From Scrabble to Fundamentalism23 February, 2008
My wife and I just finished up another game of SuperScrabble. We’re both pretty good at it. Words like onyx, quoin, gravid, vav, etc., are quite common on our boards. While we were playing, I let my mind wander (my wife says I shouldn’t let my mind wander: its too small to be allowed out on its own) back to when I was in elementary school at Grand Canyon. My fifth grade teacher (Mr. Halverson) would divide our class up into four groups of four (yes, there were only sixteen in my entire class) and set us up with Scrabble games.
There was moaning and groaning by the kids in whatever group I was placed for two reasons: they knew that I would win, and it would make the following assignment more difficult. The follow on was writing a story, poem, or essay using as many of the words on the board as possible.
Sometimes Mr. Halverson would hear: “Mr. Halverson, he’s making up words again.” The teacher would come over and explain that, although quoit (or numerous other odd words) is not in the dictionary that they have in the classroom, it really is a word.
Today, one of the words I used was ‘god.’ I remembered using the same word back in fifth grade and creating a controversy. Sean insisted that the word MUST be capitalized (which means I couldn’t use it in Scrabble) as it is ‘God’ and failing to capitalize the word was insulting his beliefs (he didn’t phrase it that way, of course). I insisted that the word didn’t have to be capitalized as I could be referring to Odin, or Kokhapelli, or Zeus. In order to preserve peace, Mr. Halverson asked me to use a different word. I protested, but eventually gave in.
Now, the kid who objected was in fifth grade at the time. We were children. In retrospect, I can understand his feelings toward his idea of ‘God:’ he felt that, because I didn’t believe exactly the same thing he believed, I was treading on his most precious religious beliefs. I haven’t seen him since I moved back east in ’78. But I have met his type many times.
These are the people who demand the right to pray before public functions, but object to an Islamic, or Buddhist, or Hopi prayer. These are the people who insist that children must be led in prayer by their public school teacher, but it must be the right Christian prayer. These are the people who pass congressional resolutions declaring America a ‘Christian’ nation. These are the people who rewrite history and make Jefferson (!!!) a fundamentalist Christian.
These people are stuck in fifth grade. They never grew up. They still have that Frank Burns (the movie version, not the TV show) adolescent Christianity.
Now for the question: do ‘these people’ fail to grow up because they are fundamentalist Christians? or are they fundamentalist Christians because they failed to grow up? or (this one is from my wife) are they fundamentalist Christians so they don’t HAVE to grow up? Any way I look at it, its scary.