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A Biblical and Theological Framework For and Understanding Of Faith and Public Education

(Within the Context of Christian Community Development Philosophy)

CCDA believes that all children, regardless of race, nationality, economic status, gender or citizenship, deserve access and opportunity for quality, public education that enables fullness of life. (Approved by the CCDA Board, June, 2011)

In the beginning . . . Then God said, Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. (Genesis 1.26-28) Affirming the Imago Dei is to affirm the God given potential of every man, woman, and child. Children are created in the very image of God and regardless of race, nationality, economic status, gender or citizenship, have God given potential. In fact, children all children are the very definition of potential. Gospel song writers Bill & Gloria Gaither wrote these words trying to define the potential of children: I am a promise I am a possibility I am a promise with a capital P I am a great big bundle of potentiality Jesus affirmed the Imago Dei in children. At that time Jesus said, I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. (Matthew 11.25 NIV) And he said: Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18.3) People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Mark 10.13-14) Even anarchists recognize the Imago Dei in children. "No one has yet fully realized the wealth of sympathy, kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure." (Emma Goldman, author) Nelson Mandela sums summarizes our challenge and opportunity . . . "There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children." How then does the Gospel, the Good News, inform us, shape us, guide us, and lay a firm foundation for our efforts with children and our role in public education?

Chris Jehle, CCDA Board Member, Chair of the CCDA Theology Committee and CEO of The Hope Center in Kansas City, MO writes:
The gospel, simply put, is the restoration of life in Gods good creation to his original intent, achieved through Jesus Christ. As displayed in Genesis, God sees his creation as extraordinarily good, and despite humanitys propensity to sin, God is committed to seeking his creations redemption. This redemption will come through Gods people Israel, of whom Abraham is patriarch. Israels covenanted relationship with God and each other was to be marked by fidelity, justice, and righteousness. Israels life was to image God to the world, resulting in an ingathering of the nations. Though Israel was largely unfaithful in this role, out of Israel was born Jesus the Christ. Through the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God is reconciling his entire creation to himself. The great enemies of humanity, sin and death, have been soundly defeated through Jesus. The resurrected Jesus has returned to God and will someday return to formally place all of the creation under the loving, just rule of God. In that day, a bodily resurrection of all humanity will occur. And Gods wonderfully good creation will finally be fully freed from sin and death, and will fully flourish as God originally intended. Life in the coming age will be intimate and robust. In the meantime, all peoples are invited to join the People of God - the Church - who together submit to his loving and just rule. All who do so, will as the Church, by faith, embody the resurrected life in the here and now. The Church is empowered by Gods Holy Spirit, as they faithfully await the promised return of their God and King. When this picture of the future guides Christians, we can be motivated to actively embody that life of the future now. We do so because it is the life we will live in the age to come. Dallas Willard describes this as training for reigning. N.T. Wright describes life in this vision as future-shaped character. Christians, empowered by the Holy Spirit, work hard to embody the life they will actively live in the age to come. It is this picture of the future that brings the teachings regarding a just society for the poor and oppressed to bear on our present life. We desire to be transformed into the people of God who possess and embody the character God desires humanity to utilize when governing his good creation. While evil still wreaks havoc throughout the creation, Christians can bear witness to the loving, just rule of God by embodying the life of the age to come in the present. When Christians do so, the poor and oppressed are given all that they need so that they too can live flourishing lives. Further, since God's nature is redemptive, we as his people also seek the redemption of his creation. It is only natural then that Christians would engage in the redemptive process of the educational system, and would ensure a just education for all, especially the most vulnerable.

To help us more fully understand the power of the Gospel, Steve Parks, CCDA Leadership Cohort Member and Executive Director of Little Lights Urban Ministry in Washington, DC writes:
During the time of Jesus and later Paul, the word gospel or the good news would have had a rather different meaning than the way contemporary Christians use the word. Today, we may think of the word gospel as a particular Christian message for individuals to go to heaven after death or even as referring to a style of music in the church. However, among the pagan culture of the time, the word gospel would have connoted good news about the birth of a king or regarding a military victory in war. In our contemporary evangelical world, we have reduced the use of the word gospel to only a private experience whereby one is saved from the penalty of sin and given a gift of eternal life

