Evidently, feasting is important.
Throughout the Old Testament and the Church Age, the people of God have feasted for a number of reasons. The practice continues today. We feast for Thanksgiving, for Christmas, and more. At Evangel Classical School, we feast for Reformation Day, at Christmas, and again in the spring at our Fundraising Feast.
I write now to invite you to join us at this year’s Feast. As I do, I’d like to consider quickly some reasons why we feast.
We feast to remember. Carving time out of the calendar to rehearse God’s blessings and provision is a good practice. Where the Israelites celebrated Passover to remember God’s provision of the Passover Lamb and their subsequent delivery from Egypt, we feast to remember God’s many and various blessings to ECS. Whether physical or spiritual, they all come from Him.
We feast to receive. Good earthly fathers love to give good gifts to their children, and they love it when their children receive and enjoy those good gifts. How much more is this the case with our heavenly Father? He gives us good gifts, and loving the Giver enables us to rightly enjoy the gifts. Our proper receiving and enjoying what He has provided doesn’t make us idolaters; it keeps us from becoming idolaters.
We feast to give thanks. When we eat, drink, sing, and make merry with grateful hearts, we can be sure the God looks on us with delight. Routine and frequent giving of thanks shapes our hearts like water over a rock. As we rehearse God’s generosity and our unworthiness, it elicits proper gratitude from us, which is a necessary ingredient to feasting.
It’s little wonder that our enemy hates our feasting. Feasting is a sword for which there is no shield. There are spray-painted cardboard counterfeit swords of gluttony and entitlement, but what shield can our enemy raise to stop our merry feasting? Right. There isn’t one.
So this isn’t just another private school fundraising dinner. This is a low-pressure, high-mirth call to thank God, enjoy His blessings, lock arms, and advance culture…and all together. I invite you to join us. If this is your first introduction to our school, this is a fantastic opportunity to hear our mission and vision. And the company is first-rate. Please pass along this invitation to those whom you believe would be interested in joining us.
This year we are going to be at a new venue. It’s at Marion Field Farm outside of Arlington (about 20 minutes from ECS). It’s a beautiful and elegant setting for the Feast, and we’re very grateful for the opportunity to dine there. All of the ECS student will be performing. We will provide dinner and activities for the students when they’re not singing in the program. Unfortunately there is no childcare facility or staff available for small children or younger siblings of the Raggants. (If you need help finding a sitter, I recommend the ECS Parents Facebook page, as some ladies have already done a bit of brainstorming.)
The dinner is free, but your RSVP by Friday May 4 will be most helpful so we can make the appropriate arrangements. (Please RSVP to Jolie Hall: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Once more, here are the details:
- What: 6th Annual Evangel Classical School Fundraising Feast
- When: Friday May 11, 2018, 6:30pm
- Where: Marion Field Farm, 10611 Moran Road, Arlington WA 98223
- Who: Friends of Evangel Classical School
- Why: To remember, to receive, and to give thanks
- RSVP: Please RSVP by May 4 to Jolie Hall: email@example.com
Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions at all.
Risus est bellum!
I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten tofu…at least on purpose. Some people are not sure they’ve ever been around a Christian. This ought not be the case.
If you ask any vegetarian or fan of Asian cuisine, they’ll tell you that tofu takes on the flavors of other ingredients around it, whether they’re salty, spicy, or sweet. This parallels the cultural influence of many modern Christians. We are told to flavor the culture like salt on a steak, but we perform like spongy tofu instead. And this is what our culture not only expects, but demands of Christians.
Many modern Christians are like tofu, taking on the cultural flavor of those other social ingredients around them. They don’t stand out, they don’t make waves, and they contribute about as much value to their social context as a lump of tofu in your curry dish. Perhaps you can’t taste it, but it gives you a bit of nutritional benefit (some protein, amino acids, etc.). Having Christians around is nice, isn’t it? They’re easy to push around, they don’t make waves or even curse. How pleasant! But beyond that, many Christians, like tofu, don’t actually do much of anything. They’re more identifiable for what they’re not: they’re not unbelievers…and tofu is not meat.
Increasingly, Christians are shouted down in the public square by those who have read neither the Bible nor the Constitution. We’re told to keep spiritual principles and practices to ourselves. Our opponents may cite a separation of Church and state, or invoke anti-discrimination clauses, or even spin some of the Bible back at us (Judge not, lest ye be judged. Turn the other cheek. What do you have against love?)
Decreasingly, our children are taught to submit first to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and to obey Him first and principally in private, public, and political matters. The world is not asking for a reason for their hopefulness and joy. But then again, the ginger-scented tofu is rarely asked how it got its unique aroma, either.
The more we capitulate to the tyranny of this moral revolution, the less distinct we are from the world. We even take on the world’s cultural flavor. We all know this, but few Christian parents know how to navigate (and flavor!) these waters when the waves just keep getting bigger and bigger.
Which is why I’m excited about the mission of Evangel Classical School. It is this:
> We commend the works of the Lord to another generation with the tools of classical education, weaponized laughter, and sacrificial labors so that they will carry and advance Christ-honoring culture.
This is big, but it’s not really complicated.
We’re trying to train our students to face their opponents with a gracious word and a confident grin. As they read many of the great works of Western Civilization, our students gain an understanding of where we have come from and where we are headed, philosophically, historically, ideologically and otherwise. They learn that Scripture provides the key for unlocking and answering many of the mysteries that have confounded Western thinkers from Plato to Nietzsche.
When we teach them Latin, we aim to teach them in precision of thought and the chief language in which the story of the West is told. There’s no room for ambiguity in Latin.
