An End to the War on Christmas

ImageOver the holidays, much ado was made of a “war on Christmas.” This was almost a nightly feature on the conservative media. A number of commentators claimed this to be a mere skirmish in a broader culture war between Judeo-Christian traditionalists and secular progressives. Many of them equated the Judeo-Christian worldview with traditional Americanism. Not limited to conservatives, progressives also are touting war language. To them, there are wars on women, on minorities, and on gays. The usual suspects aligned themselves with the usual factions that line their usual pockets.

To refer to differences of opinion over Christian symbols in the public arena as a “war” trivializes war’s carnage and disparages the ultimate sacrifice. Yesterday, I went into the kitchen and had a war on tuna fish, because my wife wanted it on crackers and I wanted whole wheat bread.

The English language has become so bastardized that hyperbole serves where adjectives once drew the attention of the reader. “My IPad is awesome!” Really? Does an IPad really inspire fear and wonder, a term once used for deity alone? Glitterati are notoriously effusive with praise. Fawning toadies praise sashaying luminaries with terms like, “great, breathtaking, and gorgeous.”

Whether inflationary expressions are feign attempts to recalibrate the emotionally dead who have been jaded by visual effects or simply slouching towards Gomorrah (Bork, 2003), the question begging to be asked is, “What do we do when we run out of superlatives?” Do we become like Dathon of the Tamarians, and create a language based upon nothing but stories and ancient lore (Roddenberry & Menosky, 1991)? In this episode “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” meant two on a journey have a common enemy. In this scenario, for someone to say they believe in God would be the same as saying, “When Picard met the Q Continuum.” If your preference is the Action Adventure genre, the person would say, “When Indiana Jones closed his eyes as the Nazis opened up the Ark of the Covenant” (Lucas, 1981).

Like the ancient Greeks, we would all sit around campfires and recite oral traditions like Homer’s Iliad, so we can communicate in a manner that we all understand. We can all be singing from the same sheet music.

Indeed, a common metanarrative that was enjoyed by generations of Americans is now missing. Although Christian theology profoundly disagrees with Derrida on many points regarding his view of différence, it agrees that an assumed narrative is part of trace knowledge and serves a valuable function (Derrida, 2003). The point of departure, however, is not that it is made up by the individual, but as Thomas Aquinas wrote:

… words are signs of ideas, and ideas the similitude of things, it is evident that words relate to the meaning of things signified through the medium of the intellectual conception. It follows therefore that we can give a name to anything in as far as we can understand it. (Aquinas, 2010, p. 58)

The angst behind the “culture war” language has a deeper significance. It is pining for a loss of common stories. It is the generation that grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, who heard the American stories told many times. The Pilgrims came to America seeking religious freedom. George Washington was a great statesman and general. God intervened to help us overcome British rule. The Founding Fathers were great men, highly intelligent, and wanted to ensure that all Americans be free from the tyranny of government. Many of these ideals were gauged by those found in the Bible, as the ethos of Americans still held it to be a true and accurate portrayal of history.

American iconoclasts have muddled the metanarrative. Sixties rockers who felt betrayed by the Vietnam War raged against the Establishment. The new avante garde was to pull down any previously held notion of truth, beauty, and goodness. Thus, George Washington was a slave-owning racists. The founding of America was setup to secure white and aristocratic privilege. The history of early America is one of racism, sexism, and homophobia. The pilgrims came to force Christendom upon the unwitting, through genocide if necessary.

Like a scratch on a cherried out ’33 Buick Sedan, crushed icons of the American ideal have marred the body politic beyond recognition. Without a widely held unifying metanarrative like that provided by the Bible for the first two-hundred years, factions have raced to fill the vacuum with endless historical revisions.

In summary, this satirist asserts that the war on Christmas is neither a war, nor a skirmish in a broader clash of cultures. It is the futile attempt to restore the American ideal without the unifying Judeo-Christian metanarrative. Without a massive shift in public opinion like that of the Great Awakening, it is a mere schoolyard spat about who gets to play with the soccer ball.  Or to put it in a way that others can understand it, “It is like when Truman steps out of Seahaven and realizes his entire life has been a farce” (Niccol, 2001). Or better yet, “It is like when Neo takes the red pill from Morpheus” (Wachowski & Wachowski, 1999).

References

Aquinas, T. (2010). Summa theologica. Complete & Unabridged. Coyote Canyon Press. Kindle Edition.

Bork, R. (2003). Slouching towards gomorrah: Modern liberalism and american decline. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.

Derrida, J. (1997). Of grammatology. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.

Lucas, G. (1981). Raiders of the lost ark. Paramount Pictures. Los Angeles, CA.

Machowski, A. Machowski, L. (March 31, 1999). The matrix. Warner Brothers Studio. Burbank, CA.

Niccol, A. (June 5, 1998). The Truman show. Universal Studios. Universal City, CA.

Roddenberry, G., Menosky, J. (September 28, 1991). Darmok. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 5, Episode 2. Paramount Pictures. Los Angeles, CA.

