Friday, June 17, 2005

Mohler Against Public Schools

Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary and architect of the 2000 Baptist Creed (BF&M), has weighed in with the Dominionists clamoring for Christians to pull their children out of public schools. Here's a quote:
I believe that now is the time for responsible Southern Baptists to develop an exit strategy from the public schools. This strategy would affirm the basic and ultimate responsibility of Christian parents to take charge of the education of their own children. The strategy would also affirm the responsibility of churches to equip parents, support families, and offer alternatives.
Those who know the history of the Religious Right might well perceive this as a logical outcome of a takeover movement that began simultaneously with the Religious Right's reaction to a 1978 IRS decision to deny tax exemptions to segregated Christian schools.

Bill Martin, in his book With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America, documented an interview with Paul Weyrich, a key organizer of the Religious Right:
Paul Weyrich emphatically asserted that "what galvanized the Christian community was not abortion, school prayer, or the ERA. I am living witness to that because I was trying to get those people interested in those issues and I utterly failed. What changed their mind was Jimmy Carter's intervention against the Christian schools, trying to deny them tax-exempt status on the basis of so-called de facto segregation." . . . The IRS threat "enraged the Christian community and they looked upon it as interference from the government, and suddenly it dawned on them that they were not going to be left alone to teach their children as they pleased. It was at that moment that conservatives made the linkage between their opposition to government interference and the interests of the evangelical movement, which now saw itself on the defensive and under attack by the government. That was what brought those people into the political process. It was not the other things."
Martin added corroboration from an interview with the son of another Religious Right organizer who said,
"If the Christian schools were to lose their tax-exempt status, Billings explained, "their tuition could conceivably double. When it becomes not just a moral or a conservative/liberal issue, but a pocketbook issue, you definitely take an interest. And they did. I don't know if I was really surprised. I knew that somewhere there was going to be something that would jolt these people into action. We'd been trying to encourage that."
Perhaps the SBC's attack on public schools will help jolt some more Baptists out of their lethargy about confronting the takeover of the Convention. It was never "just a preacher fight," it has always had undertones that can be traced back to the fundamentalists' disatisfaction with the leadership of SBC moderates during the civil rights era.

It is not hard to discern the ultimate goal behind SBC takeover leaders' criticism of the public schools. The intention is to replace the public schools with a balkanized system of private, religious schools funded at taxpayer expense. The threat to democracy posed by such a system has long been recognized. In 1952 James Conant, then president of Harvard University, said:
A dual system of schools with tax money going in some form to private schools, would be harmful to our democratic traditions. Some critics of the public schools are not honest in their attacks -- they want to weaken public school education and sponsor privately controlled schools. We do not have and never had an established church. To my mind, our schools should serve all creeds. The greater the proportion of our youth who attend independent schools, the greater the threat to our democratic unity. Therefore, to use taxpayers' money to assist such a move is, for me, to suggest that American society use its own hands to destroy itself.
Using "our own hands" to destroy democracy, that is precisely what SBC Dominionists desire. To them, democracy is heresy. They are trying to create a Christian theocracy.

12 comments:

TammyJo58 said...

This is a copy of the email that I sent Mr. Mohler today in response to his position regarding public schools.

From: "TAMMY DAVIS"
To: Albert Mohler
Subject: public schools
Date: Friday, June 17, 2005 5:07 PM

Mr. Mohler,

I am a Christian public school teacher in Florida. I have been a Christian and a Southern Baptist since the age of twelve. I read with dismay your article about Southern Baptists needing an exit strategy from public schools. Apparently, it has escaped you that there are many Christian public school teachers, as you have made no mention of them in your articles. I can only speak for myself, but I would hope that all of us are there because that is where we feel God has called us. That is our mission. I know that for many of those I encounter day to day in my classroom, the only picture of Christ they see is other Christian students and myself. God calls us all to GO. Are you proposing separating Christian children from those they could be a witness to daily? The statistics that I've heard on those who make a profession for Christ is that most do so by the age of 18. Who will be their witness? I firmly believe that Christ does not advocate our removing ourselves from others who are different from us. I also firmly believe that He calls us to be a living witness for Him to those we encounter day to day. We cannot be a living witness if they cannot see us.

