- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Immanuel & The Cost Of Discipleship

In The Benedict Option [1], I write that faithful small-o orthodox Christians need to prepare to be pushed to the margins of public life over our faith convictions. If we are not prepared for that, then we will be shocked when we get shoved out of the public square, and may even be willing to surrender our beliefs for the sake of being included.

Well, here’s a lesson for you Christian readers who still believe that political power is a sufficient means of protecting Christian institutions. This e-mail went out from the head of the Sheridan School, a private K-8 school in Washington DC. It concerns the school’s response to the news that Immanuel Christian School [2], a private Evangelical school in the area, expects its employees and students to live lives of “moral purity” [3] which, consistent with its profession of Christian faith, means no sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

Did you think it necessary that a K-8 private school should have a response to the internal policies of another school? Ah, but when you’re dealing with bourgeois professionals, Attention Must Be Paid. The Sheridan School, which describes itself in its mission statement [4] as “progressive,” took to the fainting couch over the fact that its sports teams had to play a bunch of gross Evangelical kids. Here’s the letter that the right-thinking Jessica Donovan, head of school, sent to parents:

At Sheridan School, we pride ourselves in the fact that we are teaching children to be allies and upstandanders [sic] and to speak out when they perceive injustice. It is in the DNA of the work we do, and we know it is serving our children well when we hear from the high schools that our students are leaders and advocates in their schools.

There are times when the need for social action hits close to home, and we are grateful for these teachable moments. Last year, after the school shooting in Florida, our students formed a Young Activist club and worked to register voters and spread awareness. This year, a new issue has arisen that we have been working through with the students.

Along with many of you, we learned last week that Immanuel Christian School, a school in our athletic conference, has a written policy prohibiting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, parents and teachers. Given our school’s fundamental belief in diversity and inclusion as expressed in our diversity statement, this information, and what to do about it, poses obvious challenges. While we have played ICS in the past, we were not aware of its policies, so this new information prompted conversations among the staff and many families. While we were still gathering information, we also heard from our students who were upset about ICS’s exclusionary this policy and wanted to take action.

Last week, Jay Briar (Middle School Head), Calvin Snyder (Varsity Girls coach and Athletic Director), Brent Levin (Varsity Boys coach) and I met with student leaders of the two varsity basketball teams to hear their perspectives. I told them that the ultimate decision about what we do would be mine, but that I cared greatly about their perspective. There was agreement that the students were uncomfortable playing ICS, but not on what we should do. The leaders then spoke with the rest of the junior varsity and varsity basketball players. Some suggested we should not play the school at all and others suggested that we should play and make a peaceful and respectful statement. The majority said they would like to play while making some kind of statement. As the news spread, many of you have reached out to us, and we have been very proud of the thoughtful and action-oriented responses we have received from teachers, parents, coaches and student-athletes.

SInce the majority of students wanted to play, we were initially planning to go to ICS with the student-athletes wearing a statement of support (such as rainbow socks or warm-up jerseys). As we talked more, we understood that some students did not feel safe entering a school that bans LGBTQ parents, students or even families that support LGBTQ rights. Forcing our children to choose between an environment in which they feel unsafe or staying home was not an option. [Emphasis mine — RD] So we decided that we would invite ICS to play all of the games at Sheridan. Since ICS declined our offer to host, we will only play our home games and will not go to ICS to play.

Throughout the conversations with the students, we have had many opportunities for engaging dialogue. We talked about how tough problems take time to resolve and, sometimes, even after they are resolved it doesn’t feel just right. We talked about the idea of a team and what it means when we all stand together. We discussed human rights and why some are more protected than others. We shared that people who believe differently from us do not deserve disrespect, and the best way to engage with others is through respect and dialogue. We were clear to separate the ideals of Christianity with the policies
of this particular school, as we play many Christian schools that support LGBTQ rights.

