Guest article: Mark Kennedy, ACSI Canada
Soviet dissident and author Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote this about a
fellow prisoner in the Soviet gulag during the Russian Communist era:
“Before the war Anatoly Vasilyevich had graduated from a teachers’
college, where he had specialized in literature. Like me, he now had about
three years left before his “release” to a place of banishment. His only
training was as a teacher of literature in schools. It seemed rather
improbable that ex-prisoners like us would be allowed into schools.
But if we were—what then?
“I won’t put lies into children’s heads! I shall tell the children the truth
about God and the life of the Spirit.”
“But they’ll take you away after the first lesson.”
Vasilyevich lowered his head and answered quietly: “Let them.”
I couldn’t help wondering ‘what if every evangelical Christian teacher in secular schools in Ontario and the Maritimes decided to follow Vasilyevich’s example? What if they committed to tell their students the greatest and most important good news all on the same day, irrespective of consequences?’ Unlike Vasilyevich, they wouldn’t be put in jail, not in our pseudo-tolerant culture. But I doubt if their unions would defend them from being fired or put on probation and severely reprimanded. Of course it’s easy for us to raise that scenario from the relative safety of Christian schooling. Our jobs are not at risk when we share all of God’s truth with our students. We aren’t hazarding the loss of generous salaries and comfortable lifestyles by expressing our faith at school. Christian teachers in secular schools would need extraordinary courage and faith to follow Vasilyevich’s example. In the real world, courage isn’t all that common.
And what about us in Christian schooling? What would we do if our jobs and even our schools’ existence depended upon us teaching values that we know are false – like say, affirming the homosexual lifestyle? Most of us know that’s not out of the question in Ontario at least in the not-so-distant future. Although at present we have constitutional protection to teach our values, how would we react to the leverage of, for example, new elementary and high school provincial accreditation standards and even the possibility of provincial government funding? ‘Your school will be accredited/certified/funded only if you teach ……….,…’
“We would never abandon our convictions for those things!” I can imagine us saying. But talk is cheap. That statement is uncomfortably like Peter’s promise to Jesus prior to the rooster’s convicting crow.
The voice of uneasy compromise tells us, “Well at least we would still be able to present the gospel message, so our students can be saved.” But what does that do to our Christian integrity? And that would just be the beginning of the compromise, with many more to come down the road. Accepting compromises is a bit like eating potato chips. It’s hard to stop at just one.
Courageous actions are a lot more difficult than courageous words, especially if the consequences of those actions might threaten our personal security. In the past few months I’ve been praying for the Lord to give us in Christian schooling, and me specifically, real courage in the face of opposition from an increasingly antagonistic media and culture- Anatoly Vasilyevich’s kind of courage.