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Thursday, September 23, 2010

From Luke's Inbox: You Missed It!

I believe your post minimizes what your customers were saying yesterday on a very important issue.

It does not take much perusing of Ms. Keeley's site to find a very disturbing theme of if you just believe it enough, you can make it happen. It promises health, wealth, organisation, and great family relationships in 5 minutes a day. Scripture promises just the opposite--that there will be trouble in our lives. "Everyone can have this perfect life" is a dangerous theology. I, along with many others on the forums, find it disturbing that SL does not see this undertone and how their support of said website could lead their customers to believe that this is an Evangelical Christian understanding.

It is also disturbing how this email and the company response to the concerns belittles your customers. A quick look any given day on the Prayer Closet reveals a lot of seriously hurting people (cancer, marriage problems, wayward children, foreclosures) and yet an email supporting a site that basically would tell them that they must not have enough faith. It is also disrespectful to the many other SL Moms and Dads who have small businesses that do not get SL sending mass emails on their behalf.

I am disappointed with this marketing strategy. But I am most disappointed that you would use your blog to belittle your customers who were expressing serious concerns in a forum designed for discussing your curriculum.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

You are correct: My post yesterday did not at all address the concerns that Hannah may be connected to a "name it and claim it" theology and how that applies to Sonlight's stance. I wanted to keep yesterday's post focused on one point. More on that below...

Hannah's Five Minute Mom coaching program promises that it will help you find ways to improve your life in 5 minute segments every day. That is, I believe, a very big difference. You wouldn't say that our lives must always be full of trouble just because Christ promised that we will experience it. In fact, continuing in that verse, Jesus says that we are to take heart because He has overcome the world. So, while we should not be surprised when trouble strikes, we should not be surprised when life is good. What's more, Hannah even acknowledges that it's possible her tips won't be of help to you and promises to refund you your money.

Now, I completely agree that a "everyone can have a perfect life" is horrible theology. But that is very different from saying, "I can help you." Sure, Hannah's sales copy is really sales-y (e.g. unlimited power of your mind and unstoppable energy are both pretty over-the-top <smile>). But she doesn't promise you a perfect life. Instead, she promises to teach you things that will help you. And those are the things we are happy to offer to those who would like them.

Does Hannah believe that if she has just enough faith God will bend to her whims? I hope not. Does Hannah believe that positive thinking can overcome anything? I doubt it. Could you take her stuff and go off the deep end? Absolutely.

I pray no one does. That is a very real danger any time you share ideas: People can take them wrong.

I haven't heard Hannah say people who struggle with cancer, their families or their finances simply don't have enough faith. If she does, I'd disagree with her on that! This morning, my prayer group covered some really painful prayer requests from the Forums. And yet I don't think it's disrespectful to offer people in such situations resources. In fact, there could be something in there that helps them deal with day-to-day stuff while they cling to God through the things that only He can change.

As for small businesses: We mean no disrespect. As a company we must focus our resources in the places where we believe we can reach and serve the most people. That's part of stewardship. It would be nice to have unlimited resources and partner with everyone who has something helpful to offer, but we don't and we can't.

Yesterday's post was not intended to belittle or minimize these serious concerns. I purposely ignored them because I wanted to focus on something else that pricked me personally. Please forgive me for that. I value the feedback and insights from our customers (hence this post).

Many of the things we offer are from those who do not share our beliefs. We do not offer these resources because we want to align ourselves with a wrong position, but rather because these products and services offer something that we see is of potential value to you. I hope that everyone will, in the spirit of Sonlight's educational philosophy, carefully consider which messages and ideas they will accept and which ones they will not.

And while we do continue to try to find effective ways of sharing Sonlight with more people, our core beliefs and values remain unchanged. Your feedback--and the few pages of Forum responses--help us make better choices in the future.

Thank you for caring enough about Sonlight to help us think through the steps we take. I appreciate the opportunity the Sonlight community gives us to be sharpened and the way it prods us to do better.

Well, friends, please feel free to continue to the conversation. I'm sure I haven't said this all perfectly and you may still have concerns.

<pushes Publish Post>

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester


Karen Joy said...

