Parenting as Theological Exercise: That moment when you realize that you will inevitably have to start thinking about the education of your children.

Welcome to the second in what is likely to be a blog series that will last me the rest of my life (should blogs still be a thing in the future). This is a series where I freak out at the prospect of having to raise a real-life human creature! This is also a series in which I take my expensive theological education and figure out what that looks like on the ground, in real life, as a parent.

Youth group was a formative time for me, despite my absenteeism. Before I was ever married I accepted a job as a youth pastor at a church. All of this to say, the formation of children and young people is something that I thought about before ever having children. With marriage, comes talk of children. And with talk of children, comes talk of how you will raise said creatures and this of course involves matters including but not nearly limited to education.

Christina and I have spoken at decent length about education and what we’ll do when Charlotte and our other children reach that age. We’ve had similar conversations with our parents and family members. We have friends who homeschool, un-school, send their kids to private Christian school, send their kids to montessori school…the list goes on. For someone unfamiliar with options other than regular old public school these other methods may seem strange and scary. There are, however, some significant philosophical and methodological questions being asked here. There are significant advantages to pursing a non-public-school education for your children. Furthermore, for the Christian, there are really important issues to be grappled with here.

***

I got into a discussion, of sorts, with some folks on facebook (where else?) the other day on the subject of what Christian parents ought to do about their children’s education. It was sparked by the video embedded above. The video is of Gary DeMar, founder (I think) of an organization called American Vision whose mission is to, “Restore America to its Biblical Foundation” by “Exercising Servanthood Dominion”. Then, when America “recognizes the sovereignty of God over all of life…America will be again a ‘city on a hill’ drawing all nations to the Lord Jesus Christ and teaching them to subdue the earth for the advancement of His Kingdom.” Phew. That was a mouthful.

At any rate, this is a growing opinion in some Reformed circles (though, I hesitate to even attribute the term “Reformed” to these groups as I’m not sure they’re getting the Reformers right…but I digress!). Here in Ontario, Christian parents are increasingly concerned about the public school curriculum (and for good reason, I might add). We are told all sorts of things about said curriculum: you’re child will learn about same-sex marriage in the 2nd grade; anal sex in the 7th grade; evolution (!); and so on and so forth. Worst of all, we’re told that parents have no say in the matter, perhaps because it may well be the case that parents do not have the right to control how their children will be educated. Now, some of this is indeed problematic and is worth challenging, but how?

Some of my brothers and sisters argue that Christian parents should withdraw their children from the public school system entirely. Indeed, this is touted as not only a Christian response but the Christian response. Listen to Gary in the video above: “If you really really believe in a Christian worldview and you really want to believe that you can make fundamental changes in the world, you’re not going to be able to do it with someone educating your children 6 hours a day 5 days a week 10 months out of the year for 12 years.” And again: “Every aspect of your life has to be awash in the things of God’s word, you can’t do that if you’re sending your kids off to a completely different worldview.”

Did you catch that? (I hope you did, I italicized it.) “You’re not going to be able to do it”. “You can’t do that if…”.

Removing one’s children from the public system is held up as the only fitting Christian response to this current crisis. This, I argue, is at best fear-mongering rooted in ignorance. And, (perhaps) well intentioned but ultimately irresponsible leaders like Gary here are having a negative impact on everyday Christians (surprise!). I recently had a sister in the Lord tell me that if I sent my daughter to public school that she would come home dressed as a boy and confused about her gender (!). I had another conversation with a university professor at a Christian institution who attempted to convince me that not only was the public school system “at odds with the Christian faith” but that Christians in N. America are a persecuted people group and that the public school system is out to teach our children that “white, male, heterosexual, evangelicals” are “archetypal oppressor(s)”. Thus, Christian children will be educated within a system that considers them “structural oppressors”. As a result, our children will be unable/unwilling to self-identify as a Christian in the public system. When I was unconvinced by this gentleman’s arguments he proceeded to tell me that I was naive, irresponsible, and putting my children’s innocence at risk.

I sincerely wish I was making this up.

The new face of "structural oppression", according to concerned Christian parents and their understanding of the public school curriculum.

