jasonbwatson

May 30, 2013

Intended to be fun?

Earlier this month, in a post titled “How Do You Feel?”, I addressed my concern over a growing movement around the country to provide “gender identity counseling” to young children in order to help them determine whether they feel like they are a boy or a girl, and to then provide services necessary to help them achieve that identity, even when that involves hormones and other changes to the body.

Now, just last week, a school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin asked its elementary students to dress as members of the opposite sex for a day as part of a week of special activities at the school. Tippecanoe School for the Arts and Humanities originally dubbed the day “Gender Bender Day,” though it changed the name to “Switch It Up Day” after a flurry of opposition and criticism from parents. Changing the name of the day was about the only concession that was made, though; one school board member basically dismissed parental concerns, accusing parents of “using the kids for political purposes.”

A number of parents ended up keeping their children home from school for the day, and I commend them for doing so. According to MyChristianDaily, one parent described the day’s theme as “ridiculous” and “creepy,” though the principal of the school said it was all meant to be in fun and was, in fact, a suggestion from members of the school’s student council. Student councils are a great idea; providing students with the opportunity to make suggestions to school leaders and to contemplate how different decisions and activities can impact the school is a valuable exercise. But–as unpopular as it may be to say–there is such a thing as a bad idea, and it is the responsibility of the adults involved to tactfully say no when students suggest them. Even if the original idea did come from the students, the decision ultimately had to be made by the principal, and I find it unimpressive to say the least that he would pass the buck to the students.

The area’s local FOX affiliate, WITI, reported that when the day came it was unable to find many students actually participating–but found faculty and staffers who were doing so. Indeed, WorldNet Daily posted a photo of two male staffers dressed in female attire. Perhaps even more troubling is that the attire they were wearing would not have been appropriate for a school setting even if they were female. This would surely have been confusing and troubling for young children who saw male adults dressed that way, even if the children themselves were dressed normally. (In fact, The Daily Caller reported, “In a pretty massive letdown after all the hubbub, WITI reported that it couldn’t find a single cross-dressing student at the elementary school. Only some teachers and staffers were caught up in the transvestite spirit of Switch It Up Day.” If that is true it does cause one to wonder how there were no students who chose to participate in an idea that supposedly originated with students).

The Education Action Group, a conservative group in Michigan which runs a news site at EAGnews.org, quoted a parent saying, “They might as well call it ‘Transgender Day.'” EAG shared this opinion on the story: “We are concerned about student comfort. There are undoubtedly children at the school who felt like they had two bad choices today: either dress up as the opposite sex, which might make them feel uncomfortable, or dress normally and be out of place with the rest of the school, which might also make them feel uncomfortable.” Of course there was also a third choice, which was to stay home from school, but students should not be put in a position where they either go to school and feel uncomfortable and are therefore unlikely to be able to focus on learning, or stay home and miss a day of learning.

Now, I should say that I am inclined to believe the school’s principal when he says the idea came from the student council, and therefore I am not suggesting that the dress-up day was some devious design of the LGBT movement to make elementary students comfortable with crossdressing and blurred gender identities. I am also not suggesting that Tippecanoe was the first school to ever have such a day as part of its spirit week activities; I am sure it was not. Neither of these things, however, make the facts any less disturbing.

Perhaps the most astute observations on this event that I have found come in an article posted on Catholic Online, which I feel worthy to quote at length:

There does not seem to be any specific evidence that the day represents a deliberate effort by agents of the homosexual equivalency movement or the gender identity movement to undermine the concept of gender as a given within the minds of impressionable children.

Rather this appears to be the innocent design of enthusiastic, fun-loving school kids, supported by their school’s administration.

Yet, this is a troubling sign of a growing problem. When children conceive of “Gender Bender Day” as a normal part of their planning routine for spirit week, and responsible adults think so little as to rubber-stamp the event, shrugging and saying “it’s not illegal,” then we see just how far the problem has gone.

There is a Gender Identity or Gender Expression Movement which is actively seeking recognition in law of some new right to choose one’s gender. Already, the homosexual equivalency movement and the gender identity movement have gone so far in their efforts to change the culture that nobody thinks twice about cross-dressing children as part of school-sponsored activity.

We need to maintain vigilance in our parental oversight of the schools we send our children to.

I don’t think my Catholic friends will mind if I say “Amen” to that.

