This is a rare crossposting (and slight adaptation) of my Theocrat of the Week series at Talk to Action. I decided to cross post today, partly for the hell of it, and partly because there is some stuff here of what I think is particularly important. There is a pincer campaign being waged against the public schools, by the religious right one side; and by corporate interests that want to direct and profit from public education through a variety of privatization schemes. A powerful new ally may be coming along in the movement to end public education, the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. with 16 million members. The SBC is not yet institutionally on board, but some of its leaders are, and there may be a major discussion at the denomination's upcoming national meeting in San Antonio, Texas next month.
Theocrat of the Week
These days, many prospective candidates for Theocrat of the Week do their best not to appear to be theocratic. They know it is not yet their time and it is somtimes necessary to be tactful when taking the movement forward. It is, after all, important to avoid coming across as prematurely theocratic. That's why Our Blue Ribbon Panel of Judges appreciates candidates who pull off being theocratic with such aplomb, that hardly anyone even notices. So many of our prospective theocrats gleefully blend themselves into the Greater Culture so effectively that some in the punditocracy do not even believe that there is a theocratic political movement in the United States. People of this ilk often try to define theocracy in such a way that hardly anyone in the history of the world could ever have held a theocratic thought, but if my some remote chance someone did, even this would probably be controversial; something we certainly wouldn't want to jump to conclusions about.
Some would have it that a theocracy has to be governed only by the priesthood of an official religion. But in Islamic countries such as Iran, there can be a constitution and elections but the nation is still theocratic, or at least have theocratic factions or majorities who are seeking to use democratic processes to impose religious law and thwart religious freedom. Theocratic factions operate in many countries, sometimes playing major roles. Here in the United States, we have several theocratic political movements operating in ever-shifting coalitional formations. Few would say that they advocate "theocracy" but their politics, their protestations not withstanding, are distinctly theocratic. This brings us to Our Theocrat of the Week: Frank Page, the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.
Last year Page called on Baptists to set up a parallel school system -- kindergarten through high school, and to make it available even to people who cannot afford it. This call went out after he had declined to endorse a controversial resolution (proposing an "exit strategy" from the public schools) at the SBC meeting that elected him president. So he got to have it both ways: gain the presidency in part by dodging the contoversy, and then using the bully pulpit of his office to encourage and empower the advcoates of the defeated resolution to go forward in his name. Smart.
Ethics Daily reports:
SBC president Frank Page shortly after his election last summer in Greensboro, N.C. Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., told Agape Press he is disturbed that many teenagers leave the church after graduating from high school and he hoped that more churches would begin offering Christian schools.
According to an article at the theocratic movement news site, World Net Daily a resolution will be offered at the SBC's annual meeting in San Antonio next month by
Voddie Baucham, a pastor with a national teaching ministry and the author of "The Ever Loving Truth," and Bruce Shortt, a board member for Exodus Mandate and author of "The Harsh Truth About Public Schools," endorses Page's suggestions, and calls for more.
"Dr. Page's call for more Christian schools is the beginning of the 'exit strategy' that Dr. [Albert] Mohler has urged be developed. If the SBC and American Christianity are to survive in any culturally relevant way, we are going to have to repent of our unfaithfulness in the education of our children. And we need to do this sooner rather than later," said Baucham.
His resolution, submitted jointly with Shortt for the 2007 SBC annual meeting, is intended to expand the debate among Christians about creating a parallel school system, only one that includes biblical truth as part of an education.
In past years, similar national resolutions have been defeated, but have been percolating in a number of state conventions.
It should go without saying that Wiley Drake, a previous Theocrat of the Week honoree, and an SBC national vice-president, has been in the forefront of these efforts:
As Christians, we must rescue our children from public schools," Drake stated. "They are being coerced and persecuted there. Frankly, speaking as a pastor who has observed the deterioration of public schools for many years, I would say that Christian parents who are putting their children in public schools today are endangering their children spiritually, emotionally, physically and educationally. This debate is important because parents need to know how toxic public schools have become."
WND also reported that the earlier resolution, which made national news stated "
the millions of children in government schools spend seven hours a day, 180 days a year being taught that God is irrelevant to every area of life," the resolution said, "Many Christian children in government schools are converted to an anti-Christian worldview rather than evangelizing their schoolmates."
That resolution was heartily endorsed by the Home School Legal Defense Association, which declared:
Government schools are by their own confession humanistic and secular in their instruction, [and] the education offered by the government schools is officially Godless.
Yes, one of the characteristics of a good theocratic leader operating in a non-theocratic environment, is to give permission to lesser theocrats to show the way to a more theocratic future without diminishing his own power and influence. There will always be other theocratic ininiatives, and each one is an experiment. Hence the brilliance of Frank Page. Elected as an ostensibly moderate reformer in a denomination said to have been taken over by rightwing fundamentalists, whatever Page did, naturally would never be seen as such: if he was careful. So when Page said he thinks SBC churches should establish more schools -- why it must be OK because after all, he is not one of them. But fortunately, he has men like Wiley Drake, Bruce Shortt, and allies at the conservative Presbyterian dominated WND to agitate and get people used to the most extreme and off-putting variants on the scheme, so whatever he and his people ultimately propose, looks moderate by comparison.
