Anyone who listens to radio or watches television (I don’t have it) must, I think, inevitably have heard the above words of a frequently repeated commercial of a certain automobile manufacturer. Supposedly, the psychology behind this commercial ditty is such that it purposes to have the public join “the beat” and be moved to purchase that certain brand of automobile. Thus, at least, I interpret it. And it must be admitted, willy-nilly, that this commercial ditty has a catching “beat”—much as I despise commercials in general and the songstress and the kind of music (?) of this commercial in particular.
It is not my purpose, however, to write about radio or TV commercials.
The simple fact is that I was reminded of the above words by the flood of propaganda in behalf of the proposed Michigan legislation to provide financial support for “non-public schools.” Three times in less than a week such propaganda has entered my home: once by way of a full-page advertisement in the Grand Rapids Press, and twice by way of a letter and a flyer from the local Christian High School. Obviously they have begun to beat the drums to gain support for this project and to exert pressure on elected state officials to get the proposed legislation passed. And when the third piece of propaganda came to my attention, I rather spontaneously thought to myself, “And the beat goes on…”
I am angry about this.
And I warn Reformed Christians, who are motivated by principle, not to be fooled by this flood of propaganda and not to be moved to support this project, but to dissent.
I dissent BECAUSE the entire project is motivated by and appeals to covetousness, the love of money, the root of all evil. The various appeals to supporters of Christian schools are geared to covetousness. Money, money, money is the theme. One cannot escape this impression in even a casual reading of the propaganda. One piece starts out with the title, “HAVING TROUBLE WITH HIGH TUITION?” The opening statement is: “More, financial support for non-public schools is the most important current need, if the present American educational system is to continue.” It closes with the statement: “Unless supporters of Christian schools exert united effort, any programs which provide fair distribution of public funds are almost impossible to achieve.” Another, letter contains this statement, in an appeal to write state officials which is entirely geared to getting money: “Currently a revenue crisis faces many of the non-public schools in Michigan. The cost of education continues to mount, and even heavier financial burdens will be placed upon our parents. . .” The public appeal in the Grand Rapids Press is aimed at the same covetousness of the general tax-paying public. True, it talks about alleged tax savings to the public which accrue through the existence of “nonpublic” schools; and it points at the alleged $205 million annual cost and the $700 million building-cost which the taxpayer would have to meet if the “nonpublic” schools would close. It holds before the public the tempting plum of paying off the non-public schools to keep them open rather than paying the entire cost if they had to be absorbed into the public school system. All this I characterize as nothing but covetousness,—the more so because it involves the sacrifice of the very principle of Christian education.
I dissent BECAUSE this entire project is sponsored by an unholy alliance, a coalition, of what are euphemistically called “non-public” schools. Earlier I reported, on the basis of a news dispatch, that the proposed legislation has the backing of CEF (Citizens—not Christians, as I recently heard it called in a radio broadcast—for Educational Freedom). Perhaps this is true; and perhaps there is a connection between the two organizations. But the current propaganda is coming from an organization which calls itself “Michigan Association Non-Public Schools,” An Association of Michigan Catholic, Missouri Lutheran, Jewish Day and National Union of Christian Schools.” I know not what the constitution of this organization may or may not contain; nor need I know. The very name is a dead give-away. It betrays ecumenicity in the sphere of education. It is an association on the basis of a lowest common denominator, and that too, a negative one: the fact that all these schools are non-public. I ask: can Christian, parentalschools make common cause with parochialschools, except at the sacrifice of a sacred principle, that it is the parents’ calling to educate their children, not the church’s or the state’s? I ask: can Christian schools and Christian parents, who are supposedly devoted to Reformed principles, make common cause, even for money, with those devoted to Roman Catholic and Lutheran and even Jewish principles? I ask: can Christian schools and Christian parents, who are supposed to be devoted to Reformed educational principles, allow themselves to make propaganda for and to be propagandized by a Jesuit priest, a Rev. Virgil Blum, S.J., as is proposed in one of these pieces of propaganda? I ask: can Christian schools and Christian parents, who are supposed to be devoted to Reformed principles of education, be “interested in quality education in the non-public schools” in general, or can they recognize that there is any other truly quality education than a Reformededucation? I warn: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers!”
I dissent BECAUSE in this propaganda there is the tacit assumption that “non-public” schools,including Christian schools, could and would close if state aid is not forth-coming. This betrays a lack of dedication to the cause of Christian education and a lack of willingness to sacrifice, if need be, out of dedication to this cause. It is a shame before the world that Christian schools even can suggest that they consider this a possibility. Has it indeed come to this? Would not genuine devotion, arising out of deep-seated principle, speak altogether different language? Would it not bespeak a willingness to sacrifice, to give up our late model cars, our new homes, our expensive vacations, our latest appliances, our television sets, our hi-fi’s, and all the other symbols of our affluent society before we would ever begin to think of denying our covenant children a covenant education?. Would not devotion to Christian education testify that though we may believe that there is injustice in our being taxed to pay for the world’s schools, nevertheless the closing of our own covenantal schools for economic reasons is for us not a possibility to be considered?
I dissent, above all, BECAUSE in this propaganda which seeks to drum up support from Christian parents there is no mention of the fact that acceptance of such aid, should it be legislated, will indeed involve the denial of the very principle of Reformed Christian education. The aid sought in the proposed legislation is aid based on “reimbursable courses,” that is, courses in which religion is not taught, that is, courses which are not permeated by the principles of the Word of Cod. Either Christian parents must lie in accepting aid for such courses; or they must allow that courses are taught in their schools which have nothing to do with their Reformed Christian view of all of life. Neither is permissible. If the former is done, that is, if we do teach “religion” in these supposed reimbursable courses (such as English and science and mathematics) and say that we do not teach it, this is unethical. But if Christian schools have arrived at the point that their religious outlook does not affect the courses that are taught, they could better close their doors and send their children to the public school. Let us not sacrifice the basic principle of Reformed Christian education for a mess of pottage, a pile of filthy lucre.
I dissent, finally, BECAUSE in all this proposed political action there is not the hint of a Christian testimony. Political action is not wrong per se; but our political action must be Christian political action. Of this there is not so much as a hint in the literature I have read. What is proposed is a well-engineered, high pressure, political lobby,—not worthy of the name Christian.
And I urge you to dissent.