The parent who suggested the day might as well be called Transgender Day, Deidre Hernandez, also stated that she had never before complained about a school event, even though, “Every time something is bothering a liberal or an atheist, they come forward to complain. And somebody always has a problem with Easter or Christmas.” Ms. Hernandez certainly has a point there; those in the ACLU and on the liberal wing of the political spectrum seem to be all about protecting anyone from feeling uncomfortable at the sight of a Bible or the utterance of a prayer, but apparently there is no concern about encouraging elementary students to dress as the opposite gender or exposing them to adult males doing so very explicitly. My fellow WordPress blog katenews2day opined, “America is experiencing a double whammy – its public schools are not only producing illiterate graduates and drop-outs in massive number every year, its public schools are becoming boot camps in turning Americans into either gay or confused gender in the future.” She may have a point.

May 29, 2013

No Physical Church Required

I was fascinated to read recently that the Russian army is training a group of Russian Orthodox priests to be dropped by parachute, complete with a mini-Russian Orthodox church, to hold services for Russian troops around the world. Apparently the mini-church includes “replica icons, crucifixes, chalices, and bells, as well as an air-conditioning unit and a generator.” Quite interesting, I think, that the Russian army would spend the money to build such a mobile church unit and to train the priests to parachute in with it in order to provide services…particularly interesting given the obstacles chaplains in the U.S. military are facing these days.

However, there is a part of this story that is as sad as the other part is fascinating. Mikhail Vasilyev, head priest of the Airborne Troops, told U.K. newspaper the Guardian that the Russian Orthodox chaplains need the portable church in order to do their jobs. He said, “Orthodox Christianity has many rituals with many religious items which makes catering for the flock without a physical church impossible.”

Why is this sad? For one, Jesus Christ Himself rarely ministered in a “physical church.” Forget a physical church, Jesus did not even have a physical home; Luke 9:58 records Jesus saying, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Jesus ministered in homes, in the street, in the wilderness, in a boat…even hanging on the cross. He needed no special surroundings in order to minister to anyone.

Thus, it is sad to think that the accoutrements of religion have obtained such an important role in the Russian Orthodox church that caring for members of that church is “impossible” without them. I have no problem with physical church structures, and I can appreciate the beauty of many of the symbols utilized in many churches, Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox. But when the symbols themselves reach the point of being the focus–when ministry is no longer possible without them–the attention is definitely in the wrong place. Rather than symbols which can help to direct ones attention to God, they can become idols, and rather than directing ones attention to God they can draw ones attention away from Him.

So, parachuting priests and mobile mini-churches…that’s kinda cool, I guess. But it breaks my heart that the Russian Orthodox church believes ministry without them to be “impossible.”

May 28, 2013

Jesus Matters All the Time

In a recent article in Tabletalk, a monthly periodical with articles and Bible studies from Ligonier Ministries, R.C. Sproul, Jr. wrote an article entitled “In the School of Christ.” The article begins with this paragraph:

It is not hard to complain about the government’s schools. The government, at least during every election cycle, seems less than satisfied with its own product, ever promising us that it will improve. Atheists complain about prayers before football games. Christians complain about the teaching of sexual (im)morality. Everyone complains about graduation rates and test scores.

When it comes to government schools, Mr. Sproul is right; there is plenty to complain about, and the complaints come from all sides. And any efforts at improvement are met with new obstacles. Michelle Rhee faced overwhelming opposition when she tried to clean up the mess that was Washington, D.C. public schools. No Child Left Behind, a joint effort of the unlikely-combo of Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush did seemingly little to accomplish the goals it established for improving the education (read, test scores) of American school children, and the newest version, Race to the Top, is not any better. Now Common Core State Standards have been almost unanimously adopted in the U.S. to establish clearer expectations of what students in schools should be learning, and when, and these are encountering opposition and obstacles of their own–some perhaps legitimate, others seemingly concocted from thin air by Glenn Beck and others.

Private schools tend to fare better than public ones in the test scores and graduation rate areas. The school where I serve, for example, had a 100% graduation rate this year, and last year, and our high school students’ mean scale scores exceeded the national norm group in every subject area in our standardized testing this year.

