It seems as if everyone’s trying to put his or her own spin on the lunacy and lewdness that is the news of today.
Mark Newman chooses to put current events in God’s context – otherwise known as scripture.
The director of Spiritual Life and Religion at Lake Country Lutheran High School in Hartland, Wisconsin, has his junior and senior students react to a hot news story he reads to them each week – but using the lens of the Bible. First they write down the main topic or idea of the story, and what the Bible has to say about it – and then their reaction to the story as viewed through scripture’s lens. Then comes a group discussion.
Newman’s weekly “Thinking Biblically About the News” assignment gives students a steady standard through which to form opinions on the most pressing issues of the day – just one more reason he says Christian education is vital to the future of an often-unmoored society.
“I think it’s absolutely critical” for the nation, he tells The Lion. “I don’t understand how a country can function if it’s not built on absolute standards of some sort. I just don’t see how that can survive.”
So, instead of wondering what to think and how to feel about each crazy development in the news, he says his students can “hold to this truth that scripture’s the inerrant word of God. And so, if that is true, that scripture’s the inerrant word of God, it answers all these questions about life and all these different issues. And so, this is my standard. Scripture is truth, and it answers all these questions for me.”
In part for his innovative and intimate interweaving of scripture and society, Mark Newman is one of 12 instructors nationwide to be named 2023 Christian Teachers of the Year by the Herzog Foundation, which publishes The Lion.
Newman has seen the impact of his approach on students “just watching their depth of understanding grow, and honestly watching their position on the topics change because scripture has changed them – not because either I or their parents have tried to browbeat them into like, ‘No, you need to think about it this way.’”
One student who was struggling with his opinion on abortion eventually thought his way to a scripture-based conclusion.
“I was noticing in (class) discussions he was really kind of not in a place that I would want him to be at with that topic. But by the middle of his senior year, I was noticing some changes in what he was saying. And at the end of the year we had a really great conversation. He was like, ‘After really understanding this with more detail and more depth, and understanding my faith, I can’t devalue life in that way.’
“So many of these things in our culture are not scripturally based. They’re not in reality. They won’t work. They’re just not going to work eventually. It’s just fun to watch them sort of move through that and kind of grow.”
Newman says he is “super-optimistic about a number of things” in Christian education, not the least of which is the skyrocketing interest parents have taken in their children’s learning post-pandemic and with all the controversies surrounding public education.
He doesn’t seek to criticize public education, but says, “The further away they get from biblical truths, the further away they’re getting from reality. It just doesn’t work.”
Neither does marginalizing parents.
“Scripture clearly teaches that parents are the primary educator of any child, and we see a rise right now in parent involvement, parent interest. Parents are paying attention in a way now that maybe they haven’t in the past.
“And I think that that’s the real beauty of a Christian education, is we’re saying we’re going to teach the foundational truths of scripture. And when parents want that, then we’re working in partnership with them.
“I think that just the fact that we see more parent interest, parent involvement, I think that can only be good for Christian education.”
The Christian Teachers of the Year honor is part of the Herzog Foundation’s Excellence in Christian Education award series. Each of the 12 winners will attend a special awards event in Washington, D.C., where they will also receive a monetary gift.