I'm not interested in re-hashing that conversation, though I do want to be crystal clear on one thing: I'm absolutely convinced that the school had every right to inflict the consequences that it did. I never cease to be appalled at how relativism has so pervaded our culture that common sense is nearly abolished.
But what I really want to do here is call into question the common practice of Christian schools that establish policies that restrict student (and even parental) behavior outside school hours or the school campus. It's not at all uncommon for Christian schools to enforce detailed codes for dress, music, entertainment, dating, and other life issues outside the school day and off school property, even inside private homes.
I'm not arguing that these choices are amoral or unrelated to spiritual maturity. Not in the slightest. (And on the other hand, I'm not affirming that all policies during the school day and on school property are wise or appropriate.)
I am arguing that most of those policies that are enforced outside the school day need to be abolished. Immediately. I'm arguing that they do great damage to children, parents, families and churches, and I'm suggesting four ways these policies do the damage:
- They undermine parental authority and obligations within the home by taking away parents' rights and even opportunities to disciple their children and teach them discernment on what are sometimes difficult issues.
- They increase the distinction within the church between the kids who attend the Christian school and those who attend a public school or are home schooled. This creates a culture that's too easily twisted into a functional elitism within the church.
- They shape the culture of the school's sponsor church because school policies for students easily become unwritten law for all young people, and even all adults, regardless of whether they have children of their own.
- They shape how both students and adults understand the gospel and what it means to be a faithful disciple of Jesus. It's far too easy for (not irrelevant but) relatively peripheral issues to become the point of emphasis in the lives of individuals and the life of the church. When so much emphasis is placed on enforcing detailed policies, school policies move not only individual believers but even whole churches precariously close to functional legalism—the perception that we merit favor with God by how we live. This isn't a question of whether the policies reflect biblical wisdom, but whether they should be enforced as law.
So here's my suggestion: Pastors, school administrators, board members, please get rid of the policies external to the school day and campus. Parents, make these suggestions to your school's decision-makers and explain why—for starters, that you WANT to be a more proactive discipler of your children. You want to take more responsibility, not hand it over to a surrogate.
And here's the exception: If the sponsor church would discipline a member of the church for engaging in a given behavior, then it's probably wise to keep that policy in place for all students in your school, whether or not they're a member of the sponsor church. Of course, that opens up the question of whether you discipline for the sin or the refusal to repent of the sin, but in any case, that's a far better place to be having the conversation.
One more thing: This is about the gospel and parental discipleship and authority, not giving kids the freedom to watch movies and listen to rock music. Let's not forget that.