Like Moses and Aaron leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, T.C. Pinckney and Bruce Shortt want to lead Southern Baptists parents to pull their children from government-run schools. Pickney, a retired Air Force brigadier general, and Short, a cosponsor of the Christian Education Resolution, plan to introduce the non-binding measure to the 2004 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention this summer.
The resolution says public education today is essentially "godless." It calls upon parents in the nation's leading Protestant denomination to either home school their children or send them to Christian schools. The resolution reads: "[T]he government school system that claims to be 'neutral' with regard to Christ is actually anti-Christian, so that children taught in the government schools are receiving an anti-Christian education ... government schools are by their own confession humanistic and secular in their instruction ... it is foolish for Christians to give their children to be trained in schools run by the enemies of God."
A number of high-profile Christian leaders have endorsed the concept of Christian parents removing their children from state-run schools. In March 2002, Dr. James Dobson urged California parents to leave the state's government school system. Dobson said on one of his radio broadcasts: "In the state of California, if I had a child there, I wouldn't put the youngster in a public school. I think it's time to get our kids out. And I'm going to get hit for saying that." Others who have expressed the same sentiment about public education in general include syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, Dr. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries; and Tim LaHaye, author of the popular Left Behind series of novels.
Chances the resolution will pass appear to be slim at the moment. Southern Baptists have already passed one resolution urging churches to support Christian schools and home schooling and another affirming Christians who teach and work in public schools. Moreover, SBC president Dr. Jack Graham has said that while he supports Christian education, he doubts Southern Baptist will approve the measure. But Bruce Shortt says passage of the resolution is much less important than drawing attention to the already-growing movement of home schooling and starting Christian schools.
I, for one, believe that Pickney and Shortt's leadership in this matter is not only heroic and courageous, but also a call from God. I see it as a breath of fresh air and something that actually gives hope for the restoration of education in America. Between 12 and 15 million evangelical Christian children attend public schools. If the mass majority of these students were to leave public education, it would cripple the one system that is doing more harm to our nation than any single thing except perhaps the popular media. Marshall Fritz, a Libertarian Party organizer and former computer programmer who started the Fresno, California-based Alliance for the Separation of School and State contends that should the public school system crumble, citizens would realize a $300 billion tax cut, which means two thirds of the population would be able to afford private school tuition. Fritz expects churches and charities might help pick up the tab for the rest. What is more, an exodus of the children of Christian parents from public schools would seriously diminish, if not destroy, the power that secularism now holds over our culture.
We certainly live in a day when people are all too prone to condemn and criticize. Indeed, there are thousands of conscientious and dedicated people working in our public schools. Among them are many consecrated Christians. They deserve our thanks and appreciation for their significant contributions. Nevertheless, trends in public education are such that Christian parents must at least consider that when their child is exposed 7 hours a day, 180 days a year, to a philosophy of education which essentially says that God is irrelevant, they needn't be surprised when their children adopt an anti-Christian worldview. In fact, the Nehemiah Institute, after conducting extensive surveys of the life views of numerous Christian students, has found that their acceptance of a secular humanist worldview has risen dramatically in the last 15 years. Even the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life has reported that 88 percent of the children raised in evangelical homes leave church at the age of 18 and never return.
Deuteronomy 6:7 instructs the people of God that the primary concern of education should not only be the skills of life, important as that may be, but a grounding in the fear and knowledge of Almighty God. State-run schools write off that obligation altogether. Dr. D. James Kennedy has eloquently written: "Secular education centers around the false concept that God does not exist. The result is that reality is ripped away from its source. When students try to absorb this false sense of reality, their thinking becomes confused, and chaos results. Because all absolutes have been denied, there is no basis for morality, making secular education basically amoral." Is it any wonder that public schools are battling intense problems with violence, sexual permissiveness, racial strife, drugs, alcohol, and poor educational performance?
In contrast, Christian schools and home schooling do not ignore God. Instead, they make Him the center of all learning. Their approach is to turn the searchlight of the Scriptures on every aspect of education -- history, geography, math, literature, social studies, science, etc. The Bible, God's Holy Word, becomes a plumb line -- a yardstick -- a measure for discerning truth -- a means of learning and choosing what is right and rejecting what is erroneous and evil. Moreover, students educated in home schools and Christian schools are proving themselves to be exceptionally equipped academically.
Judgment begins with the House of God. The Rev. E. Raymond Moore, a South Carolina minister who founded Exodus 2000 in the late 1990s, has said, "The Christian right has been calling on the nation to correct all these social and moral problems we have. We're trying to stop pornography and eradicate abortion, and yet we have not been obedient to God on the biblical mandate for educating our own children. Perhaps the renewal of the culture could be as simple as the Christian church renewing its obedience to that biblical mandate."
Of course, many in the SBC will argue against Pickney and Shortt's resolution, citing the high cost of private education. In most cases, however, a child's education is primarily a matter of priorities. What's more important: a trip to Disney World? a really nice car? name brand clothes for the kids? -- or a child's soul and mind? We usually sacrifice for the things we believe are most important. Others will argue that they've sent their children to public school and it hasn't hurt them. Yes, but every time a Christian parent sends their child to a government-run school, it's a gamble with the child's eternal soul. When eternity is at stake, Christian parents should want as many of the odds possible to be in their favor.
Southern Baptists have never had a greater opportunity to strike a blow for the gospel and repel the advancing darkness of our time. A significant part of God's plan for bringing redemption to the world is for believers to raise up godly seed to transform the culture. The late great Peter Marshall warned: "Let us not fool ourselves -- without Christianity, without Christian education, without the principles of Christ inculcated into young life, we are simply rearing pagans."
So lead on, Mr. Pickney and Mr. Shortt. I support your resolution. And perhaps the rest of our Southern Baptist brethren will also follow -- in a mass exodus of God's children's children from the Egypt of secular education and the slavery of the human heart and mind it produces.