Thursday, May 31, 2012

Schools & Rules: What about rebellion?

So, it took me longer to get back to the Schools And Rules series than I'd anticipated, but teaching has a way of eating your life when you aren't looking. :)

Plus I needed to let that pot simmer on the back of the mental stove for a few weeks (months?) to collect my thinking more clearly on the issue of rebellion.

First, a recap:
Schools and Rules -- Intro -- a case in Vermont of a Christian school kid who was suspended partly for questioning his school's dress code rules and other policies got me thinking about how Grace-in-Education might force some differences in the way we educators think about school rules

Authority -- Here, we discussed the idea that obedience to a human authority should not be equated with obedience to God's Law. If we teach kids that their consciences are bound by human legislation as if God Himself were speaking, we're inviting serious trouble once those kids learn to think for themselves about God's ethics and ours.

Channeling the Challenge -- Disagreement isn't just "part of life"; it's healthy. When we refuse to discuss what students want to know -- even if they're being jerks about it -- we telegraph several really negative messages, including "adults don't have answers, they just talk" or "faith is too fragile for tough questions."
If you're new here, I recommend reading those posts above or we run the risk of misunderstanding each other. And in the words of the inestimable Dr Michael P V Barrett, "I hate to be misunderstood."
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Any discussion of rule-keeping must raise the question, What about legitimate rebellion? Isn't that a sin? Or how about disobedience?

It's a hallmark theme in Scripture that we need to obey God's law (go search biblegateway.org for uses of the word "obedience" or "obey" .... go ahead, I'll wait .... huge list! Especially in Deuteronomy and then the historical books of the OT). And lest you think this is just an Old Testament thing (you don't really disparage the OT, do you? please don't do that), the NT has its big share of commands and exhortations to obey.

Disobedience (Scripturally) carries heavy penalties. For the nation Israel when they were in the Land, disobedience cost them everything. Failure to heed divine Law leads us into despair, ruin, and deep sin. Thankfully the Gospel is bigger than our abject failure -- more on that in a minute. But you can soak on verses like Nehemiah 9:17 for a while.

Rebellion is an even deeper sin, scripturally speaking. The province of men like King Saul or Pharaoh or Israel in the wilderness, rebellion is marked by stubbornness, an unwillingness to change, challenging God's authority with a stiff neck and upraised arm. It's a straight shot of disobedience with an arrogance chaser. (The biblical data for both of these words is abundant and easy to find -- run a biblegateway.org search on the terms and read up).

I want to draw a couple distinctions, limiting our discussion to the realm of school (parenting advice is above my pay grade), and suggest some Gracious ways for responding to disobedience and rebellion in the classroom.