When we teach them Logic, we aim to teach them in order of thought, giving them the ability to identify flaws in their own reasoning, and we teach them to identify the fallacious tricks that our opponents employ to deceive us and others.
When we teach them Rhetoric, we aim to train them in expression of thought. Those who can speak clearly, winsomely, and well…and who have something to say, will be the cultural bouillon cubes of the next generation.
We’re trying to train them not to be free from work, but to be free to do a lot of work with joy. As we train them rigorously, they grow a big capacity for work. Work is good; it predates the fall. We don’t want for our students to try to escape it, but rather to do a lot of it happily.
We’re trying to train our students to laugh and sing at the right times, for the right reasons. We can laugh because we serve a sovereign and good God, and we’re on the winning side of an already-determined outcome…even if it’s still playing out right now. Happy Raggants have a song on their lips and a psalm in their hearts. People like that are hard to beat down. And boy, does that make Grendel cranky.
In an age of tofu-like Christians, what we need are for Christians to be cultural bouillon cubes. Bouillon cubes are not obnoxious, but when they’re introduced to the boiling pot of veggies, it boosts and determines the flavor of the mixture. A few years from now, when our Raggant bouillon cubes are dropped into the spheres of politics, education, the arts and sciences and commerce, by God’s grace may they have a potent and delightful impact…with that confident grin.
It happens often enough: I meet a nice lady in the line at Costco who asks me what the stubby orange flying rhinoceros is on my jacket. I say it’s a Raggant. Puzzled look. I quickly explain it’s our school mascot, a fictional creature from the book series 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson. By-passing most of that explanation, the lady has identified I am a teacher, and so she asks where: at ECS. Typically, between the evasive “evangel” portion (which at least sounds slightly familiar), and “classical,” she chooses the next ever-popular question, “Classical? What does that mean?”
I now have around six years’ experience answering this question, and have rarely done so well (or quickly, as at this point that cashier has rung through my mountain of provisions, the debit machine is beeping, and one of my children has to use the potty). I have learned to employ an analogy, which may be helpful to you in future shopping excursions, but will hopefully also aid in explaining why we teach Rhetoric proper at ECS.
Classical Education is like Legos. In the Grammar stage, about Kindergarten to sixth grade, the students are learning the basics of all the subjects: the colors of the Legos, shapes, how many dots are on the top of each one, how those fit together, and how to add and subtract them when constructing large towers. You start to give them rudimentary instruction manuals as they progress, and they begin to assemble the pieces into forms, putting together buildings or cars, like writing a paragraph or completing a math equation. Then, they progress to the Logic stage in late sixth to about ninth grade. Here we hand them the advanced manuals, and start studying why these Legos work the way they do and introduce strange new things, like hinges and motors and mini-figures that can act upon the stage of these large Lego worlds and do odd things like fight entire wars over one pretty girl-figure with nice hair. We hand them some Lego creations to disassemble and reconstruct. They may begin debating with each other the best way to construct a Lego colony. The final stage is the Rhetoric stage. This is the Master Builder stage, where we take everything they have learned in the previous two stages and tell them: Build. Build excellently, beautifully, and truthfully in a way that matters to The Master Builder and changes the world.
Rhetoric is the capstone of Classical Education. It is what everything in the early stages of your child’s education is building towards. That said, actually defining Rhetoric is tricky. It is a bad buzz word in political circles; it is a subject; it is field of study; it is a stage of development. And, ironically, definitions vary widely. Aristotle defined Rhetoric as “the faculty of observing, in any given case, the available means of Persuasion”; Plato defined it as, “the art of enchanting the soul”; ECS’ composite working definition of Rhetoric is “the art of a virtuous man writing or speaking well.”
Accordingly, Rhetoric is aiming for three primary things:
- Crafting Art
- Cementing Virtue
- Communicating Excellently
Students work on all three of these elements through their early years at ECS, from needing to rise from their seats to give an answer in class, to the Character Evaluations before them on every quarter’s Report Card, to Art and Music classes. The Progymnasmata exercises which students are completing in their Writing & Rhetoric texts (pro meaning “early” and gym meaning “exercise,” so early writing exercises) are a critical part in all of this, giving students foundational ways of writing about and processing the world. Thus, they will have actually studied and gained the skills of Rhetoric before they ever reach upper-Secondary.
But Rhetoric class is an essential time of special training which takes every tool in the tool-bag and uses it in new and creative ways. We start with studying virtue, personality, and identity: How are you formed? How do you, as you have been crafted, now craft to God’s glory? Who is the person next to you; how do you know; how do you show him Christ’s love? Next we move into the study of Rhetoric proper, types, and how to present it all well. Logic? You can deploy that in a Rebuttal paragraph to disarm your opponent, and even turn his own arguments against him. Diagramming sentences? To go now boldly and split infinitives, or start stacking substantive alliterations, or use cliches wisely; it’s all up for grabs. We practice through many different forms, employing impromptus, writing speeches, reading books, and discussing it all.
The end goal is, as Rebekah Merkle says in Classical Me, Classical Thee, to make each student “a leader…someone who is compelling enough that others want to follow…the skills you are learning in rhetoric are actually all about beauty, about expression, about learning to articulate clearly and communicate precisely in order that truth will be desirable to the hearer.” This is one of the final classes our arrows experience; it is their target-practice. They fly, they miss; they sometimes hit the wrong targets in the wrong ways. But with each flight they learn the warp and woof of their own making, they learn more of their Maker, and hopefully by the time they are notched into the bow and make their final flight from ECS on graduation day, they will fly uniquely straight, strong, beautiful, and true.