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EthicsDaily.com Posts Four Videos on Faith and Public Education

Four videos on the relationship between public schools and faith communities are now available at EthicsDaily.com.

The four videos, each under three minutes, compile remarks made at a two-day conference in Memphis titled “Educators and Clergy: Working Together for Great Public Schools,” before the National Education Association’s Southeast Regional Leadership Conference in February 2007. Robert Parham, executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of the Nashville-based Baptist Center for Ethics, appears in two videos, while Baptist pastors Ed Hogan and Brent Beasley appear in the other two videos.

The videos are housed both on EthicsDaily.com’s video page as well as its “Christians and Public Education” page.

In the video titled “The Issachar Factor,” Parham references an Old Testament story about the Israelites and how it applies to the debate in Baptist and evangelical circles over public education.

“It’s a story about what happened when David went to war against King Saul. It’s a story of what happened when the tribes flocked to David’s side.” Most of the Israelite tribes came ready for battle and with reputations for bravery, Parham said. “One tribe came with neither a reputation for bravery nor a readiness for battle. They came with something else. They came with what every people need in a time of transition, a time of crisis. The tribe of Issachar, according to the text, came with an understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do. The tribe of Issachar came with clarity and commitment. The tribe of Issachar came with discernment and direction.”

Parham said supporters of public education must consider “the Issachar Factor,” especially in light of religious critics of public education and the call in some evangelical circles for Christians to abandon public schools en masse.

In Parham’s other video, he cites three things the faith community must do to support public education: value church-state separation, social justice, and unity in the midst of diversity.

Ed Hogan, pastor of Jersey Village Baptist Church in Houston, appears in one video. He emphasizes the importance for ministers to understand they are guests on campus and, as such, must work to build relationships.

“Relationships and trust are the absolute key for churches and religion being involved in the public school system,” said Hogan, who details how he built those relationships with administrators, teachers and staff in his local schools.

“Sometimes ministers come off the street and they think that the title gives them the right, that the position gives them the right [to be present],” said Hogan. “But those teachers are leery, and those administrators are leery and those principals are leery.”

Hogan said he’s built trust over the years, “and because of that I probably have extraordinary opportunities to help people in the school district that I wouldn’t have opportunities to help.”

Brent Beasley, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Memphis, appears in the fourth video.

“When it comes to religion and public schools, we need to learn more about how and when to say ‘yes’ and how and when to say’ no,'” said Beasley, who has himself spoken to school boards on various occasions.

Beasley said the faith community must say “no” to coercion, proselytizing, intimidating and controlling maneuvers, but “yes” to positive words and proactive initiatives.

“I hope that also we have a little bit more of the desire to do it and the courage to do it,” said Beasley of discerning the difference between when to say yes and no. “There are times when we have to say ‘no’ and there are times when we have to say ‘yes,’ and we have to find that proper balance.”

EthicsDaily.com has posted more than 50 videos to its Web site, and all are available for free viewing.

The “Christians and Public Education” page highlights various free resources from Baptist Center for Ethics. These resources include a worship resource on public education, an advocacy and action PDF resource on public education, a Baptist pastoral letter supporting public education, and an archive of more than 100 stories and columns on public education.