Russell and Duenes

Archive for April 2012

Public Schools and Civil Religion

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Previously I argued that Christians should stop trying to “reclaim” the public schools, the primary reason being that the public schools are going to choose a particular God, and that God cannot be Jesus Christ. Thus, the most that Christians could hope to gain in today’s public schools, barring massive cultural repentance, would be a kind of civil religion, the kind that U.S. presidents practice when they end their speeches with, “God bless you and God bless the United States of America.”

So let us suppose that Christians could get prayer back into schools, a highly unlikely scenario, but even supposing they could, to whom would they be praying? Would those prayers be “in Jesus’ name?” No, they would be some kind of bland, minimalist, multicultural offering to “the unknown god.” So why would Christians want this? This would be worse than what we’ve got now. As C.S. Lewis says,

A minimal religion compounded of spirit messages and bare Theism has no power to touch any of the deepest chords in our nature, or to evoke any response which will raise us even to a higher secular level – let alone to the spiritual life. The god of whom no dogmas are believed is a mere shadow. He will not produce that fear of the Lord in which wisdom begins, and, therefore, will not produce that love in which it is consummated…There is in this minimal religion nothing that can convince, convert, or (in the higher sense) console; nothing, therefore, which can restore vitality to our civilization. It is not costly enough. It can never be a controller or even a rival to our natural sloth and greed. A flag, a song, an old school tie, is stronger than it; much more, the pagan religions…If there is no God then we have no interest in the minimal religion or any other.

But there IS a God, and His name is Jesus, and He will not be caged within some tame cultural form, stripped of power and truth.



Written by Michael Duenes

April 20, 2012 at 7:25 am

Posted in Duenes, Education

Stop Trying to Christianize the Public Schools through the Supreme Court

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I was listening to a bit of Christian radio today, and it was one of those Saturday programs that is political in nature, and the show was taking calls from people about the problems with the public schools and how public schools were favoring non-Christian religions in what they teach and convey. One call in particular stood out because the caller was arguing, correctly, that teaching secular humanism, as the public schools do, is itself a religion. The host agreed and said that there was a particular Supreme Court case where, in a footnote, the Court noted that secular humanism is, in fact, a religion. But then these two men on the radio went on to imply that we need to fight in the courts to force public schools to avoid endorsing any religion.

Let’s see if I’ve got this straight: The host argues that secularism is a religion, but then says that the way forward is to have courts enforce religious neutrality in the public schools. Did I miss something?

Neither the government nor the Supreme Court nor a school board nor any human institution can ever act with religious neutrality. This is a simple concept, yet Christians seem to stumble over it or just plainly miss it. Schools are going to pick a God. They have to. That’s the way the universe works. And you can be sure that no matter what the Supreme Court does, the God the public schools are going to choose is not going to be the Lord Jesus Christ. Given this reality, it is an utter fool’s errand to keep advocating measures designed to somehow “bring the government schools around.”

The proper Christian response is a wholesale abandonment of the public schools, en masse, so that the public schools suffer total economic collapse and can no longer function. But really, it’s not the public schools that are at issue. The issue is: Should Christians educate their children explicitly under the Lord Jesus and His teachings? The answer is “yes.”

As I’ve said before, the public schools cannot be abandoned overnight. So I’m in no way condemning Christian parents who put their children in public schools right now because they simply cannot afford to pay taxes for government schools AND pay for private Christian education. What I am opposing is the notion that, given a real choice, Christians ought to keep their children in public schools, as though most of these children are equipped to be “missionaries” there. The Christian children are the ones being converted.

Yet we have to start somewhere. And I think we start by making the issues clear. We have not made them clear, as evidenced by this talk show today, and so Christian continue to suffer from a kind of schizophrenia, wanting to have their children grow up with love and respect for Jesus, with a mature Christian mind, in obedience to Jesus’ teachings, while fighting the secular, Christ-denying culture and teachings of the public schools to which they are exposing their children year after year. This is a losing battle, and the more we make the case against it and in favor of large-scale Christian support for Christian education, the more progress we’ll make in the right direction.


