Barring the doors

In Colorado, a Catholic school has refused readmission to the children of two lesbian parents. “Parents living in open discord with Catholic teaching in areas of faith and morals unfortunately choose by their actions to disqualify their children from enrollment,” explains the Archdiocese of Denver.

Now, the conservative in me thinks that it’s entirely reasonable for a Catholic school to have standards for admission that turn on, well, being Catholic. On the other hand, how can Christianity ever divorce itself from the call to spread the Gospel? And if it cannot divorce itself from this calling, ought we to feel at least a bit squeamish at the sight of Christians barring the doors to children in need of the light and Word and love of Christ?

I recall a Buddhist mother telling Wife and me about her desire to enroll her child in a Wichita Christian school. She told them she didn’t care what religion they taught her child, that they could teach her child Christianity if they liked. They refused her, because they require parents to sign a statement of Christian doctrinal adherence (we Christians call those things “statements of faith,” which ought to make anyone familiar with James 1:22 a tad uncomfortable).

I understand the desire of parents who enroll their children in such schools to avoid having their youngsters taught side by side with devil worshippers. On the other hand, if your child’s faith is so weak that sitting next to a confused little devil worshipper in French class can render him apostate, isn’t the problem with your parenting, rather than your school’s admission policy?

It seems that the gold standard is to take them all. Take every child, and compromise not an inch on doctrinal purity or standards of conduct. I know that’s easier said than done. At the very least, however, we ought to pause before turning our backs on the very children we claim to care about when we talk our talk about upholding marriage and spreading the Gospel.

Comments

  1. Bobby

    Tony,

    This strike me as the same argument people in my own church use against me when we discuss homeschooling. They say, I want my child to be a light into the dark world. I understand that this is slightly different in that they are referring to godless public schools and you are referring to Christian schools but I think the principles are the same.

    Our children should not be sacrificed to some greater calling for ministry. As a father, my greatest mission field is my family. I don’t expect my children to start on a ministry until I have adequately prepared them to do so. I don’t expect my eight year old to attempt a defense of the faith against some fourth grade teacher any more than I expect my eight year old to understand why two mommies isn’t ok.

    The people sending their children to christian schools are doing so, I assume, in an attempt to provide them a safe environment to learn the principles of the faith before they start facing a world where they will need to defend those principles. Introducing elements into that environment that make it less safe or distracted shouldn’t be a burden on children.

    I’ll be the first to say, I should be willing to have those women and their child over into my home. I don’t mind them interacting with my children under my watchful eye until my kids are ready, while I attempt to show them the love of Christ. I’m just not sure kids should be forced to deal with that before we have prepared them for it.

  2. Richard E. Barry

    It is always difficult when dealing with children to separate feelings from reason. My own experience with 5 children and 13 grandchildren is that feelings are best when shown TO the children, not when dealing WITH them.

    Concerning the situation at the Catholic school, what about the effect on the children when discussion of the morality of homosexual unions comes up (hopefully only in later grades)? Are these children to go home with the lesson that their parents are sinners? I’m trying not to be judgmental – just make the point that certainly there will be a serious conflict in the children’s minds.

    A less serious point is: what if there were children at the school whose parents adopted various lifestyles antithetical to Cathold teaching? Are all such topics to be avoided? Seems like a recipe for chaos. (or lawsuits).

  3. Jonny

    With the percentage of Roman Catholics who use artificial contraception (a mortal sin according to RC doctrine] equalling that of the general population, this seems to be a difficult principle to maintain consistently. I do agree with Richard regarding the creation of a serious conflict in the minds of the children– but, then again, maybe that’s the whole point of Tony’s post?

  4. Jonny

    Clarification- by “this,” I meant the school’s policy not to accept children whose “parents” are living in open discord with Catholic teaching. Dang, I hate it when people are not specific with their pronouns . . . and then, as usual, go out and commit the same offense.

  5. Kelly

    Tony, I think you’re misunderstanding the reasons for requiring (at least one) Christian parent in Christian schools whose emphasis is discipleship (there are some evangelical Christian schools, of which the school you mentioned is not one, so that concept is not up for discussion here). Having a Christian parent in the home actually has very little to do with the faith of the child. As I sit here at Parent Teacher Conferences, waiting for the next set of parents to arrive, I am thankful for this policy. I have talked with several sets of parents in the past 24 hours whose children are struggling with their own crises of faith, but because the parents are reformed Christians, and I (as well as the entire faculty) am as well, we have a common ground to deal with the situations that arise. Without that shared faith, we are at constant odds with the parents, who may see us as being against them. Take, for instance, the buddhist mother with whom you spoke; while she claims the Christian school can teach her child whatever religion they want, the truth is that she has no interest in the mission of the school, and so will be at odds with many of the policies and activities of the school. While I am proud of the academic rigor that the school at which I teach provides, it is NOT a cheap substitute for a more expensive non-sectarian private school, which is the reason most non-Christian parents visit and apply. The Christian school is a ministry and a light to the world, certainly. However, we don’t have to open our doors to the world to be light and salt. Instead, we as Christian parents and teachers provide this place where students can explore the world from within our own worldview, and send our students out into the world, both through service and social situations, to engage the world and transform it through Christ.

