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Plumbline Author: Ethan Brue
Date: December 22, 2003
Topic: Christian Education
During my junior high and high school years, I attended three different schools
in different towns over the course of six years. The first four years
I attended public school, the last two a Christian school. The years I
spent in the public school are not pleasant memories. However, as I look
back on those years, I am tempted to conclude that in some ways,
my public school years may have been more character forming and faith strengthening
than my Christian school years. No, my Public High School was certainly not
a bastion of spirituality. Quite the opposite, my memories of that stage in
my life bring back images of shuffling down inhospitable hallways, making the shortest
pit stop as possible at my locker, and selecting the least populated route
to my next class in an attempt to elude the junior high thugs
who were so often waiting to kick me into my locker. They always
found me out in study hall. Like vultures they would circle my table,
snap, my oversized ears, and experiment with innovative methods of making me angry.
They were the jocks, I was the joke. Id like to conclude that
the experience taught me how to suffer because of righteousness, but Im afraid
it taught me how to get subtle revenge and how to revert to
a mode of self-preservation, rather than about turning the other cheek. Nonetheless, the
junior high thugs were unaware that they were being used to teach a
powerful lesson about being set apart, about living as an alien.
In my last two years of high school, my world turned around, from
a lonely, disconnected, separated existence I entered a Christian school. I was accepted.
I was in. I was cool. No longer was I a Bible freak.
I was now a hip Christian. I could wear the right clothes, I
could play the right sports, and at least warm the bench on the
right team (that is, the powerhouse team that never lost). I could join
the right clubs, do the right pranks, date the right girls in silky
white dresses at the JS Banquet, and take an honors chemistry class that
was identical in quality and content to the course taught at my public
except now I could do it with my head held high.
I could do it with pride. I could be popular and still carry
the label of Christian!
But something was wrong with this picture. When prophets brought Gods word to
his people they usually began by summarizing how, in an attempt not to
look too out of place, the people of God adapted. No they didnt
mean to throw away God completely (so they thought) they simply gave their
well, a bit of a local flavor
Canaanite style. You know
so as to not
look so out of place.
The temptation continues. Those of us in the reformed tradition are particularly susceptible.
We enter our world with our Kuyperian slogans that every square inch is
Gods, and interpret it as a license to do almost anything. Every square
inch becomes Everythings fair game. But thats not the full picture. Rather, the
truth of God s sovereign rule, is that everything is worth engaging in
if youre willing to strip it of its pagan dressings and expose it
for what it really is as belonging to Christ.
So how are we doing? Do our Christian schools from classroom to the
gridiron look strangely Christian? Or, do they look surprisingly like poor imitations of
their secular counterparts? Are decisions made based on a counter-cultural desire of reformation
or transformation? Or are they simply guided by the way the Red River
Valley Conference is being reorganized? Do we ask how JS banquet, homecoming royalty,
or a football team will provide a platform to critique the image-obsessed and
sport-obsessed world around us?
Now dont get me wrong. Im a strong proponent of Christian education. I
am still trying to undo all the twisted presuppositions from which I was
taught history, mathematics, physics, and chemistry in my public school years. But even
Christian education needs continual reforming. And if Christian education is not conspicuously different,
then I think getting kicked into ones locker in a public school hallway
is far more sanctifying than perfect attendance at a local Christian school.
What might this mean? Let me suggest one small example. Maybe instead of
feeling obligated to have a well-funded sports team for every season like everyone
else around us, football/volleyball for fall, basketball for winter, soccer and track for
spring, we might choose to re-invest the resources in something radically different from
the culture around us. Why not recognize that the art of sport should
be a sanctifying activity? God created humanity to take part in playful works
of physical interaction that display the joy, skill, and nuance he intended his
creatures to express. In fact, sport is so important for us as Christians,
that we are not willing to delegate this activity to an athletic elite.
With this in mind, why not reinvest our interscholastic athletic funding into an
innovative, extensive, and well-organized intramural program that involves a far greater number of
the students in our schools. Instead of missed classes, long bus rides, and
unhealthy rivalries, students would be challenged to consider how with hard work and
practice, obedient sport could build community and cooperation, as opposed to fueling a
pagan notion of competition. Maybe students will be inspired to develop entirely new
games and new rules.
Maybe this is all too idealistic to become reality. But I cant help
but imagine that when the culture around us saw what the Christian schools
were trying to do, they would probably laugh at our ridiculous ideas. And
maybe that s exactly the response we need. Wed have their attention.
For Plumbline, this is Ethan Brue, Assistant Professor of Engineering, Dordt College