Christians are meant to “have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
But we wouldn’t know this from the recent behavior of some prominent Christians in the Santa Clarita Valley.
At the end of October, Christian leaders from across the valley engaged in some sorry fearmongering. In particular, they have been kicking up dust about public education.
Right here in The Signal, columnist David Hegg suggested that public school district enrollment across the SCV has declined because of the “woke” ideology that the schools force on our children (see Hegg, “Staying on Mission,” Oct. 29). He makes it seem like being “woke” has pushed aside teaching the basics, like math, English, history and science. Hegg fears that our kids have become “pawns” in the social movements of progressive puppet masters.
On the same day that Hegg shared his fears in print, Joe Messina, a William S. Hart Union High School District board member, attended Freedom’s Way Baptist Church in Castaic to spread his fears. He talked about a proposed board action that would give district employees the ability to police the behavior of transgender and other LGBTQ kids. Like Hegg, Messina fears that the creeping “woke” agenda has infected SCV schools. His solution: Telling parents to “either fight, or pull your kids out” (See the Oct. 29 post on the Freedom’s Way Baptist Church Facebook page, minute 34:49). That’s right, a Hart board member disagrees with equality for all kids so much that he thinks honest, everyday Americans should give up on public education.
Are these examples of the kind of cultural leadership that Christians should provide? No.
Christians are meant to be realists, not fearmongers. The reality of our public-school enrollment declines in the SCV have to do with complicated demographic trends, not with “wokeness.” Concerned citizens in in our communality should address these real challenges, should work to make our neighborhoods more livable. Christians should work to make our neighborhoods more livable. A volunteer who reads to kindergarteners or who hands out food at a pantry does the work of Jesus. A teacher who goes into the classroom every day and just loves her students while working through the curriculum, she does the work of Jesus. A counselor who listens to a kid who’s trying to figure out their identity, he does the work of Jesus.
The SCV deserves Christian leaders who spread a word of hope. Leaders who trust that teachers and school administrators are not part of some “woke” conspiracy but instead are hard-working public servants who care for their students. Christians who want to be public figures in the SCV need to embrace two opportunities in this moment.
First, support LGBTQ folks in the public square. Just do it. Reread St. John’s words: “Let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). Love means affirmation and the acceptance of beliefs that may be different than one’s own.
Second, be hopeful! How much longer will a secular society want to hear the voices of Christian leaders who are negative and divisive? Cynicism doesn’t sell. But more importantly, it’s not what Christians have been about for the last 2,000 years. The church has thrived when it provides hope and does works of mercy and charity. St. Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4-8).
He didn’t say, “Be culture warriors …” or “be pessimistic …” or “sow fear.” He said, “rejoice.”
Let’s stop making Christianity about cynicism. It doesn’t mesh with the message of Jesus, and it doesn’t help everyday people get through the challenges of our contemporary world.
Pastor, The Church of Hope