(Reprinted from Bread Upon the Waters [Fairfax, VA: Thoburn Press, 1974], 13-14.)
In England, March 1966, the case of a 10-year-old girl became a national scandal. The girl, according to the AP news release, had only one offense, her habit of wiping “her knife and fork with a table napkin before meals…. Headmaster William A. Mason told the child she should not wipe the cutlery. He said other children might do likewise using handkerchiefs and this would not be hygienic.” But the girl wanted clean cutlery and persisted. She was then barred from the lunchroom, and so her mother refused to send her to school. Mother and child were summoned to juvenile court; the mother expected to be fined, but also to have a chance to register her protest. Instead, the judge ruled her an unfit mother and committed the child to a children’s home on no other ground than this simple disobedience.
Now let us jump back to the American scene. James Bryant Conant, former president of Harvard and an educational “reformer,” has written in Education in a Divided World(p. 8):
Wherever the institution of the family is still a powerful force, as it is in this country, surely inequality of opportunity is automatically, and often unconsciously, a basic principle of the nation; the more favored parents endeavor to obtain even greater favors for their children. Therefore, when we Americans proclaim an adherence to the doctrine of equality of opportunity, we face the necessity for a perpetual compromise. Now it seems to me important to recognize both the inevitable conflict and the continuing nature of the compromise.
In other words, the roadblock to democratic education is the family! Every parent is anti-democratic and is aristocratic because he or she wants the best for his child and does nothing for, say, the poor children of Africa and Asia. To many educators, the family is now the enemy. Conant sees an “inevitable conflict.”
Let us turn next to For the World, the study book for the 1966 General Assembly of the National Council of Churches. Some interesting questions are raised. The tribe is now an obsolete form of social organization. Has the family as the Bible presents it been also outgrown? We are told that changes are taking place, and we need to “update” our thinking “in areas such as sex ethics, homosexuality, divorce and remarriage,” and so on.
The Ten Commandments speak plainly: “Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee: that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Dt. 5:16). This, said St. Paul, is the “first commandment with promise” (Eph. 6:2), and its promise is a simple one: life! God promises a long life to the nation and to the people who honor parents and live in terms of the Biblical family law.
In the Bible, the farm family is seen as the backbone of a nation, and in history this has usually been true. A society which works to destroy both its family life and its farming peoples is thus working doubly hard to commit suicide. But the promise still stands: will we heed God’s call to life?