Well the good news about all these f*ing snow days is that I have more time to contemplate my navel and then spew forth with my thoughts via this here blog thingie.
My wonderful niece, Heather, wrote a post today about religion. Like me, she is a non-believer, although unlike me, she feels a hole left where the comfort of believing in a higher power used to be. She also mentions, briefly, the challenge of answering when your child asks "Who is God?" This struck a chord with me because the weight of explaining religion to your child has been troubling me lately.
The truth is, I am one of those people who believes that children in public schools should not recite the Pledge of Allegience. I strongly feel that God has no place in our public schools. I would be one of those parents who openly protests our children saying the Pledge of Allegience except my mother would disown me and I like my mom, and also, I don't want my kid to be "the one whose mother is a devil worshipper." So she says the Pledge of Allegience every day, putting her hand over her heart and reciting "One nation, under God..." even though that makes approximately as much sense to her as it would if they said "One nation, under The Easter Bunny..."
Or, as she recently told a classmate as they discussed the upcoming Christmas holiday: "I don't believe in Santa and I don't believe in God either." Now, this wouldn't have been a problem except that that child went home and told her mother, who then contacted the school's before-school-program (where the conversation took place) and demanded that my child be told that she was not allowed to say that.
(insert a mental image here, if you will, of me with steam blowing out of my ears)
This made my blood boil because it hurt Anna's feelings. She is very, very sensitive and felt like she was in trouble for stating something that is no more controversial than mentioning that she had Cheerios for breakfast. Second, THIS IS A PUBLIC SCHOOL, paid for by the taxes of not just Christians but also atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Pagans and worshippers of the Flying Spagetti Monster.
I mustered as much self-restraint as is possible for me and I fired off an email to the teacher at the before-school-program, the person who "had words" with Anna. I made sure to explain that I trusted that she was simply appeasing the other parent, but reminded her that the very point of school is EDUCATION. Not indoctrination. Children attending public school are going to be exposed to ideas different than their own. I would have LOVED to been able to speak to the other parent, to remind her that Spokane is full of private Christian schools, and if her precious little angel is not to be exposed to "heathens" then perhaps she should fork over the money for a school where God will be presented as fact.
I later received a phone call from the director of the program and was assured that there would be a conversation with the children, reminding them that there are many, many different religions and beliefs and that ALL must be respected.
My struggle is this: we live in a predominantly Christian community; how can my daughter "fit in" with children who attend church and believe in God? Frankly, I'm surprised that they have these conversations amongst themselves in the second grade, but they do. Last night she told me that yesterday at school she was talking with some friends and when she mentioned something about evolution some of the other kids (although not all, I'm happy to report) got mad at her and and informed her that evolution was not true and that God created us.
What confuses and frustrates her (as the 8 year old that she is) is that she knows one thing (evolution) to be true and yet other people believe just as strongly that we were created by some dude with gray hair and long robes only a few thousand years ago?? She is a well-read kid; she is fascinated by science and she knows that people roamed the planet millions of years ago.
Now, before you get your unders in a bundle, you should know that I encourage her to learn as much as she can (and yes, I will help) about other beliefs so that a) she can have informed conversations and b) she may very well decide that something else makes more sense to her.
But as she said last night, as she recounted the conversation she'd had at school yesterday, "Why can't we all just believe ONE thing, like that humans just started falling out of the clouds?"
I thought that was a beautiful image. As long as no one got hurt, of course.
I wish, of course, that she could be shielded from these weighty issues for a few more years. I wish that we lived somewhere more progressive (Seattle, Portland...even Bend or Eugene) where my daughter, with her understanding of evolution, was the NORM rather than the minority.
I wish God would just tell me how to handle this.