My church has a very active youth program. Their Wednesday night "Prime Time" is a youth led service that has had to move location several times in our church to accomodate their growing numbers. The majority of those in attendance on a given night are NOT Christians, or WERE NOT Christians when they started attending. Who brought those teenagers in? The Christian youth did! Where did they encounter them? IN PUBLIC SCHOOL!

I would also take exception to your idea of a curriculum that encourages acceptance of homosexuality. I attended public school in Florida beginning in 1964, attended a public community college and then graduated from the University of Florida in 1981. I also have taught in public schools for 24 years. Never, throughout my long association with public schools have I ever been taught - or been asked to teach - what you are proposing is so commonplace. So I guess I have to ask you - what is your source of information? I would seriously question it. I have heard Dr. James Dobson make these same claims on his radio program, and have shook my head in bewilderment. Nothing that either of your are asserting has any basis in my reality. I'm not naive enough to think that there are not disturbing things that happen in some public schools in this Country. Our schools are a tiny picture of us. There are disturbing things that happen on TV, in movies, at public events, in our homes, and yes, in our Churches. Instead of addressing these areas, you want to gut our greatest mission field. The Bible says that "the fields are white unto harvest." I know each day that God's word is true as I look out at my students' faces. Missions are not just something you depend on someone else to do by proxy, in another country or state. It is OUR job, everyday, where ever God places us. That includes Christian youth.

I will be praying that you will "rethink" your position on exiting public schools. I will also pray that Southern Baptists will continue to trust public schools to educate their children.

God Bless,
Tammy Jo Davis

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

Tammy,

Great letter.

Thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

tammyjo58, Do you not have difficulty with this site, since Bruce and Barry Lynn (his friend) are such seperatist when it comes to Christians speaking out in all public gatherings. It is called separation of church and state and you will find plenty complaints about Christians here. Assuredly, not all schools are as bad as others, but you would have to have blinders on not to realize how "unChristian" schools are becoming. I have relatives that have retired in the last few years and they saw what was coming in regards to the oppression of free expression by Christians. It has been since prayer and Bible reading were removed from school that the we have heard of young people taking guns to school and killing. I think you may be being a bit too harsh on Mr. Mohler.

TammyJo58 said...

Anonymous,

I have not gotten the impression at all that this site is against Christians speaking out in a public way. I do get the impression that they, and many Christians who post here believe that a lot of Christians in the public arena today act in a decidedly "unchristian" way. Judging those they see as "less" than they are, while forgiving those who publicly sin, just because they are of a certain political philosophy. We are not given the right to place ourselves on a pedestal and appoint ourselves as the judge and jury and final authority on all issues.

I have read your posts on this site. You don't appear to think that anything said here has merit, and that's okay - that's your right. But as someone who is in the public school system, and deals with students, parents, administrators, citizens, etc., I feel quite qualified to say that the picture that is painted by Mohler is more untrue than true. If the Southern Baptist Convention wants to make a difference in children's lives, they need to be true to the teaching of the Bible regarding divorce. As a teacher, I believe that divorce is at the root of a lot of my students' social, economical, and psychological problems. However, that stand would step on too many political as well as Southern Baptist toes. If we are not willing to face that problem, when the Bible speaks very clearly to it, why are we willing to speak to the homosexuality issue. The reason is simple - politics.

Every school in my County in Florida has a framed picture in it that says, "One Nation Under God." There are 11 schools in my County. We are not the only County where this is true. We still pray at football games, and graduation, etc.. I submit to you that a public school system reflects the people it serves. If Christians in a community are united and vocal about their wants and needs, the local school system does respond.