I wish you could have been in on the conversations with our students. You would burst with pride to see how thoughtful, mature, engaged, and empathetic our students are. We are grateful for all of the parents, teachers, and students for the thoughtful ways they have shared their views, experiences and ideas for how best to respond in a way that still allows us to connect with people and groups with differing views, while also standing up for the people and values that we support.

In the end, we know that all of our students will feel safe playing at Sheridan. They will wear their rainbow socks in support of LGBTQ rights and they will play their hearts out. Some have made banners that respectfully celebrate LGBTQ rights. We will welcome our guests and show good sportsmanship. If you’d like to come out to support our teams, the varsity games will be on Wednesday at Sheridan beginning at 3:30 and the junior varsity games will be February 12 beginning at 3:30.

This is a challenging situation, and we are working through difficult and sometimes hurtful issues, but the Sheridan community’s response — and most especially that of our children — has been inspiring. Thank you for entrusting your children with us. They are making the world better every day.


Jessica Donovan

Head of School

Sheridan School

Washington, DC 20008

It’s always “safety,” isn’t it? Liars. These Sheridan School people, especially the unctuously self-congratulatory Madame Donovan, don’t want to get Evangelical cooties on them, but they cannot admit their spite for these Evangelicals, so they invent this ridiculous concern for “safety.” Immanuel has had the policy for years, and Sheridan students and parents have presumably gone to Immanuel for sports contests, and nobody was insulted or assaulted or treated with disrespect. What has changed?

The fact is, those Sheridan students and families are 100 percent safe. This is a lie. It’s a lie they invented to justify the fact that they think Evangelical Christians are disgusting bigots and should be shunned and stigmatized.

I don’t know the rules of the athletic league in question, so I don’t know if Sheridan can get away with this. If they can, there will now be pressure within other schools in the league to shun Immanuel. This is how it will happen, people. They don’t have to pass laws hemming in orthodox Christian schools. They can accomplish a lot simply with social pressure.

The Christians students and parents at Immanuel will now get a lesson on what it means to endure spite for the sake of fidelity. And so will the rest of us watching from the sidelines. Sheridan School has actually done Immanuel a favor, showing them the cost of discipleship. It’s not really about sports, but about learning how to bear social stigma with grace and courage. If your Christian school can’t handle being hated and shunned by a sports league, it won’t be able to stand up to real persecution.

Take a look at Immanuel Christian School’s website [2]. Do you really think this looks like a place where visiting sports teams and parents are unsafe? Meanwhile, consider that the Sheridan School is committed to diversity, until the point where tolerance for difference actually challenges them:

UPDATE: Reader Jonah R. comments:

I don’t believe the kids are actually behind this, but on the off chance they are, the adults are doing them no favors by scaring them into feeling “unsafe” about attending a game at a conservative Christian school where, from what I can tell, everyone is welcome in the stands.

Let’s also be clear about what the Sheridan School is: It’s breeding tomorrow’s ruling class. These kids are going to be the busybodies, scolds, and control freaks of tomorrow.

There’s also a humorous “privilege” issue here. Tuition at Immanuel Christian is $10,000 a year. At Sheridan, tuition is $34,000 to $38,000 a year. This isn’t just about shielding students from Christians and conservatives; it’s about setting upper-crust kids apart from relatively normal middle-class people. This is getting into Brave New World territory: “I’m glad I’m not a Beta!” I guess the next step is to give the Sheridan kids electric shocks every time they see a crucifix.

