Guest Post: #ExposeChristianSchools Part 2

exposechristianschools

Guest post by by ObstacleChick

In the wake of Karen Pence’s decision to accept a position at Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, Virginia, which requires parents of admitted students to sign a statement that they do not participate in or condone any sexual immorality, including homosexuality or bisexuality, ex-evangelical Chris Stroop created the social media hashtag #ExposeChristianSchools. Please see Part 1 for some of my experiences in a fundamentalist Christian school from 1981-1988.

After reading an article that Ms. Pence had accepted the position, I went to the school’s website to find out more about the school before jumping to conclusions, and I found that it is very similar to the fundamentalist Christian school I attended in the 1980s. While I am not surprised that Ms. Pence would support such a school, and I believe she has a right to teach wherever she wishes, I also believe that she should not act surprised or offended when other people call her out on teaching at a school that promotes bigotry against LGBTQ people.

One of my friends from the fundamentalist Christian school came out as gay after he left the school. Fortunately, his parents were very supportive of him. He and I have stayed in touch through the years because I was one of the few former classmates who did not treat him like a pariah due to admonishments from writings of ancient, ignorant people.

I noticed my friend shared the story of Ms. Pence’s acceptance of the job at Immanuel Christian School on his social media page with the comment, “I went to a private Christian school. I wish I had come out during my time there to shake things up.” It made me sad to read his comment, knowing that he would have either been silenced or expelled. Knowing full well that my post would probably upset former teachers and classmates, I posted my own #ExposeChristianSchools story. I believe it is important that people from my post-evangelical life understand what these schools are and that they may actually know someone who attended one of those schools. Also, I felt it was important for people from my past and present to realize that people can change their views.

Several friends from my post-evangelical days thanked me for posting and sharing the story. None of them knew my background with regard to religious indoctrination. Many commenters were members of my husband’s family or were former coworkers. I am sure they were shocked to find out I was raised that way, especially as I no longer hold the bigoted views espoused by these types of schools. Only one of my former classmates commented, and she thanked me for posting and admitted that she did not think about these things while growing up, is currently sending her children to this type of school, and struggles with the legalism.

My father-in-law, who attended Catholic schools through grade school and undergraduate university, was concerned that I was judging all Christian schools, so we had a telephone conversation and cleared things up. My brother and my former mathematics teacher, however, were not pleased with my assessment. I had already decided that if any of my teachers saw my post, I would not feel bad, as they must be held accountable for their complicity in such a system regardless of whether they were active perpetrators of abuse. While my former mathematics teacher is a nice lady who is in her early 90s, she still holds unapologetically to the abusive fundamentalist evangelical beliefs that I wish to expose. I thanked her for her response, but she did not apologize for being part of the system and I did not offer absolution.

My brother, about whom I have written before, stated unequivocally that he cannot understand how we were brought up in the same system yet have such completely divergent world views. He and my former mathematics teacher then proceeded to orgasm over each other’s conversion stories and how Jesus has saved them from their depravity. I let them have their little orgasmic bonding on my post, hoping that previous commenters would read what sounds to outsiders like ridiculous ranting and raving in order to solidify the points that I was trying to make. I won’t bore you all with the details of their stories, but suffice it to say theirs are typical tales of “I was a sinner and Jesus totally saved me glory hallelujah amen praise Jesus.” Evangelicals really have no idea how ridiculous their “testimonies” sound to those outside the system.

In any case, my husband and I were concerned that my brother would cut us off as we have feared, given my brother’s increasing zealotry. This particular interchange led me to realize that my brother is too far gone to have a rational discussion about religion, and I have determined not to bring it up to him anymore. If he wishes to persist in his beliefs, he will need to follow his own journey. My pointing out scientific and historical flaws in his beliefs has no impact on his desire for faith in ridiculous (and harmful) views. I commented a few days later on one of his few non-religious posts, and we had a nice banter back and forth, so he is not averse to banalities. I think he understands that my children and I are the only blood relatives with whom he has any type of relationship, and if he cuts us off, he will only have his wife’s family. They are definitely more Christian than we are, but even they do not seem to be participating in his hard-core fundamentalist zealotry. I don’t think he has any friends outside his Skype men’s prayer group.

