Naming, Language, and Freedom

From Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

We cannot name or be named without language. If our vocabulary dwindles to a few shopworn words, we are setting ourselves up for takeover by a dictator. When language becomes exhausted, our freedom dwindles–we cannot think; we do not recognize danger; injustice strikes us as no more than “the way things are.”

In [dictatorships], teachers are suspect; writers are suspect, because people who use words are able to work out complex ideas, to see injustice, and perhaps even try to do something about it. Simply being able to read the Bible in their own language made some… suspect.

I might even go to the extreme of declaring that the deliberate diminution of vocabulary by a dictator, or an advertising copy writer, is anti-Christian.

Everybody hates mankind these days, Christians no less than others. Of course, they are kind and sweet to the people they run into, but the things that make us human are despised. They get in the way of responsibility (i.e. profit-making). People hate the use of correct grammar, which is to say, those who respect language. They don’t think Christians should waste their time on the arts. Need I go on?

The point is, they hate the Divine Image in man. And they feel quite pious for doing so, because at the root of this hatred for man, is a self-loathing that even turns God into some not worth loving.

Hating mankind, they yearn to enslave those who seek freedom.

For him who has ears to hear.

Even More on Nature and Practicality

The term worldview, the usefulness of which I acknowledge, has enabled Christians to escape the secularist religion of a fundamentalism that sees the Bible as the only book we read for fear we will have to live in the world around us.

When people speak of the Christian worldview, surely at some point they must confront the issue of nature and the school. Nothing is more harmful to a child’s faith tahn to live in a structure that embodies Naturalism without anyone explaining that a compromise has taken place.

Constructivism is the denial of knowable truth, and it is rooted in anti-Christian philosophies. If we embody it in our schools (and I’m not sure we can be accredited without doing so), then we need to be open about it with our students.

We need to say something like, “We don’t pattern our curriculum on the way you learn or on the structure of reality. Instead we pattern it on the requirements the state imposes on us. We have to submit to Caesar and we have judged that we have to go as far as we have in order to do what we can to be faithful. But please don’t think for a minute that reality really looks like this.”

To the extent possible, we need to resist the utilitarian Naturalism that permeates our own minds, especially in the structure and content of the curriculum, the modes of instruction, the tools of assessment, and the means of governance.

This isn’t easy, but at least it makes a Christian classical education possible.