This one is a toughie. I don’t have many hang-ups when it comes to religion, although it wasn’t always that way. And I won’t type out a list of said religions that don’t make me uncomfortable because I’m just so damn PC and fear that I’d leave one out.
I think, even though there are still traces of my own hang-ups when it comes to religion, that all in all, I respect spirituality and faith. Especially when people, of any faith, believe and respect that there are many paths to a greater good, living a good life and being a good person of value and substance.
What I do have a problem with is extremists and judgment from supposed Christian or Catholic peeps (sorry, but this has been what I’ve run into). These are “good and nice” people who think that their faith is the best faith, the only faith and only true way to believe in God. Their specific kind of God. So while I try to hold grace and respect for other people’s religions, things get mighty challenging when the same respect isn’t shown for my own beliefs, or other religions for that matter.
Because I don’t believe in a Christian God. I don’t raise my children in a God-fearing home and we don’t go to church. That doesn’t mean I am an atheist, philosophical die-hard or science-based hater of religion. ***EDITED TO ADD: I respect atheism as much as any belief system. My issues with religion stem from the very real, damaging effect believers have had in the colonization and religious indoctrination of indigenous people across the globe, more specifically, amongst my own people in Canada. Many of you know that I’m Native. My biological dad, whom I have yet to ever meet, is Cree/French Canadian, which many would label as Métis, although I’ve been informed that he was brought up Cree. If you have even the slightest knowledge base on real Native culture and history, then you’d know that Christianity and Catholicism specifically – have left a dark smear on many a life and soul.
I didn’t get colonized into a religious belief system my grandparents (and their grandparents and so on) were forced into and then later told they had to abide by in order to not have their children continually abducted into residential schools or in order to be accepted in “main-stream” society. It all goes far deeper and is much more complicated than what I am articulating, but that is not what this article is all about. So we’ll leave this quotient of religion’s affect on Native peoples at this for now. A little bit of my personal historical perspective was necessary here.
Heavy stuff, right? And yet there is still a but. A big one.
Aside from all of this there have been MANY beautiful people of those very specific faiths as mentioned above, who have impacted and inspired my life in hugely positive and monumental ways. (Just as there have been people of no faith, little faith or where faith had no play — have impacted me in wonderful ways.) I’ve learned to take each person at face value and not assume anything about them, regardless of their religious beliefs (if any). I’d be a liar if I said that doing so isn’t difficult. Religion is definitely a trigger for me, one that I’m trying to saddle in my big-girl pants, for myself and my children.
So when I recently discovered that there is some heavy Christian content happening in my son’s kindergarten classroom in these subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) ways, I immediately felt uncomfortable and had to seriously bridle my feistiness. You see, I recently started to volunteer in Wyndham’s classroom once a week, reading stories with his class, specifically choosing books written by Native authors. I then spend time doing individual reading with each adorably magnificent student and end up spending about half of the school day in his class. His school has even hired me to conduct a series of art-based Native teachings and traditional art and craft workshops with the the kinder classrooms and some of the older primary classes.
Can’t they just listen to Raffi or Fred Penner during clean-up time? Or The Monkey Bunch? Instead of heavy Christian-based songs with related religious lessons tied in? Kids love music and can learn from it when religion is left out too. Can’t values and lessons be taught without bringing in God or God’s word as the example or the continual underlying tone? I’m not just talking tidy-up music. I’m talking posters, artsy scripture hung-up in the classroom. Sunday school type songs sung during circle time. His word and his name are brought up as an example in academic teachings! It’s not all the time, but it’s definitely enough to raise a brow. After spending time in my kid’s classroom, it’s starting to feel a bit like I’m sending my kid to Sunday School, and if that’s what we wanted for our son, that’s what we’d be doing.
It all feels more than awkward because I really like Wyndham’s teacher. She’s actually pretty amazing, save all of the God-related stuff. I suppose she is just doing what feels natural for her, from a place of goodness and a love for teaching her pupils and her religion. And yet, I can’t help but feel that the religious spin shouldn’t be happening. Religion should stay in the home, I hear. Religion-based teaching instills positive values into our children is the retort I often hear back. And sure, nothing evil is being taught to my child — yet as I’ve already laid out, it’s complicated.
There are other ways to teach our children to be good and respectful humans without bringing religion into it, especially in the public school system. I think that learning about many religions from a theological perspective is way different, and rather beneficial, than a steady stream of teachings (however submissive) based upon ONE religion.
What do you think? What would you do? I’m torn and not sure what step to take, if any. Because AWKWARD.
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Selena is a crafty, culinary mom. Regular writer here and on Disney Baby. Part-time mischief maker, all-time geek. Elsewhere on the Internets… via her humble beginnings, mastering in general mayhem: le petit rêve