Monday, April 14, 2003

Update on Religious Harassment in Union County

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that India Tracy and her parents were guests at a gathering of 120+ people at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville on Sunday.

India and her siblings Tyla and Garret were students at different times at Horace Maynard Middle School, where they were regularly harassed, ridiculed, and threatened because of their (lack of mainstream) religious beliefs. The Tracy's filed a lawsuit in February against the Union County school system.

I've blogged about this before here, here, and here. Christianity is being consistenly misinterpreted and mistaught by ultra-conservative denominations in this area - and that's probably nothing new to a lot of people. However, it's interesting that some people get it, and it's especially heartening when it's a kid:

"After the family told their story, they fielded questions from more than a dozen audience members who wanted to discuss the line between church and state.

One of them, 15-year-old Sean Golden of Knoxville, said the behavior of India's classmates and the school system appeared contrary to Christian teachings.

"They preach this Christian behavior, and then they don't practice it themselves," he said.
And some who aren't even Christian understand the meaning better than those who say they are:

"Sarajane Tracy replied that her family didn't want to trigger a religious confrontation.

'We don't want India to treat Christianity the way it has treated us," she said. "I think these people are caught up in ignorance or intolerance.'"
But there's a little more...

Earlier in the article, the statement is made:

"According to one of the family's attorneys, Margaret Held, the Tracys describe their religion as paganism, while Union County is overwhelmingly Christian."
Ok, I can see where there might be a misunderstanding but I think the more accurate statement would have been "...while the people of Union County are overwhelmingly affiliated with Christian churches."

You see, attending a Christian faith church (Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Catholic, a host of others) or even being a member of one does not make you a Christian, nor should it allow you to be lumped into a category such as "Union County is overwhelmingly Christian". To be a Christian requires a personal, inward commitment to Jesus Christ and his teachings. There's a relationship between the Tracy story and this recent story out of Kuwait (and I commented on it the other day over at Pathetic Eartlings - feel free to take a look) but here's the gist: one's decision to become a Christian is always an internal one - you can't be baptized and become a Christian, anymore than taking communion or just attending church - it's a deliberate, personal decision. It can't be coerced, it can't be bargained for, it can't be threatened and it can't be bartered. If someone held my family at gunpoint and said "Accept Christ, become a Christian or they die", and I said "yes, indeed I do!" and spent the rest of my life as a preacher, and I didn't believe it in my heart I am not a Christian.

The chaplain required a solder who wanted a bath to be baptized first (after an hour-and-a-half sermon). This poor fellow believes, as do some people in Union County who profess to be Christian, that one can be bribed, or forced, or threatened, or coerced to become a Christian.

Unfortunately, that's now how you reveal to someone the greater truths of humanity, that's how you recruit an army. Right, Saddam?

Any army chaplain who only offers bathing water on the condition the soldier gets baptized is not doing anyone any good - they aren't going to convince the soldiers who aren't Christians to accept Christ. The baptism itself won't do this. And it may alienate these soldiers who may be leaning toward becoming Christians, and soldiers of other religions.

So don't say Union County is overwhelmingly Christian. Until it learns to lead by example, to be open minded, to love your neighbor....hey! that is to say, be'll continue to turn people away from your message. And that doesn't do you or any Christians any good.

Thanks to South Knox Bubba for the posting about the News Sentinel article. I hadn't seen it today.

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