 

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Level 2 Files and Links

Blended: Harvard Profs & Interactive Learning  http://harvardmagazine.com/2012/03/twilight-of-the-lecture
PLN: Levels of Technology Integration  http://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/matrix.php
Social Networking: Ways to Use Google + in the Classroom  http://www.theatreprof.com/2011/10-ways-google-classroom/
Videos: Easy and Free Sites for Creating a Content Area Video Blog  http://wetoku.com, http://www.empressr.com, http://www.masher.com, http://animoto.com
Blogs: Creating Writing Activities Using Blogging  http://edublogs.org
Moodle: Creating Interactive Moodle Blogs  http://youtu.be/U8ebo2Frsf8
Infographics: Creating Infographics  http://www.knewton.com/blended-learning/
Brain Research: Brain Mapping for Students with Dyslexia   http://youtu.be/lesMra2MTnQ
Webconferencing: Cool Projects with Skype  http://education.skype.com/projects/1407 (Creating a Book Club), http://education.skype.com/projects/1415 (IB Literature Discussions),    http://education.skype.com/projects/1413 (Thanksgiving), http://education.skype.com/projects/1094 (Practicing Graphing), http://education.skype.com/projects/1399 (Regional Skype Pals)
 PLN: YouTube for Teachers  http://www.youtube.com/teachers
Flipped Classroom: Instructional Videos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rub1VNq2NvM&feature=youtu.be (Pt 1), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIwKVRQJ1PE&feature=relmfu (Pt 2), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjElGeJaHZc&feature=relmfu (Pt 3), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MzxczsF9bA&feature=relmfu (Pt 4)
Flipped Classroom: Reason to Consider Flipping Classrooms http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aGuLuipTwg&feature=related
Distance Learning: How to Help Students Fail Online Courses  http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2011/11/09/how-to-make-your-high-school-students-fail-online-courses-odla/
 File Editing: Splitting Pages of PDF Files  http://www.pdfsam.org/?page_id=32
 File Editing: Highlighting, Annotating, Underlining PDF files  http://crocodoc.com
 File Editing: Converting PDF files into Interactive Flip Books  http://www.flipsnack.com/
 File Editing: Converting PDF to Doc Files   http://www.pdfforge.org/
 Flipped Classroom: Growing Trend Article  http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/story/2011-10-06/flipped-classrooms-virtual-teaching/50681482/1
 Blended: Another Model of Blended Learning  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-s_O65rWV10&feature=youtu.be
 Podcasts: Mutiple Sites for All Things Podcast
Podcasts we like:
Steven Fry: Don’t Mind Your Language
12th and 13th year IB English Students
NPR Podcast Directory
NPR Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me
NPR All Things Considered
TED Talks
Science Friday
Seedlings Podcast
NPR This I Believe
Prizker Military Library
Al Jazeera Podcasts
Wesley Fryer’s blog:
Moving at the Speed of Creativity Podcasts
Fuel for Educational Change Agents
Sources for Finding Podcasts
EdTechTalk
Audible.com for audio books
EdReach:
Other Stuff:
Podcaster for iOS (mobile podcatching software, free, an alternative to iTunes)
iOS Podcasts on the Go (includes instructions about using Podcaster)
RSS defined
Switch Software:
Podcast Generator Software:
 Instructino: Lecture Capturing Tools  http://www.emergingedtech.com/2010/02/learning-about-lecture-capture-tools-and-technologies/
 Resource: Formatting Papers  http://www.bibme.org/

Level 3 Files and Links

Blended: Harvard Profs & Interactive Learning  http://harvardmagazine.com/2012/03/twilight-of-the-lecture
PLN: Levels of Technology Integration  http://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/matrix.php
Social Networking: Ways to Use Google + in the Classroom  http://www.theatreprof.com/2011/10-ways-google-classroom/
Videos: Easy and Free Sites for Creating a Content Area Video Blog  http://wetoku.com, http://www.empressr.com, http://www.masher.com, http://animoto.com
Blogs: Creating Writing Activities Using Blogging  http://edublogs.org
Moodle: Creating Interactive Moodle Blogs  http://youtu.be/U8ebo2Frsf8
Infographics: Creating Infographics  http://www.knewton.com/blended-learning/
Brain Research: Brain Mapping for Students with Dyslexia   http://youtu.be/lesMra2MTnQ
Webconferencing: Cool Projects with Skype  http://education.skype.com/projects/1407 (Creating a Book Club), http://education.skype.com/projects/1415 (IB Literature Discussions),    http://education.skype.com/projects/1413 (Thanksgiving), http://education.skype.com/projects/1094 (Practicing Graphing), http://education.skype.com/projects/1399 (Regional Skype Pals)
 PLN: YouTube for Teachers  http://www.youtube.com/teachers
Flipped Classroom: Instructional Videos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rub1VNq2NvM&feature=youtu.be (Pt 1), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIwKVRQJ1PE&feature=relmfu (Pt 2), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjElGeJaHZc&feature=relmfu (Pt 3), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MzxczsF9bA&feature=relmfu (Pt 4)
Flipped Classroom: Reason to Consider Flipping Classrooms http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aGuLuipTwg&feature=related
Distance Learning: How to Help Students Fail Online Courses  http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2011/11/09/how-to-make-your-high-school-students-fail-online-courses-odla/
 File Editing: Splitting Pages of PDF Files  http://www.pdfsam.org/?page_id=32
 File Editing: Highlighting, Annotating, Underlining PDF files  http://crocodoc.com
 File Editing: Converting PDF files into Interactive Flip Books  http://www.flipsnack.com/
 File Editing: Converting PDF to Doc Files   http://www.pdfforge.org/
 Flipped Classroom: Growing Trend Article  http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/story/2011-10-06/flipped-classrooms-virtual-teaching/50681482/1
 Blended: Another Model of Blended Learning  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-s_O65rWV10&feature=youtu.be
 Podcasts: Mutiple Sites for All Things Podcast
Podcasts we like:
Steven Fry: Don’t Mind Your Language
12th and 13th year IB English Students
NPR Podcast Directory
NPR Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me
NPR All Things Considered
TED Talks
Science Friday
Seedlings Podcast
NPR This I Believe
Prizker Military Library
Al Jazeera Podcasts
Wesley Fryer’s blog:
Moving at the Speed of Creativity Podcasts
Fuel for Educational Change Agents
Sources for Finding Podcasts
EdTechTalk
Audible.com for audio books
EdReach:
Other Stuff:
Podcaster for iOS (mobile podcatching software, free, an alternative to iTunes)
iOS Podcasts on the Go (includes instructions about using Podcaster)
RSS defined
Switch Software:
Podcast Generator Software:
 Instructino: Lecture Capturing Tools  http://www.emergingedtech.com/2010/02/learning-about-lecture-capture-tools-and-technologies/
 Resource: Formatting Papers  http://www.bibme.org/

