Dr. Tony Beam Christian Blog and Commentary

Public Schools Need Transformation, Not Retreat

  • Tony Beam Dr. Tony Beam's Weblog
  • Published Jun 22, 2005

Another year, another Southern Baptist Convention, and another resolution urging Christians to remove their children from the government run public school system.  Dr. Voddie Baucham, a well respected Southern Baptist teacher, preacher, and lecturer and Bruce N. Shortt, co-author of last year's failed resolution calling for all Southern Baptists to remove their children from public schools have offered a new resolution which points out the pervasive influence of homosexuality in the public schools but also commends Christians who labor in its pagan field.

The resolution calls for churches to investigate the policies of school districts in their area to see if the homosexual lifestyle is being inculcated into the minds of the children.  If so, churches are then urged to inform the parents so they may remove their children from this environment.  The resolution is controversial in part because for so long, Southern Baptists have been ardet supporters of public education with hundreds of thousands teaching in public schools and millions of Southern Baptist children attending public schools. 

Any departure from, this tradition will be a major step for the Southern Baptist Convention.  A blanket call for exiting the public school system would certainly polarize the countries largest Protestant denomination.

Who can argue with the fact, as Dr. Al Mohler (President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) recently stated, "Fueled by a secularist agenda and influenced by an elite of radical educaitonal bureaucrats and theorists, government schools now serve as engines for secularizing and radicalizing children?"  In his column for CrossWalk.com, Dr. Mohler presents a thumbnail sketch of the recent history of public education in America and he rightly credits educational pioneer John Dewey for pushinng public education into the willing arms of secular humanism. 

Dewey has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.  Our public schools are rife with anti-Christian dogma.  Teachers are chastized for any attempt to present their faith and studetns are ridiculed and persecuted if they so much as try to pray over their lunch.  The ACLU stands every ready and willing to rush to the aid of anyone who is offended by public expressions of traditional Christianity.  Not only has the public schools system i America become an anti-Christian zone it has failed miserably in its primary task to educate our children.

Dr. Mohler concludes his always well thought out and excellently presented argument about the inevitability of a Southern Baptist exodus from public schools by saying, "I believe that now is the time for responsible Southern Baptists to develop an exit strategy from the public schools." 

Let me be clear about something.  There is no one in Southern Baptist life that I have more respect for than Dr. Al Mohler.  I believe he is one of the best Christian apologists ardently defending the faith today.  He, along with Dr. Richard Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and out other Seminary presidents, pastors, and faithful lay people stad a watchmen on the wall in the culture war.  But I must repectfully disagree with Dr. Mohler's call to competely abandon public education.

The light of Christian Truth does not roll back the darkness by retreating in the face of evil.  In Matthew 5:14 Jesus said, "You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house."  I can think of no better example of light leaving the lampstand for the basket than the complete removal of a Christian witness from the public school system. 

Right now, where Christian parents are actively involved in knowing what is going on in their schools, the battle still rages for righteousness sake.  What message would a resolution urging the raising of the while flag in the face of the enemy do to the morale of these parents?  Southern Baptist youth ministers go into public schools across America everyday, eating lunch with their students and encouraging them to witness to their lost friends. 

I hear stories all the time of Christian teachers who quietly advance their faith in the classroom influencing the lives of children who come from, deplorable home situations.  These teachers are shinning examples of what it means for salt not to lose its savor. 

I have heard the arguments presented which point out the fact that most children are not prepared to be salt and light and should be removed from pubic school before they are influenced against Christianity.  These critics accurately point out that most high school seniors leave their Christianity behind when they pick up their diplomas.  While this is true, the problem is much deeper than a pagan public school system.  The Church and many Christian parents have chosen a hands off approach when it comes to intentionally equipping our children with a comprehensive, functional Christian worldview. 

We teach them facts about the Bible but not how to apply those facts to a culture that has rejected absolute truth.  Some would simply withdraw from  the culture in a rather Amish fashion rather than take the time necessary to prepare our children to confront the culture with the power of the Gospel.  In his book, In But Not Of,  author and syndicated radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt says, "A lot of Christian leadership seems intent on arguing over who gets the museum keys and who chooses the color of the wall paper inside the crypt."  Hewitt calls for Christians to "get up from the ground, shake off the dust, and get back into the game."  We can't get back into the game in the public arena including the public school system if we take our ball and go home.

Jesus spoke directly to the role of believers in a lost world in His prayer for His disciples in John 17.  Jesus prayed to His Father, "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one" (John 17:15).  Later, in verse 18 of the same passage, Jesus defines the call of every believer when He says, "As You sent Me into the world, I also send them into the world."  Jesus warned us in many places the world would not like our witness but He never advocated removing our witness from the world.

While I fully support and commend any believer who home schools or sends their children to a private Christian school, I also fully support and commend Christians who serve as salt and light in the public school system.  We should always choose transformation over retreat.