Monday, September 09, 2013

a wise child once said, "you can be interested in god without believing in god."

my deeply engrained cultural background, which constitutionally mandates a separation of church and state, bristles at any hint of religion mixed into the public schools. denmark has no such separation of church and state. in fact, they have a state church (a brand of protestantism that's more or less lutheran in its manifestation, tho' they refer to ministers as priests). it's the kind of religion i can get behind, mostly because it's perfectly ok for ordained, practicing ministers within the church to say, out loud, that they don't believe in god. that's just how the danes roll. however...

you knew there was a however.

sabin is in the seventh grade and that's when all good danish children are conformed confirmed. they go through 8 months of conformation confirmation preparation classes and activities (including, oddly enough, some kind of orientering run in a forest near silkeborg) and then in april or may, they dress up in really slutty-looking white dresses (think along the lines of danish design meets my big fat gypsy wedding here) and have a big party where family members and their parents' friends throw a rather obscene amount of cash at them for saying yes to jesus. it's quite a racket, since no one really believes in that stuff in this country. the kids do it for the dress, the party and the money. and many of them will actually say so out loud.

so let's just say that i'm a bit skeptical of this whole thing.

sabin isn't baptized. we aren't religious and tho' we have no objection to her choosing to be baptized, we didn't wish to make the choice for her as a baby. if she wants it, she can choose it, but she needs to learn about it and understand what she's getting herself into. in order to be confirmed, you have to be baptized. she's not keen on that if it means a big, public brouhaha, so she wasn't going to go to the confirmation preparation classes. however, as her friends began talking about it, we all realized there is an element of social pressure in it and an element of socializing in it that she will miss out on if she doesn't go to the preparation course. so, she signed up after all. we also learned that she can be quietly and privately baptized a few weeks before the confirmation, so that was a factor as well.

and as she very wisely said, "you can be interested in god without believing in god."

the other thing about the confirmation preparation course is that it takes place during school hours. not after school or in the evening as one would expect. but from 8-9:30 on a thursday morning, when everyone should be in school. in fact, it counts as part of their school hours. because of that whole lack of separation of church and state. and at the end of the month, they have a whole day off from school to go to that orientering run together in a forest near silkeborg. tho' what that has to do with jesus is beyond me (it's not very well explained). maybe it's just teambuilding, i don't know.

but the whole idea that school time is taken up for an activity that is not compulsory really gets to me. if she were choosing not to take part, she could just stay home until 10 on thursday mornings and have a day off from school that thursday at the end of the month (hmm, maybe i could sell it to her on those grounds). they're doing this instead of learning something like science or math or english or even german.

i want to scream.

then, on top of it all, at the first meeting last thursday morning, the minister (i refuse to use the word priest) spent the whole time showing off to each kid how many of that child's relatives he had baptized, married and buried. since sabin's not from this little town, he couldn't do that for her, so quickly skipped her over, making her feel at least quasi-heathen (she is half american and a quarter swedish after all) and less important, when really the whole thing was an exercise in how important he felt himself to be.

i fear this is going to be a long school year. and i will likely have words with that man before it's over.

i'll admit that i hope that in the end, she does as her father did - he went through the confirmation preparation and on the last day of it, attempted to convince the minister that god didn't exist and left never to be confirmed. he had the the party anyway. and his father was very proud of him. the same will be true for sabin - we'll happily throw her a nonfirmation party and even buy her a foofy, slightly trampy dress if she insists.  but it really truly is up to her to make the choice for herself. happily, i think she's perfectly capable of that.


will said...

A lot of noise and some denial ... Bottom line, the story of Jesus has been told to children. The seed is planted. The tattoo is in place. The kids will never think of non-Christian beliefs as the same or on par with the Jesus Club. Missiomry zeal.comes in many disguises. The bastards.

Veronica Roth said...

Argg! I'm screaming for you. Kind of like pierced ears, I made the same decision with my three children, (even though I was married to their Catholic fathers). I figured that holes in their heads and hearts are personal choices, original sin or no original sin. I remember when C was in grade 1 and the class began building an effigy of a Christian Christmas manger scene. I raised Cain with the school, principal and then school board. The project ended up being altered to reflect several Christmas festival beliefs. Nope, not for my children and not in public school!

Mandy_Fish said...

I am laughing at your description of the dresses and the party. Sooooo odd yet so funny.

I would be PISSED if they tried to shove that mumbo jumbo on my kid during school, however.

I'm already undoing the catholicism that my son's father has sprinkled on him. Like for instance I told him that some people believe that Jesus did in fact marry, that his mom was not a virgin, and he did in fact (historical fact) have sisters and brothers.

*Evil laughter*

Spilling Ink said...

Hasn't changed much in the last three or four decades by the sounds of it (and here I thought Scandinavian countries were progressive).

Jesus is in the woods. I just want to clarify that. You seem a little confused about that whole orientering run thing.

heidikins said...

I've been thinking about this all day and I really love this post. I love that Sabin knows she can make her choices, I love that you and Husband will support her for whatever those choices are, and I love that you view this with what seems to be "appropriate" eyes, i.e. for what it is: obnoxious minister and social pressure to conform/confirm.

I grew up in a very religious area (of one religion, no less), and the social pressure thing is so huge here, but also completely taboo to talk about. I love that you talk about it.