Some brief and poorly thought-out considerations about religious education

I went looking, and this was the most heinous Sunday School graphic I could find. I’m sure there are worse ones out there, but this is good enough for me.

Some background, before I get to the actual reason I’m writing this: I am, if such a thing actually exists, biologically Catholic. What I mean by that is that my family on both sides is Catholic, and while I was not raised to be religious (and have, in fact, considered myself to be an atheist since about 2nd grade) the type of religion I am most familiar with is Catholicism, and I actually taught at a Catholic school for three years with no particular problems. I can fake Catholicism to a degree that I can’t with other religions, to say nothing of other forms of Christianity.

I also have undergraduate degrees in Religious Studies and Jewish Studies, and a Master’s degree in Biblical studies, with a concentration in the Old Testament.

This means that I don’t believe a single thing about your religion or your holy book and I know more about it than you do. Which is a dangerous combination, frankly.

My wife attended a Catholic school until high school, and went through all of the traditional accoutrements of growing up Catholic. We got married in a greenhouse with my best friend using her Universal Life Church ministry credential to officiate, so it … uh, didn’t stick? And honestly by now she might be more anti-Catholic than I am, to be honest. I’ve mellowed as I’ve gotten older, which seems weird to say but is actually true.

On the way home from his birthday shopping trip yesterday, the boy pipes up that he has a question for us. We agree to hear said question.

“What’s the name of the guy from the Bible again?”

I avoided having a stroke while driving out of sheer willpower, folks. My wife cracked up so hard she could barely breathe.

He meant Jesus, of course.

Christians (and I assume members of other religions, but I live in America, so it’s mostly Christian sources that I see this from) love to pretend that kids are somehow naturally religious and can sort of intuit the existence of God on their own, and my kid has been the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a pure refutation of that idea. He knows nothing about religion. We don’t go to church, we didn’t have him baptized (I was strapped, packed, and ready for that fight with my mother-in-law, and it never happened) and no one in the family is the type to pray before meals. He’s been to a couple of funerals, and I’m pretty sure that’s been his whole and entire exposure to religion, whether Christianity, Judaism or anything else. I think he has a vague conception that Jesus was generally a pretty nice guy but beyond that? He thinks Easter is a bunny holiday (my Mom always got him a basket, but that’s fallen away since she died) and Christmas is when your parents buy you presents. That’s it.

(For the record, if forced at gunpoint to join a religion, I would be a Muslim, but that’s an entire separate conversation.)

Anyway, a long lead-in to a pretty basic question: all of this has me wondering where exactly my responsibilities lie to at least give the kid a basic familiarity with at least some of the beliefs that nearly everyone he encounters throughout his day holds. Like, I’m not religious, and I don’t especially want him to be religious, but I’m also not entirely sure that I want him living in a pit of ignorance about what religion is, at least well enough that he can recognize some of the more culturally relevant Bible stories and maybe sketch out some of the differences between some of the major world religions. And that he doesn’t refer to Jesus as “the guy from the Bible” again. I was fervently hoping that he meant Moses; I don’t think he’s ever even heard of Moses.

(I also don’t want him to get a little bit older and get sucked into some sort of fundamentalist horseshit somehow because he doesn’t have any inoculation against it.)

I’ve always said my parents’ big mistake was throwing dinosaur books and Greek mythology at me before my grandmother got me a book of Bible stories; I couldn’t see why the Bible didn’t mention dinosaurs or why I should take these myths any more seriously than those myths, and absent any parental pressure to the contrary that was it for religion for me. Maybe I should toss a book of Bible stories at him to see how he reacts. I mean, other than ducking and getting out of the way.

On refugees and Christianity, again

On the right, Rouwaida Hanoun, a Syrian five-year-old who is, as far as I know, still alive.  On the left, Anne Frank, who is not.

There are– it is horrifying to think, but it is true– people who believe that the orange fascist currently occupying the White House is a Christian.  Many of these people are the same people who believed Barack Obama to not be a Christian, so it’s immediately and apparently clear that when they say “Christianity,” what they mean is “White supremacy,” and they have little to no idea of what Jesus actually preached, what he might have believed, or– rather importantly– what he looked like.

I noticed this morning that the post I wrote about refugees last year is spiking in page views again, which is not surprising.  The monster in the White House has chosen to ban desperately frightened and endangered people– the “least among us” who Jesus spoke of– from our country, has deliberately decided to let children die rather than incur even the slightest risk to people who look like him.  He has, of course, excluded his business partners from these calculations; if  you are wealthy enough for him to have business dealings with, you are a Person, of course; Rouwaida Hanoun is not.  When I wrote the post last year we had a President who, while he made bad decisions in any number of ways, I believed fundamentally cared about people.

Unfortunately, that is no longer remotely true, and the man who was trying to keep Syrian refugees out of my state at the time is now Vice President.  Most of the time, I have trouble believing our current President is actually human.  It takes every bit of moral strength I have to recognize that the demented narcissist in the White House deserves as much compassion and dignity as anyone else by simple virtue of having been born a person.  Somebody or something fucked this man up; I don’t believe he was born this awful.

