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?
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 😉