Monday, August 31, 2015

resisting fundamentalism

amber waves of grain in denmark, but it could just as easily have been taken in south dakota
with the child away at boarding school this year and with plans for her to go to high school in my little hometown in the states next year, we are easing back into the life of an adult couple around here. we're less likely to eat dinner at a specific time, we watch netflix or hbo nordic until midnight, we sit in the garden and have deep philosophical discussions, or lie on the trampoline and stare at the sky, we spontaneously decide to go out to dinner. we do miss her, but it continues to be ok in our minds that she's moving on to the next step. plus, without her around, there's no one plaguing us to build a pool.

it might be different next year when she's an ocean away, rather than just 30 minutes. i also worry about how religious that little town i grew up in has become. yes, there were always 12 churches, but it seems that aggressive christianity is just so much more pervasive than when i was a kid. even in the answers given to reporters for stories like this one. such a tragic and yet heartwarming story and yet they had to go all jesus at the end. i worry about that. i see it as a symptom of fundamentalism no less heinous than that purveyed by the taliban and isis. 

in denmark, some immigrants talk about sending their children back to their home country for genopdragelse - or "re-raising." this, in most instances, means back to pakistan or turkey to learn the old ways and be more in touch with their native religion. in my case, while i want sabin to learn more of where she comes from and how much her grandfather meant to the community, i do not want her to be steeped in religion while she's there. i love the secular life we lead in denmark. i love that what people believe is personal and private and not flashed in everyone's face all of the time; you don't have to participate in religious rituals to be considered a good member of society. i love that the child wisely said, in choosing to be baptised and confirmed, that you can be interested in god without believing in god. in denmark, there are even ministers who admit they don't believe. that would never fly in small town south dakota.

i am confident that sabin is a strong person with a good head on her shoulders. she has a quality where she is able to float above the fray without being snooty or arrogant. she seems at once grounded and above it all, which is a delicate balance to strike and i don't think it's something you can learn (i certainly don't have it), i think it's something you must have in you innately. i'm hoping it gets her through the year in a community where the aggressive, fundamentalist christianity of the local youth group forces the young people to hammer hundreds of nails into a cross to represent their many sins. talk about a need for genopdragelse...

my cousin, who she's going to stay with while she's there, isn't like that, but it may be hard to resist when the social life in the little town is steeped in religion. i understand that they may have forgotten some of the separation of church and state mandated by the constitution - with ministers speaking at graduation and prayers at the sports ball games. we'll have to see what can be done about those things, without placing the child in the middle of a fight. we simply have to be vigilant against fundamentalism in all of its incarnations if we're to stop this downward spiral the world is on...maybe we have to do that right here, in our own backyards, just by beginning to question it and not just accepting it when it's shoved down our throats. it must be possible for a community to rally around an orphaned young man without bringing god into it.


Feisty Harriet said...

I saw this article yesterday in The Guardian and it so perfectly captures so much of what I am thinking and feeling about evangelical/fundamentalist religion.


will said...

I think you're very brave, sending your child to America's heartland. Beside the concern about fundamentalism (growing as we converse) and the trend of pandering to the lowest common denominator (child-wise) in classes... schools are typically underfunded and many of the programs, such as, the arts, shop classes and field trips are either gone or shells of their former configurations. Also, another trend ... requiring parents to volunteer as classroom assistants. Yes, parents, with no certification, can "teach" your child's class.

Today, if my children were about to enter grade school or high school, it would either be in a private academic (non religious) school or a school anywhere but in the US.