Broken Cables, Unsecured Doors, and Surprising Safety Troubles at School

Broken Cables, Unsecured Doors,
and Surprising Safety Troubles at School


Media sources carried the terrifying story earlier this week of an attempt to rescue two adults and six children who were stranded hundreds of feet above ground on a disabled cable car in northwest Pakistan. No effort or expense was spared to bring those adults and children home safely. Now, consider the annual return of your children and grandchildren to school and the extraordinary efforts to ensure their overall well-being throughout the academic year. While both of these human interest stories are heart-gripping, you may wonder how these two types of events may correlate.
We may immediately recognize the correlation between a malfunctioning cable on a transport high above the ground and a door that failed to lock upon closing it at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas! Calamity often strikes through common malfunctions.

However, a deeper correlation exists at the level of caring for the weak and innocent who are unable to secure their own well-being. Human life, especially the lives of children, is inherently valuable and worth preserving. People naturally experience a visceral response any time they sense children are endangered, so they will exert great efforts to protect and preserve young lives.
Legislators, educators, churches, and parents, in the aftermath of mass school shootings, have rightfully turned a spotlight on school safety as this new school year begins.

This annual return to places of learning also invites us to consider ways Christians may be prepared to ensure the moral safety of our little ones. Several ethical challenges inside our schools have become perennial concerns for many believers and offer us a launch point for careful examination.
Contributors to danger inside our schools
First, school violence is a danger in our schools. The State of Texas, where I reside, has passed legislation that requires all public schools to have armed officers on campus and to train more staff to pinpoint students who may need mental health support. The aim is to help schools to avoid a repeat of the school shooting tragedy that occurred last year in Uvalde, Texas. State lawmakers want schools to have “robust safety plans” in place to respond to active shooters on campuses.
Research, however, pinpoints a surprising revelation that the origin of what becomes school violence often originates inside our own homes. Violence, sexual assault, parental suicides, and/or extreme bullying lay a foundation for school shooters. Add hopelessness, despair, isolation, self-loathing, and many times, rejection by one’s peers, and the stage has been set for turning violence outward toward an innocent group. (See Center E-News, “God Preserve Our Children by Saving Our Homes,” June 2022.) Our homes need greater attention!
Secondly, a lack of religious balance in public schools poses a problem. Even though the issue of religion in public schools does not grab as many headlines, the place of such belief in schools continues to be a battleground. Some Americans remain troubled by what they view as an effort on the part of federal courts and civil libertarians to exclude God and religious sentiment from schools. Even so, we should consider other causes for a presupposed famine of faith in our public schools.
While school-sponsored prayer was ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in Engel v. Vitale (1961), the right of students, teachers, and other school employees to practice their religion—for example, by praying before lunch or wearing religious symbols—remains a protected freedom. The fact is, less than 10% of students have ever seen a teacher lead a class in prayer or read to the class from a Bible (Pew Research, “Religion in the Public Schools,” October 3, 2019).
Indeed, opposition to a Christian worldview exists on the part of some students, teachers, and administrators in schools, but the moral concern should also include a lack of a sustained, viable witness at school in the lifestyle and words of believers, administrators, teachers, and students alike. Growth toward becoming a winsome Christian witness needs to be part and parcel with the overall moral and physical development of our children in the home. One also wonders whether regular Bible reading and prayer takes place inside our homes?
Thirdly, there are concerns that a pervasive secularized culture exists inside public schools. I understand several moral issues have surfaced in the last several years that are cloaked in warnings against the secularization of schools. Offensive material in some school libraries, a lack of discipline inside the classroom, and the presentation and discussion of controversial topics such as sexual activity and nudity, racial and religious themes, and various “excessively bleak scenarios” like suicide, have led to elevated Christian parental concern about secular influences impacting the lives of our children.
Anecdotally, my own school district in the city where I live made the nightly news this week as I edited a final draft of this newsletter article. A school board trustee recently took it upon herself to enter the local high school library, perhaps without proper authorization, in search of books that present controversial content. She claims to be guarding children against the “evil” that threatens their hearts. Similar cries of secular humanist influence in public schools have surfaced regularly across our nation.
One wonders where Christians need to begin in order to establish protections against violence, religious imbalances, and secularization. Perhaps we need to combine efforts to “take out” morally questionable teaching and sources by “putting in” moral principles at home! I will explain this surprising claim, as focus also needs to be placed on our Christian homes.