However, that does not automatically mean that our school is successful. It does in a graduation rate and standardized test conversation, but that is not the sole reason why our school exists. Our school exists to invest in the entire student, body, mind and soul–spiritual, physical, intellectual, communal and emotional (SPICE). Sproul writes later in his article that children “are not products to be manufactured but lives to be nurtured.” Referencing the Shema, Sproul says, “Moses is talking about an immersive educational experience–we are to talk about the things of God with our children always and everywhere. The things of God are to be the very warp and woof of our daily conversation.” Sproul is specifically challenging parents to be instructing their children about God all the time. And that is what sets our school apart from government schools. The students at our school–and at many Christian schools–are receiving excellent academic instruction, but are also receiving intentional and intensive spiritual instruction, being taught about God in Bible class, yes, but also in science and history, in physical education and music, at the lunch table and after school. Effective Christian education destroys any boundaries that exist between the five SPICE areas outlined above.

Sproul continues,

Most of us are the products of schools that taught us to divide our lives, to separate what we think about Jesus and what we think about our work, to separate what we think about our work and what we think about our play. We give time to Jesus on Sundays, perhaps on Wednesday nights, and, if we are peculiarly pious, every day during our quiet times. These all may be terribly good things, but not if they are hermetically sealed. We dare not believe that Jesus matters only during these times while He is beside the point the rest of our days.

That is exactly right, and that is exactly what sets truly Christian education–whether it takes place in a Christian school or in a homeschool–apart from education at government schools or even most private schools: Christian education does not believe that Jesus matters only during specific times set aside for Bible study and worship, but that Jesus matters all the time.

May 17, 2013

The 10/30 Window

I think it would be a fitting follow up to yesterday’s post to address the 10/30 window. Many missionaries and missions agencies discuss the 10/40 window, the area between 10 and 40 degrees north latitude that is home to the bulk of the world’s “unreached people groups,” those who have yet to hear the gospel. Wikipedia quotes the Lausanne Committee on Global Evangelization as defining an unreached people group as “an ethnic group without an indigenous, self-propagating Christian church movement.” But Eric Larsen and Jonathan Taylor of Global Youth and Family Ministries have emphasized a different group, one they have named the 10/30 Window. This is the 2.5 billion people in the world between the ages of 10 and 30.

In a January 14, 2012 article in WORLD Magazine Mindy Belz quotes Taylor as saying that these people make up “the largest unreached people group in human history, larger than the 100 largest geographically defined unreached people groups combined.”

This is the same group that Ken Ham and Britt Beemer address in their book Already Gone. Though their study focused specifically on twenty-somethings in the United States who grew up attending church and have since left, they also look at the decline in church attendance in Great Britain and the points in their book would be applicable anywhere in the world. But the 10/30 Window does not include only those who grew up attending church and left; it also includes those who have never attended church and indeed some who have never even heard the message of the gospel.

While Larsen and Taylor look at the increasing connectedness of the younger generation thanks to “media, technology, and by the predominance of English as the language of the internet,” they are also specifically concerned about what Larsen has called the “systematic adult abandonment of the young.” Belz expanded on this abandonment in her article, writing, “The very things that unite young people divide them from adults. They learn the day’s conversation topics from a social media website, not the dinner table. They go to YouTube for direction on how to change the oil in the car, not Dad. If they have a question about who took the first walk on the moon or what is an HPV vaccine, they’re more likely to google it than to ask in the car on the way home from school.”

Larsen and Belz make valid points–the technology available today does marginalize many of the things that may have created default connections between adults and children in the past. When I would ask my mother a question growing up she would always say, “look it up.” Such an instruction now–if I even asked, as Belz suggested I wouldn’t–would likely send me to the internet, not the encyclopedias my mother had in mind when she gave that reply. (Most of today’s youth wouldn’t have a clue what an encyclopedia even is!). But technology is not the exclusive domain of youth; my grandfather was texting long before I was! Nor should the fondness that the younger generation often has for technology become an easy excuse for adults to allow the separation between generations to expand.

For example, if a child does ask who took the first step on the moon, an adult could answer the question and then go with the child to look up more information about the event, or could just go right to the computer with the child to look it up together. A child and an adult could watch a how-to video on YouTube together and then practice what they had learned. In other words, technology is a tool that can actually be used to draw generations together just as easily as drive them apart.

