Mike Cope's blog

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

This past Sunday, we heard a stirring message from Randy Harris. He'd volunteered to speak (to his own church!), knowing I'd have a full weekend with the wedding. He preached from the parable of the wheat and weeds (Matthew 13), encouraging us to go fully into the world--even a world with monsters. This morning I read Cal Thomas's editorial, supporting the resolution at the Southern Baptist Convention for Christians to pull their kids out of the public schools. For some people, that may fit their family. (I want the church to support families who make decisions for home schooling, private schooling, and public schooling.) But as a strategy for Christians? Sure, get away from the world! Put our kids in our own schools. Live in blocks with only other Christians. Draft our ballteams so all the kids are friends from church. Play golf only with other Christians. Heck, maybe we can live in caves around the Dead Sea, produce our own scrolls, remain (?) celibate, and be REALLY HOLY. The way of Jesus is into the world--even a world with monsters. I had lunch today with a father of young children who was talking in amazement about the editorial. He said this past year his son was in one of those secular public schools with a school teacher who arrived early every morning so she could sit in every student's seat and pray for them by name. Quick, PROTECT OUR KIDS! This past year, my wife's second grade classroom had two students who were homeless. Can you imagine? They were showing up smelly and hungry. But they were showing up to a godly woman who got to play the part of Jesus in their lives. Abandon the public schools, Cal? I don't think so.


  • AMEN!!! I realize I come from a family of public school educators, but still--I have watched kids who have lived in the fortresses their parents have created and sometimes I think they'd have been better off in the world of monsters. At least then they might know what they stand for. There are always exceptions..but to make the exception the rule? I don't think so either.

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 6/16/2004 01:30:00 PM  

  • After much prayer and reflection, Lela & I decided in March to enroll our oldest child in our local public school's kindergarten this coming August. We really believe this is where God wants us -- and Isaac -- even though my office window overlooks a large, reputable Christian school. Thanks for today's post. It's rather validating for us!

    By Blogger Matt Elliott, at 6/16/2004 01:45:00 PM  

  • I'm a product of a Christian high school and college. I am now a chaplain at a Christian school. Not that this is breaking news, but Christian schools don't protect anyone from squat. To quote a youth pastor who spoke of the sin at my high school alama mater, "Some of my most aspiring alchoholics in my youth group go that school." Sad, but true. Escaping the world is not a location issue, it's a heart issue. So we can isolate ourselves all we want, but the world will still find us in our "caves." Maybe we should just face it head on, don't you think? Thanks for your thoughts, Mike. God bless your wife in her ministry. That's the real-life messy kind of Jesus work.

    By Blogger Jon, at 6/16/2004 01:46:00 PM  

  • Thanks for your essay in Wineskins on the Emergent Church. As an "ex-patriot Church of Christer" who once longed for the foci you highlighted, it thrills me to hear messages like this one. I recommend the latest issue of Sojourners magazine and several of the articles there: an interview with Wendell Berry, one on Dorothy Day, and an overview of a work called Word Made Flesh (www.wordmadeflesh.com).

    By Blogger David Henderson, at 6/16/2004 02:15:00 PM  

  • Mike,
    You don't know me, but I have gained greatly from your work. I peek in regularly at your blog. You really are opening yourself up for heated debate on this subject. Everyone gets passionate on what is best for their children. We have "home schooled" our oldest for three years now. We feel that after much prayer that is what we should do. But it is not for any isolationist theory. In fact we try very hard to engage our kids with us in the battle. That is as we go and minister in different ways we try to take our kids along, sometimes into situations that others might think are not wise.
    I hope that the church will "support families who make decisions for home schooling, private schooling, and public schooling." That truely is a decision individuals need to make. As for our Southern Baptist friends, To say everyone pull them out, is not unlike our own tribesmen saying you have to do this or that in a certain way or "Your out".
    Just felt the need to say that parental obligation to train our children remains whatever the style of education you choose. I hope my boys do grow to be "REALLY HOLY" , but not by removing themselves from those that Jesus said we should visit, clothe, give a drink.
    Having said that, I do "get" your point and agree. There are some nuts who homeschool, some christian school racists and some public school saints.
    Wouldn't be interesting if we had a movement of christians that trained and had the goal of putting 10 million christian teachers (who were taught and dedicated to praying daily for each child) in the next x years. That would Glorify God.

