The crackup of Israel after the death of Solomon was accomplished by a feckless son who rejected the wise counsel of older men and took the dare offered by the younger advisers. To do what? Raise taxes.
Solomon's son Rehoboam met with the disgruntled tribes led by Jeroboam, who had been anointed by a prophet as king. To be decided was whether the level of taxation and regulation imposed under King Solomon would be reduced. "Your father made our yoke heavy," Jeroboam pleaded. "[N]ow therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you."
Solomon's son rejected this plea with provocative language: "[W]hereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!"
The people of the tribal confederation answered the king, "What share have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Now, see to your own house, O David."
This declaration was an act of separation, of walking out of the grouping of the twelve tribes under an elected king-hence the division of Israel into the northern and southern kingdoms and their intermittent wars.
This act of separation, of walking out of the grouping of the 12 tribes under an elected king, is something homeschoolers, too, have done. I've heard good argument that the Israelites should not have revolted from their tribal covenant. Still, confronted by the intolerable tax, as it were, of the government school, thousands of families across the United States have said, "To your tents, O Israel." Rather than accept a system of statism undergirded by a variety of religious conceits, Christians have said, "You go your way, and we go ours."
The collapse of the kingdom of Israel followed an era of incredible prosperity under Solomon, who excelled in trade and who brought so much wealth into Jerusalem that precious metals traded at discount.
Homeschoolers have been separate from the government school for roughly the fortieth year, marking a time in which the wealth and power of the American empire have hit their peak and the United States seems to have entered a long process of retrogression and default.
Being separate in education, Christians may prove better prepared to deal with a long-warned-of economic crisis whose tremors were first felt in 2008, led by a train of corporate bankruptcies and federal bailouts. Indicators in the financial press suggest the meltdown is just getting warmed up. In God's providence, it promises to smash the dollar, bring inflation, increase joblessness, expand government debt, reduce stock market and property values, and diminish popular consent to civil government as hinted by the Tea Party movement.
State and national government responses to these crises will be more of the same: add controls on the marketplace and people's lives, make the dole even bigger, reduce economic and political liberty, and step up centralization and bureaucracy.
A sad prospect, to be sure.
But the collapse will give Christians an opportunity to engage in Christian rebuilding in a culture whose failures are increasingly obvious and whose debts on paper seem ever more unpayable.
Already we have proposed godly solutions to the educational disaster, namely Christian education in the home. If illiteracy, evolutionism, statism, and humanistic mind control are the disasters of the schooling we bravely avoid, what other sets of ruins can we consider and rescue ourselves and others from, for God's glory? Christians will be obligated to propose and practice godly solutions in new areas.
Before I hint what solutions Christian homeschoolers should consider as opportunities in the meltdown, it is important to consider an argument some Christians make against applying Christianity to public life. If we simply turn on Christian radio or Christian TV programming, the argument is presented there thoroughly-albeit indirectly. Christian programming is almost entirely focused on the individual-on his salvation, his sanctification, his adoption as a son of God. Almost exclusively in view is his personal walk with Christ; his dealings with difficult times; the need God imposes on him to avoid temptation, to be faithful to wife, family, and the Savior, to allow the Holy Spirit to operate in his life as a Christian, to be serviceable to God as a God-fearing man. Christian exhortation and preaching focus exclusively on individual piety, the personal.
These are essential, but the scope of Christianity does not stop with the individual. What is excluded is any sense of the gospel touching human existence beyond that. The term for narrowly focused Christianity is pietism. This perspective was a reaction against a perceived too-great interest in the 1700s in Christian doctrine and theology (heart knowledge beats "head knowledge," to oversimplify its claim). But the privatization of Christianity and its retreat from most fields of human endeavor except the individual soul has affected us all by shrinking the horizon in which our work as Christians is to be accomplished.
The prospect of a federal default on the national debt will destroy innumerable "entitlements" that have been part of the political and social landscape, some going back seventy-five years: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, health reform, 401(k). While the national debt is about $13.6 trillion in current paper dollars, the level of unfunded liabilities and political promises probably is in the $100 trillion range. The best-known programs are just the tip of the iceberg upon which the national ship of state is slashing its hull. Loan guarantees and implicit political promises to a welter of connected special interests add to the atmospheric, theoretical total.
