February 5, 2008
Al Mohler is Too Cool for School
The outspoken Southern Baptist says it’s time for Christians to abandon public schools.
Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, has a reputation for diving fearlessly into controversial issues. A visit to his Wikipedia page reveals his history of treading into cultural minefields and not leaving until every bomb has detonated. His penchant for pyrotechnics continues with his latest book, Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth (Multnomah, 2008). Mohler addresses issues like faith and politics, morality and law, war and terror, homosexuality, and abortion - that's a lot of mines to detonate in 160 very small pages.
In a chapter entitled "Needed: An Exit Strategy from Public Schools," Mohler argues that "public schools are prime battlegrounds for cultural conflict." In Massachusetts, for example, children as young as seven years old have been assigned a book called King & King, in which a homosexual prince falls in love with another prince and, one assumes, lives happily ever after. Because same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, educators insist that a homosexual lifestyle be presented in public schools as normal and, as a result, they affirm the districts' decision to require the book. Many Christians object to this sort of curriculum, but what can be done?
Mohler suggests the following:
I am convinced that the time has come for Christians to develop an exit strategy from the public schools. Some parents made this decision long ago. The Christian school and home school movements are among the most significant cultural developments of the last thirty years. Other parents are not there yet. In any event, an exit strategy should be in place.
This suggestion elicits questions about Christian mission and presence in the world. Will the darkness become even more pervasive if we stage a mass exodus from public school systems? On the other hand, do we risk the souls of our children for the sake of outreach?
But Mohler's solution also has implications for church leadership. He continues:
This strategy would affirm the basic and ultimate responsibility of Christian parents to take charge of the education of their own children. The strategy would also affirm the responsibility of churches to equip parents, support families, and offer alternatives.
I'd like to hear what all of you Ur-banites think. Do churches have a responsibility to offer alternatives to public education? Is it appropriate for church leaders to decide for their congregations whether their children ought to remain in public schools or move to a private or home school environment?
Mohler is certainly right about one thing; it is only a matter of time before Christians in every region of the country face challenges like the one described above. He is also right that churches are responsible for equipping parents to respond to their children's difficult questions. But how? How can church leaders equip believers - including their very youngest members - to follow Jesus and be salt and light? And what does that mean for our relationship to public schools?