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Friday, January 20, 2012

PARENTS ACTION LEAGUE... because someone's got to stand up for persecuted Christian Conservatives

Two written works have inspired me to open up new cans of Hot4Jesus whoop-ass.... starting with an article buried in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The other deserves a separate blog post.

It is luxurious to have time to page through a newspaper over coffee without deadlines and homework on my mind.  Though I deliberately ignored the Bachmann/Perry/Cain/Gingrich/Santorum popularity contest these last few months, if you think the Christian Right is going to taper off with their losing politicians, you may need something stronger than coffee to numb the pain. 

Background: Anoka-Hennepin Public School District (Twin Cities suburb and in Michele Bachmann territory) has become the battleground between the LGBTQ community and Allies (count me in) versus conservative parents who don’t like all the new rules and regulations that make bullying of LGBTQ students a big No No.  LGBTQ students sued the district because of how they were treated within the school… by both teachers and students.  So Anoka-Hennepin decides to consider creating a formal "neutrality" policy regarding the rights of LGBTQ students.  Two students (or up to four according to THIS Strib article) within the district who committed suicide recently have had parents cite bullying about sexual orientation a factor leading to their suicides.  Now the teachers who are accused of being homophobic conservative assholes are counter-suing. 

More Background: Much of the Christian Right thinks depression is just a matter of not being fully immersed in the glory and love and presence and forgiveness and beauty and awareness of Jesus Christ’s saving grace.  Tons of adults within the Christian Right deny themselves and their children mental health therapy or treatment based on the belief that their depression or anger or addiction is just a matter of the DarkSide (Satan and army) having more control over a person’s life than TheForce (Holy Trinity).  So… 

All this suck-it-up mentality about mental illness aside, of course the Christian Right isn’t going to believe that homophobic bullying might lead to suicide among LGBTQ kids.  They obviously just need to STRAIGHTEN Up and Fly RIGHT.  They might point out… rightfully … that the pharmaceutical companies have an unethical grip on the balls of people who already hurt, but don’t let them distract your attention from what is really happening here: they are expanding the legal arena in which they can claim religious persecution.

Ironically... they like to have it both ways, depending on who is doing the talking... or when it is in their favor to point at people and call them crazy.  Parents Action League (PAL) still believes that homosexuality should be considered a mental disorder.  


Once upon a time… I was that conservative-valued student who felt like an anomaly in a secular public school.  With the lifelong message from pulpits, Christian radio and family (a number of whom were public school teachers) that the secular public schools were out to create amoral citizens, I felt like I was part of a martyred minority.  My public education was Very Good.  I had many conservative, milquetoast and liberal teachers who inspired me to become a teacher myself.  But I also faced moral dilemmas that made it seem unfair that I couldn’t fully understand or participate in the secular school.  

I never encountered outright bullying.  I don’t want to speculate what was said behind my back… if anything… regarding my Christian/Conservative values.  However, my blood reached the boiling point in a number of classes taught by outright liberal teachers who made me feel like I was a stupid Christian hick.  These were not messages necessarily directed at me.  Nevertheless, I did know who my conservative allies were and tried to support them when discussions veered off into socialist, amoral liberal love-fests.  I tended to let my Christian flag unfurl more in my writing.  I rarely, if ever, encountered a liberal teacher who did anything but encourage me to write and think more.   

There was enough conservative/Christian bashing, even from liberal Christians, that I often had liberal propaganda to discuss with my family over dinner.  I learned a lot in those kitchen and late night conversations about how to filter out the liberal free-for-all from the Good Stuff.  Though I was the family hippie and a closet liberal/progressive, I was quite able to get bent out of shape and fume within class discussions.  I not only knew which side my bread was buttered on, but I also had a thing for moral indignation that is a lifelong blessing/curse.  I kind of enjoyed getting steamed up about liberal teachers’ politics, comments and lectures.  It all fit into the picture of persecution that I had been taught from day one.  Now I get a kick out of conservatives who belittle victims and victim-mentality while playing The Victim like a professional.  

I survived public school… and am a mega-huge-advocate for free pluralistic public education… but I do know many adults felt like that had to reprogram their children after school.  While there have been various parental coalitions that work to ensure conservative-valued students are not persecuted, this new wave means business… in part because they have more financial backing than ever before.   

