God in Public Schools

10:23 AMHeather

Amidst all the speculation and commentary and blog posts and coverage of the Sandy Hook tragedy, I have heard much debate about God in the public schools.  I went to bed last night thinking I had nothing more to add to these debates.  I didn't think I'd blog today.  I'd read a very compelling blog post from Jen Hatmaker about this situation.  She said more than I could ever hope to say, better than I could hope to say it.  So, I thought I had nothing more to offer.

But, I saw yet another post about God not being allowed in public schools this morning.  Since I can't run and hide from the prodding in my heart to share, here I am.  With you.  My bloggy friends.  For whatever it's worth.

My children attend public schools.  They always have.  They are now in eighth grade, sixth grade, and third grade.  Our choice to send our kids to public schools was not one made lightly.  Nor a one time choice.  We continually pray for direction and guidance as to the best option for our children and our family.  I love all the available options.  There are some amazing private Christian schools in our area.  And, I cannot tell you the admiration I have for my many friends who home school with such enthusiasm, wisdom, and energy.  I think that is a wonderful option as well.  And, I'm not opposed to any of these choices.

For our family, we continue to feel that public school is where our kids belong.  I'll be very honest with you.  I have been deeply wounded by a mentality that exists saying that I am not fulfilling my God given duty to my children if I don't home school.  While I admire such a conviction, I cannot find Biblical evidence to support that sending my kids to public school is a sin.  So, I continue to walk around with this scarlet "A" on my heart, feeling like "that parent" who sends my kids off to public schools.  

I must admit that I've cringed in the last few days, feeling anxious that the events of last week somehow uphold the thought process that public schools are evil or wrong for believing families.  So I feel angst as I know that we have sought the Lord too earnestly to have missed a call for our kids.  We know our kids are right where they are intended to be.

Which leads me to my point today.  I want to share with you some thoughts today on the whole topic of God in public schools.  I wholeheartedly agree with this wonderful feedback from Mike Huckabee on the subject of God's place in our culture.   And, may I clarify something?  As I googled to find that video just now, I saw link after link saying that Mike Huckabee said the shooting happened because we "removed God from the classroom."  I'm not sure we're talking about the same video?  Because,  from my humble perspective, Huckabee clearly states that the shooting happened because of the evil in the heart of the shooter.  He makes a point that our culture has been "systematically escorting God off the public square."  And, in so doing, we have seen the consequences in our culture of turning our back to Biblical values.  It's too simplistic--not to mention a misrepresentation--to say that Huckabee says those kids died because there's no prayer in schools.  

Bottom line, I agree with Huckabee's main assertion that our culture, on the one hand wants to escort God out in the name of political correctness.  Then, when something awful happens, it's the first place we seem to turn, asking where God was when that happened.  This is a schizophrenic response to God.  Invitation only.  And only when desperate, as a last ditch response. Not to mention, holding him completely responsible for actions someplace where the welcome mat was not extended to him.

As for God not being allowed in public schools, I feel the need to clarify this point.  Again, based on our own experience these last 9 years.  There are rules and regulations in the public schools as it relates to religion.  There is political correctness and "Winter parties" instead of Christmas parties.  There are fine lines teachers and educators are expected to abide by in order to not offend those of other religions.  And, by the way, I am thrilled that our children have gone to school with those of other religions--or no religion at all.  I can't tell you the countless conversations this has sparked about being the light and being respectful and loving to all people.   This is one of the reasons, in fact, why we feel led that public schools is the right fit for our children.  

So, yes, Huckabee is right.  As a culture, I believe that we have boxed God in.  In the name of tolerance and freedom of religion, I see the paradox that Christians are not completely free in our religion.  I'm all for not shoving beliefs down each other's throats.  But, the line can be crossed when simply exercising your own faith is limited.  On a side note, each campus seems to intepret the rules differently.  To be perfectly frank, our first elementary school interpreted the rules with much more restriction than our second elementary school.  Both within the same district, mind you.  This "escorting of God" out of the public square in the schools is a reflection of our culture. 

But, I take a bit of issue with a post I saw today.  It was a student asking God why the violence happened?  And his response was that He is not allowed in public schools.  

Here's the thing.  There may be rules and regulations and political correctness.  But, God is most definitely in public schools.  God is too big to be restrained by rules and regulations.  He may excuse Himself where he is not invited.  But, no law will ever bind Him or His presence.  We have seen and witnessed God in public schools repeatedly in our experience.  In teachers who love the Lord and serve the children with the kind of dedication shown by the valiant teachers in Connecticut.  The teachers who pour themselves into those children for the sake of serving others.  Goodness knows, it's not because teaching pays so well or is so easy.

We have seen God in the relationships my children have formed.  Both with other believers who are "iron that sharpens iron" for our children.  AND, with those of other religions who ask questions and start dialogs with our children.  We have seen God in our own children.  As they are being trained to be in the world and not of it.  As they write essays and complete projects that they know will be posted in the hallways and they take the opportunity to declare the name of Jesus.  As they pass out Journey to Bethlehem invitations, asking their friends of all religions to come and enjoy our church's living nativity.  

Don't be mistaken.  God is in the public schools.  Because God is in the heart of every believer within those walls.  God is in the teacher who asks parents to come and share their holiday traditions.  And, my children learn about Hannukah and Muslim customs.  And, the teachers (more than once) have asked me personally to come share our traditions.  God is right there where I am invited to be part of a larger discussion.  And, I explain how we read the story of Jesus' birth from the Bible on Christmas Eve--then proceed to read it to the kids in the classroom.  And I tell them how Christmas in our family means having a birthday cake for baby Jesus.  

God is in the amazing school nurse who holds my asthmatic child close and loves on him.  God is in the school secretaries who serve him with all their heart and show His love daily to all those parents and students.  God is even in the moment of silence in the elementary school each morning, which our children have been encouraged to use as a moment of prayer to start their school day.  

So, here's the thing--again, from my perspective.  Yes, as a culture, we have moved from the Biblical roots and religious freedom sought by our founding fathers.   Because to tie up any religion with rules and regulations and limits on its expression is really not religious freedom.  And, yes, I find it baffling that in a culture that wants to say, "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," we scratch our heads and run to God when tragedy occurs to ask him where he was?  I wish this turn of events would keep people asking the questions and turning to God and faith.  But, unfortunately, I believe like 9/11, it's but a fleeting response.  When the initial shock wears off, we will once again bury our collective heads in the sand and ignore God.

And while there may be rules about God in the public schools, God will never be bound up by man's laws.  He may be a gentlemen and leave where he isn't welcomed.  But, in the heart of every believer who earnestly seek and serve Him in every public school, God will show up.  

Last but not least, please hear my heart.  I honor and respect every schooling option.  I admire every choice a God seeking parent makes for their children.  And, I hope the same courtesy can be extended to me.  I'm not forcing my children to be little missionaries.  I'm not ignoring some higher calling.  I'm not sending my children to the wolves.  I'm obeying what my husband and I feel is God's call for our children.  To be light wherever they go.  And, for them, that's public schools. Where mans laws might restrict, but a limitless God still shows up.    

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