In any case, I accomplished my goal of raising awareness about the abuses in fundamentalist Christian schools. And while I am not ready to be completely public about my atheism for fear of prompting my brother to sever ties, I will say that my name is Laura, and I #ExposeChristianSchools.

Please share your experiences with Christian schools in the comments. We would love to hear your stories.

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Series Navigation<< Guest Post: #ExposeChristianSchools Part 1Why and How I Started Christian Schools Part One >>

5 Comments

  1. Karen the rock whisperer

    Catholic schools are not Christian schools, at least according to Evangelical Christians, so I’m not sure if my experience is valid…but it doesn’t really matter. What matters more are the stories I’m hearing today.

    In the mid 1960s to mid 1970s, I attended Catholic schools from grades 1 to 12, though I was promoted from grade 3 to grade 4 mid-year. This was not long after the famous Vatican II council, when major changes were made to open up some of the more rigid and outdated traditions of the Catholic Church. The particular order of nuns who ran my elementary and high schools were subversive progressives who saw Vatican II as a beginning. They hoped the Church would continue to embrace the 20th century. Their schools were all mixed race and mixed financial class, and they were determined that every student they graduated would have set aside racism, sexism, classism, and other bigotries. Given the Church’s stance on things like homosexuality, they pointedly avoided talking about such things. Better to be quiet than speak against the Church teachings. My high school was girls only, and the teachers were uniformly determined that each graduating class of young women know that they could do whatever they set their minds to. Nobody else in their lives should tell them how to live them. They didn’t call it feminism, and in some ways it wasn’t, since the Church places a lot of restrictions on sex and reproduction. But in 1976, it was very woman-affirming.

    I get an alumni newsletter from my high school, and it’s apparent their teaching philosophy hasn’t changed much. I wish that all high school girls/young women were encouraged on their paths in life. BUT, talking with people coming out of Catholic high schools recently was a real eye opener. Some teach creationism, which is not Catholic doctrine (Evolution, with tweaks from God, is the current official version, I think). Some teach that women are less than men. Apparently my high school teachers and administrators are being “old-fashioned” in clinging to feminist notions, teaching the latest solid science, and the like.

    This makes me very sad.

    Reply
  2. ObstacleChick

    Karen, thank you for sharing. It sounds like your particular school was a better situation than some I have heard of. My father-in-law talks of being beaten by nuns and in one instance, a priest pushed him down the stairs as punishment.

    At my school there was paddling as punishment, which also occurred in some public schools in the South if parents signed a permission form. That seems barbaric to me.

    Reply
  3. Paul Brown

    Oh I love it when evangelical fundy types proclaim Catholics are not Christians! They set themselves up perfectly for the following Logic Trap I spring on them.

    Arrogant white bread fundys love to proclaim things like, “Christians” are THE majority in America and a majority religion of the world.

    You can lead them into declaring this through a variety of techniques, or devise your own during the conversation or debate.

    As soon as the fundy brags about how great they are and how they rule and they are the majority above even Islam, that’s when you get to slam the trap shut and reply;

    “No you are not! You just declared Catholics “are not Christians!”

    Catholics make up a huge percentage of those counted as Christians both in the US & globally.

    Now that you have declared they are “not true Christians,they are stripped out of the count, thus tossing Christianity to the bottom of the heap! You just made Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism the top ranked global religions and just massively reduced the count of “Christians in America! How do you like them apples!

    There is no recovery or come back for them once fundys arrogantly and stupidly declare Catholics to not be Christian!

    Fundys try to have it both ways, and we should never allow it or let them slip by on it!

    Reply
  4. Jackson Fears

    Chris Stroop lost their domain name. Now at
    https://cstroop.com

    Reply
  5. Chris Stroop

    Thank you for writing these. Please note that my primary domain has shifted from ChrisStroop dot com to CStroop.com. I’d greatly appreciate it if you might update your links. Unfortunately, my primary domain got poached (I thought I had it set to auto-renew). I appreciate your blog!

    Reply

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