And please, don’t get me wrong.  Christian/Conservatives ARE bullied and demeaned and mocked within public schools everyday… by their peers and by their teachers.  The problem is when Christian conservative students feel like they have fewer rights and specific policies in their favor than LGBTQ students who can’t quite accept that they are living in Sin.  The persecution and martyrdom buttons get pushed… buttons that have been primed and cherished their whole life.  So… here we have an official organization (Parents Action League) dedicated to making sure their part of the persecution pool is not spoiled by someone else’s (LGBTQ/feminists/Muslims/Buddhists/African-American/Native American/Atheists… etc) legitimate concerns of being bullied to death by children and adults programmed to demonize the LGBTQ (et. al) community. Or in other words... even hate speech is protected free speech :)

Christians have been persecuted from day one.  So have Conservatives and so have Liberals and the Middle feels torn in both directions.  But when a “fringe” element that threatens the very basic tenets of Christianity starts saying, 'We’re not going to put up with this shit anymore'… all hell breaks loose.

Conservative Christians know they are fighting a losing battle… but they have been commanded to fight, and die, in order to set the record straight.  It is nearly impossible to argue with such a huge belief system… but the LGBTQ community is just one more to add to the already dangerous arguments from feminists and other secular/progressive civil rights causes.  When you corner a group of Christian martyrs, don’t expect anything less than Conservative Christian Right's claws coming out.

In the Q&A article that I want you to read on your own, Laurie Thompson says, “An unspoken reality about public education today is that neither conservative students nor conservative teachers nor conservative administrators feel the same freedom to express their beliefs and feelings that liberal students, teachers and administrators do.  Even if both policies [Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy & Bullying Prohibition Policy] were eliminated, it would only be liberal teachers who would voice their philosophical, political and moral views on homosexuality in the class.  The left has successfully and speciously conflated bullying, bigotry and hatred with conservative moral propositions and in so doing, they’re able to impose both formal and de facto censorship in public schools.”

She has a point.  Though I’m now a raging feminist liberal atheist, I’m not going to pretend that Christian, and Muslim, conservative students don’t feel like they are would be better off, socially and legally, if they just kept their mouths shut in certain public school classes.  Things can and do get ugly… and it can Hurt when defending one’s faith is met with outright ridicule.  Same with conservative teachers in public schools.  The answer is not to force these students and teachers out into private Christian schools or to support religious school vouchers.  But I’m not going to pretend that progressives should expand their tolerance to the point of allowing and embracing Conservative Christian civil “rights” ... or be overly open to religious beliefs that hurt more than help… because frankly, many of the students who feel persecuted by liberals have been brainwashed from day one to believe they will be persecuted and tested until their dying day. 

Is the answer to create separate public school policies tailored to protect LGBTQ students from harassment?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  For every policy specifically protecting the rights and safety of non-straight students expect that there will be an attempt… and sometimes successes… at amendments that give Conservative Christians the Right to say LGBTQ students, and feminists, and Muslims, have hardened their hearts, are living in sin, are brainwashed by the liberal media, and will have to explain their willful choices someday at the foot of Christ’s nail-torn feet. 

Did I already say Free Speech is a Biatch?

I sang a lot of solos back in public high school.  Every one of them became a moral dilemma of to Whom did this song bring glory… me, or Christ, or the DarkSide?  I justified all my decisions from “Summertime” and “The Christmas Song/Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” to “Ave Maria” and “Pieta Signore”… after a lot of prayer and as an attempt to encourage other believers.  My senior year I turned down a lead part in a musical that I could not justify, an unmarried, pregnant character, because it glorified sex outside of marriage.  I was a little pissed at God for offering me such an awesome lead role as “a test.”  But I passed.  He “rewarded” me with post-college lead roles that I was able to justify by, looking back, completely whacked-out apologetic philosophies. 

And until we figure out how to protect people proud to be Born-This-Way while not making Born-Again Christian conservative kids feel like persecuted, lame losers… rest assured that these Christian conservative kids will likely one day look back and laugh at themselves.  In the meantime Christian conservative kids will learn the language of passing the tests through persecution that the secular world throws at them.  Their faith will either strengthen or weaken as a result of these tests… but don’t let their parents and preachers gain the right to preach and petrify in the public school classrooms.

