Thursday, July 26, 2007

Finally! Prayer in Public Schools

The Carver elementary school in San Diego is paving the way for prayer to be returned to public schools. Carver administrators have set aside 15 minutes from classroom instruction each afternoon to accommodate 100 religious students that are newly enrolled in the school. Amazingly, the ACLU seems willing to stand down on this one and let the practice continue, evidently not concerned that this action violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Many fundamentalist groups would be celebrating this new found sensitivity toward and encouragement of religious expression in a government school if it were not Muslims who are being served. That's right. The Carver policy has been designed to allow Muslim students to observe salat as prescribed by the Quran.

This article from the San Diego Union-Tribune tells the story. What it does not tell, however, is what these events display to someone committed to confessional Christianity and the Baptist understanding of church-state relationships. Let me offer a few personal opinions of what the Carver school actions suggest.
  1. Our government elementary and secondary school system is irreparably broken. There are obvious exceptions from classroom to classroom and even from school to school, but the system is beyond repair. We no longer have a Christian worldview underpinning the efforts to educate the populace. McGuffey's Readers (in their original form) would never be allowed in most modern government classrooms. Though I realize that this issue is laden with difficulties and often addressed unhelpfully shrill voices, I am more convinced than ever that Christians need to start developing exit strategies for our children to leave government schools. By all means, let's keep sending Christian teachers to the classrooms. They should go as missionaries who recognize that they are invading territory that is hostile to the claims of our Savior.
  2. Education cannot be morally neutral. All teaching has an unavoidable perspective. The widespread perspective of our government schools has moved from a basically Christian worldview, to a secular worldview into rapidly developing anti-Christian worldviews that play right into the hands of radical Islamists who are unhesitant to work pluralism to their advantage as they plot to move from tolerance to equality to supremacy. If you doubt their goals you have not listened to their proclamations.
  3. The battle against Islam will not be fought primarily on foreign fields and will certainly not be won by guns and smart bombs. It is an ideological fight. It is a battle for the minds and souls of men and women and boys and girls. Only a muscular, vigorous, radically biblical Christianity can prevail. The insipid versions that dominate the American landscape--including the evangelical landscape--cannot stand against militant Islam. Only the true Gospel of Jesus Christ will do. And it is that Gospel that, I believe, has been largely lost or forgotten by many in our day who name the Name of Christ and assume that they understand and believe what He taught.
All of this to say, the Carver school administrators' antics further highlight our desperate need for reformation on a large scale. The Gospel must be recovered and churches must be reformed according to the Word of God. May the Lord grant us both through the outpouring of His Spirit.

23 comments:

Darby Livingston said...

I agree with you 100%, and admire your willingness to once again point out an obvious, yet often contested, observation. Why do you think so many doubt the validity of your argument concerning the state of government schools, and refuse to give it an honest second thought?

Tom said...

Darby:

Thanks for your comment. I think we are all far more influenced by our culture than we are able to see and are willing to admit. Assumptions are hard to be exposed and, therefore, hard to evaluate and overcome--especially when it comes to such emotionally charged issues like the education of our children.

Casey said...

""Why do you think so many doubt the validity of your argument concerning the state of government schools, and refuse to give it an honest second thought? """


As a homeschooler I can tell you that most of the reasons I hear against homeschooling or even putting kids in Christian schools boils dowon to selfishness and laziness. Some of it is financial as Christian schooling cost money. You'd be suprized at how many Christians will make comments like "I could never homeschool. I couldn't stand being around my kids that much." or "Homeschooling seems really hard I'd much rather let the "experts" handle their education." Many parents simply will not admit there are problems with our educational system because then they would be required to make some sacrifice to take care of their children.

Brian said...

Would Carver give equal time to Christian students?

That is the question - if so then I see no problem. If not, then yes we have hypocrisy.

As a 23 year old and a graduate from a public school, I suggest keeping your students in the public schools for high school. If we abandon the public school system, who will stick up for Christ? High school aged students, if given proper instruction in the churches, can easily stand up for God and have many quality learning experiences in the public high school settings. Where they are oppressed, character will be built. Where they are not, the Gospel will be proclaimed.

I do agree that for elementary aged children and probably middle schoolers, Christian schooling would be advisable. But I think there's an age where they have to stand up for themselves and face the rest of the world. Avoiding public high school I do not believe is smart.

J.D. Rector said...

I hope that my comments will not be taken with the wrong spirit. I am troubled by the blank labeling with regards to the appropriate way of educating children.

First of all, as a former educator in the private Christian school sector, I can attest that laziness was found from a few parents and students alike. Likewise, there were parents and students who were very diligent and disciplined in their educational journey.

Now, as an Associate Pastor of a church that has a homeschool ministry, I am troubled still by the blanket-labeling from anyone who has an opinion on the best method of the education of our children.

