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Let's get some religion in the schools - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Let's get some religion in the schools
No. I'm not talking about introducing mandatory prayer, or singing religious Christmas carols at a public school concert, or putting up the Ten Commandments in the hallway.

I'm talking about religious history.

You get some history of Islam in school, but apparently people in America are assumed to know Christian history and Jewish religious history can hardly matter to current events, right?

Apparently not. (Nor, apparently, does the assumption that they have the first clue about Christian history bear out in practice.) A rant appeared on fanficrants today in which someone, trying to explain how not to write an American high school, needed to be aware that not all Americans were Christian. Some are Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist... or Catholic and Mormon. Now, there's no need to go over and post. I feel guilty because I did three increasingly annoyed posts before I realized that I really should rant over here, since my complete irritation has nothing to do with fanfic.

I recognize that there are some Protestant sects that like to throw around the "Catholics/Mormons aren't Christian" nonsense, and if it were coming from that direction, I'd just have my usual level of being steamed--but it wasn't. It was supposedly coming from someone who wasn't affiliated with any particular system of Christian belief. And academically, there is a very clear definition of "Christian": One who accepts Jesus of Nazereth as Christ. Catholics and Mormons qualify quite well.

So, what does this have to do with getting religion in schools? And why does it matter?

Two minor matters: history and current events.

Secularism is a fairly recent thing in human history, and there's just no way you can possibly understand any history, western or otherwise, without having a solid grounding in what people believe and how those beliefs are expressed. You can take the land-grab explanation of the Crusades to explain what the nobles were after, but it sure as hell doesn't explain why ordinary people were fanatic about it. You can't talk about the cultural situation in Europe at the time of Western colonization without understanding the Reformation. There's no way on G-d's green earth that you can follow the conflict in the Middle East without understanding the religious underpinnings of both the Jewish and Arab sides.

There's just no way. At all.

Religion has informed the history of mankind since the beginning of time, and the failure to teach it as a standard part of history classes is as inexcusable as failing to teach grammar in composition classes. (Oh, wait...)

I am furious that someone who is presumably educated in a secular school is using the definition of radical fringe religious groups, because no one has taught the technical definition. This is something that needs to be fixed, if people are to graduate from high school with any understanding of the world around them (at least if such understanding comes from the school; it is possible to learn any of this at the library, but if the purpose of school is to produce citizens who understand the world they live in, then I can't think of many more important subjects to teach there).

At any rate, I'm just gnashing my teeth here. Why would someone who's old enough to legally post on LJ not know that Catholics are Christians, or that it's offensive to say they're not?
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titti From: titti Date: April 26th, 2005 10:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Why would someone who's old enough to legally post on LJ not know that Catholics are Christians, or that it's offensive to say they're not?

Because unfortunately they are taught that by their religious leaders/teachers. I've had discussions with a good friend who happens to be a Southern Baptist and she was willing to explain to me, a Catholic, why I am not a Christian according to her religion.

I wasn't impressed by the arguement. I also not so kindly pointed out that since all protestant religions have their roots in the Catholic church, if we're not Christian, they are even less Christian, and their religion is based on nothing. (Yes, I can get bitchy when people pass judgment on my religion).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 26th, 2005 10:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Because unfortunately they are taught that by their religious leaders/teachers
Which is my point--the school should be teaching the actual definition. And yes, I'm aware of these flakey little offshoots. They also classed my Lutheran mother as non-Christian, and my Presbyterian aunt, not to mention my Mormon friends. But that's not even the majority of Protestants, and even people in those churches need to understand that what they're saying is not generally going to be understood in the world.
(Deleted comment)
the_jackalope From: the_jackalope Date: April 26th, 2005 10:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree with you so much. Religion influences world events so much that at least people should be informed about HOW it has influenced history.

And, my American History teacher had someone come in to give a guest lecture on Mormon history, and how it was tied to American history, which was nice cause the book was oh so very wrong.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 26th, 2005 10:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, bless your history teacher. I grew up in Western New York, less than two hours from Palmyra, and I wouldn't have known Mormon history except for non-school contacts. Heck, I didn't even know that the region I lived in was called the Burnt-Over District because of all the Revivals that went on--several new religions were formed there in a very short time--and I didn't find that out until I was doing casual reading after college.

chibisophia From: chibisophia Date: April 26th, 2005 10:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
In all honesty, I think a lot of it comes from the fact that a lot of American publications (incorrectly) use the word Christian and Protestant interchangably and that just isn't done as much for Catholics or Mormons for some reason.

