Volume > Issue > Briefly: June 1994

June 1994

Schooling Christians

By Stanley Hauerwas and John Westerhoff

Publisher: Eerdmans

Pages: 281

Price: $22.95

Review Author: Brett Webb-Mitchell

The task of educating Chris­tians in a secular society is prob­lematic. The contributors to this book, who proclaim the message that America’s public schools, created to foster a common “ethic of citizenship,” are failing to teach the bases of right and wrong. This is why, for example, some public schools have returned to such re­sources as the 19th-century McGuffey Reader, where one learns the rudiments of the alpha­bet in the context of a strongly moralized story.

This book is separated into four sections. The first is “The Is­sue”: The Enlightenment’s “ethic of citizenship” has fallen apart. The second section, “The Com­mon School,” deepens the critique of public schools. Charles and Joshua Glenn contend that the state’s liberal philosophy homog­enizes citizens, thereby delegitimizing all loyalties, except those that bind the individual to the state. Patricia Beattie Jung ar­gues that many Christians aren’t even aware of the problematic na­ture of schooling Christians in a liberal culture that undermines other traditions.

In section three, “Higher Education,” James Burtchaell and Michael Cartwright provide his­torical case studies of Vanderbilt University and Allegheny College, revealing how Enlightenment lib­eralism has, over time, replaced the initial Christian values of these in­stitutions. Secularism demands that Christian colleges be autono­mous and free of any church au­thority. Stanley Hauerwas then challenges this view of freedom, insisting that these colleges are now “free” to be nothing more than diploma factories, rather than more interesting places where students are taught the Christian counter-story.

In section four, “The School of the Church,” Michael Warren and John Westerhoff write about the role the church plays in the for­mation of Christian identity. Warren notes that religious meanings don’t automatically maintain themselves; we need to be inten­tional about them. Westerhoff re­minds readers of Tertullian’s phrase that Christians are not born, they are made.

This book may help Chris­tians — especially my fellow Prot­estants, who don’t have a network of parochial schools — understand how critical the task of schooling young Christians has become in our secularized society.

Visions of Reality: What Funda­mentalist Schools Teach

By Albert J. Menendez

Publisher: Prometheus

Pages: 152

Price: $14.95

Review Author: Dale Vree

Fundamentalists and secular humanists secretly love each other, for they provide each other with their fattest targets. So why’s a nice Anglo-Catholic like Albert Menendez getting mixed up in this lovers’ battle? Does he fear the small-minded fundamentalists more than the Lilliputian prometheans at Prometheus Books?

Actually, Menendez has a le­gitimate beef against fundamen­talist schools. The pity is that be­cause the publisher is generally re­garded as the voice of village athe­ism, the book will be perceived as just one more trashing of funda­mentalism by secular humanists, and won’t be taken seriously by many religious people.

Menendez examines funda­mentalist textbooks, not in reli­gious areas of study but in secular areas — history, science, literature, geography. What he finds is a heavily slanted, anti-intellectual, and religiously “bigoted” view of the world of little use to pupils.

All religious persuasions other than fundamentalism are at­tacked or slighted in these text­books, but a special animus is re­served for Catholicism. In litera­ture, history, and geography texts, one learns that Catholicism “en­slaves” man, Catholics “worship” Mary, the priesthood is “fraudu­lent,” monasticism is “pagan,” and the pope is “Christ’s enemy.” Basi­cally, Catholics are not true Chris­tians and are not saved.

There is a clear-cut political agenda. All Democratic presidents are castigated; all Republican presidents, except the liberal Teddy Roosevelt, are praised. Menendez reports: “President Rutherford Hayes, whose election is regarded as stolen [according to] many his­torians, is admired because his wife ‘refused to serve alcoholic bever­ages in the White House.'” The UN is scorned as “unbiblical” while the Vietnam War is ap­plauded (“lasting peace on earth will be possible only when the Lord Jesus returns,” instructs one his­tory text). Unions are denounced for being greedy, but nothing is said about corporate greed. Presi­dent McKinley’s military interven­tion in the Philippines was noble because it was intended to “Chris­tianize” the Catholic Filipinos. In­deed, imperialism that fosters Protestant missionary work is praised in general.

