Try to guess when the following observation was made:
… the more completely secularized public education becomes . . . the more the Christian element in our culture will diminish and the more complete will be the victory of the secularization as the working religion, or rather counter-religion, of the American people. Even today the public school is widely regarded not as a purely educational institution in the nineteenth century sense . . . but as a moral training in citizenship, an initiation and indoctrination in the American way of life; and since the public school is essentially secular this means that only the secular aspects of American culture are recognized as valid. It is only a short step from here to the point at which the Christian way of life is condemned and outlawed as a deviation from the standard patterns of social behavior.
Unless there is a revival or restoration of Christian culture – of the social life of the Christian community – modern civilization will become secularist in a more . . . aggressive way than it is today. And in a Godless civilization of this kind, it will be far more difficult for the individual Christian to exist and practice his religion than it has ever been before, even in ages of persecution. In the past, as for instance under the Roman Empire, the family formed an independent society which was almost immune from the state, so that it could become the primary cell of an unrecognized Christian society or culture. But today the very existence of the family as a social unit is threatened by the all-persuasive influence of the state and the secular mass culture. Yet without the Christian family there can be no Christian community life and indeed no church in the traditional sense of the word: only a few scattered individuals who maintain an isolated prophet witness, like Elijah in the wilderness.
When was this observation made, and by whom? It was made by the British historian, Christopher Dawson in lecture at the Harvard Divinity School in 1959.
Reaching back much further than 1959, Isabel Lyman quotes a 19th century Princeton Seminary theologian, A. A. Hodge:
I am as sure as I am of Christ’s reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.
Lyman adds: “Have events of the 20th century proved him wrong?” And from her own essay entitled “Taking Back Our Children,” Lyman offers this:
Abetted by mandatory education laws, many modern schools now serve as de facto indoctrination centers where little kids, tweens, and teens are compelled to listen to half-truths about everything from the Founding Fathers to the free market.
I might add that the moral indoctrination the young are receiving very often deals with matters of far greater import than the Founding Fathers and the free market. For they are being taught to accept as the moral prerequisite for social respectability suppositions which, as Dawson warned almost half a century ago, call into question “the very existence of the family as a social unit.”
Note: this was originally posted on our old weblog on September 6, 2007