Tom, I agree with you that education needs to be taught with morals as it's foundation. In the city I reside in here in Alabama, Opelika, we have just completed a trial evaluation of "character concept/teaching". It was featured in our local newspaper was deemed a success. The Opelika City School system is comprised of many godly, moral, bible-believing evangelicals who are teachers, supports workers, coaches, and yes administrators. I wish you all could hear the Opelika High School marching band at the end of every... and I stress every half-time performance in which they close out with either a stirring rendition of a Christian hymn or popular Christain song.

I have witnessed students who didn't turn out quite so well from the private, public, and home-schooled venue.

I fully recognize that the public schools that I attended as a grade school child are not the schools of today... but neither are the homes of America. It ALL begins and ends at home.

It takes a sacrifice on anyone's part to see that their child receives the most from their educational journey.

God, give us a spiritual revival and reformation that strikes at the core of our sin-sick society... the heart and the home!

Tom said...

J.D.,

I appreciate your comments very much. We do have a tendency to paint with a broad brush and, in this issue particularly, must work hard not to do so. Our church is compromised of families that homeschool, use Christian schools and public schools. What we stress is the need, as you indicate, for parents to be fully engaged in the process, whatever course is being followed.

Thanks, again, not only for your views but for your good spirit. We need more of that in order to have the kind of helpful dialogue that this important issues deserves.

Cap Pooser said...

Even though the Bible does not say “Thou shalt home-school” it comes mighty close in Deut. 6:6,7. It places the responsibility on the parents, not the state, for instructing the child. They may hire tutors or schools to help, but the responsibility remains with the parent. I can find no example or precept in the Bible which would allow the parent to hire a pagan system (see dictionary definition. The government schools are by definition and law, pagan ) to fulfill that responsibility. Can someone help me?
A number of parents say that they have Christians who teach in their pagan schools. Maybe so, but they must teach every subject from a pagan presupposition. If they don’t, they are breaking the law. Not very good role models to teach obeying the law!
Others say their kids can be missionaries. As a Southern Baptist I understand that to be a missionary in our denomination requires four years of college, three years of seminary, and two years of ministry. Sending 6-year-olds who can’t read yet to be missionaries to teachers who have bachelor’s and master’s degrees in secular humanism seems to me to be insane. The secular humanists win almost every time.
Some say we can let the pagans teach the facts and we will teach the religion at home and church. Those who say such have bought the myth of neutrality. There are no brute facts in the universe. All education is religious at its root. All academic subjects are taught from someone’s religious presupposition. In the pagan system, it is the religion of secular humanism. It is not a matter of “Shall we teach religion in the government schools?” but “Whose religion shall be taught?”
If Christians continue to sacrifice their children to the pagan gods, they should not be surprised if their children are killed by those who have been taught that ethics are situational and autonomous. (See Humanist Manifesto.) My wife says that if we send our kids to play in the sewer, we shouldn’t be surprised if they come home stinking.
But after serving 20 years in the military and 25 years in the gospel ministry, serving as headmaster of a private Christian school, and owning and operating a private Christian school I am convinced that Christians are to a large degree, asleep. We must wake them up. Some worked a lifetime to get prayer in public schools. And now they have it. It is just not what they thought it would be. We have a choice: God’s Law or chaos.
Lucius B. “Cap” Pooser,
Major USAF, (Ret.)
P.S. I use “pagan” in the dictionary sense, not derisively.

Joseph said...

J.D.,

Amen and thank you for those comments. Not all public school teachers (of which I am one) are evil and trying to indoctrinate your children against God. Further, I think it was also very helpful that you pointed out the reality of where a child's success begins and ends: the home. I have seen kids from good homes do wonderful despite the educational environment. For me, and my child, it is a question of whether or not the school has discipline, a safe environment, and teachers who are trying and not attempting to go contrary to my values. If they do, then we will be ready as Al Mohler has wisely counseled the SBC (which continues to reject his counsel at their national conventions) to move our son elsewhere. There are, however, good public schools out there, and I do believe we should support, encourage, and influence those schools which are willing to listen.

Joseph said...

"Even though the Bible does not say “Thou shalt home-school” it comes mighty close in Deut. 6:6,7. It places the responsibility on the parents, not the state, for instructing the child."

More specifically, it instructs parents to teach them about the things of God. It is not reasonable to expect every parent to be an expert in all forms of math, science, history, english, music,etc...

This is why we have schools.

Joseph said...

"Others say their kids can be missionaries. As a Southern Baptist I understand that to be a missionary in our denomination requires four years of college, three years of seminary, and two years of ministry. Sending 6-year-olds who can’t read yet to be missionaries to teachers who have bachelor’s and master’s degrees in secular humanism seems to me to be insane. The secular humanists win almost every time."

