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Morals, morals, who's got the morals?
February 13, 2005 3:56 PM   Subscribe

Shock and Disbelief: For parents new to the area it comes as a surprise to discover that in 20 locations around West Virginia, public school students are sent to Bible classes in nearby churches.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy (59 comments total)

 
Better make 'em wear those RFID chips, so we can be sure the kids aren't skipping out on their indoctrination brainwashing education.
posted by luriete at 4:00 PM on February 13, 2005


Holy crap... maybe I'm being foolish but I always thought that my school taxes should pay for, you know, school. A full day even.
posted by cedar at 4:02 PM on February 13, 2005


Damn it! Luriete beat me to it..
posted by c13 at 4:02 PM on February 13, 2005


West Virginia, mountain momma, take me home country roads!
praise the lord
posted by quonsar at 4:19 PM on February 13, 2005


They have this in Utah, but the building is on campus most of the time. It's not paid for by the school as far as I know and you don't get any sort of credits towards your diploma.

In some of the less Mormon areas of the world, students go to their religion classes before school starts at a local church or members home.

From what I could tell from the article this is not mandatory or paid for by the education system. What's the problem?
posted by fatbobsmith at 4:20 PM on February 13, 2005


But many opponents are Staunton natives. They say children who opt out are stigmatized and have little to do while their classmates are in Bible classes, taking away precious time for academics in the age of standardized testing

From the article

A problem is we are talking about 1st - 3rd graders. They want to do what their peers do, the whole thing is bizzar, why involve the schools at all? If the parents want this, they should make time in thir schedule for it.
posted by edgeways at 4:27 PM on February 13, 2005


At first, I didn't see anything terribly wrong with it as long as it's not publically funded or required, but then I saw this:

But many opponents are Staunton natives. They say children who opt out are stigmatized and have little to do while their classmates are in Bible classes, taking away precious time for academics in the age of standardized testing.

Yes, that's going to happen. That's a major problem. Also, the idea that you can use part of your school day for this means the public education system is recognizing it as a valid learning experience, which is another problem. They are essentially getting school credit for this. Unless you're telling me that these kids can schedule open hours at that age.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:29 PM on February 13, 2005


"In some of the less Mormon areas of the world...

That'd be like, everywhere, right?

The problem is that even if the taxpayers do not directly fund the religious study it still takes time out of the school day, time that could otherwise be spent learning things like readin', writin' and arithmetic.

The fact that this takes place during school hours indicates that the administration not only approves of, but encourages, religious studies as part of a students day. This goes to the very heart of separation and there is a damn good reason Sunday school traditionally takes place on Sunday.
posted by cedar at 4:32 PM on February 13, 2005


Oh, come on. This is one of the institutions that has made West Virginia the prosperous, forward-looking and dynamic place it is!
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:37 PM on February 13, 2005


How hard would it be to have these bible classes happen after school? To have them in the middle of the day serves no purpose other than to spit in the eye of non-believers. What a "Christian" attitude.
posted by turaho at 4:38 PM on February 13, 2005


I was a kid in rural Virginia in the 60s. In third grade, every Friday, the Catholics were taken out of the classroom so a protestant Bible teacher could come in and tell us how evil the hippies were. I vividly remember a lecture on how the peace sign was a broken, upside-down cross.

At the time, I didn't know there were Catholics, Protestants, Jews...

I was always confused why some of my friends had to leave and whenever I asked, I always got one of those vague, grown-up answers. My Catholic classmates where confused too.

For some, it's never too early to confuse and divide.
posted by mania at 4:41 PM on February 13, 2005


mania, I'm old enough to remember the Pledge of Allegiance (though, I hear it's making a comeback with 'duck and cover' drills soon to follow). My best friend at the time was a Jehovah's Witness and forbidden to pledge allegiance to anything, so he always remained seated.

That poor boy was picked on mercilessly and as a second grader was entirely unable to articulate why he was different. But, make no mistake about it, he was different and carried that stigma for years.
posted by cedar at 4:49 PM on February 13, 2005


Hello?

