Biblical Education Amid Cultural Revolution
A Response to “Dismantling Racism in the Classroom”
BY VICTORINA HOLDING
The current melee in our country over irreversible past colliding with unresolved passion is a testimony to our love for life itself and to the validity of the phrase “to form a more perfect union” expressed in the Preamble to the United States Constitution. These two ideas should encourage and motivate us Christian educators to answer the urgency of a revolution – a revolution back to biblical education which highlights the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here we find that justification, propitiation, and sanctification go beyond antidotal teaching strategies and guarantee our progress in continuing to perfect this Union for the next generation.
Justification comes with our redemption upon trusting in the finished work of Christ on Calvary. A pastor once simplified its definition with this thought: “Justification means ‘just as if we had never been sinners.’” The criteria revolve around the sinner no matter the social status: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The “all” in this declaration excludes no one in the same way that “whosoever” in the invitation means everyone: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). When Jesus spread His arms on the Cross, He opened them wide for all with no exceptions.
Our students must hear and act upon the gospel. Once a person receives Christ as his Savior, the only supremacy that matters is that of the true God, the Great I Am Who spoke the world into existence and Who holds it all by the power of His might (Genesis 1:1; Exodus 20:2-5). When God is supreme in a student’s heart, no other name can be put alongside God’s.
The word “supreme” is an absolute adjective; therefore, it would be wrong to say “more supreme.” To the saved, we commit idolatry when someone else (or something) is vying for supremacy in our lives; therefore, to label a fellow man supreme over us (whether perceived or in deed) is to admit that man has become bigger than our God.
This seemingly simple truth combats even the very thought of “white supremacy” or “white privilege” and all other forms of “supremacies” (idols) that trip us up in our Christian walk. God is the One and Only Supreme Being; everyone else (including ourselves) must be smaller in our eyes. Justification not only gives us a sense of belonging; it also keeps us humble before the One Who has accepted us “just as if we had never been sinners.” Having been justified in the most equitable terms, Christians (black and white alike) have no reason to entertain the slightest sense of privilege over other human beings, nor to become paranoid over the possibility that a fellow man were usurping himself over us.
Privilege carries the connotation of gaining favor or goodwill, or of appeasement. This can easily translate to our biases, preconceived notions, or prejudices against each other. These ill wills run across cultures simply because of man’s sinful nature, so the remedy is not another psychological treatise or a political discourse. Our bent to sinning is a spiritual issue; therefore, only our Creator and Savior has the true solution. Christ’s blood alone is our propitiation: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). We do not need to appease each other by setting up camps with those who appear to meet our needs for approval or affirmation based on commonality of skin color, preferences, lifestyle, beliefs, and even creeds. Christ, our Propitiation, deems useless “cultural-switching” or “code-switching.” What a freedom we have in Him!
The gospel is that which dispels bias because none of us can be a propitiation for another: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2: 1-2). When our students understand this through our teaching and in our own lives, the fear of being bullied by other people’s biases and prejudices would not overcome them. I know how it feels to be verbally assaulted and to be stared down because of my race, but I have also realized the importance of praying for my fellow men who live in resentment and perhaps lack of understanding. Christ’s sacrificial death is enough for me, and I’m sure you could say the same. Then it must also be enough for all our students!
Most of our bullying of each other has been masked in the name of rights and righteousness. Monuments, statues, and traditions that remind us of both our strengths and weaknesses as a nation are coming down faster than the launching of our magnificent Space X. The aggressions are sadly ironic because the end could never justify the means: one “right” for another “right” until all the “rights” are overshadowed by resentment and even violence. Consequently, those “rights” are now being sacrificed at the altar of a fickle culture. We can assign blame to interest groups, bureaucracies, and institutions; but the greater blame rests on an educational system that has dismissed all absolutes, especially God.
Most of our bullying of each other has been masked in the name of rights and righteousness… We can assign blame to interest groups, bureaucracies, and institutions; but the greater blame rests on an educational system that has dismissed all absolutes, especially God.
I grew up sheltered in a godly home. Now I’m also realizing that I’ve been teaching in sheltered environments. In all my thirty-three years in Christian education, I can honestly say that I’ve only been acquainted with curricula portraying Columbus not as a perfect man, but an imperfect visionary. I cannot even imagine teaching from slanted literature books that magnified one race over another, which appears to have become more than talking points. I thank God for having been sheltered from these teaching resources; otherwise, I would not even be teaching in the classroom anymore.
I can also honestly say that I’ve never personally witnessed a racist action against a student or a fellow teacher. My training in pedagogy and classroom management has always been Bible-based and focused on the truth that my students are all created in God’s image. I had never even considered race or ethnicity to be some kind of a derogatory thought until I started paying attention to others’ arguments on this issue. Now I’m beginning to understand why each generation is more disillusioned than the previous because of educational institutions that have been inculcating dissenting views.