Here is more from World Net Daily:
If you like sexually transmitted diseases, shootings and high teen pregnancy rates, by all means, send your children to public schools. That's the word from a leader in the fast-growing movement within the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention for parents to pull their children from those schools in favor of homeschooling.
The program is called Exit Strategy and Pastor Wiley Drake, whose home state of California has done some things especially offensive to Christians this year, is a leading promoter.
In an interview with WND, he said that those problems and others are prevalent in public schools, and some Christian leaders even have said it could be considered child abuse just to register children in such a facility.
That's why resolutions encouraging members of the nation's largest Protestant church organization to exit public schools have been submitted in every SBC state and regional convention in the U.S., he said.
As shrill and alarming as all this may sound to some, it is unsurprising. For a generation, leading Christian Reconstuctionists, begining with the seminal thinker, R.J.Rushdoony, have declared that the public schools are a major obstacle for the theocratic movement. Indeed, the public schools are intended to help children become citizens in a consttitutional democracy, organized on principles of religious pluralism. In 1994, I wrote a series of articles for The Public Eye magazine, detailing the Reconstructionist movement and its influence on the Christian Right. Here is an excerpt about education:
...it is in the next generation that most Reconstructionists hope to seize the future. "All long-term social change," declares [Reconstructionist theorist] Gary North, "comes from the successful efforts of one or another struggling organizations to capture the minds of a hard core of future leaders, as well as the respect of a wider population." The key to this, they believe, lies with the Christian school and the home schooling movement, both deeply influenced by Reconstructionism.
Unsurprisingly, Reconstructionists seek to abolish public schools, which they see as a critical component in the promotion of a secular world view. It is this secular world view with which they declare themselves to be at war. "Until the vast majority of Christians pull their children out of the public schools," writes Gary North, "there will be no possibility of creating a theocratic republic."
Among the top Reconstructionists in education politics is Robert Thoburn of Fairfax Christian School in Fairfax, Virginia. Thoburn advocates that Christians run for school board, while keeping their own children out of public schools. "Your goal" (once on the board), he declares, "must be to sink the ship." While not every conservative Christian who runs for school board shares this goal, those who do will, as Thoburn advises, probably keep it to themselves. Thoburn's book, The Children Trap, is a widely used sourcebook for Christian Right attacks on public education.
Joseph Morecraft, who also runs a school, said in 1987: "I believe the children in the Christian schools of America are the Army that is going to take the future. Right now... the Christian Reconstruction movement is made up of a few preachers, teachers, writers, scholars, publishing houses, editors of magazines, and it's growing quickly. But I expect a massive acceleration of this movement in about 25 or 30 years, when those kids that are now in Christian schools have graduated and taken their places in American society, and moved into places of influence and power."
Similarly, the Christian "home schooling" movement is part of the longterm revolutionary strategy of Reconstructionism. One of the principal home schooling curricula is provided by Reconstructionist [the late] Paul Lindstrom of Christian Liberty Academy (CLA) in Arlington Heights, Illinois. CLA claims that it serves about 20,000 families. Its 1994 curriculum included a book on "Biblical Economics" by Gary North. Home schooling advocate Christopher Klicka, who has been deeply influenced by R. J. Rushdoony, writes: "Sending our children to the public school violates nearly every Biblical principle.... It is tantamount to sending our children to be trained by the enemy." He claims that the public schools are Satan's choice. Klicka also advocates religious selfsegregation and advises Christians not to affiliate with non-Christian home schoolers in any way. "The differences I am talking about," declares Klicka, "have resulted in wars and martyrdom in the not too distant past." According to Klicka, who is an attorney with the Home School Legal Defense Association, "as an organization, and as individuals, we are committed to promote the cause of Christ and His Kingdom."
A few weeks ago here at Talk to Action, Mainstream Baptist connected the dots when he reported:
Those who still doubt there are links between Southern Baptists and theocratic Christian Reconstructionists should look inside the front cover of the December 2004 issue of the Chalcedon Report. There the chief publishing house for Reconstructionist thought, Chalcedon, [founded by R.J. Rushdoony] announces that it has published Bruce Shortt's book, The Harsh Truth About Public Schools. Bruce Shortt, along with T.C. Pinckney, leads the movement against public schools within the Southern Baptist Convention.
Televangelist and Christian right leader D. James Kennedy blurbed the book this way:
This book presents an idea whose time has come. Modern public education in America has too often degenerated into indoctrination in secular humanism. This book presents the solution to the problem.
In a press release issued by [the apparently one-man organization], Exodus Mandate, which serves as a resource center for the sponsors of the resolution, Chaplain E. Ray Moore, points out,
The Southern Baptists are setting the pace in debating this critical issue. Other denominations such as the Presbyterian Church in America are also having this debate. It is our prayer and hope that this debate will take place in all Bible based denominations over the next few years and that both Christian parents and the institutional church will come to understand clearly the urgency of rescuing our children from the government schools.
When Frank Page speaks, the theocratic movement listens, acts and invokes his name and his office. And that is why Frank Page is our Theocrat of the Week.