Thankfully, the Bible contains various social situations where children faced similar risks, and I believe that God’s word offers us solid principles to apply in our contemporary culture! Ancient Israel is one example! You may wonder how this may be so, since the Bible was authored centuries ago.

Much like our contemporary world, "Israel did not live in vacuum-sealed isolation from the rest of humanity. On the contrary, they were an ancient people in a world of nations. They lived at the geographical crossroads of the already ancient civilizations of the Nile and of Mesopotamia, whose tides of influence ebbed and flowed across them throughout their history" (italics mine; Christopher J. H. Wright, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God, Kindle Edition). In addressing contemporary social concerns like trouble at schools, one may find great relevance in the Scriptures.
A biblical case study in endangering children
The Book of Judges continues the covenant pilgrimage of Israel’s life in the Promised Land, but from a dark perspective. Recall that the Book of Joshua chronicles Israel’s faithfulness and success, but the Book of Judges portrays the nation’s covenant apostasy (core commitment to Yahweh) and the consequences of their rebellion (cf. Deuteronomy 28:15-68).

The Israelites were often spiritually lethargic, which contributed to being easily oppressed by neighboring nations (cf. Judges 6). Marauders had robbed them of their security in the land of promise, and they fled to cower in mountain dens and caves. It was bad enough to be harassed and enslaved, but it must have been extraordinarily defeating to recognize that they were still slaves in heart! Israelite families (including children) suffered horribly because of the circumstances in which they had placed themselves (Judges 6:1-6).
Judges exposes the ugly side of personal and national sin among God’s people, something that we very often fail to consider when seeking to root out evils that threaten us. The book shows us time and time again that the fault lay with Israel (see idolatry: Judges 2:2-3, 10-14, 20-21). The same cycle of defeat continued to be repeated.

Israel lacked both the physical strength and the spiritual resolve to rise out of its circumstances. Nevertheless, God reminded His people in their utter weakness that He was their strength and Deliverer. I believe it is important to consider the responsibility we may ourselves bear for the current social ills we face as a nation, some of which are surfacing inside our schools. There is hope, and we may choose to live brighter days!
First steps toward guarding the innocent:
recognize our own moral failure
Long before counselors conceived of cycles of addiction, the Old Testament author of Judges recognized a framework for moral failure: idolatry, God’s anger provoked, defeat and enslavement, cry out for help, and deliverance by God’s appointed judge (see Judges 2:11ff.; 3:7, 12; 4:1; and 6:1). Here are several steps we may implement in our own homes to restore our families and guard our children.
Eliminate idolatry. Gideon’s first significant action was taken at home among his own family (Judges 6:25). Faithlessness ran deep within his household because his father, the head of the clan, espoused the Baal cult. His influence had spread throughout the community.

The standard had been set by Moses—no altars to Baal and no Asherahs (Exodus 34:12-13; Deuteronomy 7:5; Judges 2:2). Asherah was the wife of El and Baal in Ugaritic literature. An “Asherah” was a symbol of the goddess, a sacred tree or a carved pole set up beside an altar to Baal (EBC). The standard had long since been broken by Gideon’s day, and the practice of this false religion was morally destructive to the home and the nation (see Exodus 20:3-6).
God’s anger provoked. Israel had broken its covenant with the Lord, so God "gave them" into the hand of Midian as His discipline. This seems like a bang-bang statement. They sinned and God immediately punished them, but the reality was that Israel had lapsed into idolatry for quite some time (cf. Exodus 34:6; God is “slow to anger”).

The nation had a thin veneer of Yahwistic worship—the worship of the one true God—but they were thoroughly paganized in their everyday lives (cf. Judges 6:13).
Repent and return to God. We would say that they were “pretty far gone.” Note well that pagan gods would be tolerant of the worship of another deity, but this is never the case with the Lord God. God will not share His rightful role with any other god (cf. Exodus 20:1-5; Deuteronomy 6:10-15).
Summary and application
Rather than first pouring out our anger on the situation in our schools, we should begin by responding to the affront to our holy God, caused by our own moral behavior. We may even say that the god named “Tolerance” is the Baal of our day.

