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The Mind is a Battleground
The Mind is a Battleground

By Nannette Iatesta

Thirst was getting the best of me after a long afternoon of shopping in a large discount store, and I was looking forward to putting my feet up while enjoying a soft drink in the store’s snack bar. I dutifully gave $1.07 to the rather sharp-looking sixteen-or seventeen-year-old clerk, and the conversation went something like this:

“Can you imagine, every time I spend a dollar for a soft drink, the government gets seven cents?” I commented.

“What?” asked the boy, wearing a somewhat confused look.

“You know,” I paused. “Taxes! We buy the drink, and seven cents goes to taxes. We pay for things like police protection, park maintenance, and new recreation centers,” I explained.

A look of absolute shock preceded his only remark. “Oh, you mean that’s how that all works?”

The teacher in me wanted desperately to sit down with the boy and give him a free lecture on rising taxes, the increase in social programs, and dependence on government. However, I refrained, sat down, sipped my drink, and contemplated the little phrase “Ignorance is bliss.”

Bliss it may be, but in the perilous times in which we live, ignorance will damage the lives of young people. There is little hope for a Christian who doesn’t know how to think Biblically in the twenty-first century.

I spend many hours a week in my car traveling from home to the Christian school where I serve as a secondary teacher. Much of the material I use has been gathered from the radio—everything from National Public Radio to J. Vernon McGee on “Thru the Bible Radio.” While driving the seventeen miles to school, I manage to scribble notes in the back of my checkbook or on old grocery lists. The biggest challenge, so far, has been an attempt to decipher what I had written on a tissue. By God’s grace, and not my good sense, I have managed to stay alive, remain ticket free, and acquire a wealth of information and fresh understanding for use in class lectures.

The inspiration for a secondary elective course occurred while I was listening to the now-late Dr. Dave Breese from “Christian Destiny” read excerpts from his book Seven Men Who Rule the World from the Grave (Moody Press, 1990). I was so intrigued by what I was hearing that I took notes, skipped grocery shopping, and promised myself that I would buy the book.

I did buy the book, read it in a few days, and concluded that my students desperately needed to hear what Dr. Breese had to say. That inspiration eventually translated into a class offered at Community Christian School in Northglenn, Colorado. CCS, as it is known, is a ministry of Calvary Community Baptist Church under the ministry of Pastor Bernie Augsburger.

In the book Dr. Breese presents some biographical information on seven famous men in world history, along with the essence of each person’s philosophical ideology and the way in which his thoughts have substantially influenced how we think today—long after his death. The book is profound, passionate, yet practical—a perfect tool for today’s Christian teens living in a world demanding answers that they do not always have.

Soon after I had the notion for an elective class, the school principal, Scott Bruns, made it a reality. Scott is not afraid to try new or unique techniques, and he encourages his staff to use every decent and legitimate means to get the message and material across. He has a great understanding of the times, and he realizes that even though a message may be timeless, the methods should fit the audience. An antiquated filmstrip or a dry-as-dust lecture won’t get a teacher anywhere in the classroom no matter how relevant the message.

For the first two weeks of class, students contemplate the thought-provoking statements in the book’s preface. The first paragraph comes as a revelation to many students:

The means by which one person is able to rule many others is a fascinating subject of study. Invariably, the explanation of such control is that it is a matter of the mind. Any ruler, no matter how numerous his weapons or great his wealth, must finally rule by other means. He must rule by persuasion, the ultimate weapon through which influence on a culture is produced and sustained. The truly powerful leader must influence the minds of men.

Once the students grasp this concept, they realize that the mind truly is a battleground. Because today’s children are growing up in a high-speed, media-driven world, they frequently see the flashy packaging on what is being hurled at them while failing to comprehend the history and sources behind the product. The wisdom of Almighty God through the writer Solomon has never been more apparent: “There is nothing new under the sun”; it is just warmed over or repackaged.

During the school year, we take a look at each of the seven men presented in the book and the primary effects of their ideologies: Charles Darwin—natural selection, Karl Marx—economic determinism, Julius Wellhausen—religious liberalism, Sigmund Freud—sexual revolution, John Dewey—social change, John Maynard Keynes—government investment, and Soren Kierkegaard—Christian existentialism.

Exposure to this material opens students’ eyes to motivations behind things such as politicians’ comments, newspapers articles about the age of the earth, churches practicing a social gospel, a nation obsessed with sex, and the celebration of Earth Day in public schools.

Classroom activities, homework, and field trips provide respite from the sometimes weighty and potentially boring philosophical jargon. To reinforce our study of socialism, we watch a cartoon version of Animal Farm and create clay sculptures of the characters in this powerful book.

A frequent homework assignment titled “Critical Reading” requires the students to do just that—read with discernment. They are given articles by a nationally syndicated columnist and asked to determine exactly what the individual is saying, not what they themselves think of the piece. This is very hard for them at first, but in time they begin to comprehend the difference between fact and opinion and to develop an ability to get to the heart of an issue quickly.

Even fun has a purpose in the Seven Men class. Forgoing the usual M&M’s, chips, and two-liter sodas, our hour parties are a bit more sophisticated. We play Risk and eat Turkish Delight! In order to sample high-culture entertainment, the class attended Edmond Rostand’s Cyrno de Bergerac with a preshow supper at my home.

Hopefully these young people will be able to use the experience and knowledge gained from this class to better understand those to whom they communicate the gospel and to avoid the dangers and pitfalls of the mind so common in our postmodern culture.

Feedback from those taking the class has been both quick in coming and positive. A number of parents reported seeing in their children a new interest in national and world affairs, as well as a willingness to discuss those subjects at home. One father said that at the dinner table his son gave a rather lengthy explanation of socialism, much to the surprise of those listening. In addition, students appear to be finding the course very practical. One college freshman wrote, “If it hadn’t been for Seven Men, I wouldn’t have understood the importance of Marx and German rationalism.”

“I was able to hold intelligent conversations with unbelievers,” said one eighteen-year-old girl soon after leaving for college.

“Seven Men was a great help in my philosophy of education class,” reported another student in a Christian college.

“I’m prepared to handle the material given to me,” said a boy attending a local state college.

Thanks to a man who devoted himself to making complex ideas accessible to ordinary people, we can learn to be “all things to all men” for the glory of God. J. Vernon McGee’s Bible teaching method consisted of “putting the cookies on the bottom shelf,” where they can be reached.

Nannette teaches history at Community Christian School in Northglenn, CO
Reprinted by permission from the Baptist Bulletin The Mind is a Battleground

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