I've never understood the "Catholics aren't real Christians" argument at all. Not only due to the sillyness of the fact that any religion that believes in concept of Christ as Messiah is Christian, but also because...Where do they think the Protestant sects derive their faith from? There's a reason the Roman Catholic church is called the mother church.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 26th, 2005 11:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
There's a long history of anti-Catholicism here because of course we were founded by Protestants during the height of the fighting between Catholics and Protestants, and the Protestants who founded the country were so radical that they thought the Church of England was too close to Catholicism to really recognize the insights of the Reformation. The age of Exploration, after all, was going on right after the battles between Queen Mary (Catholic) and Queen Elizabeth (Protestant), in the shadow of the fear that Catholic France and Spain were trying to take over the English throne and re-establish England as a Catholic nation, and so on. So there was a lot of nonsense, and Catholics have had to put up with it more than anyone else. Which is why it annoys me that this isn't being corrected in school while they're busy trying to correct every other social pathology in the world.
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: April 26th, 2005 11:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've had my older sister, who was raised in the same family I was, tell me that Catholics aren't Christians. But she got born again and into a group that wants you to make a verbal commitment. Whatever happened to Christ coming to you like a thief in the night? She homeschooled her kids, and while she isn't as rabid as some, she still tried to teach them that the geological layers were the result of the flood!


Yeah, I'm with you. We ought to be able to at least say that this sect or that sect identifies itself as Christian without getting into an argument about definitions.
sreya From: sreya Date: April 26th, 2005 11:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh. Well, if your sister uses that argument again, you can just tell her that Catholics make a very specific verbal commitment to Christ during the sacrament of Confirmation.
From: hobviously Date: April 26th, 2005 11:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
My secular public education was always quite clear on Catholicism and Mormon being Christian. I would have known that anyway, since my mother's entire family is Catholic and one of my best friends since fourth grade is Mormon, but I don't recall ever being taught the contrary.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 26th, 2005 11:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think the problem was the school teaching something contrary as much as it was not teaching anything at all and letting that bit of misinformation stand, which is something akin to a science teacher allowing someone to get through a science class without knowing basics like what scientific method is and what it is not.
purple_ladybug1 From: purple_ladybug1 Date: April 26th, 2005 11:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
My denomination (Associate Reformed Presbyterian) believes that Catholics are Christian but Mormons are not. I often disagree with the ridiculously conservative notions my church has, so I did some brief research before agreeing that Mormons are not. Here's one of the many sites I read through. <http://www.carm.org/lds/lds_doctrines.htm> Christian faith, whether Protestant or Catholic, believes that one must accept Jesus Christ as one's savior and ask forgiveness of one's sins. And that's it. Also, in God's eyes, a sin is a sin. There are no levels of sin. Thus, one can murder and if he is sincerely regretful, accepts Christ, and asks for forgiveness, he can go to heaven too. Now, I'm not professing to be an expert on Mormonism, so if there are sects that believe this as well, I apologize for broadly generalizing that Mormons are not Christians.
chibisophia From: chibisophia Date: April 26th, 2005 11:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Er...can I ask why Associate Reformed Presbyterians believe Catholics are Christian, then? The Catholic church does believe in at least 2 levels of sin:

- a temporary loss of grace (venial) which may go unconfessed and just adds time to one's purgatory

- the "grave" sins (mortal) which may lead a person from God's path if unconfessed

Not all (mortal or venial) sins are considered equal either, IIRC.

I was under the impression that the idea that all sin is equal was most a Protestant belief - but I'm not at ALL any sort of expert on religion, so I could be wrong on that, and I do not mean any offense by it.
hughroe From: hughroe Date: April 26th, 2005 11:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
And also unfortunately, in schools today, the emphasis in history is more on intrests than on idealogy.

Such as the Civil War was fought not over the Southern States believing they had a right to leave the Union, while the North was fighting to preserve the Union; no it was fought so that Lincoln could impose protective tariffs...

Washington was a revolutionary to get out of debt to a London Factor, or maybe because the regular British Army officers had snubbed him in the French and Indian War...

America's entry into the First World War was engineered by the munitions industry...

all the above and more I have read, recent "reinterpretations" of history, except for the item about WWI, that was a Congressional Investigation back in the '20's, evidence was that the American arms manufacturers made a solid profit.
bluemeanies4 From: bluemeanies4 Date: April 27th, 2005 01:24 am (UTC) (Link)
But let me guess: marxists were pure ideologues aiming to change the world. Cause that almost sounds like marxist history. I won't deny that economic interests matter, but they aren't the only thing.
veryshortlist From: veryshortlist Date: April 26th, 2005 11:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Amen. I just really have no arguments here, because I totally agree with you.

