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Against “Christian” Education of Youth

Yoder has some pretty harsh (and quite Anabaptist) comments about the notion of churches attempting to deploy “education of the young people” as a sociological tool to preserve the church from the acids of the world. He attacks pretty furiously the notion that we have to work to “keep the young people.” He couches this in a critique of his own Anabaptist tradition, but partly does so by claiming that this youth-protectionist sort of mentality is really the product of the (Constantinian) state-church traditions:

“If we turn from this general introduction to the question of church-guided education of young people, we observe first of all that the movement toward church primary and secondary schools in the United States has been led by those churches that belong to the medieval state-church tradition. The Roman Catholics, the conservative Calvinists, and the conservative Lutherans lead the movement. These are precisely those churches that are by nature committed to a non-missionary view of the church. They baptize their babies, and seek by rigid catechization and strict moral teaching to maintain proper standards of behavior and doctrine. The parochial school is for them an effort to retain, in free America, the cultural monopoly that they had each in its own corner of Europe, in order to survive by use of deterministic forces. There is no reason to hold this against them, for it corresponds to their definition of faith as being primarily doctrinal. For them it is consistent, for they never did accept the biblical and Anabaptist claim that the visible church lives only by evangelization.”

A bit harsh perhaps, but coming from a background of being highly socialized into Christianity, and knowing full well the kind of irrational protectionist mentality that persists in the church about the young people “falling away” if they are allowed to actually experience the world, I think there’s a good point in here somewhere.

If we think the church can only be sustained through concerted social and psychological manipulation of our children, then the church isn’t worth preserving. After all, if we don’t really believe that the church lives by the power of the gospel to call people out of the world, we’ve lost the gospel altogether. Yoder delivers another zinger on this point:

“[Much of the church] fears that if the young person, especially in adolescence, is permitted to become acquainted with the world and its lures, he is sure to be lost. This prediction is, in all its intended realism, a lack of faith and a surrender to determinism. If the Gospel cannot call people out of the world, it is no Gospel. If what we preach to our young people cannot call them out of the world, then we must ask ourselves if what we are preaching is the Gospel. If placing people in a context of choice where it is possible to choose the wrong is unwise, then God himself made the first mistake when he created Adam and the worst mistake when he let people kill his Son. At the bottom of it all, this pessimism means placing oneself fully on the level of the world. It means agreeing with the world that all human development is determined by physical and psychological necessities; agreeing with the world that Christian faith is a matter of behavior patterns and of truths to be passed on; agreeing with the world that there is no miracle of resurrection, no miracle of faith, no Holy Spirit.”

Regardless of if one is persuaded by Yoder’s skewering of paedo-baptism, his blow against the protectionist mentality in the church is a solid one that needs to be heeded.

(Quotes are from John Howard Yoder, “Christian Education: Doctrinal Orientation,” in Concern for Education, Forthcoming from Cascade Books.)

32 Comments

  1. roger flyer wrote:

    As another who has drunk the kool aid, I sympathize with what Yoder is saying here.

    In my experience, much of what passes for ‘youth ministry’ is cultic, exclusive, misinformed and misguided: and does not lead to thoughtful adults who make bold choices for the way of Jesus.

    Monday, July 6, 2009 at 3:56 pm | Permalink
  2. Adam Weinert wrote:

    Is “Christian Education: Doctrinal Orientation” still in print?

    In my short stint (current) in youth ministry, most of what I see by parents/youth pastors is a protection ideology. Parents break their backs to have this kids either home schooled or in a private Christian school for the very purpose of protecting them and they are failing to see/understand individually the “miracle of resurrection, miracle of faith, and the Holy Spirit.”

    Monday, July 6, 2009 at 4:15 pm | Permalink
  3. Halden wrote:

    It will be back in print soon. See the final two lines of my post. I’ve actually been editing the book for the last week or so. Not sure yet how long before its out.

    Monday, July 6, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Permalink
  4. Matt wrote:

    It seems that what Yoder is primarily challenging is Christian education in public schools. I assume, from what content is posted from this upcoming book, the criticism is related to replacing public/world parochial schools with Christian-like enclave classrooms. My guess is that he does not believe all Christian education of youth is a bad idea. Furthermore, youth ministries vary across the board and it would be difficult to say that they all are protectionist. I would be fascinated to read what take Yoder has on positive education for youth in the Christian tradition.

