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Parents Must Trust God in Education Choices for Children visitors involved with both Christian and mainstream school education respond to the letter to the editor titled, "Mainstream Schools: "Where Are the Christians?"

The letters below are a response to the article titled, Mainstream Schools asking: Where are all the Christians?. Readers say, Not only does Christian education serve children and communities, but mainstream schools are blessed with teachers who know Christ and are salt and light in their schools.

Christ touches students in mainstream schools

After reading the original article Public Schools Called Increasingly Hostile to Christians, and a letter responding to that article titled Mainstream Schools asking: Where are all the Christians?, I thought that I may be able to give a seldom heard perspective.

… they are bringing Jesus Christ glory and His message a step closer to the children in our public schools.

I am a Christian educator in the public school system. Before beginning my career in an inner city school I served as a youth pastor and as a supervisor in a non-government funded school. I am pleased to say that many public schools, including mine, have been marked with the presence of Jesus Christ.

You see, when I run into conflict with a student or a parent, I pray. I pray for my students and for my fellow staff members. After "Oh, Canada" is played each day, I silently pray for God to give my students grace and success for the day. I meet with another faculty member once per cycle to pray for God's guidance, and that He would direct our administrators, the board members, and give hope to the families that are represented by the students of our school.

In my small hallway there are four home rooms. In this same hallway there are three Evangelical teachers who are at our school not just to deliver curriculum, but to make a difference, and to be an influence in the lives of young people. I know of several Christian staff who have been sought out by "undercover" believers among the student population to provide a listening ear, or counsel through a crisis.

It is not uncommon to see a Christian staff member in our school opening his room at lunch and start playing contemporary Christian music while students sit and listen. It is also not uncommon to find members of our staff who will go out of their way to provide comfort, food, or clothing to children in need. People are doing things in Jesus' name that may never be seen or reported, but I assure you, they are bringing Jesus Christ glory and His message a step closer to the children in our public schools.

I say all this to say that Jesus may not be welcomed by policy makers, but He is certainly alive and well in the lives of many in the public school system. Jesus is leaving His mark on students and parents through individuals in the system who are simply being salt and light. In this way, through the lives of individual believers, our public schools can become places where Jesus is welcomed and not shunned.

Jamie Neumann, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Christian schooling as preparation for life

I've just quickly read through Mr. Ellis' response Mainstream Schools asking: Where are all the Christians?, and while I agree that we need to be involved in our community, I think his opinion is making a few dangerous generalizations. I don't believe Christians are disappearing from anywhere, quite frankly. Nor do I think all parents who choose a Christian school for their children are doing so with a passive, over-protective purpose.

The difference for our family … our children understand life in a bigger way than we were ever taught.

To say that a Christian school is a protected environment is to suggest there are sinless adults and children involved. In truth, a school system's difference isn't in the goings-on so much as in the way we're permitted (and expected) to handle life. We can't say Christian schools are a protected environment any more than we can say that every public school is an absolute den of iniquity.

I have been living in this little town since I was in junior high school in the late '70s. I was raised in the church by parents with vibrant faith who taught us well, but spent much of my late teen/early adulthood in complete disregard of that part of my upbringing, both morally and spiritually. It hardly seems like much time has passed, but I now find myself coming to the end of my own children's growing up years. Much to my surprise and thankfulness, the results are surprisingly full of grace: two lovely, moral women of faith already moved away from home, one compassionate and courageous young fellow still at home in elementary school.

We are extremely involved in our community and always have been: the arts, service projects, and sports, sports, sports. We're often called upon by many community members and organizations (including many other churches) to help with projects; we're well known and apparently thought of as viable members of our community. Many who go to our school are. And many who go to our school can be seen any night of the week fellowshipping alongside fans at hockey and basketball games, both in local public facilities and in the public schools. We're involved. It's important to note that many times when we're called upon, it's in times of distress—people know we can be counted upon for something much bigger than us. People see our Saviour in us (perhaps they don't understand what they're looking at, but they know it's our faith that makes the difference).

