Twisting what people say …

… is wrong, very wrong. We get justifiably angry when people take the reasonable things we say out of context and make it seem like we meant something utterly bizarre and indefensible.

Often, “liberals” and “progressives” do this with the things Christians say, and it really is annoying and unfair.

However, sometimes Christians do the same thing, and I find it just as disgraceful.

In talking about the fact that more resources are needed for education, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry said this:

We have never invested as much in public education as we should have, because we always had kind of a private notion of children: Your kid is yours, and totally your responsibility; we haven’t had a very collective notion that these are our children, so part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities. Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the household’s, then we start making better investments.

It seems to me that any fair person listening to this would conclude  that Ms. Harris-Perry was not talking here about infringing on or taking away parents’ control of the upbringing and education of their children, but rather of the responsibility of the community to provide adequate (financial) resources for public education.

Yet a whole slew of conservative Christian commentators, among them some whom I respect and read regularly, chose to take this in the worst possible way, as more evidence of the evils of liberalism and their attempt to steal kids from their parents.

I do not deny that ideas of children as a collective responsibility form an important part of the leftist worldview, and part of their idea is  removing kids from their parents’ reactionary influences, but in the context under consideration here, that is not what Ms. Harris-Perry was talking about, and I believe that these intelligent conservative Christian commentators know that full well but chose to exploit a perhaps unfortunate choice of words to score a hit against a perceived opponent.

But it is not as if collective responsibility for children is something totally foreign to Christianity: When parents bring a child to be dedicated, blessed, christened, or baptized (whatever your particular denomination or tradition does for an infant), an important element is the responsibility the congregation has toward that child and his or her parents.

Let me be perfectly blunt: We need public education. Very few people are capable of home-schooling their children, even fewer can afford to send their children to private schools. And public education needs money, and coming up with that money is indeed a collective responsibility, which is what Ms. Harris-Perry’s point was.

So I would very much like to encourage all of us not to cheapen and discredit our testimony by stooping to tactics which we deplore in others.

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