My job took me inside the local public Middle School, where I saw a large sign in a hallway, emblazoned with the slogan, “When You Believe in Yourself, Nothing is Impossible.” As I thought about it the rest of the day, it occurred to me that this is a classic example of how and why “religious neutrality” or pure secularism is impossible.
Even a blathering, non-offensive piece of self-esteem propaganda like this shows why the idea of banishing religion from the public school system is a goof-headed scheme, as doomed to failure from the get-go as Wile E. Coyote’s mail order rocket-skates. It’s like standing in a shower hoping to wash all the water off your body: Get rid of one religious notion by replacing it with another, and then call it secularism.
“When You Believe in Yourself, Nothing is Impossible.” That sentence is loaded with moral and metaphysical import. It isn’t religiously neutral. It is the religion of the OWN network. In fact, it is itself a statement of faith, unproven and scientifically unsupported.
I suppose the hymn that should accompany this proselytizing would be that ridiculous anthem, “I Believe I Can Fly.” (I believe I can touch the sky!) You do? Really? Seek help, friend.
But, you say to me, nobody really believes that is true. So why would we feed our kids useless slogans that we know to be false? Is that the purpose of education?
The fact that the sign makes no mention of a Divine Being doesn’t mean it’s not religious. Buddhism, for instance, is a classic, world religion that doesn’t postulate any belief in a god.
You can have a god without referring to it as such. In the faith-statement above, belief in God is simply replaced by faith in oneself, and by a belief that faith in oneself is the ultimate power, apparently capable of doing anything, or at least, of assuring that all your dreams will come true.
Jesus: “With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
Public School Priesthood: Without God all things are possible…as long as your faith is directed inwardly.
Solomon: “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool.” (Proverbs 28:26)
Public School Priesthood: He who believes in himself is on the right track.
The great 20th Century philosopher, Francis Schaeffer, predicted this sort of thing a generation ago in his classic work, How Shall We Then Live? He foresaw that a society that seeks to replace religion with pure materialism will eventually make unwarranted leaps into what he called, “Non-reason.” He understood that humans are not built for atheism. If you remove the one, true God, the God of the Bible, from His throne, the reality is that a horde of other things will see that and say hungrily, “Ooo, look! An empty throne!”
Even when the public schools are not actively promoting Islam (which many are) and other abominations like witchcraft and Obama-dolatry; even when they are being good little boys and girls and toeing the official secular/humanist/naturalistic-materialist party line, they must (because neutrality is a myth, a chimera) become the official, state-run, tax-supported church. This is bad. It’s bad even if the catechizing of your children amounts to nothing more than feeding them banal inanities like, “Believe in Yourself.”
But what makes it worse is that Christian parents often answer the false faith of the public schools with their own ridiculous slogans. Like, “I can cancel out what my kids are hearing for forty hours a week with an hour of Sunday School and a morning worship service.” Or, “My little Johnny is different. He’ll be salt and light in his class, a missionary to his fellow second-graders.”
There is no neutrality, and the Bible is clear that there really is a conspiracy that exists for the purpose of doing horrible things to you and your kids (e.g. Psalms 2; Ephesians 6.) That’s why it’s called spiritual warfare and not table tennis.
Check out Gordan Runyan’s timely and controversial work, Resistance to Tyrants: Romans 13 and the Christian Duty to Oppose Wicked Rulers.