Larsen made this plea to Belz: “We are calling on an entire adult population to turn its hearts to the young.” The world does need an adult population willing to do that. And technology can help, but many of the very same things that have worked well throughout history are just as effective today. Back in 2003 Harvard professor of child psychology Dan Kindlon wrote Too Much of a Good Thing in which he examined what separates the successful young people from those who are not-so-successful; what makes the difference between those who are emotionally mature and responsible from those who are, well, we’ll just go with “not.” The book description includes this introductory sentence: “While many adolescents today have all the useful accessories of a prosperous society–cell phones, credit cards, computers, cars–they have few of the responsibilities that build character.” Guess what one of the most significant differences discovered by Kindlon happened to be? Those young people who were successful, mature and responsible had dinner together with their family at least a few times a week. That is an easy thing to do, and it makes a significant difference. And I would encourage parents to make it clear that technology will not be used during dinner. No texting, to talking on the phone, not even watching TV. Interact with each other.

The 10/30 Window is specifically about reaching the younger generation with the gospel, and Kindlon certainly was not addressing that. But the fact is, relationships between adults and young people need to be developed before the gospel can be effectively shared. As important as missionary efforts are–within and without the 10/40 Window–perhaps even more important is the 10/30 window, and we do not need to go anywhere to start making a difference in that area. Every adult has children in their lives–or could, with very little effort–whether they be biological family members, neighbors, youth league sports participants or attendees at church. Start building bridges between the generations, investing a little time now that could make a difference for eternity.

May 16, 2013

Making church uncomfortable

A short article in the May 4 issue of WORLD Magazine entitled “Bleachers vs. Pews” highlights a “new study of declining North American churches.” The study revealed that “the most common explanation for congregational malaise is the ‘secularization of Sunday,’ or the way that other activities, especially childrens’ sports, have reduced attendance at religious services.”

The study was conducted by Stephen McMullin of Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia, and while he reports that one pastor in his study summed up this “secularization” by lamenting that many parents will “sacrifice church ‘for the sake of their son or daughter’s sports program,'” McMullin is not convinced that Sunday sports are a determining factor in the decline in church attendance. McMullin observed that many of the churches seeing a decline in enrollment have “internal problems, such as poor quality music, or making little attempt to welcome guests.”

I both agree and disagree with McMullin. I agree that youth sports are not the sole, or even the predominant, cause of a decline in church attendance, and I agree that the number of people opting to pursue youth sports or other leisure activities on Sundays is a symptom of “internal problems” within many churches. I disagree, though, that “poor quality music” is one of those problems. I am not disagreeing that some churches may have poor quality music; some, no doubt do. Rather, I am disagreeing that the quality of music at a church is a determining factor in anyone leaving the church–or, for that matter, regularly attending it in the first place.

This is not a position I am basing purely on gut instinct or a hunch, either. Several years ago Answers in Genesis commissioned Britt Beemer and America’s Research Group to study why young people are leaving the church. Their survey questioned one thousand twenty-somethings who were raised in conservative churches but are no longer attending in order to find out why they are not. One question in the survey specifically asked “Why have you stopped attending church?” The answer “music is poor” was given by only 1% of the respondents; sixteen other reasons ranked above this one. Only four answers ranked below poor music quality in the survey, and those four answers–miscellaneous, unsure of my belief, just quit going, and always ask for money–accounted, cumulatively, for only 1.6% of the responses. So clearly, music–and particularly the quality of music–is not a big factor when it comes to folks making the decision to stop going to church. (To explore this survey further, check out Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer).

In my opinion, the increasing number of sports leagues that allow games or practices on Sunday is just another example in a long line of symptoms of the declining importance of church attendance in our country. Many things that used to not happen on Sunday do now, not just youth sports. I am not going to take a position that youth sports cannot be played on Sundays ever, and whether or not Christian parents allow their children to practice or play on Sundays is a decision I think they need to make for their family after prayerful consideration. I am personally not in favor of it, and I would encourage parents to establish from the get-go that their children will not practice or play anytime doing so will conflict with Sunday school or church services. And if they do make that decision, I strongly encourage those parents to abide by that position.

University of Washington religion professor James Wellman commented that “[c]oaches are less and less intimidated by religious norms and conventions and simply see Sunday as yet another day to schedule practices and games.” That may be. But the real problem is why do they see Sunday that way? And the answer is, why wouldn’t they? Too many professing Christians are no longer committed to regularly attending church on Sunday mornings. They may go if they feel like it, get up on time and do not have something better to do, but it is not all that important–it is not a priority for them. And therein lies the heart of the problem. Why is it not a priority, and what are churches doing about it?