EduTech Resources

Websearch: Google Search Training  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3ao7QXMhC4
Moodle: Design Like a Web Page  http://youtu.be/XtHPUh_BaxM
Blended: 7 Strategies to Improve Online Learning  http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/7-strategies-make-your-online-teaching-better
Blended: Harvard Profs & Interactive Learning  http://harvardmagazine.com/2012/03/twilight-of-the-lecture
Classroom Management, Effective Instruction, & Student Motivation  http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2012/01/19/classroom-management-effective-instruction-and-student-motivation-by-mark-mcleod-oaesp12/
PLN: Levels of Technology Integration  http://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/matrix.php
Social Networking: Ways to Use Google + in the Classroom  http://www.theatreprof.com/2011/10-ways-google-classroom/
Videos: Easy and Free Sites for Creating a Content Area Video Blog  http://wetoku.com, http://www.empressr.com, http://www.masher.com, http://animoto.com
Blogs: Creating Writing Activities Using Blogging  http://edublogs.org
Moodle: Creating Interactive Moodle Blogs  http://youtu.be/U8ebo2Frsf8
Infographics: Creating Infographics  http://www.knewton.com/blended-learning/
Websearch: Good Video for Student’s Conducting Websearches  http://bcove.me/x2n8hg8t
Collaborative Learning: Video on Using Stations  http://youtu.be/lesMra2MTnQ
Brain Research: Brain Mapping for Students with Dyslexia   http://youtu.be/lesMra2MTnQ
Websites: Great highlighter feature that helps you underline websites for students  http://www.awesomehighlighter.com/
Webconferencing: Cool Projects with Skype  http://education.skype.com/projects/1407 (Creating a Book Club), http://education.skype.com/projects/1415 (IB Literature Discussions),    http://education.skype.com/projects/1413 (Thanksgiving), http://education.skype.com/projects/1094 (Practicing Graphing), http://education.skype.com/projects/1399 (Regional Skype Pals)
 PLN: YouTube for Teachers  http://www.youtube.com/teachers
Flipped Classroom: Instructional Videos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rub1VNq2NvM&feature=youtu.be (Pt 1), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIwKVRQJ1PE&feature=relmfu (Pt 2), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjElGeJaHZc&feature=relmfu (Pt 3), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MzxczsF9bA&feature=relmfu (Pt 4)
Flipped Classroom: Reason to Consider Flipping Classrooms
Flipped Classroom: How to Create Your Videos  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Icn8kMoH28Y&feature=related 
Distance Learning: How to Help Students Fail Online Courses  http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2011/11/09/how-to-make-your-high-school-students-fail-online-courses-odla/
 File Editing: Splitting Pages of PDF Files  http://www.pdfsam.org/?page_id=32
 File Editing: Highlighting, Annotating, Underlining PDF files  http://crocodoc.com
 File Editing: Converting PDF files into Interactive Flip Books  http://www.flipsnack.com/
 File Editing: Converting PDF to Doc Files   http://www.pdfforge.org/
 Instruction: Confessions of a Converted Lecturer  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwslBPj8GgI (Harvard Prof, Eric Mazur)
 Projects: Creating Ebook Yearbooks of Student Work  http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2011/10/13/podcast383-creating-ebook-yearbooks-of-student-work/
 Moodle: Lightbox Gallery  http://youtu.be/dNvWrK6dpxg
 Flipped Classroom: Growing Trend Article  http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/story/2011-10-06/flipped-classrooms-virtual-teaching/50681482/1
 Blended: Another Model of Blended Learning  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-s_O65rWV10&feature=youtu.be
Classroom Mgmt: Top 10 Ways to Wake up Students http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2bcl7g/blog.simplek12.com/education/top-10-ways-to-wake-up-students/
 Standards: TEKS-based Lesson Plans on 4 Core Subjects  http://www.sascurriculumpathways.com/portal/
 Podcasts: Mutiple Sites for All Things Podcast
Podcasts we like:
Steven Fry: Don’t Mind Your Language
12th and 13th year IB English Students
NPR Podcast Directory
NPR Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me
NPR All Things Considered
TED Talks
Science Friday
Seedlings Podcast
NPR This I Believe
Prizker Military Library
Al Jazeera Podcasts
Wesley Fryer’s blog:
Moving at the Speed of Creativity Podcasts
Fuel for Educational Change Agents
Sources for Finding Podcasts
EdTechTalk
Audible.com for audio books
EdReach:
Other Stuff:
Podcaster for iOS (mobile podcatching software, free, an alternative to iTunes)
iOS Podcasts on the Go (includes instructions about using Podcaster)
RSS defined
Switch Software:
Podcast Generator Software:
 Instructino: Lecture Capturing Tools  http://www.emergingedtech.com/2010/02/learning-about-lecture-capture-tools-and-technologies/
 Instruction: Students Tired of Hearing Your Voice? Academic Earth: This site provides hundreds of free video lectures from professors at leading universities such as Yale, Stanford, Harvard, and more.The OpenCourseWare Consortium: According to Makeuseof.com, ”Simply put, the OpenCourseWare Consortium is the best place to begin looking for free online video lectures”.Free Video Lectures: This site’s vision: ”Every body from every nook and corner of the world should be able to access the best Knowledge Resources available.”