But that’s beside the point.  When I wrote that post last year, I was trying to be nice and trying to be the voice of reason.  You may recognize the tone; I use it around here from time to time when I’m writing something I want to be taken more seriously than usual.  At this point, I’m going to take a different tack: if you don’t think these people should be allowed into the country, if you think refugees (and people with green cards!  People who have been here, and are now separated from their families simply by virtue of having been somewhere else when the ban went into effect!) should be banned from the United States simply because of their religion, you’re a fucking monster.  You’re not a Christian.  Christ himself would rebuke you– he already has, in fact, in clear terms in the Bible you claim to believe is divinely inspired and true in its every word.

You are a bad person if you agree with this ban.  You are a racist and a monster and a coward and every bit as much of a piece of shit as the people trying to keep the Jews out of the country in the 1940s were. You are the exact same people saying the exact same things for the exact same reasons, only with “Jew” crossed out and “Muslim” written in.  And while I don’t want this to be true and I try to be a better person, I really wish there was a Hell so I could see the look on your face when you end up there. Because Jesus has been clear on your responsibilities in this matter.  If you’re not a Christian, you don’t have to follow Jesus.  I certainly don’t.  But he was perfectly clear on this, and you are the bad guys.  

As I was writing this, word came through Twitter that the ACLU has won a stay against this executive order, which is good, as it was wildly illegal from the start.  I set up recurring monthly donations to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood today.  You should too.

In which my diamond shoes are too tight

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Damn post is wrecking my graphs.

It is Monday, which makes me feel like the traffic on the Syria post has got to slow down today, but the numbers so far show me differently.  On Saturday, I had 200 pageviews when I woke up in the morning and 500 by noon; on Sunday, 500 when I woke up and 1000 by just after noon, and today I had a thousand by 8:00 in the morning.  It’s 8:44 as I’m typing this.   That picture’s less than five minutes old and it’s 50 hits out of date already.

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This may end up too small to read, but look at that nonsense.  That 468 hourly high is after I went to bed, and I went to bed around 10:30, which means we had like ten straight hours of 350-400 hits per hour yesterday.  There should be a lull in the bell curve around midafternoon, and it ain’t there.  And that early-morning dip is probably still around 100-15o an hour.

The goddamn thing’s gonna catch and pass the Snowpiercer post today.  In six days.  Insanity.

I keep waiting for a troll invasion; I’ve stomped on one post where the person referred to “unvetted” refugees, demonstrating clearly that he had no idea how the refugee process actually works at all, and there have been a couple that I’ve laid a stinkeye on but have left alone.  I’ve made one alteration to the text where a mistake was pointed out and left another alone although I probably ought to edit it a bit.  I’m considering turning off comments today just because I legitimately have a shitton to do (this is my only day without the boy all week) and I don’t know how much time I have to wait for the racist hordes to land on my head.

Another interesting fact: Facebook continues to be just about the sole source for referrers.  You’d think that someone in there somewhere would have dumped the thing onto Zite or StumbleUpon or Reddit or something, but so far this is a Facebook party.  Which could be why I’m not seeing too many trolls; maybe they’re all staying on FB and yelling at people there.  Who knows.

(8:56 AM:  1318 views, meaning the post got 116 views in the less than fifteen minutes it took to write this.)

REBLOG: Freeing Christians From Americhristianity

An outstanding post. Give it a read.

john pavlovitz

CF1_0460-X2Dear World,

I’m a Christian who feels something needs to be said about my faith tradition.

Despite the ways we who practice it might declare otherwise (especially in weeks like this), it is intended to beautiful and joy-filling and life-giving. It is made of compassion and mercy and forgiveness and sacrificial love—or at least it is supposed to be.

It is supposed to be the most brilliant of lights in the dark places we often spend our days.

It is supposed to drive us to the places of deepest despair and greatest need, and fully burdened to make our home there until the low are raised up and the hurting healed and the captives freed.

It is also supposed to make us fearless.

The most-repeated words from the mouth of God/Jesus throughout both the Old and New Testaments to the faithful, is to not fear. At the very center of our religion…

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It continues (morning blogwanking)

Yesterday was the highest-traffic day in the history of the blog, including the time where I was Freshly Pressed:

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You’ll note that I had more individual visitors than I had pageviews the day before, and I’m pretty sure the day before was the 2nd or 3rd best day I’ve ever had.  That’s pretty impressive.  As of now, 8:17, I’ve already got 160 views, so thus far the pace hasn’t slowed down any.  And check this out:


That’s all time ranked posts, using the old stats editor.  Leaving out the home page and the “About” page, which aren’t posts, that means that a post I wrote less than 48 hours ago is now the 7th highest-traffic post I’ve ever written.


I don’t think it’s going to catch the Snowpiercer post, which has five times as many hits as its closest competitor, but it’ll be really interesting to see how far it gets before interest fizzles out.  Another interesting detail: right now, traffic appears to be driven almost exclusively by Facebook referrals.  As of this second the page has been shared on FB 759 times and 31 on Twitter, but I got 671 referrals from FB yesterday and only 13 from Twitter. Not one click through StumbleUpon, Reddit, Tumblr, or any of the other usual suspects.  My autoshare on FB has reached 907 people and the Tumblr share doesn’t have a single note on it.  Less than ten from Google +, which I think is funny, since those might be my first G+ referrals ever.

I’m actually kind of scared to see what will happen if Reddit gets ahold of the post.  Which I suppose you can take as an invitation if you’re a Redditor.

Still no trolls, either.  Amazing.

Now (again) if I can just get these people to buy books.  🙂