Chatting with the “evil” NEA

A couple of years ago I was invited to participate on a team to plan an “Educator/Clergy Conference.” Our team is comprised of a diverse group of clergy and various personnel from the OEA. The aim of the conference was to see how churches and schools could partner for great schools. I wrote about the event  here and here. Recently we held our second conference in South Oklahoma City. Our topic – curbing the drop out rate.

I received a calll from Cynthia who writes for the NEA’s national publication asking for an interview. We met this morning in Oklahoma City. The conversation went very well and I look forward to reading the story as Cynthia will interview a wide range of particpants.

Some did and do find this conversation odd, if not unsettling. After all, I hail from a denomination that repeatedly calls for its constituency to consider leaving public schools; often demonizing them and the fine Christian teachers and administrators who serve children in those settings. This is a point I find difficult to grasp. Certainly I have read the extremes. But we who serve churches do not want to be characterized by our extremes. At least I don’t.

Too many have a hard time finding common ground. Ideaological idols keep intended partners at bay – and this on both edges of the spectrum in our churches. So it should not surprise anyone this is the case in our culture at large and exhibited in public education. Abandonment does not seem like a persevering quality.

Gladly I sat with Cynthia in a small coffee shop. We talked about perceptions, obstacles and possibilities. As with many issues, perception obscures the vision of the real. The OEA and the NEA are not “godless.” Clergy are not fundamentalist wackos. Could some who particpatein the OEA and NEA not folloow the same understanding of the way the world works Christians do? Sure. Are some clergy fundamentalis (on either side of divide) wackos. I know some. However, in the larger scheme many really want what is best for the education of children and we religious types fear indocrintation, yet we indoctrinate more often than we education in our churces.

Following on the influence of the Enlightenment we in our churches tout our rationality, our reason. Yet, when someone has reasonable questions and offers credible critics of us and our faith commitment we summarily dismiss them as without faith and yet our faith generally has been defined by our rationality not our risk to believe the unbelievable. So we play by another’s game, another’s rules. Carl Raschke has a great section on the undue influence of commonsense realism on our (lack of) understanding faith (seeking understanding.)

What does separation of church and state mean? The lack of clarity on this subject creates the chief obstacle. The First Amendment Center offered a couple of fabulous speakers for our two conferences. Warping our understanding comes from the left and the right.

Today Cynthia will visit with the principal of Taft Middle School. My middle school “alma mater.” Things have changed there. It is not the same place I walked to as an adolescent. Yet in a partnership called 222 children in need of partners who know how to find common ground expereince the benefit of “churches and schools,” “ceducators and clergy,” working together for our children.

One day we will invest in people for the sake of people and not our idealogical victories. Maybe then for both churches and educators we will get to the common ground of our differing callings. An “evil” NEA? Not so much. A “walled off church.” Not so much. Partners? I hope one day.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.