A Blog is an opinion rather than an article. While CSM teaches through its articles and books, the CSM Blogs are efforts by CSM consultants to struggle with difficult ideas in Christian education and move to some kind of clarity. Please read any CSM Blog in that light.
Babylon, Politics, and the Christian School
This is not a political blog, at least not in the sense that it is for or against any particular political position. It is, of course, a political blog because I am a Christian and therefore deeply concerned about the way in which the world works, my part that I am called to play, and the impact that redemption has as we seek to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-16 and most of the rest of Scripture). We are not bystanders on this earth but are directed to pray for God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6: 10).
So having tried to cover myself as much as possible, here goes.
I believe that Christian schools should be deeply political in an entirely apolitical way. Our children should not be taught to be rightwing or leftwing. In fact, I believe that Christian schools that take a rightwing or leftwing stance i.e. associate with either Liberal or Republican parties, let alone the Libertarian or Green Party or Independents or American Solidarity Party or Socialist Party USA or any of the other 21 parties who were on the ballots in 2016, Christian schools that take such a stance are operating in a way antithetical to both Biblical teaching and to the best interests of their students.
Let’s go back to Babylon. Back to the Book of Ezra. There on the shores of the river, they lay down and wept (Ps. 137:1). But it was interesting why they wept. Not because they necessarily had a hard time of it in Babylon – they had good lives, some were prosperous, they were not persecuted. They wept because they were not in Jerusalem. They wept because they were not where they should have been. Prosperity was not the issue for them – they were prosperous enough. The issue was that the Temple where God dwelt (Ps. 46:4 and 1 Corinthians 3:16) had been destroyed, that they were apart from their homeland, and that no prosperity could make up for that deep sorrow.
How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill. (Psalm 137: 4-5).
And it was Cyrus, a pagan king probably influenced by Daniel who sends them back to Jerusalem. The means of our salvation is of course Jesus. But he works also through us whom he has called. In fact, he works through many that would not automatically come to mind.
So I believe Christian schools are part of those through whom God works. Our leadership is key to nurture and mentor and counsel our children not to have this or that political leaning (they will soon enough decide that for themselves as adults), but to follow God’s call on their lives and yearn for Jerusalem. Sometimes that will mean serving Nebuchadnezzar; sometimes King David; sometimes Agrippa; sometimes the Samaritan; sometimes the Gentile. That means that the name of the political party is not relevant. Only our service to the Lord. We can have no true allegiance as Christians (even as we might as secular adults) to a political party for “here we have no enduring city but we are looking for the city to come” (Hebrews 13:14). Our leadership role is to help children be Jesus to all people without name-calling, deceit, licentious behavior, but rather through the rule of love: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7). We have the opportunity to bring them up for 13 or more years without name-calling but helping them see all people as made in the image of God. The violence, the lies, the vituperation, the deceit of the last decade and more in our politics is nothing to inculcate our children into. It has merely split our nation into more and more pieces. Whatever we do as adults, let us inculcate the hope that Jesus is (I AM) into our children so they will serve all people with sacrificial love and joy. Their inheritance, as is ours, is to reverse the curse of Eden. As we are able to enable our children to love, so creation itself can be healed in the last days: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently (Romans 8: 22-24).
What of politics?
Of course, our children must be political, engaged in the struggles of our time. The Bible is clear: take care of the immigrant as we are all immigrants on earth (mentioned over a hundred times in Scripture), the widow (cf Luke 18 for Jesus’ own sympathy), the unborn child (remember John’s joy at meeting Jesus for the first time!), respect the authorities (Matthew 22:21 comes to mind), be just to poor people (Exodus 23:6 – justice is mentioned over 100 times in Scripture as well), and plenty more. There are plenty of ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ causes here to support! I note how the alliance of Christianity with the scientific – logical movements after the Enlightenment gave sanction to a greater rape of the earth in the last 200 years than we have ever seen before. When we become aligned and identified with any earthly human movement, the seamless robe of Christ is rent again. Yes, our children must be deeply sensitive to the issues of our time. But, like the Babylonian Jews, we must teach them to do this as Christians, not as liberals or conservatives or alt-rights or neo-cons or socialists.
For our older students for whom politics is a complex affair, the Christian School must enable each student to recognize that there are many ways for politicians to have compassion for the poor, to seek justice. The key for them is to ensure that, as Christians, they do have compassion for the poor and seek justice. When Cory Booker and Roy Blunt can both say that they worship in a Baptist church, Pat Roberts and Elizabeth Warren both claim Methodist roots, Joni Ernst and Jeff Merkely are Lutheran, it becomes obvious that politicizing our schools sets our children against each other in violent, dehumanizing, and intransigent ways. When we are truly Christian Schools, our children become one as Jesus prayed they should be.