Love Misapplied: A Response to Chris Jeub

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on November 9, 2013 as a response to Chris Jeub’s article for HA, “Stiff-Necked Legalism.” We extended to Chris the opportunity to write a follow-up post, but he decided to respond directly on Libby Anne’s original post. You can view his response here.

I grew up hearing about Chris Jeub.

He was a big name in NCFCA homeschool debate circles, and while I never met him I did use the evidence briefs he put out. The Jeubs had 16 kids and were deep into the patriarchal and controlling ideas at the heart of the most conservative strains of the Christian homeschooling movement. In fact, they kicked their daughter Alicia out of the family and shunned her completely when she became “rebellious.” However, Chris says that he and his family have since left that whole legalistic mess.

In fact, Chris is, I think, the only current Christian homeschooling leader who has written a post for Homeschoolers Anonymous.

All of the Jeubs’ book titles have the word “love” in them. Even their blog title has the word. Their move away from legalism involved embracing love. Then why, I have to ask myself, does their approach make me so very uncomfortable? Oh right! Because the problem I had with my parents was not that they didn’t love me. They did.

The problem I had with my parents was that they didn’t accept me.

I would feel a whole lot more comfortable if instead of Love in The House and Love Another Child, the Jeubs titled their books Acceptance in This House and Accept Another Child.

I just read Chris Jeub’s recent blog post Pattern of the Fallen. Here’s an excerpt:

I consider it tragic when people walk away from God. Sometimes they leave in a huff, sometimes they’ve intellectually wrestled, sometimes they dive into crazy sin and blow up their lives. Whatever the story, they are no longer walking with God, and that’s sad.

I’ve seen a pattern, though. This may give you hope. Wendy and I see this time and time again. Any separation between man and God can be attributed to a lack of love.

. . .

One is of a former student of mine who, on the surface, is angry with God. He and I have had rich conversations, but he’s struggling with some genuine relational hurdles that he finds bothersome. Here’s what I find encouraging: this young adult has a deep heart of compassion and love for people. He’s justifiably ticked at people who treat others wrong. His doubts about God stem from the lack of love from the so-called Christians in his life. Funny, I believe God is love (1 John 4:8), so though he is denying God’s love, he’s still running with God whether he believes it or not.. . .

There is a pattern here, don’t you see it? You probably see it in your family. For me, every single squabble or fight we have (sibling vs sibling, parent vs parent, parent vs child) can be attributed to a lack of love. Wendy and I have found that when we focus on love, solutions to the fights work their way out. A quick read and application of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 solves a lot of problems in our household.

Remember: LOVE is the most excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31). This reality slaps us up now and then. The trials, heartbreaks, disillusions, confusion, and turmoil in life can often be whittled down to a lack of love in our lives. Someone along the way failed to love, it is as simple as that.

No. Just, no.

Do you know, I would rather be accepted than loved.

Want to know why? Because my parents loved me until it hurt so much that I thought the inside of my chest was going to implode—and not in a good way. I have spent hours curled into a ball sobbing because of how much my parents loved me. I have been ripped apart, shredded, and mangled by their love. Through all of this, I honestly didn’t want my parents to love me. I just wanted them to accept me.

Before you say that love includes acceptance, I’ll point out that for Chris Jeub it clearly doesn’t. Chris very clearly can’t accept the former student he mentioned. Instead, he has to spent an entire paragraph saying that his former student is an atheist because he is angry at God, and that this former student is actually really following God or he wouldn’t have a heart to help those in pain. That is not acceptance. That is so not acceptance. Speaking from personal experience, that kind of thing can feel like a slap in the face to the person on the receiving side of it.

I grew up in a family that had a lot of love. I honestly don’t think I even for a moment questioned whether I was loved. My parents told us frequently that they loved us, and they were always physically affectionate toward us. Mom read us books, baked cookies with us, did crafts with us and sewed clothes for our dolls. Dad showed us how to plant a garden, built us playground equipment, read aloud to us on winter evenings, played board games with us, and took us swimming. My parents centered their lives around us, and we always felt incredibly loved.

