Sexual Education in California: A View from Rocklin

I am a husband and father of four here in Rocklin. One of our daughters just graduated from Rocklin High School, another is at RHS, and two more will be there in the next several years. In addition, I serve as the senior pastor at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Rocklin, where we have been for the past eight years. In our years of living in Rocklin, we have come to love the community, the people, and the commitment to the children of our neighborhoods.

It is for all these reasons that I attended the open forum hosted by Informed Parents of Rocklin this past week. You can find more information about them HERE, and a link to the slides from their presentation HERE.

There has been talk in the news over the past several years about changes to the sex education programs here in California. It is difficult sometimes to sift out the important from the unimportant in the news. But teaching our children about what it means to be male and female is something that is very important to me as a Christian, because it is so rooted in our creation in God’s image. It is for that reason that I went to the forum.

I had several concerns going into it. One was misinformation. We received a communication from the superintendent of RUSD the day before the forum, indicating that there would be exaggerations, irrelevant materials, and in some cases outright false information. Informed Parents of Rocklin has answered these claims HERE. The original communication from RUSD may be found HERE.

Another concern I had was politicization. I have no problems with people speaking their mind and asking for votes. This is a part of our process here in the United States. But I was concerned that the whole thing could be basically a setup or bait-and-switch for a Republican Party rally.

With those concerns in mind, here is what I saw and experienced.

There were between 300–400 people in attendance. The vast majority of them were “parent” age, between thirty and fifty years old. There were also people who were in more of the grandparent category. They were polite and respectful, and it was clear that these were people who are concerned and want to know more about what is going on with their children. If there were school board members or RUSD teachers present, they didn’t identify themselves as such, at least not to me.

The event was moderated by a staff member from one of our state senators. The bulk of the presentation was done by three women who called themselves moms in RUSD and a couple neighboring school districts. Their presentations, each about twenty minutes long, were factual and straightforward, with very little editorializing about the content. Their goal was first of all to inform the attendees about what is happening in our school districts in three areas:

  • Comprehensive Sexuality Education
  • History/Social Science Curriculum Changes in 2019
  • Health Education Framework

I am not going to rehearse the content of each of these areas. I would encourage you, especially if you are a Rocklin area parent, to go to their web site HERE and evaluate the material for yourself. It’s all there. They have dozens and dozen of examples from current textbooks as well as from the health framework, which will be used as the template for the next generation of textbooks. I will warn you, though. This material is graphic. It will make you uncomfortable. It might even make you angry, thinking of the children that are exposed to this every day.

There is one section that I do want to pull out from the over 100 slides. It has to do with the topic of what was called “spiritual abuse.” Here is the slide:

What is so dangerous about this concept of spiritual abuse is that it defines anything other than what the textbook holds as “normal” is now termed “abuse.” So if I say that male and female are distinct roles, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and that this is the way God created us, that is now “abuse.” This is, for the record, what has been taught in the Judeo-Christian tradition for thousands of years. This is hardly radical or weird. But I seriously fear that my teaching, either as a parent or as a pastor, could be categorized as “spiritual abuse” in the not too distant future.

I have several takeaways from this event, in no particular order.

  • What is being taught in our schools under the guise of sexual health and reproductive health education is in some cases inappropriate, in others politically motivated, and what I would call in some instances predatory.
  • It is getting harder and harder to distinguish between what is a religious or moral claim from a political claim. If I say, for example, that according to God’s Word marriage is the lifelong union between a man and a woman, is that a religious statement or a political statement?
  • How can I easily determine what, out of all of this, is actually being taught in RUSD? I know some is and some is not, but I don’t have the time or resources to sift through it all. I don’t want to be unreasonable in expressing my concerns to the school district.
  • What is the best way for me as a parent in the Rocklin school district to engage with my children’s teachers and administrators about what is going on? I can opt out of some areas, but there are others (e.g. social studies) where there is no mechanism for opting out. Does that mean pulling my children from school on that day is an act of civil disobedience?
  • How do I as a Lutheran pastor in the Rocklin area teach my own families about what is good, right and true, and how do I teach them on what they should for their own children when it comes to talking about sex, gender, religion, and politics?

I’m very thankful for the organizers of the event, and for William Jessup University and their willingness to host it. I have more questions than answers at this point. I am, honestly, angry that my own children live in a time when they may be exposed to these things in the classroom. I want what is best for them, and from what I observed, the way that California, and even RUSD, are approaching topic of sex education is both wrong and exceedingly dangerous. I want to help make things better. Who is with me?

Dad Martens

Dad Martens is one of the most important people in our lives. Even though we barely see him anymore, he has probably done more to shape the faith and piety of the “California Peperkorns” than anyone else, save our parents. Kathryn and I were in Acappella choir at Concordia, Seward, with Dad from 1988-1992(3). Over thirty years ago he introduced us to Bach, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Decius, and a host of other luminaries of the faith and of music. That same faith continues in our own children.

Why do we call him Dad? We call him Dad because he was a father to us when we went to college. He taught us how to be adults, how to share the faith, how to play Schapfskopf, how to make (and eat!) Brötchen, and he even taught us how to take correction. I can remember more than a couple times when Dad’s temper at a choir was just the right thing at the right time. It’s a lesson every father must learn, sooner or later. But those brief moments of heat were nothing compared to the light and joy of watching him direct us in the proclamation of the Gospel all over the country and over Northern Europe. 

This was the first time I saw Dad since Mom died after a frustrating battle with Alzheimers. We didn’t actually talk about her in our short visit, but her presence was undeniably there as well. 

