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August 27 marks the first day of class for many students across the Southeast. It’s not a major day for our family, because Samuel attends a public year-round school (our choice), and started his school year back in July.

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is marking the event by sponsoring a two-day conference designed to promote church-sponsored schools. Called “Christian Schools 101” and led by the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools, the seminar was also promoted by the Baptist State Convention of N.C. (BSC), and reflects a movement among many Baptists to retreat from public schools — maligned as “anti-God” — and establish private schools designed to protect children from secular influence and indoctrinate them in a Christian worldview.

Such schools are inevitably far more segregated than the average public school, and largely insulated from the realities of contemporary society.

Others will take the effort a step further and teach their children at home.

I don’t want to suggest a blanket criticism of either course — I’m sure that Christian schools or home-schooling are probably the best option for some children.

On the other hand, I can’t go along with the blanket assertion that Christians should abandon public schools because they are perceived as hostile to Christianity.

Christian parents have a responsibility to teach and train their children in Christian virtues and values, and there is no better place to do that than at home and at church.

Jesus did not call his followers to cloister themselves into separatist communities, but sent them from Jersusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Agreed, public schools are not a petri dish for culturing Christian values, as they were when I started in the 1950s — and they’re not supposed to be. We live in a pluralistic society, designed by the founding fathers to be that way because only in such a society can people be truly free.

For both Christian teachers and Christian students, public schools are a mission field where the love of Christ can be shown to people who otherwise might never have close contact with people of faith.

To me, that sounds like exactly where Jesus calls us to be.

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