Please.

6 comments:

Infidel753 said...

Hmm. It sounds like they don't object to bullying and persecution as such -- they just think it's being done to the wrong people, and by the wrong people.

Any worthwhile anti-bullying policy would protect Christian students against bullying just as much as it would protect gays. But if they define teachers' insistence on modern scientific views of things like homosexuality as also being bullying, then I'm afraid they'll find that everyone else won't accept that definition.

Journey into Love said...

@Infidel - there are TWO policies in our district - the bullying policy (which protects everyone) and the Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy which singles out LGBTQ kids and says that teachers must remain absolutely NEUTRAL on issues of sexual orientation. So when a kid is getting picked on because he is gay, the teacher must remain neutral...there can be no affirming. In fact the teachers have been instructed to take a kid who 'comes out' for the first time directly down to the school PSYCHOLOGIST office. The policy was SUPPOSED to only apply to curriculum, but the instructions that have been given to teachers about the policy go well beyond curriculum. So in effect there is this loophole that makes LGBTQ kids the ones that are vulnerable to bullying.
Robin Mavis
Anoka Hennepin Gay Equity Team

Shanghai_or_Bust said...

The happy fact is that in the marketplace of ideas the more educated--and almost certainly more liberal thoughts--will win out. It may not be particularly painless but every day even the most conservative of judges on the benches of our higher courts must admit that our Constitution reads better in a liberal light. Battle on, ye Soldiers for The Good. Free speech marches around leaving those who are afraid of it quivering in fetal positions of fear.

In the end though, a good thought that these people must get into their heads is something that my very conservative christian father says almost constantly: Just because it's legal to do doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.

Your hate speech may be legally protected but that doesn't make it good for the world in which we find ourselves. Even Jesus would have agreed with that I think.

Christine Vyrnon said...

@Infidel... Robin seems to have clarified the difference between the two policies and how it is working in reality. And yes... it is always interesting how they believe their message of "repent or burn in hell" is not something they consider to be a form of persecution toward Others. But any attempt to dampen this message is viewed as persecution. And Good to see you again!

@Robin/Journy into Love : Thank you for stopping in and helping clarify what exactly is going on here. And Thank You for the work you do!

@SoB : Agreed... that fetal position was an image that came to my mind too when thinking of what it is like to be be stuck in a stubborn, defensive angry place. Unfortunately, I don't doubt that many Christians see my blog as hate speech, so... what's a lady to do? :) Fight Fire with Fire? Sometimes. Also your Big Picture/Optimistic View of the Court system is refreshing and exactly what I needed to be reminded of. Thank you, Dear One.

Riverwolf, said...

Look at you, being all fair to both sides and stuff! Thanks for such a thoughtful (if long-awaited) post. Seeing as how I grew up in the belly of the Beast (private Christian school), it's kinda surreal to hear you describe instances in public school where Christians faced some discrimination/ridicule. And shame on me for slightly enjoying it (not for you, of course, but for all the others).

Still, you're right. No matter whether you're gay as a goose or Little Miss Mary Christian, no should be made to feel less than. I don't really know what the answer is in the public school space, and I need to work on my sympathy skills. I still sense some entitlement when I hear Christians talk about how they're "bullied" in schools, and I really just want to respond, "Well, stop being such an asshole about your beliefs." Of course, you've enlightened me that it isn't that simple. Hmmm, do you scribble things in the sand when you tell your parables?

Christine Vyrnon said...

@Riverwolf: So good to see you showing up regardless of my absence!!! It is a tough topic to describe, because though I know conservative Christians LOVE to complain that liberals are tolerant about everything but conservative Christian beliefs/intolerance, I know that some Christians face unreasonable bias to a greater degree than others.

YET... I don't condone tolerance of intolerance... which sounds like circular reasoning. Schools are such huge pools of social networking and learning/unlearning how to act and not act around peers that tons of shite slips through the cracks on an hourly basis unnoticed by no one but those being shite upon. Legislating anti-bullying measures, for better or worse will give some Christians one more opportunity to legislate their beliefs into the public schools... or will give them a chance at trying.

I do scribble things in the sand... but what they mean is anyone's guess ;)