Lately, I’ve enjoyed following the knowledgable posts of Dr. Coyne over at his website, Why Evolution Is True. While here at Mother Prontennoia, I’ve intended to keep this site clean of strident opinions and politics, this particular story of Lebanon High School and the state of its surrounding community presents an impactful and insightful look into the sociological problems I see and have dealt with growing up, and it saddens me greatly to see otherwise well-meaning and reasonable people act in such blindly atrocious ways…
Long-story-short, the principal of this high school gave a highly religious, one-sided presentation of the mainstream Christian faith during his graduation speech. Many have since called him out on it, while others have heatedly defended him. You can find Dr. Coyne’s thoroughly written articles on all of the developments of this kerfuffle here. Most recently, a student who attended their own graduation ceremony at Lebanon had some intense and intelligent things to say about their experience. I don’t think Society listens to the needs of the religious minority enough, and it is shameful. Please take time to read this student’s beautiful and heart-wrenching letter in its fullness here, though I’ll share some of the highlights from it for you below:
…What bothers me is the school’s [tendency] to dissolve other groups that promote tolerance of differences… Christian students often dismissed my opinions in class discussions about whether non-Christian sources were credible. Political discussions in Social Studies classes were quite one-sided… What Mr. Lowery did at the 2014 graduation ceremony is hardly the first time that he danced around the Separation of Church and State for prayer… The students felt safe to bully me and my non-Christian peers, as they were the majority. And the principal seemed inclined to protect them… At my graduation, I was prepared for him to say a prayer. I did not expect a speech about America essentially being a Christian nation. It was arrogant, aggressive. I felt shamed for being a non-believer. It was not a simple prayer. It was an outcry of how he didn’t care about the minority. I had already felt as though he had a personal distaste for me as he knew I was not religious… I graduated as an honor student, received generous scholarships for college, and participated in a plethora of extra-curricular activities. I attended classes, made good grades, and treated my classmates with respect… …as my peers around me clapped and cheered for his prayer, I realized. This is not for me. I am not welcome here. I have never been. Lowery is not proud of me or for my various accomplishments, no matter what my class ranking was… No one cares if I leave the community or not, because my opinions are not welcome. And Lowery further illustrates that they never will be… Several teachers have voiced their displeasure with Lowery’s statements, but have admitted to being afraid for their jobs to do anything that was anti-Christian…
Why, you may ask, do otherwise well-meaning Christians persist so adamantly and with such outward cruelty toward others? Isn’t the Gospel one of love and hope for others? Aren’t we the bearers of Good News for the nations? WTH then?
Now, it would be impossible – not to mention wrong – to lump all Christians into one finite reasoning for their actions, of course. Every person and their beliefs are different and highly personal, entrenched in our own experiences and environments as we navigate this life. Again, there are so many various slants (or flavors, as I’ve called them) to the Christian faith, and every person is unique even within a certain denomination or creed. But, having been raised in the Word of Faith style Christian home that I was, I can tell you the changes I’ve seen since my upbringing that are running throughout mainstream Christianity in this country, and it bothers me something fierce.
Take a look at one of the community responses to this Lebanon HS drama that Dr. Coyne has provided at his website:
Mr. Coyne as we remove God from all aspects of our lives the lower a nation sinks…it is God that kept the USA strong. If ever we needed God it is NOW….we need Jesus He is our only hope. As you remove God, satan steps in to fill in the gap…that is exactly what is happening today. You don’t want God you will get the devil….thats who is ruling the roost today… Mr Coyne this is just a little bit of the evil that is being inflicted on us today, thanks to satan who rules today… Your agenda kills, it is destroying life on planet earth…if God bothers you so much get a pair of ear plugs…..stop taking our rights away from us…mind your own business… Look around , take a look at what is happening to our world, our country…and how bad things are really getting…. What gives you the right to take my right to believe in Him away? What gives [you] the right to remove the only stabilizing force we have, our salvation, our anchor, our shield?… [My own emphasis in bold.]
Essentially, we who were raised Christian in these “latter days,” and those who still are Christian in these latter days, were/are trained to see the world around us in a constant state of decline – that Satan himself is in charge of destroying us, and the only hope for everyone’s survival is to bow the knee to Christ. Here’s the important point: The Christians who perceive the world through this lens cannot for the life of them figure out why those who don’t believe or agree with them, well, don’t agree with them. After all, can’t you see the destruction?, one might ask. Can’t you see that if everyone were just united in the love of Christ, who gave all for us, then we would in turn see a miraculous wave of joy and restoration to our land? So, of course, there is a war on Christianity, and this “war” is a spiritual one, with the fate of humanity resting on none other than the prayerful shoulders of mainstream Christianity. You just don’t see it, because you are blinded by the Devil and refuse to acknowledge God.
Now, whether you believe this to be true or not is completely beside the point, with respect to the point I’m making. What these Christians are failing to realize is that they are, quite simply, imposing their views on others without regard or simple respect. It’s the folly of whole-heartedly believing, with all sincerity and passion, that YOU alone have the answer to the world’s ills, and all anyone has to do is agree with you. There is, therefore, no longer room for respect toward any religious or philosophical viewpoints other than the mainstream Christian viewpoint — because, if all is controlled by Satan and all is therefore a deception, then it would certainly be foolhardy to allow any dissenting voice to be heard in the public arena.
These comments are given in an extreme light, to be sure, but for the community in which I grew up, this is an all-too accurate portrayal of everyone in the outside – those who did not believe the Bible the way in which my family did; ironically enough, that even included fellow Christians. Therefore, my life was full of harsh judgement and criticism directed toward others, giving way to a highly toxic environment. As I began to realize that I did not hold to the style of thought my family required of me, I too began to feel like an oppressed alien in my own home. I utterly hated it; I felt helpless and alone, and to be truthful, in some arenas in which I work and have my being, I still do. So I can imagine and empathize with what these students at Lebanon have felt, growing up in such a community, being in the minority of an increasingly vocal and oppressive society of well-meaning, mainstream Christians. It is truly unfortunate that, as it stands, society will not have improved as they enter adulthood, and they may be forced to continue to make uncomfortable decisions as a religious and philosophical minority that is regularly alienated and emotionally attacked by the majority.
For me, the hardest part of it all is feeling like my opinion somehow doesn’t matter, that it is somehow not truthful, or is even dangerous to our society, all because I don’t believe in a physical Satan and that my philosophies concerning all religions is that of admiring the constructs of the evolving human consciousness, and, too, that most religions have some element of use for us even today on a subconscious and metaphorical level — as long as we keep an open mind, rooted stably in scientific reality, and are willing to learn and bend and yield.
That’s just not good enough for the mainstream Christian of today, however. And I harshly blame the leaders of those passionate, holy-crusade style movements that have cropped up since the ’70s ad ’80s and gained such a violent foothold in our politics and society as of late.
It all comes down to this: that when anyone, regardless of religion or viewpoint, is afraid and attached to their life in such a manner, they are prone to purposefully hurt those who disagree with them, out of their own fear of losing that to which they hold so dear. Let us not fear change, let us be patient with each other and open to all possibilities and voices.
May we someday learn to embrace each other in true brotherly love and peace.