28 December 2011

Marginal Christianity

One thing that often galls me about the church today is the spread of Pharisaic thinking among Christians.  Specifically, I refer to the Pharisaic thinking condemned by Christ in Matthew 23:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! [Emphasis added.]

I have met a large number of nominally Christian parents who refuse to allow their children to watch certain television shows, play certain (or any) video games, and listen to certain types of music, all in the name of preventing their children from being influenced by the world.  Yet these same parents send their children to public school.  Many of these parents also heavily rely on the church to provide spiritual training for their children.

To me, this is a very peculiar way of thinking, which I generally refer to as marginal Christianity, for its practitioners seem to believe that Christianity takes place at the margins.  Thus, it is acceptable for Christians to send their children to public school, in which the spiritual dregs of society are compelled to attend, but it is unacceptable for Christians to allow their children to watch a television show that has a character say “bitch” or play a video game wherein one is expected to kill imaginary opponents.

Not all Christian parents are like this, of course.  I have met many materialistic Christians who were consistent about their embrace of things of the world, and I have met some conscientious Christian parents who not only forbid their children from consuming modern media, but also homeschool in order to shield them from the various unsavory aspects of worldly behavior.  However, most Christian parents I’ve met seem to be perfectly fine with allowing their children to face an enormous amount of pressure from evil influences in public school (for 6+ hours a day, five days a week, 36+ weeks a year) while simultaneously balking at the idea of allowing their child to watch an NBC comedy.

This strikes me as completely backwards.*

To me, it seems better to take care of the weightier matters of the law, like keeping your child away from the evil influences of their generally degraded peers than to focus on marginal things, like media consumption.  Yes, media consumption can be an incredibly negative influence but this is very much a marginal concern.  The evil that is seen on TV, heard in music, and simulated in video games often pales in comparison to the evil that is daily present in public schools.  Thus, if parents are so concerned about their children’s spiritual well-being, it is far more effective to homeschool them than to forbid them from watching TV and playing video games.

* Please note that I am not saying Christians should consume popular media.  There is much in popular media worthy of moral condemnation, and thus avoidance.


  1. Why are you so against public schools? You can't keep your kids sheltered forever. All you'll accomplish is make them socially stunted and ruin their early adult life. And there's a very good chance you'll make them rebel against Christianity in adulthood, too.

  2. @GFM- they're shit. I've been homeschooled and I've attended public school, and I can say quite confidently that public schools have no redeeming value to them whatsoever.

    My primary concern, as a Christian, is that of spiritual value. Public schools have nothing of spiritual value, rendering them worthless. Also, the academic value of public school is a joke, unless one has a well-below average intelligence.

    And no, an absence of school does not make one socially stunted. The absurdity of this claim is illustrated by its implications: do you seriously suggest that all humans were socially stunted prior to the advent of compulsory public education? (Keep in mind that the model of compulsory, public-funded education didn't even exist until the tail end of the dark ages in Britain, and the modern model didn't exist until after WWII.) How ever did we manage to socialize?

  3. I hear what you're saying, Simon, but the fact is that many women are not cut out for homeschooling. My wife simply doesn't want to do it - the thought makes her feel isolated, trapped, and bored.

    Many kids are also not cut-out for taking educational instruction from their mothers. Also, every homeschooling family we know is weird, which rules out some sort of home-school co-op.

    My options then are: public school and private school. The former is not appealing for numerous reasons we needn't review. The latter is extremely expensive: $20-30k per year depending on the number of kids you have. This option means that my wife would basically have to work just so the kids could go to private schools. It also means we would therefore have to pay more state and federal taxes since we'd be in a higher tax bracket. We'd also get zero return on the taxes we already pay that fund the public schools.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that when you talk about the nuts and bolts of homeschooling, it can become a lot less appealing for numerous reasons. But the alternatives are not much more pleasant.