Taking God Out Of School Leaves A Vacuum Something Will Replace

Michael Johnson

2/28/2007 11:20:55 AM - Michael Johnson

Here’s a little test of your sensitivity to the current culture:

Suppose your child’s school announces a Christmas celebration – and your child, while subscribing to your atheistic beliefs, decides to participate. So he goes, dressed as Santa Claus.

Uh-uh, say school officials. This is Christmas. Take off the red suit, and come back when you can wear something shepherd-y.

Care to guess how fast the American Civil Liberties Union could whip up a lawsuit on that one?

How, then, to explain their silence in the case of a 10-year-old student at Willow Hill Elementary in Philadelphia?

The fourth-grader, like many Christians, faces a quandary about Halloween. On the one hand, parties and candy are nice; on the other, all that focus on blood and witchery and horror stuff seems like a rather unhealthy infatuation with the darkest elements of the human soul. Especially for one who is trying to follow the Light.

But the Abington School District doesn’t make much allowance for that dichotomy of conscience. It mandates that every student will wear a costume, or be isolated from the rest of the student body during the school’s Halloween activities.

While the young Christian didn’t particularly buy into the “come-as-your-favorite-ghoul” aspect of the day, neither did he relish the idea of spending an afternoon sequestered. So, he decided to attend the party dressed as Jesus Christ (who knew a little something about the conflicts between faith and culture).

It seemed an ideal solution. Costumed as Christ, the boy fulfilled the district’s dress requirements, while making a kind of personal statement about his views on the holiday itself.

But the idea went over like a vampire at a blood bank. The boy’s principal decreed that his costume violated the school’s unwritten religion policy, and that he should exchange his outfit for something more seemly.

Like what?

Like, maybe a Roman emperor, a teacher said.

Good thing the boy didn’t come dressed as a rabbi. The teacher might have suggested Yaser Arafat.

Naturally, the school didn’t have a problem with other costumes, some of which carried their own religious implications. The devils’ and witches’ outfits were okay. The kid dressed as “Death” was a hoot.

But Jesus? The school couldn’t take that risk.

To be fair, Abington has its reputation to think of. It’s the same district that made headlines half a century ago in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared school-sponsored devotional Bible reading in public schools to be unconstitutional.

As a character or an object of reverence, Jesus clearly isn’t welcome in Abington schools. Nor are those who take Him seriously. The question is: why?

What is it about the Christian faith that so unnerves our public officials and private atheists? Not believing is one thing – persecuting those who do is something else. Did school authorities really believe that this child’s peers, seeing him dressed as Jesus, would fall to their knees and convert on the spot? That they’d go home and ask their parents questions? Did they think the boy would grab a mike and start preaching, or try to turn pumpkins into wine?

Really, the nature of their panic is hard to fathom. After all, Jesus’ teachings are not only important to those who consider Him the Son of God; they are the basis for countless tenets of polite behavior. Why we wouldn’t want our children learning to turn the other cheek, go the second mile, reach out in mercy to those who are lonely or impoverished or hurting? Would it be so awful if they strove to emulate His integrity, His selflessness, His love?

Oh, it’s a scary thought all right. Better to let our kids watch cinematic bloodbaths, and joke about serial killers and satanic rites and bewitching vengeances. These are the ideals that inspire depth of character. These are what we want to parade before our children, and celebrate with publicly-funded school festivities.

Interesting, all the effort our government and courts expend, frantically trying to keep our kids away from a God Who is – by definition – everywhere, all the time. Maybe we think that by systematically removing every element of faith from our society, we’re gradually evolving a more broad-minded generation.

But, in fact, we’re not. All we’re really doing is … creating a monster.