Church [ lots and lots of space ] State
posted by j.p. Hung at 5:02 PM on February 13, 2005


In my tiny upstate NY K-12 public school, we had "church school" after school on Wednesdays- one Catholic, one Protestant (taught by a pretty hardcore Baptist). They were held in classrooms in the Elementary wing. Most kids were in one or the other, but it probably had as much to do with our working parents taking advantage of an extra hour without the kids than with more sacred reasons. Is this unusual? In the case of the article, it was held in a nearby church, but the court cases cited suggest that religious study on school grounds is unconstitutional. Is it because my classes were held between the early and late school bus runs, and not during normal class time that they were allowed?
posted by obloquy at 5:06 PM on February 13, 2005


Just to clarify, isn't this about Virgina and not West Virgina?
posted by scalespace at 5:08 PM on February 13, 2005


Redneck madrassas.
posted by felix betachat at 5:13 PM on February 13, 2005


Yes, scalespace. Virginia. Staunton is in southwest Virginia, close to the West Virginia border.
posted by mania at 5:22 PM on February 13, 2005


As someone who grew up in the Valley, not far from Staunton, I must weigh in on the subject.

I attended Weekday Religious Education classes once a week for three years while in grade school during the 1980s. Instead of "taking time out of the learning experience," those of us who opted to go to these classes would attend the classes during our recess and/or gym time. Those who did not attend simply played outside for the 30 minutes every Friday. No one was stigmatized or ostracized by this. It followed the same principle of how some of us were pulled out of recess on Thursdays to attend gifted classes. Or, on Wed., some kids were pulled from recess to practice for the choir or band. It was just part of our schedule... no big deal at all. Plus, it was off campus, and parents paid a nominal fee for the service.

And, I was raised in a non-religious household. My mother wanted me to attend these classes to get a basic understanding of morals beyond what she and my father could teach me – she felt the exposure would be a good (for this same reason I attended summer Bible school). WRE was more character development than the preaching any doctrine - good morals from the Good New Bible, if you will.

I see nothing wrong with them offering this to students as an "elective"...
posted by ten-fifteen at 5:46 PM on February 13, 2005


Virginia is for lovers.

And bible thumpin'
posted by delmoi at 5:46 PM on February 13, 2005


My mother wanted me to attend these classes to get a basic understanding of morals beyond what she and my father could teach me – she felt the exposure would be a good (for this same reason I attended summer Bible school). WRE was more character development than the preaching any doctrine [...]

Any particular reason why Christianity was necessary to teach you "morals"? Or was that just the only flavour on tap?
posted by 327.ca at 5:50 PM on February 13, 2005


There's an LDS class at my school. It's technically off school property, but it's just across the street and it's part of the LDS kids schedule. I don't think they get credit for the class though.
posted by Amanda B at 6:02 PM on February 13, 2005


I have to agree with ten-fifteen.

It's really easy to read the article and not notice that the classes are not publicly funded and don't take away from instructional time.

And as a nonresident of Staunton, I don't see how it's any of my business to tell Stauntonites how to do things. It's not like they're enslaving people.

I think the worries over stigmatization are overplayed, too. It's impossible to hope that kids will not stigmatize each other over any particular subject. They are kids. I was ruthlessly stigmatized because my parents refused to spend more than $20 for a pair of sneakers for me.

I didn't grow up with such education, but I don't think I would have been upset if it were offered. And I wouldn't be upset if non-Christian institutions also offered such classes. It would have given me a chance to do some exploring.
posted by bugmuncher at 6:04 PM on February 13, 2005


I grew up in southwest Ohio, went to public school my whole life, and in the fourth grade we had weekly Bible classes. I don't remember being given an opportunity to opt out, and at the time it didn't seem weird to me. Of course, I was a kid that grew up Catholic, and went to CCD once a week as well. In retrospect, I have to wonder what the school was thinking, and whether or not any parents complained. (We only had 2 Jewish kids in my high school, though I don't know how many there were in elementary school, so it's quite possible that no one did.)

If I had kids in grade school and I found out about this, I would be pretty angry, even if I was raising them as Christians. School is for SCHOOL. Church is for church. What parents choose for their children outside of school is one thing, but I don't think it's the place of the public school system to hold Bible-study classes. (Though unbiased classes in comparative religion for high school kids wouldn't strike me as a bad thing.)
posted by dryad at 6:05 PM on February 13, 2005


Oh dear. Virginia's been having a rough couple of months in the political spotlight. What with banning sagging pants, allowing upskirt photography in public areas, shuttling children off to Bible study during school hours and attempting to pass legislation making a miscarriage something that needs to be reported to the police.

