22 Sep
2013

On Being Publically Faithful

A strange occurrence happened to me the other day in my public high school and it prompted me to write this blog post about being publically religious in a public high school.

I was born and raised Catholic and went to Catholic school until eighth grade after which I entered the public high school near my house. Being religious was never a problem for me in a public school setting. No one made fun of me for being religious (even if they might complain if I eat tuna at our lunch table on Fridays during Lent), in fact no one really mentioned religion at all.

It’s only recently that I realized that among certain rings of people, religion is a taboo subject. Not a hated subject, but one that people feel as if they can’t talk about freely. The name of God can be used openly, in fact one of my English teacher’s favorite phrases is “in the name of all things holy, sacred, prayed to, or otherwise…” but to mention religion  is another matter entirely.

It’s almost as if the word itself carries a stigma, as if there is an unwritten rule that blocks both students and faculty alike from mentioning it entirely. While I fully agree with the notion of separation of church and state, I can’t help but wonder—when did the term ‘religion’ become an unspeakable one?

I didn’t fully notice how much the subject made some people uncomfortable until recently.

It happened in my fourth hour. The girl sitting next to me began to ask everyone around her (I can’t remember exactly why) if they were religious. She asked a quiet girl from our class and with a stuttering reply she said “I-I-I mean I go to church on Sunday, but I don’t really…” as if to say but I don’t really care that much. She said this as if she were trying to avoid getting made fun of, or avoid looking like a Jesus Freak. She said this like going to church on Sunday was a bad thing.

 The girl next to me then asked the boy sitting across from us and he replied with. “I mean, I’m kind of religious” as if being “kind of” religious was acceptable, but admitting to being wholly religious was an unspeakable crime. I noticed she didn’t even ask me. I was wearing my saints bracelet that day as well as my string of holy medals and a T-shirt I’d gotten at the Pro-Life March. She probably thought I was a walking Jesus poster. But I couldn’t help but marvel at the way that my classmates admitted to being religious as if admitting to a crime or cheating on their Spanish final. Why was that something to be ashamed of?

I’ve come to the realization that in high school, religion is like the Scapular I wear daily tucked underneath my clothes. It’s ok that I wear it, it’s okay that I have it, as long as no one can see it and no one mentions it. But as soon as it pokes out of the collar of my shirt, that’s when people begin to get uncomfortable, or ask questions, or tell me to tuck it back in. The same goes for religion. God is okay, God is acceptable, but no one wants to discuss prayer and religion. No one wants to admit that there are differences between faiths.

In a culture that’s saturated with relativism, coexistence, and acceptance, people have become afraid to talk about anything that may contradict someone else’s beliefs. So God is okay, he covers a lot of religions, but Lutherans, Jews, Methodists, Catholics, Muslims, and Hindus are not. Since when have we become so hyper-sensitive to not offending others, that the mention of religion is nixed all together to avoid anything potentially awkward or insensitive?

I’m not advocating being overly-zealous in your religion and shoving the Gospel down people’s throats, or scorning athesists or people of different beliefs, but I’m just wondering, when did religion become taboo in the secular world? When did it become something awkward or bad to talk about? Why do people feel as if they can’t mention it or pray in school? Why is it something that has to stay at home away from classmates eyes or in the safety of our churches?

When did religion go from being religion to the-subject-that-must-not-be-named?

My Catholic Scapular I wear every day

My Catholic Scapular I wear every day

Until I find those answers, I’ll just keep being my Catholic self, wearing my St. Benedict T-shirt and my ProLife hoodie, praying the Angelus at noon before I eat lunch and maybe slipping in a decat of the Rosary between classes, maybe that will make people uncomfortable, maybe it won’t, but in a society that is constantly striving for political correctness and secularization—I’m not trying to offend anyone or shove my beliefs on others, I’m just being me.

Just some musings from a Little Lady 😉

9 Comments

  • I’ll be really curious to read the responses you receive. “Religion” has got a bad name lately, thanks in part to media, politics and the little pro-this-and-that posters on Facebook. When and why did that happen? And is it ALL religion or the Christian religion specifically? Is it because for so many years it was pushed on people that there is a backlash? I’m not sure.

    My husband was a minister for over 20 years and my poor kiddos didn’t have much of a choice on that answer in our small town. Fortunately, it never seemed to be a hang-up for either of them. I have to admit, I balk at the concept of “religious” a little, although don’t have any trouble mentioning I’m a Christian. Maybe because “religious” sounds like a legalistic set of dos and don’ts?

