According to a recent EthicsDaily.com article, Voddie Baucham is quoted as saying,
I want the government out of the education business…I want to free all children from the academically inferior, spiritually bankrupt, economically irresponsible, morally reprehensible educational system…I want to see competition for students serve as the tide that raises all educational ships. Thus, I want to bankrupt the American educational establishment one student at a time…Everychild we get out of the school system represents $5,000 to $8,000 taken out of the coffers of the educational establishment…A loss of 20 percent would send the system into a tailspin…
Now, I am all for Christians making sure that their children receive a quality, well-rounded education. In fact, that is why I would much prefer home schooling my own children. But a mass exodus from public schools simply to bankrupt the system? This doesn’t sound like it is taking all the variables into consideration.
What happens to the teachers who are laid off because of a lack of funds to pay them? We can rest assured that it would not be the established teachers who would lose their jobs. It would be the newbies. It would be the teachers with a vision of reforming the system from the inside. The teachers who are faithful to the system would stay and, rather than the system being forced to shut down, it would simply stay the same as it is now and may even get a little worse.
And what of those teachers who get laid off? The ones with the vision? Are there enough “Christian” schools for them to find jobs in? What of the non-Christian teachers with the same vision? Where are they to go if the only alternatives are “Christian” alternatives?
Voddie’s statements show, also, a lack of knowledge of the education system. It may not be the greatest, but it was never intended to be. It is the government’s way of seeking to help meet a vital need of the people: Assuring them that their children are properly educated. In theory, it’s wonderful and on paper it’s beautiful, but, as we would all agree, in practice, it doesn’t work out so well.
But the question begs to be asked: Why is the government in a position where it has to provide education for people? The answer lies in our own laziness. We, as Christians, are, more often than not, unwilling to do for our children what needs to be done. When, even as Christians, our children spend more time in day care and with a babysitter than with their parents, something has gone horribly awry.
And while I agree with Voddie that, “Christians must be distinct and different from the prevailing culture” and that “That doesn’t happen if as young people they are assimilated by a secular institution that undermines teaching of church and home,” I do not think that the public schools are necessarily trying to do this. Their goal is not to undermine the teachings of the church and the home, but rather it is an attempt to give people a broad education covering as much material as possible.
Yes, we must be “distinct and different from the prevailing culture,” but this does not mean that we cut ourselves off from it completely. Rather, we ought to raise up children who can think for themselves and also stand firm in what they believe to be right within the culture that we are all a part of. For some this may mean pulling their kids from the public school system and placing them in private or Christian schools or home schooling them. For others, though, this might mean supplementing their education with further teaching in the home that strengthens biblical values. But I do not think that an attempt to bankrupt the entire system is the answer. We must change the hearts and minds of those within the system.
I was once in a message board debate over what kind crowd Jesus would spend His time with if He were here today. I argued, and I still firmly adhere to this, that Jesus would not spend His time directing the church choir and going on men’s retreats but rather He would go to punk shows and interact with the outcasts of our society. Afterall, He did tell us that He came to save sinners, not righteous people. The debate went further and turned into a discussion of whether it is sin for a Christian to go to punk shows. Some were actually arguing that the Christian thing to do with punks is to stand outside the venue and hand out tracts to the people as they leave but never actually go in. Going in would be sin. Dressing like “them” would be sin. I argued, and, again, still firmly believe, that we must be in the world but not of it. We must become all things to all people that by all means we might save some.
The same with public schools. Contrary to what Voddie says, I do not believe that “We cannot mend it; we must end it.” This is like saying, “We cannot mend the problems in the church so we must end the church.” It’s silly logic. Because the church is made up of sinful people, there will always be problems. Because the public school system is made up of sinful people, there will always be problems. But that is exactly what we, as Christians, are called to address.
You do not save souls by hiding from them, you save souls by becomg one of them. God knew this, and that is why He sent the prophets of the Old Testament and Jesus in the New. And that is why He sends us today. We cannot shirk this responsibility simply because we don’t like what some person or institution is doing or saying. I am sure there were a lot of things happening to Jesus and about Him that He didn’t like. And do you know what He did about it? He went to the cross and, while there, forgave them.
Jim Wallis says that the cross is not just the symbol of the atonement of our sins, but it is also our way of life. As Jesus’ followers, we will be persecuted for what we believe and how we live our lives. That is how it is supposed to be. So, rather than running from it, why not rather be obedient to Jesus?
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25 ESV)
So I guess it all comes down to what we value as the church. Are we content to remain disobedient and place our trust in the protection of our government or are we going to stand firm in our faith? Yes, the public school system is not the best situation for our children. But for some, it is the only option they have. So rather than causing harm to the only means of education some children have, why not seek to change the system from the inside and give those children the kind of education that they need? Jesus demands that we be salt. If the salt never comes in contact with that which it is trying to season, it is not going to make it taste any better.
And until established alternatives are in place for our nation’s children, abolishing the whole system is never going to be the Christian choice.
He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NASB)