I recently saw the movie, “The Darkest Hour,” about the powerful, inspirational leadership displayed by Sir Winston Churchill during Britain’s most critical days of World War Two. As the evil forces of Nazism threatened to overtake that island nation, he took a lonely yet determined stand against Hitler, rallying his people with such memorable words as, “We shall go on to the end. We . . . shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” He uttered those words at a time when those he should have been able to count on to support him either were unable to or, for self-serving interests, refused to.
Across this country, Christian schools like Westlake are finding themselves in similar circumstances, defending and upholding a God-centered way of life, yet set upon by a godless materialism which is bent on eliminating all thoughts of God. We are in a battle for the hearts of our children. We all have heard the various statistics about the mass exodus of youth from evangelical churches, but consider the following findings:
The majority of teenagers are incredibly inarticulate about their faith, religious beliefs and practices, and its place in their lives. The de facto dominant religion among contemporary U.S. teenagers is what is called “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” (Smith & Denton, 2005).
“If teenagers lack an articulate faith, it may be because the faith we show them is too spineless to merit much in the way of conversation” (Dean, 2010).
More teens are embracing a nebulous belief in God (Lewis, 2007).
Researchers asked self-professing Christians to respond to a series of statements related to classic, historic Christian doctrine. In every answer offered related to these theological beliefs, young people between the ages of 18 and 34 consistently held heretical views at a higher percentage than older respondents. Young people who identify themselves as Christians, are far more likely to hold views that aren’t Christian (Ligonier, 2015).
The causes of this sad state are myriad, but I will venture to identify some. First, there is the godless, materialistic institution of public schooling in western culture (not just the U.S.) which consistently presents life as normally lived with no reference to the Creator. 15,000 hours of such education will predictably leave students with the suspicion (if not conviction) that God does not matter. This is powerfully exacerbated by a media culture madly fanning the flames of immorality and crass materialism. And we must admit that media is becoming an almost overwhelming influence in our children’s lives.
That’s the enemy. How about the allies who might join in the battle against the foes? Typical evangelical churches, at best, attempt to give youth some ammunition against their atheistic education, but only in paltry portions (an hour or so a week). But face it, far too many church youth ministries are simply four-year holding patterns with pizza and entertainment. Add to this pastors who never, ever raise the issue of the insidious nature of public school education with the parents in their churches, much less offer any support for those who are actually in the trenches fighting the enemy day in and day out. Finally, most evangelical parents, left helpless and ignorant of these issues, placidly accept atheistic public education as the default for their children and never confront the core issue of dualism daily informing them, largely because they themselves have bought into it.
Yes, there is a battle, and Westlake is totally engaged. The darker the night around us and the sparser the earthly support, the more this school is needed. It is obvious that God is not through with us, and until He is, to quote Churchill, our cry is, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense” (Churchill, 1941). For the sake of our students, your children, and all the children in our area yet to come to Westlake, I urge you, stand with us, support us, pray with us, speak well of us, encourage us. Ours is a worthy cause.
Churchill By Himself: Winston Churchill In His Own Words Collection (2008). Compiled and edited by Richard M. Langworth, Entry: Never give in, (Quotation from speech at Harrow School on October 29, 1941). RosettaBooks.
Dean, Kenda Creasy (2010). Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church. Oxford University Press.
Lewis, Barbara A. (2007). The Teen Guide to Global Action: How to Connect with Others (Near & Far) to Create Social Change. Free Spirit Publishing.
Ligonier Ministries (2015). The State of Theology. Lifeway Research.
Smith, Christian, and Denton, Melinda Lundquist (2005). Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Oxford University Press.