Less than a week ago, conservatives lashed out against Dan Levin, a New York Times reporter, for asking people to share their stories of Christian schools in response to the virality of the #ExposeChristianSchools hashtag. (His original tweet was deleted and a similar one later went up.)
That hashtag went viral in response to Karen Pence working at an anti-LGBTQ Christian school and after those MAGA hat-wearing students at Covington Catholic tomahawk chopped their way to infamy.
The conservatives assumed Levin only wanted horror stories so he could trash their faith.
Well, the story is out now… and as any reasonable person could have told you, it’s not just some anti-Christian screed. There are disturbing stories, sure, but there are also a handful of positive ones. (Don’t hold your breath waiting for an apology for the Right.)
A couple of them are especially troubling:
“Sex as a theme was very pervasive there. I took a vow of purity when I was 11. I was sexually abused starting at age 4, so by the time I put on that promise ring, in my mind I was already lying because I was already corrupted. My biology teacher taught us that sex creates an unbreakable soul bond through the exchange of blood and fluids. The idea is, if I slept with someone and then married someone else I wouldn’t be coming into that marriage as a whole person. Coming from a home where there was sexual abuse, learning that was heartbreaking and it took me years to undo that damage.”
“My education was filled with Christian alternative facts. Things like dinosaurs walked with man, men and women have a different number of ribs (due to the biblical creation story), and Noah’s son, Ham, who was cursed, was the ancestor of African nations. We were taught we would likely never get to grow up, because the rapture would happen so soon. I struggle to this day with anxiety that I will not get to live the life experiences I very much want, such as having a real career, and being stable enough to give back in a meaningful way, because the world could end at any moment.”
But there are stories featuring administrators who defy the stereotypes:
“At my school, the students were always encouraged to pursue a relationship with Christ and further our faith but it was never a prerequisite for attending the school. They taught that no one is ever too far gone. That everyone has our mistakes and we need to be accepting of all. Racism and homophobia were not present in my school and if there were incidents, they were dealt with by the administration. Everyone was taught to be accepting and to be a friend to the friendless.”
Of course it’s possible racism and homophobia were present and that student was simply not aware of it. Still, that student isn’t alone in sharing a positive experience.
Only a handful of stories were shared on the Times website. Many, many more were submitted online. Of the ones I’ve seen, though, the bad ones are so much worse than the good ones are positive.
Which is to say: My understanding of those schools hasn’t changed a bit. The damage those schools do to children is traumatizing. Their benefits are ones you can find in any decent public school. There’s nothing special about Jesus that you can’t pick up from a good public school experience. (I say that as a public school student and teacher who had a great experience on both sides.)
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