Well said.

Working Through said...

Very well said Luke !

Renee said...

From a hopelessly disorganized pretty-sure-she-has-ADD homeschool mom, I have to say I *liked* the little video segment SL linked to on Hannah's site. I had never heard of HK before, but if someone can help me get it together, I'm all for it. I'm definitely NOT in the 'name it and claim it' camp, quite the opposite, actually. I just think I'm mature enough to separate the wheat from the chaff in this instance.

Stephanie C said...

Well, I seem to miss the "exciting" emails from Sonlight. LOL. I did see the email, though, since someone posted it.

What bothers me about this is I don't understand how Hannah and Sonlight go together. She is very self-promoting and her site is gaudy. Sonlight is the opposite - humble.

IMO, sending people to Merry's blog site would have been better. I'm sure there are so many other sites out there giving out good information that would have been much better than hers.

I love Sonlight, but I'm definitely not impressed with the promotion of this woman. And I'm having a hard time understanding why y'all think she is so great - can you explain that, Luke? :o) I haven't seen any mention of what makes her so special that caused Sonlight to want to promote her when there are so many choices out there.

All in all, I don't think any less of Sonlight overall for this, but I guess it makes me put up my guard for the future.

Elizabeth. . .living said...

I consider your response to be utter ridiculous. You don't even KNOW how deeply this woman is involved with Joel Osteen and the "name it and claim it" philosophy.

Sonlight's actions are incredibly irresponsible and you have lost me as a customer.

Missy said...

I feel you have made a poor choice in your support of HK but it won't take me away as a customer.

That is where my discernment must come into play. But, you might look more closely into HK before you keep supporting her.

{C} said...

I think this was a monumental mistake on the part of Sonlight.

I don't think that the way Hannah was presented was well thought out. I don't like her theology.

It may have been better to present it as the Old Spice guy did:

Look at your Mom.

Now look at me.

Now look at your mom.

Now back to me.

I'm the mom your mom could be like if she would just hand over her $40.

I'm on a horse.

Wallace said...

Luke buddy,

What have you been smoking?

You're so out of touch with reality. Get a grip, man.

Go read Hannah's blog.

No really. I'll wait.

Go read it - all of it.

Then decide whether what she says is in line with SL's stance on EC.

What about the videos of her dancing with her children? Did you see those?

And yep you prostituted yourselves when you sent that email, Luke. What is the payback to Sonlight for sending the email? Honestly asking and honestly would love to know.

Luke Holzmann said...

Thanks, Karen, Jana, and Renee!

Stephanie, I don't know exactly how we first found out about Hannah. I do know that when we heard about an Heirloom customer who had materials dedicated to helping homeschoolers, we asked her if she'd be willing to create some free content to share with other Sonlighters. The goal, of course, was two-fold: 1. Give you access to yet one more resource, and 2. Expand our message to the people who know Hannah but not us. Hannah is "great" because she's "been there/done that" with over tens years with Sonlight and has created some free resources to share with you. Are those resources better than, say, our podcasts? That's open to your interpretation! I hope you will take advantage of every resource that will benefit you and your family.

Elizabeth, no, I guess I don't. Please share because I've missed it thus far in my visits to her site. Thanks!

Missy, we have--and since the firestorm we've talked with her some more. To this point I am unaware of anything that changes our promotion of her materials she's made available to us. If you have specific things you'd like us to consider--because we could have missed it--please feel free to let me know. Thanks!

C, that would have been hilarious! <smile> I've sort of blogged about this before.

Wallace, I don't smoke anything. So, sorry, I have nothing to share with you. I don't even have a light <smile>.

I think I answered your questions about what/why Sonlight offered this stuff (see my reply to Stephanie near the top of this comment). If I didn't, please feel free to rephrase your question.