Speaking as a Northern Virginian, how about we give everything south of Richmond to West Virginia and we'll take Morgantown and Shepardstown?

Or better yet, just make DC and state and take us with you.
posted by StopMakingSense at 6:06 PM on February 13, 2005


...public school students are sent to Bible classes in nearby churches.

Or, "...public school students are allowed to go to Bible classes in nearby churches."

One wording is a lot less alarming...
posted by bugmuncher at 6:08 PM on February 13, 2005


My mother wanted me to attend these classes to get a basic understanding of morals beyond what she and my father could teach me...

Ten-fifteen, thanks for the first person experience.

I am curious, and not in a snarky way, about the quote above. It's been my experience that the people most likely to desire, shall we say, 'an extra helping of morality' are also those most emphatic about ethics and morality best being taught in the home.

In my agnostic kind of way morality has always seemed black and white. Golden rule... don't kill, tell the truth, don't steal rape or plunder. Pretty basic stuff. So, aside from instruction in a particular religion, what were your parents looking for that you weren't getting between school, the home and your regular old Sunday church thing?

On preview: bugmuncher, as others have said this is being done during school hours. Not after school or on weekends. Therefore, there is a measure of public funding involved... in the most literal sense, the teacher that escorts them to the church building is on the taxpayers clock.

As far as not telling them what they can or can not do... that's nonsense. Of course we can. We do it all the time. Judges, legislators and constitutional scholars are real big on telling people what they can and cannot do.
posted by cedar at 6:11 PM on February 13, 2005


ten-fifteen, thanks for chiming in. It's easy to see a religious extremist behind every tree nowadays...

and StopMakingSense, you can thank Loudoun County's (the fastest growing county in the county) Bill Mims for introducing some lessor known, but controversial bills this year:

Writing Himself Into Controversy (WaPo link)
posted by mania at 6:22 PM on February 13, 2005


sigh... Loudoun is the fastest growing county in the country...
posted by mania at 6:23 PM on February 13, 2005


Here's the link that I screwed up... I sleep now.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A19981-2005Feb12.html
and you'll probably need to register.
posted by mania at 6:28 PM on February 13, 2005


"There's an LDS class at my school. It's technically off school property, but it's just across the street and it's part of the LDS kids schedule. I don't think they get credit for the class though."

It's listed as "released time" in the kids' schedules, and there is no credit given. However, the total number of credits required for graduation, oddly enough, allows kids to take a full hour of released time each year. This works out well for the non-LDS kids in school (like me, way back when), because they can quite feasibly end up with a full day of electives as a senior if they plan their schedules just right - which I did. A full day of auto shop was awesome!

I would have preferred early graduation, but that wasn't an option then. Ah, well.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:30 PM on February 13, 2005


I'm old enough to remember the Pledge of Allegiance

They don't do this anymore? Since when? My other question is, when did parents start bribing, sorry, "gifting" teachers? And why is this not viewed as a major conflict of interest? (And whatever am I going to do when my darling daughter enters the school system and my moral outrage meets the cold cruel logic of PTA politics and her need for recommendations for Harvard?)

Sorry, off point. Religion. Schools. Right. Probably a bad mixture. How about we teach European art history so they at least learn the cultural references?
posted by IndigoJones at 6:35 PM on February 13, 2005


I feel sorry for these kids; so young and lacking in the critical thinking skills necessary to realize they are learning (mostly) lies.

But at least they don't attend a isolated parochial Christian school like I did. Oh my. What a horrible place to go for 12 years. If any of the behavior described in this thread seems wacky or extremist, believe me it was amplified a hundred times over at my school. Luckily I had enough sense to attend a "liberal" public college and find my own salvation through academia, unfortunately most people aren't independent, free-thinking enough to do so.

Praise the Lord.
posted by gagglezoomer at 6:44 PM on February 13, 2005


When I was in elementary school (1970s), we had "Good News" once a week, wherein the local (small town, Baptist) church ladies would take us in a VW van to some smelly side-room of the church and tell us Bible stories with a felt board, and sing songs--the lyrics of which I remember to this day.

At the time, I saw it as a primarily social function. Church was so integrated into my life at that age that I never second-guessed it. Protestantism was as mundane and all-pervasive as traffic laws: it seemed to me that everyone was a Christian.

