Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Yet Another Religious Conundrum

I'm so mad I can't see straight. Well, some of that could be the drugs I scored yesterday at my doctor's appointment. Vicodin is good.

But anyway...I want out of this state, and I want out now. I don't want my kids to grow up here, although it's already somewhat too late for that, since my children have almost left their formative years behind them.

I wish, twenty years ago, I had thought about what I was doing when I left my home and family for this place. The only good thing to come out of that decision was meeting and marrying Husband.

I wish I had thought about what it would mean to raise my children in the Bible Belt; the epicenter of religious zealotry and intolerance.

Husband says people are teaching their kids bigotted intolerent crap everywhere. And to an extent, he is right. But I counter that the percentage of ignorant intolerant Christian people in the Georgia is much higher than the percentage of ignorant intolerant Christian people in say...oh...I don't know...Wisconsin.

Let me preface this by saying that I fully acknowledge that I tend to blow things like this out of proportion. Keeping that in mind, I still think that it's a situation that needs addressing.

Tonight at dinner, out of a clear blue sky, Diminutive One asked if we are Christians.

Momentarily taken aback, I inquired why he was asking. He explained that a girl in his class had taken it upon herself at lunchtime to poll the class about their religious beliefs; specifically, whether or not they were Christians.

Diminutive One, unsure of his religious status, replied that we do not go to church. The girl informed him that in that case, he could not be a Christian. She then spread the word far and wide in a gleefully horrified manner, of Diminutive One's heathenism.

Embarassed and ashamed, he defended himself as best he could, but he was puzzled and hurt by her condemnation.

As he told me about the incident, I felt a white hot anger boiling up from deep inside me. I wasn't angry at the girl. She knew only what she had been taught. I was angry at those who had taught her. To hate. To persecute. To villify.

"So, are we Mom? Are we Christians?"

"Ummmm, I am not a Christian, but that doesn't mean that you can't be. You have to believe what you feel in your heart is right. And you don't have to go to church to be a Christian. There are a lot of people who love God who don't go to church. People who truly love God can worship him anywhere."

Husband added,

"America was founded on the prinicple of religious freedom son. The BEST thing about America is that we can worship who we want, how we want, where we want, and nobody has the right to tell us we can't. We don't all have to believe the same things here."

(conversation abridged for the sanity of the reader)

That seemed to mollify him but I was far from satisfied. Something had to be done. After he had left the table to take his bath, I exploded. Husband, as usual, let me vent my spleen in his general direction. He's heard it all before. He listened quietly and let me exhaust my outrage and indignation.

I stewed about what to do. Husband suggested that whatever I decided to do, I take some time to cool my jets first. How well he knows me.

He was right of course. Taking action in that state was bound to be anything but constructive, but I wasn't about to let it pass. No sir. The one place in this Godforsaken state my kid should feel safe from religious persecution is a public elementary school. And my kid has enough problems without worrying about defending himself against choices that are out of his control.

I decided to email the teacher to just let her know abot the situation and get some clarification. After all, I had only heard one side of the story, and...it's true that both of my boys are sometimes prone to over dramatization.

I emailed her late last night and have yet to get a reply, but I'm sure she will address the situation the first chance she gets. I'm the room Mom you see, and that carries a certain amount of power. She can't ignore me.

Not that she would, because she's not really that kind of person. She's painfully young and still very idealistic. She believes in doing "the right thing".

I don't know exactly what I am trying to prove. All I know, is that I want my boys to know that they don't have to apologize for who they are and what they believe. They shouldn't feel ashamed if they do not choose to embrace the same faith that others do. And most of all, they shouldn't have to explain their choices to anyone.

If there is any example to be set forth here, then let it be that.

Let them never feel that they are WRONG or LESS for not believing.

If they do believe, let it be because they feel it in their hearts, and not because somebody else said they should.

Hey...that's kind of like a prayer, isn't it?

A Heathen Mother's prayer, then.

Yeah. I like that.

35 Comments:

  • At 8:38 AM, Blogger Grilled Pizza said…

    Really enjoyed this post, i dont go to church either...

     
  • At 8:42 AM, Blogger Bea said…

    I think you handled it beautifully, both with your child and with the school. I'll be interested to hear how it goes. It's the same wayyy up here in North Carolina, I get hit with religous zeal and intolerance all the time. A friend of mine had words with her daughters elementary school when they allowed a church to come in and hand out bibles at lunch. GAHH!.

     
  • At 8:57 AM, Blogger kcoadbrown said…

    Intolerance in the name of God is the worst kind. An end of innocence with our children is always so hard but you both handled it perfectly. Good luck with this one!

     
  • At 9:28 AM, Blogger Magi said…

    I came from the south to northern Indiana, and if anything, I find the religious intolerance to be worse here.