Yes, we are a family who chooses Christian schooling for our children. We make that choice, not to protect and hide them, but to prepare them for life. We're choosing a Christian school—a school full of real human beings who make mistakes daily—to be the iron that sharpens our family's iron.

The difference for our family has been borne out this way: our children understand life in a bigger way than we were ever taught. Even our eleven year old son is wiser in many ways than we were when we were much older than him. Here's part of the reason: because we're in our Christian school five days a week, we're discovering that our faith and salvation is worked out on a daily basis. We have no choice but to [sometimes] struggle through together while God, and life, work at developing us. We don't have the luxury of saying goodbye to other people's foibles on a Sunday after church.

We aren't simply poked and challenged by each other at a weekly service or two and maybe a meeting on the side. For better or for worse, we're working at this together for 200 days of the year, or even for 12 years! (Or in our case, 24 years.) We made that choice 17 years ago, and it is the primary tool God has used to fashion our faith in us.

While it's true that many people run to the Christian schools to hide from things they don't like elsewhere. I've been involved in our little school long enough to know that it's not a successful solution in many of those cases. Some who run for cover find out running doesn't work, but end up seeing the bigger picture; they realize we're here to prepare for now and for the future. But some are as dissatisfied with a Christian school as with any other education system; there are bullies and teachers and learning styles and required disciplines just about everywhere. Some parents have forgotten that we send our children to any school for preparation.

Christians can be so hard on Christians. We're sometimes less forgiving of those brothers and sisters who we think should know better. This life is a process. Education is a life-long thing. We're all getting educated in the public school, and at community choir; in the arena, and at the post office; in the grocery store line-up, and, yes, on the playground, in the hallways and in the classrooms at our Christian school. No running and hiding. And our lights are still shining.

Please let us not assume that all schools are the same. There are schools in every system that are achieving a noble goal, and many which miss the mark. Neither should we assume we know the motivation for a parent to choose an alternative—they may have chosen for the right reasons. (And who's to decide what's right, anyway?)

Let's act out our faith in our homes, in the hallways, and in the public places. And let's be careful of our opinions: what if—just, what if our children get called to a training field we never thought useable?

Teresa Craig, Rimbey, Alberta.

Statistics show children need protection

I was disappointed to read Rick Ellis's rehashing of a point of view that has proven to be tragically and fatally flawed over the past 40 or 50 years. You have only to examine the beliefs of "born again" young people to realize that an extraordinarily large percentage of teens who attend Evangelical churches and youth groups don't understand even the basics of our faith.

According to Barna's surveys in his book Real Teens the majority of self-described "born again" teens do not believe Jesus led a sinless life. A similar proportion believe that Jesus is not the only way to salvation, and that personal good works can earn it. The majority also believes that the Holy Spirit and Satan are not real beings, just symbols of good and evil.

Has the Evangelical church failed these teens? How? By not teaching enough apologetics as was recommended in the article, Back to School with Doubts About Jesus, (and please note that "school" in this title refers to Trinity Western University and the students with the doubts are Evangelicals). Hardly!

Most teens from Evangelical families spend a maximum of three hours a week under the teaching of their church although some may stretch that to six hours. In contrast, the vast majority of them spend 25 to 30 hours a week in secular education where the claims of Christ and the development of a Christian worldview are unwelcome. Add to that the fact that the average teen spends over 40 hours a week focussing on secular media messages on T.V., on the internet, and in popular music and you start to see a significant part of the problem. That's three to six hours a week exposed to a Christian worldview and 65 to 70 hours a week under the influence of a life perspective where God is not welcome. Three hours versus 70—I wonder which will have the greater influence?

If you want to see how that plays out as "born again" teens become adults, read Ron Sider's book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. Turns out that the statistics on divorce, spousal abuse, racism and a whole lot of other social ills are just about the same in the Evangelical community as they are in the general population. Maybe that's because the vast majority of Evangelical have been trained up in a secular value system by secular education and secular media.

