With increasing frequency I find myself consoling acquaintances whom I find shaking their heads and muttering about the world “going to hell in a handbasket.” In many ways I sympathize with these frustrated folk—look at politics, the media, the government, our Darwinian capitalist machine. One can hardly help wringing one’s hands over the state of the country, even the state of the world. But Christians have been given some instructions about the world, instructions along the lines of taking dominion and baptizing the nations and teaching them to obey Jesus. So let’s dispense with the handwringing, shall we, and get on with the business at hand.
I am often asked to describe the difference between classical education and what we might call a progressive or modern education. Elements of classical education can come across as impractical while modern education sometimes seems more, well, practical. Perhaps a story best explains the importance of the impractical. This story is based on one told at this year’s Trinitas Convocation ceremony.
This is the story of a fantastical social experiment. It all began with two young men, Johann and Ned. Johann was brought up in a royal palace and Ned in a lawless slum. Johann was cared for from his birth by a loving family. He was taught from an early age that he would someday rule the kingdom. In preparation for his rule, Johann was given an education that went beyond training for an occupation. He learned to paint, to sing, to play the violin. He read the Greek philosophers and studied geometry and calculus. He learned to speak and write well and to debate important issues. Johann learned etiquette, that is, he learned how to treat other people in a way that dignified their humanity and made them feel loved and respected. He was held to a high standard of character and integrity. His conduct was expected to be honorable, a model for others to aspire to, and it was.
As quarantine restrictions begin to ease all over the world, we should be able to start making some observations about how our weeks of sequestering have affected us. Oh, I don’t mean to enter the conversation about whether quarantining has worked to “flatten the curve” or whether it was the right or wrong action to take or what it has done to the “Economy.” I mean only to make a prediction about how staying locked in our houses and away from the world has affected our humanity.
An early look in Newsweek at a report that is to be published in full this June shows that Christians are the most persecuted group of people in all the world. The report, compiled by the Bishop of Truro, claims that the persecution of Christians in many areas is very close to meeting the United Nations’ definition for genocide. Why do we hear so little about this persecution in US media outlets? One reason may be that Christians in the US have largely escaped the kind of violent persecution upon which the report focused. In this country Christians have worshiped in relative comfort—even luxury at times—for more than two centuries. Make no mistake, though, Christianity is under attack here too.
School choice is a hot issue for the Trump administration, and it continues to be for the states as well. In Florida, for example, a bill is being debated in the closing days of the state legislative session that would create tens or maybe even hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of state scholarships for low to middle income Florida families to use at private schools.
“A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment” (Proverbs 18:1).
I know a teenage girl who spends many hours a day on her smartphone playing games and posting on social media (and who knows what else). While the rest of her family engages in other recreational activities, mostly outdoors, she is content to and is allowed to spend her time with her phone. When she is forced to come out of her bedroom, at mealtime for example, she is sometimes sullen and often awkward in interactions with her family. Her contributions to the conversation are usually one sentence statements that are disconnected from the topic of conversation and seemingly meant to draw attention to herself—like an Instagram post. Even when the family detours from the original topic of conversation to engage her comments, this girl rarely has more to add, and her next entry will be as disconnected from the last one as it was from the family’s original conversation topic. It seems as if her time isolated with her phone has undermined her ability to communicate with other people in person.
Last week I wrote in this space about cell phone use among teens. There is a lot to say about it. I can’t get to all of it, but it is a serious enough subject that I will revisit it more than once. There are a great many discouraging trends in our society today, especially among teens, which are beginning to be attributed to addictive smart phone use. Arguably the most concerning trend is the failing mental health of our teenagers.
Our board president recommended a book to me recently, and he was really excited about this book. It is common for him to get excited about theology books and such, but this was a book by a politician—not at all common for him to get into a book like that. As it turned out, my family already owned the book. My youngest son had gotten it for his mother a few months ago; he had been so captivated that he read half of it in the bookstore before he bought it. (Is that even legal?)