Little Hours

I take some interest in the Little Hours of Terce, Sext, and None, but it has little to do with monasticism and Anglo-Catholic spirituality. These are not times of public gathering but times of private prayer. For both laymen and clerics it would be too burdensome to gather for a public office, and it is better that people privately remember the death of Christ. For this reason, the Church should encourage only that the faithful say the Lord’s Prayer at these times, leaving the rest to the discretion of each person. These three times, after all, do not correspond to ancient times of sacrifice, but are better given to recollection of Christ’s one sacrifice. Not public acts of worship but quiet meditations, they are amply supplied by primers or even the Puritan Valley of Vision and need no recognition in the public Prayer Book.

On Sundays and other holy days, the usual point of the Little Hours is rendered redundant by the public remembrance of Holy Communion. Though the Lord’s Prayer be prayed, the specific memory of Christ’s condemnation, crucifixion, and death can only on those days be a light shadow of the solemn celebration, unless the meditation be then focused upon the sacrament received that day.

Combined with recollection of God’s mercies and appeal for his help at meals and other times, a very informal use of the Little Hours can help maintain a good balance between priestly worship, in which the whole Church is united with Christ in praise and intercession, and personal recollection and examination.

At Terce on Friday

The Lord’s Prayer.

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified; Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all estates of men in thy holy Church, that every member of the same, in his vocation and ministry, may truly and godly serve thee; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

At Sext on Friday

The Litany, if not already said.

Psalm 90.

At None on Friday

The Lord’s Prayer.

O merciful God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor desirest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, infidels, and heretics; and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Hong Kong Decolonialized

Those who know me often find out quickly that I am an Anglophile and that I support (for all its faults) the idea of a coherent British Empire. From that point, especially when I express my wish that Hong Kong were still a British colony today, it is easy to extrapolate that I think Hong Kong should have remained a British colony in perpetuum.

Convention of Peking (1860).

Convention of Peking (1860).

But, though I often feel the need to correct people’s impressions about the terms of the unequal treaties concluded between the Qing Empire and the British Empire, such an inference about my ideals and sentiments is inaccurate. Indeed, I believe such a disposal of Hong Kong would run against important facts of both practicality and justice.

I do believe British rule has done Hong Kong much good. To romanticize those ‘good old days’, I know, would be both naïve and irresponsible, but God really did bring good out of the evil of the Opium War. In Hong Kong he has brought to the Chinese people a mature rule of law that the rest of China does not have. While even Taiwan was under martial law for decades after the Second World War, Hong Kong prospered in relative peace and openness. After 4 June 1989, Hong Kong was the safe destination to which Operation Yellowbird (黃雀行動) moved Tian’anmen Square dissidents. The destinies of Hong Kong and China are bound together, and the Lord has graciously seen fit to use Hong Kong as a special place for the good of China.

Nevertheless, in my judgement, it was wrong for Britain to have colonized Hong Kong in the first place, and at the end of the Second World War it was wrong for the United States to have backed Britain’s determination to be the power receiving Japanese surrender in Hong Kong despite the city’s being part of Chiang Kai-shek’s operational control zone. We must be frank about the Western powers’ dishonourable acts, and I must say honestly that the only motivation I can see for Britain’s insistence on being the power to accept Japan’s surrender in Hong Kong was greed and unwillingness to let Hong Kong go.

Given these considerations on both sides, I can state what I think the ideal for Hong Kong. I speak not as a native but as an American who has harboured bonds of affection for a city I have never lived in, yet always thought of as the home of my heart, a place to speak of ‘returning’ to, and never a foreign place.

My view of the ideal is most certainly not for Hong Kong to have remained a colony of anyone. For the dignity of the place and its people, it was not fitting that it should stay in the jurisdiction of a foreign Parliament elected by foreigners, with no legislative representation of Hong Kong’s own interests. If Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are by rights independent of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, how much more the Pearl of the Orient? And yet, equally, despite its national kinship with China, how is Hong Kong rightfully subjugated by people who neither speak its languages nor have sympathy for its customs and its legal institutions? Hong Kong’s part in the Chinese nation is a sic et non. To keep it entirely apart from China would be untrue to what its people have always felt, because many of its people have felt the stirrings of Chinese nationalism; and yet to subsume it entirely into the rivers and mountains of China would be to rewrite history. The place is peculiar; its identity is not easily untangled.

