Get religion out of schools

I was going to add this as a stealth edit to my last blog, but that’s not fair, really.

In response to the suggestion that Secular Scotland weren’t in favour of booting religious education out of schools, here is last night’s tweet suggesting just that:

Or here:

It seems to me that Secular Scotland don’t know what they want. Do they want religion out of Schools, or not?   And if not, why are they bothering to raise this at all? They say they want some standardisation across Scotland’s regions, yet the truth is this: the existing legislation provides that already.

Whatever their agenda, they are willing to unfairly attack the work of countless teachers.

Secular Scotland, Teachers and Religious Education

After last night’s society and religion debate on Newsnight Scotland, Secular Scotland tweeted:

You’ll have to forgive me, but one of these “good points” struck me as an attack on an undisclosed number of teachers, senior management teams, local authorities and HMIE.   Secular Scotland have perhaps bitten off more than they can chew, and I hope an apology is forthcoming.

The comment in question was a woman in the audience who presented as fact the claim that in religious areas of Scotland, Christianity enjoys an exclusive place in religious education.

Just unpack that.   There are parts of Scotland where teachers fail to comply with their legal obligation to give a balanced presentation of Scotland’s religions.   And according to Secular Scotland, this was a “good point”?

Attack!

This is an attack on an undisclosed number of teachers.   I was left wondering, “Where’s the evidence for this?”   For a person representing any organisation making this claim, one would hope there’s more than hearsay and anecdotal evidence.   The suggestion wasn’t one or two incidents, but a widespread problem across Scotland’s religious areas.   That’s a lot of teachers – presumably at both Primary and Secondary level – failing in their responsibility.

It’s an attack on senior management teams.   SMT’s are responsible for the way in which schools interpret and implement policy.   One can only assume that if the problem is as widespread as Secular Scotland make out, SMT’s are aware of it, and complicit in the whole affair.   This implies a colossal failure in management.   Are Secular Scotland really saying that head teachers are failing the pupils in their care?

The buck doesn’t stop with classroom teachers and SMTs.    If this were really the case, the problem would go all the way up to Education Departments, perhaps even to elected representatives on regional authorities in Scotland.   That’s because for Christianity to enjoy the exclusive position SS claim, Education Departments would have to more than turn a blind eye to it.   There would be, justifiably, a barrage of complaints, investigations and eventually sackings.

And this colossal scandal would suck in Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education, who are the central body tasked with ensuring education in Scotland is maintained at an incredibly high standard.   Surely, if Secular Scotland were right, HMIE would have to have turned a blind eye to the imbalance?

Talking Mince

Except Secular Scotland are talking horse-mince.   There is no grand conspiracy, or even failure here.   In fact, as usual, their fight isn’t for Secularism, but against Christianity – because according to their “good point”, this is a problem in Scotland’s “Christian” areas.   I guess that’s the Highlands and Islands?

But Christian teachers in the Highlands and Islands, because of their respect for the religious beliefs of others, probably take religious education a lot more seriously than most.   They will, with integrity teach honestly and without criticism the ideas foundational to Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism, just as they will teach Christianity.   I’m willing to wager, young people educated in the Highlands and Islands have no stomach for sectarianism, not because they are secular, but because they are taught from an early age to respect their neighbour.

Secular Scotland used this silly claim to suggest all teaching of religion should be pushed out of schools.   But the truth is, humans are religious beings.   The world we live in is shaped by religion.   If we are educating young minds with no sensitivity to that, we are failing our young people.   Of course there’s a place for religious education in our schools.

Secular Scotland need to stop attacking teachers, SMTs, and so on, and instead look at what happens when balanced religious education is ignored.   When you put general religious education solely in the hands of religious bodies, you get sectarianism, not respect.   In Libya, for example, the liberty of the Arab Spring has meant the Christian population has been reduced by a forced exodus of 90-95%.   The same religious cleansing is taking place in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and so on.

Never has there been a more important time for partnership between the state and Christianity.   Religious education in Schools promotes respect and tolerance, especially when it’s done well, like in the religious areas of Scotland.

Worth a read. This is well thought out, and expresses the concerns we have about Roman Catholic doctrine, and it’s implications.

Reformed Baptist Fellowship

pope

 

A Commentary by D. Scott Meadows, Pastor

Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed) of Exeter, New Hampshire

Joseph Ratzinger (a.k.a. His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI) just announced his resignation from the Papacy by the end of this month, February 2013. The process of selecting a successor has begun, with all of this garnering much attention in the news media. As a theologian and pastoral leader, my conscience constrains me to comment.