One if the biggest reasons I believe it is not a priority is because so few people see church as being “worth it.” Too many churches have weakened their stance on the Bible, too many of them teach only the “feel good” parts, too many have focused on making church attendees feel good and feel welcome than have focused on making sure they hear the life-transforming message of God’s Word and spurring them on to live it out. And yes, too many have focused on making sure they have great music and lots of “ministry opportunities” without making sure that people are hearing, studying and applying the Word. see, when church becomes more about visiting with friends and getting a feel-good message there is no need to make a priority. People can do that at the ballpark or on the boat, they can get that from their radio or computer or television, or even the local bookstore.

So when churches start to wonder why people are leaving perhaps the best thing they could do is look within instead of without; perhaps they need to focus more on making people in church uncomfortable than on making them comfortable, since the Word of God, when accurately examined, will convict–and conviction doesn’t feel good. Perhaps instead of working to improve their PowerPoint presentations they should work to make sure that their presentations of the gospel are presented with power, and making sure people get the point. People will abandon the youth leagues and Sundays on the lake and lingering in their pajamas with the Sunday paper when they realize that their lives are impacted by attending church, studying God’s Word, interacting with fellow believers, and being challenged to apply what they learn and live out their faith in between services. In other words, the church needs to act like the church.

May 15, 2013

The end of another year

Filed under: Christian Education — jbwatson @ 9:30 pm
Tags: , ,

Another school year has now come and gone… People talk about time flying, and getting even faster as you get older, and like anyone else I suppose I was always skeptical. But this year went by even faster than the last one, so perhaps there is something to that after all.

Last week also happened to be Teacher Appreciation Week, and I read a devotional in David Jeremiah’s Pathways devotional book that is quite fitting for teachers even though his intended target was parents.

Dr. Jeremiah quotes from Tom Baker, the character played by Steve Martin in the film Cheaper by the Dozen, who explained his explanation to walk away from coaching college football by referencing the stress his job had on his family. When asked by his boss if he would have any regrets for his decision, Baker replies, “If I screw up raising my kids, nothing I achieve will matter much.”

Jeremiah then transitions to how Jesus made essentially the same point, though worded differently, when he said, in Mark 9:42, “But whoever causes one of these little ones…to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.” “In other words,” Jeremiah writes, “raising children is a serious responsibility and privilege; we should treat it that way and give our best to this high calling.”

This is certainly true of parents, but it is also true of teachers. Teachers are in positions of incredible influence. Sadly, there are teachers in the world who do cause their students to stumble. Many more of them, however, are doing their very best to influence their students, to teach them, to equip them to accomplish great things. This is true of many teachers in public schools as well as Christian schools and other private schools. What separates the Christian school teacher–or should–from those teachers in other schools is that they recognize the spiritual aspect of their responsibility. They are not simply equipping students to get high scores on tests, to get admitted to the best schools or to obtain the best positions in the workforce. While they may be doing those things, they are also–and more importantly–focusing on the spiritual development of their students.

Jeremiah writes, “The world says we ought to pursue degrees, titles, salaries, and accomplishments. But if you look intently into the eyes of your child [or student, I might add], the things that are truly important will become clear. The title you hold will fade, and your accomplishments will someday be forgotten; it is the investment you make into the spiritual life of your children that will outlive you and carry on into eternity.”

This is why Christian school teachers do what they do. They certainly do not do it for the money or for the hours. They do not do it for the reasons the world says we should do things. They do it because they have been called by God to teach, to invest in the lives of their students, and to make a difference for today and for the future.

May 3, 2013

How do you feel?

Another element of that slippery slope I seem to talk about here so frequently is the matter of “gender identity.” It used to be that we would hear occasionally about individuals who had had sex change operations, or about crossdressers. I think the first time I ever heard of any such thing was when I saw the movie Crocodile Dundee II, and there is a scene in which someone who appears to be a woman is actually a man. I was a teenager by the time I saw that movie. Granted, I grew up in a Christian home and may have lived a somewhat sheltered life, but the entire concept was foreign to me. Now, just 25 years after Crocodile Dundee came out, the issue has gone far beyond crossdressing and sex change surgeries.

