Sufficient to Explain: Music

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This is the second part of a series, Sufficient to Explain, which explores the explanatory power of the Christian worldview.

No adequate description exists for music’s importance to human culture.  We use it to teach young children rudimentary facts.  Most of us devote hundreds of hours per year to listening to it.  By the most recent estimate, we spend $16 billion dollars a year acquiring it.  Yet, all of those pieces of information seem bookish and dispassionate, compared to the instinctive connection we have with music. Something so important to civilization ought to be understood comprehensively.  But the most basic fact about music—its origin—lacks a compelling explanation.  Unless, of course, you are a Christian.

The Parasite

Some explanations for the origin of music are too dissatisfying for the sentiments of music lovers.  Daniel Dennett’s “The Evolution of Culture” is one of these distasteful theories.  Dennett, a well-known and often-awarded philosopher, compares the products of human culture, “memes,” to phenomena such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites.  Memes infect their human hosts and cause alterations and adaptations; thus, culture products perpetuate their own survival. 

Dennett reconstructs a scenario for the origin of music.  It all begins with one prehistoric percussionist.

One day one of our distant hominid ancestors sitting on a fallen log happened to start banging on [it] with a stick–boom boom boom. For no good reason at all. This was just idle diddling, a byproduct, perhaps, of a slightly out-of-balance endocrine system. This was, you might say, mere nervous fidgeting, but the repetitive sounds striking his ears just happened to feel to him like a slight improvement on silence. A feedback loop was closed, and the repetition–boom boom boom–was ‘rewarding’. … No musical appreciation, no insight, no goal or ideal or project need be imputed to our solitary drummer.”          

This percussionist’s peers catch the bug, too, and imitate the “musical Adam.” 

A striking feature of Dennett’s evolutionary view is the lack of value music brings to the task of survival.  He jokes of the “familiar dream of musicians everywhere” that this proto-virtuosity enhanced the first musician’s opportunities for reproduction.  Aside from the jest, Dennett entertains the notion that music detracted from humanity’s ability to subsist. 

A perfectly pointless practice, of no utility or fitness-enhancing benefit at all, could become established in a community. It might be positively detrimental: the drumming scares away the food, or uses up lots of precious energy. It would then be just like a disease, spreading simply because it could spread, and lasting as long as it could find hosts to infect. … The drumming virus is born.” 

I hope everyone finds this reconstruction as perplexing and unappealing as I do.  The explanation is coherently distressed:  if music did not valuably contribute to its hosts’ survival chances, then the probability of the descent of musicians seems quite low.  Furthermore, the idea that intricate aural beauties, to which we are beholden and besotted, are a useless, perhaps even deleterious, infection is repulsing. 

Good Vibrations

Explanations more flattering than Dennett’s are available.  One competing account is more hedonistic and more likely to be appealing.  Allow another philosopher—this one happens to be the front-man for Led Zeppelin—to do the explaining.   

The whole idea of music, from the beginning of time, was for people to be happy.” — Robert Plant
— Amazon Music (@amazonmusic) June 17, 2014

The desire for happiness is an attractive hypothesis of the origin of music.  Humans, however long ago, cultivated the abilities to melodize, harmonize, and percuss for the sake of pleasure.  Even heavyweight intellectuals acknowledge the satisfaction of music.  In his biography of Einstein, for example, Walter Isaacson gives much attention to the physicist’s lifelong love of the violin.

Though I am prone to prefer this kind of explanation, I have reservations about its sufficiency.  Certainly, at the micro-level, happiness is a driving force of music performance and consumption.  What about the big picture?  Is music merely a by-product of our addiction to serotonin?

We often emphasize the subjective dimensions of music.  De gustibus non disputandum est.  Tragically, we overlook the objective beauty, for example, of the final crescendo of Stravinsky’s Firebird.  Listen to it and begin to wonder, “Is music something greater than our personal enjoyment?”

Part of Our Formation

The Christian worldview brings a unique perspective to the discussion of music’s origin.  Various portions of scripture indicate that music is not a uniquely human creation or experience.  We are not the universe’s sole consumer and creator of music. 

In fact, the art of song precedes our arrival and exists independently of us.  As God confronts Job and asserts his preeminence as creator, he asks, “[Where were you] … when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7).  Angels sang not only at creation, but also at the incarnation (Luke 2:13-14).  Heavenly beings sing in the visions of John (Revelation 5:9).  Even God is described, in what may be an anthropomorphism, as singing:  “… he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).      