Indeed, it wasn't until high school that I began to tentatively wonder if there weren't some other ways of looking at the world, explaining the way things were, and about morality as a construction, etc. I blame my public school for creating an atmosphere where Christianity was presented as the default belief system. It has taken me a lot of work and study to undo the mind-limiting done to me by that early formatting. Public schools should serve just the opposite function.
posted by squirrel at 6:45 PM on February 13, 2005


Stop, I'll back you up. I'm sick of saying "Northern Virginia" to out-of-staters.

gesamtkunstwerk wins, by the way.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 6:49 PM on February 13, 2005


From the philly.com article:

Children who do not attend stay in their classroom to do artwork or remedial studies, he said.

So while the learning disabled Noah goes to Bible study, learning disabled Dan stays behind and gets more remedial work. I am not sure which one to feel sorry for: Dan, who must wonder why he's singled out as the "stupid one," or Noah, who gets less instruction.
posted by Monday at 7:48 PM on February 13, 2005


In Zorach vs. Clauson (1952), the Supreme Court said that this kind of thing is ok. Not that I agree with them, but that's pretty sloppy reporting to leave that out. Has that decision been overturned or something?
posted by goatdog at 8:33 PM on February 13, 2005


So I guess the article refers to that decision, but not by name. My bad. Anyway, to summarize: the problem addressed in Zorach vs. Clauson is that, basically, an exemption to the attendance policy was being made, but only for religious education. You couldn't just take fifth period off and go hang out at the beach. You could only leave if you were going to bible class. That, as Zorach et al argued, is the state, via the public school, sponsoring religious education, which struck them (and me) as unconstitutional. I can't see the current Supreme Court changing its mind if this Staunton case ever reaches them.
posted by goatdog at 8:41 PM on February 13, 2005


ten-fifteen vouches for these morality-developing classes: "And, I was raised in a non-religious household. My mother wanted me to attend these classes to get a basic understanding of morals...WRE was more character development than the preaching any doctrine - good morals from the Good New Bible, if you will. I see nothing wrong with them offering this to students as an 'elective'..."

These morals?

Kill the witches, Exodus 22:18: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Kill the queers, Leviticus 20:13: If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Kill Miss Cleo, Leviticus 20:27: A man or a woman who is a medium or a wizard shall be put to death; they shall be stoned with stones, their blood shall be upon them.

Kill the atheists, Buddhists, and Hindus: 2 Chronicles 15:13: That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.

In fact, kill everyone in that city, and their livestock too, Deuteronomy 13:12-15: If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities.... Certain men... have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods.... Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword.

Kill girls who are not virgins, Deuteronomy 22:20-21: But if... the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.

Kill mouthy kids, 2 Kings 2:23-24: ...there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

Kill, kill, kill! Ezekiel 9:6-7: And to the others [the LORD] said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house. And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city.

So, ah, how's that morality thing working out for you?

(With thanks to EvilBible.com)
posted by orthogonality at 8:50 PM on February 13, 2005


So, ah, how's that morality thing working out for you?

It seems a little cheap to go all old-testament on ten-fifteen, and you made it pretty personal with that last crack. Was that necessary?
posted by goatdog at 10:31 PM on February 13, 2005


goatdog: as a person who, thoughout his childhood, unquestioningly accepted that Christian morality was in fact the only morality, (see above) I see good cause in orthogonality's pointing out the flaws and inconsistencies in the Bible's idea of morality.

You may find ten-fifteen's comment about using Christian education to get "a basic understanding of morals" to be rather innocuous. Others find it alarming that this belief system--which has been used to tremendously good ends, yet which has also been the justification for millions of murders--is taken as apriori truth and representative of default morality.

I'm with you on orthogonality's last comment, goatdog, but I can't really blame him for putting a cherry on the sundae.
posted by squirrel at 10:50 PM on February 13, 2005


It just strikes me that it is completely unhelpful. There's a lot of horrific stuff advocated in the Bible, most of it in the Old Testament. This is not news. It's quite likely ten-fifteen already knows all of that. The only way you are truly scoring any points is if ten-fifteen happens to advocate those things, and the odds are that he/she doesn't. For example, I doubt that he thinks it's acceptable for bears to maul children who tease prophets with inherited male pattern baldness. You aren't proving anything by informing them that his sacred book advocates that very punishment. He's likely gotten past that; he likely still grew up a good person. (Perhaps you know different, though.) I'm sure his morality is working just fine for him. Works for a lot of other people.

