Churches and education

With the appointment of DeVos as education secretary social media has been a hotbed of discussion around publicly funded education, and the apparent desire of Ms. DeVos to enable more faith based schools. Much of this argument hinges on a desire by people to see more Christian based education permeate the society at large. Therefore, it makes sense that people would support someone like DeVos and the perceived agenda to Christianize our schools.

I really can’t comment on what DeVos will or won’t do, as her past practices may not pan out in her new public life. However, what I do want to state is how utterly opposed I am, as a Christian and an American, to any notion of bringing Christianity more deeply into our public schools. This is once again another instance where the separation of Church and State needs to be upheld, for the good of all society.

Education in our schools is about fact based learning to foster an educated society. The only agenda of education should be to teach our children the best that they can, with the facts that they have. That’s the problem with trying to interject religion into schools, because religion is not based upon facts, but on belief and experience.

That is why the biggest issue in putting religion in schools is religion itself. Religion in the world is splintered. Even within Christianity there are dozens and dozens of variations of faith that all claim to hold a particular truth that makes them more “right” than others. When we start to have a conversation about religion in schools we first need to ask, “Which religion?” Unfortunately, many people in America believe that we are a Christian nation, and therefore Christianity is the only way to answer that question.

But that opens up a whole new can of worms, since you then need to define which denomination or branch of Christianity is the one that should be taught? There are fundamental differences in the worldviews of Catholics vs. Lutherans vs. Baptists. These differences have deep theological roots, for which I’ve spent years of my life studying in my own personal education. But, when we talk about the public good of a secular society, it becomes impossible to pick any one denomination as the right one, and advocate for it’s inclusion into school curriculum (fact based or not).

If publically funded schools were allowed to teach religion, and specifically Christianity, one of two things would happen. The first thing that might happen is that we would enter into a strange holy war between the various groups, fighting over the correct “facts” to be taught in schools. The conservative Baptists would insist on teaching the sanctity of hetrosexual marriage, while the liberal UCC might want to downplay any Scripture or teaching that would alienate LGBT people. Some Charismatic segments may want to emphasize creationism as a valid scientific method, whereas scholarly Catholics would want to give credence to the scientific method and the factual study of creation.

These struggles would continue ad nauseam, which would lead to the second outcome of religion in publicly funded schools; regression into homogenous communities. Either through an extended struggle to cooperate, or right off the bat, religion schools would find themselves building walls around themselves to protect their worldview and ideology from the other religious school down the street. Instead of teaching our children how to engage with a beautiful and diverse world, we would promote the ultimate echo-chamber of religious self-aggrandizing. Our communities would become villages surrounded with moats, to keep out anyone who thinks differently than them. The pluralism and diversity that has created an amazing global tapestry would fade into colonial America, where religious lines manifested themselves in actual boundaries between states.

Secular education is the key to building a society of people who can think for themselves, and make choices about their own religious beliefs. Stifling critical thought for the promotion of maintaining a faith-based worldview is anathema to the very nature of our role as creations of God. If we are strong in our faith, our children will grow up thriving on our examples. We don’t need to open the can of worms of publicly funded education and all of the chaos that it would entail.

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