Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Our State Religion

We drink deeply from our cultural religion without any awareness of this. Recently, a Christian middle school teacher confided that all of her student – about 130 of them – admitted cheating, and they seemed to admit this without any indication of shame. She explained that our culture raises children to expect to be and to have everything. She also praised a program that had been introduced to teach the student basic values, like working for your grade instead of cheating your way through:

“It’s based on William Glasser’s Reality Therapy. It asks the students to indicate what life-goals they have and then to describe how they are achieving them. If they are trying to achieve their diploma based on cheating, it challenges them to recognize that their goals are better achieved by pursuing them by using sound ethical principles like honesty and hard work.”

That makes sense. God established principles and moral laws for our benefit. His teachings are not given to prevent us from having a good time, but as an expression of His love. He wants the best for us, and following His principles serves us best in the long run. However, I was troubled by the implications of this program.

“Aren’t you concerned that this type of program will merely reinforce the very thinking that had caused the breakdown of values? Doesn’t it communicate to the students that it’s all about them and their goals rather than values that are higher than their goals and desires?”

“I don’t understand what you’re talking about!” she retorted. I was afraid that my question might have been too critical, but I thought I had to express it anyway.

“Reality Therapy seems to simply be an extension of the principles of secular humanism, which have got us into this mess by affirming hoards of self-centered people, each demanding that their needs be met.”
I clearly wasn’t winning any points with her.

“In the school system, we are constrained to appeal to values that are common to everyone. We all have goals; we all want to be fulfilled and happy, and you’re no different,” she fired back at me. Things were getting hot. I wanted to change the subject, but felt that I couldn’t.

“That’s true. We do have these things in common, but when we focus on just these things without any mention of God, we are giving the kids the impression that this is all that there is. They need only be concerned about their own fulfillment. This is telling them the wrong thing.”
My friend only became hotter.

“Well, do you expect me to start preaching Christ? You have heard of the separation between church and state, haven’t you? You just can’t bring religion into the classroom!”

She was getting very defensive, but sometimes good medicine can be distasteful, so I persevered. I’m convinced that the separation of church and state has been applied in a very biased way – a way that silences Christianity but allows a host of secular religions to thrive and to even receive state-support. Secular Humanists used to refer to their beliefs as religious until they realized that they could have a much greater impact upon education by disclaiming that they were promoting a religion.

“Well, aren’t secular humanism, religious pluralism, and multiculturalism also systems of belief and therefore religions? And aren’t they dictating the philosophy of education?”

It was difficult for her to answer. She knew that to be a religion didn’t require a belief in God. Buddhism and Confucianism are religions but don’t have a belief in God. I’d also add to this list Existentialism, Communism, Fascism, Naturalism and a host of other philosophies.

“The school system can’t take sides among these various religions,”
she fired back.

Well, it clearly does take sides. Every decision that it makes is value-laden! It dictates what can be said and what can’t be said – what texts are used and who is hired, partly dependent upon their belief system. In fact, schools have a legitimate concern to expose the dangers behind drug cults, Heaven’s Gate, Jim Jones, and other lethal religions. It should even be permissible to initiate a conversation examining the flaws and costs of secular humanism and its other religious cronies.

OK, Reality Therapy might not explicitly say it’s a religion or that it is against other religions, but some of the most impactful “communications” are unspoken. The client is profoundly influenced by his un-disclosing psychotherapist but becomes adept at picking up his belief system by merely through their nods of approval. This is how I learned through my years of psychotherapy. I learned that the good life wasn’t a matter of living according to a set of higher principles but about being happy and fulfilled, about expressing ones feelings and going with one’s inclinations. It was this secular philosophy that taught me the religion of self and plunged me into years of darkness. Systematically refusing any mention of the Transcendent is equivalent to preaching that it’s unnecessary, and the students get the message.

There is a need for transparency and an open engagement with ideas, rather than the banishment of certain ideas because they’ve been labeled “religious.” All values, goals, and morals are religious. However, I think we’ve been co-opted – even us Christians – to believe that it’s illegitimate to mention God in the classroom, while operating exclusively out of the framework of secular humanism – a framework that inculcates, “You can do it. It’s all about you and realizing your goals as long as you don’t hurt anyone!” This is the ruling religion – the State religion – and it has banished all others from the public square.

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