70 Comments (Open | Close)

70 Comments To "Immanuel & The Cost Of Discipleship"

#1 Comment By MikeCA On January 30, 2019 @ 12:10 pm

Mr “Hate Crime”,I’m sure in the pre civil rights era that many Americans didn’t understand the “ hand wringing” over why minorities made such a fuss about those things. If they spared a thought on the subject at all. My own grandparents in NC didn’t mistreat blacks or other minorities but they didn’t question the social order of the day. All the black folks they knew seemed happy enough living separate but equal (ha!) lives. Why upset things with integration and interracial marriage and the like? It wasn’t until 1992, some 25 yrs after civil rights legislation & the Loving decision that a majority of Americans approved of interracial marriage. There are still people that disapprove of interracial marriage and interfaith marriage to this day. Generally they’re pretty quiet about it.
Obergefell was decided in 2015 and support for marriage equality & gay rights in general is at about 60+%. A minority still view this as “ bad behavior” or sinful but most don’t including the overwhelming majority of millennials & gen z.
Either we all learn to live together peacefully in a secular civil society or small “o” orthodox types will need their own institutions in a Benedict Option.

#2 Comment By John Gruskos On January 30, 2019 @ 12:11 pm

“teachable moment” – an opportunity to avoid encountering a different point of view.

“diversity and inclusion” – think alike, and exclude anyone who doesn’t.

#3 Comment By Hmmm On January 30, 2019 @ 12:12 pm

The good news is the school’s commitment to open internal dialogue: I’m sure students, parents, and teachers at Sheridan feel very “safe” expressing non-progressive views.

(It’s true that the same sarcastic remark could apply to expressing views at ICS that run counter to its brand of Christianity. The difference is how honest they are about their intolerance, and the extent to which they are willing and able to take the battle outside their own walls. Internal vs. external jihad.)

On a side note: The “upstandanders” typo is especially entertaining because the “sic” would have been appropriate even without the typo: “upstanders”?! Actually it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that’s now a standard SJW/eduspeak term. Not very catchy, though: I prefer “stander-uppers.”

#4 Comment By Anon On January 30, 2019 @ 12:20 pm

This and all the other articles you’ve posted, taken collectively, make me think of the propaganda against the Jews in Germany that preceded the extermination system established by the Nazis when they finally came to power. Perhaps the Benedict Option is not the answer. The smart Jews saw what was coming. The smart Jews who could got out of Germany.

#5 Comment By Locksley On January 30, 2019 @ 12:24 pm

“The Sheridan School is named, indirectly, after General Phil Sheridan, who is reputed to have said, ‘The only good Indian is a dead Indian.'”

The answer to the question of how Sheridan’s name has survived at the school is obvious: Phil Sheridan fought against the Confederacy, thereby placing himself objectively on the Left. His views on Indians are beside the point to these commies.

#6 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 30, 2019 @ 12:34 pm

It’s always “safety,” isn’t it? Liars. These Sheridan School people, especially the unctuously self-congratulatory Madame Donovan, don’t want to get Evangelical cooties on them

I was just thinking, this sounds a lot like “white” schools saying their athletes don’t feel “safe” playing “black” schools because “n******s have cooties.” Or as the repulsive “white” housewife in The Help tried to claim “they have different diseases.”

Its going to take some careful thought and choice of language to make the point clearly that there is a huge difference between saying “No matter what urges you feel, it is important not to indulge in certain passions, because your immortal soul is at stake,” vs. “You people aren’t welcome here.” The accuracy of the former statement is of course conjectural, and it is not binding on anyone who chooses not to respect it, but it is not synonymous with the latter.

“diversity and inclusion” – think alike, and exclude anyone who doesn’t.

Or, as I learned to say about social democrats from a more Bolshevik point of view, “You individuals are all alike.”

Either we all learn to live together peacefully in a secular civil society…

Well, of course. But that INCLUDES accepting that religions have various disciplines that are not prescribed by civil law, but which some of our fellow citizens will adhere to.

#7 Comment By Maclin Horton On January 30, 2019 @ 12:44 pm

This is a side issue, but: a while back I wrote something about “toxic femininity”, noting some characteristically feminine ways of being obnoxious and bullying. Not, obviously I thought, saying that femininity itself is toxic, but that when women do want to push people around they tend to go about it in a different way from men. Some people were Offended by this.

