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The Gospel of Joe

Martins - Wife SwapMy friends Dayna and Joe Martin were one of the families on a recent episode of ABC’s Wife Swap. It was a fantastic show with one of the highest ratings in recent years. In typical Wife Swap fashion, the families were polar opposites. The Martins are freedom-loving, joy-filled unschoolers. The Avery-Lamb’s are strict disciplinarians with a heavy emphasis on control, regiment, and education. As expected, there were some heated interchanges, especially between Joe and his “new wife,” Cindy. But why did Joe get so angry?

You see, in the closing scene, after a very difficult two-weeks, Cindy brought an air horn into his home. The air horn was intended to wake his kids up to force them to go to school. For Joe, that was the last straw. Put another way, how dare you bring that “device” into my temple and try to degrade my children. How dare you use cruel scare-tactics on my kids. How dare you lay the hand of might-is-right on my flesh and blood. How dare you disrespect me and everything I stand for with your thoroughly indoctrinated beliefs from this corrupt world that dictate your every thought. You fail to see the larger and more beautiful things in life, Cindy. No. You will not demoralize me or my family.

Jesus responded similarly. In the story where Jesus Cleanses The Temple, he’s saying, “How dare you degrade my house. How dare you bring your unholy systems of control into my temple. How dare you try to restrict  and block the love of the Father from His children with your corrupt religious systems and beliefs. How dare you show such disrespect. No! I will not let that happen! You will not be allowed to do this! Get out! Get the “f” out of my house!”

We’re often quick to judge, saying things like, “Perhaps Joe could have handled himself better.” We often say such things when we see outrage and anger. However, there are times and moments when anger is justified. In fact, to not show moral outrage, such as in the case of a threat to one’s children, would be a moral outrage.

Jesus flipped out because he saw a corrupt system threatening his children. So did Joe.

Joe loves his kids with a tenderness rarely displayed in men. To do this, he’s had to battle and overcome the world in which he was raised – one of might-is-right, domination, and control. He’s had to learn self-restraint, patience, and a self-sacrificial love that says family first versus success, fame, fortune, or my personal comforts. He trudges the road less traveled  – the road of respect, grace, humility, and love.

Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson

Short video clip below – I encourage you to watch the whole episode.

Wife Swap – Martins & Avery-Lamb


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  1. I liked you guys during our brief interactions at Life Rocks… now I’m in love with the Olson family!

  2. Diana Martini Sheppard says:

    I have learned a lot about being with the children in my life. I have also been listening and reading about a group of people that hold the Law of Attraction in the forefront of their actions and thoughts for a few years. This particular television show, with Dayna and Joe Martin, shows so clearly how being present and clear for your children is respectful and doesn’t differentiate them as beneath the same consideration most people want for themselves. I say most because if we all wanted this we wouldn’t subject a single human being to the degrading system of coercive education. It would be dismantled immediately. In it’s place would be what the Martins and a growing number of people realize now, consciously, as the way to heal and prosper.

  3. Anonymous says:

    So, the fact that he raises his kids to not obey rules, and go on strike when they don’t like something, helps them in the long run?! I’m not on board with un schooling. Especially considering how this man’s kids behave and the fact they can’t read or do basic arithmetic is nothing short of pathetic.

    The other family isn’t much better but at-least you can see her kids are well adjusted and will have a good academic future. If Joe’s kids go out into the workforce and strike against a boss or other authority figure, they’re doomed. We have rules in place for a reason, you may not like them but they exist.

    You keep talking about what Jesus did to justify your own incompetence as parents. I’m sure this is one things Jesus would never do!

    • Ted Olson says:

      Thanks for your comment Anonymous. I appreciate you taking the time to write in. Unschooling, especially Radical Unschooling, can indeed be difficult to get on board with. To be clear, unschooling and radical unschooling does not mean no rules or no learning. In fact, the learning is constant – including navigating rules. Unschooling parents partner with their kids (learning alongside them), and resourcing them with books, people, videos, classes, and more. It’s a lot of work, but a wonderful journey. As far a reading and math (and other subjects), it can be hard to set aside traditional expectations of what kids should know and when so I appreciate your concern there. However, your comment (e.g., “pathetic”) is harsh, and reveals a judgmental and close-minded attitude. It’s one thing to disagree. It’s another to demean people.