The new face of “structural oppression”, according to concerned Christian professor and his understanding of the public school curriculum.

This post is already getting long-winded. My point here is simply to suggest that (1) Christians have nothing to fear from the public school system because Christians have nothing to fear, and (2) there is not a Christian response to this matter only varied responses from varied Christians whose ultimate desire is the same — faithfulness to Christ in the midst of a watching world. These matters take wisdom, patience, and much prayer. I’ll try to make a point of writing a follow-up post in which I will offer another possible option for Christian parents that differs from the one expressed in the video above. In conclusion, I leave you with the words of Michael Ramsey:

“Let me add one final counsel. Beware of attitudes which try to make God smaller than the God who has revealed himself to us in Jesus…Whenever exponents of the Christian faith treat it as something which we have to “defend” like a beleaguered fortress or a fragile structure they are making God to be smaller than he is…(c) So too there is a spirit of fearfulness which thinks that no good can ever come of movements which are outside the camp of Christendom, forgetting that God could use a Cyrus, an Assyria, or an altar-to-an-unknown-deity in his great purpose in history. We are not indeed to confuse what God does as redeemer in the unique sphere of gospel and Church with what he does as illuminator through the light that lighteth every man (sic); but to be blind to the latter is not to enhance the former or to understand it better.”

And again: “But certain distinctions can be drawn. It is one thing to state main Christian principles, or to denounce a particular downright evil. It is another thing to commend a particular programme, on which the technical skills and wisdom of competent Christians may differ, and to say “This is the Christian programme”, as if to unchurch or label as second-grade any Christians who might for good reasons dissent.

I welcome input and even push-back on this matter! Thoughts?!

Lord, grant us wisdom. Amen.

A group of persecuted Christians praying outside of the Canadian Parliament, Ottawa.

A group of persecuted Christians praying outside of the Canadian Parliament, Ottawa.

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3 comments
  1. Duane Jukema said:

    Great intro to the conversation! Looking forward to reading your next post on an alternative Christian response.
    Our family is seeking wisdom as we believe the Christian response IS to be in public education system… but not to take everything they feed our kids without opposing that which we believe is harmful, and at the least, discussing with our kids that which we feel isn’t harmful but is incorrect or contrary to scripture, reviewing and re-educating you might say.
    If the Provincial Liberals really believe are entrenched in the idea that they are co-parenting in our kids education, then we plan to be vocal and active parents to ensure that we agree (as biological, rather than institutional parents) what is best for our boys.

    • jt* said:

      Thanks Duane. Spoiler alert: The alternative I’ll be arguing for involves Christian families involving themselves in the life of their local public school, not as *the* Christian response, but as an appropriate and fitting response that wise and competent Christian parents are free to pursue. Blessings on you and your family as you seek to follow Christ where you feel he is leading you. I should say, I like the level of involvement you intend to have with your kids that includes open and honest discussion and critique. It is indeed important for children even at a young age to begin to learn these skills.

  2. aislingclaire said:

    That’s a fairly good intro, I agree, to a complex hot topic at the moment.

    I have also spoken to a few people about these changes in the school curriculum that are taking place, and I see a huge wave of control and protection overcoming Christian parents. To some extent, I can understand where these parents are coming from. However, I do not think the Christian response should be to “run and hide” from society and culture– or as some may label, the secular world. I, in fact, believe this is the very opportunity for Christians (especially Christian parents) to engage in society.

    Maybe one way to approach it isn’t to pull children out of these learning environments, but a chance for Christian parents to enter into necessary dialogue with their children, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes them feel. The point of the matter is that children are going to find out about same-sex marriage, anal sex, etc. Parents are just as responsible to educate their children, and this can still be done with these new topics children will be learning at school. But it doesn’t have to be left there. Parents can engage their children in these topics in the light of Christ. It is inevitable that your child will grow into an adult, and somewhere along the line will indeed be faced with how society views such things. But it crucial for Christian parents to be open to discuss things they don’t agree with in society with their children and this is a vital part of the education of our children. I think to avoid this, is to become less engaged in society, and thus less responsive to society. And as Christians we not only need to respond to society, but to educate our children to also know how to respond to our society.

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