Tag: Education

Christian Schools

A snarky take on homeschooling’s weird cousin.

Do you ever find yourself wishing your kids could experience the same indoctrination of judgment, intolerance, and misogyny, not just Sundays, but every day of the week?

Do the words secular and education send chills up your spine? Want to hide your children from the real world, hermetically sealed and sheltered in a bubble of fear? Looking to pay loads of money for a subpar education?

Well, then Christian schools may be just for you.

Join us as we talk about why Christian schools shouldn’t make any sense to anyone, even Christians. When education becomes indoctrination, you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Come along for the ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.

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Bad Education

a snarky take on Betsy Devos

Let’s talk about what happens when you mix the American educational system with a snake oil sales(wo)man with a twisted sense of entitlement and a broken lens of faith. Betsy Devos has proved, thus far, to be a nightmare Secretary of Education. The problem lies in toxic religious ideology and how it frames the way people like Devos view the world. The Religious Right and their hateful emissaries are wreaking havoc on the minorities and discriminated class in the country. When it comes to education, this misguided worldview hits the vulnerable populations of children and young people in America.

Let’s be clear, none of this has to do with Jesus, even though they do enjoy using his name frequently. Christ commanded his followers to care for the marginalized and discriminated in our culture whereas Devos is all about oppressing them. All Americans do not live on a level playing field and these religious fanatics continue to exacerbate it all in the name of Jesus. The problem is this isn’t Christianity. It’s the toxic, self-serving Religious Right that gave us President Trump.

Come along for the ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.

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Honesty, Faith and Doubt

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The beauty of the honesty, faith and doubt of a child

If you want to make something like cookies or pancakes, there are always essential ingredients that you’ll find common between most recipes. Eggs, flour, and oil are among those that you’ll find over and again. When it comes to believing in something greater… I assume we’d get a wild spectrum of answers of the essential elements depending on your religious upbringing or current indoctrination.

I stumbled upon this piece of paper (pictured above) a few weeks ago on the floor at church. I can only assume it’s from a child, but I found it absolutely fascinating, beautiful… and genuine.

There were three key ingredients at play here: honesty, faith and Doubt all mixed together. I believe that these ingredients are absolutely essential for one’s spiritual journey.

I was raised Southern Baptist and in that vein of Christianity, “knowing” was always paramount… but not in the spiritual sense. It was more about intellectualism. You have to know all the right facts and those facts would bring you closer to God. Doubt had no place because the belief was all about possessing information much like you do when preparing for a test. You study hard and hopefully get a good grade.

But in faith there are no grades, right? The Southern Baptists would agree with that statement in theory, but in practice, that’s another story. When it comes to grading, one quick way to lose points is being too honest and/or doubting. Let me exactly qualify what I mean by grading. There’s no overt scale at play, but there is a significant amount of judgment happening by the other church members and clergy. You’re judged on what you say, how you look, what you do and what you think. You need to look and act like the rest of the herd in order to be accepted. It’s more of a social construct than a religious practice.  Over my career, I’ve worked for a spectrum of Christian brands: Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist and non-denominational. These rules apply to all of them.

Now, let’s return to the picture. I think there’s a reason that Jesus mentioned the faith of a child in Matthew 18, and he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Children are filled with wonder, but they are also filled with questions. Incessant questions. As a father, I’ve experienced this wide-eyed curiosity firsthand. Initially, it annoyed me. They saw me as the answering machine. Over time, it changed. I’ve learned to love their questions. Actually, their questions have changed and stretched me.

To proceed in this conversation, let us add a few clarifying definitions to this conversation. I’ll inject some varied voices into this as they may help to define these terms.

Honesty by Ayn Rand

“As the refusal to fake reality, honesty consists in a deliberate, principled renunciation of any evasion, distortion, misrepresentation, or artifice. In essence, honesty means not pretending.”

Faith by Pete Rollins

“The word “faith” is a much-misunderstood term. In contemporary discourse, it often means the act of believing in something that lacks empirical evidence, something that one affirms through intuition, the interpretation of a particular personal experience or the interpretation of a publicly observable phenomenon.  However the term, in its more theological sense, has much more in common with a particular way of living.”

