(Guest post by Greg Forster)
In my latest for OCPA, I look at how Oklahoma’s religious left is baptizing the blob, including support for the teacher strike.
It’s not my position that religious leaders should have nothing to say about education policy:
It’s true that America’s great experiment in religious freedom implies our public policy can be based on shared moral commitments even if we disagree about the ultimate cosmic basis of those commitments. But as George Washington rightly pointed out in his farewell address, we can’t talk only about the morals of public policy and ignore the religious foundations of the morality upon which we draw. For if the foundations are neglected, the building collapses.
But if religious leaders are going to speak about education policy, they should make a serious theological argument and not just parrot the political talking points of secular special-interest groups. Otherwise they end up captive to political manipulators. This is exactly what happened to the religious right:
As a matter of fact, I’ve spent almost 10 years speaking out against the ideological captivity of the religious right. I appreciate that the fight for the sanctity of human life and other issues has accomplished some good. But the larger effect of the religious right movement was to push churches to become voter registration offices of the Republican Party. As it became clear what was going on, this did incalculable damage to the religious credibility of the churches involved. We are still living in the disastrous aftermath, as huge portions of our culture have disconnected themselves from faith entirely.
So I’m only playing fair when I say that I see the same dangerous sellout in the efforts of Oklahoma’s religious left to baptize the blob. The pronouncements of Oklahoma’s religious left on education don’t bring any theological light to the public policy questions. They’re not saying anything the secular left isn’t saying. They’re just pasting Bible verses on self-interested interest group politics. Organizing events and statements to support a secular special interest’s demand for money, parroting its secular talking points, doesn’t become a spiritual discipline because you do it with a clerical collar on—quite the reverse.
There are, in fact, serious theological arguments to be made on education policy. I’ve participated in some of them, including my response to theological arguments from the religious left as well as theological arguments from the religious right. So I welcome – though I often disagree on the merits – real theological arguments from the religious left and right. What’s alarming is when religious leaders make themselves tools of secular selfishness in the name of, yet to the detriment of, better schools for kids.