which is true, but only partly. In time of Jesus and Paul, the world gospel would have sounded more as an announcement of a King who has been enthroned or a King who has won a major victory. Of course, Jesus is our savior and a very personal one at that. But the word gospel would have also declared a sense of authority of a coming or victorious King not just a personal savior. Even the word Christ was originally not a name. It was a title: of an anointed one, a King.1 The word gospel is truly the declaration of the arrival and victory of Jesus, the Christ and the King. It also implies that there is a kingdom which Jesus rules, that has come and is coming. It is a new society, governed righteously, and represents a different kind of society than is presently in the world. In Jesus first teaching, he proclaims The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. (Luke 4:18) Referring back to Isaiah 61:1, Jesus proclaims that this gospel, the announcement of sovereignty of the God of Israel (YHWH), is good news for the poor. It can only be good news for the poor if the poor are valued and that the King is compassionate to the poor. Here, we see that this King is not a typical king who looks out for his self-interests or the interests of the most powerful and the wealthy, but rather is concerned for the weakest and the poor. If the King of the Jews truly is alive and the rightful ruler of the world, this truly is good news since everyone in this kingdom is valued and important, not only those who have status and power. We see this upside down value system in the Beatitudes in Matthew: Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are they that mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are the merciful, etc. In this new kingdom, it is not the powerful and proud who are blessed, but those whose hearts are contrite, broken, humble, and compassionate. The gospel of the servant and compassionate King is ushering in, not only a personal way of salvation, but the ushering of a new way of life and a new way to relate to one another. The call for the Church of Jesus Christ is not only to share the message of Jesus death and resurrection for the individual, but to show and demonstrate the reality of the authority of this King Jesus by living under the Lordship of this benevolent servant King and displaying the characteristics of this rule by showing radical compassion and servanthood to an unbelieving world. The call of the Church is to show the compassion and humility so radically apparent in its King and to present to the world the reality of this new kingdom, the true and rightful kingdom that will last

Wright, N.T. What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1997

into eternity. The call of the Church is live out in its fullness the gospel of the kingdom of God and its radically different values from the world embodied perfectly in its King.

At the heart of the Gospel are the teachings of Jesus on Shalom the presence of wholeness, completeness, even healing. " Peace (Shalom) I leave with you; my peace (Shalom) I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14.27 NIV) The founder of CCDA, John Perkins, provides a definition of Shalom in his book Beyond Charity helps us understand Shalom from a Christian Community Development viewpoint. Perkins writes: When God called Abraham to bless him, and to bless all the nations through him, he employed the notion of Shalom. This Hebrew word, in time, came to mean everything good you would want for yourself and wishing that same quality of life for your neighbors and friends. We have been called to be a blessing to the urban poor, a blessing that includes everything that is good and wholesome. Our notions of Christian Community Development will look different from place to place, but some of the essential blessings we are called to bestow upon the poor include dignity, power, education, employment, health, security, recreation and beauty. Lea Gaskin-Fitchue, President of Payne Theological Seminary and CCDA Advisory Board member defined Shalom at the 2008 CCDA National Conference in Miami, FL as Nothing is missing; nothing is broken. And returning to the Gospel, Jesus says: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5.9 NIV) When Jesus calls his followers to be "peacemakers," he is calling them to be the ones who bring healing and wholeness to a broken world. The sages of Israel even had a concept word for this: Tikkun Olam...literally, "repairing the world." A foundational passage of scripture for Christian Community Development is Isaiah chapter 58. This imagery of repairing is found in verse 12, Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. The prophet talks about repairing the world. Jesus talks about creating Shalom. When we understand and believe that every child is created in the Imago Dei, then to live as a peacemaker . . . a purveyor of Shalom . . . one who brings to light the fullness of every childs potential, this demands every follower of Christ to enter the arenas of our world where the least of these dwell and one of those areas is the arena of public education. Those who claim the name of Christ are called to engage in our struggling and failing educational systems and repair the broken walls of learning in order to create opportunities for our children to become complete, whole, flourishing and thriving individuals. We are not simply called to effect change that will allow individuals and communities to survive. We are called to bring the transformative change that provides opportunity for individuals and communities for children to thrive.

And yet . . . Most, if not all Christians would say they have compassion for these children and youth who are struggling in our under-resourced communities, who are so far removed from living in the Imago Dei they were created in, who will never realize the fullness of Shalom. Some Christians develop alternative education offerings and we support these efforts. But the hard truth is that regardless of the private, charter, and home school offerings, the majority of our children in under-resourced communities still attend public schools. They are the little ones Jesus would be calling to himself today. Compassion for these little ones children and youth is not merely an emotional response but rather one of action. An old adage says, Belief without action is only opinion and Jesus had no opinions. His compassion always led to action as recorded in Matthew 9.36, He was moved with compassion.
This is said of Christ Jesus several times in the New Testament. The original word is a very remarkable one. It is not found in classic Greek. It is not found in the Septuagint. The fact is, it was a word coined by the evangelists themselves. They did not find one in the whole Greek language that suited their purpose, and therefore they had to make one. It is expressive of the deepest emotion; a striving of the bowels a yearning of the innermost nature with pity. As the dictionaries tell us Ex intimis visceribus misericordia commoveor. I suppose that when our Saviour looked upon certain sights, those who watched him closely perceived that his internal agitation was very great, his emotions were very deep, and then his face betrayed it, his eyes gushed like founts with tears, and you saw that his big heart was ready to burst with pity for the sorrow upon which his eyes were gazing. He was moved with compassion. His whole nature was agitated with commiseration for the sufferers before him. Now, although this word is not used many times even by the evangelists, yet it may be taken as a clue to the Saviours whole life, and I intend thus to apply it to him. If you would sum up the whole character of Christ in reference to ourselves, it might be gathered into this one sentence, "He was moved with compassion." (Excerpted from Charles Spurgeons sermon The Compassion of Jesus)