      To be clear, no one is justifying incompetence – that’s unfair and judgmental. Every unschooler I’ve met is deeply concerned with parenting – just like traditional parents. My wife, for example, is a highly sought after parenting expert. Check out one of her books at Amazon – “A Pair of Sparkly Sneakers” would be a good start.

      As far as Jesus, my favorite topic 🙂 – I am not using Jesus to justify what you see as parenting incompetence. Rather, in this post, I was highlighting similarities in the way Joe protected his family from Cindy to the way Jesus protected his children in the temple.

      Thanks again for your thoughts.

      • Anonymous says:

        What you have just described is not what everyone has seen on TV. I work in Film and Television and a lot of reality based TV can be scripted to a point but most is not. I’m sorry, what you call demeaning I call the truth. I thought they were bad parents who were lazy and didn’t seem to care much for their children’s welfare. When I see children who are kept in filthy conditions and who don’t look like they bath or have their hair combed, what looked like for days; that is a problem. I understand he may be your friend but I also hope as a friend you have spoken to him about his own behavior on the show. He had a golden opportunity to turn the other cheek and be the bigger person. He chose not to, instead setting the example for his children to disobey ( the cleaning scene and having them go to school). He knew what he signed up for and how extreme it was. I cannot be open minded about these people when they come off as selfish and disrespectful.

        I totally didn’t like the other party on the show but he was no better. The fact is, I have nothing against homeschooling and other non-traditional forms of education as long as the kids are getting something out of the experience. I myself was partly home-schooled then went on to finish my education at a Waldorf school before going off to college ( recent graduate with second degree). I really hope the Martin’s learned from this as I have heard from others involved in this teaching style, they aren’t true representatives.

        Good day to you!

        • Ted Olson says:

          Thanks again Anonymous. We’re a bit far apart on this if what I call “demeaning” you call “truth.” Nevertheless, I will keep the lines of communication open. The moment Joe snapped was what I identified with. Have you ever just flew off the handle? Joe displayed raw, unscripted emotion. No one is saying he couldn’t have handled himself better – but who has walked in his shoes? I find it hard to imagine being around a woman so polar opposite and NOT flipping out.

          As far as turning the other cheek, this is a Christian teaching (the Martins are not Christians). Applying Christian standards to non Christians is out of place. If you’re a follower of Jesus, prayer for them would be a better start. Furthermore, “turning the other cheek” is a teaching that reminds Christians not to escalate violence when being attacked. It does not mean we let people walk all over us. This teaching needs to be practiced with wisdom, rather than used as a judgment against another.

          So sure, Joe could have handled himself better, we all can from time to time, and especially in difficult circumstances. But in the name of what he values (family, respect, gentleness), he put his foot down. He wasn’t going to let that woman’s cultural expectations, and her mean-spirited parenting techniques hurt his kids.

          To his credit, Joe did step up and open with an apology at the end of the show. However, Cindy refused to accept it – or even hear it. From what I could tell, Cindy wanted to wield that mistake over him to maintain some sense of control – just a guess.

          To your point, there is a lot to be said for obeying rules, and submitting to authority (whether parent, elder, teacher…etc). It’s not popular in our day, but it’s a profound discipline that is continually eroding. That said, there is also something to be said for standing up for what you believe and bucking a system that doesn’t work in so many ways.

          As far as a filthy home. That’s not been my experience. I’ve been there. It’s cleaner than mine in many respects. But again, you’re likely comparing a traditional home where the kids are showered, dressed and gone for most of the day at school (allowing mom/dad ample time to tidy) to an unschooled home where everyone is home, together, as a family. The dirt factor is just harder to keep under control.