So, how big us your God, anyway. I think the sovereign God of the universe can handle the bachelor and masters degrees. Look, I am not saying let your kids go and leave them to their own devices. The PARENTS have got to be involved, and if they are not, then shame on them.

"All education is religious at its root."

Is that right? What is the religious roots of 2+2=4? What is the religious roots of a quarter note? What is the religious roots of a noun and a verb? I am not so naive as to think that there are no personal agendas in classrooms, and that is why parents are there to instruct their children at home and influence things at school.

SL1M said...

Cap said, "Missionaries must have 4 years of college, 3 years of seminary, and 2 years of ministry."

Ummm...Not even close. None of this is required to be an IMB missionary, unless by 2 years of ministry you mean a member of an SBC church for at least 3 years.

That's it!

But the first two?...Nope.

Just thought I would clear that up.

With homeschooling, we start our class with prayer every morning and learn everything from a biblical / Christian worldview. We love it!

Although, we do miss hearing a Christian hymn played by the band at halftime...but it's our burden to bear.

Darby Livingston said...

"What is the religious roots of 2+2=4? What is the religious roots of a quarter note? What is the religious roots of a noun and a verb? I am not so naive as to think that there are no personal agendas in classrooms, and that is why parents are there to instruct their children at home and influence things at school."

I think the more important sentence to quote is "All academic subjects are taught from someone’s religious presupposition." That's why he said "all education is religious at its root." It's the worldview undergirding 2+2=4 that concerns many.

BTW, The religious nature of math flows from the fact that God created the world to operate according to certain rules. God is not the author of confusion, and all truth is His truth. If you don't think 2+2=4 is a religious proposition, then is it a sin to willfully believe that 2+2=5? The religious nature of grammar flows from the Word of God, which precedes from God. Man will give an account for every noun and verb he uses, because everything learned and utilized in God's world belongs to God. I agree that parents must be actively involved whatever their educational choice.

Darby Livingston said...

"The religious nature of grammar flows from the Word of God, which precedes from God."

That sentence should read, "The religious nature of grammar flows from the Word of God, which precedes the words of man."

Sorry to clog things up.

Mike Southerland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Southerland said...

Just my opinion, but calling
for an "exit strategy" is something like this analogy: we are in a burning building, many have already died from smoke inhalation. Half the building is gone, and what is left is about to collapse on our heads. The exit strategy is "GET OUT NOW!" There may have been a time when we could all sit around and discuss an orderly way to leave. But IMO those days are gone. I think Christians need to realise that the government schools are enemies to Christians. We wouldn't let our children be taught religion from a Muslim. Yet every day children go to these schools and are told that all religions are equally valid. Geoff Botkin tells how government schools deliberately "dumb down" students to prevent them from thinking independently. The "system" does not really want an educated populace. An ignorant populace is much easier to control than a well educated one. Believe me, well educated Bible believing Christians are a much greater threat to the establishment than drug dealers, white collar criminals, or even common thieves. Well educated Christians were responsible for leading both of our wars for independence. After the second war failed, the government began to take steps to ensure it would never happen again. The industrial revolution is just what the feds wanted. Split up the families. Get the children out of the home so they can teach them to be "sheeple." I believe that Lincoln was absolutely correct when he stated that the philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. I also believe that inwardly he delighted in this truth, for through the school system he knew he could brainwash all those southern children into thinking the federal government was their "savior." So that the conquerers would establish absolute power over the conquered.

In my "burning building" analogy, if some adults want to be "fire fighters" and run into such a malestorm, then fine. Just get the innocent children out before they are scarred for life, or "killed." Will the system collapse if those students who are holding up the flaming beams leave? Perhaps...but it's better to rescue the living than to have everyone burn down to the ground.

mary said...

From our children's public school experience we saw that the indoctrination has become subtle and insidious. Our son brought home a 1st grade math paper with the problem "measure these three animals, which animal is the tallest - the animals were a dog, a horse and a man. A man is described as an animal in a first grade math problem! In art class our son studied "caveman" drawings millions of years old. In December the students studied Ramadan, Kwanza and Winter Soltice - oh they also studied Christmas and were told that there are many ways to "celebrate" and everyone had the right to choose what felt right to them. This is beginning in grade school.

We had the opportunity to work in a youth ministry and at Thanksgiving one year we asked the students what they were taught about Thanksingiving. Their answers were "Those people were glad to be alive and be in a new land where they could make a better life." Why did the pilgrims come to America? "Because they were seeking a better life than the poor life they had in England."

