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Friday, August 17, 2012

Pieper – Foreword 1891 – Pt 3a: Congregational schools

This continues from Part 2, Franz Pieper's foreword to the 1891 Lehre und Wehre journal.  This Part 3 is the February continuation from the initial installment in the January issue – volume 37, pages 33 - 37. In this section, Pieper details the situation with its congregation schools.  Who needs congregational schools?  Christians...
     Finally, we have also been referred to as un-American in this, that we will not be satisfied with public schools, but in addition build and maintain our own schools, namely congregational schools.  We even had to face German political newspapers coming to us during the recently conducted "school fight" in which the "state" almost was prompted to prohibit the construction and maintenance of church schools beside the public state schools on the grounds that church schools are dangerous for the well-being of the state.  These omissions came initially from the radical unbelieving side and have therefore not particularly baffled us.  Hatred of Christianity proved stronger than a certain love for the German language.  But not only the spokesman of the professional unbelievers demanded the suppression of congregational schools.  Also newspapers from the church sects themselves described congregational schools "as contrary to the institutions of the country" and went into the fierce battle against our schools.  This must be most disconcerting for every sober Christian.
     We stand here in America before an anomaly for which we find no example in other countries.  Wherever the Christian Church yet is even only a small power, there it urges with Christian schools.  Wherever there is still a reasonably Christian mind, there one recognizes that the Christian school belongs to the Christian church.  If Christian missions want to gain a foothold in a country and assert themselves in it, they direct their attention from the beginning to the establishment and preservation of Christian schools.  The American missions make no exception to this.  In Africa, Asia and everywhere they work, they maintain with special zeal just also the Christian school.  But here in America it stands differently.  Although the Christian church is a power in this country, yes, although there is scarcely any country on earth (page 34) where the Christian church has such an influence on public life as we see in the United States of North America, yet we see apparent here the astonishing fact that the vast majority of Protestant Christians have no church schools and want to know nothing about Christian schools.  Just the most numerous sects, the Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians with their 100,000 congregations have no Christian schools.  The people who want to be with earnest Christians, trust their uneducated children year after year throughout the week to the non-religious state schools, until only on Sundays is it remembered that Christian children belong in Christian schools.  One is satisfied with "Sunday Schools."  And this is generally not considered an emergency – for where would the state of emergency be in the complete freedom of the church and the rich earthly means that these congregations have mostly come from? – but it is viewed as the right state of affairs.  Among the Protestant sects are only the Episcopalians and the German United Church a partial exception.  Also, not all who want to be Lutherans have Christian schools.  In the General Synod and the General Council, with the exception of the Swedish Augustana Synod, there is usually no congregational schools, although it is recognized that there are more exceptions to the rule in the Council than in the General Synod.
     How could it come to this wretched state?  In general one can say that it has been with the majority of America's Christians as it was with some pagan peoples of ancient and modern times.  If certain gross sins were public among the heathen and were in vogue a long time, finally the natural conscience was stifled and it lost the sense of sin.  So also was the conscience dulled for America's Christians by the long habit concerning the lack of the Christian school.  Through the long bad habit has it reached the point that only very occasionally is the feeling stimulated that the school without religion is an impropriety for the Christian Church.  If we question further as to the causes which underlie this abnormal state, so no doubt several factors here work together.
     At once the Christian sects bear throughout the sap of the Arminian type.  The real essence of Christianity, the Gospel, the doctrine of the justification of a sinner by faith in the Gospel, is withdrawn; in contrast, an outwardly legal essence is pushed into the foreground, "to keep the commandments", as the real essence of Christianity.  The specific difference between nature and grace is blurred.  Christianity is often perceived only as a higher morality, and is developed under a certain care of natural morality.  Thus one can calm down with religionless public schools, so long as they imprint the morals of "to do right".  (page 35)  If a chapter from the Bible is read still now even in public schools at the beginning of the lessons, one easily says to himself that public schools are nevertheless one more kind of Christian school.  However the principal reason, why one is content with public schools and looks basically at every congregational school as an "attack on our American institutions", is still another.  The average Americans, not just the "native" but also often the "foreigner", sees the establishment of "public schools" with the rich resources thrown out by the State for the non plus ultra [no further beyond] political-social wisdom.  Even though individual sober men, also from anglo-American circles, have always warned about the overestimation of public schools, nevertheless public schools have become a sort of national idol in the country in the course of time.  From this current has even the great majority of American Christians been taken captive, and with them the duty to establish and maintain religious schools been taken completely out of sight.
     We Lutheran Christians do not want to be carried away by this current through God's grace, but remain mindful of our Christian duty.  We are not enemies and opponents of non-religious state schools. We leave them in all honor in their field.  The non-religious state schools are schools for the non-religious people.  However, there are also enough people without religion in America.  Although it is incumbent not first upon the state, but the parent's duty to provide for the education of their children.  As it first comes to the parents by natural law to nourish and dress their children, so it is obvious also that first have the parents to teach their children according to natural law.  Meanwhile the state may, when experience teaches that many parents would not or could not otherwise follow their duty, come to the assistance of parents by the fact that it establishes, maintains and makes available schools for them at its cost.  The State may tax its citizens for this purpose and few Christians will refuse among its citizens to pay these taxes.  The state has an interest in ensuring that its future citizens are equipped with a certain amount of knowledge.  So we recognize the relative necessity of state schools and we leave these schools their value in their field.
(continued in Part 3b)
     Not only did today's LC-MS give up the German language, but it has also largely given up on congregational schools.  Where I grew up, we only had confirmation classes on Saturday mornings – there was no congregational school.  We also attended "Sunday school" for maybe one hour on Sunday mornings. Today, the few remaining Lutheran congregational schools offer more in the way of sports programs, movies, Boy Scouts, fund raising auctions, etc.  But do they teach the true Gospel as Pieper and Walther taught it?
     It is notable how Pieper speaks of public schools – that Christians should pay taxes that support public schools while they have the duty (and expense) to setup congregational schools.  In recent years, Indiana has passed a law for "school vouchers" where Christians can save paying this tax and can use state money to send their children to non-public schools such as religious schools.  But even this is not sufficient reason for Christians to establish congregational schools for they already have this duty whether or not they pay taxes for public schools.
     How is it that today there is a resurgence of "home schooling" but congregations cannot offer "congregational schools"?  Why is it that whenever I hear of people "home-schooling" their children, that I assume they are of Reformed (conservative Baptists or "old-orders" such as Amish or German Baptists) and not Lutheran?  It is because long ago, the LC-MS gave up its birthright on doctrine.  And so it does not matter so much that its children go to public schools where they are filled with un-Christian teachings.  Even the unbelievers extol the education of their children, but not you, today's (English) LC-MS.

Yes, today's LC-MS, it is your children that you have given up!

In Part 3b, Pieper speaks on separation of Church and State, and the duty of parents for their children's Christian education.

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