    By Blogger TCS, at 6/16/2004 02:21:00 PM  

  • Secondly, regarding public schools - I am currently a principal in a small, extremely impoverished high school in Montana - everyday it is my privilege to welcome students to school whose only safe place in their lives is in our classrooms. As Thomas Merton once wrote to Dorothy Day, "Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business. What we are asked to do is to love and this love will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy, if anything can."

    By Blogger David Henderson, at 6/16/2004 02:21:00 PM  

  • I think Thomas overlooks the fact that school, just like all things children encounter should not be encountered alone. My daughter just finished her first year of public kindergarten. I was up at her school weekly helping with different events. My husband ate lunch with her once a week. I volunteered and read to her class on Thursdays. We know her friends and have met many of their parents. My point is being active in your child’s life no matter what school they go to is not just important for their education but essential to their spiritual development. Children learn by what they see their parents doing.
    My daughter has two good school friends whose parents are divorcing. We have talked about divorce and shared with her our commitment to marriage and to following Christ directive to be servants to one another and show HIS love. She learned compassion when she saw us secretly give HEB gift certificates to the family of a classmate who was coming to school hungry everyday. She saw our values at work as we raised money for the library and to put together a teacher appreciation luncheon.
    I am glad I’m not a Southern Baptist today, but all Christians must be very careful as we attempt to shelter our children from the world we are called to love and bring to Christ.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/16/2004 02:39:00 PM  

  • Maybe we could rope off one of the square states and use it for a Christians-only utopian community?

    By Blogger Terry Austin, at 6/17/2004 06:31:00 AM  

  • I don't think I "overlooks the fact that school, just like all things children encounter should not be encountered alone". I must have been inept in my post, if that came across. There are many, many reasons that we chose to homeschool. I am very greatful for godly people who work in and with schools. I am glad you were involved with your childs school. I am glad they saw you engaged in bringing the kingdom to others there. That is tremendous. We have decided on a different course. It is not meant to make brothers and sisters feel attacked.

    Before we get to "Baptist bashing", I think this was just a resolution put forth, I don't think they voted for it (it may not have even made it the point of being voted on).

    So, whatever this resoltion put forth as reasons to not being in public school, is not how all people who chose another method of education feel. Just like not all people who attend public school have parents that believe they should teach that there is no God. Don't lump us all in one mindset. Some folks apparently really like a good stamps baxter tune. I personally think they sound like circus music. And that is OK for them to like such, they are still my brothers.

    I guess my point is its not all about sheltering our children. That is, all homeschoolers are not trying to isolate themselves from the world. Not at all. And all homeschoolers are not looking at those in public school as choosing an inferior method. I just ask for the same grace toward our decision.

    By Blogger TCS, at 6/17/2004 07:23:00 AM  

  • I say we take Alaska. It's big, practically empty and doesn't touch any of the other states. All we'd have to worry about are the pesky Canadians...^_~

    Seriously, I think a person can be "in the world but not OF the world" wherever they happen to be. A Christian school or university doesn't protect one from the "world" anymore more than an umbrella protects him or her from a hurricane -- because the scary thing is, too often we and the world look just alike. We espouse a lot of the same beliefs economically, even politically. We wear the same clothes, walk and talk the same ways. We are often too well camoflagued to make much of an impact on the casual passersby. There is something to be said for becoming "all things to all men," but I don't think it's supposed to be to the extent that we forget who we are. It's not my school affiliation that makes me Christian. It's not even my church affiliation that makes me Christian -- it's the sacrifice of Christ and the grace of God.

