Southern Baptist seminary president Albert Mohler on Wednesday renewed his call for Christian parents to have an “exit strategy” from public schools.
On his live radio show, Mohler fielded a call from a listener who read in a Christian publication that Mohler endorsed a proposed Southern Baptist Convention resolution asking the denomination to assist churches and parents in developing a strategy for exiting public schools that gives special attention to needs of single parents, orphans and the disadvantaged.
“I did endorse, and in fact I wrote a major article you can find at my Web site, entitled ‘Needed: An Exit Strategy,'” Mohler said.
“I have suggested that Christian churches and Christian parents had better develop an exit strategy,” Mohler said. “I’m not saying that I can say for everyone that now is the time when they have to pull out of the public schools. I am saying that it’s our responsibility at the very least to have a strategy so that we would know what we would do with our children and with the children of our churches as well as the children of our family, should we come to the conclusion that it is that time.”
“For my wife and I,” Mohler said, “it always has been that time. Our children have never been in the public schools, for some reasons I’d be very glad to talk about. But I am myself a product of the public schools, and there are different places in the country where at least at this point more local control means more sanity in the public schools.
“There are some big questions, though, about how long that can last with federal mandates and the teacher unions and all the rest. But you know if you listen to this program it’s kind of a litany from time to time of all these things happening. We were just talking about Lexington, Massachusetts, the court case out of California, so I’ve got some big concerns there.
“But when I talk about a strategy I mean just that, a strategy. I think every church and every Christian family needs a strategy for what they would do when they think it’s time to pull the kids out. Some have already made that decision. Their strategy is already in place. Others I think need to make that strategy, put it in place, and decide what they are going to do.”
The caller responded that he had trouble reconciling Mohler’s position with the Bible’s command that Christians be “salt and light” in the world.
“I don’t think God calls upon Christian parents to put our children in the schools as guinea pigs as salt and light,” Mohler repled. “I’ll be honest. I just don’t think that at all is the biblical vision. The public schools are an innovation. They are not a fact of nature. And there’s an agenda behind them. During the age of the 20th century the agenda was making American citizens. The central ideological character behind that was John Dewey, who taught most extensively at teachers college at ColumbiaUniversity. He really set the agenda for the public schools nationwide in terms of separating children from their parents, in terms of ethnicity, in language and creating a common culture. He was explicitly anti-Christian. He wanted a common faith that had nothing to do with belief in God.”
“Local schools can be very different than that,” Mohler said. “But when you come to our contemporary time, I’m not going to let my kids get this stuff crammed down their throats. If I were a parent right now in Lexington, Massachusetts, there’s no way I would ever allow my kids to be put in schools where the district superintendent says it is their job to teach kids to accept homosexual marriage. I’m just not going to do that.
“You may be in a place that is not happening yet, and if so thank God, but I do believe the day is going to come. I don’t think the salt and light argument has to do with putting our children under the authority of persons who are going to teach the opposite of what we believe.”
Mohler suggested that Christian parents talk about the issue in their church. “Right now there’s a sense in which if you do that the pastor is scared to death that it is going to offend the teachers and principals and administrators in the public school system,” he acknowledged. “I’m just going to tell you that’s a risk I think you are going to have to take.”
“A little honesty on all sides would be really, really helpful here,” Mohler said. “We need to pray for those committed Christian teachers and school administrators who are doing their dead-level best to really teach children, to teach them the truth, to teach them in ways that are consistent with their own convictions. I don’t want to see all the Christian teachers and administrators pull out of the public schools.”
Mohler described a recent case where a chaplain lost his appeal to exclude a homosexual from a worship service he planned in a prison. While not morally equivalent, Mohler said, prisons and schools are similar in that “they are both understood to be government institutions,” and that adjudication of the First Amendment applies to both.
“If you’re in a place right now where it’s a happier situation, then I am not presuming that I can walk in and tell you exactly what you must do as a parent,” Mohler said. “I would not presume to do that, except for the fact that you must be ready to make certain your children have the kind of education you believe convictionally they must have.”
Mohler went on to say someone recently asked him why we would not allow his children to attend public schools and then at the end of the day talk with them about what they learn and, if needed, correct them.
“There are about two or three reasons for that,” Mohler said. “Number one, those school teachers often have kids, in terms of their attentive time, more than even parents–[time] that they’re outside the home, they’re in the sphere of the school’s control. Secondly especially for young children, I think the introduction of authorities other than parents, who are going to teach in contradiction of what the parent thinks, is a very dangerous thing. When you’ve got elementary kids saying, ‘I know this is what Mom and Dad say, but the teacher, who’s got a college degree and she’s got a master’s degree, she’s accredited.’ When she has this kind of credibility I don’t think that’s something I want to do.”
“The other issue has to do with the total control, the big picture of the education,” Mohler said. “What kind of education do you want for your kids? I think that’s the big question. I’m thankful for the education I’ve received and I’m thankful for all the public school teachers who loved me and gave me so much and my classmates as well. I just wonder if they’d be able to do that now in many school systems.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.