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Sunday, October 26, 2014

"Character building"... for Christian youth? (4-H, state schools)

From the Missouri Synod journal Lehre und Wehre vol. 75 (1929), pages 150-151:

"Character building" can certainly be referred to as the goal of pedagogy.  But we must not lose sight here of the fact that there are two types of characters, natural and Christian characters.  The natural character building takes place on the basis of natural law knowledge, which can be found even after the Fall in every human heart.  The Apostle describes this in the words of Rom. 2:14: "When the Gentiles, which have not the law [i.e. the written Law the same as the Jews], do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves."  This character building, where it succeeds, has value in the field of civil life.  The Apology of the Augsburg Confession praises it with these words (Article IV (II): Of Justification., paragr. 24, Triglotta pg 127): "In this life and in a worldly nature, nothing is ever better than uprightness and virtue, and Aristotle says aright: Neither the evening star [page 151] nor the morning star is more beautiful than righteousness, and God also honors it with bodily rewards."  But Christian character building takes place only on the basis of faith in the Gospel of the crucified Christ.  The apostle Paul was before and after his conversion a "character".  He was a natural character when he collided with the Gospel, as a persecutor of the Gospel and the Christian church.  When he had become by conversion a Christian character, he describes himself thus: "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me", Gal. 2:20.  Therefore, we do not leave the character building of our children and our youth to the state schools and state educational institutions.Franz Pieper.

Although Pieper here refers specifically to "state schools", yet he could have also referred to other "character building" institutions outside the church.  These have flooded our modern world with youth organizations like
  • Boy Scouts
  • 4-H
  • sports (e.g. Soccer, etc. for "team building" skills)
  • youth social societies, organizations, activities, etc.
I was enrolled in the 4-H program as a youth.  In certain ways, I thought it was beneficial – learning about various tree species, raising rabbits, etc.  But even today, 4-H describes itself thus:
As the youth development program of the Cooperative Extension System of land-grant universities, 4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization, empowering six million young people throughout the United States...
Empowering for what?
THE 4-H PLEDGE (creed)
I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world.

I recall being confused in my youth, in my Christian faith, by the creed and aims of 4-H.  And viewed now in my faith, I recognize why it was confusing – it preaches a civil righteousness, a "character building" outside the Christian faith.  One may admit that it is less secret than the secret societies such as the Masonic Freemasons, yet its means are largely the same (it has a "creed") and just as dangerous for the Christian faith because it is aimed at the youth.  Whether state based education (pedagogy) or "character building" youth organizations, the effect is the same – a detriment to a young Christian faith, a detriment to Christian character.  As the Apology to the Augsburg Confession goes on after giving the righteousness of reason some praise, "yet it ought not to be praised with reproach to Christ".  I confess that my experience with 4-H was a "reproach to Christ" for me.  So also my "state school education" where it attempted to build my character.

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