Doubt by Lesley Hazleton

“Consider that doubt… is the heart of the matter. Abolish all doubt, and what’s left is not faith, but absolute, heartless conviction. You’re certain that you possess the Truth — inevitably offered with an implied uppercase T — and this certainty quickly devolves into dogmatism and righteousness, by which I mean a demonstrative, overweening pride in being so very right, in short, the arrogance of fundamentalism.”

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]The journey of belief is rarely a straight line. There are always twists and turns; stops and starts.[/tweet_box] To cultivate any healthy, spiritual community, we have to realize that doubt and honesty are just as essential as faith. If you eliminate one, the rest fall by the wayside. To embrace this idea takes courage and risk, which is why it rarely happens. Belief in anything always brings with it risk and the unknown. Think about love, for instance, there is no guarantee. But the reason we risk things for love is that the rewards, the upside, is worth it. When you love others and take on faith that they love you… it takes courage.

When it comes to the church, risk left through the back door long ago. Then soon after that, courage joined up with it in the parking lot. Christianity without risk and courage isn’t a movement anymore… it becomes an institution. Jesus didn’t come to set up institutions, they were one of the reasons he railed against the establishment. Institutions survive by keeping themselves afloat. Their existence becomes all about themselves and people become secondary. Now, again they may argue that fact in theory, but their practice says otherwise.

Why does this matter? Well, it’s everything. If the foundation from which you operate is fundamentally flawed, then the outcome won’t be what you want. With each passing year, the institution looks and acts less and less like the one who started the movement. The question to ask here is, does the church today look like Jesus?

But all is not lost. It doesn’t take much to right the ship and I’d wager to say that embracing a mixture of honesty, faith, and doubt is the key.

The first step is allowing doubt to breathe. It’s essential in this journey forward. Antionette du Liger de la Garde Deshoulieres once said, “seeking to know is only too often learning to doubt.” The fear is that doubt leads to more doubt, but in truth, if you pair doubt with belief and honesty, beautiful things can happen. Sure it’s a risk, but nothing great is ever accomplished without risk. It also takes courage that God is at work in the lives of others which is one of the basic beliefs of Christianity.

Looking back at that picture I found, I want there to be a place where that child can grow on their spiritual journey while expressing their doubts and questions in a safe environment. For the church to look more like Jesus, we must realize that belief needs to have a mixture of honesty, faith and doubt cultivated with one another in a loving community. That’s how we transition from an institution back to a movement. It’s how we return the beauty and mystery to Christianity.

Standing Up for Our Teachers

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North Carolina teachers continue to suffer at the hands of several recent legislative blows. Right now, North Carolina teacher salaries rank 46th in the nation. Recently, our the state passed a budget that froze teacher’s pay (the 5th time 6 years) and also ENDED TENURE and PAY INCREASES for teachers with advanced degrees. We continue to expect more out of educators by giving them less and less. They get large class sizes and less pay. Our teachers deserve better than this and neither do our students. Here’s a Megan Taber, one of my son’s awesome and hardworking teachers, who, after working seven years, now makes less than when she began teaching. [vimeo https://vimeo.com/92780737] Because of this poor treatment, we’re now losing educators to other states, while others teachers are quitting and simply finding different jobs. This is shocking and appalling, but not all that surprising with the way politics have gone in recent years in Raleigh. So what can you do? Our outrage is useless unless it pushes us towards action. Here are a few ideas:

  •  Make sure your local teachers know they are loved and appreciated. Write notes of appreciation, give gift cards, and volunteer to help at your local schools. A little encouragement goes along way.
  • Call your state and local officials again and again. I’m not exactly calling for harassment, but essentially I am. Make our voices of disgust and outrage heard.
  • Vote. For god-sake vote. You have no right to complain about the government unless you’re doing the simple duty of voting every time we have a chance.
  • Turn out for town hall meetings and protests. Again, let your outrage be heard.

If we care about the educational future of our future generations, this is an issue that affects everyone. Our teachers deserve better than this.