Saturday, 14 September 2019

Plucking the tree up by its roots

I read this with interest, since I have known Matthew personally in different capacities for a long time: This post is not really about them personally, but I'll use their story to frame some of what I have to say about Christian and secular education.

Firstly, I applaud and thank the Lord for Matthew and Naomi for their clear-thinking and courage in seeing an issue, analysing it Biblically, and then being willing to take action upon it. Unfortunately, I think a large number of mis-steps that evangelical Christians in the UK are making in recent years fall down on those basic steps (and I do not exempt myself from that).

Unfortunately, it seems to me that the recent controversies over PSHE - which do at least have the benefit of pushing some people over the line who wouldn't have been pushed before - are ultimately a controversy over whether or not we should eat every last piece of the rotten fruit of post-sexual-revolutionary secularism, no matter how many maggots it has and how rancid it takes. If we get to this stage, has not something very important gone wrong a lot earlier? Ought we not to be aiming somewhere down at the roots? If such obvious and gross wickedness can be promoted, how did we get into that situation, and what other damage is it doing?

UK state schools generally provide a comprehensive, year-round education in secularism, by secularists (dogmatic/intentional or functional), and unsurprisingly succeed in churning out legions of secularists (whether dogmatic/intentional or functional). As Christians, our aim is to bring every thought into captivity to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). We think that all children should be given a godly - that is to say, non-secularist, but rather Christian - education. We don't want to just avoid the most rancid fruits of secularism; we want to pluck up the whole tree, replacing it with an entirely different one. The fact that, as documented in the link above, Matthew and Naomi met such a barrage of resistance to reasonable attempts to question and investigate something off-the-scale in its depravity tells you that the new PSHE regulations are not an unfortunate blip. They are not a surprising aberration or freak event. They are utterly predictable, and in that sense, banal. They are part and parcel of the everyday world-view being assumed, practised and promoted within the system.

The fact that one of the most conservative evangelical newspapers (the Evangelical Times) titles a piece on removing your children from this sort of "education" (an education in radical wickedness) for one week as "Thinking the unthinkable: Parents withdraw children from a week of school" tells us how far things have gone. Really? This is unthinkable? This depends upon your frame of reference, does it not - upon what you've previously been thinking?

Wikipedia offers the following definition: "The Overton window is the range of ideas tolerated in public discourse, also known as the window of discourse". This is a known phenomena whereby what is thinkable depends largely the number and positions of people pushing ideas. To pick an example, in 2019, we have professed, proud Marxists leading Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, a short step away from the most powerful political positions in the country. And this is something we're now accustomed to. It wasn't long ago that it would be thought "unthinkable". People who professed such doctrines were generally thought of as loonies, thankfully far from any real power, doomed to failed attempts to sell their strange magazines on street corners wearing dirty anoraks on Saturday mornings, and nothing too much more harmful than that. From my point of view, what ought to be unthinkable, is that, after UK schools have become so thoroughly humanistic, and after the baneful effects of this have been seen for so long, that the evangelical Christian church is still doing so little to make provision for the comprehensive education of its children in the ways of God. That so many Christian parents feel that they don't have many real choices. (In reality, thankfully, in 2019, the options are many, with resources from near and far; but because of the "Overton window" being where it is, a lot of them are still very new to very many, even whilst to others they are "part of the furniture").

Let me finish with an anecdote. Many Christian educators such as myself are used to hearing that it makes no difference; that education is education, and that the errors of secularist education are few, minor and peripheral and easily compensated for with a little extra Christian teaching on the side. Well, recently I started studying using Cambridge University Press (i.e. one of the most highly esteemed academic publishers) text books with a couple of my own children. It took only a few days before they noticed how strongly these - in quite incidental things, of no relevance to the actual subject topics - were pushing a different world-view. The contrast with the Christian text books (no, there are no perfect textbooks, no straw men please!) was stark and obvious. I thanked God that my children discerned this without prompting, and the difference it made. May the Lord open more of my fellow believers' eyes to see the same.