The battles over school choice and whether or not Christians should be part of the government sponsored monopoly over education – K to college, have been ratcheted up recently to the extent that Christian schools are now being questioned as to whether or not they can be Christian at all.
A headline in The Washington Post last week and echoed in a CBS News TV report, read: “Christian school expels teen after she posed with rainbow birthday cake, mother says.”
The article went on to document that a teenager turning 15 yrs-old in Louisville, KY, celebrated a birthday party organized by her mother at one of her daughter’s favorite restaurants. According to the story, “Ahead of the party, the mother instructed a bakery to decorate a cake with colors that pop, she recalled. It just so happened that the cake’s rainbow motif mirrored the design on her daughter’s sweater, and she took a picture of her daughter smiling next to it to commemorate the December 30th party.”
Sounds innocuous enough. Moreover, in the next paragraph, that photo posted on social media, allegedly caused the student to be expelled from Whitefield Academy, a private Christian school in Louisville, where her daughter was a freshman. In an email to the family on January 6,” says The Post, “the academy’s head of school, wrote that the teen’s enrollment was terminated effective immediately because of a social media post.”
If all of the above were true and reported as fact, that Christian school could legitimately be accused of an over-reaction and an extreme action in expelling this student. The Washington Post article read that although the mother of the student was aware that the rainbow striped flag is a symbol of the LGBTQ community, she emphasized that, “her daughter’s matching rainbow cake and sweater were simply a coincidental aesthetic and not intended to mean anything more.”
However, if truth be known, a conveniently missing ingredient from many mainstream news media outlets today, the Christian school in Louisville expelled the student only after the most recent post culminated a two-year process in which the school had worked with the student and the student’s parents to have her submit to the school’s standard code of conduct, which they had agreed upon and signed at the time of her enrollment, and which she had violated on several occasions.
According to a series of social media postings found over the last several months, the teenager in question posed as a girl dressing as a boy, taking another girl to a social event in a public high school. In other social media postings, she identified herself with the words, “Me, finally coming out,” and “Me, finally getting a girlfriend,” or “GF.” According to columnist Rod Dreher, in yet another post, she identified herself as putting a Bible into a dryer.
Thus, what is this Christian school guilty of in enforcing its student code of conduct in expelling this student? Being evangelically Christian of course.
The school’s administration released a more than revealing statement in response to the Washington Post’s report and the resulting hub-bub, documenting its core convictions which, “ask the students to adhere to a lifestyle informed by our Christian beliefs.”
The school like many if not most private Christian schools, require all families enrolling children to sign a statement of agreement that included these words at Whitefield Academy, “…The mission of the teachers and administration… is to inspire every student to become a mature follower of Jesus Christ. I agree,” the statement requires, “to support the standards of the school in every area of its philosophy and policies including academic, behavioral, spiritual, dress, moral, and disciplinary policies.”
If that weren’t clear enough, in its official documentation released not only to students but available to the public under the statement “Role with the Christian School,” we find this, “Whitefield Academy’s biblical role is to work in conjunction with the home to mold students to be Christ-like on occasion the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home may be counter or in opposition to the biblical lifestyle the school teaches. This includes but is not limited to sexual immorality, homosexual orientation, or the inability to support biblical standards of right and wrong.”
Once again, we have compelling evidence that the advocates of the sexual revolution, plan to utilize every means necessary to take as many prisoners as possible captive to its agenda, even manipulating news media to make its case, as Dreher said in his column at The American Conservative, “This is just another example of the media seizing upon a story that they think will make Christians look either stupid and out of step or in this case downright evil and mean-spirited. Stupid Christians doing stupid Christian things.”
“We Told You So”
Just what did Biblically minded Christians and other socially conservative citizens expect after same-sex marriage became a de facto law of the land as the result of a controversial Supreme Court decision made just five years ago?
