Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Know where DeVos is coming from

The NY Times has an op-ed today from Katherine Stewart, which starts to get at the background from which Betsy DeVos comes.
At at 2001 gathering of conservative Christian philanthropists, she singled out education reform as a way to "advance God's kingdom." In an interview, she and her husband, Richard DeVos Jr., said that school choice would lead to "greater kingdom gain."
Edushyster called out a great deal of this in her post from late last week:
Not nearly enough has been made of DeVos’ extreme closeness to the extreme fringes of the Christian right. She and her family have spent decades and millions upon millions to help further the reach of organizations like the Family Research Council, known for its *research* into homosexuality, which, by the way, is not a civil right. While media reports have referred in passing to DeVos’s support for Christian causes, they’ve largely glossed over what these causes are and how deeply enmeshed she is in a world that views homosexuality as immoral and abhorrent. Since her position comes with some responsibilities of the civil rights variety, should we maybe be concerned about this?
Politico covered some of this last week:
During the DeVos interview, the couple talks about a trip to Israel where they learned about a geographical region, called the Shephelah, where battles were fought between the Israelites and Philistines. 
Betsy DeVos then links this topic to education. "It goes back to what I mentioned, the concept of really being active in the Shephelah of our culture — to impact our culture in ways that are not the traditional funding-the-Christian-organization route, but that really may have greater Kingdom gain in the long run by changing the way we approach things — in this case, the system of education in the country," she says.
One of the weaknesses of the American press is around religion, so this has not been a strong point of coverage. Told that DeVos is a Calvinist, many reporters won't make a connection to much of anything else. DeVos is part of the Christian Reformed church, which grew out of Dutch Calvinism. Among that which the Christian Reformed church holds is the Canons of Dort; some may know this as TULIP:

  • Total depravity
  • Unconditional election
  • Limited atonement
  • Irresistible grace
  • Perseverance of the saints  
Wikipedia's summary of this is decent if you're interested. I'll call your attention for now only to the third: the belief that only some have been chosen by God to be saved (and that there is nothing that any person can do to change this) is a troubling position for the person who is in charge of education for every child in the country to hold. Does this mean that there should be a religious test for public service? Of course not. It is, however, a relevant question as to how that applies to her fulfilling her responsibilities for all kids.

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