With any talk of religious freedom, sexuality and racial discrimination, the tensions can run high. Can a religious school uphold a particular value system that may be at odds with someone else’s view? And to what extent? When do the school’s freedom to express their long-held beliefs impinge on the freedom that one has to be express their own sexuality or agnostic values or atheistic views? When has a Christian school overstepped the line?
The conversation hit the airwaves recently as the Principal of Citipointe Christian College in Queensland, had amended their school contract asking students to formally reject homosexuality and transgenderism. As the ABC report says, “Brisbane's Citipointe Christian College withdraws sexuality contract after backlash”. The Principal has since stepped aside amid an onslaught of angry and deeply disappointed teachers and parents.
This is the extreme case of a contentious and divisive discussion. The Christian schools I know of are welcoming of all people, irrespective of their gender, their sexuality, their race and religion. All are welcome. And all are welcome to be curious learners, to be stretched in their education, to develop their learning toolkit that would prepare them for the life they have ahead of them.
Though, at some point, there will always be a clash of cultures and beliefs; there’s no getting around that. Some believe the earth was formed in 6 large periods of time. Some believe it was six literal days. Some believe in theistic evolution, others remain agnostic and hold to the view that it’s impossible to know whether a deity was actually involved. Some are supporters of the big bang, without a deity in the picture. You get the point. There are numerous viewpoints and this is just one issue: creation.
A myriad of views
There are a number of viewpoints on any such topic as human sexuality, race relations, the political direction of the country, refugees and global migration and even whether you should drink Pepsi or Coke (or stay away from sugary drinks!).
I believe we all should have freedom to believe what we want. Though even that has limits. If you believe in the right to not be vaccinated, does that mean you can still galivant the countryside during a pandemic without any consequences?
While I believe in the freedom to believe what you want, there is still boundaries around that freedom. When your value system impinges on the safety and security of another person, then one has the right to question that belief system.
In a 21st century, pluralist society, you and I walk around the earth with differing views on many issues. Though I hope that when I wander around, the inherent thrust of what I believe might rub off on another person. I make a difference in the world through my presence in this world. I don’t therefore have to impose my beliefs on another person.
I can tell you what I believe if you want to hear. I believe all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I believe Jesus died for our sins and those who believe in him will receive forgiveness of sins. I believe that too much alcohol ruins your brain cells. I believe that too much social media isn’t good for your mental health. I believe the church has had a complex history of loving people some days and then excommunicating people on other days.
You and I need to learn to live in peace with one another (see Romans chapter 12, verse 18). Let your light shine in such a way that, instead of imposing your values on another, people inherently want to live the way you do because of who you are and how you behave.
That’s the crux for Christian schools. They should be watering holes of grace and peace, that seek to raise up resilient, intelligent and active students that want to bring restoration to the world we live in. When we abuse the religious freedom we have by dictating what someone must believe, we look outdated to the world around us, we hurt people and we put barriers up to the very Christ that we seek to emulate.
Pete Brookshaw is the Senior Minister of The Salvation Army Craigieburn. He has a Bachelor of both Business and Theology and is passionate about the church being dynamic and effective in the world and creating communities of faith that are outward-focused, innovative, passionate about the lost and committed to societal change. He has been blogging since 2006 at http://www.petebrookshaw.com about leadership and faith and you can find him on:
Peter Brookshaw’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/peter-brookshaw.html