- - Wednesday, April 10, 2024

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A recent MSNBC segment delivered an ominous warning about a “distressing” program impacting public schools and threatening communities across America — an initiative host Alex Wagner fears could inextricably sway youths’ hearts and minds.

What, exactly, so perturbed the TV host? The source of her aghastness was LifeWise Academy, a Christian ministry that brings Bible education to children during the public school day. NBC News recently profiled LifeWise, and Ms. Wagner, in turn, expressed concern over the organization’s success.

“I just wonder if this is not running afoul of certain First Amendment stuff,” Ms. Wagner proclaimed, at another point stressing about the potential political ramifications.

Before we go any further, keep two facts in mind: LifeWise’s work is entirely legal and the organization isn’t in any way political. The program, created by Joel Penton, is privately funded and unfolds off public school campuses, and efforts like it were ruled fully permissible decades ago with the 1952 Zorach v. Clauson Supreme Court decision.

LifeWise Bible instruction is held during “released time,” meaning kids are bused — if parents consent and opt them in — to a church or other location during lunch, recess or nonessential times during the public school day. Not every district opts in, but doing so is fully legal, and any faith can create a similar program.

The organization teaches children valuable faith and life lessons, offering families the freedom to educate their young ones with timeless morals and ethics as they see fit. Yet rather than celebrating this incredible opportunity, MSNBC and Ms. Wagner rang alarm bells during the nine-minute segment on the subject.

The bizarre report on LifeWise essentially lamented what could happen if children are somehow exposed to the truth during the school day.

“Penton’s LifeWise Academy is currently influencing the minds of public school kids in progressive cities like Columbus,” Ms. Wagner said. “Blue Islands … those blue islands in red states and swing states … they could be swayed by LifeWise.”

In making it all about politics, Ms. Wagner seems to have inadvertently admitted something: the Bible‘s undeniable power to change hearts and minds in every single way. To the Christian, views surrounding issues such as sexuality and life aren’t political. They’re Gospel issues, with one’s position predicated on what God, the Creator, says is right or wrong.

Of course, this becomes problematic for anyone disinterested in that dynamic. LifeWise is a Christian group seeking to help children foster a relationship with God. Disagreeing with that mission over fears that understanding Scripture could lead children further from progressive ideals is quite telling.

But, beyond that, in an era when youth suicide rates are up 62% and hopelessness is abounding, Ms. Wagner‘s reaction is pretty troubling.

By almost every measurable statistic, society’s move away from God and our cultural acceptance of a self-led and fostered morality has bred chaos. And that disorder is very literally plunging young people into an abyss of cadaverous sadness and sorrow.

It’s no secret our children are experiencing a sweeping mental health crisis. Our decision to disinvite God from our public schools and cultural institutions has, in many ways, advanced the stripping out of morals, values and truth.

One of the most disturbing claims about the LifeWise NBC and MSNBC coverage is what was left out of the segment. According to Mr. Penton, his organization furnished data showing his program’s positive impact on children — and it was repeatedly ignored.

“When LifeWise is implemented, attendance increases significantly,” Mr. Penton told me in an interview last year. “Kids are that much more interested in going to school that there’s, in fact, a net increase in class time if LifeWise is implemented.”

And that’s not all. He said internal research found in-school and out-of-school suspensions dropped among the children participating in his program. Mr. Penton believes these statistics make LifeWise appealing to principals and other administrators.

“In-school suspension numbers drop and out-of-school suspension numbers drop, as well,” he added. “And, so now it’s a much easier case when we go to principals … and superintendents, even if they’re not Christians to say, ‘Hey, do you want your attendance to go up? Do you want suspensions to go down? Here’s a program that doesn’t cost you a penny; it engages the community and will have this impact.’”

With desperation all around us, Ms. Wagner and others should be championing programs to instill morals and values in our children.

The data on these matters is clear, as Gallup recently found adults who attend religious services weekly are far more likely to be very satisfied with their lives (56% vs. 41%). Meanwhile, the American Bible Society found last year that the most Scripturally engaged individuals “were shown to have the highest levels of persevering hope.”

And a 2022 survey from the Barna Group found even more shocking statistics. Just 28% of American adults said they were flourishing in relationships and friendships, but that statistic soared to 61% among practicing Christians.

The studies all show the same thing: Faith values — and specifically Christian ideals — yield more hope and increased happiness, and would be an antidote to our societal disarray. Organizations such as LifeWise should be heralded and supported, not denigrated and panicked over. Sadly, the media keep poisoning the information well and further distorting the truth.

Billy Hallowell is a digital TV host and interviewer for Faithwire and CBN News and the co-host of CBN’s “Quick Start Podcast.” Mr. Hallowell is the author of four books.

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