    Monday, July 6, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink
  5. Brad E. wrote:

    I think one of the great resources for the American church today, yet to be offered as far as I can tell, would be a comprehensive vision of what it might look like to train our children as disciples without the sort of protectionist parochialism Yoder rightly warns of. Obviously the picture will look different for paedobaptist traditions and those that are not — catechetical confirmation is or ought to be the existing, or lingering, version of this for some — but I wonder if, in the midst of so much curricula and youth ministry, we are still waiting for the game-changer.

    Ideas?

    Monday, July 6, 2009 at 6:41 pm | Permalink
  6. roger flyer wrote:

    Yes I have a few Brad, and I’ve tried a few of them in youth (and adult) ministry. But as I am now in exile from ‘church’ and ‘full time ministry’, I’m still pondering that I was a bad example and that my ideas might be heretical–at least in the realm of Christednom I’ve known.

    Monday, July 6, 2009 at 6:56 pm | Permalink
  7. Matt Shafer wrote:

    In my experience (which is limited mostly to exposure to independent Christian schools in the American South), “Christian” schools have a reputation as the least Christlike of all. Generally, students at non-sectarian schools regard so-called Christian schools as being, on the one hand, stuck up and/or arrogant and/or generally hypocritical, and on the other hand, full of people who act in stereotypically immoral unChristian ways (drugs, sex, etc). To whatever extent these two stereotypes are true, I would guess that the former is an unfortunate byproduct of an overprotected pseudo-Christian culture, and the latter is a reaction by students to the overprotective attitudes of administrators and parents.

    Monday, July 6, 2009 at 7:50 pm | Permalink
  8. Brad E. wrote:

    Do you mind sharing any, broadly or with specifics? The youth ministers I’ve known who seemed most faithful or effective (in the positive sense of the word) have often been exiled sooner rather than later, by choice or by fiat.

    Monday, July 6, 2009 at 8:49 pm | Permalink
  9. james wrote:

    I’ll take this as counterpoint to my comment (previous post) that Yoder doesn’t believe in spiritual ‘mumbo-jumbo’ and reduces the faith to ‘behavior patterns’. Here he clearly leaves the persuasiveness of the gospel to a ‘miracle’. The position seems so naive though next to his other views regarding the ‘powers’ control over society. Surely our youth would be the most vulnerable or impressionable in this regard, not to mention the least effective witness if it is an acquired skill. But hey, a miracle’s a miracle.

    Imagine an evangelical response of saying “why are you petitioning, picketing, volunteering as if true change to society came by such mundane processes and sociological control that is more in keeping with Constantinianism. One should instead wait for “miracle, resurrection, holy spirit.” This strikes me all as being naive to the very same enacted-political theology Yoder adopts elsewhere. So why not in education? (Without getting into at all the lack of interest in child development it shows.) Why are the state institutions of education being seen simply as a default harmless sphere of existence? Yoder would not give the military or corporate banking the same pass.

    But of course in practice Yoder is right, almost all Christian education and youth herding is ineffective if not damaging and very often off-putting. Still, as far as the world of essays go, Yoder shouldn’t be right here.

    Monday, July 6, 2009 at 11:22 pm | Permalink
  10. james wrote:

    Duke with Hauerwas….did it, but I am indeed intentionally rusty on the Yoder.

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 12:24 am | Permalink
  11. roger flyer wrote:

    (If you swear on a stack of Bibles you won’t tell the ‘elders’…here goes…)

    Caveat–I’m not putting these forth as original or as ‘game changers’ in youth ministry (though they could be)

    but they are ‘radical’ (as in back to ‘roots’)

    ‘Catechism’
    –Trying to build a genuine community through loving, kind relationships; with big dollops of discussions and demonstration of christian virtues.
    –Engaging young people with discussions on the way of Jesus in a culture of ‘christendom’. Acknowledging that we, as Christians, are in exile.
    –Group spiritual direction, including lectio divina.
    –Singing together.
    –Eating together.
    –Sharing one another’s burdens.

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 5:14 am | Permalink
  12. kim fabricius wrote:

    As a university chaplain in the UK, for me Yoder’s point about protectionism resonates most loudly and clearly with regard to the (evangelical) UCCF (University and Colleges Christian Fellowship), the Christian Unions (CUs) that dominate British campuses, most of whose students, in fact, worship in believers baptist churches, many independent. “Acids of the world”? Acids of other Christians!

    During Freshers Week, when national UCCF staff give introductory talks, I have heard with my own ears students being warned off “false teachers”, ministers like myself who cannot sign on the dotted line of the CU Doctrinal Basis which affirms biblical inerrancy, penal substitution, and eternal damnation (the Nicene Creed is far too permissive). Consequently I am not allowed to speak at their meetings. When my Anglican colleague began his ministry, a member of the CU executive approached him with only one thing in mind: to discover his views on homosexuality. As for Catholics, they are still bastards of the whore of Babylon.