But it really strikes me that a lot of current woke-progressive efforts have a strong element of that: the quavering emphasis on feeling “unsafe”, of declaring opposition “hurtful”, etc. Very passive-aggressive. Reminds me of the mother in The Screwtape Letters. “You know it upsets me when…[I don’t get my way].”

#8 Comment By Mr “Hate Crime” On January 30, 2019 @ 1:22 pm

MikeCA says:
January 30, 2019 at 12:10 pm
Mr “Hate Crime”,I’m sure in the pre civil rights era that many Americans didn’t understand the “ hand wringing” over why minorities made such a fuss about those things.



Homosexuality is a behavior that can be forborne. Just like lying, stealing, fighting, abusing women, smoking, and chewing with your mouth open.

If you were willing to advocate for special privileges and “rights” for practitioners of those behaviors as well, then I’d pay more attention to this type of fallacious thinking.

#9 Comment By JMG On January 30, 2019 @ 2:07 pm

For those who watch the British comedy “Keeping Up Appearances,” one knows that Mrs. Bucket has a son who lolls around, sponges off his parents, and still is well-connected. Is it coincidental that this lad is named “Sheridan?”

#10 Comment By JG On January 30, 2019 @ 2:17 pm

“Muffy, must we really play ball with those cultural cretins?”
“Oh, dear, Tiffany, I certainly hope not. Why, they may ask us to read the Bible, and I doubt they even provide trigger warnings!”
“Really, Muffy, how grossssssss!”
“Yes, they just live in a bubble of their white privilege. We shan’t play them in croquet, shall we?”
“Obviously not. Well, I must run. Volunteering at Planned Parenthood this afternoon.”
“Oh, yes, I must get down to Human Rights Watch.”

#11 Comment By Philly guy On January 30, 2019 @ 2:19 pm

The Chinese government said in re-educating the Uighurs that Religion is a Pestilence.

#12 Comment By Mandrake On January 30, 2019 @ 2:48 pm

Yes, these Richie-Riches know full well that they are perfectly safe visiting Immanuel Christian School, and yes, this is about them exercising power over those they hate.

Here’s another example:


At first I thought the author was whacko nuts, and the newspaper, too, for running it. In reality, this non-think piece too is about the raw exercise of power and the suppression of those you consider to be your unforgivable enemies.

#13 Comment By MikeCA On January 30, 2019 @ 7:02 pm

We part ways Mr. Hate Crime over sexual orientation being merely a behaviour like the ones you listed. You obviously believe that non heterosexual people who engage in sexual activity are “icky”,immoral,etc. Perfectly within in your rights and perfectly within mine & others to strenuously disagree. Fortunately your views are in the minority and are becoming more irrelevant by the day. LGBT are no better nor worse than the rest of us but they do deserve the same respect,consideration and legal protections. Is that so difficult?

#14 Comment By Lee On January 30, 2019 @ 9:02 pm

@ Siarlys Jenkins
[I was just thinking, this sounds a lot like “white” schools saying their athletes don’t feel “safe” playing “black” schools because “n******s have cooties.”]

Ok, this has nothing to do with the subject and it might not work but I gotta give it a try.

This reminds me of when my boys were playing football in high school. One of them played nose guard and when we played the only all-black school on our schedule, their center was ***HUGE*** – like 6’3″ and 300 lbs when my son was 5’11” and 160. When he got home after the game I asked him how he liked banging his head against a brick wall all night and he laughed and said “tell me about it”. I then asked if there had been much trash talk and he said “Not from the center! He was a really nice guy! At one point he picked me up off the ground (and now he reached back to demonstrate being lifted by his shirt back while hunching his shoulders and dropping his other arm to look like he was held up off the ground) and he asked me “You ok little buddy?” and I said (soft high pitched voice now) “Yeah, thanks, can you put me down now?” Maybe you had to be there but I still laugh whenever I think about it.

Politics and sports should not mix.

#15 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 30, 2019 @ 11:09 pm

Lee — wonderful story, thanks.