    We moved to a small town about an hour from Atlanta when I was in the third grade. My mom was Catholic, and my father Jewish. Our backgrounds didn't affect my life there at all. It was never an issue. In fact, the one time I went with my best friend to her Methodist Youth Foundation meeting, I got elected president. I had to turn down the position as I wasn't Methodist, didn't go to that church, and never went to another MYF meeting. It was a surprisingly tolerant small backhills town for the 1960's as far as religion went.

    On the other hand, they didn't integrate the public schools there until I was in the 4th grade and then it was in name only. And no, I'm not that old. They were in violation of the law.

     
  • At 9:49 AM, Blogger we_be_toys said…

    Testify Sister Friend!
    We befriended some down on their luck neighbors this past year; took their kids to museums, movies; gave hand me downs to them, taught the mother how to bake bread, etc.
    When school started this year, one of their kids formed a posse at school, and taunted my eldest child for not being a christian; even tried to get the other kids to beat up my kid for being different. Nice, huh?
    We have stayed the hell away from them since then, but they came to the house a week ago, wanting our attendance at a birthday party. We gracefully declined, even though I would have LOVED to spew a bit of retroactive filth, because, as a pagan, I have sworn to harm none. Evidently the whole turn the cheek part of christianity isn't getting the attention it used to.
    What to do? I wish I knew...

     
  • At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Leigh said…

    May I jump in with another perspective? Perhaps the child was not taught to behave that way at all. Children can sometimes just be exclusive...they want to belong, and they get power from ganging up on others. Maybe this girl was just being "childish", and her parents might possibly be appalled at her behavior.

    Children usually see things as black or white...as I'm sure you've noticed. A child brought up in church might just have the idea that this is the RIGHT thing to do and that anything else is, naturally, wrong. Yes, her parents need to have a talk with her, but I wouldn't necessarily assume that they intended for her to feel this way.

     
  • At 9:59 AM, Blogger bubandpie said…

    To echo what Leigh said, I think children will always look for ways to exclude people. I remember when I was in grade four a girl asked me if I had been baptized, raising her eyebrow judgmentally when I said no. It was known that I went to a Baptist church in a town where everybody else was a cradle Presbyterian, so probably she was reacting to some kind of parental explanation of the difference between the two. And that's not to say that the parents were critical, necessarily - at that age, children don't need parental influence to consider anything different from what they're used to to be "weird."

     
  • At 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's not just the south. I live in Colorado and have felt ostracized a time or four by the Christian Right in our town. My children have suffered from this as well. Unfortunately, this movement has taken a huge hold on our country. We have close friends who have not always been the zealots they have become, and it's painfully confusing to me. They are our friends to a certain point, but we don't go beyond. And that's okay, I guess, I just don't like seeing it happen to my kids.

     
  • At 11:00 AM, Blogger thailandchani said…

    This might be a good time for the teacher to discuss diversity. The question itself isn't as troubling as the reaction.

    But as others have said, children are notoriously exclusive while they try to find their own place on the social grid.

    (That's probably the most important issue, to be taught how to do that without harming others.)

     
  • At 11:05 AM, Blogger Mitzi Green said…

    as another heathen in the bible belt (missouri raised, south carolina born), i can at least offer you hope that your kids won't be too awfully affected by the jesus junkie climate of their upbringing. though i once cried myself to sleep because my dad didn't attend church with us and was therefore not "saved" and would, therefore, be left behind at the time of the (what do they call it? i forget) second coming or whatever, it wasn't long after that that i thought about what i was hearing and thought to myself, "um, this is bullshit."

     
  • At 11:08 AM, Blogger Maddy said…

    I couldn't agree more. We're in Silicon Valley so there are all sorts here and a great deal of tolerance. I sort of thought that the rest of American would be the same, of course it's not. I thought that there was just the odd pocket here and there, I was wrong. Hope you can get the 'do the right thing teacher' on your side.
    Best wishes

    This is my calling card or link"Whittereronautism"until blogger comments get themselves sorted out.

     
  • At 11:11 AM, Blogger sltbee69 said…

    I agree that this isn't just a southern thing. It's everywhere. It makes me so sad that our kids have to be exposed to such ignorance at such a young age. Hopefully the teacher will handle this by what a pp said, teaching diversity.

     
  • At 11:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think you handled this beautifully, even with a temper flare.

    Andrea

     
  • At 12:36 PM, Blogger Wendy said…

    First, I think the discussion had with your son was good. I think calling the teacher about it was too much.

    My daughter is only 5 years old, but she has already been the target of being excluded. It hasn't been for religion, but other things, like being small. Kids are going to find the one thing that gets a reaction from another. I think the bigger fess made about it the more satisfication the taunter gets.