    Such is CU sectarianism that there is an unspoken theology of “taint” which dissuades students from associating with the “unsound” even on a casual basis, or to watch and discuss films together. There are a few pleasant exceptions – Chaplaincy lunches, for example: students will sell their souls for a free meal (and we provide long spoons on request) – but it is a bold student, resistant to peer-group pressure, or sometimes simply a naive one, insensitive to boundaries, who will engage with the Chaplaincy. It is, of course, extremely frustrating, not to say ironic: captive to the “enclave theology” (Hunsinger) of their own ministers and youth leaders – who are the real culprits here – CU students are completely out of touch with the great historic traditions of the church, yet it is the Chaplaincy that is heretical.

    So here we are, chiefs with no Indians. (I probably “converse” with more students on a day of blogging than I’ve done in over twenty-five years of chaplaincy.) Keep us in your powwows.

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 5:54 am | Permalink
  13. tim kumfer wrote:

    As someone who grew up in a fundamentalist Christian school in the midwest (K-12!) I think Yoder is right on. And Yoder’s second quote strikes right at the heart of why most talented and creative young folk have no interest in church–most churches don’t practice the Gospel but instead preach a shallow message of ‘sin’ avoidance and self-management.

    The only point where I would push back is that many of these schools Yoder mentions were founded by immigrants who were unwelcome in the dominant society and created parochial schools as a means of cultural survival. To quote Jack Nicholson’s character in The Departed: ‘We used to have the church…that was only a way of saying we had each other.”

    Is this book composed entirely of Yoder’s essays or is it a collection of Concern writers?

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 7:00 am | Permalink
  14. roger flyer wrote:

    The more I hear from you and about your work, the more I find to admire in your service in the name of the Lord. That said, I hope you can continue to ‘walk the line’ .

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 7:19 am | Permalink
  15. roger flyer wrote:

    Good stuff, Tim.

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 7:20 am | Permalink
  16. Bobby Grow wrote:

    So I’m supposed to send my elementary age kids to a school that “celebrates diversity,” teaches them that they have aunts and uncles who swing from trees (not Tarzan either ;-), and that their true “Mother” needs to be saved by us — so we can continue to call her “Mother” (earth)?

    This may fly with older kids (i.e. high-school age), kids who can “critically” engage the ideological crap they are indoctrinated with at their public high-schools; but Yoder certainly isn’t referring to younger age kids, is he?

    Btw, I also grew up (K-12) in “Christian schools;” and whether or not Yoder is right on about the sociological fall-out (i.e. partying, etc.) that is characteristic of many student bodies, certainly in and of itself does not say one thing or another about the legitimacy or mission of said institutions (this is @ Tim).

    One more point,the Gospel also does not call us to be “un-critical;” instead we are to be “wise as serpents,” which sending our kids to the “Lions” (and I’m thinking of youngsters) just does not fit the shrewdness that the ‘Gospel’ calls for.

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 10:19 am | Permalink
  17. Halden wrote:

    I think you just fell into Yoder’s trap, Bobby. Everything you said assumes that whether or not people become Christians depends on sociologically determined factors. In short, its determinism all the way down for you rather than faith in the Gospel to have power to call people out of the world.

    But to add a little more context to this quote, here’s some more from Yoder’s essay:

    —————————

    It is this writer’s conviction, though proofs to the contrary will be welcomed, that if the practice of “holding young people” through the pressures of conformity through three centuries did not preserve spiritual vitality within the churches of the Anabaptist heritage, a more studied and psychologically competent strategy of protection with the same aim is not likely to do much better in the future. We should, therefore, ask ourselves if there is not some means placing the decision for Christ and the church within a clearer context of choice by permitting the young person to become acquainted with the other claims being made on his loyalty.

    This “context of choice” would by no means mean seeking to place the young person in temptation, or deliberately seeking for him an unwholesome environment. But it would mean at least that no studied attempts would be made to create around him and for him an artificially wholesome environment such that when he later meets the world he meets it as a child, having developed no spiritual and intellectual antibodies. Just as a vaccination, by permitting an infection in ideal circumstances, when the body is capable of resistance, is the best protection against a fatal infection at some later time when the resistance is lowered and the germ more virile, so it would seem that the best preparation for meeting life in its full force in the twenties would be to grow gradually into a degree of acquaintance with its sordid fascination in the teens when the support of family and the momentum of childhood training are still strong. It has already happened that entire villages of primitive peoples have succumbed to the common cold, received through their first contact with civilized peoples, for the simple reason that they had never acquired immunity. Isolation is thus completely successful if it can be complete. Within human relations there is no possibility of such isolation, and if Christians sought it they would have forgotten their reason for being in the world.