Humanity’s cross-cultural appreciation for music would seem to derive from our God-imitating personhood.  As God fashioned the earth, he made beauty and delighted in it.  He created everything with the power of his words, and then he saw everything as good, even very good.  He was both artist and admirer.  In creating us in his image, he gave us the capacity for these roles, as well.

Now, think again of the cultural significance of music—how we allocate the resources of our money and time to it and how we use it for the purposes of communication and entertainment.  Only one explanation is appropriate to the scale of music’s importance.  Is it an infection?  Is it merely an expression of our affections?  Or is our penchant for music a part of our formation?

The lover of music is likely to find the Christian understanding of music deeply resonating.  Orchestrated sounds with the power to fascinate us remind us that music is much bigger than we are.  What better endorsement could there be for the value of music than this:  the one whose opinion cannot falter—God—and his uncorrupted servants—angels—make use of and find joy in this medium.

What the Mysteries of Social Media Tell Us about Ourselves

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I’m not cynical about social media.  You won’t find me complaining about my Facebook timeline or my Twitter feed.  I enjoy keeping up with everyone and the ready availability of information.  However much I appreciate social media sites, I cannot boast an understanding of them.  I have found, though, that if you expend some mental energy on the mysteries of social media, you come away with a reminder of the nature of humanity.  Here are some of those mysteries and what I think they tell us about ourselves.

Congratulations 

Why do we congratulate people of notoriety for their accomplishments through a medium on which they will not see our congratulations?  If to congratulate is to express pleasure to someone in light of their success, then is it really congratulatory to write an online, third-person well-wish?  In October, we may all be writing:  “I would like to congratulate the Atlanta Braves on their World Series victory.”  But what do we hope to accomplish with those tidings?  Clapping, says the koan, is repeatedly high-fiving yourself for someone else’s accomplishments.  

These sort of online postings remind me that for many of us social media are partly a public forum.  We aren’t merely trying to maintain friendship and relationships with social media.  Showing our acquaintances and friends that we are “in-the-know” is also desirable.  Working theory:  we’re all a little bit vain.

A First Person Walks into a Third Party       

Why do famous people have social media accounts in which most posts are in the third person?  Okay, maybe, the answer to that question is obvious.  Social media are useful for marketing.  But what really astounds me is when famous people write a first-person message on their third-party-managed account.  Charlie Daniels might be one of the worst offenders.

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I much prefer when the social media presence of noteworthy people is an obvious ruse.  I can pretend that those concert promoting tweets were sent by Ray LaMontagne himself, but when the curtain is pulled back, I no longer tremble for the wizard.  Still, I kind of understand where these folks are coming from.  They want to give an authentic touch to their online presence.  Working theory:  we all want to be considered genuine and sincere.

Daddy Loves You, Boo-Bear

Why do we address our children on social media sites, when they are too young to read, let alone have an account?  They reach one of those magical birthday milestones, or they learn how to do something amazing like go potty or ride their bike, and we go online to tell them exactly how we feel.  Are we really just telling everyone else?

Most of the time, when we communicate, we carefully consider our audience.  We think of best possible means for communicating the message.  But our children inspire inanity in us all the time.  I pretend to have gun fights with my children when I’m getting gas for our van.  To this day, I’ve never landed a single shot.  They, on the other hand, have world-class marksmanship, apparently a maternal trait.  I reel and stagger from their shots, even at a crowded gas station.   That’s how awesome kids are.  We really don’t mind looking silly because of them, even in front of hundreds of online friends and followers.  Working theory:  children are awesome.

“Never satisfied are the eyes of man”

Many other mysteries remain unsolved.  Why do people retweet or share posts that quote or cite them; isn’t that a bit self-promoting?  Why does everyone keep telling me to do myself a favor; am I that self-serving?  When commemorating a significant person’s birthday, why do people keep using the line “he would be X years old today” when the would-have-been age far surpasses the average human life span?  Each time we check our social media accounts, it seems as though we are staring into the abyss of what humanity is (in)capable of.  I, for one, can’t turn my eyes away.

