Written By Michael and Debi Pearl
Fifty years ago when Mike and I first started teaching our children at home (illegal at the time), we met with resistance from friends, family, and later from the authorities. The primary objection of the professional class was best summed up by a midwestern judge who said, “We cannot allow children to be schooled in the home, for they will not fit into the modern world order.”
Public school is all about constrained conformity. Social engineers know they must indoctrinate the youth—condition them to conform to state-mandated norms. Homeschooled kids, for the most part, are trained to think critically and independently. The opposite of propagandized conformity is training a child to possess the character to think independently, to say no to the crowd when the crowd is going the wrong way, and to say no to authority when it is evil. This lack of conforming is an act of reflective rebellion and is vital to our democracy.
Without discernment it is easy to confuse the two: the one self-centered and automatic, and the other a thoughtful compassion for others with a resolve to act as the situation requires.
Reflective rebellion is a character trait that must be instilled in one’s youth. It is rebellion born of reflecting upon the deep issues and responding with thoughtful deliberation. It doesn’t come naturally. Over time, as the Bible and prayer were taken from public school and discussion of God was deemed unacceptable and offensive speech, children lost the ability to reflect upon great moral principles that might lead to rebellion against the status quo. That most obvious deterioration of moral fiber in the public arena is what prompted parents to fight for the right to educate their children at home. These first pioneers wanted their children to know how to make wise decisions, lead their lives based on compassion and fundamental truths, and not be moved by the consensus of those around them. Homeschooling was a movement of God. These first homeschooling parents might not have been able to articulate their motivation at that time, but they were moved by God to instill in their children the ability to stand alone, if need be, in righteous rebellion against the sliding moral scale of relativism.
Fast forward to 2021. It is obvious that worldwide conformity is vital to the new world that is quickly closing in on us: “Step in line and remain 6 feet apart, adjust your mask, roll up your baby’s sleeve for this mandatory vaccination, you are not allowed to go to church, you can’t fly to Kauai without a vaccination, you have no right to question the vote . . .” etc. Wait! Before you yell, “AMEN! Let’s demand our rights,” I want you to know that not all conformity is evil, and to rebel when it is not wise is simply a selfish human response rooted in pride.
In this new world it is vital that we as believers understand there are two forms of rebellion: one is reflective, and the other is reactive. We define reflective as rooted in wise reflection, whereas reactive rebellion is an automatic reflex action to things not going our way. It is the carnal, human response when someone takes away our rights.
“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
The History teacher
The history of Hitler’s reign is fresh for me since I was born shortly after he was crushed by my father and his fellow warriors. I grew up hearing firsthand accounts of the extreme evils of the death camps. It is interesting to note that when the atrocities were being committed, no one here in America could believe it was happening. Readers’ Digest magazines from the 1930s and ’40s (I have read all of them) treated the news filtering out of Germany as vile rumors, purporting that no human would do such a thing as to actually gather up innocent families and take them to camps to be burned. The magazine editorial staff was firm in their stand that no one would cooperate with a government that did such a thing. It is an interesting side note that all during those same years Reader’s Digest’s editors were 100% behind the Arab people in the Middle East and wrote with extremely negative tones concerning the suffering Jews wanting to return to their homeland. But popular opinion—which was written as unquestionable truth—was wrong.
Now we know that the German soldiers did what they were told to do in sync with their fellows; they went along with the flow regardless of which way the flow was going. Christian men who went to church on Sunday and had wives and children of their own put guns to the heads of women and children and blew their brains out time and time again by the hundreds of thousands. No reflection as to right or wrong, no compassion, no godly rebellion. They did as they were ordered. History teaches us more: they simply did what their comrades were doing. Their pastors told them that a good Christian patriot obeys those whom God has placed in authority over them.
After World War II’s atrocities were revealed, people tried to make sense of the existence of such evil by saying the soldiers were doing what they were commanded to do because they were afraid for their own lives. But REAL history tells a different story. The soldiers who ran the death camps were given the opportunity to take a different role in the war: they could relocate at any time they chose, but most chose to continue their art of butchery—inventing new ways to get off on administering cruel death. These soldiers had been trained into conformity. It has been said that not knowing history condemns us to repeat it.
