Further Thoughts on the PCA Public School Resolution

As I continued to think about this resolution, the more certain things bothered me. Though this resolution was more about the state of public schools than advocating Christian schools, it is a near cousin to the “only” kind of thinking that tends to dominate some non-essential issues within Christiandom. It is this “only” kind of thinking about non-essential issues that worries me more than this resolution.

In the case of schooling, “only” kind of thinking perpetuates itself in a few forms. Here I want to address “Christian Schools Only”, or “Homeschool Only”, kind of thinking. Keep in mind the issue is not with these forms of education in general. I have no problem with Christian schools or home schoolers. My problem is with those who hold them as “only” kind of options.

There are three additional arguments that could be made against this “only” kind of thinking.

The economic argument

The Gospel and the ability to live a Christian life is free. Every man and woman, no matter their life circumstances or financial ability can live the Christian life. Making the argument that Christian schools are the only legitimate form of education a Christian should consider for their children is contrary to this notion. It attaches a fixed financial cost to Christian discipleship.

Does not Christ ask us to sometimes/often give up certain financial means for His sake? Absolutely. The young rich ruler is a prime example. The biblical tithe is another. These costs are relative however. Giving up all your possessions is relative to your life situation. Bill Gates giving up everything is a multi-billion dollar cost. Wheras if I gave up everything I owned when I graduated college, we are just talking about a big pile of books, a few tools, a pillow and a comforter. The cost is relative. The biblical tithe is relative (if indeed one holds to a biblical tithe). 10% to me, is not the same as 10% for Mr. Gates. The cost for a Christian school though is fixed. If I walk into a popular Christian school here in town, the cost for me and for everyone is $5000.00. Yes there are scholarships, but there are not scholarships for everyone.

Given that no matter our life situation or finanicial ability, we can still follow Christ, requiring, even recommending that Christians should “only” consider Christian schools is contrary to the very nature of following Christ. Unless then, I am of certain financial means, I will not be able to meet that principle of Christian discipleship.

Homeschool “only” kind of thinking runs into a similar problem. Though it is not an economic one. Yes there is a cost involved in purchasing materials, but it is not as much as a private or christian school. The problem here is the education of the parents. It does take a certain level of education on the part of parents in order to undertake educating your own children. When I think of all the people I know who homeschool, they are all college educated. I would love to find a survey or study that discussed this.

I spent 5 years working for a ministry that served the poor. Some of the women we served barely knew how to cook. Those who knew how to cook were just beginning to grasp the concept of serving healthy meals to their children. I can’t imagine these women embarking on homeschooling. The people I know who homeschool, even the most savvy and talented of them, talk of the immense amount of energy it takes. These women I am talking about are far away from developing that kind of perseverance and fortitude. The homeschool “only” argument can not be held for all people, in all circumstances.

This leads me to the second argument. The classist one.

The Christian School “only” and Homeschool “only” positions are classit. That is, they are guily of classcism. They are born, more or less, out of some form of a upper middle class suburban (possibly even isolationist) worldview. It would behoove people holding such positions to spend time with people of all classes and see if their positions still hold.

All educational systems by their very nature are a respecter of men. The Christian School “only” postion is a respecter of men by their financial ability. The Homeschool “only” position is a respecter of men by their ability to teach/facilitate and/or educational level. The public and private school system is a respecter of men as well. Private schools, again, because of one’s finanical ability. Public schools because they reveal one’s socio-economic status. We didn’t live long in Saint Louis before someone came along and asked “What high school did you go too?” The answer to the question could reveal one’s religion, financial ability and socio-economic status.

God, however, is no respecter of men. Holding a Christian School “only” or Homeschool “only” position, puts one in a tenuous position with the Creator.

Is there a way around this? First, I suppose, is a change of attitude. Second, would be relinguishing “only” type of positions in regards to schooling. Thirdly, offer Christian education for free or minimal cost (as in only pay for books).

The resolution made before the PCA General Assembly would have had more power, more substance, if in fact Christian education were free. How could one then argue with it? Comparing a free dysfunctional secular system to a free Christian based system (given it was not dysfunctional either) is a no brainer.

How could Christian Education be offered for free? It would take a large shift in attitude both within churches and in general the culture at large. We are in many ways bound by the economic model of our country and world. We “sell” services. In this case, Christian education is the service being sold. For Christian Education to be free, would require the pooling of church economic resources in such a way that really has not been practiced often. It would have to be a
model very similar to communal living, such as represented in the Book of Acts, or lived out in communities such as Jesus People USA . The problem is, I don’t see mainly suburban people, choosing to live in close proximity to each other, if not, with each other, pooling resources such as money, food, and shelter, and providing a free Christian education to the children of the members of their church. In this model, teachers, if they were part of the community, would not have to be paid much. Formal teachers would not be necessary even, it could function as a group home school. However, the next step for such a model, would not only be offering this education for free to church members, but free to all members of the community where the church was located. If Christian education is going to compete directly with the public schools, and for it to be truly equitable, it has to be free. Radical indeed. Given the economic model of our culture, this would be difficult for most people. THIS would be sacrifice indeed.

The third argument is the one of conscience.

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church has a motto: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” The issue of schooling falls into the non-essentials category. Christian School “only” and Homeschool “only” positions bind people’s consciences beyond that which is permissible by Scripture.

I will leave this third point as it is, since fleshing it out requires more time than I have at the moment.

1 Comment »

  1. Wayne said,

    June 26, 2005 @ 8:28 pm

    Thanks for your thoughts on this. I agree and pray that fewer and fewer churches get high-centered over this issue. God Bless.

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