Character is the set of inward values that determine our outward actions. In modern culture, character is thought of as a binary concept: people either have strong character or weak character. Strong character is celebrated when an individual acts in accordance with what they believe is right or beneficial, and the opposite being true of those with weak character. Neither acknowledges one source of truth as the foundation by which the measures of “right” or “beneficial” are based and the individual plays the role of judge. In contrast, classical Christian education recognizes a third type of character, Christian. Christian character is grown in the context of scripture and God’s plan for each of us now and for all eternity. Everything we do in life is driven by our character and Arma Dei Academy acknowledges life lived for God’s greater purposes as the standard by which we structure our lives.
Everything we consume shapes our affections. There is no value neutral influence. My maternal grandfather was an Italian immigrant who worked as a coal miner from the time he was sixteen. I remember sitting on his lap after Sunday dinner and being captivated as he told me stories from his life with every ounce of charm you imagine coming from a sage, expressive, Italian grandfather with a broken accent. One of my favorite stories was about the canaries he would bring into the mine to alert him if conditions became too dangerous. The canaries would sing to him when all was well, but when they detected carbon monoxide or other toxic fumes, they would stop singing, signaling him to leave. The imagery in that story has stayed with me and reinforced how strongly we are influenced by the things in our environment, including things completely undetectable to us. What we breathe in becomes a part of us, whether poison or truth. To parents raising children in a society wrought with record depression and anxiety, suicidality, school shootings, gender confusion, and a host of other cultural maladies, the burden feels too great to bear. The classical Christian education movement offers families the structure and support spoken of in Galatians 6:2 which calls us to bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Arma Dei Academy is a community committed to the cultivation of Christian character in our students.
Students learn through catechism and song that their purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, not modernity’s latest definition of happiness or success. Laying the foundational truth that we are created by a sovereign God, with a divine purpose, grounds students in their identity in Christ. Through chronological teaching of the Bible, students are connected to a larger story and the rich heritage of their patriarchs. The cardinal and Christian virtues are defined and illustrated through the power of story, and virtue expression is recognized and celebrated, whether being practiced by characters in our curriculum, or characters in our classroom. Character and effort are awarded above earthly markers of success, shaping affections to align worth with being a child of God and not a citizen of earth.