Pastor and author John Piper has weighed in on how Christian parents can best protect their children from state indoctrination in societies where children are forced to learn "unbiblical views of what is true and false, and right and wrong, and beautiful and ugly.”
Recently, an individual from Sweden wrote into Piper's DesiringGod website, asking the pastor how to parent well in a country he described as “coercive” and “socialist in a lot of ways.”
“We must send our children to school, or the government threatens to take them away from us,” the reader said. “Christian schools are practically illegal, and a school may have a ‘Christian profile,’ but it’s a meaningless title. These few Christian schools are still not allowed to be ‘religious’ or teach a Christian worldview. They’re still forced by law to abide to the same teaching plan as secular, atheistic schools to give children a secular education and must even teach our children LGBTQ as a positive norm.”
In response, Piper first stressed that God has assigned to parents, and not the state, “the rearing and shaping of the minds and hearts of the children in the knowledge of God and in how to live that out in the world.”
According to Scripture, the government is to have the good of its people at heart (1 Peter 2:14), which implies that it will have a “compelling interest in whether its people are educated — at least educated enough to make society function,” Piper said. However, this interest “becomes evil when it preempts the more foundational right of the family to educate its children,” he said.
Governments “should find a way to encourage an educated populace by respecting the rights of families and promoting multiple avenues of all kinds of lower and higher education, as parents seek out ways to partner with those who have expertise in equipping their children to function wisely and morally and productively in the world,” he added.
For Christian families living in countries like Sweden that require “state education with all of its indoctrination of the modern worldview,” Piper offered three suggestions.
First, seek freedom and move elsewhere; second, keep children home — although Piper acknowledged that in certain countries, governments have removed the children from the home in such cases — and third, send the kids to school, but still educate at home and church.
“[A] radically Christian education at home, alongside the state education (which is going to be diametrically opposed in many ways), will be needed in order to build into the children’s lives two deep and unshakable convictions,” he explained.
Piper also emphasized the importance of a healthy church life and God-honoring peers, adding: “We must band together as Christian parents to help each other provide the kind of alternatives for our children and young people that they can enjoy, so that when they’re offered alternatives that would not be healthy from their non-Christian peers, they are able to stand.”
“There is no safe place in the world to raise children — not in America, for sure, not in Sweden, not in China, not in North Korea. There’s no safe place to raise Christian children — children who will treasure Christ above everything. Only God can work the miracle in the hearts of our children that we long for,” he said.
“So with all of our teaching, and all of our modeling, and all of our friendships in church, and all of our rejoicing, we must pray without ceasing for the miracle of regeneration in our children.”
Homeschooling is illegal in several countries, including the Netherlands, Germany and Spain, and heavily regulated in others.
In 2018, the 12-year-old son of a Christian couple was forcibly removed from their home in Norway by government officers in response to their decision to homeschool him. The parents had pulled him from a public school after he was bullied.
In 2010, a 7-year-old boy in Sweden was removed from his Christian parents for being homeschooled.
In a 2020 issue of Harvard magazine, Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Bartholet argued in a piece titled “The Risks of Homeschooling” that the U.S. should similarly enact “a presumptive ban” on homeschooling. Bartholet asserted that most homeschooling families are conservative Christians who she says “hold to “extreme religious ideologues” and “question science and promote female subservience and white supremacy.”
Steven Craig Policastro, founder and executive vice president of the International Association for Creation, told The Christian Post in 2019 that in recent years, the most significant change in state-sponsored resistance to homeschooling has been a “shift” from attempts to ban homeschooling to “extremely oppressive” regulations.
“Opponents of home education have realized that since they are unable to make homeschooling illegal, they can at least attempt to place extremely burdensome regulations on parent-led, home education to make it difficult or nearly impossible,” Policastro said.
“There also are constant attempts by school districts all over the country to require things of homeschool students and parents that are not required by law. There are times in which the school districts do not properly know the law, but in other instances, the school board leaders do not care and they want their regulations mandated regardless of the law.”