Evangelical School Assemblies14 December, 2008
When I was in elementary school, we had school assemblies about once a month. Sometimes it was a juggler. There was a professional diver. An archer who told the history of archery (and made some great trick shots). Once, when I was in fourth grade, we had a story teller come in. The whole school (about 180 students K through 12) assembled in the gymnasium.
The man was a wonderful story teller. For his finale, he retold Genesis. It was beautiful. He spoke of the creation of the universe, the earth, the mountains. Though I knew it was a worth less than a load of foetid dingo’s kidneys, I was entertained.
As we walked back to the elementary school, I commented to a friend that it was a really neat story. He replied that it was not a story, that is how the world was actually created. I laughed and lost a friend. I trod upon his most precious beliefs. I mocked (unintentionally) his religion.
This was, of course, in the days when religious programs in school were more acceptable.
We moved back to Maryland and I was thrust into a Bible-belt culture. My new school had fewer assemblies (though a lot more students). I remember one (I think I was in ninth or maybe my first try at tenth grade) in which a ‘recovered drug addict’ spoke to us for an hour. He described, in intimate detail, his separation from God, his descent into drug abuse and sexual depravity (not a whole lot of detail in the sexual depravity department, though), finding God again, and kicking the drug habit. Without God, we were all in danger of drug addiction.
Another assembly included an hour-long performance by a born-again gospel choir. The music was very well done. The dancing was fantastic. And the preaching was, well, preachy.
This was, of course, back in the day when publicly financed proselytizing was okay.
I assumed (silly me) that this sort of publicly financed proselytizing in the public schools was passe. Our growing appreciation, as Americans, of the importance of religious diversity, toleration, and the separation of the church and the state. Which is, of course, bullshit.
The same people, the same groups, the same churches which were trying to indoctrinate school children with Christian fundamentalism in the seventies and eighties are still doing it today. Case in point?
From the great state of Minnesota, which recently brought us the neo-McCarthyite Michelle Bachmann comes a right wing religious cult which has managed to trick schools into paying $1500 bucks (of taxpayers money) for a school program in which girls are told they must be slaves to their husbands and Bible verses are read to the captive students. (I found this at Greg Laden’s Blog.)
Turns out that the church sponsoring this idiocy is actually the same church Michelle Bachmann attends. Which is kind of scary. Actually, I take that back. Its a lot scary. (And here are some additional stories about the same group/)
I would have hoped that America would have advanced more since the dim, dark days of the 20th Century. I would have hoped that the use of tax dollars to pay evangelical recruiters to come into the public schools and preach to captive kids would have ended.
Stupid of me, I know. But I am ever the optimistic atheist.