roxanne-desgagnesice sheetsgimpWhen the temperature plummets or suddenly spikes, it’s the small talk of the day, right?

‘What is this, winter in the middle of summer?’

‘I know it’s crazy!’

But when the temperature just rises a little, over time…well that’s manageable and no fodder for small talk. You’d be a right bore to make small talk with the mums at the school drop off about how evenly the temperature is rising! What our bodies do is adjust to the rise in temperature and accept the new conditions.

What’s this all got to do with raising kids to be godly or being purposeful in our ministry to kids?

Our western, democratic societies are gradually raising the heat against Christianity and it’s easy for us to comfortably adapt, lower our expectations and relinquish our space to others who speak louder.

We are not seeing outrageous, sudden spikes in persecution against Christ in our societies, but we are seeing a slower, gradual shrinking of the breathing space of Christ and his church in those societies.

I’ve got three examples in the past week that have had media coverage in Australia and which directly affect our kids.

  1. Principals wanting to remove Religion from high schools
  2. Primary School Principals removing the Scripture ‘default’ and instead requiring parents to choose between Scripture, Ethics or nothing upon enrolment
  3. Government seeking to pass legislation that will prevent Christian schools from discriminating over who they employ = Christian schools won’t be able to reject gay teachers.

Church vs State – often misunderstood

Now, if you’re in the US reading this, you may be thinking…’what is Religion and Scripture doing in schools? We ain’t got that here, shouldn’t church and state be separate?’

Well, that is part of the issue coming to a head here in Australia, except most people misunderstand the point of what ‘church/state separation is about. Keeping Church and State separate in schools does not mean the Government cannot or even should not allow any form of religious instruction in schools. Nor does it mean the government can’t be Christian. It just means the government won’t give preference to one faith over another, all have equal access to support and opportunity. There’s no favourites.

No such thing as a neutral state or school or teacher

When we realise that schools and indeed each subject and teacher are not neutral, bias free learning conduits, we lower our expectations. We also, if we are mindful of this, might then open ourselves up to the possibility of other options, rather than proscribing and limiting our learning. Which is why, religion in schools and school scripture in primary schools is a great idea. Kids should be exposed and have the opportunity to learn about different religions, faiths and reflect on life, meaning and the universe.

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Principals want Religion removed from High School

With all the emphasis on finishing high school and the great ‘ATAR’ number, the HSC determining your life…kids need to have their eyes raised to more meaningful outcomes in life. Career is one thing. A job is needed to feed yourself and allow you to contribute to society. But as most of us adults know, that little number, what we got in high school…is forgotten almost as soon as we get it. So, giving the kids breathing space to pause, chew the fat and think about the meaning of life, in high school is pretty cool.

I bet the Principals who want Religion removed from the High school curriculum haven’t consulted any kids about it. I mean ask a student…’would you like a period in the week to reflect on life and consider some spiritual possibilities or just be given more school work?’ I think we know the answer.

Yes, the timetable is cluttered, yes schools are super busy and love to kill off any dead wood. But all that will happen is the space that Religion occupied will be filled with more work, more clutter. Schools need to recognize the opportunity to shape a rounded human being. Instead we are in danger of making it all about the grades, all about the score. Any person who reflects for a moment, knows that’s a hollow result for 6 years of your life.

Primary Schools to remove School Scripture SRE ‘default’ attendance and replace it with mandatory choice between SRE, Ethics and Nothing.

In Australian schools, NSW in particular, the Government legislated a space, many years ago, for primary schools to allow SRE to be available to kids once per week for about 30 minutes. Normally this would mean kids would automatically be enrolled in SRE until a parent actively signed a form asking them to be removed and do ‘other activities’ (= sit in library). Then very recently, along came Ethics, as an alternative and competitor to SRE, for parents who didn’t like SRE and didn’t want their kids attending nor do nothing in the library.

Consequently, the move to introduce Ethics in the same time and space as SRE is about levelling the playing field and removing the privileged space of SRE. Why would a government do this? Partly because of the ‘squeaky wheel’ or loudest voice syndrome. But some might also say, ‘it’s only fair that other groups/ideologies share the space and have the same opportunity to enroll students. However, this has always existed. Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims etc. can all share the SRE space and have done so for many years. Except that the space was originally granted, specifically to SRE, not other groups and ideologies.