I have not--and I don't plan to--take the time to study all of Hannah's materials. I did take the time to watch her intro video which had people up in arms, and I read one of the blog posts which had some people upset... and thus far I think I've responded to all stated critiques. I didn't see the video you mention either. Link? Please feel free to send me any other stuff you'd like me to look at specifically, and I'd be happy to do so. But, in the end, even if I find something buried in Hannah's site that I don't like, that does not mean the materials we offered to you were problematic. We work with many vendors--and include their items in our Core programs--with whom we disagree with any number of their "buried" ideals. But we still gladly provide you with the things that they do offer which are of incredible benefit to you. ...but... again... that's still an "if" in this case (especially since Hannah has told us she doesn't promote Joel).


Sharon said...

It's your time!

Don't hope for a miracle, EXPECT it!

I Call It!!

April said...

Hiya Luke! I'm new to Sonlight (but not to homeschooling). I love, love, love your curriculum! I also love the patience that you and others from Sonlight have shown as you respond to some very ticked off and accusatory people. I got THE EMAIL. And then I deleted it cuz it wasn't anything I want or need. And if this episode will lose you customers, then it will gain you some too. Sign me up! :)

Elizabeth. . .living said...

"How does one spell "hypocrisy"?

Perhaps it is S-O-U-T-H-W-E-S-T...."

And perhaps it is S-O-N-L-I-G-H-T. . . .

Luke Holzmann said...

Thanks, Sharon! That's why I couldn't find her promotion of Joel's book: It was a single blog post a year ago that she did as a give-away. So, yes, she enjoyed his "It's Your Time" book. I'm still going to believe her when she says she doesn't promote him. She enjoyed that book of his. I happen to enjoy many blog posts by people with whom I don't necessarily agree (I even enjoy some blog posts with which I completely disagree <smile>).

I saw her "Faith Painting" post when it came up on the Forums. I'm not sure what the problem is with that one. Seems like a fairly common "get your bum in gear" post to me. Granted, she does say that God gave you dreams and wants to bring them about. That's about as true as saying that God desires your friends to be saved and wants you to be available for Him to use you. True, yes, but not the whole story.

As for her "Call It" post, I can see where the concern is. But if you read the rest of her words they clearly all point back to Christ. Our "calls" in faith must be based in His will... and if He wills, He can make it happen (hence her reference to that passage of Scripture). That does not push the problematic "I can bend God's will to my whims if I have enough 'faith'" idea. It may not emphasize the "if it's God's will" bit enough, but that is assumed in the "God has a plan" idea. ...

So... again: Can you take her ideas and go bad places? Yes. Must you? Not from these three examples. Thanks for finding them for me! I appreciate you taking the time to let me know what was causing concern.

Again: Our goal was to share some tips from a Sonlight mom. You can find similar tips elsewhere. If you don't like her tips--or her tone--please don't take advantage of this opportunity.

Thanks, April!

Elizabeth, thanks for reading my personal blog! <smile> Unfortunately, while I found my observations about Southwest to be ironic (and therefore funny), I'm missing your tie-in to Sonlight. If you'd like to elaborate, you are free to do so.


Karen Joy said...

Golly. I'm checking back in on some of these comments, and I guess I'm thinking that there are just some people who must just sit around, waiting to be offended, and then jump on the opportunity as soon as it presents itself.

Sonlight isn't my God, it's a tool. I guess if John and Sarita Holzmann (one "n", or two? I always forget) were my pastors, and Luke was an elder at that church, then maybe I'd be concerned -- MAYBE. But, the fact is, none of us should allow ANY homeschooling philosophy (or any other philosophy) to usurp Christ's place of authority in our lives. And, none of us should idolize a person or philosophy or company so much that we're utterly crushed when that entity does something, or supports something, with which we agree!

I think the Highly Offended people who are using this as an excuse to hurl insults at you, Luke (and even at Mrs. Keely) need to get a life! Develop some healthy interests! Go for a hike! Read your Bible! School your kids! You're wasting your own time, and leaving a poor witness for yourself and for Jesus, as well, by your vitriol.


Karen Joy said...

"with which we DON'T agree", that is.

Meg said...

I do appreciate your integrity, Luke, and for addressing these concerns. It is always easy to make assessments of others, yet we only guess at the heart. Jesus knows! If we all spent more time examining our own hearts we would likely be serving our families more effectively for Christ anyway.

Anonymous said...

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Luke Holzmann said...

Thanks, friends <smile>.



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