The Gospel Coalition released an article detailing recent efforts to be salt and light in a community through involvement with the public schools. It sounds great—who could ever have a problem with helping children right? To this end, I have some thoughts which I would like for Christians to seriously consider.
There seems to exist within Christianity a sort of naiveté when it comes to these issues, along with a lack of maturity in being able to properly discern between good and evil in the application of God’s law in society. We need to think harder, deeper about what God’s law requires and then be more strategic in how we are seeking to advance the Kingdom.
Frederic Bastiat once said:
“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
Increasingly, our society does indeed glorify a legal system that advocates plunder of property. The rise of Bernie Sanders—an admitted socialist who came within a hair of the presidency, is a stark reminder. Christians need to recognize that government schools are a manifestation of this legal system—a system predicated on larceny and envy, a system which depends on the civil magistrate refusing to enforce the Eighth Commandment.
It is easy to get a photo that tugs on the heart strings of a Christian volunteer teaching a child to read in a public school. It is less easy to get the photo that makes this all possible—that of an IRS agent demanding payment from a homeschooling family with the threat of imprisonment in order to pay for an anti-Christian institution, while the church (and Karl Marx) stands by and applauds the action of the IRS agent.
There are scores of poor Christian homes (including single parent homes) who are moving heaven and earth trying to afford a Christian education for their children, all the while being forced to hand over thousands of dollars every year to an institution which they will never use; an institution which they also believe to be advancing a kingdom which is opposed to Christ’s Lordship; an institution which is one of the ten central planks of the Communist Manifesto.
Whatever your views on the morality of taxation, we know that according to Romans 13, government was instituted to punish evil doers for civil crimes. The civil magistrate is not obeying God if he is confiscating the property of citizens for purposes for which he was not ordained. The education of children is not the role and God-ordained purpose of the civil government. Education is the role of the family, and failing that the church.
Non-withstanding this moral argument, there is also a pragmatic argument. Here I am not being mean spirited, but I also want to be blunt and not coddle anyone. It is stupid to have an education system that is run by the government—foolish. Christianity should be no friend to well-meaning stupidity. No one would want to advance a grocery store system that is run by the government. Everyone needs to get fed. Everyone needs to get educated. The way to make sure this happens with the highest quality and most efficiently does not include 25,000 government grocery stores nor does it include 25,000 government schools. If, as a transitional step, we want to include voluntary vouchers to direct towards children who cannot afford school (similar to the food stamp system) this would be a far better solution than we have now. Remember as the current government monopoly on education is eradicated, the assets sold off and the teachers now working at private schools, quality would go up, and price would go down. Competition, incentive, efficiency and innovation would take over. The church could play a massive role in funding educational vouchers for the poor.
In any case, Christians should be leading the way in a positive direction to this end, not following along and propping up an obsolete, inefficient statist leviathan—then (as we read in the above The Gospel Coalition article) making the mistake of calling such support an imperative of the Gospel!
If there are any that are assuming this is coming from a place of a lazy do nothing grumpy-pants who just wants to complain while others toil, let me be clear: No one is calling for Christians to end caring for the poor and needy children who need education. To the contrary, we need to re-direct our labors, not end them! Redirect them in a Godly direction towards actually building Christian schooling institutions which provide church financed vouchers for needy children in the community to take advantage of. Here these needy children will not only hear the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom, they will also be taught a Biblically comprehensive Christian worldview which they can pass on to their children. Education alone does not eradicate poverty. Marx was educated and he advocated a system which when practiced led to the poverty of millions. Education in Godliness and Biblical principles of morality, responsibility, hard work, respect for private property is the stuff that actually changes things in a society for the long term.
Everyone can agree that these churches and volunteers want to help children and be salt and light in the community, an admirable and Godly motive. I am glad that they are not embracing a “just preach the Gospel” mentality. It is truly a wonderful thing to teach a child who is needy and poor how to read, and to volunteer to do so. Even if you are not allowed to share the Gospel or pray with them as in this case. To be clear, Christians volunteering to help these kids to learn to read is a moral good. Just as it’s a moral good to give a starving child in Africa a cup of water. That is being Jesus to them. But giving a starving child in Africa a piece of bread, while advocating the advance of the corrupt and anti-Christian institutions that created the problem in the first place is where we have a real problem. Living among wolves, we need to be innocent as doves but we also need to be as wise as serpents who are aware that there actually are wolves all around.
Rather than lending legitimacy to these failing institutions that shouldn’t exist at all, let us instead seek to throw our energies and our charity towards building up actual Godly institutions that will bless the cities in which we live. That is true salt and light, light that pierces and defeats the darkness at the root.