Œconomically, of course, Hong Kong has its own currency and its own stock exchange. Having its œconomic policy determined by outsiders, even very sympathetic outsiders, could not be in its interest; nor would the city tolerate such interference. Even though Hong Kong has been free of tariffs, only a long period of gradual integration, potentially centuries long, could ever change this need for autonomy.

To put it crudely, I would say Hong Kong would best be an independent free city, ruled neither by Britain nor by China, but intimate with both; but such terms are inadequate. Hong Kong’s identity, though difficult to define, is more coherent than that of Singapore. Nevertheless, there are problems unique to city-states with not much hinterland to speak of. Given the relative size of such states, their œconomies and defence are always dependent on unequal relationships with larger powers. Though every state has to be responsible for its own defence, there is no way a state as small as San Marino can stand without a significantly larger Italy. This principle is without exception, that very small states live by the power of imperial forces larger than themselves. For Andorra, these powers are France and Spain; for Singapore, the United States and (increasingly, it seems) red China. For Hong Kong, naturally, the balance must include China – some China, whether based in Nanking, Taipei, or Peking – and the most natural second force would be Britain.

The best that can be desired, I think, supposes a free and Christian China. Such a China would differ from Hong Kong in its laws and currency but have a common defensive interest and a common respect for the rule of law. The churches of Hong Kong would be part of Chinese denominations because the Christian faith would be not only tolerated but given every opportunity to influence public institutions and provide the Chinese nation with ethical guidance. Naturally, over time, the laws of Hong Kong would converge in some areas with the laws of China. A certain degree of integration could develop that would not be desirable with the China of today, even as Hong Kong maintained its independence.

The chief executive, serving as head of government, would continue to be elected by a committee, but one that was much more broadly representative than today and included a large number of delegates elected by universal suffrage of citizens aged 18 years and older. To maintain a balance between attachment to China and distinction from China, there would be two heads of state to oversee foreign affairs, grant pardons and other acts of clemency, and open and dissolve sessions of the Legislative Council: the Chinese head of state and the monarch at the head of the Commonwealth of Nations. Thus the city’s independence in internal affairs could be assured by local votes – and, importantly, its currency could be pegged to the American dollar, the British pound sterling, or anything else – but its international dependence on larger powers would also be acknowledged in the form of its diarchy.

Such is the arrangement that, however odd, I find the most natural for such a unique city as Hong Kong. No doubt among many people it would meet with disapproval, but I mean to suggest that it might best conduce to the honour and prosperity of the city’s people.

Benedict and the Development of Hong Kong

Last week, about Hong Kong, Chandran Nair urged readers to look at the big picture and acknowledge that solutions to the city’s problems lay far beyond the choice to become more democratic or less. Even as a strong supporter of the Occupiers’ goals for full ‘universal suffrage’, and even with their general method (in view of the government’s failure to listen to anyone but the National People’s Congress), I agree with Mr Nair. I believe Hong Kong does need the rule of law protected, but I know the rule of law can only maintain the conditions the people need to create and hold viable jobs. To think about one and neglect the other would be foolish and short sighted.

As Mr Nair says, Hong Kong needs to adapt to changes in the world and reform its œconomy:

At present, the reality is that Hong Kong’s economy has only two main pillars – the property sector and financial services. Most of the other elements that once existed, such as agriculture, light industry or textiles, have been hollowed out. This is not a healthy or sustainable situation. The financial sector alone cannot offer job opportunities to everyone, especially in an economy where most positions are open to global competition.

And an economy based on property speculation will inevitably result in the housing crisis Hong Kong currently faces. With property prices pushing decent accommodation out of the hands of most, and astronomical rents pushing up the prices of everything else, there is a real question of whether the next generation will be able to afford to live in the city of their birth.

Hong Kong has a population of 7 million, greater than that of Scotland. It is clear that the finance and property sectors cannot bear the weight of the livelihoods of 7 million persons living in the same city. When these sectors are expected and compelled to do so, the system cannot avoid gross injustices and gross distortion of humanity. Such a population as Hong Kong’s is a great number of mouths to feed, but also a great number of hands to help. Even in the Occupy movement of the past three weeks, the world has seen what Hong Kongers are capable of. I am sure that, given the freedom, Hong Kongers can also figure out what they need to live again.

But there is the rub. Hong Kong not only is denied the freedom of constitutional liberalism, but even under the power of a communist régime it also is wedded to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. The same class interests that profit at the people’s expense are the same that join with the Chinese Communist Party to strangle the people’s freedoms, freedoms they enjoyed when Hong Kong was a liberal autocracy and not the illiberal democracy it is becoming today. The gods who rule Hong Kong are its haute bourgeoisie, and so it is bound to finance and speculation. The problem is œconomic, but the œconomic problem is spiritual.