There was a day when gay marriage advocates would often say things like, “How does gay marriage hurt your (heterosexual) marriage?” On the surface, the proponents of gay marriage proposed a “live and let live” arrangement. It went something like: “Give us gay marriage, you have your marriage, and we’ll all co-exist.” Did we really think we would all come together and sing Kumbaya?
In 2013, Dreher began warning of the “law of merited impossibility” when it came to gay marriage. He warned that the “live and let live” thing was a fiction. Gay marriage activists were actually advancing a law of merited impossibility, which says, “No one is going to mistreat or persecute you Christians for your views on marriage. Stop being paranoid. But when we do mistreat and persecute you, you are going to deserve it.” The assurances of peaceful coexistence were a scam from the start.
Dreher turned out to be prophetic. Christians find themselves in a new day and age where their beliefs are openly reviled in the public square and marketplace of ideas. Indeed, we are reviled as the apostle Peter has been warning Christians to expect for the better part of two millennia (1 Pet. 2:19-23; 3:8-9, 13-17).
Therefore, how are disciples of Christ to react or respond to this latest threat to the religious freedom of Christians to do business, including the institution of education?
Fortunately, Christians may still have some options. One is to support elected officials and legislators who strive to defend religious liberty, one of the major issues Christian voters must think hard and long about in 2020.
The Trump administration just announced it is updating federal guidance for prayer in public schools and other initiatives aimed at protecting religious freedom, which White House officials said are aimed at reducing discrimination against people and groups of faith.
“This afternoon we’re proudly announcing historic steps to protect the First Amendment right to pray in public schools. … There’s nothing more important than that, I would say,” embattled President Donald Trump said on National Religious Freedom Day, and on the eve of the Senate Impeachment trial hearings intent on removing him from office.
He added, “While I’m President … we will not let anyone push God from the public square. We will uphold religious liberty for all.” Further his administration has supported plaintiffs in a major religious rights case that will be argued before the Supreme Court, where three mothers of students at Stillwater Christian School in Montana, are appealing a lower court ruling that struck down that state’s tax credit that could help students pay to attend private schools including religious ones.
Kendra Espinoza one of those plaintiffs in the tax credit case, has worked hard to keep her two daughters in their small, private evangelical school. A news report documents her life as a single mother and a full-time office manager, who has worked nights as a janitor in an office building to help pay for tuition, taking her daughters along to instill in them a strong work ethic.
If you want something enough in life, Espinoza said, you have to fight for it.
“The way I try to raise my girls, of course I want them to be able to read the Bible and be taught how to pray, taught from that faith-based perspective,” Espinoza said in an interview. “At the public school, there’s a lot of disrespect and not enough of those values that I wanted them to learn.”
Is Ms. Espinoza, already mandated by local and state law to contribute taxes towards a secular, public school system she finds to be anti-God and pro-LGBTQ as per the Louisville case above, among countless others, wrong?
Would Ms. Espinoza be wrong for doing all she can to biblically disciple her daughters in large measure by anchoring their full educational program in a biblically Christian environment, with its principals and curriculum?
Have we arrived at a watershed moment in time, where Christian parents like her, convicted of the Biblical call to raise their children in “the fear and admonition of the Lord”, and who acknowledge as scripture does, that “the fear of God is the beginning of all knowledge”, continue the growing exodus from the public school system to private schools and homeschooling?
If that continues, what are we to make of Christian teachers and administrators laboring faithfully, to be salt and light in these spiritually dark institutions of learning? Have they no role and calling to be missionaries in those mission fields, ‘ripe and ready for harvest?’
Personally, our church is blessed by having the opportunity to minister in such mission fields by virtue of having an after-school school gospel and Bible club. Can we not take advantage of those to advance the kingdom and cause of Christ? Can we agree to support fellow believers in both callings?
The questions regarding the culture war’s latest skirmishes over the Christian worldview and education are vast and critical for the health of this generation and the one to come. May the Lord grant wisdom to his church to navigate this war well.