And concerning Mr. Ellis's assertion that somehow the best Christians have been removed from secular education indicates he is once again out of touch with reality. In Canada less than one half of one percent of elementary and high school students attend Christian schools or are involved in home schooling. In the U.S. it is closer to two percent. That doesn't seem like a whole lot to me. Surely that means that the vast majority of "born again" students are in public schools. So why do those secular educators (or that one that he quotes) think that all the Christians have left the secular system? Maybe it's because those Christian kids in secular schools look, act and think a whole lot like non-Christian students. Maybe that is because many of them have discovered that they are no match for a secularizing monolith and consciously or unconsciously accept its precepts and belief. There really aren't a whole lot of "Davids" out there, Mr. Ellis, but there are a lot of kids with wonderful potential who are being lost as a result of powerful secularizing influences that include secular education.

We in Christian schools and Christian home schools need to thank Mr. Ellis however, for the very kind compliment he pays us—a compliment that I hope we wouldn't be boastful enough to claim for ourselves. He indicates that we have taken some of the outstanding Christian kids out of "the system." (I will refrain from commenting on the fact that he characterizes public education as "the" system). Concerning Christian schools, Mr. Ellis, the fact is that we enrol a pretty broad spectrum of students academically, behaviourally and spiritually, including in many cases a fair proportion of non-Christians. We are very pleased that you perceive some of our students as outstanding Christian kids, and if that is truly the case, we can only say that's because we are a bit like the stable in Bethlehem—nothing special about us. What makes us unique, and what makes the difference, is that in our schools and home schools Jesus Christ is welcome, and consequently He does the wonderful work of changing the lives of many of those students—some of whom you have obviously noticed.

Mark Kennedy is the Regional Director, Eastern Canada, Association of Christian Schools International. He can be reached at:

Home education provides a great start to life

Regarding homeschooling being a tactic of the enemy as implied by Rick Ellis, that is a very strong statement in itself judgemental. Maybe some parents home educate their families out of fear, but many do so after seriously coming before the Lord for His wisdom and direction. After all, it is the responsibility of parents to ensure that the family is spiritually nourished and grounded on the foundation of God's truth.

Blaming Christian education on the enemy is too simplistic …

There are those who choose to send their children to the mainstream system. That is their choice before the Lord and we should not judge them, nor should home educators be judged for making different choices.

There are many ways home educated children can engage the lost in society, with less danger to their souls. When children are reared in protected environments and then allowed to engage the world at appropriate times and in useful manners, they are well-equipped to be salt and light, without losing their saltiness. In fact, greenhouse plants do well when started indoors. Imagine placing seedlings in a cold harsh winter environment, and expecting them to be tough enough to grow mature! We wouldn't think of it. They would die before having a chance to grow.

Home educating is a great start to life, and life is not just about schooling in an academic system. Academics are a poor substitute for Christian character. And what about the ungodly "facts" shoved down the throats of children by some atheist teachers who have little to no respect for parents unless they agree with the system?

We have seen some Christian youth from the system and their character leaves much to be desired, so sending children to school is not always the answer.

All this to say that blaming home education and private schools on the enemy is too simplistic and truly and it gives him too much credit. God has indeed directed people in these ways; we need to beware of looking for a demon behind every rock.

Bill Standish, Killaloe, Ontario

Children aren't equipped to battle giants

I would like to respond to the comments made by Rick Ellis regarding the need for a Christian presence in today's public schools. I believe that I have a perspective somewhat unique to the discussion as it has developed so far since I am a fairly recent graduate of the secular education system myself. I have been subjected to the public education system from my earliest years, let it challenge the values of my upbringing, and have come forth as a man tempered for Christ. It is my testimony that this is one of the most potentially damaging things that you could ever do to your child.

… secular teaching, though it might not be specifically anti-Christian, is specifically anti-fundamentalist.

I was exactly that child that Mr. Ellis suggested would run to do battle with "the giant." As a young child of six I had never even thought to question that there was a God and that He was worthy of my praise. My knowledge of right and wrong was founded firmly in the truth of the Scriptures. The only problem with this is that I was very much like the seedling Mr. Standish described struggling for survival.

