What I might do with a degree in religious studies

Since I’m graduating this year, I’ve been thinking about what I’ll do with all my glorious free time when I don’t have classes anymore. People also regularly ask, “What are you going to do after you graduate?” What they mean is, “Are you going to get a new job using your degree?” to which the answer is no. I like what I do, and something using my degree would be less enjoyable and would pay less. But I have thought of a couple of things I can use my degree for.

The first is to spend time researching the subjects in which I’m interested. I’m not a fan of Mishnaic Hebrew, but I do want to learn more about the Mishnah and its stories and teachings, and I’ll continue reading and translating Biblical Hebrew. I’m particularly interested in learning more about the mythology of the time of the Hebrew Bible–the midrash about angels, heaven, hell, etc.

Second, and perhaps more important, I want to be more of an activist. There are people in the world acting in the name of Christ who are not representing the Church with love and humility. As someone who was on the receiving end of a lot of bigotry, slander, and hate before I was Christian, I take particular offense at it, and I want to help us do better. With the extra time I’ll have, I think this is something I can devote a bit of myself to.

So when I saw this discussion on Reddit today, I had to act. I wrote everyone on the school board and who was listed on the administration page. This sort of bigotry should not happen in our country, let alone within our Church.

Subject: Concerned Christian writing about the treatment of Damon Fowler

I have recently read about the bigotry, hatred, and ill-treatment leveled at a student in your school district, Damon Fowler, on the site Reddit at http://www.reddit.com/r/Christianity/comments/hfc1c/from_ratheism_we_have_our_differences/. I am writing to echo the sentiments of many who feel that Damon has been treated unfairly for requesting his first and fourteenth amendment rights be respected. What’s more, enforcing a prayer at a public school event is in violation of the United States Supreme Court decision in Abington School District v. Schempp [1963], which effectively banned school prayer.

Please note that the lawsuits affecting religion in schools have primarily come from Christians. In the Schempp case, a Christian family didn’t feel the school ought to be educating their child about faith; this instruction ought to happen within the family and the church, because then the family can make sure the education is correct and in line with their beliefs. Weiss v. District Board [1890] was a suit by a Catholic family to remove the King James Version of the Bible from classrooms–again, families are responsible for educating their children on religion, not the schools.

In Damon’s case, his request is not only right, it is legal, unlike the actions of the school and your community. In the news article posted at http://www.knoe.com/story/14681156/hundreds-plan-their-own-prayer-protest-at-bastrop-high-graduation, one person claims it’s not fair that Damon’s request is affecting the ceremony. In this case, though, it is not just fair, it is just–thus has the Supreme Court ruled. And while I give all due regards to the Vietnam veteran quoted, our soldiers fight to ensure the rights of all citizens of the United States, not just Christians. They fight to uphold our constitution, including the first and fourteenth amendments.

I urge you to engage your local news and community centers. Make public declarations of support for Damon’s constitutional rights, and urge your community to treat him and everyone else respectfully. The behaviour displayed is not what I would expect from a Christian community, and it is certainly not what I would hope to see in an American community, which should protect the rights of all its citizens. Please devote yourself to righting this injustice and helping the community grow in love.

Signed,

Matthew Stublefield
Springfield, Missouri, USA

One thought on “What I might do with a degree in religious studies

  1. Hm, my school always had a prayer as part of the graduation ceremony, though I recall it always being a student who said the prayer. I never thought much of it. I didn’t know it was illegal even then; I just thought it was if it was a regular part of the day.

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