I thought I was going to go easy for the rest of the week, but I can’t let this one go. I am a teacher and I was leading a group of students in a reading discussion. It went something like this…
Terrence*: True friendship means love
Reading group: *giggles* Ewwww, loooovvve
Me: That makes sense. There are all different ways we can love people.
Terrence: Except boys can’t love boys. It’s wrong.
*reading group is silent unsure what to say*
I continue to move the discussion away from this topic but Terrence seems to want to indoctrinate us…
Terrence: In the Bible it says a man and a woman…
Me: Stop. We don’t discuss religious beliefs here because everyone doesn’t believe the same thing.
Other student: Yeah, you don’t want to offend other people.
The number one reason I stopped him is I knew that the religious teacher in me would come out and I would “school” him on his terrible ideology. I saved myself. The second reason is this student was going on a tangent that was not related to the book in any shape or form. The first thought that went through my head was what are we teaching our children and how are our teachings hurting them?
The absolutes and legalism that is found in fundamentalist and conservative religious thought have destroyed the lives of many youth. From Scientology and the “interrogations” children are forced to participate in to the sexism that exists in fundamentalist Hinduism and Islam. Religion has been, since the beginning of time, patriarchal which is problematic. Patriarchy is about power and subjecting others against their will to this power. Already off to a bad start…combine that with the reasons individuals turn to religion: control, certainty, absolutism, legalism, better life, etc. There aren’t too many things people won’t do for control and certainty. If we subject our children to this type of thinking without the ability or chance to give full consent to be a part of this religion than we are hurting their childhood and their future. We are creating individuals who may distrust religion or become an abuser of the religion.
We should focus on the positives of what ever religion or non-religion we choose such as love, grace, honesty, and respect. Religion does not come with guarantees and to pervert it for legalistic and fundamentalist ideologies is destructive of the purpose. Religion is about connecting with something outside of ourself. We should remove the dogma, the sexism, heterosexism, legalism, and fundamentalism. It is not okay for a child to grow up hating or discriminating against a group of people because we cannot control our biases, insecurities, and sins.
The New York Times has an op-ed about this topic that is worth checking out. I may revisit this topic again because I believe it is important.
*not real name