    In practice, this argument would mean that the young person, in that period of life where he becomes aware of his independent personality and begins to seek to relate himself to a broader human environment than that of the family, should normally be permitted to encounter not a selected Christian environment, but the world around him as it is. He should have access, in that encounter, to all the assistance which he can use from family and church, to aid him in interpreting what he finds and in developing his own “antibodies,” but this assistance should not be urged on him nor take the form of censorship. The decision for discipleship that he makes in this context of freedom will then be his own. He will know, in essence if not in all its grimy detail, what he is rejecting, and he will have at least some awareness of the absolute claims of what he is accepting. He will not later come to feel that he has been cheated nor to think that the church is asking too much of him.
    —————————

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 10:42 am | Permalink
  18. roger flyer wrote:

    In a clear case study: My wife and I raised three children in an evangelical environment, though we were actively engaged in worldly endeavors and did not specifically catechize (read indoctrinate) them or insulate/isolate them through home school or christian school.

    Here’s one comment made by our youngest, at 17. He was watching an R rated movie, with nasty language, promiscuity, violence with an obviously nilhistic plot. I questioned him and suggested that this trash was worthless.

    His response: “Dad, I’ve grown up in a pretty healthy family. I know how you guys think and what your values are. I really don’t understand how a lot of other people think, and I want to try to understand others.”

    A pretty quick comeback. I was impressed and silenced.

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 11:25 am | Permalink
  19. Bobby Grow wrote:

    No, Halden!

    I can accept the “macro” assumptions that Yoder is speaking out of; i.e. that the Gospel is all powerful. But this remains too generalized, with no nuance . . . I’ll have to read the rest of that quote you provide here, when I have the chance. Btw, you didn’t really deal with what “I” said. My question revolved more around “children’s” education vs. adolescence (which is what Yoder is speaking too, apparently).

    You don’t think it’s prudent to send young impressionable kids to people who are “anti-Gospel,” do you? There is nothing about doubting the power of the Gospel, or naively assuming a deterministic ethic involved in this question; if that’s the case, then heck live and let live (I just don’t see the “Gospel” advocating such a “passive” stance — but so is ana-Baptist[ism]).

    ——-

    Just read the quote. I think, in general, I agree with what Yoder is saying; but again, I think there needs to be more nuance (situational) provided towards the end he is aiming at (so maybe I just need to read his book on this). There are many assumptions that he is assuming: i.e. that the child has a nurturing Christian home, that the parents can provide the “critical” feedback needed for their kids, that there is more than “one” determinism at work here, etc.

    The stuff he is talking about really is no different than what Paul Little speaks of in re. to guarding against an “indoctrination faith” or “inherited faith.” And I agree, we need to guard against this; I just don’t think one determinism (public education) vs. another (Christian education) is the problem (more a symptom). In fact if the church was being the church para-church ministries (which Christian education is) would not be necessary; so couldn’t it be argued that the primary mediators of the Gospel, the Church, in their failure, need to be “helped” by the church (Christian education) to provide an actual “Gospel-shaped atmosphere” wherein kids can indeed thrive and engage the kind of critical feedback loop that Yoder is calling for in the first place?

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 11:51 am | Permalink
  20. Bobby Grow wrote:

    And btw, it seems as if Yoder is assuming a certain sociological determinism in order to condemn another when he says:

    This “context of choice” would by no means mean seeking to place the young person in temptation, or deliberately seeking for him an unwholesome environment. . . .

    He seems circular. He assumes that there is an “wholesome” environment over-against “unwholesome” ones; in order to say that we shouldn’t “create” artificially “wholesome” environments for our kids to develop within.

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Permalink
  21. Halden wrote:

    No circularity here, I think he’s just clarifying that what he’s proposing doesn’t mean we should purposefully try to force the world on our kids.

    I mean, intentionally trying to avoid shielding kids from the world and cajole them into accepting our faith by default is one thing. Tossing them in a bedroom with a couple hookers and seeing where things go at age 13 is something else. Yoder’s clearly advocating that latter but not the former. That’s all.