"Reforms" of federal and state programs will come too late or create a new set of cascading crises. As homeschoolers roll up their shirtsleeves and take up serious rebuilding, they will stand on their labors of today in independency, self-reliance, Christian confidence, and obedience to God's law and Word. Homeschoolers may have resorted to their own tents, as the Israelites did, for kitchen table teaching. But we can aid the commonweal if we are faithful to God in heart and intellect as follows:
Areas of Christian Rebuilding
Care of the elderly. The Scriptures give the family the financial means and authority to care for elderly or decrepit family members. The family is jealous of care for seniors, yet faces continuing theft from the state of resources it might otherwise use for such caregiving. If the state's system turns insolvent, will we lead by example in caring for our own? What the Amish do in succoring their own was once universal in Christendom; might such dedication not return if the need for it becomes sharply felt?
Care of the sick. Christians are exhorted to care for one another, though for now insurance has kept mutual care on a strictly commercial and non-sympathetic basis. Christendom, especially in monasteries after the fall of Rome, specialized in the operation of hospitals in what R. J. Rushdoony in his Christian History of the World lectures calls a pioneering era. In a health emergency, Christians can network online or in person to raise funds for surgery or medication. Christian burden-sharing groups already exist and will play a greater role as ObamaCare takes over a large part of the U.S. economy and brings about strangulated cries of distress.
Care for the family. Loss of hope diminishes reproduction, as among Europeans, Chinese, and Russians. As Exodus records, Israel's huge numerical growth despite the lash of Egyptian overseers is a model for us: we must bless God with large families despite oppression and economic trials. Thinking ahead and thankful for God's blessings, homeschoolers tend to have large families. In the day Social Security falters, they will take care of their own, with more generous ranks of offspring making that duty easier. In an added benefit, the covenant family provides a sanctuary amid mass illegal immigration and cultural comingling and dissolution.
Care for one's neighbor and local economies. Centralization in government and business has been in progress for hundreds of years, and some analysts suggest its heyday is past. With computing and the internet, many establishment chokeholds on information and the flow of ideas are being shattered, making it possible for the political and commercial order to decentralize. Giant concerns, as their inefficiency and cost become more obvious, will devolve and become smaller, some predict. As the debt bomb blows up under successive pillars of the federal "safety net," people will once again be free to consider the benefit of local economies, small enterprise, local capital, and doing business with neighbors. County and municipal governments may be devastated by the forewarned collapse of the municipal bond market (the insolvent capital of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, is being called the canary in the mine). Christian self-government will tend to be more favorably exercised when the magistracy envisioned in Romans 13 is either state or local (vs. federal).
In a local economy, manufacturing, services, buying, selling, investing, and capital are preferable if hometown. Honest money and local currencies may once again be possible. People will gain more in personal relationships and decline relationships that are abstract or with remote parties. A Christian social order, according to economist Gary North, tends to be horizontal, not vertical. Centralization and bureaucracy seem friendly to Satan and the wiles of sinful and ambitious men. Christ-influenced economies will grow personal and provincial, a reading of history suggests.
Retirement or continued productivity? This category overlaps those above. But I am thinking here of company-run retirement funds and 401(k)s that may not be available despite promises on paper. Government workers, promised giant pots of cash on retirement, may be the most vulnerable if they don't have a family support system. As the Social Security system falters over time after turning insolvent this year, families will feel acutely the pain of their paucity of savings. Much family capital has been lost to government as the SS tax rate is 12 percent of wages, but the fault for decapitalization cuts both ways.
Families have spent too much on consumption and pleasure. Christian homeschoolers should lead by example in being thrifty, reusing old things, finding markets for used materials, and reducing their role as consumer in exchange for that of provider. Less bling, more substance. Less shopping, more capital for generations ahead. The ungodly fantasy of starting our eternal rest early, at age 65 as FDR's New Deal suggested, will certainly fade, and homeschool granddads in their 60s and 70s (their wisest years) will be their most productive as they remain in the work force.
Educational endeavors as public schools abandoned. Widespread failure in the debt-based economy will scare local governments out of the schools racket. That will open up entrepreneurs with homeschool backgrounds to providing educational services-online systems, tutoring services, lectures, conversation classes, apprenticeships, certification councils, mentorships of small groups, and the like. Parents once obligated by public schooling will have real choice among private options, with God's people pointing the way and offering their own lives as examples.
One question Christians should ask themselves is this: Does the Word of God teach me to think in terms of these opportunities? Or are the Scriptures all about how to obtain salvation for me and my family?
As the Rev. Joe Morecraft of Atlanta has said, "The Bible is true about everything on which it speaks, and it speaks about everything." If this assertion is true, homeschoolers and Christians can look into the coming thirty years not with dread, but excitement and anticipation.
- David Tulis
David Tulis, married and the father of four, is a deacon at Brainerd Hills Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga, TN.