    Very thought-provoking topic.

  • Little Lady:
    I think it is so great that you know who you are and you aren’t afraid to show it. Everyone is not as brave as you are–you should be so proud of yourself.

    I don’t think this taboo on “being religious” is that new. I don’t remember the details, but I do think that the Columbine shootings had something to do with the question of whether or not the victims believed in God.

    For a while, there have been groups that want to take GOD out of the Pledge of Allegiance OR that don’t want kids to celebrate Halloween but only have a fall festival–these people all take things too far or too an extreme, in my opinion.

    I’ve written an article for the Christian Educators Association on being a Christian teacher in a public school and how to share your faith. Basically, I advocated that you can’t teach JESUS or the BIBLE because that is not your place as a teacher in a public school. But you can teach morals and values that are actually Christian such as forgiveness and loving your neighbor as you love yourself.

    I’m a bit all over the place, but I think what I’m trying to say is that there are people who take offense to anything they don’t understand: religion is one of those things. People who take offense and act on it by bullying or protesting or trying to ban things make me crazy, but I think they have always existed. Like with everything else, people are more vocal and have more opportunities to be vocal today. But it’s not new–even Peter denied Jesus.

    Keep on keepin’ on, Little Lady!

  • Your dad and I love this part of you and are so proud of you. We took some heat from friends for not sending you to a Catholic high school. As everyone can see, being Catholic is about who YOU are, not where you go to school. Stay true to yourself and you will be happy–and that’s what we want for you. You have always been able to hold your own. Keep it up!

    • You have raised a wonderful child…any tips? :)

  • Religion and politics have gotten so prickly these days. Most times, I choose not to talk about them at all. I have some friends on Facebook whom I just choose to “hide” during election years because they get bitter and hateful (and I know that’s not who they really are, they just get caught up in all the divisiveness of the topic). Until we are willing to embrace each others’ differences, we will continue to feel hate for “the other.” Even if, in real life, they are our friends and not our enemies.
    Good post, Little Lady.

  • Grace,

    I’m very proud of you, my dear. I can hear your love for God (and for your neighbors) in your questions. How I wish all would so pursue wisdom! Much could be written in response to your questions– and if you wish, I will be happy to offer you what I have received– but for now, I offer you a verse that comes to mind:

    “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him” (John 1:9-10).

    Go ahead and turn your questions into a prayer. God, who is the source of all wisdom, will lead you to the Truth.

    With Mary,
    Father G

  • Little Lady you are wise beyond your years. I agree with you. Not to scare you but, you will see this attitude in college and in business.
    Be proud of who you are, what you believe, and never let anyone take that from you. It is your rite, your free will and we should all look too you for inspiration. I am proud to be your friend & critique partner.

  • Thank you for sharing these thoughts! I was just feeling bummed about this, and it was nice to see your thoughts here. I feel the same way – it is especially hard when the aim is to have all of your life unfold along your spiritual path, so it influences everything, and you can think of things always in terms of your religion, but sense this pressure to not talk about it to most people outside of your church. My family comes from Kerala, India, and it is very diverse there, relatively speaking – many Christians and Muslims living with the Hindus, as they have for an extremely long time, and there used to also be Jews there, and probably still some Zoroastrians. Basically, I wonder if people there also feel pressured to not discuss religion in public – maybe out of politeness they won’t go on and on, but I don’t feel that people have any pressure to *hide* their religion or their devotion to it. In fact, it is perfectly normal to be able to tell people’s religions from their names, their clothes, and any religious items they may wear. It seems to me people are free to be as devout to their own religion as they like without having to take a relativistic stance, or to pretend that they aren’t really that religious. Sometimes I wish American culture could become like that – where God doesn’t have to be hidden, it is totally okay and natural to have your faith be openly apparent, it’s okay and even considered good to be religiously devout, and just as importantly, it is totally okay to believe in your own religion as opposed to others – and not have that be considered “impolite” in itself. There certainly can be religious tensions there, but in general, I think diversity is allowed openly, rather than feeling like society tries to suppress it as I sometimes feel in the US.

    • Thank you so much for this comment :) That’s very interesting about India vs the US. I really wish the United States would be more open like that with religion, and I agree it very much is hard to see everything through the scope of religious devotion but not be able to share. I just think its very ironic that the US is a country that pushes for equal rights and acceptance for all, but in our push to do that we’ve tied our hands in some ways and have thus lost the ability to happily share in our differences. Alas, such is our culture.
      Thanks again for visiting the site and commenting, God Bless 😉

So, what do you think?