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Permalink
  22. Halden wrote:

    I thought the second quote would make clear, Yoder’s primarily talking about adolescents and beyond here.

    But I think the point really is that if we truly believe in the gospel, we do not need to fear the power of the world’s ability to indoctrinate. He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.

    That’s why I think you’re knee-jerk response of incredulity and fear betrayed something there. The fear of the world in its power of persuasion runs deep (in myself as well), but that fear is counter to our confession of the gospel I think. And I think Yoder helpfully gestures towards this fact.

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 12:33 pm | Permalink
  23. Bobby Grow wrote:

    If my response wasn’t “knee-jerk” I wouldn’t be blogging.

    I just think that Yoder has presented a false situation. I don’t think my desire to avoid certain situations necessarily means that I believe in a determinism that is going to destroy my kids if exposed . . . they will be (the only way to not be is to leave this world, per “Paul in Corinthians”).

    What if I believe part of the “mediation” that “pulls people out of the power of this world” is partly associated with Christian educational institutions (even with all there faults — so the church). Maybe the Lord uses “broken” situations and people to minister His life (II Cor 4:10) into theirs.

    So Yoder is probably attacking a blind-idealism that is typically attendant to much of Christendom . . .

    So I wonder what Yoder would’ve thought about Children’s education (the only reason I’m stuck on this is because I have children who aren’t adolescent yet)?

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 2:21 pm | Permalink
  24. Matt wrote:

    Would a “neomonastic-like” house church constitue a sheltered Christian upbringing then?

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 6:24 pm | Permalink
  25. james wrote:

    depends on the cocktails

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 7:54 pm | Permalink
  26. Zwingli 2.0 wrote:

    I’m very sympathetic toward Yoder’s criticism of separatism in Christian education and formation.

    But I can’t help agreeing with a number of others here that Yoder seems inconsistent in the way he approaches ‘the world’.

    If the miracle of the gospel can occur in public schools, then why can’t it occur in John Updike’s world of investment banks and country clubs?

    I’m reminded of Karl Barth’s pithy swipe: “All reformers are Pharisees.” (Coincidentally, that’s from the same page in the Romans commentary on which Barth takes a shot at Thomas Munzer.)

    Wednesday, July 8, 2009 at 9:06 am | Permalink
  27. erin wrote:

    Kim!
    As a recovering Campus Minister, I salute you, and on behalf of those ministers, apologize. I promise you once I started to despair and loose faith in my sure-fire christian techniques, I might have invited you:) It took me a long time to understand so much of our Christian confidence was actually insecurity.

    I distinctly remember attending an all-christian event in which we discussed who would be allowed to participate. Pretty much everyone agreed no Catholics should be allowed in so we left the meeting, and instantly became the liberals as we walked out.

    I’m sure everyone has their own dreadful tales, but having served in a similar way, you have my sympathies.

    Wednesday, July 8, 2009 at 1:35 pm | Permalink
  28. roger flyer wrote:

    Matt-
    Could be…wine and chocolate ok? Kids?

    Friday, July 10, 2009 at 11:02 am | Permalink
  29. Jeff wrote:

    I think that Yoder raises some interesting objections to protection Christian education and on this point I find myself somewhat sympathetic. The notion of protectionism as a guarantor or salvation or at least morality is suspect but as it has been noted a certain level of parental protection of children seems in the least a good idea and perhaps even biblically mandated, “bring them up in the way that they should go.”

    The position, at least as it seems to be professed here, seems to be a assuming protectionism as the underlying philosophy of education of all Christian educational institutions (CEI) and I think that this is an error. Firstly, it is not just CEI that seek to protect (from something) or even indoctrinate (with some particular system of values) through controlled environments and activities. Under this list could be added some public school systems, governmental programs or projects, communities (intentional or otherwise), and even families.

    Secondly, to assume that all forms of CEI operate under a protectionist philosophy is in error. I think that, at least, it could be gathered that some operate or strive to operate under a preparatory philosophy or even to facilitate the students ability to freely engage the world and its ideas while having the freedom to similarly engage Christianity (something which is not encouraged or even allowed in public school systems).

    Finally, this is more a personal comment, I have been disappointed by the obvious antagonism or hostility shown in some of the above comments. I don’t think Yoder intends to affect such caustic dialogue but rather constructive discussion between what seem to be several well-intentioned believers who obviously desire what is best for the Church and Christ’s witness in the world.