Videolectures.net: Almost 7000 video lectures, with a high emphasis on Computer Science. This site makes good use of Web 2.0 tools, having a Facebook Group and Twitter account. This site also introduced me to the interesting “Opencast Project” open courseware initiative.

LearnersTV: ”Video Lectures, Video Courses, Science Animations, Lecture Notes, Online Test, Lecture Presentations. Absolutely Free”

Lecture Fox: This site is a central link respository with a very simple interface (I like the simple way in which they indicate whether each lecture has video, audio, and/or notes available).

YouTube EDU: While not all of these videos are lectures, many of them are. A search for “lecture” in this special YouTube section yields “about 60,000″ results!

 Resource: Formatting Papers  http://www.bibme.org/

The Christian Teacher

What distinguishes the Christian teacher from the secularistic teacher? Is it the fact that they have believed Christ to be their Lord and Savior? Is it that they regu­larly attend worship services? When they become an active part of the church? Is it possible for a teacher to do all of the above, yet remain a secularistic teacher? Could one, who has not been regenerated, be a Christian teacher?

These are no small questions for the Christian administrator. What qualifies one to be a Christian teacher? This issue serves as a watershed. If wrong on this account, the Christian school will be wrong all the way through. And, the outcome of the school will be vastly different from what was intended.

Philosophy of Didactics

The first issue to be resolved is the goal of Christian instruction. Once again, we need not resolve this issue in a vacuum. There have been many Christian educators that have wrestled with this issue throughout history.

Some have contended that the purpose of Christian education is to lead students to knowledge of God. If this is the clear agenda, then the Christian school should have evangelists and theologians at all levels of the faculty. Or, each teacher should have comprehensive training in these disciplines, and they should approach their re­spective fields of knowledge from that vantage point and with that objective in mind.

Automatically, this would exclude any teacher who would aspire to Christian edu­cation that would be incapable of displaying this. So, it would seem unlikely that an unregenerate teacher would qualify for this post.

Most would acknowledge that the knowledge of God is to be a priority in Christian education. However, it is not encompassing enough. For instance, has the Christian school done enough for the student if they have knowledge of God but cannot bal­ance their checkbook? Most would say, they have fallen short. Further pressing the point, has the school thoroughly educated the student if they have knowledge of God, can balance their checkbook, but are inadequately prepared to pursue their re­spective vocations and callings. Most, again, would say that the Christian school has failed.

But, where does the education end? Given the limitations of time and resources, what must be included in education to be considered, “Christian.” Furthermore, what may be left out? Most would agree that a saving knowledge of Christ is the priority and foundation, but where is the stopping point by which the school can say that they have provided a thoroughly Christian education?

To prepare the student as a Christian adult, a significant number of skills must be learned and incorporated. First and foremost, they should have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, whereby the student is able to give evidence of genuine faith. Next, they should have a working knowledge of God’s attributes (dogmatics).

They should have acquired a Christian worldview. Consequently, they should be able to challenge the modern presuppositions that are in the marketplace of ideas (apologetics). They should be given the training necessary to accurately interpret scripture for them­selves (hermeneutics). And, they should be able to apply the scripture, as well as rea­son from it (ethics). Furthermore, they should have acquired a liberal arts education sufficient to be able to pursue their respective vocations or callings.

However, having arrived at a common acceptance as to what are the purposes of Christian education, there remain large differences in how this is to be actualized in the school. Even when it comes to the vital issue of conversion, there have been many divergent views. Many orthodox Calvinist’s of the early-1800s believed that the child should be taught their depravity. Hoping that a day would arrive, whereby they might respond to the grace of God.

However, in 1861 Horace Bushnell (1979), pastor of North Church in Hartford, Connecticut published a landmark work, entitled Discourses on Christian Nurture. In it, Bushnell held that conversion was a process. And, children were to be brought up to not even remember the day when they were saved. He taught,

“And this is the very idea of Christian education, that it begins with nurture or cultivation. And the intention is that Christian life and spirit of the parents shall flow into the mind of the child, to blend with his incipient and half-formed exercises; that they shall thus beget their own good within him, their thoughts, opinion, faith and love, which are to become a little more, and yet a little more, his own separate exercise, but still the same in character.” (Bushnell, 1979, p. 30)

This raised a major furor in Calvinistic New England. Many traditionalists held that Bushnell was being presumptuous regarding God’s election. Others believed that he underestimated the depravity of man. While some accused him of not using God’s law as a necessary tutor which would lead a person to Christ. This illustrates the fact that views can differ sharply even from the same basic theological orientation.

