Jocelyn Zichterman is partially home schooled in I Fired God. The one time she is neither homeschooled nor sent to a traditional school is because both parents are at work and they can’t homeschool. They also don’t trust the public school system. Who knows what the children might tell their classmates? Jocelyn and her siblings are told to keep away from the open windows so people don’t notice there are children inside the house. Otherwise, the parents might be turned in for truancy. According to I Fired God, it is when they are left alone when the two girls are molested by their brothers.
The homeschool movement, which has produced genius spelling champs, River Phoenix, and Tim Tebow, has a dark side. Abusive or paranoid parents have used it to keep their children away from teachers and authority figures they deem a threat. Home school is not the sole province of fundamentalist Christians. Queen Silver, who was the subject of my documentary Queen Silver: Pioneer of Freethought was also home schooled by her mother, Grace Silver. Grace did not want her daughter exposed to the fundamentalist Christianity that was prevalent in public schools in the early part of the twentieth century.
Things reversed themselves by the end of the twentieth century! We don’t have a prevailing established philosophy in public education. We just have a tax payer funded institution of fearful people who want to avoid lawsuits. The motive of fundamentalist Christian education, and the predominately Christian home school movement of our century, has been to remove funding from public education until it collapses and Christian schools are the only ones left standing.
Jocelyn seems to back up my view on this subject; except, after she marries and leaves her parents, she homeschools her children. She doesn’t just homeschool her children. Jocelyn and Joseph have to take the lead and turn it into a full blow ministry. In this way, she’s very similar to her father, Bart Janz, who got into just about every IFB fad. Jocelyn follows in his footsteps when she and Joseph create the ‘Women at Home University’. You can see one of their flyers which is currently stored at the Hidalgo Grain Company website.
What strikes me about this flyer is that it’s not by Jocelyn. It’s written by Joseph. It’s as if he’s molding her into an image of the perfect Christian housewife. Joseph wants her to peruse all the resources relating to home and family. Joseph wants her to become an expert in homemaking. However, when you get to I Fired God, his presence is still there but it’s Jocelyn speaking for him. Joseph wants her to speak her mind. Joseph wants her to stand up on her own.
What does Joseph think about all this? His absence from the latter part of Jocelyn’s book is rather glaring. We see Jocelyn get angry at God, but tiptoeing around Joseph’s feelings.
Jocelyn apparently is still in favor of homeschooling. She does send her kids to public school and expresses remorse about spanking them. She hopes she is not forcing them to become superkids. She wants tighter regulation and transparency in the homeschooling movement. I’m not seeing a strong case for birth control in I Fired God. She is critical of Bill Gothard who opposed all forms of birth control within marriage, but obviously neither Jocelyn nor Joseph rejected that part of Gothard’s teachings.
I Fired God ends with the Zichterman’s financial struggles. They can’t sell their house in Wisconsin. One would guess that due to a poor economy and the fact that small towns in Wisconsin aren’t exactly boom centers of employment, that might account for the house being on the market for six years. Jocelyn reminds us it’s a tightly run IFB town. Maybe the townsfolk believe the house is cursed? Doubtful, but financial difficulties is one of the motivations (besides doing it ‘for the children’) given for writing this book.
In the end, it’s not for us to judge Jocelyn Zichterman. That job will fall to her eight children. Maybe one of them will write a book? All of us must, at one time in our lives, judge our parents. Naturally, there are people who say we shouldn’t do this. Most of those people tend to be parents. Go figure!
Survivors know you have to re-evaluate your past lest you repeat your mistakes. That includes recognizing how abuse has affected you and then trying, through therapy or intense introspection, to curb abusive behavior that is a product of ‘acting out’. You can’t do that without evaluating how you were raised. Perhaps ‘evaluating your parents child raising techniques’ is a more acceptable phrase than ‘judge your parents’, but it amounts to the same thing. You can’t progress to any recovery unless you do that.
What’s fascinating, and disturbing, about I Fired God is the notion we are not just reading a mere book. We are witnessing an ‘acting out’ on the survivor community! These are people used to making their living in the public eye. They have to be role models! It seems every event in their lives has to result in a new ministry. They cannot NOT see themselves in positions of leadership. This is probably one of the reasons Jocelyn burned herself with a number of survivors. Those who react adversely to abusive fundamentalist leadership might experience triggers when they see the same dynamics at work in so called advocacy.