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Faithful Support For Public Education

Public education has been under assault for some time now from segments of the Christian community. That’s why it is all the more amazing to learn that a Baptist entity has decided that instead of attacking public schools and undermining the morale of teachers and administrators, why not affirm the work of those who teach our children, and ask God to bless their efforts.

The move comes from the Nashville-based Baptist Center for Ethics. The Center’s Web site, ethicsdaily.com, features news and commentary which analyzes issues through the lens of faith. Acacia Resources, the publishing arm of the Center, also provides Bible studies, worship aids and other support materials for church use.

The material that the Center has developed to affirm public education is called, “Supporting Public Education: Resources for Worship.” The packet of material includes prayers of blessings, litanies, suggested hymns, sample sermons and benediction prayers. The resource is designed to assist churches in providing worship opportunities that affirm the work of people in public education. The Center is making the 33-page packet available as a free PDF download.

The timing of this resource could not be better. There is hardly any other institution in our culture more vilified and demonized than public education. And it is hard to understand why. Obviously public schools are not perfect, but then what is in our world. Besides, given the demands of our advanced democracy, some sort of public education is absolutely essential.

This is the way the BCE editors put it, “While some in the Christian community loudly and aggressively push an anti-public education agenda, Baptist Center for Ethics considers public schools a national treasure and public school teachers among our nation’s most valuable resources.”

Interestingly enough, part of the “anti-public education agenda” comes from another Baptist group, the Southern Baptist Convention. For the past two years a few leaders within the SBC have presented resolutions which call on Christian parents to withdraw their children from public schools. To the credit of the majority of the members of the SBC, these resolutions have not been adopted ”so far.

Another movement gaining momentum is “Exodus Mandate.” This group calls on Christian parents to withdraw from public schools to school their children at home or enrol them in Christian schools.

Both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Exodus Mandate have the same complaint. Public schools are really government schools where anti-Christian, anti-American and anti-family values are taught. Leaders in the various movements argue that children left in these evil government schools will eventually have no sense of God or faith or country.

But that’s nonsense. Public schools are local schools. School board members live within our communities, as do teachers and administrators. The effort to characterize local schools as some sort of sinister government conspiracy determined to brainwash our children is simply a lie.

Are there federal mandates that protect racial and religious diversity? Yes, thankfully there are. And anyone who sees these protections as somehow un-American or anti-Christian has read neither the Bible nor the Constitution.

Educating children is the task of the whole community ”parents, churches, as well as professional educators. BCE deserves a word of thanks for finding a way to help churches to do their part in supporting the education of all children. Somebody should say, Amen.

James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala. His weekly column appears in seven newspapers in Alabama, one in Georgia, as well as in EthicsDaily.com.