    "Greater is he that is in you, little children, than he that is in the world." ^_~

    By Blogger Q, at 6/17/2004 07:37:00 AM  

  • I don't think that anonymous was referring to you, Thomas Campbell Stewart, but to Cal Thomas, whose column was mentioned in Mike's original post.

    By Blogger Wendy, at 6/17/2004 07:41:00 AM  

  • Mike, as you can see......it you want to generate some conversation, all you have to do is comment on how to raise kids! :) I am a product of all three.....public, private and home-school. In a stretch of 5 years, I was in 5 different educational settings including all three choices! I know what you are thinking...."so that explains it"! But, I hope that does give me some credibility when we are discussing this topic. Both of my boys are through school now, and we sent them to both public and private schools. We never home-schooled. I also spent 16 years teaching in the Public School system. Having said all of that, here is my response to your post about Cal Thomas and the comments following. A) The decision parents make involving the education of their children is VERY personal, and NOBODY has the right to critize their decision. B.) There are no "WRONG" choices when making that decision. There may be wrong motives, and I think that is the reason for your comments. I agree with your take on his remarks, and that we have to be light in salt in a lost world. But let's face it, we DON'T know most of the time what someone's motive is, so let's don't be guilty of judging people.
    I should allow you the freedom you have in Christ when it comes to this important decision, and I hope you give me that same freedom. I trust people have very good reasons for making the decisions they make, and I support them no matter what that decision is when it comes to schooling. If I am loving them as I love myself, do I have any other choice?

    By Blogger David U, at 6/17/2004 08:24:00 AM  

  • I was refering to Cal Thomas who wrote the editorial Mike referenced. I had not read the comment by the other blogger by the first name of Thomas. AND I fully agree with the statement by BSThomas.
    I think a nerve has been hit...but that is OK. It is healthy to talk about such things in the right context.
    Apparently the Southern Baptist didn't want to pull out of school either. My best friends who are Baptist always cringe this time of year when the convention business is broadcast nationally with out the benefit of full explanation. No Baptist bashing intended...more sympathy for the whole situation really.
    Cal Thomas suggest that we reform public school by pulling out. I suggest that we reform public school by becoming more involved. No harm meant to those who choose to home school or privately school your children.
    I love the idea of sending christian teachers into the public school system ..not to make public schools christian schools, but to have christian men and women teaching our future. Maybe we could start by really supporting those in our churches who teach ...it seems there are many already!

    PS If Diane could be my childs second grade teacher, I just might move back to Abilene!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/17/2004 09:25:00 AM  

  • Alright, I've read all the comments and the cute suggestions as to what to do and not do. The fact is, Cal's editorial does bring up a problem. It's not a new problem, as our parents or their generation were fighting this when Mike and I were in school back in the 60's and 70's and earlier with the teaching of evolution as fact and not theory, and the prohibition of teaching other theories, and now evolution in many minds is incontrovertible fact. And all this happened with good Christian teachers in place in the individual classrooms. I, too, have seen the bunker mentality of many in the home school movement, and don't think this is the answer, but what is???

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/17/2004 11:02:00 AM  

  • Hello Anonymous,

    I think the problem is with the Christian community's (not just the SBC) perspective.

    The problem is that we're building arks instead of heeding Jesus' command to engage a lost world. The problem isn't what those godless bureaucrats are doing to us, it's that we're abandoning a mission field because there might be -- gasp! -- danger and/or ungodly people in it.

    (By the way, I'm not really trying to be smarmy towards you. I hope it doesn't come across that way. I'm just really frustrated by the church's tendency to go into hiding at the slightest hint of trouble.)

    By Blogger Terry Austin, at 6/17/2004 12:59:00 PM  

  • T.A., me too. That is why I am annoyed at the "bunker mentality" that I mentioned earlier. What I am asking about is not what the problem is, but what is the solution? I know what it is individually, and that is to make sure your own kids catch your values, which is done deliberately, not accidentally. However, as a whole, the schools are not what they used to be values-wise, and that is what I am commenting on. Any suggestions? Maybe it IS as easy as all of us individually becoming involved at our own levels. Maybe not.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/17/2004 03:10:00 PM  

  • Hey Anon,

    (I think we've hijacked Mike's comments section. Cool!)