          Your comment that you can’t be open-minded about these people is clear. I hope that your experiences with the Martins do not close off the larger principles at play with unschooling and peaceful parenting – where love, connection, partnership, fun, discovery, and so much more shine brightly.

          Finally, there is indeed a lot of media buzz about whether or not the Martins are qualified to represent unschooling based on events (past and present). I do not speak to that. I only speak to how their actions, in the circumstances I’ve layed out, have similarities to Jesus. Jesus, his Kingdom, his Gospel, is what I am interested in promoting.

          Thanks again,
          ~ Ted Olson

          • Anonymous says:

            Thanks for the reply! I am by no means implying his anger wasn’t justified. I would have thrown her out of my house too for coming in with a blow horn to wake-up my kids. The anger during specific points is not what I am focused on. I am speaking of his un-willingness to try knowing fully well what the premise of the show is. He didn’t even want to give his kids a chance to try a new environment. He has more than likely brain-washed them into thinking all public schooling is bad. Not to mention, his blatant disregard during rule change prior to the blow horn incident.

            Both of these “parents” need a reality check as they seem more inclined with their own needs than that of their children’s. Also, most of those children are of age to where they can have chores to help around the house. There is no need for their parents to be doing everything for them ( though I doubt the parents clean much). The children did not look like they bathed in a few days or were properly cared for. It had nothing to do with a traditional home. Since when is having basic hygiene considered traditional?! They were gross you could tell from the dad, he didn’t look like he showered much either.

            I wouldn’t doubt Cindy didn’t accept the apology she’s a bully and could have handled the situation far better. However, I don’t fault her for not wanting to sleep in that house in the condition we all saw it in. Cindy needs help but so do the Martins.

            No one is saying anything about being a doormat and do feel people should express themselves. There is also a fine line, like when the rule change happened and Cindy was teaching them to clean. The oldest son went on a cleaning strike because he had to finish his chores before speaking to his girlfriend. The dad should have intervened and told his son to finish as these were her rules and since we signed up for the swap, we should follow. His behavior was alarming! If that is how he acts when he doesn’t like something whats going to happen when he has a job?! I do think you’re taking sides in this situation because he is your friend. They both were wrong and just expressed it in different ways. Both parents were abusive in different ways.

            This hasn’t turned me off from un-schooling but made me more aware. Its personally not something I would consider for my own kids ( when I have them) as I am more likely to send them to Waldorf. I don’t think the Martin’s are good representatives of quality parents.

            Anyway, thanks for keeping a level head during this discussion. Most people would not have done so :).

            Take it easy!

          • Ted Olson says:

            Thanks again Anonymous for your time, and for engaging and adding to the conversation. And you’re right – I am biased. As an unschooler, (and having spoken to Joe after the show) I naturally see it from Joe’s perspective. My concern here is not so much with parenting (that’s my wife’s expertise – Rather, as a Christian, I have an eye for specific acts that remind me of Jesus – I like to highlight those in the hope of spreading the Good News.

            Best to you, and thanks again!
            ~ Ted Olson

  4. PilgrimSeeker says:

    I think the Martins just embody the glory of Jesus!!! They are clearly living proof of the divine spirit at work here on earth. Except for all the cuss-laden threats of violence, plagiarism, promiscuity, lying, and drunkenness, of course. ; )

    • Ted Olson says:

      PilgrimSeeker – thanks for taking the time to comment (as well as to email me additional thoughts, which I will keep private). As far as your comment, your sarcasm, stone-casting, and judgmental attitude reflects some work needed in your own heart. You also misunderstood the spirit of this post. I will pray for you.

      • PilgrimSeeker says:

        Fair enough. I apologize for my snappish tone. But not for the sentiment behind it: the Martins are not good people and holding any of their behavior up as exemplary seems highly erroneous to me.

        • Ted Olson says:

          Thanks again PilgrimSeeker. I hear your concerns. There are many blogs and posts that address the issues/concerns with the Martins. My concerns here are with Jesus – and promoting his life-giving Good News. Grace and peace to you.

          ~ Ted

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