I wanted to write today to share the spirit behind the tradition we started last year for MLK day.
Last January, I had the privilege of listening to Michael Lindsey, the president of Gordon College, a Christian college in Massachusetts. In addition to being a college president, Dr. Lindsey is also a sociologist. He has performed multi-year research on the moral formation of leaders.
His research entailed interviewing two past presidents of the United States, all of the living secretaries of state, dozens of CEOs from Fortune 500 companies, leaders of the United States military, and heads of the largest non-profits in the country. In all, Dr. Lindsey interviewed 500 of the top leaders in our country. He was attempting to answer several questions, including what forces or life experiences were formative in providing a moral foundation in these leaders’ lives, with an eye towards seeing what schools can do to help form the moral lives of future leaders.
His conclusions for Christian schools were that schools need to do a better job of equipping the young leaders within their schools to impact culture for Christ through several ways: i) talking about the Christian heritage and historical tradition, discussing how Christianity has contributed to and, in fact, saved civilization time after time; ii) creating freedom within a framework of faith, meaning broadening the questions that are asked of students, asking them the hard questions in the context of Christian community, rather than for the first time when they’re out on their own as graduates; iii) taking advantage of public forums and ceremonial occasions to reach out to those with differing ideas and opinions, meaning, “How can we demonstrate Christian hospitality, even with those with whom we disagree?”, and ; iv) modeling Christian engagement with the broader community.
I think what Dr. Lindsey says is so true. How can we be used by God to give our kids a vision for engaging the broader culture, showing Christian love and hospitality, and being a good citizen of the cities, states, and regions in which God has placed us? How do we demonstrate becoming salt and light in the world? By getting outside our comfort zone, engaging the broader culture, modeling that in our lives and encouraging it in the lives of our kids.
That’s what our participation in the city’s MLK day observance is all about. Yeah, it’s outside our “normal” comfort zone. I get that; very true for me, too. But, my prayer for my kids, for the kids of our school, is that they will engage the broader culture, that they will take what we’re all working so hard to teach them and actually use it, to reach out to people from other backgrounds and bring them the love of Christ, to say through their presence, “hey, I’m a Christian, and my faith teaches that treating other people differently because of the color of their skin is wrong, and while I don’t agree with everything that ever happened in the civil rights movement, treating others well and loving others because they are made in the image of God should be taught and celebrated, and extolled.”
As with everything else we teach, what we model is as or more important than what we tell. This is a great opportunity for us to show what we believe, and I pray that God will use it for His glory, to impact the lives of our kids, and the lives of those we stand alongside that day.
I understand this isn’t what all the other schools do. Some of you may not want to come. You, as parents, are ultimately the arbiters of how to best teach your children; that’s a core value for us at Grace, and it’s something that distinguishes us from other schooling options. I respect it if you don’t want to be a part, but please give what I’ve said your prayerful consideration.
Thank you all so much for being mentors in the life of your children, and in the lives of all of our children. I am so grateful for you all.
To learn more about our part in the MLK Day celebration, please visit www.gracetyler.org/mlk