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.