I think I learned more about religion in one year with a really good history teacher than I did in eight years of Religious school. And that's rather sad to me.
ashtur From: ashtur Date: April 27th, 2005 12:03 am (UTC) (Link)
I'll have to disagree with you, on the level that your definition of Christianity is entirely too narrow. One of the problems is that certain phrases/usages are vague enough that different groups can say the words with entirely different meanings... and saying "Jesus is the Son of God" is one of those phrases.

Theologically, Nicean (or more properly Niceo-Constantinopolian) Christianity is the baseline.
ashtur From: ashtur Date: April 27th, 2005 12:03 am (UTC) (Link)
gah, too *broad* not too narrow

author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: April 27th, 2005 12:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, there's lots of debate on what a true Christian is. *Rolls eyes* I personally prefer the way I was taught, which was the belief that God loves everyone, even non-Christians, even homosexuals, and that He forgives.

As for religion itself, here's something: Why is there rarely any protest in teaching Mythology? That's religion based.
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: April 27th, 2005 12:18 am (UTC) (Link)
which was the belief that God loves everyone, even non-Christians, even homosexuals, and that He forgives.

Realized what that might look like - sorry. No, I don't think God "forgives" people for not believing in Him or being Homosexual, I don't think He cares to begin with. What I meant is... I'm sometimes not sure I believe in Hell, and if there is one, it is entirely demons, or people who somehow are pure evil. I don't know. But I don't think God has anything against anyone else.
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 27th, 2005 12:16 am (UTC) (Link)
The wacky categorization of "Christian" isn't always a matter of anti-Catholic prejudice; sometimes it's just sloppy thinking that's been passed on. I teach in a Catholic school and frequently have to remind students whom I know to be Catholic that "Catholic" and "Christian" are not mutually exclusive terms. They've become accustomed to using "Christian" as shorthand for "Protestant."
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 27th, 2005 12:25 am (UTC) (Link)
What really startles me is, that religion nowadays is perceived as something fogyish or even bad. From where I come from, people are generally atheistic and suspicious about everything that contains religion. However, even though I never had a real religious class at high school, we used to study a history of all of the main religions and Catholicism always egualed Christianism, which is on the other hand somewhat narrow-minded as there are still differencies between Catholicism, Protestantism and Orthodoxy Christianism. On the college I attended History of Religions and our teacher, who was from the ethnic origin Jewish, became in fact an Orthodox priest and spent some time among Muslims as well. And he taught us to tolerate. As Fernwithy said, religion has informed the history of mankind since the beginning of time. Of course, every religion has its faults, every religion made mistakes and every religion can still be very narrow-sihgted. But in the core, every religion wants to be righteous. Religion was, is and always be a part of our culture. This is what the teachers are supposed to teach, I think. I hope I made some sense, it is two in the morning here in Europe:) Carol
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: April 27th, 2005 06:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
What really startles me is, that religion nowadays is perceived as something fogyish or even bad

I agree! Religion isn't bad, uaing it to do bad things is. If someone kills someone and then says, "well my religion says its okay," research the religion itself a little before deciding "oh, so people of that religion commit murder? Horrible!"
From: anatomiste Date: April 27th, 2005 12:35 am (UTC) (Link)
I couldn't agree more. I spend so much time in my literature classes just gritting my teeth. christianity is worse, though...oh, there's nothing quite like explaining to adherents of a religion, in the most basic terms, what that religion is.
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 27th, 2005 12:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I guess I should count myself lucky to be homeschooled- my history textbooks have covered quite a lot of religious history. I never realized that you don't get this in public school until last year, when I began taking a Spanish class at the public highschool. In talking about Latin American history, religious history surfaced, and I was shocked at how little everyone else knew. I mean, I'm used to getting drilled about the Reformation yearly... and I even had to learn the five pillars of Islam last year (though I don't remember them now). (Yes, even though I have a Christian textbook (put out by a protestant publisher), they do teach about other religions.)
meneathiel From: meneathiel Date: April 27th, 2005 12:59 am (UTC) (Link)


I don't see how it is possible to learn history without teaching about world religion as they go hand and hand.

I find the timing of this comment scary as I work at a university and heard a student ask another "Are you Catholic or Christian?" just two days ago.
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