An except from Chapter 4 on religion in schools:
Note: This is merely one section of Chapter 4, and other aspects of religion in schools are discussed in Chapters 2 and 3 — including a full analysis of the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP). All religious instruction in school is inappropriate — it’s a matter for individual families and their local church, not an educational requirement. The following examples represent only the tip of a very dangerous iceberg.
So, what’s the problem with religion in schools . . .?
First; that more federal funding to create new religious schools will intensify the public vs private school divide. The federal government’s philosophy is based on deregulation, market forces, and “values” — code for Christian family values. Already, just on 40% of Australian children are taught in religious schools, 97% of which are Christian.
Widening the religious school system seems inevitable under current governments (Liberal and Labor), with public schools gradually becoming ‘education welfare’ 5 for the less well off. Then there’s the damage caused by indoctrinating students with the pseudo-science of creationism.
Yet another example of this relates to the 92 affiliates of the Australian Association of Christian Schools. They hold that “the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are God’s infallible and inerrant revelation to Man.“6 This problem is systemic; it’s nationwide. In her new book “Religion in Secular Education”, Cathy Byrne provides evidence that Queensland is the least secular state in Australia.
Speaking to The Guardian,7 Byrne stressed the vital importance of developing within the entire school system the essential skills of logic, reason and critical thought. It’s this lack of critical thinking and a complete repudiation of science that leaves most rationalists totally bemused and bewildered.
If creationism is a crisis then teaching ‘Dominion Theology’ is a disaster. Links to the specific meanings of dominionism and dominion theocracy (above) relate primarily to their American origins. However, over recent decades the movements have spread to many countries including Australia, as we shall discover shortly.
It’s the Christian equivalent of the kind of fundamentalist thinking that has parallels with extreme Islamic theocracy. And while Christian dominionism currently falls short of violent expression, its social and political philosophy embraces the notion that devout Christians should dominate the political process.
Dominionists have adopted the language of religious zealotry throughout history — their propaganda is based solidly on the lexicon of hostility, with a plethora of terms which include “war”, “battlegrounds”, of “taking dominion over society”, and of “seizing control” — as this video discusses.10
Private Christian schools are now in the frontline for this extreme form of fundamentalism, and while Australia is some way short of the dominionism in America, the early momentum is evident.
Back in 1996 Robert Long 11 wrote a highly informative thesis The Development of Themelic Schools in Australia. It outlined the growth of this conservative Christian strand in schooling with the term “themelic”, which is based on its use in the Bible, to emphasise their theological tradition in education. Long makes the following observations:
“(this) new kind of conservative Protestant schooling. . .emerged in Australia after 1962. Themelic schools developed out of a reaction to secular humanist trends which emerged after World War II. In 1996 there were approximately 300 themelic schools with 60,000 students.
“…One of the central arguments is that the themelic system of schooling is one of fear and confusion. The motifs of this system are the inerrancy of the Bible and the language of ‘Christ-centredness’. …(it is) argued that the themelic system is laden with numerous contradictions that have not been addressed and that the schools are reactionary, authoritarian and educationally limited.”11
In her 2014 book “Taking God To School”, Prof Marion Maddox says that some themelic schools are built on a theology that is quite specific about the place Christians should occupy in a non-religious and multi-faith society.
Dominion theology is one of superiority, taken literally from Genesis 1:28, where God is said to have told Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” Dominionism continues to gain a following among Calvinists, Pentecostals and evangelicals generally.
Maddox says that parents who choose such schools — those looking for better discipline or higher educational standards — may remain oblivious to some of the theological fine print throughout their children’s enrolment documents. She says; 12
“A number of Christian Education Network (CEN) schools’ prospectuses announce that they prepare students to ‘rule’ and ‘have dominion over the earth’. Covenant Christian School in Belrose, New South Wales, teaches its students that ‘their rightful place in God’s world’ is (among other things) to rule. With the meaning to ‘rule in a stewardly way that reflects our status of being co-heirs with Christ, and our special calling to have dominion over the earth in a loving, caring manner.”
“Loving and caring” does not detract from the meaning of dominionism. Rehoboth Christian College draws attention to the staunchly religious discipline of their school teachers, rather than secular teachers who fail to meet their required godly standards.
“There are basically two kingdoms: a kingdom of light and a kingdom of darkness. It seems strange to have those who walk in darkness educate the children of light. It simply doesn’t fit”. And further, “The Christian School is the training ground for the army of Jesus”. Prof Marion Maddox.13
This language of biblical obsession and social superiority may well trigger alarm bells. There are endless references in Christian school prospectuses and on websites in which this same military theme is repeated again and again — armies, battlegrounds and wars — all for God, Jesus, and the Blood of Christ.
But fully attuned to good public relations, Christian schools often mix these warlike terms in a bizarre manner with warm and comforting words such as hope, caring, spirituality and loving. One further example comes from Parkes Christian School in New South Wales, which is affiliated with Christian Schools Australia. According to Professor Maddox, 14 in 2011 parents were told their children would be;
“…trained to be not primarily good citizens of Australia (though we hope they will be) but soldiers of the King (God), who go out into the world equipped physically, mentally, spiritually and socially to do battle for their Lord in a world which rejects His laws and dominion”.14
The full story of Christianity in schools is covered in several Chapters of ‘Sacred to Secular’.
Plain Reason: promoting science, logic, reason and critical thought.