Written by Michael Duenes

April 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm

The Trouble with “X”

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Having finished Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, I’ve now returned to C.S. Lewis’ God in the Dock. As I’ve noted previously, I could write about virtually every paragraph in this book. But I came to the chapter yesterday entitled, “The Trouble with ‘X.'” (You can read it here.) Leaving aside Lewis’ arguments about God’s inability to override human will, his wisdom here is of a very practical kind. Everyone can think of the trouble with “X” person, but we can rarely see what Lewis calls the “fatal flaw” in ourselves that others have been trying, in various ways, to tell us about, perhaps for many long years, to no avail.

And then Lewis imagines how God sees these fatal character flaws brought to bear in our relationships, for God sees not only the trouble with “X”, but the trouble with me, and He sees it in all of its ugliness, and He sees it in light of His own incredible kindness and favor to me.

The simple, yet practical, wisdom of Lewis’ observation, however, is that there is absolutely nothing I can do to change the fatal flaw in “X”, but I can indeed do something about it in myself. He writes, “Of all the awkward people in your house or job there is only one whom you can improve very much. That is the practical end at which to begin. And really, we’d better. The job has to be tackled some day: and every day we put it off will make it harder to begin.”

Lewis concludes that while this fatal character flaw remains “there can be no Heaven for you, just as there can be no sweet smells for a man with a cold in the nose, and no music for a man who is deaf. It’s not a question of God ‘sending’ us to Hell. In each of us there is something growing up which will of itself be Hell unless it is nipped in the bud. The matter is serious: let us put ourselves in His hands at once – this very day, this hour.”


Written by Michael Duenes

April 13, 2012 at 10:37 am

Attempts to “Get the Government Out of Marriage” Guarantees Only that We’ll Get Ever More Government

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Jennifer Roback Morse, whom I’ve had the pleasure of hearing in person, has three brief and compelling pieces on the “Let’s Get the Government Out of The Marriage Business” argument. She shows why this argument is deeply flawed, and why it is utterly imperative that Christians, who know the meaning and truth of marriage, make the case for a public understanding of marriage. Find all three pieces:

here, here, and here.


Written by Michael Duenes

April 8, 2012 at 10:52 am

Posted in Duenes, Marriage

Unbroken and the Resurrection

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Another reason Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, is now one of my top five all-time non-fiction books is because it so continually shows the power of life, and the human desire to live. Again, without giving too much away, the protagonist, Zamperini, as well as most of his fellow POW’s, have an indominable will to live that gets them through the hell of the Japanese camps. It sometimes surpasses belief when you read about the things they endured. But why do we want to live so badly? Particularly when life becomes a living nightmare?

Someone might object: “What about all those people who commit suicide? They don’t want to live anymore.” I would say that, more often than not, those who commit suicide do indeed want to go on living; they simply don’t want to go on living in their current circumstances.

What does this have to do with the resurrection? As I read Unbroken, I couldn’t help but think that Jesus’ return from the grave to life at God’s right hand, and his promise to raise to eternal life those who trust in him, is simply written into our DNA, as it were. We bear the imprint of God, being created in His image, and thus, the divine life is suffused throughout our being. Thus, we yearn to keep on living, in the face of unspeakable suffering and hardship, beyond the seeming finality of the grave. We don’t want to simply pass out of existence, which is why well over 90% of humanity believes in some kind of life beyond the grave; and those who don’t rarely face up to the reality of what their own future nonexistence would mean.

Jesus promise of resurrection life with Him is the basis for all human yearnings to live, and to live well. May we bank our hope on the sure promise of life in Christ, based on His own triumph over suffering and the grave. He is risen indeed, and we live because He lives.


Written by Michael Duenes

April 7, 2012 at 11:16 am

Posted in Duenes, Reflections