It is not adequate, however, to describe the scenario in those terms, as it suggests that the world attacks Christian beliefs with an impartial force. I would prefer to liken it to sending your six-year-old to physically fight a seasoned boxer. If it sounds irresponsible, that's because it is. The challenge will not strengthen your child, for he doesn't even have a fighting chance.

What many fail to consider when they promote sending your children into the world to be the light of Christ, is that they are not prepared. They aren't simply presenting their case to their fellow students in the school yard; they are having to defend their simplistic understanding to teachers whose knowledge and reasoning are beyond their ability to overcome. It is, in my mind, akin to sending your children to a white supremacist meeting without supervision and hoping they'll be a good influence on the group rather than accepting the obvious truth that the meeting will be bad influence on them.

Scripture says: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). It does not say "send your child to someone you don't know and can't trust to tell him the way he should go (even though its the wrong way) because your child might convince them they are wrong."

Do not mistake my sarcasm as criticism of those who send their children to public school out of necessity; it is not. Many Christians simply can not afford to send their children to a private school, or quit their jobs to home school (even though I would hypothesize that there are a lot more who could afford this sacrifice than probably believe it.) Parents who must leave their child's education to others in the secular system must be vigilant in countering the multitude of convincing and damaging lies their children will hear in the course of their education.

Those who might feel that I'm being an alarmist, fail to realize that secular teaching, though it might not be specifically anti-Christian, is specifically anti-fundamentalist. Please understand that I do not mean the tea-totalling, non-card playing definition of fundamentalism. According to the secular definition, anyone who believes in an absolute system of values with a clear right and wrong is a fundamentalist. If your child tries to back Christian values in the classroom they can expect ridicule from the teacher and well articulated arguments as to why Christian values are wrong.

Perhaps they will be lucky enough to have those Christian teachers who are bold enough to represent Christ; I did not. I respect teachers who face persecution in a system levelled against them, but that is far removed from children who are too young to make a clear or conscious decision on anything. If you are able, do as some do—home-school—or send your child to a Christian school until your child is a well established young adult. I met several such young adults in my high school and they were a guide to me as to how corrupt I had become from immersing myself in the secular society.

In summation, although I do not doubt the clarity of my stance, I do not believe it is wise to send your children to school as missionaries. They are grossly under-prepared for any such task. If a parent needs to send their child to public school, they must do so with much prayer and intimate guidance to prevent them from falling astray.

You see, if you leave your child's upbringing in the hands of the public system, you are willingly letting them build their foundation in sand. I had this foundation and, by His glorious grace, God saw fit to deliver me and open my eyes to the truth. I would not change my background because it is part of who I am, and I do not fault my parents for sending me to a public school. I will say, however, that I was not able to overcome the lies of this current generation until I was older. I had my ways set in the wrong paths and I have had to struggle with a legacy of sin that I learned was not wrong when I was in school.

Neal Whitman

The public school system has lost its way

In his letter, Rick Ellis uses the analogy of the Samaritan stopping to help the wounded man on the Jericho Road. Perhaps there are some high schools out there that have been robbed, beaten and left to die. My experience, however, has been different.

In the part of the country where I live, the high school system is not being robbed, it has not been beaten, and it is quite secure behind the massive walls of government and union protection. However many of the Christian parents who are traveling down the road of life with their children, are being subjected to pressure to conform and adapt to the standards which the public school system is pushing for.

In my particular community, I had to make the choice between giving my son a home school education, or putting him into a school that is like a moral sewer. My son is my responsibility. If I send him to a school that pressures him to conform to values which I know will morally corrupt him, I will be held responsible.

There may be public schools out there that are good, but the one in my community is not. The way it looks now, the system is not getting any better. The public school system will die. It was perhaps founded on good principles, but has lost its way. Just some food for thought.