Sufficient to Explain: Intro and First Phenomenon–Drug Addiction

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A dubiously lit picture, a million-views video, or an unsubstantiated claim of a celebrity’s death bring out the investigative journalist in all of us.  Most YouTube comments sections are graveyards, riddled with tombstones reading, “That’s fake,” “If you fall for this, you’re an idiot,” “I make $70/hour from home and here’s how.”  We are a culture of myth-busters with a craving for explanations.  Since explanations are highly valued in our culture, the Christian worldview has an opportunity to appeal broadly.

The Sufficient to Explain series is an up-close examination of Christianity’s explanatory power.  Each post will focus on a phenomenon that the world struggles to explain.  We’ll look at facets of our existence like music, reason, and morality.

This is a personal experiment in apologetics, which is the discipline that seeks to assert and defend the faith.  Too often, Christian thinkers hope to argue their position by piling up pieces of evidence.  Many apologetic efforts feel like an evangelical parody of Buzzfeed:  “20 Reasons the Resurrection Is Totes Awesome.”  I have reservations about that methodology.  What makes a belief reasonable is not a preponderance of evidence.  In fact, the notion that evidence makes our beliefs warranted is a belief that itself lacks evidence.                 

What I aiming to do in Sufficient to Explain is to show that given the conditions of our world, the Christian worldview is a sensible one to hold.  Christianity often is uniquely sensible.  Our first example of Christianity’s explanatory power is an unlikely one.

Drug Addiction:  A Sufficient Christian Explanation  

Addictions wield a mysterious power.  We have become so accustomed to fixes, prescriptions, reforms, repairs, troubleshooting, and updates that seemingly intractable problems baffle us.  When people reach this point of confusion, they struggle for concepts and descriptions sufficient to explain troubling phenomena.  Reactions to the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman earlier this year illustrate this bewilderment.  Slate’s Dana Stevens asked the question so many of us were thinking as the news settled:  “Why and how is it that so many people are willing to sacrifice their dearest treasure—their work, their gifts, their families, their precious remaining years on earth—for another dose of the poison that’s slowly (or, sometimes, suddenly) killing them?”  

The ones tasked with combatting illegal drug use and trade do not appear any more suited to answer these kinds of questions than the rest of us.  When government officials and other public figures grapple with the anfractuous topics of drug use and trade, they employ language and imagery that many Christians would readily understand.  The Christian doctrine of the fall is in the background of many drug policy discussions.

An Impasse in the War on Drugs

The United States’ wide-ranging campaign against the illegal drug trade—rhetorically branded by the Nixon administration as “the war on drugs”—is in its fourth decade.  Many of those waging the war have declared the struggle an impasse.  Hidden among these resignations is an endorsement of the biblical view of humanity.

In the January 6th edition of The New Yorker, Mattathias Schwartz’s “A Mission Gone Wrong” profiles the war on drugs by examining recent events in Honduras.  The seeming inevitability of drug use and trade permeates the whole piece.  Here are a few of the more striking comments:

  • A variety of studies suggest that “interdiction—seizing drugs in transit—was unlikely ever to make much difference in U.S. cocaine consumption.”
  • During Reagan’s presidency, the highest-ranking officer in the Navy, admiral Carlisle Trost shared this view:  “The only way we are going to stop this immense flow of illegal narcotics into this country is to shut off the demand for it.”
  • General Barry McCaffrey, a drug czar in the Clinton years, suggested a different type of strategy on the issue:  “If you want to fight a war on drugs, sit down at your own kitchen table and talk to your own children.”
  • William Brownfield, an official with the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, bluntly concedes, “If the endgame is perfection, we’ll never get there.  At least, not in this world.”
  • A local Honduran leader told Schwartz, “Not even the Americans can stop it.  Because of business.  Money is the strongest thing in the world.  The only one who can stop these things is God.”

The Explanatory Power of the Doctrine of the Fall

These statements cohere well with a worldview that understands humanity’s inherent sinful nature.  Strategies that focus on interdiction and prohibition will ultimately fail to root out destructive behavior because the cause of the destructive behavior is not the availability of means.  Admiral Trost was right: the driving force behind the illicit drug trade and use is demand.

The fall has altered the whole being of the human.  Our bodies are now prone to weaknesses, illnesses, and withdrawals.  In the life of the mind, we do not believe, think, and understand as we should.  Our emotions are often misguided, and we do not feel what we ought to feel.  Each of us experience perversity in our affections, and we want what we should not want.  The fall has conditioned humanity as a host for the parasite of addiction.  A few ideas commend the Christian doctrine of the fall as the explanation for addiction.

