A member of the Southern Baptist Convention Resolutions Committee says they did not recommend a resolution this year calling for a boycott of California’s public schools, because the committee believed Christians need instead to “retake” the school system.
“School exit proponents are right to decry the moral chaos that is being sanctioned by the California public school system,” Tony Beam, vice president for student services and Christian worldview at North Greenville University in Tigerville, S.C., wrote in a Monday blog. “In October, the California Legislature passed and Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law SB 777, which now bans in both school texts and activities any discriminatory bias against those who have chosen alternative sexual lifestyles.”
“But calling for an exodus from the public school is not the answer,” said Beam, who was appointed to the Resolutions Committee by former SBC President Frank Page. “The solution is not retreat but a recommitment to retake the public schools for Christ.”
“Our willingness to allow the encroachment of pure secularism, especially in the schools, has pushed the system to brink of collapse,” Beam continued. “We should repent for allowing our children’s minds to be inculcated with immoral ideas born from the unholy union of humanism and moral relativism.”
But Beam said Christ called on Baptists “to engage the culture” rather than to flee it.
“Certainly we shouldn’t simply send our children out into a hostile world alone,” Beam said. “We should go with them and become the light that counters the darkness of the message they hear. We should be the salt and we should shine the light of God’s truth, knowing that darkness cannot overpower the light.”
The Resolutions Committee declined to move forward with a proposed resolution urging Baptists to remove their children from California public schools unless the state reverses new laws that many social conservatives view as indoctrinating children into acceptance of pro-homosexual views.
Afterward, supporters of the exodus sought to amend a resolution on the floor opposing gay marriage in California to also “encourage all Christians in California to remove their children from the public schools, which are the main training grounds for the teaching of same-sex marriage.”
Darrell Orman, chairman of the Resolutions Committee, opposed the change, saying the issues were separate.
“When the committee considered it, basically, that resolution didn’t have anything to do with the homosexual marriage situation,” said Orman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Stuart, Fla. “That resolution dealt with the influence of homosexuality being accepted in the public school system in California.”
Committee member Michael Martin, vice president for academic affairs at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., said he shared concerns about the impact of SB777 on the state’s public schools, but he argued that pulling children out of those schools would be an “ineffectual” remedy.
“My daughter-in-law and my friends who teach in the California schools depend upon their Christian parents to have an influence,” Martin said. “And I can tell you there is a Christian witness in the California schools, and I would plead with you not to withdraw that witness.”
Another messenger, Debbie Johnson, said as a teacher she opposed the exit strategy. “Do not underestimate the Christian children in our schools,” she said. “A teacher cannot call a Christian meeting. Our children can, and they make a difference in the school systems.”
In 2006 the SBC passed a resolution criticizing the public school system for “indoctrinating children with dogmatic Darwinism” and “curricula and policies teaching that the homosexual lifestyle is acceptable.” The resolution affirmed Christian teachers and urged Southern Baptist churches to “engage the culture of our public school systems nationwide by running for election to their local school boards and exerting their godly influence upon these school systems.”
A 2005 resolution urged parents “to exercise their rights to investigate diligently the curricula, textbooks and programs” in order to monitor their local schools for pro-homosexual influences. “It also urged Christian parents to “fully embrace their responsibility to make prayerful and informed decisions regarding where and how they educate their children, whether they choose public, private or home schooling.”
In 2004 the SBC passed a resolution decrying “secularization” in public life, including schools, which “obscures moral absolutes under the guise of tolerance.”
“Whether standing for marriage for fighting for our children’s future, we must stay in the fight bringing the transforming power of the Gospel to bear in every arena,” Beam said in his blog.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
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Southern Baptists Criticized for Failure to Speak Out on California Schools