Classic Profile of Human Nature
I hear the protest: “But we are a Christian nation and times have changed.” In 1963, Stanley Milgram, a psychologist at Yale University, conducted an experiment that would become a classic psychological profile of human nature. His research focused on the conflict between obedience to authority and personal conscience. He was performing this experiment in hope of finding answers concerning the Jewish genocide. Stanley Milgram wanted to see if volunteers would exercise compassionate, reflective rebellion or if they would bow down to authority even when they knew it was wrong. Milgram advertised in the newspaper for 40 men to be a part of his research. These men were duped into thinking they were going to be part of an experiment designed to see how punishment affects memory and learning ability. Each volunteer would play the role of a teacher. They thought the person playing the part of the learner was also a volunteer, but that part was played by an actor. The volunteer teacher watched as the learner was strapped into an electrically wired chair; then the teacher was taken into the adjacent room where he could not see the other man strapped into the chair.
The teacher was shown how to use the dials to impart various degrees of electrical shock to the learner if he failed to recall the list of words that had previously been given to him. With each missed answer, the teacher (volunteer) would administer an increasing intensity of electrical shock—or so he was led to believe. Although the teacher could not see his victim, he did hear a loud protest at the first shock and thus assumed that he was imparting pain. With the second turn of the shock knob, the learner (actor) could be heard begging and pleading for the teacher to stop the shocks. Most of the teachers hesitated when they heard the screams of pain: “This is wrong. I don’t want to do this.” But the professional researcher, speaking with authority, emphatically said, “The experiment requires that you continue.”
What is disheartening about the results of this experiment is that every teacher continued to do as he was told, sending shock after shock regardless of the screams of protest. This awful experiment found that even after the learner had fallen totally silent, which would have indicated to the teacher that the other volunteer had fallen unconscious or worse, 65% of the participants continued to administer shocks until the end of the experiment.
Nothing has changed. When I read the Milgram Study my mind went immediately to the issue of abortion. I stagger at the thought of civilized professionals—doctors, nurses, etc.—cutting a living, full-sized baby into pieces and pulling out the beating heart to use in an experiment, and then harvesting the cells to manufacture vaccines. We are indeed a fallen, evil people, and neither time, education, nor religion has changed our hearts.
One Among 1000
Just this week I was watching a TED talk by Dr. Justin Coulson. In this talk Dr. Coulson told of an opportunity he had some years ago to speak to a group of 1200 teenage students with the goal of helping the teens understand the difference between automatic reactive rebellion—“I want my way”—and reflective rebellion rooted in compassion and justice. Dr. Coulson’s goal was to teach the students that bowing down to the god of popular opinion was, in fact, an act of showing they were not practicing reflective, compassionate rebellion. For his presentation he chose to create a simplified version of the 1963 Milgram experiment.
Dr. Coulson’s slightly more humane object lesson called for two volunteers. He explained one would play the part of a teacher and the other a learner. He had 6 groups of 200 teens each hour. At the first session he told the teacher volunteer, “Here are the five trivia questions that you will ask this other volunteer who will be your student.”
To the learner volunteer he explained that they would be required to put elastic bands on their wrist so that when they missed a question the teacher could pop them. He told them, “Five trivia questions and five potential punishments.” I do hope he wished them well.
The first set of teens did exactly as they were told. The kid playing teacher popped the poor victim learner for every question missed. Some of the questions were too hard to be answered by the kids, so it was a given that the learner would be punished. The audience obviously enjoyed the whole routine, including seeing the discomfort of the learners. No sign of reflective rebellion was shown, so Dr. Coulson had to teach each group of teens what they SHOULD have felt for something so unjust. The second group of 200 kids filed in and did the same experiment with the same results. In the third group, a big guy, 14 years old, was playing the teacher. The one playing the student was a small girl of the same age. She missed the first question. Just like all who had gone before, the young man lifted her small wrist and pulled back the 4 elastic bands about 6 inches. She turned her face away and flinched as she awaited her punishment. In that instant the teenage boy paused. As gently as possible he slowly eased the elastic bands down and lowered her wrist. He turned to Dr. Coulson and quietly said, “No, I will not hurt her for simply missing the question.”
Dr Coulson pressed the young man, reminding him that he had agreed to follow through with the experiment. He was told that the program could not continue unless he did his part. But the young man stood his ground, “No, it is not right, and I will not do it.” Some in the crowd began to jeer and yell, “Just do it, you dope . . . pop her!” He remained firm even as the crowd began to boo him.
