A Baptist state newspaper editorial says the Southern Baptist Convention should be allowed to debate a resolution calling for parents to remove their children from government-run schools to send a message that Southern Baptists are fed up with secularism in public education.
Don Hinkle, editor of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Pathways news journal, said he does not support a wholesale pullout advocated by two laymen in a resolution being proposed to the upcoming SBC annual meeting, but the proposal merits debate.
“Given the current state of public schools, I cannot understand why there is such weeping and wailing over a resolution that two concerned Southern Baptists want to bring before the entire convention,” Hinkle said. “What is wrong with Christ-honoring public debate? Publicly raising the issue might serve as a much-needed ‘warning shot’ for public education to get its house in order because–at least for many conservative Southern Baptists–our patience is wearing thin.”
Hinkle said the public schools were in the beginning “thoroughly Christian.” Southern Baptists supported public education that emphasized “non-denominational Protestantism.” This arrangement, supplemented by Sunday school stressing particular doctrines of the various denominations, “proved satisfactory to Protestants and precluded the need for private schools,” Hinkle said.
But that all changed in the last half century, Hinkle wrote in a 3,200-word editorial blaming Southern Baptists for “50 years of sinful apathy” concerning the decline of public schools.
Hinkle blamed the National Education Association teachers’ union for pushing a “liberal, socialist” agenda, the U.S. Department of Education for removing schools from local control and federal courts for imposing the separation of church and state.
He specifically criticized the NEA-backed “values clarification” for promoting moral relativism.
“I am often perceived as being blunt with my opinions, so let me reinforce that perception,” Hinkle wrote. “The notion that truth is relative is straight from the pit of hell for it mocks the ultimate absolute Truth–Jehovah God and His inerrant, infallible Word.”
Hinkle also blamed advocates of gay-rights and sex education for “insidious indoctrination” to “a host of things” once thought of as unmentionable.
“So why shouldn’t retired Air Force General T.C. Pinckney of Virginia and Bruce Shortt, a Houston, Texas, attorney, be allowed to bring their resolution calling for Southern Baptists to pull their children out of public schools to SBC messengers?” Hinkle wrote.
“The resolution has garnered some early support (no one can say exactly how much), including that of Roger Moran, the admired lay leader of the conservative resurgence in the Missouri Baptist Convention,” he said. “Conversely, there are moderates–and some thoughtful conservatives–who do not want this resolution, in its present form, to get anywhere near the SBC meeting.”
“While I am not in favor of Southern Baptists pulling their children out of public schools at this time, I say, let these Christian gentlemen bring their resolution and let Southern Baptists engage in some constructive public debate on the matter,” he continued. “Perhaps someone can craft a resolution that sends a powerful message from America’s largest Protestant denomination to the U.S. Department of Education, the NEA, the federal courts and their liberal supporters.”
Hinkle said he agreed with Pinckney and Shortt’s resolution when it says “government” schools are anti-Christian and run by “enemies of God.”
“Who can disprove the truthfulness of such a statement?” he wrote. “The fact that public schools have largely become anti-Christian is beyond dispute. To deny the existence of absolute truth, as children are now taught, is to deny the existence of the ultimate, absolute Truth–God. I cannot think of anything more anti-Christian than teaching impressionable children that God does not exist.”
He also rebutted several arguments being made against the resolution:
— That it “lumps all schools together.” “I cannot think of any reason why they shouldn’t be,” Hinkle wrote, citing efforts by groups like the ACLU to ensure that public schools are not religious in any way.
— Children are commanded to be “salt and light.” Hinkle said public schools should exist for the nurture of children, not the other way around.
— Children can also be exposed to sin at a private school. “This argument seems weak. There is a big difference between a child being exposed to an occasional fib and a system bent on undermining parents and attempting to crush the Christian faith.”
Hinkle said the main weakness of the resolution is there aren’t currently enough private Christian schools to handle a mass exodus from public schools. He also said he hated to endorse a wholesale pullout because of “progress being made” on fronts like the “Intelligent Design” movement challenging the theory of evolution.
“Southern Baptists have never said public education is incompatible with Christian life–and rightly so because public schools were originally started to nurture Christian character,” Hinkle said. “It is not that Southern Baptists protest the idea of public schools because they were our idea to begin with.
“Rather it is that we abhor what American public education has become.”
Hinkle also decried personal attacks against the anti-public education resolution’s co-sponsors, including one newspaper column which called Pinckney, a former SBC vice president and conservative leader in Virginia, an “idiot.”
“You do not know General Thomas Pinckney, but I know Tom Pinckney and he’s no idiot,” he responded to the columnist. “Pinckney has given more than two decades of his life to protect America’s freedom so that ignorant journalists could write stupid things.”
“As I said, I know General Pinckney and I am certain that THE question he is itching to publicly ask Southern Baptists is this: How can we even feel welcome in schools from which our God has long since been expelled? I for one am grateful that he is bringing this resolution to Indianapolis if for no other reason than he and Shortt will upstage the whining protests of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), another liberal organization that the SBC should have severed ties with years ago.”
“So what should we do?” Hinkle concluded. “Let the Resolutions Committee do its work. Considerable lobbying is going on and I think it is likely that some type of resolution will emerge. I think that would be wise.” Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
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