Jacob Enns

Public schools indoctrinate secular thinking

I just read your article ' Main Stream Schools are asking "Where are all the Christians"? I might reply, a lot of children from Christian homes are not as articulate as people writing this article. A lot of kids get indoctrinated with all kinds of lies regarding evolution, abortion, deviant sexual behaviour. Certain schools have been removing any vestige of Christianity during the Christmas holidays.

Also the bulling and violence in public schools has caused many parents to either home school their children or put them in private schools.

Yes some children may be strong enough to handle the pressures at a public school, but I would rather have my children taught Judeo-Christian values during their most formative years so they have a strong foundation on which to base their lives.

I do not believe every Christian or secular private school is the perfect answer for every situation, but I have seen some vile teaching in public schools. When the principle was advised of it by an offended parent, he shrugged it off and basically told the parent that if they didn't like it they could take their child to another school. I know of another instance where a couple of lesbian women came into a health class of boys and girls and used a banana to show them how a condom in put on. They had many colors and made a big joke of it all. My Christian friend's 15-year-old daughter was in that class and she was embarrassed and deeply offended. Also in some schools Christian students are not permitted to pray on school property or take a Bible to school and read it. Such occurrences are just part of the persecution Christian children are exposed to.

Many more children will be removed from public schools if there is no change in society's attitude toward Christians. In fact, I have been reading a book titled, The Criminalization of Christianity, by Janet Folger, and I would recommend that all Christians read it.

Ken Bergstrom

Hostility is increasing against Christians

As one who attended both secular and Christian elementary and high schools (many years ago mind you) I believe I have a somewhat unique perspective on the subject. I also have an undergraduate degree from a secular university in the geological sciences and a Masters degree from a Christian school. Furthermore having a mother who taught all of her career in the public system, and now myself having two children who also attended the public system, I have had much time to reflect upon the dilemma we find ourselves in with regard to the education of our youth.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a time when our culture still at least gave lip service to Christian values. It was honest enough to admit, for instance, that "some scientists believe … " when it came to teaching evolutionary thought. There were certain things that were right and certain things that were wrong, and you could rest assured that most discipline meted out at home for misbehaviour was reinforced at school too, and visa versa.

Today that is not the case. And it is not the case in spades! In fact today you can be assured that in many schools children and youth are openly told to defy parental values and discipline. Or, in subtle, or not-so-subtle ways the teachings of home and church are branded as old-fashioned and out-of-date, barbaric, or just plain stupid. And in many instances it is mandated that values and ideas deliberately contrary to Christian—even scientific—teachings be foisted upon unsuspecting, impressionable youth.

As we are all aware, children and young people are heavily influenced by both their teachers, the educational philosophy conveyed through their textbooks, the teaching methods, and subtle, but strong messages introduced in the classroom. With a strong Christian background, and with what I would consider deliberate and consistent Christian teaching in our home, I found that our children were nevertheless heavily influenced by the philosophy of the world as taught in the public school system. We would often have some interesting discussions about values, morals and content of the education they received.

Unfortunately, I noticed that our children tended to be influenced more by the school and all it taught, than by the Christian education they were taught at home and in church. This would show itself in subtle ways like their deep sympathy with the homosexual agenda that was foisted on their minds, or their acceptance of the relativistic philosophy of our day ("there are many 'truths' out there, Christianity is just one old-fashioned one"). Most children, not wanting to be 'different' or 'odd' do not have the strength of character or wisdom of years to be able to stand up to teachers who may ridicule, brow-beat and otherwise put down "Christian" things. Mine were no different. And when we discussed these things at home, it was clear that at the end of the discussion the secular philosophy continued to hold sway in their hearts (even though intellectually they might have agreed with Christian principles and values) because their actions subtly or openly continued reflect the secular philosophy they had learned. We might ascribe this to the natural tendency of young people to rebel against parental values, but it is also a reflection of the over-powering influence of the world's values.