A city whose god is the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not in bondage to cruel Mammon. If Hong Kong is bound by gods who keep it from finding and taking a better way, a just way, then it needs what Thomas Chalmers called the expulsive power of a new affection:

There are two ways in which a practical moralist may attempt to displace from the human heart its love of the world – either by a demonstration of the world’s vanity, so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon simply to withdraw its regards from an object that is not worthy of it; or by setting forth another object, even God, as more worthy of its attachment. Love may be regarded in two different conditions. The first is, when its object is at a distance, and then it becomes love in a state of desire. The second is, when its object is in possession, and then it becomes love in a state of indulgence. Such is the grasping tendency of the human heart that it must have a something to lay hold of – and which, if wrested away without the substitution of another something in its place, would leave a void as painful to the mind as hunger is to the natural system. It may be dispossessed of one object, or of any, but it cannot be desolated of all.

Perhaps the world’s vanity has already been shown by the tyranny of the gods who lord it over Hong Kong, but that is not enough:

You have all heard that Nature abhors a vacuum. Such at least is the nature of the heart, that though the room which is in it may change one inmate for another, it cannot be left void without the pain of most intolerable suffering. It is not enough then to argue the folly of an existing affection. It is not enough, in the terms of a forcible or an affecting demonstration, to make good the evanescence of its object. It may not even be enough to associate the threats and the terrors of some coming vengeance, with the indulgence of it. The heart may still resist the every application, by obedience to which, it would finally be conducted to a state so much at war with all its appetites as that of downright inanition. So to tear away an affection from the heart, as to leave it bare of all its regards and of all its preferences, were a hard and hopeless undertaking – and it would appear, as if the alone powerful engine of dispossession were to bring the mastery of another affection to bear upon it.

What is wanting in the city is God. Only if it has this loving God will it be free of its former gods. Only if it is baptized through the parting of the Sea will it be free of the house of bondage. Only if it is shown the beauty of the holy God will it be free of tyrannous power.

The way that the Lord has appointed is the witness of the Church. Already, we know, the Occupy movement has prominently included leaders who know the Lord: Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) of Scholarism is a Christian, as are Benny Tai (戴耀廷) and the Rev. Chu Yiu-ming (朱耀明) of Occupy Central with Love and Peace; Joseph Cardinal Zen (陳日君) has also been involved. But Hong Kong needs a longer-term witness to show what obedience to the Lord is like.

As highlighted by Jake Meador last month in relation to what some people in the Church are calling the Benedict Option, one way in which the Church has borne witness about the God who is there has been the L’Abri ministry.

A student’s typical day at L’Abri is spent working around the property, sharing meals with the other students and workers, discussing topics of interest with workers and students, and taking time for quiet reading and reflection on one’s own. Noticeably absent from the routine is internet access, TV, or extensive involvement in the surrounding community outside of L’Abri. During my time as a student there, I didn’t check email or read anything online for the duration of my stay.

Yet what makes L’Abri so interesting as a model for the Benedict Option is its openness, a value not inimical to the Benedict approach but one certainly not often discussed by its proponents. L’Abri is a place where literally anyone can come and join the life of the community. During my time there I roomed with one student who was a fairly convinced evangelical and four or five other men who didn’t really know what they thought of Christianity, but were there because they were curious. The women there were similarly diverse – young Christian women from home-schooling families with close L’Abri ties to a singer-songwriter from Amsterdam (who was Christian) to a ballet dancer from the upper midwest who, at the time, was not Christian. My roommate and the guy I was probably closest to during my term now describes himself – last I heard anyway – as a ‘Lockean realist’.

What sustains the life at L’Abri then is not that the community is closed or that it has many gatekeepers that ensure only a select group of people can enter into it. L’Abri tends to be rather allergic to such things. (The Benedict Option doesn’t require such an approach, of course, but one can detect a certain exclusivity in the language used to describe it by some.) Rather, it’s the quiet confidence embodied by the leadership in the goodness of the Christian way of life and their desire to invite others into that way, regardless of whether or not they actually believe in the claims of Christianity. The effect, as I mentioned the other day, is that non-Christian students experience the fruits of Christianity while they wrestle with the claims of Christianity.

