High school and me

11 04 2007

First I want to direct you all to a blog I recently started reading. Alex writes intelligently about issues he is obviously passionate about, and his take on the issue of legal rights for homosexuals made me very happy. While I don’t agree with the theological side of what he said, I can totally get behind separating the ideas of legal union from religious marriage. The Church needs to deal with the issue of homosexual marriage, but what’s the government got to do with it? Alex says it much more eloquently.

Second, I want to say how grateful I am to see a fellow Western grad (Alex was a class below me) finding his own voice and religious/social/political views and not just swallowing the lines we were given. I’m sure many alumni go on to do this, but I also wonder how many don’t. Looking back, I can see how some where, probably due to outside influences, already learning this skill, but I for one certainly was not. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me backtrack.

I went to a conservative Mennonite high school in Oregon. I boarded,so in many ways that school was my entire life. I have many fond memories from my four years there, and I do not regret having been sent by my parents who were living in Washington state at the time in a town with a pathetic excuse for a school system. I received a good education, made some wonderful friend, had the opportunity to be highly involved with quite a few activities, and was sheltered from many of the negative choices that so many other high schoolers are presented with.

What I don’t appreciate was the close-mindedness that the school embodied. I do not think Western is a bad school, only I hope that it can develop a different environment. One that encourages students to find answers for themselves. One that provides all the information and then equips its students to find their place among the choices. I feel that we were told what to think and believe. That we were presented with alot of one sided worldviews. We were preached at instead of guided. We had a few teachers who encouraged the idea of “courtship” and waiting to have your first kiss on your wedding day. We had a mock election when Bush was running for the first time, and he won by a landslide. There were very little discussions about the complexity of many moral issues. Were they so afraid that we couldn’t make good decisions for ourselves that they had to spoon feed us the answers? Homosexuality? Wrong. Abortion? Wrong. Per-marital sex (or anything for that matter)? Wrong.

Now this environment was due in part to the students as well as the faculty, and there were those among the faculty who I can see now tried to present alternatives, but they had to be discrete about it or jeopardize their positions. Stick to the script or your not welcome here. Our bible teacher was one such person. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I have come to appreciate him as a teach more and more. I remember discussing women leadership in the church during New Testament, and how he set Paul’s writing in a cultural context and the idea that it belonged in that context and not necessarily all contexts as a possible interpretation. I remember him stepping on some toes with that one. This same teacher’s job was recently in jeopardy when he gave his yearly “Swearing” lecture where he demonstrates the difference between using socially unacceptable words or “dirty language” and swearing an oath or using the Lord’s name in vain. He prefaces this lecture with the invitation for anyone who would rather not hear “swearing” to go to the library yet he still was required by the school to write a letter of apology because of parental complaints.

Another story I heard that boiled my blood also happened after I graduated. A graduate of Western (and Goshen) is now a successful opera singer living in Germany. She also happens to be a lesbian. She visited the school one year and graced our humble school with her presence. The next year after the music teach had invited her to come again, he was told to uninvited her. She was not welcome on campus. She was not coming to talk about her live style. She was coming to sing and to interact with the choir. When asked if she could at least come and spend time with the choir, the answer was no. She’s an alumna for goodness sake! She’s not allowed to visit her own high school? Is this what we call the acceptance of Christ? Is this following his example of welcoming the lepers, the whores, and the tax collectors? Not that I see it that way, but even if they don’t agree with her lifestyle, isn’t that still being hypocritical?

Needless to say, I’m still figuring out how I feel about my alma mater. There’s still some bitterness that I need to work through. It was hard getting to college and realizing that I was behind many of my classmates when it came to being able to make my own moral discussions. I had a long road ahead of me breaking down walls that had been built in me. I have not abandoned all that I was taught at Western. (I still don’t agree that abortion is a morally sound choice, but I also realize that social issues involved make it an issue that cannot be solved by making it illegal; there is so much more that needs to happen before that can be a feasible option. First let us eradicate poverty, discrimination based on race and gender, the subjugation of women, rape, etc. Then let’s talk about the ways to get rid of the other causes of abortion.*) But I found that I had so many beliefs that I didn’t really understand. I’ve also dealt with quite a bit of guilt about rejecting some of those beliefs. Mostly I just hope that the school can grow and learn how to help their students develop strong moral convictions based on open discussion and a clear knowledge of all the different facets of the topic at hand. Maybe these changes are already taking place, and I just haven’t heard about them. Mine is also just one story, and there may be graduates of Western who experienced something very different. But that is my story, and my beef. Kudos to anyone who actually made it to the end of this post.

* A rant within a rant.  How do I ever stay on point?

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One response

12 04 2007
Alex Moore

Thank you for the kind words. Feel free to stop by and comment any time you’d like. I will add you to my blogroll as soon as I figure out how…

Western is difficult, and I find that my frustration often stems from the high standard of conduct that I imposed on my peers. Everywhere you looked, there were Christians (both student and faculty/staff alike) who were not acting like Christians. Of course, to summarize the Psalmist, “where there is man, there is mess.”

Where I did get particularly frustrated, however, is *not* when I saw Christians “dropping the ball,” (because, if you are a Christian, then you are fully aware of the inevitability of ball-droppage… I know that sounds funny…) but rather when I saw examples of Christians using the defamation or discrimination of a particular minority for a way to earn piety-points. Of course, you and I know that it is more about power and domination than spirituality.

It is frustrating that a necessary component of the Christian life is the ability to love the church. (Lowercase “c” on “church” denotes the people rather than the building) It is a goal of mine to come to a level of “spiritual maturity,” if you will, where the ability to love other Christians who I feel are out-of-line is an automatic reaction rather than a conscious effort. Of course, the sooner we cease condemning ourselves and start forgiving ourselves, the easier it is to do so to others.

Heavy, difficult things. Thanks for bringing them up– you got me thinking about things.

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