Archive - Dec 13, 2013


Nativity scene

Oh my, I came home for a few days and we have a nativity scene controversy in town. It is really no longer a controversy. It has been resolved. The Fertile-Beltrami school board voted 4-3 to reinstate the scene. The wording of the measure allows for religious symbols if they are accompanied by other holiday decorations. 

That should be the end of it. 

I would hope that the kerfluffle could be used in class to explain the reasons behind separation of church and state. Students should understand that not everywhere are they going to be in the majority. Out west, for example, many public schools have a Mormon majority. Out east, there are public schools with a substantial Jewish population, and Muslim population as well. 

Ha! I realize I said the incident should be used in class. That excludes the adults, many of whom are pretty eager to get their own religious symbols included in public areas. Think about what it would be like to have the shoe on the other foot.

I remember some incidents in high school where the line was crossed, and it made me uncomfortable. There was the expectation that you would take part in a student led prayer before the school play, for example. I thought it was bizarre, but took part out of peer pressure. When my brother came along, he just left the room. 

I was uncomfortable because it wasn't the type of prayer I was used to, and then we all had to hold hands, which was a bit much. Enforced intimacy annoys me. "Well, you could just leave!" comes the response from people who don't remember what it was like to be a kid and want acceptance. 

We were the only Baptists in school, so Mom and Dad held me out of religious release time for a couple of my elementary years. While everybody else went to their church, I sat back in the classroom with the Jehovah's Witness and Seventh Day Adventist children. We were inconvenient to the teachers, and we knew it. 

I am not about to claim the mantle of descrimination, but one friend did announce to me that his mother thought he had better keep his distance because I wasn't Lutheran! Another asked if we believed in the same God. He was doing research for his comparitive religions class at Sunday School. 

Far from feeling persecuted, by high school, I was so confident that I was right that I enjoyed my feeling of superiority over everybody else for having the correct religious beliefs. I was probably obnoxious. 

Then we had TEC retreats, where students went for a weekend, plus Monday, which they were given off from school, only to return Tuesday in a state of revival which doggone near made it impossible to concentrate upon school. Hugs, tears, secrecy, clubbiness. "You have to go on TEC! Then you can know why it is so great!" 

So, I did. Lots of crisis and emotion, which these days are, perversely, seen as evidence of God. Lots of mind games. Emotional ups and downs. No watches. Long, long sessions. We came back Tuesday and hugged everybody and generally were the in group for a day, and then it faded. 

In comparison, having a nativity scene in the lunchroom is small peanuts, I think.