Yet, if conversion is the cornerstone of righteous instruction, then a person’s belief about this issue is no small matter. Countless events in church history have taught that there are some issues that are so critical, so essential to the student’s wellbeing, so near to the nature of God and His salvation, that they must be treated with the utmost reverence. They should not be diluted, nor compromised, and should be jealously safeguarded throughout the Christian school. Conversion has historically fallen into this category.

Unfortunately, this can be taken to extremes. At times, churches and schools contend for relatively minor issues. Sometimes, they have split over the most picayune things. For example, they have divided over modes of baptism, church poli­ty, and forms of dress. Though these issues do not determine a person’s eternal des­tiny, nor defame the nature of Christ, they are relegated to the essential.

So, the question arises in the Christian school, how does one “contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints,” and yet allow for compassion, tolerance, and dif­fering points of view? Can both a liberal and conservative serve on the same faculty to the benefit of the student? Can an Arminian and Calvinist both teach from their theological slant, and serve the students best interests? What viewpoints contribute toward healthy diversity or balance, and which contribute to the erosion of sound Christian education? These are vital questions. For the Christian school must nei­ther lend itself to “straining gnats,” nor “swallowing camels.”

And, this is a primary issue that concerns Christian teachers themselves. What things in the school are the non-negotiables? And, what is the teacher’s non-negotiables? Are the two compatible? This is vital in terms of compatibility between the school and the teacher, as well as the teacher and the student.

The litmus of non-negotiability rests on the infallibility of scripture (inerrancy), the Christ-event (kerygma), and essentials for regeneration (soteriology). This would en­sure a common locus of authority, source of salvation, and means thereof. Secondly, the most historically recognized confessions should be ascribed to, like; the Athanasian Creed, Nicene Creed, Constantinople, Ephesus and Apostles Creed. Issues outside of these are peripheral. They do not contain the dire consequences that the aforementioned do.

It should be noted that both students as well as teachers are in modes of change and progress. There are levels of alienation from the gospel, as well as levels of ma­turity having believed the gospel.

Consequently, the teacher should present truth to the student so as to address their particular needs. The Engel’s Scale has become instrumental in revealing the different points. The Christian teacher should be competent to challenge a studen­t’s presuppositions or minister Christian truth in a relevant manner, wherever the student is located on the scale.

It is critical that the teacher becomes aware of the modern dichotomy and how it has influenced the modern mind. Regardless of where the student is located on the Engel’s Scale, they will struggle with the influences of the modern age. As such, it is incumbent upon the teacher to train their students to reason along the lines of in­spired reason. And, each Christian teacher should contend for a locus of authority that is beyond the individual’s existential experience (sola Scriptura).

Personal Qualities of the Educator

The qualities that are incumbent upon the Christian teacher spell out the acronym A-B-C. This represents Abilities, Burden, and Character. These ideal qualities should be aspired to by each teacher.

First, the Christian teacher should have the abilities necessary to fulfill their post. They should be competent in refuting the modern dichotomy. And, they should be able to attack these presuppositions by inspired reason. They should demonstrate an ability to communicate Christian truth in their discipline. They should work diligently to keep up with the most current scholarship in their respective fields. And, they should demonstrate any talents necessary to fulfill their teaching responsibilities.

The Christian teacher is to become accomplished in research-based, best instructional practices. The accomplished teacher draws on his or her knowledge of the subject matter to establish goals and facilitate student learning within and across the disciplines comprised in the curriculum. They select, adapt, create, and use rich and varied resources to enhance learning. They have knowledge of child development, understand student needs, and foster the student’s knowledge, skill, interests, and aspirations.

The accomplished teacher employs a variety of assessment methods to obtain useful information about student learning and development and to assist students in reflecting on their own progress. The teacher requires students to confront, explore, and understand important challenging concepts, topics, and issues in purposeful ways. They use a variety of approaches to help students build knowledge and strengthen understanding.

The accomplished teacher establishes a caring, stimulating, inclusive, and safe community for learning where students take intellectual risks and work independently and collaboratively. The teacher fosters the student’s self-awareness, self-esteem, character, civic responsibility, and respect for diverse individuals and groups. The teacher employs regular self-analysis, evaluation, and ways to strengthen the effectiveness and quality of his or her own progress. They work collaboratively with colleagues to achieve common goals for the education of their students. They work with families, in a partnership, to achieve common goals for the education of their children.

Second, the Christian teacher should have the burden to teach. The term “bur­den” is used to convey the idea of calling. They should be aware that God has called them into this vocation. Christian teaching is not a job, but a ministry. As such, the Scripture and the Holy Spirit should lead the teacher in the location, and direc­tion of their calling.

Third, the Christian teacher should possess character. This is the trait for which all other qualifications rely. If a teacher lacks character, all other gifts and graces will fall into disrepute. And, they will eventually disgrace the Lord, their school, as well as the profes­sion as a whole.

Reference:

Bushnell, H. (1979), Christian Nurture. reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Baker, p. 30.

