I think this country has no good future apart from Christian education. Unless we get our children out of the public schools, I think we have a very sad and tragic future.
—Rev. Joseph Morecraft III
Dedicated to averting such a future by awakening Christian parents to obedience to God, the Exodus Mandate will celebrate its 10th anniversary on October 9 with a banquet at the Columbia Conference Center in Columbia, South Carolina.
Former U.S. Army Reserve chaplain E. Ray Moore founded the Exodus Mandate ten years ago when he finally came to understand, he said, that reforming the public school system simply wouldn’t work.
“We believe very strongly that this is a Holy-Spirit–generated movement,” Moore told Chalcedon. “In recent years, there has been a lot of unconnected, spontaneous focus on the truth—that is, the need for Christian children to get a Christian education. We’ve seen such an increase lately in books, literature, DVDs, all sorts of independently produced materials promoting Christian education. It reminds me of the days of Luther and the Reformation. The reformers didn’t have to get together and coordinate their actions. The time was just ripe for it.”
How Much Growth?
There are now many ministries devoted to Christian schools and Christian homeschooling. Because many homeschooling parents don’t report to their local boards of education (it’s not required in some states), there is no way to say exactly how many children are being homeschooled today. The federal Department of Education estimates between 1 and 2 million—not a very firm statistic.
“I think it’s probably more like 1.9 to 2.5 million, as estimated by the National Home Education Research Institute,” Moore said. “Regulations have been loosening up in many states, as a result of courtroom victories for homeschoolers. So it’s hard to say what the numbers actually are; but everybody agrees that homeschooling is growing.
“We’re not taking credit, of course, for all the growth, but our ministry is certainly part of the mix.”
Rev. Morecraft, whom Moore credits with encouraging and urging him to start his ministry, spoke more definitely.
“Ray Moore and the Exodus Mandate are on the front lines of the culture war,” he said. “For ten years he has been raising awareness of both the dangers of public schooling and the responsibility of Christian parents to give their children a Christian education.
“Thousands of children have been taken out of public schools because of his efforts. Ray Moore is one of the most influential men in America, when it comes to helping Christian parents to decide to educate their children God’s way.”
Birth of a Mandate
Moore recalled how he came to found the Exodus Mandate.
“My wife and I had some 20 years’ experience in homeschooling,” he said, “but in the early 1990s I was still trapped in the ‘reform’ mode. I had a clear theological model for Christian education, prompted by the coercive threat the state represents to Christian children. But it was a while before I began to realize that meaningful reform of public education was totally impossible.”
In February 1997, Moore attended a national conference in Washington, D.C., chaired by luminaries of the Christian Right like Phyllis Schlafly and Congressman Henry Hyde, dedicated to revealing the flaws in the federal government’s “Goals 2000” project for improving public education.
“The only plan they had was to repeal bad legislation,” Moore said. “I was thinking, ‘These are the good guys, and they don’t have a clue.’
“I think I got my call that day to start a movement to extract several million children from the state schools.”
He spent the next six months consulting with Christian leaders (like Rev. Morecraft) around the country, getting advice and encouragement. “I’d been reading writers like R. J. Rushdoony and Samuel Blumenfeld for years,” he said, “so I already had a good understanding of what was wrong with public education, why it can’t be put right, and why we have a duty to educate our children God’s way.”
In November Moore held a press conference in Washington, D.C., to announce the launching of the Exodus Mandate.
“A friend warned me, ‘You’ll become one of the most hated men in America,’” he said. “‘Christian parents will hate you because they don’t want to obey God.’ But it hasn’t been that bad. After all, everyone agrees the public school system is in terrible shape. They find it very hard to counter the case we’re making.”
Two Sides to the Story
Exodus has a “50-50 rule” in making the case for Christian schooling, Moore said. “Ten years ago, we concentrated on what’s wrong with the public schools. Now we also emphasize that Christian education is mandated by God.
“Reforming the public schools is an utter waste of time. But if people only hear what’s wrong with public schools, they’re going to want to try to fix it.”
