My friend, Brian Metzger, is a public school teacher in the the L.A. area who has found a great way to share his faith using “solid curriculum [that is] within the parameters of church/state separation.” Maybe other faithful servants in this arena of education will be as bold.
(This is part 3 of my “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” series. Read parts 1 & 2 by starting here.)
As a public school teacher and an Evangelical Christian, I take very seriously the balancing act between my faith and my professional ethics. These are the accepted guidelines: I can answer questions about my personal beliefs and experiences in class discussions. I can explain the Bible as literature and in terms of its impact on history. I can not, and I never would, preach to my students or pray with them during school time. Within those limits there are still opportunities to be a witness to the power of faith in Jesus Christ.
I keep a Bible on my desk and students are free to borrow it. Interestingly we were at one point provided with Korans, beautifully bound expensive looking editions in English, to have available in our classrooms. We were later instructed to dispose of these particular volumes when someone noticed that the footnotes repeatedly referred to Jews as dogs.
One great moment for me is when we study the Puritans in American Literature and we get to discuss Jonathan Edward’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”.
“There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of, there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.”
Here is the opportunity, indeed the pedagogical necessity, to talk about Hell and Heaven, judgment and salvation. I have the chance to ask them what they believe and do they think they are going to Heaven or Hell, and, if they ask what Edwards means by “Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners” then I have the joyous responsibility to explain the biblical plan of salvation.
A teacher hopes to impact his students’ lives for the better. A Christian teacher in a public school cannot, generally speaking, tell his students the one thing which he knows would truly change their lives and eternities.
Thank you Jonathan Edwards for that chance.