December signals not only the end of the year, but also the end of the fall semester. In the blistering cold, scholars scurry about as they attempt to complete term papers or prepare for rigorous exams. Adventists are not exempt from this tenacious ordeal. Rather, they face a heavier load. The average student studies for school all seven days of the week and skips devotion (non-Adventist Christians do take time for devotion). Meanwhile, the Adventists studies for six days and prays to God morning and night.
The American public school system is not organized in a manner that complements Christian beliefs, and neither can it be. Building a public school system around the beliefs of a particular religious group would violate the nation’s belief in one’s right to practice his or her religion freely (someone of a contrary religious perspective will always sound the battle cry). The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Even though some Americans claim that this is a Christian nation, its own laws conflict with that description. It claims to be a nation which embraces people of various religious expressions. Therefore, all attempts to hedge the schools within the confines of Christian thought will fall on deaf ears.
If America did agree to adhere to Christian values and build schools around them, then the question would be, “Of which denomination?” Would it be Catholic, Baptist, Adventist, or Anglican? The various denominations found in Christendom are at odds with each other theologically, and therefore a recommendation from one will arouse a disagreeable spirit from another. The merging of conflicting perspectives will only serve to enhance problems. Furthermore, one only needs to think of the conservative/liberal camps that are locked in mortal combat within each denomination, and any thought of consensus seems more obscure.
Since laws to accommodate our beliefs are far from the horizon, what can the Adventist do to keep up with the masses and excel in their academic endeavors? The answer to that question is one that we have been hearing for a long time: Pray. Prayer is a necessity that is comparable to breathing. However, one who prays must acknowledge the capabilities of the One prayed to. If we distrust God’s ability to perform what we pray for, then doing so will be meaningless to us. The one who is conscious of a living God who is actively involved in the affairs of the universe must also believe that He deals with the affairs of the mind.
Daniel and his three friends attended a university that differed with their religious convictions and they were able to be successful. It is possible to operate as a Christian student in a non-Christian educational entity. “To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning” (Dan. 1:17 NIV). The same God, who delivered Jerusalem into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar (1:1), is now giving intellectual prowess to the four young Judeans (all in the same chapter). God is involved in global events and in the life of the average person.
As you run “to and fro” searching for the proper citation, invigorating vocabulary, or the best study corner, remember that God is a genius. If you want “knowledge and understanding” in “all kinds of literature and learning,” the God who was there in the time of Daniel is still capable.