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?

February 05, 2008

Displaying 1–10 of 82 comments


May 05, 2008  5:41am

Wow, there's a lot of assumption that we can undo at home what the teacher says in class. As the mom of a child who insisted that 2 + 3 was 6 because "my teacher said so" (which, btw, I'm sure she didn't), I think a teacher's words have much more authority in a child's life than some are giving credit. There's also an assumption that a child will inform you of what is being read in class. I found out *after* the fact that my first grader was terrified by a book that the teacher had been reading for several days to the class. Yes, in theory at least, as parents we should be able to solve these problems by dealing directly with the teacher, principal, and/or school board. In practice, however, there can be an attitude that the educators know best how to educate a child and parents need to simply accept what is being taught. It's not just one issue but a plethora of issues that lead parents to remove their kids from the public school system. I believe that to be a legitimate parental choice which should be made after much prayer. So, I believe, should the choice to place a child in the public school system be made after much prayer. Perhaps that is the big issue – that the public school system is the default and only after parents have negative experiences do they ask God where HE would have these children learn.

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February 27, 2008  10:29am

Luke, I think Joey and I both represent a fair sized portion of the homeschool movement. There are Christians who want to run away from the world in the homeschooling movement because there are Christians who want to run away from the world in the churches. I don't think this combox is really a fair representation of homeschoolers. Eventhough it might be tempting, I'm not going to say that all pro-public school Christians are pop-culture wannabes who happen to love Jesus either. That seems to be the tactic that many pro-public schoolers posters have taken - "all homeschoolers are afraid of the world", as if we stay home all day, afraid that the big bad world might influence us for evil, when in real life we're out in the community consistently dealing with people of various ages and faiths. There might be some homeschoolers who are trying to hide from the world, but that is like saying that all public schoolers are in love with the world - it's just not so. There are actually many issues that are being lumped into this one conversation. This makes it hard to really address all the issues that should be discussed regarding whether or not Christians should leave he public school system. To name just a few: 1. Distinguishing between adult and child missionary responsibility. 2. Quality of education and educational theory of various educational institutions. 3. The difference between being in the world and being of the world. 4. Parental rights in choosing their own children's education. 5. How we judge fellow Christians because of the educational choices they make. 6. To what degree should children be sheltered - if at all. 7. Can/should the church offer private school as a missionary effort to the whole community? Many so-called private Christian schools end up as dumping grounds for those who have no place else to turn. Can you reach out to the community and at the same time offer exceptional education?

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February 26, 2008  6:46pm

Interesting point, Aretemom, but would you agree that you rationale for homeschooling is different than that of both Al Mohler and many of the other posters on this blog?

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February 25, 2008  1:40pm

I'm surprised that this issue of leaving the public school sytem is seen as 'fearful' Christians withdrawing from the big, bad world. Homeschoolers are a very diverse lot. In our charter school co-op we have had athiests, pagans, buddhists, christian scientists, mormons, and yes, Christians. The homeschool movement is full of people looking for a different way of life than that lived by the main stream media clones. Somehow many Christians,(my previous pastor included) have it in their head that the only people who homeschool are right wing Christians. Not obviously thinking, sophisticated, mentally healthy Christians. This strikes me as very narrow-minded. We homeschool not in order to withdraw from the world, but in order to help our children become more competent adults that can sucessfully engage the world as adults. Many of us who want a more intellectually challenging education, not the conveyor belt education offered by the government system, cannot afford the private schools that would provide the type of education we are looking for, and homeschooling is our only option. If the church could reach out in a missionary effort and offer superior educational opportunities to not only their own, but the whole community, maybe that might be a better option than trying to have children be missionaries all day long while being given a mediocre education. Let's not forget that the public school system is a system in which children are now being tested for correct attitudes, not knowledge, wisdom, or virtue. I will not sacrafice my children on the "altar of missionary work". We will engage the culture in various venues (soccer, ballet, volunteer work in the community, etc...), but that is mostly my responsibility, not my childrens.