The Bible rightly estimates the sway of desire.  For instance, the author James describes people’s desire as that which lures and entices them to sin, and he depicts desire as the birth mother of sin (James 1:14-15).  In the post-fall world, God looks upon the humanity and sees that “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).  Those qualifiers—“every,” “only,” and “continually”—are dramatic.  The result of these desires was that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth” (Genesis 6:5).  The baffling power of drug addiction is to some degree due to effect of the fall on our desires.

The Bible depicts the duplicity of human interests.  We have difficulty even knowing what it is we want.  The prophet Jeremiah writes, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?”  Our decisions, emotions, and thoughts are remarkably confused.  Even when we know what we want, we have incredible difficulty doing it (Romans 7:19).  Addictive behaviors, including the horrible reality of relapses, cohere with what we know of humanity’s confused emotional condition.

The Bible attributes a transformative power to sin.  If we are apart from Christ, our sins are much more than something we do.  In a sense, they are something we become.  When the people of Israel turned away from God, they “went after worthlessness and became worthless” (Jeremiah 2:5).  The result of each individual’s rejection of God is futility in our thinking and a darkening of our hearts (Romans 1:21).  Persistent sin shapes human identity, a fact evident in identifiers recurring throughout scripture:  “slanderers,” “idolaters,” “adulterers,” “thieves,” and “liars” to list only a sample.  Addiction seems compatible with these patterns.  It dramatically changes those in its grip, and many addicts come to identify themselves with their abusive behaviors.

The Bible is compatible with genetic predispositions toward behaviors.  The public discussion of addictions often comes around to the question of heredity.  Is there something in our biology, specifically the genetic factors inherited from our parents, that determines or at least influences our proclivities?  Christians are sometimes uncomfortable with this concept, as if it could be used to excuse certain behaviors and decisions.  Yet, if the Bible’s account of the fall is true, ripples in the human genome should be expected.  Creation has experienced the effects of humanity’s fall and is now “subjected to futility” and in “bondage to corruption” (Romans 8:20).  Adam’s sin has affected all of humanity by introducing sin into the world and spreading death to all (Romans 5:12, 17).  No biblical passage deals explicitly with the issue of genetic predisposition and its pertinence to drug addiction, but striking descriptions of the fall’s effects would make the concept plausible.

“Our Bite of the Apple”

Chuck Palahniuk’s 2001 novel Choke tells the story of Victor Mancini, his mentally unstable mother, and his various vices.  For its nauseousness and prurience, I would not recommend it, but Palahniuk’s treatment of addiction is perceptive.

Mancini’s mother, Ida, saw the Bible’s account of the fall of humanity as a compelling explanation for humanity’s predicament:

Ever since the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible, humanity had been a little too smart for its own good, the Mommy said.  Ever since eating that apple.  Her goal was to find, if not a cure, then at least a treatment that would give people back their innocence.

Addiction, Ida suggests, is a treatment option—perhaps an inefficacious one—for this predicament:

Every addiction, she said was just a way to treat this same problem.  Drugs or overeating or alcohol or sex, it was all just another way to find peace.  To escape what we know.  Our education.  Our bite of the apple.

If Ida is right—if human addiction is our attempt to counter the effects of the fall—then addiction is more a perplexing and disturbing reality than any of us can imagine.  Addictions abound because of how the fall has transformed humanity; yet, somehow we hope to escape that transformation through addictions.  We are swimming to the deep end in hopes of getting out of the pool.

The only wide-scale solution to drug addiction is a retransformation of humanity.  As policy makers have suggested, demand has to be cut off.  Changing demand though is out of the purview of human governments.  Our sole chance is to have our demands and desires fundamentally altered.  That’s not to say that occasional successes won’t occur through interventions, like a twelve-step program; God, in his common grace, can use such means for healing.  The only way, though, to root out all our addictions is to be cleansed from our uncleanness, to be given new hearts, and to have a renewed spirit (Ezekiel 36:25-26).  This kind of transformation occurs through conversion to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).  So, in addition to sensibly accounting for drug addiction, Christianity also uniquely gives us hope in the face of addiction.  An explanation and a glimmer of hope are exactly what the world longs for.

