By Kyle Henderson
Last week my local theater was showing The Sound of Music on the big screen. The theater was filled with the lush sound track and the spectacular cinematography. Though I have seen the movie many times, I had never seen it on a big screen. The thing that struck me in this viewing was the visual and palpable difference between the world inside the convent and the outside world. There seems to be a growing nostalgia for this retreat mentality among Christians. People are longing for a world where their children and even they themselves do not have to confront the pluralistic world in which we live. They seem to long for a world where Christians would not even have to look at non-Christians.
A great example is happening down in Texas. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is also the leader of the Texas Senate, was able to get the Senate to pass the first voucher bill in the state in 22 years of trying. His bill would plow through the wall of separation of church and state and reduce public monies for schools and line the pockets of Christian schools. He was able to accomplish this remarkable feat by demonizing the public schools. They have become the new enemy. His hand-picked “Grassroots Advisory Board” launched a salvo across the bow of public education last week, asserting that placing children in public school programs was putting them in “a Godless environment” and that early childhood education has been “historically promoted in socialistic countries.” During the Senate hearings about the voucher bill, Sen. Donna Campbell called public schools a “monstrosity.” They see public schools as the new “boogie man,” the Golem prowling the streets to snatch-up unsuspecting students.
Now we have it out in the open; these individuals are seeking to dismantle public education. I sat in the Senate hearing and was stunned by the breathtaking disdain for public schools, for public school teachers and administrators. This is a plan to gut public schools, to abandon struggling schools and avoid investing more resources in children. During the hearings it was suggested that putting money into the system would not help. I beg to differ. I’ve visited poor schools and rich schools. The money makes a difference.
I was naive. I thought our elected officials were trying to make things better. I had those rose-colored glasses stripped from my face. The only thing that the Senate hearing talked about was making education cheaper.
I’m a public school kid, my mother was a public school teacher. Before my wife became a children’s pastor, she was a public school teacher. My school career was filled with Jesus-loving teachers. I had Sunday school teachers who were also my public school teachers. I have never attended or seen a “Godless” school because in every school there have been witnesses for Christ. In my local community, many of the teachers and administrators attend my church and passionately love God. They see teaching in the school as a God-inspired calling. They don’t want to retreat to the cloister.
I’m about to celebrate my 25th high school reunion. I can’t wait to see some of those faces, especially my friends who did not know Jesus, but came to know him as Lord and Savior through the Christian witness of students in the school. Why should we incentivize Christians to leave the public schools? Isn’t that where Jesus would want us to go? Isn’t that the place he would have gone to school?
As I watched The Sound of Music on its 50th anniversary, I wondered what Christianity will look like in 50 years. Will it be hiding out behind the tombstones of dying churches or will we be aggressively engaged in the world trying to draw people out of death and into life? If we pick the later model it will mean staying engaged in the world.