There are L’Abri communities in Korea and Australia, but I think Hong Kong and the rest of China would benefit from a new one established in Hong Kong. The hospitality essential to L’Abri, rather than cloistering anyone, could support the existing witness of churches all over Hong Kong. Such a community in the city could also find new ways to work and contribute to the larger œconomy, just as the monasteries of Europe copied books, taught people, and developed cheeses, wines, and ales: I imagine that, as China develops œconomically, Hong Kongers will have the opportunity to contribute to œconomic growth, and Christians can lead the way with work in GIS, architecture, and sustainable agriculture. In many ways, both by living good lives in the presence of enquirers and by contributing directly to the Chinese œconomy, a L’Abri community and Christians setting up shop nearby could help Hong Kong grow in a godly way.

Immolatus

My mind had read about the Chinese rites,
But it was cold outside.
There was the place where sudden ardour bites,
From which I could not hide.

I lingered just a while, with no one home,
And I desired what I did not know,
And fair and foul were mixed in roaring foam
As tremors thrashed together friend and foe.

His face and manner, and his servant mind,
So far as I could tell, would put to shame
What I then felt; his eyes by conscience bind
The selfish pleasure that I could not name.

So what I love and what I hate and love
Do battle for my soul;
I turned away and asked the power above
To come and burn me whole.

Hallow Even

Philippe de Champaigne, Still-Life with a Skull, vanitas painting.

Philippe de Champaigne, Still-Life with a Skull, vanitas painting.

In America we know Hallowe’en is often a day for pagans to get smashed and flaunt their sexuality. Whether we wish to mark this day or not, it is certain that Christians are called not to indulge in such carousing, but in holiness to redeem the time. It is immaterial to me what people allege about the connexion between Hallowe’en and pagan festivals: even if such associations were not an invention of post-Christian pagans who also like to play Wicca, the day’s significance for me would be that it was the eve of All Saints’ Day, or Hallowmas. Therefore what I did on that day would depend largely on the intended observance of All Saints.

For all feasts of the Church, the night before is a vigil (though sometimes these vigils are moved to resolve time conflicts with other observances). The same can be done with All Saints: the night before can be a vigil of prayer and fasting. Let the pagans drink, and the Christians can spend the same time devoting their hearts to God. Let the darkness fall, and the Christians can remember the light of Christ. For what are false gods to us? The claims of the Lord are what matter.

But it is not possible, nor is it responsible, to make believe that nothing is going on outside the Church. The Feast of All Saints commemorates the saints who have gone before us, whose lives have borne witness of the gospel, and through their witness we know that Christ has given the same Holy Spirit to all believers which he has given to those whose sanctity we remember. If All Saints is a festival of the witnesses, its eve should be a vigil of witness. Our light is not for ourselves only, to hide under a bushel: the Lord commands that it be set on a stand, that all may see it. Not in bitterness or in hiding, but in purity and witness, the Church should hallow the day according to the Lord’s holy Name, that all who see may fear God. For the Lord, when he came, did not keep his disciples safely away from evil spirits; but he gave them the Holy Spirit to cast out those evil spirits in his Name.

The pagans become ghouls and harlots; let the Christians become saints. Clothed in the righteousness of Christ, we can go about in the figures of those who cast out the spirits and called harlots to know the chastity of Christ. The festival of the pagans is a bacchanal of death; but those who believe in the resurrection of Christ both trust that this resurrection glorifies the death of the righteous and remember, as the pagans frivolously celebrate death (even as they deny death), that in the midst of life we are in death. Walking through the streets, we can take the end of harvest and the pagans’ sickness unto death as a memento mori. Other men are nihilists, but Christians can remember death as God would have us understand it. The saints – among them Patrick Hamilton, William Tyndale, and Thomas Cranmer – can hold hourglasses, plaster skulls, ticking clocks, as if to say, Thou must die. For much did the piety of our forefathers hold death in their remembrance: not only John Donne but also Jeremy Taylor wrote about death and dying well, because in the promise of Christ they had the courage to look at death, serious death, death that is real and not feigned. This power the pagans do not have, but the Church militant can have it. Therefore we can speak of death in deadly earnest. A friend, a Mr Overton, has suggested that trick-or-treaters can sing this song from house to house:

Youth, like the spring, will soon be gone,
By fleeting time or conqu’ring death;
Your morning sun may set at noon,
And leave you ever in the dark.
Your sparkling eyes and blooming cheeks
Must wither like the blasted rose;
The coffin, earth, and winding sheet
Will soon your active limbs enclose.

