FAQ's

Big Questions
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Relationships

Q My husband and I spent our entire careers devoted to Christian day school education, and our son has been in Christian schools from kindergarten through college. Now he and his wife are thinking about homeschooling instead of sending their children to a Christian school. Obviously that is their decision, but are we supposed to pretend this is OK with us?

A It’s always somewhat difficult when members of one family have different ideological viewpoints about such an important part of life as, in your case, the education of children.

It sounds like your experiences with Christian schools have been valuable and now you feel that your son is rejecting that system. However, do remember that (1) his experience within the Christian educational system may not have been as positive as yours, or (2) his wife has grown up with a different ideology of what is valuable in education, which he has since adopted as his own.  

It’s best to keep an open mind with respect to ideological differences. Usually a good case can be made for all three educational options (Christian education, public education, or homeschooling). The best approach to these options is to accept that one size does not fit all.  

By all means, explore with your son and daughter-in-law their reasons for preferring homeschooling, and listen carefully. Do not judge that homeschooling, by definition, is inferior to a Christian school education, but rather keep an open mind to the different values inherent in each approach.

Is their reason for homeschooling financial? If that’s the case, by all means offer to help pay for your grandchildren’s Christian school education if you are able.

Having explored the issue with your son and his wife, resolve to let go of it, even if you still disagree with their choice. After all, cultivating a good relationship with your children and grandchildren is of far more value.

—Judy Cook

Judy Cook is a family therapist living in Hamilton, Ontario.  She is a member of Meadowlands Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Ancaster, Ontario. You may e-mail her at judycook. thebannerqanda@gmail.com. All responses will be held in the strictest confidence.

Christian Morality

Q  My mother witnessed a serious crime and failed to report it because she was afraid of getting involved. I told her this was a sin of omission, and she agreed. Doesn’t this make her a type of accomplice, and couldn’t she be arrested and imprisoned, like the characters in the famous last episode of Seinfeld, for breaking Good Samaritan laws?

A First, what happened in that television episode grossly misrepresents legal systems in the United States. The same is true in Canada, as Toronto attorney Wietse Posthumus assures me, with the possible exception of situations in which child abuse is observed.

So-called Good Samaritan laws have essentially nothing to do with reporting crimes (they are usually designed to protect those who come to the assistance of others from being sued).

You are correct, however, that the failure to report a crime can qualify as a sin of omission. Reporting crimes to the appropriate authorities is something that Christians are morally expected and, in some cases, morally required to do. Moreover, you are correct that silence in the face of another’s wrongdoing can sometimes render one complicit in the wrongdoing.

Thomas Aquinas distinguishes nine ways in which a person can be complicit in another’s wrongdoing: Commanding, consenting, counseling, assisting, encouraging, covering for, failing to denounce, failing to prevent, and silence. The last of these, silence, is mild in comparison to some of the others. But in certain situations silence regarding another’s wrongdoing can be significant and hence morally problematic. That might well be true of the situation you describe, even if it turns out that your mother’s failure to report the crime did not make her liable for prosecution.

Finally, there are exceptional instances in which reporting crimes is actually wrong—for example, reporting to Nazi authorities during World War II that your parents were protecting Jews.

—Gregory Mellema

Dr. Gregory Mellema is a philosophy professor at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. 

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