does not, necessarily, operate in this manner, although other factors still apply.

While not all isolationist families are tucked away in rural areas, a common feature between them and their urban counterparts are the levels of disconnection and disassociation from the outside world. It is a purposeful withdrawal, and nearly always for strict, religious reasons.

At its core, while blanketed with scriptures that admonish separation from the world, Christian isolationism is about control. In these families, the parents, usually the father, strictly monitor books and other media allowed into the home, including news-feed and news-sources. Many do not allow Internet or television; it is common for such families to rely upon shortwave radio for "unbiased" reflections regarding "what really goes on in the world." In the name of godliness, for training in righteousness, practically every element in life, from the making of simple decisions to how much "free" time a child is allowed, is governed with alacrity.

Beliefs, thoughts, ideas, and other elements of psychological grooming are carefully guided to reflect popular family tenets; again, this is ensured through selective influence. Limited social interaction guarantees against unwanted persuasion. Proponents see this as godly sheltering, a responsible obligation of conscientious, biblical parenting.

Indoctrination, secrecy, and fear are some of the biggest factors that contribute to, and promote, isolationism and the isolationist mentality.

Isolationists are generally quick to draw upon their rights for privacy and freedom of choice when their way of life is called to question. "It is none of their business" is a frequent rationale. Any mistreatment--or perceived harassment--is relegated to the spiritual element of persecution or spiritual attack, a "test". Secrets and secrecy abound. Many follow conspiracy theories and speak rebellion against the government. Fear is used as a method of control and manipulation, while simultaneously many patriocentric isolationists dwell under fear themselves--fear of losing their freedom, fear of being "found", fear of Y2K, fear of losing children to the world.

An even smaller number of Christian isolationists join militia and kinist organizations (WARNING: potentially offensive link).

Although not confined to isolationism, homeschooling is a prevalent feature. Many families are Quiverfull, and several espouse Dominionism and Christian Reconstructionist philosophies.

Most of these characteristics, taken singularly or within the bounds of a healthy, humble, truly Christ-like environment, are in and of themselves, good. Whenever fear, imbalanced control, and absence of accountability are prevalent within isolated, patriocentric familial units, there is just cause for alarm.

So What is Wrong with It?


Many within remote families or communities lack balanced, healthy accountability among those in leadership or authority. This is inherently dangerous, for all of us have been tainted by the Fall; left unchecked, an imbalanced leader can exert terrible desecration upon those in his care.

Often, women raised within isolation find themselves battling issues of fear. Some lack the necessary skills to make basic decisions. Many struggle with social anxiety. Others, who choose to leave their sheltered upbringing, find themselves ill-equipped to handle practical elements of day-to-day life. While mistakes are a crucial part of learning, many women have been raised to believe that even simple blunders elicit the wrath of God, and therefore writhe in shame and self-condemnation.

But the deadliest ramification is a polluted gospel.

Although rarely stated as such, implications remain that the gospel and the Christian life are rooted through faith in a works-based religion, rather than grace-based salvation through faith in Christ. This poses serious stumbling blocks to a walk with God which can take years to overcome.

1 Peter 1:13-19
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

Peter suggests that it is the aimless conduct received by tradition from the fathers from which we are redeemed; from aimless conduct which appears holy but is relegated to "ignorance", to "former lusts", and to "unholiness"! Holy conduct, according to Peter, is to "gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." It is not living a life marked by extreme forms of asceticism, isolation, or religious works!

At its foundation, isolationism promotes misplaced faith. This, in essence, is idolatry.

Benefits of Isolationism

Is all isolationism bad? Those who live an agrarian lifestyle generally learn wonderful skills that benefit both their own families, and the world--such as the extensive growth and maintenance of farmland, gardening, and animal husbandry. Many know how to preserve food, through canning or drying, and storing. Because a key conviction is to be independent of the world, many have a vast knowledge of survivalism which can be vital.

There is a lovely element of purity of mind within some children who grow within isolation; they exhibit freshness, a wonder that is beautiful to see, and the faith that Jesus commends so strongly. Many Christian families place emphasis on Scripture, which instills a strong biblical foundation in the lives of their offspring.

Debt-free living is common within such families. This is a tremendous blessing, enabling them to use resources with more freedom than those who struggle with financial matters.

But is isolationism scriptural?


Biblical living is a delicate issue among Christians. Ten individuals can interpret a single passage ten different ways. It is essential to seek the wisdom of God while following what He has laid on our hearts, and I believe that almost every family who sets out upon a separatist path does so with a desire to obey and glorify God.

It is possible to live a balanced life sheltered from the evils of our post-Christian society, but the conventional application of most isolationist families promotes an extremist, fear-based form of sheltering. Jesus prayed in John 17, "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one." When increasing numbers of families who strive to love and serve God continue to extrapolate themselves from the darkness which overwhelms the land, where will the light so shine?
Matthew 5:14“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

Light shining within light has little effect. A beacon in the night draws the attention of all who have eyes to see.

Just as Jesus withdrew from the multitudes to find rest, solace, and communion with His Father, there are times when we need to find sanctuary and stillness, becoming recharged for the war which rages all around us. This is a critical aspect of our Christian walk. But to intentionally keep ourselves unavailable to the ones our Lord came to seek and save is like burying our talents in the sand:

Matthew 25:25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ 26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
"I was afraid," said the servant.

Anything based upon fear is set upon a shaky foundation, for fear is the opposite of faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God.

For those Raised in Isolation

If you have been insulated from the ravages of the world, it can seem like culture shock to finally emerge from isolation, can it not? I am working on an article addressing some of the issues that women face as they come out from isolationism and extreme conservativism.

for further reading:

Agrarianism

The Good Shepherds
A Process Driven Life
Center for Agrarian Homesteading Education
Christian Agrarianism
Christian Exodus
Biblical Agrarianism

Asceticism

Christian Asceticism: Breaking Consumerism's Hold
Asceticism
Ecological Asceticism: A Cultural Revolution

Separation

Christian Separation
Biblical Separation
The Christian and Worldliness
Engaging the Culture: Mennonites Can do it, Too (pdf)

Child Sheltering

Sheltering Children: God's Mandate to Holiness, part 1
Sheltering Children: Parental Responsibility for Influences, part 2

Dominionism and Christian Reconstructionism

Christian Reconstructionism, Dominionism, and Theonomy
Dominionism and the Rise of Christian Imperialism
Christian Reconstructionism
The Reconstructionist Movement on the New Christian Right
The Rise of Dominionism

1 comment:

  1. I look back at the rearing of my older 2 children and see how following some of the things you talk about here harmed them. We were not extreme by any means, but I too often followed things that were extreme. Coming form a cult like atmosphere in Christianity, it took years to recognize and stay away from those things. The homeschooling world is very conducive to cult like behavior. I now can smell a cult a mile away and if there are lots of control rules and issues, I stay clear. I like to read your articles as it helps me to stay grounded and be a better parent and grandparent.

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