Education and the Beloved Community

Author: David Montague | MTR President | Excerpt from Community Matters: 2014 MTR Yearbook

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In 1819, Washington Irving wrote a short story titled “Rip Van Winkle.” In it, an idle farmer named Rip Van Winkle wanders across a group of odd men playing nine-pins and drinking moonshine. Rip joins in the fun, falls asleep, and awakens—at first unknowingly—20 years later. As he returns to his town, much has changed, including the sign above his favorite tavern that now features a picture of General George Washington in the spot that formerly held the image of King George III of England. And there is the most interesting point of the story: Rip had, in fact, not only slept 20 years, but had also slept through an entire revolution.

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., would often use this illustration as an image of the many in our nation asleep in the middle of the civil rights revolution, unaware or unwilling to embrace it. Another revolution continues today in the realm of public, urban education. In the past 20 years we have seen an amazing change in the public education landscape with the creation of charter schools, alternative certification programs, school vouchers, Recovery and Achievement School Districts, state standards, the Common Core, and more.

When it comes to public education, the white evangelical church has for years been on the wrong side of history—asleep for decades, if you will. I notice a sort of awakening, however, among Christians of all races and denominations who are returning to an essential of our faith: serving the common good, beginning with the most marginalized. People are realizing that working for excellent public education is a valid response to God’s call to “bring good news to the poor . . . proclaim release to the captives . . . [and] let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18-19). The time is now to respond to the gospel by ensuring that all children, made equally in God’s image, receive a quality education.

As we describe in the 2014 MTR Yearbook, we engage in a gospel-centered response to the unfair differences in academic achievement between children in poverty and their wealthier peers. And our hope is that our work in education in Memphis will not only serve as our personal response to the gospel, but will also encourage the Church nationally. To that desire, I would like to propose an understanding of both the GOAL, or vision, and the MOTIVATION, or mission, for the Christian in education.


“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, good will among people.” -Luke 2:14


“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” -Luke 10:27

[Read the full explanation of the GOAL and the MOTIVATION in Community Matters: 2014 MTR Yearbook]