God Bless,
TammyJo58

Anonymous said...

tammyjo58, judging goes two ways. Is your opinion of me and those that you say feel they are above someone else not to be considered the same way? I do not know of any in my church that would condone divorce and homosexuals are not condemned, but both issues are moral issues and do I sense a little more forgiveness by you here for one over the other? I have read an awful lot of criticism here by Bruce of conservatives in the SBC, and sometimes it is pretty cutting.

Greek Shadow said...

Hallelujah, it is nice to know that I am not the only public school teacher that considers our public schools as mission fields.
I find it absolutely stupid for the leadership of the SBC to be planning an exit strategy from the public schools. I speak for New Mexico and Texas, as I graduated from Wayland Baptist University and teach in New Mexico, but just think of all the Baptists colleges in Texas: Baylor, Mary Hardin Baylor, East Texas Baptist, Hardin Simmons, Wayland, Howard Payne. What about Oklahoma Baprist University and many others throughout the country? These colleges produce two major products -- preachers and teachers. Teachers that go into the public school system, many are the wives of the preachers, and earned their PHT's (putting hubby through) when their spouses were going to Seminary. This is the ultimate slap in the face of all Baptist and the other Christian teachers who work ten to fifteen hour days, give up their weekends for extracurricular activity duty in order to reach the lost. No we cannot proseletize, but we can teach them to read, teach them to think of others -- not just themselves, to think, to become productive citizens instead of a burden on their communities, to search for meaning and purpose in their lives, and the last here is our backdoor to reaching them for Christ. I'll get off my soap box for now. Read Tig's novel on the links here for more of my thoughts.

TammyJo58 said...

Anon,

You are correct, I should not judge you; you should not judge me. There is a lot of it going around on BOTH sides, and a lot of it is cutting. However, I do feel that as Christians we should be able to discuss issues that we disagree upon. Most of the judging I'm referring to is that of Christians toward non-Christians who are living a lifestyle that we know is wrong. There is a great difference between trying to reach these people for Christ - which is our mission after all - and pointing out all of their shortcomings as loudly as we can. How can we reach these people, if we've already alienated them? We dare not write them off.

Homosexuality and divorce are equally wrong. The reason I speak to the one issue more is because of my life experience. Both sets of my grandparents were married until "death do us part," my parents have been married 48 years, my in-laws have been married 52 years, my husband and I will be married 22 years in July. Then I step into my role as teacher and see the despair caused by broken families.

I actually sat down last night and tried to estimate how many students I have taught (I hope) in my 24 years. The number amazes me - over 3000! Of those, I can honestly only recall 5 of those students who were admittedly gay. I realize there might have been more, but my point is, it is not something I have dealt with a lot as a teacher. I have however, dealt with countless children, parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, foster families, etc., and I can honestly say that divorce or not having a two parent support system at home, is the root cause of a lot of our students emotional, economical, and psychological problems.

Would prayer in the schools make a difference, perhaps. I contend that prayer is not absent from public schools. I myself pray at school and I'm positive that I'm not alone. Maybe oral prayer is absent from many schools and school functiions, but prayer was never taken from the HOME or the CHURCHES. If families have dissolved and divorce has become more acceptable, it is not because oral prayer was taken out of public schools. The second oral prayer was removed, Christian churches across this Nation should have mobilized and made it their mission the try to reach into all the families in their communities whose children would not hear a public prayer in school any longer. Is that what we did? No, we sat back for 30 or 40 years complaining about the removal of oral prayer from public schools. Oh, there was great sorrow, lamenting, and gnashing of teeth. But, was there a plan of action to find a way to meet that need. No.

Would Albert Mohler change his mind if he knew that many public schools in this country are located in Christian communities, and are in part a reflection of that community. I don't think so. Surely, he would not be making this proposal if he had not done a thorough study of schools all across America. Surely he already knows about us. Then what is his motive? People in similar situations to mine must be wondering.

