Are you a parent of a kid in a ‘secular’ school and find that your spirit is grieved by stuff that’s happening? You are not alone. I also am battling this and far, far sooner than I had expected.
First, a quick background: I’m a disciple of Jesus the Christ of Nazereth, aka ‘a Christian’. I refrain from using the word ‘Christian’ because it was never used by Jesus disciples nor anyone else after them, but was a title given as a label to explain them. I’m not offended if you use it but I don’t want to be yoked with some of these people who call themselves Christian. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died on the cross for me, on the third day he rose again defeating death forever for those who believe. I believe. And I am striving to act and think more and more like Jesus with each passing day of my short life. If you want to call that a Christian, go ahead.
Second, let’s get some terminology straight. It was once explained to me that in BC here it’s a ‘secular’ school system, as opposed to, I guess, a school that teaches religious or spiritual stuff or worships God or a god. I was under the understanding that a secular school separated ‘the church from the state’ or kept matters of faith ‘neutral’ if allowed at all. Secular is defined by an online dictionary as “of or pertaining to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred; temporal” and, when used in the discussion of education or school “concerned with nonreligious subjects.” Therefore, according to this definition, I should not be even writing this blog post. My daughter’s school should be totally neutral. No Christmas, no Hanukkah, no Ramadan, no nothing – a spiritually neutral place where they can flounder and float in the universe without rhyme or reason for their existence – if their parents don’t give it to them. And this is the environment that I thought my kindergarten daughter was entering. Within less than a month, I realize that this is not the case at all. And I should not be surprised, because evolution is taught as ‘gospel’ at ‘secular’ schools. But I’ll leave the evolution debate alone for now.
Last night, before going to bed, I received this email from our daughter’s kindergarten teacher. Names removed for obvious reasons:
Hello parents, On Monday, October 20th we will be celebrating Diwali (a festival of lights celebrated in India) in Kindergarten. Our multicultural worker and the Kindergarten teachers have planned some stations for the afternoon. If you are able to come in and help us from 1-3pm, please let me know. thank you,
What is Diwali? Well, this teacher neglected to explain that or give links to what exactly it is which would be like telling students in India that they are going to celebrate Christmas, ‘a celebration observed in other countries’. I believe a more detailed definition here would have been helpful so as to let parents decide whether or not they would like their children doing whatever Diwali is. Thankfully I have been living in the Vancouver area long enough to know approximately what it is (I have a few Indian friends) but that is not the case with many newcomers to Canada. To spare you a few seconds searching around online, you can just click this link for a quick overview. After about 30 seconds you should come to the same conclusion that I did: it is a Hindu festival dedicated to Hindu gods and rituals and beliefs. That’s it. That’s what it is. It is not a ‘celebration of lights’ which would imply it’s like our annual fireworks event in English Bay in Vancouver here each year. Not even close. It is not secular by the furthest stretch of the word. It is, by its very nature, a Hindu, pagan, spiritual festival.
And so now what?
The Bible is clear about stuff like this. Here are a few quotes from my Maker, some of which you may already know:
- “Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither you go, lest it become a snare in the midst of you. You shall tear down their altars, and break their pillars, and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they play the harlot after their gods and make your sons play the harlot after their gods.”
and a few snippets from the 10 commandments (Exodus 20: 3, 4, 5), shall we?
- Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
- Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
- Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me
We are not to touch stuff like this when we are in full knowledge that it is rooted in idolatry and paganism – things God deplores.
Like yoga! Yes! Like yoga – and if you are a Christian, you need to read this blog post if you think yoga is ok.
Now it is one thing for this multicultural worker to come in and explain, in a third party and very removed fashion, what Diwali is, who celebrates it, how they celebrate it, and what they believe, is one thing. Although I didn’t sign my Kindergarten daughter up for World Religion 101 and assumed this stuff would not be covered, she knows Jesus herself and need not be afraid of gods without power. However, to have a multicultural worker come in and, without the clear and written consent or warning to the parents that there will be participation, even at arms length, in a pagan ritual (whether with some ‘light-hearted lanterns’, yoga, or full prostrated position on the floor worshipping a statue of Rama, I care not) is a totally different ball of wax. I shudder to think that my daughter might have been in this ‘celebration’ without my knowledge if they weren’t in need of extra help and this message not have been sent!
Until yesterday, I didn’t understand why parents sent their kids to religious private schools. Now I understand.
But I’m a fighter and a writer and running, although easier, is not the solution here.
And so again – what to do?
Since this caught me off guard and I was blown away by the very subtle nature of this religious agenda, for now, I’m going to start by writing a polite reply to this email explaining roughly what’s going on. I will send this and then offer her to contact me if she would like further explanation about why our daughter will not be there that afternoon. If she replies and would like to know more, I will present her with a link to this blog post.
Here is my reply to her which any other person in the same boat as us may use as a template that you can tweak if it’s helpful. And I will update this blog post as things develop.
Dear ____ [teachername],
First of all, thank you for being a tremendous kindergarten teacher. There is no doubt that you are great at it and our ____ [daughter/son] is really enjoying ___[his/her] first year in school and learning boatloads of great stuff.
Unfortunately, neither I nor _____ [spousesname] were unaware that Hindu religion (Diwali) were not only being taught but also practiced (some stations are apparently being planned) in our ____ [daughter’s/son’s] secular school. We may have missed a memo with this information, and perhaps a consent form, but this email caught us completely off guard. Further, as there are many newcomers to Canada who may be of different belief systems, I think it would have been expedient to explain in clear and plain English and in advance that Diwali is indeed a Hindu and non-secular event and offer the parents the chance to remove their students from the event. If this email did not come out, there could have been a very notable issue if certain parents discovered that their children participated in a non-secular event without being given this notice.
As for our ____ [daughter/son], _____[he/she] will not be able to attend class during this time, nor will we as parents be able to support this activity due to the commandments given us in our religious Book. We must, as we hope you’ll understand, maintain those commandments above all others.
Furthermore, moving forward, if you could be so kind as to send me the entire multicultural agenda as it pertains to our ____ [daughter/son] so that we can review it, that would be greatly appreciated because we are now concerned that there may be more such non-secular events planned for our ____ [daughter/son].
We again sincerely thank you for your understanding of this multicultural and multi-faith environment in which we all live and we look forward to being fully supportive of all future events, field trips, fund-raisers, and the like.
If you would like further details about this, by all means, don’t hesitate to task and I will fully explain to you our perspective. It would be my pleasure.
Thanks, [teachername]. We appreciate you.