A Five Year Old’s First Contemporary Service

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This last weekend, my family attended a contemporary worship service with some old friends. For my five year old daughter, this was her first exposure to contemporary worship. Her experience thus far has been a traditional format with some modern songs incorporated.

For the record, I’m no worship warrior; I’m theoretically open to contemporary services, though I would need to add lots of biblical caveats to clarify my view. My daughter’s experience seemed to touch upon some interesting issues in contemporary services. The questions, comments, and responses that this contemporary service elicited from her were priceless.

Why did the lights change color,” she asked me early in the service. During the music, the sanctuary lights were dim, and colorful lighting accented parts of the stage. I simply replied, “I’m not sure,” which is true. I have trouble conceiving a legitimate reason for this lighting technique. After a moment or two, my daughter offered this theory, “I think they are for decoration.”

A few minutes into the sermon, the large screen caught her attention. The pastor’s face was projected onto the screen, and occasionally the screen showed Bible verses or sermon points. My daughter asked my wife, “Is that a mirror, or is it like a TV?” When we explained to her what it was, she wanted to know if it was for playing DVDs. Knowing that some churches like to use video clips, I replied, “Yeah, sort of.”

Not again!” my daughter protested near the end of the service. The sermon had ended, and for the response, we were instructed to sing a song from earlier in the service. Apparently, in my daughter’s estimation, we had already meditated on this chorus and its themes for a sufficient duration. I encouraged her to sing along, but she had a hard time learning the melody and structure of the song.

As the service concluded, she had an important question, “When this is over, can I run around?” I should note that in our official position we are against running in the sanctuary; my enforcement of our position is sometimes lacking! At our church, my daughter and her friends fellowship together after the service by crawling under the pews, hiding under the information table, and squeezing in and under the pulpit. In her mind, that time of friendship and fellowship is an important part of church. What she was really asking was, “Is this a church? Can I do church things here”

My intent on sharing these comments is not to poke fun at contemporary services. Instead, I want us to reconsider the principles of these modern approaches to worship. Some tend to think of contemporary worship as inevitable. If we want to reach our culture, we need to provide an experience that is aurally and aesthetically appealing. Yet, production value only goes so far. I can assure you that few have as keen of a sense for production value as a five year old girl with artistic inclinations. To her, those elements in the contemporary service did not tap into some deeply engrained desire for beauty or excellence. She was, instead, baffled by them.

Of course, we all want unbelievers to have deeply-felt reactions to our churches’ worship. What we should desire, though, is to clarify, not to confuse. The order and structure of worship should leave unbelievers reeling from the truth, declaring “God is really among you” (1 Corinthians 14:25). My fear is that some corners of the contemporary movement—not the ones I’ve attended, mind you—are creating experiences that Apostle Paul cautioned against. He critiques disordered worship with a compelling question about unbelievers: “. . . will they not say that you are out of your minds?”

That’s sort of what my daughter was saying. These lights, that big DVD-player thingy, this song again—are these people crazy? I wonder what other unbelievers think. Certainly, the atmosphere of the contemporary service is a unique experience to them. They won’t ask anyone what my daughter asked, if it’s okay to run around in the sanctuary. They might be thinking, though, is it okay to talk to these people? Is it okay to come back?

Make no mistake; unbelievers will often think poorly of us. Specifically, what we believe about Christ—that in his death and resurrection he has accomplished the forgiveness of sins—will be derided as folly (1 Corinthians 1:18). Let our insistence on the gospel—not our choice of guitar effects or lighting accents—be what affects their assessment of us. Then, if through the simplistic “folly” of preaching some are saved, our only boast will be to boast in the Lord.

Why We Chose Public School

This fall, my daughter starts Kindergarten at Eisenhower Elementary School in Louisville, Kentucky.  She is really excited, but probably not as excited as I am!  (I’ve already been looking to buy Eisenhower paraphernalia!)

Louisville’s public school system involves a degree of choice.  When parents register their children for school, they prioritize schools within their assigned cluster, and they also may request placement in special magnet programs.  Parents’ preferences, however, are not ultimately determinative of the outcomes in the school assignment system.  We felt fortunate to get into Eisenhower, our top pick of schools.