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February 20, 2008  5:22pm

Offensive Christian wrote: "by what biblical basis to they assert that it is acceptable to send Christian children to a system devoted to humanism and the denial of the existence of God" Have you spent much time in public schools? Are you friends with many public school teachers?

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Graham Clarke

February 20, 2008  11:34am

As a British Pastor may I offer some practical experience of the Church Being Salt and Light in the Public School (Here the State School System)? As Christians we need to be at the heart of things as part of our response to the Great Commission I would strongly argue against withdrawing our young people from such schools. They will have to live in the wider world at some stage and the sooner that they are supported in living out nad witnessing their faith in a real environment the better and stronger they will be . Within my own ministry I regularly visit all 5 schools in my area covering all ages from 4 to 18. I Chat with the Principals about their work and their issues, I linger in the Staff Rooms and offer a friendly Christian Face to other staff and pastoral support when required. I offer support in religious Education Lessons from a Christain perspective and work with a team of young people teaching Religious Education Classes for 11-18 year olds- as a Christian, willing to put the gospel view and debate it with students ( today I taught 2 classes of 12 year olds on the Christian understanding of the Cross) The Church Kids love seeing me in their school and know I understand their world and experiences. The Non Church Kids now are comfortable in talking to me in the street. As a church we have Education Sunday inviting the Primary Schools (4-11s) to work on themes and present them in a Special Service. We host Carol Services for the High School and Support the Christain Union in our Local University We encourage church members to be school Governors ( Board Members) and we prayerfuly support those who work in Education any capacity Please stay in there! The Kids need it, the schools value it and Jesus demands it!

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February 19, 2008  9:49pm

I like Al Mohler. A lot actually. But I could not disagree with him more here. With all the discussion about him being nominated as the president of the SBC, this could be a strong deal breaker. How do we advance the kingdom while in retreat?

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Offensive Christian

February 19, 2008  8:57pm

I've been discussing this very issue on my blog: Many folks think Al Mohler is wrong in his plan to leave public schools. By what basis do they form this position? More importantly if they are Christians, by what biblical basis to they assert that it is acceptable to send Christian children to a system devoted to humanism and the denial of the existence of God? Are theynaware of the NEA's positions as they relate to our God? Please note that I am not suggesting that all people in the public education system are umanist/atheist; I'm certain however, that there is an institutional bias against supernaturalism and the God of creation in general. If we can establish the bent of the organization is anti-God, we should then search scripture to find examples of when God's people willingly chose to have their children educated by those who do not worship God. I couldn't find one. We are always one generation away from a completely pagan culture. With the hours a week spent in the humanist indoctrination machines and the anti-God messages spewing forth from our media, is it any wonder that Mohler suggests Christians follow the biblical model and educate their children? You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. - Deuteronomy 6:7 You shall teach… I understand many Christians have made the other choices - But at what risk and under what biblical guidance? I don't claim to know enough to exegete scripture perfectly. If anyone have the time, I'd like to understand the biblical justification for this position more clearly.

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February 18, 2008  6:09am

Interesting point, Joey, but would you agree that you rationale for homeschooling is different than that of both Al Mohler and many of the other posters on this blog?

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Joey Aszterbaum

February 17, 2008  4:24am

We homeschool. We also read Harry Potter. Our exodus from school really came from a repulsion of mediocrity. Public school is a modern construct for the manufacturing age. For the most part it leaves you behind when you struggle in one subject, holds you back when you excel in another, and teaches you to obey authority and punch the clock when the bell rings. In the course of deconstructing church, how can you avoid deconstructing other institutions that are, shall we say, 'more institutional'? I initially struggled with this impulse, because I myself had a great education in public school and viewed it as a mission. But I look around at my peers and those younger than me and I realize that I was an exception...the kid who learns by lecture and kicks ass on tests. I want my kids to learn how to rock on the guitar, how to ride a horse, how to read Darwin and how to start their own business. Not how to show up, shut up, and make a buck.

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