Mr. Hate Crime and MikeCA are having one of those pointless hornlocks that belong in a reality show on a distant tropical island, sort of like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, only not such celebrity names.

From the viewpoint of a monosexual space-travelling species (Isaac Asimov wrote about one in “Playboy and the Slime Gods”), homosexuality may, or may not, pose some objective harm — particularly when the harm is to one’s immortal soul, if any.

Certainly it is a behavior that CAN be foreborne. Some, who are same sex attracted, and believe for some reason that they should NOT act on the attraction, forbear. Others, who do not feel that way at all, indulge. Most of us forbear, and can claim no virtue in that — because we’re not tempted in the first place.

L and G people may be no more or less icky in their engagements than heterosexuals. B and T are two entirely different questions, which we can defer to another post. Certainly no large complex animal would engage in the strenuous contortions necessary to produce another generation if it weren’t a whole lot of fun. It would be kind of icky without the hormones.

People are going to differ on these questions, and there is NO objective way to define (this side of eternity) what is True. So let’s tone down the rhetoric. In matters of transcendental signficance, the government is denied the authority to legislate.

#16 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 31, 2019 @ 3:14 am

” Well, I must run. Volunteering at Planned Parenthood this afternoon.”
“Oh, yes, I must get down to Human Rights Watch.”

I love humankind, it’s actual people I can’t stand.

#17 Comment By hoobie On January 31, 2019 @ 12:25 pm

Xtians are the ones who are building parallel institutions such as K-12 and universities. Don’t be surprised when the rest of us ignore you.

#18 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 31, 2019 @ 9:40 pm

Xtians are the ones who are building parallel institutions such as K-12 and universities. Don’t be surprised when the rest of us ignore you.

That’s precisely what the builders of parallel institutions desire — to be left alone to live their lives according to the dictates of their conscience. If we can all agree on that, we’ll be fine.

Would I say the same for racists? That’s a straw man, since the basis for the parallel institutions are quite different, but let me offer a positive example.

I don’t know how well the experiment is going, but after the collapse of the apartheid regime in South Africa, a small number of Afrikaners decided they really wanted to live in a community with only others of their own culture and language (and color of course). They recognized that to do this, they would not be living on the prime agricultural land, over the finest mineral deposits, and, most of all, they would have to do all their own work. Do I object? Not particularly. Its pretty harmless as long as they are not trying to dominate others.

#19 Comment By Jeff C-C On February 1, 2019 @ 11:41 am

Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comforted. ICS is doing its job well if Sheridan’s kids wouldn’t feel safe going there.

I didn’t read the first 50 comments. Hope I’m not the first to make this point.

#20 Comment By Katherine On February 1, 2019 @ 6:09 pm

Bear in mind that the Bible is not a ‘flat book’ which you just dip into and find God’s instruction to you on any randomly selected page. The general Christian view is that the Old Testament laws were given for a specific people, place and time – ancient Israel (where even there seems to have been at best a patchy national record of keeping them). Christians believe that the life, death and resurrection of Christ achieved freedom and release for them from the condemning power of the law and, thanks to Jesus, the reality of a new sort of relationship with God. They talk in terms of old and new covenants (or testaments). Some laws, like the dietary ones, are given specific mention in the New Testament as no longer applicable. There is a range of opinion about how the OT law should be used, and specially highlighted laws like the Ten Commandments are normally given ongoing emphasis, in some sense (I’m keeping this in very broad terms.)
The death penalty was also applicable for numerous other offenders, including incorrigibly rebellious (probably young adult) children.
Not knowing the school in question at all, if they’re typical Evangelicals they will see that verse as an indication that God has designed human sexuality for a positive purpose and does not condone activity outside that purpose, a position which finds biblical support elsewhere. They would not wish to put anyone to death for breaking this law any more than they would like to execute the entire local juvenile detention centre. They may even say that the Lord experienced death on behalf of and in solidarity with sinners (that would be you and me) and mysteriously setting us free in doing this.