I could go on and on with examples from just the three years of public school experience we had. We were very diligent in correcting all these errors we saw and in the end we said "Should we really be sending these young impressionable minds into this environment for a majority of their waking hours in a week and expect them to be able to discern right from wrong day in and day out for the next 12 years? Not only we're we expecting these little minds to filter out the bad messages from teachers and printed materials, but they also had to deal with the messages they were getting from peers, coming from all manner of homelife. Other kids whose parents allowed them to watch bad stuff on TV and listen to all manner of music. Have you seen the way girls in grade school dress these days? We were very active and involved in our children's school and in the end we felt convicted that it just wasn't enough.

kingofbleh said...

Dead on, Brother Tom! This is a direct result of the politicization of evangelicalism over the last 30 years. We have allowed ourselves to be marginalized under the main heading of "religion" and dulled the lines between that which distinguishes evangelicalism (the gospel) and other religious groups. We have put down our sword and picked up a feather.

DoGLover said...

Joseph:
2+2=4, a quarter note, & a noun & a verb all share the same religious - no, the same spiritual root - the fear of the Lord. Pr 1:7 - "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." Darby said the same thing, though perhaps not as breviloquently. ;)

Darby Livingston said...

doglover,

that's why God's Word is unmatched in wisdom and eloquence.

If you think my post was long-winded, you should hear my sermons. :)

Lin said...

So churches need to step up to the plate and start schools. There are tons of single Christian moms out there who could NEVER afford private school...

Why not the church educate it's own? It is a form of discipleship because all education is taught from a particular view.

DoGLover said...

Darby:
Preaching's much more satisfying than writing. It is for me anyway.

Lin:
I used to attend a church that made it possible for single parents & low-income families to enroll their children in a private Christian school. It meant that those who could, paid more, teachers earned less, & the church limited other ministries to make funds available for the school. It's hard to manage, but it's possible.

Howard Fisher said...

AMEN AMEN AMEN!!!

Jacob said...

As a current-student at a public university and a grateful alum of an excellent public school, I'd like to try to share another perspective on this issue.

In the first place, I think the Islamic tenant of salat is different from Christian prayer. In Islam they are required to pray at certain times of the day, in a certain manner, and facing a certain direction. Christianity has no such requirements. I know that in my public school a Muslim student either had to miss part of class to pray at their required times or they simply didn't pray. Personally, I think the Carver School District's decision is commendable because it shows a consideration for a minority which can only help the often-tense relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims in the USA.

Additionally, this is a separate issue from the Christian prayers that were declared unconstitutional. What is happening in Carver is, if I understood Dr. Ascol correctly, is that Muslim students are given a break in their day to go off by themselves to practice salat. What the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional is the kind of prayer in school that is mandatory for all students- IE prayer over the intercom system. It would be a violation of the establishment clause if the district were to have an imam come in and pray over the intercom at certain intervals.

Finally, as a student I have been home-schooled, attended Christian school, and public school. All three had their merits but the worst experience was easily the private school. There are Christian schools where academics are considered peripheral (like mine, where my 8th grade English teacher had a degree in elementary ed and had no degree of any kind in English) and legalism reigns (again like mine, where students were sometimes required to raise their hands during music in the chapel services).

In my public school on the other hand, I was given the opportunity to learn under wonderful teachers, many of whom had masters degrees and who sincerely loved their student. Being a teacher isn't easy and if you're in it today it's most likely because you either love the subject, the kids, or both. I had many wonderful teachers during my time in public schools (significantly more than during my time in private school I might add).

Finally, my parents were in charge of my education from K-12, but they gave me the freedom to think for myself, while encouraging me to do so within a biblical framework. And you know what? I heard Darwinism taught and I'm still a Christian. I sat in desks next to Muslims, Hindus, and non-religious people and I'm still a Christian. I even read books that were, at best, neutral toward Christianity, and I'm still a Christian.

Being a Christian in a non-Christian environment doesn't have to destroy your faith, in fact, if you have any at all, it should strengthen it. Spend any amount of time in a secular environment and you will quickly see the alienation and pain that characterizes the lives of so many people around us. Personally, I'm terrified of leaving such an environment. Far better to stay and be an agent of redemption.

One practical example of this and then I'm done. During my senior year two Christian friends and I were able to take a group of special needs students to prom. There were the three of us and then six sped kids, four guys, two girls. One girl was blind, one of the guys had Downs Syndrome, another was autistic, the other girl has cystic fibrosis. When one of the teachers, who knew of my Christian beliefs, saw me dancing with Hannah (who was blind), it opened up doors to the gospel that never would have been there otherwise. (And even if she hadn't seen me, that night was a joy for all six of those kids and that is enough to make all four years of public school more than worth it). Additionally, there was an article in the paper written about our group in which the entire community was able to see what the Kingdom of God looks like.

So I'll stop talking now, but hopefully you can see my heart here and see that I only share this out of love for my brothers and sisters in the Lord, for those outside the church, and, I hope, for love of the King who saves us.