So what is gender identity anyway? Dictionary.com defines it this way: “a person’s inner sense of being male or female, usually developed during early childhood as a result of parental rearing practices and societal influences and strengthened during puberty by hormonal changes.” Notice that this definition says nothing about anatomy; gender identity has to do with whether one feels make or female.

The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago has a not-as-yet-officially-launched entity under its umbrella called the Center for Gender, Sexuality, and HIV Prevention, led by Dr. Rob Garofalo. According to a March 23 article in WORLD Magazine the clinic has already “treated about 25 patients.” One of those patients was a child younger than nine who began “wearing dresses, identifying as a girl, and struggling with anxiety.” According to the article, the clinic is “one of a handful of children’s gender identity clinics to spring up in the United States over the past six years. These clinics provide psychological counseling intended to help children choose whatever gender they feel is best, and offer hormonal treatments to delay the onset of puberty.”

A couple of things jump out from those sentences.

First, recall the uproar in recent months in California and other places where there are efforts underway to ban counseling for individuals who want to overcome homosexual thoughts. Reparative therapy, as it is called, is just about guaranteed to fail, according to the powers that be in California, and also to cause stress and depression in those undergoing such counseling, despite the fact that it is only done at the request of the individual being treated. So while California has passed a law banning “anyone under the age of 18 from receiving licensed counseling that in any way steers them away from same-sex attraction, including away from sexual acts,” (according to an article in the Washington Times), it is perfectly fine to provide counseling and even hormone treatment for children who just are not sure whether they want to be boys or girls? And no one sees any contradiction here? There is plenty of debate over the idea that some people are “born” homosexual. There is, however, no debate over the fact that people are born male or female; it is obvious at birth (often even before birth with today’s sonogram technology) and the sex of every child is on their birth certificate! So, just to be sure we are clear, it is not acceptable–and indeed California wants to make it illegal–for a professional counselor, upon request of the counselee, to provide treatment to help someone who is struggling with homosexual thoughts to overcome those thoughts, yet it is perfectly fine for a therapist to help a child decide whether he/she feels like being a boy/girl, and even for a doctor to provide hormone treatment to prevent the child’s body from doing what it was designed to do.

Second, notice the important word “feels.” The counseling in these gender identity clinics is designed to help children determine which gender feels the best. So if someone is born a boy but feels like being a girl, we should both encourage and allow that. (But if someone feels homosexual tendencies and does not want to, we must not discourage them or help them overcome those desires!) We must be extremely careful of creating a world where we both encourage and allow people to do what they “feel is best.” If we remove absolutes and standards and facts and leave it all up to whatever anyone feels is best we will soon have complete and utter chaos. Notice, though, too, that those who encourage this “whatever feels best” attitude toward gender identity are the same ones who want to shut up anyone who takes the opposition position, presumably even when that “feels best” to them.

The WORLD article goes on to point out that the website for the Gender Management Service Clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital says that its doctors “help children cope with the disconnect they may feel between the body and gender they were born with. … Therefore, we try to help them develop a body that is consistent with their identity.” For the record, there can not be many things more absolutely clear than whether someone is born male or female. we are in trouble when we start encouraging and allowing that disconnect between anatomy and gender identity.

The WORLD article concludes with the statement that “children’s feelings aren’t a reliable guide for deciding on life-altering treatments, though: studies show many kids who question their gender stop doing so after puberty.” Quite frankly children’s feelings are not a reliable guide for much of anything; that is part of the growing up process–the development of preferences and likes/dislikes and so on. I cannot think of any other area in which children are permitted to voluntarily make permanent or life-altering decisions; why in the world would we allow it with something so significant as one’s body?

This is not just an academic discussion, either. A colleague in another Christian school (in California, as it happens) recently shared this: “Our middle school is part of a sports league for small private schools–some Christian, some secular. One of these secular schools has just announced that they have an eleven year boy who believes that he is a girl. The parents and the school have decided to support the child’s feelings by allowing him to dress in girls’ clothes and use the girls’ bathrooms.” This creates all kinds of challenges for this school. Surely the Christian school has policies preventing boys from dressing in girls clothes or from wearing make up. Surely boys are not allowed to use a girls restroom–and I am confident the girls and the parents of the girls very much prefer it that way! But this boy has decided that being a girl “feels best.” I do not know what the outcome in that situation will be, but I hope that school stands its ground, even if it means leaving the sports league as a result. We cannot allow the whims and feelings of a few people to alter the Truth of God’s Word or to dictate our obedience to His Word. The rights of a very small minority cannot trample the rights of a vast majority.

