You may have heard about the little boy who wanted to distribute to his class candy canes with messages about they symbolize Jesus and the Gospel. His teacher wouldn’t let him. So Glenn Beck, Fox News, and many Christian activists have been excoriating that teacher.
But Hillsdale professor Korey Maas says that the teacher first consulted her principal, who told her that the school did not allow that kind of “witnessing” in class. And she is far from being a militant secularist or the worse things she is being called.
In fact, she is herself a pious and confessional Christian, though it would be impossible to discern as much from the coverage of much Christian media.
I know this because I was present at her baptism; I participated in the catechesis leading to her reception into the theologically (and, overwhelmingly, politically) conservative Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod; I preached at her wedding; my wife and I are godparents to her children, as she and her husband (who is himself on the faculty of a Christian university) are to our youngest. Needless to say, I have complete confidence that her far less dramatic version of events is much the more accurate account.
Some will say that precisely as a Christian she should have had the courage of her convictions and allowed the distribution of a Christian message in her classroom. And yet, precisely because she is a catechized Christian, perhaps she understands that in her vocation she serves under the authority of others.
Perhaps it was wise in the litigious context of America’s public schools to confer with and defer to the supervising principal. Indeed, a lawsuit arising from virtually identical circumstances is still, ten years on, bogged down in the courts. If the answers to the pertinent legal questions are not immediately obvious to the dozens of lawyers and judges involved in this previous case, one can hardly expect them to be self-evident even to an intelligent primary school teacher. Thus, those critics who have dismissively counseled her simply to “read the Constitution” betray (in addition to a lack of charity) either an unhelpful naivety or a willful ignorance.
To be sure, important principles are here involved; but so too are persons. Unfortunately, in this case and more, too many have shown themselves unable to defend a principle without defaming a person, even a fellow Christian. They have ignored the wise explanation of the eighth commandment found in the Catechism of Isaiah’s teacher: “We should fear and love God so that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, or defame our neighbor, but defend him, think and speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.”
In slandering this woman, conservative and Christian media have made it even more difficult to take seriously the many similar stories in which some Christian’s rights are trampled. This is no way to wage, much less to win, a culture war.
via A Teacher Slandered | First Things. (The post has links to the various accounts and criticisms.)
HT: Joanna Hensley