Christianity and Public Education

Many educators assume that because our society has become so diverse in recent years, it's inappropriate to give Christianity any greater attention than other religions in today's public school curriculum. In their minds, it's insensitive to give more emphasis to Christianity than to, say, Islam or Buddhism. It's like being a cultural bully. But as Eric Buehrer of Gateways to Better Education points out in his article, "Integrating Faith and Public Schools Without Mixing Church and State," such mistaken thinking comes from the false belief that fairness means that all religions must get equal time. Buehrer makes the case that "fair" doesn't always mean "equal." Sometimes "fair" means "proportional." For example, first-year educators teach the same number of students the same subjects as do veteran teachers. But, they don't get equal pay for equal work; they get paid proportional to their years of service. So in this case, fair doesn't mean equal. "It is reasonable to assume," Buehrer points out, "that American schools teach American students about American culture." And no one can deny that Christianity is an influential part of American culture, both historically and today. For instance, last summer, Newsweek magazine ran a cover called "The Glorious Rise of Christian Pop." The article reported that for every ten country-music CDs sold, seven Christian CDs are sold -- outselling all jazz, classical, and New Age music combined. After citing these statistics -- along with the fact that one recent series of Christian novels and the VeggieTales children's videos have had combined sales of over $50 million -- the Newsweek article calls Christian consumerism a cornerstone of contemporary American culture. Besides that, there are nearly 1,500 religious radio stations airing Christian messages and music every day in this country. Christian holidays dominate the American calendar. Our national motto, "In God We Trust," is inscribed on all our currency. Our president takes his oath of office with his hand on a Bible. And our Pledge of Allegiance declares that we are "one nation under God." All these facts, and many more, contribute mightily to American culture. When teachers teach this aspect of American culture, they are not giving Christianity unfair attention; they are giving proper balance to their students' education. They are addressing the cultural fact that Christianity is -- far and away -- the most influential religious force in America. Unfortunately, many teachers give their students the impression that Christianity has had no greater influence in American culture than any other religion. They do this when, as just one example, they spend a week celebrating Hanukkah but censor any mention of the birth of Jesus at Christmas. They do this when they promote lessons about religions in other countries while ignoring the dominant religion right in their own backyard, or by teaching their subject matters as if God doesn't really exist, or that Christianity is an historical artifact. Christians need to work with teachers and school boards to understand that it's constitutional to teach about Christianity. We've got to work together to get our schools to stop censoring Christianity. For further information: You can learn about Gateways to Better Education here. Eric Buehrer, "Keep the Faith: Integrating Faith and the Public Schools without Mixing Church and State," BreakPoint Online, 2001. Lorraine Ali, "The Glorious Rise of Christian Pop," Newsweek, 16 July 2001.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary