Thursday, January 17, 2008

Withdrawal

In the comment section of one of my posts on inerrancy, a commenter defends keeping his kids out of the school system in response to my point about fear and withdrawing kids from public school.

First, I want to say that I have no problem with homeschooling. I have had many friends who have homeschooled and their kids have absolutely flourished. Some have done it because their children had special needs, some have done it because they wanted their kids to get a certain type of education, and others have done it because they just love being with their kids and enjoy teaching them. No worries.

My comment in Fear-Based Theology has more to do with a bunker mentality that can be preached in some circles about public schools and the world in general. I have actually heard a well-known evangelical make the case that if your kids are in public school, then you are putting them in a spiritually dangerous situation and possibly harming them. The Solution? Keep them at home, put them in private schools, do online education, anything other than throw them to the vicious lions of the public school system.

That's where I think Christians can go wrong. We see a degraded culture all around us and are fed a steady diet of end-of-the-world scenarios, sweeping generalizations, and "news" sites that twist the truth into sensationalistic nonsense. So, we react by withdrawing from the world around us. We justify it with biblical concepts such as being "strangers in a strange land" and "being in the world and not of it". It sounds like the right thing to do, so therefore it must be the right thing.

I don't think it is and here's why:

In America, Christians can go to any church they want, buy their books from Christian bookstores, listen to Christian radio in their cars, homeschool their kids or send them to a Christian school, make them participate in Awana programs or RA/GA programs instead of the Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, get their coffee at Christian Cafes....and on and on the list goes. We unknowingly--or perhaps quite knowingly--insulate ourselves from every point of contact with the world and people who don't believe exactly the same way that we do.

When we withdraw ourselves from the larger community, we abandon our calling to be salt and light. Instead of giving of ourselves to the larger community of children and teachers, we disappear, leaving a gaping hole where we used to be. Suddenly, there are fewer parents to help out on field trips, help tutor in the classroom and contribute to the overall health of the school community.

If we want schools to be better, then we have to make them better; not by pushing our agenda on the school board, but by making personal contacts with teachers and students, helping in any way we can. Engaged, involved parents can make a difference, not just in their child's education, but in the educational system overall.

Withdrawing from the public square can also deprive us, and our children, from opportunities for our own spiritual growth. We become near-sighted when the only people we bump up against are those who think like us. This gift we possess seems less important when we aren't seeing what life is like without it. Not only that, but our usefulness is limited in a closed environment. Preaching to the choir, gathering consensus for the views we all share, or bickering over the non-essentials we don't, wastes our time and energy. We expend ourselves on ourselves instead of on others.

That being said....I have no problem with those who choose to homeschool, or the concept of homeschooling. Use it when necessary.

However, let's not use fear to push Christians out of public schools. We're needed there. Our kids are needed there. Christian teachers are needed there. The church is salty enough. It's tiem to get out of the shaker and be put to use.

1 comment:

J said...

Really well said! I raised 5 kids and lived to tell about it. I even home-schooled for a few years (which I totally resisted because I was so afraid of people thinking we were doing the Christian-bunker thing! Ha!).

While our short time "at home" did so many great things for our family ties and was necessary for the period for a number of reasons, when we were "in" public schools, we were IN! The favor of God surrounded our children like a shield. They were not in danger as much as they were carriers and couriers of the good news.

How the state of Christianity in America ever got to this self-protective, us-4-and-no-more, we're right-you're wrong, prideful, spiritually arrogant, don't touch us state must surely grieve God, who "so loves the world."