No one in Exodus Mandate has worked harder than Bruce Shortt at exposing the problems with the public schools. An attorney from Houston, Texas, who has homeschooled his own children, Shortt has written a book, The Harsh Truth About Public Schools (2004, The Chalcedon Foundation), painstakingly detailing the public schools’ “problems” like crime and violence, drugs and sexual abuse, and public educators’ constant efforts to indoctrinate children with an anti-Christian worldview. He has also led efforts to persuade the Southern Baptist Convention to call for a Christian “exodus” from public schools.
“Lincoln once observed that the philosophy of the classroom is the philosophy of the government in the next generation,” Shortt said. “In fact, the importance of education is even more fundamental than that—it is the single greatest determinant of what sort of culture we will have.
“This is why the Left has worked so hard over the last 100 years and more to expand government education and control it. If tomorrow Christians were to refuse to hand their children over to the government schools, the government school system would collapse, the NEA [teachers’ union] and a whole host of liberal organizations would be largely defunded, delegitimized, and deprived of most of their political and cultural power. This would also set the state for a renewal of our culture, and true revival.
“Unfortunately, the longer it takes for that collapse to occur, the more damage the government school system and its special interests do to children and our culture.”
The biggest obstacle for Exodus Mandate to overcome, Moore said, was “just getting off the fringe, becoming more mainstream, and finding acceptance.”
Exodus’ big breakthrough, he said, came in 1999, when Rev. D. James Kennedy—recently deceased, but for years one of America’s most widely listened-to Christian broadcasters—had Ray Moore as a guest on his radio and television shows.
“He had me on his show several times after that, and Bruce Shortt, too,” Moore said. “Before that, we couldn’t raise money, couldn’t get a hearing, etc. Since then, we’ve picked up some substantial contributors, enabling us to pay for salaries, offices, travel, and publications.”
Winning over major Christian leaders and pastors continues to be one of Exodus Mandate’s chief concerns, Moore said, and some progress is being made. The keynote speaker at the anniversary banquet will be Mark Earley, former attorney general of Virginia and current president of Prison Fellowship Ministries.
Persuading the Church
But the Mandate’s biggest challenge in the future, Moore and Shortt agreed, is the church itself.
“Bad habits and weak theologies die hard,” Moore said, “and most Christians have a poor educational theology. But we’ve helped reframe the issue, among the Christian community, away from public school reform and toward Christian education. This has helped spawn many new homeschooling and Christian education ministries.
“We don’t tell people to ‘take back their schools,’ get themselves elected to their local school boards, or anything like that. We don’t want those schools. We just want our children out of them.”
“Our greatest challenge is to get parents and pastors to be honest,” Shortt said. “They need to give up the ‘our schools are different’ and ‘our children are salt and light’ lies and repent of their disobedience in education that is destroying our children, families, churches, and culture. We also need to find a way to get those who are faithful in the education of their children to find the courage to confront other Christians about their government school sin.”
They’ve Earned It!
Here at Chalcedon, we have regularly reported on the abuses and outrages of the public school system, and the anti-Christian teachers’ unions and “education” theorists who control it. We have also chronicled the ongoing efforts of Moore, Shortt, and others to inspire Christian parents to provide their children with a godly education, as prescribed in the Bible. Further back in time, our founder, R. J. Rushdoony, fought tirelessly for the right of parents to control their children’s education, traveling all over the country to testify in defense of parents who’d been haled into court for trying to exercise that right.
That things are better now for Christian schools and Christian homeschoolers is the fruit of labors by Rushdoony, the Exodus Mandate, and, increasingly, many others. In obedience to Scripture, they have toiled mightily; and God has blessed their labors. The proof of that is in the continued growth of the Christian schooling movement. Rushdoony planted, and Moore has watered, but God gave the increase.
Exodus Mandate has earned an anniversary dinner.
To order tickets ($50 a plate) or become a table host, call Gail Moore at the Exodus Mandate offices, 803-714-1744.