    Saturday, July 11, 2009 at 9:11 pm | Permalink
  30. roger flyer wrote:

    Jeff said: “…Finally, this is more a personal comment, I have been disappointed by the obvious antagonism or hostility shown in some of the above comments. I don’t think Yoder intends to affect such caustic dialogue but rather constructive discussion between what seem to be several well-intentioned believers who obviously desire what is best for the Church and Christ’s witness in the world…”

    I think what you are hearing in some of the caustic comments is the terrible disappointment and falling out of sincere Christians once heavily socialized by the ‘church’ sub-culture.

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Permalink
  31. Stratkey wrote:

    Thanks for the post Halden. Yoder is provocative as usual. I’m wondering though if this isn’t a classic case of swinging the pendulum too far in the opposite direction? Clearly there has been great harm done by behaviorist models of Christian education (think Dobson!), but isn’t there also a sense in which God’s providential hand works through the directing actions of His people…through families and teachers and pastors and church members?

    When I read this, the first thought I had was, what ever happened to “train the child in the way he should go, and in his old age he will not depart from it?” Another way to say that is of course, what does appropriate Christian education look like?

    Friday, July 17, 2009 at 4:03 am | Permalink
  32. Nell wrote:

    We have just left a Christian School here in Australia which is part of a larger association of schools established in the sixties by Dutch migrants who embraced the reformed church theology . We have been in two of these schools and they both have a culture of bullying within their school communities. We encountered hugely hypocritical and patronising attitudes with principals, administrators, staff and some board members. We can handle kids who bully as long as the school has a bullying policy, or at the very least the capacity to recognise bullying when they see it. If the staff are engaged in promoting, enabling and covering up abuse by their colleagues they clearly will be unable to deal with it amongst the students.

    The whole point of putting our kids in these schools was to take full advantage of the ‘caring christ-centered environment’ not to mention their bold statements that ‘parents are the main educators of their children and the school is acting to support them in their endeavours’, all of which they assiduously promote in their advertising literature. What we encountered was a toxic environment which would rival any in the State-run system. In the end, at the last school, we outlined why we could no longer support the school or the school board, or the ‘system’ by which they dealt with bullying. The board announced that because we had breached the ‘parent support contract’ which we signed when we enroled our kids (?), we were no longer welcome at the school. They completely ignored the issues which had led to the statement of no confidence in the first place. Apparently it was all in the wording. They forced our kids to leave with one term to go before the end of the year (we had already handed in our notice of intention to remove our kids at the end of the year) and gave them no time to say goodbye to their friends or even collect their schoolwork. The board showed no concern for our kids or ourselves since we had apparently committed the unforgiveable sin. Their response when we asked them to reconsider was that we had signed the ‘parent support contract’ and the situation was now untenable for them.. Their attitude to bullying and abuse is – deny it exists, and punish the parents who speak up by subjecting them to a pointless and frustrating round of ‘talks’ or as they put it ‘due process’. We spent 18 months talking, emailing, interviewing and phoning and ultimately ended up right where we started. ‘You are the only ones complaining and we can’t see a problem’. At one point we were lectured on the school’s ‘commitment to the Matthew 18 approach’. There was no commitment to any genuine faith-based relating, no desire to recognise problems (despite actually admitting to them ‘off the record’) and no accountability from senior, or junior members of staff to the parents who pay them.

    If this had been an isolated problem, we would be willing to try again, but we have over the years tried four different christian schools, and the attitudes have been similar in all of them. Three of those schools were run by traditional religious bodies, the other was run by a large pentecostal mega-church. We were appalled by the general attitude of parents in these schools that teachers were beyond reproach because they were christians, and they would no sooner think of questioning the status quo than questioning God himself.

    I don’t think there is such a thing as ‘appropriate christian education’ (see Stratkey’s comment). I am more and more convinced that buying education based on its Christian orientation is too much akin to Simon the magician looking to buy the Holy Spirit. What were we thinking? You can’t buy membership into the body of Christ, you can’t buy protection from the world, since Jesus himself told us we would have tribulation and the world would hate us. Our protection is our relationships, and our relationships need to be based on speaking the truth, admitting sin and showing genuine compassion. If we are looking to give our kids some kind of immunity from the world, we are looking in the wrong place. God himself, and our relationship with him, is our strong and mighty tower, and we are meant to be the salt of the earth. It might seem obvious,, but salt doesn’t do a good job if it sits around in a big clump congratulating itself that at least our kids are going to have a better time of it whan we did. We are called to be witnesses and to be lights, and yes, we need to get together to support each other, but lets recognise what is happening in our so called ‘christian’ institutions.

    Friday, October 2, 2009 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

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