Modern parentingI confess to inflicting on my daughter the insipid and retrograde Little Golden Books. Many of them are charming tales about treating others well, but several of the "classics" do all those contemporary no-nos like reinforcing gender stereotypes, offering limiting and normative visions of the family (all rosy and blue-eyed and hetero) that we enlightened parents are supposed to put the kabosh on.
But I have to wonder how I could manage to get this guy's satiric version printed up and sent around to a select group of friends who share my discomfort with the current climate of raging Christianity. I consider myself marginally Christian, but I'm alarmed at the way in which a certain kind of dogmatic and self-righteous personal faith is manifesting itself in all kinds of formerly secular locations—my classrooms, interactions with acquaintances, and casual conversations with strangers. (All of a sudden, and due not only to my own circumstances, a whole lotta people are offering to "pray for" me. Unsolicited). I'm not sure if the GWB regime started or merely reflects the trend towards what I find a pernicious contemporary form of affluent Christianity, one that focuses not on doing good unto others, but on doing for oneself. I find more and more of my students, mystifyingly, feel compelled to share their personal faith with me, and to expect (this is the clincher) my pedagogical decisions to accommodate their moral values.
Last year, I had several students refuse to read a controversial work because they felt that homosexuality was "just wrong." Being tolerant, open-minded, and respectful of any personal belief sturdy enough to compel a freshman to confront his professor, I agonized over how to respect their beliefs and still uphold that great old liberal arts tradition of informed skepticism (plus, of course, come review time, I don't want "she's an evil Satanist who disrespected my beliefs" showing up on multiple student evals...; principles are one thing; tenure quite another!). I'm not happy with my decision--I caved. I did try to clarify to the student that my job was not to enforce the faith she and her parents belonged to, but to challenge her beliefs so that she could better air them in public arenas. But I let her write a different paper, and then received a couple more requests for the same deal, which I refused (the first student came to me well in advance of the reading, while the others just wanted to jump on the bandwagon).
Pedagogical footnote: the student whom I did not allow to write a different paper ended up doing the class assignment, and writing a personally offensive but lucid, well-argued, and impassioned piece, for which he received his highest grade in the course.
I'm wary of this new-fangled and self-serving faith, that seems pretty completely devoid of the compassion and forgiveness that are fundamental to the "Christ" aspect of Christianity. Our president and others who worship at many of these "big-box" churches, with their parking lots filled with Lexuses and their amplified and watered down "Christian Rock" speak a language of Old Testament retribution and judgment, seemingly untempered by what their own personal Jesus actually taught, when and if he was ever here among us.