This is a very interesting article – it would be interesting to see if anyone would be willing to give up some farm paddocks to do a 2 ways to live presentation in crop circles.
“…this is our school let love abide here, love of God, love of mankind, and love of one another.” – School prayer, Maclean Primary School (possibly paraphrased)
Religion in government run schools is a flashpoint subject. There’s nothing that will get the blood boiling for your average atheist than to have religion try to eke its way in to the school curriculum. The issue has been hotly debated in the US for years and the debate has hit our shores with the PM’s decision to fund chaplains in State Schools. The issue has been in the peripherals for a long time – last year it was the proposal to teach intelligent design in the science room – France had an impassioned debate over the rights of students to wear religious clothing to school – the secular state/church relationship is peculiar to say the least.
Surprisingly for some, the chaplaincy scheme is almost as unpopular with Christians as it is with Joe Blow atheist, albeit for different reasons. Whatever your philosophical position on the matter – Australia is a country that celebrates religious freedom – and encourages diversity of beliefs – as a result of the s116 of the constitution (which rules out an official state church). This freedom is a result of the historical hard work of many Christian men and women who staunchly fought for that right – along with fighting for other notable causes such as equal rights for women and aboriginals, the labor union movement, the founding of the Liberal party etc… where there is political or social progress in our history there’s generally been a Christian involved (some would describe the advent of secular humanism and other small l liberal advents as progress – I would argue that they’re generally an example of the use of freedoms won earlier or blatant plagiarism of ideals from historical groups). There is a strong social and historical argument for the teaching of Christianity in schools – but the context it’s taught in is open for argument – should Christianity enjoy a protected position as the religion of choice taught in RE? Should Christians be given special preference in these newly formed government funded chaplaincy positions? The philosophical answer to both those questions is probably not – if we’re upholding a society where people are free to believe whatever they want (which is as important for Christians as it is for Muslims, atheists, Jews and Mormons) we possibly need to provide equal access to all the options (an all or nothing approach of sorts).
I’ve been having some conversations with Mr Benny lately on the issue – below are some extracts from the emails we’ve sent back and forth…
“I hate school prayer.” – Ben
So do I, but for theological reasons – I don’t mind the idea of a Christian praying for the school every day – that’s great – but forcing people to pray to a God they don’t believe in is ridiculous and should be offensive to all Christians because it belittles the idea of God.
“I’m happy to have the history of religion and umm i lack the ability to express this part – i think it’s perfectly good to have the “stories” (sorry i know that’s a real bad word I just can’t think of the right one) of religion to be taught in the same way as science, maths, Shakespeare etc. My concerns stem from the fact legislation is being brought in and it is moving towards what I just mentioned, but the ideals are then being raped by religious zealots intent on promoting religion in schools. $20000 goes to a school, the discretion on who to employ is falling within the schools, you have some religious people in positions of authority, a religious chaplain is employed, and suddenly you have $20000 of tax payer’s money to have a preacher in a school.” – Ben
This argument is interesting but somewhat contradictory. Who is going to get to teach the religious subjects? Suggesting an atheist teach religion is like suggesting a drama teacher teach physics because they have some grasp of the concepts involved but no understanding. A religious teacher should be just as free to promote religion as an English teacher is to promote the beauty of the English language – or a science teacher is to promote the complexity of a plant. That’s what education is – it’s being presented with a series of views and deciding which ones appeal. Because of the “wonderful” nature of postmodernism in education there’s no truth that can be taught as an absolute anymore anyway so children aren’t being forced to believe anything. I can deny gravity if I can justify it. The anti RE argument is also completely flawed – RE in state schools is an opt out system where parents who feel strongly enough can pull their children out of a class – in an interesting side note we don’t have opt out science, or opt out maths so clearly there’s already a distinction between the subjects. What we do have is an opening for anyone of any religious persuasion to come in and teach RE – in my primary school the JWs had their own religion classes – and I can only assume if a Muslim wanted to teach Islamic RE classes during that timeslot that would be a possibility under the current legislation.
