If you’ve been a member of Christian Educators for more than a couple of years, you likely remember the monthly Washington Watch column by our beloved John Mitchell. John faithfully brought us news relevant to education and helped us to think (and act) biblically in response.
I am excited to announce that we are going to resume that high calling (and try to live up to John’s legacy) through this new monthly feature: Free to Teach.
I will write most of the columns, but will occasionally invite a guest contributor. But here is where I need your help. At some point, you and I are likely to disagree, or I may even offend you. Should that happen, this is what I ask of you:
- Please respond with loving, humble, and honest dialogue, rather than anger. One of my favorite Proverbs is “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (18:17). I have found myself on both ends of this equation in the past. Let’s commit to being teachable.
- A disagreement does not require a breaking of fellowship. Don’t equate my perspectives in a column with official policy statements from Christian Educators. If we disagree, realize that you are not funding related activism—your membership dues do not fund political activity.
In communications to constituents, many organizations seek to find the most outrageous embodiments of our most pressing cultural fears and continually place them in front of their audiences. It’s a great way to generate clicks, shares, likes, and donations—and there will be times when I feel compelled to comment on some of these examples.
However, my hope is to not lead us into fear or outrage, but to prayer, trust, peace, and godly action. The wonderful thing about serving Jesus is that we know the future and have His power in the present. We have nothing to fear.
Furthermore, Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 5:12 that it is not our responsibility to judge those outside the church. Those who don’t know Jesus and therefore act like they don’t know Jesus shouldn’t surprise us, even though as citizens in a democratic republic we will sometimes need to advocate for better public policies that protect the vulnerable, limit the reach of sin, and incentivize righteousness. But first and foremost, we need to pray and love. It’s His kindness that leads to repentance (Rom. 2:4), and Jesus said the distinguishing characteristics of His followers in the world would be love for each other (John 13:35) and love for our enemies (Matt. 5:44).
Our team prayed at length over the title of this column: Free to Teach. As it develops, I see at least two meanings of freedom informing what we share and hopefully, the dialogue that ensues in the responses and comments.
- First, we will certainly highlight ways in which governmental authority and cultural pressure are interfering with our freedom to teach with wisdom. Today’s assaults on our freedom to teach come largely from efforts to impose identities upon our students that are rooted in sexuality, gender, and race—that intend to seek justice but too often sow division and cultivate a victim mentality that breeds resentment and anger. In Free to Teach, we won’t shy away from pointing out injustice in our educational systems and spurring each other on to love across lines like gender and race. But we will start with an affirmation that those who teach with biblical wisdom seek to root their students’ identities in their uniqueness as individuals created in God’s image and then encourage virtue in their attitudes and behaviors.
- Second, we recognize that true freedom is more spiritual than political. One of my favorite thinkers, Robert P. George, writes:
True freedom consists in the liberation of the human person from the shackles of ignorance, oppression and vice…A free person is enslaved neither to the sheer will of another nor to his own appetites and passions.
One of the “passions” we are most often enslaved to is our own fear. As I travel the country ministering to Christian educators in our public schools, I find that while the cultural, political, and legal obstacles are strong, the biggest hindrances to the freedom to teach are often found in our own minds and hearts. In Free to Teach, I hope to encourage faith to rise up in our readers—the faith that knows that God is bigger than the challenges we face and that those very challenges are often opportunities for God to be glorified as we step out in bold and loving obedience.
Obviously, this Free to Teach is more introductory in nature, and the next column will likely feature more “newsy” content, but here are a few things to keep in mind as we start school.
- For news about education and legal issues from a biblical perspective, I highly recommend the Schooled and Liberties newsletters from WORLD. Do yourself a favor and go to wng.org/newsletters to sign up.
- I participated last week in a Zoom call about After School Satan Clubs put on by Brad Dacus and the Pacific Justice Institute. It was certainly an interesting experience as Satan Clubbers attended in significant numbers and essentially took over the chat with a constant stream of accusations of hypocrisy and snarky questions. It certainly gave us an opportunity to love our enemies! Here is the recording (though it does not include the chat!). In the chat, I asked the Satanists whether the Satan Club curriculum was about Satan (knowing it wasn’t), leading several of them to respond, “Satan doesn’t exist!” This admission exposes their real agenda. They call them “Satan Clubs” not because they want to have a club about Satan, but because they want to anger parents and create a controversy that leads school districts to shut down all after-school clubs, like Good News Clubs. Let’s not give in to this cynical strategy, but rather call their bluff. Let them have a Satan club (they have the same legal rights as others), but let’s pray against the work of our spiritual enemy and see who actually shows up. Satan Clubs that have actually gotten off the ground usually have very small attendance. And could the presence of a Satan Club lead more followers of Jesus to rise up and engage in our public schools?
- The NEA recently held its annual convention, and has begun hiding its proceedings behind a login screen inaccessible to the public. Nonetheless, much of what they did has leaked out, including NBI 1, which allocates $583,400 of union members’ dues for:
- Training that presents an LGBTQ+ narrative and confronts and combats “anti-LGBTQ+” legislation and rhetoric, especially at the local school board level
- Programs aimed at improving school climate and culture, particularly addressing the need for access to gender-affirming care
- Educator-led professional development, particularly in areas of using pronouns, how to support transitioning students, LGBTQ+ inclusive practices and policies, etc.
Not to be left out, the AFT is involved in similar efforts. If you have colleagues who are still paying union dues, this is a great time to remind them that they can get out and stop contributing to the sexualization and confusion of our students through their union dues. Many state unions have opt-out windows occurring now or that are coming soon. Learn more at christianeducators.org/unions.
- Texas recently became the first state to pass a law allowing chaplains in public schools—not to proselytize, but to act as “spiritual first responders.” Proponents argue that it will help the mental health crisis we are facing in our schools.
All of these developments are opportunities for us to be on our knees contending for God’s purposes in our schools!
Lord Jesus, pour out your Spirit upon these precious educators as they start their school year. Give them wisdom and insight into the hearts and minds of their students, so they can partner with you in calling out their gifts, abilities, identities, and destinies. In Jesus’ name.
- George, Robert P. “Freedom and Its Counterfeit.” Imprimis. August 2003, Volume 32, Issue 8. https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/freedom-and-its-counterfeit/
David Schmus is the Executive Director of Christian Educators.
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P.S. Please join us for “Standing on the Front Lines: Legal Answers for Christian Educators” on Thursday, Sept. 14 at 8:00 PM Eastern/5:00 PM Pacific. Tyson Langhofer from Alliance Defending Freedom will join us to answer your questions about issues you are facing at your school.