This does not change the fact that I am entirely against what the school in question is doing, as I said before. I just don't think quoting the Old Testament and making personal insults adds anything to the debate.
posted by goatdog at 11:14 PM on February 13, 2005


I can't really blame him for putting a cherry on the sundae.

MMmm.. crunchy sprinkles of snarkyness on the bannanna split of ambigous morality.

Pass me a spoon!
posted by Balisong at 11:26 PM on February 13, 2005


I guess I don't get it. The parents in Staunton are so inept that they can't teach their children basic morals and can't manage to send them to Sunday school either? Why doesn't somebody from Child Protective Services come get those poor kids out of there?

/me lives in southwest VA, but thankfully a (slightly) more civilized part...
posted by ubernostrum at 12:08 AM on February 14, 2005


goatdog questions why I'm so harsh: "It seems a little cheap to go all old-testament on ten-fifteen, and you made it pretty personal with that last crack. Was that necessary?"

It wasn't meant to be personal, but it was perhaps a bit subtle: since I was (and am) assuming that ten-fifteen doesn't righteously smite all those the Bible insists be smote, it was meant to raise the general question "so does Bible-study really teach morality", not "so, ten-fifteen, have you personally stoned any fortune-tellers lately?"

Indeed, for my comment to work, it requires that no one believe ten-fifteen has, as the thrust of the whole comment was that Bible education does not teach morality, because what the Bible considers moral isn't even what most modern Christians consider moral. If you really learned morality form the Bible, your morals would include tribal/sectarian violence, slavery, and subjugation of women. Since ten-fifteen (presumably) is not doing these things, he (presumably) didn't really learn his morality form these classes.

So if ten-fifteen didn't learn his morals there, and if, contra ten-fifteen, the purpose is not to teach morality, what then is the purpose? And why do its proponents so vociferously want to continue it?

The purpose is to indoctrinate children in a specific religion. Without new recruits, too young to think for themselves, these religions -- and all those they keep in power -- would decline.

This true purpose is often fig-leafed with the "morality" argument or the closely related "it does the kids good to get guidance", because if the true purpose is admitted -- "we used our political clout to get the State to send us a captive audience of gullible kids for us to recruit to our Church" -- it would be clearly and incontrovertibly a violation of the First Amendment.

So my purpose in my original comment wasn't the (rather tired) atheist snark of "look, look, Christians, your Bible is evil", but an attempt to shred one of the prominent fig-leaves used to obscure the real reasons for these classes. It was certainly not to insult ten-fifteen -- and I apologize if any offense was taken.
posted by orthogonality at 12:35 AM on February 14, 2005


Bugmuncher It's impossible to hope that kids will not stigmatize each other over any particular subject. They are kids. I was ruthlessly stigmatized because my parents refused to spend more than $20 for a pair of sneakers for me.

Which tells you about the level of education of the kids you spent some time with and probably about their parents education as well.
In my experience I've seen kids "pointing out" other kids for quite evident physical anomalies, because kids aren't "stupid" and can
tell there's something physically odd in a person. What happens next is rather fascinating to me...some find the anomaly repulsive, some
interesting , some start making fun of the person, some don't...but the person with anomaly receive a whole lot of attention, sometime
too much OR not of the kind of attention one wants to receive.

Your parents refusing to spend more then $20 on sneakers would probably make you look "odd" if most of the kids in your class weared
expensive Nikes...in a sense you "stood out" because you were not the "average" guy. It seems that this behavior, maybe learned by
imitation maybe built-in to some degree, repeats itself in adults, no matter what kind/level of education they received...for instance
in business places not wearing a suit and a tie is perceived as odd or even distasteful...it amazed me how pointless this mechanism is
yet how far reaching it is.

So the connection with religion is : if most or all kids in the class/school are brought to this that seems to be a "special class" those
who don't agree, if in a minority, are very likely to be stigmatized or even worse to be -ostracized- as experience tells us religious
groups tend to point out those who are not in the group as either "infidels" or "not enlightened" or somehow different.