The moment that Christians make a unique claim to worship the one true God, then a howl of protest erupts. Even so, we first must begin to demonstrate Gideon-like faith. Follow his example and begin revival in your home and then spread it to the public square! Christians should become agents of the change they wish to see in culture.
Becoming change agents:
Truly emphasize Christians going back to school!
I shared above the account of questionable library materials in our local school district. The topic is not a new one! The concern of what to do with questionable resources in public schools surfaced in my family more than two years ago. We discussed a Christian response to the issue at that time.

I know it is a play on words, but I encouraged my family to take faith back to school and express it in winsome ways. Our biblical example above teaches us that Israel’s culture changed when God used Gideon to bring change to the culture in his home and ultimately the nation.
Framing a Christian way forward
Exercising our Christian voice in the public square, which includes our schools, requires framing a careful and thoughtful response. Removing offensive books from library shelves seems to me to be the ultimate step in the process, but important first steps must be completed or culture will not clearly see the link to our life-changing worldview.

Christians first should be asking questions like, “Is this type of offensive content regularly on view in my own home via media and print sources?” Then, whether I am at home or school, “Is this type of video material or literature 'good' and 'right' for children?"
Furthermore, are the rights of innocent children being violated and compromised? We often overlook the fact that our little ones need adults to protect them from all sorts of evil in our world, including hurtful material.

Children are cognitively, emotionally, physically, and spiritually under-developed at their young age and under-equipped to recognize and respond to the harm such material presents to their lives. Christians act rightly when they advocate for the rights of innocent children and take personal actions to reinforce those rights.
Secondly, the proper use of freedom must be carefully considered. One the one hand, an argument based upon academic freedom is often raised in the debate over questionable educational content. I understand this line of reasoning, but a deeper moral concern should be to consider whether the use of such freedom is hurtful to innocent children.

On the other hand, it is well known that my freedom ends where your own autonomy begins. If we are to live well together in society, then we must show respect for and protect the freedoms of others, especially the weak and defenseless.
Thirdly, a question of justice must also be considered. How “just” or “fair” is it to expose (no pun intended) children to such material when many are underserved and have little parental guidance at home. Many children have been given no moral barometer to decide the rightness or wrongness of this material. They require an equitable context in which to learn and grow. Christians should invest great energies in helping children with their moral development at home and at school.
Fourthly, how does such material enhance the value and dignity of innocent human lives? Many of the library sources in question—some of which I have actually seen excerpts— contain offensive content that illustrates children in sexually exploitative and abusive situations.

There are many school-age children who are living privately with the horror of child physical and sexual abuse in their homes! Schools do well to enhance the dignity of each child and provide them a means of escape from the horrors of physical and sexual abuse, wherever it may be, and not unintentionally contribute to the abuse. This protection means that they also need to guard against literature and instruction that will validate the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of little ones.
Finally, I mean no disrespect to our educators, most of whom are wonderfully gifted, but I wonder who is well-qualified to teach this sort of morally-based literary genre to innocent children? Of course, whether they are Christians or not, I imagine that many teachers would feel quite uncomfortable filling such a role.

The school safety situation also begs two key questions: From what moral perspective (i.e., worldview) would the questionable material be taught? And, how well will a Christian perspective and presentation be represented in a pluralistic public school context?

Safety challenges are indeed complex and go well beyond locked doors and armed security. I invite you to join with me and pray for school districts that must wrestle with this critical moral concern and similar questions regarding the overall curriculum.


The road to personal, family, and national recovery from that which ails us begins in our hearts and homes. Gideon begins to overcome Midian when he first is overwhelmed by worship of the Lord! He purifies his own house, and then the Lord expands his reach to deliver the entire nation. This Old Testament judge sets a good example for us to follow as we strive to guard the innocence of our children. Let’s get back to the Lord even while we are sending our children back to school.

Prayerfully yours,
Larry C. Ashlock