What we need is someone with a backbone to look this boy in the eye, or anyone else who feels as he does, and say, “You are a boy. You were born a boy, God made you a boy, and whether you feel like it or not, you are a boy. When you become an adult, if you want to wear a skirt or put on make up, you go right ahead. Until then, you will dress like a boy and be treated like a boy. And when you’re an adult, we’re still going to call you a male and treat you like a male whether you feel like one or dress like one or not. You can call yourself a girl, you can dress like a girl, you can act like a girl, you can even claim to be a girl. But guess what? You’re a boy.”

One last thought…. We must, as always, be careful where this road will take us. If gender identity becomes a choice, why not species identity? Suppose someone says they feel best as a dog or a monkey or a platypus? Shall we allow that? What about national identity? Suppose someone says they feel like their Egyptian despite the fact that they’re Canadian, or they feel Australian even though they’re Chinese? Racial identity? If I feel black does that mean I am, even though I am obviously white? What about age identity? I hear people all the time say they don’t feel their age. Suppose a 38 year old says she feels 16. Do we let her enroll in high school, play on the school volleyball team, be claimed as a dependent on her parent’s tax returns? Silly examples all, but they are the logical conclusions of letting people make decisions that have always been determined by birth based on how they feel.

May 2, 2013

Brainwashing Kids?

On Tuesday, April 30 Answers in Genesis posted an article entitled “Intolerant Atheists Viciously Attack Christian School.” In the article, written by AiG founder and president Ken Ham and Mark Looy, it is revealed that a fourth grade student who attends Blue Ridge Christian Academy in South Carolina recently wanted an AiG video in her science class and took a quiz on the video. The student received a 100% on the quiz, but apparently both her father and a family friend were quite angry when they learned that she was learning a biblical understanding of creation in general and dinosaurs specifically. The friend took a picture of the two-sided quiz and posted it on Reddit, and it then made its way through the atheists blogosphere. Then Snopes got a hold of the story and decided to investigate, since the original posts did not name the school where the quiz was given. Amazing, isn’t it, how incensed people can get over an 18-question elementary school science quiz when the questions on the test stem from a biblical worldview.

Snopes investigative efforts eventually led to an e-mail from the father of the student whose quiz was posted, in which he stated the following: “I didn’t know that this was being taught to her until we heard a radio commercial together about the Discover the Dinosaurs exhibit was coming to the TD Convention Center [in Greenville, South Carolina]. … The test showed up a day later to my disgust. It’s a great school for Reading, Writing and Math. She is ahead of most of her peers and also is taking Latin there. But I now know to be vigilant for the rest of the year about her science teachings. She will not be attending the school next year….”

It is difficult to countenance someone saying that they were completely surprised that this was being taught, given that the web site of Blue Ridge Christian Academy includes the school’s Statement of Beliefs, which begins with this: “We believe the Bible to be inspired; the only infallible, authoritative, inerrant Word of God (2 Timothy 3:15-16; 2 Peter 1:21).” Furthermore, if you make another click or two with your mouse you will find that BRCA’s web site also includes information about its curriculum. The Lower School Curriculum page states that Christian Schools International (CSI) materials are used for science classes, and states this: “Science lessons are creation-based, student-centered and hands-on.” Take a few more clicks with your mouse and make a few keystrokes and literally within less than 15 seconds I find the information on CSI’s web site regarding their science curriculum: “Christian Schools International’s 2nd edition science curriculum, revised in 2011, leads students to see God’s hand in the world around them. The materials will enrich their knowledge of creation, affirm their faith in the creator, and empower them to be good stewards of creation.” I am sure that BRCA requires parents of its students to sign an agreement acknowledging an understanding of the school’s Statement of Beliefs and an understanding that students in the school will be taught accordingly. Furthermore, it is a bit absurd for the father of this student to say that he had no idea this was being taught when his daughter has been at the school for who-knows-how-long already and when it is easily discernible within a few minutes on the computer.

