Back in 1849, when the Protestant leaders of Massachusetts were debating whether to support the largely secular public school movement, they decided in favor of support. But they added some reservations. They wrote:
The benefits of this system, in offering instruction to all, are so many and so great that its religious deficiencies, especially since they can be otherwise supplied, do not seem to be a sufficient reason for abandoning it, and adopting in place of it, a system of denominational parochial schools….
On the whole, it seems to be the wisest course, at least for the present, to do all in our power to perfect so far as it can be done, not only its intellectual, but also its moral and religious character.
If after a full and faithful experiment, it should at last be seen that fidelity to the religious interests of our children forbids a further patronage of the system, we can unite with the Evangelical Christians in the establishment of private schools, in which more full doctrinal religious instruction may be possible.1
If any of those Protestant leaders were alive today they would be horrified at the moral and spiritual state of our public schools, and would wonder why so many church leaders are still allowing their members to patronize that pagan, anti-Christian system.
Several whole generations of Christian parents have been so badly brainwashed by what they were taught in the public schools that they are incapable of understanding the evils in the system. But the blame must be put squarely on the backs of the mainline Christian denominations, which still support the public schools. Even in Littleton, Colorado, where the horrendous school massacre took place, I doubt that there were any Protestant ministers in town who advocated a massive exodus from the government schools.
The Catholics, of course, had the right idea in the 1840s and ‘50s when they wrestled with the idea of the secular government schools, which they knew were dominated by Protestants. They tried to get government support for Catholic schools. When such support was denied, they simply created their own parochial school system at their own expense, which has educated Catholic children extremely well until only recently when they too succumbed to the cultural trends.
Meanwhile, millions of Christian parents have not waited for the leaders to tell them what to do. In the early 1970’s, they began an exodus from the public schools into the many new private Christian schools and also started the homeschool movement. Christian parents have been the pioneers in developing this new form of education, free of state control. The homeschool movement not only represents a renewal of Christian education as a family responsibility, but also a new assertion of educational freedom.
The Home School Legal Defense Association, founded by Christian lawyer Michael Farris in 1984, has waged a constant war against school districts, superintendents, and truant officers who flout the law to harass homeschoolers. Rev. R. J. Rushdoony was frequently called to testify in defense of Christian homeschoolers when they were dragged to court by overzealous bureaucrats. He knew that the battlefield of the war between humanists and Christians was in the courtroom.
Michael Farris is also a Christian minister. He has done what every other Christian minister should be doing: educating the children of his “congregation.” Instead of founding a church, Farris founded Patrick Henry College in the year 2000, to create a body of Christian believers who will serve in Congress as aides to conservative legislators, and will also monitor what goes on in the Supreme Court. That is Christian service in the interest of education at its highest and most effective level.
It was Rev. Rushdoony’s astute critique of humanism in his book, The Messianic Character of American Education, first published in 1963, that alerted many parents to the war between the humanists and Christians, a war that has placed Christian church leaders in a challenging position, but which too many ministers have simply chosen to ignore. They have allowed the humanists to take full control of the public school curriculum which reads like something right out of the Humanist Manifesto.
Too many Protestant ministers today wear blinders to avoid seeing the spiritual war going on all around them. In fact, many of them are actually on the other side, advocating abortion rights for women, marriage for gays, even voting to place homosexuals into leadership positions in their church governance.
Rather than engage in battles with pseudo-Christians, Farris has chosen simply to assert the Christian religion as not only a source of abiding faith but also a source of education for leadership. That is the new wave of Christian education: homeschooling, Patrick Henry College, and other orthodox Christian colleges, such as Christ College, Bob Jones University, Pensacola Christian College, Liberty University, and Regent University.
A Christian phalanx is being mustered that will in time be strong enough to storm the ramparts of liberalism. These young Christians see their futures as fulfilling the needs of society for moral, spiritual, and political leadership. They will strive to restore the Christian foundations of our society because that is their sacred mission.
An Original Nothingness
The liberal elite is frightened to death of them. Liberals, who personify spiritual emptiness, don’t have the spiritual power to fight them. Rev. Rushdoony wrote in July 1982:
Humanism and evolution posit an original nothingness, a primeval chaos. Out of this impersonal void, the cosmos evolved. Consciousness and personality are latecomers in a “universe” of supposedly billions of years in age, and both are likely in time to disappear, in terms of this view…. This means that material forces, mindless and lawless, govern the life of man, not a personal God.2
And so the only thing liberals, who believe in nothingness, can do is slander Christians and condition the public to respond negatively to the word “Christian.”
Another great dividend of the Christian homeschool movement is the enhancement of freedom through rejection of the government as educator. The most important instrument of social and spiritual control in a statist society is a government education system. A statist society is one in which the idea of a mythical, all-powerful state takes the place of God and is imbued with divine power.
In the United States, the public schools have asserted that notion in subtle ways. They don’t outright teach that the government is God, but by their elimination of God from the curriculum, they infer that the state is the ultimate authority in life.
We must credit Christian homeschoolers for having the courage to challenge statism. We must return to Jefferson’s view that government that governs least is the best for a free people. The challenge is immense. But the students at Patrick Henry College, and other good Christian colleges, seem quite willing and able to take that challenge on.
1. 1. The Protestant Association of Massachusetts was responsible for the report favoring support of the public schools. See Common School Journal, Vol. II, No. 14, July 15, 1849, 212-213.
2. R. J. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991), 154.
- Samuel L. Blumenfeld
Samuel L. Blumenfeld (1927–2015), a former Chalcedon staffer, authored a number of books on education, including NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education, How to Tutor, Alpha-Phonics: A Primer for Beginning Readers, and Homeschooling: A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Children.
He spent much of his career investigating the decline in American literacy, the reasons for the high rate of learning disabilities in American children, the reasons behind the American educational establishment’s support for sex and drug education, and the school system's refusal to use either intensive phonics in reading instruction and memorization in mathematics instruction. He lectured extensively in the U.S. and abroad and was internationally recognized as an expert in intensive, systematic phonics. His writings appeared in such diverse publications as Home School Digest, Reason, Education Digest, Boston Magazine, Vital Speeches of the Day, Practical Homeschooling, Esquire, and many others.