Home School Graduation Address on May 22, 2021
Home School Graduation Address
May 22, 2021
Dear graduates, parents, family members, and friends:
God’s written Word, the Holy Bible, is the great metanarrative of Christ’s Church. What is a metanarrative? It is a grand overarching story that explains everything. Now, the problem such a definition poses for Christians is that even the notion of “a” metanarrative is disputed by the wider culture in which most Christians live today. That wider culture, at best, says: “You have your story, and I have mine. Who’s to say one is better than the other?” But, that same wider culture, at worst, says: “There is no such thing as ‘a’ metanarrative. So, [they say] the Christian claim that God’s Word is ‘the’ metanarrative is not just nonsense; they call it misogynistic, racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic” etc., ad nauseam. Being woke is very seductive.
Now, as Christian home school graduates, you should have received some instruction in logic along the way. You should continue your study of logic as a necessary part of living as thinking Christians in an increasingly hostile, illogical culture. Why? The ad hominem, or personal attack, is one of the commonest ploys used against Christians and the biblical metanarrative. American Christians, who have been assimilated into a culture of niceness, often fold at the first flurry of emotional rhetoric. Fearing what others might think and say about us can make us subject to a new kind of protection racket.
So, what is a protection racket? Wherever organized crime operates in the world, whatever its ethnicity or lack thereof, it threatens people with loss of life or livelihood if they do not pay a protection tax. This threat plays upon the survival instinct hardwired into the deepest recesses of our brains. We don’t want to lose our lives or our ability to support ourselves and our loved ones. So, in our day, when someone threatens to label, cancel, and destroy you if you don’t cease expressing publicly your beliefs and convictions, then you have become the target of a protection racket. American corporations have paid protection money in the past year out of fear of being called racists, et cetera. Academics, actors, athletes, and politicians have paid, too. It’s safer.
As Christian home school graduates, you should have studied history and the history of ideas along the way. You should be able to recognize that ideas are not simply inconsequential words. For instance, Marxism is not simply an economic theory that some people believe will make the world a fairer place. Marxism is not simply an idea made up of inconsequential words. You should have learned that Marxism, named for Karl Marx, a German Jewish atheist, has taken part of the biblical metanarrative, stripped it of both Jewish and Christian linear trajectories ending with God’s eternal rule and reign, and adapted it into various cultures (Russian, Chinese, Eastern European, North Korean, African, and Latin American). But the most common outcome of Marxism, wherever it has been tried, is misery and death for millions. That some in our day still think that Marxism will eventually work if you only keep trying requires both a suspension of rational thought and a gross amount of dishonesty with oneself and others. But, then again, those shouting loudest for Marxism tend to acquire a lot of personal wealth and power through their protection rackets run against those who must pay the price for their hubris.
Because God’s written Word, the Holy Bible, is the great metanarrative of Christ’s Church, you ought never to expect to fit in with the wider culture or gain its approval. In my childhood in the 1950s and 1960s, church membership was very high. In the post-World War II baby boom, American parents were expected to belong to a church or synagogue, and children were expected to receive religious instruction. Those were the years of the Cold War between capitalism and communism, mostly between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was considered Un-American not to belong to a church or synagogue and not to provide for one’s children’s moral instruction. Many of my childhood friends were raised in churches but departed from them as soon as they went off to college or moved out of their parents’ homes. How could that have happened? Their parents did not sufficiently model for them how to keep the faith according to the great metanarrative, the grand overarching story that explains everything. Their children sought instead to fit in with the wider culture that was increasingly narcissistic and hedonistic.
In the second semester of my college freshman year, in 1972-1973, when I had just turned 19, I took an Honors English class team-taught by two hip young PhDs. Every book we read that semester was the blueprint for the new orthodoxies of woke culture. We read a feminist work on patriarchal attitudes, a play about gay liberation, books about the oppression of Black and Native Americans, attended a poetry reading by the gay beat poet Allen Ginsberg, and took note both of the death of warmongering former President Lyndon Baines Johnson and, simultaneously, of the Supreme Court decision, Roe versus Wade, that legalized abortion in all fifty states. The people who taught my class were 60s liberal academics, who had been taught by mostly 40s and 50s liberal academics. So, unless you study at a self-consciously traditional college, you will be up against indoctrination by the liberal academic children and grandchildren of my generation. Most of these do not want you to think for yourself. Most are out to convince you that the great metanarrative of Christ’s Church is responsible for everything bad. They are sorely mistaken.