  6. Tall Texan

    Tony–I served for several years on the board of a Christian school and have two reflections on your post. First, let me echo Kelly’s comments and add that our role was to work together with the parents in the education and discipleship of their children. If the parents don’t share the faith principles of the school, there is no partnership with them in the discipleship aspect of that process and inevitably such a parent will push back on some of the faith teachings. Second, an observation regarding your comment: “On the other hand, if your child’s faith is so weak that sitting next to a confused little devil worshipper in French class can render him apostate, isn’t the problem with your parenting, rather than your school’s admission policy?” It’s not that the child’s faith is so weak, it is that the child’s faith is still young, nascent and pliable. So while you are nuturing your child’s walk with Christ at home and putting them into a school whose adult leaders support your values, the students around them bear tremendous influence on them. Let me be very frank: the student culture at many Christian schools today is highly infected with the same depravities found in publics schools. Particularly at the high school level we dealt with kids with strong Christian parents, but the students were as caught up in debauched living as students at public high schools. These kids knew how to wear a thin patina of Christian respectability for appearances, but away from their parents lived the wild life. This was not a few isolated instances, it was fairly widespread in several Christian schools I am familiar with. It is a sign of the times that some Christian parachurch youth ministries now see Christian schools as mission fields just like the public schools.

  7. hanh

    Tony,

    I have been reading your blog for about 6 months, agreeing with you majority of the time. When I first read this post, my initial reaction was to agree with you. However, when I read Archbishop Chaput’s column, this paragraph changed my mind –

    ‘The policies of our Catholic school system exist to protect all parties involved, including the children of homosexual couples and the couples themselves. Our schools are meant to be “partners in faith” with parents. If parents don’t respect the beliefs of the Church, or live in a manner that openly rejects those beliefs, then partnering with those parents becomes very difficult, if not impossible. It also places unfair stress on the children, who find themselves caught in the middle, and on their teachers, who have an obligation to teach the authentic faith of the Church.’

    I think the Archbishop is right to take into consideration of the “unfair stress on the children”. Would you please reconsider your position, taking into account the Archbishop’s reasoning?

  8. Greataunt Nisey

    Tony,

    I’ll never forget Pastor Kevin’s response to a co-habitating young couple from my Sunday School class that wanted to join Ardmore Moravian. He gently told them how much he loved them and how much the church loved them and wanted them as members, but that they could not be accepted for membership as long as they chose to live outside of God’s will. They answered that “call”, got married and joined the church!

    Just a thought.

  9. the wife

    perhaps the question is this:

    is any alternative to homeschooling considered open ground for evangelical interaction? meaning if they are sent away from the home are they then fair game for the world, regardless of the constraints of the environment the parent has carefully chosen?

    can we, rather than homeschool, send our children into a ‘next best option’ and pay to have people take our literal Christian place in their education process?

    so, like hanh, while i agree with the sentiment – evangelizing is key to the Christian walk of grace and mercy, I would argue that should I not be able to teach at home I might desire to privately pay someone to take my place and re-create, so to speak, the careful environment of learning for those not yet ready to defend their faith amidst fielding academics, media, relationships, hormones, etc.

    i used to tell some who questioned our intention to homeschool that even the government doesn’t send its soldiers into battle without the benefit of boot camp. should i need help with boot camp, i’d like to know i have the option to continue it through other means before entering them into the war, so to speak.

  10. the wife

    oops, just to clarify….

    while homeschooling is “the best option’ for us at the moment, thus relegating other options into the ‘next best option’ category…for now…

    this does not imply that this is true for all families and that anything other than homeschooling is a ‘lesser’ option.

    i assume that every Christian family weighs and prays the needs of the children, the family, and their circumstances before coming to a decision on what is their ‘best option’ and their ‘next best option.’

    i am no longer so arrogant as to assume that there is only one ‘best option.’ and i’m so sorry that i ever was – yuck. that’s what life is for…to suffer the arrogance out of you.

    just in case my words read judgmentally in the post above.

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