"Above All Else, Guard Your Heart"
By Mrs. Cindy Atwater
February 5, 2020
“Oh be careful little ears what you hear . . . .” I learned this Sunday School song when I was three years old, but recently I have been thinking about how important that warning truly is.
In English teacher communities, we often hear the mantra, “It doesn’t matter what the kids read as long as they are reading.” Teachers face pressure to get those reading scores up.
But books are dangerous. Books have led young men to join terrorist groups. Books have inspired women to leave their families for a “soul mate,” books have incited lust that becomes obsessive, books have convinced readers that “God” is a cartoon created by tyrants to manipulate us, and books have flattered us into making ourselves our own god. By focusing on fluency without teaching discernment, educators have left students unprepared to choose the excellent and the true.
Words have power—we are changed by what we read. And the more skilled the writer, the more dangerous the writing is. A book should have a yellow label warning us that once we have read it, we can’t unread that scene.
Yet we must read. Besides conveying information, reading builds our analysis skills, our critical thinking, our attention spans, and our ability to empathize with others. Humans make astounding progress because we can write our ideas down, transferring them to future generations.
Christians, especially, must cultivate reading habits. The world was created by God’s Word. Jesus is the Living Word of God who “became flesh and dwelled among us” to redeem us. God chose to intimately reveal himself through the Bible (literally, “the book”) his love story to humans. We are commanded to train our minds.
So is the answer to only read Christian writers? No, we must read the powerful writers that change society. Students must discuss these books in peer groups supervised by Christian teachers every day: What is the author’s message? Is it true? How does the author persuade us? And we must look at each work through a biblical lens: How does it line up with God’s word? How does it grab our emotions? Is the logic solid or does it whisper to us, “Did God really say that?”
At SSCA, we read both Christian and secular authors whose beautiful writing has influenced society. We look for books that are honest and transformative. As we read, we admire the good in them and compare their themes with the Bible’s message. With the biblical foundation students have from daily Bible class and weekly chapel, our students learn to read the great human works and test them against the Truth, the unchanging standards of our Creator. We teach our students to embrace the difficult but rewarding pleasure of conversing with the great minds throughout the ages. After all, the literate will have the power in the world, but we don’t want them to lose their souls in the process.
“Above all else, guard your heart” –Proverbs 4:23