6th Grade Terrorists (or, What Happens When Heathens Take Control at a Christian School)

"After years of a Christian form of behaviorism, we were ready to fight back. Or, rather, as Paul explains in his letter to the Galatian Christians, sin increases under law." - A Day in His Court

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

This is a thoughtful piece and deserves a more thorough response, but a few quick reactions are what I can do right now:

  • I wasn't there, so maybe John's right, but what he's calling Christian behaviorism sounds like nothing more than traditional, old fashioned discipline and character-building to me.
  • He blames their rebellion at least partly on this environment, but humans will rebel wherever there is authority, even if the authority is perfect in every way and functions in a perfect environment. Exhibit A: Eden, Adam, Eve.
  • "Sin increases under law" is not the point of Galatians. It's closer to being a point in Romans 7, but that isn't quite what Paul is getting at their either (He calls the law "holy, righteous, and good" 7:12).
  • Anecdotes... I was raised pretty much the same way, sounds like, and my stories are very, very different. My experience proves very little. I think John's proves just about as much.
  • Moralistic therapeutic deism...  I don't think a Christian environment that overemphasizes rules is what is usually meant by the term. In any case, there's a difference between an institution that teaches the gospel faithfully and emphasizes good character development/habit-formation vs. an environment that teaches be good, do right, and you'll be happy and blessed and go to heaven.
John E.'s picture

Thank you for your comments. Like you, I have limited time at the moment, but I want to clarify something.

Regarding your second point, I skimmed the article and can see how you came away with the impression that I was blaming our rebellion, at least in part, on our environment. That wasn't my intention and was a failure to articulate properly what I wanted. What I wanted to articulate was that the way our environment was shaped helped determine how our rebellion was manifest. So, in 6th grade, because the environment changed so drastically in our "favor," our rebellion was allowed to be fully revealed. My overall point isn't to decry rules, I'm all for rules. My overall point is to challenge parents and authority figures to not make assumptions about the hearts of children just because they obey the rules, and to also not expect more from rules than they can provide.

As far as anecdotes, you're correct. That's why I try to be careful and always write, "the fundamentalism that I grew up in." I don't assume that everyone's experience was the same as mine.

The sad irony is that the "best" kids in that class have revealed themselves in adulthood to be heathens. By God's grace, the two worst kids are faithfully serving Christ in local churches. 

Bert Perry's picture

I remember coming to Christ as a college freshman and getting to know a young lady who'd graduated from a local evangelical high school.  On comparing notes, we knew that there was grievous sin in both places, but it struck me as extremely telling that the fornication among the Christian high school kids wasn't just being hormonally impaired, but specifically a finger in the eye of the school rules.  

Over the years since, I've seen strong evidence that when we try to control everything, instead of giving people real, Biblical reasons why we might want to do some things in a certain way, the reaction is quiet rebellion, especially if (as John discusses) the kids "have" to be there or get their hides tanned.  The biggest problems I've seen are when the rules are seen as arbitrary and not rooted in Scripture or the welfare of others.  

Along those lines, I'm currently wrestling with a book about spiritual disciplines that seems at some level to fall into the trap John mentions--do this and you will grow spiritually seems to be the main theme.  I hope I'm being somewhat unfair here, but I'm still struck by the need to explain spiritual disciplines in a way that establishes the why one would want to do this--to resolve some of the issues of motivation and so on.  Really, it's the difference between "do this because I told you" or "do this so you'll grow spiritually" and "this is how you get to know Him personally."

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

Maybe I'm just ornery, but when I (as an adult) learned the "Obedience" song while helping with Cubbies, I composed one for parents:

Spanking is the very best way to show you love your kids

Beating them silly at the break of day, doing it happily

Whippings are the key to obedience you see, joy you will receive

Spanking is the very best way to show you love your kids

S-P-A-N-KING OW/!! (whimpering) Yes Sir

Spanking is the very best way to show you love your kids.

In the car on the way home from church, I'd sing my version and the kids would shout theirs.  Good times.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

SarahN's picture

This was a timely reminder for me as a middle school teacher. We've had some behavior challenges recently, and I needed this reminder to address the heart (did that today), not just the outside.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Thanks for the clarifying, John. It's a topic I have some history of debating with people, so I'm prone to think I see "that again" when it isn't necessarily there!

John E.'s picture

Thank you, in turn. Your thoughtful critiques will help me in rewrites.