The Myth of Spiritual Neutrality
Updated: Mar 15, 2019
In my last post, “A Stripling Warrior Education,” I introduced the concept of spiritual neutrality in education. In this post, I’m going to explore whether such a thing as spiritual neutrality is even possible, not just in a school setting, but in general. Of course, we’ll take a closer look at the implications on education too because, well, education is kind of what we are about.
Spiritual Neutrality - Is It a Thing?
In a fantastic bit of acting, Hayden Christensen in his role as the up-and-coming Darth Vader declares to Obi-Wan Kenobi just before their fateful showdown at the end of Star Wars Episode III, “If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy.” Anakin had killed young Jedi students, joined with a Sith lord to overthrow the Republic with its democratic underpinnings, and murdered allies in cold blood, but despite all that, Obi-Wan came with a glimmer of hope remaining that he might be able to reclaim his apprentice from the destructive path he had chosen. Anakin’s declaration, though, was the last straw, the final piece of evidence that convinced Obi-Wan that Anakin was beyond redemption. Resigning himself to the fact that he must try to destroy Anakin, Obi-Wan, reaching for his lightsaber, replies, “Only a Sith lord deals in absolutes. I will do what I must.”
Is Obi-Wan right? Is what Anakin said truly evidence of complete derangement and of a heart that has succumbed entirely to the forces of evil? Fortunately for us, we do not have to rely on George Lucas and his team of writers for eternal truth. Here is what Christ himself had to say about neutrality and absolutes.
“He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matthew 12:30).
“For he that is not against us is on our part” (Mark 9:40).
“And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us” (Luke 9:50).
In the Book of Mormon, Jacob teaches, “Wherefore he that fighteth against Zion, both Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female shall perish;... for they who are not for me are against me, saith our God” (2 Nephi 10:16). God and Christ, it turns out, believe in absolutes. There is a right and a wrong independent of human perception and popular opinion, and we are either living our lives and making decisions in accordance with that truth, or we are not. Either we are on God’s side, or we are not. Either we are working with Him to build His kingdom, or we are working against Him. In God’s war room, you won’t find Switzerland on any map.
How Do We Discern?
As we go through life, we have to make decisions for ourselves and our families, decisions that have eternal consequences. Now that we have established that there is no such thing as spiritual neutrality, how do we discern whether something is on God’s side? Moroni counsels caution in judgement lest we “judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil” (Moroni 7:14). Disguising wolves in sheep clothing and vice versa is one of Satan’s most effective tools. The Star Wars claim that absolutes are evil is just one of many examples of how truth can be distorted to appear evil and wrong.
Fortunately, Moroni also gives us the recipe for judging whether something comes from God or whether it comes from the devil. “The way to judge is plain… as the daylight is from the dark night… Everything which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ… But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil” (Moroni 7:15-17). This is the formula we can and should apply to every decision we make, from what we choose for entertainment, to what books we read, to how we choose to educate ourselves and our children.
Applying Moroni’s Standard
If you were to take a sheet of paper and make two columns, one with the title of “Persuades to Believe in Christ” and the other titled “Other,” where would you put those places where you and your children spend your time? Where would you put the school your children attend? Looking at it another way, if your children’s educational experience could be made into a movie, what would it be rated? If they wanted to go with friends to see a movie with that rating, would you allow them to go? Should education be held to a higher or lower standard than how we fill our leisure hours and what we choose to bring into our lives for entertainment? Would you rely on such a movie as a major source of truth for them and as a platform for observing and learning righteous behaviors? What impact would prolonged and repeated exposure to such entertainment have on their tender spirits and developing brains?
I sincerely hope you were able to answer each of these questions affirmatively. If so, keep doing what you are doing! If not, there is hope. Alternative educational models are plentiful as people of faith seek ways to educate their children in an environment that promotes their faith and values. Homeschooling is gaining in popularity and losing its stigma. Faith-based private schools are found throughout the country, and, although you may not have one in your area that matches your faith exactly, there is likely one that matches your faith better than your local public school. Will it require more work and sacrifice? Probably, but as one who has seen the results of such a sacrifice, I can promise you that it is worth it.
In my next blog post, I’m going to explore exactly why a science-based, non-religious education is not neutral by any definition and how expelling God from schools has resulted in simply exchanging one religion for another, Secular Humanism.