We named our son Richard Edmund, because God’s gift of faith comes through God’s gift of music, and we were privileged to be mentored under one of the very best.

Our daughter, Renata, will be going to Seward this fall, where she will (among others) study and learn under another one of Dad’s musical and spiritual children, Dr. Kurt von Kampen. If she has half the experience that Kathryn and I did, then she will be blessed for a lifetime. The music department at Concordia has never been better, and men and women such as von Kampen, Jeff Blersch, Joe Herl, and Elizabeth Grimpo are among the best that our church body has to offer to the future. I am, admittedly, just a little bias.

If you are a ‘Pellacan who sang under Dad from 1978-1998, I would encourage you to stop by and see him in Lincoln. You’ll be glad you did, and it will draw you back to the best times of your life. He’ll love to see you, and might even give you a Bier if you ask politely. 

We love you, Dad.

6 Survival Tips for Pastors with Depression

I’m not sure if it is because it is mental health awareness month, or if we are all just feeling the end of the school year pressure, but there are a lot of pastors out there right now who are really struggling with depression and other mental illnesses. Thirteen years ago I was diagnosed with major clinical depression. It’s been a long road that has included being suicidal, going on disability, and eventually taking a call to another congregation. So in the interest of all those who struggle with me, here are a few tips from one who has been there.

  • Take it a day at a time. One of the tricks of the depression brain is that it always wants you to globalize. Globalizing means taking one bad experience and using that as the lens through which you look at the rest of your life. One parishioner complains because you didn’t see them, and all the sudden you’ve convinced yourself that you’re about to be removed from your congregation. Resist the urge to make sweeping self-judgments. It’s not easy, I know. But by focusing on one day at a time, it can keep you in the here and now, and not talk yourself into more nonsense.
  • Think process, not outcome. What I mean by that is that the steps you take every day as a pastor, the things you do, may not feel like much. Making that shut-in visit doesn’t seem like a victory. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I would say “BE their pastor, don’t DO their pastor.” By focusing on individual steps and the process, it can free you to think of each step as a gift and a victory of God’s mercy, and not just a false step toward failure.
  • Plan for down time. Learn your own triggers and limits, and try as much as possible to plan for them. If you know you will be exhausted and useless after making a certain visit, then give yourself permission to rest. God rested. It’s okay for you, too.
  • Bring community with you. For me, it is the one-on-one visits that are often the hardest. That level of attention and emotional energy drains it right out of me. So why not bring the church with you? A deaconess, an elder, even someone who just likes to visit can be a huge help when you are feeling drained. You bring Christ to your people. Why not bring the Bride?
  • Recognize what is causing you the most stress and anxiety, and deal with that first. This is a hard one, because it goes against what our depression brain and our own lazy nature might want. But by tackling it right away, that allows you time to recover, and may reduce your stress level for the rest of the week.
  • Do an emotional inventory or journal. I find that if I pay a little bit of attention to self-evaluation, that often can help me identify what is really making things bad. Journaling helps a lot with this, but if that sounds too hippy, thing of it as an emotional inventory.

These are the ones that occur to me on a Thursday night. What are some of your best tips for pastoring with depression?

He Restores My Soul

I just finished reading He Restores My Soul. This book is a series of essays by twelve women, and a pastoral response from Rev. Rick Stuckwisch.

The book in many ways is both exhausting and liberating. It is exhausting, because of the vulnerability and courage shHRMS-front-cover.jpegown by these women. They each have their own voice. They each have their own crosses to bear. Yet somehow, through it all, the Gospel of Jesus Christ shines through. They tell the story of the God who is ever present with His people, who walks with them through the valley of the shadow of death, and who never leaves their side, no matter what the trial. It doesn’t matter if they are talking about he burden of disease or death, single-hood or dementia, they share this language of faith in a way that I did not expect.

But vulnerability is exhausting. It lets other people into your life. It gives them a place a your table, and you at theirs. It’s why true vulnerability is so rare. It is easy to have a strange kind of pride in suffering and sorrow. LOOK AT ME, we might be saying. But that’s not the voices of these authors. They see their own weaknesses and fears. They see how Satan has tried to sift through them. But more importantly, they see what it means to be one in the body of Christ, in communion with God and with each other. It is a rare treat. I feel like I’ve had a peek into an important family conversation, and I am all the more blessed for it.

What I like the most about these essays is that they hit the challenges head on. They don’t sugar coat. They don’t turn the Gospel into the over sweet saccharine of the false hope of our age. Real sin demands a real savior, who really died, and really rose again from the dead.

At the same time, they all point us to the flesh and blood work of our Savior, drawing us in, walking with us, dying for us, and rising for us. This is no small task, especially in the face of so many challenges and hardships.

This book will probably be most enjoyed by women, although I don’t think that is exclusively so. I thoroughly appreciated it, and I hope and pray that each one of these authors continues to write more for the sake of the Church and those in need everywhere.

It is available for $18 plus shipping at Emmanuel Press by CLICKING HERE

You may also purchase it at Amazon by CLICKING HERE

There is also an Amazon Kindle version by CLICKING HERE

 

Rev. Todd Peperkorn, Pastor

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rocklin, California

 

One Thing that The Last Jedi Gets Right…

Well, having an article published about Star Wars may mean that my life is now complete. I’m a nerd, and most certainly a Star Wars nerd. I saw the original Star Wars in a theater in Aurora, Colorado, when I was six years old. I am oh so aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the franchise, but for good or ill, it is the mythology of my childhood, along with The Lord of the Rings.

https://thefederalist.com/2017/12/20/heres-one-big-thing-last-jedi-gets-right/