The Gospels give us examples and insights into the actions of Christ when moved by compassion. He healed the sick (Matthew 14) He fed the hungry (Matthew 15) He healed the leper (Mark 1) He gave sight to the blind (Matthew 20) He delivered the demoniac (Mark 5) He brought the dead back to life (Luke 7) He taught those in need of knowledge and understanding (Mark 6) The passage in Mark 6 is best known for the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 but notice Jesus response when the disciples came to him concerned about the hunger of the people. Jesus said to his disciples, You give them something to eat. This need is not what moved Jesus with compassion. Compassion that led to action by Jesus occurred earlier that day.

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (Matthew 6.30-34 NIV) Jesus was moved by compassion because the people in this large crowd were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. As we search the Scriptures for an understanding of our responsibilities for our children, here we find a specific example from the life of Christ that challenges us as his followers to be moved with compassion when we see the masses of children who are like sheep without a shepherd. We cannot be congruent with these teachings and actions of Jesus and ignore the needs of children, teachers, and administrators in our underperforming schools. Our response must be compassionate and, thereby, active. And our compassion must be firmly grounded in the justice of a holy God who is insulted and angered by injustice. Dr. John Ogletree, Pastor of the First Metropolitan Church in Houston, TX and a member of the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District helps us understand the importance of Approaching Public Education Reform through a Biblical Justice Paradigm.
The present issues that confront public education should be approached by the local church as well as faith organizations from a biblical justice paradigm. Dr. Paul Louis Metzger describes Biblical Justice this way: Biblical justice involves making individuals, communities, and the cosmos whole, by upholding both goodness and impartiality. In public education, the individuals are the children who populate our elementary, middle and high schools. They attend schools across the country that are; in need of repair, underfunded, overcrowded and security challenged. Many come from the Latino/Hispanic community and the African American community where poverty, immigration, gangs, poor health, high unemployment, crime, illiteracy, non-English speaking students and high dropout rates create tremendous challenges. In this present age of dependency on standardized tests and accountability, poor and minority students do not equal white students in scores. In addition, state legislative bodies are targeting schools for budget cuts causing increased class sizes which make public education difficult or next to impossible to accomplish successfully. The children in our public schools need the opportunity for wholeness and, this can only be done by upholding what Metzger suggests goodness and impartiality. There is a need for a justice viewpoint in public education. This can and should come from faith communities because justice is not just a social consciousness or a governmental law or policy. Justice is part of the fundamental nature of God. Micah 6:8 (NASB95) 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?

Proverbs 29:7 (NIV) 7 The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. When one reads the word of God we see His desire for justice. This can be applied to public school reform. The economically disadvantaged and minority students are falling through the academic cracks. Without an educationally sound primary and secondary foundation, they will be more likely bound to a life of low income wages, crime and hopelessness. The Pledge of Allegiance ends with the phrase with liberty and justice for all. Justice for all, should be our cry when it comes to public education. All students should have the right and privilege to attend a quality, well-funded and well-staffed school. Our future depends on it. God requires us to do justice, which means we have to not talk about justice, we have to proactively participate in justice being advocated, established and practiced. This is what is revealed by on Jesus in Luke 4:18-19 and Matthew 25:31-46. Jesus announced that His anointing was for the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, and the oppressed. Jesus taught that the righteous will be held accountable for feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, and taking in the stranger, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick. These two passages of Scripture can be a basis for seeking justice for the children in our public schools. Approaching education reform from a Biblical Justice paradigm should motivate and mobilize the faith community to do their part to make sure children do not fall through academic cracks. In closing, CCDA has taken the position that all children regardless of race, nationality, economic status, gender or citizenship deserve access and opportunity for quality public education that enables fullness in life. This position is a position of Biblical Justice.

Because the Scriptures teach that injustice is an insult to God, the injustices of the educational system are an offense to him. It is then incumbent upon us to respond as Restorers of justice. The Scriptures are replete with references to justice for the most vulnerable. In our culture, the children and youth who are in poor performing school districts are some of the most vulnerable. Their futures are compromised because of a lack of quality education and in many cases their present realities create another layer of vulnerability. The development of our communities hinge on what we do with our children today. They become the future of our cities and neighborhoods. Involvement in the public schools of our neighborhoods and communities is incumbent upon us. CCDA does believe that all children, regardless of race, nationality, economic status, gender or citizenship, deserve access and opportunity for quality, public education that enables fullness of life. And CCDA will act, working for education reform in order to create quality public education opportunities for every child because: Every child is created in the Image of God Education is a necessary means by which every child experiences the Shalom of God We are called to be Peacemakers and Repairers Compassion requires action God requires us to do justice