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Questions of Faith 2

Following on from here.

How should 'faith schools' be treated in a multi-cultural, multi-faith society?


Every school is a faith school.  Every school will communicate an ethos, a grand vision of what makes for ‘the good life’, what is valuable, what is worthless, what we should aspire to, what we should reject.  Every school is a faith school just as every person is a person of faith.  We all have some object of hope and desire to which we look.  We all give ourselves to ‘something greater’ which becomes our life-shaping object of devotion.  We all have a ‘heaven’ we day-dream about and a ‘hell’ we seek to avoid.  We all hold ourselves and others to account using some particular measure.  We all have faith commitments that shape our lives.

In our particular culture, we think nothing of sending off our children aged 5 years old to be educated by the state.  This is just one more example of how we unthinkingly trust in the state from the cradle to the grave.  When there is a social ill, we ask “What will the government do to sort it out?”  Everyone’s looking for a Saviour, and for many people, the State is it.  We trust in the state to feed us, to clothe us, to heal us, to protect us and to educate us.

So for many it’s just a no-brainer to send their children from the age of 5 to be educated by the state.  And for the next decade and more, we trust the state to inform our children’s minds for a very great proportion of their waking lives.  The government approved curriculum will educate them on matters including religion, family, sex and relationships.  A good education should encompass all these things.  But there is no neutral way to teach such subjects.  For instance, to present all religions as equally valid is itself a religious view – it’s called religious pluralism.  And it is a religious view intolerant of billions of people on our planet.  (It’s ok to disagree with billions of people, but it’s good to be up-front that you’re doing so).

So it turns out that teaching from a faith perspective is inescapable.  All schools are faith schools.  It's just that state schools are a lot more clandestine about it.  Usually people worry that the 'faith schools' are covering something up.  Actually, they are the ones coming clean that they do and they must teach according to certain faith commitments.

Which means all schools should be transparent about the what and the how of their teaching.  'Faith school' should certainly not be a cloak for secrecy.  If there’s anti-semitism or racism or the glorification of war in the syllabus, it needs to be exposed to public scrutiny.  But we should not bring everything to the bar of secular pluralism, for that turns out to be a faith position of considerable intolerance.


To be honest, I don't know what else to say on this topic.  Thoughts anyone?


0 thoughts on “Questions of Faith 2

  1. John

    I don't know whether this is a valid thought or not and it's a bit half baked. But I'm interested by how you are wary of nominalism in your previous post and yet that note is absent here. Is there a reason for that or do you think that there is a distinction? For instance, one objection that comes up often in the media is how CofE schools encourage nominal church attendance.
    I just wonder whether you are swapping between two slightly different views of how Christians should influence society for good - on the one hand, yes marriage is important but you go to great lengths to stress that you aren't in the business of changing sex-lives before people meet Jesus. Yet on the other you promote a Christian view of education as superior to one from the state, a state can't save us, and has a (hidden?) secular agenda.
    Maybe I'm asking to what extent you think Christians should say more than "believe-in-Jesus..." in the public arena in general. Would love to hear more on the authority idea below.

  2. Si

    An excellent argument there, turning the whole thing on it's head and taking down the high places behind the question.

    I'm not sure which will be most controversial sacred cow that you beat down. Secular 'neutrality' is loved in the wider culture, but less so by the kind of people who'll likely turn up to something like this. The idea that everyone is religious would also get a better hearing here than in the wider culture. You're bound to have more than a few religious pluralists there, who won't like being shown to be intolerant, but I think statism might be held by nearly everyone else in the room and thus that will cause the biggest intake of breath and give you the most condemnation as an extremist.

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  4. Glen

    Hi John, Thanks for commenting.
    I would say that the Christian sex-ethic is superior to any other sex-ethic even without Christian faith but that heterosexual monogamy won't save. In the same way I'd say a Christian approach to education is superior to any other educational approach, though a Christian faith school won't save you either.

    It's a big question about how Christians proclaim to the state *as* the state. What do you think? My thoughts from Psalm 2 are that there must be some way for kings to "Kiss the Son" *as* kings (and not just as private individuals in their own hearts). But they are called to do so in evangelistic terms (v10-12) and on the basis, not of political consensus building, but Christ's resurrection (Ps 2:7-9). What will that look like? Dunno, but pretty weak looking I reckon. I'm thinking of Moses and Aaron going into Pharaoh...

    Love to hear your thoughts...?

  5. Dev

    how would you continue if the questions went on to talking about the idea of separating church and state?

    because of course, as you put it, there is no such thing

    but then how would it work out if faith ended up in govt?

  6. John

    Thanks for the reply Glen.

    My thoughts are that I tend to have many opinions about the sorts of questions that you have been raising, but I find it frustrating that I don't have a unifying vision behind it... one that helps me think through when I want to say little more than "you need Jesus" or when I want to say "it's better for everyone if you live Jesus' way".

    I agree that "a Christian approach to xyz is the best, but won't save you." And I think that you've helped me understand my question better.

    I think that the the bible offers us a vision of society that Jesus is now creating in his church and that it's the society we all want. I guess I don't know how that will come to bear on the specifics consistently. I wonder if lots of characters in the bible engage politically with societies that are going wrong. It seems to me that they call in to question the way that the society is ordered and call the whole lot to repentance.

    But how and to what extent do we tell people that xyz should be approached Christianly. And that's why I find not having a consistent approach to engaging with these issues tricky.

    Agree on the weakness point too.


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