(Guest post by Greg Forster)
Some pastors in Oklahoma are insisting that Christian faithfulness requires us to oppose school choice policies. As the state considers expanding school choice, it’s worth exploring why some people come to think this way. Theology can’t actually settle granular policy questions—the Bible doesn’t tell you what the tax rate should be—but a moral understanding of the social landscape, in light of what we believe is ultimately true and good, is a necessary part of anyone’s thinking about public policy…
The question we must ask is: Who are really the powerful in our educational system, and who are the oppressed?
The government monopoly is backed by literally the most powerful human institution ever created—the government of the United States. That institution is endlessly subservient to special-interest lobbyists, and as a result, its pet school system runs purely on power. Its lavishly paid administrative bosses prioritize not a good education for students, but delivering the goods to educational interests. This has become much more obvious to everyone during the pandemic, as the special interests have become increasingly isolated from the rest of society in terms of what they demand from education policy. But there has been no substantial change in the essential injustice of the system; we just see it more clearly now.
When strictly secular (and therefore circular and groundless) theories of “justice” from either the Right or Left become a substitute for authentically transcendent standards of what is just, we get endless dysfunction in both religious and civil communities. We won’t have our heads on straight until we ask what is just in light of some standard that is higher than the fickle and deceitful standards of human desire:
Biblically, justice centers on treating people with the dignity and respect due to them as creatures made in the image of God, both individually and in natural, authentic community relationships such as the family and the neighborhood. And although “love” is a much larger category than “justice,” given its role in the triune nature of God himself, nonetheless justice cannot rightly be done apart from a universal goodwill that orients our hearts toward what is good for others. Over the last thousand years, and especially in the last five hundred years, most Christians (not all) have increasingly found that the idea of human rights expresses most concisely both the requirements of respecting human dignity and the universal summons to do this impartially for all people.
If parents don’t have a human right to control the education of their children, the idea of rights is nonsense. The whole Christian ethical tradition makes no sense if parents are not the first and final authority over education. Even the United Nations recognizes parental control of education as a fundamental, prepolitical right in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights; shame on the church if it actually falls behind the world in recognizing and respecting human rights.
Let me know what you think!