The English Reformation is seen as the crucible of truth in the modern world, and the U.S. Constitution as inspired by God. Be­cause America was built on Protes­tant principles, it is a “special nation” in God’s eyes and has been “unusually blessed.” Blacks and Indians are not favorably treated, nor is non-Protestant immigra­tion. Slavery is treated ambiguously (one history text sees the Civil War in part as an attempt by the South to save its Protestant identity from a menacing Catholic/Unitarian/Transcendentalist North). The worldview is Puritan, Anglo-Saxon, and superpatriotic.

One biology text states that “Satan has set up this world” and “is in control of the physical world.” Menendez omits commenting on the chilling Gnostic implications. On the other hand, he doesn’t give credit where well he might. What these texts teach is presented as bad, bad, bad. We learn that they oppose abortion, sexual promiscu­ity, homosexual activity, and eu­thanasia, as if these stances are as outrageous as all the rest. This is a well-researched but strangely parti­san book. I happen to know that Menendez is a Christian, but there is no evidence of his faith com­mitment in this book or on its cov­ers. Perhaps that’s the price of writ­ing for militant secularists.

Martyr of Brotherly Love

By Adalbert Ludwig Balling and Reinhard Abeln

Publisher: Crossroad

Pages: 117

Price: $14.95

Review Author: Richard Rolfs

Young Fr. Engelmar Unzeitig passed four of his six years as a Catholic priest in the Dachau concentration camp. Of­ten called the “Angel of Dachau,” Fr. Engelmar volunteered to care for the prisoners with typhus. Shortly before the end of the war, he himself caught the disease and died on March 2, 1945.

Fr. Engelmar was arrested on April 20, 1941, and charged with “insidious expressions” in sermons and instructions, and “defense of the Jews.” He was sen­tenced to Dachau.

The authors devote a chap­ter to describing the place. Like the other prisoners who were chained together, Fr. Engelmar must have experienced a terrible shock upon entering Dachau. The first step was designed to strip the new arrivals of all dignity. Per­sonal belongings were taken, their bodies were completely shaved, and they were pushed into ice-cold showers. Then they were issued an ill-fitting uniform, a cap, and a pair of wooden shoes. All of this was accompanied with derisive hoots and filthy curses by the SS guards and the Kapos.

Although it was strictly for­bidden to report anything about camp life, even by allusion, Fr. Engelmar did manage to smuggle several letters out of the camp through an SS man who had been a grade school classmate of Engelmar’s father. In these letters, Engelmar describes life in the camp, including the daily harass­ments, unsuccessful escape at­tempts, the cruel punishments of the SS, the little food, and the sickness and deaths. However, most of the information in this book comes from the letters and observations of Engelmar’s fel­low prisoners who survived the ordeal.

Ironically called the “biggest monastery in the world,” Dachau was a camp of indescribable humiliation, pain, and often death for nearly 3,000 clergymen, all but 500 of them priests. According to one report more than 1,000 priests died from violence, starva­tion and epidemics. Another ac­count describes the treatment of a group of 60 clergymen on Good Friday, 1940. With their hands tied behind their backs with chains, they were suspended up­side-down off the ground for hours on end. Several died.

Other inhuman acts against the clergy are recalled by survi­vors. One survivor, Jean Bernard, describes the insufferable work on the so-called “plantation,” a piece of swamp-land on which spices and medicinal herbs for the SS were grown. With no protection from howling winds, freezing rain, or snow, and under the ever-watchful eyes of the Kapos, who treated them like animals, the prisoners were pushed to the point of complete exhaustion. Most clergymen who died at Dachau owed their early death to the terrible treatment on the plantation. Fr. Brantzen, who worked side by side with Fr. Engelmar on the plantation, re­calls how patient and peaceable Engelmar remained in spite of the hardships.

Engelmar then volunteered to work in the typhus barracks. Fr. Lenz records the extraordinary acts of charity performed by the young priest. However, it was only a question of time before Engelmar himself contracted the disease. He died one day after his 34th birthday. A few weeks later, the Allied troops entered Dachau, freeing those who had survived.

The authors have put to­gether a concise, readable chronicle of the conditions in which the clergy lived in Dachau. This is not the first book on the subject — others are more de­tailed, less personal, and more analytical. And although this bi­ography tends to be hagiographic, it contains an important message. Fr. Engelmar Unzeitig’s life in Dachau reflected beautifully what Jesus taught to be the highest love: “Greater love than this no man hath, than to lay down his life for his friend.”

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