Friday, May 20, 2016

Follow Up on the Jesus Lunches Controversy

I've decided to follow up on this story because I feel like there's more I have to say.

First off, the school district cancelled their lease with the local public park. In other words, they now have no say over what goes on in the park. This clears up the legal aspects. However, many people are still concerned about what they call "proselytizing".

What is bothersome about this is that there is a growing move against people publicly proclaiming religion with the hope that others will join in. And I haven't heard this sort of backlash with regards to most religions. Christianity is the main target.

(Granted, there is some backlash against Islam, but that is mainly in reference to terrorist propaganda rather than religious messages.)

Judging by the comments section on several news sites, a large number of people consider the Jesus Lunches "predatory". They lure kids in with the promise of food and "preach" at them. Members of the group Freedom From Religion are concerned that the kids are now talking about the religious messages at school.

Okay. Let's take a deep breath, and pretend that we are in a void where none of us have any feelings or beliefs whatsoever.

Congratulations, you are now an amoeba.

But seriously, let's take a look at this. Teenagers, people who many say should be trusted to make their own decisions regarding sexual activity, gender identity, and, for some, alcohol and drug usage, are suddenly unable to think critically about religion.

These are teenagers. Despite everyone's best efforts, bias will come through, whether it is in teaching, reporting, etc. Teenagers are voluntarily choosing to attend a lunch in which religious beliefs are taught, are suddenly being preyed upon. And somehow, the fact that this is sparking a discussion, not mass mindless conversion, but a discussion, is concerning.

Welcome to Reality 101. You are faced with numberless beliefs about religion, politics, and life, and you must sort through them. That is critical thinking. That is a basic skill every single person should have.

In an act of total, nonsensical hypocrisy, the Freedom From Religion group offered students free pizza to protest against the Jesus Lunches. They don't even acknowledge this as a deliberate act of irony (which, if I was at all inclined that way, would be my "biting my thumb" move). It's a way to "save" kids from the terrible thing that is another belief system. Furthermore, when their protests went south, they blamed only one side. Have you ever seen a single protest in which only one side was the instigator of problems? Do Bears and Packers fans exchange punches every fall?

This is the world today. From the concept of safe spaces which seem to be less about getting away from genuinely traumatic events and more about escaping from beliefs you don't agree with, to a group that wants people to stop talking about religion because they don't believe in a religion, we live in a world where actual discourse is disappearing.

Parents, if you are concerned that your child is attending Jesus Lunches and those are not your beliefs, TALK TO THEM. Let them know you want to hear their thoughts. If this world considers it wrong to censor teens from frank discussions about sex, drugs and rock n roll and violence, then it is wrong to censor teens from a variety of beliefs. Don't just tell them what to think. Teach them how to think.

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