When we see people harming themselves, we normally split into two groups. Some of us think they must be dumb. The rest of us think they simply haven’t been educated enough. Whichever camp you fall into, you tend to think the same way about all self-destructive behavior. Quick, what does a drug addict need? What does a man need who has a miserable home-life because he works too much? What does the man who can’t hold a job down because he’s always drunk need? What do Africans who are sleeping around and getting AIDS need? If you are a liberal, you probably think they each need “education” of some sort. If you are a conservative, you probably think they each just need to stop it!
What liberals often overlook is this: Many people who have been well educated about the terrible consequences of certain behaviors still end up behaving in those ways. What conservatives overlook is how many of the people trapped in these situations really have tried to quit. And what both groups overlook is the fact that much of the time, those engaged in these behaviors actually want to continue doing them, knowing full well what the consequences are.
Let’s take a closer look at education. Education is meant to change you from ignorant to knowledgeable. That’s the goal. That’s why we think that it is a solution to self-destructive behavior. If we think self-destructive behavior is caused by ignorance, the obvious solution is to remove ignorance. But what is the assumption we’ve all been making here? The assumption is that self-destructive behavior is wrong, bad, and ought to stop. This is important to notice. It shows us that education is always driven by the teacher’s understanding of right and wrong, good and bad, true and false. In other words, there is no such thing as education without morals. Or to put it another way, education is always religious.
Education doesn’t just have a goal in front of it. It has a god behind it.
Let’s look at an example. Say you have a group that takes children and teaches them. How are we going to evaluate that group to decide whether we would want our child to be educated by them? You are going to find out what they teach the children. Let’s say they teach them simple skills so that kids who are educated by this group never lack food or companionship for the rest of their life. Do we know enough to make a judgment yet? No. It could be that this group is training them how to use guns and making them child soldiers, working in gangs to steal whatever food they want. Whether or not this is a good education is a question of morals. It’s a question of what god you will serve. This is the question that must be asked of every education.
Today, we pretend as though we can “just present the facts” and “let the student decide for herself” what the correct response to those facts is. But this type of education is still motivated by spiritual and moral ideas. For example, it denies original sin, assuming that people are basically good, not bad, and that they will take the facts we give them and do “good things” rather than “bad”. It also denies absolute truth, claiming that there is no right answer about what the takeaway from the facts ought to be. The religions behind this educational philosophy are relativism and humanism. So all the talk of keeping religion out of the schools is a red herring. The only way to keep religion out of a school is to shut it down.
Why does this matter? Once we recognize the connection between religion and education, we will no longer think that education is the answer to the problem, because we will see that the best we can hope for education to accomplish is the replacement of one god with another. So which god is on the way in and which one is on the way out?
If we employ the education efforts around the world that were devised by American secular organizations, what religion will we be promoting? Materialism? Feminism? Relativism? You want to end child brides in Niger? You want to end violence on the streets of Philadelphia? You want to end AIDS in Africa? Cannibalism in PNG? Education can indeed play a major role in that work. But what happens when we manage to replace the demonic gods of animism with the demonic gods of feminism and secular humanism? We might slow the spread of AIDS but that’s not all we will have accomplished. If their behavior changes it will be because we have educated them into new desires. We will have changed their culture, making it like ours. But demonic gods always demand human sacrifices on their altars, and our demon is drunk on the blood of the 1.3 million innocent children that we sacrifice to him each and every year. Do we really want to work so hard to transfer more sacrifices from other demons to this one?
As Christians, we know that education is important, but we also know it isn’t the answer. The only God we want to promote is the God who made heaven and earth. The one true God. The God who loves us and defeated our enemies, sin and death, by sacrificing his Son, the man Christ Jesus.
So ask yourself this question: What god am I promoting as I educate others? What am I presenting as the motivation for change? Am I trying to get the violent man to serve money instead, promising him that he can get a better-paying job if he leaves his gang? Am I trying to get the woman with an eating disorder to serve the god of healthy living, by promising her a long life if she starts eating right? Am I promoting service of the fickle god of man’s approval, by telling the drug addict that people will like him better if he stops doing drugs?
Will any of them be better off by changing their gods for those new ones? No. That isn’t the sort of education that the nations need. What God commanded us to give them is something very different. It is Christian education. This is what it means to make disciples (or students) of the nations, teaching them to obey everything God commanded us. What they need is Christian education, not free condoms and sex education. What they need is Christian education, not anger management classes. What they need is Christian education, not sociology statistics “proving” they will be happier if they aren’t selfish in their relationships. Real Christian education is the proclamation of the gospel. It is knowing nothing except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. That is truly a “world-changing” education that will “make a difference”.