God and the Public Schools

The events in Newtown, Connecticut last week were shocking. I still find myself in tears thinking of the families that are grieving.

Sandy Hook Elementary School reminds us that we live in a very fallen world.

I think, as moms, we are especially affected by this event because it happened in an elementary school. So many children died. In our minds, bad things should not happen to sweet, little children.

Yesterday my friend Annie posted about her experiences as a teacher, in my sweet city. She wrote about her fears, and about how she processes this event in light of a loving, good God.

It is normal for us to then begin placing blame . . . guns, lax school security, violent video games, untreated mental illness. All of these things point to one big thing–SIN. We live in a sinful, fallen world. We were warned that we would live through terrible things. Again, I’ll point you to the verse that I recite daily:

[Jesus said,}     “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33 ESV)

It is that peace that we have to take with us day to day.

One of the biggest hot buttons that I have seen in the past few days are the people declaring that these things are happening because we do not allow God in our schools.

I’m going to argue that God IS in our schools.

As you know, we have experienced all kinds of schools. Both Dakotapastor and I grew up in the public school systems of two different states. We attended the same private Christian college. Our children have been homeschooled, attended Lutheran School, and now attend three different public schools. God has been present in all of these schools.

To slap off a comment that God is not allowed in our public schools is deeply offensive to all those who pour their hearts and souls into educating our precious children. Our public schools have teachers and staff who pray for our children, who care deeply for our children, and want the best for our children. Our schools have children and adults inside their walls that are salt and light; they are living out their vocations as teachers and students and are often the hands and feet of Christ.

Our public schools may not be perfect, but they are not a government conspiracy to ruin our children. Neither I, nor my children, have ever been told that we could not pray in school. I have witnessed public prayers in our schools. I have witnessed Christmas plays that could rival those of any private Christian School. I have heard beautiful sacred music performed in concerts.

Sure, the public schools do not teach theology. Sure, they often teach concepts that run rival to things that we personally teach our children. This is a wonderful opportunity for us as parents to teach discernment . . . an essential skill for any adult. Frankly, I don’t want the schools teaching my children Theology. I think Theology is best taught at home and in the church.

We are a nation obsessed with individual decisions. . .and each decision has a consequence. If I send my child to a Catholic school I fully expect Catholic Theology to be taught, the same with a Lutheran or Baptist school. If I choose to send my child to a state run school (and I do, as the benefits far outweigh the risks) I expect a religion neutral environment. This means the Christianity is probably going to share equal time with Judaism and Islam.  . .and that is why religion is not taught.

Let us not confuse religious education with God.

God is omnipresent. A school can lock its doors, but it cannot block out God.

No one is immune to the effects of sin. Acts of violence take place around us all, every day. In homes, in schools public and private, in shopping malls, in hospitals, in movie theaters. The only cure for sin is a loving God, who sent His only son to become SIN for us. . .that we might be able to stand in the presence of God.

That is why we celebrate Christmas, and that is why we spend Advent preparing for Christ’s return.

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Written by Dakotapam
I'm a Lutheran pastor's wife and mom to six kids, including young adult sons down to 8-year old twin daughters. My life is sometimes normal, and sometimes crazy; but through it all, I know that I am blessed! Some people say that I have my hands full, I prefer to call it living life with both hands full, and I love it!