The Southern Baptist Convention will consider a resolution next month urging parents to pull their children out of public schools and educate them either by home schooling or sending them to Christian private schools.
T.C. Pinckney, a long-time conservative leader from Virginia, has jointly submitted a resolution on Christian education to the SBC Resolutions Committee. The committee will consider whether to present it for a vote when the convention meets June 15-16 in Indianapolis.
The resolution urges all officers and members of the Southern Baptist Convention “to remove their children from the government schools and see to it that they receive a thoroughly Christian education.”
It encourages churches to “counsel parents regarding their obligation to provide their children with a Christian education” and to “provide all of their children with Christian alternatives to government school education, either through home schooling or thoroughly Christian private schools.”
The resolution’s co-sponsor, Bruce Shortt, an attorney and home-schooling father, told the conservative Web site WorldNetDaily.com that many Christian parents are in denial about the dangers of government schools. He said the time has come “to focus on rescuing our children from Pharaoh’s schools.”
The resolution does not disparage adults who “labor as missionaries” by working or teaching in public schools. Rather, “they should be commended and encouraged to be salt and light in a dark and decaying government school system,” it says.
The convention previously passed resolutions favoring home schooling in 1997 and Christian schools in 1999 as alternatives to public education. But the new resolution, should it win approval, would be the first to label it a Christian duty to abandon public schools.
A moderate Baptist ethicist viewed it as a logical step.
“This resolution is the inevitable continuation of Southern Baptist fundamentalism, which boycotted Disney, instructed women to be submissive to their overlord husbands, withdrew from interfaith dialogue and cooperation initiatives, and retreated from the Baptist World Alliance with claims of anti-Americanism,” said Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics.
The movement toward Christian education has found support among Southern Baptist leaders.
SBC president Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, touted the denomination’s “Kingdom education” initiative in remarks to the SBC Executive Committee last fall.
“While Christian education and church school education, I’m certain, is not for every student, I’m challenging parents all over where I can use my influence to pray about Kingdom education for their children,” Graham said, quoted in Baptist Press.
The conservative paper Southern Baptist Texan last year devoted an issue on the move to establish Christian schools. One source predicted that the movement, along with home-schooling, would “radically reshape the way America does school in the next two decades.”
Glen Schultz, director of Christian school resources for the Southern Baptist publishing house LifeWay Christian Resources, describes children as “God’s homework assignment to parents.” His book, Kingdom Education: God’s Plan for Educating Future Generations, provides parents, church leaders and Christian educators with pointers on raising children to develop a “biblical worldview.”
“Christians send their children to schools where there is little knowledge of what philosophies and values are being taught throughout the day,” Schultz says in an article on LifeWay’s Web site. “Then they take them to church on Sunday morning expecting the church to keep them on track spiritually.”
The result, Schultz said, citing a report by pollster George Barna, “is that Christian teens are moving away from a biblically based theology and adopting a syncretic, culture-based concept of Christianity.”
James Dobson of Focus on the Family, a frequent guest speaker at SBC annual meetings, urged on his radio program in 2002 that parents in California pull their youngsters out of private schools.
Dobson and Pinckney are among leaders to endorse the Exodus Mandate, a movement started in 1997 with the mantra, “Every church a school, every parent a teacher.”
The new resolution submitted by Pinckney and Shortt, dated April 26, says the public school system, while claiming to be neutral toward religion, “is actually anti-Christian, so that children taught in the government schools are receiving an anti-Christian education.”
Education offered by state-run schools “is officially Godless,” the resolution says, and public schools are adopting curricula and policies “teaching that a homosexual lifestyle is acceptable.”
“Whereas the Bible says children are like arrows in the hand of a warrior (Ps 127:3-5), we must understand that children are weapons (arrows) to be aimed for the greatest impact in the kingdom of God,” the proposed resolution states. “Just as it would be foolish for the warrior to give his arrows to his enemies, it is foolish for Christians to give their children to be trained in schools run by the enemies of God.”
The resolution says the Bible gives parents the responsibility for educating their children, yet Christian children in public schools “are converted to an anti-Christian worldview rather than evangelizing their schoolmates.”
That is one factor, the resolution claims, behind the statistic that 88 percent of children raised in evangelical homes leave church by age 18, never to return.
But the BCE’s Parham criticized Southern Baptists’ anti-public school movement as “racist in its roots” and bearing “false witness with its agenda.”
The anti-public school movement in the 1960s “was fed from pulpits that used the Bible to support segregation,” Parham said. “Not surprisingly, churches planted white race academies, which sought racial purity.”
Today’s “spiritual heirs of the race academies now advance the cause of religious purity,” Parham said.
“The first generation bore false witness against public schools with the demonization of African-Americans,” Parham said. “The latter bears false witness with utterly malicious charges of godlessness in our community schools.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.