Reading classic works of literature, history, philosophy, science, and theology are the best defense against the indoctrination of woke culture. If you are well-read, you will learn that America is not a systemically racist country founded in 1619. You will learn that there are biologically only two sexes with rare instances of an extra chromosome causing indistinct genitalia. You will learn that male bodies were created for female bodies and vice versa, that the traditional two-parent family has always been the foundation of successful cultures, and that poverty and social disintegration occur more often in single parent homes. If you acquire a marketable degree or a marketable trade, you will find gainful employment and the opportunity to spend less than you make, acquire your own home, raise a family, and save for old age. In short, if you resist indoctrination by those whose ideas are either nonsensical, wicked, or both, there is a greater likelihood that you will arrive at old age surrounded by loved ones who will treasure and care for you when you are no longer able to care for yourself. But God help you if you decide instead to settle for fitting into a woke culture that, left unchecked, will ruin many.
The great metanarrative of Christ’s Church begins with the Lord God bringing order out of chaos and ends with the Lord God making all things new. From the beginning, we learn that God created all humans to serve each other and to care for His creation. We were shown Paradise and, then, the loss of it when our first parents not only entertained the possibility of another story that asks, “Did God really say?” They chose willfully to rebel against God by asserting their autonomy. They entertained doubts that God’s will is always good and gracious. They acted upon strong feelings of desire that led first to the consequences of their rebellion against God, namely the loss of intimacy with God and with each other, and, then, sadly to one son murdering his brother. Ultimately, the first man and woman died the death that teaches the profound difference between the Creator and His creatures. Pain and death are great teachers if we learn.
The Bible does not teach us why we suffer as we do when we do in this life, although sometimes the logical consequence of our own foolishness is apparent. The suffering that comes from sin, yes, from our unwise decisions should drive us to our knees and to the prayer: “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” God’s written Word, the great metanarrative of Christ’s Church, tells of the God who is a community within Himself. The Father so loves this world that hates Him: that the Son, who loves the Father more than His own life, takes on, for us, frail flesh in the Virgin Mary’s womb. He is truly God and truly human. Jesus lives the life of perfect obedience none of us can live. Jesus suffers and dies the innocent death none of us can die. The Lord Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world by His death on the cross for us sinners. Baptized into His saving death and glorious resurrection, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit who creates trust through God’s Word and gives us the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation through the reconciling work of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Even though our first parents lost Paradise, they were promised that the one who had overcome them by a tree would someday be overcome by a tree (Genesis 3:15). And we know that at the end of the old creation, every knee must bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue, even those hostile to the Lord, will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:11). But who will call on the Lord for mercy? Who will confess his or her need for Jesus every hour?
The greatest consequence of the past five hundred years since the so-called Enlightenment is that many, yes, even far too many Christians, do not live according to the great metanarrative of Christ’s Church. Thinking themselves to be the center of all things, that place which belongs only to God, they repeatedly ask that familiar rebellious question from the lips of our ancient foe, “Did God really say?” So, then, as you home school graduates continue to grow in years, and, we hope and pray in wisdom, you will have many occasions, as St. Peter says, to “… in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
But death is no respecter of persons. I learned that many years ago as a 27-year-old trauma hospital chaplain in Dallas TX. In this life and in this world, none of us has the guarantee of anything more than right now. We do well to remember the hour is later than any of us thinks, and so we learn from the great metanarrative of Christ’s Church to do today the good works for which we were created as our grateful response to God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ.
Do not be surprised when losses come and disappointments with them. We can learn through pain. Yes, we Christians can grow deeper in faith, hope, and love through our wrestling with unimaginable losses… so long as we do not become bitter. Hear, again, the truth from God’s Word: “Lay not up treasures for yourselves on earth where rust and moth consume and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). “Do not work for the food that perishes” (John 6:27). “Deny yourself; take up your cross and follow Jesus” (Matthew 16:24) Follow Him all the way home to your heavenly Father’s waiting arms.
In the mighty name of Jesus of Nazareth. Amen.
The Rev’d. Dr. Samuel David Zumwalt, STS