Or this:

Remember, sinful youth, you must die, you must die,
Remember, sinful youth, you must die;
Remember, sinful youth, who hate the way of truth,
And in your pleasures boast, you must die, you must die;
And in your pleasures boast, you must die.

(He suggests that the second may be sung to the tune of ‘Wondrous Love’.)

And then, the next day, after Holy Communion, each Christian family may go up to the family graves to pray and give thanks. Ask not for whom the bell tolls: it tolls for thee! But the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance, and the trumpet shall sound.

A Living Sacrifice in Our Sexuality

Today the Church seems to have forgotten that, until the Lambeth Conference of 1930, the vast majority of orthodox Protestants agreed with the Roman church that contraception was, certainly in general, morally wrong. Today things could not be more different. In arguing against abortion, seeing the greater need to promote life, we have dropped the matter of sexual intercourse, reluctant to say unpopular things about what people are to do with their bodies.

The Apostle Paul had no such qualms: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. It is clear that this general command, to submit our own bodies as a sacrifice to the will of someone higher than we, demands more specific teaching, not least in sexual matters. To decline to persecute people for their views is one thing, but to decline to articulate a teaching is quite another. And positive teaching about chastity in marriage, not just negative teaching against adultery (though that, too, is often neglected), has fallen by the wayside.

We are guilty of having created a contraceptive culture hostile to the natural connexion between sexual pleasure and procreation. I am still unsure whether periodic abstinence is meant to cover all bases to avoid health problems for the mother or the child, but I do think Protestants need at least to retreat from the undisciplined contraceptive attitude for which they are known. The heathen make sport of the Romanists for their official stance against contraception; in this matter, we too should be the target of their scorn. One might be forgiven for thinking today’s Protestants supported contraception mostly to capture a part of the parishioner market which the Roman church did not.

Here I am interested not in arguing that all use of artificial contraception is wrong, but in opposing the notion that the bond of holy wedlock sanctifies all. For it is all too commonly believed that any consensual act between husband and wife is morally right. But the very concession that consent is necessary belies the idea that marriage sanctions all – and no one, I wager, would be so barbaric as to suggest that consent was dispensable. Thus there is at least one constraint to the pleasure of the marriage-bed, and another easily added is that one may not use contraceptives that take a human life (abortifacients). Of course, the former has become the sole moral constraint in much of our society – we hear some state legislatures making noise about it – and the latter is grudgingly accepted among Evangelicals, who are often still debating whether a child exists after fertilization and before implantation. As even Evangelicals are uncertain in their support for disciplined marital use, it is all the more important that the Roman church stand up for it and that the Protestants offer any biblical correctives they can.

It is entirely possible, for example, to practise the Romanists’ vaunted ‘natural family planning’ and all the while lack a chaste attitude toward children. It is for this reason, I believe, that people think it artificial to distinguish natural and artificial methods. Indeed, different methods imply the same end. As long as this is so, the widespread use of  ‘natural family planning’ is only the appearance of holiness. Though thankful that Rome has done something to oppose the culture of contraception (really an anticulture), Protestants should do more. Whereas the Romanists may have only form, we have the theological resources to get at the heart as well, and this is what we have often done best. So what if it earns us the enmity of the secularist? The Lord commands us to offer our bodies as a reasonable sacrifice, holy and one with him our living Head. Bold we approach the æternal throne, as Wesley says, and claim the martyr’s crown through Christ our own.

For Christian Charter Schools

大學之道, in the Edification Hall of Tainan’s Confucian Temple.

In the Edification Hall of Tainan’s Confucian Temple. By nnice.

One of the implications of public Christianity is that, though education belongs properly to the parents and not to the ordained ministry or the magistracy, homeschooling is not the panacea some Christians make it out to be, because it privatizes a public matter. If we disagree with the defence of abortion which designates it a private matter of personal choice, perhaps we may see that the same applies to schooling: education, like the creation and destruction of life, is not a commodity for private consumption. Therefore, since education is a public matter, the public good calls for Christian parents not to conduct their children’s education in isolation from the public square. Sometimes a relative withdrawal may be tactically necessary for Christians to educate our children in the right way – that is, the truth – but such withdrawal is not the ideal.

What the Church truly desires in education is a public life that holds all truth necessary for the high attainments of civilization, and especially is congenial to the Christian faith which enables civilization’s best and most lasting state. By the common grace of God, pagans have achieved much, even in the way of public justice; but the Christian knows, as both historical experience and the Scriptures tell, that the virtue of human society at which education aims, in order to be sustained and fulfilled, depends on mankind’s regeneration by the word of God and particularly by the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, then, both for the good of the city and for the æternal salvation of men, Christian parents must work to make the public system of education a place hospitable to the gospel.

