Monday, May 4, 2009

"Christian" Education: Jerusalm v. Athens

Education is a murky subject when the word “Christian” precedes it as an adjective. I’m not a big fan of separating Jerusalem and Athens. I understand the two are different, but when we compare and contrast them, we find they are extremely similar. In fact, I think they are not two things we should seek to join. Rather, they are two examples of the same thing: institutions or movements of faith and reason. How unfortunate, then, when I replace Jerusalem and Athens with Tertullian’s next infamous binary: the Church and the Academy. Those institutions are very different today than when Tertullian referenced them, for the Church birthed its own academy (perhaps from relations with the academy of which Tertullian spoke) that grew up and separated from it, as children are wont to do. With the Church and its separate academy in place, division emerges amidst the people involved in one, the other, and both.

Introduce any “Christian education” into this divisive mix and you have at least three groups seeking some sort of education based on their idea of Christian. Those three groups are those who attend the local church; those who attend the local church and have or are going to an academy, “Christian” or otherwise, and want to blend or merge the church and academy; and those who associate with and promote the academy over against the local church.

After some reading for class, I realized I mistrust the church's role in education. But I shouldn't have to. People don't go to the church for education. We go for community, for programs, for a positive environment for our kids (lol), and sometimes we even go for worship. We hardly even go for education when we attend Sunday school.

Education implies involvement and dedication. You surely can learn a lot at church and in Sunday school when everyone brings their experiences and thoughts to the table. But, sometimes we need to go outside ourselves and study. If people are dedicated to studying, then we can really engage each other in Sunday school. Sunday school could be a place for education and free thought, not indoctrination (concerning indoctrination, be on the lookout for a forthcoming blog: Inevitable Indoctrination).

Sure, Sunday school and church allow for some free thought. But in my reading, a group of writers determined missions education was only successful when a certain response was elicited from the education. I don't think education should have a predetermined response. In the text I read, "true missions education is a continuous action culminating in a missions lifestyle" (Terry). I think true missions education would lead in the students making their own decisions about missions, as with any type of education.

I mistrust the local church as much as I mistrust the academy. However unfortunate, the academy generally has the upper hand regarding education and theory, whereas the church generally has the upper hand in praxis. This unbalance leads to an ivory tower for the academy, and a local church that indoctrinates (and, hence, promotes) instead of educates. This unbalance creates an imbalance within the church itself, which is why I am hesitant with the church. The church’s internal imbalance is of power, a power where the church interprets itself as a leader, not a servant.

For example, Bosch says the church idealy “engages and challenges the world” (385). What about love? I am not against being involved in “God’s mission” per se (whatever that means), but when that involvement becomes leadership instead of service, then I question the conception of “God’s mission,” at the very least. Call it “God’s mission” or just call it the “Christian life” or “Christian journey” (cf. Bosch 472), I think we—the church, the academy, followers of Christ—should love and serve God, humanity, and all creation. And as far as I can tell, Jesus served people in this life before he tried to influence someone’s eternity, if he tried to influence their eternity (cf. Snyder qtd. in Bosch 378).

No comments:

Post a Comment