The role of the counsellor/chaplain needs to be clearly defined – and Christians are just as concerned about the implications of this legislation as everyone else – nobody wants crazy people running around on school grounds converting kids to an obscure cult. And the last thing Christians want is for a government driven by a politically correct agenda to water down the gospel into a more palatable mix of peace and love – without all the nasty bits.
“I swear, if there are reports of school chaplains directing students to prayer and such if they are approached for counselling then I will go and punch them in the face myself (that’s just student X, not a student they have a history with and know is of their religious persuasion).” – Ben
What guidance can a guidance counsellor offer – when is a student allowed to leave school grounds to seek counselling from a church – a large number of community based, government endorsed counselling services (ie the Salvation Army) are church based anyway so you’re not solving whatever your perceived problem is by keeping counsellors out of school – unless your problem is that it shouldn’t be happening at school because of your political ideology – and that’s a rabid breakdown in rationality if the ideal is more important than the people impacted. People will not be forced to use these counsellors – they’re there for those who will – and in that case it’ll be $20,000 well spent – the fact is that $20,000 will only pay about a half of a person and the other half will come from the combined churches in an area – so the federal funding is probably ensuring chaplains have an obligation to act as counsellors rather than religious salespeople.
And therein lies the concern for Christians – in paying the chaplain, the government then essentially pays to have some control over their message/methodology – which is a breakdown in the separation of church and state in the other direction – ie the state should not dictate the practices of a church. Most Evangelical Christians feel strongly about the notion of the gospel being the only way to God – any watering down of this message fails to serve their purposes as much as it would be a failing if the education system was to employ a “preacher.”
I read Premier Beattie’s plea for churches to pray for rain with interest – particularly the paragraph referring to members of other faiths as “brothers and sisters” who should be encouraged to pray to their Gods – which God will get the credit now if it rains? Seems pretty confusing to me – not to mention the politically correct agenda being pushed and signed onto by the heads of Queensland’s major Christian churches… shame, shame, shame I say.
…there are now links to my 1 Peter studies on in the column thing on the right of the page.
At this point I would compliment those observent (or observative – it should be a word shouldn’t it Simon (I believe I had a similar conversation with RJB or CB on this topic as well. )) enough to notice.
Here’s an update on some actual things that are going on in my life in Townsville…
Work – work is great. The people I work with are fun. My role is interesting and challenging. I get cool perks (reef fishing trips, a regular pay cheque, and stuff like that). You can read my press releases here.
Home – home is good. Tim is fun. He’s about to go to PNG for a month though so Dave will have to provide me with all my home based entertainment. Are you up to that Dave? Bring on the pranks I say.
Church – Church continues to be great also. My grade 12 boys – Dave and Isaac – are a pleasure to spend time with. Even if they’re wimpy and nerdy (I hope you’re reading this boys). Dave is Donna’s little brother, that creates a whole lot of issues as I’m sure you can imagine. Donna is a rarity in that both my Townsville and Brisbane readers know her. I should write about those sorts of people more often. I had a funny experience where I saw old photos of Laura Kennedy in a church photo album the other day… and I was talking to one of Kendra and Geir’s school friends the other day… that was an interesting conversation. I’m writing a series of studies on 1 Peter for our young adults bible study group. That’s been good fun. When I get some sort of web hosting space I’ll upload them and some other stuff I’ve been writing. I’m not sure why anyone would actually want to read them, but just in case… I led the singing again last week. I have never ever claimed to be able to sing – except for a little while in Maclean before my voice broke. I’m aware that most of the time I can hold a tune – but I think that’s largely due to the amount of practice I do in my car. I’m one of those freaks you see singing at traffic lights.
