[RANT: Christian Magazines]
I was at my local library this week waiting for my GMAT Prep class to start when I noticed the cover of a magazine shouting “The Shaming of Religion”. I walked over and picked up Liberty Magazine (which I had never heard of before), and found the main article. In the opening paragraphs, the author, John W. Whitehead, quotes another author John Leo from a 2002 essay he wrote:
“History textbooks have been scrubbed clean of religious references and holidays scrubbed of all religious references and symbols. Some intellectuals now contend that arguments by religious people should be out of bounds in public debate, unless, of course, they agree with the elites.
“In schools the anti-religion campaign is often hysterical. When schoolchildren are invited to write about any historical figure, this usually means they can pick Stalin or Jeffrey Dahmer, but not Jesus or Luther, because religion is reflexively considered dangerous in schools and loathsome historical villains aren’t. Similarly, a moment of silence in the schools is wildly controversial because some children might use it to pray silently on public property. Oh, the horror. The overall message is that religion is backward, dangerous, and toxic.”
I’d like to comment on this quote. If a person of a religious background makes a valid and quantifiable statement, it is valid, but valid on its own merits. Any point made by a religious person should not gain credence or be detracted from because background of the person speaking. That being said, if someone claims they received a direct message from a religious deity, their comments should absolutely be discounted and the speaker should be greased and feathered (I am looking at you Pat Robertson).
The concern that Jesus is not being discussed in public schools is also not valid in my opinion. I didn’t realize schools were expected to teach children about people who probably never existed in a historic context. I am going to spell it out for you believers… there is a strong probability that THERE NEVER WAS A JESUS CHRIST. Will Mr. Leo get upset when the school doesn’t teach Santa Claus’ work against the Nazis in WWII? I hear those reindeer took down their fair share of fighter pilots.
To even group Christ in with Luther is problematic. Luther can and is taught in most high school level history courses because he was responsible for the splitting of Christianity which laid the groundwork for many issues in England. Stalin is taught because he played a major part in the last century’s political makeup, and it would be hard to understand how the Cold War started without understanding Mr. Stalin’s motivations. Finally, I was NEVER taught or talked about John Wayne Gacy (except when I was chatting with my friend Jeff who liked to throw in the occasional mass murder reference from time to time). Actually, I have a suggestion regarding Gacy… students should learn about him and the many Catholic priests who abused children in a sexual predators awareness course.
Mr. Whitehead’s article then discusses a child in Colorado who was not allowed to give a live report about his hero Jesus Christ. This is a tricky situation and I feel bad for the child and the school, but I would ask if children were allowed to do reports on Superman and Spiderman. If not, then to my previous point, in this context Jesus has no place in public education. He then continues to expose the most extreme examples of religious avoidance in public schools. I find it interesting that schools have gotten to this point not because of Liberals, but due to other religious conservatives validly arguing why their children are learning about Christianity but not of their own faith. What can a school do except draw a very bright line and tell their educators not to cross it – schools are in a no win situation. Whitehead’s closing example about the high-school brass band that couldn’t play a musical version of “Ave Maria” at graduation is the perfect example of the situation. Whitehead argues that the principle who requested another song be played didn’t even know the words to the song. Who cares? If I were a part of that graduating class, I wouldn’t want that song played, there are other songs that could be more universally enjoyed.
The article essentially builds the argument that Christianity has permeated our culture via music, art, and history – so how can you separate it? You can’t. You don’t. You have to teach religion in history class. Greek polytheism right through Christianity, Judaism, and the Muslim faith. But you teach the facts. Teach students about how the Catholics started the crusades to gain access to rich middle eastern spice markets but whipped up religious fervor about bringing Christianity to the heathens – many died. Or you learn about the Salem witch trials and how people were burned at the stake based on a stupid girl’s accusation, or how the Church overlooked the holocaust during WWII. All of the music, art, and documents with a judeo-christian background SHOULD and IS accessible to students at any school, but that doesn’t mean they should be having prayer vigils at the front doors of the schools. Do it at home.
Parents have the right to teach their children whatever beliefs they want, but they should not expect a school or other students to learn/listen to their beliefs. Religion belongs at home and in the church. Students and adults alike need to take the moral framework from their upbringing (religious or not) and incorporate that into the world they operate in. You don’t have to hide it, but you shouldn’t rub it in people’s faces either.