Ethics itself is already part of the SRE syllabus to some degree (and perhaps other faiths I assume too) But shouldn’t ethics be taught as part of the HSIE component of the primary school curriculum? Of course, it should and perhaps is…but can you see where I’m going? ‘Ethics’ didn’t come into schools because the Primary school curriculum was lacking. It was designed more like a torpedo to dislodge, disrupt and undermine the privileged space of SRE.

Well, ‘tough cheese’ you might say. Why should Christians enjoy special privilege in State schools? I don’t want my kid sitting around in the library!

Well, first because State schools don’t have an anchor point for values. Values shift on the latest fad and gust of wind without the wisdom of knowing what is sown into the fabric of the world we live in. Second, SRE gives kids the opportunity to explore Christianity, the faith that has significantly shaped the western societies we live in. Many kids these days won’t get taken to church or Sunday school, like they did 50 years ago. Therefore, SRE provides a valuable educational experience to our growing, unchurched society.

Labor government seeks legislation to remove freedom of faith-based schools to discriminate when hiring staff

When it comes to attending a private Christians school and other faith-based schools, we are choosing and willingly submitting to a narrower set of parameters that control our child’s education than the State offers. It’s not that the government school is a wild garden with no parameters, in fact as I just mentioned, the bias is all too evident, as the Education Department and certainly the Teacher’s Federation, often ideologically leans in a certain direction. But the Christian school is very publicly owning its ideology and publicly publishing its parameters. We go there, paying handsomely at times, for a different set of values than what the State is offering.

Get this, in the paper the other day it was demonstrated how in Australia, we are happy to trust the State with our kids in primary school, but when it comes to high school the confidence drops and the numbers soar that we send to private schools. Go figure. But right now, the left, labor government wants to legislate that independent school freedoms be curbed so they can no longer discriminate against staff who do not adhere to the school values. This means, if successful, private schools will not be able to not hire someone for their staff based on their choice of sexuality.

When the government (STATE) tries to legislate what the Christian school’s parameters can be and this directly transgresses the purpose and intent of the school we have a clash of Masters. Who will we serve? The government or Jesus?

The temperature is rising folks, at some point we must make a noise. Better to see this for what it is and rattle the governments cage before it becomes unbearable.

The book of Revelation shows the unbearable State, persecuting the Church. We know God is sovereign, that the Church will survive and thrive, but we don’t need to go there. We need to wake up, be more proactive and recognize when the temperature is being slowly squeeze up.

The thing is, perhaps like me, you’re at a loss to know what to do or even what to say.

The average pew sitter, I think is ill equipped to fully appreciate these increases in temperature, understand why its important and know how to speak up.

Our church leaders, pastors need to use the prophetic voice and apply God’s word to shed light on our shifting society and equip us in what we can do, what conversations we can have, the tone of voice we can use to help our friends, neighbours, colleagues understand these issues and not cave in to the noisiest voices.

We’re a long way behind.

If we don’t get savvy soon; If we don’t feel the heat, but instead think of it as acceptable ‘societal warming’; If we don’t all learn to speak prophetically into our little conversations everyday…it’s going to get a lot hotter and we’ll regret how lazily and easily we rescinded our space to the anti-Christian forces.

Our society in Australia, (and I don’t think it’s much different in other western societies) are gradually raising the heat against Christianity and it’s easy for us to comfortably adapt, lower our expectations and rescind our space to others who speak louder.

Btw, when I say ‘our space’ I mean the Church. And the Church is good for society. We may not always get along, but history demonstrates the enormous social benefits, not to mention eternal in some cases, the Church brings to society. Schools, hospitals, justice, mercy and so on.

We need to talk to our kids, we need to articulate calmly and gently the reasons why our values clash so much with our so called ‘progressive’ societies and how that matters.

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Here's some of the relevant links to media coverage:

Principals want religion in High Schools scrapped: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/high-school-principals-call-for-religious-education-to-be-scrapped-20181130-p50jeo.html

SRE default being removed

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/easier-to-opt-out-scripture-forms-to-include-non-religious-options-20181122-p50hqa.html

https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/curriculum/learning-across-the-curriculum/religion-and-ethics/advice-for-schools

Labor government proposing legislation to curb religious freedom in private christian schools

http://cathnews.com/cathnews/33767-stand-off-over-gay-students-and-teachers-legislation