Ben Phillips explained to me that when he became the principal of a strong Christian school following his years in Memphis public schools, “I wanted more minority students. I think a big part of the problem is that they were closed out by price.” So far, the response of conservative Christians has been to advocate for taxpayer-funded tuition vouchers. That project, however, has been fraught with difficulty both because of perceived church-state issues (a modest legal problem) and the resistance of public school supporters””worried about budgets already””to allow any resources to go to the private school system, which they perceive, correctly, to stand in judgment of their own efforts (a much bigger political problem).
Assuming a continuing deadlock over the issue of school choice, the best answer may be for conservative Christians to find other ways to create greater access to their institutions for those from whom they are suspected of fleeing. It is a burden of history not easily shrugged off, even by generations who did not make the world in which they live. We inherit debts other than the kind governments incur on their balance sheets. But the racial unification of the American church might best begin in the Christian schoolhouse before it takes hold in the Sunday services. It is a home mission (as the Baptists might call it) awaiting a champion and a movement. ”ƒ