A public school in Kansas recently removed a painting of Jesus from a hallway because of a complaint from a group advocating separation of church and state. Such an deed is emblematic of a very serious cultural problem in America.
No, the problem is not that Jesus has been removed from our schools. Jesus is neither in nor controlled by a painting. Jesus is in that public school in Kansas just as much as he was last week.
The problem is that in our culture’s turn against Christianity (and, to a degree, other religions as well), we are badly distorting history. Historically speaking Jesus Christ has had a greater impact on Western civilization than any other figure in history. While some may quibble and nominate some other individual, they can name other influential people but none actually more influential than Jesus Christ.
What about Benjamin Franklin? George Washington? Thomas Jefferson? Abraham Lincoln? These are each a wonderful part of our history and their pictures belong in our schools as well. But I live in a small town in the Midwest, a town whose center has seven or eight churches where Jesus Christ is honored and not one single building devoted to Franklin or Washington or Jefferson or Lincoln. Don’t tell me those men have shaped America more than Jesus Christ.
Having bought the utterly unrealistic Enlightenment idea that religion is a strictly private matter, our culture is becoming increasingly insensitive to the reality that faith has played a major role in the West since our most primitive beginnings.
We may our may not have “outgrown” our need for religion, though the current evidence in our chaotic culture does not suggest we have improved on it. More importantly at the moment is the fact that it is only by distorting history and actually teaching lies about it that we can pretend that Jesus is “merely” a religious figure. He is of extreme historical importance by any possible objective assessment.
Honest education cannot ignore that fact but God-haters are not particularly interested in getting their facts straight. They try to hide behind the First Amendment, which says only that our government cannot establish a state church or hinder the freedom of religion in the United States. It takes a very twisted path of imaginative logic to move from that pair of guarantees to the removal of a painting of Jesus from the hallway of a school.