I’m trying to learn tact.

It is a fairly open secret that I have a low tolerance for the truly sanctimonious. Periodically, I get these litmus test questions. You know the kind, where people want to hear your answer to their pet question to decide whether or not you’re “in”. Did I mention that I don’t test well? Yet, there I was, minding my own business at a get together when a lady gets wind that I am going to be co-pastoring a church with a guy she enjoys hearing speak. So she starts telling me how she “denied herself” that morning by taking her kid to this get together rather than stay at home like she wanted. (See, we Christians love to mix in our jargon at events that aren’t seen as holy that way we can not only feel like a holy moment has been made, but also that we’re applying our Sunday School lessons.)

I like my rants irony free. Don’t interrupt me.

She then starts going on about how she home-schools her children, with the implication that all good Christian mothers should home-school. I cleared my throat, then opted to get a re-fill of that too sweet, yet strangely addictive, orange drink that McDonald’s serves.

Like I said, I’m trying to learn tact.

You see, the last time a woman sauntered up to me to regale me with tales of how she home-schools, I politely responded, before my brain could stop my mouth, with “The only reason that you home-school is because you’re afraid of black people and drugs.” (Too harsh, I know: it’s all minorities, not just black people.)

This is one of those touchy areas that comes up fairly often in the circles I travel in, despite my efforts. A legitimate debate about our children’s future that for some reason has battle lines drawn between home-schooling, Christian (private) schooling, and public schooling. I get that there are concerns about curriculum, yet I always got the impression that this was more of a rationalization than a reason. Not to put to fine a point on it, but the fear of curriculum boils down to agendas encompassing the three big sins of Christianity: sex (abortion), evolution, and homosexuality.

My wife and I had this discussion before we even got married. The conversation lasted about 30 seconds:
“Where would you send your kids to school?”
“Public school. You?”
“Public school.”
“Cool. What’s on TV?”

Our reasons differ, but we come to the same point. I’m lazy and I don’t want to have to teach my kids subjects I barely got through when I was in school. My wife also fears the stuff that I would teach them. (One incident in the church nursery where I had the kids singing “I’m Gonna Pee on You” from the Dave Chappelle Show and I’m branded for life.) More importantly, we don’t have the fears that some people do.

Plus, we have our own agenda.

We aren’t scared of ideas or indoctrination. We like for our kids to be exposed to a variety of ideas, especially ones we disagree with so that we can wrestle through them together. It’s how we teach, learn, and grow. We’re their parents: our job is to equip our kids for life, not abdicate our role to whichever school system or locking them away in our home-schooling spires in order to “protect them”. Our goal is to remain active in our kids lives.

Too often, we want schools to do our jobs as parents. I have a friend who went to a Christian schools and he shared with me that they were more like Christian foster homes. Filled with a lot of difficult kids whom no one else will take. I don’t know how much I buy that, but I do know that some want their kids to have Christian education as if their role as a parent was covered. I have another friend who pays a fortune to send his three kids to a private, Christian school. He does so not because of their outstanding curriculum but because he doesn’t do much spiritual training at home. So he figures that if he cuts the check, the teachers will teach the “Bible stuff” and his bases are covered. Abdication, even this benign, well-intentioned sort, is still abdication.

While we worry about the lack of socialization with home schooled kids, our bigger concern revolved one simple idea: Salt.

“‘You are the salt of the earth.’” Jesus’ words were recorded in the book of Matthew. I’ve been thinking about different models of how the church should be. As much as we may be tempted to dissect this for all this is worth, let’s take this at the simple metaphor level. Think of the implications of salt when it comes to cooking. When you notice salt in a dish, when something is too salty, it spoils the dish. Salt in small doses is a supportive ingredient, it brings out taste and acts as a preservative. Salt, especially in Jesus’ day, was a commodity. People valued it and used to trade for it. When was the last time you heard anyone describe the church, or its representatives, this way?

I, for one, don’t believe that you do anyone a service by pulling all of the Christian kids out of the public school systems and sending them to private or home schools. That would be as bad as all the Christian teachers only working at home or at those schools. Why stop there: why not pull out of our “worldy” companies and only work at Christian companies? If we are to be blessings to the world or in any way relevant, we need to be living out the reality of Christ in our lives, being Christ in our context. We don’t want to be irrelevant to our culture, restricting ourselves to our various Christian ghettos of entertainment circles.

The lady whom I made my “you’re scared of black people and drugs” comment offered the defense of not wanting to sacrifice her children. For one, it’s not like Jesus never called anyone to sacrifice anything. Either you believe in a Holy Spirit powerful enough to protect your children or you don’t. More to the point, however, what the heck does she thinks is happening in schools? (Okay, I know what she thinks because I’ve heard some of the hysterical lunacy spouted by some of the pastors that she listens to.) Orgies in the hallways due to all the condoms the schools supply leading to a bunch of abortions. Evolution taught in every classroom. A bunch of homosexuals pinning kids eyes open forcing them to read “Heather’s Got Two Mommies” (quick, hose your kids down before they catch a case of ‘gay’).

We need to be infiltrating–for lack of a better word–the world. Spiritual depth comes from the real stuff of life, the day in/day out being with each other and working things through. Rather than the importance of relationships and community, what we’re in danger of breeding is more of the same narcissistic and over-individualized spirituality revolving around “just me and the Bible” and “getting my butt into heaven.”

Our spiritual lives should be incarnational and missional, but we’re in danger of being defined by what we’re against rather than who we’re for.

At least that’s how I feel right now. This all sounds good in theory. Then again, my oldest maybe starting preschool this year.

And I do fear for him.

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