The Extension of the “Counter-Church” in British Columbia
It’s official. British Columbia no longer has both a Ministry of Education and a Ministry of State for Child Care. (A Ministry of State is a government department that isn’t quite a fully-fledged department yet.) It now has a combined Ministry of Education and Child Care. The ministry was internally renamed as of this month and will be renamed in existing legislation once Bill 22: School Amendment Act passes.
But who cares? Why should this reorganization of government departments be noteworthy to anyone, much less Christians?
This reorganization reveals the provincial government’s fundamental philosophy of education and child care as being two sides of the same coin, both of which should be under the supervision of the provincial government. Which side of the coin is the front is an interesting question: is education, specifically public schools, fundamentally a form of child care, or is child care, specifically publicly funded and licensed child care providers, a form of education?
Either way, Christians should care about this shift for two reasons: this current child care policy is an overreach of the state into the domain of parents and will likely accelerate the process of secularization.
Current Child Care Policy is an Overreach of the State into the Domain of Parents
We’ve touched upon the idea that publicly funded and regulated child care encroaches on the domain of parents in other articles, blogs, and videos, but the basic argument is that God entrusts the care of children to parents. Not the state, the church, the school, or the daycare. Not bureaucrats, elders, teachers, or early childhood educators. Parents.
Now, we certainly recognize that parents may delegate some caregiving time to others while still honouring their natural responsibility. However, the historical trend of parents delegating more and more of this responsibility to others is concerning. Three centuries ago, parents almost exclusively cared for and educated their own children in the home. After schooling became compulsory and mothers began to enter the paid workforce, the time parents spent with their children directly during waking hours decreased significantly. Today, with the growing popularity of child care for young children in daycares and after-school programs, the average time that parents spend with children is cut down further.
In his classic dystopian book Brave New World, Aldous Huxley imagines a progressive utopian society in which everyone is happy all of the time. Part of the “progress” he imagines is that children are conceived and grown in laboratories and raised and educated by the state. In this dystopian world, families cease to exist, and the terms “mother” and “father” become the most pejorative, lewd insults possible in society.
In God’s good design and under His restraining hand, we trust that Huxley’s prediction will never become a reality. Yet, given the technological and social developments of our time, it is still worth contemplating whether our society is strengthening or weakening the family. It is also worth considering whether we as Christians are influencing or being influenced by the culture around us. We are concerned that the greater involvement of the state in child care is on the whole moving society in the wrong direction. As Christians, we need to have our eyes open and our hearts centred on God’s revelation that children are a blessing and that parenthood is both a gift and a responsibility.
Current Child Care Policy Furthers Secularization
Abraham Kuyper, writing the policy manual for the Anti-Revolutionary Party in the Netherlands in the late 1800s, provocatively described why public schools and, by extension, publicly funded child care, should be worrisome to Christians:
“Behind the schools question something else is at work. The real motive behind the interest in the [public] primary school is not just to educate the people, but to educate them in a specific direction. In promoting the public school, its supporters do not see that the school as an end but as a means to an end.
This is the real situation.
The men who went to work after [the French Revolution of] 1789 to remove the Christian stamp from society and change its face completely in keeping with the principles of the [French] Revolution gradually came to the realization that they could not move forward or make any progress so long as people’s hearts were not cut loose from the living God who has revealed himself in his Word, that is, in the Bible.
Now then, those hearts are chiefly shaped by the home, the church, and the school.
Accordingly, the revolutionary party successively tried, first to secularize the spirit of the home, then to make the church look irrelevant, and finally to ban the Bible from the school…
And so the public school has become a counter-church.
It is a powerful institution for the purpose of squeezing out of our children the worldview of the Bible and saturating them with the worldview of Pelagius, Rousseau, or whoever. The school where the Bible is banned has become a weapon of defense as well as of offense for the spirit that resists God’s Word against the spirit that embraces that Word.”
While this purpose of public schools was apparent to Kuyper already 140 years ago, this hasn’t become quite so apparent in the realm of child care yet, though the tell-tale signs are all there. Currently, with the plan for $10-a-day child care, the provincial government is only responsible for regulating and funding child care providers, not actually providing the child care itself. Most group child care providers are private businesses that apply for a child care license and governmental funding, not unlike how other private businesses request a business license and requested financial support from the government through COVID. This current model of child care is still quite different than the current public school system which is governed by publicly elected school board trustees, is entirely funded by the provincial government, and the content of which is heavily regulated by the provincial government. Nevertheless, the public funding and regulation of group child care are one step closer to state-provided child care and the extension of what Kuyper terms the “counter-church” in British Columbia.
Even under this current arrangement, group child care will likely further the process of secularization. For the most part, religious worldviews, instructions, and activities have largely been relegated to the private realm of the family and the church in the attempt to reach religious “neutrality.” But we know that religious neutrality is a myth. Any worldview that teaches that all religions are equally true or that religious beliefs are extraneous to education is antithetical, not neutral, to the exclusive gospel of Jesus Christ.
It doesn’t have to be this way. While public schools are entirely forbidden from incorporating religion in the classroom, publicly funded and regulated child care providers are still free to do so. If the Christian community were to become fully invested in running child care programs with the express purpose of sharing the gospel with the children and families under their care, this child care system could be a method for evangelism rather than secularization. Unfortunately, even if the government halts its foray into child care by guaranteeing cost and only enforcing basic standards, most child care centres will likely choose to remain secular in perspective, thus contributing to the decline of the Christian religion in Canada.
What Can We Do?
Although the federal and provincial governments seem intent on transforming institutional child care into the “new social program of a generation,” it is always appropriate in a democracy to raise our concerns within our families, our governments, and our society. So, here’s what you can do:
- Talk about this issue with your friends and family. The Christian community has committed to the truth on the issues of abortion, euthanasia, education, homosexuality, and transgender identity, among other current issues. It’s time that we add child care and family policy to our shortlist of top challenges facing our country today.
- Send an EasyMail to your local MLA; express your concern with the government’s involvement in the parental responsibility to raise their children. Also suggest positive alternative policies, such as replacing public funding for child care with unconditional family benefits such as the BC Child Opportunity Benefit.
- Consider how to extend a Christian voice in child care; even if the government withdraws all its financial support and regulations around child care, the demand for non-parental child care will continue. Consider how you might be able to extend a form of Christian child care to your neighbours. Perhaps this could include volunteering to babysit your neighbour’s children from time to time or having your church host a Vacation Bible School this summer.
- Pray that God might reverse the decline of the family and strengthen these basic units of society. And pray that Christian families would remain strong and provide an inviting picture of God’s design that will draw others to seek Him.
 Abraham Kuyper. (1880). Our Program: A Christian Political Manifesto. Page 193