Christian schools and mandatory faith pledges

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in | Posted on 11:43 PM

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The religious schools I went to required what were called "faith pledges," in order to be permitted to register for and take classes at the school. The pledge didn't just come in the form of mandatory prayers and chapel (once a week, all morning, plus occasional 'Revival' events), but in the form of an agreement, drawn up in psuedo-legal language, which had to be signed by me and my parents, along with witnesses.

The document stated that I agree I believed in the one god, had been saved by his son, Jesus, was a regular church attendee, affirmed the mastership of god and his place as the head of the church and the nation, and that I would obey the school's rules.

Signing that pledge had nothing to do with the belief I kept having to profess that I had, over and over, and a whole lot more to do with the appearance of consensus. There is no one on the planet more jaded with religion in high school than students that have to repeat, over and over, the same empty, meaningless creed. It got to be a game, to watch the visiting preachers for Wednesday mass talk about the Satanic evils of rock music, or the bar code as the mark of the beast, or how to tell if one of us was possessed, and how abortion was a conspiracy and murder; endless rounds of 'what absolutely batshit thing will they say now.'

We almost believed them; repeat the same refrain enough, and you will start to believe it. And we tried not to believe them, because it didn't matter how we felt about the issue. We had to repeat it: belief not so much out of persuasion, or reason, or any personal conviction, instead out of the pressure to keep repeating it, if we wanted to keep being allowed to attend school.

It has not been my experience that anyone cared for my perceptions of faith, whether I had it or not. They cared if I could be counted in the numbers of the faithful, if I could be counted as part of the majority they believed themselves to be a part of (though each sect was at war with the other over some idiosyncratic article of faith). They were willing to make my education a hostage to it: that is precisely what a faith pledge is.

The appearance of agreement, in exchange for being allowed to learn.*

*Offer not good for women or people of color.

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