Results of the New Dichotomy

The rift between the secular and the sacred has had devastating effects. In the realm of politics, judicial activists have raised a bulwark to protect secularism from religion. Supreme Court justices have masked their malicious intents, and fomented spurious interpretations of the First Amendment. In their landmark case, Engel v. Vitale, the court opted to hold that there is an inviolable separation of church and state.2 Furthermore, this was to mean that all religion was to be excluded from public institutions. Further cases would reaffirm this decision, maintaining that a non-sectarian prayer at a graduation ceremony, the posting of the Ten Command­ments, teachers placing their Bibles on their own desks, religious symbols on public buildings, and students displaying religious items, are all violations of the establish­ment clause.

The shocking part is not so much that a few antiquated old atheists wormed their way into powerful positions and took away religious expression. The astounding part is that there was no hue-and-cry by the majority of citizens. The removal of prayer in public schools only received a cursory and anemic response from the Christian com­munity. Their objection was not to the arbitrary power or hostile presuppositions of the court’s decision that threatened to unravel the fabric of society. They com­plained that it violated their personal freedom of religious expression.

However, once secularists explained that the Christian wouldn’t want a Satanist to offer a prayer at the school their children attended, sadly the majority of church members nodded their collective heads and returned to pie-in-the-sky religion. For, they had already been predisposed to separate the secular from the sacred.

In the realm of liberty, the new avant-garde has become egalitarianism. There can be no preferences, no classes, no distinguishing among the citizenry. To ascribe such things is to invite a barrage of venomous insults like, racist, sexist, or funda­mentalist. All must be equal.

It is self-evident that from the earliest days of the founding of our country, Americans have ascribed to equality.[1] However, early Americans did not envision this as an equality of condition. If that were the case they certainly would not have sanctioned slavery, in its various forms for so many decades. Furthermore, they would not have denied political rights to women and Native Americans. But rather, they understood equality in terms of an individual’s standing before his Creator and natural law.

Egalitarianism contends for sameness, not equality. To enforce this new concept of liberty, new rules must be established. To the egalitarian, it is morally reprehensi­ble that some might have more money than others. So, there should be a grand redis­tribution of wealth.

But what is fair? And, who is to decide it? Since a transcendent God has been rele­gated to the irrelevant, He is no longer even a reference point in the debate. Yet, this is not important to the egalitarian. For their reference point is their existential opin­ion. And, what is important is the attempt to achieve their generally accepted opinion of justice.

With a maniacal Robin Hood bent, egalitarians progressed from an economy of envy, to a phantasmal vagary of social justice. And, when prodded to define what is meant by social injustice, egalitarians are hard pressed to advance their cause be­yond moral outrage toward those who have, and the suppression of those who have not. As Helmut Schoeck has pointed out;

Progressively fewer individuals and groups are ashamed of their envy, but in­stead make out that its existence in their temperaments axiomatically proves the existence of “social injustice,” which must be eliminated for their benefit. Suddenly it has become possible to say, without loss of public credibility and trust, “I envy you. Give me what you’ve got.” This public self-justification of envy is something entirely new. In this sense it is possible to speak of the age of envy?[2]

Because of their penchant for sameness, excellence and accomplishment is dis­couraged. A white student with a 4.0 GPA must not be granted a place in law school, until there are enough minority slots filled. Even, in spite of a far higher score. A man with vastly superior credentials must not be promoted to the upper echelons of a company until enough women have passed through the “glass ceiling.” And, these type of actions must continue until “the playing field is level.”

What is a level playing field? Who will define it? Once achieved, how will it be main­tained? There is a remaining ethical absurdity in these positions. It is morally right to discriminate in order to eliminate discrimination. The first ethical premise learned at a mother’s knee is that two wrongs do not a right make.

This cultural aberration has not occurred in a vacuum. It is a logical extension of the separation of the secular from the sacred. Without the Biblical reference point, randomness is inevitable. As the individual assumes the locus of authority, they would naturally destroy a social structure that would restrain their absolute autono­my. For, if I assume that some are supposed to be over me, then I cannot do any­thing that I want. Therefore, I am not free. Egalitarianism is blissfully wed to anar­chy. History shows that where a culture adopts the one, they invariably invite the other.

In the realm of ethics, the new morality is relativism. The strange phenomenon of today’s moral climate is that it repudiates basic human virtue. There have been many cultures evolve that have aspired to high moral standards. And, these virtues are similar to that of the Christian. Even wild-eyed pagans, mounted on steeds, and flailing medieval axes, believed that a father was necessary in the raising of children. In spite, of the reputively oppressive nature of Islam, it has always taught the right of personal property. Even though early China was completely foreign to the western morals, Confucius held that promiscuity was wrong. Almost every culture has de­veloped ways to discourage such activities. C. S. Lewis has observed such commonalties of virtue in his work, Ethics, where he wrote,

The number of actions about whose ethical quality a Stoic, an Aristotelian, a Thomist, a Kantian, and a Utilitarian would agree is, after all very large… A Chris­tian who understands his own religion laughs when unbelievers expect to disable him by the assertion that Jesus uttered no command which had not been anticipat­ed by the Rabbis – few, indeed, which cannot be paralleled in classical, ancient Egyp­tian, Ninevite, Babylonian, or Chinese texts. We have long recognized that truth with rejoicing. Our faith is not pinned on a crank?[3]

In short, relativism has not worked. The virtue of contemporary America is the depravity of many other cultures. It is not ethical neutrality. It is the elevation of universal debauchery. The flagrant estrangement of religion from public life has been anathema in antiquity. Lauding “alternative lifestyles” would be considered the demise of civilization in most other cultures. And, economic egalitarianism has al­ready collapsed communism at the end of the prior century.

