My latest for Sojourners
In the past few months I have come to a rather substantial conclusion: I cannot slow down time. I have tried my very best and it still has not worked. Try as I might my oldest daughter is now four and a half and is practically sprinting her way to “big kid school.”
My wife and I have been discussing this next phase of our daughter’s life. Sadly, school districts are falling into massive debt, being subjected to low performance in the classroom and even apathy in educating the next generation. Schools have become too focused on state test scores and benchmarks and have removed the art of learning from many classrooms.
Now private schools are becoming more mainstream, offering alternatives to public education, more flexibility, and more opportunities to the students. For many private schools there is a common element: they are associated with a religious group or Christian denomination. These schools started out as an extension of the ministry of the church as a way to respond to the needs of the community. But over time many popped up as a rejection of the educational system and their “removal” of God or prayer the school. Many parents see disconnect between the mainstream educational system and their Christian households.
But I see a certain danger in some of these Christian alternatives. It might sound counter-intuitive for an ordained Christian minister to say, but there are a couple of reasons why I would not send my daughter to some Christian schools.
1. Limited biblical interpretation.
In their statements of faith, some schools come across as if they have it all figured out. Don’t get me wrong — I believe the Bible is important and foundational for the church and Christianity. But the issue that I have is the school is giving my child the interpretation instead of allowing her to question and reason her own faith. The art of asking questions is at the heart of the educational experience, but if we have set up a Christian understanding in schooling that is akin to “means what is says, says what it means,” then we have limited learning, exploration, and growth. Kids (and adults for that matter) need to be allowed to offer the tough questions of faith. These questions need to be answered with honest, truthful answers — not bumper sticker slogans and clichés. Stop telling people to “just have faith and believe.” What about when that “unbelief” starts to creep in? Some schools take hardline stances on the interpretation, intent, and even “proper” translation of the Bible.
2. Misunderstanding vocation.
Some schools dabble in areas in which a place of higher learning has no business being. For example, I was looking on a school website about their beliefs and was shocked to see that there was a section on marriage. That’s right … marriage. And not just any marriage, but heterosexual, biologically male and female, together forever marriage. Why in the world is the school worried about teaching second graders about marriage? Answer: It is there way of prompting their view of marriage, and they want to ensure all of those who enroll their children that heteronormativity is assumed.
Some schools reject science — namely, the theory of evolution. Evolutionary science is seen in some Christian circles as the arm of the devil meant to pull us further and further way from the truth. These schools use the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2 as their guide when navigating the waters of science and creation. There is one tiny problem: The Bible is not a science book, history book, geography book, or even a math book; rather it is a book of faith — a book that was composed over centuries to bring humanity the fullest encapsulation of the Divine. People have turned to the words of Scripture to guide them in difficult times, to mend broken spirits, and to be connected with the God of the universe. Any other use of the Bible is a misuse of the text.
So, I have trouble with some Christian schools.
I just can’t do it; I cannot send my daughter to schools that promote these things.
No one will tell my daughter how to experience God.
No one will tell my daughter that only way she can fully participate in the church is teaching Sunday School because the “men of God” can only preach.
No will tell my daughter not to question her faith because this is how we grow and learn.
No one will tell my daughter that her view of God is wrong because it does not fit in a box where people have placed God.
And I mean no one.
Maybe we should listen to Pope Francis and be reminded that
, “God is not afraid of new things,” and stop surrounding ourselves with people who just think and believe like we do. Let’s be open to new understandings of the Bible, God, and Jesus. Let us promote areas where questions can be raised in a safe and constructive environment.
If this were to happen, real learning in all aspects of life would be greatly enhanced.