Saturday, February 4, 2012

Christian, Inclusive, Secular, and Anti-Christian

Before I started homeschooling, I did not understand how segregated the people of this country are. You see, in public schools, all people are together, regardless of religion, race, sexual orientation, or gender. They are only segregated by age. But out here in the real world, our country is segregated by religion, race, sexual orientation, and even gender.

When I started homeschooling 4 1/2 years ago, I began to look for a secular or inclusive homeschooling group. We needed friends. We had only just moved, and knew no one. I quickly discovered the local homeschool group, which is a Christian group. They will allow me to participate in their activities so long as I am not vocal about my unbelief, and do not get upset about their vocal belief. We mostly avoid their activities. It is not that we care about their belief, or that everything is started with a prayer. It is the condemning talk about people of unbelief that is ever present among them. Of course, I do not broadcast our unbelief, so they feel free to talk in front of me. I do not broadcast it because I do not want it to be an issue. If someone asks me, I do tell them.

I found a secular group quite by accident. I found them on Yahoo. I started driving an hour each way each Monday to spend time with them. My children got to play with other homeschooling children, and I got to spend time with other homeschool moms. It was through this group that I began to make close friends.

Over the past 4 years, I have discovered an interesting dichotomy. Many Christians believe that secular means anti-Christian. Many non-Christians believe the same thing. I believe that secular means without religion. So, when I join a secular group, I do so with the belief that the group, not the people will be without religion. And that is what our group is. But there have been many people challenge this view of secularism. Most of them are either Christians who believe that secularism is evil, and all things must be centered around their faith, or anti-Christians who have been hurt in some way by Christians, and want to be protected by them. We remain an inclusive, secular organization.

So, what does it mean to be an inclusive, secular organization? It means that we will take you regardless of your religious un/beliefs, race, sexual orientations, and gender. We will take you if you are  a gay father homeschooling, or an evangelical Christian homeschooling. Our only requirements are that you be homeschooling and be willing to get along with those people we have on our list.

Why do I think this is the best way? I think that I benefit from being surrounded by all different types of people. I think that it is important to know not just those people who hold the same views I do. I think it is important for my children to learn to think. My children all hold strong views on subjects. I cannot be the only one to challenge those views. They have to be challenged by others in order for them to find their true meaning and foundation.

And, in the end, it comes down to this. Many people have been hurt by many other people. We have to realize that the person standing in front of us, be they of the same religion, race, sexual orientation, or gender, is not the same person who hurt us. We must learn to love people regardless of these things. We must learn that we all have something to contribute to the great conversation, and value that contribution.

3 comments:

  1. I love this. I have no relation to homeschooling specifically, but secular organizations in general are my preference across the board. It's the idea that non-Christian somehow means anti-Christian and that torques me off. It's similar to another hot-button issue, abortion. Pro-life folks think that pro-choice folks are pro-abortion and it makes me completely crazy.

    I love the way your brain works. ;-)

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  2. In my small town there is the Christian group and the Catholic group...I think they both reach out to the Savannah metro-area as well. There may be more groups within Savannah, but it's too far for me to go. I belonged to a secular group when we lived on post in VA.

    I don't know any Catholic who belongs to the Christian group, and one friend of mine belongs to the Catholic group even though she isn't (she's Christian, but NONE of us feel very welcome over at that group). Sad.

    Anyway, religious specific groups have a place, as do gender specific groups or anything-specific groups. Since religion is a part of my curriculum (a big part, actually), it is helpful to know other people who can discuss curricula from that perspective (for example: this history book has or does not have a religious bias, or this science text is overtly creationist or that one is overtly atheistic - both bad, in my opinion). It's also nice to get to know people who care about the same sorts of things you do, and to not have to be on guard against saying something offensive all the time. For example, I have very strong opinions on a variety of topics. I like to air those opinions freely with other like-minded people, but that does not mean that I think that people who disagree with me are going to hell or are ignorant. My opinions at 40 yo are very different than those I held at 20 yo. I can be diplomatic and pleasant in the face of a political discussion with someone who does not agree with me. But since I find that my opinions are often those requiring defending, I feel that in most social gatherings (kid or adult oriented), that I avoid topics that matter to me and that are intellectually stimulating, or I have to always choose my words with delicate care to avoid controversy.

    Sometimes, I just want to put my feet up on the furniture. KWIM?

    But I'm also not threatened by women only or men only clubs. I doubt I would join one (ever), but I would have no problem if my husband found one that appealed to him. Such a club does not have to be a den of iniquity...but for a man to feel comfortable enough to scratch his groin or tell an off-color joke is a good thing. At least I think so.

    That said, I do agree that most "Christians" are not very Christian in their thinking, which is just as sinful as if they had been overtly rude. I'd like to think that what you saw was just the equivalent of putting their feet on the furniture, but I know from first hand experience that many such people (Catholics, too) tend to feel superior in their beliefs and truly look down on those who disagree.

    You read my blog. You know many of my strong opinions. I'm confident I'm right. I'd like to think that I'm humble enough to remember the times I wasn't right, and to be charitable (not condescending) to those who haven't had the opportunity to be fully enlightened. ;)

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  3. I agree that interest specific groups have their place. My problem comes when people only want to participate in those segregated groups. I think we have so much to learn from one another that we are detrimental to ourselves by segregating ourselves so vehemently.

    As far as putting my feet up is concerned, most of my close friends are Pro-choice, extremely liberal, crunchy women. I find it interesting that they are the most accepting of my pro-life stance, without being critical of it. They understand my reasons for being pro-life, and I understand their reasons for being pro-choice. And, oddly enough, our reasons are not disparate, and we can live in harmony.

    That probably has a lot to do with the fact that my pro-life stance does not come from a religious place, and is therefore qualified by exceptions for danger to the mother, rape, and incest. I think it would be harder for me to put my feet up if my pro-life stance were a harder line stance.

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Please, be respectful. We're all friends here. We can disagree with respect.

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