And in the end, that is why it hurt so much.

When I was in college, I began to form my own beliefs and to disagree with my parents. Sex? Drugs? Alcohol? No. It was things like just how God went about creating the world, whether or not God required unmarried adult daughters to obey their fathers, and whether I needed my parents’ permission to go out with a guy. But while my parents had buckets of love, they had not a drop of acceptance. They didn’t stop loving me, and in many ways that’s what hurt so much. It hurt that these people who loved me so profoundly could stand in front of me in tears and tell me how much my actions and beliefs hurt them. It hurt so much my insides shriveled. And don’t say they didn’t actually love me. They did. If they hadn’t, that period wouldn’t have been nearly so painful.

Love is a very slippery thing.

Anyone can claim to have it, and people can claim it means anything they want.

For example, I am willing to bet that most abusive parents would claim that they are acting out of love for their children. And are you really going to argue that legalistic parents don’t love their children? Really? Indeed, I’ve heard it argued that the most loving thing a parent of a gay teen can do is to refuse to accept that child’s homosexuality. Telling that child that they are accepted, it is argued, only validates that child’s sin and keeps them from coming to wholeness in Jesus. I grew up hearing from religious leaders who told parents that if they truly loved their children, they must require them to submit to parental control and punish them with the rod when they are disobedient. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the religious leaders I grew up hearing from preyed on parents’ love for their children.

So when Chris Jeub goes on and on about how the solution to dysfunctional Christian homeschooling is love, I can’t help but say no. No, it most certainly is not. If I had experienced a lack of love, my life would have been a whole lot simpler and a whole lot less painful.

The problem isn’t a lack of love. The problem is a lack of acceptance.

The problem is love misapplied.

9 comments

  • Thank you!!! My parents love me so much. They only want the best for me- what they see as “best”- and it was so painful for me, when I met my gentle, respectful boyfriend, that they would not respect or accept him. Because he’s an agnostic. He has integrity, he has character, he is what they always told me to look for in every way…but I know my relationship is HURTING them because they sincerely believe it is going to send me to hell. I often feel like I am being ripped apart…like it is not “loving” of me to pursue this relationship, no matter how healing it has been for me. That “loving” my parents would mean making them happy.

  • I have to say that I also have never doubted my parents’ love for me. When I told them I was in love with a woman… Yikes! They looked at me like I had stabbed them in the heart. The last seven years have been very painful, and it would all be so much easier if I could just tell myself that they are horrible people who don’t really love me; and then I could cut them off entirely and never think about them again, but they do love me, and I do want to find some way to preserve what remains of the relationship, so we limping together toward acceptance — albeit, they are doing so with very pained expressions. My mother even told me that she is so glad Renee and I found each other, and she is so good for me… but why do we have to be together in this way? That is love without full acceptance.

  • I’m not sure that being sad that someone knows Jesus counts as not accepting them. But other than that, I agree that we need to accept everyone in their difference.

  • Is it possible you are confusing “acceptance” with “agreement”? In other words, aren’t you demanding too much when you insist that your parents must accept (read: Agree) with every decision, lifestyle choice, may I say “sin”?, etc that someone does.
    Look in the mirror. You love your parents but you do not accept/agree with the way they treat you. I think all of your commentary could just as easily have come from your parents, with the same complaints and the same conclusion. “Our daughter loves us but she does not accept us.”

    • Putting being upset with the way you, personally, are treated by someone on equal footing with being upset at the demands people make of you (demands they have no right to make) is quite a bit of a stretch.

      “Our daughter loves us but she does not accept us” recognizes NO boundaries whatsoever, and is a massive continuation of the entire problem with religion-based legalistic homeschooling. It recognizes NO personhood in the adult child, and considers that child drawing a boundary rebellion.

      Christian homeschooling has created so much freaking senseless, needless, and downright cruel confusion with its BS ownership mentality of parents over children. “Why won’t you accept that I want to control you!”

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