I do not believe we can isolate ourselves from the world and still fulfill the great commission. What Mohler is proposing is a form of isolationism. I know you've heard it before, that we should be IN world, but not OF the world - that we should HATE the sin, but LOVE the sinner. What are we so afraid of? Are we so insecure in our faith? These changing times should be seen as an opportunity to get out there IN the world and show LOVE for the lost. The fact that that's not the sole focus of Christians everywhere in this Country is disturbing.

God Bless,
TammyJo58

mlb said...

tammyjo58,

In our attempts to be ever-pressing on with truth, I would like to point out that Dr. Mohler does address some of the issues you raise against him in his article: http://www.albertmohler.com/
commentary_read.php?cdate=2005-06-17

You say: "Apparently, it has escaped you that there are many Christian public school teachers, as you have made no mention of them in your articles."

Mohler says: "After all, Southern Baptists have been eager advocates for the public schools in the past, and thousands of faithful Southern Baptists serve as public school teachers, administrators, and board members."

You say: "Would Albert Mohler change his mind if he knew that many public schools in this country are located in Christian communities, and are in part a reflection of that community."

He says: "Of course, this is not equally true in all places and in all public schools. As a rule, schools in more rural areas, with local political control more concentrated in the hands of parents, the effects of this educational revolution are less evident. In some school systems, the majority of teachers, administrators, and students share an outlook that is at least friendly and respectful toward Christianity and conservative moral values."

Mohler's main concern is not going in and immediately pulling all our children out. He is concerned about the overarching direction the educational system is going. Thank God that some of the things in his article aren't happening in your school district. But all we have to do is pay attention to the news and see that people are pushing more in that direction in more and more school districts across our nation.

The idea is: if worse comes to worse, we should find alternative places of education for our children. Certainly we should do what we can to halt the downward spiral. And if in the end we must remove our children from public schools it would not be a step towards isolationism for evangelicals. You can both home/private school your children and still teach them to be very evangelical.

We give our children over to the school system for 8+ hours a day, 5 days a week for 13 years. That's one major influence during their developmental years. We need to do all we can to assure that wherever they are during that time they have a full opportunity to develop a truly Biblical worldview.

By His grace and for His glory,

mlb

grandma1 said...

Dallas Morning News reports "Teh Rev Bobby Welch, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, explaining why he opposes suggestions that all Christians pull their children from public schools" Quote from world of religious news. It might be interesting to read that article. Am I behind I thought Morris Chapman was president of SBC.

TammyJo58 said...

mlb,

My husband and I are the parents of 2 great Christian children. One is a beautiful 18 year old daughter who will attend the University of Florida in the fall, and the other is a inquisitive, tenderhearted 10 year old son. When I send my children to school each day, I do not abdicate my role as a parent to the school, by the same token, my children do not stop learning just because the bell rings in the afternoon. It is my duty as a Christian parent, or any parent for that matter, to ask questions every day, to meet teachers, to be seen in the school, etc.. In other words, be a parent. Parents are the primary educators of their children. My children knew well before that first day of school, what was expected of them. Each day, from kindergarten on, talking about their day, celebrating their successes, encouraging through their failures, answering their questions as they encountered a variety of situations and people, using these examples to teach or reinforce how God wants us to live our lives, and how to make appropriate choices - this is how you teach a Biblical worldview - through life. I have total confidence that my children will remember these lessons learned, just as they will remember the lessons learned in a classroom.

God Bless,
TammyJo58

Greek Shadow said...

Mentioning Christian public school teachers and supporting them are two different things. We have enough problems without our religious leaders helping pull the rug out from under us.

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

grandma1,

Morris Chapman is President of the Executive Committee of the SBC -- the CEO of the SBC.

Bobby Welch is President of the SBC -- an elected position with a maximum 2 yr. tenure.