In the arts, the new aesthetic is hedonism. This, too, is a logical extension of the separation of the secular from the sacred. With the individual as the locus of authori­ty, pleasure seeking is a natural outgrowth. Since, man is the final arbiter of truth; they are the center of the universe. It would be perfectly natural for them to con­struct the world so as to meet their every whim

The theater has digressed from the classic epics of Gone with the Wind and Ten Commandments to Natural Born Killers and Beavis and Butthead Does America. Music has slouched to Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Horny, from the elevated strains of Henry Mancini’s Moon River. To be sure, technological prowess has rapidly increased, and there are still a few movies and CD’s which go against the tide each year. But, it cannot be disputed that the language is coarser, the violence more grotesques, the themes more juvenile, the humor more sophomoric, and the distinctions between virtue and shame are more blurred, than even twenty years ago.

[1] 2 Engel v. Vitale. 370 U,S. 421,427-428 (1962)

[2] Helmet Schoeck, Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Press, 1987), pg. 179.

[3] C.S. Lewis, “On Ethics,” The Seeing Eye and Other Selected Essays from Christian Reflections,

Ed. Walter Hooper (New York, NY: Ballentine Books, 1992), pp. 74-75.

The Liberty Amendments by Mark Levin

LevinAslan’s (Lewis, 1978, p. 124) pride sleeps peacefully. Viewing from a distant scope, Levin (2013) belies no need to alarm those who pass by. Those within the pride know full well that it is a nap of exhaustion, ravaged by betrayal from the body politic to which it gave birth. It snores disinterestedly as the jackals and hyenas of special interests tear at the carcass’ scraps of another bygone empire.

Aslan’s pride is massive and threatening, consisting of Roman Catholics and Protestant of all kinds. Other religious adherents also herd in the same direction on many things. A Gallup (2012) survey showed that 77% of Americans identify themselves as Christian. The Serengeti would be razed, if ever they moved in the same direction.

None dare wake them lest the freak show close. Deviant sexual practices would be either outlawed or labeled immoral. Plumes, paint, and skin would no longer parade through San Francisco, as an earsplitting roar would shame them. There would be no more acceptability to friends-with-privileges, abortion-on-demand, and no-fault divorce. Pornographers would likely be fined or incarcerated, product seized and destroyed, prosecutions for prostitution would stick, whoremongers punished, and pedophiles castigated. Sex traffickers of young girl-slaves would be imprisoned as the host fumigates of all such parasitic behaviors. Thieves, liars, warmongers, and those who oppress the poor in both the private and public sectors would run for cover. Laws that supported family fidelity and religious freedom would be passed, and cultural icons that erode its values would be assailed. So, sleep Aslan, sleep.

No political figure has risen the beast since Ronald Reagan. Yet like a hive of yellow jackets poked with a stick, elitists and political insiders frantically coalesced to chase off those corn-pone middle Americans, lest they get embarrassed at cocktail parties.

Thirty years later, almost none of the swelling promises that drove them to organize and vote have passed into law. Teachers still can’t pray with children in school, Roe v Wade was never overturned, most parents still can’t choose their child’s school much less curriculum. To add insult to neglect, Republicans had the audacity to nominate for president the governor that pushed through the template for Obamacare in the face of a mounting surge of TEA Party fervor made up in large part of those same church folk.

Pundits all echoed the conventional wisdom that social conservative issues were losers, and thus the Romney’s campaign ran the most antiseptic campaign in recent history… jobs, jobs, jobs they droned. It was thoroughly scrubbed clean of any mention of Christian social concerns, except an occasional rhetorical flourish to the vestiges of a bygone base. The Republican establishment’s ignorance of or contempt for basic Christian beliefs and values reached epic proportions as they nominated a leader of a religious sect that all Christendom affirms to be a cult, all the while conservative pundits threaten to blame these “social conservatives” if they don’t go out and vote for him. Understandably, many didn’t.

No Christian pundit believes the president to be a pastor-in-chief. Yet, all of them know that your values are influenced and derived from your worldview. It makes a difference in foreign policy if the next president believes that the United States is really the lost tribe of Israel as does Mormonism. The abject disdain for this monolithic voting block is beyond belief.

So in light of this, why on earth should we trust Levin’s strategy more than the political machinery? Upon a recent town meeting, Joel Pollack of Breitbart News noted the brilliance of Levin to avoid those pesky “social conservative” issues in the book (as cited on The Last Scoop, Aug. 16, 2013). None of the parties seem to want us involved. We have been lied to, pilloried, vilified, maligned, oppressed, marginalized, and ignored by all segments of the body politick. We’ve been called racists, homophobes, rubes, ignoramuses, gun-toting rednecks, sell-outs, Uncle Toms, theocrats, patriarchs, and the list goes on and on. It is completely understandable that many in the Christian community have resigned themselves to pietistic spiritual growth while Rome is burning.

I originally wrote this essay as a critique of Levin. Like normal theorists of the day, he minimizes the contributions of early Anglo-American Christianity to the design of the Federal government. After all, covenantalism far preceded Montesquieu and Locke, and were a normative part of the daily life of the American church that dominated the intellectual and social landscape at the time. Yet, there is not a single reference to its impact. Having read Ameritopia (2012), I once again expected the elevation of Enlightenment thinking and rationalism as the prominent sources for the Grand Design. Yet, the more I digested the work, the more convinced I became that although the justifications for his strategy are constructivist and rationalistic, the means and ends are in full harmony with the interests of the gospel and core beliefs of Christian thought.

