Aug 31 2007
Editor’s Note: I’ve always welcomed my son with the opportunity to write about a topic of his interest on my blog. The following is his work entirely with three minor spelling / grammatical corrections, and I removed his name and specific location. Obviously, it’s a little different to what I usually write about, but I hope you enjoy my son’s perspective about Christianity.
I’m 16 years old, in year 11 at a K-12 Baptist school in Sydney. This is just some background to the true topic below.
I’ve been at Christian schools for 6 years of my life, almost two thirds of my schooling. The last four and a half years since I started at this school in year 7, religion has obviously been a very large part of the school and its message. Which, as someone going to a Christian school, I am more than happy to put up with. I’m not at all anti-religious, even though I choose not to partake in it.
Which is where I’m coming from when I’m writing this, a non-Christian in the heart of a fundamental Baptist school. I’ve dealt with peer pressure on the topic in the bucket loads, absolutely backwards fundamentalists, and speeches that seem eerily reminiscent in tone and substance to those that preceded the infamous Kristallnacht.
On the other hand, I’ve also seen some of the best that Christianity has to offer, I’ve seen the good that those who truly practice what they preach have done for the school and local communities, three of whom I’d count amongst my closest of friends. This seeming contradiction in extremes has made me think long and hard about the role of religion in education, and I’ve come up with an idea that I’d like some of you to critique, if possible.
Every school camp that I’ve gone on has had an overtly Christian message within it. If you didn’t get the gist of it from the activities and leaders, then the mandatory hour of bible study gave it away. Again, this was bearable. Some verses were read and discussed, some life lessons were told and some advice given. All stuff that I can choose to listen to or not. The rather lacklustre part comes afterwards, when the preacher asks the kids to raise their hands if they’re Christian. Most do. Instantly, all those who haven’t raised their hands are now the glaring centres of attention.
Being different is not something one wants to be when they’re in the second week of high school, with a good half of the grade already being good friends in year 6. The preacher then asks those to keep their hands raised, and then tells whoever is going to convert tonight to raise their hands as well. A further twelve hands, out of one-hundred and twenty, pretty much simultaneously raise their hands. Leaving me, and some other person as the only people to have their hands down. I can tell you now, of the twelve that raised their hands, only one was actually committed. This is the first example of the school using peer pressure to convert and alienate the non-religious section.
Skip forward two years, year 9 school camp. This time the speaker managed to disgust the majority of the year. His entire one hour speech was about how Christians and non-Christians should keep their contact with each other at a minimum. True Christian’s faith might be damaged if they’re around the religiously impure, after all. Engaging in any kind of relationship with a non-Christian is tantamount to spitting on the Bible, as a later part of the speech went on to explain.
I’ve always been a self-thinking and independent person when it comes to these kinds of things, even when I was that young. It’s what kept me from raising my hand, “God knows” I could have used the friends, but not at the cost of my dignity. Following this speech, I actually felt dirty having listened to this. In a reasonably wealthy suburb of one of the most advanced nations in the world, I was being told I should abandon my Christian friends to keep their faith pure. I was, in no uncertain terms, being told I was lesser than a Christian.
The other thing about me which is relevant to this line of discussion is that I’m not at all anti-religious, and that I do actually listen to speeches and the like on the matter. I feel I have a reasonably good understanding of Christianity and what it’s all about. This is why I was so utterly shocked to be told that yes, everyone is created equal in the eyes of God, but you’re actually a lot more equal if you’re a Christian. The reality of it, is, of course, regardless of your acceptance of Jesus Christ, you’re still totally unworthy to partake in eternity. It’s because God’s such a nice guy that you get to live forever. Luckily, however, my grade seems to be reasonably intelligent, and the most vocal of the Christians also happen to be some of the smartest people in the grade, all of whom thought what the speech was saying was absolute tripe. Which was at least lucky.
Then there’s the indoctrination of the primary school. It’s the only phrase I can use to describe it. Having not gone through the primary school, I can’t really comment on it in depth, but from what I’ve heard from various friend’s younger siblings, it’s pretty bad. If religion is being taught next to maths and history, how is a young child meant to gauge that it’s a choice to be Christian, not a fact of life.
The kicker to this all is that I really like the school. The teachers who don’t touch religion are all dedicated, hardworking, likable and competent. The people that make up my friends and my year are all good people, three of whom are the most committed Christians in the year. The only good I have seen in religion has been through these few people. They’re the people who say they’re Christian and truly mean it, rather than the others who say they’re Christian because they converted at camp, but really only pay attention to the parts of the bible they like to follow, and ignore the rest.
Here’s where almost five years of being the vocal non-religious person at a very religious school has led me. Quite frankly, people who say they’re of the faith, but do absolutely nothing to live by any of the guidelines set by it, and just go around making a bad name for it, are good to absolutely no one. They’re not good for Christians, they’re not good for non-Christians, they’re good for absolutely no one.
Which is why I can’t figure out why people are being pressured into the religion at a young age without actually knowing the first thing about what it means to be Christian, what it entails, what it is. Instead, why can’t they do the seemingly most obvious thing?
Simply; teach what Christianity is. What it’s about. What it means to be a Christian, what it means to have a relationship with Jesus, and then, leave the rest up to you? This school has completely turned me away from religion for at lest the next few years, and I’m surely not the only one. The demi-religious people it’s churning out are only hurting the image of the religion, and turning even more people away from it. I know that the only reason I would have become a Christian way back when is because I was around absolutely amazing people, who always did their utmost to help you, talk to you, be friends with you, and everyone else for that matter. People who say “yes, I’m a Christian. I think it’s great, if you want to know more, talk to me about it. But anyway, how was your day?”. Those that are actually sure of their religion, of their faith, and of the fact they’ve chosen the right path, and don’t feel it necessary to trumpet it so everyone else thinks they’re cool and spiritual. Knowing these people has truly been and honour and an experience.
It’s these people who are the future of the religion. If the school could create ten of these in each year, as opposed to one hundred of the other kind, then in the end, there would be more Christians in the world. I could guarantee you the religion would be spread so much more effectively by these people to those that they touch in everyday life.
I’ve never been offended once when someone has tried to convert me. I understand Christianity enough to know that people do this out of love, out of compassion, and not the need to meet an arbitrary quota of souls or something similar. I don’t know about religion, and I don’t know why we’re here, but it just seems to me that the way this is all happening isn’t the right way to find it all out.
What do you think?
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