Soccer – Our mixed indoor team is on fire at the moment – the new season started a couple of weeks ago and we’re currently undefeated. The girls we get to play for us are better than most guys on the other teams (particularly our American import, Kasie, who’s better than all the guys on our team). We won 10 or 11 – 2 last night. I lost count. It’s good fun, but I miss the MPC outdoor team.
I think that’s all the important areas of my life covered – except the girls part that Serge asked me to talk about – but I’m not sure that’s the kind of thing it’s wise to be posting on the Internet – or anywhere for that matter.
I’m heading down to Brisbane for Maddie’s coming of age celebrations this weekend- that’s right my second littlest sister is becomming an adult on the 9th of June. I arrive on Thursday night – start booking times in my busy social calendar now.
Mmm, minimalism is the new black. I was tossing up using the word antidisestablishmentarianism in today’s heading – and it would have been in context too.
I noticed Dan posted some stuff on the RE debate the other day. Matt spends his time posting on Sweden’s dominance of the Ice Hockey world and his lack of success with getting attractive girls to talk to (or marry) him. What’s wrong with all the attractive girls out there?
There’s been a lot of stuff in the newspapers lately talking about a proposal to open up Religious Education in schools to any group who wish to be involved. The move is being driven by a group of secular humanists with heavily chipped shoulders. First of all, before I rant about why it’s such a stupid argument to be having, I’d like to ask the humanists why they don’t care about the opinions and emotional security of all the Christians they attack with their tolerant and open stance? Then I’d like to ask them what hurt they’ve experienced at the hands of genuine Christians. If you’re smart enough to kick up a stink like they are – you’re smart enough to do some research into the teachings of Christianity – any problems they have are more likely to be with the religious institution than with Christianity itself. They took another step in their battle to strike Christianity with the recent moves to remove Gideons bibles from hospitals because they might carry diseases or something. I think that pretty much sums up their position – they believe Christianity is a disease of the mind.
Now. My rant about why Christian education should be taught in schools begins here. Constitutionally Australia has no official religion (I think it’s article 16, but I’m pulling that out of nowhere so chances are I’m actually wrong – I could look it up but I can’t be bothered). The Westminster political system is built on the philosophy of the separation of powers (the people who make laws shouldn’t be the ones to enforce them because this would invariably lead to corruption). So our government is divided into the legislative, the judicial and the executive arms (the parliament, the court, the Queen (Governer General)). Because the under riding theory is that power ultimately corrupts the more separations we can create the better – so we have the upper and lower houses and federal, state, and local governments. Historically the church played a major, some would say overbearing, role in politics. This caused problems where one church group would try to kill another church group (like the Crusades or inquisitions or the protestant reformation or the current feud between the Bappos and Pressies). Political movers and shakers decided the church should be stripped of its influential position within the decision making process. In a democracy this makes sense – one interest group or belief system can’t philosophically force their will on another (unless they’re the majority). I’m all for the separation of powers and I’m all for the separation of church and state. What I’m not for is the rewriting of Australia’s history on a postmodern whim. If their argument was simply that public schools shouldn’t be using public funding to turn children into Christians that might have some merit. But it’s not. It’s stupid. Christianity, regardless of its veracity, plays a huge role in shaping our culture. It deserves a place in the educational spectrum (or curriculum) on that basis alone. One of the first things you’re taught when you study law – and I know this because I listened in first year – is that our legal system is based on a Judea-Christian model. Both our major political parties have historical ties to the church. Christian men and women played a huge part in bringing our society to the point its at today and these secular humanists want to spit on that legacy. The only reason they can legitimately take the stance they are today is because of the system they operate in – because it was created by Christians. Try going to a system based on Sharia law and see how far your secular humanism gets you. Some people are stupid.
It turns out I’m 93% reformed evangelical… hooray for me. Do the test here. Although apparently this makes me a 5 point Calvinist. So maybe I answered some questions wrong… I’m also 35% pentecostal/emergent church, and 50% fundamentalist.