Professor of Education

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

“Put prayer and Bible reading back in public schools” is a cry often heard today.

Various reasons are given for wanting to put “God back in the classroom.” Some people claim many children who do not attend church receive no religious instruction at home and, unless it is done at school, they will suffer. There is a linking of the increase in crime to the lack of prayers and Bible reading at school. There is the claim that children will not relate religion to everyday life unless schools include these activities. And there is fear which comes because many young people are joining such groups as the Hare Krishna and the Unification Church (Moonies).

Efforts thus are made to remove the jurisdiction of the U.S. Supreme Court over religious activities in public schools.

This raises an interesting proposition.

Suppose God is using the Supreme Court—with its rulings against school prayers—as an instrument to test the commitment of those people who claim the name of Christian.

Perhaps God is finding out which of his people are willing to be involved in his work and which are lukewarm, leaving this work to others. Perhaps, in the words of a hymn, Christians are being tested to find out” Are Ye Able?”

Faint-hearted Christians would do well to reread the Great Commission Jesus gave to his disciples. He told them to go to all people everywhere to make disciples and to teach them to obey all Jesus taught.

The disciples were told to be active, to get to work. They were not to be superficial in their approach—read a few verses, say a bland prayer, and hope something would happen. They were to teach. They were not told to have the government do the teaching to a captive audience. The disciples were to do it themselves.

Christians today who are concerned because some children do not hear the Word of God should make it their responsibility to reach these children themselves.

Christians should reach out, through the church, to bring in those children who receive no religious instruction in their homes.

Christians should model Christian beliefs for children in stores, hospitals, schools, and highways.

Christians who are convinced that what they believe is worthwhile will not want to turn the job over to others who may not be as committed. They will become active themselves, teaching and being the examples.

And to these Christians the U.S. Supreme Court will be a blessing, for they will become “doers” not “buck-passers” of the Word.

Science Says ‘Excuse Me’ After The Radioactive Burp


President, Seattle Pacific University

When the nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island developed a bubble in its tummy and emitted a radioactive burp, parental scientists and politicians panicked. “Excuse me” was frantically boradcast across the nation, but too late. Nuclear energy had committed a fatal social error—not because it burped, but because its breath was so bad. Worlds died with the bubble at Three Mile Island.

Death came for the world of unchecked nuclear plans. As a small but crucial hope for relief from the energy crisis, nuclear power plants were scheduled to string the states from coast to coast in the coming decades. Protests by a few leftover radicals were expected to slow, but not stop, the process.

Shortly before the incident at Three Mile Island, I came through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Greeting me at the exit were three “pro-nukers,” clean-shaven, blazer-clad, wire-rimmed, and penny-loafered. Around their necks were hung placards with neatly printed statistics and shibboleths stating that nuclear power was our hope. Just after the Three Mile Island accident, I came through O’Hare again. The “pro-nukers” had stood their ground, but their signs had changed. One said, “Nuclear energy is safer than Ted Kennedy’s car.” True, no one died in the infected circles around Three Mile Island. No one had to. The specter of cancerous genes and contaminated grandchildren bodes worse than death itself. So, as I shook a “no” at the “pro-nukers,” I thought, if the “no-nuke” crowd, even with beards and sandals, stood at the same exit and called for a vote among the deplaning passengers, a new majority would probably choose their side.

Our fantasies about an unreal technological utopia also died at Three Mile Island. Despite the warnings of Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984, our wishes persisted for a technological heaven. Presumably, our superior technology would bring peace by weapons, good will by space ships, food by tractors, knowledge by computer, joy by television, life by transplants, and light by nuclear energy. One by one, these tin gods have fallen.

No particular person or group is guilty. Technology woos our rising expectations each time a new breakthrough is reported or a new gadget is announced. Warnings about the limitations of resources and the negative tradeoffs of technology have gone unheeded. Even today, we gulp the gas, not as if there is no tomorrow, but with the blind faith that our technological Ponce de Leons will discover a fountain of perpetual energy. But technology lost its blank check at Three Mile Island, and its bubble made realists of us all.

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Deeper down than nuclear plans or technological dreams, the philosophy of unquestioned scientific authority died at Three Mile Island. For two decades now, Americans have suffered the losses of legitimate authority in areas of morality and government. But somehow, the authority of science has remained intact. Scientific surveys shape our behavior, think tanks show us our future, and scientists top the credibility polls. Human reason, crowned with the scientific method, has ruled unquestioned in the minds of the masses. No more. Science, as an institution of authority, can expect to plummet on the scale of public opinion until it joins the church, the university, the legislature, and the corporation in a struggle for legitimacy.

“Lord, to whom shall we go?” is our nation’s next question. Without a standard by which to live, institutions upon which to depend, and leadership around which to rally, we are open in our emptiness to the onrush of seven devils. We also are open to the authority of the Word of God. With human authority in disarray and Three Mile Island commemorating the death of unquestioned scientific authority, a nation that will flounder in this question may well be ready to listen to the answer, “Thou hast the words of eternal life.”

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