    I learned, just the other day, that me being Catholic doesn't mean I am a Christian. I was shocked, but continued on with my dinner. We have friends that are not religious and I disagree with some of their ideas, but I have not written them off. Matter of fact, they will get our children if something (God forbid) happens to us. Just wanting you to know that not everyone who believes in God is using it to torment others.

     
  • At 12:36 PM, Blogger Kathy said…

    I concur. You handled the situation beautifully. I was schooled (but not raised) catholic, and I had a healthy does of religious intolerance growing up, even a teacher telling my friend, whose parents were most definitely non-catholics, that she would never get to heaven.

    We were nine, by the way.

     
  • At 12:43 PM, Blogger Carol said…

    It's not only in the South. Even in progressive Seattle, Aleks was once told (when he was in 2nd grade), "I wish you were going to heaven so we could be friends forever, but since you're not a Christian you'll be in hell when I'm in heaven so we won't be together."

    Carol

     
  • At 2:17 PM, Anonymous Lisa said…

    Oh dear God - Fundamentalism in its foulest form - from the mouths of children!

    You did the right thing, BA!

     
  • At 3:03 PM, Blogger Kevin Charnas said…

    that little girl and her parents (or guardians) aren't christians either.

    In fact, I don't know too many christians. I know a LOT of people who THINK that they're christians, but they're not. they're posers...and not very good ones at that.

     
  • At 3:30 PM, Blogger margalit said…

    Interesting what Maddy said about Silicon Valley, because our 4 years there were horrible examples of SEVERE religious intolerance, and was the main reason we left. I wouldn't go back there for all the tea in China.

    I have to agree with you, BA. That child learned that kind of intolerance at home. Kids just don't make that kind of intolerance up. It's LEARNED. If she didn't get it at home, she got it at church. You gotta wonder what she would have said if Dimunative One had said he was Jewish. I'm betting on "Christ Killer", the thing MY children heard from other kids. And you tell me they didn't learn THAT at home.

     
  • At 3:33 PM, Blogger PunditMom said…

    I'll be saying that Heathen Mother prayer with you,then!

     
  • At 6:05 PM, Blogger jen said…

    oh wow...religion has got to be one of the most confusing things to teach a child. or to allow them to learn. and surrounded by those forces...oy.

    girl, keep us posted on this one.

     
  • At 9:08 PM, Blogger Terri said…

    What saddens me most as a Christian is that you seem to be getting such a bad taste of Christianity. Unfortunately, you are getting an accurate taste of what many Christians are like especially here in the South where going to church is more of a family tradition and social engagement than it is an act of worshiping God. Please, know that all Christians aren't this way. My husband and I have bemoaned the fact that there are too many Christians in churches who spread contention under the name of Christianity. It burns me up, too. No wonder so many people are turned off to Christianity. And you are right--going to church doesn't make anyone a Christian and neither does not attending church make someone a non-Christian.

    I hope one day you get a better taste of Christians. Yes, many are intolerant and bigoted, but unfortunately any group religious or otherwise seems to always have some that hover out on the lunatic fringe.

    From my perspective as a Christian what seems to be happening is that situations like this at your son's school only serve to perpetuate the stereotype of Christians. Just know that there is one Christian here in Georgia who is trying to be different.

     
  • At 9:12 PM, Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said…

    Crap like this makes me hate religion. For all the supposed good it does, it also gives people a reason to feel 'superior' to other people. I can only hope, if there is a Jesus Christ, that he is appalled at her behavior.

     
  • At 9:31 PM, Blogger Blog Antagonist said…

    Thanks to everyone, Christian and Non-Christian for their thoughts.

    I want to address something that Terri said.

    It is true that I seem to encounter a lot of really horrible Christian behavior. BUT...I have also been privileged to know some really amazing Christians as well; people whom I consider to be the epitome of the Christian spirit of love, kindness and charity. They are people who live as they believe.

    Please know that I do not hold all Christians in such low regard as those that I have discussed here. There are people of faith that I truly admire and respect. They have always been willing to share their beliefs with me without forcing them down my throath. And I am thankful to them for their kindness and generosity and for their lack of judgement.

    I should probably spend more time discussing those people here on my blog. Thanks for the reminder.

     
  • At 9:56 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chicky said…

    Another heathen here.

    I'd love to say "come to Massachusetts, we accept everyone" but I know those words will come back to bite me in the behind. It's easy as adults to ignore the religious zealots but it's much harder when you're dealing with it for your child. Or so I'm guessing. I hope when it's my turn to handle this topic I approach it with as much grace (and fire!) as you.

     
  • At 10:14 PM, Blogger Kathryn in NZ said…

    That prayer is PERFECT.
    Faith is an extremely personal choice, and further more, who said faith had to be about a deity?
    May your boys grow strong in their faith in themselves.
    hugs from Downunder

     
  • At 11:15 PM, Blogger Mac and Cheese said…

    When I was eight, my old, bible-thumping neighbours here in Toronto told me that I was going to hell since I was Jewish. I'm sure things are more concentrated in Georgia, but it really cannot be avoided anywhere. BTW, they stopped being religious and now we're all going to hell. Much better.