By exploiting the "standing out" mechanism those who don't join are automatically more likely to be "pointed out" as NOT RELIGIOUS and
therefore deviant..like the kid with the physical defect that could be perceived as grotesque, but is NOT IN ANY WAY -evil- or -bad-

Unfortunately kids (and many adults) don't notice that they're making big jumps of faith and don't easily recognize indoctrination...I think they should be taught about that.
posted by elpapacito at 4:03 AM on February 14, 2005


> Hello?
>
> Church [ lots and lots of space ] State

That's one lunatic-extremist point of view. The opposite one is that anything goes vis-a-vis church-state snuggling, except for allowing Congress to establish a state-mandated and state-funded religion like the Church of England and then to send the police or the military to deal with religious dissenters, as was done many times in English history (viz., for example, the Puritans.) I have no doubt the proper attitude lies somewhere in between your lunatic-extremist POV and mine, though of course much closer to mine.
posted by jfuller at 6:33 AM on February 14, 2005


Just to add some more personal experience to the pile: I grew up in southwest Virginia, and when I switched schools in 4th grade my new school offered the same busing-to-local-church once a month religious education. My parents were baffled; I brought the release form home and we had a discussion about it.

I didn't want to go, my family already attended church on Sundays, and my parents thought that the mixing of church and state was really creepy. They opted me out, and I was nothing but grateful. I usually spent those afternoons reading a book, helping my teacher put up a new bulletin board, messing around on our room's Apple IIgs - something fun which my classmates generally envied. I was never "ostracized," not anymore than usual :-)

I was opted out, and the son of the local psychiatrist was opted out. Generally speaking, intellectual families keep their kids out of this crap, and the already indoctrinated don't. I don't believe these classes are winning any soldiers for the armies of Jesus Christ; it's just an excuse for families that call themselves "Christian" to pay some lip service without having to wake up early on Sunday mornings.
posted by junkbox at 7:11 AM on February 14, 2005


Growing up in suburban Buffalo, NY, in the '60s & '70s, we had something similar. One day a week, students were allowed to leave school an hour early to attend Christian Ed classes. We were almost all Catholic, and were picked up by buses (paid for, I believe, by the churches) and taken to our respective parish for "CCD Classes" (I never knew what CCD stood for and still don't).

I remember one kid that was Protestant and his church didn't participate in them. He wasn't hassled though; on the contrary, we all thought he was a lucky bastard cuz he could just hang out for the last hour of the day and do whatever he wanted while we had to do religion. At the time, we didn't understand the difference between Catholic and other Christians.
posted by Doohickie at 8:18 AM on February 14, 2005


jfuller why do you see that as a lunatic point of view? Would your opinion change if the church wasn't your church? How about if the church was Scientology? Buddist?
posted by Mitheral at 8:31 AM on February 14, 2005


As a parent, I feel pretty qualified to handle what values and religion should be taught to my child. As such, the odds of me letting him be indoctrinated by people with a different faith system are highly unlikely.

Honestly, home schooling just looks better and better.
posted by dejah420 at 8:42 AM on February 14, 2005


BTW, Orthogonality, if you have such a problem with Judaism, talk to some Jews about it. Ask them why they adhere to a murderous, evil religion. I have a feeling some of them might say that you've missed the point, that you've completely misunderstood their holy book if you have the idea that it advocates those things. (I've never met or heard of a Jew doing any of the things you mention, and orthodox Jews are famous for their effort to fulfill the law in every way.) That is: for some reason, for their followers, both the Christian and the Jewish bibles have been sources of moral thought. I'd submit that the great source of moral thought in the West has been this dual book, and, to a lesser degree, the Koran. If you think formative morality came from somewhere else, I'd be happy to hear it.

Also, a place to start: for example, there is no place in the Torah that claims that the central gods of Hinduism or Buddhism are not the same as the God of Israel. I should point out that this is a topic of considerable debate among orthodox rabbis. A great openness goes along with the belief that the Torah was given to them; this means to many Jews that God has given other ways to other peoples.

I'm sorry if all of this is off-topic; but you said you had meant to raise the question, "does Bible-study really teach morality?" It's something I've thought about for a long time; I think that it does. Email me if you want to talk about it.

posted by koeselitz at 9:09 AM on February 14, 2005


orthogonality, the bible is a pretty large book consisting of 60 separate books composed of several different literature types covering a span of roughly 4500 years. You just pulled out eight references from one book written almost 4000 years ago without taking into consideration thousands of pages of history and teaching. You're understanding of what the Bible teaches is, not surprisingly, grossly inaccurate.