    I'm twenty minutes away from Westside Middle School, where about five years ago a couple of little kids drastically altered our world (and this discussion) via hunting rifles and a fire alarm.

    And I grew up sheltered in the warm embrace of Christian private school (K-12, then three years of Christian college). Thinking about my kids' future, I tended to "naturally" tilt toward private education anyway, just because it's a known commodity to me. Thrown in the potential for gunplay, and it's darn near a no-brainer.

    But that's when I have to re-check my motives and ask some tough questions of myself. Is it possible that I'll have to answer to God someday for sending my kids to private school? Am I neglecting/ignoring the influence I hope they'll have on their peers because I'm selfishly (but understandably, I'd argue) more concerned with MY kids' spiritual development than someone else's?

    I'm too fond of saying "There's no simple answer." (It keeps me from having to think so much.) But in this case, I wonder if maybe the answer IS simple: Engage the culture at every opportunity. (For the record, there's plenty of "culture" at private school, too. Only a few of us are as good as we pretend to be.) :)

    I may still send my kids to the same school I attended. If I do, I hope I'll remember to get them out there salting and lighting a world that so desperately needs an active, seeking church representing a loving, redemptive God.

    By Blogger Terry Austin, at 6/18/2004 07:32:00 AM  

  • I'm always amazed at how many people suggest that by disengaging from the public school we can make it better....sort of like the voucher suggestion that keeps arising in Texas. If people want the public schools to improve, then their job is to become involved and support teachers/administrators. Our society has become one of blaming everyone else for the problems that our kids face. Parents need to look to themselves for these solutions and not expect the education system to solve all of society's ills.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/19/2004 03:36:00 PM  

  • I'm afraid our decision to put our two kids in private Christian school had really very little to do with Christian principles, but rather with quality of education. The local public schools just can't really come close. My chief regret is that my kids' school is not as integrated as I'd like it to be, because there are probably not a lot of minority families who can afford it. We barely can.

    While I would like my kids to be "in the world and not of it" just as I grew up attending public school, I can't justify sending them into that world half-prepared with a public school education.

    I'm glad they have chapel every day. I'm glad they study Bible stories in school. But I think they'd still be really good kids without it.

    By Blogger Keith Brenton, at 6/21/2004 07:42:00 AM  

  • I think the problem is not in do you home school, private school, or public school its that one of our Christian leaders has once again drawn a line that shouldn't be drawn. The main problem I see him now facing is all the Baptist schoolteachers working in public schools. Is he planning to find them work? Why not trust that their work is already being done? My mom is a Christian working in a public school and her kids are the better for it. I'm the better for having been raised in public school. Others might be better for having been home schooled or private schooled. Why did Cal feel the need to draw this line?

    By Blogger chrismith, at 6/21/2004 11:55:00 AM  

  • A few book recommendations for any and all of you. End of Christendom by Muggeridge. Fearless Faith by John Fischer. The Rock Cries Out by Steve Stockman. Everyday Apocalypse by David Dark. Christ and Culture by Niebuhr.

    By Blogger chrismith, at 6/21/2004 11:57:00 AM  

  • We live 'in the world' and the church meets together not for the lost but to worship God. Have we forgotten this? Are 'schools' accountable to God for the education of your children? Or will parents be accountable? Or is this a 'God will forgive me....(greasy-grace) thing' my kids will do fine. But I guess to give someone else what one never received one's self is, of course, difficult. See Dorothy Sayers, 'Lost Tools Of Learning'. Why not put them in public schools that never consider 'taking ever thought captive to the obedience of Christ'? The place of education is an issue but not as big as curriculum taught. To say nothing of God in the 'subjects' taught at school says alot about God. It teaches He is not there, and if he were he must not care. But how to overcome the years of guilt in not properly guiding our children? Repentance.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/02/2004 05:27:00 PM  

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