A curriculum that is not sympathetic toward Christianity is just the beginning. Through it, students are being taught half-truths about history. Herein lies the root of the problem because in a biblical worldview our “history” is, in reality, His (Christ’s) story. When Christ is erased in the story, the narrative is irrevocably flawed from beginning to end. Our Founding Fathers understood this Christian heritage. It is no wonder that John Adams, our second President and signer of the Declaration of Independence once warned us: “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Clearly it is not a matter of merely bowdlerizing a curriculum in order to neutralize its views. Forgive the cliché, but it is true that there are three sides to a story: his, hers, and the truth. Concerning Columbus, for example, I doubt that secular textbooks would mention that Christopher (“Christ-bearer”) Columbus was motivated by his Christian faith to sail to the New World. Depending on whose perspective we read, Columbus has been either praised or demonized; but I must admit that it was quite disheartening to hear someone dub the great explorer a “trash person.” Such rhetoric will soon find us canceling each other out simply because we will always find fault in one another.
So in writing a “more perfect” history, should we not tell all sides of the story as much as we possibly could? The effective Christian teacher can present all sides and usher the students into healthy discussion and critical thinking. Our students must synthesize ideas and sharpen their abilities to discern and act upon their lessons, so much so that race is never the deciding factor. As Christian educators, we do not have to spend our energy justifying or propitiating for our students. Christ must be their all in all, or they will be nothing at all!
As Christian educators, we do not have to spend our energy justifying or propitiating for our students. Christ must be their all in all, or they will be nothing at all!
Lest we become ignorant idealists concerning our Christian heritage, we must address the reality of the flesh and its strongholds. Even after salvation, we can easily fall into false pride, privilege, bias, and prejudice. Again, the gospel stands ready to offer the solution. Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection offers not only justification and propitiation but also sanctification – being separate from the world to be set apart for the Lord. Our students will benefit not only from seeing our lives sanctified, but also by realizing for themselves that they, too, can be sanctified. A true Christian school is indeed one that fosters in their students the freedom from an agonizing sense of worthlessness in the eyes of fellow men, and one that values each life as a gift from God.
When viewed in the image of God, every student becomes a breathing testimony of God’s grand design and purpose in the universe. One’s purpose in life then overrides misgivings and doubts whether to “assimilate” or not in God’s special place for his or her life. When we teach our students to follow the Lord rather than men, we afford them an identity that is equal to none; that is, identity with Christ and in Christ.
When we teach our students to follow the Lord rather than men, we afford them an identity that is equal to none; that is, identity with Christ and in Christ.
In Christ, students can be true to themselves without ever losing worth or value no matter their race, ethnicity, talents, abilities, and preferences. In Christ, the pursuit for excellence in all things should be as natural as breathing because God has equipped us for His glory. Our students must see the value of sound communication that reflects God’s orderliness and beauty. We must beware of secular and evolutionary approaches to grammar that seek to dismantle absolutes by making words relative. We must beware of cultural changes in language because our words do matter.
Our black students should not feel hypocritical to speak the English language that we inherited from the colonists just because others have wrongfully claimed it as “white-centric.” In fact it is condescending to even imply that excellent communication is not befitting black people. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used it with ease and great confidence when he delivered “I Have a Dream.” The syntax, figurative language, parallelism, and biblical allusions all reflect Dr. King’s mastery of a beautiful language that still moves us today. I have had the privilege of teaching many black and brown students who are great communicators. In Christ, there is no fear of being an outcast; all have equal access to the Giver of all that is good – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
Two major questions have been reverberating lately in the midst of a cultural war: 1) How did we get here? and 2) Where do we go from here? My answer to both questions might sound simplistic: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). The conditional conjunction at the beginning poses to us more pertinent questions: Are we willing to come back to God? Will we now agree that He is Supreme and is in absolute control? When America’s schools turned away from God, that’s when we started our way “here.”
So where do we go from here? We Christian educators must stay the course in biblical education. We must not apologize for our Christ-centered curricula, but we must keep enhancing our execution and application according to our students’ present needs. We must teach the unchanging truths behind justification, appropriation, and sanctification that counter not only ideologies but also our valid misgivings of each other. As we strive toward “a more perfect union,” we must study God’s Word more diligently, live out the gospel more consistently, pray for our leaders more faithfully, seek to win the unsaved more earnestly, love our students unconditionally, and teach to engage hearts and minds more passionately. We can be confident to continue in these solemn tasks “for God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
My fellow Christian educators, we are on!
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