We Christians love to argue about silly things: Is the Jonah story a Jewish parable or journalistic recording about historical events? Did God create the world in six days or set in motion an evolutionary process? How about the arguments over atheism or theism? Seriously, aren’t we beyond that yet? If we could prove our point it wouldn’t be faith, and if it’s not faith, well, then it’s not Christianity. The list of debates could go on. But that’s beside the point, and that is my point. We get in these little arguments, all the while missing the actual point just so we can be right about something that doesn’t matter.
It really gets disturbing and embarrassing when doctrinal beliefs about God contradict political and actual lives. Here are a couple more examples: We believe God created and loves everybody and would never torture anyone, yet we believe abortion to be an acceptable practice. Now, that’s confusing. My favorite is when someone will say, “I’m a Christian and therefore I believe in the literal (whatever that means) reading of the Bible, now let’s vote for a candidate who believes in using torture against our enemies.” Wait, what?
To those who claim biblical literalism, I want to ask, don’t statements like “love your enemy” or “do good to those who persecute you” fall under that literalism? Or do we now get to compartmentalize our faith? Grant it, the way of Jesus makes for horrible national security, but Jesus didn’t really seem to care about that. What Jesus did say is that we can’t have two masters, we can’t show equal allegiance to two different ideologies, meaning, that when our Christian values conflict and contradict our political values (which they will), especially, if we believe the Bible, then we lean into our Christian values, or “what the Bible says” over and against the agenda of our chosen political party and national security. If our doctrines and religious belief fit nicely into either liberal or conservative categories, we are no longer talking about Christianity; for Christianity will offend (and at times compliment) both sides of the aisle and call the world to a better, and usually, third way. I digress.
Why all this talk about politics, missing the point, and faith? Because of the situation, we find ourselves in here in Illinois. If our faith, doctrines, and beliefs do not have flesh to them, they are pointless ramblings. So what is this situation we find ourselves in? The funding of public education.
The question is not whether or not one believes our public education system should or should not be funded by the state or federal government. Whatever your political view is, isn’t the issue. The issue is that the system has been funded by both the federal and state government for years. And therefore people are counting on it. Especially the poor and vulnerable who do not have other options for their children outside of this system (which is who the GSA was originally meant to benefit); and those who spent good money to go to great local colleges to become teachers and school administrators. When an entire system is being threatened because career politicians and business moguls turned political hard-liners care more about being right or some political legacy than they do the basic and educational well-being of our kids and youth, we are no longer talking about an issue that can be dumbed down to political sides, we are talking about a human justice issue. For those of us who claim to be Christians, the God we claim to follow is always, always, always, on the side of the oppressed, marginalized, and voiceless. God is always showing preferential treatment to the poor, those who do not benefit from the systems at hand.
I had the opportunity to speak with our Superintendent, Steve Wilder, and I asked him, “what can we actually do?” He replied, with three suggestions: (1) Pray (2) Call and/or email our state level legislative leaders and (3) call our local legislators. The book of Proverbs reminds us that one of the primary characteristics of God’s people is to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. So, make your voice heard. Act. Get on the phone and call your representatives. Tell them to fund our schools - elementary, middle school, high-schools, and colleges.
If you think the system needs to be changed; that our schools should not be funded by our governments, fine, let’s figure out how to progressively change that. If you think the government should be funding our schools, that’s great, you need to demand, in whatever ways possible, a true decentralization of funds so that the schools serving the most vulnerable populations are actually receiving the largest portion of the funds. But for now, in the name of the poor and vulnerable; and in staying consistent with the Bible we claim to believe in, let’s get these schools funded!