I'm sure we're all guilty of not taking the time to understand the nuance of a situation before we let ourselves dive into discussion we feel passionate about, so I take no offence. Just keep in mind, the issue here is weather parents have a legal right to have their children taken to religious classes off school property for a portion of the day.
posted by walljm at 9:27 AM on February 14, 2005


What koeselitz said (mostly).

Jews venerate the Torah, of course, but their religious beliefs are founded on the Mishnah and the Talmud. So those sorts of out-of-context citations that orthogonality tossed off have been adapted, struggled with, and transformed by both Christians and Jews over the last 2000 years.

The big difference between the two is that Christians have chosen to transform the "Old Testament" by filtering it through the belief that a dead guy came back to life.
posted by felix betachat at 9:39 AM on February 14, 2005


> jfuller why do you see that as a lunatic point of view?

In a world of grey shades and unclear instances, any sharp, black/white categorization such as "Church [ lots and lots of space ] State" can only work by selecting perfectly clear, starkly contrasting cases at each end of the continuum and suppressing consideration of all intermediate cases--no matter that intermediate cases are real and common, indeed far more common than pure instances of the contrasting poles. This does violence to the natural state of things, by which I mean the natural anthropology of actual human belief systems.

We should know by now that it simply does not work to force masses of humans to conform to some simplistic sociopolitical theory.


> Would your opinion change if the church wasn't your church? How about
> if the church was Scientology? Buddist?

Heh. Clever of you to know my church like that. A monk asked the priest Ch'ing-jang of Hsing-yang, "The Buddha of Supremely Pervading, Surpassing Wisdom did zazen on the Bodhi Seat for ten kalpas, but the Dharma of the Buddha did not manifest itself and he could not attain Buddhahood. Why was this? Ch'ing-jang answered "Because he is a nonattained Buddha."


Just one example of what I mean by "suppressing intermediate instances": agitated resistance to the notion of a moment of silence interpolated into a state school's day, by persons convinced that such moments of silence are some sort of paleolithic-Christian subversion, not different in either kind or degree from forcible total-immersion baptism of the student body.

Now, I myself would have the utmost difficulty distinguishing Christian silence from Buddhist or Scientological or atheist silence. But some people don't have any problem doing so, which I consider as authentically lunatic as the lunatic Judge Jeffries of the Bloody Assizes, who thought he could "smell a Presbyterian forty miles."
posted by jfuller at 11:10 AM on February 14, 2005


when I lived in england it was required to take classes about religions - maybe this problem of religion in school can be solved by doing that - have a class where every religion is taught, that way kids can see the wide range of different attitudes, rather than subtly being educated on creatinism, etc.
posted by klik99 at 1:30 PM on February 14, 2005


You just pulled out eight references from one book written almost 4000 years ago without taking into consideration thousands of pages of history and teaching. You're understanding of what the Bible teaches is, not surprisingly, grossly inaccurate.

Is there some context within which genocide and murder can be justified? Page count just doesn't cut it.
posted by jsonic at 5:17 PM on February 14, 2005


Is there some context within which genocide and murder can be justified?

When it's not genocide and murder. Which the Rabbis didn't seem to think it was; Maimonides said that many things in the Torah were symbolic. There's a vast tradition of consideration and commentary on the Torah; Jews don't assume that they immediately understand what it means, and us outsiders owe them the respect of not assuming that either.

However, if you really think it's that simple, and you don't want to take my earlier advice and ask a Jew about it, try reading about the history of Judaism, especially in relation to the genocide of which you speak. They haven't exactly been Nazis.
posted by koeselitz at 6:18 PM on February 14, 2005


When it's not genocide and murder. Which the Rabbis didn't seem to think it was; Maimonides said that many things in the Torah were symbolic.

If that's the case, then why stop there? Maybe the whole thing, god-concept included, is simply fiction as well.
posted by jsonic at 7:16 PM on February 14, 2005


...the Rabbis didn't seem to think it was [genocide]

You write as though to suggest there's a uniform and monolithic Rabbi voice on this (or any) matter. Rabbis are an extremely diversified group, as even you "outsiders" should be able to see. And, not surpisingly, there's a big chunk of them who just say no to genocide apologism, even as symbolism.
posted by squirrel at 6:20 AM on February 15, 2005


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