Tuesday, June 28, 2005


There is a shelf of folders beside the reception desk at work, including one marked "Photocopier Manuel". I like the idea of there being a Spanish guy who comes in to do the photocopying, but it turns out to be a spelling mistake...Disappointing, really.

I think I got some insight into, and a greater appreciation of, those Christians who opt-out of mainstream American culture in different ways while there on holiday. Home-schooling is big among American evangelicals, which doesn't sit well from the perspective of a British context: our kids are missionaries just as much as we are, and school is a missionary context; it may well be a dangerous one at times - both physically and ideologically - but God is bigger than the dangers, and we can trust our kids to him. So, why remove your kids from a missionary context and bring them up in a Christian ghetto? Well, one reason would be that every child in every American public- (British English trans: state-) school must swear allegiance to the flag each morning: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands; one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." That the State, represented by its flag, should demand first, total and unquestioning allegiance of our children, and that refusal to do so is seen as being un-patriotic (the greatest possible social sin in America), is not only alien to a European expression of democracy (which, of course, has its own, other, equally problematic issues), but is arguably idolatrous: our first and daily allegiance is to Jesus.

I am not saying that the many American Christians who send their kids to public school are idolators - their positions will be many and varied, from seeing true patriotism as expressed through challenging society from the inside; to seeing this as an allegiance secondary to Jesus, even a deep appreciation of freedoms won by Jesus [I guess it depends on whether you interpret "under God" as "secondary to God", or as "justified by God"]; to never having thought of the issue at all; and many more besides. But I am saying that I can understand and appreciate why some Christians feel they have no choice but to remove their kids from this particular missionary context on this basis.

Here's another expression of unsubscribing: on our last day we went round Newport Aquarium at the same time as a group of Mennonites. The Mennonites, along with the Amish and a few other similar long-standing North American Christian community traditions, have chosen to live outside of the slavery imposed by the false god of Modern Progress. Again, their position raises certain questions for me: not least, American culture of 200 years ago may be (in some ways) less obviously un-godly than contemporary western society, but is it really in itself any more godly? But their presence at the Aquarium (this community does not opt-out of society entirely), clearly standing-out as having different life-values, as visibly expressed in their old-fashioned - and beautiful! - clothing, was a striking challenge to the life-values of those around them, including me. I thought it was fantastic that they were there, and I wanted to thank them, but didn't think I'd be able to make any sense as to why.

If every Christian in America was a home-schooler, or a Mennonite, I think the world would be a poorer place. But that some American Christians are home-schoolers, or Mennonites, makes it a richer place.


  1. i always thought the 'under God' bit meant submitted to God (i notice the same phrase is used in the Order of Mission vision statement!...)

  2. Hi Dan. I'm not saying "under God" means one thing or the other, just that I recognise it is interpreted in different ways, and problematic to some - also including, of course, American athiests, some of whom are campaigning to have the phrase dropped.
    If it is a clumsy post, I apologise; likewise if it causes offence to some. My point was simply, I understand why some people act in a way I didn't understand before.

  3. it's not a clumsy post at all. it always interests me how people interpret things differently, it makes you think, which is generally a good thing.
    talking of the mennonites, i highly recommend a film-documentary called devil's playground, about the amish community & how their kids, when they reach 16, are allowed to go & investigate the outside world free from the church/family, which basically means they get wasted on booze & drugs, before they decide if they want to stay in the church. it was absolutely fascinating, i think you'd like it ( you can get it on amazon)