The process that led to my daughter’s enrollment at Eisenhower was a year long.  I approached the issue with a geeky obsession and preoccupation.  I parsed out all the school-related data I could find, read school improvement plans, talked to educators I know, and took my family on school visits.  This decision required much prayer and study, as well.  My wife and I have particularly enjoyed guidance from David & Kelli Pritchard’s Going Public:  Your Child Can Thrive in Public School

We are a minority among our friends, most of whom have chosen homeschool or private school.  My wife and I respect those choices and admire our friends for the godly motives behind their decisions.  Since we are among the minority—and since we anticipate the number of Christians who are like-minded on this issue to decrease—I wanted to share why we’ve made this decision.  Our choice stemmed from a variety of factors, reasons, and expected benefits.  (For the record, we think homeschool and private school families can address these same issues in different ways.)          

1.  Parenting Philosophy.  We want to teach our children to deal wisely with the world while under our care.  Our preference is to navigate them through the challenges of secular environments gradually and repeatedly while they are young, rather than suddenly when they become adults.  Yes, there will be bullies, bad influences, opposing beliefs, and maybe even an apathetic teacher or two along the way.  Adulthood, too, has those kinds of challenges.  We want to raise our children to think biblically about the challenges of life, and public school looks like a good laboratory for that kind of learning.          

2.  Educational Opportunities.  Good public schools provide an array of opportunities for children to learn and develop.  My wife and I had some amazing opportunities to learn along the way, such as college coursework in high school and afterschool academic teams.  We want those opportunities for our children too.  Public schools are increasingly striving for rigor.  The Common Core State Standards initiative—which, in an upcoming post, I plan to defend from unfair criticisms—is pushing schools to demand more from learners, even at younger ages.  Eisenhower Elementary has some very exciting learning opportunities, including French enrichment, an engineering lab, and a self-contained advanced program.  With these kinds of advantages, I think my daughter will surpass my academic achievements and talents pretty quickly.      

3.  Community Involvement.  The vast majority of families in our community opt to send their children to public school.  I see my daughter’s school as a chance for me to build relationships with educators, students, and their families.  Integrating my family into the culture of the school will give me ample opportunities for a salt-and-light witness to unbelievers.  I intend to know people at our school well, to pray for them, to host them in our home, to invite them to our church, to share the gospel with them, and to maintain friendships with those who do not find my faith appealing.  I hope that people at our school will know that I am a minister and that they can come to me when they experience crises.      

4.  Children’s Disposition.  Our oldest daughter is amazing (so are your children).  She’s very creative and is a take-charge extrovert.  Please pray for her teacher!  Being around other people excites and motivates her.  Her preference is to be on the go.  Many nights at bedtime she asks about what special things we’re going to do the next day.  It seems wise to me to leverage these aspects of her personality to aid her learning.  I think school outside of the home is the right fit for her.  She already thinks of school as somewhere fun to go and learning as something fun to do.    

5.  Cost.  It would not be a good use of our resources to make the sacrifices to afford private school.  Now, we are living a modest, but blessed, lifestyle.  My wife spends most of her time at home, caring for our children, one of whom is still a couple of years away from school age.  We are not willing, at this time, to modify our lifestyle for her to work more outside of the home.  As a bivocational minister, I already work two jobs and cannot work more without neglecting the emotional and spiritual care of my family.  The reality of the situation is we cannot afford most of the options for private school in our community.  Since there are suitable alternatives, we are easily content with this reality.        

6.  Professional Integrity.  I work in public education; my day-to-day work is to find funding and other resources to improve public schools.  It would seem a glaring contradiction for me to work in this field and then decide on a different path for my children.  I could see how one would justify another arrangement, but my preference is to avoid tension between my family and career that other options would create.      

Of course, it is difficult to be among the minority among our friends.  So many have found it prudent to choose homeschool and private school.  Couldn’t we be making the wrong decision?  Yes, we could.  But we learned a couple of years ago from a wise couple that the schooling decision isn’t final.  If our children struggle, if we can’t navigate the challenges, we can always adjust course later to homeschool or a private school.  The same goes for all of us with children.  If we have erred, let’s have the humility to admit we are wrong and the determination to get it right.  Since we know that God is the giver of learning, skill, understanding, and wisdom (Daniel 1:17; 2:20-23), we ought to be hopeful that he can cause our children to thrive wherever he would have them learn.