Preparing our Children for the Spiritual Battle
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We are in a spiritual battle and have planned for failure.
Prior to my deployment to Afghanistan in 2008 as a Navy Individual Augmentee, I trained at Fort Riley, Kansas, home of the “The Big Red One”, the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division for several months. Assigned to newly formed Embedded Training Teams, we spent days in the classroom and in the field learning how to survive and succeed in carrying out our mission, mastering everything from combat first aid, firing our M1, to learning a new language. The Army prepared me for the rigors of deployment through planned, intensive training. As Christian parents, we lead our children into a much more dangerous battle against a much stronger and more cunning enemy, into a battle with eternal consequences.
However, over at least the last 50 years, since the Supreme Court ruled against God and our freedom of religion, three generations of Christians have completed 16 years of Godless, humanistic education. Into this spiritual war zone we thrust our children: some at the tender age of five, and in the worst case before they have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. Instead of preparing our children through discipleship to win the spiritual battle in a hostile world – in much the same way as the Army prepared me to win a physical and psychological battle in Afghanistan – we as fathers and mothers and as a church have thoughtlessly surrendered our children over to the enemy. Today, we must answer God’s call to sacrificial, spiritual leadership and provide our children a Christ-centered education.
In their book Already Gone, Ken Ham and Britt Beemer draw some disturbing conclusions from their survey of over 1000 young adults. They conclude that many of our children sitting in church today have, in their hearts, already left. Looking across the Atlantic, Ham sees America’s future where in Britain we find many empty churches or churches repurposed now serving as a nightclub or a mosque. Ham calls for changes in Sunday school, but I see a much greater need.
Today, ninety percent of Americans including self-identified evangelical Christians send their children to government schools where strangers fill their hearts and minds with false ideas before we teach them the truth. It is as if every week we expect a 49-minute Sunday school filled with Bible stories to prepare our children to defend themselves and their faith. In a very real sense, we have not lost our children God entrusted to us; we have handed them over to the enemy.
Like the men of Issachar in 1 Chronicles 12:32, we must understand the times and know what we ought to do. Founded upon Christian truths as set forward in our Declaration of Independence, by men who valued the Word of God and regarded scriptural teaching as an integral component of a child’s education, America has changed. Many of our most prestigious universities had set Christ as the foundation and goal of all education.
For example, the Harvard 1636 Student Guidelines stated “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life.” In his farewell address in 1796, George Washington warned, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars . . . . Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions of the general diffusion of knowledge.” Our second president, John Adams also pointed to the importance of a Christ-centered education in support of our form of government, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
As late as 1933, most American schools used Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language and his Blue Back Speller that incorporated many verses and biblical truths in teaching children to spell, read and write. From the time of the nation’s founding through the early years of the 20th century, Americans regarded biblical literacy and Christian teaching as an obvious foundation for a solid education.
Yet over time, we the people have pushed God out of our government schools. In the mid to late 1800s, we accepted and even promoted Darwinian evolution and denied the biblical account of Creation while undermining the God-given role of the family. Horace Mann worked from the 1820s through the 1840s to reestablish the first government schools then known as common schools in Massachusetts. Although Mann thought teaching of morals was the most important part of education, the government schools naturally supplanted the authority and roles of the family and church. Some church leaders pushed back. However, they failed in their effort to stop this undermining of the God-ordained institutions created by God to pass on our faith and virtues to future generations.
In the early to mid-1900s John Dewey, an avowed atheist, author of The Humanist Manifesto and father of modern education “helped create kindergartens in America for precisely this purpose, to shape the apples before they fell from the tree.” (Jonah Goldberg). As if furthering Dewey’s Progressive model, government schools under programs such as Head Start now nearly reach into the cradle.
If Darwin and then Mann and Dewey together represent a first and second wave eroding the Christian foundation of American education, then three Supreme Court decisions in the early 1960s represent a third.
In 1962 in Engel v Vitale the court ruled against the New York school system Regents School Prayer without citing any precedent. In 1963, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, a militant left-wing atheist with close ties to the American Communist Party, took the school board of Baltimore to court for allowing prayer in school. In their Murray v Curlett decision the Warren Court ruled 8-1 against the school board. At the same time, in Abington Township School District v Schempp, the court ruled a Pennsylvania state law requiring the reading of ten bible verses at the beginning of each school day violated the First Amendment establishment clause.
Justice Potter Stewart, the one dissenting vote wrote, “[The ruling] led not to true neutrality with respect to religion, but to the establishment of a religion of secularism.” Now fifty years later, government schools indoctrinate our children, denying God and truth while promoting relativism and secular humanistic ideas foreign to our Founding Fathers and which oppose and undermine our Christian faith.
If we seek to love and obey God, if we desire to best disciple our children, if we want to prepare them for victory in the spiritual battle, if we understand the times, can we place our children on the yellow school bus this fall? Proverbs tell us that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). But government schools deny God’s existence.
Paul writes, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is” (Romans 12:2). But government schools do not renew our children’s minds or train them to test and approve God’s will but rather conform them to secular, humanistic ideas.
In Joshua, God commands “Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth but meditate on it day and night” (Joshua 1:8). And in Deuteronomy, God tells us “These commands I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Yet in sending our children to government schools seven hours a day, five days a week, we leave precious little time to counter the work of Satan.
What value in money, time and resources will we place on discipling our children and giving them a sure foundation? What example will we set in following Christ? Jesus calls us to “take up [our] cross daily and follow him” (Luke 9: 23). If we place little to no value on discipleship as measured by the price paid for a Christ-centered education, why should we expect our children to follow Jesus?
As pastor and author David Platt wrote, “A relationship with Jesus requires absolute, undivided, exclusive affection. Jesus is worthy of radical devotion.” Providing our children a Christ-centered education may require radical changes flowing from radical devotion to our Savior. Perhaps mom will have to stay home. Perhaps we have to give up the new car or the larger house. Perhaps we will have to sacrifice some varsity sport or club, pay more for books or a Christ-centered curriculum, or pay for on-line courses while still paying our property taxes to support government schools.
In the power of the Holy Spirit, let us follow the motto of The Big Red One, “No mission too difficult. No sacrifice too great. Duty first.” Let us choose this day to disciple our children through a Christ-centered – or better yet a Christ-saturated education.
Pete Greenwald is a former Congressional candidate and currently serves as the Senior Naval Science Instructor at James River High School. He and his wife Anne have homeschooled their four children for over 20 years and currently reside in Midlothian, Virginia.