Another blog site, entitled the Friendly Atheist, had this to say about the quiz in question: “…even if it’s legal, no school should be brainwashing kids like this in the name of science, and the father and the Reddit submitter have a duty to name the school when the time comes so we can expose them.” When I read that I was not sure whether to laugh or cry. This person is accusing BRCA in particular, along with Answers in Genesis, and anyone who holds to a biblical view of creation in general, of “brainwashing kids…in the name of science”! Isn’t that exactly what public schools are doing all across the country, teaching children that the earth is the result of a big bang and that life evolved over millions of years from some kind of ooze eventually becoming a monkey eventually becoming a man? Aren’t evolutionists the ones brainwashing kids in the name of science, touting the theory of evolution as scientific fact even though there is no scientific evidence to support the theory? And isn’t it ironic that in any other field of academic inquiry most intellectuals and academics and yes, liberals, claim to love the idea of exposing students to as many theories, opinions, arguments and just plain speculations as possible, but when it comes to science the creationist position must be shut out?

If you look around a little bit online you will find that the atheist, evolutionist and anti-Christian community is aghast that such stuff would be taught in a Christian school. The AiG article includes this reaction from the BRCA administrator: “The school administrator informed us she knew that the school would be involved in a spiritual battle after the quiz went public, but she was not expecting such ferocity. She told us she was shocked at the level of hate that the atheists poured down upon her, the teacher, and the school in general.”

I for one hope that BRCA will continue to stand strong for the truth of God’s Word in the face of this criticism, and that it will accept the hate being sent its direction as a high honor, a sign that the school is doing what God has called it to do. After all, Jesus Himself said that the world will hate His followers because it hated Him first (John 15:18).

I must echo Mr. Ham and Mr. Looy, who included this statement in their article: “More than ever, God’s people need to be standing up publicly and unashamedly for the authority of His Word.” Amen!

May 1, 2013

The Real World

I have one other issue with the column I addressed yesterday by Joy Pullman on the topic of online education. At the conclusion of the column Pullman quotes Angelika Weiss, the pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four from southern Minnesota who provided most of the material for Pullman’s column, saying this: “With online education, there is so much time not wasted in the classroom. My son can be out in the community volunteering or working. Let’s face it: The inside of a classroom isn’t the real world.”

That’s true, Mrs. Weiss, the inside of a classroom is not the real world. But then neither is the inside of a church. Should we all skip church on Sunday morning so we can spend more time working or maybe volunteering in the community? After all, we can read the Bible on our own, listen to Christian radio and watch or listen to sermons from respected pastors on our computers, so why go to church? Going somewhere where everyone either professes to be a Christian or to be open to the gospel, where we sit in classrooms to study the Bible together and in pews or padded chairs to sing hymns and praise songs before listening to someone teach the Bible…none of those things are anything like “the real world.” Given that Mrs. Weiss’s husband is a pastor, though, I suspect it would be safe to assume that neither she nor her husband would agree that we should all skip church in order to avoid “wasted time.”

Now I can already hear Mrs. Weiss and others responding with utter shock that I would suggest such a thing. “That’s not the same,” I can hear. Really? And why not, may I ask? Why do we go to church anyway? I mean sure, the Bible says we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together but why not? What do we get by going to church with fellow believers that we cannot get by staying at home and tapping into the multitude of resources available online, on TV, on radio and in print? We get interaction with other human beings. We get the accountability. We get the fellowship. We get to talk and question and wrestle with how to deal with “the real world” when we leave the church. With all due respect to my pastor and yours, I could find “better sermons” from “better preachers” than I am going to get when I go to church (and the people who sit and listen to me when I preach surely could!) but that does not mean I should skip church.

Sitting in a classroom may not be “the real world,” but it does prepare students for the real world. As with church, the experience of being in a school with other students–and teachers–provides a much richer educational opportunity than does sitting in front of a computer screen and interacting through typed text. That kind of interaction has its place, don’t get me wrong–and the opportunity to interact with people from around the country and around the world makes that kind of interaction very valuable as an element of a well rounded education. But I would suggest to Mrs. Weiss and to anyone else who laments the “wasted time” in school classrooms that–at least in a good school with effective teachers–there is not really much time that is truly wasted…and even that which might be is probably far better than the multitude of other ways students waste time every day.

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