It is my contention that Levin has used his massive knowledge of the Founders’ writings to provide a pathway to unravel the threat of centralized government and return to federalism. If you doubt that a threat exists, Catholic charities were the first to receive a shot across the bow in 2011, by the administration mandating they must distribute contraceptives. Yet, few have taken stock that by declaring the Health Care Act constitutional, the Supreme Court claimed government sovereignty over every person’s right to exist. The IRS is empowered to fine (tax) anyone who fails (i.e., does nothing) to purchase health insurance. Of course, failure to pay the tax at some point results in confiscation of property and/or imprisonment. The power to tax is the power to control. It is a claim of sovereignty.

Statists of both parties will sing from their usual hymnal joined by media elites, the victim industry, military-industrialists, and hordes of genuflectors, sycophants, and consultants in the discordant chorus. Strange bedfellows all, sharing only the common greed of sucking the pig dry. If you listen carefully, you can hear the crescendo growing already. “It will balkanize the country.” “It will weaken our defense.” “Southerners will resurrect racism.” “We beat down states’ rights already, and now it’s raising its ugly head again.” However, if you look behind the curtain, the Wizard is little more than a host of greedy, self-serving, power hungry people, making a lot of money at other people’s expense. Their howls are as hollow as their eyes.

Yet, it is true that Levin’s prescription will not heal the moral ills of society. Indeed, it will not solve the graft and corruption in Washington if we continue to vote in liars, thieves, and despots. It will not remove political biases in the Supreme Court, as long as the corruptible can pull the levers of power. On the other hand, it shows promise as to being able to dismantle the machinery that makes incumbency almost impossible to eradicate. Perhaps we can at least drain the swamp to get the alligators out.

What is difficult for political wonks to understand is that we are not Americans first. Just like the apostles before us, our ultimate allegiance is to Jesus Christ (Acts 17:7). Our Lord’s kingdom does not rise or fall at the ballot box. The death of the Democrat or Republican Party is of only tertiary concern. Our concern is not how well the party system fares, but how well we can live out God’s Commandments and advance the gospel to the ends of the earth.

On the other hand, part of that obedience calls on us to serve our neighbor and work toward their betterment. In our nation, we have the unique privilege to participate in the political process, and are responsible to do so as long as it serves the interest of the gospel.

By any metric within the panoply of Christian expression, the Federal system is critically ill, if not broken. Ninety trillion dollars of unfunded liabilities alone should attest to any rational person that bankruptcy is imminent if nothing is done. It calls for all good men and women to come to its aid. By God’s grace and the wisdom of our Founders we have been allowed to live the freest, most prosperous, and secure lives on earth. We needn’t take a wrecking ball to the old house, simply shore up what is lagging. Levin’s prescription is exactly that.

In The Liberty Amendments, Levin (2013) outlines the painfully obvious situation of a dysfunctional Federal government. His argument then proceeds to the Constitution’s Article V as the only rational redress of grievance, to empower the state as the intervening authority to curtail this out of control hydra. His agenda can never be accomplished, however, without the waking of Aslan’s pride – the American church. It is doubtful that with the amount of diversity in our ranks that we will subscribe to eleven Amendments. Yet, it may be possible to at least move us toward a unified voice regarding a call to amend the constitution and restore Federalism.

This cannot happen if we leave the conversation to conservative talk show hosts, think tanks, liberal bloggers, policy wonks, pundits, and political theorists. They speak “wonkish,” while the 77% Christians do not. These sound an alarm about quantitative easing and sequestration while people’s eyes glaze over.

The reason the democrats beat the stuffing out of republicans in 2012 is because the latter talked “wonkish.” While they were talking about free market economics, QE3, unemployment statistics, and trillion dollar deficits, Obama was talking about “fairness.” The American psyche has always sided with the underdog. We hate oppression and bullies. We understand and value fairness. Although we should, we care less about the policies of the Federal Reserve.

The Democratic Party has little interest in rolling back centralized government by-and-large. So, trying to convince them otherwise is a waste of the precious time left to reverse the damage. Republicans can’t even speak the common man’s language, much less awaken the church. They are still trying to make rational arguments to people who are fundamentally “homo religiosis” not “homo rationalis.” Which is not to say that Christians are not rational. Instead, they see the limits to rationality and are aware that assumptions about the cosmos are a necessary element to understanding.

If Aslan’s pride is to awaken, it will be that the pastors, priests, and parishioners do the awakening. It will be the appeal of the heart, in common man’s language – logical arguments to follow.

References

Levin, M. R. (2012). Ameritopia: The unmaking of America. New York, NY: Threshold Editions.

Levin, M. R. (2013). The liberty amendments: Restoring the American republic. New York, NY: Threshold Editions.

Lewis, C. S. (1978). The lion, the witch, and the wardrobe. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Newport, F. (2012, December 24). In U.S.., 77% identify as Christian [Scholarly project]. In U.S., 77% Identify as Christian. Retrieved August 17, 2013, from http://www.gallup.com/poll/159548/identify-christian.aspx

The last scoop. (2013, August 16). Mark Levin talks about his new book with conservative panel on Hannity. The Right Scoop RSS. Retrieved August 17, 2013, from http://therightscoop.com/mark-levin-talks-about-his-new-book-with-conservative-panel-on-hannity/