A PRAYER FOR THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

Both of the sprouts start their junior year today, the oldest in college, the youngest in high school. It seems appropriate to pray today.

Great and mighty Lord, let me start my prayer off with the big stuff. Please do not let there be any school shootings anywhere this year. If someone tries, let them be stopped long before innocent lives are cut short. Please let those in positions of leadership stop squabbling over such things as who uses what bathroom, and instead focus upon the stuff that really matters–like grammar, mathematics, science, and history. Still thinking about big stuff, Lord, I ask that teachers will earn their value–not just the lowest amount we can get by with–and I’m okay with taking some money away from athletes, movie stars, and corporate tycoons to do it. Oh, and while I’m at it, convict every school district in our nation that teachers should not have to buy the supplies for their classroom.

Now let me get to what might be thought of as smaller stuff. I pray for all of my children’s teachers to be the kind of teachers that inspire, motivate, and encourage. Please keep the ones that just show movies all day long away from my two daughters, and especially keep the ones that like to demean religious people (like that history teacher a couple of years ago) or argue politics or make my daughters cry by saying mean things, far far away from them. Let those kinds of tea9049675_orig[1]chers all decide to quit and do something else.

I also pray, Lord, that all the athletes will be safe for all their games and that no one will get hurt.  I ask that the coaches care more about the character development of the athletes than wins and loses, and so too will the fans. I pray that the chess clubs, debate clubs, science clubs, and fine art departments will be just as supported and funded as the athletic departments.

I pray that bullying not happen at all. I ask for Junior High to not be painful for anyone, especially those that feel different, odd, or out of place.

I pray that SAT and ACT scores go through the roof, that everyone graduates, and no one goes to school hungry. I pray for moms and dads to be very involved in every facet of their children’s learning.

I pray for parents who homeschool, and their children–that the unique challenges and wonderful opportunities afforded by that choice will be a blessing.

For universities, I ask that such silly things as trigger warnings be left behind, and that instead colleges be places where people’s values are challenged without their personhood or safety threatened. I pray for transformation of individuals in college–positive transformation into critical thinkers and leaders who will help us solve the problems around us, not slip into the morose of sameness that seems to be spreading so quickly.

One more thing Lord–I pray that money, or the lack thereof, never keep anyone from getting the quality education they need. I mean this at the district level in a way that every school district, no matter how rich or poor, gets ample resources. I also mean this at the college level–that no student will be forced to rack up insurmountable debt just to graduate.

There are so many things that could be better about the way we educate in our nation, but there are also many things that are right. Thank you for committed teachers, careful bus drivers, wise administrators, and dedicated school boards, who work so hard to make certain every child is loved and cared for. And I thank you for the gift of learning and discovery, which you have made to be part of the human experience.

In the name of Jesus I do pray. Amen.

 

 

 

BRAIN DRAIN IN THE CHURCH: PART ONE

I am featuring guest posts this week, and this one is by my friend Dr. David Caddell.  David is a university professor and sociological heavyweight.  One of the most viewed posts on the Pastor Greenbean blog was one he wrote back in 2012 called Political Insanity.  I’ve broken this blog by David into two posts because there is more information in here than one post can handle in here.  This is Part One.  Click here for Part Two.

I was excited when Jamie asked me to contribute to his blog once again. As one of my dearest friends, Jamie

Sociology Stud
Sociology Stud

has a way of sensing when my head is about ready to explode because I have not had the chance to write about a particular issue we have been discussing. As Jamie always had plenty of ideas to write about on his own, I can only assume he is allowing this for the sake of my own mental stability. Regardless of Jamie’s motives, I hope you benefit. If not benefited, I pray you are challenged.

That Awkward Moment…

Just prior to Thanksgiving last year, I was sitting in our Bible study group at our church, accompanied by my wife and my in-laws. The topic of the day was Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus in John 3, where Jesus instructs the religious leader that he must be born of the Spirit in order to see the Kingdom. Of course, Nicodemus finds Jesus’ logic confusing—after all, who wouldn’t?

What surprised me was how quickly the group’s attention became fixed on the following passage from John 3:9-12:

Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

My surprise was not at the quote itself, although the rest of the first twenty verses of John 3 carry so much freight for consideration in terms of Christian theology and lifestyle. Instead, my discomfort came from how several of the group members (while others remained silent) used this passage to demonstrate how intellect and education obscures one’s ability to see and understand spiritual realities. One brother expounded on this sentiment by stating that this is especially true of people who are educated in “those northern universities.” He was very intentional to point out, however, that the problem related to “thinking too much” is nearly universal.

It might sound odd, but I was neither surprise or offended by his comments. I hear these sentiments frequently within the church, as I have for the past twenty-five years. I would find it amusing if I was not so saddened by what this anti-intellectualism means for the future of the church. Much of the writing that Jamie and I have done over the past few years has grown out of our concern over this anti-intellectual bias, or perhaps a non-reflective approach toward studying the scriptures that has dominated much of evangelical Protestantism, leading to the “de-skilling” of Biblical and doctrinal teaching in the churches. Those who have little intellectual preparation to teach the scriptures are routinely placed in positions where such preparation is necessary.

Wait just a minute! If a faithful member of the Body feels God’s call to teach, should she or he not be allowed to do so, trusting that God will give them all the preparation they need? I think not. I would suggest that if someone truly senses the call of God, they will certainly not resist any opportunity to gain the requisite preparation for whatever calling they have envisioned. If someone who plays no musical instrument at all were to feel God’s call to play the guitar on Sunday morning during worship, it’s laughable to think that person would be handed a guitar for the worship service and expect God to reward a lack preparation and practice. Yet, we do this very thing when it comes to the vital function of teaching in the church.

Elitist?  Oh I Hope Not

Does this sound elitist? I would be surprised if it did not. It even offends my own egalitarian sensibilities. Yet, I am unrepentant. While we may prefer the democratic, egalitarian social notions that all individuals are equally valuable to God and His work, we need to examine these notions in a more Biblically nuanced way. First of all, we may like the idea that God considers us all equally worthy, but nothing could be more unbiblical. According to the scriptures, any value we have is not inherent or natural, but bestowed on us by God Himself. Nowhere in the Christian Bible is it even implied that God loves us because we are indeed worthy of love, or even have any inherent value. Quite the opposite. God loves us because God is love. Thus, whatever value each individual possesses resides in God, not in persons. This hardly gives any scriptural grounds to suggest that all individual gifts or talents are equal. In fact, C. S. Lewis proposes that the inequality we experience within the Body of Christ is as much redemptive as it is part of God’s plan. Besides suggesting that the authority of the learned over the simple is as part of the original plan as the authority of man over beast, Lewis gives a wonderful analogy when he suggests that

Equality is a quantitative term and therefore love often knows nothing of it. Authority exercised with humility and obedience accepted with delight are the very lines along which our spirits live. Even in the life of the affections, much more in the Body of Christ, we step outside that world which says “I am as good as you.” It is like turning from a march to a dance. It is like taking off our clothes. We become, as Chesterton said, taller when we bow; we become lowlier when we instruct. It delights me that there should be moments in the services of my own Church when the priest stands and I kneel. As democracy becomes more complete in the outer world and opportunities for reverence are successively removed, the refreshment, the cleansing, and invigorating returns to inequality, which the Church offers us, become more necessary. (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory)

So, while I would suggest that all in the Body should be extended the same love that God, in Christ, has shown us, I also propose that a more realistic (if less romantic) view of the relative giftedness of all of our individual members.

Click here for Part Two