Years ago I was asked my opinion about the new Cardinal of Boston. I replied, “That’s like asking me about the new captain of a pirate ship. The whole enterprise is illegitimate.” I do not deny that these events may have momentous implications, but I strongly and solemnly protest the show of reverence and awe for such men and for this religious institution even from those who should know better.

A great champion of the biblical faith once wrote a…

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Worth a read – and huge qudos to Rachel Miller: ploughing through NT Wright is no mean feat.

A Daughter of the Reformation

“I do not think Jesus “knew he was God” in the same sense that one knows one is tired or happy, male or female. He did not sit back and say to himself, ‘Well, I never! I’m the second person of the Trinity!’ ( N.T. Wright, The Meaning of Jesus, 154).”

I have found from time to time that the Jesus I knew by faith seemed less and less like the Jesus I was discovering by history (The Meaning of Jesus, 25).

N.T. Wright, formerly Bishop of Durham, is well-known for his association with the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) and for his staunch defense of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. I was first introduced to Wright’s books through a pastor who thought Wright had been unfairly criticized. The pastor encouraged me to read him for myself and not to be swayed by unfavorable reviews. He told me…

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Mid-week Meetings – 4

Last week we noted that our midweek meeting is steadily growing – this is a good thing.   It is sensible to ask how we might ensure that they remain central in binding together our fellowship as a congregation, without becoming “just another meeting”.   To continue to benefit our fellowship, we saw that we must come prayerfully, depending on God, and sacrificially, looking to bless others.

The third thing that will help our fellowship is remembering the example of Jesus.    He did have the 12 apostles as well as the group of women who followed him, and they were close.   We can think of that as a sort of little “congregation”.   But within that he also had a closer bond with Peter, James and John.   There are some important lessons in that for how we think about our fellowship as a congregation.

  1. Small groups that are closer within a fellowship are not bad things.   Jesus’ special friendship with these three disciples was in no way sinful or wrong.
  2. Small groups within the congregation need to be about support and encouragement.   Mark 14:34 tells us how Jesus took Peter, James and John to be near him while he prayed in Gethsemane.   He longed for their support.   This is in stark contrast with Mark 10:35ff where James and John assumed they enjoyed special status within the fellowship; that their closer friendship with Jesus entitled them to special treatment.   Jesus reminds this small group that “whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.”   Small groups are much more about support and encouragement.
  3. It’s important to note that Jesus never allowed the small group of friends to take priority over the needs of the larger group of disciples.   The compassion of Jesus seen in Mark 6:34 show us that he placed the needs of the larger group first, even when he longed for some time apart.

Small fellowships can be very helpful in bringing people on in discipleship, and they can be a great place for mutual support and encouragement.   But that group is always in addition to the wider congregation.   Membership in the church has many privileges, but one of the responsibilities of membership is to pray together with the congregation.   That’s why we are taking time to specifically encourage all of our members to try to make a commitment to the monthly prayer meeting held the first Wednesday each month.   Even if this is the only Wednesday you can come, the rewards and benefit will be great.

Mid-week Meetings – 3

We’ve looked at what goes on at our Wednesday night meeting, and who these meetings are for.   This week, we’ll reflect on what role they play in our fellowship.

When there are less than a dozen people gathered for prayer or bible study, that group can have a very intimate “feel” to it, and we can feel free to be open, for example, about items they want to share for prayer.   There’s an old expression, people who pray together stay together – it’s one of the blessings of close fellowship.

Our midweek meeting is steadily growing – last week we had over a dozen attending.   Growing numbers like this means the “feel” may change.   How can we guard against, for example, Wednesday nights might becoming less intimate, or “just another meeting” – when in fact, they should be central in binding together our fellowship as a congregation?   While the intimacy of our meetings might change, we need to be sure they have the same vitality we currently enjoy.   Remembering three things might help us:

  1. Vitality – or life – only comes from the Holy Spirit.   Come to the midweek meeting prayerfully: don’t just expect or assume it will be a time of blessing, come asking God to be at work in you and others.
  2. Fellowship – or Christian unity – is always costly.   Of course we should come to these meetings hoping God will speak to us, and help us.   But cultivate the costly attitude Paul writes about in Philippians 2 – seek the good of others first.
  3. The example of Jesus: he did have the 12, and they were close, but also had a closer bond with Peter, James and John.   Next week, we’ll look at this in a bit more detail.