Evidences Of Human Depravity: Distortions In The Family, The Public Schools And The State

Apr 11th, 2020 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

Human depravity distorts and twists everything, creating chaos and disorder in the culture and its institutions.  The first and most important institution God created was marriage and the family (see Genesis 2).  What is it current condition?  In our democratic-republic, education is intended to be a cooperative and dynamic enterprise involving the public school and parents.  What is the condition of the public school movement?  The state, an institution created by God to promote justice and thwart evil (see Romans 12:1-10), has taken on the role of a “savior,” ostensibly taking the risk out of living.  The family, education, the state—each has been impacted by the depths of human depravity.

First, what is the state of the family in America?  Wall Street Journal writer, Ellen Byron, summarizes the changing composition of the American family.  Over the last decade, the transformation of the family from a “married-with-children” paradigm to an increasingly diverse array of arrangements has deepened. The long range impact of all this has yet to be determined.  Consider:

  • Fewer children are being raised by married parents. In 2017, one in four parents who lived with a child was unmarried, up from one in 10 in 1968. “People get married late, they’re more likely to get divorced than in the old days, and they’re more likely to spend some amount of time cohabiting.”  The percentage of families with children and two parents, either married or unmarried, fell from 87% in 1970 to 70% in 2008.  About a third of unmarried parents were cohabiting couples in 2017, up from 20% in 1997.
  • One group in which marriage rates are rising is gay people. “Today, some 543,000 households are made up of same-sex married couples.”  Furthermore, 469,000 households have same-sex unmarried partners living together.  Currently, 191,000 children live with same-sex parents.
  • About 20% of the US population lived in multigenerational households in 2016, up from 17% in 2009 and 12% in 1980.
  • Many young adults returned home—or never left—in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. In 2019, 32% of 18-to-34-year olds are living in a parent’s home, up from 28% in 2007.

Second is education.  One of the most innovative approaches to public education has been the charter school movement.  David Osborne of the Progressive Policy Institute summarizes the current state of this promising innovation in public education.  Charter schools are public schools.  The only difference is that they are operated independently of district bureaucracies with more freedom to design their programs and choose their teachers, but also with more accountability.  “If charters fail—if their students fall too far behind—they are usually closed.”  “Charter schools give millions of children—two-thirds of them non-white—the opportunity to get an education, go to college and move up the socioeconomic ladder . . .  Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes has found that by their fourth year in a charter school students learn about 2.5 months more in reading every year and around two more in math than demographically similar students with the same test scores who stayed in local district schools . . .  Graduation rates, college-going rates and college-completion rates are also higher among students who enroll in charter schools.  And, as a hand full of studies have shown, competition from charters can push district and school leaders to improve their schools, to make them more attractive to parents.”  Why then is there controversy about charter schools?  The primary reason is that the major teachers unions (the American Federation of teachers and the National Education Association) vehemently oppose charter schools?  Why?  Unions shrink as charter schools grow.  The AFT and the NEA spent $64 million last year supporting candidates who opposed charter schools.  Charter schools benefit students in all categories.  They empower parents and serve students.  It is irrational and nonsensical to oppose such a movement that helps so many students.  But, the power of the teacher unions and the Democratic Party seek to destroy the charter school movement.

Third, a word about the state in 2020.  John Zmirak, of The Stream, communicates the profound truths of Scripture with humor and conviction.  I recently read such a piece entitled, “What’s the single most crucial passage in the Bible for economics and politics?  Which statement on God’s part has the most enduring such meaning for us today?”  His choice: “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3: 17-19).  His application?

  • “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.” I’ll call it the Sweat of Your Face (SYF) Principle. Paul reiterated it for New Testament audiences this way: “If anyone will not work, let him not eat” (2 Thess. 3: 10).  “That’s quite a contrast with the situation Adam and Eve had gotten used to, with fruit falling out of trees into their hands, and lions as friendly to man as beagles. No longer were humans immune to the chaos that’s found in nature, invulnerable to harm and living at peace with each other, Creation, and God. Now we face “thorns and thistles” and are “dust” which shall “return” to the dust. That’s SYF, my friends.”
  • Jesus coming and dying for our sins didn’t reverse any of that. The tangible effects of the Fall are still wholly with us. On a few occasions, to convince His onlookers of His authority and also out of pity, Jesus chose to reverse an illness here, raise a dead person there, or annul the toil and scarcity people face by multiplying their food. But that’s not why He came.  He himself endured hunger and pain, even death and burial. We too must face countless crosses in this life, and at the end death’s bitter gall. He promises us at the end of time a new heaven and earth, which will be like Eden but better. But we don’t get it now.”
  • Can We Sneak Back into Eden?” “Pretending that we can fight, or build, or bioengineer our way back into Eden? That’s an alluring but monstrous perversion of Christianity . . . I [have] observed that “most of the project of secular modernity could be summed up as the technological and ideological crusade to [sneak back into Eden] — and shove the pesky business of the Fall and the Redemption down the memory hole.  How does this core principle, the stubbornness of the Fall, apply to politics? It’s fearfully simple. Whenever a churchman (whether it’s Pope Francis or some Woke youth pastor) asserts that people have a ‘right’ to something, apply this principle and see if it’s really true.”
  1. Does everyone, just by virtue of getting born, have a “right” to the best healthcare available? “Even if he hasn’t accumulated the wealth, via work (his own, his parents’ or his benefactors’) to actually pay the nurses and doctors who’ll offer it? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then the state has the duty to force other people to give it to him. Either by enslaving doctors and nurses, or seizing wealth to pay them. That turns the hours other people spent earning that very same wealth into … forced labor, when you think about it.”
  2. Does everyone have a “right” to a college education? “Again, if he does, then the state must get busy threatening other citizens with imprisonment if they won’t pay the taxes to fund it. These rights, to all the good things of life, were Adam and Eve’s, of course. They lost them via the Fall.  Since then we have lived with scarcity and trade-offs, thorns and thistles. Every good thing you hand to one person to whom you do not owe it (as we owe our children or elderly parents), you either provide yourself via sacrifice (Christianity) or you seize from someone who did have a right to it (Socialism).”
  • “We might decide as a society that people with a lot of accumulated wealth, either earned or inherited from those who earned it, don’t need so much stuff. So it’s okay to seize it. They’ll barely notice what’s missing. Or else it suits the common good to assure a bare minimum to everyone, to avoid crime and revolution. And maybe that’s good public policy. But let’s not pretend we’re giving people back their ‘rights’ to unearned stuff. That’s not the teaching of Christ, but of The Grand Inquisitor, the antichrist painted in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. In that story, Jesus returns to earth, to Spain, and faces arrest by the Inquisition. The head of that body, an elderly cardinal, the writer paints anachronistically as a socialist.  Christ sits silent as the Inquisitor explains what the Savior ‘got wrong’ in His earthly mission. He should have obeyed the temptation of Satan in the desert. He should have turned stones to bread, and handed them out to the people. Then they would have worshiped Him, with no need for that messy cross.  Since Christ lacked the good sense to do that, the Inquisitor explains, it’s up to man to ‘correct’ him. So the Church will unite with the State, to convince the ignorant masses that they have the ‘right’ to bread and circuses. They will learn to worship the institutions that provide them, instead of Jesus who wouldn’t.”

See John Zmirak, “The Most Important Passage in the Bible, at Least When It Comes to Politics,” in The Stream (25 February 2020); Ellen Byron in the Wall Street Journal (10 December 2019); and David Osborne in the Wall Street Journal (19 November 2019).

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