And if this can happen where I would consider children to be receiving fairly strong teaching on Christian values with sound argumentation and a good home environment, then what chance do children from otherwise "ordinary" Christian homes have (this is not meant to put anyone down but my experience is that the average Christian parent feels totally overwhelmed in their ability to counter the school system and teachers)? The results are predictable and overwhelming: we are raising a generation of young people who on the surface are "Christian" but who do not know how to think "Christianly"—to use Harry Blamires' term, The Christian Mind—about even Christian things, let alone worldly things!

Now, we could "blame" parents, the church, or any number of things (all of which may have some element of truth), but the bottom line is these young people are entering the world unable to defend their faith, or many times, abandoning it altogether.

I am therefore coming to the conclusion that in this increasingly hostile environment it would be better that we teach these "pieces of wet clay" within a thoroughly Christian environment, not isolate them as detractors of Christians schools like to portray it, but to help them to understand

• the Christian/biblical outlook on life, and

• how to speak intelligently to a world that has an entirely different worldview.

Even if we put children in a Christian school, the world is still all around us: TV, radio, music, news, etc., will still all be there and children will still have to interact with them. But within a somewhat controlled environment we can help them to develop the confidence and ability to assess and interact in a manner that is not schizophrenic and conflicted. Moreover, we can help them to think not only of Christian things with a "Christian mindset" but also to approach the world with that same mindset.

I would sustain my argument from a conversation I once had with a friend who had attended Dallas Theological Seminary. He told me that some of his classmates had gotten their Masters degree in theology there and had then gone on to attend some of the more theologically liberal schools around the world for the doctorates. However, given their strong education at Dallas, designed to equip them to withstand all of the argumentation and philosophy of the most liberal of instructors, these people were able to defend their Evangelical, even "fundamentalist," positions and graduate in spite of what the liberal schools taught them.

We need to do the same for our children. In this day when there is increasing hostility towards all things Christian, we need it more than ever. Otherwise, with only few exceptions, we will face a capitulation, on the part of most, to the world's values, philosophies and instruction. And Jesus' words of Matthew 24:10 will be realized in our own time, "and at that time many will fall away … ".

Jim Church, B.Sc., M.Div., Peace River, Alberta

Let's follow God's battle plans

Thank you, Mr. Ellis, for the update on your work within the school system. We rejoice with you that God is blessing your work and even extending it beyond to other schools. Thank you for your faithfulness in this area and I pray God continues to work in you and through you. He's so faithful.

… let us encourage each other, pray for each other and lift each other up.

I was, however, deeply hurt and concerned by your negative perception of other choices of Christian parents and that you would cut them down so harshly. You claim that they are not following Jesus as the "friend of sinners," that they are retreating and hiding from the battle, that they are quivering in fear or asleep and not engaged in battle. Also you attack their relationship with God; they don't know God as exciting, powerful or loving and their relationship would not supply them with the passion to live, fight or die for their Savior.

I will grant you that some Christians are hiding, but many believing parents are on their knees for wisdom from God on how to raise their children. They are following His instructions by educating their children by private, public and home schooling. They are not doing it to preserve or kill an institution but to be obedient to their Lord.

Our God is one of great wisdom and knowledge beyond our understanding. He knows where the spiritual battles are, and will be, and how they must be fought. He fits His army with soldiers whom He has prepared with weapons and experience of His design and only in following His orders are they safe. He is our general and we dare not question His training or His battle plans.

If our Lord in His wisdom leads some to send their children to public schools and impact the teachers there for Christ and minister there to those lost and hurting, I praise His name.

If He graciously sends others for spiritual training to Christian schools and to do battle there and wash the feet of those rejected there, I praise His name.

Still, if He lovingly instructs some to train their children at home and they bring the heart of Jesus to those who smell and are addicts at a food bank or write letters to leaders reminding them of their responsibility to their constituents, praise His name.

Dear brother, it is right to admonish each other when admonishment is required, but I truly believe yours is not. Rather let us encourage each other, pray for each other and lift each other up. We are in a war together, fighting the same enemy. Let us aim our weapons in the right direction. A house divided against itself cannot stand (see Matthew 12:25).

Blessings to you as you continue to make yourself available to our Lord,

Cathie VanBenthem-Winnipeg, MB




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