A month and a half ago, The Journal Gazette reported about a disturbing story out of God’s country in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Religion Focus of Suit vs Teacher. Last February, a second grade boy, called AB, was at school on recess. A little girl asked him where he went to church. He said that he didn’t and that he didn’t believe in God. The little girl claimed that this hurt her feelings. The playground supervisor then reported it to his teacher, Michelle Meyer. Meyer then asked him about his religious beliefs, and told him she was going to contact his mother. She never did that, although she did force little AB to eat his lunch alone and not talk to any other kids for the next three days. That was when his mother became involved and had it stopped.
Let’s be clear where the teacher is coming from, because I don’t want to unfairly vilify her. According to her, she was just punishing AB for being mean to other children (even though his interaction was really only with a single other child). I’m sure in her mind that AB was a bully. Think about it in this context: imagine if a child was going around the school yard telling Jewish children that the Holocaust never happened. Clearly, that’s not what’s going on, but that’s the way that a true believing Christian would see it: AB was spreading lies designed only to cause pain.
The teacher is totally wrong. And the whole thing shows the way that religious communities poison minds. I doubt it occurred to Meyer that AB was anything but some bizarre Satanic outlier. It wouldn’t have occurred to her that she had it completely backwards: that AB didn’t need to be told of the healing power of Jesus but that Meyer was totally ignorant of the actual variety of spiritual (and non-spiritual) belief. And her actions do not show any Christian love to me. They demonstrate the very worst aspects of Christianity. If it weren’t for our secular state, who knows what she would have felt okay doing to this little boy in the name of the One True Way™.
But I’m more interested in the little girl. How fragile she is! Her parents are raising her in the perfect cloistered way to create another Michelle Meyer. It hurt her feelings that someone else didn’t share her beliefs. This has bullying backwards. Long before Meyer got involved and started her course of bullying on AB, this little girl was bullying him. In the lawsuit against the teacher it says, “He also stated that it was fine with him if his inquiring classmate believed in God.” Yet the little girl was pandered to for days — including by other members of the school staff.
This is, of course, special pleading. This is what makes Christians come unglued when department stores use the inclusive “Happy Holidays!” That just isn’t acceptable to some Christians, because it doesn’t hold their religion up as something more than a belief rather than what they claim it to be: The Truth. And that is, at base, just like it was for the little girl. Such faith is so weak that they can’t be allowed to hear any idea that conflicts with it. This is not only bad for society generally, it’s terrible for the religion. But Christianity has been stagnant for hundreds of years, so I doubt that matters.
It would be nice to think that this lawsuit will change things. But I seriously doubt that. What the little girl and Michelle Meyer did was not an indication of viciousness. It was an indication of the inbred nature of American Christianity. To most Christians, atheists are people who exist “out there,” who dance naked with goats by moonlight. And it is going to remain that way as long as Christians in this country can delude themselves into thinking that “all good people” are Christians.