     
  • At 1:06 AM, Blogger Jess Riley said…

    Oh, that chapped MY ass, too!

    Kevin Charnas hit the nail on the head. I know very few Christians, though I know plenty of people who say they are.

    Someone once got in my face and said, "Do you accept that Jesus Christ died for you to save your soul? If you don't, you're going to hell." I remember thinking, well crap, if heaven is full of people like YOU, I'm not so sure I want a reserve seat...!

     
  • At 9:51 AM, Anonymous Lisa said…

    OOO! Jess, can I totally steal your thought and use it the next time I get ambushed??

     
  • At 11:08 AM, Blogger Oh, The Joys said…

    Where do we live?!!

     
  • At 1:32 PM, Blogger Amy Y said…

    Thanks for this, BA.
    We aren't quite here yet as my lil heathens are only 4.5 & 6 and relgious icons are just beginning to be discussed in their presence. I want to educate them about all religions and let them choose which (if any) they feel drawn to on their own without having a lot of influence on them... but that might not be realistic as we as a society (no matter where you live I'm afraid ~ though CO seems pretty good to me!) are bombarded with religion on a regular basis.

    My husband and I are not religious ~ in fact you could call us atheists. But I don't want my children to have that "label" until they are old enough to choose for themselves... I'm just not sure when that will be.

    I am not looking forward to the day when my son comes home from school and asks if we are Christians.

    I DO think you have it worse in the south... though things like this can happen anywhere.

    I'm anxious to find out what the teacher had to say...

    Sorry for the long ass comment. ;)

    Just know you aren't alone... and I appreciate you paving the way for folks like myself whose kids are right behind yours in these experiences I'm sure...

     
  • At 2:15 PM, Blogger kevin said…

    You hit a hot button with the teacher, especially if she's new to the business. I don't mean hot as in it touched on one of her "vaules" (incidentally, does that word still mean anything?) I mean hot as in she fears winding up on the front page of the AJC. She most likely had to ask a principal how to respond or whether she should.

    The girl in the lunchroom was doing exactly as she was taught. Like you said, her job was simply to villify. Sad, in my opinion, that she and people like her parents don't fancy their job as wooing others to their side with kindness and compassion, but I don't make their rules, so who am I to say? Aside from what a few apologetics might tell you, logic doesn't really win out in their case, so they resort to what they perceive as belittling.

    I'm learning from your experience as well as my own having taught in the public school system, but now somewhat in hindsight I'll make note to teach my daughter to reply that she finds it impolite to talk about such things at the lunch table or at the very least that she can proudly say to such prostheletizers that her spiritual beliefs or disbeliefs are none of their business.

    Remember the Harry Potter woman? She used her own kid as a pawn in a pointless battle. How gross!

     
  • At 2:25 PM, Blogger Emily said…

    I suspect that, if that girl were not in a Bible belt state and were a heathen, she would be polling kids on what music they listen to or what toys they play with. The content is different, but the snottiness and bullying is everywhere.

     
  • At 9:44 PM, Blogger bubandpie said…

    I've popped back in here a few times to catch up with the comments. There is such a strange dissonance for me in these conversations because my context is so different. I can't remember a time when I wasn't aware that being a Christian was a source of social embarrassment and/or (later) unpopularity. When I was in high school I knew kids who carefully hid all signs of their faith and I also knew others who didn't and were ridiculed for it - not for proselytizing or behaving badly in any respect, but simply for being sincere believers and church-goers. At the very least it was weird and at worst it was grounds for ostracism.

    Now that I'm out of high school I have mostly outgrown that, but even as an adult I can still feel my cheeks getting hot if someone asks if I'm a Christian in a culture where "yes" is not the right answer.

    Intolerance can come in all shapes and sizes.

     
  • At 12:36 AM, Anonymous StetffJ said…

    You know reading all the comments two things come to my mind. I have always been sure of my faith. Not in my religion, but in my FAITH. We moved when i was in 9th grade to a small town, and in hopes of connecting with other kids who were of similar faith i carried my Bible to school. I was ridiculed and put down and yanno the part that i still cannot fathom is the worst ones were the ones who ALWAYS went to church every time the doors opened....
    then i did find a church i liked and kids i liked but even though we believed in the same God we believed very different things about Him.
    But I have to concur on some level with the lady who said kids are exclusionary by nature...that is very true as they try to find their way....i mean remember being about gradeschool age and we would form "clubs" and then establish rigid criteria of what it took to be in it....
    I think you handled it well and I woudl have contacted the teacher as well.
    Steff

     

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