By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
Last week, about 100 students at a West Virginia high school walked out in protest of some, they said, having been made to attend an evangelical revival at the school. Organized by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, students who attended reported being made to raise their arms and pledge fealty to Jesus the Christ. Those who did not were told they were at risk of going to hell, according to The Washington Post.
In Arkansas, there is a plan to close schools located in primarily Black and Latinx neighborhoods, citing declining student enrollment, according to the Arkansas Times. The Honorable Rev. Wendell Griffen, pastor of New Millennium Baptist Church in Little Rock and a trustee on the board of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference Inc.
What we are seeing, however, is not some fly-by-night trend. Rather, it is the result of years-long planning to get rid of public schools.
Rousas Rushdoony, considered to be a mentor to those who ascribe to present-day Republican policies, was opposed to public education and set in motion an anti-public education agenda. He was in favor of “laying the foundations for the reconstruction of a theonomic society: one whose laws are based on what Christian nationalists might today called a biblical worldview.” He agreed with the views of a presbyterian minister, the Rev. A.A. Hodge, who said that “government schools” were “the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief and of antisocial nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which what this sin-rent world has ever seen.” Rushdoony believed that those who resisted integration were correct. These people believed that public education was anti-American and said that the public education system was created to “deliver children from the Christian religion,” Katherine Stewart noted in her book, The Power Worshippers.
Opponents of public education naturally criticized the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. People, said some angry parents and policy-makers, “had a God-given right not just to separate the races but also receive federal money for the purpose,” Stewart penned.
While the name of God is invoked in these protests, God has little to do with it. At the heart of the resentment of public education is anger that the federal government infringed upon the right of segregated education institutions to exist and receive public funds. That resentment has never abated, and is in fact, rearing its ugly head in plain sight. The rise of the “Christian” nationalists is emboldening people to act on their desire to eliminate public education; concurrently with that act is the actions being put into action to have a state religion in this country, one religion which everyone must observe, according to The Hill and The Washington Post.
My questions are, as I watch all of this unfold, are 1) Do Americans see what is going on? 2) Are the vast numbers of Americans all right with the possibility of public schools being replaced by schools-for-profit? And 3) What will happen to the Black, Brown and poor students? Who will finance their schools? Are we headed back into “separate but equal,” which means “separate and grossly unequal?”
The infusion of God-talk in these arguments against public education is troubling. What “biblical worldview” to many of these people is the sustaining of the status quo created by white supremacy. Many of them are resentful of the Black presence in this country and believe that those who are emigrating here should not be; the going mantra for many Whites in this country is “go back where you came from.” The browning of America has bothered their souls and they are willing to do what they must in order to strengthen the White presence.
The history of racist beliefs about the role and purpose of public education are deeply ingrained in those who espouse them. They believe that America’s schools were “all about God” until the U.S. Supreme Court made the Brown decision. Ever since that decision, the education landscape has been out of balance, they believe. They intend to defund public education, according to AZCentral, or the sake of creating schools that are, in their opinion, “in alignment with the will of God.”
We need to teach the American public what is going on, and what danger our communities are in. Instead of providing the necessary funding necessary for schools in Black and Brown areas, the power brokers are working to dismantle those schools.
We need to get the people to see, and to wrestle with the question, “But what will happen to our children?”
If we don’t ask that question, it will not be asked or considered. In spite of the political confusion and rancor that is whirling all around us, we cannot afford to be still or uninformed. Our children’s lives are at stake.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. She is available for speaking. And she is an award-winning author for her latest book, “With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America,” available through all booksellers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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