It was the moment Dr. Coulson had hoped for. Finally someone had enough moral fortitude to show reflective rebellion against a huge crowd of jeering peers.
Reflective rebellion is characterized by deep thought, whereas reactive rebellion is an emotional reaction founded in self-interest.
Dr. Coulson turned to the crowd and told them, “Why do you jeer someone whom you KNOW is choosing to do what we all know is right for our fellow student? You should be applauding him for being willing to stand for justice. He is the first person that didn’t go with the flow. He stood against the whole crowd. He was not moved by jeering or booing but by compassion. What this young man has demonstrated is reflective rebellion, and it is what everyone should strive to have.”
Augustine of Hippo said: “Right is right even if no one is doing it. Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it.”
The End Game
This is the end game for all of us. As adults we need to step back and ask ourselves, “Have we been practicing reflective, compassionate rebellion or just reactive rebellion?”
Instilling reflective rebellion should be the goal of every parent: to train their children regardless of the pressure, the sacrifice, or fear to do what is right for the other person, to have compassion, think of others rather than just demanding rights. To train our children to not be under the spell of their peers or even people in authority but to think and act by what they know is godly.
All of us want to raise children that are strong, independent, caring, and courageous. Yet so often we say to our children, “Do as I say because it is the rule of this house.” Or it is common to hear, “Because I said so.” In public schools it has been the norm to expect kids to conform to all rules even when they know the teacher is not being respectful of righteous norms. At home it is often the same. It is easier to maintain control of a group—or a family—if you subjugate their conscience to power, but it is not the kind of control we want for our children or our nation.
As a parent you create your reflective rebels by referencing the lessons of history and by giving them hypotheticals. When you are in the car, ask them, “What do you think about this? What would you do in that situation? Should we go along with what they require, or should we stand against it? Could our rebellion cause someone fear, or worse? What is the more compassionate thing?” Or concerning politics say, “Why do you think that person should get our vote? Do you think this policy is correct or will it cause trouble in the future? Is it possible that there is information we simply don’t know that would greatly change how we feel about this?” We also create our reflective rebels by what they see us say or do.
For the last several years we have been hearing of families losing their children due to homeschooling, and the news reports make the parents look evil. Mike and I have also been victims of false news reports, so we KNOW how leftist media can make good appear evil and evil appear good. When we hear that the courts have removed children from a home for homeschooling or not being vaccinated, do we stand with them? These type of situations will soon be a daily occurrence as the powers that be go after homeschoolers one at a time. Will you be a LOUD voice in times like this? This is what reflective rebellion is all about.
In this new world, we make decisions concerning our basic freedoms and rights. Some of those decisions will be life-altering. Many of us will waste our peace on reacting in a rebellious manner to things of no consequence. Some of these same folks will see people facing real moral challenges yet tuck their tail and go along with status quo because they don’t want to bring attention to themselves, and they will justify their passivity with misapplied scripture. But a few will use common sense and wisdom to know when to take a stand and when to cooperate with the system.
Wisdom enables us know how and when it is time to respond in rebellion. It is very possible that the time will come when those in local authority—cities, counties, and states, and maybe even our military—will have to make wise decisions that will be in total disobedience to higher authority. We all need to seek the wisdom of Solomon before such weighty decisions are forced upon us. History teaches us that unless we are armed with truth and holy resolve we could be among the thousands who just go with the flow rather than be the ones who stand in rebellion against evil.
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore… (Ephesians 6:13-14a)
The questions we need to keep ever before us are: What is righteous and what is evil? Where do I draw the line? Being a rebel has no merit before God or man unless it is selfless unto righteousness, so wisdom is imperative.
As the world marches closer and closer to the end times, we need to be armed with the understanding that there will be times in our lives when health, happiness, and well-being are not the end game. It is important that we understand the difference between a foolish stand of rebellion and a reflective, compassionate, honorable rebellion. Practicing automatic, self-centered rebellion as if it were godly rebellion dilutes, confuses, and blends the two, which weakens resolve. In times when great resolve and action are needed, this distinguishing between the two is essential.
Be one of those rare souls who are reflectively rebellious. Train your children to stand tall in the moral war that is now upon us.
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.