Diagnosis of a Kulturkampf
The church of Jesus Christ has come to the point in America where we both can and must get our priorities right. Too many of us feel that the risks of out-and-out discipleship are too great for us to take. We are not persuaded of the importance of radical obedience—nor of the adequacy of God to provide all of our needs should we dare to launch out wholeheartedly into the deep sea of unconventional living.
In other words, we fail to bow to His absolute authority over us on the basis of confidence in His complete adequacy for us.
I contemplated these matters when I read that the SBC rejected a resolution that would have asked parents to rescue their children from the bondage of public schools in favor of a distinctly Christian and Bible-based education. (Yes, that is what the resolution, in essence, was calling on parents to do. The language, of course, implies a certain Weltanschauung evidently not shared by all in attendance.) Rather than denouncing government schools as “officially Godless,” using the language that had been proposed by retired General T. C. Pinckney of Alexandria, VA and attorney Bruce Shortt of Spring, TX, the resolutions committee favored a less pointed warning against “the cultural drift in our nation toward secularism.” The chairman of the resolutions committee noted that the panel opposed Pinckney’s resolution because there wasn’t a consensus among church members to issue such a statement, according to reports.
Remember: These young people we are talking about are the church’s most precious treasure. Remember, too, that what America’s public schools have stopped doing is teaching our children how to “walk worthily of the calling with which they’ve been called.” Just as many American churches are failing to do their God-appointed tasks, so too are many Christian families. And I am talking about thousands of supposedly conservative, “Bible-believing” families who, unable to pass on a deeply biblical heritage, will raise another generation of increasingly rude, lawless, and morally retarded children.
In my own life as a Christian educator, the priority of biblical training constantly challenges and stimulates me. I feel my life so blessed for having made a commitment along with my wife to home education and to teaching in a seminary setting. And yet I fall so short. How often have I had to cry, “O for greater obedience to my precious Lord!”
And that is the rub. The relativism that is endemic in our public school system and that dominates so much of church life today pales when one considers how eager and willing we seem to be to compromise our principles when strict obedience involves sacrifice. Too many of us seem to have lost our ability to detect claptrap when we encounter it. Thus, instead of a point by point refutation of Pinckney’s resolution, there was (again, as far as I was able to read) the temerity to dismiss it as a house of unreason and extremism. Far easier, perhaps, to condemn “secularism” in the abstract than to attack one of its greatest manifestations that has done more than perhaps any other single institution in America to produce ignorance, apathy, and unbelief among our youth.
It is time to acknowledge public education in America for what it is: a mortal threat to the very survival of the church of Jesus Christ. Steven Yates, writing in Lewrockwell.com, recently said as much while speaking about the SBC resolution:
To adopt the resolution would be a radical step for Southern Baptists, who have always assumed that Christianity and government education were compatible. However, given the tailspin government schools have been in during the past few decades, when the Southern Baptist Convention holds its annual meeting in Indianapolis beginning on June 15, the nation’s largest Christian denomination might just reconsider its stance. If it does, we can expect shock waves to reverberate through this country’s education establishment.
Sadly, whatever shock waves the resolution may have generated have already ebbed away. The “controversy” (if one can rightly call it that) has already subsided. Very little, if anything, will change. Roughly 80 percent of all children raised in evangelical Christian homes will remain in the grip of Pharaoh’s school system. And youth who are raised in Southern Baptist homes but who attend public schools will continue to abandon their faith and stop attending church after they get to college. Perhaps—just perhaps—a silver lining is that the events in Indianapolis have raised America’s level of consciousness about the importance of private and home education. I hope so.
You can be assured that in the coming days I will have more to say, God willing, about this issue. We cannot work these thoughts out here, but merely to mention them is enough to show how much it means to many of us in the convention that the church think biblically about such matters. The words of Doug Wilson would, I believe, make a fitting preface to such a series of studies on the nature of public education in America:
For over one hundred years Americans have been running a gigantic experiment in government schools, trying to find out what a society looks like without God.
Now we know.
June 17, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. His latest book is Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon.