June 20, 2005
The Catholic church didn't expect the public schools to do it for them: they did it themselves. Public education has almost always been hostile to those of the Catholic faith here in the US. My friends went to school with me -- church run schools weren't heard of much then (at least to my recollection; I was elementary-school age when we lived there, but all the kids I knew went to the public schools).
Once upon a time, so I've been told, Southern Baptists had something similar. It was called Baptist Training Union, and the purpose was instructing people concerning the beliefs of the church. The church was the center of spiritual education, and it worked well.
Some churches still do it. Some churches still see the importance of this opportunity. Unfortunately, many churches have stopped doing it.
"People aren't willing to spend more time at church." "People don't have the time." "People don't want to learn this stuff." "People don't care." Those are among the excuses that they use. They don't fly.
My own experience is that people WANT to learn. People are hungering for this kind of knowledge. When I taught a series on the Biblical Jesus last year, we had a bigger turnout than we had planned: had to order more books. And when I ended the series, people wanted to know what topic we were going to cover next. They want to learn, and they are willing to make the time to come learn.
The problem is that we don't have the programs in place. We have teachers -- we can use Sunday School teachers to start with, provided they can teach the material. Material is out there: The Theology Program offered at bible.org is an excellent resource, and more are being produced all the time.
My rant here is focused, once again, at the resolution to pull SBC kids out of public schools. Al Mohler and Russell Moore have both come out in favor of the resolution. Dr. Mohler is the first I've seen to advocate an "exit strategy" for parents of public school kids. This far, I can agree: if we as Southern Baptists expect parents to pull their kids out of public schools wholesale, then we have to make sure that there is a viable alternative. Right now, there isn't one in far too many cases. There is no exit strategy, but we're going to tell people to leave anyway. This is irresponsible.
Christian education is seen in far too many circles as substandard. I've seen too many kids who were educated in Christian schools who could not function at the next level of their academic career. My wife could tell you horror stories of haveing to explain simple concepts to a girl in one of her classes who was valedictorian of her Christian school, and at Liberty on a full-ride scholarship. I've had similar experiences, both in undergrad and seminary classes.
There are schools offering quality Christian education -- I don't want to be misunderstood here. I fully support those parents who decide to send their kids to a Chrisitan school, and commend them for the sacrifice that it involves. The problem I see is that in too many areas, for too many parents, the choice becomes "Do I send my kids to the public school where their faith is under attack? Or do I send my kids to the Christian school that doesn't prepare them for college?"
We're expecting parents to sacrifice their kids' academic futures. We're expecting parents to sacrifice to give their kids a substandard education simply because it's a Christian education. The Southern Baptist Convention is large enough, and has enough resources, that we can create a quality Christian educational infrastructure. We can build the schools. We can train the teachers, and pay them. Christian education can be quality education.
But that is going to take time. In the meantime, we need to re-establish the Baptist Training Union. Call it something different if you want to: the point is, we need regular training for Baptists of all ages on doctrine. We need training on what exactly the Baptist Faith and Message says, and why we believe it. We need training for lay people on what the issues are, and what the Biblical response should be, but more, we need to train people to have a consistently Christian worldview so that when they are confronted they can give a reason for the hope that is within them, and they can feel confident in their faith.
Teach kids what they believe, and why it's right. Give them some backing, and when their teachers in public school contradict that teaching, they won't simply accept it and move on. Be involved in their education, so that when the teachers are trying to indoctrinate the kids, you know about it and can fight it. Be aware of kids' rights in public schools, and be willing to fight when those rights are threatened. And help to build the kind of educational system that Southern Baptists have the ability to build, so that if you have to remove your kids from public schools, they'll have someplace to go that won't handicap them intellectually.
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