At the same time, as Steven Wedgeworth says,

The home needs to also be supported, promoted, and protected, and it needs to live in a friendly relationship with the rest of society rather than the hostile one it has been in for the past few decades. And that hostility is most definitely a two-way street. Too many conservatives view their home as a defense-only citadel. But this can’t work, and as we’ve said, the home has already been long emptied. The home instead needs to be a thriving part of the community.

For a school to be truly hospitable to the gospel and the flourishing of human society, it will have to respect the place of family and home, yet draw families together for the common and public good. Somehow, the responsibility and authority of parents and the use of the public schools will have to work together in a way that honours God.

Analects of Confucius. Östasiatiska Museet, Stockholm.

Analects of Confucius. Östasiatiska Museet, Stockholm. By Erlend Bjoertvedt.

In some states, I think this synergy can be served by charter schools, which receive public funding but are not run by the (often) secularist state. The hope of charter schools has always been to invigorate the state schools, and in the matter of religion this is no less the case. Chicago already has charter schools run by the La Sallians, so more charter schools run by Christians should be no problem; what remains is to establish some things a charter school should do, as an example to the state schools, to be friendly to the true faith.

First, it should give parents the freedom to have their children observe religious discipline. The school schedule and calendar should be so arranged as not to obstruct daily prayers and holy day services. They should, therefore, leave time for students to pray in both the morning and the late afternoon, as well as to attend church services during Christmas, Holy Week, Easter, Ascension, and Whitsun Week. More positively, before school and after school there may be chaplains to lead Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, and chaplains may also be available once a week to give spiritual counsel. An after-school club may also be devoted to discussing the Prayer Book catechism; the Baptists, the Jews, and the Muslims could have their own clubs at the same time.

Book of Common Prayer, Lichfield Cathedral.

By quimby.

Second, for the Trivium, the curriculum should be ordered toward nurturing students in their knowledge of the Judeo-Christian cultural heritage. In foreign languages, as the Ben Gamla charter schools teach Hebrew, so Christian-friendly charter schools can easily require Latin, with stronger precedent than for Hebrew. Elsewhere in the humanities, teachers may give particular attention to biblical history and literature, as well as to Western Christian literature and the religious history of Europe and America. Teaching this material, after all, makes everyone more literate, not just Christians. Augustine and Donne, Maimonides and Judah Halevi, these are thinkers whose works would do good for all modern students to experience. Intentionally teaching students to become conversant with the Christian tradition is of utmost importance, and there is plenty of excellent material to read and discuss.

Third, in the natural sciences, the honest thing to do is to teach what everyone learns about evolutionary biology but also to discuss data (or lack of data) that Mayr, Gould, and others have admitted to be problematic. There is no question that Creationism is not science, but all students stand to gain from honest enquiry in natural science. They would learn a great deal from teachers showing them the questions that continued to occupy scientists today. In natural history, likewise – in astronomy, geology, and palæontology – it is responsible to stress that one does not draw conclusions in the same manner as in other fields of natural science, since repeated and controlled experiments in natural history are intrinsically impossible. By right reason, nothing in the natural sciences actually destroys Christian faith. Taught well, Christian students should see that natural science is not a threat to their faith, and students of a scientific inclination should see that religious faith is not a threat to science; honesty and truth are virtues that no one, Christian or atheist, needs to give up.

By dzsil.

By dzsil.

Fourth, a charter school congenial to the Christian faith supports the integrity of family life. Students who live close enough to the school, perhaps, can go home for lunch; for those who cannot, it seems good to use only humanely obtained kosher meat and offer vegetarian options. Perhaps even more importantly, the school should keep homework to a minimum – look at all the happy Dutch children. It is also worth looking into arrangements in which students can learn at home some days of the week, as well as accommodations for homeschoolers who wish to join certain classes. On the teachers’ end, I think it best if both regular and substitute teachers can work part-time without losing their health insurance benefits. By serving the families of both the students and the teachers, schools better honour the God who made us able to learn.

The example of charter schools that did all this, even if state schools could not do everything the same way, could encourage state schools to improve the way they did things and become better places for both Christian and non-Christian parents to send their children. It is not always clear what can legally be done, and close ties between Christian groups and schools can be controversial, but I think the idea should be tried. What do you think?